Archive for the ‘facts, theories and mind-boggling stunts of feminism’ Category

[this is the third part from series of posts on feminism:
feminism as philosophical theory (part 1); feminism as political ideology (part 2); feminism as a marketing campaign (part 3)].

finally i would move on to consider feminism as successful marketing campaign run by strictly commercial feminist organisations. short explanation of this view would have to start with consideration of mechanisms and techniques used by pressure groups and various activists to raise awareness among the public about their “causes” and by doing so apply pressure on bureaucratic apparatus of modern welfare-states. which subsequently translates to inflow of large governmental grants, facilitating further promotion of the “cause” and allowing to maintain achieved status. and all this in the name of equality and war on unjust treatment of victimised groups in society. quite clearly there is hardly anything unusual in such relationship between pressure groups and governmental agencies. however what makes feminist activism so successful is the fact that unlike other social movements it does not advocate for the rights of minority groups but on the contrary has an direct appeal to the majority of the population. which makes politicians particularly susceptible to propagated by feminist groups ideas and their agendas.

it is important to note that such activism should not be necessarily a bad thing; and history of women liberation movement shows how this can be truly aimed at eradicating gender inequalities within legal system. however, after securing its main victories during the second wave the largest feminist organisations resembled powerful and well organised multinational corporations which could not simply disband and disappear. their enormous influence enabled them to pursue other social agendas not necessarily concerned with equality which is hardly a well defined concept. in such an environment emergence of high flying activists/entrepreneurs was just a matter of time.

in favourable environment, reinforced by existing organisational structures and encouraged by politicians from all sides who were keen to jump on the bandwagon of equality , these feminist activist/entrepreneurs were highly effective in securing grants handed out by governments of most powerful states. in addition the absence of any kind of competition meant that these organisations gained monopoly in number of areas now considered as women issues.

finally, in order to maintain their superior positions these organisations flooded the media with their research reports based on questionable “evidence”, dubious “facts” and misconstrued accounts official statistical data. unsurprisingly, in such ferocious medial storm over certain social issues and faced with unscrupulous propaganda techniques, the underfunded academic research tended to pass unnoticed by general public and effectively could be ignored by governmental officials and policy makers.

in interesting comment to the guardian, Belinda Brooks-Gordon gives an account of such mechanism in relation to sex work and trafficking (Vested interests have inflated the numbers of trafficked women).

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there is abundance of various materials in relation to feminist propaganda aimed at achieving certain ideological gains in many other areas and i touched on these issues in my earlier posts (“when ignorance reigns, life is lost”, fact is a feminist issue and on julie bindel’s unhealthy and disturbing fantasies) but since this entry (and previous two) turned out to be solely based on my misguided rumblings and is so obnoxiously free from any kind of references i feel compelled to invite those interested in the subject to consider how effective these “feminist techniques” proved to be by looking at some of the issues deterring researchers concerned with intimate partner violence for the last few decades and which were brilliantly summarised by prominent academics from the University of British Columbia, Donald G. Dutton and Tonia L. Nicholl in their article “The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part 1-The conflict of theory and data.”. [Dutton, D.G., Nicholls, T.L. (2005), The Gender Paradigm in Domestic Violence Research and Theory: Part 1 – The Conflict of Theory and Data, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, pp. 680-714].

also i would like to take the opportunity and strongly recommend further reading of academic articles treating on the same subject in context of domestic violence :

Dutton, D. G., Corvo, K. N., & Hamel, J. (2009). The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and practice part II: The information website of the American Bar Association. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 30-38. (link)

Gelles, R. J. (2007). The politics of research: The use, abuse, and misuse of social science data – the case of intimate partner violence. Family Court Review, 45, 42-51. (link)

Kelly, L. (2003). Disabusing the definition of domestic abuse: how women batter men and the role of the feminist state. Florida State Law Review, 30, 791-855. (link)

summing up, the presented above general overview of feminist theoretical underpinnings and its political activism, as i understand them show how this once credible and powerful social movement was subsequently reduced over the past decades to lacking legitimacy cultist following built around particularly hateful dogma which subsidises large number of horrendous, money making enterprises. and having very little concern about equality and women issues. having said that I am glad to announce that I am officially through with feminism in all its shapes and forms because in my humble and misguided opinion, modern feminism (with exception of egalitarian strain) at best should be seen as some prejudicial and vicious money making scheme which has very little to offer for modern societies (western) which regard equal, fair and just treatment of all individuals as the highest priority.

which does not mean that reports on curious feminist stunts will disappear from this space.
it’s just too much fun.

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[this is the second part from series of posts on feminism:
feminism as philosophical theory (part 1)feminism as political ideology (part 2)feminism as a marketing campaign (part 3)].


analysis from this viewpoint allows to tolerate certain theoretical inconsistencies and gives greater flexibility by significantly lowering the standards. moreover, such approach might seem the most appropriate since the feminist movement initially was geared towards political changes and remains closely tied with political activism.

i would begin by restating the undoubtedly most emphatic and crucial feminist claim that gender equality is the main objective of its political activities. this assertion is crucial to the feminist political movement for it grants legitimacy to its agenda. however it is fairly obvious that majority of feminists would insist on the notion that gender equality should not be confused with equal treatment in law and gender neutral legislation. i have very little interest in elaborating on what could feminist idea of gender equality entail. thus i would simply narrow down my analysis and consider only those aspects that would necessarily apply in every circumstances regardless of the feminist definition of gender equality.

at first i would point to patently obvious fact (which in this context i find quite amusing) that “equality” is a mathematical concept and as such does not exist in natural world. which means that the best we could hope for is certain “degree of equality”. having said that one might note that methods capable of measuring this “degree” at any certain point in time might present quite a challenge. furthermore, once desired levels are attained there would be similarly difficult task to fulfil in respect of means to monitor such a “heavenly equilibrium”.

however tough these problems might seem (or not) to anyone they are unfortunately just a warm up, because next we would have to account for practicalities of political processes applicable in all complex societies. in doing so we would have to make significant allowance for constantly changing circumstances and complexities of social interactions across different societies which are typical to our times.
it is not difficult to imagine what would happen to feminist (or for that matter, any other) definition of gender equality once it is put through such a grinder as presented above. but it would be a safe bet to say that once it is exposed to realities of politics the initially egalitarian agenda might turn into something quite nasty and be easily hijacked and further derailed by some radical and highly vocal political players. obviously such players would at all time insist and pledge their allegiance to the idea of equality while proclaiming their holy war on injustice in modern societies.

at this point it might seem plausible to take a closer look at initial feminist claims in relation to equality. it is patently obvious that essentially feminism is built upon the notion of social conflict. unsurprisingly the struggle for power between conflicting sides forms the main theme in feminist political activism; without conflict there would be no need for feminism. i do not see how political ideology that insist on existence of social conflict could strive for power in order to allegedly end the conflict. or maybe it doesn’t. one might only wonder what are the real motives behind feminist political activities.

on the other hand however, it could be argued that conflict is inseparable quality behind every political activity. however, what this claim encapsulates is a conflict as a difference of opinions or difference in preferred approach to certain issues held by conflicting sides. in such a conflict individuals are free to chose their sides or opt out from the argument; they are free to switch sides as many times as they see fit; they are even allowed to agree with one another ending the conflict all together! the conflict presented by feminist ideology is markedly different in that respect and it goes far beyond difference of opinion or disagreement between conflicting sides, for it insist and depends on differentiating between individuals on the basis of their sex!!!

this notion of conflict inherent in feminist ideology should make most of us feel a bit uncomfortable. however, we might still reasonably agree that many actions taken by feminist organisations are intended to eradicate inequalities in modern societies. in this case we might even decide to ignore alienating ideas and divisive character of their inconsistent theoretical framework as long as it does not have influence on their activities. this however cannot be said about radical strain of the feminist movement which due to its vociferous activism and reckless campaigning managed to gain ground, captivating public attention and contaminating public debate. their openly hostile discourse would have to be described as dangerous and hateful rhetoric based on supremacist ideology which vindicates one particular group of individuals above the other. these groups together with their alienating doctrines should not be ignored as most of us would not ignore angry, racist comment made in our presence.  and this is where i would gladly end my evaluation of feminism as political ideology and would move on to consider feminism as a marketing campaign.

this is the first instalment from a series of posts treating about, yes, feminism at which i intend to look from three different angles. the first two posts will consider feminism as philosophical theory and political ideology, respectively and then, finally, i would consider feminism as particularly lucrative business model bringing significant financial gains to certain feminist groups and organisations which turns women liberation movement into strictly commercial enterprises; in short, nothing new and nothing serious.

it must be noted at the beginning that i am fully aware of simplicity of the following analysis, but i believe that despite the high level of abstraction, my approach could provide feasible framework for more detailed examinations. what’s more, it seems to me that furnishing such a framework with necessary details could be done with reasonable ease and in fact such work has already been done to certain extent. so, let’s begin.

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looking at feminism from strictly theoretical point of view it is quite impossible not to realise that the philosophy behind the feminist movement presents something of an intellectual backwater. this lamentable state of feminist theory is largely result of its heavy reliance on psychoanalysis and ideas which for short i would describe as postmodern relativism, as tools of its philosophical analysis. i am not going to elaborate on circumstances surrounding this curious “choice” of tools but i will mention that it might have something to do with intellectual fashions but also it is not inconceivable that it stems from patently obvious nature of some of the feminist claims. for example, feminist insistence on lack of agency on the part of women in creating rules of social interactions could be seen as one of such claims and at best it is … well … unjustified if not rather naive.

in a very similar manner, i intend to brush off any detailed examination of the exciting relationship between feminist theory and psychoanalysis or relativism. and in respect of psychoanalysis i would merely point out that even though psychoanalysis might seem as useful tool in the field of literary criticism it cannot be reasonably regarded as reliable means of serious enquiry (“most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century”). this particular feature of psychoanalysis becomes almost self-evident once we consider that it tends to produce number of contradictory explanations of the same phenomena, which justifies the claim that this explanations give more reliable information about those who conduct the study rather than about the phenomena being studied.
moving on to curious world of relativism i must admit that i have no inclination whatsoever to drown myself in futile epistemological deliberations which comprise the only serious relativist argument. so in relation to feminist arguments invoking any notion of relativism i would simply note that these arguments by definition would validate multiple conclusions being drawn from the same premises. which would mean that feminist narratives and its reliance on women experiences of “otherness” are merely one of many equally valid narratives and being “other” is normal human condition applicable to all individuals regardless of their sex (or gender, ha!). i cannot imagine how this could be incorporated into feminist theories.

furthermore, even though feminism fails miserably to present independent and consistent philosophical argument it could incorporate theoretical framework developed by other schools of philosophical thought. however, this would make the very notion of feminism quite unnecessary and the very term “feminism” would only make artificial distinctions where they clearly don’t exist. as a good illustration of this principle one might look at egalitarianism and particular strains of modern feminism which are “feminist” only due to their insistence on using that term.

given that ideas forming the basis of feminist theory could not sustain serious (as opposed to confused) philosophical inquiry i am rather sceptical whether feminist narratives could endure serious scientific scrutiny. for this reason i am more than happy to avoid areas where serious empirical arguments are being presented to less than serious disputants and would happily move on to consider feminism as strictly political ideology.

since this post turned out to be particularly long one I’ve decided to cut it into three separate pieces: feminism as philosophical theory (part 1); feminism as political ideology (part 2); feminism as a marketing campaign (part 3).

enjoy

it is indisputable that modern science fails to answer vast number of questions and appropriately explain various observable phenomena. and like with dreams, the circumstances encapsulated in such unanswered questions sometimes turn out to be exciting and sometimes quite terrifying; understandably such emotions could place heavy burden on our conscious understanding of the world. and because this might create various problems, as a form of coping strategy, i designated a special place in my mind for all this yet to be explained phenomena and other anomalies. it is rather obvious that such a place must be a very strange place. and indeed, once there, we would see that the laws of logic are seriously distorted (if this sentence could makes any sense) while mathematical relations are striped of their usual certainty and coherence. furthermore, like some outlandish zoo, the place is inhabited by extraordinary individuals who as a matter of daily practice, effortlessly and with remarkable ease defy otherwise unshakeable laws of physics and natural sciences. one such an interesting specimen goes by the name of julie bindel.

thus, it is no surprise that this name often appears in texts posted on this blog and stars in my recent “on julie bindel’s unhealthy and disturbing fantasies”. i would allow myself to assume that julie bindel as lesbian-feminist diva of national prominence, does not need any introduction and those who for some reason happened to be unfamiliar with her work might want to check wikipedia or read some of her articles published on quite well known website devoted to the promotion of the “often misguided, english middle-class propaganda”, a.k.a. the guardian. i myself would suggest doing the latter for her work is definitely worth looking at due to its undeniable, entertaining if not outright comical qualities.

however, to make sure that the events which are described below could be properly understood and could be considered with due attention i must highlight certain features of her work which determine its specific character and which are most important for my narrative.

so, who is julie bindel? well, she’s a lesbian-feminist of the radical kind and a personal friend of long dead andrea dworkin who famously claimed that sexual intercourse is an act of violence against women and initiated radical anti-porn crusade in the u.s. some thirty years ago. julie bindel herself holds equally strong views in respect of pornography and prostitution which in her view reflect and perpetuate patriarchal oppression of women. she is one of the authors of loathed and strongly criticised by academics paper “big brothel” in which she made numerous fantastical claims in respect of indoor sex work based on phone calls made to agencies by her male colleagues acting as prospective clients and which formed the basis for highly controversial anti-prostitution law passed in 2009 with the blessing from harriet harman and jacquie smith. furthermore, she is a highly vocal supporter of far-reaching and some might say discriminatory measures which supposedly are necessary to meaningfully fight with violence against women in all forms, shapes and sizes. however, it is worth mentioning that the definition of violence in this context is a very broad one and might include acts which most people would consider as normal and definitely not inappropriate aspects of human interactions. nevertheless, the main point to remember for the purpose of this article is her stance on pornography and prostitution.

a week ago i would consider the above text as reasonably well presented summary of complicated and colourful ideas which characterise work of julie bindel. a week ago i would consider her naive, ignorant and infantile attitudes towards serious social issues as quite easily predictable. a week ago i enjoyed feeling of certainty stemming from the belief in julie bindel unshakeable radicalism. but that was a week ago…

as a twitter addict and a great fan of all that is ridiculous, i am a faithful follower of her insights and musings which she might be willing to share on twitter with her devoted fans; and exactly a week ago, on wednesday 23rd of june at 0804 p.m. she wrote:

“On a train listening to Snoop Dogg having interviewed a pimp. Sitting next to Cath Elliott who is reading about rape. Business as usual.”

‘quite right, business as usual … wait a second! julie bindel listening to snoop dogg! is this a part of some new “research” that she is conducting?’

but then a day later she wrote:

“Help! What does a lesbian feminist wear to Glastonbury to meet Snoop Dogg? Is anyone there from Guardian Fashion who can advise!”

‘jeez! lesbian feminist don’t meet snoop dogg! are we talking about the same snoop dogg? the former pimp? who sees pimping as his “natural calling“?’

‘but even supposing that lesbian feminist would decide to meet him they would probably opt for a boiler-suit which can be easily disposed of after extremely violent acts performed on the dogg, followed by prolonged mutilation of his body as a form of pay back for selling women as sex slaves! isn’t that right?!’

well apparently not because radical lesbian feminists had something else in mind:

“Do you think there is any chance Snoop Dogg will ask me to step in as a backing singer?”

‘shit! what is happening to me? does everybody have this?’

i must admit that at this point i was seriously concerned about my sanity and desperately blamed everything on my ipod and on my macbook, purporting that there must be some apple’s conspiracy going on, aimed at discrediting julie bindel! not to mention that i was worried that the picture of her as a backing singer for snoop dogg would probably haunt me every time I’m in bed with my girlfriend, which could have devastating effect on my sex life!

‘jesus! i probably won’t even be able to sue her for this!’

but she just continued mercilessly :

“That puppy dog has no greater feminist fan than me!”

and

“Beside myself with excitement at seeing the Snoopster”

‘my god how far is she prepared to go? soon she will be just “feminist”!’

and while i was feverishly contemplating whether she would cease to be “lesbian” in such particular circumstances, she wrote:

“He has a voice like honey dripping on rose petals, raps like a demon, and is dripping bile about women. What to do?”

‘what do you mean “what to do?”?! what to do with what?!’

in any case, whatever she decided to do after posting this last message it seems as if it was the highest point of this insanity, and some time later she wrote:

“Am writing my piece on Snoop whilst sitting on the grass amongst some very stoned and drunk folk. Ah well, maybe later.”

which made me think that she should rather keep away from any drugs because she might hurt someone and most probably herself. nevertheless, subsequent messages contained something that looked as some form of rationalising of her behaviour:

“That pup Snoop really played it a bit safe today. Took out a couple of mentions of ‘ho, replaced ‘bitch’ with BIRD can you believe one time!”

and finally:

“Maybe he heard I was there and was really scared. What do you reckon? I am J Bizzel the Gangsta Lezzer.”

j bizzel the gangsta lezzer!….?

my god, this was really sad.

besides, i found the whole experience emotionally exhausting. something like seeing the pope during a gay parade, prancing around on some moving platform and making out with the village people.

my conclusion was that if one cannot even trust julie bindel then there must be some truth in all this blabbering about broken societies, decline of moral standards, lack of authoritarian role models, the end of the world, armageddon and so on and so forth.

so, when couple of days ago a friend of mine sent me her article i refused to look at it. does this make me a quasi-religious person refusing to know the truth in order to preserve my shaken beliefs? i guess it does.

in my earlier post concerned with treatment of official statistics by certain groups of activists and by various officials who fully commited themselves to end gender discrimination in all forms and shapes, i briefly looked at the figures behind the so called gender pay gap. while in the previous entry i looked at these numbers only to demonstrate discrepancies between the official data and the manner in which this data was reported and utilised by aforementioned organisations and individuals, this entry is devoted entirely to the notion of gender pay gap itself.

however, being myself way too lazy to do any real (desk) research and report the findings but also taking into account my admittedly limited intellectual capabilities, i would gladly make use of the work of others and much better qualified authors and who are behind bbc show, “more or less”.

for those not familiar with the show i would say that “more or less” is a half an hour long, bbc radio 4 weekly broadcast presented by renown financial times’ undercover economist, tim harford; and as stated on show’s website it is “devoted to the powerful, sometimes beautiful, often abused but ever ubiquitous world of numbers.”
such a statement not only sound neat and encouraging but also, sadly seems quite true. in any case, among other issues featuring on the most recent episode of the show (18 June 2010), the authors happened to look at statistics behind the gender pay gap and also made an attempt to take somewhat broader look at this particular issue trying to identify some of its potential causes. on their journey they briefly interview researchers who looked at the issues behind the low numbers of women in top positions in large financial institutions and on how different age at which women decide to become mothers affects differently their careers and future incomes.

the episode can be accessed and downloaded here (itunes).

wpid-goya-2010-06-19-05-00.jpg probably most of us would agree with francisco goya; el sueño de la razón produce monstruos. but it is one thing to repeat after the inscription on 43rd plate of the caprichos that the sleep of reason produces monsters, and quite another to fear monsters when the reason is awake.
i find such feeling extremely irritating and highly unnerving because even though i might proudly reject every form of belief and laugh at superstitions, i would still feel intimidated when approaching modern taboos created by our secular societies.
personally i find manoeuvring between these numerous “no-go areas” as insulting waste of energy; and tendencies of certain groups to get upset and worked-up while discussing certain subjects as affront to their and my intelligence.

deliberation on false rape claims and on incidence of rape would have to be regarded as one such area. so in order to avoid certain misunderstandings i feel compelled to explicitly state that i am indifferent to numbers of both rapes and false accusations of rape, to their frequencies and rates when compered to each other. it is not my intention to argue nor to present evidence nor to make any specific claim in respect of these two types of crime. my intention is to briefly analyse certain attitudes towards the subject. and by doing so i hope to shed some light on the mechanism which makes this particular subject area very difficult to talk about and for researchers to operate in which effectively prevents creation of evidence based policies designed to tackle these social problems.

according to message posted on twitter by UK_Feminista, “The Daily Mail’s campaign of trying to convince the public that all rape accusations are false is getting ridiculous: http://is.gd/cIYZi”. needles to say that the message quite well summarises main points of the text linked to together with the comments left by the readers. in addition the authors provide links to several articles published by The Daily Mail as examples of said campaign.

of course i am very well aware of the daily mail’s dubious reputation. however, after skimming through few of the articles and after checking up on the facts with other sources i could not find any clues that could indicate that these stories were complete fabrications. in this assessment i focused primarily on the facts behind each story but i also paid great attention to any broad and unjustified statements made in the articles as well as any instances of stereotyping. overall there were very few minor instances of misrepresentation of fact but none of these were material. as for reliance on stereotypes these were on level comparable with other newspapers (including guardian and times). it is important to note that i consider political bias in media reports as a norm rather than exception; with this in mind, the articles that i analysed were not exceeding the normal level of bias peculiar to this paper. overall, the articles would have to be regarded as factually sound reports concerned with particular type of crime which editors of daily mail identified as a more systematic problem and considering the number of cases to which even UK Feminista refers to as to campaign, this does not seem to be totally unreasonable conclusion.

in other words it seems that these articles reported on cases of false accusations of rape and gave accounts of devastating effect that such accusations have on lives of victims. the articles were reflecting on victims who were subject to humiliating and damaging campaigns by media and communities in which they lived and which would usually last for several months if not years and often result in imprisonment, broken relationships, splits in the families, victim’s alienation and suicides; the accusers were depicted as delusional liars who took advantage of the institutional veil of full anonymity and when (if) prosecuted and convicted the punishment this criminals were subjected to could be seen as not proportional to the damage that their actions inflicted on their victims.

unsurprisingly, the above assessment differs significantly from the one found on UK Feminista. according to this feminist blog “… there’s just page after page of stories relating to so called ‘false’ accusations of rape.” what i find quite remarkable is that apart from the links to daily mail articles the blog does not provide any information that could substantiate views that the articles are just “…misogynist lies about rape that paper insists on pedaling.” it seems as if the author consider this to be some self evident truth which does not require any further explanations. and indeed these unsubstantiated and broad allegations of hatred towards women on the part of dm are unequivocally accepted by commenting readers who then ask “what the hell can we do to challenge this evil women-hating rag?!!”. due to the lack of explanations i can only guess the rationale behind these claims; and it seems to be related to the role that reporting of these type of cases play in undermining credibility of true rape victims. direct accusations as the ones presented above are further sprinkled with other colourful complaints: “i think my head is about to explode in rage!!!”; “Jesus, two in one day? That’s just ridiculous….”.

despite gaping discrepancies between views on the issue held by the crowd on UK Feminista and presented by daily mail one thing seems to be certain; and that is the existence of some issue. and even though in such a case robust research into the nature of the issue might seem to be most plausible course of action, those taking part in discussion on feminist weblog seem to have quite a different view which stems from their perception of the nature of the issue. and so we read:

“It absolutely sickens and outrages me … what we could do to challenge this?”

“Demo is always a safe bet, or possibly something to call the Mail on it.”

“…campaign for more responsible media depiction of women…”

“…we can definitely plug it on the action section of the site”

“…to take full action on this?”

“Anyone for starting a campaign about this? Shall we see if we can hook up some of our lovely groups?”

it seems fairly clear from the actions considered that what this “lovely group” perceive as a real problem is not the certain type of criminal activity reported by daily mail but the reporting of the crime itself!? strange as it may sound it does explain why no one commenting on the article even thought of actions aimed at establishing some means of support for the victims. the main thrust of potential actions is focused on reporting of these cases. i guess it would require some amount of mental acrobatics to connect such a viewpoint of the issue in question with quoted earlier allegations of contempt and hatred towards all women which supposedly are intrinsic to reports of such cases. i am disinclined to go into this subject any further and would gladly leave this peculiarity to others with more time to waste.

leaving on the side the issue of plausibility of these claims let’s consider the target of proposed actions. paraphrasing one commentator the aim is to “…campaign for more responsible media depiction of women…”. in current case this vague aim translates into application of pressure on media outlets in order to make them stop reporting on cases of false allegations of rape. i understand that the ideal outcome in this instance would be total removal of such reports from public view and subsequently from public debate.

again I am disinclined to consider whether such situation could bring so strongly desired by feminist readers of the blog raise in numbers of victims reporting rapes to the police; and whether attitudes of the later would change significantly and whether this would result in greater number of genuine offenders being brought to justice? i hope it would.

but is hope enough? what if there is an issue there? what if there are other factors behind the reports? what if daily mail editors are not as delusional as the crowd on UK Feminista would wish them to be? what do we actually know? and lets not confuse “knowing” with “hoping” or “believing”.

it is said that the cases as the ones reported by daily mail are exceptional. fair enough, but who says that?

and that’s where the fun begins, because it seems that we know literally nothing. the numbers on incidence of false rape accusations range from 2%, which is probably the most famous figure and the only one which origins i could explain, to 98%!

so not surprisingly baroness stern in her review (.pdf) said:

“The question of false allegations comes up time and again in any meeting or discussion about rape, with some arguing that the number is large and others insisting that the prevalence is grossly exaggerated. Faster progress could be made in improving the treatment of rape complainants if more solid evidence was in the public domain.
In view of the controversy surrounding false allegations, the strong feelings the subject arouses and the part the controversy plays in the response to rape complainants, we recommend that the Ministry of Justice commissions and publishes an independent research report to study the frequency of false allegations of rape compared with other offences, and the nature of such allegations.”

and in respect of incidence of false allegation i am not going to go any further than that. so, summing up, we know that: 1. daily mail are a bunch of liars and women haters; 2. there seem to be some issue; 3. about which we don’t know much.

but also we know that it is hardly a novel idea to restrict publication as means of dealing with problems that cannot be otherwise accommodated by ones theories. It was this technique that catholic church used in order to keep the earth flat and at the centre of the universe. but it also reminds me of remarks made by russian authorities claiming that in russia the problem of rape does not exist at all. they explained this by simply saying that there is no russian equivalent of the english word “rape”! sounds like brilliant idea, doesn’t it?

but above all we know that atmosphere of hatred, anger, threats and intimidation does have devastating impact on free flow of ideas and can undermine any attempt to promote knowledge and understanding of the world around us.

and in my humble opinion it is the “lovely group” of feminist who should sort their act out because, as we all know daily mail is a bunch of liars and there is no way to reform them.

oh sweet irony. just few days after i posted a piece treating about frivolous attitudes towards official statistics and facts in general, among certain advocacy groups and policy making bodies, feminist blog the f-word published an article by Naomi Mc, “Fact is a Feminist Issue”. and even though the title could be reasonably regarded as promising (if not exciting considering where it was published) the article itself is a bit of a disappointment.

in short the author gives her opinions on scientific reporting in the media, which in her own words is … well, “piss poor”; nothing new here i guess. then we hear yet once again this old hackneyed phrase that “science or medical articles rely on the readerships’ preconceived ideas about women and men and feed gender stereotypes that are straight out of the 1950s;” which is followed by similarly overused short list of such stereotypes. subsequently author elaborates to some very limited extent on reporting of biological differences between men and women and provides “a few tips for approaching scientific and medical press stories that tackle biological sex differences”, which pretty much closes her argument about fact as a feminist issue. so much for excitement.

without paying to much attention to the tedious content of the article i was curious about the authors opinions on reporting of facts by more or less mainstream media outlets in relation to issues which are preoccupying feminist agenda and which on many occasions would have to be described as undesirable, damaging or prejudicial and most definitely as “piss poor”.

i wrote a comment under the article, at first agreeing with the author’s main point that “fact is a feminist issue”; however in order to show my somewhat different take on the subject i quoted Fawcett Society’s “Equal pay, where next? Changing Hearts and Minds” (pdf) with it’s poor treatment of official statistics; together with two quotes referring to publications from Eaves; and which could be best described as a forms of “creative writing” rather than social research. so, first of the two quotes was taken from article by Julie Bindel entitled “Why men use prostitutes” in which Ms. Bindel proudly proclaimed that “the reasons why many men pay for sex [were] revealed in the interviews that make up a major new piece of research; Read the research project’s report on men who buy sex (pdf). the second quote was taken from “Sexual violence fact-sheet” (pdf) published on Eaves website, containing examples of intentional misrepresentation of official statistics by this advocacy group, which was clearly aimed at strengthening misconceptions about the issue of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

overall, my comment was fairly short and in my opinion could hardly be regarded as provocative for it was mainly composed of quotations from feminist publications and this i suppose is a fact perfectly suitable for discussion on feminist blog. nevertheless, comments submitted to f-word are subject to some very general rules which are neatly explained under every article published on the website. among other things the rules state that the f-word:

“… is a safe and friendly space for feminists and feminist allies. Debate and critique are welcome where it is constructive and deepens analysis or understanding. Anti-feminist comments will not be approved. We get to decide what’s anti-feminist.”

so far, it seems that i am neither a feminist nor a feminist ally; and apparently quotations submitted in my comment in order to shed some light on “fact as a feminist issue” were not constructive enough; and elaborating on them could not possibly deepen analysis or understanding of the issue.

it’s hard for me to say whether my comment was anti-feminist. i would say it was not but then again it is them who get to decide what is and what is not anti-feminist. but i must admit that the f-word did inform me about means of appeal to the decision made by the moderator and the rules on commenting are very clear about this:

“We do not seek to censor debate: the beauty of the internet is that anyone can set up their own blog or website to express their views.”

which i duly did.

ironically, even though i was unable to find out what would be Naomi Mc’s (or other f-word readers) opinion on my approach to the issue represented in the title, one thing seems to be quite certain: FACT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE.

the story behind this post started with an article about one of Eversheds former employees who took the company to employment tribunal which subsequently found that he has been unfairly dismissed and sexually discriminated against and awarded him £123,300 in damages. nothing very unusual apart from the fact that the claimant was male.
i posted a link to this article on my webpage and one of the comments that appeared under the link stated bluntly that it is “so rare it makes headline”. this, strictly speaking set me off into something comparable to DEFCON 3 mode, with yellow lights quietly blinking in my head.
at first i had to agree with this sad truth behind the comment but at the same time it was clear to me that just because cases like this one are rarely reported, does not make them less of a discrimination. what’s more, it is not inconceivable that discriminatory practices as reported in this case are common among the employers. the important question to ask is how common are they? i concluded that considering prevalence of attitudes as reflected in the comment we might never be able to find out; for what the comment reflects is the position that sex discrimination against males is at best insignificant or even non-existent; at worst it should be regarded as well deserved punishment for years of “patriarchal oppression”. while those who do express their concerns about such a discrimination are treated at best with contempt and at worst are branded as male chauvinists, woman-haters and misogynists. effectively we find ourselves in a climate where all available resources are directed at research concerning discrimination against women, which further perpetuate true inequalities between sexes. what upsets me the most is that it makes it impossible to even discuss the issue of discrimination against men which necessarily undermines actions taken by policy makers supposedly directed at eradication of inequalities.
this answer, which i my opinion was reasonable and clearly directed at some meaningful idea of equality, was greeted with more taunts and i learned that men should “do what women do -work hard towards the changes [they] believe should occur.”
well, what can i say, the mode changed again, this time to DEFCON 2 meaning further increase in force readiness just below maximum – red lights all over the place, sirens wailing on airfields, crews in ICBM silos on full alert and so on.
first of all, one might think that if this is what women’s liberation movements was fighting for then it is not unreasonable to see its actions as an attempt to replaced one set of discriminatory mechanisms and procedures with yet another one. however, the difference between old and new scheme was that the latter gained its legitimacy and was effectively institutionalised because of its apparent appeal to “equality”. with this in mind i must say that i never doubted that I’m a hopeless case of naive ignorant who’s ignorance is beyond powers of educational establishments and even modern medicine, psychology or, for that matter healing spells from Hogwarts; but this was too much even for me.
secondly, what drew my immediate attention was the distinctive wording of the comment and i must admit that this unfortunate use of language painted mischievous smile on my face. the author of that comment talked about beliefs! (“do what women do -work hard towards the changes [they] believe should occur”). quite clearly i was not and would not be willing to “believe” but would rather insist on “knowing” what the current state of affairs is.
which leads me to my main point. how can we successfully deal with inequalities, or for that matter any social ill, without even knowing what the true state of affairs is? and how can we know this when mere indication of certain matters triggers nation-wide hysteria of certain groups within society, which subsequently finds its reflection in media and influences attitudes of leading politicians. to illustrate my point i would use as a case study recent conference organised by Fawcett Society commemorating 40 anniversary of equal pay legislation coming into force in the UK.

the conference commenced on Friday 28th May 2010 and while i was not that much interested in the subject i noticed few intriguing comments posted live on twitter which lead me to visit Fawcett website where i learned that:

“… women working full-time earn on average 17% less per hour than men working full-time. For ethnic minority women, the gap is even higher at 20%. For women working part-time compared to men working full-time the gap is 36% per hour – rising to 45% in London.
Equal pay is a fundamental right!”

and

“There are three main reasons. Firstly, there’s straight-forward discrimination by employers – paying women less than men to do the same job. Some researchers estimate that straightforward discrimination accounts for up to 40% of the pay gap.”

in the paper “Equal pay, where next? Changing Hearts and Minds” (pdf) prepared by Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the society and Poly Trenow, and presented at the conference i read that:

“In 2010 celebrations of the forty years of outlawing pay discrimination are marred by the reality of a persistent pay gap of 16.4% for full time work, rising to 55% in the financial services industry. Can we afford to tolerate the implication that in the 21st century women are worth 55% less than their male counterparts?”

disregarding clearly charged language of these extracts, the numbers quoted were quite astonishing – 55% pay gap in the banking sector!? if these numbers were true shouldn’t we celebrate 40 anniversary of equal pay legislation being out of force in the UK rather than being in force? what were these people celebrating?! total and complete failure?! that’s what it seemes judging by the numbers presented above.

but once i took a closer look at those figures together with issues around methods of obtaining them i immediately realised that the picture painted above is … well, at best misleading.

for those with at least two enquiring brain cells the first point of reference would be Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (2009) published by Office for National Statistics as this was the source of the data quoted in “Equal pay, where next?”. however, according to Office for National Statistics, gender pay gap narrowed between 2008 and 2009 (pdf):

“The 2009 gender pay gap for full-time employees is 12.2 per cent, down from 12.6 per cent in 2008, comparing median hourly earnings excluding overtime. For part-time employees the gap is -2.0 per cent (the figure for women is 2.0 per cent higher than the figure for men) compared with -3.7 per cent in 2008.”

and

“The figures show that the gender pay gap has fallen by around five percentage points for the full-time employees and all employees measures from 1997 to 2009. The gender pay gap for part-time employees has remained at a similar level over the years, with women earning more than men when the median is used.”

interestingly enough the main figure provided by Office for National Statistics was 12.2%, so what was the deal with 16.4%, 17%, 20%, 36%, 40%, 45% and/or 55%? where are these numbers coming from?
answers to some of these questions together with an interesting twist could be found on UK Statistics Authority’s website. in the correspondence section i stumbled upon an interesting document entitled “Government Equalities Office Press Release: 27 April 2009”, dated 11 June 2009, from chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar to Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, Government Equalities Office (pdf)(preview and download on scribd). in this document we read:

“I am writing to you about the Government Equalities Office (GEO) Press Release on the Equality Bill, issued on 27 April, which states that women are paid on average 23 per cent less per hour than men.
GEO’s headline estimate of the difference between the earnings of women compared with men (generally referred to as the gender pay gap) is some 10 percentage points higher than the 12.8 per cent figure quoted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Yet both estimates are derived from the same source, the 2008 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). Such a difference in headline estimates is likely to confuse the general public. The Statistics Authority is concerned that this may undermine public trust in official statistics.
(…)
… the figure of 23 per cent quoted in the GEO press release relates to the median hourly earnings of all employees (full-time and part-time combined) whereas ONS’s figure of 12.8 per cent is based on the difference in the median hourly earnings of full-time employees only. Neither measure is entirely satisfactory as an impartial and objective headline estimate. The former rolls together the quite different levels of hourly earnings for part-time and full-time employees; while the latter excludes the earnings of around one quarter of all employees.

These considerations suggest the need for a more extensive set of measures to present the differences between the earnings of men and women. Indeed, it is the Statistics Authority’s view that use of the 23% on its own, without qualification, risks giving a misleading quantification of the gender pay gap.”

the document goes on clarifying intricacies of measuring pay gap and simply speaking, explanations given by the author serve as very explicit proof that what we neatly refer to as “gender pay gap” is not a neat concept at all. nevertheless quickly scanning through the latest ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings we would find that:

  • median pay gap for full-time employees (excluding overtime) has decreased from 12.6% to 12.2%; that
  • women’s hourly rate rising by 4.3% to £11.39 and the men’s by 3.8% to £12.97; and that
  • mean pay gap also narrowed, from 17.4% to 16.4%;
  • 22.0% pay gap is a result of combining full and part-time work (decrease from 22.5% in 2008); however,
  • when working part-time women were paid 2% more per hour than were men.

that would explain some of the figures quoted by Fawcett while according to society’s website figure 36% (bundled up with 45% as a corresponding figure for London) refers to pay gap between women working part-time when compared with men working full-time. this comparison might seem quite odd, and it is hard for me to imagine what kind of inferences could be drawn from such a comparison.

nevertheless referring back to UK Statistics Authority’s correspondence section we find a letter dated 7 August 2009 and entitled “Gender Pay Gap”. this time Sir Michael Scholar tells off Baroness Prosser of Battersea, Chairman for Women and Work Commission (pdf)(preview and download on scribd). Sir Michael writes:

“It would be an easy mistake for a casual reader to conclude from the Foreword that if the overall gender pay gap stands at 22.6 per cent and the full-time gender pay gap stands at 12.8 per cent, then the part-time gender pay gap must be considerably greater than 22.6 per cent. Indeed, the Foreword appears to confirm just such a conclusion when it states that ‘pay gaps are even greater for part-time workers (39.9 per cent)’. The casual reader would be surprised to learn then that median hourly earnings of women and of men (excluding overtime) are very close, with women’s median pay actually being slightly higher than men’s (by 3.4 per cent).
While the Foreword to Shaping the Future refers to 39.9 per cent as an estimate of the pay gap for part-time workers, it does not explain what this is a measure of. Looking at the numbers presented in the Authority M&A note, 39.9 per cent appears to be a measure of the difference between the median hourly earnings of part-time women compared with full-time men. The M&A note looked at a similar measure presented by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (based on mean rather than median earnings) and concluded that such a comparison needs particularly careful presentation and justification if it is not to mislead. If this comparison is indeed the basis for the 39.9 per cent estimate, I am disappointed that it should have appeared in the Foreword to Shaping the Future without any explanation.”

after these revelations i am inclined to leave remaining figure of 55%, but i have a strong feeling that the high number might be a result of compering average earnings of men working full time in financial sector in the City of London with female employees working as part-time cleaners for small branch of local bank somewhere in the poorest part of UK.

summing up, the closest figure depicting “gender pay gap” according to UK Statistics Authority would be 12.2%, a figure which interestingly is not mentioned even once in Fawcett’s “Equal pay, where next? Changing Hearts and Minds”.
regardless of this unimportant fact, the report goes on to identify issues behind the existing pay gap (whatever it might be) by citing a report “Modelling Gender Pay Gaps” by Olden and Walby and published in 2004 by Equal Opportunities Commission. according to this study, factors associated with gender pay gap as for 2002 were:
•        Women have less full-time work experience (19%)
•        Interruptions to female employment (childcare, etc.) (14%)
•        Gender segregation (concentration of women in female-dominated occupations) (10%)
•        Education (older women have less education than males) (8%)
•        Institutional factors such as firm size (women tend to be in smaller firms) and union membership (8%)
•        Years of part-time working (women have more part-time work experience: this has a negative effect) (3%)
•        ‘Being female’ (unexplained, possibly discrimination and preferences/motivation) (38%)

(after Shackleton, J. R., Should We Mind the Gap? Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy (October 21, 2008). Insititute of Economic Affairs Monographs, Hobart Paper No. 164. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1314789)

in other words, if one would be really determined to arrive at some one-figure-estimate of wage differences among men and women, working full time (based on current data) and which could be regarded as resulting from sex discrimination (as presented by Olden and Walby) the figure would be 4.63%. however, such estimate would exclude large number of factors and would have to be seen as quite simplistic and most likely misleading representation of the real issue.

now, referring back to “believing” and “knowing” as legitimate drivers for change. one might think that institutions like Fawcett Society and Equality & Human Rights Commission would insist on “knowing” rather than “believing” when attempting to, according to their own words, “build a robust roadmap for the future of equal pay”. on the other hand if insignificant individual like the author of this blog, using his laptop seems to be perfectly capable of scrutinising the various figures popping up during debates on gender pay gap, it is not unreasonable to expect that organisations like the ones mentioned above with all their resources should be capable of doing much more. unless of course “knowing” is not on their agenda, and proposed “robust roadmap for the future of equal pay” is based on set of convoluted beliefs – i guess some form of very peculiar religious dogma proclaiming its crusade against pay differentials as means to salvation.
unfortunately, one would be wrong thinking that this is the only area of policies and legislative process affected by such frivolous attitude towards facts. and short scan of other issues raised by Sir Michael Scholar with various public bodies published by UK Statistics Authority on its website could indicate similar misinformation campaigns surrounding issues of domestic violence, rape and other areas blighted by “institutionalised discrimination against women” all of which are at the heart of policy orientated endeavours of Fawcett-like organisations and pressure groups.

finally, considering the advice that men should “do what women do -work hard towards the changes [they] believe should occur” one might ask whether men should start to “work” towards their goals in a manner similar to the one described above and employed by Fawcett Society, Harriet Harman and the likes?
i believe they should not, but then again I’m just a hopeless case of naive ignorant who’s ignorance is beyond powers of any educational institution.