Archives for category: Biology
Women have struggled their whole lives just to have rights and to be treated equally. Now they can’t even have their own identity, as men are now walking up and claiming to “identify” as female. Is it wrong to feel this way?

…as answered on Quora….

The first part of this question seems a bit iffy to me on grounds of fact and reasoning, yet I sympathize: it must be weird to invest a lot of your conception of yourself as deriving from womanhood, and then see a few men fard up their faces and mince about in clothing not normally worn by men . . . and call themselves women and even demand others to accept their self-categorizations. 

Well, their demands are ignoble and immoral, but, alas, commonly accepted and defended and even amplified amongst the lunatics that currently sit at the commanding heights of our culture. I am annoyed by all that.

As for their self-categorization? Very rarely are they convincing. And even at their best they are fake women.

But fake women have rights too, and they can certainly be given enough cultural leeway to do what they want without forcing others to “accept” them and “respect” them. In a free society, the right of free association entails the right of disassociation. You need not hang around them. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that none of us should be forced to speak of them in ways they prefer. And it is a tragedy that these principles of liberty are now denied and flouted by the cultural left these days.

More importantly, I have trouble understanding how you are denied your “identity” by their shallow or deep fakes. You are you. They are whatever they are.

But then, you seem to be defining yourself (as your “identity”) not by your personhood and individuality, but by your commonality with members of your own sex. I find this bizarre. I define my identity not primarily by my commonality with other men, but by my differentiation. 

I see the whole focus of the question as buying into the presuppositions of those men who pretend to be women: as hollow, as a distraction from individuation by recourse to group membership and similarity with others.

It is a fine thing to extol one’s similarities with others, but that isn’t your identity. That is commonality. The whole postmodern movement focusing on “identity” strikes me as as fake as men pretending to be women by dress-up and mere assertion. 

For we are not talking about identity, we are talking about its opposite.

Indeed, the struggle of feminism, I would have thought — before I ditched using the term approvingly, anyway — is the struggle of individual women to be treated as individual persons despite their categorization by sex. The perversion of feminism, as I see it, has been the anti-individual promotion of the sex (modish folks’ll say “gender”) rather than the liberation of individuals from the confines of over-sexualized, constricting and collectivist expectations.

So, like the other response to this question that I noticed, I urge: “let it go.” Not because the fake women are not wholly unthreatening, but because they threaten something you should not take personally.

As for these fake women, my attitudes vary, person to person, expressing (as I have) pity, sympathy, laughter, indifference, pro forma respect and, yes, acceptance.* It all depends. On whether they allow me my freedom, or, instead, have some tyrannical agenda. And also whether they are doing themselves and their loved ones harm, even sans force.

We do live in strange, decadent** times.


* When I was young, I had a number of pre-op “tranny” friends — that is what they called themselves — and I liked them a lot, despite our lack of . . . commonality.

** Also when I was young, I extolled “decadence” even as I denied any precision to the term. Now I know what it means, and remain somewhat ambivalent — that is, I do not think decadence should be normed, even while I confess to being something of a decadent myself.


N.B. I am not at all certain that my response on Quora will be allowed to stand. And I could even be removed from the platform. Why? For merely referring to “fake women.” It will be interesting to see how it goes. Since posting I saw a number of other answers. They are uniformly bad.

Should there be straight pride?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Probably not. But there should be no “straight shame,” either.

And, more importantly, most people should practice a bit of modesty, as part of humility and decorum, rather than “pride.”

The point of “gay pride” was, as near as I could make out, a reasonable and necessary push back against the anti-homosexual shaming that was once the norm. That the “pride” movement went overboard, as can be seen in too many of the gay pride parades I have noticed, is sad. By putting aside the question of being unashamed of one’s orientation and instead publicly glorying in indecency and immodesty, “gay pride” paraders have promoted shamelessness when shame be more apt.

You see, the original idea of not feeling shame for one’s desires is good. But the shameless public promotion of private, even lewd activities strikes me as bad, immoral, inconsiderate — what amounts to grand effrontery.

Why would straight people wish to emulate all that?

But straight people do need to defend their desires against the onslaught of anti-straight social forces.

I believe heteronormativity also needs to be defended.

Why? Because the norming of the activities that lead to procreation, to the maintenance of the species, is pro-life, humanistic, civilized. To oppose heteronormativity is to promote decadence.

Quite literally.

Of course, the reader will gather that I think heteronormativity need not be oppressive to the small population of sexual outliers. A society can norm heterosexuality without pride and overbearing condescension and exclusion. Heteronormativity can be humble, not proud.

It is a worse than a shame when it is, instead, shameless and tyrannical.

I believe it is imperative that straight people resist cultural decadence and re-learn modesty, responsibility and the blessing of human reproduction. Also, it might be helpful to relearn that sexual activity can be pleasurable within a context centered around the production of offspring and the raising of same.

But “straight pride” won’t do that. “Straight virtue” might.

twv, September 19, 2019

I oppose the concept of “gender” and quite a bit of today’s intersectionalist nomenclature. This is especially the case with the trans mania.

But I should clarify. For the record, I am not “trans-exclusionary.” That term of alleged opprobrium doesn’t do my position justice. I am a trans denier. Whether or not I play along with other people’s fantasies and fakes and frauds is a matter of whimsy only, circumscribed by manners and fleeting circumstance. On principle, anyone who threatens me — in the realm of manners or in courts of law — to obtain my compliance with their fantasies and fakes and frauds will gain only my contempt and defiance. The current trans movement is a bullying idiocy.

Now, though I oppose current trends in trans advocacy, I have no great animus against these sexually confused and deliberately confusing people. When I was young I knew a number of trannies. That is what they called themselves. Trannies. They were technically called pre-op transexuals, I think. But whatever they were called, I liked them. I had no trouble with them. I thought their passion for drag shows was stupid, but I think most other people’s pastimes are stupid, and as everyday people I got along with them fine.

But at no point did I think of these men as women. Lacking two X chromosomes and sporting dangling pudenda put the kibosh on any of that. Putative trans women, even after plastic surgery, are still not women. Though if they can pass I give them a pass.

But that was yesterday — today’s trans activists are my enemies.

Why? Well, they have gotten increasingly bold in their effrontery. About once per month I encounter some public argument to the effect that I am somehow bad if I do not want to get naked and engage in penetrative sexual play with a “trans person” just because I do not like their genitalia. Well, I like women. Well, a very few women. And I have a fondness for their genitalia, too. And I have no interest in naked play with any man. I would be most happy if I could go the rest of my life without seeing another penis, at least up close. The idea that trans activists think they can guilt me into accepting their hidden or mangled pudenda appalls me.

And I have a right to my feelings.

My values.

My sexual preferences.

Today’s trannies who seek to take away my right are evil.

twv

It is possible to interpret a single concept, as instantiated in a bit of jargon, in a way completely at variance from how others use it.

When I encounter this — as I often do — I sometimes believe that I am in the right, and others in the wrong, while on other occasions I am not at all sure who is right.

Recently, Meryl Streep, an actress in a popular Amazon Prime show about women behaving badly, shocked the readers of ‘Everyone Thinks We’re Insanos’ Home Journal with a seemingly commonsense statement that, in times past, would not have raised an eyebrow. She is not fond of the term “toxic masculinity”:

We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. . . . And I don’t find [that] putting those two words together . . . because women can be pretty f—ing toxic. It’s toxic people. We have our good angles and we have our bad ones. I think the labels are less helpful than what we’re trying to get to, which is a communication, direct, between human beings. We’re all on the boat together. We’ve got to make it work.

“Meryl Streep’s ‘toxic masculinity’ critique a ‘step out of’ Hollywood ‘echo chamber of conformity,’ Concha says,” by Charles Creitz | Fox News

At first blush, this seems preciously close to wisdom, though immediately a note of uncertainty creeps in: does use of the phrase “toxic masculinity” ineluctably hurt “our boys”? Despite my doubt, the statement is not nuts. But it was not a universal hit:

Janet Fiamengo, Paul Elam, and Tom Golden shared some time onscreen talking about this brouhaha. And the general consensus seemed to be that the concept of “toxic feminism” was an inherently indecent concept:

The folks at InStyle warned against their interpretation: “The specific kind of toxicity Streep is talking about involves a kind of hyper-gendered behavior. It’s not saying outright that men are evil or inherently violent.”

Emily Alford went full Jezebel, asserting that “Meryl Streep has no idea what she’s fucking talking about” on the subject, while admitting, “Yes, there are toxic people, some of them women, many of them girls I went to church camp with in 1996, but that has nothing to do with toxic masculinity.” Ms. Alford helps us with her own definition:

“Toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak. (No, it doesn’t mean that all men are inherently toxic.)

It’s these cultural lessons, according to the A.P.A., that have been linked to “aggression and violence,” leaving boys and men at “disproportionate risk for school discipline, academic challenges and health disparities,” including cardiovascular problems and substance abuse.”

Emily Alford, “Meryl Streep Does Not Know What ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Means,” Jezebel, May 30, 2019.

What Alford offers us is an environmental, “nurture”/“social construct” view of the issue. And while I do not doubt that there is a strong cultural component to the education of male humans about their (contested) roles in society as boys and men — how could I? — males are also and indisputably driven by biology, too, especially the hormone testosterone. It used to be fun to joke about “testosterone poisoning,” and I have no problem with that joke. Toxic masculinity is associated with the male hormone for good evolutionary reasons, and trying to impute masculine toxicity entirely or even mainly to cultural influences is not plausible, no matter what the A.P.A. may or may not assert.

Alford offers a definition and a theory. I reject her theory but accept her definition. Prof. Fiamengo et al. seem to object to the very term, and agree with Streep that talking about it is bad for boys. Alford demurs: “You see, Meryl, there are some damaging facets of culturally-imposed masculinity that are toxic to men (and the rest of us). It is not the men who are toxic simply by accident of being men.”

Alford seems as level-headed as a person can be under the sway of the ludicrous Blank Slate hypothesis, where human behavior is “culturally” driven. Men are not toxic for being men. Sounds plausible. Good. But, that being admitted (at least arguendo), the toxicity of masculinity is indeed a male-related propensity driven in no small part by biology. More importantly, we call the problems heavily associated with masculinity (which includes violent crime, first and foremost) toxic because they destabilize and vex and sometimes even destroy the affected individual as well as those around him.

And, once again, I do not doubt the cultural component. Indeed, one group of people who have traditionally — and even unto this very day — promoted masculinity to the point of toxicity has been . . . women. Not all women, of course: #notall! And not just because of factors associated with Briffault’s Law — that is, not just because women tend to control male access to the Delta of Venus between their legs.

Indeed, I am pretty sure one could show toxic masculinity as developing in a sort of Grand tarantella with toxic femininity — each leading on the other.

And what might toxic femininity be? Well, traditionally it is associated with a number of behaviors, known to us personally and in literature — the Vamp (pictured above) being just one classic example. And it is also connected to the deep life history of our species, broadly speaking, and to the hormone estrogen, narrowly speaking. “Estrogen poisoning” is also relevant to the discussion.

And I will go further: it may also be the case that feminism has cultivated not only some classic forms of toxic femininity, but also applied toxic masculinity in women against women, perverting their lives to the extremities of misery.

Which brings us back to our trio of anti-feminists. For reasons I do not wholly understand, Fiamengo et al. seem to think that Streep is right, and that toxic masculinity sends boys the wrong signal. Dispirits them or something. (I confess, I turned them off before they had finished. Perhaps others with more patience than I can inform me if they started making more sense halfway through.)

The problem I see here? A common problem in our culture, where the old Aristotelian notions of virtue and vice are no longer part of our moral vocabulary. The idea that virtue is found in balance, and vice at the extremes, helps explain how we should recognize two poles in our natures, yin and yang, and recognize that they need balancing — by the cultivation of good habits, according to reason.

And this question of “toxicity”: it is a metaphor. And a good one. Poison is in the dose. Estrogen and testosterone are good things in our make-ups. They provide us with our basic drives. But we must not let them drive us into perversity or oblivion. Balance; moderation in all things.

And, when it comes to toxicity, it is all a question of dosage. Too much of any single hormone is, well, too much: poison. Too little is bad, too, for it is at optimum dose that poison is medicine.

Similarly, each person must find his or her balance. The first requisite of being a good human is to be a good animal, Herbert Spencer said, and speaking in frankly biological as well as cultural terms is important. But add in other medicines (which, again, are also poisonous at high dosage, by the principle of hormesis) as well, like rights and obligations and justice: we have a lot of balancing to do.

Little boys need to understand that some typically boyish behaviors — like rough-and-tumble assertiveness — can be quite bad in some circumstances and at some extremes. Same goes for little girls. They should be aware that certain typically girlish behaviors — coquettish cuteness played up, say — are also dangerous in many contexts and especially when laid on thick.

Nowadays, of course, we are supposed to immediately discuss various ambiguities of sex roles and behavior ranges, using the term “gender,” which I dislike for reasons I have often discussed. So I will skip all that. Of course, of course: #notall, blah blah blah.

I will, instead, merely summarize: Streep and Fiamengo et al. are wrong to suspect that little boys cannot handle the knowledge that some of their typically boyish behaviors can be taken to an excess of vice. But little girls need similar remonstrances, mutatis mutandis, and perhaps were this stressed more, and seriously, boys would be able to handle maturation better than they seem to be doing these days. They will realize that they are not singled out as “problematic,” and that every person, of both sexes, have a tough road ahead of them, perhaps right up to the moment of death.

And the feminists need to let go of their relentless and indefensible social constructivism, for reasons I have given elsewhere. I am quite glad that Ms. Alford does not mean to say that toxic masculinity should be understood as akin to Original Sin. But hey: blaming society for social mores that double down on our basic sexual/biological patterns we see in mammalian and avian species the world over is a nonstarter. Further, not only do I readily admit that culture and social controls and norms matter, I suggest to the Alfords of our society that their feminism has worsened, not alleviated, the basic lot of humanity.

Well, to some extent, at least.

twv


Politically correct manspreading:

Billy Porter at the 2019 Oscars.

I have made my position about “gender” about as clear as I can make it, on this blog: “gender” is inconsistently used even by its main proponents because it is mostly incoherent.

The obsession with gender-as-imposition of sex roles (“socially constructed”) has been countered with a liberatory concept of self-definition (“display as”) without specifying the range of possibilities from social convention to social conspiracy to individual assertion to individual accommodation. Because of this lack of multi-factor analysis, gender theorists turn their pet concept from a supposedly sociological theory (or schema) into a cult dogma.

But where “gender” really errs is by focusing on categorization (“gender” has roots in the concept of “genre”/“genera”) as an identity determinant — that is, as a theory of individual identity formation — instead of individuation as a prime component of personal self-definition. It is all very confused because the normative move from socially constructed (imposed) role identification to individually constructed (self-defined) role identification fixates in both cases on a group identifier. It denies that social identification of roles might be quite copacetic with vague ranges and that individual definition of role might not need a category to make common cause with similar persons.

A person might be satisfied merely to identify himself or herself or whatself without any direct competitors for a possible mate — or none — and cooperate with a found mate without heavy social identification.

Identity could be, in some cases, primarily an individual existentialist concern rather than a class essentialist concern.

Which means: sex remains the most convenient categorization criterion, with its standard biological binary, and “gender” mostly worthless.

Sex serves as a Schelling Point criterion, while gender is too complex to negotiate in any large society.

My anti-gender position is, of course, considered absurd by the recent college-grad crowd. But what is absurd is allowing “trans girls” into women’s sports where natural male physical superiority overwhelms female competitors — sometimes to the point of crushing a female skull.

Screenshot from the YouTube vid.

Explaining religion is not necessarily a simple matter.

I grew up taught to believe that the stories of my religion were true. But as I grew older, certain inconsistencies and antinomies weighed upon my mind, and I found myself incredulous about the whole matter, so I gave up on the beliefs and the rites.

But, if not literally true, is religion — or all religions, or some — figuratively true? Supremely useful? Something else?

The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.

Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I, Ch. II

I was taught to regard the religion I was born into as true, literally so, and all others as false, with a faint chance that shadow meaning sometimes figuratively refracting the truth — but more likely “of the Devil.” Converting out of the religion, it was easy to treat my youthful theological stance as Atheism With One Exception, making actual atheism merely a final step.

But I did understand a discordant note to this secular triumphalism: henotheism. It was clear that Judaism began with a polytheism-in-fact but monotheism-in-practice: “thou shalt have no other gods before Me” more than implied a multiplicity of deities. Yahweh was good, all others were bad — or, even less strong a position: Yahweh was ours and all others were theirs. The Chosen People idea seemed to imply one of many gods choosing and nurturing a bloodline of people to serve His agenda. But this idea, while clear in my head, I somehow never took all that seriously.

What did I take seriously? The “ghost theory” and exaptation. These ideas can be found in the sociology of Herbert Spencer, and the latter has been greatly expanded by contemporary evolutionary psychology. Beliefs in the gods arose from memories of dead leaders echoing in human brains and showing up in dreams. And hallucinations. That is the irritant that starts the pearl that is religion. But then something else happens: religious belief and practice is discovered to be useful.

To all sorts of people. For good and ill.

But one use we fell into. It turns out that when we less-than-well-tempered hominids — Hominoids — even contemplate a putatively divine being or concept, or even any “transcendent object” or priniple, we think and behave less like selfish, short-sighted apes. We begin to behave morally.

And thus the transcendent notion, whatever it is, can serve as a social signal that can encourage others to see our intent to coöperate, not engage in harm. Whatever religious idea we hold can gain a lot of traction when folks come to rely on such signalling.

Thus, the gods.

A simple story, this secular account, and it can be filed under the heading Exaptation — a thing that originated for one reason surviving for other reasons. It was as if adapted for a new purpose, but as naturally selected, sort of adapting itself.

A meme — a replicable habit — spread for reasons independent of its explicit rationale.

Great story.

It may even be true.

Almost certainly it is true.

But it is not the whole story: we still have that initial irritant. The “ghosts.” Which though inconvenient after the religion becomes a memetic hit, still persist.

And there is an outside possibility that some of those irritants in the oyster of our imaginations are, themselves, Not What They Seem.

They may be neither dreams nor hallucinations nor memories.

They might be aliens.

In a fascinating dcumentary about a man who paints his alleged encounters with aliens, some of whom with which he engages in sexual acts, Love and Saucers, we learn about an odd variety of religious experience, the sexual extraterrestrial encounter. Philosopher Jeffrey Kripal, quoted in the movie, tells us that religious experiences with a sexual component are common in the literature. He also sees alien encounter and abduction stories as not dissimilar from past religious tales. What they interpreted as angels we, in a more scientific age, interpret as extraterrestrials.

And such experiences are not uncommon.

So, do we have these experiences because of some quirk of our psychologies, as evolved from the distant past?

Or is it something more direct?

I do not know.

I have never had an encounter as described by the painter in Love and Saucers. It would be easy to mock him. That is something I am sure my “skeptic” friends online would be inclined to do.

But I no longer do such things. If David Huggins, the subject of the documentary, is conjuring these “memories” by confabulation, that is almost as astounding as the events he describes.

And then there is the wider context. Do we have certainty that encounters with “aliens” do not happen? I do not have that certainty of conviction, of dismissive incredulity. I do not have enough faith to dismiss out of hand the UFO context.

Now, I understand, that wider context and the evidence for it may be peculiar in the extreme, sure — but it is vast. The number of documents leaked from governments, and the hundreds — the thousands — of seemingly earnest testimonies from military personnel and government contractors, airline passengers, and workers about encounters with bizarre flying and submersible crafts is huge. And these crafts — in government documents and reports as well as in reams of testimony, apparently run according to principles nothing like the technology we know, which is based on aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, and on the many types of internal combustion engines . . . well, the number and weight of the testimony is almost disturbing.

Further, there appears to be an ongoing government disclosure of information about these encounters, around the world, and even — belatedly, with a great lag — from the biggest, most UFOey government of them all, the United States of Military Industrial Complex.

I do not know what to make of all this. Not with anything approaching certainty. And were it not for the Cato Institute, I might not be thinking about it at all.

A number of years ago the libertaran think tank fired one of its consulting scholars, economist Dom Armentano — removed him from their honor roll, so to speak. Why? Because he had come out for UFO disclosure.

Think about this. The retired professor merely expressed a support for transparency in government on an issue of public interest. But the “heroic” Cato management could not even be associated with something as tame as that.

When I heard this, I experienced something like shock. I had thought I understood the cultism of the cultural center, its proneness to shaming and shunning and marginalization . . . perpetrated to keep the hierarchy of the in-group secure against all comers. But Cato is libertarian. Do Cato-ites think their propinquity to power, geographically, makes them in the in-group? If any tribe on the planet has reason to understand the corrosive nature of in-group intellectual regimentation, it would be libertarians. And if any group should be prone to resist such nonsense, then it must be libertarians, right?

Apparently not. Cato was so eager for respectability, and so unimaginative that an illustrious economist had to be purged.

This is when I realized the astounding extent of ideological cultism in America, and its corrupting powers. And, once you realize how powerful that propensity is, then you can see how it could be manipulated.

By a conspiracy. At a power center.

For, alas, it seems likely that some conspiracy is involved. Either a cabal within the Deep State is conspiring to keep some dread secret from the world and from the citizens that the government putatively serves, or a big if ragtag group of military personel, domestic pilots, seamen, and a great number of civilians are perpetrating and perhaps coördinating a huge fraud.

About two years ago, I began to think the latter the less likely.

Further, I surmise, if I were in the Deep State and saw all these rumors swirl around me, I would regard them as a destabilizing force, as undermining governance by decreasing trust in basic institutions. I would earnestly support public research into and educational efforts about the phenomena, the better to thoroughly explain and debunk paranormal accounts and tall tales about UFOs and “aliens.” But, on the other hand, had I a secret to keep, a big one, letting the testimonies and photographs and rumors and urban legends spread while giving lukewarm and even preposterous counter-explanations might just work — to keep the secret. After all, I could count on all the little Catos out there, doing my work for me, keeping “the nuts” marginalized.

This does not mean that painter David Huggins is not some kind of a nut. There is room for psychological confabulation along the margins. But it sure looks like something strange is going on. The planet and its history may be stranger than we thought.

Indeed, “the gods” at the start of religions may not have been mere mirages and dreams and “visions.” Perhaps the Anunnaki and Quinametzin and Viracocha and that crowd really did help start our civilization, and that they seemed “gods” to us barely higher apes. And maybe they had some connection to the phenomena that we call “religious” — and maybe they have something to do with “aliens.”

In any case, Love and Saucers is a fascinating documentary.

And religion remains something of a mystery.

twv

Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel.

It took me at least a month to get through the first episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Watching Mr. Maisel go through his excruciatingly bad comedy routines, as the viewer had to do repeatedly early in the show, was hard to endure. And a host of other small problems plagued the comedy-drama. The whole emprise, for example, made Woody Allen seem WASP. But it was a Sherman-Palladino production, friends said they loved it, and the lead actress is fun to watch. So I plodded through, a few minutes every other day or so. And got to the end, where it got good.

And then I binged all the way through the two seasons up on Amazon Prime.

The show is fun, but has . . . “issues.” As notes Rachel Lu:

There’s a scene in Season Two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel that perfectly encapsulates the show’s central conundrum. Margaret (Midge) Maisel, our 1950’s-Jewish-housewife-turned-comedian, has finally gotten a gig at a semi-respectable New York City club, somewhere on the way to midtown. She shows up in her trademark black cocktail dress, fresh and beautiful and raring to go. Unfortunately, her act gets pushed back repeatedly as confident male comedians breeze in to claim her spot. By the time Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) takes the stage, it’s late and the audience is drunk, while she herself has completely lost her feminine charm. She’s sweaty, angry, and mildly intoxicated, sporting mustard stains on her sexy dress. Storming the stage, she abandons her prepared act and launches into a meta-discourse on comedy, and the suitability of women to participate in it. Comedy, she says, is about pain and rejection. Who understands these things better than women?

“Mrs. Maisel’s Mixed Messages,” by Rachel Lu, Law and Liberty (February 8, 2019)

Everybody understands pain, at least as it pertains to them. Telling other people that you know pain more than they do must be demonstrated. And made funny. The breakout rant described above is not comedy, and funny only because filled with invective. It is also not quite believable, because both too defensive and offensive. It is a manifesto Mrs. Maisel delivers. Or “womanifesto,” if you must. But it is only funny for the insults.

The story of the show is this incredibly peppy, “privileged” woman, married with two children, who almost never takes care of her children. Her parents and her wayward husband and a series of nannies do that. Her parents are wealthy. How they got this way is never quite explained. Her father, played by Tony Shaloub, is a college professor of mathematics. This was not a lucrative career path then or now, not without a government grant (which actually occurs as the story develops). Her mother dresses to the nines in every scene, and comes across as an heiress. But that information, if imparted to the viewer, missed me. Her husband (who leaves her in the first episode) works for his own father in the family clothing factory. Yet the young couple and the old live in vast, multi-room apartments elegantly decorated and filled with books and bric-a-bracs and elegant, 50s-era appliances.

The pain she experiences is not poverty.

The rejection she experiences is from her hapless hubbie alone.

And of course, only barely mentioned in one scene, there is a background pain — giving birth to her children, whom she almost never sees or touches.

This is all some weird sort of fantasy. And some of the fantasy is feminist.

One thing not quite confronted is why male comics were then and are now more common than female ones. We see two “famous” comics in the show: Lenny Bruce, who was a real man and most people say was funny, but whose work has not made me laugh in the past, but which isn’t bad re-created here; and “Midge’s female nemesis, Sophie Lennon . . . a crude hack recycling years-old material.” Neither of them strikes me as especially driven by pain or rejection.

A decade ago, the “gender” issue in comedy became a hot topic. The upshot from the men, whom I believe (and not the feminists, whom I do not), was that men are funnier than women, on average, because men need to amuse women while women do not need to amuse men — men like women even if they are not funny.

Rachel Lu, in the review I link to above, notes the theme of comedy and pain, and Midge Maisel’s insistence that does she know both. Neither seem plausible.

Her lips say “I belong on this stage,” but the show’s creators seem to be signaling something else. Before the lady comic was permitted to claim her microphone, she was forced to morph into a smelly, angry, drunken slob. In other words, she had to be un-womaned before practicing the comic arts. Was it freak happenstance? Or is there some deeper truth here? Can a good woman also be a great comedian?

This re-gendering is perhaps dramatically necessary because men understand the function of comedy, and, well, maybe women do not. Or, more likely, feminists do not. As in the old joke: “‘How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?’ ‘That’s not funny!’” The point is, it is men who understand rejection on the receiving end. The evolutionary setup is fairly clear: women find advantage in making themselves as attractive as possible to as many men as possible, and rejecting all but the very best of those that want them. Men tend not to reject women as routinely. This basic truth undergirds all comedy. The comedy landscape in the show seems a tad misleading. We are being misled. We are being Mrs. Misled (sorry about that).

Of course it is not that women cannot be funny. It is that they have less incentive to be. There are good female comedians. Just like there are good male models. But the evolutionarily stable strategies do not stack the deck in either favor, and aren’t most male models gay?

So, what of the men in Mrs. Maisel’s world?

As in previous Sherman-Palladino creations (The Gilmore Girls and Bunheads), the men on this show share one possibly-unrealistic quality: they reliably take notice of witty and talented women, and find these qualities sexy and alluring. In general, Sherman-Palladino’s men are judged by two criteria. First, can they handle their manly business, as professionals and members of society? Second, can they handle their women? Sherman-Palladino dramas have no mercy on men who are too weak to match the objects of their affections.

This is very much a fantasy, but, alas, with no unicorns.

Or, one — our unicorn, Midge, a funny Jewish woman who claims to that pain and rejection feed her art but whose experience is quite different: a charmed life right up until the first, almost-unwatchable episode. But her magic seems more plausible as we get sucked in, as the fantasy picture show does its magic.

twv

“I’m an intersex girl with right-leaning libertarian views. Is there any place for me in the conservative or libertarian spaces on Quora?”

as answered on Quora

So, let me try to break this down.

Though the term “intersex” is quite common in some circles, most people do not know what it means. My dictionary defines it as a person or animal with both male and female sex organs or characteristics. A very, very uncommon condition.* Which would lead most folks to ask questions, if they dared — questions like “how is ‘intersex’ different from ‘hermaphrodite’?”

I say “dared” because when one does not fall into a common category, any discussion of one’s status seems uncommonly personal, and so, well, prying. The issue becomes tricky in terms of manners.

Now, consider libertarians.

Though the term “libertarian” is common in some circles, most people do not know what it means. When I was young, it was a very, very uncommon social philosophy. Espousing its ideas led people to ask a lot of questions. And they still do.

Political divergence seems to anger people even more than sexual subjects do. Why? Maybe because while most people do not act with most others in a primarily sexual way — we interact in “spaces” like markets, communities, educational institutions and the like, and for production, spiritual support, learning — our interactions all materially intersect with the political. And to hold a divergent view is to challenge others. Cannot be helped.

Indeed, the reason questions of “gender” have become such hot topics recently is not primarily that they are especially challenging to others in normal interpersonal situations (though they certainly can be) but because they have been made political by demands that differently gendered people be treated in certain specified ways, under threat of state force and mob action.

And the reason that libertarians challenge conservatives and progressives and most other ideologies is that libertarians insist that the scope of coercion be severely limited. And folks do not like being told that they should not readily resort to coercion. People depend upon coercion, set much store in it. And, what with politics being largely a matter of directing the awesome coercive power of states to favor some and disfavor others in various ways and situations, it is not shocking that folks would tend to take challenges to their reliance upon coercion as an affront.

That is how the political becomes the personal.

Libertarians might be called “interpolitical” people, because they do not fit the main accepted categories of party and cultural group — or “tribe.”

Example? Well, are libertarians “on the right” or “on the left”? They themselves disagree on this. And non-libertarians disagree on the matter, too. I have often been called an evil leftist by conservatives, and an evil right-winger by progressives. The whole left/right issue is a matter of contention. So, to mimic current gender-identification trends, I might aptly describe myself in political terms as an “interpolitical trans liberal.”

Conservatives, on the other hand, are part of a major political group. As a political philosophy, conservatism is much less coherent than libertarianism, mainly because by a common definition it is more attitude and approach than program. Conservatives often do not know what they stand for as much as what they stand against — which is “progressivism.” But, as I have explained elsewhere, conservatives today are largely, on substantive policy matters, merely the progressives of a century ago. What we now witness in this tumultuous age of ideological turmoil is two branches of progressivism vying with each other for power.

It gets confusing in part because of this goofy popularity of the left/right political spectrum. To today’s leftists, they see everything that is “not left” as “right-wing.” But the political animal is not just two wings: there is a head and tail, torso and feet. You might guess, I do not think of libertarian ideas as either “right” or “left.” Indeed, I hazard that the core attitudes of both rightists and leftists are defensible and even praiseworthy, but because both sides leap to policies of mass coercion, demanding that states engage in extravagant displays of force, it seems to me that both conservatives and progressives are very dangerous to themselves and others.

So, I am neither a right-leaning libertarian nor a left-leaning one.

This puts me in an ideological situation not unlike many of today’s young people who identify themselves as intersex despite being, biologically, not really all that ambiguous. It has become a matter of how one “identifies.” I find this confusing in matters of sex. But I note the parallels with my philosophy. Outwardly, I look like a normal person. But once one asks me a few questions, my normality evaporates faster than a puddle on a hot August day.

As for “spaces,” I just ask and answer questions on Quora. I get very few upvotes, and I am prone to providing arguments that do not fit into standard categories, are perhaps quirky or challenging. I actually do not worry about “spaces.” I find myself interacting with a very few other Quorans. I guess a map of our interactions would define our “space,” but I do not worry about it much.

Because of this, I suggest making a space for yourself by honestly asking and answering questions on Quora, and, on occasion, rethinking your positions. Which is especially appropriate for young people. You call yourself a girl. That indicates youth. It is when you are young that you learn the most, and — rightly — change your mind most often.

It is the metaphorical space between your ears that matters most, here

twv

N. B. (*) As far as I know, every male has some female sex hormones and every female has male sex hormones, and surely we would say that most people have some traits that are regarded as “of the opposite sex.” But these facts surely are not what people are talking about when they talk about “intersex.” Surely?

What we now know for sure: feminism is crazed lunacy.

But when did we know it?

IMG_2080This varies from person to person, I guess. I have not called myself a “feminist” since my 20s, but for most of those subsequent decades, I tried not to come off as too extreme in my opposition. Why? Probably for the reason most skeptics of feminism have not: the term is associated with sexual equality, which I just call “individual rights” — and I did not want to erode that notion in any way. But as the years have gone on — leading inevitably to my death, to the death of the human race, and (I gather) to the heat death of the universe — it has become clear that today’s feminists are not interested in sexual equality. They talk, instead, about “gender,” cannot keep a somewhat nebulous concept even they straight (oops: my heteronormativity is showing! I should have said “queer”). And their relentless attacks on white heterosexual men, and their demands to give special favors to “the oppressed classes” of women and POCs and LBGT+ers, show their lack of interest in equality of rights before the law, and a nasty itch for compensatory preferences and class-figured “equality of outcomes.”

Which is why they seem so dangerous.

But crazed lunacy? That can be seen in their lack of empathy and broad-mindedness, in seeing other people’s point of view. The grand example? “Manspreading.”

This is a term that grew out of the grand feminist epithet, “Mansplaining.” Now, this concept did not bug me, for it merely meant the habit of some men to explain to women their own experience.

Though male tendencies to do this do seem to spring from the dimorphism of our brains — men are stronger systematizers, so we tend to turn, say, emotional complaints into logical problems, and women, less tolerant of systematically modeled explanations, tend to object to that — you would have to be something of a mome not to see how this could be reasonably interpreted as disrespectful and logically odd (not a contradiction, necessarily, but logically odd, as P. H. Nowell-Smith used the term). So, “mansplaining” did not bother me too much.

Initially.

Then the word began to be used to condemn men for explaining anything to women — including their own male experiences! The outrageous overreach of this occurs when feminist women accuse of Men’s Rights Activists of mansplaining, just for defending their own individual rights and sexually differentiated experiences.

Which leads us to the moment when it became obvious to me that feminism had run off the rails completely: when young feminists concocted men’s dread crime of spreading their legs in public.

Manspreading, or man-sitting, is the practice of men sitting in public transport with legs wide apart, thereby covering more than one seat. Both this posture and the use of the neologism”manspreading” have occasioned some internet criticism and debates in the US, UK, Turkey, and Canada. The public debate began when an anti-manspreading campaign started on the social media website Tumblr in 2013; the term appeared a year later. OxfordDictionaries.com added the word “manspreading” in August 2015. Use of the term has been criticized as “a caricature of feminism” and the practice has been juxtaposed with examples of women taking up excessive space in public spaces with bags.

Now, this Wikipedia entry ably indicates its absurdity even in this first paragraph of the encyclopedia entry. It is the reductio ad absurdum of feminism — but advanced by self-identified feminists. And the habit of taking up more than one seat is something I have witnessed, and often, in America — when corpulent women bulge onto additional seats and into the aisle. Not a pretty picture. But “fat spreading” is not something that went viral. Manspreading did.

Why? Because young women have been trained by the feminist tradition to nag at men as a right and a . . . privilege. For being women. The superior sex.

Er, gender.

It is ridiculous in this case because it is exactly the opposite of mansplaining: it is womansplaining — women explaining to men the nature of men’s own bodies.

I remember reading one of the first articles on the subject. The young woman feminist said [something to the effect of] “come on, guys, your balls are not that big.”

Well, one hates to bring up personal experience in such matters. But I can assure the reader, I never boast about testicular massiveness. Nevertheless, I could explain to you, at length, about testicular pain. Merely from keeping my legs together. It is a thing. I believe it gets worse with age. Men spread their legs because they do not wish to incur sharp and persistent pain.

But the young feminists apparently never even asked men what they were doing. The men, of course, may not have noticed what they were doing. And perhaps men, so ready (usually) to please women, have eagerly tried to comply.

I wonder how many men now experience enduring agony in their genitals merely to please these women.

But I won’t do it, and I completely sympathize with those men who despise any woman who complains about manspreading.

Early in the aughts, when public discussion of the penis was everywhere, I predicted that soon “cunt” would become common in everyday speech. The pejorative use of the term for objectionable women aptly affixes to any woman who marshals the term as a critique of icky male habits.

Now, the context: Girls are taught to keep their legs together. And for good reason. Opening a woman’s legs provides easier access to her femalia, into which the penis was designed (so to speak) by nature to penetrate. It is the reasonable life plan of a woman to restrict access to this much desired hot spot, and so keeping one’s legs together became part of heteronormative practice, for heteronormativity doubles down on the basic evolutionary strategies of the sexes, protecting women from most men while enabling them to secure the cooperation of a limited set of men (usually one) in exchange for access to the Delta of Venus.

And, because the female of our species lack descending sex organs of a rather obviously fragile nature held on by the thinnest of tissues, but with all-too many nerve endings . . . their characteristic habit of keeping legs tightly closed, when sitting, is easy for them.

The suspicion we non-feminists have had for a long, long time is that feminists have been trying to turn men into women. This issue is the prime example.

Experience and standards that are apt for females get applied, dogmatically, to men — even when inapt and wildly inappropriate.

And it may be inappropriate indeed. I am no anatomist, or diagnostician, but I suspect that men who have been keeping their legs together at the behest of female expectations may have contributed to the startling decline in testosterone levels in the modern male population. But this is just conjecture. Regardless of medical consequences other than discomfort and pain, men closing or crossing their legs was once seen as effeminate for good reasons.

So, this is now the paradigmatic issue upon which I define feminism: the application to men and boys the standards appropriate for, and experience derived from, women and girls.

As epitomized on Broadly, a few days ago, with “100 Easy Ways to Make Women’s Lives More Bearable.” The tenth demand is most objectionable:

10. CLOSE YOUR LEGS ON PUBLIC TRANSIT, OH MY GOD.

All-caps, even. As if her point had one quantum of wisdom to it.

It does not.

It may be time to stop thinking so much “of the women.” Frankly, Dani Beckett (perpetrator of the above indecent inanity), I am not interested in “making women’s lives more bearable”: feminists can stop complaining about trivialities (their feminist etiquette breached by male extremity splays) and stop expecting the world to revolve around them. Take your female privilege and stuff it.

On a kinder note: I suggest re-introducing into our culture that now-forbidden power, common sense.

twv

I pity the young.

They’ve been programmed to believe that because some men do bad things, we all do bad things, and that when some of those bad things are sexual abuse of women, that makes us all “misogynists.” And “trash.” But listen:

  • You are not trash for wanting sexual relations with women.
  • You are not trash for being forward about it.
  • You may be, however, if you are disgusting about it. (“Trashy,” at least.)
  • You definitely are if you use force to get what you desire.

The crimes of a few (or even the many) does not imbue you with guilt, ineluctably.

IMG_2026Yes, these thoughts are brought to you by a specific essay that has been brought to my attention: “How, If You’re a Man, To Deal with the Fact that You’re Trash,” by Damon Young.

I pity Young himself.

But I am not going to critique his dreadful confession of intellectual cravenness. I will let you read it and judge for yourself.

I am on a rant here.

The problem of the present age is that the only form of chivalry left is what has been subsumed by feminism, which is chivalry metamorphosed and corrupted.

And the only form of modesty with current cultural cachet appears to be the hyper-faux-puritanism of major media scolds.

img_2320Why does the puritanical mindset so quickly lead to witch (and warlock) hunts?

I pity the young. They have not been taught the skills to recognize b.s. when they encounter it. They do not seem to realize that most messages they receive are not simple but complex, and one need not accept or reject anything wholesale. Pick at the ideas, men. Prescind one notion from another. Discover principles. Take ideas apart, see what the consequences may be, and then slowly start putting them back together.

If you’d do that, then you would see that much of what is dominating Twitter and cable news is trash talk cruelty and bigotry. It is that way not because important issues are being raised, but because important stuff is being wed to triviality.

IMG_2080And let’s get real: if people would consider marriage as the primary outlet for sexual passion, a lot of this would change. A lot of this is the de facto sexual freedom we have, and the unprepared reactions to it by men (and women) of ambition.

I pity the young. They are caught in the rush of history and it is not slowing down even as it reaches the ocean of oblivion.

twv

Brain