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January 17, 2012

When Grievance Politics Trumps Civilization

Well it didn't take long for observation #2 from the Women and Children Last post to be validated:

“This was not so much predictable as predicted. Women have methodically attacked the concept of male duty and honor through every possible means for the past ninety years, and now they are whining that they don’t get special treatment simply because a ship happens to be sinking. Why, exactly, should any man ‘prioritise women, expectant mothers and children’? On what grounds can they be reasonably expected to do so, those outdated traditional grounds that the schools teach is hateful, sexist, and bigoted? Those big, burly crewmen shoving aside women as they prioritized their own escape should have been wearing t-shirts that said ‘this is what a feminist looks like’. Enjoy the crash.”

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Wow. Just wow. Six dead and 29 missing in a tragic accident that (so far as I can see) is attributable to the cowardice, negligence, and poor example of the captain and crew - note carefully: to *some* men, not *all* men - and the reaction is, "Up yours, feminists/women - you got what you deserved"?

If a little boy is elbowed aside by an able bodied man and drowns as a result, has he "reaped what he sowed"? Alternate form of the implied argument is, "It's not the man's fault - those horrid feminists and their mind control rays made him do it!" Allow me to riff on the ubiquitous Heinlein quote:

Any society that allows morality to be defined down to the lowest common denominator will not long survive.

Using the bad behavior of others to justify your own misbehavior is the lowest of lowest common denominators. But that's not the only problem with the "as you sow" formulation. Let's examine the underlying argument (such as it is) more closely. Have women actually argued - for ninety years, no less! - that it is sexist for men to put women and children first? Have they argued that men have no duty to protect the weak in an emergency? I'm curious: where has this argument been made?

Some women, somewhere may have made this argument but have "women" (or feminists, for that matter) as general class of people made it? How many women would have to make such an argument to justify dereliction of duty by the captain and crew of this ship (not to mention able bodied adults of either sex pushing children aside and saving themselves first)?

If women (or feminists - the two terms seem to be used interchangeably, objections to broad brush stereotyping of men notwithstanding) are really arguing for perfect equality between the sexes, how do we explain feminist demands for special and/or preferential treatment?

The answer is, "They're not". It seems to me - and this is precisely what I have objected to so many times - that some feminists have argued for a double standard in which women are, on the one hand, viewed as being weak and in need of protection from aggressive men (sexual harassment laws, affirmative action laws, gender discrimination laws) but also, that there are no significant differences in our ability to protect ourselves (demands for women to be admitted to the combat arms, police, traditionally male jobs in equal numbers, physical and psychological differences between the sexes notwithstanding).

Who has been arguing that men should look out for themselves first? The only place I've seen this argument made openly is on the so-called MRA blogs. The argument I've seen made here (along with much ridicule of traditional masculine values) is that the family court system is so hopelessly biased against men that men are justified in essentially adopting a "Screw you - I'm going to protect myself first" attitude.

The interesting thing here is that there are huge logical inconsistencies in the complaints of both radical feminists and radical men's rights activists.

If you believe the biological differences between men and women are real, and that women are naturally better suited to child rearing (or that there is - in general - a closer bond between mothers and children than exists between fathers and children), then on what possible basis can you argue that the family court system is "unfair" and biased against men if more women than men get custody? Even before we examine the question of how many men vs. women ask for custody, the presumption that a "fair" system would automagically result in equal custody awards for fathers and mothers doesn't follow logically from the belief that men are better suited for some tasks and women for others.

Radical feminists have a similar problem, though I'm not sure they are arguing that women should always get custody. If you truly believe that men and women are by nature EQUALLY able to care for children (and further, that men should assume equal parenting duties), then wouldn't you want men and women to get custody in roughly equal proportions?

Note that I have not actually seen feminists arguing that they think women should always get custody. If they're arguing from genuine conviction, they should WANT men to get custody more because that would result in a more equitable sharing of parental duties and more freedom for women.

This is what happens when men and women engage in identity/victimhood politics: they end up defending things they don't really believe because in the end, they'll do/argue anything just to win the argument.

I really like Texan99's formulation of the problem:

"Women and children first" is the kind of simple, clear code of behavior that can persist when you're close to losing your mind. It's an old-fashioned short-hand for "Civilization and self-respect and our duty to God require us to consider self-sacrifice in the form of putting first the needs of the more helpless among us in an emergency." It may also have to do with saving the sex who can repopulate the tribe. It's painted with broad brushes and doesn't stop to calculate how many childbearing years are left to the old bag you're helping into the lifeboat. It does sometimes lead the old to sacrifice themselves for the young, the able-bodied for the handicapped. Maybe I'd like to see it evolve so that we wouldn't have to inquire, as Karen Blixen was said to have responded to the phrase "women and children first," "Is that one category, or two?"

When gender grievances and identity politics trump the survival of the species (or just plain common sense), we all lose.

Posted by Cassandra at January 17, 2012 07:59 AM

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Comments

Equality is political. Courtesy is personal.
The first is coerced by law, the second by... Mom.

I have a feeling that the same folks that pushed others out of the way to save their own skin would have done so regardless of the gender, age, skin color, religion, nationality, sexual preference, or any other "suspect classification" to which the legal "equality" is enforced. In that manner, the fleeing scrubs treated all other persons equally, as required by law. Their mothers, however, might rather have them dead.

Posted by: spd rdr at January 17, 2012 11:44 AM

I have a feeling that the same folks that pushed others out of the way to save their own skin would have done so regardless of the gender, age, skin color, religion, nationality, sexual preference, or any other "suspect classification" to which the legal "equality" is enforced.

I think you're right mr rdr.

I'm reminded of something moms (and dads) everywhere say to their kids:

"What if everyone did that?"

It was a good rule then, and it's still a pretty good guideline.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 17, 2012 12:06 PM

I'm also reminded of mothers who said, "Come back with your shield or on it." Spd rdr has it right. If bodily survival is everything, it becomes nothing.

Remember Tolstoy's two great and only evils: illness and remorse. I can't speak to the compulsion to save women, because I don't feel it. I do know that if I had to push children aside to save my own life, my life would stop being worth living from that moment. All I could look forward to in the future would be a life in which I tried to deny who I was and what I had done. As Heinlein said (quoted?), the hero dies once; the coward dies a thousand times.

Posted by: Texan99 at January 17, 2012 12:21 PM

Heinlein's quote in the InstaPundit link is wrong, in any case: it is certainly not true that all societies are structured around a basic rule to protect pregnant women and children. At least when I was there, Chinese society showed a shocking disregard for pregnant women in particular. It seems likely that a society built around the 'one child' principle will have families that each value their 'one child' very much, but a society that tends to look on other people's children as a problem rather than a treasure.

Now Heinlein might say that this means that China is doomed, and we just haven't gotten to the collapse yet. That may be right -- the demographic collapse is going to be very hard for China to absorb -- but the only thing that strikes me as really new is the effective means of abortion and birth control. The value system in China is very old, and that aspect of it was not much affected by Communism. Indeed, if anything, Communism improved womens' position (as it often did, in traditional societies).

Posted by: Grim at January 17, 2012 01:04 PM

That's an excellent point, Grim.

As always you've given us something to think about.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 17, 2012 01:32 PM

"The value system in China is very old, and that aspect of it was not much affected by Communism.

Please correct me since I'm obviously wrong, Grim, but I thought the "one child" society was a 20th century concept in China. I remember discussions about this back in the mid-70's during current events classes. It wasn't presented as an old or ancient custom or belief system within Chinese society but instead as part of the implementation of Communism within their government.

Posted by: DL Sly at January 17, 2012 02:09 PM

He may be saying that Chinese society has never been particularly protective of pregnant women or children even before Communism?

That would not surprise me terribly. The reverence of motherhood/pregnancy/childhood innocence seems to be something of a western phenomenon, or at least it seemed to me to be so in my childhood reading. The status of women in many Asian societies was very low, pregnant or not, and the status of children the same.

Likewise, pregnant women and children worked in sweatshops until nearly the 20th century in America, so even here the sentiment and the daily reality weren't well aligned. All of this is not to say that men didn't do difficult/unpleasant/dangerous jobs - just that women and children were not protected from doing so as well.

I don't know enough about Asian history to know how accurate my perceptions were on that score, though.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 17, 2012 02:25 PM

Cass is right, Sly. The "One Child" policy is new; the abortion and birth control mechanisms that make it viable are new. The system that orders how much value the society puts on men versus women, boys versus girls, this is quite old.

As re: sweatshops, that coexisted in the West with the highest degree of reverence for motherhood -- in the 19th century. As was the case with many Western advances, it was extended first only to a certain class who could afford it; it began to spread from there.

This is sometimes read as a basic hypocrisy in Western values, but it may simply reflect the practical reality that you can only have as much justice as you can afford. No one wants to put kittens to death, but the SPCA -- who love cats -- does it every day because they can't afford to feed all the ones that turn up at their doorstep.

Posted by: Grim at January 17, 2012 02:35 PM

I'm reminded of something moms (and dads) everywhere say to their kids:

"What if everyone did that?"

Actually, my mom tried that line on me. My response was "Then me first." She didn't think that was funny.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at January 17, 2012 02:45 PM

Madonna mia! Mamma Constanza will be glad to hear that HE, that spagghetti-spined captain whom we shall not mention, has his own genuine FACEBOOK EYE-TALIAN HATE PAGE. Go ahead, and leave him your favorite scatological cusswords in Old Toscano.

BASTARDO!!!

Posted by: Boquisucio at January 17, 2012 02:50 PM

then on what possible basis can you argue that the family court system is "unfair" and biased against men if more women than men get custody?

Well, let's see:

Man and woman decide to get it on. They both get to make that decision. The next day, they both may have regrets, but only she can get him labeled anything from a sexual harasser to a rapist based on her unsupported word. Not equal.

They each get to decide whether or not to use birth control. Of course, his is a little more obvious than hers, so he's only got her word for it. Not equal.

Ooopsie, she's pregnant. She gets three choices: become a mother, give the kid away, or get an abortion. His choice: become a father. He's not allowed to evade that even if it turns out later that the kid isn't his. Not equal.

Am I the only one sensing a pattern here? The law is rigged to support all of her choices, including lying, and none of his.

Posted by: SDN at January 18, 2012 10:54 PM

Now, as to the situation in Italy: I suspect that what we're starting to see is the "Chump Effect": I've played by the rules all my life, and it doesn't even get me approval, let alone bailouts of my non-over-borrowed mortgage, government stimulus programs tailored to make sure they didn't include "hard-hat types", etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Instead, I'm treated like a sucker and asked to give up more. Nope, sorry, not going to play that game any more.

As long as I'm going to be called a villain no matter what I actually do, I might as well be one; at least I won't drown.

Posted by: SDN at January 18, 2012 11:06 PM

Well, as my husband likes to say, "That's an approach" :p

I'd like to address your scenarios in a post, if you don't mind SDN. I won't add your moniker to the post unless you expressly say it's OK but I think they deserve serious responses and that would be a heckuva long comment!

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2012 08:09 AM

as to the situation in Italy: I suspect that what we're starting to see is the "Chump Effect": I've played by the rules all my life, and it doesn't even get me approval, let alone bailouts of my non-over-borrowed mortgage, government stimulus programs tailored to make sure they didn't include "hard-hat types", etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Instead, I'm treated like a sucker and asked to give up more. Nope, sorry, not going to play that game any more.

I suspect you're projecting a bit here, SDN.

History is full of stories of disasters where women and children were NOT given any precedence even in cultures where that was the ideal (and long before the kinds of changes you cite). On the Lusitania, for instance.

There has always been injustice in the world. Before we had intrusive government, it's not as though the strong didn't prey on the weak. Out West where there was no law, life was very unfair and a man could be ruined financially, driven off his own land, even killed and he had no recourse if he was outnumbered or outgunned.

So right action was not always rewarded back then either. In fact, many times it was punished.

Using the fact that people aren't automatically rewarded for doing the right thing to justify doing the wrong thing is an argument that cuts both ways.

I see a lot of parents bribing their kids to do the right thing. All the kids learn from that is that they can manipulate their parents and extort all kinds of things from them in return for doing the bare minimum any parent has a right to expect from a child.

That's not a good moral standard to base a society upon.

So while I definitely understand where you're coming from, I can't agree with your conclusion. Two wrongs don't make a right.


Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2012 09:09 AM

"Two wrongs don't make a right."

But three lefts do.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at January 19, 2012 11:52 AM

"the survival of the species"

We're 6 billion strong, the species ain't going anywhere. Long live equality.

Posted by: White Male at January 20, 2012 01:28 PM

Any society that allows morality to be defined down to the lowest common denominator will not long survive.

But it can also be defined as the only society which has achieved genuine "democracy".

Posted by: tancred at March 15, 2012 12:06 AM

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