Tag Archives: feminism

#37 On free markets

Dear Mat,

Good questions. I guess I am being ideological, in the sense that it’s impossible not to be. I take it that more freedom for more people is better ex ante: that’s an ideology. But I claim it’s an open-ended ideology that can lead to more goals being explored in the future and even re-writing or discarding older goals. Hence I think — in a necessarily changing world — it’s a superior ideology to any static ideology (theocracy, communism, agrarian utopianism, etc.). We agree on this basic liberalism.  Do you see that as an ideology?

I also like a  free market. It increases freedom, ratchets down people’s incentives to kill the shit out of each other, opens new options, etc. Obviously I think there should be some rules that prevent ruin or exploitation: contract laws, workers’ unions, punishment for white collar offences, no corporate welfare, etc. Capitalism with a human — neither male nor female — face. Continue reading #37 On free markets

#36 On freedom and equity

Dear Master F,

We should just deal quickly with this notion of “rigidity” but then I think we can move on. If I understand you correctly you call M/F rigid because it has a broadness and simplicity that makes it difficult to change or to cope with the subtleties.* Whereas I take rigid to mean something so precise so as to be either very useful when applied correctly or very unuseful (or damaging) when incorrectly applied. So the fact that the M/F categorisation is so rough and barely adds any information makes it unrigid in my view but rigid in yours. You used the word reliable, that’s more what I meant.

Our earlier letters spent a lot of time on science and physics and I worried about their asymmetry. You’d spend most of your time asking questions and I’d spend my time rattling off opinion. But we’re moving well into your territory, so I look forward to stumbling through with mostly questions. I used to be on the same page as you but Continue reading #36 On freedom and equity

#35 On representation

Dear M,

Our representations of the world are of roughly two kinds: innate (you call them “toolkits”) and ideological (which you call “maps”)*. The problem with maps, you say is that they’re rigid and predictable.

But surely our innate representations of the world — folk psychology, moral instincts, heuristic decision making — are more rigid. They’ve been honed by natural selection’s trial and error solutions that allow organisms to do a good enough job, in a limited but relevant domain. Maybe they work 90% of the time and there would be a massive opportunity cost to improve the other 10%, so they leave it at that.

One has to wait many lifetimes (generations) for our innate toolkits to change but one can change maps many times in a lifetime. Continue reading #35 On representation

#33 On scepticism


Dear Mat,

Even if we cast aside our ideological, manufactured maps it doesn’t quite mean that we’re mapless. Surely the process of evolution endowed us with a series of inherited maps.  Our heuristics are maps that have been charted by our forebears’ efforts at navigating the world. Can these innate maps be wrong? The extinction of more than 99% of all species that have ever lived is ominous.

I submit that even the doubtful sceptic is really a confident sceptic, whose confidence is based on a good run of relatively stable ancestral environments, but whose inherited map is hard to amend when the environment changes rapidly. I also submit that we have been in an especially rapidly changing environment the last 400 years, meaning our maps are out of date. Continue reading #33 On scepticism

#31 On tyranny

Dear Mat,

There’s a bet involved here. For me the odds are very bad that any serious change will improve the system. For me. I flourish in a liberal democracy where I can lampoon the government, assert my rights, fight businesses on social media, act like an ass in my private life and never get ostracised or imprisoned.

But if you’re marginalised within a democratic system obviously the gamble might look more attractive. Continue reading #31 On tyranny

I blame the victim blamers

Don’t blame the victim and don’t blame the perpetrator.

I call out victim blaming wherever I see it. Obviously in rape culture the phrase denotes people who offer reasons that women should expect to be raped (what they’re wearing, what time they walk home, whether they were flirtatious, etcecrable). Then it pops up in something like the Adam Goodes affair where people are like, “Well I agree with him but he goes about spreading his opinion the wrong way” as though he was asking for racist treatment by being too forthright in pointing out, well, racism. And then — I might lose a few here — the victim blaming that occurs when cartoonists get shot for drawing cartoons. “They shouldn’t have provoked extremists, the cartoons were racist, it wasn’t even satire, I’m not even a person I’m just this sentence, etc.we did a whole thing on it. Or there are the African-American victims of police brutality who were urged to be more respectful to the police officers who beat the shit out of them. Continue reading I blame the victim blamers

How to Sound Smart to Dumb People

Reading this article by my friend Zoya Patel, editor of Lip magazine, about people who use the word feminazi, I was reminded of something I used to tell my students about the language they chose to use in essays (though it applies to any written or verbal communication). I told them that they could, if they wanted, use pseudo-formal language, the kind that the police use when talking to the media. The sergeant will say, “Police apprehended the individual”, instead of: “We arrested him.” I told them that this sort of language would make them sound smart to dumb people, and dumb to smart people. Continue reading How to Sound Smart to Dumb People

Letter From Planet Earth: Mummy Wars

Dear Gzorgax

I want to tell you about the mummy wars: a debate over what women should do when human couples produce offspring. Historically, in such cases the young infant has been taken care of by the female, while the male has continued working full-time. More recently women have entered the workforce more fully and have become as interested in their careers as men always have been. Understandably, they’ve struggled to reconcile this choice between work and motherhood.

Men have cleverly solved this problem for eons by feigning  — or actually — being useless in the home, so that even when liberal parents have that discussion about who will bow out of the workforce to raise the kid, it’s still normally the female who does — either that or the parents pay a less wealthy female to do it for them.

So why don’t men just muck in and raise the kids half the time? Well dear friend, on top of the history of female oppression and the devaluing of work on the domestic front there’s also good old biology. Biology is the Earth name for life sciences, a discipline which we use to inform our knowledge of all living things, except humans. Well, we use it whenever we need pharmaceuticals, but we ignore it in studying human interactions. It’s considered politically incorrect in many circles to claim that, on average, there are biologically determined behavioural differences between men and women. Because women obviously deserve equal rights, one way to assert those rights is to say women are equal to men, because they are actually the same and any perceived differences are a result of cultural forces shaped by patriarchy.

How could this possibly be true? Consider that there are obviously biologically determined differences between individuals. Now you could still say that despite this, the two groups, men and women are the same, but only if for every woman there is one and only one equivalent man, so that the two groups act like two sets with corresponding elements, much like a mathematical function. It’s an interesting idea, but it also relies on one of these man–woman pairs being born and in turn dying in perfect unison, to maintain the exact global equipoise of men and women as identical groups.

So I love the idea of battling the mummy wars by having men become stay at home dads — I think men should do it half the time. But is it likely to happen? I don’t know Gzorgax, I’m just a male and though I never claimed to be average, statistically speaking I have a brain that’s better at interpreting systems rather than human emotions, I have ten times as much testosterone as a woman and I get paid more money for doing the same work too. Why is it so hard to convince chaps like me to raise kids? Hopefully, now that gay people are increasingly allowed to have kids, they’ll simply outbreed us heteros and solve the whole problem.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.