Age-Based Condescension

October 23, 2012

Ageism is bidirectional.

Middle-aged people wield a disproportionate amount of political and economic power in our culture. This is unsurprising, since it takes time to accumulate prestige and since most people retire at some point in their lives. But when that power translates into automatic social capital, or when being middle-aged is seen as sufficient reason to grant someone undue credibility, there is a problem. Others have pointed out that insufficient attention is paid to prejudice and discrimination against older adults, and I agree, but I think it is also important to realize that ageism is more complex than just negative treatment of older adults – young people, too, face ageism. Read the rest of this entry »


Michigan’s 2012 Ballot Proposals: Collective Bargaining is a Right, not a Privilege

October 22, 2012

Michigan has six ballot proposals this year, which seems like a lot, especially since many voters will be forming opinions on the fly next month. Partially to help organize my own thoughts before I submit my ballot, I am going to explain my positions on each of the six proposals here. Read the rest of this entry »

Ladies’ Night: It’s Not About the Ladies

August 20, 2011

A fellow named Steve Horner has apparently been campaigning for years against the concept of “Ladies’ Night” at bars and nightclubs on the grounds that it illegally discriminates on the basis of gender. This has elicited much scoffing (and some more pointed criticism) from a variety of folks. Most people seem to laugh at him because Ladies’ Nights are such an established tradition — few even stop to consider that they might be discriminatory. Some feminists have chided him for focusing on this one minor instance of discrimination against men while ignoring much more serious instances of discrimination against women. The ACLU has said that discounts reserved for women do not “rise to the level of a constitutional injustice.”

It is pretty clear that Steve Horner is a supersized turdburger. He is unapologetically homophobic and misogynist. He thinks he’s a hero on par with the likes of Rosa Parks and Jesus Christ. And he dislikes Ladies’ Nights because he thinks they’re part of some broad “feminist-Marxist” conspiracy, which is the opposite of the real reason why they suck. His critics are right that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and they’re right that there are bigger fish to fry. But one can be a turdburger and still happen to be right about something, and Steve Horner is (sort of) right about Ladies’ Nights. Read the rest of this entry »

It was a Joke!

August 17, 2011

Jokes about racism or sexism or homophobia are funny. Racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes are not.

The distinction is pretty simple. Humorous messages use social axioms and shared knowledge as tools to tell stories, violate expectations, and make people laugh. They convey attitudes, both through the assumptions they make about this shared knowledge and through the information they make explicit in the telling. It is possible – although not always easy – to parse some of the attitudes included in a package of jokes, and therefore it is possible to point out when those attitudes are bigoted. Some jokes reinforce stereotypes, some parody them. Some jokes endorse discrimination, some make fun of it. Some jokes use prejudice as a foundational axiom, some point out the absurdity of prejudice itself. The simple fact that a message is supposed to be funny does not change the need to criticize it if it endorses harmful attitudes, so it makes sense to be attentive to the difference between reinforcing, endorsing, or utilizing group bias on the one hand, and parodying, making fun of, or exposing¬†group bias on the other. Read the rest of this entry »

Quotes from Michele “Fuzzball” Bachmann

August 13, 2011

This collection of quotations is designed to reflect some of Michele Bachmann’s most absurd views.¬† I have tried to provide enough context to show that I am not manipulating her words, but I also want to avoid too much unnecessary text to keep this post from growing to enormous proportions. I have provided hyperlinks to credible sources to permit easy verification that these excerpts are legitimate. Please feel free to link me to better sources (transcripts of live recordings are ideal).

Since this list is long, I am setting noteworthy bits in boldface to permit skimming.

Is your favorite Bachmann quote missing? Tell me about it in the comments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Houston, We Have a Platform

June 23, 2010

The Grand Old Party of the Lone Star State has released its 2010 platform, and the masses are in awe of its ability to pack so much timeless wisdom into absurd little aphorisms. It is sort of like Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass, except that it’s substantially shorter and less entertaining and its production probably involved higher concentrations of hallucinogenic substances. A leading party official described it as “a lot of fun to write — sort of like when you work really hard to dislodge a giant ball of phlegm from your throat. At first you wonder if all the drama is unnecessary, but then you’re glad to get it out.” He then added, “but I don’t meant to imply that this copy of the document has any phlegm on it.”

One Genuine Conservative Republican (GCR) also said of the document, “it’s even more fun to read with a little help from Mary Jane.”

The platform contains most of the standard talking points of modern American conservatism, but it also includes some super special bonus content, guaranteed to raise your Genuine Conservative Republican Rating by at least 37 points. To save you the time of perusing the document yourself, I will outline that bonus content here, using direct quotations from the platform. The preamble reminds us that “Throughout the world people dare to dream of freedom.” You, the reader, can be one of those dreamers. You can seek the “embodiment of the Conservative Dream in America.” Where will you find it? In Texas. Our Texas. Your Texas. Read the rest of this entry »

Ongoing Student Protest in Puerto Rico

June 17, 2010

Yesterday, I proposed that the federal government should guarantee the right to post-secondary education. Most of my reasoning also applies to public education funding more generally, and especially to efforts to make public education more affordable. One such effort is the ongoing protest against the Puerto Rican government’s decision to cut funding to the University of Puerto Rico and raise tuition. The students at the university have been on strike since April 21st. Read the rest of this entry »

Access to Higher Education Should Be a Federal Guarantee

June 16, 2010

Education is a fundamental human right, without which neither a large-scale democracy nor a large-scale economy can function. And higher education is becoming increasingly expensive, making it inaccessible to many. While it can be viewed as an investment which will pay off in the long run, not everybody has the capital on hand for that investment to seem worthwhile. As bachelor’s degrees become more and more essential to numerous forms of economic and political participation, the federal government has a responsibility to guarantee universal access to higher education in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

Israel and Symbolic Concessions

June 5, 2010

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems like an ever-growing pile of complications. It is possible to take a step back from this very real, very inconvenient complexity, however, and ask one simple question: What should be the overriding priority of each body of leaders involved?

The answer I’m looking for is “peace.” And, ethically and strategically, “peace” should remain the answer for any individual governing body even when the other parties to the conflict seem to have other goals. Unfortunately, in practice, that’s not how most political leaders’ minds work.

Last week, the Israeli military captured a flotilla of ships bound for the Gaza strip, resulting in violence. There has been backlash from some in the international community, thinly-veiled exasperation from US leaders, and defiance from Israeli authorities. As usual. It doesn’t matter whether the violence was the consequence of an overzealous Israeli military or overzealous protesters or both: this is what always happens. Read the rest of this entry »

International Sex Workers’ Rights Day

June 3, 2010

In recognition of a 2001 event which saw over 25,000 sex workers congregating in India, today is International Sex Workers’ Rights Day. I lack the expertise to seriously document the ways sex workers are abused internationally, but I can write a little bit about the American social left.

Political and social barriers to sex workers’ rights are intertwined and often indistinguishable. In many places, prostitution is illegal but in high demand, and the men and women who meet the demand are faced with threats from the police themselves and from clients who are aware that prostitutes frequently lack basic police protections. Powerful social stigmas impede efforts to legalize prostitution or at least shift penalties away from sex workers. Even forms of sex work which are more legal in the United States, such as pornography, carry similar stigmas.

There are serious social problems which contribute to demand for certain types of paid sex and certain arrangements of sexual media, many of which do perpetuate problematic stereotypes related to gender and sexuality, but the blame for these problems does not rest with sex workers. I fully expect social conservatives to be anti-prostitution, but it is time for anti-sex-work progressives and feminists to reconsider their attitudes. Sex workers, stereotypically but not universally female and poor, are not helpless victims of patriarchal abusers, nor are they brainwashed into complacency with oppression. Everyone’s employment decisions happen in the context of powerful economic systems — state-sanctioned and otherwise — and involve various forms of risk assessment. Considering the obvious parallels between sex-work-stigmatization and the slut-shaming associated with the more general sexual double standard, it’s safe to say that feminist justifications for criminalization are not exempt from the influences of mainstream sexism.