The Hill to Die On

I swear, I have never been able to understand how the loud and proud Capital-F official feminists made the ready availability of abortion the hill (for the pre-born fetal humans, mostly) to die on. Yes, I’ve pondered this in blogposts many a time. The 19th century suffragettes certainly were what we would now cast as pro-life, and so was a modern iteration, IIRC. (I used to get their newsletter.) Why that one single aspect, out of all the others which would have a bearing on the lives of females; extended maternal leave and benefits, quality childcare … practically any other concern other than that of abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy could be a rallying ground for those affecting an intense interest in matters of a particularly female orientation. This, when birth control in so many forms (and for male and female alike) is readily and economically available. This is not the 19th century anymore, not even the first half of the 20th,. Truly, it is a mystery why this particular cause and no other animates the radical fem-fringe. I can only surmise that many of the radical and early feminists had abortions, felt horrifically guilty about it all and wished to drag other women into that particular hell with them as a matter of solidarity.

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Erasing Women

Well, it’s really kind of sad – that erasing biological XX-chromosome no-kidding 100 percent female women seems the ultimate endpoint of early 21st century popular prog-thought, as mad and illogical as that might seem as an ambition, or rather an idée fixe. The ancient jape of a fox hunt described as ‘the unspeakable in hot pursuit of the inedible’ comes to mind, only this is the deranged in pursuit of the unachievable. As little as I think of the long-time and loud professional Feminists-with-a-capital-F (or LT&LPF(F) as I call them), and their tendency to view all men as potential rapist and abusers, I would have expected them to be assiduous in protesting for the actual physical safety of biological women in women-only spaces like restrooms, locker rooms, battered woman shelters, hospital wards and prisons. Alas, they would seem to have fixated on the availability of reproductive health or as the rest of us call it, abortion, as the great fight for the LT&LPF(F); the hill upon which they wish to see fetal humans die. I mean; what the hell, LT&LPF(F) – you look away from the physical safety of real, no-kidding vulnerable women … and focus on the rights, ways and means of killing fetal humans. Good job, sisters. (Not.)

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Belated Valentine’s Day

Without Wi-fi since Sunday, I’ve spent the last two hours going through e-mails and trying to catch up on Chicagoboyz. One e-mail was a Valentine’s Day greeting from a charming friend, whose later-in-life marriage and three children have been as deeply fulfilling as her scholarly career. She is often a contrarian in the bitter world of academia – partially because of the joy she finds in uniting these passions. So, here is an intro to her article, from a more casual forum than she usually chooses:

As a chivalric literary historian who has studied the origins of the holiday, I find this [“for the birds”] a shame. When the notion of Valentine’s Day as a day for romance emerged in the 1380s it was all about love as a natural life force – birds choosing their mates, the freedom to choose or refuse love and the arrival of springtime. But even then many people did not understand or value these things. In fact, that is why it was invented.

The first to write of Valentine’s Day – a feast day with ancient pagan roots – as a holiday celebrating love and lovers were the 14th-century English squire Geoffrey Chaucer and his friend, the internationally admired knight and poet Oton III de Granson, from Savoy in modern-day France. Both poets were recognized in their own time as chivalrous advocates for human rights. And in tandem, they seem to have concocted Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers.

Chaucer and Granson encountered one another in the service of Richard II of England and admired one another’s poetry. Their poems about Valentine’s Day show them operating as an international chivalric team to address pressing issues in the theory and practice of love, then and now.

The Multi-Front Attack on Free Speech (rerun)

(I don’t usually rerun posts that are less than a year old, but in this case…)

Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time. I think there are some specific phenomena and (partially-overlapping) categories of people which are largely driving this attack–I’ve written about this subject previously, here, but the situation has gotten even more serious since that post, and some of the important factors were underemphasized.  Here are the current fronts, as I see it, in the war (not too strong a word, I’m afraid) on free speech.

The Thugs. As I pointed out in my post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents, ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery, have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of American politics. Incidents of political thuggery are reported almost daily: just the other day, pro-Trump women at an upscale DC hotel were verbally attacked and apparently physically assaulted by members of a wedding party that was heavy on Democrat attendees; including, reportedly, some top officials from the DNC. A pro-free-speech film was reportedly interrupted by two men wearing masks. Interruption of movies they didn’t like was a tactic used by the Nazis prior to their obtaining official censorship powers. The film “All Quiet on the Western Front” was plagued by Nazi disruptions when released in Germany in 1930. And attempts to shut down dissident speakers on college campuses, such as this, have become so common as to now be almost the default expectation.

The Assassins. These individuals go beyond the level of violence practiced by the Thugs, and make credible death threats they attempt to carry out against those whose actions or believe they view as unacceptable. The majority of threats and attacks falling in this category have certainly been the doing of radical Muslims; however, some of the more extreme ‘environmentalist’ and ‘animal rights’ groups have also demonstrated Assassin tendencies. At present, however, it is those Assassins who are radical Muslims who have been most successful in inhibiting free expression. Four years in hiding for an American cartoonist. But see also Ecofascism: The Climate Debate Turns Violent, how long until this justification and practice of violence reaches the level of justifying and carrying out actual murders?

The Enclosure of the Speech Commons. Whereas the Internet and especially the blogosphere offered the prospect of political expression and discussion unfiltered by the traditional media, the primary social-media providers have taken various levels of controlling attitudes toward free speech; Twitter, in my opinion, is especially bad. Partly this is ideological; partly, it probably reflects their ideas about protecting their brands. Yes, there are plenty of ways to communicate online outside of the social media platforms, but their growth has been so rapid that a large proportion of the potential audience is not easily reached outside their domains. Note also that conversations that one would have been private friends talking at home, or over the telephone are now semi-public and sometimes made fully public. Plus, they become part of an individual’s Permanent Record, to use the phrase with which school officials once threatened students.

The Online Mobs. The concerns of the social media providers about providing online “safe spaces” does not seem to have in the least inhibited the formation of online mobs which can quickly make life unpleasant for their targeted individuals, and even destroy the careers of those individuals. Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan referred to the technology-enabled Global Village; unfortunately, it turns out that this virtual village, especially as mediated through the social media platforms, has some of the most toxic characteristics of the real, traditional village. See my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet.

And the mobs do not limit themselves to attacks on the target individual: they frequently attack other individuals who fail to participate in the shunning of that target person. As an example:

A few weeks ago, shortly after I left my magazine gig, I had breakfast with a well-known Toronto man of letters. He told me his week had been rough, in part because it had been discovered that he was still connected on social media with a colleague who’d fallen into disfavour with Stupid Twitter-Land. “You know that we all can see that you are still friends with him,” read one of the emails my friend had received. “So. What are you going to do about that?”

“So I folded,” he told me with a sad, defeated air. “I know I’m supposed to stick to my principles. That’s what we tell ourselves. Free association and all that. It’s part of the romance of our profession. But I can’t afford to actually do that. These people control who gets jobs. I’m broke. So now I just go numb and say whatever they need me to say.”

Increasingly, it’s not just a matter of limiting what a person can say, it’s also a matter of edicting what they must say.

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