Friday, May 31, 2013

The king is dead: When Brute Force doesn't matter

I saw the recent PEW research that showed that women are more and more likely to be their families' breadwinner as good news. Four men on Fox News, however, found this to be a"concerning  and troubling statistic" and their discussion about how this is ripping American families apart has gone viral. See the full clip on The men stated many ridiculous things including (all direct quotes):
  • We are watching society dissolve around us
  • What we are seeing, with four out of ten families now, the woman is the primary breadwinner, you are seeing the disintegration of marriage, you are seeing men who were hard hit by the economic recession ways that women weren't, but we're seeing, I think, systemically, larger than the political stories we hear every day, something going terribly wrong with American society and it is hurting our children and and it is going to have impact for generations to come. Left. Right. I don't see how you could argue with this
  • And you mentioned children, and those are the children that survived. 54 million abortions since Roe v. Wade ... what has been the impact of that. What does it say about society? Our our edu ... High school dropouts.
  • I'm so used to liberals telling conservatives that they are anti-science. But liberals who defend this, and say this is not a bad thing, are very anti-science. If you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of male and female in society in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role, the female is not antithesis, it is not competing, it is a complementary role. We as people in a smart society, we have lost the ability to have complementary relationships in nuclear families and it is tearing us apart. 
  • It is tearing apart minority communities even more than white communities. 
  • This is a catastrophic issue ... the breakdown of family structure ... that could undermine our social order.
The subsequent response interview on Fox, found here, did little to qualm the situation. For me, it was the first time I heard something worthwhile on Fox as Megyn Kelly tells two of the initial four men that she was offended, that their science is wrong, and that this sounds a whole lot like the good ole days when we used "science" to say children of interracial families were worse off (though don't get me started on her comments about single mothers). I have so very much to say about this issue, but alas, studying for the California Bar has left me with not nearly enough time. Two quick quibbles (of many, trust me). For one, someone needs to remind these men that the nuclear family is a relatively new phenomenon, not something that has been with us for centuries or our the beginning of our existence (whenever you believe that to be). With regards to this affecting families of color, all I can say is, families of color continue to struggle in this country due to persistent racial oppression and discrimination that continues to exist (on both the individual and structural levels) and yet fails to be addressed because we claim to live in post-racial times. But a certain thought came to the forefront of these discussions that I just had to share - and that is the power of physical power.

In our law school's feminist legal theory seminar, we always came down to a difficult question: how much does physical superiority (in generalities) of men over women actually matter when we discuss positional power and oppression. I continually believe this is a factor in many situations. Even when it is in not in your face, it is a lurking presence. Even in the most civilized arenas, it becomes a player when emotions are high and logic is no longer the leading decision maker. If we were playing a video game, its a hidden feature that suddenly gives you extra weapon when you decide to use it.

The idiots ill-informed men cite nature as evidence to support their assertions. Indeed in many instances, female animals need male's physical protection for survival. My mother, who is a physician, explained this so simply and perfectly: "of course, the act of having a child is exhausting and it leaves you vulnerable." We all know that pregnancy makes us physically vulnerable, and so it is natural in those scenarios to have the person who does not have to undergo that vulnerability to step up to the plate and protect the female who is perpetuating the species. But humans are different.We do not have any natural predators (besides ourselves). We live a lot longer. We have way less children. We have minimized the vulnerability extensively, and therefore we no longer need men to fill that duty. (Of course we still want loving partners and fathers etc.) We accomplished all of this because of our Descartes-eque ability to think. To deny it, is to deny the accomplishments of our evolution.

And this world is becoming less and less the kind that needs physical power. For example, military, one of the last bastion's of brute strength, continues to become more and more of an intellectual game, played remotely (yes even scary drones where no individuals are there at all). Manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and guess what, they will continue to disappear! We have robots and machines who build cars and sew clothes. We even have 3D printers that can produce entire objects and even a human organ. Jobs are changing, because society is changing. Men cannot blame that change on women being in the workplace and not at home. The industrial revolution brought with it growing pains and so does this intellectual revolution. These men are scared. They throw out words like catastrophic and the end of society. And in some ways, I do hope it is the end of society as we know it. And that means, they are no longer the king of the roost, in control, being intellectually fulfilled, while their wives are barefoot pregnant in the kitchen raising their little brood. I want society to change and I'm ready for a new social order. A social order where men and women are true complements to each other. Where they stand next to each other as equals in life, love, and pursuit of what makes them happy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Firearms and feminism

Historically, gun culture in America has not been kind to women. As recently as the May 2013 NRA Convention in Houston, Zombie Industries featured in its display of mannequin shooting targets a life-size bust of a woman called “Alexa.” Alexa’s dark hair brushes her shoulders, and her tight white tank top is torn down the front to expose her large breasts barely contained by her glittery purple bra. She does not appear to be wearing anything below her small, toned abdomen. Her mouth, neck, and wrists are painted with fake blood, and additional fake blood emerges when a bullet makes contact with her torso. Alexa, the life-size target, was initially marketed to consumers as “the ex” -- as in, “ex-girlfriend” -- and for just $90, she can be yours to maim, as well.

Unfortunately, Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg -- the commercial distillation of a grim reality for thousands of female domestic gun-violence victims throughout the country. While men comprise over 90% of gun owners, women account for nearly half of all nonfatal firearm victims in the United States, and in 2010 alone, firearms were responsible for the deaths of 4,316 women -- about one dozen each day. Gun culture is, indeed, a man’s culture, and the cries of feminist gun control advocates have historically fallen on deaf ears. Today, however, a different spin on firearms and feminism is emerging, and this time, the movement is coming from within.

Over the past six months, the market has seen a surge in everything from the advertisement of “bra holsters” to the sale of pink guns. (And yes, you can purchase a youth version for your daughter at Walmart) Indeed, even a blog at the NRA Women’s Outlook includes a “Stuff we love!” page, where the fashionable female shooter can pick up a gun-themed ring, pink firing targets, hunting apparel that fits “in all the right places,” and pink camou shooter bags. Along with the fashion advice, perhaps unsurprisingly, comes a slew of wild game recipes, just for her.

In fairness, the unabashed exploitation of gender stereotypes makes it exceedingly easy to criticize this up-and-coming industry. But the apparent encroaching paradigm shift warrants a second look -- and a thoughtful one at that. In particular, the uptick in female-focused advertising is a direct response to a devastatingly oppressive sub-culture in our society, and it may serve as one important -- albeit imperfect -- step toward alleviating gross gender disparities within gun culture. Guns, the argument goes, are the “great equalizer,” and, even as a marketing manager for Smith & Wesson has noted, they are arguably “the last bastion of male dominance.

I cannot close without disclosing that I am not personally a fan of guns, I do not think that arming everyone is the only way to protect against armed criminals, and I agree with a number of commentators who argue that the optimal conversation to have is one of violence prevention rather than self-defense or anti-victimization. Yet, I think that by feminizing this highly masculinized culture -- whether by pink firearms or ladies’ shooting leagues -- the new trend is at least a nudge in the right direction. That is, if the Second Amendment retains its post-D.C. v. Heller force and guns are here to stay, perhaps encouraging women to be as armed as their male counterparts is not a bad idea. Indeed, perhaps the increasing prevalence of female gun owners will give voice to women within the industry and edge out the disgusting “Alexa” mannequins and offensive advertising campaigns that are so deeply harmful to all women -- gun owners and control advocates alike.