Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hitting the Wall Softly

It goes without saying that I am so far beyond "The Wall," I am practically knocking on Heaven's Gate. But if The Wall is defined as the moment a woman realizes that she no longer commands the Male Gaze, I reckon I didn't hit it until I was in my early forties. I was about 45 when, for the first time in my adult life, I found I could walk into a bar unaccompanied and nurse a drink for a full hour in uninterrupted solitude.  Suddenly -- it seemed overnight -- I was as invisible as a ghost, passing unseen in streets, browsing undetected in stores, attracting neither positive nor negative attention everywhere I went.

As we all know, it is a basic tenet of the manosphere that American women spend their twenties "riding the cock carousel" until they see thirty candles on their cake, and realize the day has come when they must resign themselves to dusty spinsterhood, fill the yawning void of their barren lives with either cats or sperm-jacked infants -- or else settle for some "beta" chump and start pumping out the requisite 2.5 kids to fill a tract house in the suburbs. You know, I really have no right to deride Roosh for extending his own adolescence into his mid-thirties; I did exactly the same thing. I was at least 35 when it dawned on me that maybe I should start looking around for an agreeable man to knock me up. Oops!

Fortunately, Roosh has had a revelation: "The Wall Is Softer Than We Think."  Which is good news for older women, bad news for guys like Roosh: "The wall for women is more like a speed bump that any woman with half a brain can easily pass at high speed."

You see, savvy spinsters 35-85 have technology to efficiently sift through the remainder bins of available mates, "while forcing the bottom 90% of men to lower themselves through clown game or copy pasta begging on OK Cupid." It's true that a male friend of mine who dipped his toe in Our Time reported a rush of attention --  primarily from the septuagenarian ladies.

"We all want to believe that women will be punished for their bad decisions in life, because there’s no doubt that as men we are punished for ours." Hmm... I'm not sure which "bad decisions" Roosh feels he is being punished for, but I imagine abandoning a career as a biologist in order to pursue "poosy" full-time -- and then blogging about it under his real name -- must be among them. Double oops!

"We want to think that women will be reprimanded for passing on good men in their prime to have sex with bad boys who don’t care about them. But very few will. They will have their cake and eat it too, simply because they have a vagina in a time and place where vagina has the highest value it has ever had." Hey, does this mean we're heading for a "vagina bubble" in the near future?  How will a "vagina crash" impact the global economy? (As for having my cake and eating it too, that reminds me: I still have some left over from my birthday in the freezer. Yay me!)

"In my recent stay in America I was shocked to see the nearly unlimited choice that women over 30 still have to at least get sex, and if you tell them about the wall they would not understand what you speak of. The wall, we must now admit to ourselves, has just as much power in our minds as in reality." Actually, Roosh has been stewing about Elder Sluts for years.

"There will be no redemption. There will be no comeuppance. For most of their lives, women will have it easier than us..." 

I don't know about that. The opportunity to get laid any night of the week does not necessarily "the good life" make. And furthermore, I see little evidence that one gender has it much harder than the other, and how would one quantify respective degrees of hardship, and what does it matter anyway? I used to think that wearing heels and hose everyday was a far greater burden than having to shave every morning or change my own tires. Now I'm compulsively plucking my chin hairs and wearing flat, velcro-strapped mary janes with everything I own like some superannuated toddler, so... 

Let's just agree that being a human is hard, and that sooner or later, everyone eats his (or her) peck of shit. We all have needs, sometimes competing needs: the need for freedom, the need for security; the need for recognition, the need for privacy; the need to find love, the pain of losing that love. We all get old -- that is, if we're lucky -- and we all will experience the physical deterioration that is part of the normal aging process. It's tempting to envy the heirs to great fortunes and Hollywood stars for their "easy" lives, but even Casey Kasem, grossly neglected by his once beautiful blonde trophy wife, died, in the end, of a bedsore. 

"The truth is that any woman who rejects me today will never regret it."

Now that I believe! I'll even take it so far as to declare that any woman who "bangs" Roosh will always regret it.

But getting back to "the wall" metaphor, it occurs to me that what we often think of as "walls" really are more like "doors." About a decade ago, I went out the door of youthful, fertile femininity and emerged in another country called Middle Age Cronedom. Once I had overcome the "culture shock," I began to perceive certain advantages of escaping the male gaze, a freedom and dignity that I had only hitherto experienced as a small child or when wearing an abaya and veil in the middle east. This new "invisibility" can be exhilarating, not unlike discovering a latent "super power." Security and customs officials wave me through lines without meeting my eyes; I wouldn't be altogether surprised to discover that security cameras can no longer capture my image. Certainly, this is the time in my life to consider a second career as a world-class thief, con artist, or terrorist. Strange men, who no longer find me sexually viable, either ignore me completely or initiate oddly frank and self-disclosing conversations: I have, it appears, become everyone's favorite maiden aunt. Students have become more respectful as I have become more direct and authoritative. I can get away with all sorts of bossy behaviors and displays of temperament without causing offense. Although I care less about being found "pleasing," I am certainly kinder in my intentions. In short, an aging female finally enjoys the opportunity to be her most authentic self.

I'm happily coupled and hope to remain so for the rest of my life, but if I were to find myself a lonely singleton, I would have pretty much the same options I had twenty years ago. I could look for a new love amongst my current social circle, or once more brave the trenches of online dating. The same choices are there, although given that I am not the same person with the same needs I had at 35 or 40, I might choose another path altogether: I could simply embrace the joys of single life. After all, what more does anyone need to be happy than a little dog, a stack of books, music to listen to, a small garden to tend, and meals occasionally enlivened by wine and conversation?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is A Voice For Men A Cult?

Lately I've been reading American Crucifixion by Alex Beam.  My fascination with the early history of the LDS Church is rooted in my genealogy: my mother's family were (and mostly are) devout Mormons and I was raised to take great pride in the fact that some of my ancestors were members of Brigham Young's first party of pioneers to settle the Salt Lake Valley.  My mother attended Brigham Young University on scholarship, where she met her first husband.  However, in her early twenties she divorced frivorced him to run off with my father, who she judged had better financial prospects.  (Turns out she judged wrong on that count, but what could she do, driven as all women are by the mandates of hypergamy?)  At the same time, she officially renounced her ties to the LDS Church. 

And so I was born to a mother who was deeply ambivalent about her religious heritage.  On one hand, she taught me that the LDS Church was a cult that was based on a bizarre doctrine; that the prophet himself was a fraud and a plagiarist; that polygamy was an evil institution that oppressed the women and exhausted the men.  On the other hand, she taught me that Mormon pioneers were the strongest, most admirable people that had ever lived, whose work and spiritual ethics and dedication to The Great Idea wrought a virtual Eden from some of the most inhospitable country imaginable; that they had been unfairly maligned, persecuted, and suffered because of the envy and bigotry of the Gentiles.

My mother's legacy has left me struggling with a lot of questions about my forebears.  My biggest question has always been, What compelled my ancestors to embrace such a cult?  What persuades anyone to join cults?  And why haven't I, despite my genetic predisposition (as evidenced by a serious flirtation with various religions) ever been remotely tempted to join a cult?

One of the most interesting revelations in Beam's biography is that Joseph Smith was not an entirely admired figure even within his own band of devotees.  His "martyrdom" contributed mightily to his subsequent idealization.  There was considerable dismay and criticism about Smith's revelations concerning polygamy ("celestial marriage"), and the principle was not shared outside the closest ranks for years (his wife Emma never acknowledged it).  Even his closest acolytes saw something sinister and self-serving in Smith's insistence that polygyny was God's will.  Yet they eventually accepted the commandment, and with varying degrees of enthusiasm, set forth to enter into plural marriages themselves. And later they embarked on many other dark chapters, including the political shenanigans that led to their violent expulsion first from Missouri, and then from Illinois, and later still, the infamous, long-denied Mountain Meadows Massacre.  No, it's not hard to understand why, after reading Beam's book, they were so hated and feared by the frontier residents who had first welcomed them.

Over the last century, the Church has sought to assimilate itself within mainstream Christianity although, Mitt Romney's campaign notwithstanding, it has a way to go to escape its early reputation as a cult, partly because its members persist in wearing "garments," baptizing by proxy Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and indulging in other undeniably odd and -- to many non-Mormons -- offensive practices, not the least of which is to control state politics in ways that clearly violate the will of the majority (and echo the behavior that got them burned out of Nauvoo back in 1844).

What Beam is unable to do is depict the powerful charisma I'd always assumed Joseph Smith must have had.  Aside from his bright blue eyes, and a certain way with the ladies (he was nothing if not persistent once he'd identified a likely romantic prospect), he seemed about as charismatic as an insurance salesman.  The majority of people who met him were impervious to his charms.  And, of course, a few people, including his father-in-law, positively despised him.  Perhaps personal charisma cannot adequately explain the success of cult leaders.

And so it was in this frame of mind that I found myself pondering the nature of cults, and wondering if we could fairly characterize various "manosphere" related communities (Dark Enlightenment and other neo-reactionaries, the weird "Christian submissive wife" networks of blogs) as "cults?"

I was watching local activist Lissie's (sworebytheprecious) telephone call with Dean Esmay last night, and it dawned on me: Dean Esmay was speaking like someone who was caught in a cult.  Of course, knowing that Esmay has a long history documented online of getting caught up in various forms of quackery (i.e., AIDS denial) probably informs my perception. His need to reach out to "the enemy" at 4 a.m., while at the same time evincing fear that he would be punished for doing so was striking, and may be why Lissie found the conversation so unnerving.  The paranoid notion that Esmay espouses that David Futrelle is a kind of "puppetmaster" (or "puppet") of a vast feminist conspiracy is also rather extraordinary: 

It's not hard to understand why Paul Elam, with his fierce, grizzled face and Old Testament-style rages, inspires followers to accept him as a kind of prophet, summoned from above to restore the patriarchy.  In the manner of most cult leaders, he rules his followers by alternately exalting or expelling them.  

Here is what David Futrelle has recently observed:

AVFMers are expected not only to accept Elam’s leadership; they’re expected to accept his distinctly non-consensus reality – a world turned upside down in which men are the real victims of domestic violence and rape and pretty much everything else, a world in which the Southern Poverty Law Center is a collection of evil bigots and his motley collection of misogynists is the true human rights movement of the twenty-first century. 

Like a lot of cult leaders, Elam keeps his troops too busy to think straight in a continual frenzy of pseudo-activism. AVFMers are forever brigading comment sections of newspaper articles and YouTube videos in little squads (AVFMers almost always travel in packs), all reciting the same few talking points.

Weirdly, the dynamics of internet discussions can actually reinforce this kind of intellectual conformity, much as Stalin’s control of the media did in his day. No, AVFMers can’t avoid being exposed to facts that contradict the shared (un)reality of their ideological bubble.

But in internet discussions you don’t have to be right in order to convince yourself you’ve won an argument. You just have to be loud and persistent and unwilling to ever give in. You don’t have to convince anyone else of your arguments so long as you convince yourself. MRAs don’t win many arguments on their merits, but they manage to convince themselves they win every one.

The trouble is that when they step outside of their regular stomping grounds on the internet, this strategy – so effective in generating ideological conformity amongst cult members – falls completely apart.

Like most successful cult leaders, Paul Elam has solidified his cult base by recruiting women.  "The Honey Badgers Brigade" are an integral part of his self-styled position as grand patriarch and prophet.  Cults cannot survive without female converts; they are the most fervent, loyal members and the most willing to sublimate their own egos to ensure the survival of the group.  Within any burgeoning religious or political movement, women are the worker bees, zealously serving the agents of their own oppression. Plus they bring the male converts on board! Although I have to admit paying $5000+ to be "love bombed" by typhonblue doesn't sound all that enticing... 

In fact, watching the Honey Badger Brigade, I am reminded of Mark Twain's visit to Salt Lake City as a young man in 1861.  Finding Mormon women not much to his taste, Twain remarked, "The man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure, and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence."

Your Looks, Your Call

Susan Walsh of dispenses the kind of crisp, common-sense matronly advice about dating and relationships that I wish I'd had access to when I was a young woman (instead of letting Helen Gurley Brown so seriously fuck with my head).  Today in a post titled "Your Looks, Your Call," she points out that women shape their own appearances to appeal to the specific men they wish to attract.

Pretty obvious, no?  Yet it's a great response to the readership of sites like Return of Kings that rail about the "unfeminine" look of many American girls: the tattoos, the short haircuts, the refusal to wear high heels or any of the other trappings of conventional "femininity."  These choices baffle and enrage young men who feel entitled to fantasy "cookie-cutter" ideals of feminine beauty they see in advertising and porn.

Walsh characterizes the deliberate tweaking of one's appearance as appealing to a "niche market."  Since my background is in anthropology, not economics, I am more inclined to see the way people adorn themselves and the artifacts they surround themselves with as tribal markings.  They signal that the bearers are only available for mating within their own tribes.  That girl with the full sleeve of tattoos and assorted facial piercings is no more aroused by a random dude's six-pack abs or Axe body spray than an African grey parrot is sexually stimulated by the flash of a blue-crowned conure's tail feathers.  SMV (sexual marketplace value) is a meaningless concept unless one recognizes that there many different markets.

This phenomenon applies to all genders, BTW.  Jezebel yesterday reported a story about a teenage boy whose drivers license picture was rejected because he was wearing eye makeup.  The women who commented on the story mostly remarked how attractive they found him.  Yes, there is a small but significant "niche market" for men who transgress conventional gendered norms too, as many young male cross-dressers bold enough to sally forth into a Capitol Hill nightclub are apt to discover. (Of course, that gender variant individual has to screw up the courage to present himself/herself in public in order to be identified by members of his/her "tribe" as a potential mate.)

The well-spring of the New Misogynists' fury stems from the fact that, on some level, they cannot fail to see that these choices in attire and body modification are deliberately made not only to attract members of the same subculture, but to explicitly repel "outsiders" (which is to say them).  It's evident that Matt Forney, for example, wants nothing more than to be recognized as an "intellectual," and part of the cool music crowd, and his obsessive hatred of "hipsters" and mainstream writers, and the girls who are part of those scenes, is a direct measure of how wretched he is to be excluded.  (The problem is, contrary to what a guy like Forney believes, it is not the deficits in his own physical appearance that are shutting him out of that specific market: it's the anger and self-loathing he wears on his own sleeve.) 

Walsh concludes by reminding her female readers, "You’re not trying to lock down all the boys on the boy tree. You only need one."  This is the best advice ever for both men and women looking for love, friendship, or even a vocation.  Figure out who you are, what you want, and tailor your image accordingly.

Of course, the challenge of adolescence and emerging adulthood is just that: to figure out, as individuals, who we are and what we want.  Indeed, some of us spend the best part of our lives endlessly experimenting in an effort to nail that critical element down!  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It Always Rains On My Birthday

But more terrible to love nothing.

That's not strictly true.  Sometimes it's just overcast and gloomy.  And sometimes, as it did this year, my birthday falls on Father's Day.  Since I lost my father over twenty years ago, Father's Day is a rather melancholy occasion, and since I am now within spitting distance of sixty, my birthdays are becoming less welcome events.

This birthday was one of the sadder days of my life, unfortunately.  In fact, I have been bawling so hard and so continuously the past twenty four hours that my teeth ache and my eyes are nearly swollen shut.

Today, after weeks of dithering, I finally put down both of my dogs.  Tux, a Black Lab mix, was eighteen.  Cosmo, the little white bichon, had recently passed his sixteenth birthday.  Both had been suffering from the various, inevitable ailments of old age: blind, deaf, incontinent, arthritic.  The writing had been on the wall for a while, and yet I resisted, because I sensed that both of them still had strong wills to live, and still had some "quality of life" (if such a thing can be measured by robust appetites, naps in the sun, the pleasure and comfort they took in greeting me at the door every evening).

There seemed no pressing reason to take the fatal step until last week, when the vet discovered a sarcoma on Cosmo's side.  At sixteen, and in fragile overall health, Cosmo was not a candidate for surgery and radiation.  The tumor wasn't painful, but she warned me it would eventually rupture; the result would be a bloody open wound that would necessitate immediate euthanasia.  And yet still I resisted...  

I have, over the course of my life, put down four dogs previous to these, so you might think I would have an easier time deciding when to take action.  Truth be told, I wanted someone else to make the decision for me -- my girlfriend, my vet -- but all they would tell me is, "You'll know when the time is right."  So for days (well, months really)  I've been much preoccupied with the matter of when.

This morning, I awoke and roused them to go outside, initiating the first step in our longstanding daily routine.  However, this morning neither dog could be persuaded to get up off the bed where they always slept next to my own, nestled belly-to-back, "ebony and ivory, together in perfect harmony."  And that's when I decided that, birthday or no, this was the day that I would have them put down. 

I called the vet and made the appointment.  Then I defrosted a package of ground beef for their last meal.  The smell of warm greasy raw meat was enough of an inducement to bring them shakily to their feet.  They staggered to their bowls.  Ah, food!  That most elementary, dependable pleasure!  I watched them devour the rare treat with gusto, their tails wagging stiffly in unison, like metronomes.  We had a couple of quiet hours together (that is, they dozed while I sobbed) before I bundled them into the car for their final trip to the vet.

I was grateful that my favorite doctor was attending today.  She and her tech inserted the catheters and, per my request, administered preliminary sedatives.  (When I asked her for a sedative for myself, she kindly explained it was outside her scope of practice.)  "Do you need more time?" she asked.  I didn't want more time.  I was doing my best to stay calm, so as not to distress the dogs unduly.  I was determined not to give full rein to my grief until they were gone.

The injection took effect almost immediately.  Little Cosmo's heart stopped beating first, stalwart Tux's a moment later.  The entire procedure, from start to finish, took less than five minutes, and was entirely peaceful.  It's shocking how easily and quickly life can be extinguished, little more than pinching out the flame of a candle.

I was surprised to see that the vet and the tech -- for whom this is a routine part of their jobs -- were weeping.  "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," they repeated.  "Thank you," I said. "But this is part of the game, isn't it?"  We know this going in, when we enter a relationship with another -- whether human or animal -- the day will come when we must part. And it's going to hurt like hell. 

There's no escape from death.  What we cannot escape, we must endure.  There's no way to tunnel around the pain of loss.  Love will, sooner or later, exact its toll in tears.  Not for the first time I am reminded that grief is just plain hard work.

I made arrangements for their individual cremations.  I'm amassing quite a collection of little urns.  I have given instructions that they will some day be tucked into the foot of my own casket.  (Please don't tell the cemetery, which officially frowns on interring animal remains with human.)  Silly, isn't it?  I don't believe in an after-life, and yet take comfort in imagining myself lying for eternity, surrounded by my menagerie who will guard me in my endless sleep as they guarded me in life.

I paid my last hefty vet bill, and drove home with the windows open, the chilly rain pelting my cheek, slowly and carefully as a drunk.

I returned home, the dogs' leashes in hand, my house as cold, dark, and silent as a tomb.  I dragged the dogs' beds outside so that I wouldn't see them empty tomorrow morning.  A friend called, but I couldn't talk for fear of triggering a fresh volley of tears, and my headache was already ferocious.  My girlfriend called to check in.  She assured me that I had done the right thing at the right time, which was really all I wanted to hear.  I found a stray vicodin, leftover from a previous surgery, washed it down with a shot of bourbon, and fell asleep for several hours, listening to the gentle rain thrumming on the eaves. 

For the first time in more than twenty years, I am dog-less.  It's going to take some time to adjust.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Roosh Calls For "Retrenchment"

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
("For What It's Worth" -- Buffalo Springfield)

Acknowledging that Return of Kings (and similar Red Pill sites) have suffered "quite a beating in the wake of the Elliot Roger's [shooting]," Roosh is calling on his troops to lay low, "burrow within society," and "attack only when we have a clear advantage." In other words, quit publishing click-bait that only gives young women something to furiously re-tweet, and which gives the "megaphone of the cultural elite" more ways to paint the fine young men who make up his readership as "cannibals." 

"We must only attack when victory is assured -- when we can isolate a liberal blogger or reporter and hurt their credibility in the eyes of Google."

Ah yes, that fail-safe strategy favored by the manosphereans: publish smear posts that will mess up the online names of obscure bloggers (teachers, students, beginning journalists).  I suppose it's futile for me to point out to Roosh and his followers how very ineffective that strategy has proven to be?  Or to suggest that most people recognize how ephemeral -- and notoriously untrustworthy -- Google-able information is?  There is a reason that college students are discouraged from relying on Google for their research papers!

And while being the victim of such a campaign is unpleasant, it certainly doesn't shut critics up.  If anything, it suggests the "target" was "on to" something, and the perpetrator(s) look like unscrupulous crackpots.  The professional journalists he has targeted appear to be carrying on doing their professional journalist thing, utterly indifferent and unfazed -- this sort of attention goes with their territory, doesn't it?  Getting epic hate mail from the New Misogynists is, if anything, a pretty fair litmus test that a writer is on the side of the angels (or at least on the side of common sense and decency).

As for a big nobody like me, the fallout of having my name smeared online has been... well, zero.  Apparently nobody Googles me!  Even my friends and colleagues, when I informed them of this terrible blight to my reputation, couldn't be bothered.  Certainly no one has come to my little blog by searching my legal name yet; the only unfriendly visitors appear to have been linked directly via Matt Forney himself.  Since the "attack" on my "credibility," I have managed to get a promotion at work and pre-qualified for a mortgage and no one has looked at me askance. The real world -- or at least the world I live in -- doesn't give a shit what Google says any more than it cares who Roosh is or the cranky online cult he seems intent on creating.

Rather than face the overwhelming evidence that the world at large is pretty much repulsed by, or indifferent to, his philosophy, Roosh continues to frame its rejection in terms of an epic underground ideological war in which he (and his followers) must bide their time, harness their resources, and patiently await the day when they will ultimately rise up to vanquish their enemies (the girls?), be crowned with laurels and awarded scores of houris (the perpetual virgins of an Islamic paradise).

Meanwhile, Roosh concedes that not only is Red Pill victory impossible in the short term, but survival itself is not a given, and is therefore recommending that like-minded neo-reactionaries ally themselves with "traditional conservatives" while vigilantly (but discreetly) seeking opportunities to recruit "masculine men" to their fantasy Fight Club.

Maybe that's what he's doing in Siberia?  

The End of the Manosphere?

I think Bodycrimes called it last week when she announced that "the manosphere is cooked."  Certainly, the manosphere is becoming a sadder and much more self-pitying place based on my random forays into it recently.  It's been one calamity after another.

First, Dean Esmay used a rare opportunity for mainstream media exposure of Men's Rights issues to complain about his missing tooth.  Then A Voice for Men announced that the First Annual (International) Conference on Men's Issues had been moved from the downtown Detroit Doubletree Inn to a suburban VFW Hall where they will be less "threatened" by feminist protestors, but will now have to fight the bingo crowd for tables.  Matt Forney is off to the Philippines next month.  Ever the hustler, he also announced he will be available for online "consultations" (at $60/hour) while he basks on the beach.  (Nice work if you can get it.)  Naughty Nomad was doxed by a "vindictive stalker" who had taken a leaf out of the Matt Forney playbook by using facial recognition software and Facebook to reveal the Nomad's identity (like anyone cares).  And poor old Roosh (has everyone forgotten about him?) is languishing in a cheap furnished flat in Siberia, where he assures us in a Youtube dispatch there are girls in Siberia, too -- but then pretty much convinces us that he couldn't care less.  And so it seems to be ending: not with a bang, but a hundred whimpers.  

Meanwhile, men who are credible masculine role models are stepping forth and publicly denouncing misogyny, not only because it's bad for women, but because it's so damaging to the angry young guys who get caught up in it. Comedians are starting to have their way with "dude bro culture." And the New Misogynists themselves are quickly going from total obscurity to being a joke that even your Fox-watching grandma can laugh at.

Since when did start hiring faggots like ? Feminist bullshit everywhere you turn!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Guys and Dolls. And Booze.

Washington State privatized the sale of alcohol two years ago. Other states are following suit. "Getting the state out of the liquor business" was a popular notion, partly because backers of deregulation (like Costco) promised more competition and hence, lower prices passed on to consumers. Ironically, the cost of spirits has gone up ten percent although, on the upside (I suppose) tax revenue has increased proportionately.  

I voted against closing the state liquor stores. I thought the old system was working just fine. The stores were impeccably clean and orderly, the clerks were helpful, and there was something about the ritualized formality of buying alcohol through the state that always reminded one that alcohol purchase and consumption was meant to be the privilege of serious, responsible adults. I was troubled at the possibility of making liquor even more available to drivers and minors. But I was in the minority -- even my partner voted against me -- so here we are...

And now you cannot go into any retail outfit without seeing booze: rows and rows and stacks of booze. My neighborhood Rite-Aid, a drugstore chain, has devoted more than a third of its floor space to wine, spirits, and snacks. We have our own brewery in town, and there is talk of licensing neighborhood distilleries soon.

My local convenience store has jumped on the bandwagon and is doing a brisk business selling "growlers"  -- but clearly the owner is greedy for even more custom.  As I was passing the store today, I was startled to see a young woman standing in the bushes on the corner, energetically waving a sign that read "Growlers Here!" She was wearing sunglasses, tiny denim shorts, and her long mane of glossy strawberry blonde hair streamed in the breeze.

Something didn't look quite right, though. For one thing, she looked too small to be legally advertising beer. At first glance, she appeared to be about twelve years old.  I pulled into the parking lot and quickly ascertained she wasn't a woman at all: she was a rather crude animatronic figure. I approached the shop owner, a Korean immigrant, while he was busy adjusting her base so she wouldn't topple over in the wind. I remarked that this new addition to his store was rather "weird."  

"Guys like it," he replied. 

"But she's not a real person," I persisted, feeling faintly ridiculous.

The shop keeper shrugged. "Don't matter. They stop."

Why did it bother me more that they were stopping for an animated doll than if they had been stopping for a real, live girl? Did the men who pulled over resent this cynical exploitation of their reptilian brains? Did they even recognize how they were being manipulated?

It was one thing to see this sort of ploy on billboards or in the pages of magazines; it was another to see it on the street of my quiet, family-friendly residential neighborhood.

A few years ago, neighborhoods like mine had outlawed "bikini baristas" at drive-through expresso stands. I was kind of relieved when they disappeared; I would have been humiliated to have found myself accidentally pulling into one for my morning latte.  For some reason, this mannequin seemed equally objectionable, and I wondered how long it would take for the Cavalry Temple families to set up a squall.

If the figure had been a cute animal -- say a dog or a tiger or a squirrel -- it wouldn't have bothered me so much. Is it possible I've become one of those rabid, hypersensitive, humorless feminists?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

James Fell Rocks

I can't believe I've added a men's fitness guru to my reading list, but James Fell defies the muscle-bound, testosterone-addled stereotype: a skeptic in the fitness and dietary industry AND an outspoken critic of the Men's Rights Movement.  You can tell by the photo on his blog that this is a guy who doesn't take himself as seriously as he does his commitment to science and education.  Read his take-down of the Paleolithic Diet which he humorously dubs "the Scientology of Diets." 

In my fitful way, I'm back to swimming laps three times a week and plan to gradually increase my walking.  Huffing five blocks up a downtown hill the other night to see PZ Myer's talk at Town Hall convinced me I had to start doing something to regain my stamina.  Perhaps some sensible weight loss / exercise advice will bolster my resolve.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Close to Home

The instant that Aaron Ybarra's face flashed across the television screen, I recognized him.  I'd seen this young man dozens of time, passing him in the corridor at the college where I teach and he studied.  His family live in the same suburban neighborhood that I do. He always looked like a nice enough kid, perhaps a bit more unkempt than average.  I never spoke with him, but we exchanged friendly smiles at least once.

Apparently he'd had a history with the local police for minor, non-violent offenses and been taken to the local hospital for "evaluation," but there seemed no reason to believe he was a potential danger to himself or others.

Chatting about the case in the elevator with another teacher, I remarked (not for the first time) that maybe we needed to think about locking our classrooms while teaching.  An instructor from another department jumped in, told me to "chill out" and said something to the effect that I was fear-mongering.  Then she flounced off, her sandals slapping the floor as she strode down the hall.  I was a bit stung by her response.  

I'll admit I can be something of a "nervous nellie."  Perhaps I do suffer from a degree of PTSD, having, years ago in Teheran, experienced shots being aimed in my direction and seen slogans painted in blood on my garden wall.  Blithely turning a corner to find oneself facing the business end of a row of firing rifles leaves a person with a certain degree of hyper-vigilance, and an enduring awareness that awful things can happen most randomly.

Of course the possibility of being caught in an event like the shootings yesterday is scary, however remote the statistical probability.  Some people like me respond by anxiously pre-calculating how to reduce the odds; some people respond with angry denial. Meanwhile, the official administrative recommendations (to run away if possible, hide if escape is not possible, and fight if cornered) are so obvious that they hardly justify communicating.  

Not to mention that they seem to ignore the fact that the only reason that the shooter's tally wasn't greater was because at least one person on the scene did not follow the "official guidelines," but instead risked his own life by overpowering Ybarra, wrestling him to the ground, and subduing him with pepper spray until police arrived.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Judgy Bitch Needs You!

Since Sunshine Mary has been run off the internet -- at least for the moment -- Janet Bloomfield AKA Judgy Bitch is the clear runner up for the title of First Lady of the Manosphere.  She is the MRA version of Ann Coulter: blonde, outrageous, racist, and as dumb as a box of rocks (but a whole lot louder).

Here she is, in her position of Social Media Director (!) of AVfM's upcoming conference in Detroit, raising funds for the additional security she claims Doubletree Inn has demanded as a result of "feminist threats." The jury is still out as to whether the letter from Doubletree that she produces is genuine, but many are inclined to believe it is a fraud designed to extract more money from deluded MRM supporters to line the pockets of Paul Elam and his curious cabinet.

I haven't seen any credible evidence of "death threats" although obviously if there were any I would want the authorities to investigate them seriously. Trust me, the last thing I want is for some MRA to enjoy martyrdom at the hands of a non-MRA.

But do "feminists" want to "silence" the MRM? 

On one hand, I'll admit I DO silence Janet Bloomfield in the sense that after about fifteen seconds of her snarky, grating, affected delivery I have to turn the audio off. I can't watch Typhonblue for a different reason, one which I will not disclose for fear of being accused of being an "ableist" (sorry, I'm a very imperfect feminist).

I don't want to silence the MRM. I want to criticize them, mock them, and expose them for the assholes and aberrations they generally are. 

And speaking strictly for myself, I welcome all the attention MRM is getting from the mainstream media. For over a year I've been running around like Chicken Little warning people about these loonies, but I'm afraid they thought I was just a bit demented myself for paying them any mind. The bigger the platform these people get, the better: the more their cracked ideology is exposed to the general public, the more quickly and decisively their "human rights movement" is revealed for what it is. It won't be radical feminists who bring down the MRM. Exposed to the strong sunlight of mainstream attention, they will melt down on their own.

Another Day, Another Life Ruined

It's that time of the year again, when students stir from their somnolent states, look up from their smart phones for a moment, squint into the sun streaming through the classroom windows, and realize, Crap! In two weeks I'm gonna get a grade in this class!  Then they converge en masse to demand I accept two month old homework assignments, administer make up quizzes in my office (strictly at their convenience), and understand once and for all that I am all that is standing between them and a first class ticket to the pharmacology (or MBA) program of their (parents') choice.

It's the storm before the calm, you might say.

Every day I pass similarly beleaguered instructors in the hall, and we mouth to one another, It's almost over. Yet the two weeks (or is it just ten days?) before finals week stretches endlessly before us, filled as it is with tedious end-of-academic year meetings and protocols and six inch stacks of papers to be marked, the grinding monotony punctuated only by the pleas of frenzied or despairing students whose brilliant future careers we have dedicated our own to ruining.

Today a student worked himself (and me) into near hysteria because he had checked his scores (conveniently posted online throughout the quarter just to avoid such last minute "surprises") and was shocked, shocked to find he was averaging 77% on all his classwork.

"Don't fret," I assured him. "Remember, I will drop your lowest quiz and your lowest writing assignment before I calculate your final grades. I expect you'll wind up with a B- in the class."

A B-? He almost erupted into tears. Didn't I see that was not nearly good enough? He had to have a 4.0 in all his classes.

Don't be ridiculous, I responded. Where was he planning to apply, Harvard?

Well, as a matter of fact...

Listen, I argued. I myself was an entirely mediocre student as an undergrad. Despite my underwhelming 3.3 GPA, I had managed to get into not one, but two, very well-regarded graduate programs. He was clearly unimpressed with my experience, and who could blame him? I mean, look where I had ended up.

At this point, I felt compelled to remind the student that not only had he failed to participate in class (being, like many of his back-row peers, hopelessly addicted to his smart phone), he hadn't done a lick of homework outside class either, which, although it counted little toward his grade, helped explain his consistently poor performance on the quizzes.

"Yeah, and now I guess I'll have to do the homework," the student conceded resentfully. "I'll need every point I can get."

Guess again, buddy. "I'm not taking late homework the last two weeks of class," I said firmly. Fifteen years of teaching community college had taught me to draw the line somewhere.

I did agree to let him revise one of his assignments and re-take one of the quizzes, mentally calculating the benefits of feeling magnanimous against the cost of the extra time it would take.

You're an engineering major, I said: They only care about your grades in math. I wasn't entirely sure that was true, but I did know a large number of engineers and high-tech professionals who couldn't (and still can't) write their way out of a paper bag.  If society required STEM majors to excel at English composition, advances in technology would grind to a stand-still.  Then where would we be?

Without smart phones, for sure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Howdy Neighbor!

I don't know why it surprises me, but somehow it does: Seattle has its own burgeoning Men's Rights Movement chapter! Apparently this blogger has taken a leaf from the activism book of A Voice For Men by plastering Capitol Hill (a hip downtown area favored by the young and gender variant) with crappy photocopied posters. Several posters were promptly torn down by a lurking feminist, prompting our hero to solicit suggestions for better glue. All in all, it was a glorious and well-documented adventure as the intrepid lads braved the "lion's den" of tattoo/piercing studios, sex toy boutiques, gay bars and music clubs.

I can't help but suspect this MRA must feel as lonesome and alienated from his surroundings as Matt Forney did when he spent a couple of months in Portland last year.  

I don't know why it surprises me, really.  After all, I only live a few miles from Bill Price of The Spearhead.  

Emma Howland-Bolton Slandered

Courtesy of mancheez, I learn of a young teacher named Emma Howland-Bolton who has been targeted for harassment and slander by Paul Elam and his goon squad at A Voice for Men.  Her "crime?" Encouraging others to protest the "First Annual Conference on Men's Issues" at the Doubletree Inn in Emma's home city of Detroit. 

I don't know Emma personally, but from what I can glean she is an elementary school teacher who is locally recognized for passion and excellence in the classroom, and who has hitherto spoken out against the closing of public libraries in her area.  She apparently does not want to see her city host a hate group featuring such "Red Pill" luminaries as Stefan Molyneux, and has lightly mocked them on Facebook.  Yes, folks, that's all it takes: make a few innocuous remarks criticizing the notoriously misogynistic "Men's Rights Movement" on Facebook and you too can expect a campaign immediately mounted to smear your name online and harass your employer with phone calls from anonymous loonies.  Note that Men's Rights Activists can only plant their slimy posts on the first page of Google results if their victim's "presence" online is limited (which is to say, she is an ordinary, private citizen).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

New Speakers

For some reason, I have been living without decent computer speakers. I have good headphones for my IPod, but I only use them when I'm out in public and don't mind appearing anti-social.  It seems silly to put them on when I'm in my own house, not to mention I dislike being tethered to my computer.

I've just been listening to the most godawful tinny quality of sound for years without realizing how much I was missing.  The other day my girlfriend insisted I buy a pair of nice little Bose speakers.  I plugged them in and it was like listening to all my favorite artists for the first time.

I've been on a binge re-familiarizing myself with my own ITunes Library, especially the songs of Gillian Welch.  

The Mask You Live In

Has anyone seen "The Mask You Live In?"  It's not available on Netflix yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to watching it when I get the chance.  (Christina Hoff Sommers didn't like it much, BTW; here's a link to her Time review although without even seeing the documentary, it's pretty clear she deliberately missed its point.)  It's made by the same directors as Miss Representation (which I highly recommend if you haven't already seen it).  Speaking of Ms. Sommers, I also recommend mancheeze's post on her relationship with AVfM.