July 2011 Archives

MHP: About Faith

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I became a fan of Melissa Harris-Perry thanks to her appearances on the Rachel Maddow Show, but it never occurred to me to google her until she mentioned that her ancestors were Mormon polygamists, a fact that influenced but did not determine her ideas about a number of things, including faith. I think I would have been moved by her statement on faith posted below even without knowing that, but it certainly didn't hurt my response to be aware of that.

This is the kind of faith I want to have, btw.

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Mansplaining in Austen

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I was interested in this discussion of mansplaining on Exponent II. Of course there was a defender of patriarchy (what would patriarchy do without little ladies to stick up for it?) who said the term "mansplaining" was sexist and offensive. Kmillecam had a pretty great response to that:

I would argue that yes, mansplaining is a phenomenon that MEN do because of their privileged status. If a woman is condescending about an issue she is ignorant of, then it wouldn't be called mansplaining, it would be something else. Mansplaining describes when a privileged man feels entitled to tell women/feminists what to think about a feminist issue.

If it seems sexist and offensive, I would ask for you to get really clear about the definition first. And then explore WHY you find it offensive. Perhaps it is just a new idea that warrants contemplation.

Anyway, I read the discussion, including someone's suggestion that the term be replaced with the gender-neutral "jerksplaining," and then I washed dishes, and then I thought about how Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, and Colin Firth, who played Darcy, and David Bamber, who played Mr. Collins, were all in The King's Speech. And then I thought about how Mr. Collins was a total mansplaining jackass--that's part of why he's so horrible, the fact that he thinks he knows everything and Elizabeth knows nothing--and then I wrote a comment, which I liked well enough that I'm posting it here too, in a somewhat expanded form.


If you want a really clear sense of what mansplaining is and why it's called mansplaining and not jerksplaining, read or watch the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. A man telling a woman she doesn't really know what she's talking about--even when what she's talking about are her own feelings--is mansplaining. And he feels every right to do it because by and large, society supports his position, not hers. Privilege and custom are on his side. Furthermore, by and large society forces her to submit to him, not just intellectually but sexually, if he wants it--regardless of whether she does. Fathers like Mr. Bennet who refused to marry their daughters to creeps with money were all too rare.

Consider also Elizabeth's response to Collins:

Telling a Lie Long Enough

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First, watch this trailer for Tabloid, one of the weirdest Mormon stories you'll EVER encounter:

Did you catch the bit about how a woman can't rape a man because "a guy either wants to has sex, or he doesn't," where Joyce laughingly dismisses the idea of a woman raping a man, saying it's "like putting a marshmallow in a parking meter"?

Then read this bit about Ms. Joyce McKinney showing up at a screening of the film in SLC.

I wasn't there, but I wish I had been. When Joyce asked

"How many people in here think Joyce McKinney kidnapped and raped the 300-pound, 6-foot-5-inch Mormon missionary?" She counted five people who raised their hands, and then quipped, "You're Mormons, huh?"

I would have said, "I can't say for sure that you raped the guy, but I most definitely believe it's possible for a woman to rape a man. You're making a facile and inaccurate conflation of arousal with consent. One does not automatically signal the other. As all those ads for Viagra and Cialis help to demonstrate, impotence doesn't mean a man has no interest in sex. In the same way, the fact that a guy has an erection doesn't mean he wants to do anything with it."

Which is basically what I did say in my review of the film.

And I must also add that it's feminism that helped me be able to see and articulate the fact that "arousal does not equal consent"--for both men and women. One more way feminism helps to dispel darkness and provide real equality.

SR Sanders on "Breaking the Spell of Money"

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Think of someone you love. Then recall that if you were to reduce a human body to its elements--oxygen, carbon, phosphorus, copper, sulfur, potassium, magnesium, iodine, and so on--you would end up with a few dollars' worth of raw materials. But even with inflation, and allowing for the obesity epidemic, this person you cherish still would not fetch as much as ten dollars on the commodities market. A child would fetch less, roughly in proportion to body weight.

Such calculations seem absurd, of course, because none of us would consider dismantling a human being for any amount of money, least of all someone we love. Nor would we entertain the milder suggestion of lopping off someone's arm or leg and putting it up for sale, even if the limb belonged to our worst enemy. Our objection would not be overcome by the assurance that the person still has another arm, another leg, and seems to be getting along just fine. We'd be likely to say that it's not acceptable under any circumstances to treat a person as a commodity, worth so much per pound.

And yet this is how our economy treats every portion of the natural world--as a commodity for sale, subject to damage or destruction if enough money can be made from the transaction. Nothing in nature has been spared--not forests, grasslands, wetlands, mountains, rivers, oceans, atmosphere, nor any of the creatures that dwell therein. Nor have human beings been spared. Through its routine practices, this economy subjects people to shoddy products, unsafe working conditions, medical scams, poisoned air and water, propaganda dressed up as journalism, and countless other assaults, all in pursuit of profits.

Read the entire article: "Breaking the Spell of Money" by Scott Russell Sanders, Orion

The Best Scholarly Article You Might Ever Read

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Long about 1992, back when I actually read most of the print magazines I subscribed to, I came across an excerpt in Harper's of an essay printed in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled "A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder" by Richard P. Bentall of Liverpool University. I was so intrigued by the excerpt that when I went to Iowa, I schlepped my book bag over to the medical library, tracked down the relevant volume of the journal, photocopied the article, then read and highlighted it.

I still have my 18-year-old photo, and recently told a friend I'd make her a copy of her own. Today it occurred to me to see if it was available online. Turns out it is. Here's the abstract:

Fictional Empathy


Among the many reasons I hate Henry James is this sentence from The Ambassadors:

A perpetual pair of glasses astride of this fine ridge, and a line, unusually deep and drawn, the prolonged pen-stroke of time, accompanying the curve of the moustache from nostril to chin, did something to complete the facial furniture that an attentive observer would have seen catalogued, on the spot, in the vision of the other party to Strether's appointment.

I read that sentence in the first few pages of the book, tried to deflect the horror of the phrase "facial furniture," failed, closed the book, and vowed that I would read no more Henry James, ever.

But I also hate James for what he did to Isabel Archer, his favorite protagonist and heroine of Portrait of a Lady,. He created the most interesting, appealing character he could--and then tried to see just how much he could ruin her life.

Turns out he could ruin it a lot.

It pisses me off. I take the whole thing very personally. OK, she's only a real fictional character, not a real human being, But who does that? Who, besides God, tries to see just how miserable he can make his own offspring?


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