In my second post, I explained why I started my blog. I have decided to do an updated post because there are other things I’ve thought about that I would like visitors to this blog and to my Twitter homepage to know. However, I am going to keep the old post up, which you can view here, though most stuff there will be repeated in this post.
Robert Jones, an American EFL* teacher and archaeologist among the Maya in Guatemala, was exploring the ancient Mayan temple (dated to the Archaic Period**) with his colleagues Professors Maria and Delores Kan from the university, Fr. Pedro Tun, and Santiago Tupac, a shaman from the local village. They came upon a Long Count Calendar, and a discussion started about the Mayan calendar.
As they spoke, a glow appeared near the calendar, and three women (dressed in ancient Mayan dresses) and three men (dressed in jaguar skins, two as warriors one as a priest) just materialized. The priest, in proto-Mayan, told how, through a secret ritual, they went to the beginning of the next Great Cycle. Santiago indicated his belief in the story, and Robert suggested that the time travellers accompany them to the university.
On the way there, they stopped to get the time travelers modern clothes. As they were leaving the store, an inter-dimensional monster showed up. Nothing Santiago, Pedro, or the priest worked, but one of the female time travelers shrunk and jumped on the monster, crushing it beneath her new tassel loafers.
Maria simply commented, “A woman saves the day!”, to which Robert cheers with approval.
This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction by Al Forbes.
*English as a Foreign Language
**Before 2000 BCE
I was sitting in the kitchen when the lovebirds, Marlene and Bob, returned to the WG* we share with two others. From what I hear, Bob is an American student here in Germany. The lovebirds talked, and were about to kiss when Marlene looked at me and shrieked, “A spider!”
Next thing I knew, I was on the floor at her feet. I gulped as she raised her foot to step on me. I squirmed under the sole of her penny loafer as she increased the weight until my body, unable to support the weight, collapsed with a loud crunch.
*WG, Wohngemeinschaft (lit., living community), in Germany, is a living arrangement in which people live together to share expenses.
Jake’s world tour was going phenomenally. He was just arriving in Amsterdam harbor on a boat from London. He grabbed his stuff and exited into the dusk. He found a bike shop, where he rented a bike and pedaled through the streets of Amsterdam. While doing so, he snapped pictures of the buildings, the canals, and the lights, and posted them on Twitter. He went to a café to finally meet Greta, whom he met on Twitter. After having snacks and drinks and talking, Jake headed to the hostel and fell asleep immediately.
The next morning he went to the rendezvous location, where Greta was standing outside a car. They got in and Greta drove off. “Now, off to Friesland and the Elfstedentocht*! I was practicing even in USA with both rollerblading and ice skating so I could participate in this 11-city race! I am so excited!”
Greta smiled, and said, “I’m glad you can participate, after all you went through back in the States!”
Jake smiled and enjoyed the scenery and Greta’s company. However, halfway to Friesland, the car made weird signs and stopped. Greta tried to rev it, but failed to start it.
The Elfstedentocht is an 11-city ice-skating race that occurs in the Dutch province of Friesland when the weather freezes the canals.
This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction by Al Forbes, who also provided the photo.
The following post is a paper I did for World Civilizations I:
Slavery was widespread in the Roman Empire. In this post, which, I discuss Roman slavery laws based on the Institutes of Gaius, an ancient Roman legal textbook, and the Code of Theodosius. I will talk about freedmen and slaves in the Roman Empire, the conditions under which slave owners were liable for killing their slaves, and reflect on whether or not the Romans had a fairly liberal view of slavery, and whether or not they treated their slaves well.
First of all, the Institutes of Gaius classifies human as either slaves or free. The free were classified as either ingénue (born free) or libertine (freed slaves). The libertini were further subdivided as either Roman citizens, Latins, or deditici (subjects, the same category as conquered people).
Libertini were classified as deditici if they had been subject to chains, interrogation, and/or torture for a crime they had committed, or had been gladiators. Such freedmen were ineligible for both Roman citizenship and Latin status, and were barred from coming within 100 miles of Rome, on pain of being enslaved for life. They were deditici for life.
Libertini who neither fulfilled the requirements to become Roman citizens nor were deditici were classified as Latins. The conditions for citizenship were to be released after age thirty in front of a council for a just cause, to have served six years in the vigils (Roman police force), or, if a Latin, to be married either to a Latin of the same status or to a Roman citizen with seven adult Roman citizens as witnesses, then had a child, and next appeared before the local magistrate after the child’s first birthday to prove the process had been carried out in accordance with Roman law.
My mention of a just cause in reference to manumission brings up one of two types of slaves I would like to discuss. One condition that was considered “just cause” for manumission was to free the pedagogus, who was a slave who took care of children. The pedagogus would thus, if over thirty when freed (which is highly likely) and the master were at least twenty, become a Roman citizen, provided he had done nothing to earn the status of deditici.
The vigils were the ancient Roman police force. Slaves who served in the vigils got the special privilege of obtaining Roman citizenship upon release after six years of service (later reduced to three years), even if they were under thirty. Other slaves had to be at least thirty upon manumission to be eligible for Roman citizenship. However, these benefits only applied to Latins; deditici received no special privileges from serving in the police force.
The Code of Theodosius provided circumstances under which a slave owner could be charged with homicide in the death of a slave. One condition in which an owner was NOT liable was if a slave died in custody after a beating. However, the owner was liable if a slave died during a beating. Owners were also liable for inflicting lethal wounds, hanging slaves, having them thrown from heights, using punishments reserved for the state, and torturing them to death.
Now, did Rome have a fairly liberal view of slavery? On the one hand, no, in that they practiced slavery in the first place. On the other hand, “yes”, if the key word is “fairly”, as is shown by contrasting it with 19th-century American slavery. Roman law specifically called slaves “human”, whereas American slaves were not considered himan. Freedmen could become citizens in Rome, whereas American slaves only became citizens after the abolition of slavery. (It is true that the deditici could never be citizens; but that was based om behavior. In American slavery, it was race that barred a person from citizenship.) Roman law offered slaves protection that American law did not, in that an owner in the American South could kill his slaves and not face prosecution. (On the other hand, that raises the question of whether or not the Romans enforced their laws.)
Did the Romans treat their slaves well? Ultimately, the answer is “no” because owning someone is, by default, not treating that person well. It can be said that, for their era, the Romans treated their slaves well, especially compared to American slavery. For example, freed slaves were eligible for citizenship and had legal protections from excessive brutality. However, they were not protected from beatings and could lose their eligibility for citizenship. The question is, how easy was it for them to be accused of crimes that would get them labeled deditici? Was it easy for owners to kill slaves and make it seem legal? I have to say that the Romans were paternalistic in their treatment of slaves.
To um up, Roman law classified people as slaves or free, with the free consisting of those who were born free and those who were freed slaves. The freedmen includee Roman citizens, Latins, and subjects, with various conditions determining status. Subjects (deditici) were in that category for life, but Latins could become citizens. Two categories of slaves, the pedagogus and the vigils had a good chance of becoming citizens. Roman law allowed for owners in some cases to be prosecuted for killing slaves. The Roman views of slavery were not liberal due to their acceptance of slavery, but they were less brutal in many ways than was American slavery centuries later.
Elena stomped out her cigarette before entering the Swedish ice bar and ordering a cosmopolitan. As she took her drink and began to sit down, she felt a slap to her rear. She knocks him over with a kick to the chest and steps on him. An American guy said to her, “Nice boots! Would you like to dance?”
Elena looks down and says, “Yes”. POW! The American is punched in the face, and a man calls him racial slurs. The American responds in Swedish, and as they begin to fight, security guards remove the Nazi from the premises.
This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Roger Bultot.
I would like to be a feminist ally. In this post, I will explain why I use that wording, what “feminism” and “intersectionality” mean, and explain why I support it. (This is the secular version of this post. I will be making a biblical case in a later post.)
When I say, “I want to be a feminist ally”, this means I am a male who supports feminism. I say “want to be” because there are a number of complaints from feminist bloggers about male “feminists”. One such complaint is of the Nice Guy Syndrome, in which guys will be feminists to either get praise (called “cookies”) or sex, and said guys turn hostile when it is not given. In addition, it is said that not intending to be sexist is not enough, for the harm is the same. (There is an old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.) I want to *actually* be of help, and not offer some benevolent sexist paternalism.
What is feminism? One definition is that feminism is the idea that men and women are equal and the movement to achieve this equality for women. However, there is a stereotype that feminism is about man-hating, which is false. (Here is my translation of Sarah Andres’s post addressing these stereotypes; the original French is here.) What I will note is that feminism is not a monolithic movement, and that there are differing approaches how to achieve equality. (See here for more.) For the purposes of this post, “feminism” means “the movement to dismantle patriarchy (systematic disadvantaging of women in favor of men) and to empower women”. And, to aid in explaining my position in this system (and address at least one objection), I will explain “intersectionality”.
When I referred to “patriarchy” as “disadvantaging women in favor of men”, I choose a longer expression rather than use the controversial term used to describe this phenomenon: male privilege. Some dudes will object to being called “privileged” because they are poorer and there are women that are more successful than they are. This is explained by the concept of intersectionality, that talks about how we are all on a spectrum of privilege and marginalization. “Marginalized” means you face disadvantages due to certain aspects of yourself (such as being female, POC, LGBT, etc) and “privileged” means you lack those disadvantages. So, “male privilege” means there are things women face due to being female that men don’t have to face. Here is a video in which Kimberlé Crenshaw, the founder of Intersectionality Theory, explains the theory: https://youtu.be/ROwquxC_Gxc
In my case, I am privileged in being a cisman (meaning that I am a biological male who identifies as male), straight, a native English-speaker, and a native-born citizen of a core nation (in my case, USA). I am marginalized in being relatively poor (though I do not face absolute poverty), not being college-educated (though I am in school now) at the time of writing, and having grown up in an insular, controlling church (that many consider to be a cult). Other areas of note are that I have some privilege in being fairer-skinned, though it is not full white privilege in that I am mixed race, and thus my racial identity varies by country. (In USA, for example, I am considered black.) This is called “passing privilege”. Also, in Western countries (such as USA), I have Christian privilege. Due to these factors, the are women who are better off than me, because they have some privilege in areas that I lack. However, male privilege means that, even with my disadvantages, it will be easier for me to move forward since I am male. Feminists want to change the system, not to make things harder for men, but easier for women. (More on this later.)
One popular objection to feminism is that it ignores how men and women “naturally” are: men are seen as “natural” leaders and as gravitating towards certain interests, and women as “natural” followers, gravitating towards other interests, and feminists are accused of messing with it! First of all, this objection commits the Naturalistic Fallacy, which says that if something is natural, it *must* be good or moral, and immoral or bad if unnatural. In his book The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill observes that feudalism and slavery were formerly considered “natural” and observes “unnatural generally means only uncustomary”. In addition, Mill observes that women are specifically trained to be submissive and to not seek their own desires (qte. in Encarta Reference Library Premium). Plato too addresses the nature objection in his Republic through a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon. In the dialogue, Socrates says “the only difference appears to be that the male begets and the female bringd forth” (qte. in Barry, p. 16; note: today the difference is seen differently in an attempt to be trans-inclusive, but that is outside the scope of this post), and thus generally irrelevant elsewhere. Socrates is depicted as making his point that it would be absurd to, once you acknowledge a difference in natures between bald and long-haired men, you were to forbid one from being shoemakers if the other engage in the trade (ibid). Instead, Socrates argues that sameness or difference is regarded in the presence or lack of natural talent (i.e., the ability to learn something easily and then to to do it with little instruction), not gender (pp. 16-17).
We can see Socrates’ principle in action in our world. He specifically mentions that women get made fun of if a man is better at weaving and watching over saucepans and batches of cake, since those are seen as the strength of women (Barry, p. 17). In our world today, there is a stereotype that women aren’t good at math or science. However, this belief is contradicted by the existence of Hypatia and Marie Curie. One factor contributing to the existence of these stereotypes is confirmation bias, the tendency to only pay attention to ideas that confirm one’s preconceived notions. In addition, these ideas are taught to children at a young, highly impressionable age, so it is possible these norms can be implanted. (Studies of false memories show that memories can be implanted, and it is not much of a stretch to suggest that interests and desires can be implanted.) Furthermore, deviance from gender norms results in shaming: if a woman is too “uppity”, displays anger, or deviates from femininity norms, then she is called nasty names. If a man deviates from masculinity norms, he is compared to women. (It seems sexist to use terms related to women as an insult.) Sociologist Émile Durkheim observes that punishing deviance reinforces norms. So, all this means that talk of how men and women “naturally” are turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A third point rebutting the claim about how men and women naturally are is cultural variability. Consider the village of Gapun in Papua New Guinea, where they have the custom of kros (which means “angry” in Tok Pisin). A kros is an angry rant about another’s behavior that generally includes strong language, and is generally delivered by women. In fact, men generally have their wives deliver a kros for them. For the villagers, such behavior is seen as in line with the nature of women (Cameron, pp. 32-34), whereas in the West such behavior is considered unbecoming to women and “masculine”. This supports the theory that most differences between the sexes are social, not biological.
Also, society tends to set up norms that disadvantage women. For starters, the traits and careers coded “masculine” tend to be more prestigious, and women in those fields tend to face a lot of sexism. In addition, social norms and conditioning make it more likely that a woman will take time off work for maternity reasons and thus have a gap in employment. (Note: there is a perception that feminism is hostile towards being a stay-at-home mom and having a more traditional lifestyle. It is not; feminism just argues that women should have the *choice* to be or not to be a SAHM. Feminists to pressuring women into being in the home.) Also, a lot of success comes from thinking outside the box and being creative. Thus, encouraging submission in women essentially functions to keep them down. For more, please check any feminist blog!
Now, onto my reasons for supporting feminism. First of all, my support comes from the fact that women’s rights are human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (article 1) and article 2 indicates that the rights apply regardless of sex. Article 23 says, “Everyone has a right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work….to equal pay for equal work”. In addition, article 16 says, “Marriage should be entered into only with the full and free consent of the intending spouses”. Article 26 says that everyone has a right to an education and that “education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality…”.
This shows that human rights apply regardless of sex or gender identity, and thus apply to women.
The first two articles indicate that, as human beings, women deserve the same rights as men. Articles 23 and 26 establish that women should be able to seek careers wherever they would like, and have the training to do so. (The line “favorable conditions of work” means an environment free of sexual harassment, among other things.) To say that women must be certain things because “nature” or “tradition” is a violation of human rights.
The “full development of the human personality” brings up another aspect: the right to not just survive, but thrive. This is expressed in Maslow’s pyramid: We need feminism so that women, too, can reach the top. This brings me back to what I said towards the beginning, about how feminists don’t want to pull men down, but to lift women up. Too many men have a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance one. They hear that women have a smaller piece of pie and jealously guard theirs, fearing they’ll lose their pie. However, a better model is an abundance one, that focuses on expanding the pie, knowing there is enough for everyone. In addition, since we are all interconnected, I cannot be all I can be unless you are all you can be, and you cannot be all you can be until I am all I can be. That means that if women are systematically disadvantaged, we all lose. We all win when everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
In summary, I hope to be truly helpful in helping women to achieve equality (called feminism), rather than a burden. Intersectionality explains where we are on the axis of privilege and marginalization, and with my having male privilege, this means that, while there may be women better off than me (due to their having privilege where I lack it), a woman in my situation would face more hurdles in life. Feminism is not contrary to nature and is, in fact, in line with human rights and the best system to contribute to human flourishing. Women’s liberation will not hurt men; in fact, we all will win with feminism. This is why I want to be a feminist ally.
Barry, Vincent. Philosopy: A Text with Readings. 1980. Wadsworth, Inc.
Cameron, Deborah. The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages? 2007. Oxford University Press
Encarta Reference Library Premium. 2005. Microsoft
In this past year, my views on political correctness have become more nuanced. In my first post “Meet Me”, I list political correctness on the list of things I don’t like. In this post, I will explain how I saw PC, why I saw it as problematic, points made that caused me to change somewhat, and mention where I am now.
Previously, for years, I assumed that political correctness led to xenophobia, tribalism, jingoism, war, torture, homophobia, religious fanaticism, and white supremacy. I also thought PC was the death of ctitical thinking, tolerance, global citizenship, human rights, and world peace. Perhaps it’s proponents were not maliciously pushing for these vices, but I thought that these things were the natural consequences of political correctness. Based on the rhetoric of PC-supporters, I realize this is highly counter-intuitive for them. Now, I will explain how I reached those conclusions.
I was raised in an insular, Fundamentalist church that was basically the Religious Right, and, as usual, opposed political correctness and believed Christians were persecuted. (They talked about “Biblical Correctness” [TM].) I picked up that, by “political correctness”, folks meant that one was trying to avoid being offensive and hurting other people’s feelings. While it was commonly thrown against liberals and seen as an attack on [Real, True] Christianity [TM] and an attempt to attack Biblical Values [TM], I noticed that Fundamentalists and others on the Right got offended *a lot*. So, I just labeled that “PC” as well.
I will share some examples of things that offend the Right: saying America isn’t a Christian nation or that Jesus isn’t the Only Way to God, same-sex displays of affection, any depictions of LGBT-people where minors may be present, belief that climate change is human-caused (some call this “treason”), criticizing America (“if you don’t like it here, then leave), not saluting the flag, refusing to whitewash American history, pacifism, comparing Gitmo soldiers to Nazis, speaking languages other than English, John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, and identifying as a citizen of Planet Earth or the world before being an American. In addition, white supremacists are offended by interracial couples.
In my personal experience, the church I was raised in forbade college, because they feared we’d be brainwashed by antichrist professors (who were believed to constitute about 90% of professors) and come out as binge-drinking atheists who flouted fundamentalist sex rules. We were given the scenario of going to college, losing our faith while there (based on a statistic that is much-feared among white Evangelicals), call our families, and hurt them by saying that we no longer believe as they do. Also, I have long wanted to live in different countries. I talked to the leaders of this church about going abroad, and, while I was told I would be released when God supposedly approved, I would not be released then. I was told to avoid narcissistically abandoning everyone by running off elsewhere and thus hurting people. I also encountered people who got offended by skepticism of the conspiracy theories preached at church. (The conspiracy theories were a bit xenophobic.)
Later, I heard a quote popular among PC supporters that “political correctness is just treating other people with respect”. For me, that was an argument *against* PC, for “respect”, to me based on my experiences, was something denanded by ego-maniacal control-freaks, abusers, and bullies. (After all, some folks think you are disrespecting them if you merely disagree with them.) Thus, I took this to mean that PC was about abandoning individuality, autonomy, and critical thinking and letting someone else control you.
The thing is, many of these offensive and hurtful things are guaranteed as human rights in international documents. Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically says the right to marry is not limited by race, nationality, or religion. Article 18 says we have the right to freedom of religion, conscience, and belief, including the right to change our minds. Thus, young Fundamentalists have a right to abandon their parents beliefs. Freedom of expression and opinion, mentioned in Article 19, give the right to not salute the flag, to criticize one’s country and government, to oppose war, etc.
I also came to see some of these offensive things as good. For example, my going overseas is good, in that I can experience another culture and learn about it, rather than relying on stereotypes and sometimes downright xenophobia. It is common to tell people, “It is not about you”; however, at least in USA, this principle is not applied to groups. In fact, “It’s not about you” often means “It’s about the tribe” and it is considered selfish to be concerned about those outside the tribe. People’s feelings about that do not make it untrue, and do not make xenophobia okay.
However, there is no right of protection from offensive material or from having one’s feelings hurt. Since these things are arbitrary and vary from person to person, and sometimes include things that are explicitly guaranteed as human rights, I came to see that offense is caused by people’s being overly sensitive and that requiring people to be responsible for others’ feelings is oppressive and stifles free thought, forces people into cookie-cutter molds, starts wars, encourages hate among nations, kepts LGBT people on the closet, and would have kept black people going to “separate-yet-equal” facilities. (Note: I am part African-American.) Thus, I came to agree with Irshad Manji that part of the price of liberty is the possibility that someone will say or do something you find offensive. (More on that below.)
However, in the course of interacting with people on social media, I have come to see the other side of the discussion. First, the most shocking claim by a PC-supporter is that political correctness is about *challenging* unjust systems, regardless of how people feel. That struck me as if she had said, “Man bites dog”, because it was so counter-intuitive. People explained that there is more than one way to define respect: there is 1)”respect mah authoritah”, and 2)”treat me as a person”, and that, in the quote that “PC is treating others with respect”, meaning 2) is meant. Furthermore, I was told there are two meanings to “offensive”: 1)upsetting, and 2)harmful. It was explained to me that when PCers object to offensive material, they mean the latter, and are not trying to protect people from “hurt feelings”. When I was working on my English 102 paper on free speech, I read that many PC-supporters had been bullied, and thus concerns about censorship were not as personal. I noticed this in that people brought up concerns about harassment when I expressed support for free speech absolutism over political correctness, and in the stereotype that PC-opponents just want social taboos against slur use to be lifted.
Another person brought up Irshad Manji, who is a major influence on my views. My interlocutor explained that, though Manji leans towards free speech absolutism, she has never endorsed harassment or bullying. (Note: she opposes these things.) Manji supports the right to offend so that people could question dogma. In her case, when there were protests and riots in response to how Islam was depicted, Manji (a reformist Muslim of South Asian descent, born in Uganda, an immigrant and former refugee, and a lesbian) explained to her fellow Muslims that part of the price of living in a free society is that someone may do something to offend you. I realized it was an important lesson that Fundamentalist Christians needed to learn as well. This highly influenced my views.
Now, I realize that PC-advocates are not people with cake lives who, despite their idealism, are out of touch with the Real World. I realize, like Descartes said, that they drive their thoughts on different ways that I do and don’t consider the same things that I do. It took me a while, but I was finally able to acknowledge that they do have good points, that there *are* multiple meanings to terms like “offense” and “respect”, and that, in their definitions, they have noble goals. Nevertheless, I am still wary of norms about concern for others’ feelings, that this can be used by abusers to gaslight their victims. I remain unconvinced that opponents of PC are motivated by a desire to use slurs or to bully marginalized people, and that such claims gloss over good points raised. On the other hand, I no longer believe that PCers are hypersensitive snowflakes who can’t handle disagreement, and I think they have points that must be considered and concerns that must be addressed.
But now, I see these things, including my view, as a double-edged sword, and that perhaps both PC and anti-PC are needed, as Hegelian philosophy says, “Truth is not found in the thesis or the antithesis, but in the emerging synthesis that reconciles the two.” One way is to go back to basic moral principles (which I plan to do a post on), but for now, I will say that morality exists due to our being social, and this should guide how we approach this subject. Without morality, we would be in a dog eat dog world, so we agree that certain things are wrong. We should have a goal of human flourishing, of thriving, and of promoting good relations. Thus, maliciously offending, just to assert dominance, is problematic and should be critiqued. On the other hand, abuse victimd should be given space to vent, even if what they say is offensive. The right to question dogma (including religious dogma) should be protected, and folks should be allowed intellectual honesty, as that helps us to do better. It is a moral imperative to encourage good relations among nations.
In summary, I have come to have an adjusted view on political correctness through conversations with others in which terms like “respect” and “offense” were alternatively defined. I came to see some points, while clinging to my view that free speech restrictions should be minimal. I think that free speech absolutists need to address the concerns about harassment, bullying, and racism, and PCers need to address concerns that their system can occasion those very things as well as that it can lead to stifling discussion and dogmatism. Perhaps that is best accomplished by a Hegelian approach and by asking what best leads to human flourishing.