I am slowly dipping my toe back into the blogosphere after an extraordinarily hectic few days. By popular demand, I am chewing on my ideas for my philosophy post, but meanwhile, here is a quotation for your Sunday reading pleasure. I had no idea when I posted about my experiences with contempt that contempt is such an important area of consideration in psychology:
The contempt for others in grandiose, successful people always includes disrespect for their own true selves, as their scorn implies: "Without these superior qualities of mine, a person is completely worthless." This means further: "Without these achievements, these gifts, I could never be loved, would never have been loved." Grandiosity in the adult guarantees that the illusion continues: "I was loved."
-- Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child
Hmmm . . . I seem to have way to much to do this week and to little time to do it. I've got lots of things on my mind -- abortion as sex selection in India, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, why Linda Hirshman should court stay-at-home-moms, women soldiers who go AWOL due to sexual harassment, how I almost became a conservative during my misguided youth, why philosophy is one of the most important fields of study (I've been meaning to write this post since I started blogging), and numerous other passing ideas.
It's going to be a crap shoot as to whether I have any time to blog before the weekend (or whether I will actually get around to addressing all of these topics). Meanwhile, don't go away for too long. As Arnie says, I'll be back.
Last night, my husband and I watched the film "Windtalkers" on the History Channel. It is a fictionalized account of young Navajo men who were trained in the one World War II code the Japanese never figured out. After the Japanese cracked code after code after code, the Americans came up with a double code: have Navajo code talkers speak in code words that are also in the Navajo language. Anyone who wanted to break the code would not only have to figure out what the code words referred to but also translate them first from Navajo. About four hundred Navajo code talkers played a crucial part in the success of numerous battles in the Pacific.
The film was a great way to draw attention to a facet of World War II history that I doubt is widely known and to bring much deserved honor to the Navajo people for their compatriots' work. I particularly appreciated the battle scenes that illustrated why being able to communicate in code was so crucial for winning battles and saving lives.
On the negative side, as film critic Leah Rozen observed during her televised commentary, the film focused too much on the main hero, played by Nicholas Cage. The movie would have been more interesting if the central Navajo character (Ben Yahzee, played by Adam Beach) had been the protagonist. The movie seemed to fall into the Atticus Finch syndrome -- the syndrome of telling the story about a minority people from the point of view of a white hero. This movie is an even more egregious example of the Atticus Finch syndrome than "To Kill a Mocking bird." "Windtalkers" presents itself as a movie that is primarily about celebrating the Navajo, whereas "To Kill a Mockingbird" is about a lot of other things besides the unjust persecution of a black man.
The other problem with the movie was its central source of dramatic tension. The premise was that the Nicholas Cage character had orders to kill Ben Yahzee if he was in danger of falling into enemy hands in order to prevent him from being tortured into revealing the Navajo code to the Japanese. For the first part of the movie, however, Yahzee believed that Nicholas Cage was only there to protect him. The problem is that the alleged order to kill the Navajo code talkers in the event of their capture has no basis in historical fact, according to the commentary that accompanied the movie. It was merely a dramatic device the filmmakers invented.
This is most unfortunate. I am a firm believer that even fictionalized accounts of historical events should not include facts that are known to be historically false, much less make such falsities the focal point of the story. While I imagine that racism was a real part of the Navajo code talkers' experience in the military, it was simply not true that there was as little value placed on their lives and their services as the plot of the film would suggest. I love dramatized and fictionalized accounts of history, but historical accuracy can yield just as compelling a story without resorting to cheap made-up facts.
All in all, I am glad I saw this movie because the underlying historical reality is so compelling. But Leah Rozen summed up my feelings when she said that she was left the movie wishing she had seen the documentary instead.
Since we were talking the other day about force used upon teenaged expectant mothers in days gone by, I thought you all would be interested in this news story. The parents of a pregnant 19-year old have been charged with felony kidnapping. Their daughter reported that her parents tied her up with rope and duct tape, and forced her into a car in an effort to transport her from Maine to New York to force her to get an abortion against her will. She escaped in New Hampshire and called 911.
Obviously, this case is different than the kind of scenario we were talking about before. The pregnant woman was not a minor, and her parents' actions are not condoned by the law or by society. Still, it's interesting to me that anti-choicers tend to assume that parental involvement will always result in fewer abortions rather than more abortions.
I am glad that this young woman escaped and that she was willing to report her parents to the police. Being forced to get an abortion against your will sounds every bit as heinous as being forced to give birth against your will. I hope these people are vigorously prosecuted.*
* And yes, for my defense attorney readers, assuming they are guilty, an assumption that has not yet been established beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Finally, after mucho procrastination, I've updated my blogroll. So I have gotten rid of bad links (I have been distressed for a while that Feminist African Sister seems to have been replaced by a site advertising porn) and updated the URLs that have changed like Philobiblon's and Mythago's.
I've also added a bunch of feminist blogs like Echidne (whom I have been reading forever), Bitch Lab, Punkass Blog, Mean Feminism, Say Something, Sister, Lucky White Girl, Shawna Atteberry and Our Bodies Ourselves.
New Unitarian blogs include Joel Monka, Philocrites, and Peacebang, although I regularly read a number of other Unitarian sites through UUpdates.
And then under Lefty Blogs, there is Straight Not Narrow, a blog promoting GLBT equality in Christianity and Politics.
And finally, towards the bottom, in keeping with one of my new interests, there is a blog called What Makes Narcissists Tick.
It is very hit or miss which blogs grab my attention, so if yours has been overlooked, please be patient. So many great blogs to read, so little time!
I somehow missed out on the latest blog brouhaha until now, so you have probably already heard about it. Ann Althouse castigated Jessica Valenti of Feministing for her appearance in this photograph with President Clinton. Althouse characterizes it as follows:
. . . she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible . . .
Which is just ludicrous. I guess in Althouse's world, human beings with breasts are now obligated to stand off to the side to make sure their breasts aren't conspicuous. And I suppose when posing for a photograph, a woman with breasts has an obligation to think about whether the color of her top will contrast with the colors worn by the men standing behind her, potentially drawing attention to her breasts. In fact, maybe said be-breasted human should have thought of that before getting dressed in the morning and made sure to wear only dark, somber colors or better yet a black tent. Hmmm, a burqa perhaps.
Oddly enough, Althouse claims to be the true feminist as compared to Valenti. Yet she can't seem to cope with the fact that women have breasts and that breasts, you know, stick out.
Since I'm late to the party, I don't have much to add to what a number of other bloggers have already said. Check out Jessica's post, which contains a round up of links to posts by feminist bloggers on this. I concur wholeheartedly that Jessica did not deserve the mean-spirited attack upon her.
UPDATE: I am still reading some of the posts. I think Majikthise really nailed it with some choice quotations from the Althouse comments threads, which provide a nice up-close view of misogyny in action.
From my mailbag (a series of questions posed by a female reader):
Speaking of questions, I have one I've been meaning to ask you. In one post I read, you mentioned something like, "everything men don't want to hear from women they write off as 'female hysteria' or extreme emotionalism."
I can rarely agree with extremes ("everything") but I was wondering how seriously you meant that remark. Was it just a generalization ("they put us down to avoid the issue") or...what's the alternative...?
I mean, is there any sort of research comparing the flightiness of men vs. women? Is it never acceptable to call a woman "emotional," even if she is . . . ? Just by the odds aren't you eventually going to have real people who really deserve/earn the "slurs" unfairly cast upon their group?
Not looking for an excuse to call names, but isn't it also fair to look at the attitude/criticism interaction before writing off a response as knee-jerk jerkyness?
I can't imagine that I said anything like what was attributed to me in the first paragraph of this email. It doesn't quite sound like anything I would say because it is, as the reader points out, an awfully broad statement. Nonetheless, I will respond with some thoughts about the slur of excessive emotionalism and some thoughts about the issue of whether women are "more emotional" than men.
The slur of excessive emotionalism
1) I don't think that one should lightly label a person's argument as overly emotional. I will do so, at times, if the apparent emotionalism seems to be disrupting the conversation or if the person's emotions seem to cause him to misconstrue what others are saying. But accusing someone of excessive emotionalism is often a cheap way of deflecting attention from the real issue. Someone who is very emotional about an issue may also be right. The real question is the merit of the person's argument.
2) Accusing someone of being "emotional" implies that a person is being unreasonable or illogical in his or her consideration of an issue. But even more significantly, the accusation of "emotionalism" unjustly labels that person's very concerns as invalid. For example, if thousands of women complain that being catcalled on the street makes them "feel" disturbed and upset, it doesn't mean that a concern with street harassment is invalid. In fact, emotions often drive concerns that everyone agrees are legitimate, like a concern with "dignity," which is primarily an emotional concern.
3) Accusations of emotionalism play into the old stereotype that women are overly emotional. To this day, excessive emotionalism is a common slur often made against women without basis. Often in comments threads, commenters will characterize a comment as me "being upset," when all I have done is address the issue in the thread. I am often left scratching my head wondering why I am assumed to be "upset" just because I am criticizing someone or engaging in a debate. In some circles, the belief in women's emotionalism is believed by women themselves to justify women's submission to male authorities based on gender.
4) Often people are emotional about an issue because they have been wronged or because it affects them in particular. For example, a man may not get as worked up discussing issues of sexism against women because these issues don't cut to the core of his very self-worth or ability to function in society the way they might for a woman. Thus, the man may be better positioned to treat an argument about such issues as a parlor game whereas for women they may be deeply serious. (Indeed, every privileged group can afford some degree of detachment that is not as available to the less privileged.)
5) I don't think a person's degree of emotionalism is a basis for criticism unless the person's emotions cloud his or her judgment or adversely affect behavior.
Are women in fact more emotional than men?
The problem with this common question is that the term "more emotional" is very vague.
Does it refer to the range of emotions felt by a person, the intensity of emotions felt, or the frequency of strong emotion?
Does it refer to the emotions men and women actually feel or their degree of emotional expressiveness? According to one study, men and women feel equal levels of sadness when watching a tearjerker movie but women are more likely to cry.
Or does "more emotional" refer to the manner in which emotions are expressed? (I am willing to bet that a woman who cries a lot will be perceived as "more emotional" than a man who frequently loses his temper.)
As I said above, I believe that emotionalism can only be considered "excessive" if it clouds a person's judgment or ability to reason or function. It doesn't follow that just because a person feels strongly that he or she is irrational. If anything, most of the time, emotions enhance our ability to come to the right conclusion about a particular topic. I have learned the hard way that if I discount my emotional response, I often overlook something important, some fact or idea that my gut is trying to bring to my attention. Sometimes it works the other way around and we become emotional because we have concluded through reason that something is right or wrong.
So is one sex more likely to allow their emotions to affect their behavior adversely? I personally don't think is a particularly productive question. I will, however, note that for every woman who may sniffle in her office once in a while at work, there are a number of young men sitting in jail because they let their tempers get the best of them.
Molly Saves the Day has founded a really cool tradition. She has opened up the floor for questions about feminism (subject to certain very sensible guidelines) and has encouraged other feminist bloggers to do the same. That's the kind of thing that's right up my alley. I can't believe I didn't think of it myself.
Amanda followed suit and took all sorts of questions last night. You really ought to read her post with all the answers as to everything from choice feminism to the leg-shaving thing. Her discussion of choice feminism in particular sums up all the issues related to that quite nicely.
I am going to wait a few weeks, but at some point I will do a post inviting any and all questions, subject to Molly's guidelines. It seems like a great thing for feminist bloggers to do. (Of course, as a general matter, I looooove answering questions about feminism, so you don't necessarily have to wait 'til my official post. But I might not have time to answer a gazillion questions just at the moment.)