It was bound to happen. Last Friday, the AP style guide approved the use of ‘they’ as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun.
Of course, it was necessary to explain the rationale: “We offer new advice for two reasons: recognition that the spoken language uses they as singular, and we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she,” Paula Froke, lead editor for the AP Stylebook, said on Friday.
Now that it’s official, some have celebrated what amounts to a progressive victory in the long-raging battle over pronouns. What started in the 1960s and 70s as a way to diminish gender stereotypes has come to full bloom in the obliteration of gender in the informal designation.
The objective bystander will note that in so doing, the AP has not only obliterated the concept of gender, but also grammar. The word ‘they’ has always been a way to identify more than one. As such, the attempt to accommodate for one demand has disrupted the language in other ways and ultimately left it more confusing and less effective. Continue reading
In the last few months, several celebrities have threatened to move out of the United States if the Donald became president. Notables such as Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Stewart, Cher, Samuel L. Jackson, and Miley Cyrus all put their feet down before the election as a way to protest the possibility of their side losing.
Of course, now that the election has passed, and the Donald has indeed been elected president, the celebrities are not so gung-ho anymore. As the Daily Mail reports, “Some dismissed what they pledged as a ‘joke’ and others simply went to ground when asked by DailyMail.com when they were packing up and heading to Canada or other countries.”
This is rather disappointing to some, who saw the purging of this group as the best reason to vote for Trump. It also brings into question the formerly rock-solid faith that fans had in the celebrities. As Miley Cyrus said, “I don’t say things I don’t mean!” What are we to believe now that she has apparently had a change of heart and now accepts Trump as the president?
This shouldn’t be a surprise. As explained in the 2010 essay, Juggernaut, I explored this kind of threat to leave and why it so rarely happens. In short, we live in a closed economy, and the threat to leave is a kind of wishful thinking that such an action would be productive. When the election is over, the realization that there is no better option sinks in, and we all end up dealing with what we’re given. Continue reading
At first, it was entertaining to watch the talking heads try to make sense of the election results that they had been so wrong in predicting.
Then, it got scary.
As the results came in, and it became clear that Donald Trump would win the presidency, it seemed as though a light bulb flashed in their heads: Half of America is sexist and racist. Nothing else could explain this election of such a vile creature to the highest position in the land.
The musician Moby posted a meme that captured the consensus grief: “America, you are so much more racist and misogynistic than I’d ever imagined.” People wept in public at the clear evidence that America hates women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, and LBGT types.
It is an understandable frustration considering the kind of rhetoric that Trump has espoused over the last year. The thought is that, since some 60 million Americans voted for a misogynistic, xenophobic bigot, some 60 million Americans must be misogynistic, xenophobic bigots. As an emotional Van Jones put it: “This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president, in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”
But can that really be the explanation?
With all of the attention focused on this election, it is easy to get caught up in a patriotic fervor.
Everyone posted ‘I Voted’ stickers and talked about how it is a duty to make your voice heard. Celebrities paraded around talking about how important it will be to have “the most qualified” candidate, Hillary, as president, and preachers talk about how important it is to have the supposedly pro-life Trump pick the next Supreme Court justices. Everyone disagrees on who should be president, but everyone agrees that voting for president is the most important thing we can do as Americans.
Even the most independent citizens are pulled in. They too can sense the importance of having their candidate in the White House, or, more importantly, not having their opponent in the White House. Everyone has gotten swept up in election fever.
But is this really a good thing?
It occurs to the objective observer that this election has done a lot of things to this country and none of them are particularly good. Four stand out:
We face a crisis of sexuality.
During the last few years, we have witnessed an unprecedented breakdown of traditions and mores concerning sexuality and the family. Countries across the West have suddenly and seemingly irrevocably instituted same-sex marriage; a former athlete has won awards for publicly changing gender; and no one seems to know what restroom to use any more. What used to be taboo and frowned upon has become normal and even encouraged. What used to be normal and sought after is now viewed as unnecessary and possibly harmful.
Progressives see these developments as positive advancements in the interest of freedom and human rights. Meanwhile, traditionalists are concerned that we are entering a new phase of decadence that will precipitate the demise of our culture. Nobody can deny that we have reached a major turning-point in the history of civilization.
This crisis did not appear out of nowhere. As theorist Eric Robert Morse discovers, the seeds of this upheaval were planted hundreds of years ago in the rise of Industrialism and Feminism. With painstaking research and lucid prose, Morse presents a novel theory based in the Sexual Balance of Power, which is sure to agitate the intellect of progressives and traditionalists alike.
Buy the essay at these fine establishments:
When Taylor Swift recently declared herself to be a feminist, she said it was in part because she realized that Feminism isn’t necessarily anti-men. It is unknown whether she realized that it is in fact anti-women.
I have watched with great interest as Feminism has made a comeback in recent years. Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Emma Watson have all made bold statements in favor of the movement; business leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg and writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have continued their support; and Hillary Clinton’s rise to the presidency has elevated the cause.
Altogether, the various initiatives and voices amount to what might be considered a Fourth Wave of Feminism.
The thoughtful reader cannot help but to ask ‘Why?’ After a century of reforms, why is it necessary to renew the charge? What are these new feminists after anyway?
If you ask a member of this Fourth Wave, they will likely tell you they are after equality. As Miss Swift put it, “Saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities.” To most, that is what Feminism has always been about, and that’s what it is still about.
Yet the casual observer will note that women have long had equal rights and opportunity. To be sure, women have the vote in every Western country, they dominate higher education, and comprise almost half of the U.S. workforce; contraception and abortion are not only legal, they are subsidized and mandated by the federal government; and a woman is the leading candidate for president of the United States of America. By all accounts, modern Western Civilization should be a feminist utopia.
Still, modern feminists are not happy. Indeed, they are fiercer than ever and ready for war. Why? Continue reading
Any time something huge happens in the world such as the recent Brexit referendum, with all the happy and unhappy voters, and the shocked onlookers from within and without Britain, it is good practice to turn to the old sage of San Antonio to see what he had to say about the issue, and where such astounding events stand in the course of history. If we refer to Barzun’s magnum opus, From Dawn to Decadence, we find that he not only predicted the separation of the UK from the EU, but much more besides.
In the aftermath of the horrific attack in Orlando, we have witnessed a death that is equally troubling if only because of its scope and the fact that no one is talking about it—the death of dissent.
Sympathy and support for the mostly gay victims has come from all corners of society including charitable gestures from Christians, Muslims, and others who are considered anti-gay. The sympathy and support is not what’s troubling. What’s troubling is that the sympathy and support have been rejected. Continue reading
As 2016 Super Tuesday results filed in, a sinking feeling could be felt across the country. Political pundits and lay voters alike realized that Donald J. Trump had a good chance of securing a majority of the states’ primaries, which meant that he could win Super Tuesday, and winning Super Tuesday could propel him toward the nomination, and if he won the nomination he could foreseeably win the presidency. That sinking feeling led to an eerie realization: The Donald could become president of the United States of America.
What had been an impossibility suddenly became real; what was for so long a joke was suddenly no laughing matter.
A chorus arose from the commentators, soft at first, but by Super Tuesday a full-blown bellow: Stop Trump! The Donald would be atrocious for American democracy, and we must do everything we can to prevent his nomination. People pulled out the stops; comparisons to Hitler were rife; Whoopi Goldberg threatened to leave America.
But, in reading over the commentary, hit pieces, and outright propaganda that arose to stop the unconventional candidate, it occurred to me that Trump really isn’t the worst thing for American democracy—the troop of anti-Trumpers and their logic are. Sure, Trump is a clown and has no business being the president of the country. But the anti-Trump haters are out-clowning him, and almost making a Trump presidency appealing because of it.
Thanks to social media, we now know that Christopher Columbus was the only person who ever mistreated anyone in the history of the world. Everywhere we read that Columbus was a cruel tyrant of a man who facilitated slavery, wanted nothing but gold, and brought about a genocide of a people. To read these narratives, it would seem that Columbus was a man capable only of evil, that no one in his day opposed his cruelty, and nothing good ever came from his efforts.
For those who aren’t quite eager to believe the revisionist fancies found across the Internet, here is some perspective on the anti-Columbus outrage from the authority on Western cultural history, Jacques Barzun:
The outcry in the United States denouncing Columbus during his 500th anniversary year takes us back to Madrid around 1540; for contrary to common opinion, the concern about exploitation of the natives dates almost from the beginning of Spanish colonization. Queen Isabella herself condemned the abuse and issued edicts against it; so did Charles V. The strongest of the protesters, Bartolome de Las Casas, had continual access to the emperor and aroused the public by his vehement writings. In “New Spain” itself, the clergy and the religious orders, Dominican and Jesuit, were active opponents of the evils of forced labor and lawless brutality. By Charles’s legislation these were crimes with definite penalties attached; enforcement was the difficulty: it depended on the character of the officials on the spot. Preaching the truth that these “Indians” were not red devils but fellow men loved by God even though they were not Christians could influence but few. The men and women who left the homeland for America were a mixed lot with mixed motives; on Columbus’s second voyage were “ten convicted murderers and two Gypsy women.”
The conquistadors’ impelling goals have been summarized as “Gold, Glory, and the Gospel.” At any time, neither Gold nor Glory is a respecter of persons, and Gospel occasionally sins; together they do their worst when the scene is vast and sparsely populated, when communication is slow and policing haphazard. If we think back to the western frontier of the United States down to 1890, we find not exactly anarchy but free-wheeling crime and violence that took its toll of lives and goods, and sent not a few venturers scuttling back to the relatively civil order of the Midwest.
The Spanish colonists committed atrocities from greed and racist contempt that nothing can palliate or excuse. But to blame Columbus is a piece of retrospective lynching; he was not the master criminal inspiring all the rest. It is moreover a mistake to think that because the native peoples were the sufferers, all of them were peaceable innocents. The Caribs whom Columbus first encountered had fought and displaced the Anawaks who occupied the islands. The Aztecs whom Cortez conquered had originally descended from the north and destroyed the previous civilization. To the north and east many of the tribes lived in perpetual warfare, the strong exploiting the weak, and several — notably the Iroquois — had slaves. In short, what happened on the newfound hemisphere in early modern times continued the practice of the old: in ancient Greece alien tribes marching in from the north; likewise in the making of the Roman Empire, in the peopling of the British Isles by Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans; in France, Italy, and Spain by Franks, Normans, Lombards, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and later by Arabs. Everywhere the story is one of invasion, killing, rape, and plunder and occupation of the land that belonged to the vanquished. Today, this fusion or dispersion of peoples and cultures by means of death and destruction is abhorred in principle but flourishing in fact. Africa, the Middle and Far East, and South Central Europe are still theaters of conquest and massacre. And Columbus is not the responsible party.
If there’s one thing that all leaders and pundits in the tech industry can agree on, it is that there aren’t enough women in the field.
As Derek Khanna pointed out in his seminal Atlantic article, women hold 57 percent of occupations in the workforce, but, in computing occupations, that figure is only 25 percent. The leadership picture is even more dismal. Of the many chief information officer jobs at Fortune 250 companies, women comprise only 20 percent. And it’s getting worse. In 1984, females were awarded 37.1 percent of computer science degrees; today they account for less than 12 percent.
If we were to listen to the popular tech writers of the day, politicians, and even a growing number of male tech leaders, this trend amounts to a great “tragedy”. As Khanna puts it, low numbers of women in tech is bad for women, bad for tech, and bad for society in general.
But can it be said that things are so terrible? The last time I checked, IT was the most expansive and innovative industry on the planet. Granted the numbers show that tech favors men, but can it be said that that is such a bad thing when it is clear that the industry is prospering so? Why is it a tragedy that only 12 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women? Why do we need more women in tech anyway?
May 16, 2015
If the recent debate over RFRA laws and same-sex marriage teaches us anything, it is not that there are a bunch of bigots out there or that there are people being unjustly discriminated against. It is that, as a nation, we are facing a crisis of rights.
Witness the recent news item from Oregon: Last month, a judge pronounced that two bakers should pay $135,000 in damages for refusing to bake a same-sex wedding cake.
Now, we can look at this from a few angles. It could be that a couple of bigots are getting what they deserve. Or it could be that they are being unfairly demonized for doing their conscience. There are good people with good arguments on both sides of the debate.
We can all agree, however, that the Oregon case signifies a clash between opposing rights. Both sides of the argument claim to be in the right and to have the right to do what they are doing. On the one side are the bakers’ rights to conduct business as they please and to practice their conscience. On the other side are the customers’ rights to buy available goods and to not be discriminated against. The bakers’ rights necessarily infringe upon the customers’ rights, and vice versa. Continue reading
On Jan. 1, 2015, San Antonio will begin enforcing a new cell phone ban for drivers. The ban is, by many accounts, common sense and will catch the city up with progressive California and New York bans. It also happens to be a terrible idea.
To begin, let it be said that I do not condone texting or talking on the phone while driving. It is undoubtedly a distraction, the consequences of which are seen everywhere. Any time I see poor driving—swerving, driving 15 miles an hour on the highway, crashing into cement barricades—it is doubtless because the driver is focused on a handheld device and not the primary task of driving. It goes without saying that the tragedies we see in the news where kids or families are killed in accidents due to distracted driving are horrible, and we should do all we can to eliminate such senseless catastrophes.
This ban is not the answer. Continue reading
One need not look far for evidence that these are divisive times. Charismatic talking heads battle on television, the radio, and the Internet over everything imaginable, including the war, abortion, immigration, health care, Social Security, and the cost of eggs in China. Continue reading
Everyone knows that it is an injustice to deprive a people of freedom. What is less well known is that it is an injustice of equal weight and urgency to deprive a people of responsibility. Continue reading
Extremist propaganda isn’t the only place one can hear the prospect of ‘civil war’ uttered these days. It can be heard on national television by credible sources; it is mentioned somewhat casually in daily political conversation. It is as if something as horrible as civil war—perhaps the most horrible of wars—is a logical resort for the political condition we face. Continue reading
To be a prude is nothing admirable these days. Even those who consider themselves to be prudes admit it only reluctantly. But who would want to admit to being sexually frigid to the extent of cruelty to oneself and to others? Continue reading