Against Banning Page 3 Girls

Yesterday I spoke against a motion to ban Page 3 girls at a London debating society. Here, roughly, is what I said.

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I would like to oppose this motion on three grounds.

Firstly, I believe there is rank hypocrisy in this campaign against Page 3. I also believe its advocates victimize and infantlize women. Finally, but by no means the least important, such a proposal has ominous implications for personal freedom and autonomy.

Last year at the LSE, the Sun was banned from being sold on campus. When members of the Hayek Society there protested by selling the Sun from a stall, it ended up being vandalized.

It was interesting to hear the words of one of the prohibitionists. Page 3, she said, promotes “unrealistic, unattainable expectations” contributing to “negative body image” and even eating disorders.

Folks, I have to ask: How come we never see dildos that are 5 or 6 inches long?

Similarly, I don’t see many portly men in Calvin Klein advertisements.

Throughout history, women have desired men with the biggest muscles and the biggest wallets. Men have desired women with large breasts. The feminists waging war on Page 3 are waging a war on human nature; but who are they to say what we should find attractive?

Last year the women’s section of Al Guardian featured an article telling women how to vandalize the racks from which such content is sold. But women’s magazines are full of scantily clad or even nude women. Clearly, women enjoy looking at such such women, too. But there are no calls to ban or vandalize these magazines.

The most ubiquitous piece of pornography in my lifetime happens to be a book called 50 Shades of Grey. The leading male character is a wealthy pretty boy who has, I believe, a mansion and a helicopter. Unrealistic, unattainable expectations! Yet it is perfectly acceptable to carry this book around and read it on a train. Men are more stimulated by the image and male pornography reflects this, but 50 Shades is pornography by the dictionary definition of the word: material designed to sexually excite. Should it be banned from the shelves?

This campaign springs from a trend in modern feminism, one that does not seek to empower women as much as it seeks to infantilize them and protect their virtue from brutish men. You know, the kind that read the Sun.

Organisations like Ireland’s National Women’s Council, with which I have had run-ins in the past, will loudly call on the government to “protect women and children in the next budget”. Are women, then, automatically as vulnerable as children, just by being women? Is this empowerment?

The women of Al Guardian and student’s unions that vandalize stalls selling the Sun are not all that different from the Taliban or groups of lay-missionaries.

Though they will defend the right of a woman to have eye-catching cleavage, woe betide the man who comments on it.

Old notions of the virtue of female chastity have lost their force. Well, not quite: the parent who recommends their daughter sleep with as many men as possible provided they use contraception has yet to be born.

Its interesting to see how the Progressive alliance with the Moral Majority on issues like Page 3 has ended up setting back the progress of women significantly.

I believe the scare-mongering on matters of sex directed at girls from a young age can be taken to abusive levels. I am studying psychotherapy. Not a few cases of frigidity I have come across can be traced to the tales of wicked men and the need to resist them imparted to girls from their parents. Its probably one of the reasons 43% of women are not enjoying sex to the fullest.

Finally, I want to talk about freedom.

I concede that Page 3 is distasteful. But one of my all-time favorite books, the first serious novel I ever read as a kid, happens to be A Clockwork Orange. Its theme is man’s right to do evil. It asks us whether it is moral to turn a violent young man into a harmless automaton.

In the book, only the prison chaplain, a cleric, openly disagrees with the brainwashing technique. I believe by doing this Burgess was saying that such opposition is difficult to justify on entirely rational or utilitarian grounds. Yet we naturally prefer to be free and flawed human beings than a thing incapable of choice.

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of undesirable and immoral behaviors are not crimes.

However, a new form of authoritarianism has risen; one that is obsessed with nudging us towards good behavior and ends up cultivating dependence on the state. It is an approach famously laid out by the academics Rich Thaler and Cass Sunstein, who advocate altering our “choice architecture”, or the framework in which we are able to make decisions.

If your political philosophy seeks to micromanage individual behavior, I want no part of it and I urge you to reconsider.

And I urge all of you here, if you stand against hypocrisy and infantilization and favor autonomy, to oppose this motion.

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The audience was to my surprise largely in favor of the motion from the poll taken before the debate. My side did not win, but we did manage to increase our share of the vote by the final tally. Ah, small victories.

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Are Women The Privileged Sex?

The Privileged Sex

In my days as an undergraduate, I submitted myself to medical experiments for money. That was a low point, but there were no substantial risks. Being part of a treatment group, I occasionally stayed overnight with other members in accommodation close to a laboratory. One thing I observed in this group was that there were no females. There was not one in the group of about 20 people I stayed with. I never saw any around the facilities, apart from staff. When I put this to a researcher, I was informed that the use of women in clinical trials is discouraged, and has been for decades. The impetus for this was the Thalidomide scandal in the late 1950’s, when pregnant women in a clinical drug trial ended up giving birth to children with fin-like arms or legs. Non-approved drugs and treatments can harm males as well, but that doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Visiting Dublin’s woefully-named Mountjoy Prison as a law student, I could not help get taken aback by the radically different conditions male and female prisoners have to endure. The men of Mountjoy are confined to an actual prison.  Its a bad prison at that, one of the last in Europe where they still practice slopping out. The women, on the other hand, live in self-contained apartments superior to what many people live in at university.

Thus, women get the benefit of medicine once its safety has been verified using male guinea pigs. Much like how they benefit from the safety that requires the sacrifice of men and boys in combat. Much like how they benefit from welfare programs penned by mostly male legislators, or easier justice dished out by mostly male jurists. Examples of female privilege are abundant, now and throughout history. Why the notion that women have a tougher time of it than men has so thrived in face of these facts is quite the mystery.

Its a problem that’s recently been tackled by my one of my favorite historians, and my favorite military theorist, Israel’s Martin Van Creveld. Van Creveld’s The Privileged Sex has just been published in English, being previously only available in German. His is a thesis well worth reading.

Van Creveld contends that for every disadvantage women have endured, whether man-made or as a result of biology, they enjoy a privilege that that is equally or more important to their lives. These range from being spared the obligation to fight in wartime, to the hardest of labors in general. Too many female writers, inclined to see oppression in all places and times, ever mention these privileges (guilty males, even less so). Our perceptions of gender relations have also been skewed by popular stories concerning the alleged historical exploitation and oppression of women. Many of these are without foundation, and if seriously scrutinized turn out to be invented for political-ideological reasons. Feminists have, for instance, portrayed societies that permitted a man to have more than one wife as sexist, with a view of women as being like cattle. Yet in many places this arrangement was simply a way of looking after widows. It was the best possible way of looking out for their welfare at a time when unattached women would have had a difficult time even surviving. They claim women were persecuted in Nazi Germany, yet German women were more likely than men to vote for Hitler. Another example is the portrayal of witch-hunts as part of the general oppression of women. Yet how could these have been anti-woman, when in some countries just as many or more men were executed for witchcraft? In nearly all places men accused of witchcraft were more likely to be executed or face stiffer penalties than their female peers. Not to mention that it was overwhelmingly women accusing other women of being witches, and prosecutions for witchcraft often reached their height under female rulers like Catherina De Medici, Mary Queen of Scots, and ‘Good Queen Bess’ herself. Indeed, some authorities, like James VI of Scotland, had to abolish the general commission against witchcraft because it had become a mere vehicle to settle scores among mostly female rivals.

Similarly, we are told that women do not thrive in the fields of science and engineering because males have kept them out of these vocations. But not even Stalin was able to force females to study technical subjects. Today, officialdom is most satisfied that girls vastly outnumber boys in our medical schools. Yet very few have addressed the disastrous consequences of this. After their expensive training, in most places covered or heavily subsidized by the taxpayer, only a tiny percentage of female graduates remain full-time doctors. They largely avoid the most stressful work in hospitals. A huge proportion quickly leave the profession entirely. In Ireland, only 10% of female GPs intend to pursue full-time practice in the long-term. Some, like the journalist Kevin Myers, have estimated the figure at even less than that, remarking that this is “not a health system; it is a first day on the Somme”. Thus, we in the developed world have to make up the difference by importing doctors from poor countries that need them most.

Discourse on domestic violence is similarly dominated by a presumption that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. For a long time, studies have been casting doubt on this perception. Erin Pizzey, the founder of the UK charity today known as Refuge, has been subjected to death threats and boycotts because of her claims that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally as capable of violence as men. Reciprocal violence is indeed the most common pattern, and a study of 55,000 US military personnel found that women are just as likely to physically assault their partners. We also know from the US Dept. of Justice’s Survey of State Prison Inmates that women are 24% more likely to kill their children than men, and 32% more likely to kill relatives, children included.

So why does the myth of the oppressed female continue?

Fans of Richard Dawkins might say it is the result of a mental gene, or meme, that predisposes people to believe in certain things. It does seem that we have a natural distaste for seeing women harmed or treated harshly. You are 200 times more likely to see a man die on screen than a woman. It is telling that Hector says to his wife in The Iliad that men would rather die than watch women dying. Its one of the reasons that even in Israel, where women are conscripted, very few serve in combat units and they are exempt from reserve duty. Van Creveld says that in his decades of teaching at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, not one female student has ever had to miss one of his classes for this obligation that affects many of the young men. Its hard to quantify all the ways women are treated gently and paternalistically in the sphere of law and order. When police respond to an incident, women are much more likely to get off with a warning than men. This applies to every single category of offence, and is even true when factors like prior arrest records are controlled for. In Britain, women are six times as likely to be acquitted of manslaughter, and have an easier time convincing juries that they acted under provocation in cases of murder. Their charms work on male cops, jurors, and judges as much as female ones. This happened even to female Nazis on trial for their roles in the euthanasia program.

The love does not appear to be reciprocal, if only from the amount of fictional works by female authors imagining a future utopia without men, from Mary Bradley’s 1890 novel Mizora to more recent works like Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1975) or Dorris Lessing’s The Cleft (2008). Are there any males fantasizing of a world without women? Nonsense. We like them too much.

The Complaining Sex

This brings us to something in the nature of women. Of course, feminism as an ideology should never be synonymous with being female. But there are forms of feminism that give political expression to something almost inherent in the gender. Women are the complaining sex; they seek attention and often seethe with a mysterious resentment. Freud might have put this resentment down to penis envy. Coupled with male deference, we have a prescription for disaster. Now, not all women possess the traits just described. History is replete with examples of women with nothing but contempt for those living on the privileges of their gender. The first known female commander, Queen Artemisia of Caria, Van Creveld tells us, told Xerxes that Greeks were as superior to Persians as men are to women. Queen Elizabeth I was fond of cracking what would be called today misogynist jokes.

Yet the grievances of woman appear to be as endless as they often are baseless. In the medical sphere, Florence Nightingale was perceptive enough to admit in Cassandra that many female patients are merely seeking attention. Patterns of suicide (a supreme form of complaint) in the sexes are a good indicator. Men are significantly more likely to kill themselves than women. But worldwide, women are four times as likely to attempt suicide. Perhaps they are remarkably incompetent. Perhaps they are practising the fine art of appearing vulnerable.

Is feminism related to this dynamic? Just as female patients, such as Freud’s Dora, have based their lives around imagined illnesses and relished the attention, so others find a purpose in grievances, real or imagined.

Some insight may come from the anorgasmic woman, or female frigidity. This has caused no end of anguish in men, who are expected to bear the blame. Yet frigidity is quite a often a ruse; a way to lash out at a male partner. Simone de Beauvoir was quite candid about the subject, finding the courage to address it after being ‘cured’ of her frigidity by the American writer Nelson Algreen. What de Beauvoir writes in The Second Sex on the subject of frigidity could well describe the mindset of the extreme feminist. Replace the word ‘frigidity’ with ‘feminism’ and you get the point:

Resentment is the most common cause of feminine frigidity; in bed the woman punishes the man for all the wrongs she feels she has endured, by offering him an insulting coldness. There is often an aggressive inferiority complex apparent in her attitudes… She is thus revenged at once upon him and upon herself if he has humiliated her by neglect, if he has made her jealous, if he was slow in declaring her intentions, if he took her as a mistress while she wanted marriage. The grievance can flare up suddenly and set off this reaction even in a liaison that began happily… Frigidity… would appear to be a punishment that woman imposes as much upon herself as upon her partner; wounded in her vanity, she feels resentment against him and against herself, and she denies herself the pleasure.

I will end with another quote, from Van Creveld himself, in the final chapter of The Privileged Sex: “It would be nice… if from time to time, amid the torrents of invective feminists spew at us, we occasionally heard a pleasant female voice saying “thank you, Mate”.”

With that, I and most men would be quite content to be guinea pigs and beasts of burden for the privileged sex.

See Also: Women in Combat

Women in Combat

800px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Female_Infantry_Instructors_Prepare_for_a_Combat_Exercise,_Nov_2010

The Amazons, the mythical race of female warriors who lived on the fringes of civilization,  were said to cut off their right breasts to enable them to effectively throw javelins and use a bow. In some accounts, they could not have sex, or restricted intercourse to one encounter per year. It is telling that to be warriors, the Amazons had to give up all marks of femininity and even the organs identifying them as women.

There is truth in the myth of the Amazons. Captain Katie Petronio of the Marine Corps recently told CNN that the missions she endured over seven months in Iraq caused her to stop producing estrogen, rendering her infertile. She also admitted to only doing a fraction of what her male colleagues did.

One should be very afraid of the prospect of gender ‘equality’ in combat. What do feminists mean by it? Forty percent of female soldiers in the British army got pregnant within months of arriving in Iraq. This earned them an immediate trip home. Female British Military Police unable to get pregnant simply refused to go on foot-patrol because it was “too dangerous”. Male MPs had to do double-patrols. The Daily Star got these figures from the Ministry of Defense after a Freedom of Information request. I cannot recall the BBC ever reporting them. I have never seen a debate in Parliament on the subject. The Official Line is that Girls Can Do Anything. The madness goes beyond Britain. According to Steve Sailer (writing in 1997), for every year a coed warship is at sea “the Navy has to airlift out 16% of the female sailors as their pregnancies become advanced”.

The Israeli Example, The Nature of War, and Why The Israeli Example Does Not Apply

Somebody will inevitably bring up all those pretty girls in the Israel Defense Forces. I contend that Israel is not necessarily a success in this regard, and certainly not an example for America or any other country to emulate. I also believe that women who meet the criteria for the armed forces should still be excluded from the military as much as possible, even if the criteria haven’t been lowered to facilitate greater gender integration.

For a start, one expects that forcibly integrating combat units would have the same effect as forcibly integrating sports, given the sometimes astounding physical requisites of both endeavors. Most world-class female athletes cannot compete against world-class male athletes. In fact, the top women in most fields of sport would not even be able to compete against the top male high school equivalents. So, sensibly, we don’t do mixed basketball games.

Disparities in physical abilities are a clear indication that opening up combat units to women will not double the talent pool, as some have absurdly argued. Most women are unable to carry the standard gear a US soldier is required to schlep around at all times. Factors like this mean that the only way gender integration would work is if female combat units were to only take on other female combat units, as we do in sport. This arrangement may be negotiated, but one cannot expect armies to adhere to this.  The massing of the troops on weak points is standard practice. In the words of Field Mar­shal Paul von Hindenburg, “an operation without Schw­er­punkt is like a man without character”. Some civilized nations may indeed be persuaded to sign up to this, but the likes of the Taliban certainly wont.

But lets go beyond physical differences and presume that a military can easily have women in combat.

Martin Van Creveld, in my opinion the greatest military historian and theorist of our time, largely dismisses the argument that women are physically incapable of fighting alongside men. This I do not quite agree with, but I’ll leave my objections aside for the moment. In his Transformation of War, he provides the example of the highly effective Palmach, the elite all-volunteer strike force of the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish militia that later formed the core of the IDF. The Palmach had a higher rate of female participation and sexual integration than any military force before or since. Women were particularly valued for intelligence gathering, arms smuggling, and transmitting messages. There were plenty of women throughout the Haganah, too. Famous ‘sexpert’ Dr. Ruth Westheimer was a sniper (where her diminutive height of 4 ft 7 in proved advantageous). However, as the British left and the Arabs armies massed, the IDF was officially established and a near complete winnowing out of women began. After the war, Israeli women were confined to being secretaries, telephone operators, and the like, though they were still subject to the draft.

Now, war has throughout history been the most important male preserve. The association between war and manliness is so strong that in some languages the word for “man” and “warrior” is the same. One can go farther and say that in most societies, things are considered important to the extent that they are the preserve of men, though this is perhaps changing in certain places. Teaching and secretarial work, when dominated by men, enjoyed a far higher status than they do today. Female penetration of a field beyond a critical point will cause men to desert. This applies to war.

So what made the Palmach work?

It was all in the context. The Palmach were a small band of semi-underground insurgents facing the mighty British Empire as well as the Arab foe. With such a disparity in power, numbers, and equipment, women can be allowed to participate without undermining the significance of what the men are doing. Female participation can be rife in other insurgencies, including that of the Palestinians. In Ireland, examples can be found in women like Countess Markievicz.

Women largely vanished from important roles in the IDF for decades, training with weapons discarded by the men or those that were extremely plentiful. The reason why women continued to be drafted and receive weapons training at all is closely related to why they were welcomed by the pre-state Zionist militias. Israel was outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded by foes. The Soviet Union was around to support its enemies. Israel’s wars have been seen as wars for survival, close to home, and certainly not optional adventures or crusades thousands of miles away. Even today, with peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, Israel fears failure in a way that the surrounding Arab nations don’t. Few countries face threats of an existential nature like Israel, and certainly not the United States. However, even though its women get trained in the use of arms, very few females serve in Israel’s combat units.

In Israel, a post-1973 expansion of the army strained available manpower and created a demand for skilled operators. Women were found to make good technicians, communicators  and weapons instructors. As a result, the presence of women was increased noticeably at all ranks. On the whole the job they have done has been excellent, though women still tend to get assigned the worst positions. However, there has also been an enormous social cost to this. Jobs got considered undesirable by men precisely because they began to be done by women. Thus, these roles are not seen as a display or test of manliness, a fundamental part of the traditional culture of war, in what is a very macho culture in the first place. More women at all ranks has in fact made it tougher to attract first-class manpower.

As a side-note, it must be said that Israeli women, from the Palmach and beyond, have always performed admirably in certain crucial capacities like Intelligence. Since the time of Rahab, and Judith’s beheading of Holofernes, women do have some innate advantages in this field that men will find difficult or impossible to acquire.

Its a Symptom

That the US military is now prepared to take women into combat infantry positions indicates that its role as an actual fighting force is coming to an end. It is a symptom of the demise of the style of war that arose after the state asserted its monopoly over conflict at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, military theorists have pointed out the fact that we are living through the greatest transformation of the nature of war since 1648.

State-run armies are being made obsolete by nuclear weapons keeping the peace on the one hand, and low-intensity conflicts featuring non-state actors on the other. Against non-state opponents, the US military has lost in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The wars that matter are now fought by gangs, tribes, and militias. They fight for pride, for God, for women, for money. Essentially, the old pre-state causes.

What can a state do with a useless army? Turning it into an equal opportunities jobs program is one option.