How political feminism demeans 50% of women

worf and dax

Well, this is what came up when I searched “traditional Catholic wedding.” Now that I think of it, for people who live in a very traditional society, Klingon women don’t seem very oppressed.

So Mike Pence won’t eat alone with any woman besides his wife. Liberals find this upsetting, because they interpret it as an objectification of women. Isn’t he saying that women are nothing but temptations, and if he was sitting next to a pretty one, he couldn’t be responsible for his actions? Nobody’s wondering what his wife thinks about it. The focus is the conservative man’s attitude toward women, marriage and sex; but nobody’s looking too closely into the conservative woman’s mindset. Maybe Karen Pence agrees with his rule; maybe she doesn’t. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she understands and respects where he’s coming from. In fact, let’s assume it’s possible for a conservative woman to have a modern marriage.

Let’s face it: this stereotype of conservatives is our fault for electing Trump. But when feminists assume that all conservatives are as misogynistic as he is, or have old-fashioned, patriarchal views of marriage, they’re including conservative women, too. After all, 42% of all women voted for Trump. Are they masochists who like to be oppressed? Are they deluded dupes who never heard of feminism? Are they too stupid or cowardly to stand up for themselves? Whichever it is, it’s not very respectful of women, is it? Feminists are, by default, assuming that all women who espouse conservative views of marriage, relationships, and sex aren’t worth listening to. They’re assuming that we needn’t take conservative social views seriously, even if women hold them. They’re assuming that you can discount the experiences of 42% of the women in America, just because of their vote. That flies in the face of everything liberalism stands for.

I’m a conservative, but I didn’t vote for Trump. Every time I start to sympathize with feminists, though, they drive me away by their disrespect for my beliefs. Feminism, which claims to speak for all women, seems to be increasingly driving away all but a small, radical group of them. At the Women’s March, many white women felt unwelcome because the organizers were so focused on marching for minority rights that they downplayed white women’s concerns with Trump and the direction America is taking. Similarly, feminist women who were pro-life were officially disinvited from the Women’s March.

Let’s return to Karen and Mike Pence. It’s possible, of course, that she is oppressed or stupid. It’s certainly possible that she’s wrong. It’s even possible that she’s a misogynist. But are you willing to say the same of every woman who believes that abortion is wrong, or that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund contraception, or that marriage is only between a man and a woman? Is every conservative woman not only wrong, but also stupid, evil, or helpless? What an insult to women! If you think we’re wrong, fine; but at least pay us the courtesy of assuming that we’re smart, modern women who’ve thought things through.

Good men through the ages

Indian elephant

I’m finally filling in my gaps in world history, starting with a book about India. I’ve always loved India–the colors, the architecture, the music, the dance. No surprise that Indian history is just as beautiful.

I was especially struck by the story of Ashoka, a 3rd century BC king. After a dissolute youth and a period of ruthless and violent conquest, Ashoka suddenly repented and tried to rebuild his life–and his entire society–around a strict moral law. I can only imagine that his new subjects–the ones who survived his earlier massacres–were less enthusiastic about his conversion. Yeah right! Now he decides to be non-violent!

But it seems to have been a real conversion! Ashoka set up dozens of carved edicts, abolishing the death penalty, urging care for the environment, developing highways, and even trying to enforce religious tolerance. I find this so touchingly familiar. Tell me you’ve never gone through this stage: Guys, look at this cool thing I just found out about! I’m going to change my whole life, right now, and you should too! I’m not going to stop talking about it until you do! Ashoka even sent a kind of missionary to the east and the west, he was so excited about his new ideas.

Ashoka edict

As you can imagine, things didn’t go very well for him. I was expecting him to get assassinated pretty soon, but he seems to have made it to old age. His moral reform, of course, didn’t last any longer than he did. But by his own account he never gave up: “I am never fully satisfied with the end product of all my work, my exertions and the conclusion of my business…but work I must for the public good.” He also makes this heartbreaking admission in one of his edicts: “now I realize how hard it is to persuade people to do good.”

That’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s an old, old story, trying to make heaven on earth. Ashoka wasn’t the first to try to do it through political means, and he wasn’t the last. It’s never gonna work, but it sure is tempting.

Good men through the ages

trying to find the sun…

Five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains.

And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain?

“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” Creedence Clearwater Revival

elephant picture: source

sculpture of Ashoka’s edicts being carved, at the Parliament Museum in New Delhi: source

Bosch

I just finished watching the first two seasons of the excellent Bosch on Amazon Prime. I admit that I’ve only just started the books by Michael Connelly, which the show is based on, although I usually try to read originals before watching adaptations; but the series stands on its own.

Bosch follows a homicide detective in L.A. with all the usual police procedure and lingo, mystery, and suspense, but its real strength is depth of character, political intrigue, and ethical dilemmas. Detective Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) chafes under the restrictions of his boss Irving, the deputy Chief of Police, when his work is handicapped by considerations of public image or the demands of Irving’s own ambition. Irving, in the meantime, played by the marvelously impassive Lance Reddick, is not completely corrupt, but his desire to take control of the department and reform it leads him to make some shady deals and throw some of his subordinates under the bus.

There are layers and layers of politics here: departmental politics, race politics, clashes between the D.A., the mayor, the FBI, and the police; the necessity for good public relations versus the frustration of covers blown by the media; and the struggle to balance personal feelings, justice, and law. Bosch and the other officers often find themselves in a Dirty Harry-like situation where their desire for justice is at odds with their responsibility to afford due process and obtain evidence legally. Like Dirty Harry, Detective Bosch struggles not to be overwhelmed by the perversion and horror of his work; but he is also formed by his youth in an abusive foster home and the unsolved murder of his prostitute mother.

The serial killer in the first season, played by Jason Gedrick, is likewise the best psycho since Dirty Harry. He’s equal parts manipulative, emotional, and terrifyingly charming.  The first season was heart-stoppingly suspensful and intense; I had to take a break between episodes to emotionally recover, and the climax made me literally gasp and jump out of my seat. The second season’s villains are not so compelling, and its ending is not as satisfying; but it makes up for it with the way it continues to plumb the character’s depths and step up the intrigue, with the added complications of undercover policemen and FBI agents. The sideplot of Deputy Chief Irving’s regret for his compromises and the suffering of his family are especially compelling.

I especially like the way the series flirts with the struggle between idealism and realism, and the way it addresses the idea of “closure.” There are plenty of despicable, corrupt officials, but there are also many conflicted characters, both hardened veterans and new recruits who bear the scars of their internal struggles with duty and conscience. The viewer is forced to consider what crosses the line, from necessary cooperation with evil (plea bargains and informants) to understandable compromise (failure to expose illegally-gained evidence, because it would put a murderer back on the streets) to complete corruption.

Bosch also deals thoughtfully with the idea of closure. There are characters who use it like a buzzword to promote their agenda or downplay the lasting damage done by evil, prompting Detective Bosch to snap, “closure is a myth;” but in his own way he seeks closure as well, by trying to temper the evil of the city with some justice, even when it comes too late to save lives. The plot intertwines with memories of Bosch’s childhood traumas, which have obviously not healed beyond a certain point. I also felt the desire for closure as a viewer! Bosch’s conviction that he was put there to “set things right” give the show a powerful drive. I’m not fond of completely dark television, and this show provides just enough redemption to temper the darkness.*  Here’s the trailer, which gives you a pretty good taste of the show; let me know what you think!

 

* Be warned: it is very dark. Not only R-rated but not for the sensitive. The visuals are not too graphic, aside from some nudity and disturbing images of dead bodies, but the subject matter is heart-wrenching: child abuse, prostitution, rape, and so on.

Anne Stanton

Speaking of sheltered people, my mind keeps returning to the character of Anne Stanton in Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men.  (Spoilers ahead, for anyone who hasn’t read it!)  I had never really understood why Anne got involved with Willie Stark toward the end of the book.  She tells Jack that after she fell in love with Stark, she found out about the ignoble crime her father was involved in, and “[t]here wasn’t any reason why not then.” (p. 489) This used to seem ridiculous to me–just because her father wasn’t the perfect man she had imagined, she felt like she had the right to do anything?

I think I understand it better now.  Anne had set up a world of black and white for herself–her father, and Judge Irwin, stood for justice, and Willie Stark stood for corruption.  Her picture of the world was so absolute and unbending that when those distinctions got a little muddied–when she discovered Stark’s good side, and her father’s imperfect past–her entire moral world collapsed.  Or actually, it fell apart because it wasn’t about morality in the first place–it was built around something more artificial.  She hadn’t really resisted friendship with Stark because it was wrong, but because if she’d broken any of her rules she would have been completely banished from the supposed perfection of her family.  She didn’t have a category in her mind for a basically good person who fails sometimes; so with her father’s fall from grace, all her careful distinctions fell apart.  Although Willie was still a corrupt man–and a married man!–when she finds out that perfection doesn’t exist, there’s no reason left to keep her from succumbing to her attraction for him.

Something similar happens to her brother Adam–but for him the paragon of virtue is not only his father, but his sister.  He can’t handle her affair with Willie because his world is also black and white.  There is no category in his mind for a good woman who commits a sexual mistake; instead he is convinced that she has been completely corrupted into a “whore.”  And when he finds out that his father committed a single dishonesty, there’s no category in his mind for that, either; instead, his father has become an irretrievably evil man: “[d]amn his soul to Hell.” (p. 381) Now that I revisit the first scene, where he confronts Anne about her affair, I notice that he’s maybe even more disturbed with what’s happened to his reputation and righteousness: “he said if everything else was filthy a man didn’t have to be….he wouldn’t be pimp to his sister’s whore and nobody would ever say that about him.” (p.588) I still think Adam’s a sympathetic character but this casts a bit of a disturbing light on him.  He’s a good man, but he can’t untangle his morality from his pride.

Willie Stark’s view of the world makes an interesting contrast to Adam and Anne’s, because it’s not simply a flat opposite.  Willie is seeking justice too–in addition to glory and power–but he’s starting from the somewhat more realistic idea that everything is corrupted:

Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud.  There is always something. (p. 286)

He’s right, in a way–nothing is untouched by original sin.  But he fails to see the goodness that survived the Fall.  Where Adam and Anne think the original goodness remained pure in their family, Willie thinks it was never there from the beginning; you have to “make it up as you go along.”

….plain, simple goodness.  Well you can’t inherit that from anybody.   You got to make it, Doc.  If you want it.  And you got to make it out of badness.  Badness.  And you know why, Doc?…Because there isn’t anything else to make it out of. (p. 386)

Once again, this is not entirely wrong.  Anyone who’s ever studied politics (or history, like Jack Burden) knows that you can’t get anything good done if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty.

The law is always too short and too tight for growing humankind….You can’t make bricks without straw, and most of the time all the straw you got is secondhand straw from the cowpen. (p. 205)

No one can deny that Willie made a lot of good out of badness.  Even Anne can see that the free hospital he’s planning is going to be wonderful.  But could he have done it without falling into corruption?  I’m not sure if the book answers that question.  Warren doesn’t condone Willie Stark’s actions, but he doesn’t have much praise for the opposite extreme, either.

I can see now why the blurbs always say that this is a book about politics.  But oh, it’s so much more than that!  This post was awfully hard to write, because every time I dipped into the book for a quote, I started reading again and couldn’t stop.  Gosh what a book.  Tune in for some more thoughts on All the King’s Men soon!