Friday, December 11, 2015

Today's Small Thought. On Class Privilege as an Example of Problems in the Privilege Concept.

The current concept of privilege in progressive/feminist circles is one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  The concept I mean is used in "male privilege", "white privilege", "thin privilege" and so on.  It's even used (as a counterattack) in "female privilege" and "black privilege" as I have written before.

And that those counterattacks can be performed shows one problem with the concept:  It's always possible, by serious digging, to find something that is good (or can be made to look good)  in any social ranking, even the most oppressive one, especially if we simultaneously ignore all the horrible parts of that position.

But as I've written before, the concept of privilege is excellent for self-inspection, for thinking before one opens one's big mouth to say something uneducated and rude, for understanding how other people's lives differ, for avoiding mansplaining and whitesplaining and all the other types of uninformed preaching to people who, in fact, know more than one does.  Thinking about privilege and the lack of it can also strengthen empathy.

Still, I'm moving more towards disliking the concept, and that's because the advantages of the earlier concepts we had are getting lost.  By those earlier concepts I mean the familiar ones of race, gender etc. discrimination.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

First Ban All Muslims? Donald Trump, Polls And Echidne Researches

I have so hoped that Trump would just go away.  He's not planning to go away, however, because he has far too much fun by showing how silly a sizable fraction of American voters are, how they find in Trump something that they can relate to, how he is this man who speaks plainly and who tells what's on the minds of many of his supporters, how he appeals to that (bad) idea in many of us that politics is a lot easier than bankrupting firms and Donald has shown us that he can do the latter so why not the former.

Today he went all fascist, so sadly I had to go and do research.  The reason:  Trump argues that all Muslim immigrants and even Muslim tourists should be banned from entering the United States, because so many Muslims hate Americans and the American way of life:

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," a campaign press release said.*
What motivated Trump to make this announcement?  Partly his permanent-gold-foot-in-the-mouth disease, but partly a survey from last June.

This survey, by the Center for Security Policy**, purportedly interviewed six hundred American Muslims about their beliefs, and, according to both the website of the center and Trump, found that 

...a quarter of Muslims living in the U.S. believe violence against Americans is justified as part of a global jihadist campaign.
Here is the summary of the survey, and here are the cross-tabulations with some abbreviated forms of the questions it used.  I went through everything so that you don't have to, but, really, always verify.

When someone presents a poll or a survey which is supposed to reflect the average opinions of some wider group the first thing you should ask if it actually represents those opinions.  This particular survey fails to pass that test.  The reason is simple:  It was an Internet convenience survey, not a survey which made an effort to get a representative sample of all American Muslims into the study.

We don't know if the people who self-selected into the survey are roughly the same in their opinions as American Muslims, on average.  We don't even know if the respondents are Muslims!  I am not saying that they aren't.  Simply that we have no way of knowing, and neither do we have any way to tell how representative the views in the survey are of all Muslims in this country.  As one critic noted, strictly all we know is this:

This survey does not represent the views of American Muslims. It only represents the views of the 600 Muslims that it polled.
Assuming the respondents were mostly Muslims...

There are ways of judging the likelihood that the survey was not representative of the American Muslim populations.  For example, a representative survey would have roughly the same percentages of Sunnis, Shias etc. as their percentages in the general Muslim population.

But that is not the case in the Center for Security Policy survey.  Based on Wikipedia (yes, I know), roughly 50% of American Muslims are Sunnis, 16% Shias and 22% non-affiliated.  Yet in the linked survey Sunnis are only 40%, the Shias 13% and the non-affiliated 39%.  So the non-affiliated look to be strongly over-sampled.

This matters on two levels.  First, it's evidence that the survey probably isn't representative, even as a fluke.

Second, the findings in the survey are driven by the high percentages given as a yes-answer to the question*** by the Shias (40%) and the non-affiliated (34%) in the survey.  Only 14% of Sunnis in the survey responded affirmatively to that question, and they are the largest Muslim group in the US.

As an aside, something smells off in those survey answers, because most recent terrorist acts against the West have been committed by Sunni Muslims, not by Shias or the non-affiliated.****   One would expect the Sunni percentages to be higher.  Or at least I did.


*I know what's going on.  As Kamel Daoud, a French writer, wrote, the current situation has both a mother and a father.  The mother is the Iraq invasion (and the Israel-Palestine conflict, I 'd add).  The father is Saudi-supported extreme Wahhabism, the so-called petro-Islam, disseminated with money (from the sale of oil, ultimately).  For various inane-but-power-related reasons those parents are invisible in most of the writings about Islamic terrorism.  We go after the existing children while more monster children are being birthed by that unholy marriage.

** The man who runs it, Frank Gaffney, has a reputation as someone who fans the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry.  (I'm no longer calling that Islamophobia, by the way, because I criticize religions on this blog, including Islam, and that kind of criticism is important.  Besides, it's not irrational for women to be afraid of extremist Abrahamic religious interpretations.  It's rational.  But bigotry against Muslims is horrible.)

The site is biased, obviously.  Note, also, this juxtaposition:

According to the just-released survey of Muslims, a majority (51%) agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.”  When that question was put to the broader U.S. population, the overwhelming majority held that shariah should not displace the U.S. Constitution (86% to 2%).
The two questions are not the same.  At the same time, I'm not a fan of shariah, and don't wish to see it offered as a choice in the US.  This is because women get a very rough deal in all currently used interpretations of shariah, and women in fundamentalist families might not be able to escape using the shariah courts in the case of family disputes.  Those cover divorces (much easier for men than women), child custody (the basic rule is that custody goes to the father at some point) and inheritance (daughters inherit half of what sons do).   In general, ancient religious laws treat women abominably and Islam is no exception to that.

*** The statement the respondents were asked to agree or disagree with is this:

Violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad.
You may have spotted that there's a way of understanding that question to be about someone else's opinions, not about the opinions of the respondent.  That shouldn't happen in a well-crafted survey.

**** Wahhabists and Salafists, the most likely denominations from which terrorism comes, are both Sunnis.

Monday, December 07, 2015

What Conservatives Think About Women

Two non-scientific samples from my readings today.  They are from different communities, by the way, though not intended to be representative of conservatives in general:

1.  Two people working for the conservative and rabid Fox News have been severely punished (aka allowed to take some vacation time which Fox calls being suspended) for using bad language.  This is what one of them said:

During a December 7 appearance on Fox Business, Fox News strategic analyst Ralph Peters said of President Obama after his Oval Office address last night: "I mean this guy is such a total pussy, it's stunning." Host Stuart Varney told Peters he can't "use language like that on the program," and Peters replied that he was sorry.

Echidne dons her VeryNaiveGoddess pretend-helmet (with pink Hello Kitty war wings), and asks what's so naughty about calling the president a kitten?  Kittens are Kute!!!

Then the other Echidne takes that helmet off and lets the snakes writhe freely (think of Medusa).  She corrects the former naive goddess by noting that a "pussy" is the vulva (or perhaps the vulva-and-the-vagina), and it's very very naughty to call the president of a country a part of the female genital system.  Very naughty.

But why is that the case?  Because anything associated with women is deemed the same as being a frightened critter, cowering in the corner, mewling in despair, and No Real Man (tm) can take such a slur (i.e., being called a woman) standing up.

The deep philosophical question is naturally this:  Was Ralph Peters suspended for his sexism or for using a naughty word?  My guess is the latter and I am always right.

2.  A Southern Baptist preacher reminds us that the radicals of all religions have a lot of trouble with viewing women as human beings, with equal rights to those of men.  Indeed, the misogyny of fundamentalist religions is shared by all extremists, whether they are Christians, Muslims or Jews.  Why don't they just get together and establish their own godlands somewhere elsewhere?  Preferably in another star system.

Anyway, this preacher, Ashley E. Ray, senior pastor of Ridgeway Baptist Church of Memphis:

...told his congregation on Sunday that women needed to submit to their husbands in all things, and that the “feminist rebellion” was responsible for many of the problems the country was facing.

Yup.  Climate change is due to feminist rebellion, religious wars are due to feminist rebellion, all recessions are due to feminist rebellion, the worsening quality of the chocolate reserves is due to feminist rebellion.

Ashley E. Ray has one of those gods which work like a hand puppet.  Ray sits on a chair and moves the puppet's mouth*.

He's not an extreme kind of an extremist.  For instance:

“That’s not to say patriarchalism is the thing, that’s not to say traditions and men mistreating women and women getting less pay for the same work, I’m not condoning any of that.”

Oh sweet Ashley, how simple-minded you are.  If men are always to be the heads of women in marriages, how could a woman be elected to any prominent position?  That would mean secretly electing her husband! And what happens if a woman refuses to submit herself within marriage?  Can the husband beat her?  And if not, how can he maintain his bosshood?

What about the other reference you made to other bits in the Bible, this:

And then he added a message from the book of Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
To obey that command, no woman could be in a superior position to any man.  No woman could be promoted over men, no woman could teach boys, and all women would have to get their vocal cords removed.


*  As an aside, I'm so very tired of the literal readings of two-thousand old texts (put together from hearsay and memories and myths and such by many different writers but almost all of them were patriarchal guys from nomadic herding tribes) as the final words of various gods.

I'm equally tired of the way the lack of any mentions in the Bible (or other holy books) doesn't stop those puppeteers from saying that their god is firmly against abortion and so on.

And I'm knackered (knackered!) when I read the odd contortions which more liberal believers engage in while trying to rescue what the misogynist Paul said from being, well, misogyny, or when trying to argue that the literal reading of the role of women in the Bible or the Koran is compatible with modern social justice.  It is not.  But then slavery is no longer condoned on the basis of the Bible, so perhaps the women of the future have some hope.