Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Feminism

#MeToo Needs to be about Principles, Not Celebrity Shaming

One of the inherent difficulties the #MeToo movement faces is the strong incentives the media has to ruin the whole thing. The initial incidents–the abuses of power by people like Trump, Weinstein, and C.K.–are useful insofar as they start a conversation about policy and principles. But the risk is that #MeToo will be reduced to the little more than the quest for more high-profile allegations, because nothing sells ads like celebrity gossip. And in that quest for more exciting allegations principles are lost in a sea of particularities–we forget about the forest and gaze longingly into the trees. And so we’ve come to the Aziz Ansari moment, a moment which was inevitable–some media outlet publishes some allegations which seem to some people to be much less serious than the allegations that have gone before, and yet seem to another group of people to warrant the same response those previously accused received. We’re reduced to a debate over whether our response to the specific Ansari allegation is reasonable, and then that debate is projected onto everything else. If Ansari is the victim of a witch hunt, is the whole thing a witch hunt? The appropriate response is to refuse to play this game in the first place–#MeToo isn’t really about exposing guilty people and publicly shaming them. It has, to this point, often been conducted in that way. But it’s really about getting people to treat each other better. To do that, we have to know what “better” involves. We have to talk about principles, not people.

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To Stop Sexual Misconduct, We Must Put An End to “Bros Before Hoes”

I’ve been thinking about the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal for a while. It just keeps getting worse. Apparently former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak helped Weinstein cover his tracks by putting him in touch with ex-Mossad agents. Those agents manipulated, intimidated, and lied to Weinstein’s victims in a bid to shut them up or discredit them. In the meantime, more famous people are facing multiple accusations. Some of them are people I liked–I enjoyed Kevin Spacey. I enjoyed Louis CK. But when there’s this much smoke, there’s fire.

I haven’t written on this yet, because it’s so hard to deal with politically. We can’t just lower the standards of evidence for these cases. We can’t presume guilt in the absence of evidence. And yet, when it comes to most forms of sexual misconduct, there can never be enough physical evidence for a conviction. We just have the things that people say. When lots of people are saying the same things, we can be pretty sure something bad happened. But it’s not enough to put people in prison. Usually when I write about a social issue, I have some positive proposal. It feels wasteful to write when I don’t. But today I finally had a thought I think is worth sharing. Here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Hillary Clinton Isn’t Particularly Good for Feminism

In reply to my post from the other day about the differences in economic ideology between Bernie Sanders (the Keynesian egalitarian) and Hillary Clinton (the neoliberal), some are replying that Hillary is still worth supporting because a Hillary presidency would be an important victory for feminism. Indeed, there are prominent women accusing female Bernie supporters of being traitors to feminism. Madeleine Albright says that women who don’t support Hillary are “going to hell”. Gloria Steinem says that female Bernie supporters are doing it to chase boys (she has since apologized for that remark). Yet in some places, Bernie continues to enjoy the support of the majority of women under 45–winning as much as 64% of that demographic. These women are making the right choice. Hillary’s feminist credentials are much weaker than is popularly believed, and if elected there are strong reasons to think that she would do little for the feminist political cause.

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Emma Watson’s HeForShe Campaign is Really Cool

Writing about politics is often a depressing business. In the big picture, so much continues to go wrong–economic inequalities continue to grow, climate change continues to get ignored, and governments continue to take apart their regulatory and welfare states. Wars rage, and people die in the millions of preventable diseases. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other poisonous ideologies march on. There is so much unnecessary suffering in the world. But despite all the pessimism I often feel for the future of our societies, there was a story I ran across this past week that made me smile. Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai claims to have been inspired by Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign to call herself a feminist. This may sound like a small thing, but it has some big implications, and they’re really good.

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Transgender vs. Transracial: Is There a Moral Difference?

Recently, Caitlyn Jenner has been in the news–Jenner is a former Olympian who is transgender and recently decided to transition from expressing traditionally male characteristics to expressing traditionally female characteristics. Aside from a few on the right, the media response was generally one of acceptance. By transitioning, Jenner realizes her vision for herself, she achieves a measure of self-actualization. This is good for her and it harms no one else. All of that seems pretty obvious to me, and I wasn’t going to bother writing about Jenner at all, because I think it’s pretty straightforward. But then this other thing happened–a woman named Rachel Dolezal showed up in the news. Dolezal is genetically a white person, but she chooses to present herself as a black person and to identify as black. The media response was very different–Dolezal was accused of pretending to be black when she is in fact a white person, of “faking it”. Many people are accusing Dolezal of appropriating black culture, of being a liar, and so on and so forth. Why are the reactions to these two women so different? Is there a difference, and if so, what’s the difference?

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