Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Gender

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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Why Lazy Pundits Keep Comparing Sanders and Trump

In recent weeks, I’ve observed a troubling trend among America’s pundit class–the tendency to make really lazy Bernie Sanders/Donald Trump comparisons. You see, Sanders and Trump are both political outsiders, they both tell it the way they think it is, they both have experienced significant growth in their poll numbers in recent months, and they’re both causing problems for their parties’ other candidates. Revelatory, right? Pundit centrists love to draw strained equivalencies between the left and right in American politics and they love to focus on elections as narrative struggles between good guy centrists and bad guy extremists, so it’s natural for them to see these two figures as analogues. In truth, Sanders and Trump could not be more different–not merely in terms of their ideologies and policies, but in their whole approach, in their very attitude toward the public.

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A Scientist’s Shirt: How Feminism Has Turned On Itself

Last week, Matt Taylor, a British scientist associated with the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission (which landed a probe on a comet), wore a shirt with scantily clad women on it:

Many online commentators took offense to the shirt, calling it sexist. Taylor eventually issued a tearful apology. This piece is not about whether or not the shirt is sexist. A man was reduced to tears because he wore a shirt that some people didn’t like. Should feminism be in the business of making men cry because of the shirts they wear?

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Leave Thomas the Tank Engine Alone

A recent article on The Guardian‘s website by one Tracy Van Slyke has stirred up controversy among parents and culture critics as to whether or not Thomas and Friends is a suitable television program for children. Van Slyke slates the show, claiming that it’s authoritarian, sexist, anti-environmentalist, and even racist. Van Slyke says that she is thankful her son “never went through a manic train fascination like so many other children.” I’m 22. I don’t have any children. But Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends  originally came out in the 1980s–unlike so many of the people writing about this show, I remember what it’s like to have “manic train fascination”. I still have the old episodes on VHS, I still have my wooden magnet trains, and once in a great long while, I even get them out and play with them. So here follows a defense of Thomas from someone who knows what it’s like to be a kid who loves Thomas and loves trains.

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In Defense of Shailene Woodley

Actress Shailene Woodley (of The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, and Divergent fame) has recently taken a bit of flak from many practitioners of identity politics for comments she made to Time magazine about feminism. They accuse her of essentializing the feminist literature, of treating it as monolithic and failing to see the diversity of perspectives it encompasses. Their critique is too demanding and ignores something very pressing in what Woodley is saying that the feminist movement as a whole needs to take note of.

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