Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vive La Roast! Vive La Difference! (and some more “Declaration of Independents”)

It has been brought to my attention that all three of the female speakers on tonight’s Todd-roasting panel of seven people (Lolita Bar, basement level, 7:30pm) have PhDs (there’s one of them in the photo nearby, Laura Braunstein, along with emcee Scott Nybakken, neither of them responsible in the slightest for anything I do or say, by the way, except in so far as their roasting educates me tonight).  I am only confident of the four males, plus me, having a Master’s and a J.D. among the lot of us. 

If the women were single and, rising above our stations, one of us males dared asked one of them out, he might well be tempted to make sure no one was around to hear it and witness his potential humiliation but her – but he’d better take care not to make the woman feel isolated or “cornered,” as Amanda Marcotte puts it in this column (a reaction to the Rebecca Watson/Skepchick vs. Richard Dawkins spat of which I blogged Tuesday and tweeted yesterday), so that she doesn’t fear violence or awkwardness.  Fair enough.  One should never want to seem creepy.

Apparently, though, so grave is the danger of making her feel “cornered” that he shouldn’t even have dinner with her, not on a first date, since dinner is harder to escape than coffee or a drink.  Strategically accurate, perhaps – as is the assertion by Seventh-Day Adventists that it’s less moral to go to a movie than to watch TV, since it’s easier to change the channels if something smutty appears – but it’s strange for Marcotte to elevate this anti-dinner rule to the level of something all sensitive males should be aware of. 

And online, she has even gone so far as to applaud a column suggesting that if any males do not take such dating advice from feminists (indeed, it is implied they should already have done so or should at least be looking to such writers for their pointers instead of, say, the women they actually date), such males must not be all that interested in having sex (advice from feminists being of such proven value in that area) and therefore – bear with me for one more amazing leap in logic – must not even be sincere if they claim sex is their motive.  (Remember the not so distant days when claiming that up front would be considered boorish, by the way.)  It must then – get this – be sheer assertion of “privilege” – a conscious effort to make women uncomfortable even if it yields no sexual advantage – that drives them.

Now, perhaps Marcotte and everyone she knows has been raped several thousand times by Cossacks who started with a dinner invitation – and I genuinely regret it very much if that’s the case – but even so, our feminist writers are obligated to retain at least some minimal connection to reality.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with women preferring coffee or alcohol as the first date, just as there’s nothing wrong with preferring sex in a tub full of champagne on the first date, but we have reached a deeply sad (and insane) juncture in history when the women who claim to be the ones doing the empowering and liberating and whatnot are warning women away from dinner and recommending they have brief booze-fueled dates – and insisting that all men should know this is, as it were, the system. 

Nothing wrong with this being their default set of behaviors, but are they really so far removed from older and subtler traditions as to think no decent men might see a loss of civility in bidding farewell to dinner – or might have pleasant motives in suggesting food?  Are these people sure they should be going on “dates” in the first place if the need for sudden escapes is that likely?  (Of course, one is never certain, but that’s true of many things in life.)

It’s not just the young women who think this, either, since a friend my age assured me that one of her online-dating friends always starts with drinks and only suggests dinner – albeit for the same night – if the drinks go well (sounds like a potential scheduling mishap to me, but, again, as long as everyone’s happy).  How these encounters must reek of pessimism, though – not that I’m complaining, and by all means do it that way if you want to.  It just never ceases to amaze me that no matter how much things change and how strange they become, even the weirdest and ostensibly hippest of people treat their new systems as if only sickos and maniacs would do things any other way. 

Indeed, it’s tempting to suspect that they fear a world of sickos
and maniacs precisely because they are only dealing with the sorts of people who share their approach to doing things.  Get away from those people and you might find that there’s a diverse world of non-sickos and non-maniacs beyond your system. 

I’m reminded of the broadly-held conviction circa 1990 that only a nerdy loser would wear boxers instead of briefs, replaced within a few years by the broadly-held conviction that only a nerdy loser would wear briefs instead of boxers.  By all means watch for social cues, but retain some perspective and recognize there might, I suspect, be better indicators of character out there – and a guy who wants to have dinner might, dare I say it, even be a far nicer person than a guy who assumes one of you’ll probably want to bail after a couple swigs at the bar.

In the meantime, women who are apparently going on hundreds of dates without forming relationships are deemed our experts, and they wonder why there’s been a rise in so-called PUA adherents (to whom I also object on civility grounds), who are just as eager to churn through quick encounters as the women are, with only a trivial disagreement about whether to throw in some sex.  I wonder how many of the people in either of these warring camps recall the last time they had a relationship of a year or longer.


It was because feminism these days routinely leads to having to register objections such as the ones above that I was so keen to argue against Kerry Howley’s assertion a few years back that libertarianism ought to entail feminist attitudes (and other cultural baggage).  But it wasn’t feminism per se that bothered me in that context – it was the idea that libertarianism ought to have a cultural agenda at all (one can be Muslim or transhumanist and still hate taxes). 

One of the things I like about Declaration of Independents, the book reviewed in yesterday’s entry, is that it stresses diversity and emphatically rejects the idea of any single libertarian cultural agenda.  But make no mistake: much as I like the book, I would still argue that it’s strict property rights adherence libertarians should ultimately be pushing, not merely some vague love of diversity. 

The property formula may sound narrow at first, but every other libertarian formula besides property simply raises further questions (in a fashion that should be familiar to and troubling to any philosophy student).  If instead of property, we’re simply pushing “choice,” as an ardent ultra-Gillespian might in theory insist, without specifying economic rules, we must then ask: well, what kind of choice – since we know darn well libertarians aren’t endorsing the choice to kill or the choice to use the neighbor’s car without permission?  Likewise, what kind of individualism? freedom? anti-ideological stance? spontaneity? or whatever other things you want to posit instead of “mere” property adherence. 

Every other rule, if it is supposed to yield what are normally recognized as libertarian outcomes, reduces to property-adherence in a way that property-adherence does not really reduce to anything else.  We do not ask, under a regime of secure property rights, whether your purchases are, say, individualism-affirming ones, or whether your lifestyle is sufficiently “innovative” – only that you stick to the property rule.

That’s sometimes a harder sell because the rule sounds simplistic, but it’s the one pivotal ground rule that makes all those other ideals possible.  Without it, all soon becomes mush and political combat.  Mark my words!

And if my love of property rights – or indeed anything else I’ve ever said – strikes you as erroneous, catch me at tonight’s That Which Roasts Todd Seavey Makes Him Stronger event at Lolita Bar (7:30, basement level) and “corner” me with uncomfortable questions.  Not that I would ever want to do such a thing to you.


Dave said...

Todd, I was wondering about the property rights formula - how does it apply to environmental concerns? For example, if you live upriver from me what are the rules regarding dumping anything into the water, which naturally will end up on my property? By extension, what about smoke or air pollution which can't be contained? What if there is a pool of oil under both of our land?

BTW, I think with these feminists, it boils down to this: They, like many women, don't like to date nerdy, socially awkward, insecure, or otherwise losery guys. But, since they believe they speak for the downtrodden, they can't actually *reject* a guy for these reasons, hence, they use their "Hitler wore pants" logic to rationalize that they're rejecting him for being a rapist.

Todd Seavey said...

I think the short answer to all those sorts of questions is "gradually, via common law, with admitted ambiguities unlike the simple question of whether I can park my car on your lawn without permission," but fairly-reasonable solutions for these sorts of things, as for inherently-ambiguous matters like noise pollution, can be worked out.

And if it's in some idealistic-philosophical sense disappointing (so to speak) that they won't be resolved in as clear-cut and timeless a fashion as the car-in-yard question, the disappointment (and ambiguity) will at least be no greater than on any non-property-based law code.

You might end up being entitled to compensation from the river-user based on the sorts of effluents that actually reach you, for instance, or you might be able to get an injunction if can actually show harm, but things like this are being litigated now and if anything would probably get litigated in a somewhat more predictable fashion if strict property were the prevailing legal assumption. So, yes, they're a reminder that property doesn't render everything simple and clear -- but I don't think it makes matters _worse_ even in such cases.

The best route to exploring a wide swath of these sorts of questions is probably to search for stuff on "free-market environmentalism," which has delved into so many of these sorts of ambiguities that it has sort of become a movement and philosophy unto itself -- though it's intellectually needed, so to speak, by _every_ libertarian keen to imagine actual practical legal battles under a hypothetical future libertarian regime -- or even present-day regimes that start listening to us more (I really hope governments will _immediately_ take seriously the idea that property can decrease overfishing, for instance, so that need not be something that "awaits the revolution" to apply).

(But now I should prep for tonight's Roast and some other stuff, so probably no more comments from me today.)

Todd Seavey said...

Coincidentally, I have just received an e-mail informing me that Chelsea Knight, the director who put together the Tea Party-themed performance art piece I was in last year, is addressing masculinity/femininity in her next piece, performed by actual construction workers:

Knight is premiering a piece [_Frame_, at Abrons Arts Center on July 21 at 6pm] in which a group of male construction workers assemble several wood pieces in order to create the basic skeleton of a house while speaking from feminist theory texts, as well as delivering their interpretation of the selected excerpts; this built structure remains in the gallery accommodating a plasma screen emitting a record of their action. Among the several passages that will be enacted are fragments of epoch-making feminist literature. For instance, from Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 The Second Sex: “No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” Or, as another example, from Hélène Cixous’ 1975 The Laugh of the Medusa: “You can’t talk about a female sexuality, uniform, homogeneous, classifiable into codes—any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another.” Knight analyses the connection between a traditional male form of labor, representations of the body as understood by feminism, and socially defined gender roles, bringing to light the structures of patriarchy that permeate contemporary society.

Gerard said...

Psychology Today, which is basically a right wing rag that uses pseudo-science to argue for a view of race and gender on par with Bill O'Reilly's.

This accusation loses a bit of its punch once you realize she feels the same way about any magazine to the right of In These Times or Socialist Action.

Todd Seavey said...

Exhibit B: