Equality Day!

Equality is often on my mind, but it’s particularly salient today. I just left an event with Ruth Bader Ginsberg and it’s Women’s Equality Day. Ginsberg was at my university, receiving an honorary degree, just days after announcing that she completed another round of treatment for cancer. It was a moving presentation, and I was honored to be in the same room with her (it was a big room, an arena, so it wasn’t like I was even close enough to shake her hand, but it was still great). If the audience were allowed to ask questions, and I had more courage than I have, there’s something that’s been gnawing at me lately. It would have been nice to know what she thought. Instead, I’ll just ruminate and use this thing like I have so many times, as a hybrid diary sounding board that doesn’t talk back to me.

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One for all and all for one? Why are people mad at Gillette?

Gillette is now enemy number one in the political world. Why? Because they made an ad about being men, and about how men can be better (by being kind to others, and by stopping other men who are being mean or hurtful to others). This is controversial, for some reason, in today’s world. Let’s dive in a bit.

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The benefit of the doubt bites me in the ass, again

I try. I really try. I try to see things in a less frenzied hyperbolic way. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I’m often wrong, and the benefit of the doubt isn’t deserved, but I still feel better as a human being. Others might feel worse to be wrong, but I don’t mind being wrong, and would rather be wrong while reasonable than right while frenzied. That’s just me. But twice in the last few days, I’ve tried to be that way, and it seems that I’ve been too kind. Of course, the title of the post is a bit hyperbolic and frenzied in itself, because nothing actually bit me in the ass. In fact, I’m not sure any of this affects me personally at all, but here’s where giving the benefit of the doubt seems to have failed me, and the bite in the ass (which isn’t a big deal), was my wife saying “I told you so.”

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Fuzzy memories

My memory for some things is awful. It’s a running joke at work, and my graduate students have teased me by admitting their strategy of coming back to me with a research idea that I dismissed weeks ago, with the hopes that I will have forgotten dismissing it, and will get excited about it the second or third time. I can’t say that this strategy hasn’t worked…largely because my memory can be pretty rotten at times. I don’t think it’s pathological, or a sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think some things are salient, and stick, and others are easily dismissed, and forgotten. I also know that memories are quite flexible, and often we remember things very differently from how they actually happened. An article in Vox reminded me of this, and there are other excellent examples out there.

Fair warning, there’s a spoiler below, so if you haven’t listened to the episode of Radiolab called “Reasonable Doubt” and want to/plan to, you might not want to read below the fold just yet.

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Sex and straw men

The outing of Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator has raised the profile of sexual harassment in a way that I hope does some good. Women are sharing their stories, and letting anybody who doesn’t already know, that harassment is a pervasive problem. I think this is all good, but I think we all need to tread carefully, and see some of the pitfalls that other similar social movements have faced. Also, as a caveat, I recognize that a white cis guy probably isn’t the best voice for this, but given that my maximum readership for any post sits at around six views, I still feel moderately comfortable using this as my diary, as a place to put some flesh on my semi-private thought skeleton. I also think I have a pretty good track record of being against sex discrimination and considering myself a feminist/equalist (see here, and here). So here goes.

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Abortion, abortion, abortion…

[Somewhat rushed piece…overwhelmed with work, but trying to stay in the habit of writing, and it’s been a long time. I’m sure it’s full of typos and other problems, but at this point, it will have to do]

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about abortion and abortion rights since Hitting Bregma started (notably here and here). I’m fascinated by it as a topic because it’s so meaningful to so many people, that I honestly see it as the number one guiding issue in our politics today. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this at all, and I would enjoy being shown that it’s not true, but I think the abortion question actually drives many people in one direction or another, and then the other partisan issues take hold. It’s easy for me to imagine somebody being appalled by abortion, leaning toward a particular political identity because of that, and then slowing assimilating with all the other beliefs of that political party. It seems like a key reason, for instance, why a deeply religious Christian would so predictably care about small government, about maintaining strong borders, about a super powerful national defense, about implementing the death penalty, about low taxes (especially for the wealthy). On the flip side, it’s puzzling to me that advocacy of abortion rights does such a good job at predicting where somebody stands on raising taxes on the wealthy, on being against the death penalty, about working hard for minority rights and environmentalism, and about government services for the poor. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t fall into those more predictable positions. I know plenty who are deeply religious, and guided by this to be sickened by abortion, but put this aside to otherwise favor liberal politicians who are anti-death penalty, pro-helping the poor, pro-helping immigrants, and willing to tax people to make that possible. It would be a silly straw man fallacy to say that I’m implying that this applies to everybody equally, but I find it interesting to see how many people seem to find their political identity by following the pro-choice or anti-abortion trail to the rest of the stuff.

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