Thursday, December 20, 2007

Amanda Marcotte, This Christmas You Can Buy Her Affection

I've been happy this year to read a couple of blog posts written by men just slamming the ever-living shit out of the popular holiday commercial message, "All women are whores, just set the price." Otherwise known as ads pushing luxury goods like diamonds and cars with a fairly unmistakeable message.

These ads go far beyond just saying, "Hey, it's fun to spoil someone you love on occasion," and straight into making rather fucked up insinuations about how marriage and heterosexual relationships are transactional--her love and sex for your baubles. That women give love because they love and have sex because they desire doesn't enter the equation. There was one ad awhile back that was pretty close to explicit on this--a guy runs through the streets declaring he loves a woman. She's angry with him for his romantic and inexpensive gesture. He presents a diamond. Now she likes him again. Women's affections are a commodity, says the ad, not a normal human expression.

But I've seen a series of blog posts that take on these ads not just because they insult women, but because they insult men as well, another important point that needs to be made. Jamie at

Masculinity and Its Discontents: For some reason this one really gets to me. Scene: woman kicking back on the couch, watching the tube, as her young-architect/artist skinny, t-shirted, sandy-haired studmuffin puts the finishing touches on her pedicure, blowing gently on her toes.

He: How's it look, sweetie?
She: It looks great!
He: I dunno, I think maybe they could use one more coat.
Cut to smarmy announcer: because you're not that guy, go buy jewelry at Bob's.

You're not that guy, you're not caring, you're not patient, you're not creative, you're not gentle, y ou're not even good looking (to your woman). It makes me want to scream BE THAT GUY, MEN, once in a while, just be that guy. Stop buying the most overpriced, overvalued, falsely inflated, harvested-by-near-slave-labor stones in the history of humankind and DO something for your woman, talk to your woman, listen to your woman, pamper your woman as you'd like her to pamper her man. Don't buy her, do the damn labor! (and then maybe buy her something nice afterwards, sure. And ladies, it's your turn, buy your man some bling, show him you own him! Yes, I have a double standard, yes yes yes I do! I wanna be owned!)

Then MarkH blogs about this deeply fucked up diamond ad.

A special diamond to purchase sexual fidelity! Awesome. If any real demographic research went into this marketing, instead of just guesswork, then we have alarming evidence of the paranoid mindset of a lot of men. Between this and the ads that imply that you, the customer, are so hard up for sex from your own wife that you're desperate enough to pony up thousands of dollars, I'm forced to conclude that the marketers are just exploiting paranoia, because otherwise I'm forced to conclude that a far greater percentage of Americans live life on constant sexual intrigue than really seems possible.

Copyranter is also insulted:*
If my future wife bangs the entire roster of the Manchester United football squad a week after I give her a HOF diamond, do I get 100 times my money back?

You know, if you could sell it with a guarantee like that, there could be a lot of potential for non-monogamous couples to make some money for themselves.

Also, how many women out there are dumb enough to find it delightful to get a ring that says "Monogamy" on it? Like, is it fun to get a bauble that implies that you need to have your fidelity secured with expensive and glittery things?

Copyranter also found this one:

PZ derides these ads for making men look stupid.
I can tell you exactly what would happen if I spent a month's salary or more on jewelry (or worse, a year's income on a car). My wife would look aghast, and waver between calling the hospital for an immediate psychiatric consult and kicking me in the groin. I would spend that much on inessential frippery? Without consulting her? There sure wouldn't be any sexual arousal, unless these commercial makers easily confuse that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach at the thought of budget-busting debt with "sexy."

I'm certainly not averse to the concept of getting enthusiastic about giving or receiving gifts. I'm a sucker for it. But when the main selling point of a gift is, "I am so expensive that it puts the recipient into an informal debt to you to be repaid with sex, monogamy, etc.", then it's not about the fun anymore and starts to get creepy.

*His entire blog is a hoot, by the way. There was exactly 0% chance that this ad could have gone the other way and shown the dolls doing it cowgirl style and then moving onto cunnilingus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Announcement to Govt 180 Sections

There's been a slight change of plan. I will need to administer the assessment test during the exam period. The assessment test will be the same one you took at the beginning of the semester and will be 33 questions long. Students will receive extra credit for anything over a 70%.

Ric Caric

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Racism and the Right

White Backlash and the Right
Submitted by David Neiwert on December 4, 2007 - 7:08pm.

Recently the New York Times carried a report on the "noose incidents" that have been occurring with rising frequency around the country, inspired seemingly by the protests over the "Jena 6" case.

The report came complete with a graphic showing where the incidents have occurred. Remarkably, it isn't just happening in the South: the incidents are also being reported in places like Minneapolis; Cicero, Ill.; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Newark; Baltimore; and New London, Conn.

Equally striking was the analysis from Mark Potok, the SPLC's Intelligence Project director, who wrote:

These incidents are worrying, but even more so is the social reality they reflect. The level of hate crimes in the United States is astoundingly high — more than 190,000 incidents per year, according to a 2005 Department of Justice study.

And the number of hate groups, according to the annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has shot up 40 percent in recent years, from 602 groups in 2000 to 844 in 2006.

It seems that the September rally in Jena — much as it was seen by many civil rights activists as the beginning of a new social movement — signaled not a renewed march toward racial and social justice, but a surprisingly broad and deep white backlash against the gains of black America.

Indeed, as Digby observes, "The racist beast is clamoring to be set free." The old once again is new: there's a "new racism" that pretends to be daring new thinking, dashing the molds of political correctness, but really is just the same old shit recycled. And it's not even relegated strictly to the right: Witness, for the most recent example, William Saletan's sally into the rancid fields of eugenics.

That this is happening is acutely clear for African Americans, historically the chief victims of racist hate in America, as the noose episodes suggest. But it's also becoming true on a broader scale as well, with a rising tide of openly espoused ethnic bigotry manifesting itself in myriad ways, particularly on the immigration front, where Latinos are increasingly targeted by rhetoric emanating from the very highest levels of Republican leadership that manifests itself in a tide of hate crimes; and in the "war on terror," which has provided for an opening for a variety of right-wing figures to spew hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric, with similarly predictable consequences.

One kind of hate feeds another; one open expression of bigotry without significant consequence only provides permission for many more to follow, and the inherent violence of such talk inevitably gives permission for people to act it out. Thus this shifting social tide has, just as predictably, brought the broader result of a significant increase in bias crimes of all kinds across the country.

And the breadth of the tide also tells us that this is not really about blacks or Latinos or Muslims specifically, but is about the people who fear and despise them: white people. It's about defending white privilege.

And there has been one primary driver for this gravitational shift: generically, the conservative movement, and specifically, its wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party.

You can hear the push to defend "white culture" from nearly every sector of the right, from Bill O'Reilly:

But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right.

To Patrick Buchanan:

I think America may exist, but I'll tell you this: I do believe we're going to lose the American Southwest. I think it is almost inevitable. If we do not put a fence on that border ... you're going to have 100 million Hispanics in the country, most of them new immigrants from Mexico, which believes that belongs to them. What's going to happen to us, Sean, in my judgment, is what is happening right now: We are Balkanizing. We are dividing and separating from one another politically, morally -- on issues like abortion or Terri Schiavo -- racially and ethnically, when you get Jena and then you get Don Imus, and all of these things ripping us apart. All the things that used to pull us together and hold us together no longer do.

To Michael Savage:
But basically, if you're talking about a day like today, Martin Luther King Junior Day, and you're gonna understand what civil rights has become, the con it's become in this country. It's a whole industry; it's a racket. It's a racket that is used to exploit primarily heterosexual, Christian, white males' birthright and steal from them what is their birthright and give it to people who didn't qualify for it.

This is nothing new, of course. The defense of white privilege has been a cornerstone of the GOP's electoral appeal ever since the its ardent adoption of the Southern Strategy, dating back to Goldwater and Nixon and continiuing through the Reagan and Bush years. Even Republican strategists acknowledge this to be the case.

Joseph Aistrup, in his book The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South -- a text written primarily to influence GOP politicos -- observes the following:

When a GOP presidential candidate’s campaign strategy emphasizes racially conservative appeals, he identifies not only himself but his party as the one that protects white interests. The identification of the GOP, instead of the Southern Democrats, as the protector of white interests, combined with the large infusion of blacks into the Southern Democratic parties, opens the door for Southern whites to abandon their historic ties to the Democrats.
It's critical to understand, however, that the Southern Strategy wasn't geared simply toward winning votes in the South -- it also is aimed at white suburbs and rural areas where the defense of white society remains a significant cultural issue. Its reach ran well beyond the South.

One way of seeing this clearly is by examining the history of "sundown towns". As James Loewen details (excruciatingly) in his study Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, there are literally thousands of towns across America -- relatively few of them in the South -- who for much of the 20th century forbade minorities, blacks especially, from living within their communities. Many of them placed signs at the town limits warning "Whites Only After Dark" or "Nigger, Don't Let the Sun Set on You Here" -- that all nonwhites were to be out of town by sundown. In many cases, especially suburbs, no signs were visible, but all-white covenants provided the same effect.

Most of the "sundown towns" and "sundown suburbs" that Loewen documents were in the Northeast, the Midwest and West -- the same places where we're seeing "noose incidents," as well as attempts to pass laws aimed at driving out Latinos.

These same "sundown towns" have, unsurprisingly, a history of following racial election appeals, including broad support for George Wallace in 1968, and Republican presidential candidates in the ensuing years, all of whom made use of the Southern Strategy's core appeal to white racial interests. As Loewen notes:

As a result of such leadership, Republicans have carried most sundown towns since 1968, sometimes achieving startling unaninimity. ... So the "southern strategy" turned out to be a "southern and sundown town strategy," especially in sundown suburbs. Macomb County, for example, the next county north of Detroit, voted overwhelmingly for Wallace in the 1972 Democratic primary. Wooed by Nixon, many of these voters then became "Reagan Democrats" and now are plain Republicans. The biggest single reason, according to housing attorney Alexander Polikoff, was anxiety about "blacks trapped in ghettos trying to penetrate white neighborhoods." [pp.372-373]

Take a look at where the nooses are appearing, where the anti-Latino and anti-Muslim hate crimes are occurring. If you look through the incidents, it's clear that many of them are occurring in precincts that, historically, were all-white by design.

It's part of the continuing defense of that status quo in those communities that engenders so much of the nation's current racial divide -- with bias crimes, as always the on-the-ground manifestation.

I know that Democrats have been tempted to try to tap into this tide to their short-term electoral advantage; witness Rahm Emanuel and Co.'s attempts to advance an immigration plan that's absurdly enforcement-heavy and reform-light.Before they take that step, they need to stop and think about the consequences. Not just the electoral calculus, considering what it would cost Democrats in terms of the votes of blacks, Latinos, and Muslims who are flocking to them now because of the GOP's increasingly inchoate bigotry, but the real-life results. They need to think about those nooses, and where they come from, and simply do what is right.