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I prefer my misogyny out in the open. I like it niiiiiice and inflammatory. People can react to it, and it can be dealt with.
We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where misogyny slips into cracks, into subtext, into what is *not* said.
We also live in a world where misogyny is deeply intertwined with corruptive and reactionary view of politics.
Perfect example: Benedict Carey’s Memorial Day article in the NY Times.
Carey’s article is nominally about the increased rates of mental illness among women in the military than men.
One of the biggest adjustments the United States military attempted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was cultural: the integration of women into an intensely male world.
I know I know a US military that “attempts” “adjustments” is a horribly reactionary frame; move past it, move past it, there’s worse.
The evidence that Carey, the Times’ reporter on brain and memory science, provides for the increased mental illness rate among women has more holes than Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds. But leave that to one side (or check the bottom of the post *), move past it, move past it, there’s worse.
The reached for (and “reached” is definitely the verb, if not “shitted-out”) explanation is that women can’t access brotherly love.
For men, the bonds of unconditional love among fellow combatants — that lifeblood of male military culture — are sustaining. But in dozens of interviews with women who served, they often said such deep emotional sustenance eluded them.
[. . .]
“It creates a kind of bond between members, a love that transcends anything you’ve ever known,” David H. Marlowe, the founder of the Army’s behavioral health unit, who died last year, once said. “You come to the absolute belief that the noblest and most important thing you can do is die for the others.”
Many women in the military did not have that kind of love — at least when they were deployed. “It’s like, I got all the downside of serving in the Army and none of the upside, the camaraderie,“
Hmm. Are the ways that women fail to access this “lifeblood of military culture” different from the ways men fail to?
Benedict Carey doesn’t know, because Benedict Carey lumps all men together and all women together. Men do not have difficulty accessing this camaraderie; women do. This “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” framing, the individualization of the problem, is endemic to centrist political reporting, and glosses over the institutional dynamics that contribute to problems. This is an individual problem for people to deal with, not a social problem for communities and institutions.
What’s puzzling, and acts as a key to unlocking the piece’s deeper misogyny, is that Carey quotes a woman that offers a way for the Army to deal with this predicament.
“It’s such a tricky thing to navigate; you have to learn to approach guys like a sister, not as a potential romantic partner,” said Anne, a woman who served two tours in Iraq and wanted her full name omitted because she is currently on active duty. “When you do that, they’ll do anything for you. But so many females coming into the Army, they’re so young, they don’t understand how to do that.”
Provide training and create a culture where men and women generally interact with each other platonically, not as people eyeing each other at a club in 1 in the morning.
But Carey doesn’t frame the quote this way; it occurs during a dump of quoting women describing their experiences, and its implications go unremarked.
We’re on to something, here.
The “Men are Martian, Women Venetian” frame that emphasizes individuals and ignores how institutions create the context in which they operate partly explains why he does this. There’s a deeper reason though. It ain’t pretty.
For all his focus on individual experience, Carey misses A GIANT FUCKING ENORMOUS matzoh ball: how the differences among women contribute to the difference in their experience.
Carey doesn’t even rhetorically ask whether women of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds experience this lack of social integration differently. This is baffling, because, as with the quote above outlining a perfect institutional response the Army could take, Carey provides quotes highlighting the importance of ethnicity and class in individual experiences:
[Social Scientists] have found that the mental costs borne by those in the minority are similar. Members of such groups tend to report as many insults and bad days as members of the dominant culture. But compared with the majority, they feel far less secure.
She also learned how to handle the rich girl comments: “So what, I’m here just like you.”
How ethnicity and socioeconomic status affects the ways women handle stress in the military isn’t just something Carey overlooked; it’s explicitly in Carey’s narration of the issue. But it’s not in his analysis at all. Every woman is white, and every woman is upper class.
If that’s even the term for it. Carey chooses to frame his story around a young Lieutenant who developed mental problems: feelings of inadequacy, numbness, anxiety, panic attacks. She went to Philips Exeter Academy, one of the most elite prep schools in the world; graduated from Wellesley; and has been traveling the world for a couple years as a way of combating her illness. Her father is an international venture capitalist for software firms.
She’s a sympathetic figure, and I wish her nothing but the best in her struggles.
Benedict Carey treats her ethnicity and wealth as invisible. As unworthy of discussion. If someone’s ethnicity or socioeconomic status differs from hers, Carey doesn’t find that relevant enough while exploring women reacting to stress in the military to even ask whether it matters.
All the things Carey does re-enforce each other, making a tepee of social shittiness to trap women. If males are all able to access brotherly communion that women have difficulty sharing, and the military itself doesn’t shape the problem, the stress and mental anguish women experience are due to something innate to being a female – ethnicity and class don’t affect things, after all – and can only be changed by women acting differently on an individual level.
The message is: a woman’s isolation and alienation in a social space is a problem specific to something innate about women, not a social problem; and women need to deal with it individually, not collectively; and certainly not men, and not institutions.
Notice how free-floating the message is once its received. It applies to a woman working the line at McDonald’s as well as someone in upper-middle-management who rarely sees another person wearing a skirt.
“Your feelings of isolation and alienation are because of you. You’re the only one who can deal with them. Hope you have enough money to travel the world.”
The ultimate con here is one I’ve already lost by discussing this stupid, shitty, misogynist article by Benedict Carey: we shouldn’t be getting our patterns of thought from the media. It shouldn’t matter that Benedict Carey wrote a piece that ignores how the military institutionally creates a social environment, that erases distinctions among ethnicity and class, and treats all men and all women as two homogenous groups. The words should have the same affect being printed in the NY Times as being printed on a handout you get while walking through the airport from someone waving a tambourine.
But in order for that to happen, your parents would have had to raise you differently. It’s probably too late now.
I suggest meditation. Or Jack Daniels. I use both quite liberally, and concurrently.
* He cites a study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine to talk about the increased risks women face over men when they return to civilian life. The *conclusion of the study* is “the post-deployment adjustment of our nation’s growing population of female Veterans seems comparable to that of our nation’s male Veterans.” Umm.
He cites a finding in that study that the expected rate of depression among enlisted women is likely between 1.1 and 1.6 times that of men. But the expected rate of women in general to experience depression is twice that of men in general. Umm.
The study relies on self-reporting of sexual harassment, depression, and PTSD. I am not a betting man, as it is against my church, but if I were allowed to bet I would bet that male soldiers are less likely to self-report those things. Umm
The other piece of data Benedict Carey provides, although without attribution, is that “Army data show that the suicide rate for female soldiers tripled during deployment, to 14 per 100,000 from 4 per 100,000 back home — unlike the rate for men, which rose more modestly.” So. During a deployment when women were being used in combat roles in an unprecedented way, the suicide rate for women rose more than it did for men. Umm.
And that’s the hard data in Benedict Carey’s piece.
The nicest touch is that in his discussion of how minority populations in general face more stress, he says the data isn’t there for women in the military:
The search for answers continues.
Researchers are now asking how much “all those little things” — the differences inherent in being on the margins of a culture — affect a person’s mood, especially under the stress of combat.
Carey explicitly says he’s pulling stuff up outta his ass. That the story he’s trying to sell about women’s mental illness in the military – that it’s due to maladjustment with a male culture – is a story, unbacked by data.
So, to be clear, the shitty parts of the story – that ignore the military’s role, lump all men as homogenous and ignore ethnic and socioeconomic differences among women, and creates such a shitty message – are not driven by data. They’re driven by Benedict Carey.
Talk about a fucking beat that would sap anyone’s strength . . .
Had you caught Paul Ryan’s speech to the Republican convention last night (and if you missed it figuring you were all full up on egocentric monsters luxuriating in their own righteousness, more sympathetic I could not be), had you braved the speech you could not fail to notice Paul Ryan flatout lying on every substantive point he brought up.
Not errors of omission, either, like how a half hour earlier Cloud of mushroom with a side of Rice had just kinda not mentioned Iraq or how Osama Bin Laden has not been livin’ for the past year. No. Ryan told straight-up fuckin’ lies. A sample:
– The “Obama took $715 billion from Medicare” chestnut that Michelle Bachmann got called crazy for peddling in 2010, and which cuts in any case Ryan put into his own Granny-starving plan.
– A GM plant in Ryan’s hometown was closed, AFTER Obama said that “if government helps [this situation] out, this factory will stay open for another hundred years.” GOODNESS. But uh the plant closed in 2008 so uh yeah.
– Trashing Obama for failing to follow the Simpson-Bowles commission, a commission which did not actually issue a final recommendation because it was blown up by a certain zombie-eyed House member from Wisconsin.
– Trashing Obama for getting US debt downgraded by a few agencies. Oh if only the agencies issued reports specifying in detail why they downgraded that debt why they might have specified that their decision was because of the Republicans’ willingness to treat the debt ceiling like the Lindbergh Baby which would eliminate any excuse for a barely sentient person to avoid calling this stinky bullshitty lie what it is.
Prudence demands drawing the curtain on the freak show at this point, but rest assured there are plenty more where those came from. Those links are all compendiums of lies, by the way, and they don’t overlap very much.
(Update – Can’t believe I forgot this: aside from the fucking lies, Ryan just flat-out contradicts himself within a few sentences.
Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you . . .
When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.
In other words, “it’s Obama’s fault that you’re such a fucking moocher.”)
At this point the only sane, rational, honest response to Ryan taking out his cheddar cheese dick and slapping every American in the face with it is the one of Timothy Bryce, the only interesting person I know:
This, of course, is a character from the cinema movie film American Psycho, expressing similar sentiments toward Mr. Ryan that he expressed toward a speech in which Ronald Reagan was lying in said movie film.
Does the reaction of centrist media types meet the lofty standards of a character from American Psycho? Read the rest of this entry »
via lots of folks but the precipitating factor was Atrios.
The deal here is that an ABC news correspondent gave three minutes to Honeywell CEO and member of Obama’s debt commission David Cote: asked him a few questions, got a few answers, put it on the air. Of course Cote said within thirty seconds of each other “The reason there’s so little hiring is because of uncertainty about the debt” and “The reason Honeywell is not hiring is because of slow orders”, ie lack of demand. So the reporter, Devin Dwyer, or asshead Devin Dwyer to use his professional title, could have asked a quick follow-up to explain that contradiction. Or he could have asked Cote about whether there is a lot of debt reduction to be had by performing an audit on the 15% of its revenues Honeywell gets from government coffers in the form of aerospace contracts, one of the ugliest wings of the military industrial complex in which no-bid offers and unnecessary procurement have the run of the place. Of course the next question he asked was “What advice would you give to President Obama?” And the little cherry on the sundae was Cote’s answer, “I’m not going to tell you that,” and Dwyer’s response, “Fair enough.”
Cote also let himself indulge in a bit of centrist rhetoric to just make this latest boning of the public discourse extra special. “Republicans and Democrats need to come together and, I think, quit saying that the hole is on the other guy’s side of the boat. We’re all in the same boat.” Yeah, but some of us are in the filet mignon dining area and some of us are in the rape chambers. Why they put rape chambers on the boat, I don’t know, but there are a lot of them, filled to capacity.
And look this is another instance of getting all sweary and invoking the metaphor of testicle consumption over insignificant media production which is just designed to fill up space, a three minute clip of an interview that maybe tens of thousands of people actually saw, and about twenty-seven actually paid attention to.
But that’s the thing again, isn’t it. If the centrist equation holds for even this; if reporters value access and not-giving-a-fuck-ness to this extent; if public figures are not called to task even when they flat out contradict themselves or have the grossest conflicts of interest in even a quick little story; then of course the stuff that matters will be so thoroughly integrated within the centrist framework that it will be more centrist spin than fact, its viewpoint twisted and evil.
So this gets very deep in the weeds of a completely diaphanous article that only got written because the NYT has to fill slots in their political coverage. But I think going through it serves a purpose by demonstrating just how much centrist pap is mixed into the foundation of political reporting, even when that reporting is very far away from anything anyone can call “important”. This centrist stuff isn’t just for the movers and the shakers. Everyone’s got to do it to prove they can be trusted. It’s like prison tattoos. Onward:
I get that unusual techniques in campaign ad production can be a legitimate news story.
But the story Jeremy W. Peters, Professional Political Reporter, filed with the NYT wasn’t about those things. It breathlessly reported that a new ad created a fictional story to highlight problems with the current administration. That it used actors to do so. That it spent some money to do so.
Independent of the ways in which the piece tries to conceal just the laziest fucking hackwork: what the fucking balls was going through Jeremy W. Peters head when he wrote this article? Why did he want to write what he wrote? To what purpose? There is absolutely nothing fucking remarkable or newsworthy about the ad he’s writing about. Production values have always kept pace with the rest of television. Actors have been used since motherfucking Eisenhower. The Reagan “Morning in America” ad that the application for a centrist card requires you to present physical evidence that it moved you to tears was a montage of images of a young man’s life from riding a bike as a kid to helping around the house as a teenager to getting married to growing old. Sounds kinda similar. Plus you’d think a piece of journalism that breathlessly reports a political ad is using a fictional story would at least mention the Obama “Julia” ad released a few weeks ago which does the same thing, but then you’d remember this was a piece which gestated in the nourishing fluid of centrism, and you would put such silly thoughts aside.
And there are lots of centrist tropes in here. And they all come, like the origami fetishist, after the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
Pete Kasperowicz writes for The Hill, a DC paper concerned with objectively defining issues and tracking how political power, lobbying efforts, and the institutional and social milieu in which political operatives exist shape those issues. Of course their working definition of the term “centrist” is “someone with a large intellect and kind soul”.
PK wrote on legislation which the House recently passed that prohibits the Census Bureau from continuing to conduct an annual study called the American Community Survey. It provides more geographically-precise, more timely, and more fine-grained data than the Census, and is used by all levels of government to make thousands of policy decisions every week which direct $400 billion worth of funds each year.
PK acknowledges this when he lets us know that “supporters of the program argue the survey provides information.” Thanks, Petey.
To balance out that extremely provocative and telling piece of information, Peter-the-Awesome provides seventeen other paragraphs attacking the survey, in the process quoting three Republicans extensively. Who of course are the only people quoted. Three of those paragraphs are a House member mockingly quoting some of the questions asked, including “do you have a flush toilet” and “because of mental, physical or emotional conditions, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?” This is followed by a quote from another House member asking what use is legislation protecting citizens from government spying on their internet use, since they already know everything. Five years of determining the basic economic and health needs of the populace to determine where budgeted money should be spent has already resulted in an Orwellian nightmare, which no-one noticed until Peter Peter Bullshit Eater’s intrepid stenography of Republican talking points pulled back the curtain on Big Data.
Centrism means shamelessly defending objectively insane policy proposals.