Monday, March 31, 2008

Hungry yet?

Imagine a country where, under certain circumstances, stealing food has become effectively legal.

This country, of sane, well-intentioned people, has decided that anorexia is a sufficiently serious problem that all efforts should be made to help those who suffer it. Various government programs have been put in place to succor the poor victims of this terrible fate; there is counseling available for free on request, dieticians are on 24 hour standby, nutritionists make fortunes from writing "gain weight quick" books. Various pressure groups have field days wrecking fashion houses in expensive shopping districts and organizing protests outside women's magazine headquarters, all standing proud against the ravages of propaganda designed to make women want to be as skinny as they can be.

Panic has set in, the dreaded scourge of self starvation becomes a social anathema. The merest suggestion that one should perhaps restrain oneself at the dining table becomes positively offensive. Every self respecting citizen will pick up the club and shout down the poor fool who thinks maybe we're all getting a bit too overweight. Diet drinks become dusty relics in the corners of museums, a vaguely revolting reminder of a horrendous past.

And for those poor few who remain skinny, no matter how hard they try, society positively bends over backwards to help them, to fatten them up, to save them from themselves and the danger of wasting away into wraith-like nothingness.

Then one day, a young shoplifter finds herself in front of the beak. She was caught red handed with that crimson appendage jammed in the cookie jar while trying to half inch a box of fancy chocolates from, oh, I don't know, the local equivalent of Fortnum and Mason's (does Macy's compare?). It’s her third strike, too, what is she going to do?

Luckily for her, she's got a couple of things in her favor - first, due to an unfortunate dalliance with certain hard drugs, she's only got the one spare tire. And there's the rich daddy, who while disgusted at his daughter's fall from grace is sufficiently protective of his family's good name (and nagged by his missus) that he would rather not see her go to jail. So he plonks the greenbacks down for a decent lawyer.

Said Shylock ponders carefully and comes up with a novel defense. Yes, yer honor, the young lady admits to her crime. She did indeed, with planning aforethought, make off with exhibit A, a box of Cadbury's Crème Delight, special edition, with Egon Ronay's 5-star fillings. Unfortunately, she neglected to pay for said item and got nicked on setting off the store's alarm. But your honor, please take a careful look at her, she's as skinny as a rail! This crime was no ordinary crime, it was a cry for help from one of society's truest victims! She is almost, and I near dare not say it, anorexic! You cannot possibly convict!

The judge, who has just had a very nice lunch courtesy of a couple of friends at the local law school, is digesting comfortably, emitting the occasional wee burp, and has taken a considerable liking to the defendant's heaving cleavage, wakes up at this and declares "Good grief! You're right! The poor thing! Case dismissed!" Whack! "And someone give her a leaflet for anorexics anonymous, this minute!"

Lawyers being lawyers, word quickly gets around. Pretty soon, courts up and down the land are letting off one lefty after another. Food, after all, is a God-given right and who are these grocery and supermarket owners to so selfishly deny such starving sisters who daily cheat death with no more than a crust of bread with their three course meals? Few judges dare convict. Once in a while, someone will be sent down for lack of excuse - a kilo of caviar under the coat of a 400 pound gentleman is pushing it just a bit too far - but as long as you limit yourself to a carrier bag or two and manage to look drawn in the dock, by and large the judge waves a hand and lets you go.

(In the background, no court staff will waste time making sure any shopkeeper who has the temerity to bring charges is very aware in just how low esteem he is held. Better just to go away and work all the harder to put more food on the shelves for any poor dear who might happen to feel peckish while passing by.)

Pretty soon, the population at large catches on. Behind the smokescreen of all these dismissed cases, small industries develop revolving around cleaning out one superstore after another. Gangs strip one store to stock another, one bag at a time.

They have to be careful, of course, it's hard to justify that DVD jammed between the bread and the pastrami, the beak definitely won't like it. Society, too, still looks askance. Nobody you know would stoop so low. Or if they did, it must have been because they were really hungry, or perhaps other things justify such an obvious and forlorn cry of help. While everyone thinks such reassuring thoughts, supermarkets are forced to their knees, corner shops gutted, lawyers get richer by the hour and advocates for the anorexic sit around being pleased with themselves secure in the unquestionable knowledge that theirs is a righteous and godly cause.

Have you figured it out yet? You live in this country. Oh, yes you do. Anorexia is domestic violence, food is a man's children and his living, the store-keepers are non-custodial parents and the courts are, well, the courts. Oh, yes they are.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guilty pleasures

'Ever read b3ta? They have a question of the week. One was: "What are the little things you do for fun when nobody else is around?"

I'm still snickering over this one:
"Sometimes, I like to sneak into the girl's toilets when nobody's around and lift up the seats."
Oh, OK, go on, whatever, call me a misogynist.

(I never really got it anyway. I have to lift it up, you have to put it down. What is the big *&$% deal?)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hijacking feminism

I've often felt that the men's and fathers' rights movements have a lot they can learn from feminism. Today, I ran across this line, in a feminist context: "Here's to good women: may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them." Hmm, OK, 'sounds good to me. Then I thought, in which case then why not:
"Here's to good men: may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them."?
Yes, that sounds about right, don't you think? So, with an evil twinkle in my eye, I started switching genders in a few feminist quotes. It didn't always work, some classic feminist quotes are just too sexist (here's a good list) for any sort of intelligent discourse, but surprisingly many produced decidedly thought-provoking results. Some are just plain sensible:
"The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of males begins when the doctor says, 'It's a boy.'" (c/f Shirley Chisholm).
"Women, their rights, and nothing more; men, their rights, and nothing less." ~ c/f Susan B. Anthony
"Men are not inherently violent or aggressive. We're not inherently anything but human." ~ c/f Robin Morgan
"Whether men are better than women I cannot say - but I can say they are certainly no worse." ~ c/f Golda Meir
Others apply equally well without gender specification:
"Never let the hand you hold, hold you down. " Author Unknown
"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got." —Janis Joplin
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." —Margaret Mead
"Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent." —Eleanor Roosevel
Some expose their general silliness by applying equally falsely to either gender:
"Men are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors." ~ c/f Evelyn Cunningham
"Men who seek to be equal with women lack ambition." ~ c/f Timothy Leary
"A man reading Cosmo feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual." ~ c/f Gloria Steinem (original referred to Playboy)
Then there's good, healthy tit-for-tat:
"You don't have to be anti-woman to be pro-man." ~ c/f Jane Galvin Lewis
"One of the things about equality is not just that you be treated equally to a woman, but that you treat yourself equally to the way you treat a woman." ~ c/f Marlo Thomas
And many hold more truth than some might find comfortable:
"Most men are one woman away from child support." ~ c/f Gloria Steinem
"Women will often admit other men are oppressed but not you." ~ c/f Sheila Rowbotham
"Not only is men's work never done, the definition keeps changing." ~ c/f Bill Copeland
"Any intelligent man who reads the marriage contract, and then goes into it, deserves all the consequences." ~ c/f Isadora Duncan
"In my heart, I think a man has two choices: either he's a masculist or a masochist." — c/f Gloria Steinem
And finally, my personal favorite:
"A man needs a woman like a bicycle needs a fish" - c/f Irina Dunn
Damned silly, no matter how you write it.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"I got depressed today because I got the overwhelming feeling that girls will always be more important and men's feelings will never matter."

A comment I wrote on Glenn Sacks' blog, I repeat it here as much for myself as those of you who do me the honor of reading my blog.

"George" said: "I got depressed today because I got the overwhelming feeling that girls will always be more important and men's feelings will never matter."

It is a question of personal environment. If yours is like that, then either leave, or change it.

Either way, I suspect it will be difficult. Probably we have to take a few leaves from the feminists' battle book (none of them are really new anyway). Learn to be assertive and act locally while thinking globally. If you encounter a situation where a woman is being treated as more important than a man, then carefully and firmly point it out. You may not have any effect and quite possibly will come under attack, but being right and maintaining the position will eventually win out. (There is a manly trait for you, is there not? Don't stand down in the face of adversity). The more of us that do this, the faster the change will be effected.

If you have the feeling (!) that your feelings don't matter then perhaps you need to learn how to express them. We now live in a culture where a woman can express any "feeling" she likes, how she "feels" can override any intelligent discussion. First. remember that men are no more entitled to that privilege than are the women who get handed it by default. Neither sex has the monopoly on appropriate expression of emotion. Men do not express themselves well for a variety of reasons, not least that it is dangerous for them to do so. Women do not express themselves well for a variety of different reasons, not least that they are not educated to prioritize them appropriately.

Make sure your feelings are reasonable, (you're a man, you start with the advantage that you're supposed to be able to reason), be sure that they should actually count, and then insist that they be recognized. You may experience some belittling or other attack. Do not get mad. It's OK to feel mad, say, don't shout, "that makes me angry, don't do it". This may bring on more childish behavior. Recognize it for what it is, do not give in. Acquaint yourself with some of the tactics, use them yourself. If you know that your feelings matter, then others will learn this too.

All worthwhile battles involve periods of hard fighting, retreat, apparent defeat, nervous waiting and despair in the face of adversity. Even victory is never permanent. If you're in the right and stand your ground, you will prevail.

It's a war, soldier. It won't be won unless you fight.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New tricks.

Well, ladies, if you live in Wisconsin, you've just acquired another way to screw with your ex. All in the name of protecting the vulnerable, of course. Here's just a short bulletin on the issue, but the upshot is that your pets can be named on that restraining order you bring against your ex to get him out of the house so you can claim full possession of it, the kids and, well, now his dog too.

Perhaps it's hard for you to see what's wrong with this? I could hold forth on the rubber-stamping of restraining orders in general and how they are used and abused to control the movements of pretty much any poor sap preparatory to relieving him of everything he holds dear. But no, how about a graphic example (from here):
I work at a boarding/kennel facility and we recently took in a German Shepherd who belonged to a couple going through a nasty divorce. The husband moved out but couldn't take the dog with him, so the wife apparently had been starving the dog for two weeks to get back at her husband. He's doing better now (the dog that is)
Maybe you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can sure use them on him.