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Vector Magic

Mental structuring: bringing perspectives from software into legislature:

  • One - Accepting for the sake of argument a democratic structure vaguely like ours, consider moneyed interests as including attackers of ideal of government, and bring concepts of computer security into analysis of government. Notion of penetration surfaces/attack vendors is in common, design government in ways that limit this. Missing: notion of virtue, uncertainty of actual goals, difficulty in actually performing such a design; we're in a situation where an already heavily comprimised system needs to be cleaned, which is theoretically possible as a sysadmin task if you can make certain assumptions, but is never easy.
  • Two - Difficulty of activism around bills, given how few people can read legislation and actually understand what it does (we modify subsection 4a of $otherbill to read as follows...). Difficulties in that most people both lack legal training/discipline to read that stuff, and the original stuff being modified is hard to find in any reasonable form. We can easily be excited about a piece of legislation by reading what the framer says it does, but not actually understand it as a patch on existing legal code. This makes us vulnerable to being used to promote things not actually in our interest (or only partly so). Solution? Some kind of project that would rapidly and deeply analyse each proposed bill, present all the original code in varying forms, and detail exactly what each patch does. Difficult, but doable.

Recently was pleased to find that I have more flexibility than I thought in leaving my current apartment; I do need to give 30 days notice, but the person at the front desk indicated that it doesn't need to line up with month boundaries. Still will strive to make the move to NYC happen as soon as humanly possible. I just need some temporary income-stream. On the upside, I can start to pack. Also, once I am jobbed again, I have plans to visit Cleveland (family), Columbus (friends), DC (cousin, hopefully), and Pittsburgh (variety of things). Looking forward to this.

Tonight's migraine was kinda rough; ran out for dinner and didn't quite make it back before things got really bad and I lost vision and balance. I need to use better judgement on leaving the apartment when migraine'd (or get a better sense of time). Le sigh.

This recently came up in an online conversation - a worthwhile data point on why it's best to be wary of placing too much emotional stock in the whole being of people who are decent on a few points (and a reason why I've generally liked Dawkins more than Hitchens):

  • Hitchens versus Maher - Actually in this case, it's both Maher and Hitchens being putzes, and their putziness aimed at each other. You'll want to poke around to find the bigger context. In general, Hitchens' politics is not very likable (but perhaps my reader finds my politics unlikable too; if so, we're differently unlikable on the topic); Hitchens is also rather rude (as he often was)
  • Hitchens saying some bloody stupid things on feminism. I would've liked to see the host dig into this a bit more, both because I want to understand exactly where Hitchens is coming from and because it'd help show his viewpoints in a deeper light that'd allow us a deeper criticism. A good follow-up question would be "why?", or "how do you justify this different role or obligation in society that you think women and men should have?". There is no way I imagine he could give an answer to that that could convince me (I find his position very, very unlikable), but I want to challenge such positions in ways that give traction for further debate. The only way she pushed him was accidental; he revealed that he views all women as having the option of being specially pampered rather than just seeing that as a personal relationship dynamic he prefers. (I don't find absolutely everything he says here to be wrong; the speculation on EvPsych leading men to be less inclined to care for children *may* be true; it's a scientific question. What I find reprehensible is the job/work thing)


The thing with that Hitchens clip is that I can imagine a perfectly reasonable interpretation of "my wife shouldn't have to work if she doesn't want to." If he happens to make enough money for the both of them and doesn't mind supporting her, it's one way he can show his dedication to let her do whatever she likes with her time. Needless to say, this is only fair if it is applied to all hypothetical gender variants on the situation, and his phrasing -- "no woman of mine," "fairer sex" -- certainly does not support this interpretation. Also, I just read this so my willingness to assume Hitchens was not being an ass about women is pretty low.

the speculation on EvPsych leading men to be less inclined to care for children *may* be true

So, sure, *maybe* it is true. But there are so many observable phenomena that definitely influence men's inclinations to care for children (socialization and expectation that women must love kids combined with socialization and expectation that men must not be too involved in the domestic sphere) that any EvPsych explanations would account for at most a small portion of the phenomenon. As I understand it, the standard situation with a hetero couple having their first baby is that neither parent has the slightest clue how to approach taking care of the baby and the mother is just more likely to run with the situation because it's what is expected of her (and she might have more experience with babysitting).
Yeah, I initially may have been willing to think that wasn't what he meant until his view was challenged and he said things suggesting it to be universal. I'd still find it a bit odd were it just a personal thing about those he would date, and might be a bit unhappy if it implies that he's keen to be head-of-household because if every male did that, even lacking any consensus that everyone should, the effect would still be potentially belittling. Still, I do think he takes it to be a universal about women rather than a specific statement about women Hitchens likes.

Regarding the inclinations, I would not claim that men and women's bodies are the same, or that all ethnicities of humanity are quite the same. That doesn't mean that I want to reserve P.E. classes to, say, males of Kenyan descent. Preserving the choice and potential of humanity means leaving doors open to everyone and recognising that just because there may be some differences doesn't mean we need to lock people into roles because of what tendencies there are. And of course a tendency doesn't stop people from stepping far outside it; one of the (female; not everyone has been female) people I dated was a super-athlete, far healthier and stronger than I am despite males of our species on average being stronger than women. It would've been a waste of human potential had she not have been allowed to take part in athletics in school or in her post-school years.

That said, I would also like talk of differences to be treated as a scientific question; I don't mind speculating on things, but in the end I hope that were I challenged on any of my actual factual claims on the topic (like Kenyan runners, or brain differences), I could respond reasonably.

For me it's most important that we not close doors or push people into roles, not to pretend that there are no statistical differences.

Edited at 2012-01-31 10:22 pm (UTC)
"As I understand it, the standard situation with a hetero couple having their first baby is that neither parent has the slightest clue how to approach taking care of the baby and the mother is just more likely to run with the situation because it's what is expected of her"

And because she has the magic boobies.

(To be honest we always thought it likely Justin would stay home with the kids, but it turns out that he kinda knows what he's doing career-wise and I still haven't decided what to be when I grow up, so me taking time off made a lot more sense.)
I hear that the boobs+baby thing is totally intuitive! :P
Yes, it's definitely totally intuitive. :-p

I realized after posting yesterday that I was answering the question "Why are women more likely to stay at home?" whereas you were musing on the question "Why do women often feel more confident around babies?", which isn't the same thing at all. Magic boobies explain why moms generally END UP with more hands-on baby time than dads, but that wasn't really what you guys were talking about.
Yeah, the specific prompt was Hitchens basically saying "men are helpless around babies, and women seem to know what they're doing." I posit that, like in many human endeavors, they are merely seeming to know what they're doing (at least at first). So, maybe it is helpful that women are told, "nah, don't worry about it, it'll come naturally," inasmuch as it gets mothers over the initial panic. Except, 1) I worry that sort of thing leads to even worse "augh I am failing at being a woman; this is supposed to come naturally!" and 2) fat lot of good it does for single fathers and gay male couples.
Also, while I'm not sure if my being bi might lead to people judging differently, I'm really good around babies, and I've known some women who are pretty terrible with them.

I really wouldn't mind or be surprised if there are gender-differences that produce statistically significant tendencies towards behavioural differences relevant to raising children. Intuitively, I'd actually expect some differences there. That doesn't mean that every individual would have them manifest visibly or that every/most women is going to be better than every/most men or that it makes sense to structure society so women are the default caregivers. And of course, my intuitions may be wrong and maybe there arn't any such differences.

I think there are two separate questions here: what is the nature of gender in our species, and how should we structure society. The former is much less interesting than the latter; it wouldn't make one bit of difference to me if there were in fact very large differences in the means of male versus female populations. We know that the spreads overlap. By deciding not to designate either gender to certain societal roles, we make the most of human potential.

I think it makes sense to bat down perceptions of the nature of gender that are clearly off, but I'd rather focus argumentative efforts on disassembling the role-assignation and shifting people to seeing these things in terms of statistical spreads of two populations rather than two solid immutable natures.