Category Archives: Etiquette and manners

Ethics Quiz: The Beautiful Young Woman In Georgetown

beautiful-face

Late last night, the previous post regarding the video showing a woman being repeatedly shouted at by rude and intrusive males as she silently walked down New York City streets sparked an ancient memory from my past.

The incident before my career shift into ethics, indeed before I was married. I was in Georgetown on a lovely fall day (like this one), and it had been a lousty week. I was feeling lost and depressed. Suddenly I was aware of the young woman walking slightly ahead of me toward the corner of Wisconsin and M streets, Georgetown Central. She wasn’t merely beautiful, but heart-stoppingly beautiful, the kind of rare combination of perfect genetics aesthetic taste who makes one realize how dishonest Hollywood’s representation of humanity is. Maybe this young woman would have blended into the scenery in Tinseltown, but I doubt it very much. Greek myths described how mortals, if they saw a god or goddess in their true form, would be instantly burned to ash, and that was almost the effect this woman had on me.

Yet she did not have the aura of a star or a model who was aware that she was gorgeous and conscious of her effect on those around her—I have seen that many times. Beautiful people generally know they are beautiful and are used to being treated differently because of it; they sometimes have a “leave me alone” force field around them, and this woman didn’t have that either. For some reason, perhaps because the jolt she had given me renewed my flagging enthusiasm for life in general at that moment—I literally never do this, not before and not since—when we reached the corner together, I turned to her and said, as I recall it,

“Excuse me, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but your are incredibly lovely, and seeing you today has made me happy, when I was anything but happy before.  I just wanted to say thank you.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Was this wrong?

Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex

Hollaback And Awareness of Street Harassment—What’s the Point?

 

If people who engage in specific unethical conduct know it is unethical and don’t care, does it serve any useful purpose to tell people who know it is unethical and would never do it or tolerate it that the unethical individuals are engaging in it?

I wonder.

From Vox:

Hollaback, an organization that wants to stamp out street harassment and intimidation (a.k.a. catcalls), produced a video in which it videotaped a young woman walking around Manhattan for 10 hours this past August. A hidden video camera was placed in the backpack of a man walking in front of her, catching every catcall, whistle, and even one persistent character who walked alongside the woman for five minutes.

The results are startling. According to Hollaback, there were over 100 instances of verbal harassment in that 10-hour walk, not including winks and whistles. In the video, the woman remains silent. She is dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.

Check the link to Hollaback, and you will see that the organization claims that “you have the power to end street harassment.” No, really you don’t. There can’t be a law against shouting out to someone ( to its credit, legislation isn’t one of the group’s recommendations), and the tradition of men harassing attractive women on the street is old and persistent. This isn’t an everybody does it excuse, this is an “assholes will be assholes, and there will always be assholes” statement of fact. I would expect that street harassment is getting worse, thanks to counter-productive muddled feminist efforts like the recent video with little girls repeatedly saying “Fuck.” Women killed chivalry by treating it as an insult—indeed, it was subordinating and condescending, but at least well-intentioned—and are surprised now that its polar opposite thrives? See, the chivalrous men, those with manners, were called pigs and made to feel guilty about being nice. The men who intentionally and openly harass women? They can’t be made to feel guilty. They do this because they like it.

Remember “the Hunger Project”? It was essentially a 1970’s scam that purported to seek an end to world hunger by saying that it could be ended without really doing anything that could possibly accomplish that goal. Gullible members gave money to the organization, and felt they were doing something to end hunger by giving, when all they were really doing was supporting a group that said world hunger could be ended. Is Hollaback any different? I know there is a long list of “actions” it recommends, but none of these  are likely to penetrate the culture that causes the problem. Basic ethics—the Golden Rule, mutual respect for others, manners, civility—already tells us that shouting at women on the street is disgusting and wrong, and civilized human beings don’t do it, ever. Nor do groups of civilized human beings engage in this conduct.

Men who harass women on the street are exactly like men who have indiscriminate and irresponsible sex, or men who drink so much they can’t hold a job, or men who cheat on their wives, or men who molest children. Nobody needs to tell them that civilized, ethical people think this is wrong. They know it’s wrong. They do it because they like it.

There is no chance, none, zero, that increasing awareness among the comparatively few people who don’t know this is a vile social behavior (I was surprised that the harassment in ten hours wasn’t worse) will do anything to end or even reduce it. So what’s the point?

This, in Vox’s last sentence…

“The video is a reminder that men asserting their dominance over women and intimidating them is simply all too common.”

That’s the message. The awareness campaign is designed to make sure everyone regards women as victims of men generally, and to group men who would never engage in this kind of boorish and threatening conduct with those who do. Then all men can be vilified and placed on the defensive. Dare you question whether a woman should have her contraception paid for, regardless of means? Why, you are just like those harassers on the street, asserting your dominance over women!

I will decline Hollaback’s invitation for the self-indicting trap it is.

Nice try, though.

 

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, U.S. Society

Remember The Title, “When An Apology Isn’t Enough: Carol Costello’s Ugly Partisan Bias”? An Apology Still Isn’t Enough.

"Dear Carol..."

“Dear Carol…”

As Joe Concha reports on Mediaite, the media drumbeats are growing louder in the news media jungle, calling for Carol Costello to deliver an on-air apology when she returns to the CNN morning broadcast Monday. Various media critics, including the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple (whose judgement is inherently suspect after pronouncing the smug and biased CNN anchorwoman “outstanding”), Fox’s inconsistent Howard Kurtz, and even CNN’s own Brian Stelter, have declared unacceptable Costello’s vicious, personal, plainly partisan glee while introducing a tape of Bristol Palin giving her account of what she claimed as was a physical attack on her by a larger man.  (Then there’s me.) Concha concludes,

“Throw in the growing-in-popularity hashtag (#firecarolcostello) on Twitter, a CNN Should Fire Carol Costello Facebook page, and a boatload of hypocrisy after she called for an ESPN analyst (Stephen A. Smith) to be suspended for insensitive comments he made about women’s abuse during the Ray Rice controversy, and you have an embattled anchor whose only option at this point is to ask for forgiveness on CNN (a mandatory two-week vacation afterward might not be a bad idea, either).”

As I explained at the time, Costello was wrong, and stupidly wrong, about Smith, as indeed she is wrong with remarkable frequency, and annoying even when she isn’t. Hypocrisy is only a small sliver of her problem, and no apology will cure what her gratuitous attack on Palin’s daughter reveals beyond question. She can express contrition to Bristol, but again, it doesn’t matter: her words, and the fact that she was unable to restrain herself sufficiently to avoid saying them on the air prove that she is unacceptably biased for a journalist. So great is her partisan hate that she takes glee in bodily harm being inflicted on the children of a popular conservative figure. So alien to Costello are the values of professionalism, fairness and respect for her viewers that she actually said, on the air, that her favorite part of the tape was the part where Palin said she had been called a cunt.  Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Workplace

Is “F-Bomb Princesses For Feminism” The Most Unethical Ad Ever?

Pretty close, I’d say.

Here are my Top Ten ways it is unethical:

1. It’s full of lies. Women do NOT make only 77% of what men do in the same jobs. The fact that President Obama blithely quoted this infamous canard doesn’t make it any more respectable. This is the smoking gun of  feminist activist hackery.

2. A close second is the completely unreliable “1 in 5 women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.” Yes, what President Obama did to a stranger after voting can add to that stat…or not, depending on what the woman being polled chooses to call “sexual assault.”

3. The stat about women who were A students earning as much as men who were C students is similarly bogus. The study apparently being fucking referred to was about high school grades, not college grades. It was also widely distorted in the media, which claimed that the finding was that “high-achieving female students still won’t earn as much as male counterparts who didn’t work quite as hard” [TIME], which explains nothing about what jobs we are talking about, or career choices. More female attorneys, for example, go into family law; more male attorneys go into tort litigation.  Trial lawyers are famously non-academic–they are combative, aggressive and street smart, and the good ones become millionaires. What does this prove about gender discrimination? Not one thing.

The University of Miami study, published recently in the Eastern Economic Journal, show that a one-point increase in high school GPA raises annual earnings in adulthood by around 12 percent for men and 14 percent for women. It was not directed at gender bias issues at all, nor did it prove any.

4. Apart from substance, the ad is one more coarse and cheap bit of sensationalism employing assaultive vulgarity to get attention.  This is cultural rot, nothing more. Gutter language doesn’t illuminate or explicate, and used as it is here, it doesn’t even convey genuine passion or emotion. This is the pseudo kiddie-porn equivalent of  TV ads for Go Daddy.com featuring a busty actress making sexual innuendos to attract attention to a product having nothing to do with busty actresses. An ad currently running for a cable show has the host talking about the time he “got crabs” but how he’s going to go to an “orgy” anyway. HA! A crab orgy, get it! See, he made you think he was talking about sex, isn’t that clever? In a 7 PM commercial? No, it’s not clever. Just cheap and tawdry, like having a lot of little girls yelling “fuck” at you.

5. This isn’t even a genuine ad promoting feminist objectives. This is an ad exploiting feminists themes to sell T-Shirts. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

Supplemental Comments On The President’s Ordered Kiss

I’m in NYC for a law firm seminar, and expect to get back to Ethics Alarms late if at all, so I want to make a couple of clarifications lest the comments on yesterday’s Ethics Quiz go astray.

I am not blaming the President for what is a standard, culturally embedded demonstration of male dominance, presumed female submissiveness and abuse of power. He is part of the culture that tolerates this, and while it would be immensely beneficial if he used his influence as a role model to move us away from this conduct that is a major, if under-recognized, way that the glass ceiling is kept intact, I recognize that this is a lot to ask, and that he has other pressing matters to deal with.

Make no mistake, however, that the male power-hug, power-kiss is a stubborn remnant of the patriarchy. I know that astute feminists (and others, like me) know this, and the fact that they don’t have the integrity or the courage to condemn the conduct when it surface’s in  a political ally is disappointing if not surprising.

To those who (absurdly) claim that the woman’s response in the video was consensual, I only ask them to speculate what her alternative to submitting to the POTUS ordered smooch was. She knew the incident was on television. He is the leader of the free world, she is, by comparison and to the public, at least, nobody. Should she have embarrassed him by refusing? Should she reject the President of the United States when he his being “nice,” thus instantly making herself the center of a controversy? Of course not. This is why the position the President placed her in was unfair.

It is, however, incredibly, disturbingly common. From Richard Dawson’s mandatory kisses from female contestants on the original “Family Feud,” to the old lions of the plaintiffs bar trying to cop a feel with my young female staffers at an association convention, men in power, and men generally, feel they have a right to this culturally accepted invasion of a woman’s physical person, and women feel obligated to permit it. Every time they do, they do their little bit to keeping men in a step ahead of them.

That’s the real issue here, not sexual assault.

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society, Workplace

Pop Song Ethics Flashback: “Why Do They Always Say “No?” by Lawrence Cook and The Jim Dandies

It probably isn’t the winner in the Ethics Alarms quest to identify the most unethical pop songs, but the 1949 ditty “Why Do They Always Say No?” is one of the most instructive nominations. The fascinating and essential feature of ethics is that our understanding of right and wrong evolves, changing and advancing with wisdom, cultural debate and reflection. This song is a tuneful reminder, arriving at our attention just as the culture, especially on campus, is struggling over exactly the dilemma the song celebrated. In 1949, however, literally no one thought about romantic or sexual gamesmanship as an ethical issue, or at least not a momentous one.

Have a listen (It’s on the B side of the record pictured, and starts playing at the halfway mark):

The lyrics are credited to Harry Pease, Frank Davis, Ed G. Nelson and Billy Glason. Only the latter has much of a footprint on Google, and none of them rate a Wikipedia entry. I doubt that it took four guys to write this song: It’s not exactly “A Day in the Life.” Glason (b. 1904) was probably the author. He shows up in the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville as a “singing comedian,” known for devising new punchlines for ancient  jokes, such as

Q: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night at that sidewalk cafe?”

A: “That was no sidewalk cafe! That was our furniture!”

Pease, Davis, and Nelson were all musicians, though it’s also hard to imagine that the elemental tune required three collaborators. The lyrics are more disturbing read than heard:

Why do they always say no
When they know they mean yes all the time
You ask a girlie for a kiss or two
She’ll let you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You start to love them and they pout and fret
Down in their hearts they want all they can get
What keeps them acting that way
They don’t mean a word that they say
A girl that said she’d never marry me
She’s the mother of my happy family
Why do they always say no
You know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You ask your girlie for a kiss or two
She’s lets you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

You know they mean yes all the time.

“You know they mean yes all the time.”

Sure you do.

_________________________

Special thanks to my volunteer scout Fred, whose wife found this piece of musical ethics archeology.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Ethics Heroes: 28 Harvard Law Professors

Campus sex is returning to the '50's....the 1850s.

Campus sex is returning to the ’50’s….the 1850s.

In 2011, the Obama Administration threatened universities with a loss of funding if they did not adopt a new “preponderance of the evidence” standard in evaluating alleged student sexual assault and sexual harassment. This was, few doubt, a sop thrown to the combative feminists among the Democratic base, those who detect a culture-wide “war on women” and who seek to cast co-eds as imperiled naifs even as the proclaim themselves the equals of men. Within three years this really bad idea has metastasized into the Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, which would be getting more media attention but for the fact that the world is falling apart in chunks. Among its weirder effects is the proliferation of new “yes means yes” regulations, effectively taking all spontaneity, romance and fun out of sex, all in the service of dubious and cynically employed campus rape statistics. Take this, for example:

“Consider the sexual consent policy of California’s Claremont McKenna College, shared almost verbatim with other schools such as Occidental College in Los Angeles. Paragraphs long, consisting of multiple sections and subsections, and embedded within an even wordier 44-page document on harassment and sexual misconduct, Claremont’s sexual consent rules resemble nothing so much as a multilawyer-drafted contract for the sale and delivery of widgets, complete with definitions, the obligations of “all” (as opposed to “both”) parties, and the preconditions for default. “Effective consent consists of an affirmative, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed upon (and the conditions of) sexual activity,” the authorities declare awkwardly. The policy goes on to elaborate at great length upon each of the “essential elements of Consent”—“Informed and reciprocal,” “Freely and actively given,” “Mutually understandable,” “Not indefinite,” “Not unlimited.” “All parties must demonstrate a clear and mutual understanding of the nature and scope of the act to which they are consenting”—think: signing a mortgage—“and a willingness to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way,” declare Claremont’s sex bureaucrats.”

Cheers, then, are due to 28 Harvard Law professors, who authored and signed a letter protesting Harvard University’s capitulation to the Obama Administration’s blackmail and urging the University to reject the new standards:

Some highlights: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership