Elizabeth Warren, The Presidency, And The Female Leadership Problem

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for President is reportedly running out of money, and the other woman in the race for the Democratic nomination is counting on prevailing as the “none of the above” candidate, a long-shot at best. Meanwhile, the party that pronounced itself “the party of women” in 2012—with Bill Clinton as its star convention speaker!—now seems to be looking at a battle among three white men in their late seventies. This is not where progressives thought they would be at this point in the giddy summer of 2016.

Naturally, feminists and the news media are determined to explain this as the result of plain old, typical, anti-female bigotry.  The explanation is simpleminded, hypocritical and incoherent. From the Times:

[I]n dozens of interviews with Democrats over the past several months, at events for Ms. Warren, debate watch parties and polling places, many professional, college-educated women say they have been enraged by the obsession with electability in the 2020 race. These are women who see themselves in Ms. Warren and argue that simply by asking whether a woman can be elected, pundits and voters who fancy themselves as such, are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. For mothers, this moment includes the difficulty of speaking about gender to school-age girls who do not care about the finer points of policy details, but are happy to declare, “I want a woman president.”

Let’s look at the components of that statement, from a piece about how women allegedly feel that her gender has kept Elizabeth Warren from being a strong contender for the nomination.

  • It is the Democrats and progressives, specifically the “resistance,” who have made “electability” the primary factor in choosing the blue party’s nominee in 2020. Such minor items as policy, experience and character have been thrown aside by constant repetition of the myth that anyone, literally anyone, would be preferable to having President Voldemort in the White House. The members of the Facebook Borg constantly say that they will vote for whoever the Democratic Party nominates, which means that they have surrendered any discretion regarding qualifications for leadership. All they care about is winning. In that context, of course electability is essential.

Saying so isn’t sexist. Continue reading

Wasted Day Evening Ethics, 2/10/2020: As Your Host Tries To Salvage Some Productivity In A Messed Up Monday [CORRECTED]

I don’t want to talk about it.

1. Is it ethical to point out that the candidate my desperate progressive friends are trying to justify supporting in the arid Democratic field is really a jerk? Sure it is! In a deft call that I missed, Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson found yet another striking example of Pete Buttigieg’s hypocrisy. He writes,

For much of the presidential campaign, Pete Buttigieg has championed the importance of the popular vote. In a town hall nearly a year ago, Buttigieg proclaimed: “One thing I believe is that in an American presidential election, the person who gets the most votes ought to be the person who wins.”

Yet after the Iowa caucuses, where Bernie Sanders clearly got thousands  more votes, Buttigieg has been trumpeting victory — on the basis of a metric that can subvert the popular vote, the state delegate haul from Iowa’s equivalent of the electoral college.

To be plain, the actual tally in Iowa seems to matter less to the Buttigieg campaign than building a perception of victory. On the night of the caucuses, long before any of the official tally had been reported, Buttigieg dubiously declared he had won..the Iowa Democratic Party has now released 100 percent of the state results. The current tally shows Buttigieg trailing Sanders by 2,631 votes, yet leading by 2 “state delegate equivalents” — a margin of 0.1 percent on that metric. Yet the official tally includes many documented and uncorrected errors and what the state party deems “inconsistencies in data.” The Associated Press has refused to call the election, and Democratic party chair Tom Perez has demanded a “recanvass” or recount. Despite the tenuousness of these results, the Buttigieg website now proclaims: “It’s official: Pete won the Iowa Caucuses!”.

President Trump’s election, however, was illegitimate. Continue reading

Wow—Is This The Most Contrived Feminist Complaint Ever Put Into Print? [CORRECTED]

Lindsay Crouse—the writer, not the actress, as I originally assumed in the original version of this post— has an op-ed in the New York Times called Why Don’t Women Get Comebacks Like Tiger Woods?” (Thanks to Althouse for pointing me to it: I tend to avoid the Sunday Times Review section since it became a repetitious Trump-bashing fest week after week.)

Here’s Crouse’s argument, condensed, in her own words: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Governor’s Dress

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wore a “form fitting dress” or a “distractingly badly-fitting dress” during her state of the State address. After some pundits and a lot of social media users leveled harsh criticism of her attire, the matter quickly entered the battlefield of the gender wars. She said in a statement,

“In my speech I was encouraging people to see the humanity in one another in this cruel political environment. In an era when so many women are stepping up to lead, I’m hoping people will focus on our ideas and accomplishments instead of our appearance. Until then, I’ve got a message for all of the women and girls like mine who have to deal with garbage like this every day: I’ve got your back.”

Anne Doyle, an Oakland County leadership coach for women, said,

“If she had been wearing something big and baggy, she would have been criticized for wearing that. We’re going to see a significant amount of this type of criticism as more and more women are in these type of powerful, leadership roles. It’s gender bias. But we have to power our way through it and ignore it.”

No question about it, female public figures are often subjected to higher standards of appearance than males. However, does this mean that no criticism of public comportment and appearance by public officials in the official discharge of their duties is legitimate? Here’s Ann Althouse on the controversy, writing that the Governor…

…wore a dress to her State of the State Address that was just way too tight. As many of the commenters (at The Daily Mail) observe, you can see the outline of her bellybutton. It’s not really fair to accuse everyone of body shaming when you wear something that fits so poorly. People talk about Trump’s tie being too long….

And his hair, AND his skin color, AND his hands, AND his weight. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s every fashion choice received barrels of ink-worth of automatic praise. The issue is, or should be, whether a public figures should be held accountable for decisions regarding they present themselves to the world. Cousin Vinny kept finding himself in contempt of court for inappropriately casual attire, which was deemed disrespectful to the court. Are supporters of the governor really arguing that all criticism of a female elected official’s attire or appearance is sexist? Seriously?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is…

Was criticism of the Governor’s dress unethical?

Continue reading

Now THIS Is Gender Bias: The Undeserved And Dishonest Hyping Of Elaine May

BRILLIANT!

As someone who tried, often unsuccessfully, to promote female stage directors in Washington, D.C.’s professional theater scene, I am sympathetic to the cause of providing more opportunities  for women to direct at a high level, including Hollywood, as well as addressing directly the many and varied obstacles women face. One is a dearth of historical role models in the field. Quick, now, name five successful and respected female film directors. One just died, Penny Marshall. The pioneer in the field, actress Ida Lupino, always turns up on such lists, but which of her six films in the 50’s is a classic? “Hard, Fast and Beautiful?” “The Bigamist?” I’ve seen all of the films she directed, and she was a solid, professional director (and also an excellent actress). But Stanley Kubrick she wasn’t.  Katheryn Bigelow has to be on the list, and she’s directed several excellent films, including “The Hurt Locker,” which won a
“Best Picture” Oscar. But her resume would rank somewhere around 500 or so in a gender-blind list. Okay, that’s three.

The reasons for this are not merely discrimination in the show business industries, though that is certainly a major factor. However, as we have seen and continue to see among activists for other traditionally marginalized groups, admitting inconvenient truths that counter a group identify narrative is neither popular nor common. Unfortunately, such activists have a bad and unethical habit of hyping the accomplishments of members of their favored groups, perpetuating falsehood “for the common good” and making themselves less credible and respectable advocates as a result. In politics, we saw this repeatedly during the 2016 campaign when Hillary Clinton was described as being one of the “most qualified” Presidential candidates in American history, as assertion that is simply untrue by any objective standard. As with the Clinton hyping, it is particularly troubling when the talents and accomplishments of a an individual are hyped by journalists to advance an agenda. Journalists are not practicing their craft ethically when they intentionally try to deceive the public and distort the record, regardless of their supposedly good intentions.

Now, you might say, and I might be inclined to agree, that when current journalism standards have sunk as low as they are now, and when the news media appears to be capable of previously unimaginable deceptions in an effort to advance one political party over another, a New York Times female film critic’s efforts to bootstrap the cause of female directors by absurdly hyping the directing skills of Elaine May is small potatoes indeed. However, “The Marvelous Ms. Elaine May,” by chief Times film critic Manohla Dargis, is worthy of genuine alarm. In it, an accepted “authority” sets out to claim that black is white, that May has been an outstanding film director when she hasn’t even been a good one. She relies on the ignorance of her readers to make this argument, because May’s films—she’s directed four–have been such flops that the odds of a readers having seen all of them are daunting. Worse, I have to assume that Dargis is doing this for political reasons. Either that, or she is so gender-biased that she can’t see straight.

The article’s existence in the pages of the Times tells us that even arts reporting is now polluted beyond trust and recognition by political agendas and propaganda. Moreover, its goal is to intentionally misinform the public.

Let me note here that I admire the talents of Elaine May, whom I first encountered when she and her long-time partner Mike Nichols did a series of beer commercials tha ran during Red Sox games. She  was a deft sketch comedian, and also a sharp writer of satire. My theater company in Arlington, Virginia produced her most successful play, the Off-Broadway hit “Adaptation.” However, after the team of Nichols and May broke up, Nichols became on of the most critically-acclaimed and successful film directors of the last 50 years, and May didn’t. Dargis hints that sexism and discrimination were the culprits, because May was also a “brilliant” director. This is worse than claiming the Hillary was the most qualified candidate in history. It’s more like saying that she ran one of the best campaigns in history. I’ve watched all four of Elaine May’s movies.  Can’t fool me! Continue reading

Election Day Ethics Warm-Up, But Mostly What Yesterday’s Warm-Up Would Have Been If My Whole Day Hadn’t Spun Wildly Out Of Control…

Good Morning, Voters!

1. From the “bias makes you stupid” files. Yesterday two smart, once reasonable Massachusetts lawyers of the female persuasion debated me regarding the appropriateness of Dr. Blasey Ford’s late and unsubstantiated hit on Brett Kavanaugh. They were obnoxious about it, too, rolling their eyes and giggling to each other at my position, with one saying that I sounded like her “Southern friends.” I like them both, but a better example of how bias makes you stupid could hardly be devised. Their primary reason why Blasey Ford’s suddenly recalled trauma from the distant past should have been allowed to smear a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court in nationally televised hearings was this: women and girls in those les-enlightened days had good reason not to report rape and sexual assault, as they often were not believed and because a “boys will be boys” attitude prevailed in the culture. Moreover, they said, almost in unison, women still have good reasons not to report sexual assault. “Do you have daughters?” they asked, “gotcha!”-style.

To anyone whose ethics alarms are in good working order and who recognizes the difference between an emotional argument born of gender and partisan alliances and a good one, the rebuttal is obvious and comprises a general ethics principle:

One person’s misfortune, no matter how tragic or unjust, never justifies being unfair or unjust to somebody else.

Accusing anyone of anything three decades after the alleged incident is unfair.

Publicizing an allegation that cannot be verified and for which there is no supporting evidence is unfair.

Using alleged misconduct as a minor to impugn the character  of an adult and a professional with an unblemished record of good conduct is unfair.

Dispensing with a presumption of innocence under any circumstances is unfair.

Dispensing with due process under any circumstances is unfair, because due process is itself fairness. (The two lawyers kept saying that this was not a trail so due process was not involved. The argument is either disingenuous or ignorant. Due process just means procedural fairness, in any context.)

Punishing one individual male for the fact that other males have escaped accountability for sexual misconduct is unfair-–and illogical.

Giving special considerations to one individual female because other females have been unfairly treated regarding their allegations is unfair—and illogical.

The two female lawyers kept saying that my position is a conservative one. It is not. It is not an ideological position in any way, though their position certainly is. May they regain intellectual integrity soon. And I forgive them for being so utterly insulting during our debate.

2. This is essentially a Big Lie argument from Vox: Ezra Klein, Vox creator, tweeted,

I don’t think people are ready for the crisis that will follow if Democrats win the House popular vote but not the majority. After Kavanaugh, Trump, Garland, Citizens United, Bush v. Gore, etc, the party is on the edge of losing faith in the system (and reasonably so).

An esteemed commenter recently accused me of being unfairly dismissive and insulting when a commenter dissents. That’s occasionally true but not generally true, and one circumstance where I may become dismissive and insulting is when a position is indefensible, like this one. It is either dishonest or so obtuse that no one capable of writing it down should be trusted again. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2018: Everybody’s A Critic!

Good morning!

(That almost came out “good monging”…not a propitious sign)

1.  Diversity ethics:  The concept that somehow there are sinister motives and undesirable results any time an occupation settles into a demographic mix that isn’t four-square with that of the general population is one more bit of ideological cant. In London, U.K, the mayor has decreed it a crisis that the population using bicycles is disproportionately white, and has  said he is considering setting diversity targets for London’s cycling population to ensure that “progress was achieved.” I liked Amy Alkon’s disgusted reaction to this whole issue, as she asked how  gender equality would be achieved in fields where women show little interest in participating for a variety of reasons, including a greater interest in a work-life balance. How is this artificial PC “diversity goal” going to be achieved, she asks…” Force women at gunpoint to become cardiologists, oil rig workers, and garbagepersons? Force men at gunpoint to become veterinarians and kindergarten teachers?”

Reader (and volunteer Ethics Alarms proof-reading czar) Pennagain just sent me an article about the relative lack of female movie critics (minority movie critics are also under-represented among Hispanics, blacks and Asians. (I would also bet that they are disproportionately gay, but the study discussed didn’t check that, apparently.) Now unlike, say, female  “garbagepersons,” female movie critics predictably have a point of view that would make a substantive difference in film reviews, so I cannot brush aside this particular imbalance with “So what?” Instead I will ask, “What’s stopping them?” Anyone can be a movie critic now: all you need is a website, some dedication, and, one hopes, some understanding of film and culture. Now, being paid as a film critic is a little trickier.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, still perhaps the most famous U.S. film critic, whose long-lasting prominence, success and influence (I hated her reviews most of the time–overly political and biased, with whole genres she didn’t understand—“guy movies” like Westerns and horror films, that she sniffed at as beneath her) should have inspired more women to enter the field, but didn’t. I presume there is a reason for that, such as that spending your life watching multiple movies a day including many you wouldn’t be caught dead at if it wasn’t mandatory isn’t an attractive career choice, especially if you want a family.

2. From my sexual harassment files...I just rediscovered this, a sexual harassment case I discussed in program for a construction company in the 90’s. An attractive woman who worked in construction (Diversity!) was walking to work with a co-worker when some boor from an apartment window shouted at her, “Hey, show me your tits!” The women misheard the remark, and shouted back, “Sorry, I don’t have any kids!” Her colleague thought th exchange was hilarious, and told her what the guy really said, He also told everyone on the construction site about the incident, and the woman was pestered from then on with men smirking as they made comments like, “Hey, can I see pictures of your kids?” I hear you have two beautiful kids!” “Why don’t you let your kids out more?”  “Boy, I bet you’re proud of those kids of yours.” The women tried to laugh it off, but the joke never died, even though she started telling everyone to knock it off. Finally, she complained to management, and was told that she was being silly and hyper-sensitive. She sued.

Was using the word “kids”  in a coded joke creating a hostile work environment, or did the court find that since the language itself was inoffensive and not sex-related, it couldn’t be sexual harassment? Continue reading