Why I’ve Changed My Position On Transgender Athletes In Women’s Sports, Or “Ethics Evolve With Wisdom And Experience”

Yesterday I headlined the story about transgender powerlifter Mary Gregory, who just shattered multiple lifting records, Unfair, Obviously Unfair, Scandalously Unfair. Why Are Athletic Organizations Allowing This? Why Are Women Tolerating It?

Possessed of a keener memory than I, reader Luke G. “pounced,” as the news media always says when Republicans object to Democratic words and conduct that absolutely should be objected to. He wrote in part,

What made you change your mind on this issue? Several years ago you were bad-dogging me in the comments for the views you hold now- you claimed back then that there was no reason [male-to-female transgender athlete] Fallon Fox shouldn’t get to fight in Women’s UFC, because she lives as a female and had transition surgery. According to 2013 Jack, “I don’t believe that males have an unfair advantage at all. Many advantages in physical ability can be made up with skill, and that true of most professional sports.”….I’m just wondering what it was that finally pushed you to flip on this one.

I wrote THAT? Yes, I did. Boy, is it ever inconvenient having over 10,000 searchable posts around to prove your inconsistencies. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Potpouri, 3/9/2019: Airlines, Trans Athletes, Mercy For Manafort, And More

Atlanta trip ethics musings…

1. Air Travel Ethics #1: Ethics Alarms has noted the ridiculous trend of air travelers imposing on their fellow passengers by exploiting the overly-permissive airlines polices of permitting emotional support animals on flights, resulting in innocent passengers having to share as aisle with  emotional support  toucans, sloths, goats and lizards. Finally, one airline has declared an end to the madness, or close to it. American Airlines updated its emotional support and service animal policies this week, and new “emotional support” companion  policies go into effect on April 1.
After that date, service animals will be limited to dogs, cats, and …all right, this is still nuts..,miniature horses. Only one emotional support animal per passenger will be allowed, and animals under the age of four months cannot fly.

GOOD!

2. Air Travel Ethics #2. This one is a bit more complicated ethically. Britain’s Virgin Atlantic airlines has eliminated the requirement that female flight attendants wear makeup, joining other major carriers that have loosened their dress and grooming standards  after complaints about turning female employees into sex objects.

Virgin Atlantic announced this week that female cabin crew members can skip the makeup if they choose, and also can wear pants instead of Virgin’s familiar red skirts.

“Not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work,” Virgin Atlantic Executive Vice President Mark Anderson said in a statement.

This has always been a strange area. There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, with any employer in a service industry requiring employees who deal with the public to meet reasonable standards of professionalism in their appearance. Are attractive, well groomed, neatly dressed employees a legitimate service enhancement? I believe so; on the other hand, what level of discrimination against the older, heavier and not so cute is acceptable? None? Some? The fact that women in the workplace wear make-up and men do not is automatically a cultural anomaly, but nonetheless, if all of the female attendants are wearing make-up and one isn’t, and looks like she just rolled out of bed, threw on some slacks and said, “The hell with it,” I’m not sure I trust that flight attendant.

The sex appeal aspect of flight attendants has always been one way, however, as if the only business flyers were still male, and National Air Lines was still using “I’m Cheryl! Fly me!” as a slogan. There is obviously no effort whatsoever to make male attendants attractive to female flyers: I estimate that more than half of all young male attendants are openly gay. Continue reading

So Caitlyn Jenner BOUGHT Her ESPN Arthur Ashe Courage Award From Disney: What Does It Mean, And Why Is Anyone Surprised?

Arthur Ashe was too good for you, Cait...

Arthur Ashe was too good for you, Cait…

I should have already given ESPN an Ethics Dunce for designating an “Espy,” an award given by the cable sports channel to justify having an awards show—to Caitlyn Jenner for the courageous sports achievement of being an aging reality show star who once won an Olympics event and decided that he was now a she.  Why I didn’t, I don’t recall. I think my reasoning was that since the awards are just a PR gimmick anyway, it wasn’t worth the post.  I wasn’t paying attention: I did not sufficiently focus on the fact that “Espy”she would receive was named after Arthur Ashe. I did already discuss  the ethical problems with turning Jenner into a trans icon, since her transition seemed to be in part a money-driven career move. Now, following Jenner’s tearful and touching acceptance of “the Arthur Ashe Courage Award” on TV, we learn this:

“Reports have emerged that Jenner’s team approached ESPN with the idea that she win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award just as details were being finalized for her 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC. ABC and ESPN are both owned by Disney, and ABC aired Wednesday’s awards ceremony. “It was a brilliant move because the executives at ESPN loved the idea, and immediately began making sure it got done,” a source familiar with the negotiations told RadarOnline.The talks hit a stumbling block, and Jenner’s agents were reportedly prepared to pull out of the interview with Sawyer. “It was ironed out, and ABC owns one of the biggest stories of the year.” The build up to Jenner accepting the award will be featured in her upcoming reality show, “I am Cait”, generating a great deal of publicity for both ESPN and the awards.”

Wow! Who could have seen that coming—a reality show star, who has been part of the shameless and venal Kardashian family, cynically manipulating the media and gaining phony recognition on a nationally broadcast awards show…and, in the bargain, debasing the name of a real sports hero, the dignified, sportsmanlike, role model Arthur Ashe, an African American champion in the white man’s game of tennis who helped make Serena Williams’ prominence possible!

Yecchh. In fact, that’s a double yecchh at least.

Yecchh. Yecchh.

What does this mean? To begin with, it means that Jenner bought her award. I don’t want to read any Clintonian deceit about how this isn’t technically true….she bought it. There is no reason to believe ESPN would have given the award to Jenner had her agents not suggested it, and ESPN’s parent received value that translated directly into profits with the exclusive, high-rated ABC interview with Sawyer. Jenner might as well have slipped ABC a couple of million in a big valise  under the table. This was a bribe. This was an award bought and paid for.

What does that mean?
Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale”

"Yikes! Doc says I have to go back to the Seventies and make sure Caitlyn Jenner wins the Ladies Decathlon!"

“Yikes! Doc says I have to go back to 1976 and make sure Jenner wins the Ladies Decathlon!”

It is testimony to the passion, breadth and erudition of the readership here that when I miss an ethics angle to a story, it almost always is raised, and well, by someone else. Here is a wonderful example, johnburger’s ethical objection to the instant, inaccurate and unethical recasting of Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner as female, because Jenner has adopted another gender identity more than 30 years later. I’ll have a brief note in the end,

Here is johnburger’s Comment of the Day on the post, Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale: Continue reading

Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale

Cognitive DissonanceThis whole episode is pure cognitive dissonance hell for me, with high scale values clashing with low scale conduct, and the result being as hard to analyze neatly and dispassionately as the aftermath of an elevator crash. But I’m a fool, so I’ll take a shot at it anyway.

1. Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner’s openness about his transsexual issues is brave and may yet help this misunderstood and routinely derided group achieve acceptance. PLUS.

2. She should have played ethics chess, however, and as a public figure who, she now says, always planned this transition, was irresponsible not to. Associating herself with the traveling freak, venality, bad taste and atrocious values caravan known as the Kardashians guaranteed that anything she did thereafter would be a legitimate object of suspicion. MINUS.

3. Turning her transition from Bruce to Caitlyn into a reality show was similarly counter-productive and harmful to her cause, assuming the cause really matters to her. I doubt that it does.  Reality shows equal schlock, emotionalism, manipulation, phoniness—and money. That won’t help the trans population. MINUS.

4. As the first bona fide celebrity to undergo gender reassignment (no, I don’t call Chastity Bono a real celebrity), Jenner could have handled this in a modest, measured manner that made trans people look reasonable, dignified, and rational. Unfortunately, Bruce Jenner was always a fame-addicted narcissist,  so her handling of the process is what you’d expect from one. Too bad. MINUS.

5. Thus we have the over-praised, over exposed, over-hyped, Vanity Fair cover, which is pure sensationalism, an exploitation of a serious issue for magazine sales, and a fraud. (Literally anyone can be dressed, shaved, and made up to look feminine.) Is Jenner interested in legitimizing and de-stigmatizing gender reassignment, or getting hubba-hubbas for a titillating man-to-bimbo transformation? Is Playboy next for Caitlyn? Don’t bet against it. MINUS for Vanity Fair; MINUS for Jenner

6. Is this really the way an ethical father kindly, sensitively and responsibly handles this kind of tectonic life change when he has six children and four step-children, including teenaged daughters? Admittedly, the daughters are crypto-Kardashians, so normal rules of delicacy might not apply. Still… MINUS for Jenner.

7. Republicans, conservatives and Neanderthals who are incapable of comprehending this serious topic should shut up about it.  There is grounds to criticize many aspects of this episode in American culture, but just making snarky comments like Neil Cavuto did on Fox is unproductive, unkind, divisive, and, frankly—I’ve been on Neil’s show, and I hate to say it—makes one look like an ass. If you don’t understand what’s going on, Neil, there’s no law that says you have to cover it. MINUS for Cavuto.

8. I had to shut off TV to get way from the breathless coverage of Jenner’s “coming out” photo. This isn’t respectful or responsible coverage, this is “Look! Bruce Jenner is HOT!!! She has BOOBS!” coverage, juvenile, degrading, and transparently salacious. It shouts “freak,” and that is exactly what Jenner should not want, nor should any LGBT advocate. Of course, the conduct of Vanity Fair and Jenner asked for it. MINUS for the news media.

9. To the extent that Jenner’s act promotes more public discussion and understanding of the issues facing trans individuals, this all may have a beneficial effect that may outweigh the negatives. Right now, there is too much static to tell. PLUS.

I hope.

Ethics Quiz (Inadvertent Offense Division): The Transsexual Vote

dancing-with-the-stars-paddlesIn a one of my ethics seminars last week before a large audience, my usual practice of polling participants using hand-held numbered ballots, was unwieldy. The client group did not color code them, and there were over 400 present, as opposed to the Dancing With The Stars panel, which is three. I got around the problem by segmenting the crowd and picking different groups to represent the whole. Sometimes just men voted; sometimes women, sometimes one of the four sections of the hall. In other cases, I asked groups that were involved in the case being discussed: family law attorneys. Government attorneys. Mothers.

One of the cases involved a transsexual individual, and I suggested that the transsexuals in the audience vote. Nobody volunteered. The group laughed.

Today I received a very nice note from one of participants, praising my session but criticizing my judgment in that incident:

“You asked the transsexuals to vote, and said you were sure there were some attending [I don’t recall doing this, and I suspect she is thinking of my comment about another potential group] , which produced laughter. Were I a transsexual, I would have felt ostracized and deeply offended. These are people with congenital/hormonal conditions that clash with our social constructs of gender identity. But most importantly, they are people. You are, of course, statistically right to guess that in a group of lawyers of that size, probably there were not many, probably not any, That does not make it OK to perpetuate their ostracism. This is not about political correctness, it is about acknowledging shared humanity.”

Your Ethics Alarm Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is this a fair complaint?

Continue reading