Because of Fiorina “Progressivism No Longer Owns Feminism”


Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina made one thing crystal clear at the CNN debate. . . : progressivism no longer owns feminism. And it’s about time.

Thus writes Lisa Torcasso Downing in a post at Life Outside the Book of Mormon Belt. She goes on to decry the fact that conservative women have felt–because of the association between feminism and liberal/progressive politics–the need to abandon the movement (or at least the term), although she doesn’t necessarily blame them for doing so:

In general terms, feminism claims its goal is to broaden opportunity for women, but when most Americans hear the word “feminist,” they attach to the word tangential philosophies conservative women reject on intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels, including socialism as an acceptable political framework for the U.S. and social justice as a means to equality.

Torcasso put’s her finger on exactly my reluctance–and the reluctance of a lot of men and women I know–to go near the term “feminist” with a 10-foot pole. Instead, however, feminism should be simply “The freedom to choose a life, a path, a journey, and an adventure according to the dictates of our own mind, will, conscience, and being.” Obviously Torcasso doesn’t expect for liberal feminists to get behind Fiorina, but she does conclude by saying that:

if you can’t look at Carly Fiorina on that stage, positioned beside ten prominent Republican men, and feel a little thrill that this woman is a viable candidate for the presidency of the United States, then your feminism is dead, strangled by the cords with which you have tied yourself to progressivism.

I want to add one more thing. A pro-life friend of mine recently shared this image on Facebook:

801 - Embodied Equality Quote

I think it’s important to point out that conservative feminism is not actually just feminism with the progressive / liberal bits taken back out. Conservative feminism is, therefore, not just the idea of freedom for women. That notion–the kind of apolitical source of feminism–is just that, apolitical. What makes a conservative feminism is precisely that it is political, that it incorporates the idea of feminine dignity and feminine power into an ideology that goes beyond merely being pro-woman.

Liberal feminism is not just pro-woman. It has a whole set of attitudes and philosophical assumptions to go along with it and–even if you disagree with practically all of them (as I do)–they enrich the conversation. So that’s the additional loss that we all suffer due to feminism being more or less wholly subverted by left-wing ideology: there’s a whole continuum of feminist thought that is being silenced. There are attitudes and there are policies and there are insights that are only possible when one combines conservatism with feminism. Views like the one expressed in the quote above, which comes from the paper “Embodied Equality: Debunking Equal Protection Arguments for Abortion Rights” by Erika Bachiochi.

Papers like this one pose a vital question for liberal feminism: which is more important? Liberalism? Or feminism? All too often, the answer has been the former rather than the latter.

Sustainable Development Goals

The UN recently had a meeting to unveil the Sustainable Development Goals. As The Economist reported,

Most of the SDGs’ predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), have been met, largely because of progress in China and India. But there were just eight of them, focused on cutting extreme poverty and improving health care and education, all clearly defined. By contrast there are 17 SDGs and a whopping 169 “associated targets”, covering world peace, the environment, gender equality and much, much more. Many are impossible to measure. They are “higgledy-piggledy”, agrees Lord (Mark) Malloch-Brown, who helped write their predecessors. A tighter focus and more precise definitions might have been wise. Even so, the SDGs are part of an important shift in thinking about development that is making it both more ambitious and more realistic.

What makes these new goals exciting is that they are attempting to sway “governments, private enterprise and civil society” into working “together to create open societies and open economies, end conflict and corruption, and enshrine the rule of law, free speech and property rights.” Furthermore, “the main reason there are so many is that they were set by consensus rather than written by a few specialists, mostly from rich countries. This lessens the feeling that rich men from “the north” are telling “the south” how to do better.” I’m inspired by this because “poor-country governments and rich-world aid lobbies have become less hostile in recent years to the idea that free markets and big business can help cut poverty. Multinationals were wary when the MDGs were unveiled, says Lord Malloch-Brown; now many are on board. And some rich-as-Croesus philanthropists, together with a bevy of market-friendly think-tanks, have started to monitor and measure the results of aid spending, and to search for ways to make it more effective.” In other words, governments and other institutions are worried about actually helping the poor rather than just feeling better about themselves by giving aid. The Economist concluded its report:

As the SDGs proliferate, donors are putting greater emphasis on measuring results and collecting data. They need data to be more disaggregated and to know where the poor are concentrated, as well as their ages, how they live and what sort of work they do. Advances in technology make this easier. Satellites can more precisely determine where forests are thinning, for example, or where crops are thriving or wilting. Among the SDG targets is one that calls for all births to be registered so that all children have legal identities, and their progress can be tracked…The MDGs were meant to create a social safety net; the SDGs to be fit for an age in which the standard of living in a big chunk of the developing world is creeping towards the levels of rich countries. The SDGs’ boosters, though admitting they will be harder to measure than the MDGs, let alone meet, hail them for going “beyond aid”.

Mass Shootings and Heroes

There was another school shooting yesterday, this time at a community college in Oregon. There are all kinds of rumors and arguments flying around Facebook. For the most part, that just makes me want to turn off my computer for the day. But there is one thing I want to share first.

Almost exactly one year ago, Mother Jones published an article summarizing research concluding that “Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011.” I’ve read the research claiming that the rate has actually not increased and, after reading the article in Mother Jones, I am convinced that this new research is correct. The rate of mass shootings (“attacks that took place in public, in which the shooter and the victims generally were unrelated and unknown to each other, and in which the shooter murdered four or more people”) has increased dramatically.

798 - Rate of Mass Shootings
This chart shows that the time between mass shootings has gone from about 200 days to about 60.

The data strongly indicates that “the underlying process has changed.” Meaning: something is different now than prior to 2011 that is leading to this increased rate of mass shootings.

Gun laws are not a plausible explanation because they have not changed significantly (at the federal or at the state level) during this time frame. That statement is not an argument either for or against changes to existing gun laws. Just because gun laws didn’t cause the rate of attacks to increase does not mean that newer, tighter gun laws couldn’t in theory prevent some of these attacks. This post is not about gun control one way or the other. It is about something else.

I have argued strongly that the way we cover these attacks is a major factor in encouraging future attacks. The media leads with front-page photos of the killers, burns their names into the national consciousness, and implicitly ranks the tallies of their victims like a perverse score board and we the American people eat it up. We tune in, we click links, we debate, and again and again and again we repeat the killers’ names.

There is no hard data linking media coverage to the rate of killings, and due to the nature of these events there probably never will be. But the circumstantial evidence is quite strong. These killers often (not always, but often) talk about their desire for fame, for attention, for a sense of affirmation that their lives matter, and they know how to get that recognition because the media has promised to put their names and likenesses up in neon lights if they are willing to kill enough people to earn it.

This time is no exception. As the Daily Beast notes, the most recent killer paid close attention to media coverage of the last sensationalized murder (when a disgruntled former news anchor killed two of his old colleagues on live television) and wrote just over a month ago:

On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. . . A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.

Read that. Look at the Mother Jones chart again. Is the sudden increase in the rate of killings really that surprising? This is a textbook example of a positive feedback loop: each successive mass shooting elevates the topic in our national consciousness, leading to more and more coverage, and that coverage in turn motivates more and more killers to take their shot at “the limelight.” The question is: how long are we going to allow this to continue? Have we gotten our fill yet?

There are signs that we have. The Daily Beast article is a wonderful example whose time has come. This is the headline: Forget Oregon’s Gunman. Remember the Hero Who Charged Straight at Him. The article does not mention the full name of the killer. It does not include a photo of him. It does not make him into a star. Instead, it focuses on Chris Mintz, an army veteran who was shot five times during the attack while charging the killer head on in an attempt to stop the attack. It was Mintz’s son’s birthday, and that is what he kept repeating to himself again and again as another student (training to be a nurse) held his hand and prayed with him while they waited for the ambulances to arrive. Mintz is still alive, recovering in the hospital after surgery, although a friend says Mintz may have to learn to walk again.

This is the kind of coverage we need. Michaely Daly and Kate Briquelet, who wrote the article, should be commended. The subtitle of the article is simply “reward courage,” and that’s what he did. While journalists all over the country are going to start the inevitable scramble to unearth every last rumor and irrelevant detail about the killer’s life and fill articles with inane quotes from neighbors and fellow students, Daly instead interviewed the friends and family of a heroic father who risked his life in an attempt to stop a murderer. The Daily Beast should be commended for running this article. Instead of plastering the Internet with photos of an attention-seeking murderer (which is to say: rewarding a murderer), they ran photos of Mintz like this one as their cover image:

797 - Reward Courage

I’m not trying to short-circuit the debate on gun control that will follow. Gun control is an important issue and worth our time to discuss. I’m also not trying to advocate for censorship or burying the truth.

I’m just saying maybe we don’t need so much coverage so quickly so focused on the bad guy. Maybe we write about the good guys, like Daly did. Maybe we just have a little less coverage and spaced out a little more. Right now, 1/2 of what you read about this event is going to turn out to be false anyway. Why are we so desperate to study rumors? Do we really need to watch more completely uninformative aerial footage of hospitals and cars with blinking lights while reporters desperately peddle rumors, guesses, and ignorant analysis? Within a couple of weeks we will likely have a much clearer account of what happened and–to the extent that it is possible–why. If you can’t wait that long to learn the facts, then you may want to examine your own motives. Is it concern for the victims and for possible future victims? Or is it just tragedy voyeurism (using the horrific details of tragedy just to titillate) or outrage porn (turning tragedy into fuel for your pre-existing political self-righteousness)?

Stop rewarding murderers. Start rewarding courage.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: What the Internet Could Be

802 - Quartz SEP Article

Quartz has a very interesting article describing the genesis and ongoing success of one of the Internet’s most respected repository of comprehensive, up-to-date, and authoritative information (as long as you’re interested in the topic of philosophy): the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I’ve relied on the SEP in the past, and always found it well-written and informative (albeit not as comprehensive as Quartz would have you believe), but I didn’t realize just how rigorously it is maintained.

Best part of the article though? The argument that the SEP doesn’t have to remain a lone unicorn, a solitary bastion of credible, useful information on the Internet. Nope: other disciplines could–and should–seek to emulate it’s success.

Useful, reliable information on the Internet.

Imagine that.

Wisdom and the Wiesn

O'zapft is!
O’zapft is!

Beer, lederhosen, dirndls, beer, and giant pretzels and beer. Oktoberfest is here again!

I’ve been living in Munich teaching English for nearly eight years and every year I know to expect the question from my students: So are you going to the Wiesn this year?

Oktoberfest is held each year at the fairgrounds of Theresienwiese (Theresa's Field), nicknamed by the locals as the "Wiesn"
Oktoberfest is held each year at the fairgrounds of Theresienwiese (Theresa’s Meadow), nicknamed by the locals as the “Wiesn”

I usually tell them that I might go to take some photos (the ones in this post!) but since I don’t drink, it’s not as much fun for me as for others.

You don’t drink!?

This then invites the question about why I don’t drink and pretty soon I’ve outed myself as a Mormon. Which is great! I get to answer questions about my faith, dispel myths, educate, and maybe do a little missionary work. But answering Mormon questions isn’t always easy and some concepts in Mormonism are more nuanced than others, and the principle that keeps me from drinking beer at Oktoberfest is one of them.

Non-Mormons enjoying Oktoberfest.
Non-Mormons enjoying Oktoberfest.

On its face, the Word of Wisdom would seem like a fairly straightforward practice: we abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful drugs and should in turn eat and drink foods which are healthy and nourishing. But if you look at the original revelation that later became commandment then it’s not quite so clear. For example, here is the bit that forbids coffee and tea (Doctrine & Covenants 89:9):

And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

Friend: What, no hot drinks at all? Not even hot chocolate?

Me: Well, that has been clarified as meaning specifically coffee and tea. Hot chocolate and even herbal teas are just fine.

Friend: Ok, so it’s the drinks with caffeine that are taboo. I see.

Me: Well, no… Coke and Pepsi are not prohibited.

Friend: So it has to be hot then? So like an ice tea or iced coffee would be ok?

Me: No, it really has nothing to do with the temperature of the drink nor the levels of caffeine. It’s just coffee and black (and green?) tea are no nos.

Friend: But a can of Coke is much worse for you than a cup of earl grey (hot).

Me: Maybe, but one is specifically forbidden by the Lord and the other isn’t.

Friend: Hmm…

I can understand if my friend is rather bewildered by this law of health. He might even be confused as to why it’s called “The Word of Wisdom” rather than a title more specific to health like “Nourish and Strengthen Your Bodies!”

Indeed we usually present the Word of Wisdom as a law of health and rightly so since it talks about these foods in context of being good or bad for the “body or the belly” and couples obedience with promises of receiving “health in their navel, marrow in their bones,” and “they shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.”

Oktoberfest 2015-5
Useful blessings for an Oktoberfest server.

Healthiness is clearly the core of the commandment. These specific proscriptions against tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea are natural starting points from which we can use our own intelligence and agency to decide what is good or bad for our bodies and more fully live the law.

Friend: Wait, sorry, I’m still not satisfied. I mean, no tobacco and alcohol I can understand, even coffee to some extent. But tea? There are many health benefits of tea even black tea. And you won’t even take one sip even though you’ll happily down a mug of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Me: No, not diet. That’s gross.

But my friend has a point. Why does tea make the list? Tannins? Here’s where I believe the Word of Wisdom is not simply about health. It is about obedience, of course, but it is also about setting ourselves apart from the world.

The World

Wine, beer, coffee, tea – is  there a major culture on earth where one of these four drinks does not play a major role? Whether its beer in northern Europe, wine in France and southern Europe, tea throughout the Middle East and Asia, and coffee the world over, these drinks are essential elements in the social rituals and daily habits of pretty much everyone everywhere.

We bond over beers, celebrate with champagne, party with cocktails, meet up for coffee. In Asia it’s all about the tea. Have you tried traveling the Arab world, India, or East Asia without drinking tea? I mean, you can do it but if you’re dealing with locals then it’s a lot of awkward declining hoping that you don’t offend your hosts. Imagine living there as a tea-totaler!

Bonding over beers
Bonding over beers

The point is, these beverages and their communal consumption are important in making an individual part of the in-group in a society. Imbibing is integration. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it can be rather beautiful if you think about it, but it’s also not entirely essential. This is where the wisdom comes in.

I believe that by strictly avoiding these drinks, Mormons establish themselves as being peculiar in a way that is distinct and sometimes difficult on a personal level when faced with the peer pressure, but it also doesn’t completely alienate them from society either.

Einmal ist keinmal!
Those girls will probably still be friends with me even if I don’t drink, right?

That societal pressure to become fully integrated in the in-group is for some Mormons a very difficult trial of their faith. Yet if they are faithful to this commandment, the consequences are rarely more severe than a loss of status or the failure to fully share in a group experience. In other words, it’s a commandment that directly affects our pride. It’s brilliant.

You know you want to be a part of this in-group.
You know you want to be a part of this in-group.

Since the Beginning, God has given commandments that have set His people apart from the world without physically isolating them from it. The ancient Israelites constantly chaffed at the peculiarities of the Mosaic law with its jealous monotheism, its odd prohibitions, and its rituals. The early Christians were one of the few religions to be systematically persecuted by the generally tolerant Romans for their stubborn refusal to conform to certain political and religious norms. It seems the Lord has always carefully designed his commandments to keep his people separate and strange while still expecting them to remain otherwise integrated in whatever society they are in. He seems to want us to have a constant reminder that in whatever society we find ourselves, our first loyalties go to His society, even the family of Heavenly Father, Mother, Brother, and siblings that we have chosen through covenants. It can pull us upwards to a higher perspective that reveals us as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” The laws of peculiarity are divinely-anchored lifelines against moral danger—not just that of getting drunk or getting hooked on a substance, but the danger of forgetting where our better natures have once chosen to belong.

A vivid example of this is when the Israelites were living amongst the Egyptians as their slaves. They too suffered from the plagues brought on by the stubbornness of Pharaoh, but before the final plague they were given a commandment to do something that would distinguish themselves not only from the Egyptians but even the less faithful Israelites. They were told to mark their doorposts with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb. Very peculiar. Weird even. But those households which made themselves separate from their neighbors through obedience to this commandment were saved from terrible loss.

With this in mind, the final blessing for those who keep the Word of Wisdom is especially apt (D&C 89:21):

And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.

Not exactly a passover sacrifice.
Not a passover sacrifice.

Of course, the wisdom doesn’t stop there. A bonus feature of the Word of Wisdom is that its peculiarity gets people to ask questions to its adherents. Those questions lead to opportunities for Mormons to discuss their faith and invite others to come and see why they think it’s so great. In my experience, the question that has most often revealed my Mormon faith and led to further discussion is, “why don’t you drink?” I am sure I am not alone in this.

I'm all over the pretzels, though.
I am all over those pretzels, though.

And so I am happy to forego the revelry of Oktoberfest and in exchange distinguish myself as Mormon, part of a peculiar people, but not without good reason for the hope and whatever wisdom might be in me.

The LDS church building is just one street away from the Wiesn.
Fun Fact: The LDS church building is just one street away from the Wiesn.


Check out more of my photos of Oktoberfest, Munich, and a bunch of other places here.