Tuesday, February 26, 2008

because women aren't people

David Gelernter, a professor of not English and not Linguistics but of Computer Science at Yale, has a brilliant piece in the Weekly Standard about the way that feminists have ruined the English language by campaigning for the use of words like 'chairperson' and pronouns like 's/he'. The whole thing is quite angry and, in my opinion, unnecessarily so. But one of my favorite parts is below:

But English used to be a language of the people, by the people, for the people. "The living language is like a cowpath," wrote White; "it is the creation of the cows themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims or their needs." We have allowed our academic overlords to plow up White's cow-path and replace it with a steel-and-concrete highway, hemmed in by guardrails and heavily patrolled by police.

It's pretty clear that, according to Gerlernter, the only people allowed to shape the path are men. He shows his colors even more emphatically when he discusses the trouble of what to call Ludwig Wittgenstein if not a 'great man', since 'great man history' is no longer acceptably labeled such. He seems to miss the point .... since Wittgenstein was a man, you can call him a man. But when you talk about 'great man history', you should try not to linguistically eliminate the possibility of a female falling into that category.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Salem ... er, Riyadh Witch Trials

A Saudi woman, Fawza Falih, was convicted of witchcraft for allegedly making a man impotent. She was detained in 2005, abused by the mutaween, and forced to add her fingerprint to a confession that was not read aloud to her. She is illiterate and incapable of writing her own confession.

Here is the text of Human Rights Watch's letter to King Abdullah, pleading for his intervention on Ms. Falih's behalf. Ms. Falih is from Quraiyat, which is near the Jordanian border.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

campaigning for your dad (or mom): Chelsea Clinton v Meghan McCain

Rachel Lairimore has an absurd blog entry on Slate on the difference between Meghan McCain and Chelsea Clinton. Lairimore's assertion is that there's something substantively different between 23 year old McCain blogging about how different times of the day on Super Tuesday correspond to different pop songs, and Chelsea Clinton talking about her mother's fiscal policy. Thus, the 'pimped out' commentary.

My first thought was, this is disgusting. Then, I started to think it through. Let's think about Cindy McCain, Meghan's mom. She's beautiful and much younger than her husband, and I mean no disrespect by pointing that out. Based on her Wikipedia entry she seems to have done considerable work in philanthropy, specifically with disabled children, and really helped John McCain launch his political career. Good for her. However, let's be frank: though Cindy McCain did have a career (in 'business' - whatever that entails, as well as running a foundation) she is no Hillary Clinton in the career-woman contest. She's stayed on the traditionally female side of things, sticking to non-controversial issues like charitable giving, and hasn't really played a role in McCain's legislative initiatives.

Hillary, on the other hand, used her husband's political career as an opportunity to advance her own ideas about policy and to cultivate her own political skills. She's not known for how pretty she is, like Cindy McCain - she's known for her ambition and competence. Both her persona and Cindy's have worked for them in some ways and against them in some ways. But we can agree that they represent two very different versions of what a politician's wife can do.

So, knowing what we know about the moms, is it any surprise that Meghan chooses to focus her contribution to her dad's campaign on things other than policy, while Chelsea makes the exact opposite decision? They are both filling the supporting role that their mothers exemplified. (Generally). So, I don't know if this was Lairimore's intention, but she really said that Chelsea is acting inappropriately by acting ... like her mom.

Again, Hillary gets slammed for being competent and assertive, and this time her daughter goes down with her.

UPDATE: Cindy McCain actually ran a Budweiser distribution company of substantial size. I guess that's the 'business'. More on her and other candidates' spouses on the BBC.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Women's Rights and Human Rights

There was a piece on CNN. com today about Iraqi women post-'liberation' that is pretty damning. Things have deteriorated dramatically for women - as they have for men - since there's been a war in Iraq. This sort of discussion always pulls at both sides of my brain - on one side, I think, duh. Peace trumps war in terms of rights no matter what sort of peace you had. The risk of losing your life every time you step outside the house has a serious chilling effect on, well, everything. On the other hand, I think that to talk about it like that - like war is bad for women's rights - brings women's rights a little too much into the anti-Iraq-war rhetoric for my taste. It's hard to argue with the idea that 'women's rights are human rights', but it seems to me that saying that this war has been bad for women's rights in particular leaves open the idea that women's rights were a triumph of the Saddam Hussein regime. The positive comparisons to Saddam's regime really get me, although I can imagine anything looks rosy compared to the present situation.