Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Importance Of Holding The Right Opinion About Louis C.K.

The general proscription against reading the comments on Internet fora are well-founded, but often enough wrong, as when I was passing through Manohla Dargis' reconsideration of the now-disgraced Louis C.K.'s I Love You, Daddy. As one commenter pointed out, it looks very like she's elected to blunt the praise in her glowing, earlier review, where she wrote, "At heart, the film is a multipronged debate that circles, again and again, around the question of whether it is possible, permissible and morally justifiable to love the art and loathe the artist. Yes, no, maybe so." But clearly, once Mr. C.K.'s apology came to light (one which many simply weren't having), it became necessary to reconsider that calculus.

Mostly, that reckoning spins on the axis of what she calls his "provocations": the character Leslie "even defines radical feminism for China, a scene that mirrors another in which Glen delivers a more generalized feminist lesson." Later, she laments
... how the movies see women. How they use and use up young women, at least until they turn 18 or 20 or so when some moviemaker or some suit deems her no longer desirable and turns her putative lack of desirability on her, as if she were responsible for this lack of interest in her.
These, particularly, appear as so much virtue signaling. Anyone with eyes can observe that half the moviegoing audience is male, which has concomitant effects on female casting. Men having opinions about the contours of sexual equality — that, also, is not allowed. If Leslie's speech was sexist in some way, she never makes the case for it or even bothers to quote it. The charge itself is now adequate to sustain it, apparently. What is important is having the Right Opinions, and being seen doing so.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Bullets


  • From the increasingly indispensable QuilletteMarta Iglesias on "Why Feminists Must Understand Evolution". Excerpt:
    The fact that men and women are different ... does not preclude feminists from striving for completely equal rights between the sexes. However, it is important to understand how things really are if we are to try to modify them ...
    But some feminists would prefer to doubt the applicability of evolutionary biology to the human species. They believe that equality of behaviour in the sexes would exist in nature, but culture generates our inter-sexual differences (for examples see Chapter 1 in A Mind of Her Own).19 20 Apparently, contradicting this line of thought means that one is adopting a ‘biological determinist’ position....
  • Also from Quillette: Lexa Frankl on "Why I'm Uneasy With The #metoo Movement". Frankl opens with a discussion of a one-night-stand gone bad; the sex wax consensual, but after a night of heavy drinking, and ended with her contracting herpes simplex type 2.
    Then she asked if the intercourse had been consensual. Had I verbally consented to sex, I wondered? The answer was a resounding no. Perhaps I had been too drunk to give meaningful consent, and what had seemed consensual at the time was in fact something more sinister – predatory opportunism or even assault. For a moment, I found myself tempted by an escape into victimhood. Certainly, the emotional burden would be easier to bear if the fault could be projected elsewhere.

    But, try as I might, I could not persuade myself that this was a good faith account of what had actually happened. Self-examination forced me to acknowledge that both my partner and I shared responsibility for the events of that night, and that martyrdom would be a cowardly and dishonest excuse for my own poor judgment.
    She goes from there to the kinds of trite and pointless advice handed out by so many sexual assault victim agencies:
    Feminist and activist sites set up to counsel and advise victims of sexual assault seemed perversely determined to convince me that I had in fact been assaulted, and sternly warned against any assumption of personal responsibility which they invariably describe as “victim-blaming.” Instead, they offered trite slogans such as “Drinking is not a crime – rape is” and “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly” and “Teach men to respect women.”
    It's significant that there are no countries free of rape anywhere on the globe. If the right culture were all it took to end the crime, it has long ago failed, and in all places. Moving on, she notes the problems with feminist objections to self-responsibility:
    I might refuse to wear a seatbelt on the basis that I am particularly fastidious about road safety. But if another less cautious driver were to drive his vehicle into mine, most reasonable people would accept that I bear responsibility for any injuries I would not have sustained had I taken the sensible precaution of wearing a safety belt.

    ...

    In neither circumstance does “Don’t tell me to wear a safety belt, tell others to drive carefully” or “Don’t tell children not to talk to strangers, tell strangers not to abduct children” sound remotely like sensible or wise advice. We recognise that, as adults and moral agents, we have a duty to look after own well-being and the well-being of dependents who cannot look out for themselves.
    This ultimately is the problem with all demands to "teach men not to rape": it is a demand for a utopia. It is not terribly satisfying to those who actually have suffered such attacks, but that will not change the likelihood of its existing. Male sexual impulses are the residue of millennia of evolution; they will not (lightly) yield to exhortation.

    She has other salient points:
    • "[R]evealing attire will attract the attention of the opposite sex, and that it is designed and (usually) worn for precisely this purpose."
    • "To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’"
    • "[I]t is precisely because the behaviour of others lies beyond my control that I must remain responsible for taking precautions in the interest of self-protection."
  • Campus rape tribunals hand down so many guilty verdicts because they are trained to do so.
  • Conor Friedersdorf thinks more Christian dialogue about sex needs to start with the Golden Rule.
  • Interesting chapter about academic sociology political bias. About a third of those involved in a survey (n=335) reject the idea that evolution has left any fingerprints on the human brain and behavior. (Von Hippel, W., and Buss, D.M., 2017, "Do Ideologically Driven Scientific Agendas Impede The Understanding And Acceptance Of Evolutionary Principles In Social Psychology?", The Politics Of Social Psychology, New York: Psychology Press.)
  • Pretty good essay from a female Silicon Valley startup founder about sex in that place. Excerpt:
    I knew being hot got me in the door and that after that I had to make that work for me. Culturally, we are taught as women that our main power is our looks and sexuality. Then it's a matter of what you do with it. Personally, I used the s--- out of it, and I was more successful than my male colleagues because of it.

    However, I had a hard line of not crossing a physical line with men I was actively doing deals with, and I kept that boundary well. And then, as I got more established, men didn't meet with me for my voice or for what I might be wearing. They met with me because they knew my name and because I knew things that they wanted to know.

    The meetings became more professional, and I didn't have to play the woman card anymore.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Strange Belief Of Male Mind-Reading

Apparently it's too much to expect women to actually ask their partners for help.
This aversion to communicating basic needs is really astonishing, yet I keep seeing it. A few years ago, I encountered an essay about harassment in the context of a daughter's programming class, the gist of which comes down to this graf:
I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you [the instructor]. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates. I hate to think what less-confident girls would have done in the same situation.
Yet of course, the one thing that arguably needs to be done is to bring it to the attention of the teacher.  In the original essay, that, apparently, had no place in the discussion; he was supposed to just figure it out on his own somehow, even if the abuse had happened outside of his knowledge. This is crazy*.


*It wasn't clear that this already happened when I first read the piece, before the second update appeared. In fact the daughter went to the teacher, who in turn went to the principal, who ... called the girl to his office and told her he wasn't going to do anything. Now, you can argue that's the wrong thing to do, that the teacher should have intervened — but it also points out a flaw in her response as well, to the extent that you won't always have someone around to stick up for you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Harvey Weinstein's Colonoscopy, Or, The Hannah Arendt Award Goes To...

Bar none, you will not read a more compelling, honest, or damning story about what it was like inside the beast than Scott Rosenberg's Facebook essay, reposted at Deadline: Hollywood:
Simply put: OG Miramax was a blast.
So, yeah, I was there.
And let me tell you one thing.
Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing:

Everybody-fucking-knew.

Not that he was raping.
No, that we never heard.
But we were aware of a certain pattern of overly-aggressive behavior that was rather dreadful.
We knew about the man’s hunger; his fervor; his appetite.
There was nothing secret about this voracious rapacity; like a gluttonous ogre out of the Brothers Grimm.
All couched in vague promises of potential movie roles.
(and, it should be noted: there were many who actually succumbed to his bulky charms. Willingly. Which surely must have only impelled him to cast his fetid net even wider).
He does not excuse himself:
So, yeah, I am sorry.
Sorry and ashamed.
Because, in the end, I was complicit.
Which is much less than Dan Rather's accusation that Rosenberg somehow snuck away from acknowledging his role in this.


Other linkies on this subject:
  • The original New York Times story, and the New Yorker followup. 
  • Cathy Young is rightly concerned about lynch mobs going after all men as a consequence of this imbroglio:
    Ironically, as one Twitter user pointed out, actress Rose McGowan, who says she was raped by Weinstein and has denounced his enablers, spoke warmly a few years ago of film director Victor Salva, a child molester convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy actor in 1988. When asked if working with Salva was awkward given his record, McGowan shrugged it off as “not really my business.”Read more: http://forward.com/opinion/national/385236/its-a-good-thing-that-harvey-weinstein-has-been-stopped-but-lets-not-start/
    The Weinstein story is a depressing reminder of how difficult it can be for victims, female or male — especially victims of high-status predators — to seek recourse. But the post-Weinstein backlash has revived the demand to “believe the women” and take virtually any accusation of sexual assault as fact, at least against a man; and there are risks in that, too, particularly in the digital age, when an accusation can cost nothing more than a few keystrokes.

    Weinstein’s infuriating impunity will now be used to deride or dismiss concerns that men who don’t have his wealth, power or privilege — unless one regards all men as “privileged” — can get a raw deal when accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault. But the simple truth is that impunity for some can easily coexist with zealous, or overzealous, enforcement for others. In recent years, a number of men have suffered devastating consequences for conduct, proven or alleged, that doesn’t even come close to Weinstein’s reported offenses.

  • Update 2017-10-19: Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic opines that the populist right is tearing down an institutional left press that has no analog elsewhere. Excerpt:
    If Matthew Boyle had gotten his way last year, Harvey Weinstein would still be a powerful Hollywood producer able to summon aspiring teen actresses to his hotel suites.

    If he ever gets his way, the beneficiaries will be corrupt, powerful actors in Hollywood, Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, and elsewhere—corrupt actors on the left and on the right—because like a petulant child throwing a tantrum with lit matches in a dry forrest, Boyle and his ilk will have destroyed that which they lack the talent to recreate.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Bullets

Monday, September 25, 2017

Old Pink In New Bottles: Caroline McCarthy's Failed Bromides

Caroline McCarthy's Medium piece rings every klaxon almost immediately. Her complaint that Damore doesn't use collaborative work as an attraction to women is possibly reasonable, but the underlying justifying link to the National Coalition of Girls' Schools is so full of cant and repeatedly failed approaches, it's impossible to take seriously. "Seeing women’s historic contributions inspires today’s girls", we are told, yet does no one remember the beatification of Ada Lovelace? Of Grace Hopper? And yet, since the mid-1980s, the overall fraction of women in CS has been in decline. She accuses Damore of using research that "was perhaps informed by the agenda-driven pseudoscience that permeates the deepest dregs of Reddit and 4chan "; if you can't attack the man's footnotes, why not manufacture a fantasy list of enemies he's in bed with? (She does correctly mention his bizarre tweets about the KKK, but they weren't on the scene here.)

She states, without any justification, "There’s no question that we need more female computer scientists." As ever, my reaction to this is, why? Why should we have to tailor entire curricula to the needs of people who have no apparent interest in the subject? She cites Stuart Country Day high school as an all-girls' program that has tailored their approach to women in computer science, but what is their track record there? That is, have they had any actual success getting girls who otherwise are not interested in computer programming into the field? Or did they end up like the author, who found it "so un-engaging and isolating and boring that I dropped it before it could bring down my GPA"?

Eventually, she confesses that "there was merit to quite a few of the points James Damore raised, and discrediting the research he cites (rather than simply disagreeing with his conclusions) will hurt rather than help women’s advancement in computer science." Coming late as it does, this seems like so much belated and minimal acknowledgment of the obvious; it recalls Cordelia Fine's sleazy tactics in Testosterone Rex. The lure and futility of pink lacquer continues.

Update 2017-09-26: I didn't spend a lot of time digging through her links, but I want to focus on her cite of the National Council of Girls' Schools in reference to this passage:
The world is desperately seeking to plug the leaky STEM pipeline from its shortage of women, and girls’ schools are playing a critical role. Girls’ schools lead the way in graduating women who become our nation’s scientists, doctors, engineers, designers, and inventors. Girls’ school graduates are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering careers compared to girls who attend coed schools. Why? Because girls’ schools support collaboration and all-girl classrooms foster female confidence and aspirations.
The underlying link about considering engineering careers (see p. 38) says that "Engineering also produces the largest single-sex/coeducational differential when it comes to career choice, where 4.4 percent of women from single-sex independent schools aspire to become engineers, relative to 1.4 percent from coeducational schools." In other words, whatever boost such education may yield, it comes nowhere close to reversing the 20% female matriculation rate in CS and engineering disciplines, or the ten times figure needed to surmount female frustrations in the university and subsequent job search process (assuming we take interviewing.io results as representative, which they may not be). And as McCarthy observes, this solution does not scale, for the simple reason that Freddie deBoer raised: terrific outcomes in education almost invariably stem from selection bias. In this case, the kinds of girls who can afford to go to all-girls schools have families with means to afford tuition.

But ultimately, it seems to me that the most salient test of Damore's thesis is and remains the fact that the work is compelling unto itself for men, but not for women. If, as McCarthy suggests, she's only ten years away from her collegiate days, why not have a go at it again? The world isn't lacking for outlets for talented coders; yet she stays out of the business. Why? The answer seems obvious: either the work is its own reward, or it is not. For McCarthy, and many women, it is not.

The second thing at the NCGS website is a discussion of "growth mindset", a topic that has had a rather difficult and muddled empirical and philosophical history; one recent (n=624) study even shows
Children’s own mindsets showed no relationship to IQ, school grades, or change in grades across the school year, with the only significant result being in the reverse direction to prediction (better performance in children holding a fixed mindset). Fixed beliefs about basic ability appear to be unrelated to ability, and we found no support for mindset-effects on cognitive ability, response to challenge, or educational progress.
 From the outside, "growth mindset" looks like a smoke and mirrors foundation upon which to build such dubious concepts as "stereotype threat", which itself has had problems with reproduction. In the end, these have little explanatory power next to the simple story McCarthy herself tells: disinterest.

Betsy DeVos Rescinds "Dear Colleague" Letter Title IX Guidance

As you've probably heard by now, Betsy DeVos has rescinded the infamous "Dear Colleague" letter charging universities to investigate sexual assault cases. Unsurprisingly, California has passed a law retaining the old standard (SB 169 text),  and a number of universities will either defend the old standard or even adhere to it. The show ain't over, but it's a serious step in the right direction.

iOS 11 Early Returns

Some first thoughts on iOS 11:
  • Appears to fix problems with Reminders not synchronizing in the cloud (but let's give it a while, this always worked well in the first day or so after a reboot).
  • UI changes are a mixed bag:
    • Round buttons for the calculator vs. a grid before, meh. This appears in multiple locations.
    • Email has a much more visible (but real estate-hungry) bold title for each mailbox.
    • The Control Center is now super busy, partially reverting to the status quo of iOS 6 (and 7?) where individual apps all had control of audio out (the AirPlay logo that occupied a tiny piece of each app's real estate). I find this not only confusing but annoying; if volume is still in the Control Center, why not audio out? 
  • The ability to select which part of a Live Photo (still photos are now stored as short video clips) looks like it should be great, and overdue; this should have been rolled out once Apple started storing stills as Live Photos.
  • The Health app still sucks, failing to deliver core functionality that has been part of FitBit and other fitness wearables for years. Particularly, the only place one can set goals is inside the Apple Watch's tiny user interface. A horrible, horrible design flaw that makes the Apple Watch almost unusable as a fitness tracker.
  • Air Play 2 adds a functionality long available in Sonos products, the ability to play the same music on multiple speakers throughout the house. This is better developed in MacOS iTunes 12.7.0, but the fact that they're doing it at all is a good sign.
  • Battery life takes a huge hit, with Wandera reporting battery consumption twice the rate of iOS 10.
  • I have also had problems with iOS 11 interacting with my Ford SYNC for music. SYNC will play any given song for 20 seconds and then stop. It exacerbates a long-extant problem forgetting which song in which playlist is active, and starting at the top of the alphabetical song list when first plugged in to the truck's USB port by doing this if you push the vehicle's play button after the song stops. A horrible failure that can be worked around by using Bluetooth audio at the cost of some (mostly unnoticeable) compression.

    Update 15:44: It appears that this problem is now gone.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Jerry Coyne Reviews Cordelia Fine's Testosterone Rex

Pretty much what you'd expect, leaving the deets to Stuart Ritchie's review.
Before I started TR and then while I was reading it, I wrote two posts (here and here) about Fine’s claim that there’s no evolved differences in male and female behavior. I also criticized her completely muddled and erroneous claim (based on bogus statistics) that sexual selection doesn’t work because the “Bateman experiment”—showing a greater variance in reproductive success among male than among female fruit flies—was wrong. Well, it wasn’t wrong, it was inconclusive, and later work, as Ritchie notes, has supported the sex difference in reproductive-success-variance that’s a crucial assumption of sexual selection. Bateman’s result was just a one-off that tells us nothing. Sexual selection is alive and well, and supported by tons of data. Nevertheless, Fine’s argument, which is really dumb if you know even a bit of biology and math, persuaded many people, including a Guardian reviewer, and Ritchie takes it apart in his review.
In that second link (which I missed earlier), Coyne quotes a review by the politically-motivated P.Z. Myers ("Myers has always rejected biology that is ideologically unpalatable to him"):
In a rare occurrence at his site, the commenters, usually a choir of osculatory praise, gave him pushback. In fact one,  “Charly”, did the math correctly and showed that males in relationships with multiple females (bigamous or polygamous) have the potential to have more offspring than do monogamous males, supporting the ideas that men are selected to compete for women. (Duh!) Charly ended his calculations with this statement: “But maybe my reasoning and math is wrong, I am sure someone will point flaws out.”

In the next comment, Myers admitted that Charly’s math was actually right—math that invalidates Fine’s argument—but then he said this:



And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters: an admission that the biology is right, at least in theory, but the person who did the calculations is immoral.
This is what we're up against. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

California's Dreadful AB 485 Masks And Exacerbates The Problem Of Puppymills

My friend Linda Kaim pointed me at an AKC complaint that California's AB 485 would cost people the "freedom to choose your own dog". As usual, it pays to be skeptical of anything from the AKC, and a quick read of the text of the bill shows that the circumstances behind it are anything but benign:
122354.5.  (a) A pet store operator shall not sell a live dog, cat, or rabbit in a pet store unless the dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group that is in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter pursuant to Section 31108, 31752, or 31753 of the Food and Agricultural Code.

(b) All sales of dogs and cats authorized by this section shall be in compliance with paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 30503 of, subdivision (b) of Section 30520 of, paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 31751.3 of, and subdivision (b) of Section 31760 of, the Food and Agricultural Code.

(c) Each pet store shall maintain records sufficient to document the source of each dog, cat, or rabbit the pet store sells or provides space for, for at least one year. Additionally, each pet store shall post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign listing the name of the public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or nonprofit from which each dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained. Public animal control agencies or shelters may periodically require pet stores engaged in sales of dogs, cats, or rabbits to provide access to these records.

(d) A pet store operator who is subject to this section is exempt from the requirements set forth in Article 2 (commencing with Section 122125) of Chapter 5, except for the requirements set forth in Section 122135, paragraphs (3) and (4) of subdivision (a) of, and paragraphs (5) and (6) of subdivision (b) of, Section 122140, and Sections 122145 and 122155.

(e) A pet store operator who violates this section shall be subject to a civil penalty of five hundred dollars ($500). Each animal offered for sale in violation of this section shall constitute a separate violation.

(f) For purposes of this section, a “rescue group” is an organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and that does not obtain animals from breeders or brokers for compensation.
 As we've already seen, there's a lot of ways to hide revenue in 990s, including as executive salaries and other compensation. The way this bill is written would appear to permit puppy mills to rebrand themselves as "rescues" (or to create new intermediary "rescues") who would launder the dogs, shifting the actual profit center. Because of the perverse way USDA APHIS rules regulate commercial dog breeders, ironically it would be small-scale breeders (PDF) who would be most affected by the new language:

Q. Under the final rule, what is the new definition of a retail pet store?

A. In the final rule, “retail pet store” means a place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer, and the animal available for sale are physically present so that every buyer may personally observe the animal prior to purchasing and/or taking custody of it after purchase. [Emboldening in the passage above is mine. - RM] By personally observing the animal, the buyer is exercising public oversight over the animal and in this way is helping to ensure its health and humane treatment. Retailers who sell their pet animals to customers in face- to-face transactions do not have to obtain an AWA license because their animals are subject to such public oversight. Under the AWA regulations, a “retail pet store” is also a place where only the following animals are sold or offered for sale as pets: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, gophers, chinchillas, domestic ferrets, domestic farm animals, birds, and coldblooded species.
Essentially, this eliminates small-scale breeders from selling in California, because their puppies are not from a "rescue", and because they meet the APHIS definition of "retail pet store". That this is approximately insane is par for the course; it is, after all, California.

Cordelia's Not-So-Fine Book Testosterone Rex Wins Royal Society Prize

No, seriously, Cordelia Fine's Testosterone Rex won the annual Royal Society science book prize.  Fine staunchly advocates the blank slate theory of human sexual differences, i.e. that cultural norms drive behavioral and other visible differences. That Fine's book is the purest tosh has been addressed elsewhere, as for example West Hunt's long-form review, Stuart Ritchie's review in Quillette, or Jerry Coyne's criticisms.  She botches her analysis of, the subsequent meaning of, and corrections/improvements to Angus Bateman's groundbreaking fruit fly research in the 1940's. She ignores research on congenital adrenal hyperplasia on other mammals, including among our near evolutionary cousins, the great apes. (Girls born with this condition secrete unusually large amounts of testosterone, and exhibit more male-typical play.) Ritchie notes that she elides significant criticism:
This fits into a pattern: evidence contrary to Fine’s position is often cited, but it’s not mentioned in the text, instead being relegated to endnotes where it can’t cause too much trouble. Witness, for instance, Fine’s mention of “stereotype threat”, where a single supporting study is discussed in the text but a contrary meta-analysis is only mentioned in the endnote. Or her discussion of a 2015 paper on how males’ and females’ brains aren’t essentially different, but are a mosaic of features: you wouldn’t know that four strong scientific critiques of the study had been published (with a response) unless you flick to the back of the book. This allows Fine to use the main text to critique only the most overblown claims about sex differences, and avoid having to deal at length with more reasonable arguments. of "stereotype threat": "a single supporting study is discussed in the text but a contrary meta-analysis is only mentioned in the endnote".
It seems foreordained that this award will serve as a significant data point for the notion that politics has corrupted the academy. Or will it? The panel issuing the award consisted of
  • Richard Fortey (paleontologist, committee chair)
  • Naomi Alderman (novelist)
  • Claudia Hammond (broadcaster, writer, social psychologist)
  • Dr. Sam Gilbert (brain researcher)
  • Shaminder Nahal (broadcast TV editor)
That is to say, it is predominated by non-scientists. How this might have happened would prove an interesting story, but it is not the same thing as a vote by the bulk membership (as with the Hugo Awards). Yet it points in a disturbing direction, cloaking badly-executed science with the imprimatur of the Royal Society. I hope this draws a strong reaction from actual biologists.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Vox's Sad Apologia For Hillary's Coal Gaffe

There are other reviews of Hillary Clinton's new, question-mark-deprived book, What Happened, that cover more ground (e.g. David Harsanyi's in Reason), but I want to focus on David Roberts' absurdist comments in Vox regarding her "coal gaffe". He quotes Ms. Clinton directly (formatting is all theirs):
Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let’s reunite around politics that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these under-served poor communities. So, for example, I’m the only candidate who has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim? [Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) was in the audience.]

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce energy that we relied on.
Roberts' point — that there were plenty of media outlets who took the emboldened passage out of context and used it to slay her — was true as far as it goes, but also trite. In every election of consequence, people will do their damndest, even lie, to change the outcome. Yet it shocked Hillary, who then was trying out for the role of politician. It is clearly a skill set beyond her, despite Vox's earlier fatuous claims to the contrary. You don't say things that can be used as a bludgeon against you. The steel collapse of the 1970's is still within living memory. Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy only last year, in April, well before the election. Her words got traction precisely because workers affected by those bloodlettings stopped listening past the first paragraph.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Links

  • In reaction to Betsy DeVos rescinding the "Dear Colleague" letter, 29 US Senators have signed a letter condemning this action. The Constitution still isn't popular.
  • Ross Douthat has a decent reaction to Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay about race's role in the 2016 Presidential election, accusing Coates of attacking a straw man (emboldening mine):
    Certainly there are many Americans whose beliefs fit Coates’ description, who regard Trump’s racial vision as basically benign if occasionally insensitive, who think he’s an unjust victim of the liberal media’s race card, and so forth. These Americans are Trump supporters, for the most part, plus a smattering of left-wing gadflies and other contrarians. But Coates is very clearly not arguing with Fox-watching Trump supporters in his essay: His piece quotes and critiques anti-Trump conservatives and Democrats and liberals, not Sean Hannity or his epigones, and his examples of the supposed “race is incidental” consensus are figures like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, Mark Lilla and my colleague Nick Kristof, Charles Murray and Anthony Bourdain. His great complaint is not that Trump backers deny their own racist impulses, in other words, but that the “collective” of Trump opponents barely acknowledge the role of race and racism in his rise.
    Douthat repeats the same error that marred Coates' essay, namely, its refusal to look at anything resembling polling data, but it still represents a step up from that "caricature" in that it seeks to understand individuals who might have voted for Trump for reasons wholly (or even mostly) divided from racism or sexism.
  • One potentially underreported cause of anti-Clinton sentiment: military voters (or people with family members in the military). Glenn Greenwald sets out a case (not as strong as he thinks) for a significant stream of such people making a difference in November:
    A study published earlier this year by Boston University political science professor Douglas Kriner and Minnesota Law School’s Francis Shen makes the case quite compellingly.

    Titled “Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?,” the paper rests on the premise that these wars have exclusively burdened a small but politically important group of voters — military families — and that “in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America.” Particularly in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — three states that Clinton lost — “there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” Examining the data, the paper concludes that “inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election.”
  • Why does Hillary Clinton think comparisons to Cersei Lannister is a good idea?
  • Anita Sarkeesian's censorious tendencies perhaps have a limit.  
  • Amber Tamblyn apparently has a long-ago beef with actor James Woods, who tried to pick her up as a teenager. She writes an open letter to Woods (who disputed the charges on Twitter) in the pages of Teen Vogue, and wishes for a world in which women's charges would just stick regardless of corroborating evidence or testimony:
    The saddest part of this story doesn't even concern me but concerns the universal woman's story. The nation's harmful narrative of disbelieving women first, above all else. Asking them to first corroborate or first give proof or first make sure we're not misremembering or first consider the consequences of speaking out or first let men give their side or first just let your sanity come last.
    Because false accusations never happen? Because memory is selective and frequently faulty? This coming from a political magazine in heels is par for the course, but it points at a dystopia.
  • Update 2017-09-16: Okay, so no longer Friday, but too lazy to open a new post. Here's Jason D. Hill in Commentary responding to Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent essay:
    In the 32 years I have lived in this great country, I have never once actively fought racism. I have simply used my own example as evidence of its utter stupidity and moved forward with absolute metaphysical confidence, knowing that the ability of other people to name or label me has no power over my self-esteem, my mind, my judgment, and—above all—my capacity to liberate myself through my own efforts.

    On this matter, you have done your son—to whom you address your book—an injustice. You write: “The fact of history is that black people have not—probably no people ever have—liberated themselves strictly by their own efforts. In every great change in the lives of African Americans we see the hands of events that were beyond our individual control, events that were not unalloyed goods.”

    I do not believe you intended to mislead your son, but in imparting this credo, you have potentially paralyzed him, unless he reappraises your philosophy and rejects it. In your misreading of America, you’ve communicated precisely why many blacks in this country have been alienated from their own agency and emancipatory capabilities. The most beleaguered people on the planet, the Jews, who have faced persecution since their birth as a people, are a living refutation of your claim. ...

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coasts Again On Race

It's hard to look at Ta-Nehisi Coates and not conclude he is a sort of pet intellectual of the left, or at least, someone who has the reputation of an intellectual, in much the same way that certain of New York's elite celebrated the radical chic of the Black Panthers. He voices the right sounds: he radiates contempt and anger when talking about whites. In his latest The Atlantic essay, he blames racists for putting Trump into the White House. Trump, he tells us, has one ideology, "white supremacy." (This is not without basis.) "White", to Coates, is an epithet in the same way that "nigger" is. Trump, he hisses, "must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president." Never mind the much more deserving honorees of that title — say, Woodrow Wilson, who oversaw the expansion of Jim Crow to the Federal civil service, or Franklin Roosevelt, whose FHA enshrined redlining into Federal lending practice. Actual policy objections to Barack Obama's administration driving rejection of a second helping (real or imagined) in the form of Hillary Clinton do not enter his equation.

Coates is not especially troubled by the issues raised by actual data, though to his credit he does do some digging there, making the salient point that Trump won the white vote overall. In doing so, he ignores Clinton's many failures as a candidate (which also, ironically, caused blacks to shirk their duties at the polls as well as casting more votes for Trump as a percentage vs. Obama in 2012), or even bothering to look at why whites might have pulled the lever as they did. For actual investigation there, we must retire to Five Thirty Eight, or to the Voter Study Group's survey that identified five large pools of Trump support. In Coates' telling, it was Kristallnacht at the polls. That is to say, Coates has a one-size-fits-all, theological explanation for the election results — white racism — and he intends to use this hammer upon a world he perceives as full of nails.

Yet, as with his widely praised essay on racial reparations, he never quite arrives at the destination he imagines he does. As with that flawed essay, his aim here is not persuasion but the signaling of virtue. He does not, for instance, extend to white voters the same courtesy he does "long-neglected working-class black voters ... rightfully suspicious of a return of Clintonism" of equal (if not more) suspicion in the face of her very explicit embrace of racial and sexual identity politics. In fact, as Pew put it the day after the election, "Trump won white voters by a margin almost identical to that of Mitt Romney, who lost the popular vote to Barack Obama in 2012." So, how did white Americans become racist between 2012 and 2016? In large part, because the Democrats offered the smug, arrogant Hillary Clinton — a horrible, twice-before-failed candidate whose only successful elective experience was a safe Senate seat in solidly blue New York (she beat Republican Rick Fazio by more than 12%). A dreadful public speaker, she expressly rejected the advice of the man she putatively shared a bed with (and the principal political genius of her party). For Coates, anti-Clinton sentiment only satisfies for blacks. It places him solidly in the same ranks as race-baiters like Jesse Jackson, or the even cruder Al Sharpton.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Betsy DeVos Declares An End to Weaponized Title IX Persecutions

The show isn't over,  and you get the distinct sense that political haymakers like Kirstin Gillibrand will fight this in the courts and elsewhere. The New York Times' story on the announcement contained a passage that is positively Orwellian in its revision of history (as ever, emboldening mine):
How to enforce Title IX, the 1972 law requiring schools to protect students from rape and sexual assault, is one of Ms. DeVos’s most difficult policy tasks, and her department has been under fire for comments made this week by Candice Jackson, who leads its Office for Civil Rights.
This is of course a fiction manufactured for public consumption that simply did not exist prior to the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter. As the Reason story points out,
The problems with the Obama-era Title IX guidance are essentially threefold. First, it isn't obvious that Title IX—a one-sentence statute—could or should be read as having anything to do with violent crimes.

Secondly, the guidance raises constitutional questions, since it appears to many civil libertarians that a federal agency was instructing public institutions to violate the due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment. ...

Finally, since the guidance is legally dicey, it led to lawsuits left and right. Many students who were found responsible for sexual misconduct under the new guidelines have filed suit against their universities, and a nontrivial number of them have prevailed in court.
Emily Yoffe in The Atlantic has a well-timed story on the state of Title IX which hints at the problems to come: "Many college administrators have said they will not alter the adjudication policies now enshrined on their campus even if recent federal guidelines are rescinded; capacious campus bureaucracies that were created at the behest of Obama’s OCR are likely to resist change." The bureaucracy is its own constituency. People for whom "justice" is merely a matter of collecting sufficient scalps are unlikely to stop the head-carving just because they were told to. Defunding needs to happen, and soon.

Update 8:44 PM CDT: I had forgotten this exceptional tweetstorm from Walter Olson:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Obverse Godwin's Law

This meme recently showed up on CNN host Chris Cuomo's Twitter feed (and elsewhere):
Pretending that people who insist on punching Nazis as private citizens are the moral or legal equivalent of the men who stormed Normandy is not only false, it is idiotic and ahistorical. Allow me to introduce you to Mssrs. Harold Sturtevant and E.C. Lackey, USN:

Harold Sturtevant was a sailor in the United States Navy. In January 1941, he and fellow sailor E.C. Lackey climbed up the fire escape of the building which housed the German consulate in San Francisco, California and slashed and tore down the flag of Nazi Germany which was flying there in honor of the 7th anniversary of the founding of the Third Reich. The two men were arrested, tried, court martialed for malicious mischief and received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy. The German Foreign Ministry protested the incident and the United States Department of State expressed their regrets.
 Which is to say, the United States, then being at peace with the German Reich, issued a formal apology and punished the perpetrators. Yes, the modern white supremacists are odious and worthy of full-throated denunciation (something President Trump apparently couldn't quite bring himself to do), but punching Nazis doesn't make you a hero, it just makes you a thug and a vigilante. Mike Godwin's famous law about discussions eventually hauling in Hitler and Nazis is fine as far as it goes; his point was to force people to use such analogies thoughtfully. But it has no obverse, and we desperately need one.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Vox Ladysplains The #GoogleMemo, And Other Related Stuff

I want to start with Cynthia Lee's "ladysplain"-ing of the #GoogleMemo in Vox, not because it is good but because it serves as an exemplar of how the blank slatists insist on misreading James Damore's essay on the futility of Google's approach to coder "diversity". She opens by writing that "It’s important to appreciate the background of endless skepticism that every woman in tech faces, and the resulting exhaustion we feel as the legitimacy of our presence is constantly questioned." This recalls work by Roy Baumeister in which he observes that putdowns are endemic to male culture, a constant reminder that respect is earned and in limited supply:



Lee's reaction to this shows exactly how right Baumeister was when he wrote
This, incidentally, has probably been a major source of friction as women have moved into the workplace, and organizations have had to shift toward policies that everyone is entitled to respect. The men hadn’t originally built them to respect everybody.
 Her next complaint is against the "sleight-of-hand" of averages she claims Damore uses that she claims turns women "against their own gender." However, Damore is very careful to note that, "Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions. This doesn't matter; Lee has no interest in the real, measured preferences of populations, and as we see in the next section, this has catastrophic consequences for her argument (emboldening mine):
If, as the manifesto’s defenders claim, the population averages do not have anything to say about individual Googlers, who are all exceptional, then why is Google the subject of the manifesto’s arguments at all? What do averages have to do with hiring practices at a company that famously hires fewer than one percent of applicants? In the name of the rational empiricism and quantitative rigor that the manifesto holds so dear, shouldn’t we insist that it only cite studies that specifically speak to the tails of the distribution — to the actual pool of women Google draws from?
Funny you should ask. That, actually, is the exact problem, and the fact that Lee misses it is unsurprising. Implicit in her argument here is the idea that men and women, taken as populations, will be interested in exactly the same thing, so that by the time you get to that narrow tail, you will have exactly the same number of individuals. This is categorically false; Damore cited evidence that, on average, women have more interest in working with people rather than things. The narrow tail of people interested in thing-work is where Google is hiring. She addresses this aspect of the population not at all. This is the crucial part of his argument, and indeed is what we see in practice, as her very next example demonstrates!
For example, we could look to the percentage of women majoring in computer science at highly selective colleges and universities. Women currently make up about 30 percent of the computer science majors at Stanford University, one key source of Google’s elite workforce. Harvey Mudd College, another elite program, has seen its numbers grow steadily for many years, and is currently at about 50 percent women in their computer science department.
Yet as Scott Alexander showed, MIT and Harvey Mudd get their female graduation rates by stuffing the pipeline with more women than most institutions that don't discriminate:
...MIT admitting 2x more women than men matches nicely with their computer science department being 40% women (= 2x the national average of 20%). Harvey Mudd admitted 2.5x more women than men matches nicely with their computer science being 55% women (just a hair over 2.5x the national average of 20%). Plus everyone in this discussion agrees that a bunch of colleges are desperately trying to admit as many women as they can to get even close to parity in CS.t
(While I don't have figures for Stanford, it would certainly be interesting to learn the percentage of female applicants accepted into their program. I would not be shocked at all if they did the same as Harvey Mudd, and indeed recent figures make it appear that is the case.) The reality is that computer science, and engineering more broadly, has been stuck at about 20% female (or less) for decades, regardless of gimmicks. Using two cherry-picked institutions that in turn cherry-pick their candidates is a perfect example of Damore's argument: they haven't magically found a way to get girls to like coding so much as they've found more girls who do (at the expense of other institutions' admissions). The strong argument would be explaining away why the female CS/engineering population is what it is at, say, Iowa State, or at a random sample of universities. Lee does not attempt it. (I also note in passing she does not wrestle with something Alexander observed, and that is that CS/engineering gender parity is best in nations such as Zimbabwe and Thailand, countries "not exactly famous for [their] deep commitment to gender equality.") In so doing, she cedes her entire argument.



Other linky goodness before (hopefully) closing this chapter:
  • David Brooks thinks Sundar Pichai should resign as Google CEO.
  • Conservatives are lining up to protest Damore's firing, via The Hill:
    Right-wing activist Jack Posobiec and a coalition of free speech groups are organizing marches against Google next week to protest Damore’s firing.

    “We are going to raise awareness about Google’s one-sided bias and campaign against dissenting opinions and voices,” Posobiec told The Mercury News on Thursday.
  • Also at The Federalist Bre Payton finds the media broadly insists on misreading Damore's memo, as one would expect.
  • Robert Tracinski writes in The Federalist about "the Google inquisition":
    A Wired profile digging into Damore’s personal history (this is politics now, so we do opposition research) gives us this description: “Damore’s fellow students at Harvard remember him as very smart but awkward around people.” Gosh, it would be a real shame if people like that were allowed to be hired in Silicon Valley.

    I’m joking, of course, because this is precisely the kind of personality that built Silicon Valley. But maybe not any more. Yet that’s not the biggest, most dangerous part of this story for Google and the other tech giants. The most dangerous part is that they are now beginning to be seen by the public (or revealed, depending on how you look at it) as politicized entities. Politicized entities to whom we are giving enormous amounts of data on our lives, thoughts, and interests.
    Surveying this landscape, it's easy to imagine how the politics will align going forward. Having collected Damore's scalp on the basis of merely acknowledging that men and women have divergent interests (as populations), what else could the diversity mavens accomplish with sufficient dudgeon behind them? I have previously noted Anita Sarkeesian's censorious tendencies. It does not seem even a slight stretch, given the Euros have introduced a "right to be forgotten", that Google is or will soon be on the list of targets. That is, at some future date, they will demand wrongthink such as Damore's be banished to PageRank purgatory. No pinnacle in modern content distribution is higher, and for that reason we must fight this at all costs.
Update 2017-08-15:
Damore got an op-ed into the Wall Street Journal defending himself. Excerpt:

Everything changed when the document went viral within the company and the wider tech world. Those most zealously committed to the diversity creed—that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same—could not let this public offense go unpunished. They sent angry emails to Google’s human-resources department and everyone up my management chain, demanding censorship, retaliation and atonement.

Upper management tried to placate this surge of outrage by shaming me and misrepresenting my document, but they couldn’t really do otherwise: The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views. When the whole episode finally became a giant media controversy, thanks to external leaks, Google had to solve the problem caused by my supposedly sexist, anti-diversity manifesto, and the whole company came under heated and sometimes threatening scrutiny.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Google Heretic

The news arrived a couple days ago that Google's engineering ranks include someone with unorthodox opinions on the subject of "diversity" as practiced in Silicon Valley, the actual text (minus graphs and hyperlinks) leaking out in the pages of Gizmodo Saturday. The essay itself senselessly adopts some of the worst flaws of modern political discourse from the left, particularly "psychological safety", a fatally damaged concept that has no place in grownup discussion. He (I assume the author is male) also mislabels as "authoritarian" the idiotic and badly misguided private efforts toward an inflexible and unachievable "diversity" goal; I note the author is free to leave Google, and work elsewhere. He also adopts the whiny language, itself extracted from Marxism's leaden skeins, that makes so much feminist writing unbearable: what does "swaths of men without support" even mean?

But those criticisms aside, the author is right about biological origins of a number of disparities between the sexes, particularly in mathematics, which are of long-standing and universal at the higher end of achievement. That is to say, from a population standpoint, women are more uniform in ability than men, and thus you end up with fewer geniuses — and fewer morons. (There are nations where female averages are actually higher than male averages [PDF, see page 10], but male-female average math score gaps exist for the majority of OECD countries save Iceland, where it is reversed, with some less significant than others.) Unfortunately, he does not provide substantiation for his claims, unless of course Gizmodo's editorial decision to strip the jeremiad of hyperlinks was an act of deep political cowardice.

However, why did he feel it necessary to pen such a document? To know that, it is necessary to ask, how is it that Google has a Vice President of Diversity, whose job presumably is to root out and destroy a would-be modern T.J. Rodgers accidentally joining the Googleplex ranks? Google, simply, has become a huge visible success, to the extent that it can afford to operate many companies with dubious or nonexistent paths to profitability. Throwing some bones to the commercial feminists is a no-brainer, for now; if you can lose a billion dollars in a quarter, you're doing something right. But as with Microsoft and its seemingly invincible computing platform that took a dive once they made (wholly necessary) forays into mobile, nothing is guaranteed, and today's juggernaut could easily be tomorrow's roadkill. Advanced parasitism of that kind will have no place in a smaller company, either devourer or devoured. Asking "why are there so few women coders?" is as pointless as asking "Why are there so many Jews in Hollywood/banking/diamond cutting?" The answer is, and should always be, who cares?

Update, 2017-08-08: Google yesterday fired author James Damore on the ground that he was  "perpetuating gender stereotypes", thus essentially proving he was right about the company acting as an echo chamber. (I would observe that companies set up thusly are also liable to fall apart in other ways.) As usual, Scott Alexander has a terrific followup:
Galpin investigated the percent of women in computer classes all around the world. Her number of 26% for the US is slightly higher than I usually hear, probably because it’s older (the percent women in computing has actually gone down over time!). The least sexist countries I can think of – Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, etc – all have somewhere around the same number (30%, 20%, and 24%, respectively). The most sexist countries do extremely well on this metric! The highest numbers on the chart are all from non-Western, non-First-World countries that do middling-to-poor on the Gender Development Index: Thailand with 55%, Guyana with 54%, Malaysia with 51%, Iran with 41%, Zimbabwe with 41%, and Mexico with 39%. Needless to say, Zimbabwe is not exactly famous for its deep commitment to gender equality.
As usual, the whole damned thing is worth reading.Also, this:






And, this:
Update 2017-08-08 9:31: Also a good read at In A Crowded Theater:
Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged that these topics are “fair to debate.”   He claimed that Googlers are free to discuss these topics so long as they do not advance “harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”  But by firing Damore, Pichai belied any commitment to real discussion.  A true debate about these issues requires grappling with all of the thorny premises.
 The good news is that now a woman can be hired to replace Mr. Damore, thus ensuring Google's comittment to diversity. Also, they will make sure she has the right opinions before hiring, and the Vice President of Truth Diversity to make sure she keeps them with the party line.

Update 2017-08-08 9:58: Also Inez Feltcher at The Federalist:
Damore is guilty of nothing more than gently stating the obvious truth, backed by a laundry list of scientific studies: on average, men and women have divergent talents, interests, and skills. Because of these differences, men and women make different career decisions in the aggregate. Damore’s great offense was recognizing that maybe, just maybe, the imbalance between men and women in software engineering has more to do with freedom of choice than being the six-figure salary counterparts to the handmaids in Gilead.

Instead of fighting these “gaps” as the result of discriminatory systems and attempting to force men and women to be the same, we should consider the possibility that their divergent choices are the result of our true diversity.
Also useful in that Federalist piece is a link to the essay, links intact. As I expected above, the stripped links point at buttressing evidence for his thesis, which Gizmodo made the political decision to shamefully omit in their rebroadcasting.

Update 2017-08-09: Before passing on this subject, it's worth quoting this passage from the Scott Alexander post upthread:
We know that interests are highly malleable. Female students become significantly more interested in science careers after having a teacher who discusses the problem of underrepresentation. And at Harvey Mudd College, computer science majors were around 10% women a decade ago. Today they’re 55%.
I highly recommend Freddie deBoer’s Why Selection Bias Is The Most Powerful Force In Education. If an educational program shows amazing results, and there’s any possible way it’s selection bias – then it’s selection bias.

I looked into Harvey Mudd’s STEM admission numbers, and, sure enough, they admit women at 2.5x the rate as men. So, yeah, it’s selection bias.

I don’t blame them. All they have to do is cultivate a reputation as a place to go if you’re a woman interested in computer science, attract lots of female CS applicants, then make sure to admit all the CS-interested female applicants they get. In exchange, they get constant glowing praise from every newspaper in the country (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc, etc, etc).
Now, we don't know if female CS candidates are admitted at 2.5 times vs. men — the rate could be higher or lower in that specialty — but this definitely points to at least a potential problem for their headline story about women in CS: it's not so much that they support women as they throw enough women at the problem that eventually some of them will get through.

Look! More stupid!




Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I'm Entitled To Your Opinion Dep't: Mehera Bonner Reviews Dunkirk

The meat of her criticism is actually apt; the film doesn't appear to have an actual plot, but instead is a series of pastiches of interwoven stories: the older man (Mr. Dawson) piloting a private pleasure boat to rescue Tommies on the Dunkirk beach, the outnumbered fighter pilots taking on relentless Luftwaffe adversaries hectoring ground troops and sinking transports, the young soldier separated from his unit trying against the odds to make it home (Tommy), the commanders in charge of moving the men off the beach and onto the absurdly small (and shrinking daily) numbers of available military transports. That is, she's not wrong in this specific complaint.

But the film itself has earned a great deal of praise, and deservedly so, despite the overall failing of lacking apparent narrative. Part of that is because we already know the outcome: Britain's fathers came to the rescue of her sons, and even a significant number of French troops as well. It is beautifully photographed, flawlessly acted, and rippling with dramatic tension from the opening until almost the close. None of these virtues apparently appeal to Bonner:
But my main issue with Dunkirk is that it's so clearly designed for men to man-out over. And look, it's not like I need every movie to have "strong female leads." Wonder Woman can probably tide me over for at least a year, and I understand that this war was dominated by brave male soldiers. I get that. But the packaging of the film, the general vibe, and the tenor of the people applauding it just screams "men-only"—and specifically seems to cater to a certain type of very pretentious man who would love nothing more than to explain to me why I'm wrong about not liking it. If this movie were a dating profile pic, it would be a swole guy at the gym who also goes to Harvard. If it was a drink it would be Stumptown coffee. If it was one of your friends, it would be the one who starts his sentences with "I get what you're saying, but..."
How terrible — someone makes movies that appeal to men? Her reaction isn't quite "THIS MUST STOP NOW", but you can hear her mentally outfitting anyone who actually likes the film with an invisible fedora (the universal headgear of the MRA). The idea that men died in battle so that someone like Bonner could spout narcissistic and childish opinions is itself cringe-worthy, but as Kyle Smith ably answers in National Review Online, the problem is really a branch of the Annie Wilkes model of culture (emboldening mine):
In a moment of clarity I understood what the two main imperatives of higher education were to Absurd Feminist and to so many of her peers: First, instead of broadening her horizons and taking her outside herself to discover the world, she demanded the educators filter all knowledge through her own experience to make it relatable to her. Second, all learning was to be valued in proportion to how effectively it could be made into a cudgel in the identity-politics war. Dispatches, with its virtually all-male cast, represented a pernicious advance for the patriarchy, even if it was about the agonies suffered by men.
It seems unlikely that Marie Claire’s reviewer, Mehera Bonner, has before her an exceptionally bright career of writing about film. As for a career of writing about feminism, though, the sky, for Bonner, is the limit. Her essay could plausibly have appeared on any number of bristling feminist sites. What is her reasoning except feminism taken to its logical extreme? Feminists often declare to the world that they stand merely for an entirely reasonable proposition — say, that women’s lives are as important as men’s. Who would dispute that? Yet feminist writing usually continues far past this point into a need to prove women and men have been equally important in every context, even in history. If women turn out to be mostly irrelevant to an incident, then it is the moral duty of socially conscious creative artists to ignore the matter. They should retrain their sights on something that will give absurd feminists something they can relate to, something that will advance the cause of feminism in general.
 She doesn't like the movie; fine, we get that. But as Smith observes, "Feminism means constant maintenance of an imaginary set of scales, and she fears Dunkirk adds weight to the masculine side, tipping the culture away from women." What could be more absurd?