NARRATIVE GRIEVANCE AND ITS DISCONTENTS: Rough-hewn Buckeye would re-elect Trump!

SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019

It's time for Siri to go:
Examples of bad sexual politics are pretty much all around us. We thought of this over Christmas break, when we watched the 2000 Tom Hanks film, Cast Away, for the very first time.

Hanks plays a work-obsessed FedEx manager who jets all over the globe, yelling at groups of employees, hoping to make them work faster.

Helen Hunt plays his long-suffering girl friend. She's subjected to old-fashioned jokes at Christmas dinner about her unmarried status. Beyond that, in the opening chunk of the movie, Hunt is forced to perform the old-fashioned scene in which Tommy finally gives her an engagement ring disguised as a Christmas present.

Hunt gasps in joy and surprise. "How lucky I am," we see her thinking. "I get to be married to Tommy the rest of my life!"

Tommy rushes away for his latest jet flight, then goes down in a plane crash. He lives on a deserted island for years, and is assumed to be dead.

When Tommy returns to civilization, Helen Hunt has married her dentist—the man who isn't "the love of her life." At this point, the film's sexual politics really crashes and burns.

Tommy goes to Helen's house, where she tells him, with genuine ardor, that he is the love of her life. Roughly sixty seconds later, she's being sent back into her house, where she'll spend the rest of her life with the dentist who isn't.

Tommy proceeds to flatly misstate what we've seen her tell him. In the film's final scene, he goes off to Texas, where he encounters a smokin' hot cowgirl who practically flashes him as she drives back to her secluded house in her truck.

The moral of the story is clear. Good old Tommy! He's going to end up with someone younger and hotter! On this uplifting note, the popular movie ends.

It surprised us to think that someone like Hanks would see this film as uplifting. Especially in the first chunk of the film, he engages in condescending conduct toward Hunt, but it seems clear that the film-makers—and Hanks was involved in crafting the script—think the behavior in question makes his character more sympathetic, not less.

That said, the film's finale is fairly straightforward. In our view, the sexual politics was comically awful, but it was being sold by one of Hollywood's most-trusted "good values" male stars.

So it has always tended to go on this planet! This brings us to the liberal world's version of Bill Maher's "new toy," the one "you don't want to break."

We refer to a puzzling joke Bill used to tell back in the 1980s. Discussing his adolescent years, he would say something like this:

"All of a sudden, you have a new toy—one you very much don't want to break!"

If memory serves, younger comedians—most likely, Blaine and Patton—told us, years later, what Bill apparently meant. He was referring to his sexual apparatus, which he apparently discovered when he was in junior high.

The boys were surprised that we hadn't understood. Similarly, they'd always been shocked by the fact we couldn't name the characters from The Brady Bunch, a leading marker of cultural literacy in the comedy clubs of that era.

"We were busy stopping a war" was all we were willing to tell them. How their eyes shined when we did!

At any rate, all of a sudden Bill had a new toy—and at this point, so do we liberals! Our new toy is our dull-witted use of "race" and gender, in which we constantly engage in dull-witted attempts to shame, blame and vilify untold millions of Others.

In these ways, we conspire to re-elect Mister Trump. Just consider the rough-hewn Ohio voter the New York Times quoted this week.

This rough-hewn fellow comes to us straight out of a novel by Hardy. On Tuesday morning, Trip Gabriel quoted him in a report which appeared beneath this headline:
There’s No Boom in Youngstown, but Blue-Collar Workers Are Sticking With Trump
As the article proceeded, it became fairly clear that Gabriel was actually discussing white blue-collar workers. Many former Democrats in this demographic had flipped over to Candidate Trump in 2016, Gabriel reported.

According to Gabriel's reporting, they were likely to vote for Trump again next year, keeping the Buckeye State red.

These people shower after work, one local official said. And sure enough! The first such voter Gabriel quoted had offered this rough remark:
GABRIEL (5/21/19): Whatever benefits decades of globalization brought to some parts of the country, there was no effort to reinvest in regions like northeast Ohio, where steel mills once lined 22 miles of the Mahoning River, and which has bled tens of thousands of jobs.

“The communities were cut loose and ignored and then they voted for Trump
because at least he’s punching somebody in the face, and no one else is,” [Congressman Tim] Ryan said.

One of those voters is Darrell Franks, a retired tool and die maker, who was once a Democrat but now votes Republican.

“What I want from a president is the rest of the world to look at him and go, ‘Don’t mess with that guy, he will get even,’” Mr. Franks said one morning in the Yankee Kitchen in Vienna Township, Ohio. “I don’t want kinder, gentler. I don’t want some female that wants her agenda.”
This rough-hewn voter doesn’t want some female that wants her agenda! Presumably, we all know why this comment was quoted, what it's intended to show.

Darrell Franks doesn't want some female who wants her agenda! Two days earlier, Jay Newton-Small had peered into the souls of the millions of white women with whom such rough men consort, attacking them for their "sexism" in the Outlook section of the Washington Post.

Newton-Small's multiply-bungled essay didn't make journalistic sense. On the brighter side, it did let us liberals play with our new favorite toy.

We liberals! We love to direct sweeping attacks at the Others, assailing them for their racism and their sexism.

These indiscriminate, sweeping attacks make us liberals feel morally good. But to the future anthropologists with whom we've consulted in recent months, these sweeping claims have a different feel:

To the disconsolate future scholsrs who report from the years after Mister Trump's War, these sweeping attacks are "typical of the way this war-inclined species always tended to act."

We humans always tended to otherize Others in sweeping ways, these morbid experts insist. At present, this is our liberal tribe's favorite new toy, one future scholar has told us.

Two days after Gabriel's piece, this scholar directed our attention to this slightly peculiar, lengthy report in the New York Times. The report described a slightly peculiar new study issued by Unesco. Megan Specia's lengthy report appeared beneath this headline:
Siri and Alexa Reinforce Gender Bias, U.N. Finds
It's time for Alexa and Siri to go, Unesco's experts have found!

We thought of that Ohio voter when we read this slightly peculiar report. Early on, Specia described a "particularly worrying" phenomenon, one which lent its name to the Unesco report:
SPECIA (5/23/19): ''Obedient and obliging machines that pretend to be women are entering our homes, cars and offices,'' Saniye Gulser Corat, Unesco's director for gender equality, said in a statement. ''The world needs to pay much closer attention to how, when and whether A.I. technologies are gendered and, crucially, who is gendering them.''

One particularly worrying reflection of this is the ''deflecting, lackluster or apologetic responses'' that these assistants give to insults.

The report borrows its title—''I'd Blush if I Could''—from a standard response from Siri,
the Apple voice assistant, when a user hurled a gendered expletive at it. When a user tells Alexa, ''You're hot,'' her typical response has been a cheery, ''That's nice of you to say!''

Siri's response was recently altered to a more flattened ''I don't know how to respond to that,'' but the report suggests that the technology remains gender biased, arguing that the problem starts with engineering teams that are staffed overwhelmingly by men.
How does Siri respond to insults? At Unesco, that question seemed "particularly worrying," and it seems like a source of substantial concern at the Times.

Is there value to that Unesco report? We're prepared to assume that there is. As noted, bad gender politics is everywhere, even in vehicles designed to showcase the excellent values of Hollywood's most trusted male star.

That said, we thought of that rough-hewn Ohio voter when we saw the persistently dull-witted Times lavishing so much attention on the idea that it's time for Siri to go—that we need to "lock her up."

That day's print edition was crammed with reports which fetishized our dopey tribe's devotion to our new toy. Inside that day's National section, for example, the Times had bannered this utterly pointless report across the top of page A17.

In truth, that report was basically daft. But it was treated as more important than this report, which ran beneath it, about the way Democrats' tax plans might lift the whole middle class.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Truth to tell, our liberal tribe, like other tribes, just isn't enormously smart.

That said, we have a new toy and we love to use it. We often use it in fairly dumb ways—and the Others are able to see this.

When we take our toy out for a spin, we tend to launch indiscriminate, sweeping attacks on the Others. We insult these very bad people tens of millions at a time.

"The species was always inclined to behave that way," disconsolate scholars now tell us.

Huddled in caves, those scholars report to us from the years after Mister Trump's Apocalyptic War. This war followed a re-election brought on by our indiscriminate use of our toy, which we insisted on linking to our instinctive loathing of Others.

"The 'human' race was always wired that way," future anthropologists now say.

Regarding that rough-hewn Ohio voter, we will only say this:

In his instructive report from Ohio, Gabriel quoted David Betras, who recently stepped down as Democratic chairman of Mahoning County.

Betras has made a nuisance of himself this week. Cassandra-like, he's been warning that Democrats may be on their way to losing those "Rust Belt" states again.

On Thursday, he appeared with Chuck Todd on MTP Daily. We thought his closing point was very important:
BETRAS (5/23/19): By the way, Chuck, while I'm talking about "blue color workers," I reject the notion of white blue collar workers.

TODD: That's right.

BETRAS: Blue collar workers come in all persons of color, transgender and gay. They are the ones that are the backbone of this country, that are not paying attention to what's going on in Washington, get up every day, play by the rules. They just want Washington to just give them a fair shot and that's all they want.

TODD: David Betras, it was a pleasure to have you on.
Polls tend to support Betras when he claims that our corporate "cable news" elites are focused on Mister Trump in ways the public is not. Our elites are also love to use our tribe's new toy, often in ways which are transparently dumb.

Betras says that liberals can walk and chew gum. He says you can be for the white working-class and the black working-class at the very same time. You can even support transgender people and gays. It actually doesn't have to be the war of the All against All!

Meanwhile, bad sexual politics exists everywhere you look. We'd like to see boys and young men offered better models. We'd like to see boys encouraged to understand that they should learn to love and respect the girls and women to whom they'll find themselves drawn.

That said, our tribe's elites are self-absorbed, feckless and dumb. They have a new toy which they very much like, and they love insulting Others.

The species was always wired that way, future anthropologists mournfully say, speaking in the past tense.


  1. "Our new toy is our dull-witted use of "race" and gender, in which we constantly engage in dull-witted attempts to shame, blame and vilify untold millions of Others."

    What - new toy??? You have gotta be kidding, Bob.

    Identity politics - splitting the working class along various imaginary lines - is the only game your zombie cult plays, and knows how to play.

    Splitting the working class into warring factions by trumpeting imaginary group-grievances, in the service of global capital. This is the complete description of what American liberalism is all about.

    1. Amen, brother. From your mouth to CMike’s ears.

    2. Mao making sense, and Bob predicting apocalypse.

      That's why my Siri now uses the "Samuel Jackson" voice pack.

  2. This comment from earlier this morning is better placed here, so I am repeating it:

    "Kevin Drum talks about a survey showing that racial animosity plummeted in 2016. He attributes it to Obama leaving office but I think it provides support for the idea that talking about racism (because of Trump's racial animosity) results in less racial animosity.

    This is the opposite of Somerby's theory that calling The Other racist will cause them to vote for Trump. It seems that calling out racists is having an opposite effect. Fewer people want to be racists, so racial animosity has declined dramatically since Trump, across the board, because no one wants to be like him.

    Given the decline in racial animosity, why is white supremacism on the rise? I think the internet makes it possible for white supremacists to organize more effectively, and it is a source of radicalization for those with that bent, but I think most people are becoming less racist.

    It remains to be seen how this translates into votes. But I don't think it provides any support for Somerby's thesis that the more you call someone racist, the more likely they are to vote for Trump. I think it may be that the more you call someone racist, the less racist they want to appear so the more they moderate their intolerance. That strikes me as a good thing."

    1. It remains to be seen how this translates into votes. But I don't think it provides any support for Somerby's thesis that the more you call someone racist, the more likely they are to vote for Trump.

      How about the political problem "that the more you call someone racist" the less time you have to talk about issues related to both guns and butter?

    2. You're assuming all the call-outs are accurate.

      The problem is when someone calls out another who they think is a racist but is not. This happens all the time with issues of race, sexual identity and gender etc.

      Liberals go comically overboard with this sad, self-defeating tactic.

    3. Liberals use that tactic because it is easy for them and it prevents them from looking at the more difficult issues. For instance, it's easier to say that the Trump voters are racists and bigots. It's more difficult to look at Hillary and Democrats and the view that they increasingly drive voters away because they became over the years subservient to corporate interests and have been doing a poor job of meeting their constituents needs - which are at odds with the corporate interests.

    4. Fagin,
      So they elected a guy who stiffs his contractors.
      Remind me again why I shouldn't think they are morons, who are easily conned by grifters.

    5. The key point is why they shouldn't think that about you.

      You wanted to elect a person who doesn't represent your interests and actually sacrifices them for the interests of powerful corporate and business interests, including war.

      They could say the exact same thing about anyone who is happy to support Democrats. "they are morons, who are easily conned by grifters." because it is true. Obviously true if you think about it for a minute.

    6. You mean like Elizabeth Warren?
      If so, you'd make a good Conservative.

    7. Fagin,
      Ignoring all of HRC's campaign, just so you can repeat the Right-wing narratives makes you smart.

    8. 'the interests of powerful corporate and business interests, including war."

      And then they voted for a guy who puts a fossil fuel company in charge of the EPA, and brings in John Bolton.
      Obviously, it wasn't Trump's bigotry that got him the votes because "reasons", but I wonder what it really was.

    9. It's not about me. It's about the actions of Democrats. Don't look at their words, look at their actions and you can see that supporting them is being conned. They don't support your interests and they don't protect you. Clearly. Trump voters can see this clearly and you can't just as you can see clearly their mistaken loyalty to a party that only pretends to serve them.

      And you talk about how dumb they are and they talk about how dumb you are and you are both right.

      That's the game. Divide and rule. One of the oldest tricks in the book.

      Step back and think about it. Both parties only pretend to have their constituent's back. Both parties play their constituents while serving corporate entities - the ones that give them money.

      Warren will tell you all this. Maybe we can get her in there. But we all have to agree that we are all in the same boat and all getting screwed. We have to see past the false red and blue, divide and rule mirage they have created.

      They are not anymore dumb or racist than you are

    10. "The more you call someone racist ...[blah, blah, blah]":

    11. "It's more difficult to look at Hillary and Democrats and the view that they increasingly drive voters away because they became over the years subservient to corporate interests and have been doing a poor job of meeting their constituents needs - which are at odds with the corporate interests."

      Minorities having equal representation under the law is at odds with corporate interests?

    12. It's easier to pretend Hillary and the Democratic Party drove voters away because of economics, than to deal with Democrats not winning a majority of the white vote in a national election since they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    13. It's not because of economics. It's because the parties don't represent the people. They represent corporate interests. One doesn't have to be struggling economically to feel the sting of tax dollars given away to support endless war, predatory lending, healthcare gauging etc. It's evident and right there in your face if you stop and think about it. Racism? It's the racism of white voters who voted for Obama and switched to Trump as some absurd studies have pathetically claimed? Ok. But we are going to have to address the fact that both parties are in the pocket of multinationals whose priorities are opposed to the general population, white black whatever.

      We have to address it sometime.

      You have to admit sometime Democrats are beholden to lobbyist's concerns not yours. What are you waiting for? Until we iron out all this racism? ;)

    14. I apologize if you are satisfied with your current representation. You can spend your time worrying about the evil racists and Russians. You can take care of those two problems and everything will be normal and great.

    15. Fagin,
      So take money out of elections. You'll get Democrats to support Campaign Finance Reform, but it's electoral suicide to cede corporate financing of elections to only your opponent.

      BTW, you're selling taking care of racism short. Without racism, we have Universal Healthcare, better public schools, and a stronger safety net for the citizenry, to name just three areas which would be normal and great.

    16. "You'll get Democrats to support Campaign Finance Reform". I'm sorry but no, you wont. You will get Democrats talking about it and proposing to reform it for publicity when they have no chance of passing it but you will not get Democrats to actually do anything about it, unfortunately.

      Citizen involvement can dramatically reshape politics but the elites retain enormous advantages because of their big pocketbooks. We can do it though.

      As for the Democrat's focus on race and identity as a strategy for luring voters, the results speak for themselves. Pursue it as you like.

    17. As an American, and someone not running for elected office, I believe it is my duty to point out the racism of America's Right-wing. To avoid doing so, just because it hurts their feelings, is a cowardly.

      BTW, I still believe passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the right thing for Democrats to do, even though it's a loser politically.

    18. "We can do it though."

      What's your strategy? I'm all ears.

    19. Reform Congress. Stop focusing on the presidency, focus on Congress. Build local Congressional watchdog groups. Create "congressional summons" that call your senators and congresspeople to appear in front of people in your district to answer questions face to face. Focus on five or six core issues that confront all of the 99%, including all the racists and sub intellectuals, all of us - and have them answer strictly to those. Health Care, schools, infrastructure, living wage, anti lobbyist, anti military industrial complex.

      It's Ralph Nader's idea. You can look it up. It can be done.

    20. it's very very hard for liberals to do but you have to show strength and power. You have to assert yourselves. Show your power and strength in order to get what you want. That is something liberals have to work on. As the last few generations have not been taught how to do this

    21. Stop thinking horizontally, looking across the aisle at the racist, misogynist blah blah blblah who is so blah blah blah blah. Look vertically up and down at the powerful against the weak. Because that racist over there and you are equals in some ways. Equal in that you are both being abused by powerful interests. It's so so so so so common in world history. It's nothing to be surprised about. It's just about being aware and then knowing what you want and going for it.

    22. Health care is an interesting one, because liberals are working against two groups in trying to get something done. 1) the insurance industry and their lobby, as well as 2) the racists across the aisle who don't want a penny of their taxes helping minorities.

    23. I love those ideas, Fagin.
      Based on your experience creating Congressional Watchdog groups and "congressional summons", what was it that brought the racists and the sub intellectuals on board? Also, I'd love to read more about your successes in doing these things, so we, perhaps, could replicate them across the country.

    24. Congressional Watchdog groups and "congressional summons" have never been done before.

    25. Dr. Fagin, heal thyself.

    26. Reaching across the aisle is some Joe Biden fantasy. Right-wingers are dead-enders. Nothing will bring them back. The best strategy is to marginalize them, and work around them.

  3. “He's going to end up with someone younger and hotter!”

    Lari White, who played the woman in question, was precisely 2 years younger than Helen Hunt.

    The claim that White is hotter in than Academy-and-Golden Globe-and-Emmy-Award-winning actress, director, and screenwriter Helen Hunt reveals more about Somerby than it does about Hanks or director Zemeckis.

    Somerby’s view of the movie is novel, to say the least. It is a fairly standard bildungsroman type story: a work-obsessed guy in a hurry is chastened by being cast away and returns a better man, but too late, because his fiancĂ©e has given him up for dead and married someone else.

    1. Sally Fields is only ten years older than Tom Hanks but she played his mother in Forrest Gump. What was Hollywood thinking? Come to think of it: LINK LINK

  4. Somerby claiming to understand and expound upon male-female relationship dynamics is like a Catholic priest giving advice about sex.

  5. "That said, the film's finale is fairly straightforward. In our view, the sexual politics was comically awful, but it was being sold by one of Hollywood's most-trusted "good values" male stars."

    Most of this film is spent with Tom Hanks talking to a ball on which he has painted a male face. Aside from a few minutes at the beginning and end of the movie, women are not included. So, it is hard for me to see why Somerby chose to discuss the "sexual politics" of a film that basically has no women in it. Both Hunt and the cowgirl at the end illustrate the same thing, time moves on without you if you are marooned on an island, and you cannot pick up where you left off, but that isn't a bad thing. Sexual politics have nothing to do with this.

    Siri comes with other voices and you can make her male. But the innards, the personality is a different matter. If Somerby cannot imagine why women wouldn't want phones teaching the world that women are inherently slaves, there is something very wrong with him. And if he thinks this is trivial, he's never had to train a staff that the female members are not there to fetch coffee or clean up spills or do the copying or phone everyone to remind them of the meeting, or be the note-taker, or do the emotional work of the meeting by calming down whoever gets upset and making sure everyone gets to speak or whatever.

    Women have been complaining about their treatment as part of a political and social movement for several hundred years now. This current complaint about sexism is NOT new by any means. Hard battles have been fought and won. Telling women that if they keep using the word "sexism" then no one will like them, isn't going to make women stop trying to change things. I assume the same is true for African Americans and other minorities who are treated badly in our culture.

    Trump doesn't have to grab a pussy to demonstrate his sexism. Yesterday he lined up his staff and had them recite the same speech about how calm he had been with Pelosi and Schumer. Nearly all of the people doing that were women. Then there is the way he interrupts his daughter Ivanka when she speaks at meetings, putting his hands on her and calling her sweetie, thereby undermining whatever authority or professionalism she might have been trying to project. I don't like Ivanka but I felt a lot of sympathy for her at that moment. Little things are giveaways for Trump and other men, including both Somerby and Maher, who distrusts women and treats them like extensions of his personal toy.

    My theory is that Somerby has raised this comment about Maher's joke from the 1980's to tell us all next week that Louis CK is just being persecuted by irrational women for playing with his favorite toy in semi-public places. And women should lighten up about all this stuff.

    If women were complaining because "Wilson" wasn't female, Somerby might have a point about taking complaints about sexism too far, but why didn't Tom Hanks care as much about losing his girlfriend as he did about losing his imaginary friend?

    1. Let me type this S L O W L Y so your pea brain can understand:

      Somerby isn’t talking about sexism. (Of course Somerby understands that there is sexism. The fact that he never discusses it is proof of this. Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here).

      He is discussing Unesco accusing the Others of sexism and thus working to elect Donald Trump.

      Got it?

    2. Fuck off deadrat. Unless you are willing to come out as Somerby, we don't need you to keep explaining what Somerby meant. Like Somerby, who can talk about whatever he wants in his blog, we can talk about whatever we want in our comments. Including sexism. And we can disagree with what Somerby says, or what we think he says, and you can too, if you had anything to say besides persecuting the people who comment here.

    3. "Somerby isn’t talking about sexism."

      Sexual politics is about sexism. The essay today is full of the term sexual politics. Of course it is about sexism.

      Somerby says no one should be accused of sexism or they will go out and vote for sexists like Trump. Just like if you say it might rain, it always does.

      People who voted for Trump out of spite are going to vote for him again, because that's the kind of people they are. It doesn't matter if you talk about sexism or not. No Democrat is going to out-Trump Trump, so that faction is not going to turn blue. In the meantime, women have legitimate grievances that deserve to be discussed. No one is going to take Somerby's advice because it is wrong and harmful to the people who are suffering from sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and other social problems.

    4. Fuck off deadrat.

      Wake up; you’re being trolled by my own personal Mini-Me.

      Unless you are willing to come out as Somerby,

      Suppose he did. Would you believe him?

      we don't need you to keep explaining what Somerby meant.

      We? Is that the royal first person plural? Or are you leading a mob of woke peasants with pitchforks and tiki torches?

      Like Somerby, who can talk about whatever he wants in his blog, we can talk about whatever we want in our comments. Including sexism. And we can disagree with what Somerby says, or what we think he says,

      Obviously. Who’s trying to stop you? Only Somerby could do that, and he apparently doesn’t even care that Village Idiot David in Cal posts his comments here.

      and you can too,

      I was worried there for a moment that you were going to censor the comment section.

      if you had anything to say besides persecuting the people who comment here.

      Only if? What are you going to do if commenters don’t abide by your sense of decorum?

      You also have a very low bar for persecution if “pea brain” sets your hair on fire.

      Village Troll Mao, Village Idiot David, my own personal troll who posts with my name, and the horde of Anonymi Ignorami often make it difficult to tell who’s a troll. But it’s actually easy with deadrat — accept no substitutes. Don’t rise to the bait of a faux deadrat. Don’t respond seriously unless the monicker is linked to a google id.

      Or not. Obviously you’re free to look foolish.

  6. “I don’t want kinder, gentler. I don’t want some female that wants her agenda.”

    Heaven forbid if this represents the majority view. Then Somerby’s theory would be in shambles. Somerby would be well-advised never to research it.

  7. Here is another concern about Siri. People do tend to abuse robots and virtual agents. They do it when they are frustrated with the machines, but they also do it when bored. I suspect they may do it subconsciously to enforce the distinction between something that is human and something not human. But when Siri is female, the attacks and abuse become gendered. Siri isn't called a dumb machine, she is called a dumb bitch, and the abusive remarks reserved for women are used with Siri. When girls and women hear this, it is both threatening and damaging. It reminds us that men can be dangerous, makes us fearful when we are trying to feel safe and assert ourselves, and it makes young girls aware of the well of anger that some men feel toward women. It is disturbing in many ways.

    As everyone knows, machines such as boats and trains and cars have always been gendered female too. That means that men don't have the same opportunity to witness such abuse. It is always women. Yes, men also say loving things to their cars, but when they do this they are reducing women to the equivalent status of things, which is part of what is mean by objectifying women, forgetting they are people, human beings, just as men are.

    So, this isn't just about not teaching the world that women are slaves. It is about respecting women's fundamental humanity by not reducing them to the status of machines or software or anime characters or blow up dolls or caricatures of any kind, including virtual agents such as Alexa and Siri.

    Somerby thinks this stuff is silly, but tech companies and universities study how people relate to machines and it will be increasingly important to figure out how to avoid robot abuse because soon robots and agents will be more frequent in our lives and it would be nice if people didn't use them to practice hostility or vent rage, since studies also show that venting increases violence, it doesn't let off steam. Practicing abuse toward women or any identifiable group in our society is a very bad idea.

    A machine that doesn't say "ouch" or complain when abused is the wrong way to address this situation. If Siri won't complain, women will, and that is what the article is about. Somerby, of course, doesn't get it.

    1. When a society's language is gendered would you think that make things better or worse for women?

      Wikipedia says LINK:

      By the 11th century, the role of grammatical gender in Old English was beginning to decline. The Middle English of the 13th century was in transition to the loss of a gender system.

      ...The loss of gender classes was part of a general decay of inflectional endings and declensional classes by the end of the 14th century.

      Gender loss began in the north of England; the south-east and the south-west Midlands were the most linguistically conservative regions, and Kent retained traces of gender in the 1340s. Late 14th-century London English had almost completed the shift away from grammatical gender, and Modern English retains no morphological agreement of words with grammatical gender.
      [END QUOTE]

    2. Someone should market a device with a sardonic male butler voice in the vein of John Gielgud in the movie Arthur.

    3. Somebody should market 40-liter boxes of wine with a vocalization device saying "That's enough Cecilia. It's nearly 10:30 and you've been at since noon."

    4. You couldn't pick me out in a police lineup.

      Yet... Deliciously scary!

    5. Female robots are here and will only get more sophisticated and mainstreamed. You can't stop it. You can complain all you want but you'd better include vibrators in your criticism. It won't matter anyway. If women want a real relationship they will have to offer more of what quality men want and it isn't feminism. It's a sweet disposition and high regard for men.

  8. Remember when hurricanes had women's names? When asked why, the jokey answer was, "They're not himmicanes." Anyhow, the shift was made to include names of both genders, which presumably did some good for women. Based on this example, it seems possible that giving women's names to Siri and Alexa ought to be changed. And, BTW, what about women's voices on you GPS?

    1. Here is how this works. The more unpredictable something is, the more lifelike it seems, since people and animals have agency (make their own decisions) and are often unpredictable. The more lifelike something is, the more likely it is to be given a name.

      Hurricanes have female names because they were named by men. Men often find women unpredictable. Similarly hurricanes have been unpredictable (until recent times). A car that won't start is unpredictable and will be coaxed using a woman's name.

      Women's voices are used because listeners prefer them and they are more recognizable. This has to do with the frequencies in speech, higher is more distinguishable and captures attention more, easier to separate from background sounds. But higher voices go with women, so they are given female names.

      Note that the article above was criticizing the subordinate behavior given to Siri, her tendency to apologize and to take abuse without complaint. Those are traits women are working to avoid and not something that is good to propagate as an idea of what women are like (by putting them into a model such as Siri or Aleka). So this makes it difficult for women to separate themselves from the servant and submissive role.

      Hard to know how to fix this. They should either make Siri less stereotypically female or change the pitch of the voice, which would interfere with functioning of the product. I agree with the article that the male developers may not have good ideas for how to make Siri's behavior more gender neutral. It is a problem that the high tech industry is so male-dominated and this is a good example of why diversity matters in the workplace. Women are customers too and they won't be happy with Siri's behavior. It would be interesting to study gender differences in how customers abuse Siri.

    2. This conversation is mindnumbingly stupid and embarrassing.

  9. Replies
    1. And men swallow.

    2. Try not to be so hard on at 6:32 PM. Somebody swiped his Elliot Rodger poster and he's very distraught.

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  11. "That said, the film's finale is fairly straightforward. In our view, the sexual politics was comically awful, but it was being sold by one of Hollywood's most-trusted "good values" male stars."

    The same trusted male star who was made famous in a sitcom the punchline of which is that he dressed up and acted like a silly, stupid woman. Essentially blackface.

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