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 TrumpAs 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.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.
“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.”
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. FindsIt'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.''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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.