Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

‘Say No’ to condescending ad campaigns

Posted on October 6, 2014 at 11.16 am

Last week, the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) released a set of ads aimed at young women voting for governor in six states. If you haven’t seen them already, take a moment to watch this representative ad for Arkansas:

As this ad (and its five siblings) began to make internet rounds, it was almost immediately the subject of derision. Viewers noted that the tone was condescending, even sexist. As one typical review said, “Voting is hard, right ladies? Luckily, the College Republican National Committee is here to help put things in terms we’ll understand: wedding dresses.”

Soon, commentators on the right started playing defense. They highlighted a leftwing video put out by Cosmopolitian (yes, the magazine you probably know better as the source of “1000 Crazy Ways to Use a Can Opener in Your Sex Life” articles) in which a young woman parodies a makeup tutorial video while discussing politics. It’s hypocritical, so the arguments went, to criticize the CRNC video while lauding the one from Cosmo.

But as much as I have no love for Cosmo, here’s the key difference between the two: The Cosmo ad actually contains specific facts and policy suggestions. They may be facts we’d like to dispute (like whether or not women are only paid 78 percent of what men are paid) and policy suggestions we’d like to debate (like the effects of the minimum wage), but they’re undeniably there.

The format is silly; but to Cosmo’s credit, it gives the audience specific information they can research and concludes by encouraging the target demographic—young women—to get engaged in politics and not “let other people speak for you.”

But the CRNC videos? Not so much.

Each one offers only the vaguest possible critiques of the candidates they oppose, like suggestions that he’ll bring higher taxes or cause people to lose their jobs.

Ok, that’s scary, CRNC. And you may well be right. But how will this happen? Can you offer any specifics at all?

Because I don’t know about other young women, but pretty dresses are not enough to make me give someone my vote.

The fact that only ten seconds of each minute-long ad is even customized by state (beyond switching out the names) does not bode well. Indeed, I’d suggest that any campaign ad which can be used in six different states with minimal modification is by definition embarrassingly simplistic and condescending. And if that ad is exclusively targeted at young women—and there’s no similarly patronizing ad campaign made for young men—then, yes, it’s also sexist.

Read the whole thing here.

Feminism & Liberty

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 10.29 am

Q. What do you think of feminism? — skepticalyouth, from tumblr.

A. I delayed answering this because 1) it’s super broad and a lot could be said in response, and 2) right around the time you sent it, a start-up magazine in the UK did an email interview with me on related topics. Since then, it seems like the magazine won’t be publishing that interview, so I’ll just post some of what I wrote for them here. Also, if you’re interested in reading the work of a libertarian feminist (a label I don’t claim), check out this blog.

➲ Do you think there will come a point at which feminism will have achieved its goals for the most part, and what do you think should be done to help advance the goals of feminism?

That depends on what you mean by the goals of feminism.

First-wave feminism’s goals are by and large achieved in the Western world. Women have the right to vote, hold property, testify in court, etc. in the United States. Personally, I think that achieving that baseline for women around the world by working peacefully with local activists should be a top feminist priority today.

I also think the attention feminists have brought to victim-blaming is important, and actually very compatible with libertarianism — it’s quite analogous to the attitude the government often takes in foreign policy in particular:

  • “I wouldn’t have raped you if you weren’t in the wrong bar at the wrong time, looking like a slut in your skimpy clothing.”

is eerily similar to:

  • “We wouldn’t have droned you if you weren’t in the wrong house at the wrong time, looking like a terrorist with your Muslim clothing.”

As for achieving and advancing feminism’s other, later goals, I can’t claim any special expertise on what we’ll see in the future. My main interest, as it would be with any social movement, is that needed cultural change is effected through peaceful, voluntary action, not government mandate.

➲ The GOP at the moment seems to be cooking up policies in which women’s rights are being demeaned and infringed upon — do you think this is true?

I think both major parties do a lot to infringe on women’s rights, not just the GOP. Both support policies like indefinite detention (NDAA); spying on our private lives without a warrant (PATRIOT Act); censoring our internet usage (SOPA/CISPA); regulating what we put into our bodies (drug war, fat and soda bans, smoking and drinking limitations); killing civilians (drone strikes and undeclared wars in the Middle East); devaluing the money in our pockets through inflation and deficit spending; and much more. All of these policies are demeaning to women.

It’s not a question of whether one party or another is anti-women’s rights. That focus totally misses the point. These policies are broadly supported by the establishment of both parties—and they’re not just anti-women; they’re anti-human.

➲ Do you think that women should become more active in the libertarian movement and what would be your pitch?

Yeah, absolutely. The liberty movement is young collectively and in terms of the age of its members, and it’s rapidly growing and diversifying. That’s fantastic.

As for a pitch to get more women involved, I don’t think there’s any single pitch that would appeal to all women, and I don’t think we need one. Rather, I’d say we need good marketing all around—an understanding that having great ideas isn’t enough; we also have to present our ideas in an attractive manner. And that entails a lot of things, like starting with common ground and explaining the practical benefits of our ideas instead of just categorically announcing they’re true. In many ways, this is really an intra-movement discussion at this point.

➲ What is your opinion of the left wing and their policy when it comes toward women?

Well, “the left wing” is a pretty broad term, so I hesitate to generalize. That said, I will comment that there’s a serious cognitive dissonance in those on the left (which is not everyone, but certainly some) who tout their support of choice when it comes to abortion but have no similar interest in choice when it comes to food, drink, smoking, insurance, light bulbs, unions, drugs, and schools.

This video from the 2012 Democratic National Convention typifies what I’m talking about.

It’s patronizing at best to say that women are capable of deciding what to do about an unwanted pregnancy but not capable of deciding what size soda is right for them.

On women and war.

Posted on January 26, 2013 at 3.15 pm

Much is being made of the recent announcement that women will no longer be banned from combat roles in the military — and inevitably the question of whether women will be required to register for the draft has been raised.

My thoughts on the subject are simple. Rather than focus on whether women should/shouldn’t/will/won’t be put into combat or drafted, it seems to me that there are bigger fish to fry: If our government is killing children with drones or coercing people into the military, the detail of what gender is pressing the kill button or being coerced strikes me as comparatively minor.

Is allowing women in combat a step toward equality? I suppose. But without significant changes in our foreign policy, what a horrifying equality it is.