Monday, October 21, 2013

Looks like time for a point-by-point rebuttal part 1

I do love a good point-by-point rebuttal.  It’s a form of art sadly neglected in these days of Twitter.  It’s also time-consuming and I’m really busy, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

BEHOLD. Behold, that is, if you have a strong stomach and piss-poor logic doesn’t cause you to erupt in boundless rage 

This is a site called Exposing Feminism.  Its slogan is “Feminism is MAN-HATE. EXPOSE IT”, so you pretty much know what you’re getting from the word go.  The article is called “The 10 Most Common Feminist Myths”. You might think it would contain such items as “Feminists are all hairy lesbians” or “All feminists hate men/want more stuff than men get/need a good fucking” but those didn’t seem to make the cut.  This leads me to wonder “most popular according to whom?”  To whoever wrote the article, I suppose, since no source was cited.  It’s always good to fire off a rebuttal to the title even before getting to the article.

I’m not going to dispute the statistics in the following as it would take far more time than I have.  But the arguments are hilarious, so I’ll tackle those. I’m also assuming the author is male. Sue me.

So here (according to someone) are the 10 most common feminism myths:

1. Myth: One in four women in college has been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

Fact: This mother of all factoids is based on a fallacious feminist study commissioned by Ms. magazine. The researcher, Mary Koss, hand-picked by hard-line feminist Gloria Steinem, acknowledges that 73 percent of the young women she counted as rape victims were not aware they had been raped. Forty-three percent of them were dating their “attacker” again.

So if a woman is unaware that she was raped, it didn’t happen?  I wonder if Koss really said that the women didn’t know they’d been raped.  I wonder if she said something more along the lines of some women saying they didn’t feel they could really classify it as rape because it was by their partner or they were drunk or that she kindasorta led him on before saying no to sex… But even if the claim is accurate, not knowing that what happened to you was rape doesn’t make it not rape.  Dating one’s rapist after the event doesn’t make it not rape either.  Many people stay with their partners after suffering domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Does that make it not abuse?

Bonus points for ‘hard-line feminist’ and ‘hand-picked'’, by the way.  How else was the researcher supposed to be picked?  A fucking lottery?  Whether Steinem is a ‘hard-line feminist’ or not is irrelevant.  The integrity of the study is.  I haven’t seen the study and it isn’t cited, so I can’t tell.  The article does cite some other papers suggesting they refute Koss’ study but mysteriously doesn’t explain how they do so. 

The one exception is "According to this study, campus police reported 1,310 forcible sex offenses on U.S. campuses in one year. That works out to an average of fewer than one rape per campus.)” That’s not quite the same thing, is it?  That’s a statistic about sex offenses reported by campus police and says nothing at all about the number actually committed. Based on the titles alone, the other papers cited don’t seem to be talking about the same statistic either.  But I haven’t read them, so I could be wrong.

Rape is a uniquely horrible crime. That is why we need sober and responsible research. Women will not be helped by hyperbole and hysteria. Truth is no enemy of compassion, and falsehood is no friend.

And a thousand expensive irony meters bite the dust. Why do these people always need to tell us that rape is bad?  I think most of us can take that as read, can’t we?  Could it possibly be that they realise they’re being horrible rape apologists and need to throw down a smoke bomb and run away?

2. Myth: Women earn 75 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Fact: The 75 cent figure is terribly misleading. This statistic is a snapshot of all current full-time workers. It does not consider relevant factors like length of time in the workplace, education, occupation, and number of hours worked per week. (The experience gap is particularly large between older men and women in the workplace.) When economists do the proper controls, the so-called gender wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.

There are numerous studies that show – by a variety of measures – that women in general earn less than their male counterparts. I don’t have time to look them up now, I’m afraid, but that fact is not in dispute.  I don’t know whether the figure is 75% but that doesn’t matter.  This is a tactic you’ll come to recognise from the author.  Dispute the specific figure, not the problem.  Demolishing strawmen isn’t difficult. That’s the point of strawmen. But this guy seems to get put in a headlock and paraded around by his own strawmen. It’s a bizarre display of incompetence.

But none of this matters, according to the author, because when you take into account exactly the right things, the wage gap becomes ‘vanishingly small’. That’s not very difficult to arrange.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t say what ‘vanishingly small’  means or what those ‘proper controls’ are.  He does make some unjustified assertions though.  For example, he writes about education (are women in the workforce less educated than men? In most Western societies at least, this seems doubtful). He also writes about occupation.  If the measure he’s writing of really does ignore occupation, what should we conclude?  Either that women are somehow unfit for higher-paying occupations or that they find it more difficult to get into those occupations in the first place.  Are either of those things true? I know which I’d put my money on.

And then there’s the supposed ‘experience gap’.It’s pretty clear that he’s talking about childcare here.  I’m amused by how specific he is: it’s ‘older women’ who have the biggest experience gap, presumably because younger women haven’t had children yet.  This is a testable hypothesis: presumably younger women have more similar pay to younger men, then?  Do they?

But the most hilarious point is the ‘proper controls’ part.  We can always control variables until they say what we want, at which case we describe them as ‘proper’. That isn't science, I’m afraid.

There’s another citation for this ‘myth’, but again the author doesn’t explain what this source says that refutes it. You’d think there’d be some gleeful quotes, wouldn’t you, if the source said what he says it says.

3. Myth: 30 percent of emergency room visits by women each year are the result of injuries from domestic violence.

Fact: This incendiary statistic is promoted by gender feminists whose primary goal seems to be to impugn men.

Is it? Where? If it’s so common, you’d think he’d provide a few examples, wouldn’t you? That way we could judge whether the people who promote this statistic (assuming there are any) are really ‘gender feminists’. And then we can ask ourselves whether that matters.  The people who promote anything are necessarily people with an agenda. Does that mean we should discount what they say?  Is only totally disinterested comment – contradiction though that is – worthy of attention? So far, all we have is ad-hom.  Without evidence. And with a gigantic assumption about the goals of these unspecified feminists.

But again the author is disputing the figure rather than the issue. Does the exact percentage matter? What percentage would be acceptable? 

Two responsible government studies report that the nationwide figure is closer to one percent. While these studies may have missed some cases of domestic violence, the 30% figure is a wild exaggeration.

This is pure genius.  “While there’s no evidence for this, it’s scientific fact." Please. Once again, I don’t know what these ‘responsible’ government studies actually say or whether they’re talking about the same statistic. I don’t know whether the methodologies and controls are comparable. But, I’m willing to bet, neither does the author.  But I could be wrong. Perhaps the author has read and understood the sources and knows that they are directly comparable. But wouldn’t he say so?

The fact that anyone is subjected to domestic violence is horrifying.  The fact that it happens to women more than to men is horrific for several reasons.  The most horrific reason is that it suggests that men are consistently able to get away with it: that it isn’t soundly enough condemned and that people like our author feel justified in being apologists for domestic violence.

4. Myth: The phrase “rule of thumb” originated in a man’s right to beat his wife provided the stick was no wider than his thumb.

Fact: This is an urban legend that is still taken seriously by activist law professors and harassment workshoppers. The Oxford English Dictionary has more than twenty citations for phrase “rule of thumb” (the earliest from 1692), but not a single mention of beatings, sticks, or husbands and wives.

Holy shit. The origin of the phrase is hardly relevant to the multitude of women who’ve been hit with sticks. Can’t we agree that husbands beating their wives with or without sticks is horrific and not quibble about the origin of a phrase that’s purported to limit the extent of the violence that can be done?  What is the author even trying to achieve by describing this ‘myth’? 

Well, I suppose he’s saying that because a particular phrase doesn’t – in it’s origin – specifically advocate the beating of women with a certain size of stick, then….. feminism is wrong.  Or that it’s totally OK to beat women with really really big sticks, it’s impossible to say.

Fact: women with broken eye sockets are unlikely to take solace in the fact that the phrase ‘rule of thumb’ probably isn’t about beating wives.

OK, I’m being slightly facetious. I’m ignoring the implication of the phrase that there’s a tradition of beating wives with sticks and the author’s presumed thought that debunking the phrase debunks the reality of the tradition. Yeah, I’m not being facetious at all, am I?

5. Myth: Women have been shortchanged in medical research.

Fact: The National Institutes of Health and drug companies routinely include women in clinical trials that test for effectiveness of medications.

Hilarious. I expect they do, but does that mean they research and develop medicine specifically for women as much as they research and develop medicine specifically for men? 

It says no such thing. It’s an irrelevant statistic.  Why not isolate the diseases that are specific to mostly men and mostly to women and then see what research goes into each? That would seem relevant.

By 1979, over 90% of all NIH-funded trials included women.

This is another stupid, deliberately misleading  statistic. If we are to detect a bias, surely we also need to know what percentage include men? And we’d also need to know about the different illnesses men and women can get, how treatable those illnesses are and – sadly – the economic value of researching, building and distributing the treatments. 

The indignant assertion that “we do some research about women-illness, what are you complaining about?” speaks the usual volumes.

Beginning in 1985, when the NIH’s National Cancer Center began keeping track of specific cancer funding, it has annually spent more money on breast cancer than any other type of cancer. Currently, women represent over 60% of all subjects in NIH-funded clinical trails.

Certain types of cancer are known to be more successfully treatable than others and we know more about some forms of cancer. Incremental improvements to existing drugs are going to generate more trials. That doesn’t mean that there’s less effort being put into other forms of cancer. Those are the factors we should consider. I expect lots of people have done that. This author doesn’t cite any such study, only the ones that – based on title alone, apparently – seem in his head to support his pre-determined opinion.

That’s part one. I’ll get onto the top five in the next couple of days.

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