2013

Rebecca Brightly did a couple of posts on connection and sexism in lindy recently. I found it via the discussion on Reddit.

Brightly’s stuff is getting so much comment because it combines thoughts on how to enjoy dancing more (which is good) with an Internet-feminist deontology (which is wrong, as any respectable consequentialist could tell you). She’s now at the Defcon 3 stage of talking about “de-railing”, deleting comments, and closing down threads when people disagree with her premise. So I thought I’d put my response here.

Context: in partnered dances, there are usually two roles: one person leads, another follows. Quite what each role entails is a settled question for some dance cultures and a matter of intense mass debating in some corners of others. Traditionally, the leader is a man and the follower is a woman.

Brightly seems to say that followers should take more initiative while dancing, in part because this will combat sexism. Now read on.

Stuff I agree with:

In lindy, (most of?) the really good leaders can handle the follower initiating movements, and (most of?) the really good follows do so. You can tell this is true because there are so many videos of it on YouTube.

If you’re both into it, this can increase the fun, and is therefore a good thing.

The tradition that the man leads and the woman follows arose out of a sexist (and homophobic) culture.

Having the tradition enforced (whether by teachers or by the disapproval of other dancers) such that people feel they cannot choose to dance the non-traditional role limits fun and is therefore bad.

Stuff I’m not convinced there’s much reason to believe:

Everyone should be taught both roles from beginning of their dancing career (the premise of the Ambidanceterous blog).
Everyone should learn both roles.
(I mean these either for a categorical or hypothetical “should”, Kant fans, with the hypothetical being “if you want to be a good dancer”).

The mere fact that the traditional association between roles and sexes is still common today is a moral wrong that ought to be righted.

Stuff I disagree with:

There’s a moral duty for followers to take the initiative more and for leaders to learn to deal with that. This duty arises because:
1. The idea that follows should not initiate movements is sexist.
2. There’s a moral duty to eliminate anything which could be labelled “sexism”.

I disagree with 1 and 2 jointly and severally.

2 is the Internet-feminist deontology I mentioned. It’s usually either just asserted (as Brightly does) or advanced by deploying the worst argument in the world. As commenter Devonavar says, it’s not clear that there are bad consequences of having non-initiatory followers, so even if it is sexist, it’s not clear we should care, or at least, that we should care more than we care about other stuff, like having fun (we can reasonably assume that some people dance like that because they enjoy it).

1 is correctly challenged by commenter Josephine, who identifies the problem as the enforced association of roles with sexes. At most, the idea that followers should rarely initiate is indirectly sexist while the enforcement continues, but seeing as the enforcement does more harm, why not just work on that directly?

Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something | Slate Star Codex
1. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It On Faith, Which Is Kinda Like Them Being A Religion: “The high priests of the economic orthodoxy take it on faith that anyone who doubts the market is a heretic who must be punished.”
(tags: argument belief debate epistemology)
Skeptics shouldn’t have lined up with the Mail to call Psychic Sally a fraud
"The great pity about the legal battle between the Daily Mail and ‘Psychic’ Sally Morgan was that somebody had to win." You’re not a sceptic if you call someone a fraud without evidence
(tags: libel law sally-morgan evidence scepticism daily-mail psychic fraud)
Twelve Tones – YouTube
30 minutes of video (hand drawn pictures in time to the narration) and music on finding patterns and 12 tone music. Worth a watch/listen. Via AB on Google+.
(tags: music pattern stravinsky chromatic art vi-hart video)
Schneier on Security: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence Defends NSA Surveillance Programs
"Here’s a transcript of a panel discussion about NSA surveillance. There’s a lot worth reading here, but I want to quote Bob Litt’s opening remarks. He’s the General Counsel for ODNI, and he has a lot to say about the programs revealed so far in the Snowden documents."
(tags: terrorism nsa spying leaks privacy security prism)

Why Does Talking About Creepers And Harassment Make People So Angry? | Popehat
"We write about things that make people angry: sometimes on purpose (u mad bro?), sometimes because the topic interests us. But few topics are as consistent in their ability to draw anger and trolling and bizarre visitors as the issue of sexual harassment and responses to it."
(tags: sex creepers harrassment feminism)

We went to Cyprus for a week recently. While there, we went on a “VIP Catamaran” trip which was sold to us by the holiday company, Thomson. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we’d been lead to think it would be by Thomson’s advertising. Thomson’s response hasn’t been very good, as you’ll see. If anyone has any ideas about what to do about this, I’d be glad to hear them.

A web search shows that Thomson have had complaints going back to 2006 about the number of people on the trip. I wish we’d found that before we booked. I hope I’ve got some Google juice and that’ll mean more people find this and consider whether the trip is worth the money.

All aboard

The advertising said that “numbers are strictly limited, so there’s plenty of room to sunbathe on the rigging nets” and “there’s room to stretch out”. It also said “there’s snorkelling gear and canoes too”. The accompanying photograph shows a fairly sparsely populated boat.

What you actually get is a coachload (I’d say at least 50 people) on a boat which certainly doesn’t have room to fit everyone on the nets. The people who get off the coach and to the boat first get those and stick their towels on them. The rear half of the boat has a shaded area with some tables, so we sat at one of those. Someone nearby started smoking. We moved. A whole bunch of people near where we moved to chain smoked through the trip. By then other people had expanded into the space we’d been sat in before. So we got treated to a nice bit of passive smoking, as well as ash blowing onto our clothes and towels. I’d guess we were one of the few, if not the only, non-smoking groups on there. We couldn’t have expected everyone not to smoke, but the density of people on there meant we couldn’t get a space away from it.

The canoes turned out to be 2 canoes. The crew told people to share them, but this wasn’t very realistic given the number of people on the boat and the duration of the swimming stops.

They also play pretty loud dance music during the portion of the cruise when the sail isn’t up.

By the end of it we were fuming at having paid 70 quid each for the privilege of being in a nightclub before the smoking ban came in.

Customer service

We were glad to get back to the shore. That evening, we saw Chris, the Thomson rep, at the Sunrise Pearl hotel, and told him we weren’t happy with the way the trip had been sold and we wanted a refund. As soon as he heard we wanted a refund, he began to stonewall. He said that a refund was not available as we’d had the trip. We pointed out that it was impossible to get off until the end of the trip. He told us that we couldn’t expect the boat to have the same number of people on it as the photograph, and that he hadn’t mentioned numbers in his presentation on the excursions (which he gave when we arrived). He said that “I said there were canoes and there were canoes”. I told him I’d blog about this, and I’m as good as my word (unlike Thomson, alas).

Chris said he’d investigate our claims the following day. When we went back the next evening, he said he’d spoken to some people on the trip from other hotels, who had been perfectly happy with it. When we asked what the extra money for the “VIP” cruise was for (when compared with the other catamaran excursion), he said it was for the open bar and better food, but didn’t mention the extra space and “more relaxed” stuff mentioned in the Thomson advertising. His investigation hadn’t gone as far as actually finding out how many people had been on the boat that day. When we told him that we weren’t happy with his lack of concern, he offered us a bottle of wine. We initially accepted it but later that evening rejected it as it’d have to go in our hold luggage on the flight the next day, and we didn’t want it to break. (I also wasn’t sure whether accepting it would prejudice a future claim for our money back).

When we asked what the official complaint procedure was (but only when we asked), he filled in a web form. As a result, I got an email telling me that “My team are fully trained and empowered to resolve your complaint and I hope you’re satisfied with the outcome and that we’ve taken every step to resolve it fully. If you feel this isn’t the case, then please review the solution with your Holiday Advisor as we will not contact you again about this matter.” Super.

Now what?

As a result of this, we won’t be buying from Thomson again. It’s a shame as the hotel was really good, but there are other good hotels. In these straitened times, I’m quite surprised the company thinks they can get away with service like this.

I’m not inclined to let this drop. If anyone knows what our options might be at this point, I’d be interested to hear them. I’m aware that the Advertising Standards Authority might take an interest, that I might have some recourse because I bought the trip on a credit card (although it may be complicated by the fact that Thomson were acting as agents for the company who ran the cruise, whose name is on the credit card receipt), and that we might be able to use the Small Claims Court (though I’m not sure whether they have jurisdiction as we bought the trip in Cyprus). Anyone dealt with anything like this before? What’s my next move here?

Shock and Law | The Tab Cambridge
"The Red Tops are blowing the law exam way out of proportion, says CHRIS ROWLANDS. He’s seen things you can’t even imagine."
(tags: law funny newspapers cambridge-university exam)
National Trust – Nature’s Playground » The Click Design Consultants
I saw these signs in local National Trust places recently: they look like they’re nasty prohibitive ones but they’re actually encouraging you to hug trees and sit on the grass and stuff. A bit twee but fun.
(tags: signs funny national-trust)
The Biggest Challenges to Staying Christian
Peter Enns asks his Christian readers for the biggest challenges to staying Christian, and then tells them to be "trans-rational". Adam Lee comments.
(tags: religion de-conversion christianity atheism peter-enns rationality)

Ambidancetrous: The Blog — “We don’t want to make people uncomfortable.” (aka, “What about teh menz?!”)
"Ultimately, some of the worry that some straight guys will be uncomfortable dancing with other men (or being led by a woman) may be justified." Het guys: you lost the oppression Olympics, so your comfort and consent about who touches you is less important than our plan to build a utopia through dance. PROBLEMATIC. Well, OK, that bit rubbed me up the wrong way. But seriously, I think an "ambidancetrous" dance scene would be less "problematic" if the expectations (and how they differ from pretty much every other scene) were made clear up front. What I expect would happen then is that if you insisted every lesson was ambidancetrous, you’d never get enough people to make a viable community. Maybe it’d work as an option within an established scene, though.
(tags: lindy consent gender feminism lindyhop dance)
http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2013/march/1361848247/karen-hitchcock/fat-city
A doctor writes about the difficulties of dealing with obesity: dealing with a social problem, and applying epidemiology to individuals. Via Metafilter.
(tags: food fat obesity medicine health)
On the stupidity of asking, “but where’s the evidence we need evidence for things?”
"it’s a mistake to think that if someone thinks maybe you should have some evidence for a particular thing you believe, they are therefore committed to a sweeping philosophical doctrine about needing evidence for absolutely everything."
(tags: evidence philosophy epistemology)
Online Child Porn – What the Papers Aren’t Telling You.
Could Google really block it? (Hint: no)
(tags: google porn filtering internet)
Ukip Activist Marty Caine Provokes Fury by Branding Drummer Lee Rigby’s Family ‘Idiots’ – IBTimes UK
Looks like the old "the EDL are the provisional wing of UKIP" joke is actually true.
(tags: edl lee-rigby islam racism ukip)

8856bff18d7ac166b097e64a71f2ca83A friend on Facebook linked to Louise Mensch vs Laurie Penny on the “check your privilege” thing. He went on to say he hadn’t come across that phrase, and wondered if it’s anything more than thinly veiled argumentum ad hominem. I done a comment, which seemed long enough to blog:

It’s jargon from the Internet social justice warrior subculture, as far as I can tell, so if you haven’t heard it, hang out on Tumblr, LiveJournal or bits of the feminist blogsphere (or, you know, don’t). It’s becoming more mainstream, if those articles are anything to go by.

The injunction to “check your privilege” means different things at different times. Sometimes it means “you are not in a position to know that”. For example, if I claimed “there is no homophobia in Cambridge”, someone could rightly point out that I’m not that likely to be a victim of homophobia, so I should probably ask some gay people for their opinions. Saying that continues the argument by undercutting my claim.

Sometimes it does seem to act as what Suber calls “logical rudeness“, that is, saying “CYP!” insulates a theory from argument by attributing some fault to those who do not believe it, stopping the argument about the theory by switching it to an argument about the unbeliever. As Suber says, though, it’s not clear that there’s a general duty to respond to would-be debunkers of theories we hold, and claiming that, say, feminism is nonsense because so many feminists are fans of privilege checking is itself rude. However, Suber doesn’t seem to address the point that, if we’re interested in having accurate beliefs, we should debate those with the strongest counter-arguments: our rudeness should not allow the opposition to conclude we are mistaken, but it should worry us.

Using “CYP!” a single line response (on Twitter, or in a comment box, say) is just blowing off steam or cheering for your team, as far as I can tell. It doesn’t actually mean anything other than “yay for us and boo for you!”

Edited to add: There’s some more discussion of this over on Liv’s journal. Read the comments too.

BBC News – How religions change their mind
How do doctrinal shifts occur in various world religions?
(tags: religion christianity mormonism islam change doctrine judaism)
I Went Down to St. James Infirmary
An entire blog full of different versions of the song. Super.
(tags: music jazz blues)
The Ethics of Extreme Porn: Is Some Sex Wrong Even Among Consenting Adults? – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic
Does consent make everything OK? An article summarising responses to another article about a Kink.com shoot. (In the comments, I somehow end up arguing with someone about whether St Paul thought Jesus would be back within his lifetime).
(tags: kink bdsm sex consent porn ethics)
Against the seriousness of theology : Gene Expression
"Theology and texts have far less power over shaping a religion’s lived experience than intellectuals would like to credit. This is a difficult issue to approach, because even believers who are vague on peculiarities of the details of theology (i.e., nearly all of them!) nevertheless espouse that theology as true. Very few Christians that I have spoken to actually understand the substance of the elements of the Athanasian Creed, though they accept it on faith. Similarly, very few Sunni Muslims could explain with any level of coherency why al-Ghazali‘s refutation of the Hellenistic tendency within early Islam shaped their own theology (if they are Sunni it by definition does!). Conversely, very few Shia could explain why their own tradition retains within its intellectual toolkit the esoteric Hellenistic philosophy which the Sunni have rejected. That’s because almost no believers actually make recourse to their own religion’s intellectual toolkit."
(tags: religion theology culture)