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“Women and Children First!” Or At Least Children?

“Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on … as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you’ve had it, you’re done, you’re through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.” – Robert Anson Heinlein

I don’t agree with everything RAH said, much as I admire him, but this one always struck me as so blatantly true as to be virtually inarguable, at least as far as bare survival goes. (He did in other similar quotes specify pregnant women, or women of childbearing age.) Adult women are pretty much capable of saving themselves from most dangers, even in most cases the danger a certain class of men pose, but surely there can’t be any doubt that looking after the children has to be the primary duty of the adult cohorts in any society, to give that society the best chance to flourish.

That’s why I’ve found the last few weeks a bit discouraging: large segments of the society I live in are utterly failing to meet that basic challenge. Oh, I’m not despairing of America, I’m sure it’s just a statistical blip, but there sure do seem to be a lot of ugliness toward young women and children.

First there were a spate of ugly outbreaks of misogyny in my more specific community, that of outspoken online atheists. I do mean a spate of spite, too… I can’t even face unsnarling that tangle of ugliness. It seemed to have roots in a devastatingly stupid spiteball known as elevatorgate, in which Rebecca Watson of Skepchick made a video in which she fairly offhandedly mentioned that she’d prefer guys not hit on her in the confines of an elevator in the wee hours of the morning at a skeptic’s conference when she’s plainly exhausted, and was promptly recast as a castrating bitch who hates men and wants to muzzle them. Then Greta Christina mentioned Rebecca and… ah, shit, it’s impossible to summarize this crap. It’s all tangled together, anyway. Here, follow links hither and yon if you’re interested and yet missed the avalanche. Trust me, though, there’s a lot of it and it’s not pretty.

Then there was the case of Lunam, a 15 year old girl who shared a sweet picture of herself on r/atheism holding the skeptical classic The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
by Carl Sagan, given to her by her very religious but supportive mother. The thread very rapidly degenerated into a series of “jokes” about anally raping her, which were upvoted with dismaying rapidity. Ugly, ugly, ugly… the only positive aspect being that the larger atheist community did come down pretty hard on the redditors, downvoting the disgustoids and offering some more human feedback to her.

Then there was Jessica Ahlquist. I’m glad the atheist community was and is on the right side of this one, but I can’t understand why the Christian community was so awful to this kid, even if they disagreed with her. Her local governmenal representative Rhode Island State Representative Peter G. Palumbo actually referred to this 15 year old girl as an “evil little thing” just because she stood up for her Constitutional rights. (This did at least provide an opportunity to create a cool t-shirt, now being sold by Freethoughtblogs with $10 from each one going to Jessica’s college fund. I plan to wear mine to hear her speak at the Reason Rally.)

Moving away from the atheist community, I was flabbergasted by the rioting that accompanied the resignation of Joe Paterno, a successful football coach at Penn State. Apparently a great many people felt that a coach who did his job well, such that the school’s team won a record number of football games, bringing money and prestige to the football program, should not be forced to resign at the end of the season just because he failed to take any meaningful action to prevent a more junior coach from continuing to rape a series of young boys over a period of a decade, and indeed appears to have helped cover it up. Paterno just died of lung cancer, and the lionizing is stunning. The governor actually ordered flags flown at half mast, sportcasters everywhere and other celebrities including ex-President GHW Bush lauded the man, and his fans online have reacted with fury at anyone who denigrates “JoePa” just because the man put the success and prestige of his football program ahead of the shattered lives of raped children. Fuck Joe Paterno.

Then there’s the amazing priorities that allow my almost-neighboring state of Kentucky to cut $50 million from the K-12 education budget, while keeping in place tax breaks worth $43 million for a private Biblically-themed commercial theme park, plus some $11 million for new roadworks leading to said park. I suppose that when Kentucky kids fail out of high school they can get work on the Ark shoveling the pretend dinosaur dung off the poop deck.

Finally, here in South Carolina the Republican primary has ended with our famous values voters choosing  that odious adulterous toadstool of a man, the sacked in disgrace former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. I don’t really care about Gingrich’s serial adulteries, though I do find it hard to reconcile mentally with his moralistic posturing about Bill Clinton’s far lesser peccadilloes and the gay marriage issue; it’s his full-throated support for undoing child labor laws that make me gag. He’s not alone in the Republican Party in wanting that, mind, there’s a long list – it just makes me sick that so many of my neighbors seem to agree with him that kids don’t need to be protected from exploitation any more.

So yeah, I worry about my country, my society, especially when it seems like half the people want to make it so the only kids that get protections are the one who aren’t born, and they get it regardless of the costs to the young women who would have to actually deal with the consequences, with ever less help offered from the government.

It just isn’t heathy, seems to me.


~ by BT Murtagh on January 24, 2012.

atheism, children, current events, Internet, misogyny, Politics, United States

2 Responses to ““Women and Children First!” Or At Least Children?”

  1. I remember when I was in college. During finals week, I would routinely get so stressed that I would focus on completely nonessential things, like organizing my sock drawer rather than studying. I think it was because I felt like so many things were out of my control that I wanted SOMETHING to line up the way I wanted it. My suspicion is that some of this primary bad behavior and much of this secondary support of bad behavior is related to people needing to feel a sense of control in their world. It’s not to excuse the behavior, but it might help identify some causes.

    I have a PhD in Armchair Psychology from the University of My Imagination.

    • You didn’t have dormitory elves to exploit in your University? 😉

      I expect there’s something to that. As an infamous stage play had it when I was a young ‘un ”We Only Feel Better When We Kick The Cat.”

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