Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired

Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired.

That should be particularly obvious, as for the past three years America’s economy and the economy of many other countries around the world have been shaped by mass lay-offs and not by mass firings. But yet this confusion persists — particularly on right-wing talk radio, on Fox News and among conservative pundits and politicians.

The effects of this confusion are cruel.

Advice given on the basis of this confusion is foolish.

Policy misinformed by this confusion is futile and ineffective.

So let’s try to clear this up.

Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired.

When a worker is fired, she leaves her job and becomes unemployed. But her job is still there. Her former employer now has a job opening and begins looking to replace her, to hire someone else to sit at her desk or stand at her station.

The effect on the individual worker is more or less the same: She lost her job. But the economy as a whole did not lose her job. Her job is still there, it’s just vacant at the moment.

The net effect of a single firing, thus, is +1 unemployed worker and +1 job opening.

Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired.

When a worker is laid off, her job leaves her and she becomes unemployed. Her job no longer exists. Her former employer does not have a job opening and is not looking to replace her or to hire someone else to sit at her desk or stand at her station.

The effect on the individual worker is more or less the same. She lost her job. But the economy as a whole lost her job too. The job is gone. It does not exist.

The net effect of a single layoff, thus, is +1 unemployed worker and -1 job opening.

That’s a problem. We now have one more person looking for work and one less place to find work.

Now, from 2007 through early 2009 the American economy saw some 8 million or so layoffs. These people were not fired, they were laid off.

The arithmetic involves large numbers, but it is not complicated. The economy gained 8 million unemployed workers and lost 8 million job openings. Those 8 million people could not just go get another job because another job did not exist. We wound up with 8 million fewer places to look for work at the same time that 8 million more people needed to find work.

The confused conservatives seem to mistakenly believe that during the Great Recession those 8 million workers were simply fired.

If that had been the case, the economy would have greeted those 8 million newly unemployed workers with 8 million newly vacant job openings. The relocations, retrainings and logistics of rearranging all of those workers back into the assorted job openings created by their firings would have been unpleasant in the short term, but wouldn’t have created an insurmountable long-term problem for either those 8 million people or for the economy as a whole. That sort of churning and rearranging goes on all the time, which is why economists regard something like a 4 percent unemployment rate as “full employment.”

If those workers had all simply been fired, the scenario would have played out as something like the economic equivalent of a Chinese fire drill that thing we used to do as teenagers at red lights where everybody had to get out of the car, run around it, then get back in (which we referred to by an unfortunate name, the origins of which turn out to be rather ugly) — everyone get up and find a new seat. That would have been disruptive, but still possible because there would still have been one seat for every displaced worker.

But that is not what happened during the Great Recession. Those 8 million workers were not fired, they were laid off.

Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired.

Those 8 million workers got up and their seats were taken away. They cannot find new seats because there are not nearly enough seats to go around. Those 8 million or so workers cannot simply find new jobs because there are 8 million fewer jobs to be found.

The most recent figures, if you want to be precise: 14.2 million looking for work; 3.4 million job openings. That means 10.8 million Americans right now, today, are royally, epically screwed.

That means it wouldn’t matter if every unemployed American followed all the advice for what job-seekers are supposed to do. If every single one of them keeps a positive attitude while still being willing to settle for less, if each and every one of them takes classes and volunteers to keep their skills sharp, if each and every one networks furiously, gets up every morning, showers, shaves and gets dressed for the office before sending out dozens of perfect, enticingly crafted résumés all day, every day, then 10.8 million of them will still not find jobs because there are 10.8 million fewer jobs than there are job seekers.

That is the situation. That is what we are up against.

Millions of people got laid off. They weren’t fired — they were laid off. Their jobs are gone and now there aren’t enough jobs.

Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    HV: In this case, it is you claiming that because my sister agrees with me, that she is, essentially, a self-hating sexist tool of patriarchal oppression.
    MadG: Actually, that was someone else. I simply argued that just because one woman says it isn’t sexist, or just says she thinks it’s funny, doesn’t make it not sexist.
    In fact, it wasn’t me, either. I can sort of, if I squint, see a passing familial resemblance between what I posted about “we’re marinating in this sexist culture too” and HV’s “yes, I know, we’re all terrible horrible unredeemable people” take on it*, but in the end, the only person calling HV’s sister a “self-hating sexist tool” is HV.
    *When I was a teenager, my mother’s standard response to any criticism from me — regardless of any validity my criticism might have had, which amount varied depending on the instance — was “Yes, I know, I’m a horrible terrible mother.” I wish I had a pithy phrase to call out this sort of dishonest debate strategy, where someone (like HV) attempts to discredit an argument (like mine) by exaggerating its logical conclusion and then attempting to conflate that ridiculous exaggeration with the argument actually made. Maybe “Inflatio Ad Absurdum”, if I may be forgiven the Potteresque faux Latin?
    In any case, I can’t say I’ve read HV’s subsequent walls-o-text with any care, despite his insistence that he is trying to learn more so as to be a better feminist. The moment at which he committed Inflatio Ad Absurdum was the moment at which I decided I no longer needed to presume any sort of good faith in his arguments. Also, I have a limited tolerance for attempts to mansplain away the very real and entrenched sexist attitudes that actively hurt me, upon which the joke’s “humor” relies.
    Look: We are in a culture in which “I’d totally hit that”** is an accepted synonym for “I’d like to have sex with her.” Fucking think about it for a moment. At least in the phrase “someone else is doing her” I get to remain a her, and the verb is less violent.
    ** Gods bless XKCD.

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    Intent might matter to the person who’s accidentally (or not) hit someone in the face with a hammer.
    It doesn’t matter so much to the person who’s just been hit.

    This.
    When I was a teenager, my mother’s standard response to any criticism from me — regardless of any validity my criticism might have had, which amount varied depending on the instance — was “Yes, I know, I’m a horrible terrible mother.”
    Did we have the same mother somehow? Mine did this too, at least part of the time. It’s where my occasional comments along the lines of, “Yes, I know, I’m an awful person/big meanie/whatever” comes from.

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    I believe in doing the right thing even in the wrong place, and that the light of virtue is a brighter beacon when it is forced to be alone. I believe in trying to do the right thing even if I’m not very good at it. Even if I don’t succeed at all.
    Here’s the thing though. What you’re doing is the wrong thing. When you excuse instances of sexism, allow them to stand, prop up arguments in their favor, you are supporting something that hurts people.
    Insisting on focusing on the intent of the person who did the sexist thing is focusing on the perpetrator instead of the victim. Didn’t Jesus focus on helping the victims, the poor, the downtrodden?
    Defending the good intentions of the perpetrator doesn’t help the perpetrator, either. Showing the perpetrator the truth, and helping them to stop hurting others, that can help the perpetrator. But even that should be secondary to helping the person who was hurt.
    Ask yourself: how is defending a joke from a charge of sexist effect being Christlike?
    I am not a follower of Christ, although I acknowledge his divinity. I do think that he had the right idea in helping the people who have been hurt and oppressed, though. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to help the disadvantaged, the oppressed, by standing up for them/us, and, secondarily, trying to help those who hurt the disadvantaged by educating them.
    Who are you helping? What good are you doing here?
    I tell you again, as I have told you before, that you are helping others to do harm to me and to all women. It is a wrong thing to do. I usually phrase that as “being an asshole” or “being a douche,” but I’ll try this language and see if it gets the point across better.

  • Andrew Glasgow

    @Heretical Voice
    A few pages ago you asked about “douche” being sexist when used as an insult. We’ve had this discussion, and it’s occurred elsewhere as well. The conclusion was that although douches are historically associated with women, they’re not inherently associated with women in an physical fashion to the extent that e.g. “cunt” and “pussy”, where the insult in question is in being equated to a part of the female body. Instead, being called a douche, you are being equated to a tool that as traditionally used is useless for its express purpose (cleaning out the vagina and improving its general health), and in fact can be actively harmful. I should also note that douches of a different sort can be used by both men and women and actually are useful for something (i.e. douche-style enemas).

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    Oh, hey, thanks Andrew. I missed the question. You covered it very well.

  • Tonio

    Here’s a take on intent and effect that hadn’t occurred to me: Nixon’s Jewish Problem. I don’t know yet whether I agree with the conclusion.
    Ripping on Jews is a Nixon loyalty test: Can his staff pass it? He consciously sets Jews up as objects of hatred and loathing for political ends (where have we heard that story before?), hardening his men to go wherever he wants them to go to do whatever he wants done. Nixon’s routine vilification of Jews for political gain wasn’t anti-Semitism. It was something worse.

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    Y’know, after I wrote the response about doing the right or wrong thing, I went out into the lounge at work and sat down to talk to some regulars. They’re activist types as well, and we ended up commiserating about online experiences, including mine here. I was talking about the recent threads, about tone arguments and magical intent, and I wound up summarizing HV’s latest argument as, “No, but intent MUST be important because JESUS.” And honestly, that’s about all I got out of it at first.
    But on my drive home, I started thinking about it some more, and I eventually came to the conclusion that HV’s thought process (which appears to be largely subconscious) must be something along the lines of:
    Sometimes I fuck up even though I mean to do good. God knows my intent, and will not condemn me for errors as long as my intent is good. Intent must be important to God. Therefore, intent should be important to humans as well.
    There are some problems with this line of reasoning, though. I assume, because HV is apparently Christian, that the god he believes in is both omniscient and omnipotent.
    An omnipotent being cannot be harmed. A human can. An omniscient being can know intent. A human cannot.
    Sure, to a being who can actually know intent, and who cannot be harmed by mistakes, intent can matter. But a human being, who can be — and is — harmed by bigotry repeated by accident, and who cannot actually know the intent of the person committing the bigoted act . . . why, exactly, should intent matter to them?

  • GAZZA

    As I understand it, Immanuel Kant was all about intent. I’m not really a follower of that philosophy myself, but I imagine it’s defensible to some degree.

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    I haven’t read Kant, but I somehow doubt that he was talking about it in the same context we are. I and others are saying that when someone says or does something that is effectively bigoted, whether or not they intended it to be bigoted is irrelevant to the discussion of whether or not its effects are bigoted, and that people hurt by those bigoted effects are not obligated to consider the person’s intent.
    Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
    Who was very rarely stable

  • http://profile.typepad.com/interleaper Interleaper

    Whoops.

    There we go?

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    Damn, did I break the italics?

    There. I hope.

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    Thanks, Interleaper!

  • http://isabelcooper.wordpress.com Izzy, Evil Elemental Queen

    Raj: Better, thanks! (And good morning!) Or at least it’s moved to my chest, which isn’t as gross and doesn’t cloud my brain as much.
    On topic: I think intent only matters to the perpetrator–in that, if you didn’t mean to do something, you’re obligated to apologize and stop doing it.
    On sexism-as-subjective…hm. There are points on which I would argue the “no, that’s not sexist” line, but they’re things like porn and prostitution in the abstract (and, indeed, club culture). In the real world, most things that people think are sexist really *are*: the subjective bit is often how to respond–I tend to go for the just-apply-it-to-everyone, which is why “I’d hit that” and similar don’t push my buttons as much, whereas statements about how men are horrible violent lustful beasts piss me off like anything because of what they imply about women.
    I think that made sense. I need breakfast.

  • GAZZA

    True. Kant would argue that the intent, in the sense you’re using it, was improperly considered.
    He was, as you say, a real pissant. And Heidegger? Boozy beggar – could drink you under the table.
    Now David Hume, on the other hand, could out-consume not merely Heidegger, but even Hegel. But Wittgenstein? Bah. Beery swine. Just as schloshed as Schlagel.
    Etc. :)

  • Will Wildman

    And so, yes, I believe that intent — real intent, in the heart, not the false intent that comes with someone saying “not that I mean to offend, but…” — matters.

    We’ve somehow scaled up to the cosmic level now, so I’m not sure to whom you’re saying intent matters. The perpetrator, the victim, or your god? If you’re saying intent matters to the victim, then – well, there’s the Magical Intent page that MG helpfully linked again. If you’re saying intent matters to the perpetrator, then I can only assume/hope you’re saying that a person will watch to see whether their effect matched their intent, and learn from it, and alter their behaviour in the hopes that one day all their effects are precisely what they intended.
    And if you’re saying that intent matters to your god and the judgment of your immortal soul, then you’ll do well to realise that lots of people disagree about whether that’s true or whether either of those are real things, and so you probably shouldn’t expect them to be particularly excited about that part of your concerns. Your sins (according to your definitions, received or designed) are your thing to cope with, and you can’t put any of that weight on others. You can’t ask others to make sacrifices for you.
    Aaaaand looping back to the beginning of all of this, you’ve characterised your entry into the conversation as seeking to discuss and learn. We have lots of evidence on the subsequent pages that, whatever your intent was, it was expressed as “You’re wrong, this isn’t sexist” and so this is where we end up. Your effect has not matched your intent. What are you planning to do about that?

  • Heretical Voice

    @Deird: Intent might matter to the person who’s accidentally (or not) hit someone in the face with a hammer. It doesn’t matter so much to the person who’s just been hit.
    Surely that’s not true, though? I … I am utterly unable to contemplate someone who feels the same about being the victim of a brutal assault as being the victim of a tragic accident, simply because both involve the same ultimate outcome of a hammer to the face.
    Huh? What is your faith? Are you seriously the only person who has it?
    I describe myself as a Christian. Or, in places like the internet where I can do so safely, a Christian heretic. My faith is certainly no longer compatible with the Catholicism of my childhood. I may or may not be truly unique in my beliefs, but I am alone in them. I did not leave the Catholic faith voluntarily. I was excommunicated lata sententia for heresy and schism. I was free, of course, to request review of the declaration of censure by the bishop, but a great deal of time was spent making me very clear in the understanding that excommunications confirmed by a bishop in communion with Rome are a matter of public record…
    @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: Maybe “Inflatio Ad Absurdum”, if I may be forgiven the Potteresque faux Latin?
    You’re looking for reductio ad absurdum. But I don’t think what I said was. You responded to the comments I made on my sister’s behalf, “There are also women who are pretty damn sexist. Because this sexist culture that men are steeping in? Women are steeping in it too.” Is there a way to read this other than “Your sister is pretty damn sexist” and the implication “Your sister’s beliefs further the sexist culture”?
    @MadGastronomer: I don’t really have a specific bit to quote here.
    I can’t reload the pages you linked from where I am at the moment, so I cannot quote that directly either, but one of them talked about a situation in which a woman might wind up on the street, and how the “menz” were likely to rape or harass her. I took offense at this, because I am a man, and I read it to imply that all men — or at least so many men that the odds were all but certain — were rapists or harassers. I took offense at this, because I am a man, and the cutsey spelling serves to belittle me and my opinions for the biology of my birth (I’m similarly not much fond of “mansplain”; really, if someone said, even sarcastically, that your arguments were “woman-talk”, I would expect that your wrath would be vigorous and righteous). I took offense at this, because I lived for five months on the street, and I read it as providing yet one more reason that people should hurry past that homeless man on the corner, should turn from him in fear.
    You are right that we are none of us divine. No one save the God and the author can know their intent. Perhaps the author really does mean to paint men with such a broad brush. Perhaps they have had past experiences, of which I can know nothing, that give them reason to fear that man on the corner. I cannot know their intent, but I do not suspect it was intended to cause injury. After all, the rest of what they wrote was about NOT causing offense. I suspect that they erred — or that they and I simply disagree about when offense would be likely to be taken.
    I would not say to the author, “You are someone who hurts others.” Even if it was true, in a way, because I was hurt.
    There was a joke discussed in this thread, and people said that it caused offense, that it was sexist. And furthermore, that the man who told that joke must be a sexist himself, because in telling that joke, he is someone who hurts others. Maybe he is. I can’t know. I posted a disagreement, that it was possible to have concern for the cause of injury to others — for sexism — and nevertheless not believe that that joke would do so. I was told that the act of disagreeing about whether the joke was offensive was, itself, offensive. I was told that in so disagreeing, I was someone who hurts others.
    If that’s all it takes, then so are we all. Me. You. The author of that essay you linked. If there is no difference between accident and malice, between someone who wills others to come to harm and someone whose actions bring harm despite their best intent, then … Then I don’t know. Because I am either not willing or not able to envision such a world, because I do not believe there is salvation to be found there.

  • Heretical Voice

    @Will Wildman: We have lots of evidence on the subsequent pages that, whatever your intent was, it was expressed as “You’re wrong, this isn’t sexist” and so this is where we end up. Your effect has not matched your intent. What are you planning to do about that?
    Perhaps I’ll try in fewer words, not that I’m very good at that.
    There was a joke. It seems quite a few people think that it is sexist to them, and for good reason. Other people see the joke in an entirely different manner and so do not think it is sexist, again, to them, and again for good reason. Is it possible for these two opinions to co-exist without causing offense? In general, if someone finds some given statement offensive, does that always mean it is an offensive statement? And does trying to make a statement non-offensive change the outcome of those questions even when those efforts are not successful?

  • cyllan

    I can’t reload the pages you linked from where I am at the moment, so I cannot quote that directly either, but one of them talked about a situation in which a woman might wind up on the street, and how the “menz” were likely to rape or harass her. I took offense at this, because I am a man, and I read it to imply that all men — or at least so many men that the odds were all but certain — were rapists or harassers.
    You may take offense at this all you like, but the odds are all but certain that if I walk downtown by myself, I will be harassed in some fashion ranging from minor to major. Someone will make a comment about my hair or my face or my weight, and it will stick in my mind and make me feel Not Safe for the rest of the day. I will not remember the ninety-nine men that I passed by who were perfectly normal people; I will remember the one asshole.
    If you find this to be unfair and uncool, you can help out by NOT DEFENDING THINGS PEOPLE SAY ARE SEXIST.
    See, the difference between accident and malice is that the person who commits an offense by accident listens to the person who says “Hey, you just stepped on my foot.” They stop stepping on that other person’s foot; they apologize for what they’ve done, and they make an increased effort in the future to avoid foot-stomping.
    Someone who does it out of malice (also, someone who is a self-centered asshole) doesn’t care about the toes they just squashed and will defend their right to step where-ever they want. Malice-person may even make statements like “well, if you hadn’t put your toes there,” or “you know, if you just had thicker boots, it wouldn’t hurt so much when I stepped on them.”

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    I took offense at this, because I am a man, and I read it to imply that all men — or at least so many men that the odds were all but certain — were rapists or harassers.
    Then you are an asshole. If it’s not about you, then it’s Not About You.
    I took offense at this, because I am a man, and the cutsey spelling serves to belittle me and my opinions for the biology of my birth (I’m similarly not much fond of “mansplain”; really, if someone said, even sarcastically, that your arguments were “woman-talk”, I would expect that your wrath would be vigorous and righteous).
    Yep, asshole.
    Dude, before you go trashing things like that, you need to learn more about them. More and more, you express actual sexism, masked with concern-trollidm.
    I took offense at this, because I lived for five months on the street, and I read it as providing yet one more reason that people should hurry past that homeless man on the corner, should turn from him in fear.
    It’s not prescriptive, asshole, it’s DESCRIPTIVE. Women DO do this, not SHOULD. Women ARE afraid, or at least cautious, every fucking day out on the streets. Most women, most of the time. Get your head the fuck out of your ass, and stop pretending that women’s lives and experiences are all about how YOU feel about this. You sexist fuck.
    Perhaps they have had past experiences, of which I can know nothing, that give them reason to fear that man on the corner.
    Asswipe, I do not know a woman who does NOT fear the man on the corner, at least some of the time. We ALL have experiences — or nearly all — that lead us to do that.
    I suspect that they erred — or that they and I simply disagree about when offense would be likely to be taken.
    Or, in this case, you did, by running these concepts through your privilege, instead of hearing it as many women’s lived experiences. You douchehat.
    There was a joke discussed in this thread, and people said that it caused offense, that it was sexist.
    It IS sexist, and you do not see that because you do not want to. Defending that joke is defending sexism. You are acting like a sexist douchebag. If you want to not be treated like one, then stop.
    And furthermore, that the man who told that joke must be a sexist himself, because in telling that joke, he is someone who hurts others.
    No one said that. We said the joke was sexist. You ass.
    t seems quite a few people think that it is sexist to them, and for good reason. Other people see the joke in an entirely different manner and so do not think it is sexist, again, to them, and again for good reason. Is it possible for these two opinions to co-exist without causing offense?
    No, it is not. Because you are defending an instance of sexism. A real one, not one about which there can be a difference of opinion, the way there could be about Baby It’s Cold Outside. And it has been treated very differently.

  • http://www.tproe.com/disco.htm Nicolae Carpathia

    Reposting a couple of articles, because apparently some people Don’t Fucking Get It:
    Feminism 101: “Sexism is a Matter of Opinion

    I agree with that link as far as institutionalization goes, but then I read paragraphs like this:
    Whether something is sexist (be it a word, a consumable item, a practice, or anything else) is neither dependent on how it is intended nor how it is received, but on whether it serves to convey sexism, which itself is determined by its alignment with existent patterns.
    Isn’t that viewpoint incompatible with the “standing on my foot” analogy? I thought the point of the “standing on my foot” analogy was that offensiveness IS subjective and people have an obligation to avoid offense even if they don’t think the offended person has any rational basis for finding $something offensive. But then the essay in that link claims that sexism can be objectively determined based on whether it “fits with existing patterns,” and claims that whether something fits with existing patterns can be objectively deduced by analysis.
    Is offense objective or subjective?

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    <I.Isn't that viewpoint incompatible with the "standing on my foot" analogy? I thought the point of the "standing on my foot" analogy was that offensiveness IS subjective and people have an obligation to avoid offense even if they don't think the offended person has any rational basis for finding $something offensive.
    Uh, no. Is whether or not someone is standing on your foot subjective?
    No, the point of the fucking standing on foot analogy is the REACTION of the person doing the standing, whether the stander asserts their right to stand on the standee’s foot, or deny that they are doing so, or whether they fucking move and apologize.
    HV is denying that he is standing on my foot, instead of moving. He began by denying that someone ELSE was standing on my foot, but now he’s moved on to doing it himself.
    And offense may be subjective, but bigotry is generally not. Offense happens inside the skull of the person who is offended, but the bigotry that causes the offense does not, it exists out in the world, in the words and/or actions of the person behaving in a bigoted manner. There is a fucking difference.

  • Will Wildman

    (I’m similarly not much fond of “mansplain”; really, if someone said, even sarcastically, that your arguments were “woman-talk”, I would expect that your wrath would be vigorous and righteous).

    I wanted to address this bit specifically; when I first heard ‘mansplain’ I had a very similar reaction. My response was to go and read about the concept and usage of the word, intently and intensely. It only took about an hour before I had figured out what people were talking about, and eventually I was able to see where it was showing up. I think the word ‘mansplain’ itself is suboptimal, but I haven’t got a replacement, so again: not going to tell anyone not to use it, might even use it myself on occasion. And it is identifying a real thing that can be identified and we should have a word for it.
    It is not equivalent to “You’re a man so you’re wrong/don’t get it”. If you think that’s what it means, I recommend you read more.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    I had a similar reaction the first time I saw a line about “men benefitting from rape”; I felt like I was being unfairly categorized.
    But as has been pointed out by MG and others the key to recognizing the nature of this statement is that it is not about myself, it is how women as individuals and a group have to act in ways which men do not precisely because of the prevalence of rape. A simple example is the Schroedinger’s Rapist concept: a woman must ask this of herself of any man she meets whereas a man virtually never need consider it of any woman he meets.
    Actually, I quite liked “mansplain” the first time I saw it. It always conjures up a mental image of a really snotty asshole talking down in a supercilious manner to someone else.

  • http://www.timecube.com Consumer Unit 5012 can’t see the sailboat, either

    If you spend some time looking around the Internet, you can find people convinced that The Illuminati rule the world secretly. And then the Illuminati show off by putting Illuminati Symbolism _EVERYWHERE_. Album covers, buildings, TV shows, rap music videos, T-Shirts, government logos…
    They can CLEARLY AND OBVIOUSLY see this, and the fact that we can’t indicates that we’re all fluoride-poisoned brainwashed sheeple who need to be educated.
    Fnord.
    (The first time I hit “submit” (TO THE ILLUMINATI, OBVIOUSLY!@), I was told that ‘Typepad cannot accept this data’. WHO ARE THEY WORKING FOR@!?!?!?!)

  • http://www.timecube.com Consumer Unit 5012

    Tonio: Nixon’s routine vilification of Jews for political gain wasn’t anti-Semitism. It was something worse.
    “If you’re so evil…._eat this kitten_!”?

  • Underhill

    In general, if someone finds some given statement offensive, does that always mean it is an offensive statement?

    Well…yes. If it offended someone, then it was offensive, to that person even if not to the general public. Explaining how something was not actually offensive typically results in the people it offended getting very annoyed that you’re claiming their thoughts and opinions are somehow invalid. This is true even if it’s not at all what you intended to do.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird, who will continue to talk about mansplaining to people who are mansplaining to her

    Intent might matter to the person who’s accidentally (or not) hit someone in the face with a hammer.
    It doesn’t matter so much to the person who’s just been hit.

    Surely that’s not true, though? I … I am utterly unable to contemplate someone who feels the same about being the victim of a brutal assault as being the victim of a tragic accident, simply because both involve the same ultimate outcome of a hammer to the face.

    You know, eventually, when I find out why on earth I got hit in the face with a hammer, yeah, it might matter to me.
    Right then and there? My reaction could be summarised as “Ow! I just got hit in the face with a hammer! My nose! My teeth! Ow! Pain! Ow! They just hit me in the face! OWWWW!”
    And frankly, the fact that I got a hammer in the face is much more relevant to me than why it happened.

    *sighs*
    Let’s examine this situation a bit further, shall we?
    Intent: malice on the part of A.
    Result: B gets a hammer in the face.
    Intent: sheer accident on the part of A.
    Result: B gets a hammer in the face.
    There are two consequences here: the effect on A’s moral character, and the effect on B’s face. Both matter.
    If A hits B on purpose, this is very bad for A’s moral character. She needs to spend some time repenting, and asking God to improve her.
    She also smashed in B’s face – and needs to apologise.
    If A hits B by accident, there is no real effect on A’s moral character.
    But she smashed in B’s face – and needs to apologise.
    …before examining her character, however, it might be useful to note that B IS BLEEDING ALL OVER THE PAVEMENT. SHE NEEDS TO GO TO HOSPITAL.
    Right then, the effect on A’s moral character pales into insignificance compared to the urgency of B having been hurt.

    From the perspective of your moral character – yes, your intention in telling (or defending) sexist jokes matters. Sure.
    However, there’s a more urgent problem here: you’ve just hurt someone. Deeply. You don’t even have to figure this out for yourself – because there are several people, right here, pointing out that they’re getting hurt.
    You rambling on in general terms about effect is pretty much like stopping for a serious discussion of ethics while still swinging the hammer around. You’re going to hit me in the face again. PUT THE HAMMER DOWN AND DEAL WITH MY INJURIES FIRST.

    Now, you might be just having a nice theoretical discussion about ethics and jokes and sexism… but for us, it’s not so theoretical. It’s not just that we get hurt in an abstract way. We are getting hurt by this joke. Right now.
    Stop trying to defend these things that are hurting us.

  • Heretical Voice

    @Will Wildman: It is not equivalent to “You’re a man so you’re wrong/don’t get it”. If you think that’s what it means, I recommend you read more.
    It’s not. I know what it means, and that’s not my problem with it. I just don’t think that gendered terms should be used for derogation or as epithets. Especially when they’re coined anew for that purpose.
    @Baby It’s Cold Outside: Wow. Okay then. I hadn’t commented at all about that song because I’d never heard it. But, clearly, it was germane, so I went and listened to it. I find that song really, really skeevy. I cannot hear that song as about anything other than date rape. Not that my personal history really matters, but I’ll just say that I’m probably biased toward hearing it that way.
    I know from the discussion here, that point of view isn’t universal, and other people hear different things from that song than I do. That song offends me personally, but I am not offended that the song means something different for some other people. I don’t feel that they have any requirement to condemn the song as offensive because it offends me. I would not think too kindly of someone who agrees that the song is about date rape and still thinks it’s okay, because that’s not okay. And I’d hope that no one would play the song in company where it is known that it would offend.
    But would someone care to explain the difference, other than me being in the minority as finding the joke non-offensive? I understand that it means something offensive to many people (specifically, that it reinforces the sexual objectification of women). If what it meant to me was what it means to those people, I would not say that I was okay with it, because what it means to those people isn’t okay with me, either. But it means something different to me. I would not tell the joke … well, ever, actually. Why is it a support of sexism to do other than condemn it as sexist?

  • Will Wildman

    Why is it a support of sexism to do other than condemn it as sexist?

    It’s not about failing to condemn it; it’s about actively arguing with the people who are condemning it. Not a binary situation.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird, who really should get up and go to work

    I just don’t think that gendered terms should be used for derogation or as epithets.
    I’m not using it to be derogatory – I’m using it as a descriptor.
    Mansplaining is something I have seen many times. It looks very different to all other kinds of conversation, and I have never seen it from anyone who doesn’t identify as male. Never. It is invariably someone who identifies as male, talking to someone they believe to be female.
    Seriously.
    Do you have a better term that I could use to describe it?

  • chris the cynic

    I can’t really post the example I want without making things all about me, so I’ll just say this:
    In my experience intent doesn’t make a damned bit of difference to anyone other than the person causing harm. (And possibly mind readers.)
    To put that into hammer terms:
    If someone hits me in the face with a hammer by accident and then tells me its my fault and they’ll keep on swinging hammers like that because what they did is not their fault, well that feels just like being hit in the face with hammer by someone who meant to do it and will keep on doing the same thing because they like hitting people in the face with hammers.
    If someone hits me in the face with a hammer on purpose, immediately drops everything to get me medical attention, swears that he or she is sorry, helps me through post hammer impact recovery and takes steps to make sure never to hit anyone in the face with a hammer again, that feels just like like getting hit in the face with a hammer by someone who didn’t mean to do it and is genuinely regretful.

  • Will Wildman

    I just don’t think that gendered terms should be used for derogation or as epithets.

    It gets a gendered term because it is gendered behaviour. Women don’t have the institutional power to mansplain. That is how it works.

  • Xavier

    Explaining how something was not actually offensive typically results in the people it offended getting very annoyed that you’re claiming their thoughts and opinions are somehow invalid. This is true even if it’s not at all what you intended to do.

    I understood that HereticalVoice was initially simply trying to argue that an alternate, non-sexist interpretation of the joke was possible. Not that people who think it’s sexist have invalid opinions. Which, I think is a reasonable point, though I disagree.
    Reminds me of the time when we talked about how much some of us hate the parable of the first-born son, because they can’t help but see their own family represented in it. I can’t help but see sexism in that joke, but I don’t think it’s necessarily bad if someone does not see it.
    I, too, think he has gone too far in his defence, and should stop, apologize, and back down. But to be fair, with people calling him evil, a douche, a fucking fucker that fucks, and whatnot, he may not be seeing that as an option.
    (one thing that’s bugging me, does anyone else think that the “hammer in the face” analogy is a a bit of an exaggeration? The “stepping on the foot” was much less dramatic)

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird, who thinks exaggeration can sometimes be helpful for analogies

    Of course it’s an exaggeration – that’s why I used it. It is a situation where the effect is obviously and unambiguously bad.
    The problem with “stepping on feet” is that I’ve occasionally seen discussions devolve into “yes, but aren’t they making a big deal out of something tiny? people step on my feet and I don’t complain…”

  • Underhill

    Why is it a support of sexism to do other than condemn it as sexist?

    It’s not. You’re being called sexist because people disagree with your arguments for why the joke wasn’t sexist, and consider the arguments themselves sexist. (“If it makes sense with the genders reversed, it’s not sexist regardless of cultural baggage” and “English pronouns suck, so equating the girlfriend with “it” isn’t sexist,” as I recall.)

    I understood that HereticalVoice was initially simply trying to argue that an alternate, non-sexist interpretation of the joke was possible. Not that people who think it’s sexist have invalid opinions. Which, I think is a reasonable point, though I disagree.

    Oh, absolutely. We somehow wound up talking about offensiveness as well, though.

  • http://www.tproe.com/disco.htm Nicolae Carpathia

    The problem with “stepping on feet” is that I’ve occasionally seen discussions devolve into “yes, but aren’t they making a big deal out of something tiny? people step on my feet and I don’t complain…”

    Nitpicking the metaphor is going to be a common evasive response no matter what metaphor you use, so you might as well go with the one that is actually a closer fit.

  • MadGastronomer, The Great and Terrible, whom all must love and despair

    On the “hit in the face with a hammer” metaphor:
    It may be helpful to understand that when we’re talking about bigotry, it is not JUST A hitting B in the face with the hammer, it is every 3rd or 4th or 10th person hitting B in the face with a hammer. Some of them make a point of how they’re doing it on purpose, even. And some people say they did it by accident, but they won’t apologize and then they hit B with the hammer again. Repeatedly. All the while protesting that they didn’t mean to.
    At that point, B isn’t going to care at all about intent, B just wants the whole fucking thing to stop.
    I know what it means, and that’s not my problem with it. I just don’t think that gendered terms should be used for derogation or as epithets. Especially when they’re coined anew for that purpose.
    But it’s gendered behavior. Yes, other kinds of ‘splaining happen, too, and other terms are used for that, but mansplaining is specifically what a man does to a woman. It’s an important part of the concept.
    But would someone care to explain the difference, other than me being in the minority as finding the joke non-offensive?
    Because there was a time when the song really did mean something very different. We hear it in now, and it’s skeevy now, but it wasn’t then. And some people are able to put themselves enough in that other mindset that it doesn’t come across as skeevy to them. But that joke definitely relies on reducing the woman to a sexual object, and there is no time at which it did not, and just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s like a Magic Eye picture: just because you don’t see the boat doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and doesn’t mean the thereness of the boat is subjective.
    Why is it a support of sexism to do other than condemn it as sexist?
    A) What Will Wildman said.
    B) I said it was defense of sexism, not support. And then you started behaving in a sexist manner to boot.

  • renniejoy

    Metaphors are always flawed – they’re not descriptions.
    But hey, have a few more!
    “Stepping on my toes” depends on context. If I am wearing steel-toed boots, it’s probably not going to matter too much. If I’m wearing open-toed sandals, yeowch!
    “Hitting someone in the face” is over the top, deliberately so.
    An in-between metaphor – “Someone bumps into you”. Is the person who bumps into (say that you’re standing still) going to notice? When they notice (perhaps you spoke up) do they:
    A: apologize?
    B: continue to ignore you?
    C: tell you off for getting in their way?
    Heretical Voice – Yes, some things are as easy as 2 + 2 = 4. Some things are not. But a person who has a lot of experience in higher level equations may be able to look at problem that would give me fits and say, “Oh, that really boils down to 2 + 2 = 4.”
    The people who actually experience bias and harassment are the people who are most likely to be able to recognize the patterns of it, and be able to call it out.
    Defensive reactions to said calling out tend to also follow patterns, and when you’ve seen enough of them (not mostly here, I’ve been educated elsewhere and it’s almost always the same reactions), you get tired of the merry-go-round.
    This may be why some of the vehemence directed at some people seems to come out of nowhere – it’s crossing over from other sites.
    On “mansplaining” – this article provides some “great” examples: Men Who Explain Things

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Oy Vey- way behind…a few things I’ve noticed and want to comment on.
    Intent might matter to the person who’s accidentally (or not) hit someone in the face with a hammer.
    It doesn’t matter so much to the person who’s just been hit.

    Err…it should. If I walk up to you on the street and hit you with a hammer with intent to rob you, I’m committing a crime, you are entitled by right to shoot me since I’m attacking you with a deadly weapon.
    If we’re working on a building site and I swing my hammer too far back and clock you in the EXACT SAME SPOT JUST AS HARD, then I’ve still hit you in the face with a hammer. You can be mad at me, sure. But if you flip your lid over a fairly common accident (and I don’t mean just calling me a bastard, but getting enraged)you’re still acting like an asshole. Accidents happen. The real world is a place where people get hurt. A lot. And if you start flipping over every accident, people stop listening to you.
    And I agree, most times intent is not magic. But it is sometimes. And it is mitigating. And, if you really don’t believe intent has anything to do with anything, I presume you oppose hate-crimes legislation? After all: does it really matter if that gay kid was beaten to death because he was gay or because they wanted his wallet?
    I think it does. I think intent matters. I think its what separates first, second, and third degree murder. If I plow into you with my car, you’re still dead. But in front of a judge, it will matter greatly if I planned it for six months, did it right then because I just had a fight with you, was being negligently careless, or just had an accident.
    (I really don’t have a cogent counterargument to a black Alfred Pennyworth being a train-wreck of a bad idea).
    No, but Admiral Fitzwallace does:
    “Leo McGarry: The President’s personal aide. They’re looking at a kid. You have any problem with a young black man waiting on the President?
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: I’m an old black man and I wait on the President.
    Leo McGarry: The kid’s got to carry his bags and…
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You going to pay him a decent wage?
    Leo McGarry: Yeah.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You going to treat him with respect in the workplace?
    Leo McGarry: Yeah.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: Then why the hell should I care?
    Leo McGarry: That’s what I thought.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: I got some real honest-to-god battles to fight, Leo. I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.”
    Also, I gotta tell you: I ASPIRE to be Alfred. I want to be the beloved manservant to a wealthy playboy who is also Batman-that sounds like the best job EVER. I don’t think it can be racist when everyone wants his job.
    Ripping on Jews is a Nixon loyalty test: Can his staff pass it? He consciously sets Jews up as objects of hatred and loathing for political ends (where have we heard that story before?), hardening his men to go wherever he wants them to go to do whatever he wants done. Nixon’s routine vilification of Jews for political gain wasn’t anti-Semitism. It was something worse.
    I think its racism- its Ur-racism. What matters with most racists is hating the other person. Not all people who hate black people also hate Jews (although there is probably a huge overlap) What mattered to Nixon though, was the racism itself- that his staff were WILLING, nay, EAGER to be racist. He didn’t care about oppressing Jews, he cared about OPRESSING. Jews were convenient.
    If someone hits me in the face with a hammer by accident and then tells me its my fault and they’ll keep on swinging hammers like that because what they did is not their fault, well that feels just like being hit in the face with hammer by someone who meant to do it and will keep on doing the same thing because they like hitting people in the face with hammers.
    If someone hits me in the face with a hammer on purpose, immediately drops everything to get me medical attention, swears that he or she is sorry, helps me through post hammer impact recovery and takes steps to make sure never to hit anyone in the face with a hammer again, that feels just like like getting hit in the face with a hammer by someone who didn’t mean to do it and is genuinely regretful.

    If, on the other hand, someone hits you accidentally with a hammer, and you flip out and start screaming at them, and when they go “it was an accident” you KEEP SCREAMING AT THEM- not only are they not gonna get you any medical attention, but they’re gonna start having more accidents.
    Whats more to the point- sexism is NOTHING LIKE BEING HIT IN THE FACE WITH A HAMMER. Sexism is more like having your foot stepped on. More particuarly, getting harmed by other people in GENERAL is like having your foot stepped on. It hurts. Sometimes people do it on purpose, sometimes by accident, sometimes without even knowing they’re doing it. Some people don’t really see a problem because they’ve got lil’ ol size 3 feet. Sure, they get their feet stepped on every once in a while, but its no biggy. Most people, through no fault of their own, however have big ol’ clown feet. People step on their feet all the time. Some people don’t realize they’re doing it. Sometimes it just happens because hey, you’re a size 58 in a size three world, a world built for and designed by size 3 people and parts of that world will hurt you. Sometimes people step on your feet because they think its funny. In both those cases, you have every right to complain that you are being discriminated against and get the situation fixed. Sometimes people just step on your feet by accident, and if you mention it, they apologize.
    Unfortunately, once you’ve had your feet stepped on twenty times in the last minute, its easy to get pissy about it and start accusing the person who did it accidentally not only of doing it, but of being an asshole. This means that this person, who didn’t want to step on your feet, is going to feel attacked and defend themselves. They’ll defend their feet, attack your feet, ask “who the hell cares” and so on. They still stepped on your feet. On the other hand, no one is surprised that they’re defending themselves.
    Ok, so you step on their feet back. Great, now you’ve both got sore feet, you’ve been arguing for two hours, you missed your flight, and half of congress is having stolen-wheelchair races up and down the ramp running over everyones feet.
    Good. See the metaphor? Its crap.
    Saying something sexist is very different from any sort of physical harm. It is emotional harm. Which does NOT MEAN ITS NOT HARM. It is harm- in many ways worse than simply punching someone.
    On the other hand, it means that we are no longer dealing with facts.I can tease my best friend about being gay and he can tease me about being fat and that can say how much I love and trust him more than anything else.
    From the cold hard facts, me answering the phone with “s’up, twinkletoes” and him replying “nothing much you fat sack of shit, whats up” sounds like a horrible exchange, except the nature of our relationship and our intent changes the literal meaning of the words.
    Emotional harm is subjective. Which is good. Because it means that every time someone doesn’t want to hear a trigger word or term they don’t like, in theory all they have to do is ask without justifying themselves. (yes, ‘in theory:’ I know. Stick with me here.) And it means that all a decent person can do is not bring that up anymore.
    It also means however, that things are and will be subjective. People’s triggers will always be obvious to them- if I’m allergic to peanuts, I can probably tell you exactly which candy bars are safe and which aren’t. And which ones have so little peanut that I can’t even notice it, but you say it will kill you. Well, ok, fine. I won’t give you that candy bar. But that doesn’t mean I can see the peanut. That doesn’t even mean I’ll consider it a candy-bar-with-peanuts. It means you, for your purposes, will be harmed by it and I should avoid that around you.
    More specifically, perhaps. Niggardly. I know a LOT of people who are deeply offended if I use this word (I go to a historically black college.) So I don’t use that word because everyone I know would consider it racist of me to use that word.
    So is it racist? No and yes. If I’m at lunch and I say “Oh, what a niggardly portion of okra” and it offends a bunch of my friends, yes it is. They are being offended on behalf of their race- more importantly, they have taken emotional harm as a result of my use of that word. But using that word is not, in of itself, racist.
    Now, as it so happens, I agree, the joke is sexist. (and crappy. Lets not forget that.) I also agree with Heretical Voice that there will be many situations where one person sees sexism and another doesn’t. There will be times when people disagree. However, what is NOT debatable is that MadG is being harmed, in some way, by your insistence that it is not sexist. In which case, as a Christian, even if you don’t see the sexism in the joke,* its your christian duty to stop causing harm. Maybe apologize for causing harm. However, if you and your sister do not think the joke is sexist, then there would be no reason not to tell it to your sister, because your sister isn’t being hurt.
    *I would like to point out in their defense that they’ve clearly said that they find all sorts of sexist things sexist: its just in this one case, the way they see it, it isn’t. I see it myself, but hey, as long as they’re on the ride for the principle, I could care less.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Shit…I apologize for any sucky parts of that last comment- I hit post without a chance to edit it.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    You know what? You can shorten like…half of that into two sentences.
    Do no harm.
    No harm, no foul.
    (also, ignore the hammer analogy because that just got away from me. I think the stepping on feet metaphor sorta kinda works though.)

  • renniejoy

    It’s soooo hard to get into words, sometimes, isn’t it? :/

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    It’s soooo hard to get into words, sometimes, isn’t it? :/
    I think its because when we talk about harm we can do that in physical terms. You step on my foot, I get hurt regardless.
    Calling me an asshole, or a faggot, or a fat fuck, on the other hand, can be deeply hurtful or can be expressions of love, respect, and being so comfortable with someone that you can do it.

  • renniejoy, who probably needs a nap

    Subjective experiences are subjective, I guess. Hugs?

  • renniejoy, who probably needs a nap

    And context is the key to just about everything. :)

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Indeed. It turns out sexism, like everything else except tic-tac-toe, is more complicated than that.
    In general though, I think I’ve managed to distill a code of ethics that works in all situations:
    Do no harm.
    If you do harm, apologize and make restitution.
    Seek, as effectively and harmlessly as you can, to stop others from doing harm.
    And, most importantly for me:
    You’ll be wrong sometimes. Actually, quite a lot. Get used to it, and learn to spot it before you start doing harm.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Oh and, of course.
    *hugs*

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/sunbowgems MercuryBlue

    I like that, Cary. I like it better with ‘no harm, no foul’ somewhere in there, though.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    The Six Commandments:
    Thou shalt do no harm.
    If there has been no harm, there has been no foul, and yea, the basketball game shall continue until the reaching of the sacred fifteen.
    If thou hast done harm, thou shalt not be a total cockweasel. Thou shalt apologize and repair the harm thou hast done.
    If thou canst, stop others from doing harm, but do not forget the first commandment, else thou shalt too be a cockweasel and have to perform restitution.
    Thou wilt be wrong. A lot. Thou shouldest get used to it, and learn to stop before thou violates the first commandment.
    Sooner or later, everyone is a cockweasel. Thou should treat those who are cockweasels to you as you wish others to treat thou when thou art a cockweasel.
    (I had to get the golden rule in there somewhere)


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