Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pray for the city of Christchurch

I was getting ready to blog on a different topic when these reports started coming in:
Police in the New Zealand city of Christchurch said that there are "multiple fatalities" after active shooters opened fire in two mosques in the city center. 
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that one person is in custody but police are unsure if there are any other suspects. 
"As far as we know (the shootings occurred) at two locations, a mosque at Deans Avenue, and another mosque at Linwood Avenue," Bush said. "We are unsure if there are any other locations outside of that area that are under threat." 
Bush said they were "dealing with a very serious and tragic series of events in the Christchurch Canterbury area" and warned people to stay off the streets. He asked "anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go. To close your doors until you hear from us again," he said.
Given this terrible and heartbreaking situation, and the potential that this situation may continue to develop as of this time, I will simply ask you to join me in praying for the victims of this senseless violence and for all those impacted by this hateful and cowardly act, and for a swift end to any further plots of violence.


Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Doing what works to help the homeless

There is a public health crisis going on in places like California. The sad thing is that this crisis is preventable, but no one wants to take the action needed to fix things.

The crisis involves the homeless population, and the reality that living on the streets or packed into homeless shelters has lead to a resurgence of diseases that people typically associate with ancient times:
Infectious diseases—some that ravaged populations in the Middle Ages—are resurging in California and around the country, and are hitting homeless populations especially hard. 
Los Angeles recently experienced an outbreak of typhus—a disease spread by infected fleas on rats and other animals—in downtown streets. Officials briefly closed part of City Hall after reporting that rodents had invaded the building. 
People in Washington State have been infected with Shigella bacteria, which is spread through feces and causes the diarrheal disease shigellosis, as well as Bartonella quintana, or trench fever, which spreads through body lice.*

Hepatitis A, also spread primarily through feces, infected more than 1,000 people in Southern California in the past two years. The disease also has erupted in New Mexico, Ohio, and Kentucky, primarily among people who are homeless or use drugs. 
Public-health officials and politicians are using terms like disaster and public-health crisis to describe the outbreaks, and they are warning that these diseases can easily jump beyond the homeless population.
The main reason for the rise in these diseases is that homeless people who live on the streets face a daily environment filled with feces, urine, blood and other bodily fluids, needles and drugs, rodents, and so on. The living conditions are not unlike historical descriptions of slums--and not just in the middle ages, but in the more recent past as well, at any time before indoor running water and decent sanitation became possibilities.

In fact, the other places in the world where these diseases run rampant apart from California's homeless camps are in impoverished nations whose people must also live in slum-like conditions, without electricity or running water or the ability to keep bodily wastes apart from one's home and one's food. Economic injustice is a cause of much of these conditions in the developing world.

And economic injustice explains quite a bit of what's going on in California, too, though it's not the whole story. A 2015 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty references an annual survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors which lists poverty, lack of affordable housing, low wages and unemployment among the top causes of homelessness. Two other causes include mental illness without affordable care and substance abuse without affordable care.

There's a tendency to see only the alcoholic/drug addicts and the mentally ill as persistently homeless, but that's not the case. In our increasingly atomized society families with children may become homeless too. Jobs and affordable housing would help a significant number of homeless people stop living on the streets, but the fact of being homeless can itself stand as a seemingly insurmountable barrier to either of those things.

For the mentally ill or addicted homeless person the need for good mental health services is crucial. We've known this for decades, and yet we still act as though people can pull themselves out of homelessness by a sheer act of the will.

Might it take the threat of a public health crisis to force politicians to quit talking about homelessness and take the kind of action that works? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

College admissions and the god in the bank account

Back when I was a struggling college student doing work study, I did a stint on the school's janitorial crew. It wasn't too bad--we swept a lot of hallways in between classes, and that sort of thing.

One day as I was sweeping, a couple of teachers walked down the hall. They definitely knew I was there--I stress that point because it's important to note that I was not in any way eavesdropping, just doing my job--but they stopped a couple of feet away from me, talking in audible (and agitated) voices, not caring how many students could hear.

The reason for their agitation was that one of them was being ordered by school officials to raise a student's grade. Now, there are reasons when that might be appropriate--say, perhaps, that the student had experienced a tragic loss in his family, or was fighting cancer, then grade leniency would be perfectly reasonable.

But that wasn't what was going on. The student in question had suffered no tragedy. He simply didn't bother to go to class, read the material, do the assignments, or get passing grades on the tests, and so--no surprise--he was receiving a failing grade.

However, the university was in a major fundraising drive for an important new building that would attract more well-heeled students to the school. The student's parents were significant and highly-valued benefactors of this and other projects. The grade would be raised to a passing grade. There was to be no further discussion of the matter (except, of course, the usual hallway venting to sympathetic, but more cynical, colleagues who had been through this sort of thing before). The angry professor was expressing his displeasure with the situation quite vociferously, but in the end, he would do what he was told. Professors without tenure who are dismissed abruptly in the middle of a semester have a hard time finding new employment.

This school was no Ivy. It wasn't even a secular university. It was a Catholic university, one whose reputation for orthodoxy was strong then and continues to be strong today--not a "Catholic In Name Only" school, but the kind of place parents send their kids so they'll be safe from the perils of heterodox teaching and attacks on their faith.

Was I surprised by this conversation?

No. I had already seen something similar at the first tiny-but-orthodox Catholic college I had attended. It is, after all, the way of the world--yes, even in academia, parish life, and everywhere else. Money talks. This is not surprising.

So as the news of the college admissions scandal broke today, I was as saddened and infuriated as anybody, but I was not surprised. Raising rich students' grades, going to extremes to curry favor with potential benefactors, even admitting students whose grades didn't measure up under some sort of special program--I saw all of that myself at tiny uber-orthodox Catholic colleges. It's not hard to believe that in the high-pressure world of Ivies and big-name schools, there are at least a few scoundrels willing to bend the rules and look the other way so Junior can get into the school of his or her parents' choice.

"For the love of money is the root of all evil," the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6:10. The parents who took part in the college admissions scandal were all very wealthy people. Their kids could have gotten in to schools with less difficult admissions requirements, or taken a year to work first and decide if they were really college material, or gotten started in a business with Mom's or Dad's help. Most people see college as a pathway to a decent job and a respectable income, but these kids didn't need it for that.

What did they need it for? Prestige. Networking. Influence. Getting to rub elbows at the elite schools with the leaders of tomorrow. Dismal high school grades and poor ACT or SAT scores weren't about to ruin their parents' dreams of their little darlings on the world stage, becoming household names, admired and looked up to by all.

And so they threw money at the problem, because it is the love of money, not the mere fact of its existence, that is the root of all evil. They saw money as a god--not the god in the machine, but the god in the bank account, the god who would rush to their aid and make their children's little hiccups on the way to becoming Really Important People vanish like water in the desert.

They thought of it that way because it's the way they were taught to think of it. From their own high school days when having the right symbol on their cardigans was the difference between acceptance and ostracism, from the years when their experiences taught them again and again that there was no problem a little cold hard cash couldn't solve, from the decades when they were perfectly happy to look down the ladder below them, but increasingly anxious and greedy when they saw how high they still had to climb, they learned that money is everything to everyone, and that it can make anything happen.

I'm sure they didn't expect to get caught. I find myself wondering how many of them are outraged that this is even considered a crime, when everybody does it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The abortion cheerleaders

There's an LA Times article going around on Twitter, and even though the article was posted back in January it's still worth talking about. But I'm not going to link to it or quote from it, because I don't want to drive any more traffic to a newspaper capable of running a piece like this one. If you do an Internet search on some keywords you can find it, if you want to see for yourself just how horrifyingly evil and sick it is.

What's it about? Why, it's a fawning, toadying, sycophantic piece praising the hard work of a "doctor" whose job it is to kill unborn humans--and not content with killing them in California, where she lives, this "doctor" flies to Dallas, TX periodically to kill unborn children here. The article follows her over a typical two-day stay; the second day is spent butchering about fifty humans in the embryonic or fetal stage of existence.

The part that makes me want to vomit is that the writer doesn't even pretend to objectivity. The "doctor" is clearly a brave hero to the alleged journalist, while those who protest abortion or make laws requiring women to hear actual information about what abortion is and so on are dismissed as "anti-choice" religious zealots. When one woman comes in for her pre-abortion appointment and learns she is carrying twins, the LA Times writer is clearly worried that, as the "doctor" tells her, the woman won't come back for the killing of her children because women who find out they are expecting twins often change their minds--and there is a palpable note of cheerleading and triumph when the twins' mother comes in the next day to make sure she will only be the mother of dead twins. The "doctor" is happy to rip apart her tiny ones and throw them away for her.

The pro-life movement has seen some positive and encouraging signs in recent years, as many of our fellow Americans have awakened to the stunning inhumanity and grotesque butchery that is abortion. We demand better for women than to be told that the answer to a crisis pregnancy is to kill the child. We strive for a better society where women who face unexpected pregnancies don't feel like they have to aid and abet their children's killers.

But as recent developments have shown, there is a cohort among the abortion cheerleaders that wants abortion at all costs, that celebrates the killing of twins, that applauds when a desperate mother swallows abortion pills after four hours of agonizing over them, and that is ready to promote and affirm the glory of infanticide, so long as more women will join them in the killing fields and walk away wounded like they are.

We can't forget that a million unborn Americans still die at the hands of abortionists each year. We can't forget that there are women--and men, too--who demand that the unborn die in the name of expedience and convenience. And we should remember that this is ultimately a spiritual battle for the soul of our nation.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Brief break for book marketing purposes

I'm doing a bit of marketing for my fourteen books just now; I had intended to write a post today and tomorrow (since I skipped Ash Wednesday) but realized that I'm not going to have time.

I am also editing the first book in a new series while planning for the book I'm writing in April.

If you know anyone looking for books for children ages 8 and up, I'd be honored if you'd share my Amazon link! One series is science fiction adventure; one is magic/fantasy; and there is one stand alone young adult book (I write clean fiction only, so no sex scenes, cursing, or inappropriate elements).

Erin Manning's Amazon Page

Back next week!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Memento mori

The perfect Lenten chair?

Lent 2019 is about to begin. I'm in that place where I really need Lent on the one hand, and I'm really unprepared for it on the other. In other words, situation normal.

No matter how early or late Lent arrives, I always feel like it catches me a bit off guard. Traditionalist Catholics will explain that it's because of what Vatican II did to Septuagesima, and they may have a point. At the same time, though, I think Lent catches me off guard because even though I've been a Catholic for the whole of my 50 years, this particular penitential season still takes me a little time to sort out every year. I've had years where I worried incessantly about the penances, and years when I tried to do really hard things but failed, and years when a too-optimistic view of my likely free time led me to take on spiritual reading or other obligations that a single person living an untrammeled existence would have found difficult, and years when I sort of made the whole thing up as I went along. 

I have a few simple ideas for this year, which I will keep quiet about in the spirit of Lent. The actual penances aren't important, but the spiritual improvement I hope to achieve is. 

I hope that your Lent will begin well and proceed well, too. We should remember that the purpose of Lent is not random suffering, but drawing closer to God, and being mindful of the reality that this life will come to an end someday.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The trouble with Exodus 90

Well, Ash Wednesday is coming, which means that Lent is about to start. Unless, of course, you are a man who has been doing the Exodus 90 program since January, because 40 days of sacrifice and penance just isn't enough for you anymore...

What is Exodus 90? Well, the website is here, but I'd be lying if I said I had it all figured out just from reading what's there. It's supposed to be a 90-day program of spiritual exercises for men only, with a heavy concentration on asceticism. But it's also a slick website, a $30 per-person fee (in a program that boasts that "thousands of men" have gone through it), a program that can only be done with a group, and an unsavory dose of what looks an awful lot like spiritual pride emanating from passive-aggressive posts like this one.

So what's it really all about?

From what I can discover (and it's mentioned on the website), Exodus 90 was started by a priest: Father Brian Doerr. He came up with the original program at Mt. St. Mary's seminary in Maryland, and the original purpose of the program was to help the young seminarians overcome some of their worldly attachments and addictive behaviors as they pursued their vocations. I have no particular competence as a lay person to raise any objections to such a program being used in seminaries, where the seminarians voluntarily place themselves under the authority of their spiritual directors and leaders and where, presumably, the bishop can be appealed to if the ascetic practices become too extreme or seem to be designed to break the will and spirit in an unhealthy way.

However suitable such a program might or might not be for seminarians, I think there are some major concerns about it being used among lay men. Let's take a look for a moment at the ascetic practices commanded by Exodus 90:
I) 90 Days: The 90-day benchmark is not an arbitrary number; it is essential for freedom. That’s the period it takes to re-learn the joy and satisfaction of self-mastery and freedom. Most men consider the 90-day period of purification a manly challenge, something that may have been missing in their lives for a long time. In addition, researchers have found that it takes about 90 days – the length of many rehabilitation models, including AA – for the brain to “reset” itself. Interestingly enough, people in recovery have known this saying forever “90 meetings in 90 days” because when the brain is engaged in a habit for 90 days it becomes easier to do. 
II) Prayer: Each man is to commit to a holy hour each day. Minimum: 20 minutes. Where possible this is to take place with the other brothers of the Exodus 90 fraternity. The ninety scriptures from the book of Exodus and the corresponding meditations and action items are meant to guide a man’s prayer throughout the 90 days of Exodus. That said, the presence of our Lady in the Rosary is imperative. 
III) Asceticism: cold-lukewarm/short showers; no alcohol; no desserts & sweets; no eating between meals; no soda or sweetened drinks; no television or movies (without permission of group); only music that lifts the soul to God; no televised sports (without permission of group); computer for work/school only; regular and intense exercise; group holy hour & meetings; no major material purchases (beyond toiletries, etc., without permission of group); and seven hours of sleep each night is essential. 
IV) Fraternity: The Exodus 90 fraternity consists of 5-7 men and a spiritual director. These fraternities are flesh-and-blood fraternities; not online. We do not connect you with other men. Invite men from the parish, work, or neighborhood to make this journey with you. There’s no better way to revive your Knights of Columbus chapter or your TMIY group as going through this spiritual exercise. And if you do not have a fraternity already, it’s time to be a protagonist and form one. Men are isolated today, and your invitation could be life-changing to someone near you. Also, ask a priest, a man who has already made his Exodus, or another wise man to guide your fraternity. These fraternities are to meet 3 times/week for no more than 30 minutes. Minimum: 1 meeting/week. These meetings are an opportunity for the men to give a self-report for accountability, to receive encouragement from the brotherhood, and wisdom from the mentor.
It would take a long time to unpack all of this, but briefly: this looks like a program that, however well it might work for seminarians, is going to be difficult-to-impossible for men in the everyday world, especially working married men with wives and children. I'm not talking here about the more ordinary would-be ascetic practices like cold or lukewarm showers and a fast that goes beyond what the Church requires (though these elements might be difficult enough; I can imagine a middle-aged man suffering a heart attack from the cold showers or exercise regimen, for instance). No, I'm talking about the requirements being placed on each man's time and on each man's interactions with his family, as well as the orders to get permission from a group of men in the parish if you want to watch a movie with your kids, or buy something other than toiletries (apparently Real Catholic Men don't buy the groceries), and so on.

The interference of an outside group in one's marriage is not usually something that is acceptable unless the husband and wife are going through some kind of crisis, where counselors and other supportive people might be welcomed to give input and direction to one or both spouses. But Exodus 90 simply assumes that since all of this (men-only prayer times, men-only meetings, men-only fasting and exercise, etc.) will magically turn men into better husbands and fathers, wives should be totally accepting and supportive of their husbands' sudden new dietary restrictions, refusals to watch TV or allow secular music to be played in the house, and so on, and to put up with these things for the whole of the 90 days. In fact, men whose wives aren't on board are suspected of being wimps; see this, for instance:
But, nonetheless, DO NOT attempt Exodus 90: 
1) If you enjoy being impotent (i.e. powerless, incapable, ineffective); if you enjoy being neutered and domesticated and are happy to live a life indistinguishable from death; if you enjoy watching heroism in the movies, but do not have the wherewithal to live heroically yourself… 
2) If you are comfortable or content being told by an empty and sterile culture how you are to live, what you are to think, and how you are to act. If you are inclined not to challenge people (i.e. be hurtful) call another to personal excellence (i.e. be offensive) or hold someone accountable to what is good and truthful (i.e. be intolerant)… 
3) If you are pleased that your wife, sons, daughters, parishioners, or friends think you are a “good person” but do not really respect you…
Frankly, anything associated with a shaming tactic so manipulative and grotesque already has the red flags and alarm bells going off in my brain. But then there's also this--the schedule for the Exodus 90 dates:
When should I start Exodus 90? 
The protagonist of this program is you. Find your brothers and start today if your fraternity is ready. 
As a program that emerged from the Catholic Church, most men make their Exodus in conjunction with the liturgical calendar. Here are a few start dates for the upcoming year: 
1. Easter 2019 – Start Date: January 21, 2019 to end on Easter Sunday (April 21, 2019).
2. Ash Wednesday – Start Date: March 6, 2019.
3. Pentecost – Start Date: March 9, 2019 to end on Pentecost Sunday (June 9, 2019).
4. Michaelmas – Start Date: July 1, 2019 to end on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel (September 29, 2019).
5. Christ the King – Start Date: August 26, 2019 to end on the Feast of Christ the King (November 24, 2019).
6. Christmas – Start Date: September 26, 2019 to end on Christmas (December 25, 2019).

These dates do not work "in conjunction with the liturgical calendar". They run roughshod over it! The people who start Exodus 90 in  March will be fasting straight through the Easter Season and ending at Pentecost, when the Easter Season ends. No truly Catholic program would countenance a period of fasting that continues through one of the Church's two major liturgical feasts.

Frankly, I think Exodus 90 should have remained in the seminary--especially since those in charge of seminaries would be quick to remind over-zealous formation directors that too much asceticism leads to ungodly pride, and that when the Church sets times for feasting, she expects us to feast.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A brief report

I don't have much to say just now, except that my dentist did manage to get me in earlier for the root canal re-do than I thought would be possible. I am happy to report that the first half of the procedure was completed today and went quite well. The second half will happen in early April if all goes as planned.

I am grateful for good dental care. We spend a lot of time arguing about health insurance, but dental insurance coverage lags woefully behind for many people, even those with employer coverage. We should be able to do better.

In the name of equality

When biological males who identify as women start winning female athletic competitions, is this a victory for transgendered women everywhere, or a travesty against biological woman who can't win against people whose male biology gives them distinct advantages that go way beyond testosterone?

If you are a mainstream media source, MtF transgender athletes must be celebrated, full stop. Their critics must be cast as bigoted, ignorant people, and the strange fact that FtM trans athletes are not quite making the gains of their MtF counterparts must be noted as briefly as possible. Consider this piece, for example:
Across the U.S. and in many places abroad, transgender athletes are breaking barriers in high school, college and pro sports and being embraced by teammates and fans. But resentments can still flare when transgender women start winning and dominating their sport. 
Exhibit A is a recent public exchange involving tennis great Martina Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian in 1981 and is a longtime gay-rights activist. She now stands accused of being “transphobic” after asserting that many transgender women — even if they’ve undergone hormone treatment — have an unfair advantage over other female competitors. [...] 
Overall, supporters of increased trans inclusion are heartened by the pace of progress for trans athletes. A growing number of state high school athletic associations in the U.S. enable them to play on teams based on their gender identity, and the NCAA has trans-inclusive guidelines for all its member schools.
But as biological women and girls are pushed out of sports by people who were born male and who still have a whole list of advantages ranging from larger muscle mass and bigger lung capacity to greater height and weight (none of which are erased by taking female hormones and lowering testosterone levels), the question becomes: what is the point of women's sports at all?

In one sense, this controversy has been brewing since Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour's "Woman of the Year" award. Women were being told then, in no uncertain terms: you are second rate, and a person born male can actually be better at being a woman than any of you females. But what was a symbolic moment then has turned into a bitter reality for people like the third place winner in the girls' 55-meter dash in Connecticut; not only was she beaten by two biological males, but her name isn't even mentioned in many of the news articles about the controversy. While the fawning press gushes over the "records" the two biological males set as "girls" (although it is unclear whether either of them is undergoing any medical transitioning at all), the third, fourth, and fifth place winners in each event Yearwood and Miller won have to face the fact that their sports careers, college scholarships, and dreams have been deemed less important than an agenda that lets males compete against females in the name of equality.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Party of Abortion

As everyone already knows, the Senate Democrats yesterday voted in favor of letting babies who survive abortions die, without requiring the abortionist to make any attempt whatsoever to save them. 

Some observers are expressing surprise that the Senate's Democratic members would so openly support infanticide. I'm not particularly surprised; it has been the party's position for quite some time.

Here I'm going to pull some material from my own old blog; I wrote there about then Senator Barack Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which he voted against.  Here are Obama's own words on the subject, followed by a bit of my analysis:
The important quote is as follows (unofficial transcript): 
"...and that essentially adding an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion." Barack Obama on the Born Alive Infants Protection Act 
Bear in mind the following: 
The "emergency situation" is that the child has survived the induction abortion--he or she has emerged from the womb alive despite the efforts taken to kill him or her. 
The "assessments" referred to means noting whether the child is still alive. 
The "original decision" is the woman's decision to kill her baby.

In other words, the baby, by living, places an undue burden on his or her mother because he or she didn't get the memo and came into the world alive; rather than summon an additional doctor, whisk the baby to the neonatal intensive care unit and try to save his or her life, Obama thinks the abortionist should get to carry out the abortion by neglect after the child has entered the world.
And this is still the position of the Democratic Party. When a child survives an abortion after viability, which is usually around 24 weeks (though some are starting to consider the 23-week-old fetus potentially viable as well), Democrats are opposed to any effort being made to require anyone to give that child any medical care at all. The baby was supposed to die in utero. The fact that he or she made it out alive is irrelevant to the mother's decision to have the baby killed. If the mother still doesn't want the baby, the doctor is supposed to toss him or her into a basin and wait for the inevitable. Even a perfectly healthy full-term newborn will die of neglect in a fairly short time, so a baby who is premature and/or medically fragile is not going to be a "burden," to use Obama's word, for very long at all.

You see, "choice," to the Democratic Party, means the right of a woman to decide she doesn't want to be a mother of a living baby in spite of her progressing pregnancy. For a woman to have "choice" she has to be able to kill the unborn human growing inside her womb at any time from conception until birth, and for any reason at all. Our abortion laws already give her the right to do this. Roe v. Wade's companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, made it clear that a woman's "health" could not be defined in a narrow way but could include just about anything including emotional health; there really is no restriction on abortion after fetal viability, and a woman can demand a late-term abortion for no reason other than that she's stressed about being pregnant.

So when a baby survives an abortion, the mother's will has been thwarted and her "choice" denied. The living, breathing, crying neonate who was a fetus three seconds ago cannot be legally killed--at least, not directly. But present laws don't seem to require the hired killer to call someone else in to assess the child's ability to survive--and, as I said before, an otherwise healthy child born at 24 or 26 weeks will certainly die if neglected. All the doctor has to do is declare the child "non-viable," hand her to an assistant with orders for "comfort care," and wait for nature to take its course.

And the Democratic Party doesn't want this to change. Their masters in Planned Parenthood certainly don't--after all, there is big money in full-term baby parts for sale. There is also the growing risk that people will begin to question all abortions after, say, the 23-week mark; is there ever any reason directly and intentionally to kill unborn humans who are that close to the viability line, when delivering a live infant is actually less risky than a full-term abortion?

The Party of Abortion doesn't want anyone asking those questions. The Party of Abortion would rather let infanticide happen than admit the humanity of the child inside the womb. The Party of Abortion is a merchant of death, and from their perspective the worst thing that can happen to a woman who has made the "choice" for abortion is for her baby to emerge alive from a womb that was supposed to be her child's execution chamber.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Designing things for the average person leaves women behind

I had intended to write today about the lunacy of the federal judge in Texas and his ruling that, really, since some women can now do combat jobs in the military, there's no good reason not to require women to register for the draft. Fortunately I don't have to write about it; Rod Dreher has already covered it to the fullest extent, and so have more than one hundred and seventy of his blog's commenters.

Buried in those long comment threads, though, was a link to this truly fascinating article in the Guardian by Caroline Criado-Perez that was published last Friday, on why the world continues to be shaped by, and for, men--and what some of the consequences of that might be:
For most of human history, though, that perspective has not been recorded. Going back to the theory of Man the Hunter, the lives of men have been taken to represent those of humans overall. When it comes to the other half of humanity, there is often nothing but silence. And these silences are everywhere. Films, news, literature, science, city planning, economics, the stories we tell ourselves about our past, present and future, are all marked – disfigured – by a female-shaped “absent presence”. This is the gender data gap.
These silences, these gaps, have consequences. They impact on women’s lives, every day. The impact can be relatively minor – struggling to reach a top shelf set at a male height norm, for example. Irritating, certainly. But not life-threatening. Not like crashing in a car whose safety tests don’t account for women’s measurements. Not like dying from a stab wound because your police body armour doesn’t fit you properly. For these women, the consequences of living in a world built around male data can be deadly. [...]

Men are more likely than women to be involved in a car crash, which means they dominate the numbers of those seriously injured in them. But when a woman is involved in a car crash, she is 47% more likely to be seriously injured, and 71% more likely to be moderately injured, even when researchers control for factors such as height, weight, seatbelt usage, and crash intensity. She is also 17% more likely to die. And it’s all to do with how the car is designed – and for whom. [...]

In 2018, Astrid Linder, research director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, presented a paper at the Road Safety on Five Continents Conference in South Korea, in which she ran through EU regulatory crash-test requirements. In no test is an anthropometrically correct female crash-test dummy required. The seatbelt test, one of the frontal-collision tests, and both lateral-collision tests all specify that a 50th-percentile male dummy should be used. There is one EU regulatory test that requires what is called a 5th-percentile female dummy, which is meant to represent the female population. Only 5% of women will be shorter than this dummy. But there are a number of data gaps. For a start, this dummy is only tested in the passenger seat, so we have no data at all for how a female driver would be affected – something of an issue you would think, given women’s “out of position” driving style. And secondly, this female dummy is not really female. It is just a scaled-down male dummy.

Consumer tests can be slightly more stringent than regulatory ones. The 2011 introduction of female crash-test dummies in the US sent cars’ star ratings plummeting. When I spoke to EuroNCAP, a European organisation that provides car safety ratings for consumers, they said that since 2015 they have used male and female dummies in both front-crash tests, and that they base their female dummies on female anthropometric data – with the caveat that this is “where data is available”. EuroNCAP acknowledged that “sometimes” they do just use scaled-down male dummies. But women are not scaled-down men. We have different muscle mass distribution. We have lower bone density. There are differences in vertebrae spacing. Even our body sway is different. And these differences are all crucial when it comes to injury rates in car crashes.
Do go and read the whole thing; it's an excerpt from Criado-Perez's book on the subject.

A few things come to mind:

1. Criado-Perez's explanation of the size of smartphones--that they kept getting bigger in order to fit the size of the average man's hand--made complete sense to me as a small woman who finds it difficult to use a smartphone without holding it in both hands. Her other examples, ranging from workplace tools to safety equipment to pianos, may vary in importance; yet many women of average size with small to average hands will be nodding at the thought that so many objects around us are simply sized too large for easy use. The reality that even today designers are making these items based on the size of an average man clears up many a mystery, in that even tools used by women such as kitchen utensils or hair-styling equipment may also be made according to this template, and not according to the size of a woman's hands.

2. While the disparity in available restrooms for women may be a mere inconvenience, the astonishing reality that many car manufacturers are still not using accurate female crash dummies to test both driver and passenger safety is deeply concerning. As for female police officers and firefighters being required to use equipment that was sized and shaped for men--well, it's hard to believe that this is still the case in 2019. I honestly think that statistically speaking few women are actually suited for some of these jobs, but for those women who can truly do the work, it's disheartening that they're being left unsafe by some of their equipment.

3. These kinds of concerns have ramifications for any attempt that would be made to require women to register for Selective Service.  Read over the quoted bit above about crash test dummies and actual women's bodies--in reality, there are many, many differences between the male and female body which could negatively impact the combat readiness of our armed forces in the event a draft became necessary. The military should not be a playground for political correctness; nor should we, in the name of that political correctness, reserve all support roles for drafted females while ensuring that men who are drafted will be placed in the infantry in larger and larger numbers. 

4. The question of whether we should get rid of the draft registration altogether (I think we should) only pushes these decisions down the road--at least, if you think it's even possible that a situation calling for the draft would ever occur in the US again. 

5. Criado-Perez makes it clear throughout her piece that by "women" she means biological women, and rightly so. One reason the transgender agenda is so nonsensical is that trans activists tend to erase all of these distinctions between men and women. But when it comes to physical safety for people who are actual women, this is a dangerous game to play. A car accident doesn't care how you identify, and neither does a bulletproof vest--the only data is the data relevant to a person's biological sex. 

In the end, I suppose what I found most interesting about this article is that Criado-Perez doesn't seem to think she has to apologize for focusing on the ways in which actual biological women are inconvenienced and even endangered by a world that has tended to use a hypothetical average male as its standard of design. The truth is that designing everything for "the average person" has tended to leave women behind.