Occupy Apocalypse!

This video is too good not to post, from the pro-Beijing group “Silent Majority of Hong Kong.”  It warns of the apocalyptic catastrophe ( or really big traffic jam) that will befall Hong Kong if Occupy Central takes place.  Last month, the authorities in the HK police force assured us that Occupy Central will have little impact, since there is “plenty of room” in the jails for all the protesters.  It wouldn’t be very doublethinkful of me to wonder how traffic can be blocked by incarcerated people, so I won’t.  And you shouldn’t either.

That said, it’s interesting that Big Beijing seems to be encouraging potential protesters with the delusions of grandeur in the video while also provoking them with the much discussed white paper.  Occupy Wall Street would have loved to have been so economically/vehicularly disruptive in New York, or to have generated an official response before they even took to the streets.  Alas, in democracies, dissent is more easily marginalized and ignored than it is in liberal-autocratic Hong Kong.

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When the “shlubby arrested adolescent” does not get the girl

schlubby

In the wake of Elliot Rodger’s senseless rampage in Southern California on May 23, 2014 there have been many debates that made me thoughtful.   One of the most poignant issues that was raised is an age old debate between feminists and (for the lack of a better word) ‘traditionalists’. In her article, In a final videotaped message, a sad reflection of the sexist stories we so often see on screen, Ann Hornaday argues “movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire.” She used movies such as Neighbors as an example of the type of film that promotes unrealistic expectations that young men may have in regards to women and courtship. Judd Apatow, the director of Neighbors, and Seth Rogen, who stars in the film, both reacted to her article negatively. They believed that Hornaday was accusing them of inspiring this hideous, misogynistic crime when in fact she was making a comment about how media has a powerful influence to shape what people desire. I made a similar point in my unicorn chasing post. In my post, I argued that women are conditioned by the media to seek out the perfect man who will complete them, even though some of us know that we are merely chasing a mystical creature that does not exist. This tragic incident reminded me that men are also subjected to unrealistic expectations created by the media. Many bromance films, a genre Rogen and Apatow are affiliated with, paint a picture that college life should be filled with sex, fun and pleasure and that the “shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl”. Like romantic comedies, bromance films perpetuate traditional gender roles and set unrealistic expectations in love, romance and sex. Though Rogen and Apatow are not responsible for what had happened, they are a part of the racket that makes a profit by selling these fantasies. The problem is that the media is selling us these fantasies, and many of us do not have the awareness to refrain from buying into them.

Elliot Rodger represents a segment of society that has been fed with unrealistic expectations but not equipped to deal with the changing circumstances of society. Feminism has pushed for women’s role to change, but the fundamental structure of society has remained more or less intact.   Women are no longer expected to be mere housewives and mothers- we can now have a career of our own. Some might argue that we are expected to juggle motherhood and career.   Though women’s perception of themselves has changed and as girls are prepped for their changing role, men are subconsciously resistant to change because as boys, they are taught to hang on to their traditional gender role.

“Men want the sense of power more than they want the sense of freedom.  They want the feeling that comes to them as providers for women more than they want the feeling that comes to them as free men.  They want someone dependent on them more than they want a comrade.” Susan Faludi, Feminism for them? 

This quote captures the essence of how many men subconsciously view themselves.  Men as providers is the traditional gender role and it manifest itself in our popular media such as magazines, films and TV shows.  Men of course know the rhetoric of feminism, and understand how to behave in an appropriate and respectful manner in public.  However, many men derive power from being in the dominant position as provider to a woman and whether they are conscious of not, many of them still hold on to their traditional role, and act accordingly without realizing it.  There is a tension between the changes brought forth by feminism and how many men perceive themselves.  This is especially evident in the context of dating:  As a woman, I am supposed to be submissive and at the same time, engaging;  be naughty but also play hard to get. I am also supposed to  ignore my own desires because I should allow a man to dominate me.  This tension is confusing because it seems like society picks and chooses the benefits feminism brought forth in a way that benefits men.  Men are only providers when it’s convenient for them.  In the past, when I asked for emotional support from a boyfriend, I was labelled as ‘needy’ and ’emotional’.  Feminism started a public dialogue  about sex and remove the taboo associated with it (especially in urban, educated, westernized areas).   In addition, feminism pushed to make birth control and abortion available to us, which has also reduced the chances of unwanted pregnancies.   While this makes it easier for men to have sex with women, when a woman can have sex without the fear of pregnancy she isn’t beholden to a man in the same way.  This threatens men’s dominant position as a provider for women, which could make many men uncomfortable.  As a result, many women who embrace their sexuality are either reduced to mere sex objects or are slut- shamed.

Going back to Elliot Rodger, I can’t help but to think that his unspeakable crime reflects how sick our society is.  There are a lot of reasons our society is dysfunctional, and I believe one of the main culprit for our sickness is our popular media.   Elliot Rodger had a delusional view of himself and women, and our media and culture play a large part of how his views were shaped.  He decided that he needed to kill women because he perceived himself as having no power over them, and was therefore made to feel inadequate as a man.  The media portrayal of gender roles is incredibly damaging to the collective psyche and we need to have a conversation about how these portrayals are undoing the hard work of many feminists who are fighting for gender equality.  Feminism has paved the way for women to be more visible in the public sphere, to free us from the confinement of our kitchen, to enable us to engage with the world in a more meaningful way outside of our homes. However, there is still a long way to go.  As a feminist, I am not merely concerned the well-being and the rights of women, I am also very concerned about marginalized, alienated individuals such as Elliot Rodger.   How do we, not just as feminists, but also as responsible citizens of the world, teach both men and women to be more critical of our wants and needs, rather than to be lazy and succumb to the poison the media feeds us?  Feminists have given women a choice; should men also have the right to choose to deviate from their traditional gender role?  I believe that until men can view their role differently, women’s role will never change completely, there will always be confusion, conflict and inequality between the genders.  The Elliot Rodger incident is tragic, and yet this also brought important issues back into the public eye.   How do we, as informed and critical individuals, make our popular media more accountable and responsible as participants in the larger conversation about gender?  How do feminists help men embrace alternative identities for themselves?  Wes actually started the conversation in Thanks a Gay Day post.  However, I think he forgot to thank feminists, who fought along the LGBT movement to bring equality between gender and sexual orientations.

 

An Open Letter to the CCP Concerning Universal Suffrage in HK

urlimages

Dear Chinese Communist Party,

Since it seems clear that you intend to deny the will of the HK People as well as international standards for universal suffrage in the name of maintaining control over the nominating process for Chief Executive in HK, and since I promised I would do so earlier, I’d like to give you some advice about how to run free and fair elections in HK, without having to give up any of the control over HK politics you currently exercise.  In fact, if you follow my advice I’m confident you will find HK much easier to control than it is now.

People are much easier to control when they are less aware of being controlled, and having elections that meet international standards will do much to placate HK democrats, thereby making the populace easier to marginalize on other issues.   There are a few institutional tricks that can help you set up an easy-to-control two party system, instead of this messy multi-party thing going on in the Legislative Council at the moment.  Having only two parties to bribe (we call this making “campaign contributions” in my country, and it’s perfectly legal) makes controlling the political system much simpler and easier, just ask Goldman Sachs, which is regularly among the leading campaign donors to both the Republican and Democratic parties.  Once again, my advice is based on how things work in the good ‘ol US of A.  As a result, my proposal has the added benefit of making it nearly impossible for US politicians (or their loyal “pro-democracy” NGOs) to criticize you, since they would be exposing their own anti-democratic tricks in the process.

I. Duverger’s “Law” and how to create a two-party system

A one-off election, in which whoever gets the plurality of the votes becomes the Chief Executive, would be pretty easy to control, regardless of the nominating process.   (American) political scientists have this principle called “Duverger’s Law,” that demonstrates the logic of single-member district elections: voters will rationalize that minor party candidates can’t win and so they will vote for whichever of the two major parties is closest to representing their views, even if neither party is particularly close (e.g.  Americans against militarism tend to vote for the theoretically slightly less militaristic Democratic Party).  This logic then creates two-party systems.

The multi-party mess in LegCo is largely the result of the geographical constituencies being made up of multi-member districts elected by proportional representation, in which political parties are given seats in proportion to the number of votes they received.  This systems allows for much better representation of voters desires than what exists in the US Congress, obviously not something you want.  It seems the Brits pulled a fast one on y’all with those multi-member districts, since their own voting system is of the much less democratic single-member district variety.  Of course, in LegCo the functional constituencies can outvote the geographical constituencies and this gives you control of LegCo. But non-democratically elected legislators, like overt control of the Chief Executive nomination, is way too obviously undemocratic and as a result people constantly protest the constitutional basis of the political system in HK.

The US Constitution is nearly never protested, nor even questioned, and is in fact worshipped-as-if-divinely-inspired by many of the very Americans who decry domination by elites and the oligarchic US political system.  Yet it has several democracy stifling effects that are less obvious than those in HK, and therefore much more effective in placating the masses.  Single member districts are just part of a complex system that allows elites to rule while maintaining the appearance of consent by the people.

The most recent UK election, not to mention consistently multi-party Parliaments in the UK and India, have caused [non-American] political scientists to question the empirical validity of Duverger’s Law, since it only really seems to work in the USA.  Other features of US politics are likely responsible for creating the uber-controllable two party system only found in the US.  The most obvious is the fact that the President is elected in a one-off, one-day election (no run-off elections or any other democratic elements seen in more modern democracies).  The Electoral College system, a feature of the US Constitution that not even American Libertarians worship, makes each state (except Maine and Nebraska) a winner-take-all battle for electoral votes, having a multiplicative effect on Duvergerian logic.

A similar election for Chief Executive may impose some two-party discipline on Legco, perhaps allowing you to trade single member districts for the abolition of functional constituencies.  Negotiating such a compromise with democratic elements in HK would allow you to meet international standards of universal suffrage without giving up control of the outcomes…provided you learn a couple more lessons from the US and create a system with lots of veto players, and make the right laws regarding campaign finance, and spending on political speech.  More on that later…