In France, a new controversy regarding the so-called “slut shaming” has just broken out.
French MP Aurore Bergé dressed very sexily during a TV show and she now complains about people who focused more on her appearance than on the content of her statements.
Many view this as a blatant example of sexism.
I personally don’t believe this necessarily has to be sexist.
Sexism means that you unfairly treat both genders differently.
But consider now the principle of decency during a political discussion (PMP):
“During any political discussion, a person ought not to dress in a sexually arousing way if he or she wants to be taken seriously“.
This principle makes no mention of gender. It is valid for men, women, heterosexuals, and homosexuals alike.
Since a good political discussion or speech should be focused on facts and reasoning, it is certainly unwise to dress in a way that would arouse members of the opposite sex. And if you do so, you shouldn’t complain about people commenting on your physical appearance.
Consider now the American Republican politician Aaron Schock.
Imagine he dressed like this during a meeting.
I think that very few people would have objections if he wasn’t taken seriously.
So why should sexily dressed female politicians be treated any differently?
I am not saying that dogmatically and I am willing to change my mind if you give me valid arguments.
(I argued elsewhere that this principle stands at the very centre of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth).
This naturally entails trying to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing injustices and act as you would like one acts towards you if you were in his or her situation.
Pseudo-progressives, on the other hand, believe that moral progress is all about acting in accordance with politically correct dogmas nobody ought to question.
Currently, these alleged “sacred truths” can be summed up in the following way
“Oppression almost always stems from heterosexual white males who attack the right of women, homosexuals and non-whites.”
(Of course, “whites” and “non-whites” are artificial (and incoherent) constructions they more or less unconsciously uphold. This shall be the topic of another post).
Now, I certainly wouldn’t deny that misogyny, homophobia and systematic racism are still huge problems (especially in religious conservative or fundamentalist circles, at least as far as the first two ones are concerned).
But I think it is nonsensical and extremely offensive to pretend that poverty and unjust economical structures aren’t in and of themselves a significant cause of oppression.
I also believe it is wrong for these people to pretend to follow the teachings of Martin Luther King while ignoring an essential part of it.
Martin Luther King on poverty
While describing the way in which annoying aspects of the message of prophets are rewritten by the mighty of a society, liberal Christian scholar Thom Stark considered the case of Martin Luther King in modern America.
And we do this today. Martin Luther King Jr. was a notorious gadfly. He is remembered today solely for his role in the civil rights movement, but, especially in his later years, King was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, and spoke out often and dynamically against free-market capitalism. He said that the U.S. needs to honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.
“There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question,
‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.” King went on to call for a synthesis of capitalism and communism that involved nothing less than a total overhaul of the U.S. economic system. This is the King we don’t remember on Martin Luther King Day every year. And that is the purpose of Martin Luther King Day. King, whatever else he was, was an enemy to the power structures in the United States. The genius of declaring a national holiday in King’s honor is that the elites get to claim King as one of their own; they get to control, to a large degree, how we remember him. He was a dissenter from the establishment orthodoxy, but the establishment could hardly shut him out of the collective memory, and far less could they vilify him. So what they did was to call him “son” and thereby acquire the means to control howthe public remembers him.
In an article entitled “King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle”, Stephanie Sieck further drives the point home.
King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle
On Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, some will volunteer, some will attend celebrations of his life and legacy, some will do nothing at all. “I have a dream,” the title of King’s best known speech, will be repeated countless times, along with well-known stories about his commitment to nonviolence, his letters from a Birmingham jail, his marches against segregation and the bullet that ended his life on April 4, 1968.
But few will remember how King lived his last birthday, as he turned 39 on January 15, 1968.
According to accounts of the day retold by Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, King spent the day working on a campaign that he hoped would force Washington and the American public to acknowledge and resolve the problem of poverty for people of all races, religions and backgrounds in the United States. The Poor People’s Campaign was the agenda for the day, with a short break for birthday cake.
While King’s dream, the march on Washington and fight against segregation are well-known to children and adults now, fewer are aware that King spent the last months of his life fighting poverty.
When he died in Memphis, he was there to support fair wages and union representation for Memphis sanitation workers.
Rebecca Burns, who wrote about King’s last days, death, and burial in “Burial for a King,” said King’s antiwar and anti-poverty legacy are overshadowed in part because their solutions are more elusive.
“It’s a much more complex issue – it’s not, pardon my choice of words, as black and white as voting rights or where you sit on a bus,” Burns said. “It’s harder to talk about that in sound bites.”
Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said that King’s dreams of economic justice remain unrealized, but not because they are impossible to achieve.
“It is easier to celebrate King as a civil rights leader, because that was the easier part of his vision to realize,” Carson said. “The southern Jim Crow system was a regional anachronism rather than a national problem – the gulf between rich and poor – that we still prefer to ignore.”
The Poor People’s Campaign reached out to poor whites, many of whom felt most threatened by the civil rights movement’s successes in black equality, as well as impoverished migrant farm workers who harvested the nation’s food and Native Americans who languished on reservations. Injustice anywhere, King said, was a threat to justice everywhere.
Race-based and gender-based affirmative action
This leads me to the topic of affirmative action and its usefulness in addressing injustices.
In another post, I argued that affirmative action should first and foremost be based on the wealth and well-being of individuals.
Pseudo-progressive passionately disagree and believe it should always only be based on gender and race even if this leads one to privilege a wealthy woman over a poor man in quite a few cases.
Richard D. Kahlenberg is an American scholar having spent considerable time analysing affirmative action in higher education.
On the whole, university leaders much prefer the prevailing system of racial preference in admission, which ignores issues of economic inequality and instead focuses, as Walter Benn Michaels acidly observes, on “what color skin the rich kids have.” (One study found that almost nine in ten African Americans at selective colleges are middle or upper class— though the whites were even wealthier.)
Recruiting fairly privileged students of color is far less expensive than including low-income and working-class kidsof all races. While higher education’s vigorous defense of affirmative action on one level represents a sincere desire for greater racial equality, it has another less virtuous side to it, as racial preferences avoid the hard work of addressing deeply rooted inequalities and instead provide what Stephen Carter has called “racial justice on the cheap.”
Most notably, in the late 1960s, before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with the issue of how best to remedy our nation’s history of discrimination. On the one hand, he argued in his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait that compensation is due to black Americans. “It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years,” he wrote.
In the book, and in subsequent testimony before the Kerner Commission in 1967, King called for “compensatory consideration,” noting, “if a man is entered at the starting line in a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.” But instead of urging adoption of a special program for blacks, as some civil rights leaders had done, King called for a color-blind Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged:
“While Negroes form the vast majority of America’s disadvantaged, there are millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill.”
“It is a simple matter of justice that America, in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness, should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor.”
King knew that class-based approaches would disproportionately benefit victims of historic discrimination without violating the color-blind ideal he had famously articulated in the 1963 March on Washington.
Given these political realities, it is perhaps not surprising that the father of racial preferences was not Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King and instead was Richard Nixon. In 1969, Nixon proposed the Philadelphia Plan that imposed racial hiring quotas on the city’s construction industry. Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights leader and friend of labor who planned the 1963 March on Washington, was suspicious: why would Nixon, who was no great supporter of civil rights, support a policy of racial preferences? Rustin charged that Nixon was using the Philadelphia Plan to “deliberately throw black and white workers at each other’s throats.”
I think this should give a pause to all of us truly interested in genuine social justice .
In 2015, the real victims of slavery and segregation are mainly those blacks living under the threshold of poverty.
Race-based positive discrimination overwhelmingly favours economically privileged blacks and latinos at their expense and that of poor whites.
Whites of lower classes, in turn, are all too easily lured into far-right movements such as the Tea-Party or the personality cult of xenophobic billionaire Donald Trump.
It seems clear to me that privileging wealth-based or class-based affirmative action over race-based affirmative action (without necessarily always giving up on the latter) would lead to a far more just and stable society, as Martin Luther King would have desired.
In 2016, in a Western secular context, it doesn’t demand any moral courage to stand for the rights of Afro-Americans unjustly killed, homosexuals being bullied or women victim of sexism.
For there is a large consensus that those things are egregiously wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.
You probably don’t need to be a Christian in order to recognise the wisdom in the following words of Jesus of Nazareth:
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
There is no great moral merit in defending values the large majority of your peers agree with.
It does require, however, a tremendous courage to criticise politically correct dogmas.
For many pseudo-progressives react like outraged religious fundamentalists and do not hesitate to resort to emotional bullying and unfair characterisations of the arguments of their opponents.
I know that it is very unlikely I could ever change their minds and I don’t even want to try it.
For all other readers, I think it might be worth considering what follows.
In 2016, the mighty of this world (i.e. the billionaires and millionaires governing Western oligarchies) can, by and large, cope with a black leader (such as Barack Obama) or a female leader (such as Angela Merkel and probably Hilary Clinton) who uphold neo-liberalism, Western imperialism and do not call into question their scandalous economic privileges.
“It’s not a radical concept that maybe the United States government should represent working families rather than a handful of billionaires.”
No, it isn’t a radical concept at all, indeed.
But it is a lot harder than posting pictures in favour of gay marriage or abortion on your facebook account, getting a lot of “likes” and thinking in turn you are a noble hero contributing to saving our world.
I guess that if I wrote such a long post, it is only because I am an evil heterosexual white man who takes pleasure in oppressing women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals (and devouring small children alive).
Therefore, you don’t have to bother about refuting my arguments, let alone trying to fairly understand and describe my actual positions.
This is probably gonna be the most embarrassing post I’ve ever written.
If I were allowed to “come out”, I’d say I can identify myself very well with many things this kid (who shares my condition) had to say.
I particularly like the end of his video where he reminds people that those children acting strangely and inappropriately have feelings too and that you shouldn’t put them down due to features they’re not responsible for.
If we, as PROGRESSIVES, want to strive for a just society where discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation no longer exists, we should also combat the systematic discrimination and bullying of those having a peculiar mental condition, the obese, disabled… Of course, doing this might be A BIT more difficult than just putting the colours of the rainbow on one’s Facebook page in order to celebrate gay marriage and to show how “cool” and “modern” you are.
I am sickened by the endless number of pseudo-progressives focusing all their time and energy on institutional white racism (or remnants thereof), gay rights and misogyny while callously ignoring the suffering of children being battered because they’re white, men falsely accused of having committed a rape, divorced fathers missing their children, a qualified obese person being rejected after each interview or autistic, psychotic and hyperactive individuals being segregated owing to their “abnormal” mental features and behaviours.
“And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?”
There is a clear general pattern which emerges here: there is no great merit in engaging in moral behaviour a large part of the society you’re living in takes for granted.
There was clearly a time where standing for gay rights was a revolutionary act.
I certainly still believe this should be done but it irks me seeing so many self-righteous people who feel great about themselves because they do so while at the same time passionately despising those whose physical or behavioural appearance do not fit societal norms.
For me, being progressive often involves being a lonely warrior challenging unjust states of affairs which are considered perfectly legitimate.
It doesn’t demand a lot of courage to assert one’s support for gay marriage while bashing Conservatives opposing it. You’re going to find countless people joining you and admiring you for doing so.
It can be much harder to fight the discrimination that people seen as unattractive face in the workplace and in their daily life.
It can be much harder to foster tolerance and acceptance towards individuals whose behaviour is perceived as weird or out of place because of conditions such as ADHD, autism, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and so on and so forth..
I really wish I’d see much more progressives waging war on these injustices.
A friend of mine called my attention to an article which made me shudder.
The coroner said that when David Clapson died he had no food in his stomach. Clapson’s benefits had been stopped as a result of missing one meeting at the jobcentre. He was diabetic, and without the £71.70 a week from his jobseeker’s allowance he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge where he kept his insulin working. Three weeks later Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin. A pile of CVs was found next to his body.
I’ll resist calling Clapson’s death a tragedy. Tragedy suggests a one-off incident, a rarity that couldn’t be prevented. What was done to Clapson – and it was done, not something that simply happened – is a particularly horrific example of what has, almost silently, turned into a widespread crisis. More than a million people in this country have had their benefits stopped over the past year. Sanctions against chronically ill and disabled people have risen by 580% in a year. This is a system out of control.
A petition for an inquiry into benefit sanctions, started by Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, is now on the verge of its 200,000th signature. This Thursday there will be a day of action against benefit sanctions across the country. If inspiration is required, you need look no further than the latest Department for Work and Pensions pilot scheme launched last week. The unemployed are set to have their benefits stopped if they don’t sign in at a jobcentre in the morning and spend the whole day there, every day. Breach the rules once and you’ll lose four weeks’ worth of benefits; twice and you won’t be able to feed your kids for three months.
Sanctions are a product of an attitude towards benefit claimants that says they are not people struggling to find work but suspects: lazy, stupid and in need of a DWP-kick to get them out of bed. The lazy are going hungry. Eight in 10 Trussell Trust food banks report that benefit sanctions are causing more people to need emergency food parcels. This, I suppose, is what Conservatives call motivation.
It doesn’t matter that sanctions are disproportionately hitting the most vulnerable. Nor that the DWP’s own commissioned report says that they are being imposed in such a way that vulnerable people often don’t understand what is happening to them, and are left uninformed of the hardship payments to which they are entitled. Six out of 10 employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants who have had their benefits stopped have a mental-health condition or learning difficulty. Are these the chosen victims of austerity now? By definition of being in receipt of ESA, many will struggle to do things such as be punctual for meetings or complete work placements with strangers in environments they don’t know. It is setting people up to fail and then punishing them for it.
Sanctions are not an anomaly. Rather, they are emblematic of the wider Tory record on welfare: one of incompetence and, at best, indifference. The work programme fails to find work for 95% of disabled people, but enforced, unpaid labour or loss of benefits is the DWP’s answer. More than a quarter of a million people are still waiting for PIP, the benefit needed to help cover the extra costs of disability. Seven hundred thousand people have been left waiting for an ESA assessment. Locking people out of their rightful benefits is becoming a theme for this government. The consequences are human; the response from the government is inhumane.
Clapson had only left his last job to care for his elderly mum, and before that had worked for 29 years. On the day he died he had £3.44 to his name and six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines in his kitchen cupboards. Benefit sanctions are aimed at ending the “something for nothing” culture, as the DWP’s press release brags. I vote for ending the demonisation of the unemployed, disabled and poor.
What happened to him is truly gruesome and absolutely shameful.
This is why I reject free market capitalism for (Christian) socialism.
In the first system, MONEY is the measure of all things which naturally leads to a very small minority of incredibly rich people and an exponentially higher number of poor ones.
In socialism, free competition isencouraged AS LONG AS the welfare of human beings is not threatened, in which case the State intervenes.
Comparisons between the well being of poor people in hyper-capitalistic countries such as the United States and socialistic countries such as Sweden let us recognize a stark contrast which looks all the more tragic when glancing at children.
I think that the UK is drifting more and more towards wild capitalism and actually it has always hindered us from building up a “social Europe”. So we’d probably be much more successful if they had left us, presumably deprived of Scotland.
But their departure from the EU would likely have dire consequences on many sectors of British economy and employment as Obama himself pointed out.
Some implications for Christians
All Christians agree that a starving child is a horrendous evil. Actually this is agreed upon by the large majority of human beings regardless of their worldview.
So should we not work together towards constructing a society where this kind of evil is MINIMIZED?
While reading these lines, many Conservative Christians would doubtlessly answer me that while we are taught by our Master to care for the poor, the solution doesn’t have to be political.
But many of them couldn’t tell me that with a straight face, that is without either cognitive dissonances or a hypocritical tongue. When abortion and homosexuality are concerned, they certainly believe that a political solution is not only in order but also the most Christian thing anyone could do.
Let us suppose that we know that option A (status quo) will uphold the suffering of poor children whereas option B will considerably reduce it.
What kind of human beings are we if we refuse to engage B out of convenience or love for abstract political ideals?
Progressive Christian writer and missiologists Benjamin L. Corey wrote a very interesting post on the recent reactions of some Conservative Christians in America, to which I responded.
So Listen– It’s Not Religious Discrimination Just Because You Can’t Discriminate.
Earlier this week, the President signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In a supposed civilized society with a separation of church and state, such a measure should be welcomed by all because anti-discrimination policies protect the rights of everyone.
For me, anti-discrimination laws transcend theology and personal opinion. I acknowledge that while I am a Christian, I am also a Christian who lives and who does commerce in a culture that is diverse– making certain rules for playing necessary. For starters, I don’t want a potential employer to be able to fire me simply because I am a Christian. Being a Christian is completely irrelevant to my ability to do a specific job and to be disqualified from employment on that basis, would be completely unfair. Anti-discrimination laws protect my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by ensuring my religious orientation cannot be used as a way to shut me out from competing in the public sector.
Regardless of my theology on human sexuality, I see anti-discrimination policies for the LGBT community the same way I see them for myself– they too have a right to compete in the public sector and have the right to hold jobs they are qualified for without an aspect of their identity disqualify them from working. It’s a little something we call…. fair.
You can’t fire me because I’m an Anabaptist, and I can’t fire you because of the gender you’re attracted to.
Really simple stuff that we should all say “this is fair and good for society” regardless of our particular theology on any given subject.
However, the new anti-discrimination policy for government contractors isn’t exactly being celebrated in our Christian community. Instead, many are crying that the sky is falling, that our religious liberties are under attack– you know, more “help, help, I’m being oppressed!” Monty Python type stuff.
“This was an outrageous act of discrimination against religion in the name of anti-discrimination—an act of bullying people of faith in the name of the prevention of bullying.”
So yeah, apparently we’re being “bullied” because in exchange for accepting government funds we have to agree not to fire people for being gay.
So listen– I think we as Christians need to set something straight before we go any further:
It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others.
It’s not any of those things.
In fact, we should actually be embarrassed that we even have to be told that it’s wrong to fire someone for these reasons. Your place of business is NOT the same thing as your church– if you want to accept government funds, you’ll have to play by a set of rules that keeps it fair for everyone. Both for you, and everyone else.
I’ve discussed the issue of the persecution complex here in the West, and nearly every time, some folks write to me and tell me how wrong I am– that yes, Christians are under attack and being persecuted. Whenever that happens and I ask for specific examples, I am almost always listed out examples of how we’re not allowed to persecute others.
But this isn’t persecution– it’s not even close.
I can’t help but think how self centered we’re going to look when we get to heaven and go through the awkward introductions in the persecuted section:
“Hi, my name is Peter. They crucified me on a cross upside down.”
“Hi, my name is Stephen. They smashed my head in with rocks.”
“Hi, my name is Polycarp. They tried to burn me at the stake but I didn’t catch on fire so they stabbed me to death”.
“Hi, my name is William Tyndale. They chocked me to death at the stake and then burned by body.”
“Hi, my name is Michael Brown. They told me that if I wanted my business to be able to accept government funds that I couldn’t fire people simply because of their sexual orientation.”
You see? It doesn’t actually line up with the experiences of the Christians who have come before us– Christians who actually were bullied and persecuted.
Let’s be honest: I think we’re going to look a little silly in eternity if we keep up this persecution and “I’m being bullied” stuff. For those of us poised to lead the next generation of Jesus followers into a better cultural expression of Christianity, one of the first things we need to do is to stop pretending we’re victims. It’s not attractive. It’s not helping. It’s not even true.
One doesn’t become the victim of bullying when they’re told that they can’t make others the victim of bullying. That doesn’t even make sense.
Instead, let us embrace the fact that we actually do live in a country where we are both free to practice our religion but also where there are certain rules in the public sector that keep things fair for everyone, and that these foundational rules are actually good and right.
You’re entirely right it’s utterly wrong and disgusting to feel discriminated because you no longer have the right to socially or economically discriminate people on grounds of their sexual orientation. Actually I think that all Continental European Conservatives who oppose Gay marriage wholeheartedly agree with that very principle (and most of them are not particularly religious).
BUT I think that the liberal (or political correct) lobby runs off the rails when it starts using propaganda and political pressure for changing the mind of people concerning homosexuality.
Some of my Conservative readers called my attention to the fact that people are being fired JUST because they are morally opposed to homosexuality, and I find that extremely misguided, wrong and egregious for many reasons I have outlined here.
People who fell victims of such punishment are likely to develop a real HATRED towards homosexuals which wasn’t there as they still had their livelihood.
When looking at the American culture war, I realize I am very often much closer to Liberal than to Conservative positions, but I can’t completely side with the formers because they often act in an unjust and unproductive manner.
I think the situation would be much better if BOTH liberals and conservatives were to let go of their deep-seated moral indignation and realize their opponents might be neither crazy, ignorant nor evil.