Monday, 15 July 2013

Revenge Of The White Guys

With the lefty blogohedron - and potentially the real world west of the Caribbean - in uproar over the transparently hideous conclusion to the George Zimmerman trial, I've decided there's nothing I can add to the general outrage.

Instead, I'll flag up this Iowa legal decision, which is both utterly despicable and in danger of being drowned out in all the - utterly justified - fury over white Floridans new-found ability to shoot dead any black guy they decide they don't like the look of.
 The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday stood by its ruling that a dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant because he found her too attractive and worried he would try to start an affair... The court said such firings do not count as illegal sex discrimination because they are motivated by feelings, not gender.
Quite the legal minds the Hawkeyes have founds themselves lumbered with.  Nothing could be less deserving of the term "sex discrimination" than discriminating based on who one wants to have sex with, obviously.  Just like how if you feel that all young black men are probably criminal, well, that's not about race, is it?  Just feelings.

It's not just the stupidity that bothers me here, but the cowardice.  When the most powerful judicial authorities in the state - all of them male, obviously - wants to cite the old legal precedent of "If I'm a misogynist, how come I love pussy so much?", they should at least have the balls to come right out and say it. It's not like they don't have testicles to spare, after all.

Oh, and for bonus gender nonsense; take it away, Texas!
According to Jessica Luther, a freelance writer and pro-choice activist who has been coordinating much of the push-back to the proposed abortion restrictions over the past few weeks, Senate officials are confiscating any objects they believe may cause a similar disruption in the gallery during Friday’s vote. Protesters aren’t allowed to carry water bottles or even feminine hygiene products, just in case they might throw them at lawmakers:
Still permitted in the gallery: guns.


BigHead said...

The dentist case is interesting. Presumably in that location they don't have a generic unfair dismissal law, under which you can't fire someone for non-job related reasons, such as being ugly, being too attractive, or supporting the wrong football team. This sort of law is really good to have because it gives someone like this worker the opportunity to get compensation for what is clearly an unfair dismissal. Then you can add extra laws to stamp out whichever -isms you think are big deals at the current moment, with larger associated penalties.

The ruling can presumably be defended because the law in question probably relates to sexist issues, that is, those where someone is treated a particular way because they happen to be a man or happen to be a woman or happen to be whatever other categories are included in the specific legislation. Of course the immediate observation would be that the worker in the case was treated a particular way because she was a woman, but that's only because of the property of the dentist's sexuality. If the dentist in the story happens to be bisexual, then it is easy for him to protect himself from a sexism claim by pointing out that he would have the same response to a similarly-gorgeous man. Since it would be perverse to suggest two dentists take the same action for the same reason but only one is sexist, there seems to be little choice but to return this verdict.

I suppose you might have a sexual harrassment claim. That usually would require some sort of unwanted advances or comments. Perhaps one can reasonably claim that being fired for being too hot constitutes sexual harrassment, in the sense that if your boss says to you "you're really hot" you might have a claim, so maybe you should also for "you're fired, 'cause you're really hot". It seems tenuous, but plausible. It would be particularly funny if everyone else working there could then also make claims based on the fact he is implicitly calling them all uggos.

The story about confiscating water bottles but allowing guns is one of those that appears amusingly stupid but really does make sense: if you are expecting low-level disruption of a particular sort, you take action to prevent low-level disruption of a particular sort. It seems unlikely that the protesters are going to fire guns at the lawmakers, so confiscating them is not necessary.

SpaceSquid said...

Plenty of states don't have generic unfair dismissal laws, so yeah, that's probably what we're looking at here.

Your bisexual example is clever, but I don't believe it holds, for three reasons. The first is that it's the action and the motivation that is important here, not the term used to describe it. Legislation that we might loosely refer to as "anti-sexist" will spell out unacceptable behaviour, and the fact that someone might perform such behaviour against someone of their own sex would be illegal even if the term "sexist" might seem on the face of it ridiculous.

Secondly, of course, it's not at all hard to come up with examples of people who are by various legal definitions bigoted against groups of people they themselves belong to.

That deals with the "two dentists" argument, at least. We've still the question as to whether a bisexual dentist could fire one person of each sex for the same reason and be considered to be sexist against both (common) sexes. Legally, I don't think this is much of a hurdle whatsoever - IANAL, but my limited understanding has it that one can't, say, use a conviction for being sexist against women as evidence in your defence when being accused of sexism against men. Whether this seems ridiculous in terms of the language used is another issue, but to revisit my first point: sexual objectification is generally a strict subset of sexism, it's something we agree shouldn't be allowed to inconvenience others, and the fact that one can construct a scenario where sexual objectification can inconvenience others but it not quite make sense to call it sexism is neither here nor there, any more than the term "breaking and entering" is still used even when the burglar found an unlocked door to sneak through.

Beyond that, though, I think it'd be pretty hard to argue that sexual objectification isn't an obvious strict subset of sexism. To return to my first point, the aim isn't to stop people being sexist, it's to stop people from engaging in certain unacceptable behaviours which fall under the umbrella of sexism. The fact that one can construct an example