The love songs of Professor Barry Spurr

The Guardian is running a story about a kerfuffle that’s taking place in Australia.

Basically, a professor in the Department of English at Sydney University has had his emails leaked, and they’re jaw-dropping. They’re full of comments about whores and darkies who bring down property values and opera singers who don’t wear bras.

To be honest, they read just like the comments boxes of any manosphere site.

But Professor Spurr is not just any old professor. He is, apparently, consulting to the Australian government about the development of the national school curriculum.

After his emails were leaked, he was suspended from the university.

There are many other people who are writing reams about the situation, so I’ll just make two observations.

The first is – what an idiot! Who uses their work email to write inflammatory and highly inappropriate stuff? Doesn’t he know about hotmail?

Second, he deserves to be kicked out of the university, and not because of his views, or his astounding lack of judgement, or because of what he might do the curriculum.

But because he’s a professor of literature, yet he writes like a teenage boy with his hand down his pants – self absorbed and monosyllabically rude.

And he has the nerve to complain about standards.

On advice for wives

I came down to breakfast to find Mr Bodycrimes leafing through a book I’d bought: Don’ts for Wives by Blanche Ebbutt, originally published in 1913.

He looked up and waved the book at me.

“You bought this as a joke, didn’t you?” he said.

I nodded.

“Well it’s gold,” he said. “Use it.”

“Which bits?” I asked.

“All of it,” he said. “Every word. Memorise it cover to cover, including the preface and the copyright details.”

I picked it up and opened the book at random:

Don’t think it beneath you to put your husband’s slippers ready for him. On a cold evening, especially, it makes all the difference to his comfort if the soles are warmed through.

Don’t be satisfied to let your husband work overtime to earn money for frocks for you. Manage with fewer frocks.

Don’t refuse to see your husband’s jokes. They may be pretty poor ones, but it won’t hurt you to smile at them.

“I want to smear that book over you so that it all sinks in,” he said.

Then he ran out of time to discuss it, because he had to start making breakfast.

Was Nadella being sexist when he told women not to ask for a raise?

As I discussed recently, yes, there’s a gender pay gap, and no, it’s not always because women choose different professions or work fewer hours. It’s also because women are less comfortable talking about money and asking for raises; because they have lower salary expectations; and – here’s a biggie – because men get paid more.

As tech start-up Evan Thornley founder cheerfully told a conference, women are an undervalued resource. “And [they were] still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender,” he concluded. To illustrate his point he showed a slide that said: “Women: Like Men, Only Cheaper.”

For which he got a backlash, although people should have thanked him for telling the truth so bluntly, especially when so many deny it.

Another tech leader who’s recently experienced a backlash is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who, when asked what women should do about the pay gap, replied:

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” he told the attendees, according to Selena Larson of ReadWriteWeb.

“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have,” he added. “It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Sounds incredibly sexist, right? No wonder Nadella got such blowback about it that he quickly apologised.

Except, do you know what? I bet you anything he wasn’t being sexist – I bet you thinks that all compensation is a matter of good and bad karma, and that people naturally end up where they deserve to be. I bet you Nadella thinks men shouldn’t  bother their employers with pesky requests for more money either.

Possibly his remarks were less motivated by sexism than by the just world essentialism often adopted by the very rich and successful. In one study:

Kraus and Keltner found that the higher people perceived their social class to be, the more strongly they endorsed just-world beliefs, and that this difference explained their increased social class essentialism: Apparently if you feel that you’re doing well, you want to believe success comes to those who deserve it, and therefore those of lower status must not deserve it.

Why wouldn’t he believe this? Nadella’s got a compensation package worth up to US$18 million – so karma worked for him!

Pornography, sexuality and the empowerment of Belle Knox

Have you ever had someone rave about a film, promising you that if you see it, you’ll love it?

Then you watch the film, or you read the book, and you think… really? Did we read the same book? Are we talking about the same film?

And it’s not that you’re just having a polite disagreement over aesthetics or plot holes, it’s that you actually can’t believe you watched the same thing.

That’s how I feel about Samantha Allen‘s piece, which has run on Salon, xojane and other outlets.

Called ‘Debunking The 3 Biggest Myths About Porn’, Allen’s jumping off point is a 5-part Internet documentary called Becoming Belle Knox. The series follows Miriam Weekes, the Duke University student who decided to pay for her tuition by doing porn. According to Allen:

Traditional mass media has failed to depict sex work and the porn industry in a non-judgmental way… But if documentaries like Becoming Belle Knox become the new norm in a changed media landscape, the Internet might finally give us the fresh perspective on pornography that our culture so desperately needs.

Allen says the film deconstructs three myths:

1. Sex work isn’t work

2. Emotional connection and sex go hand in hand

3. Porn performers can’t be empowered if they have emotional trauma.

The issue of whether sex work is work or a form of exploitation has been debated hotly within the feminist community for years. Radical feminists have argued that pornography is exploitative, while sex positive feminists have argued that the criminalisation of sex work is just another way to control women’s sexuality. The arguments on both sides are complex and the topic is fraught.

Allen sidesteps the whole thing by boiling it down to a single idea: sex work is just a job. Like any job, it has good points and bad points.

It’s her third point, about porn and emotional trauma, that I thought was interesting. There is a theory that says that young people who have been sexually traumatised or abused are more likely to turn to sex work or promiscuity, as a way of re-enacting their trauma. This is the ‘damaged goods’ hypothesis and Allen points to a Slate article that says the rate of past sexual abuse among performers is not necessarily higher than among the general population, based on this research. Others have suggested it’s too soon to toss the (unfortunately named) theory out.

As it happens, Miriam Weekes is a rape victim, which she openly talks about in the film. At some point during her adolescence, she was also deeply troubled, as her thigh is criss-crossed with self-inflicted slash marks.

But for her, porn is empowering: “It makes me feel like a strong independent woman.”

“Everything is on my terms,” she says. “I’m in control.”

Except that, soon enough, the documentary starts to tell a different story. Weekes talks about how painful it is to have sex for hours on end, while she’s suffering from vaginal tears. We see Weekes in the persona of Belle Knox, standing selling hugs and autographs at some kind of sex expo. She visibly cringes when she’s touched.

Later, she empties out the bag of money she made that day – about $1500. Which seems like a lot.

Except that it isn’t. Weekes says she has a lot of “overheads”, from flights to make up. I assumed she was talking about her appearance at the sex expo, rather than her porn work, because surely film expenses are covered? What kind of employment makes workers cover the fundamental costs of the business? At the very least, the on-set make up artist must be covered – because if it’s not, then Weekes is subsidising the making of a film from which she doesn’t get shares or royalties.

But then Weekes says: “There are a lot of expenses involved in doing porn,” so it seems she is subsidising the film makers after all.

But perhaps that’s the price of doing business, and maybe it’s worth it, for the validation and empowerment it brings her. After all, she’s totally in control.

Except when she isn’t. Weekes says her agent refuses to tell her in advance who she’ll be having sex with, even when she pleads for information. When she turns up to one gig, she discovers she has to sleep with a 50-year-old man she clearly finds repellant. But rather than being in control of the situation and walking away from it, she submits to the scene, because if she doesn’t, there are penalties – a $300 kill fee, no more work, and a backlash from other porn workers.

“I felt like crying during the entire scene,” she says later.

Despite her newfound ability to detach emotionally from the sex, this all comes at a psychological cost: “The industry has a way of making you very cynical and bitter… it teaches you not to trust people. My experiences have aged me.”

This is the same person who wrote:

Because to be clear: My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering.

After I watched the documentary, I re-read Samantha Allen’s piece.

I can’t work out which was worse – watching an exhausted Miriam Weekes cry for her mother, or discovering that Samantha Allen is a ‘doctoral fellow in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Emory University’.

In other words, someone who should know sexual exploitation when she sees it.


Red pill humour

So it’s early on Monday morning and I’ve just finished breakfast. In between reading the headlines, I flipped over to WeHuntedTheMammoth, the site that’s dedicated to mocking the New Misogynists – those strange and viciously anti-women groups that have sprung up online in spaces collectively known as the ‘manosphere’. WHTM’s author, David Futrelle, tirelessly wades through the far reaches of Reddit and the stranger corners of the internet to uncover the best (or worst) of ‘red pill thinking’ and present it to his mostly female, mostly feminist readers.

This morning’s post is a doozy. It’s a riff on a post by Christian Taliban writer Dalrock, who wrote a short piece called ‘She’s saving her farts for you’, which then gathered more than 150 comments from men outraged by the awfulness of modern women. The whole thing is ripe for satire, and David lets rip.

Now, the manosphere can’t abide David Futrelle. Which is probably not surprising, because very few people appreciate having their beliefs mocked. So the manosphere hate David Futrelle even more passionately than they hate women, which is really saying something, because they hate women with everything they’ve got.

But you know what’s really funny?

They don’t get that why he does it.

See, there are generally two sorts of red pill men: young ones who are angry they can’t find a 22-year-old virgin who’s interested in them, and middle-aged ones who are angry that their wives threw them out. Red pill men only see women in terms of utility e.g. sex, cooking, cleaning and baby making. They don’t believe that women have individual personalities, intellects or senses of humour. The only reason they personally would engage with a woman is either to eat her food, berate her for not cleaning behind the fridge, or to shag her.

So they assume that David Futrelle, being male, has much the same outlook. It doesn’t occur to them that he’s mocking them and their beliefs because he genuinely thinks manospherians are risible. They therefore believes that he’s built this website and filled it with content as a way of attracting women, just so he can pick them off at leisure and bang them. Good game! They might say, in other circumstances.

But David’s site attracts feminists. You know, those ugly, tattooed, hairy-legged she-beasts, that nobody ever wants to bang.

The cognitive dissonance comes close to making the misogynists’ heads explodes. I’ve now seen dozens of comments about Futrelle, slagging him off for having to fish in such polluted waters to satisfy his sexual urges.

To be honest, they’re so convinced that WHTM is some sort of reproductive strategy, that I’m surprised they haven’t gone and built their own online honey trap, designed to catch better quality women.

And meanwhile, David and his commenters get on with the business of mockery.

It’s pretty funny.

On working long hours and the gender pay gap

So here it is, a Sunday afternoon, and I’m tied to my computer doing work. I was on my computer last night doing work, as well. I’ll be spending most nights and weekends doing work, until late November.

It’s been quite a while since I had a work load like this. But apparently I will soon be raking it in.

Apparently people who work longer hours get paid more, and that’s why men tend to earn more than women – they work longer hours. If women also worked long hours, instead of wanting flexible hours to care for children etc, the pay gap would vanish:

Occupations that most value long hours, face time at the office and being on call — like business, law and surgery — tend to have the widest pay gaps. That is because those employers pay people who spend longer hours at the office disproportionately more than they pay people who don’t, Dr. Goldin found. A lawyer who works 80 hours a week at a big corporate law firm is paid more than double one who works 40 hours a week as an in-house counsel at a small business.

There are some logical reasons why you might earn more money for putting more hours in, above and beyond the loyalty and sheer level of work you’re offering your company. Lawyers bill for their time, so the more hours they’re in their office, the more money they’ve making for their firm, and the more the firm likes them.

If you’re a surgeon who’s available for long hours, you’re not only going to be called upon more often, but your skill set will become dramatically better than someone who spends less time in theatre than you do. You’d have to be downright incompetent not to pull far, far ahead of someone working less hard than you.

But for many other occupations, the link between long hours and pay isn’t as clear cut as you’d think.

There are many white collar occupations where working longer hours just marks you out as junior. Businesses with event management and/or marketing departments are always full of junior and middle staff on weekends, manfully wading through the workload their seniors have dumped on them. And let’s not forget that people who do very low paid occupations like home help can put in horrendous hours and never see an extra red cent for it.

But then there’s the situation where the rewards don’t come from working long hours – the reward is the long hours.  In occupations like law, banking, media and advertising, it’s the people with the more important/crucial projects who have to put the hours in to meet a deadline. It’s being able to get these projects that’s the key to higher earnings, and I’m not convinced that women are always in the running for them.

Let me share an experience that happened to me when I was first working in Europe. I had a male colleague who was dying under his work load, who had a new project foisted on him. As it happened, I was interested in this project. So I asked for it – and was refused. Me, my colleague and my boss were all sitting round the same table, and my colleague looked stricken. I pointedly asked why it wasn’t being given to me, and my boss said:”you don’t have enough time, Mrs Bodycrimes.”

And then he said – I kid you not – “I don’t expect a woman to work such hours”.

Now, continental Europe in general is way more sexist than any of the English speaking countries. Women here are regularly paid less for the same job, despite this being theoretically illegal – in a number of EU countries, employers have yet to be challenged in court on this issue, so they flout equal payment laws with impunity.  I realise that you wouldn’t catch an Anglophone boss saying such a thing as my European boss did.

But do they subconsciously think it? Even without realising they’re thinking it? I wonder.

There’s another issue about long hours culture, too, which is that even childless women get a lot of blowback when they put work first. In the days when I worked very long hours, I was always being challenged by family and friends. “Do you have to work like this?” they’d ask me, and I’d get quite a bit of pushback about not being able to accept invitations and so on.

I never once heard a guy being challenged in the same way. Not once.

Of course, then there’s the other thing that causes the pay gap – giving the same job a different title. In my first ever job, I worked in a department with a male boss. When he moved on, a female colleague was given his job. She happened to know what his salary was (it was six figures – exactly double hers), so she went to management and demanded the same salary. You know what they did? They formally did away with his role once he left, and changed the title, but gave her all his work and didn’t pay her a cent more. Neat trick.

Which, of course, has been played on workers both male and female since the financial meltdown.

Speaking of which, it’s time to get back to work…