Friday, November 11, 2016

Why is "smile!" bad? (It's not the Political Correctness Police)

(A shame-free and hopefully patronization-free education zone)

My post yesterday got a lot of good conversation going about men telling women to smile, randomly, on the street. Some commenters, and a lot more readers, probably thought "what's wrong with men telling women to smile?" (and even "oh boy, the Political Correctness Police decided you can't say yet another thing.") I get that, because when I think of a phrase as innocuous as "smile", I first think of "Smile!" Type A:

A kindly gentleman notices a lady feeling a little down, just looking for some kindness in the world, and he offers her a word of encouragement, "smile!", as in "it'll all be ok!"

"Smile!" Type A is maybe encouraging, maybe annoying. I mean, he could have just as easily said "it'll all be ok!" without making it her problem. Whatever. Maybe it's nice, maybe it's annoying.
EDIT: To clarify, don't do this. It might seem pleasant in your mind, but it's not: it's annoying and demeaning. Instead of actually caring about someone, you're just jumping in and "fixing" their problem. This is not a nice thing to do. Maybe it won't all be ok! Maybe they've got a serious issue and need to just be, for a minute! Someone else telling them how they ought to be feeling is 99% not going to make them feel better.

And the thing is, there's also "Smile!" Type B:
An imposing, skeezy looking dude leers at a woman and yells "smile!" Then:
- she smiles, and he goes, in a sleazy voice, "mmm baby there you go"
- she ignores him, and he yells at her for being deaf/ignoring him
- she says "no" and he yells at her for being "nasty" or a "fucking ugly bitch" or worse

Like, "Smile!" Type B is obviously annoying, demeaning, and/or threatening. And (here's the part I didn't realize, as a dude): women get "Smile!" Type B sooo often. Way more often than "Smile!" Type A. So if you, a dude, tell a lady to smile, they're 99% of the time correct to assume it's "Smile!" Type B, and this is annoying and/or scary (even if you meant "Smile!" Type A.)

(and remember, even "Smile!" Type A is probably kinda annoying. EDIT: is at least annoying, and usually demeaning too.)

(also, side point, I've never heard a woman tell me she likes being told to smile, and I've often heard women tell me they hate being told to smile. anecdotes, yeah, but one-sided enough that I'm pretty confident that it's fair to generalize.)

Thanks to Samantha and Kristina for examples; thanks to Tatiana for raising it to my attention at all. Men, if you wanna discuss, maybe do it here! (even reshare it, whatever.) I'm not exhausted from talking about this constantly, like the women in your life might be. Women, if I'm getting anything wrong or leaving anything out, let me know.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

I really cannot believe this.

- The incredible power of sexism. Hillary vs the worst man I've ever seen run for president, and here we go.
- Well... maybe the republican party crashes and burns as hard as possible?
- Heyo Trump, you wanna make jobs, go ahead, make jobs. You get the best shot you can possibly have, and I know you will fail. I know in four years the unemployment rate will be higher and the average American will be worse off.
- But you'll be telling us the unemployment rate is lower, because you absolutely do not care about facts. And your goonbag conspiracy theory alt-right media buddies will keep repeating you until 49% of the country believes it again. (except maybe Glenn Beck, and good on him.) I'm not sure how we stop this.
- Man, kinda a bummer about my initials right now. Gotta spend a long time making "DJT" great again.
- Wait, so "make ___ great again" is ruined - is the word "great" ruined too? Is it a dog whistle for "get out all the black and brown people"?
- The planet is so hosed. our president, and a majority of our new congress, don't believe climate change is a thing?
- This is on you, email "scandal" reporters. Thanks to your "fair and balanced" nonsense, somehow one minor mistake ended up outweighing an endless list of lies, scams, and general terribleness.
- This is on you, right wing conspiracy theorist talk show hosts. But you're probably stoked about that.
- This is also on you, Catholic church who's reduced so many people's votes to one checkbox, "will they ban abortion?", which is so dumb for so many reasons.
- A bunch of states legalized weed. we're going to need it.
- This election is a pretty good argument against men's suffrage. And white people's suffrage. How many years did we go without women's suffrage - like 140? Let's let only women vote for the next 140. And make white people's votes count as 3/5.
- Here's an interesting idea: every election settles out to an equilibrium based on polls. in this one, the polls just underestimated trump, so the "equilibrium" ended up being in his favor.
- I'm wondering if the human difficulty with processing scale is a coping mechanism. Like, you look at all the magnitude of awfulness out there right now, and you've got to tune it out. Still, that's the same processing difficulty that led people to say "on the one hand, everything Trump's done, but on the other hand, those emails..."
- The average American is not quite this bad. But only just. (and, I mean, whatever, it's just "moral victory" at this point.) Someone on Twitter: "it's like you're ordering dinner with friends and three of them vote "pizza" and two vote "kill and eat you.""

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Knocked on 175 doors for Hillary today

Q. Why are you writing this post?
A. Mostly, to suggest that maybe you should go knock on doors too. Also (as usual) because I had a few interesting thoughts and I like to talk.

Q. 175 sounds like a lot!
A. Yes, it is. 3 * 3hr slots, a little more than 50 doors each. I don't necessarily recommend doing 9 hours in a row, but if you're fired up, whatever. You can just do 3 hours. It's a nice day outside. Have a nice walk.

Q. How much chutzpah do you need?
A. Kind of minimal, really? It felt a little out-of-body, like I don't have to be Dan now, I just have to be this automaton who knocks on doors and roughly does this script. That was interesting.

Q. How thick of a skin do you need?
A. Not really that thick. I had one cranky old lady go "you guys are really getting to be a nuisance!" and one 40ish jerk say coldly, "can you please leave now?" And then I had one super nice lady tell me I should go into politics because I have a lovely personality, and a lot of super gracious thanks. I'd say it was about 20:3:1 ok:really great:bad responses.

Q. Why this election?
A. Not because Hillary is The Best Ever. (She's fine.) But because the gap between the candidates is the biggest I have ever seen. I am more sure than I've ever been that this vote is the correct one.

Q. Is this really a good use of your time?
A. Beats me. A lot of people were not home. I have no idea how many extra votes I brought in today. One guy somewhere said, though, that an hour of volunteering brings in on average 5 more votes. So, kinda, I voted 45 times today! That's way more than I would have otherwise! (I have no idea where that 5/hr comes from. I'm gonna run with it though.)

Q. What's another reason I should vote?
A. Because if you only vote sometimes, you'll get on the list I had today, the sometimes-voter list, AKA the list of "we think you'll vote for us but we're not sure you'll actually get out and vote, therefore we're going to canvass and phone you a bunch to make sure you actually vote!" If you vote all the time, nobody'll bug you.

Q. Did you feel ethically weird doing this?
A. Yes, of course! I feel like ads on the internet are a monstrosity, and that one of our inalienable rights, generally, should be the right to peace and quiet. I guess I consider this an extreme measure for an extreme time where, according to 538, we may have to play two-bullet Russian Roulette on Tuesday.

Q. Don't you think that's overdramatic?
A. Maybe. I also think it's quite plausible that President Trump could start World War 3. The best case scenario is we do nothing for four years, and given climate change (among other big risks), we can't really afford to do even that.

Q. What was the most fun part of this thing?
A. Probably batch 3, when they upgraded me to "pretty advanced canvasser" and sent me on a difficult mission: talk to a bunch of people who were mostly inside an apartment building in Hazelwood. This required sneaking in through a back door, aided by a kind resident I met outside. Most of the people were kinda old and kinda poor. A lot of em were real nice, and I felt a little James Bond.

Q. Tell me some other thoughts you had.
A. So when we bug you to goddamn actually go vote, we're talking to System 1, the fast one. We're using all kinds of tricks because they're like one percent more likely to make you actually do it. Like, help you make a plan to go vote. ("I'm going to stop at the polling station on the way to work, and then I'll get coffee at the Starbucks next door and go on to work.") Or, make you promise me (a stranger) that you'll go vote. But I feel weird talking to your System 1, so I keep feeling like I have to make excuses and reasons that I'm actually talking to System 2. Like, "some people find it helpful to make a plan." Or "someone said I should tell you this." We all know that you're a hyper-rational System 2, but like let's just futz through this game, just for me, c'mon please?, that (secretly) tricks your System 1.

Q. That was interesting. Another, please.
A. It's nice that we had flyers to hand out. That way we could have a pretty common, no-conflict way to wrap up the conversation, or give you an easy out if you don't want to talk to me but don't want to be a dick. (Thanks, by the way.) It was a nice way to save face. As usual, human interactions need more ways to save face.

Q. One more deep thought?
A. Man, this is totally an information problem! Why did some people say "6 people already canvassed me, go away"? Why did we not get them off the dang list already?

Q. That wasn't deep, that was nerd-rage-shallow. Give me a deeper thought.
A. Sure: plausible nonpartisanship. Sometimes I'd knock and people would say "who is it?" and I kept trying different options. Like, maybe "A volunteer to help get out the vote". I kinda wish my little flyers didn't even say Hillary on them. Of course it's pro-Hillary; we're targeting people who are likely to vote Hillary. But it'd be way easier if I could be plausibly nonpartisan.
This is weird, right, because if I were trying to save the US from Osama, or King Jong-Un, or even Martin Shkreli, we could all agree, yeah, good thing to do, good on you. But as soon as the republicans grab one thing and the democrats grab one thing, all of a sudden it's holy war. I just want to save the US from an actually bad guy (who even most of the Republicans repudiate!) but as soon as I say "no Trump" then all of a sudden I'm "partisan" and you can comfortably ignore my viewpoint.

Q. Why hasn't anyone made any bridge "No Trump" jokes?
A. whoop, looks like they did. ehh, statistician humor.