Smashing the Patriarchy (and Asian Salad)

The Handmaiden’s Tale: The Theocratic Patriarchy is Here

Deep inside the bowels of the Democratic Party there must be what an online friend “Miss Marple” calls the Department of Scary Stories. This mysterious department regularly turns out tales designed to frighten (often successfully) the more credulous. When Mitt Romney ran for president the most ludicrous of these was that he would ban tampons, a bit of nonsense that I saw was credited as the truth by many. These are the same people who cannot identify the photograph of a single political figure and would never pass a basic civics test, but they vote.

The current fabrication is that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale, now playing on Hulu, describes the U.S. under the Trump Administration. In Atwood’s Tale fundamentalist Christians force fallen women, forbidden to read or own property, to bear their children for the righteous infertile women and homosexuality is considered “gender treachery.”

To most of us it’s a weird tale perhaps appealing to that not small body of women who wish to avoid responsibility for their life choices, but to the left-wing press it’s “a timely warning.” Sarah Jones’ piece in the New Republic is typical.

(It’s illustrated, by the way with a drawing of Kellyanne Conway in Handmaiden garb just in case the connection was too subtle for readers or their too lazy to read the text, where the author compares her to the female collaborators in the Tale because she defends Trump “as a great boss.”)

Jones was hardly unique in drawing parallels from The Tale to the present.

As Heather Wilhelm at National Review observes:  

According to a rash of earnest think pieces from dozens of news outlets, The Handmaid’s Tale is “timely” (the Washington Post), feels “chillingly real” (the San Francisco Chronicle), and has “an unexpected relevance in Trump’s America” (the New York Times). Atwood’s dystopia, writes Rebecca Nicholson in the Guardian, “has reignited the interest of readers, who have been drawing fresh parallels between Gilead and Trump’s America, and the novel topped the Amazon bestsellers list around the same time that signs at the global Women’s Marches asked to ‘Make Margaret Atwood fiction again.’” Never one to miss a good marketing opportunity, Atwood affirmed our apparent unfolding national horror show on April 19, speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the Hulu series: “The election happened, and the cast woke up in the morning and thought, we’re no longer making fiction -- we’re making a documentary.” According to a recent article in The New Republic, lo, have mercy, for great woes have apparently befallen me, a wide-eyed, unsuspecting resident of the Lone Star State: “Texas is Gilead and Indiana is Gilead and now that Mike Pence is our vice president, the entire country will look more like Gilead, too.”

The Racism of Asian Salad

The scary story/victimology parade goes on without missing a beat. Even food is targeted for racism. The New York Times -- whose last remaining readable features involve food -- got into the act. This week the paper ran a story about the casual racism of -- get this -- Asian salad.

Readers, some of whom might believe that President Trump is in the process of turning the country into some bizarre theocratic state with armies of dispossessed women breeders, thought this might be carrying the concept of racism too far

Based on the reader revolt in the comments section I would say the consensus answer is "this world and get over it". My fave is from David in Australia:

‘Funny how it is OK to rail against the phrase 'Asian salad' as being overbroad and disrespectful but in the same piece multiple references to a 'Jewish deli' seems OK. Jews, like Asians, reflect a great diversity of cultural backgrounds so numerous that they wouldn't easily fit on a menu; painting them into one group with a single broad brush, it could be argued, also fosters the same kind of bland, disembodied generalisation the author condemns.’

Perhaps we simply have to accept that American cuisine in general is rife with culinary appropriation due to marketing convenience, rather than reflecting any sort of underlying political agenda or institutionalised disrespect for cultural nuances.

Anti-Semitism on the march amongst progressives! Left unexplored -- why did we tag the French with those fries? 

BONUS QUESTION: Has the Times decided to supplement their All-Trump Outrage du Jour coverage by trolling their readership? Bold!

I CAN QUIT ANYTIME:

‘Chris Bray from LA reminds us that the struggle is real:

Bonnie Tsui has spoken to an issue of deep importance, and I feel that we must put a stop to the cultural genocide that we so casually call "lunch." Recently, I was served a "hamburger" at a restaurant with counter service, and I inquired of the staff to determine which person in the kitchen was deeply immersed in the native culture of Hamburg. Upon learning that no one in the kitchen even reflected the presence of any German culture at all, I simply wept at the cultural assault I had witnessed. And then they had the audacity to ask if I still wanted the so-called "French" fries, which, I assure you, were in no true sense Gallic. We must not surrender in this fight. Nothing has ever been more important.’

The Not Starving Hunger Strikers

Food and television critics are hardly the only sectors of the country that merit our scorn and defy parodying.

There are always the madcap denizens of our universities. At Yale, for example, graduate teaching assistants are on a non-hunger hunger strike.

A group of Yale University graduate students announced Tuesday evening that they would be undertaking a hunger strike to pressure the administration into granting them better union benefits. The strike is taking place in front of University President Peter Salovey’s home.

"Yale wants to make us wait and wait and wait… until we give up and go away," the eight members of the graduate student union Local 33 announced. "We have committed ourselves to waiting without eating."

Yale doctoral students currently earn a stipend $30,000 a year, receive free health care, and have their $40,000 tuition paid in full, according to Yale News.  The university administration said in a statement that they understood the students concerns, but "strongly [urge] that students not put their health at risk or encourage others to do so."

As it turns out, the hunger strike might not put anyone's health in peril. According to a pamphlet posted on Twitter by a former Yale student, the hunger strike is "symbolic" and protesters can leave and get food when they can no longer go on.

Their manifesto rings with revolutionary fervor: “Our fast honors those who came before us and believed this moment would come, Our fast expresses love for those who will come after us so that may have what they need, We want our fast to inspire joy… the joy that comes from taking action for what is just”

Apparently, the joy that comes from not eating until you are hungry.

The symbolic fasting students were joined at the symbolic barricades by some: “In a video detailing the eight graduate students’ fast, Moe said he hopes the fast will “convey the urgency of the situation” to the University. The video included statements of support from James Lawson, strategy committee chair of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association.” It reminds me of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin with workers, peasants, and students joined together on the Odessa steps. 

Some people, however, remain mildly skeptical of the it’s-just-like-Selma rhetoric employed by the strikers: 

Over the last two days, in an op-ed by Greenberg that ran in the New Haven Independent and a promotional video posted on Facebook, Local 33 has compared the hunger strike to the long history of nonviolent protest in the United States, from the civil rights movement to past labor disputes. At Woolsey, the students blocking the entryway quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and accused Salovey of “hiding behind Yale’s institutional power and prestige to deny us our basic right.”

But those comparisons have been greeted with skepticism from graduate students. James Dunn GRD ’19, a union supporter in the Religious Studies Department, called the civil rights movement analogy “distasteful” even as he criticized the University for refusing to come to the table.

“We’re talking about an extremely privileged set of people who are fairly well-remunerated by the University,” Dunn said. “On the other hand, this has resulted from some pretty despicable behavior on the part of the University. And they’ve pushed the union into a corner where there are very few tactical options left for them.”

The State Withers Away

In the meantime, while the impending theocracy Atwood is spooked about and the oppression of the teaching assistant workers at Yale seems far away, the Marx-Engels dream of the state withering away, which never seems to happen in socialist countries, seems to be happening here. Secretary Rex Tillerson is working on reducing the State Department’s work force by over 9%. 

One hopes that this will not be confined to State. Not only is the federal work force bloated but it’s seriously overpaid

To get a clear picture of public-private pay gap, the Congressional Budget Office looked at pay scales from 2011 through 2015, controlling for things like location, occupation, veteran status, demographics, as well as education.

It found that among those with a high school diploma, federal civilian workers earned 34% more, on average, than similar workers in the private sector. But government workers also get benefits that are 93% more generous than the private sector. When you combine the two, these federal workers get 52% more than their private sector counterparts.

Those with a bachelor's degree made 21% more in government, the CBO found, and those with a master's degree made 5% more in wages and benefits. The only group that did worse in government were those with a doctorate, who earned an average 18% less, on average, in the federal government than in the private sector.

The CBO also found that this pay gap has sharply widened for most federal workers -- thanks to the fact that the government kept passing out raises throughout the Obama years while private sector wages flatlined. The report shows that federal workers got raises averaging more than 3% from 2009 through 2015.

As a result, the pay gap for high school educated workers went from 36% in 2010 to 53% in 2015. The gap for workers with a bachelor's degree climbed from 15% to 21%,

Maybe the soon to be riffed government employees and now swelling crowd of out-of-office Democrats can join the symbolic hunger strike.

The Handmaiden’s Tale: The Theocratic Patriarchy is Here

Deep inside the bowels of the Democratic Party there must be what an online friend “Miss Marple” calls the Department of Scary Stories. This mysterious department regularly turns out tales designed to frighten (often successfully) the more credulous. When Mitt Romney ran for president the most ludicrous of these was that he would ban tampons, a bit of nonsense that I saw was credited as the truth by many. These are the same people who cannot identify the photograph of a single political figure and would never pass a basic civics test, but they vote.

The current fabrication is that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale, now playing on Hulu, describes the U.S. under the Trump Administration. In Atwood’s Tale fundamentalist Christians force fallen women, forbidden to read or own property, to bear their children for the righteous infertile women and homosexuality is considered “gender treachery.”

To most of us it’s a weird tale perhaps appealing to that not small body of women who wish to avoid responsibility for their life choices, but to the left-wing press it’s “a timely warning.” Sarah Jones’ piece in the New Republic is typical.

(It’s illustrated, by the way with a drawing of Kellyanne Conway in Handmaiden garb just in case the connection was too subtle for readers or their too lazy to read the text, where the author compares her to the female collaborators in the Tale because she defends Trump “as a great boss.”)

Jones was hardly unique in drawing parallels from The Tale to the present.

As Heather Wilhelm at National Review observes:  

According to a rash of earnest think pieces from dozens of news outlets, The Handmaid’s Tale is “timely” (the Washington Post), feels “chillingly real” (the San Francisco Chronicle), and has “an unexpected relevance in Trump’s America” (the New York Times). Atwood’s dystopia, writes Rebecca Nicholson in the Guardian, “has reignited the interest of readers, who have been drawing fresh parallels between Gilead and Trump’s America, and the novel topped the Amazon bestsellers list around the same time that signs at the global Women’s Marches asked to ‘Make Margaret Atwood fiction again.’” Never one to miss a good marketing opportunity, Atwood affirmed our apparent unfolding national horror show on April 19, speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the Hulu series: “The election happened, and the cast woke up in the morning and thought, we’re no longer making fiction -- we’re making a documentary.” According to a recent article in The New Republic, lo, have mercy, for great woes have apparently befallen me, a wide-eyed, unsuspecting resident of the Lone Star State: “Texas is Gilead and Indiana is Gilead and now that Mike Pence is our vice president, the entire country will look more like Gilead, too.”

The Racism of Asian Salad

The scary story/victimology parade goes on without missing a beat. Even food is targeted for racism. The New York Times -- whose last remaining readable features involve food -- got into the act. This week the paper ran a story about the casual racism of -- get this -- Asian salad.

Readers, some of whom might believe that President Trump is in the process of turning the country into some bizarre theocratic state with armies of dispossessed women breeders, thought this might be carrying the concept of racism too far

Based on the reader revolt in the comments section I would say the consensus answer is "this world and get over it". My fave is from David in Australia:

‘Funny how it is OK to rail against the phrase 'Asian salad' as being overbroad and disrespectful but in the same piece multiple references to a 'Jewish deli' seems OK. Jews, like Asians, reflect a great diversity of cultural backgrounds so numerous that they wouldn't easily fit on a menu; painting them into one group with a single broad brush, it could be argued, also fosters the same kind of bland, disembodied generalisation the author condemns.’

Perhaps we simply have to accept that American cuisine in general is rife with culinary appropriation due to marketing convenience, rather than reflecting any sort of underlying political agenda or institutionalised disrespect for cultural nuances.

Anti-Semitism on the march amongst progressives! Left unexplored -- why did we tag the French with those fries? 

BONUS QUESTION: Has the Times decided to supplement their All-Trump Outrage du Jour coverage by trolling their readership? Bold!

I CAN QUIT ANYTIME:

‘Chris Bray from LA reminds us that the struggle is real:

Bonnie Tsui has spoken to an issue of deep importance, and I feel that we must put a stop to the cultural genocide that we so casually call "lunch." Recently, I was served a "hamburger" at a restaurant with counter service, and I inquired of the staff to determine which person in the kitchen was deeply immersed in the native culture of Hamburg. Upon learning that no one in the kitchen even reflected the presence of any German culture at all, I simply wept at the cultural assault I had witnessed. And then they had the audacity to ask if I still wanted the so-called "French" fries, which, I assure you, were in no true sense Gallic. We must not surrender in this fight. Nothing has ever been more important.’

The Not Starving Hunger Strikers

Food and television critics are hardly the only sectors of the country that merit our scorn and defy parodying.

There are always the madcap denizens of our universities. At Yale, for example, graduate teaching assistants are on a non-hunger hunger strike.

A group of Yale University graduate students announced Tuesday evening that they would be undertaking a hunger strike to pressure the administration into granting them better union benefits. The strike is taking place in front of University President Peter Salovey’s home.

"Yale wants to make us wait and wait and wait… until we give up and go away," the eight members of the graduate student union Local 33 announced. "We have committed ourselves to waiting without eating."

Yale doctoral students currently earn a stipend $30,000 a year, receive free health care, and have their $40,000 tuition paid in full, according to Yale News.  The university administration said in a statement that they understood the students concerns, but "strongly [urge] that students not put their health at risk or encourage others to do so."

As it turns out, the hunger strike might not put anyone's health in peril. According to a pamphlet posted on Twitter by a former Yale student, the hunger strike is "symbolic" and protesters can leave and get food when they can no longer go on.

Their manifesto rings with revolutionary fervor: “Our fast honors those who came before us and believed this moment would come, Our fast expresses love for those who will come after us so that may have what they need, We want our fast to inspire joy… the joy that comes from taking action for what is just”

Apparently, the joy that comes from not eating until you are hungry.

The symbolic fasting students were joined at the symbolic barricades by some: “In a video detailing the eight graduate students’ fast, Moe said he hopes the fast will “convey the urgency of the situation” to the University. The video included statements of support from James Lawson, strategy committee chair of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association.” It reminds me of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin with workers, peasants, and students joined together on the Odessa steps. 

Some people, however, remain mildly skeptical of the it’s-just-like-Selma rhetoric employed by the strikers: 

Over the last two days, in an op-ed by Greenberg that ran in the New Haven Independent and a promotional video posted on Facebook, Local 33 has compared the hunger strike to the long history of nonviolent protest in the United States, from the civil rights movement to past labor disputes. At Woolsey, the students blocking the entryway quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and accused Salovey of “hiding behind Yale’s institutional power and prestige to deny us our basic right.”

But those comparisons have been greeted with skepticism from graduate students. James Dunn GRD ’19, a union supporter in the Religious Studies Department, called the civil rights movement analogy “distasteful” even as he criticized the University for refusing to come to the table.

“We’re talking about an extremely privileged set of people who are fairly well-remunerated by the University,” Dunn said. “On the other hand, this has resulted from some pretty despicable behavior on the part of the University. And they’ve pushed the union into a corner where there are very few tactical options left for them.”

The State Withers Away

In the meantime, while the impending theocracy Atwood is spooked about and the oppression of the teaching assistant workers at Yale seems far away, the Marx-Engels dream of the state withering away, which never seems to happen in socialist countries, seems to be happening here. Secretary Rex Tillerson is working on reducing the State Department’s work force by over 9%. 

One hopes that this will not be confined to State. Not only is the federal work force bloated but it’s seriously overpaid

To get a clear picture of public-private pay gap, the Congressional Budget Office looked at pay scales from 2011 through 2015, controlling for things like location, occupation, veteran status, demographics, as well as education.

It found that among those with a high school diploma, federal civilian workers earned 34% more, on average, than similar workers in the private sector. But government workers also get benefits that are 93% more generous than the private sector. When you combine the two, these federal workers get 52% more than their private sector counterparts.

Those with a bachelor's degree made 21% more in government, the CBO found, and those with a master's degree made 5% more in wages and benefits. The only group that did worse in government were those with a doctorate, who earned an average 18% less, on average, in the federal government than in the private sector.

The CBO also found that this pay gap has sharply widened for most federal workers -- thanks to the fact that the government kept passing out raises throughout the Obama years while private sector wages flatlined. The report shows that federal workers got raises averaging more than 3% from 2009 through 2015.

As a result, the pay gap for high school educated workers went from 36% in 2010 to 53% in 2015. The gap for workers with a bachelor's degree climbed from 15% to 21%,

Maybe the soon to be riffed government employees and now swelling crowd of out-of-office Democrats can join the symbolic hunger strike.

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