Category Archives: English

21 Questions – How to Disagree, And Actually Understand Why

21 Questions: How to Disagree, and Actually Understand Why

You probably know Twenty Questions (in German also known as Wer bin ich?): A player chooses a celebrity or an object and the other players have to figure out what by asking only yes-or-no questions. I took this game and made a similar one for discussions to be more productive.

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How to stop Brexit (well, not literally, but effectively)

In June, the people of the United Kingdom voted for leaving the EU. And a lot of Brits still seem unhappy about its result.

So I’ve got this idea. (Not sure if I’m the first one, if not, please ping me
to the original.)

  1.  The UK government should draft a deal for a hard Brexit, meaning
    • no freedom of movement, thus no free migration from and to the EU
    • no customs-free access to the EU market
  2. They should draft another deal with the EU to leave the union but
    get a status similar to Norway or Switzerland, meaning:

    • freedom of movement, including free migration of people from and to other
      EU countries
    • customs-free access to the EU market
  3. There should be another referendum where the British people can choose between these two deals.

That second referendum should not be in violation of the first one, it would clearly acknowledge the Leave decision.

But the referendum’s question was only about Remain or Leave, not about the conditions or circumstances of Remain or Leave. In particular, it said nothing about the migration and free market issues, and it is well possible that some Leave voters intended a solution like for Norway or Switzerland.

Thus the second referendum would give the British people opportunity to specify what they want, so everyone generally embracing direct democracy should be in favour of it.

If the second deal wins, the UK would still leave the EU but the consequences would be similar to a Remain – so effectively (meaning: how it affects the British economy and people) Brexit would be stopped.

Of course, also the first deal could win. But this would then be at least a much more informed decision – which could be better accepted by all British.

The ideal solution for Hungary’s prime minister Orbán (and the refugees)

  • He builds a refugee camp exactly at the unprotected Austrian-Hungarian border.
  • He brings all the refugees, who come to Hungary, to this camp and registers them (thus fulfilling EU law / Dublin regulation).
  • The camp has no fence, so refugees who want so (currently nearly all of them), simply walk out to Austria.
  • Refugee-enthusiastic Austrians and Germans take them in / let them travel to Germany.

Outcome:

  • No refugees in Hungary while breaking no rules (Win for Orbán!)
  • Refugees make it to Austria/Germany (Win for the refugees!)
  • Germany gets more refugees (Win for Germans!)

Drop the *isms. Just say what you want, and be specific.

Today, I launched a new site areyouamasculist.com, which was heavily inspired by areyouafeminist.com. As the original, it contains only two questions:

  1. Do you think all human beings are equal?
  2. Do you think men are human beings?

By saying Yes to both of them, it gives you the honor of calling you a masculist:

Congratulations, you are a masculist!

If you are now saying that you are not convinced, I can understand. The same I felt on areyouafeminist.com.

As I can easily say Yes to both questions (as well as on areyouafeminist.com), I am not calling myself a masculist nor a feminist. And that is for a simple reason:

Both terms are way too abstract and have been used for too many different things to convey any useful information. For feminism for instance, you have can find Christina Hoff Sommers, arguing for equal legal and civil rights – as well as Valerie Solanas, arguing for elimination of the male sex. Both called themselves “feminist”, and both are seen by others as feminists. By labelling yourself as a feminist, you leave room for being anywhere in this spectrum.

The same problem comes also with criticsm of feminism, as in “Women against Feminism”: Because the term is so unspecific, some people will misunderstand you and think you also oppose other things they see tied to feminism – things you maybe totally support.

Too often I saw people discussing about an issue X, when somebody threw in “But you said you are a feminist, so you have to support X.” The discussion then continued about whether X is feminist (or not) instead of whether X is good (or not), barely helping the insight into X.

So what instead? I suggest: Be as specific as possible about the things you support (or deny). A good example are the following questions that I found in another “Are you a feminist” test. I liked them so much that I copied and tweaked them a bit in order to address also some inequalities which “masculists” see.

Now, try for yourself, to how many demands from both (allegedly antagonistic) camps can you agree?

Women should be economically and socially independent. They shouldn’t rely on men to take care of them. Men should not be economically and socially responsible for women. They shouldn’t be expected to take care of women.
There is no such thing as a “man’s job.” It is wrong for men to be given preference for any job position, even if women traditionally aren’t in that field. There is no such thing as “natural motherhood”. It is wrong for women to be given preference in child custody, even if men traditionally aren’t in that field.
Men and women should be held to the same sexual standards. If men can sleep around without judgment, women should be able to as well. Men and women should be held to the same standards of sexual abuse and violence. If women feel harassed and receive help for unwanted sexual advances and violent threats, so should men in the same manner. Violence against men should be equally condemned as violence against women.
Women should take an equal role in dating. Women should ask out people they are interested in and take their turn in paying. Women should take an equal role in dating. Men should be asked out by people who have an interest in them and not expected to pay always or most of the time.
Women should accept their bodies as they are. Women should not have to conform to wacky beauty ideals. Men should accept their economic situation as it is. Men should not have to conform to wacky status ideals.
A woman should be able to marry and have kids with anyone she wants – including another woman. A man should be able to marry and have kids with anyone he wants – including another man.
Women should have the right to choose any path in life – from being a stay at home mom to a Fortune 500 CEO. Men should have the right to choose any path in life – from being a Fortune 500 CEO to stay at home dad.
Women should be encouraged to pursue education as much as men are. In education, men and women should be held to the same standards when being graded.
Women should have legal, easy access to all types of birth control – including the morning after pill. Men should have legal, easy access to all types of birth control – the research on the pill for men should be supported.
You would support a woman for president (if you agreed with her politics). You would support an unmarried man for president (if you agreed with his politics).

List of FIFA country pairings that form words

Today, I saw this tweet passing by:

Translation of the linked image: Little question about the World Cup: If Nigeria advances and plays against Germany – will there be written for 90 minutes NIG – GER in the upper left corner of the screen?

The actual answer is No: The FIFA country code for Nigeria is not NIG but NGA. However, there is a country with a code NIG: Niger. So a match Niger vs. Germany would be interesting to watch.

That little question though, inspired me to do some proper research: Which FIFA country pairings do actually form words? And here is the full list 1:

Angola Lesotho angles
Austria Oman automa
Bangladesh Chile banchi
Bangladesh Germany banger
Bangladesh Zaire banzai
Belgium Uganda beluga
Bermuda Germany berger
Bermuda Thailand bertha
Bermuda Vietnam bervie
Bolivia Denmark bolden
Brunei Angola bruang
Bulgaria Germany bulger
Burma Botswana burbot
Burma Denmark burden
Burma Netherlands burned
Cambodia Bermuda camber
Cambodia Palestine cample
Cambodia Peru camper
Canada Austria canaut
Canada Chile canchi
Canada Netherlands canned
Cayman Islands Uganda cayuga
Central African Republic Tanzania caftan
Chad Botswana chabot
Chad Morocco chamar
Chad Nicaragua chanca
Chad Nigeria changa
Chad Zanzibar chazan
Chile Australia chiaus
Chile Chad chicha
Chile Netherlands chined
Colombia Liechtenstein collie
Colombia Morocco colmar
Comoros Bermuda comber
Congo-Brazzaville Angola cobang
Congo-Brazzaville Bermuda cobber
Congo-Brazzaville Brazil cobbra
Croatia Czechoslovakia crotch
Cuba Dominican Republic cubdom
DR Congo Germany codger
DR Congo Russia codrus
Denmark Senegal densen
England Azerbaijan engaze
Finland Germany finger
Finland Netherlands finned
France Czechoslovakia fratch
France Scotland frasco
Gabon Bermuda gabber
Gambia Bolivia gambol
Ghana Latvia ghalva
Gibraltar Bermuda gibber
Guyana Dominican Republic guydom
Honduras Estonia honest
Hungary Germany hunger
Iceland Andorra island
Jamaica Panama jampan
Lebanon Bermuda libber
Lebanon Brazil libbra
Lebanon Kenya libken
Lebanon Netherlands Antilles libant
Lesotho Liechtenstein leslie
Lesotho Senegal lessen
Liechtenstein Germany lieger
Liechtenstein Norway lienor
Madagascar Denmark madden
Madagascar Nepal madnep
Morocco Angola marang
Morocco Canada marcan
Morocco Saint Vincent and the Grenadines marvin
Morocco Thailand martha
Namibia Madagascar nammad
Netherlands Antilles Dominican Republic antdom
Netherlands Denmark holden
Niger Germany nigger
Niger North Yemen nignye
Northern Ireland Lesotho nirles
Oman Guatemala omagua
Palestine, British Mandate Madagascar palmad
Palestine, British Mandate Morocco palmar
Panama Aden panade
Panama Namibia pannam
Panama Tunisia pantun
Paraguay Aden parade
Paraguay Angola parang
Paraguay Palestine, British Mandate parpal
Paraguay Tanzania partan
Peru Chad percha
Peru Norway pernor
Poland Luxembourg pollux
Portugal Germany porger
Portugal Oman poroma
Puerto Rico Dahomey purdah
Puerto Rico Germany purger
Puerto Rico Palestine purple
Romania Peru romper
Romania Peru rouper
Russia Siam russia
Russia Sudan russud
Réunion Benin reuben
Samoa Palestine sample
Samoa Panama sampan
Scotland Czechoslovakia scotch
Singapore Germany singer
Somalia Bermuda somber
Sudan Denmark sudden
Tahiti Singapore tahsin
Taiwan Panama taipan
Tanzania Burma tanbur
Tanzania Germany tanger
Tanzania Guam tangum
Tanzania Netherlands tanned
Thailand Czechoslovakia thatch
Trinidad and Tobago Chile trichi
Trinidad and Tobago Kiribati trikir
Trinidad and Tobago Libya trilby
Trinidad and Tobago Nigeria tringa
Trinidad and Tobago Palestine, British Mandate tripal
Trinidad and Tobago Palestine triple
Tunisia Norway tunnor
Turkey Bangladesh turban
Turkey Botswana turbot
Turkey Kenya turken
Turkey Netherlands turned
Turkey Tanzania turtan
United States Germany usager
Venezuela Germany venger
Wales Russia walrus
Zaire Thailand zaitha
Zambia Angola zamang

1 Obsolete codes are included, word list source

Update June 22: Get the code at Github and check with your own word list (e.g. in your language).

Why “Academic Justice” instead of Academic Freedom is a horribly bad idea

Last week, I learned about the article The Doctrine of Academic Freedom in which the author argues that Academic Freedom should be replaced with something she calls “Academic Justice”:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

I want to give an example to show why this a horribly bad idea:

Imagine a society which takes the idea of “equal rights for everybody” very seriously. Therefore, in this society there is no age of consent regarding to sexual relationships. People argue that such an age of consent would limit the rights of children and would be “ageist”.

So in this society, adults could have sex with children.

Now, there would be some scientists that see problems with this situation. They have hints that children suffer from this practise. So they want to start a research about if and how sex between adults and children might be harmful to children.

But, thanks to the policy of Academic Justice, which takes the value of “equal rights for everybody” very seriously, which has an agenda against ageism, this research would be stopped immediately.

What the proponent of “Academic Justice” misses out is that values like anti-racism and anti-sexism are not “just there”. They arose and spread out because people questioned racism and sexism. And they could do so because of freedom of thought.

Additionally, it is not always clear how these goals are best implemented in practice.  The recent debate on prostitution in Germany is such an example: Some people argue that keeping it legalized and regulated is anti-sexist because it empowers women while other people argue that banning it serves better.

It is the constant questioning of our values and goals that makes sure they are good values and that their implementation specs head to the right directions or rather should be corrected.

Arguing that this freedom of thought is not necessary anymore is like saying that all our current values and specs are the best ones ever possible.

“Differenzieren sollen mal die anderen”

Wer in sozialen Netzwerken unterwegs ist, hat letzten Montag bestimmt dieses Bild von “extra 3” gesehen. In Bezug auf die am Sonntag zuvor abgestimmte Schweizer Initiative “Gegen Masseneinwanderung” zeigt es, wie die Schweizer Fußball-Nationalmannschaft ausgesehen hätte, wenn “die Schweizer schon früher etwas gegen ‘Masseneinwanderung’ unternommen” hätten:

Mannschaftsfoto - Schweiz

Nicht mehr im Kader: Gökhan Inler (Eltern aus Türkei eingewandert), Blerim Dzemaili (geboren in Mazedonien), Tranquillo Barnetta (Eltern aus Italien eingewandert), Granit Xhaka (Eltern aus Kosovo eingewandert), Xherdan Shaqiri (geboren in Jugoslawien), Diego Benaglio (Eltern aus Italien eingewandert), Haris Seferovic (Eltern aus Bosnien eingewandert), Pajtim Kasami (geboren in Mazedonien). Quelle: extra-3

Und diese Aufzählung hat mich dann verwirrt.

  1. Das Ziel der abgestimmten Initiative war es, die Einwanderung (wieder) zu steuern und damit begrenzen zu können. Die einzigen Länder, aus denen derzeit Menschen unkontrolliert in die Schweiz einwandern können, sind Länder aus der EU und der EFTA.
    Anders gesagt: Für Leute, die aus Nicht-EU-Ländern wie der Türkei, Mazedonien, dem Kosovo, Bosnien und Mazedonien kommen, ändert sich mit der Abstimmung nichts. Für sie gilt weiterhin keine Personenfreizügigkeit, sie müssen sich andere Wege in die Schweiz suchen – wie es ja offenbar die o.g. Fußballspieler taten.
  2. Um in der Schweizer Fußballnationalmannschaft zu spielen, muss man Schweizer Staatsbürger sein, entweder durch Geburt oder durch Einbürgerung. In der Abstimmung ging es aber gar nicht um das Schweizer Bürgerrecht, sondern eben um das Aufenthaltsrecht.
  3. Das jetzt auf der Kippe stehende Personenfreizügigkeits-Abkommen gilt in der unbeschränkten Form erst seit 2007. Da haben aber alle o.g. Spieler schon längst in der Schweiz gelebt.

Der Zusammenhang zwischen der Masseneinwanderungs-Initiative und dem Fußballspieler-Foto ist also ähnlich eng wie der zwischen der Forderung nach der Pille danach und dem Foto eines abgetriebenen Fötus.

Zu Recht haben sich viele über die teilweise undifferenzierte und uninformierte Debatte bei der Pille danach geärgert. Es nervt und ist furchtbar unproduktiv, wenn jemand Fakten verdreht, unzulässig pauschalisiert, wichtige Details nicht beachtet oder bloß zu faul zum Googlen ist.

Das nervt aber bei allen Debatten.

Es gibt genügend gute Gründe für Einwanderung; seien es demographische, ökonomische oder auch moralische. Nur wenn man von anderen Differenzierung verlangt und dabei glaubwürdig bleiben will, sollte man eben auch selber differenzieren.

Who put all that sexism into Google’s Autocomplete?

On my recent article When anti-sexism becomes proof for sexism – UN Women campaign with Google’s autocomplete, several people via Facebook and in the comments pointed out that Google’s autocomplete suggestions rather depend on what users search for than what the content of the indexed web pages is. So I looked up what Google says about this:

The search queries that you see as part of autocomplete are a reflection of the search activity of all web users and the content of web pages indexed by Google.

As we see, it is both: the search activity and the content of the indexed web pages. My first article only looked at the latter one but thanks to Google’s Keyword Planner we can look up the search activity for any search phrase. 1

In the following screenshot, we see the average monthly search activity for the sexist phrases used in the UN Women campaign:

google-sexism-all

The most active phrase, “women should stay at home” is searched 720 times on average, world-wide, in all languages. All other phrases are searched much less often.

Additionally, we don’t even know if these 720 searches come from sexists, since we don’t know the motivation for the search. People could also search for the phrase out of curiosity or for research, as I did for my previous article. Searching for a phrase doesn’t mean to approve it.

But the most interesting thing is: On every phrase, there is a small chart icon. Hovering the mouse over it lets a popup appear with a diagram of the monthly searches for the last 12 months. And here we can see something very weird:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All phrases show a strong peak in search activity in March or April this year. Some of them, like “women need to be put in their place” or “women need to be disciplined“, even show no search activity before this time.

So the question arises: Who searched so often for sexisms in the spring of this year – and why?

1 Thanks to Reinhardt for the hint to Google’s Keyword Planner.

When anti-sexism becomes proof for sexism – UN Women campaign with Google’s autocomplete

Follow-up article: Who put all that sexism into Google’s Autocomplete?

Yesterday, I saw an article about a campaign created by the UN women posted in my Facebook timeline. It uses kind-of screenshots of the Google autocompletion algorithm, where a phrase like “women shouldn’t” is completed to “women shouldn’t have rights”, “women shouldn’t vote”, “women shouldn’t work” and so on.

un-women-google-campaign-2013

These automatic completions, based on occurrences of the Internet’s websites, shall prove how common and widespread sexist ideas still are.

I wanted to find out more about these apparent sexist phrases and looked closer at the actual search results of one of the phrases, “women shouldn’t …”. For every autocompleted phrase seen on this poster, I clicked on the first five results and tried to find out the context of that phrase.

Quick readers may scroll down to the summary.

“women shouldn’t have rights”

  1. Reasons why women shouldn’t have rights?
    Being a girl, I obviously don’t agree with this, but for school, I have to make a speech looking at a popular topic from a different standpoint (the more radical the better). I’m trying to come up with a valid argument about why abolishing women’s rights is a good idea. Any thoughts? Thank you!
  2. I think that the men who say that women shouldn’t have rights, should look in the mirror one time, and see how pathetic they are.
  3. No, I’m not talking about whether the Equal Rights Amendment should be approved. I’m referring to some statistics I happened to run across while researching another story. NationMaster.com, a site that compiles statistics from numerous sources, provides the following table of the percentage of women agreeing with the statement, “Women should have equal rights,” in a 1999 poll:#1 Netherlands: 80%
    #2 Australia: 77%
    #3 United Kingdom: 73%
    #4 Canada: 70%
    #5 Belgium: 70%
    #6 Germany: 70%
    #7 United States: 62%
    #8 Switzerland: 39%
    #9 Japan: 21%”
  4. If Women Have No Rights! A Questionnaire […] If women shouldn’t have rights, what should they do in the case of domestic abuse? Should they merely put up with it? Given the fact that, under a rule of thumb suggesting that women shouldn’t work and have no rights, should she just put up with it?
  5. “women shouldn’t have rights”, “Women shouldn’t vote” Usually this is a sort of disclaimer when someone is clearly what they are trying to convince people that they are not, but it fails since well, obviously. It’s entirely false.

All five sources make a clear anti-sexist statment.

“women shouldn’t vote”

  1. Oh horrors! What if women were allowed to vote? Today is Women’s Equality Day, the 93rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the vote. It’s a moment to remember not just the activists who doggedly worked to include women in the democratic process, but also that process’s unfinished business–and those who stood in the way. Below, a compendium of caricatures and cartoons (from the Library of Congress) envisioning the dystopia that female voters would create.
  2. Why Women Shouldn’t Vote? The society believes that women should not vote because women are emotional, non logical, and want the government to provide health insurance as well as other services a husband would provide so that they don’t have to depend on a man. Although, this is seen as a sexist and chauvinistic view a number of countries in the world still don’t allow women to vote.
  3. Woman Voter Says Women Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Vote
    Janis Lane, the lady leader of the Central Mississippi Tea Party thinks that women shouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot this (or any) election. In something that’s akin to hamsters eating their young, Lane has turned on her own kind, and is practicing a brand of self-hatred that you just don’t see many people admitting to these days.
  4. Women Shouldn’t Vote, Says Fox News Guest Jesse Lee Peterson
    Can we all stop pretending that our country hasn’t gone wackadoodle now? Please, can we? Because the insanity has gotten beyond difficult to take. We’re treating our Constitution like a cafeteria plan, and it’s not acceptable. No, wait, it’s worse than not acceptable; it’s downright un-American with a capital “U.”Fox News guest and Sean Hannity bud Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson has figured out the root of our problems, he claimed in a “sermon” delivered to the congregation of YouTube. He knows where we went wrong.
    Giving women the right to vote.
  5. ‘Vote No on Women’s Suffrage’: Bizarre Reasons For Not Letting Women VoteThere’s a lot that’s flawed about the United States’ voting system: long lines at polling stations, broken machines, voter intimidation, and more. But we can at least take comfort in the fact that, in theory anyway, all citizens in good standing, men and women alike, have the right to vote. This wasn’t always the case, of course. Black Americans didn’t have the constitutional right to vote until 1870, and it took women even longer to gain suffrage: the 19th Amendment didn’t pass until 1920, following a long debate.

On this phrase, the picture is not so clear anymore. The first one is clear anti-sexist. The second one tries to explain a sexist attitude while the author him- or herself emphasizes his or her disagreement (“this is seen as a sexist and chauvinistic view”). The third and fourth quote refer to secondary sources, the authors also underline their disagreement. The last one presents historic, almost 100-year old views.

“women shouldn’t work”

  1. Ten Lies The Church Tells Women
    LIE #3. WOMEN SHOULDN’T WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME.
  2. Should women work outside the home?
    Work should be a human right, not a masculine privilege. […] If you’re a single mom with bills to pay and you have to put food on the table, are you going to sit by and be like “Women shouldn’t work outside the home, so I’m just going to let this kid starve, we’re just not going to have any electricity…”?
  3. Why do Indian men think that women shouldn’t work after their marriage?
  4. Culture of India: Why do Indian men feel that women shouldn’t work after marriage?
  5. This Week In WTF: Women Shouldn’t Work Because of Conservative Science

While the first and second are clearly anti-sexist statements, merely quoting direct speech to argue against them, the third and fourth seem to point to a real sexist view in India. Number five again quotes a secondary source to argue against it.

“women shouldn’t box”

  1. Am I the only person unhappy about women boxing?
    Sports like wrestling and boxing are training women to be as aggressive as men
  2. London 2012 Olympics: judge women boxers the same as men, says Team GB chief Rob McCracken
    “Saying women shouldn’t box is like saying women shouldn’t sprint.”
  3. Skirting the Issue: Women boxers, liminality and changeI analyze media coverage of this initiative to expose the different coexisting logics of the field, which range from ‘women shouldn’t box at all’ to […]
  4. The Big Read: Women’s boxing at the Olympics
    “A boxer is a boxer. I don’t treat them any differently. I don’t see them as women boxers, I just see them as boxers,” said McCracken. “Saying women shouldn’t box is like saying women shouldn’t sprint.
  5. Women in Sports
    And Nicola Adams is quick to give short shrift to those who say women shouldn’t box – either because of the potential health risks that come with being smacked forcefully in the face, or because they think a women’s place is in the home, not a boxing ring. “Look, times have changed and it’s about equality,” she says. “Women should be able to do any sport they want, whether it’s previously been male dominated or not.”

Finally, we’ve got something: The first result is a clear primary source with a sexist statement. But the rest remains clearly anti-sexist. Only the third result points to an academic paper counting sexist phrases.

Summary

The vast majority of the search results contains anti-sexist statements. The sexism is merely used as a quotation to criticize the attitude behind.

It is therefore very strange that these autocompleted phrases were used to prove sexism. It seems as if the creators of the campaign didn’t even look at the search results.

This doesn’t mean that there is no sexism in the world. It just means that Google’s autocomplete algorithm is a bad way to measure it.

And interestingly, in the meantime the first result of “women shouldn’t have rights” changed: Now it points to an article about that very campaign: Powerful UN Women ads reveal horrifying sexism in Google autocomplete.

So also thanks to that campaign, Google will continue to complete “women shouldn’t” with “women shouldn’t have rights”.

Why are there school shootings?

By graduating from high school, we seem to loose our memory. We forget about the ubiquitous and strong social hierarchies, the violence and the bullying we suffered from or witnessed or took part in. And then, we become like the parents and teachers in this film, totally disconnected and shocked when by accident we hear about some violent young freaks.

The Class helps remembering what common school today actually is.