Showing posts with label analogies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label analogies. Show all posts

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Analogy for why preserving unwanted fertility isn't caring for the patient's health

This post is a restatement of a previous analogy that needed further refinement.  I just realized that it wasn't the analogy itself that needed refinement, but rather the title. So I'm restating the analogy under a more accurate title.

Imagine you have a big, ugly mole.  You hate it and wish it wasn't there.

However, you live in a society that thinks beauty marks are attractive.

You've made inquiries about the possibility of getting your big ugly mole removed, but you get a lot of push-back (and some doctors outright refuse to do it) because there are a lot of people in your society who put a lot of time and effort and resources and emotional drama into getting plastic surgeons to give them beauty marks.

On top of all this, your mole has all the characteristics of a cancerous mole.  Unfortunately, your society doesn't have the ability to detect cancer before it starts metastasizing so you have no way of proving or disproving that your big ugly mole is cancerous, but it does have all the characteristics.

Now, within this context, suppose you have to get surgery in the general vicinity of you big ugly mole.  You ask the doctors if they can remove the mole while they're doing surgery in that area, but they refuse.  You try to emphasize to them that you don't like the mole and don't want the mole, but they are not swayed.  You beg them to, at the very least, not prioritize saving the mole - to give you the most effective surgery without regard for whether the mole is lost, but they still take specific measures to save it despite your protests. And, perhaps, their efforts to save the mole result in a suboptimal approach to the surgery as a whole.

And when you complain about this, people tell you "He's just looking out for your health!"

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Refining the analogy for why unwanted fertility isn't part of health

I was previously trying to write an analogy about why unwanted fertility isn't part of health.  My shower gave me an idea, which still isn't as perfect as I'd like but I'm blogging for the record.

Imagine you have a big, ugly mole.  You hate it and wish it wasn't there.

However, you live in a society that thinks beauty marks are attractive.

You've made inquiries about the possibility of getting your big ugly mole removed, but you get a lot of push-back (and some doctors outright refuse to do it) because there are a lot of people in your society who put a lot of time and effort and resources and emotional drama into getting plastic surgeons to give them beauty marks.

On top of all this, your mole has all the characteristics of a cancerous mole.  Unfortunately, your society doesn't have the ability to detect cancer before it starts metastasizing so you have no way of proving or disproving that your big ugly mole is cancerous, but it does have all the characteristics.

Now, within this context, suppose you have to get surgery in the general vicinity of you big ugly mole.  You ask the doctors if they can remove the mole while they're doing surgery in that area, but they refuse.  You try to emphasize to them that you don't like the mole and don't want the mole, but they are not swayed.  You beg them to, at the very least, not prioritize saving the mole - to give you the most effective surgery without regard for whether the mole is lost, but they still take specific measures to save it despite your protests. And, perhaps, their efforts to save the mole result in a suboptimal approach to the surgery as a whole.

And when you complain about this, people tell you "He's just looking out for your health!"

Monday, June 05, 2017

Childfree for Dummies: Part VI (plus: help write the analogy!)

Sometimes medical professionals insist on taking measure to protect the patient's fertility even when the patient is childfree and doesn't want to be fertile.  And sometimes, if you complain about this, people will counter with "But he's just looking out for your health."

But unwanted fertility is not part of health.

Fertility is a thing my body does that I don't want it to do, much like acid reflux or gaining weight or sweating profusely.  It has no benefit for me and adds nothing to my quality of life. On top of that, unlike acid reflux or gaining weight or sweating profusely, fertility could have the most severe negative consequences possible - both for myself and for innocent others.

Therefore, fertility is not an aspect of my health, but rather a chronic condition to be managed.  And managing it is the top priority of my life. The vast majority of the medical care I receive is in service of managing this chronic condition. If it were not possible to receive the medical care that permits me to manage this condition, I would take drastic measures - up to and including breaking the law, risking my personal health and safety, and relocating to another part of the world - to keep it under control.

So when medical professionals disregard the fact that a patient is childfree and give them treatment that preserves their fertility in cases there are also options that may reduce or even eliminate fertility, they're basically refusing to cure the chronic condition that overshadows every aspect of the patient's life.


I'm trying to think of an analogy for this concept, but it's not working out as well as I'd like. Here's what I've got so far.

Analogy: imagine you're a pre-op transman, and you're diagnosed with breast cancer. One possible treatment is mastectomy. This would not only eliminate the cancer and either vastly reduce (or even completely eliminate) the likelihood of its returning, and vastly reduce (or even completely eliminate) the amount of follow-up care you'd need, it would also remove the breasts that you don't even want (and, depending on their size, may cause you day-to-day discomfort).

But the doctor refuses to give you a mastectomy, and in fact says they will make every effort to save your breasts.  Because most women want to keep their breasts. When you point out the unfairness and very near cruelty of the doctor making you keep your unwanted breasts when removing them would be an effective treatment to everything that ails you, people counter with "But he's only looking out for your health!"

Of course, the problem with this analogy is it's likely ineffective to the people who need it. People who aren't able to imagine what it would be like to not want to have children ever are also likely to have difficulty imagining what it would be like to be transgender. (Unless there are transfolk who can't imagine being childfree, which would be an interesting combination of characteristics.)

Can you think of another comparable analogy that would explain the concept more effectively for the target audience?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Another analogy for being incapable of faith

Some clever internet person once said atheism is a religion like not playing golf is a sport.

As I've blogged about before, I'm an atheist because I'm congenitally incapable of religious faith. Today my shower tweaked this analogy to apply to the kind of atheism that results from congenitally incapable of faith.

Think about Olympic weight-lifting, where they have those ridiculously huge weights and lift them over their heads while making an enormous amount of noise.

Imagine you can't lift those weights. Even if you take them apart, you can't lift the individual components.  Furthermore, you were raised to think that being able to lift the weights was morally imperative, so you spent several years diligently engaged in a regime that, to the best of the knowledge available, would maximize your chances of being able to lift the weights.  But you never developed the ability to lift the weights.

So, atheism is a religion like not being able to lift the weights is a sport.

And faking religion despite being an atheist would be like claiming to be a weight-lifter, talking loudly about your training regime, making sure you're seen at the gym, but still not being able to lift the weights.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Analogy for explaining the joke

I previously blogged about how humour is like sex.

Building on that:

Some people, when they attempt to tell a joke and it doesn't get a laugh, start explaining the alleged joke. As though it's not possible that the alleged joke wasn't funny, and the only possible explanation is that the audience didn't understand it.

That's like trying out a move you read about on the internet and then, when it doesn't work, earnestly explaining to your partner how the internet told you that's where the g-spot is supposed to be.

No matter how solid your theory is, the fact of the matter is it didn't hit the spot. And explaining it isn't going to induce the desired pleasure.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Analogy for "can't you take a joke?"

Some people say cruel things to others and if called out on it say "Can't you take a joke?"

Some people think "a good sense of humour" means "laughs at every one of my attempts to make a joke, no matter how pathetic", and accuse those who don't laugh at their unfunny attempts at humour of having a bad sense of humour.

Today my shower gave me an (unfortunately phallocentric) analogy for both these phenomena:

It's like kicking your partner in the balls while you're having sex, and then accusing them of being impotent or bad at sex when this doesn't give them an orgasm.

Being good at sex, like being good at humour, requires anticipating and meeting the other person's needs. If what you're doing doesn't get the results you're going for - and, especially, if what you're doing causes unwanted pain - you're the one who's doing it wrong, not them.

And even if there have been some people in human history who laughed at your unfunny attempts at humour, the fact still remains that if the attempt at humour doesn't work for this particular audience, you're the one who's doing it wrong.  Just like how, even though under Rule 34 there is probably someone somewhere in the depths of the internet who gets off on being kicked in the balls, the fact remains that if you kick your partner in the balls and they double over in pain instead of having an orgasm, you're the one who's doing it wrong.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Stress and resilience: an inconclusive braindump

As you've probably noticed, these past couple of months I've been finding myself disproportionately stressed about things that don't actually constitute real problems, like having to choose condo finishes and computer problems and a shortage of fanfiction.

This is a clear demonstration of the fact that I'm too easily stressed and not resilient enough to live in the real world.  But what do I do about this?  Braindump on my blog, of course!


By chance, I was recently required to take a (useless and unnecessary) training session on "change management".  It included a component on resilience, which I was looking forward to, but unfortunately it turned out to be useless.

According to the training, one of the things you're supposed to do to make yourself more resilient is self-care.  But the problem is that in my experience, resilience only becomes necessary in situations where your usual self-care is unavailable. I need to be resilient in the face of the loss of my fanfic happy place, and my fanfic happy place is a key part of my self-care. I need to be resilient during 2 weeks without  my computer, and my computer is a key part of my self-care.  I need to be resilient when dealing with condo drama that, if not properly addressed, will result in suboptimal housing, and optimal housing is a key part of my self-care.  If these things that threaten my self-care didn't exist, I wouldn't need to be resilient.

Another thing you're supposed to do to make yourself more resilient is live your values. We were told to list the traits we hate in others, then identify the opposite of those traits.  Those opposites are our values.  This exercise led me to identify my values as socialism and Wheaton's Law, which sounds about right.  But the problem is that I don't see how being socialist and not being a dick would equip me to deal with the unprecedented (to me) challenge of choosing condo finishes or the stress of eventually moving, or even the lesser stresses of a fanfic drought or two weeks without a computer - to say nothing of real problems that will likely happen to me someday, like unemployment or bereavement. My values aren't even relevant to the situations that require resilience. It's like advising someone going through a divorce to adopt a vegetarian diet - it just has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

I don't know if my emotions work differently than other people's or if the training was just spouting platitudes, but the ideas they presented weren't even on the same plane as resilience. Not sure what I'm supposed to do with that.


One issue that has become apparent to me in recent months is that my destressers are very externally dependent, which isn't very resilient.  Fanfic works beautifully, but I'm dependent on people writing new fanfic. Other fandom also works beautifully, but I'm also dependent on new creations from my fandoms - there's a diminishing return on the destressing benefits rereading/rewatching. Gaming works fantastically, but I'm dependent upon having a gaming-capable computer.  A good night's sleep and a long hot shower help, but that's dependent on quality living conditions.  Food and alcohol work, but that's dependent on my usual resources being available, and also comes with physical limitations. (As much as I'd enjoy it, I can't be tipsy and cramming cheese in my mouth every minute of every day.)  There is nothing that destresses me that isn't dependent on other people and/or circumstances.


Anti-materialistic people often say that the problem is seeking happiness in the things that money can buy, and that instead you should get happiness from your interpersonal relationships.  But interpersonal relationships are also entirely dependent on other people. They can abandon you of their own free will. They may be unable or unwilling to give you what you need.  They may not be available when you need them.  Interpersonal relationships can, of course, be rewarding, add to your happiness and improve your resilience, but they are just as dependent on people and/or circumstances as materialistic destressers.


At this point, people usually suggest exercise and/or nature.  But those don't destress me. Exercise makes me angry; nature is best case neutral, worst case a panic attack trigger, while taking me away from the things that actually do destress me, most of which occur in my home. 


Which is the problem with finding a new destresser.  Obviously, if I wanted to proactively seek something to replace my missing fanfiction, the way to do it would be to make a concerted effort to try out random things until something gets the desired results. But the problem with doing that is it would take time away from the tried and true, so it has to be approached carefully and measuredly.

Analogy: Cheese isn't available to put on my salad, but salad is still good. But if I just went around throwing other things on my salad willy-nilly in a desperate attempt to find a replacement for cheese, I could ruin a lot of salads. When I've had a difficult, stressful day and I'm desperately craving a yummy salad, it would probably be a bad idea to experiment and risk not getting my craving filled - and, in fact, risk becoming even crankier because something that I thought would fill my craving didn't.  And, of course, the flaw in this analogy is that it's easy to eat around a non-yummy ingredient in a salad, whereas the impact of stressers and failed destressers on stress levels and energy flow can't be quite so easily circumvented.


Historically, my destressers have always come to me organically, through my reading and other media consumption.  And my reading already follows a system that provides a good balance between known enjoyments and discovering new things, so I don't know if it can be further forced to provide me with the very specific form of new things I need to replace my lost fanfiction.

All of which is to say I don't have any answers, and I'd probably completely shatter if any real problems came along.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What if suicide prevention were removed from the mandate of mental health care?

When Robin Williams committed suicide, many people responded with the "Genie, you're free" scene from Aladdin. This response received a lot of criticism, some of which argued that suicide isn't freedom.

It occurred to me that the problem with this statement is it's clearly unknowable.  The author has no way of knowing with the amount of certainty they claim that you don't find freedom or peace after death.

And, because of this, their anti-suicide message has no credibility in the eyes of those considering suicide.  They're quite clearly just saying stuff to perpetuate the message of Suicide Is Bad.  So a person considering suicide isn't going to listen to them, because they're obviously just going to unquestioningly say Suicide Is Bad regardless of the truth of the matter.  (And if suicide is in fact Bad, you'd think they could come up with something substantiated to support that position.)

Then it occurred to me that this might be the symptom of a broader problem in mental health care and emergency response.

If I were suicidal, I would never even consider seeking medical attention, because I feel like they'd just want to stop me from committing suicide.  They'd restrain me in a mental ward somewhere and declare the job done, or monitor me for the rest of my life and never leave me a moment's peace.  Sounds like hell!

But what if health care as a whole recognized a person's right to end their life? Your body, your choice!  They don't prevent, persuade, coerce or manipulate you into not committing suicide.  It's considered a perfectly valid choice.

However, since it is also a drastic - and irreversible - choice, they strongly urge you to try less drastic approaches first.  Take a pill, talk to a doctor - the mental health equivalent of rebooting your computer and maybe reinstalling the OS rather than going straight to throwing it out the window. If it hurts, the doctor will give you something to try to stop it from hurting.  If you're feeling nothing, the doctor will give you something to try to make you feel again.  If your fish are dead, the doctor will try to resuscitate them.  If it doesn't work, you're no worse off than you were before and you can always kill yourself later!

Some people will argue "But when I was suicidal, I didn't actually want to kill myself.  I wanted to stop wanting to kill myself."  That's fine, a person could still go to the doctor and say "I have suicidal feelings and I don't like them! Can you help me make them stop?" But if the patient feels their suicidal feelings are valid, the doctor won't force them to do anything about it.

Analogy: if you've never gotten pregnant and you want to have children, you can go to the doctor and request assistance with conceiving.  But if you've never been pregnant and you're okay with that, they don't force fertility treatment on you.

And some people will argue "When I wanted to kill myself, it was just the depression talking. Once I received help, I came to realize that I didn't want to kill myself."  If that's the case, this approach will still achieve the same results.  The hurting/sadness/feeling nothing/dead fish will be treated, the patient will come to the realization they didn't actually want to kill themselves, and life would proceed as usual.

But if you want something right this moment and someone tells you "I'm going to take you to a doctor who will make you not want the thing you want," that would feel like they're going to brainwash you.  And if the doctor's mandate is to do everything in their power to prevent you from achieving what you want, you'd probably actively avoid them, perhaps even going as far as to deceive people about your condition and situation so they don't brainwash/restrain/monitor you in a way that would make it impossible to achieve your goal.

Building on the fertility treatment analogy above: suppose you tell a loved one that you want to have children, and they respond by taking you to a doctor who will make you not want children.  Or, based on the information you have absorbed from media/culture/society, you believe that a doctor would respond by taking all measures to prevent you from having children, up to and including forcibly sterilizing you. 

Or the inverse: suppose you don't want to have children, and a loved one responds by taking you to a doctor who will make you want to have children. And the information you have received throughout your life leads you to believe that the doctor would go as far as forcibly impregnating you.

Would this make you feel safe seeking medical treatment?  Or would it make you want to avoid it at all costs?


Removing the suicide prevention mandate might also help reduce the criminalization of mental health patients. 

There was recently a series in the Toronto Star about how people are failing police checks they need for employment because they are known to police (even though they were never found guilty and in some cases never arrested or charged).  And some of them are known to police because police attended a mental health call.  The police were called because the person was considered a threat to themselves, and in the messed up system of disclosure for background checks there's no differentiation between being a threat to oneself and a threat to others.

If health care professionals were not mandated to prevent suicide, there'd be no such thing as involving the police because someone is a threat to themselves.  Killing yourself would be considered your own decision to make, even if it's ill-advised, so there'd be no reason to forcibly stop you.

Analogy: if someone wants risky ill-advised elective surgery and they're proactively trying to get this surgery, this isn't considered a reason for police intervention.  Even if getting the surgery would harm them, that's between them and their doctors. 

Since there's no police involvement, people won't have police records dogging them just because they were once suicidal, so they'd have the full range of employment and travel options still available to them. Surely this would make for a better recovery than being shut out of jobs where they can do good just because they were once suicidal!

Yes, this aspect could also be addressed by police only disclosing appropriate and pertinent information in background checks, but I feel like the medical profession could be more easily persuaded to make helpful decisions than the police.

Friday, August 01, 2014

High waists and tucked-in shirts

This year I've seen quite a few young women, especially teenagers,wearing high-waisted pants with loose shirts tucked in.  This surprised me because the first fashion I ever became aware of was a move away from high waists and from tucking in shirts.  When I was a child I wore waistbands at my waist because they're called waistbands and tucked my shirt into my pants because I thought that's what people do, but as early as Grade 4 people would make fun of people for doing that, saying it made you look like an old man with hiked-up pants.

I was wondering what people wearing this look think they look like (for instance, I think my untucked shirt and lower waist elongates my torso), and I recently had an opportunity to ask when the topic came up in an online community.  To my utter shock, Kids Today seem to think it's a 90s retro look!

In my experience as a teenager in the 90s, while high waists and tucked in shirts did exist, they weren't a deliberate look that people wore for fashion purposes.  They were something that people wore because they weren't super fashionable or that's what they were used to or that's what they had in their closet or the dress code required tucking your shirt in.  Before shirts got narrow, we'd tuck just the very very hem of our baggy 80s-style t-shirts into our waistband and pull as much of it out as possible in an attempt to emulate the look of an untucked shirt.  (The only reason why we didn't just untuck completely was either because baggy 80s-style t-shirts sometimes completely concealed the fact that you're wearing shorts, making it look like you're walking around in just a t-shirt, or because the shirt simply didn't drape well and made you look disproportionately fat.  But since the 90s narrowing of shirts, a reasonable proportion of shirts - even looser styles - have draped well enough that they don't need tucking.)  And even before hiphuggers arrived in the mid-90s, we'd wear our jeans (tailored for the waist) as low as physically possible.  A waistband that rose above your belly button was considered a major faux pas!

Basically, if someone was wearing high-waisted jeans with a tucked-in shirt, they either failed at their fashion attempt or weren't trying at all.  It certainly wasn't an on-trend fashion statement!

Analogy: I'm walking around in the year 2014 in boot-cut jeans because I don't feel good in skinny jeans.  But that doesn't mean that boot-cut jeans are representative of 2014 fashion.  They're a deliberate opt-out of the current trend, a throwback to my high-school days that I retain because I feel that it's more flattering to my figure, and I'd never expect a teenager finding their way into fashion for the first time to wear them.  So if 20 years from now someone wore boot cut jeans in an attempt to be early-2010s retro, they'd be doin' in wrong.

This makes me wonder if any of my various attempts to be retro have so egregiously misfired.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Analogy for assuming I'm going to get sick

I operate under the assumption that I'm going to have every medical problem - everything my ancestors have died of or even been diagnosed with, everything my genetics or behaviour makes it more likely for me to develop, basically everything I have an even slightly greater than average likelihood of contracting.  I assume I'm going to get Alzheimer's, I assume I'm going to get cancer, I assume I'm going to get Barrett's esophagus, I assume I'm going to break a hip and become helpless.

There are people who think this approach is needlessly pessimistic, and who say things like "Why don't you just adopt a healthier lifestyle so you don't end up with these health problems?"

Today my shower gave me an analogy to explain why:

Suppose you want to enter a university program, but you don't have enough money to pay the tuition.

The university offers a scholarship to the very top student in the whole university every year, and this scholarship offers enough money to pay for the whole program.  But only one such scholarship is offered, and it's only available to the one student with the very top marks in the whole university.

So is it a good strategy to decide "Okay, problem solved.  I'll just get the best marks in the whole university and pay my tuition with that scholarship"?  Or would it perhaps be a better idea to assume you won't win the big scholarship, and instead work out a way to assemble the funding from other, smaller, more winnable scholarships with multiple recipients, combined with perhaps a part-time job and some student loans?

To win the one single big scholarship, you have to address and overcome a wide variety of ever-changing factors.  You not only have to be at the top of all your classes, you also have to be aware of what kind of marks other students are getting in other classes and figure out ways to top them.  You  need to keep in mind how various courses are graded, and choose courses (and maybe even a major) that make it more possible to get higher marks. (For example, it's easier to get extremely high marks in a math class than in a literature class, because answers to math problems can be unquestionably and objectively correct, whereas a literary analysis essay is more subjective and far less likely to be interpreted as perfect and therefore worth of a 100%.) You also have to be able to read your profs to determine how to extract the highest marks from them, (for example, I've had profs who give higher marks to essays that prove conventional theses, and I've had profs who give higher marks to essays that take a risk and prove an unconventional thesis, or have a good go at disproving a conventional thesis), and you have to do this early enough in the course so as not to have a sacrificial first assignment.  To say nothing of the stress you'd have to put yourself under and the pleasures of life you'd have to give up to study enough to earn top marks in all things at all times!

This is rather difficult, isn't it?  In addition to doing your absolute best in everything at all times, you have to be constantly and at every moment on top of an ever-changing lineup of factors, many of which are completely beyond your control.  And if you drop the ball even for a second, there goes the scholarship you were depending on for funding.  It's a lot easier, less stressful and more feasible to operate under the assumption that you're not going to get the big scholarship and instead work out a way to get more predictable funding.  If you get the scholarship, bonus!  All your problems are solved!  But if you don't get it, you're prepared for the eventuality.

Similarly, I find the list of things you're supposed to do to prevent Alzheimer's, cancer etc. is large, complex, overwhelming, and ever-evolving.  There is contradictory information out there, some of which is actively trying to discredit each other.  It encompasses every facet of life, some of it involves factors that are beyond our control, and much more of it involves factors that it is possible to control but very difficult to do. There are aspects of it that we don't know yet, and there are aspects of it that may be thought to be helpful but later be discovered to be harmful.

So instead of making myself a slave to all that, I just assume I'm going to get all these diseases and plan accordingly.  If I don't get them and end up dying peacefully in my sleep, bonus!  But if I do get them, then I'm prepared for the eventuality.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Analogy for why you won't regret not doing things you don't enjoy

Between my introversion and the fact that I've been extremely fortunate to land exactly where I want to in life, I'm content.  My life is very simple, contains exactly what I want, and makes me perfectly happy.  Because of this, I don't feel the need to seek ambition or adventure.

 Sometimes I encounter people who think I should be seeking ambition or adventure anyway (especially in regards to travelling), because they think I'll later regret not doing it.  Even though I know full well that it would make me unhappy to do so, they seem to think I will look back and regret not doing the thing that will make me unhappy. Which I find absolutely bizarre!

Today my shower gave me an analogy:

Suppose, at some point in your adult life, you find that you're not able to get as much sex as you'd like.

That doesn't mean that you should have gotten in the car with the strange men who were driving by shouting obscene suggestions at you when you were 12 years old.

Even if some of those obscene suggestions ended up being activities you grew into with future partners - and even if, as an adult, you grow to miss them when circumstances aren't aligning to allow you to indulge in them - they weren't right for you back then.  Not at that age, not with those strange men.

And, looking back at it as an adult - even as an undersexed adult - you don't look back and regret not getting in that car with those strange men.  You recognize that it would have made you unhappy at the time, and that the unhappiness would stick with you as a bad memory, not as something your adult self will end up being glad you did.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Secularism: ur doin it wrong

At first I wasn't going to blog about Quebec's Charte des valeurs. I've already written many times about how assholic it is to force people to expose more of their bodies than they're comfortable with and was weary of having to cover the same ground again, and most of the media coverage of this story has already taken that approach so I was weary of having to repeat myself and didn't think I had anything to add.

But in the shower, it occurred to me that it's interesting to look at it from from the other side: instead of looking at what's banned, let's look at what's allowed.

Here's an English-language version of the visual aid that's been circulating.

Look at the "banned" items in the bottom row.  Apart from the giant cross in the left-most picture, all these items have a practical and/or theological function.  They all have the practical function of covering a part of the body that the wearer wants to be covered (with the possible exception of the yarmulke - I'm not clear on whether covering that part of the head is necessary, or whether it's the yarmulke itself that's necessary.) They all also have the theological function of being something the wearer needs to do to avoid going to hell, or whatever the equivalent in their religion is.  (I have heard that the hijab per se is not necessary, just that covering the head is necessary.  And I have heard that the hijab per se is necessary.  So let's split the difference and say that some people believe it is theologically necessary.)

Now look at the "allowed" items.  They're all small pieces of jewellery that display the wearer's religious affiliation.  They have no theological function, and they have no practical function other than displaying the wearer's religious affiliation.  They aren't a part of the actual practise of the wearer's religion, they aren't going to help send the wearer to heaven or prevent them from going to hell (or whatever the equivalent in their religion is).  They are simply a gratuitous display.

If Quebec wants to create an image of secularism, the place to start is by eliminating gratuitous displays of religion that serve no purpose.  Banning the functional while permitting the gratuitous eliminates all credibility.

Analogy: Suppose I have a car, and suppose you have a baby. We have an awesome, supportive friendship full of mutual assistance, which includes me lending you my car on those occasions when you need a car.  But then one day I tell you "You aren't allowed to put your baby's carseat in my car.  As you know, I am a Voluntary Human Extinctionist, and displaying the carseat would come across as promoting breeding."  But, before you can even open your mouth to protest, I add, "But it's okay if you want to put your Baby On Board sticker on the car, because that's just small."

Update: I was so caught up in imagining how awful it would be to be forced to expose more of my body than I'm comfortable with in order to keep my job that I failed to notice two very important things pointed out in this article:

The Charte wouldn't (my emphasis):

1. Remove religious symbols and elements considered "emblematic of Quebec's cultural heritage." That includes: the crucifixes in the Quebec legislature and atop Mount Royal in Montreal, the thousands of religiously based geographic names (e.g. Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!) and the names of schools and hospitals.

4. Ban opening prayers at municipal council meetings, which was recommended by the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission report into cultural accommodation. The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in May that such prayers do not necessarily violate Quebec's current human rights legislation.
Yeah. So they're forbidding people to wear as much clothing as they'd like to in government buildings because it might be interpreted as a religious symbol, but they're allowing actual religious symbols actually on display in government buildings.  They're forbidding individuals who happen to work for the government in one capacity to practise their own religion with their own body, but still permitting situations in which individuals who work for the government in another capacity are forced or coerced or pressured to participate in the collective practise of a religion to which they may or may not subscribe in order to do their jobs.

So let's revisit the analogy.  I own a car that I lend out to my friends in a spirit of mutual assistance, but I forbid people to put their children's carseats in my car because "displaying" the carseats would counter my stated Voluntary Human Extinctionist principles.  However, I permit the "Baby On Board" sticker on the basis that it's small.

But now, with this new information, it comes to light that I have a gaudy, brightly-coloured children's playground in my front yard.  Because, like, it's always been there.

Also, since I lend out my car to my friends so often, I'm gathering together a circle of friends to give me their input on the next car I purchase.  However, if you want to be part of this circle, you have to donate gametes to help me in my attempt to conceive a child of my own.

But you still aren't allowed to put your baby's carseat in the car.  Because that would promote breeding.

Not so very good for the credibility, is it?

Mme. Marois suggests that the Charte will unite Quebecers.  I believe it will, against her.  You don't win over the secularists by allowing gratuitous displays of religion in the name of secularism.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Analogy for why social media is not a replacement for RSS

One of the things I found most bizarre in all the discussion surrounding the cancellation of Google Reader is that some people (including, apparently, some who work at Google) seem to think that social media is a suitable replacement for a feed reader.  As though we're perfectly content with reading whatever our internet friends choose to share and have no need whatsoever to curate our own reading list.

Today my shower gave me an analogy:

I've just caught up on the Inspector Gamache series, and am waiting with bated breath for the next book to come out in August.

So suppose, on the release date in August, I walk into a bookstore and ask "Do you have the latest Inspector Gamache book?"

The bookstore worker answers, "Here are some books I read and enjoyed recently!"

That doesn't solve my problem, does it?  I want to know what happened with Inspector Beauvoir.  I want to know how (or whether) Peter and Clara's marriage is holding up. I want to find out who leaked the video.

The books the bookstore worker read and enjoyed recently won't address these needs.  They may well be good books, I may well enjoy them, they may well end up being new favourites that I end up following diligently.  But, even if I read and enjoy them all, I will still want to read the next Inspector Gamache.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Analogy for why you don't need to give up your stuffed animals

I previously blogged about how when I was a kid I thought I'd need to give up my very favourite stuffed toy just because none of the adults around me used stuffed toys, but once I grew up I realized that you don't ever need to give them up, even if you don't need to use them any more.

Today my shower gave me an analogy:

As we grow up and grow older, we need our parents'  help less and less.  When we're well into adult life, sometimes months or even years go by when we don't need their help at all.

But we don't respond to this development by murdering them, or by casting them off on an ice floe to die.  We respond by leaving them mostly to their own devices while we handle our own problems without interrupting their well-deserved retirement. But (as long as they're still alive) we still retain the option of going to them if we need their help.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Flawed analogies for street harassment

There are some people in the world who think catcalling and street harassment aren't actual problems.  For the purpose of brevity, I'll call them harassment minimizers (HMs).

Sometimes, when the HMs are male and straight, they'll make some comment like "I don't know what you're complaining about, I'd be thrilled if whenever I walked down the street, groups of women would shout how hot I am and how much they want to have sex with me."

However, this is a flawed analogy.

What do we know about the harassers?  We know two things:

1.  They're harassing people.
2.   They're male (because they've only ever been male in my experience, and this conversation only ever happens with male HMs talking about male harassers).

We know nothing else about them because all the harassment is in the way of us knowing about their hopes and dreams and aspirations and deepest innermost souls.

If I were to evaluate the harassers as viable sexual candidates, I'd see one benign factor and one dealbreaker.  The fact that they're male is benign; the fact that they're harassers is a dealbreaker.

If a straight male HM were to evaluate the harassers as viable sexual candidates, he'd see one benign factor and one dealbreaker.  The fact that they're harassers is benign (since, being a harassment minimizer, he doesn't see harassment as a problem); the fact that they're male is a dealbreaker (since the HM is a straight male).

So the HM's analogy where he'd be happy to have women shouting at him in the street is flawed, because he's taking the one factor that's a dealbreaker for him and changing it to something that isn't a dealbreaker for him.

For the analogy to be sound, he needs to retain one dealbreaker factor and one benign factor.  Therefore, the more apt analogy would be to keep the characters and behaviours the same.  So a straight male HM trying to analogize himself into the shoes of someone being harassed by male harassers should also envision himself being harassed by male harassers.

To change the gender to female would be like if I said "I don't know why it bothers you to have strange men on the street loudly speculating on your sexual proclivities and rudely propositioning you, I'd be thrilled to have kind, gentle, charming, gallant men expressing their esteem for me in ways that I feel are wholly appropriate and not at all uncomfortable."

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Monogamy as sexual orientation

I was rather surprised and disconcerted to see Dan Savage, in both last week's column and the week before's (last letter both times), insist that polygamous and monogamous aren't sexual orientations.  This was bizarre to me, because I've been coming to realize over the course of my life that my sexual orientation is most accurately described as "monogamous".

In this week's column, he has some testimonials from people who identify as orientationally poly, but there's nothing firsthand from people who identify as orientationally monogamous.  So I thought I'd share what I can currently articulate about how it works for me.

- "Why do you describe it as an orientation rather than a practice?" Sexual orientation is the primary factor in defining who you are capable of being sexually attracted to.  If you're heterosexual, for example, the fact that someone is of the opposite sex is the primary factor in determining whether you can be sexually attracted to them.  People talk about "meeting men" or "meeting women" - the gender is so intrinsic to defining who we're capable of being attracted to that people use it as a shorthand for "people I am capable of being attracted to."  For me, the primary factor is whether I love them.  That's the one factor that absolutely must be present to switch on sexual attraction.  Yes, this means that I'm not sexually attracted to people before I love them.  I've never once in my life looked at a random passer-by and thought "I'd hit that!"  I have to have a reason to fall in love with them first.  I can be sexually attracted to someone for whom I have unrequited love as long as there's no requited love going on in my life, but it can only be that one person.

- "But can't you be in love with more than one person?"  No.  I don't have room.  Analogy: I have two breasts, each of which has one nipple.  Therefore, I could nurse a maximum of two babies simultaneously.  There is no possible way to do more, because there simply aren't more nipples.  There's no expansion pack, there's no extension cord, it's a hard and fast limit.  Similarly, I only have one slot in my brain for being in love with a person.  There simply isn't any more room and no way to expand it. Yes, I've heard that some people can, and I'm not going to be so presumptuous as to question their self-knowledge.  But the fact remains that I can't.

- "It's illogical."  I totally agree.  I always assumed that a monogamous relationship was just for fairy tales and old-fashioned people to whom it didn't occur to do otherwise.  How presumptuous would it be for me to think anyone could possibly find me sufficient!  But then, one day, my boyfriend raised the idea that we could be monogamous.  I was shocked that such a thing would be suggested in real life, but I noticed that since we'd gotten together I hadn't had even the slightest glimmer of interest in anyone else, so I agreed.  And HOLY SHIT WAS IT SEXY!!!  It was so sexy that everything I'd previously thought was sexy was relegated to "unremarkable".  It was the emotional equivalent of discovering the clitoris. It' s so sexy that the (physical or psychological) involvement of someone with whom I'm not in a monogamous committed relationship in any sort of sexual experience cannot possibly contribute to the sexiness of the situation - even if the situation is one where I would otherwise be alone.  The best possible outcome is neutral; the worst, and most likely, outcome is total turn-off.  Much like, I'd imagine, Dan Savage would feel if I turned up in his bed.  Analogy: the clitoris is illogical.  It would be far more logical if everyone's primary source of orgasms were vaginal stimulation, because that would facilitate procreation and provide primary stimulation to both partners in an opposite-sex coupling simultaneously.  However, this does not negate the fact that the clitoris exists and is the primary source of orgasms for many people.

- "So how do you transition from one relationship to another?"  As I've mentioned in other blog posts, my feelings - all feelings, not just romantic - don't go away.  They pile up like the stuff in the "miscellaneous" pile on your desk - the ones at the bottom might be hidden from view by the ones added more recently, but they still exist, perfectly whole and in their original state.  What this means for romantic feelings is that new feelings must be so strong that they completely envelop and overwhelm the old feelings.  The old feelings don't go away, they just become insignificant in the face of the exponential superiority of the new feelings. I can't go from one relationship to another equal relationship; I can only transition to a significantly better relationship.  (This also applies for platonic relationships, BTW.  I've blogged before about how my Grade 8 friends abandoned me before high school started.  My feelings for those people are still exactly the same as they were when they were still being friends with me, it's just the friends I've made since are so much more awesome that the feeling I was defining as "friendship" in Grade 8 no longer counts as such.  My current close friends found me when we were in our mid/late teens, and I haven't felt the need to seek out new friends since.)

- "What about fantasy?" When my love is requited, I don't fantasize about anyone else.  I can't explain why, it just doesn't happen.  When my love is not requited, I'm like Marshall in How I Met Your Mother.  Marshall, as you may recall, can only fantasize about someone other than his wife Lily if he constructs a scenario where Lily has died but, on her deathbed, gave him her blessing to be with whomever is the subject of the fantasy.  Similarly, the premise of my fantasy has to be that my previous love thinks it's for the best that I'm with the subject of the fantasy. When my 13-year-old self transitioned from crushing on Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher to crushing on Dean Cain as Clark Kent, she constructed a scenario where Wesley had to go off and join the Traveller, and therefore introduced her to the most powerful man on earth to ensure she'd have a worthy partner.  (Did I mention this was fantasy?)  It sounds complex when I write it up like this, but all fantasy actually involves a lot of premise.  You're constructing a scenario where the subject of your fantasy likes you and enjoys spending time with you and doesn't smell and is into all the same sex acts as you and can do that thing with their tongue and isn't creeped out by the fact that you have a poster of them over your bed, all on top of the fact that the two of you were in the same place at the same time and managed to talk and they found you interesting enough that they didn't just pass you over for the next fangirl.

- "But is poly something anyone can do or something some people are? I come down on the "do" side" - Dan Savage, Nov. 28. You could do it without being it, and you could (with much more incentive and self-discipline) be it without doing it.  I could, I suppose, have more than one lover, as in I could physically carry out the motions.  But I don't want to, and am in fact repulsed by the idea.  Just like I'm sure Dan Savage could engage in a rousing session of cunnilingus (and, being a sex advice columnist, would probably even know a trick or two), but I suspect he'd rather be in bed alone with a book.  Polyamory is something anyone can do just like having sex with a woman is something anyone can do.  That doesn't mean it isn't an orientation factor.

- "But I'm monogamous as a result of a deliberate choice to be so - it has nothing to do with my sexual orientation!"  I have no doubt that's true.  Many people make a conscious decision to be monogamous.  However, it is still my orientation.  Analogy: It is perfectly possible for someone who is bisexual to make a conscious decision to only have relationships with members of the opposite sex, perhaps for procreation, religious, or convenience purposes.  However, this does not negate the fact that many people are heterosexual by orientation and are actually turned off by the idea of sex with a member of the same sex.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Analogy for gun people

I recently tweeted: "The weird thing about gun people is they seem to assume that the bad guys are less competent and more chicken than the good guys."

Much pro-gun sentiment seems to be based on the idea that if you have a gun and some bad guy starts doing something bad near you, you can threaten him with your gun and he'll run away, or you can shoot him to stop him from shooting people.

That line of thinking seems to be based on the assumption that the bad guy is likely to drop his gun if you point your gun at him, and/or that you're a better shot than the bad guy. Why would you assume that? His drawing his gun caused you to draw your gun. Why would you expect the opposite reaction from him? The argument for the good guy being a good shot is generally that people apparently practise shooting. So why would you assume the bad guy doesn't? He probably has more time to do so, since guns most likely are a bigger part of his life, whereas the rest of us have to spend time on all the business of being upstanding citizens.

This morning, my shower gave me an analogy for this concept:

I am smart. Therefore, if a bad guy ever does anything bad in my general vicinity, I'll just outsmart him.

Not that simple, is it?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Plastic bag braindump

1. "But Whole Foods doesn't use plastic bags and they do fine..." The experience of an individual store not providing something is not indicative of the experience of its unavailability in the entire city. It's easy to plan for one store in your many errands not having bags - if you misestimate, you can always get an extra bag from another store. But it's far more inconvenient, and your planning has to be far more perfect, if you can't get another bag, at all, ever, from anyone.

Analogy: most shoe stores will put an extra hole in your sandal straps if you ask them to. I once went to a shoe store that didn't have the tool to do that with. No big deal, my regular shoemaker was willing to do it for free. However, the relative inconvenience of that one non-hole-making shoe store is not indicative of the impact of banning that shoe-strap-hole-punching tool from Toronto city limits.

2. "Shopping without bags is easy! All you have to do is get these bins and keep them in your trunk..." Not if you don't have a car it's not. Since the stated reason for eliminating plastic bags is environmental, all discussion of the matter should focus on the carless trip chain, which benefits from things like light weight and waterproofness and handles and not having to carry big bulky sacks around all day just because you might want to stop in and pick up a couple of things after work. Making it more difficult to live without a car would be even worse for the environment - especially since this is Toronto, where there are many high-density neighbourhoods with shops within walking distance or public transit of homes. And, because I'm frustrated by how often people are promoting a car-based outlook in the name of environmentalism, I'm instituting a new rule: everyone who says it's easy to do away with plastic bags and then cites a car-based example is banned from using a car on their next comparable shopping trip.

3. "But I don't like plastic bags. I have sooo many of them and I don't even like them!" So why do you keep taking them? I've seriously seen this multiple times - people who actively embrace a ban because they feel that they have too many plastic bags in their own home. I don't like those awful "reusable" bags and already have more of then than I'd like, so I don't take them any more, not even when they're being given away for free. I also don't like cantaloupe. Or tampons without applicators. Or bubble gum. So I don't buy any and say no thank you if they're ever offered to me for free. It's really rather simple. Just because you have trouble saying "No thanks" or not reaching out and accepting what is thrust in your direction is not a good basis for a ban. "And sometimes they get holes in them!" So do shoes. And underwear. And "reuseable" bags for that matter. That isn't a good reason to stop (and ban!) their use.

4. "This is a failure of leadership by Rob Ford." No, it isn't. Don't get me wrong, I have no fondness for Rob Ford and would love to seize a chance to criticize him, but it's not his job to make council not vote stupidly. It's council's job to not vote stupidly by virtue of being remotely competent adults. In fact, because we don't have a party system at the municipal level and voted for our councillors on the basis of a non-party system, it would be morally wrong and a betrayal of voters for the mayor to whip the vote. (I know he attempts to do so from time to time; that is something you can cite when looking for examples of poor mayorship.)

5. Would the cost to retailers make it worth adhering to the ban? Some media coverage (e.g. the first letter to the editor here from C.R. Ihasz) has mentioned that paper bags are significantly more expensive to retailers than plastic, and some coverage has mentioned that some retailers have already ordered and paid for enough plastic bags to meet their anticipated needs for the next 12-18 months. I haven't seen anything about what the consequences of providing plastic bags after the ban would be, but it seems like the sort of thing that would be punishable by a fine. It might be more cost-effective to retailers to continue providing plastic bags in violation of the ban, and just accept any fines as the cost of doing business.

Also, paging C.R. Ihasz: I would like to know the name of your store so I can direct some of my business there.

6. How will this affect farmer's market farmers? When I purchase soft, easily squishable produce (peaches, strawberries, etc.) from a farmer's market, I have them put the Foodland Ontario basket in a plastic bag and carry the bag around by the handles. That protects the fruit from being bruised or smashed as much as possible while keeping it clean and easy to carry. But when I buy harder, sturdier produce (apples, carrots, etc.) I have them take it out of the basket and just put it in a plastic bag. The basket isn't necessary to keep the fruit from bruising or smashing, and it's lighter to carry that way. The farmer keeps the baskets I don't use and fills them up again the next week. But if the farmers can't provide plastic bags and we have to do our market run with reusable bags, then we'll have to keep all our baskets to keep the fruit as segregated as possible in the reusables (or else the apples will bruise the peaches and the carrots will burst the berries.) I'd be using twice as many baskets under these circumstances, which means that my farmers would have to buy twice as many baskets (which are surely significantly more expensive than bags.) Plus, I have no use for the baskets once I get my food home, so that's something even bigger and bulkier going into the waste stream in addition to my usual one plastic bag a day.

7. What about retailers who reuse plastic bags? Some small businesses I patronize (i.e. owner-operated, only one or two employees) don't have their own plastic bags. If I need a bag for my purchase, they give me a bag they used when they bought something at a store, or promotional bags given to them by their vendors. Including these in the ban may would be ridiculous.

8. Legislate handles! If it turns out that City Council isn't able to undo this ridiculous over-reaching ban and retailers are left only able to provide us with paper bags (which would actually increase my household waste footprint, because I have no further use for paper once I get them home so they'd go straight into recycling while I still throw out one plastic bag a day full of food waste), City Council should pass a law requiring all bags to have handles! At least that would solve the logistical problem of an errand trip chain with multiple stops. It's true that a handle requirement would be far beyond the scope of what City Council should be legislating, but so is an outright ban.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Analogy for my non-thankfulness philosophy

I previously blogged my theory that we should not feel thankful for basic human rights or basic standard of living, instead feeling entitled to such things and taking them for granted.

Today my shower gave me an analogy:

Suppose I'm about to get married, and you ask me why I was going to marry that particular person. Starry-eyed, with little hearts circling around my head, I answer "Because he never hits me!"

That's not a good reason, now is it? Of course, it is something one should expect in a spouse. But it's so baseline that we should be taking it absolutely for granted and not even noticing it.

Now let's suppose I'm so genuinely thankful that my husband doesn't hit me that I express this at the slightest provocation. My husband might start to develop the sense that he's doing me a great favour by not hitting me, so he might feel less inclined to do me other favours like not flushing the toilet when I'm in the shower, or wearing headphones if he's going to stay up gaming on a night before I need to get up early for work the next morning. If a friend asks me for relationship advice, I might say something like "Does he hit you? No? Then what more can you ask for?", completely disregarding the fact that she's more comfortable and relaxed when she's alone than when her man's around. If I have a child, I might try to instill what I consider good relationship sense in her by talking about how thankful I am that my husband doesn't hit me and how important that is in a relationship. And, by doing this, I might be making her feel like she's being too picky for rejecting a prospective spouse whose life goals are incompatible, because she feels like she should just be grateful he doesn't hit her.

In short, what influence I have would be lowering the expectations of the people around me, encouraging them to accept lower standards. Whereas if I take for granted that he doesn't hit me, I'll instead be gushing starry-eyed about how how he's the best friend I've ever had and how I'm a better version of myself when I'm around him. What influence I have would encourage those around me to seek out similar compatibility in their relationships. And my hypothetical child, having grown up in a context where being hit by one's spouse is unheard of, would react with utter disbelief the first time she hears of such a thing. "He HIT you??? WTF? People just don't DO that to people they love!"

Friday, April 06, 2012

Further analogy for why "demisexual" is problematic

I blogged before about why I dislike the term "demisexual". The analogy I made in that post (what if parents of only one child were described as semi-parents?) is likely effective for communicating why the term is problematic to people to whom the term doesn't apply, but today in the shower I realize it isn't quite apt for those of us to whom the term does apply, because of its focus on the idea of having fewer partners than average. The number of partners is less important (to the analogy and to the concept) than the nature of the relationship.

So here's another analogy that reflects that:

Some people really like to have home-made, sit-down meals. They like to choose fresh, organic, high-quality ingredients, prepare multiple dishes from scratch, set the table, sit down, and savour.

Not everyone does that. It takes work and it takes time. You aren't going to get your dinner as quickly or multi-taskably as someone who is content to scarf down whatever's handy while catching up on Twitter. For those of us who are happy to scarf down whatever's handy, it sounds downright tedious and rather old-fashioned, and we bristle if anyone suggests we should change our perfectly contented lifestyle and start preparing full sit-down dinners when prepared foods and pre-made salads and take-out are readily available.

But no one would ever suggest that the people who like to prepare full sit-down meals have any less interest, enthusiasm, or passion for food.