Feminism and the Dictionary

I looked up feminism in the Dictionary (Merriam-Webster app). It gave two examples: 1) “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”, and 2) “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”. While at first glance, this seems like a good definition, they class it as a theory or belief, which  degrades it to second class status. If the dictionary can’t get it right, how are we to make progress?? (italics are mine) This is, in my opinion, just a hint of how deep the problem is.




As many people do throughout their lives, I have often thought about happiness, life satisfaction and how to adjust my average upward.

Over twenty years ago, I acquired a concept I call “Problem Quotient”. I can’t remember if I read it some place, or if I conjured it up on my own.

Basically, it says: people have a certain number of problems they harbor. If their life circumstances change, either for better or worse, the intensity of their problems change to keep the same number of problems, just of more or less concern as the circumstances warrant.

I have recently come across several similar concepts, from different sources. (confirmation bias at work!)

  1. PREVALENCE INDUCED CONCEPT CHANGE– You find what you are looking for: If the number of occurrences of a trait we are looking for (good, bad, or not moral) is reduced or increased, we tend to change our definition of the trait to keep a similar number in the class. Therefore, as life gets better, we change our definition of what constitutes a good life, thereby not acknowledging our progress. This trait is particularly bothersome when the number of occurrences is reduced. Laboratory experiments have shown this tendency to be very difficult to change.


  1. HEDONIC ADAPTION or HEDONIC TREADMILL- as life’s situation improves, such as more money, life’s expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent increase in happiness.


  1. MEAN REVERSION– This is a concept I am adapting from statistics. Here is how it goes: Imagine for a moment there is a device that can measure your average happiness for the previous 24 hours and give it a score ranging from 1 to 100. A score of 53 would mean the same thing for everyone. If you were to take for example, a 50 day moving average of this score, the theory of mean reversion would state your next score would be closer, on average, to the mean than your current score. You would always be trending towards your average. An example would be purchasing a new car (new to you). It feels good for a while, but after a month or two, it’s just transportation, just as your previous car was.


I recently read about a study in Germany where over 3000 people were studied for over 15 years. They were asked to rate their level of life satisfaction each year on a scale of 1-10. Individual ratings over time were very “sticky”, and the higher an individual rated themselves, the less variability there was in the rating. The study didn’t introduce anything to evaluate possible change.

This all indicates life isn’t going to change of its own volition. We need to take positive action.

I have several proposed ways to improve the somewhat dismal picture painted by these concepts. There is no “one size fits all” solution to this or life for that matter. I will be exploring solutions in upcoming posts.



“For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.’”- Emma Watson

“The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.”- Gloria Steinem

A brief apology here: Some of the material overlaps with a prior post, but I believe it can’t be said too often. Also, there may be a few comments in the post that offend. Just think about them.

By Emma Watson’s definition, I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember.

For two reasons, I am happy to announce I have just finished The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvior. The first is when I decided to read it, I didn’t realize the size of the task. I estimate it to be about 375,000 words (766 pages) of very dense text, and I’m glad to be done. The second and more important reason is it has given me an understanding of many issues and phenomena that I was only casually aware of before the read. It also puts everything in context. The book is very thorough on what it means to be a woman. It also details a great deal about the male psyche.  While the book was written 70 years ago in France, it is still 95% relevant.

The problem is bigger than most people realize and may take many years to rectify. I estimate it will take two more generations to get in the “ball park”.

As I see it, there are three obstacles: 1) Genetics, 2) Genetic predisposition, and 3) Cultural. The genetic issues aren’t really the problem and can be worked around. This is a global problem and can’t be resolved in a vacuum. If all the laws needing to be passed were to happen tomorrow and the day after that consistent enforcement started, only about 25% of the problem will have been addressed. The culture needs to change. Having the correct laws will slowly change some of the culture, but many other changes need to be made. Educational reform to make sure everyone has equal access to quality education and activities such as sports or other extracurricular activities, would be a start. It has been shown that young woman exposed to top educational opportunities and active in sports become more independent thinkers, more self-confident, and ultimately more successful at achieving equality. Sex and body education, for both genders, needs to be rethought. Materials need to be introduced in an engaging manner, before changes in the body occur to prevent confusion and misinformation. On the flip-side, not all women and men are in favor of the feminist movement. This is because of having grown in an environment that wasn’t supportive of increased woman’s rights. This is just my opinion, but I believe home schooling contributes to these backwards attitudes.

Sensitive issue here- all the three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), in their primary document, relegate women to lower class.  How can this be reconciled without becoming hypocritical? How can progress be made towards equality with this significant section of the population believing this? Just something to think about.

I recently finished watching “Downton Abby” (set in the period from 1912-1925). Because I was concurrently reading The Second Sex, I tried to be aware of how the female roles were portrayed. If it was close to accurate, we have come a long way, but my two-generation estimate is relevant. It’s not what I would want, just trying to be realistic. All interested parties need to keep the pressure on, or it will never happen. According to de Beauvior, women have been second class objects since the beginning of the Bronze Age. The current situation is the natural default, which doesn’t mke it right. Much work needs to be done.

If you happen to decide to read the book, be sure to get the 2009 translation by Borde and Chevallier. If you don’t have time to read the entire book, read the last two chapters, pages 721-766.

Woman’s Rights 1

This is the first in a series of posts on woman’s rights. I don’t know how many posts, because I am just starting to learn how big the issue is. I have always been for woman’s rights and equal rights, but with just my big toe sticking out the closet door. I am out now, because the issue is too important to keep silent. I have been doing some research lately. It is a little troubling how deep the problem is imbedded in civilization. Lots of laws have been passed and more need to come, but the problem is so culturally based and biased, effective enforcement of the laws and social and attitude change will come slowly and require constant pressure on all fronts. I just read the other day: The United States is 45th in the world on the issue of woman’s rights. How sad is that. The current powers in Washington would probably like to see us farther down the list. To make real change, some difficult positions will have to addressed. I am currently about half way through The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvior. It is a huge, very thorough book written in France in 1948. It brings nearly all the issues and background into one place. It is still very relevant today. If you decide to read it, read the 2009 translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. It is much more complete than the 1953 translation.

Privacy is an Illusion

It’s a little cliché to talk about the loss of privacy in our lives, but here goes. All our devices are collecting information about us and sending it on. I recently read an article that listed several culprits: Internet browsing and shopping- sophisticated programs analyze our browsing and buying habits and come up with predictions about our make-up and potential future buying habits. Devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home collect data about our tastes and activities and send out data. Smart TVs collect and send data, Smart appliances in the kitchen have the same potential. Services such as Ancestry DNA have the potential to create privacy issues. Many medical devices are now internet connected. Discount cards issued by stores are used to track purchases and activity. When you take your computer to be repaired, the repair service can scan your drive for information. Commuting EZ cards can be used to track activity. Fitness trackers track your activity and location. I have had requests on my phone to rate places that I just drove by. They know where I am all the time. If you use a computer at the library and don’t carefully clear the browser when you are done, the next person has access to what you did.

All this leads us to the next level of hacking. Can a hacker get in and not leave evidence of the visit? Then information could really cause problems before its use is detected. And its not just the hacker problem, what about the use of the data by the original collector and what about government access. What a thorny area!

I don’t have an answer to this, but something does need to be done, if possible. Maybe its something that we will have to accept. I know there are things that can be done to slightly reduce the impact, but can it be eliminated?

Life Plan

“Change your life today. Don’t Gamble on the future, act now without delay.”            Simone de Beauvior

I can’t say I do this consistently, but one of the filters I use to make decisions is: which way of doing this will maximize the quality of the years I have remaining? I have a limited number of years left and I am trying to make sense of them. This all started after my last divorce (I’ve had two, so I am becoming a little of an authority on this) when I determined I need to get my expenses under control or I would be homeless in a few years, or at the least very unhappy. It took me over four years to create the metamorphosis of my financial life. I can now pay all my expenses out of current income and have money left over to do irrational things that make life fun. To be sure, the paradigm I live in is much different than it was 4 or 10 years ago. The fallout of this is now decisions and plans are made with the thought as to how to maximize the quality of my life. Notice I didn’t say happiness or fun. They are very important, but not what forms the foundation of a quality life. It’s about determining what the meaning of life is for oneself and then trying to be true to that. I don’t always follow the crowd. Sometimes, I take a certain pride in being “different”. Often, we have little latitude in being an individual and we need to take it where we can get it. If more people adapted this plan to their circumstances, I believe the world would be a happier more peaceful place with a much greater quality of life. For you, like me, this is a concept that can’t be “swallowed” in a day.


Ulysses Contract

A Ulysses contract is a freely made decision that is designed and intended to bind oneself in the future. In Greek mythology, Ulysses wanted to hear the Siren’s song although he knew that doing so would render him incapable of rational thought. He put wax in his men’s ears, so they could not hear, and had them tie him to the mast so he could not jump into the sea. He ordered them not to change course under any circumstances. Upon hearing the Siren’s song, Ulysses was driven temporarily insane and struggled with all his might to break free so that he might join the Sirens, which would have meant his death. -Wikipedia

A Ulysses contract can be a useful tool in pushing ourselves towards goals we consider worthwhile. One form it can take is just to announce to everyone you know, you are going to accomplish something, usually be a certain date. Save a certain amount of money, lose a certain amount of weight, etc. It should be in fact doable, otherwise what sense does the contract make?

My Ulysses contract with whomever reads this:

For many years, I have read diet soda is not healthy. The reasons given were usually vague or nonexistent. A couple of days ago, I read a short article that gave specific reasons for ditching diet soda. I estimate the diet soda I have on hand will last until October 16, 2018. I will try a 60 day fast from diet soda. I will update you on the 30th and 60th day. In the past, I haven’t always reacted in the fashion a study or recommendation predicted I would, but I will give it a fair try, which will be difficult because I really like diet soda. In the interest of full disclosure, I do have another test that I started a week ago that may color the results, I will do my best to sort that out. I increased my protein intake, and I already feel some positive results. “Now it begins”.


Existentialism 1

This is the first of a series of posts on Existentialism. I don’t know how many there will be because existentialism is one the most difficult concepts, I have every tried to come to grips with. I am still very early on the learning curve. I believe I understand quantum physics better.

At one time, I decided to call myself an existentialist, mainly because I thought it sounded cool. Later, I decided to find out what it really meant. What a complicated, almost unanswerable question! I may never know because from what I have been able to ascertain, there really isn’t a definitive answer, and most people who think they know the answer..don’t. Various forms of existential thought have been around since Plato. It’s not so much about a specific philosophy as a thread of thinking that is present almost everywhere.

It hasn’t always been called by the popular name, that started with Jean-Paul Sartre in the late 1930’s but the thread of existentialism has always existed and will continue forward. Instead of “I think therefore I am” it is “I Am, therefore I think”, “I am free”, “only I decide my life”. It will always be part of us, to not think so is to deny our basic existence. Everything is personal. Everything is about perspective. Our individual reality is just that… individual. It’s OK, but not necessary, to do the same as everyone else, if it is a conscious choice and not herd mentality. I march to my own drummer and nobody else can hear it.
People aren’t born with ideas in their mind. They exist first, then they acquire ideas and thoughts based on what they are exposed to, in this sense everyone starts out as an existentialist, with many being guided away by parents, teachers, peers, and mentors, who have their own personal axe to grind. We must not forget that at the core, we all have a choice at every decision point. We are all free to choose. Sometimes the choice doesn’t appear real or one course of action may be unpalatable, but the choice is still ours to make.

Next time, I will dive a little deeper into the basic premises of Existentialism.


For the past ten years or so, I haven’t voted as often as I should. I decided about the First of October that had to change. The political philosophy in Washington is a travesty, an insult to anyone who can hold a thought in their head for over 17 seconds. I resolved to vote straight Democrat until the situation is resolved. It is my duty to my fellow citizens. Legislative policy should ideally be to help the most people. Instead, legislative policy is to help the most dollars. I consider it a moral imperative to reverse this trend. How can we say we are civilized and continue along this path?

It looks like the Democrats picked up the House but made no progress in the Senate. It looks like not much will happen for the next two years except a lot of partisan fighting. I guess it could be worse.