Thursday, July 30, 2015

Broken Homes, Divorce, and Children (Criminality/Delinquency) [+]

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Modern Rejection of the Notion of the “Criminal Mind”

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was among the first, if not the first, to put forth a theory of evolution, and his name might be better remembered today had his theories not contained the element known as “soft inheritance.” One example that is given of this notion is that giraffes had to extend their necks to reach higher foliage, and that as a particular giraffe did this throughout its life, this characteristic was passed on to its offspring. Given the state of knowledge on the subject in general at the time, it is easy to see how this theory could have come about.

Charles Darwin and others rejected soft inheritance in favor of the version that we know today which relies solely on the concept that successful traits lead to better chances of reproduction than do unsuccessful traits, an idea that we refer to as “natural selection.”

Ironically, however, some aspects of Lamarck’s model are being reconsidered in modern science. I’ll leave that for another time. But, it does illustrate how, in science, discredited concepts can make a comeback even if the basis for the comeback is entirely unrelated to the basis for the original theory. [1]

Sometimes erroneous theories persist not because there is remaining evidence that they are correct, but because they fill some psychological need that we have, or match a pet theory or paradigm that we have grown accustomed to. History is full of examples of man's inhumanity to man based on the notion that one group of people were inherently inferior to another, falling into categories such as lesser human, subhuman, or even nonhuman.

While the modern world has largely discarded such thinking, it still lingers in more primitive cultures and even in pockets of ignorance within and across the modern world. We see evidence of this every day on the news, and unfortunately, it occasionally finds its way into our entertainment, political discourse, and even the manners wherein we raise our children. Hate begets hate.

These appeals to the degree to which we are powerless over our “human nature” take almost comical forms in some cases, such as the notions that men must be forgiven for their sexual urges over which “they have no control,” while women must be castigated for giving in to their own supposedly inbuilt propensities to “use” men. That both notions can coexist within a single human brain serves as stark testimony to human subjectivity. Each view of women and men, though, is almost certainly devoid of substance.

For the greater half of the last century, the belief was common that the descendants of slaves imported to the western hemisphere were so inherently inferior that they must be relegated to second-class status. We do not have to look far for evidence that such notions persevere among some people to this day, and that for many of said individuals, it becomes something of a self-fulfilling proposition.

In a prior piece entitled “Monoamine Oxidase A: The War over the “Warrior Gene,” I presented both sides of the story on how just one genetic marker can be shown not to control behaviors, but to influence them in mostly subtle, but taken to the extreme, not so subtle ways. [2]

Fortunately, the world of real science does not have to wait for the popularizers, pundits, and particularly, the con artists and demagogues, to catch up as it builds on theories that have proven out while whittling away aspects of those which have not. While madmen of the twentieth century sought to use superficial characteristics as a way to “purify” the human race even before the genome had been sequenced, let alone thoroughly understood, contemporary science has breathed new life into the idea that “all men are created equal” by demonstrating that our environment plays the more important role in how we turn out as adults.

In what follows, I want to trace an example of this area of research, noting that, as a related collection of concepts are examined, rejected, resurrected in another form, improved, and, let us hope someday, perfected, we can not only learn what causes certain behaviors, but also what environmental factors might produce optimal results.

The Science of Nurture over Nature

Beginning around the last half of the twentieth century, sociologists began to suspect that criminal behavior was not, for the most part, an inborn characteristic. Rather, it was learned behavior that, if fully understood, could be compensated for to attack crime at its roots. Because theories at the time postulated that events in earliest childhood might result in criminal behavior throughout life, only expensive longitudinal studies were likely to shed light on these root causes. Fortunately, a married couple, the Gluecks, provided a solid foundation for study that is still bearing fruit today. We might, however, be at a stage where every last result has been wrung out of these original data sets, and only a fresh round of data gathering will refine our insights. Additionally, the world has changed so significantly since the Gluecks conducted their work that older notions regarding ideals in family life are difficult or impossible to achieve today.

During the 1940s, Sheldon and Elenor Glueck studied 500 delinquent and 500 non-delinquent children in the Boston area of Massachusetts. This work resulted in the book Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency, published in 1950. [3] It was a monumental effort in terms of the amount of data collected, and the fact that it was a longitudinal study. The Gluecks spent the rest of their lives enhancing their interpretations. As documented by researchers Sampson and Laub, the Gluecks’ work was widely criticized for a number of reasons, some of which were due to the Gluecks’ emphasis on physiology (for example, mesomorphy) as a major factor, and others having to do with their analysis of their own data. [4 pp. 357-361] The Gluecks were not the first, nor the last, to place nature and nurture on a similar level, but as Sampson and Laub demonstrated, it is possible to factor these prejudices out and still have an abundance of useful data to work with.

The difficulty in performing such a large study over a long period of time has served to increase the value of the Gluecks’ work throughout the years, as Sampson and Laub and others have found it more expedient to redo the analysis of the Glueck data, rather than justifying the time and cost of having to replace it. A primary, and for the most part lasting, outcome of these studies has been an emphasis on the importance of the family in shaping a child’s future. The details of that emphasis, though, have changed over time with each new refinement of older data, such as that of the Gluecks, or more modern, if less ambitious collections of data that have been gathered since.

The Sampson and Laub work largely rescued the Glueck data from what might have become an ultimate obscurity due to the criticisms that they received, and they found that there was good reason to support many of the Gluecks’ conclusions, particularly when it came to the importance of establishing a strong family basis. The factors of supervision, attachment, and discipline, as identified by the Gluecks, were the most important (negatively) correlating factors with serious and persistent delinquency. A second major finding was that, with the exception of residential mobility, none of the other structural background factors were significant. Family processes mediated 80% of these structural background factors. Previously neglected factors such as alcoholism and criminality of parents were found to be important. Finally, the Sampson and Laub study showed that the Glueck data could still be used to provide additional insights into the causes of delinquency. [4]

Following the work of Sampson and Laub, others sought to confirm, deny, or extend these findings. By way of illustration, in 1990, Mednick, Baker, and Carothers showed that divorce alone could not explain delinquent behavior if the subsequent family environment was stable. [5] As we will see, other studies confirmed this and improved on the specificity of the findings with respect to which secondary family structures produced the best results. [5]

Around a year later in 1991, Wells and Rankin, conducting a survey of 50 family studies, a process known as meta-analysis, found that one thing which stood out as a predictor of criminal behavior was divorce. They also concluded that even though the span of time was significant for the 50 studies that they looked at the results of, where they were comparable remained relatively consistent. [6] We will witness later work, though, which might indicate that some changes have taken place in our social structure which will alter this notion and provide a reason to call for fresh data on a scale similar to, or larger than, the Glueck data.

McCord, likewise in 1991, made a refinement to the importance of family structure by determining that a competent mother could offset the negative effects of a broken home. The impact of the father was less, but could serve as a positive influence if he played a cooperative role. [7] This was confirmed by Barber and Eccles through survey data in 1992, and in fact stressed that in a marriage beset with conflict, the children had better chances if a divorce happened sooner rather than later. [8]

Then, Amato, in 1994, took the meta-analysis concept to an extreme, looking at over 90 prior studies to draw new conclusions from old data. Unlike Wells and Rankin in one regard, Amato noted that there had been a societal shift which, presumably, had made the stigma associated with divorce less over time as single-parent households became more commonplace. Previously, the death of one parent had been the primary cause of single-parent households coming into being, but with longer lifespans and an increasing divorce rate, this situation reversed itself. [9] Coupled with the McCord results, we might deduce that the stress of an unstable two-parent household is more detrimental than one consisting of a single parent, and further, that as such situations became more commonplace, the main influence became stability rather than the number of parents.

A slight shift back to the primacy of marriage is seen in a 1999 work by Simons, Lin, Gordon, Conger, and Lorenz, who noted that ongoing contact with a divorced father, especially for boys, was important, as was the financial stability of the custodial mother, along with her parenting skills. A situation in which the divorced parents did not continue to contend with one another was seen to have better results. In this case, continued contact with the father served as a role model for boys, at least if the father was willing to play a supportive role. This study thereby introduced the idea that divorce can have significantly greater impact on boys than girls. Considering that many of the earlier studies consisted mostly, if not entirely, of boys, it is not surprising that this possibility was missed. [10]

I must note here that, in several of these studies that did include children of both sexes, differences were often observed. If there was any point at which to suggest that genetic differences between the sexes might find expression in later behavioral characteristics, this would likely be it. As my earlier post indicated, the placement of that one genetic marker (MAOA) on the Y chromosome meant that its impact was muted in girls, while having full force in boys. Furthermore, studies show that the genetic marker alone is not sufficient to produce a measurable difference in behavior, but must be accompanied by some form of childhood “trauma” (for lack of a better word). These studies may well be considered a survey of such traumatic conditions. [2]

Because of its large sample size of over 21,000 Swiss army recruits, a study by Haas in 2004 might not appear to correlate well with the others, but the results were fairly congruent with the others in most important regards. Because it consisted only of males, it can do no more to illuminate the differences in impact between the sexes of the children. It does confirm the importance of a skilled mother, though, and adds to that the finding that continued care by an extended family member could also lessen the negative effects of loss of one or both parents. [11]

Murray and Farrington in 2008 summarized several other studies involving parental imprisonment that added to the variety of family disruptors, such as divorce or death, which could have an impact on future delinquent and criminal behaviors. The authors claimed that this form of disruption was as significant, if not more so, than death of one parent or divorce. Once again, the impact for an imprisoned mother was greater than if the father was the one absent from the home. This study might be used to justify the often lesser sentences meted out to women versus men for similar crimes, even if that is not the typical rationale relied upon. Mitigating factors were found to be higher IQ for the child as well as welfare provisions for a single parent, typically the mother, who had to keep close to home and had no income from an imprisoned father. The stigma of having a parent in prison might additionally be a factor that makes this scenario potentially worse than divorce or the death of one parent. [12]

Finally, Wildeman and Western, in 2010, constructed an impassioned case (if not so much data-driven) for prison reform to avoid an avalanche effect of poverty and criminality that resulted from generation after generation of imprisoned parents. This offers a probable explanation like no other study has for why certain racial and ethnic groups fail to respond to various social programs. Among concerns cited were the negative impacts on employment for parolees, issues with reincarceration over minor technical parole violations, and limited educational opportunities that might allow truly reformed inmates to re-enter society successfully. In their closing few sentences, Wildeman and Western assert:

Taking full account of the negative social effects of incarceration shows that the costs of mass imprisonment are far higher than correctional budgets suggest. More fundamentally, criminal justice agencies are only residual sources of social order. The primary sources of order and stability—public safety in its wide sense—are the informal social controls of family and work. [13]

By working through these studies chronologically, it can be discerned that the contradictions are actually few. Instead, each new study bolsters some of the results of those that have come before. Moreover, we see that greater precision is achieved whether adding fresh data to the mix or reanalyzing previous data from a new perspective.

Although it was at one time concluded that such results were little affected by the passage of time and societal shifts, there are now reasons to believe that that stability has passed as we observe a greater variety of family lifestyles, first coming into existence, and then becoming more common, and finally more acceptable and accepted. The importance of stigma can be noted as well, both in the sense that old causes of it such as divorce have faded, and new causes such as imprisonment have emerged.

Also emerging are new challenges to the family, whatever forms they take, as an increasing percentage of the population is ill-prepared for a twenty-first century workplace; a workplace that is smaller in many realms due to automation, and thus less dependent on physical labor. Assurances that a new workforce would be based on a service economy model have not taken up the slack, as not only have labor-intensive industries become more efficient, but so have white-collar jobs such as accounting, engineering, manufacturing, and others become more computerized. Guaranteeing each citizen the chance of a productive life, even without the issues of divorce, imprisonment, and dislocation, seems to be growing more and more difficult.

Nevertheless, it is not true that we are short of fresh ideas to address the causes of poverty and family breakdown. For instance, sociologist Julius Wilson closes his book When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor with recommendations that superficially resemble the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). Acknowledging that these ideas would probably cost more than the initial benefits could justify, he instead puts the focus on the long-term societal benefits that could, at least to some extent, provide the framework for a more inclusive society. In his final chapter he states:

My framework for long-term and immediate solutions is based on the notion that the problems of jobless ghettos cannot be separated from those of the rest of the nation. Although these solutions have wide-ranging application and would alleviate the economic distress of many Americans, their impact on jobless ghettos would be profound. Their most important contribution would be their effect on the children of the ghetto, who would be able to anticipate a future of economic mobility and share the hopes and aspirations that so many of their fellow citizens experience as part of the American way of life. [14]

The political class may continue to prescribe the same old solutions for a time, but in stronger doses, yet paradigm shifts that are well underway will eventually only respond to radically new treatments. Studies on these subjects should continue to place a sharper focus on what these new solutions might be, and should likewise strive to convince both the public and the political class that they must be tried, and with greater attention to which prescriptions produce truly desirable results and which ones don’t.

Analyzing and recycling family structure data from the post-industrial revolution might well have run its course, with every last drop of meaning now wrung out of it. New studies must factor in the impacts of the internet, working mothers, the influence of fathers on girls and boys in different roles, commoditization of information content, education, relevant changes in social policy, and more. In a world that is evolving faster than ever before, at an ever more rapid pace, our understanding of it must evolve faster as well.

Author: Krista [@Femitheist]
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NOTE: If you liked this post, feel free to share it, and if you have any thoughts on it or the general subjects discussed within, or even merely semi-related topics, please leave them in the comments below. I always enjoy reading the feedback of others whether they liked and agreed with what I had to say or not.
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References (Last Accessed on July 30, 2015):

[1] Jean-Baptiste Lamarck | French biologist (Encyclopedia Britannica Online/Wikipedia)
http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Baptiste-Lamarck
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_Lamarck

[2] Krista | Philanthropy. Egalitarianism. Humanism. Humanitarianism. (Monoamine Oxidase A: The War over the “Warrior Gene” ~)
http://www.femitheist.net/2014/07/monoamine-oxidase-the-war-over-warrior.html

[3] Glueck, S., & Glueck, E. (1950). Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency. New York: Commonwealth Fund.

[4] Laub, J., & Sampson, R. (1988). Unraveling Families And Delinquency: A Reanalysis Of The Gluecks’ Data*. Criminology, 26(3), 355-380.

[5] Mednick, B., Baker, R., & Carothers, L. (1990). Patterns of family instability and crime: The association of timing of the family's disruption with subsequent adolescent and young adult criminality. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 19(3), 201-220.

[6] Wells, L., & Rankin, J. (1991). Families And Delinquency: A Meta-Analysis Of The Impact Of Broken Homes. Social Problems, 38(1), 71-93.

[7] McCord, J. (1991). Family Relationships, Juvenile Delinquency, And Adult Criminality*. Criminology, 29(3), 397-417.

[8] Barber, B., & Eccles, J. (1992). Long-term Influence Of Divorce And Single Parenting On Adolescent Family- And Work-related Values, Behaviors, And Aspirations. Psychological Bulletin, 111(1), 108-126.

[9] Amato, P. (1994). Life-Span Adjustment of Children to Their Parents' Divorce. The Future of Children, 4(1), 143-164.

[10] Simons, R. (1999), Kuei-Hsiu Lin, Leslie C. Gordon, Rand D. Conger and Frederick O. Lorenz. Explaining the Higher Incidence of Adjustment Problems among Children of Divorce Compared with Those in Two-Parent Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(4), 1020-1033.

[11] Haas, H. (2004). The Impact of Different Family Configurations on Delinquency. British Journal of Criminology, 520-532.

[12] Murray, J., & Farrington, D. (2008). The Effects of Parental Imprisonment on Children. Crime and Justice, 37, 133-206.

[13] Wildeman, C., & Western, B. (2010). Incarceration in Fragile Families. The Future of Children, 20(2), 157-177.

[14] Wilson, W. (1996). Chapter 8. In When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (p. 267). New York: Knopf.
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Extended References with More Detail and Web Links Where Available

The following notes with links to the original papers, where not behind paywalls, are my original notes on each, and in the original order that I found them, which was somewhat random. Thinking at first that it was a mass of contradictions, I decided to try re-reading them in chronological order (as presented above) so as to better grasp the backwards references in the various studies. It was after doing this that I realized that there was a certain trajectory to these findings which made sense. Hence the ordering in my article here.

1) Simons, R. (1999), Kuei-Hsiu Lin, Leslie C. Gordon, Rand D. Conger and Frederick O. Lorenz. Explaining the Higher Incidence of Adjustment Problems among Children of Divorce Compared with Those in Two-Parent Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(4), 1020-1033. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/354021

This paper reviews several previous studies on the impact of divorce on subsequent successful social adjustment in children. At the time it was written, the consensus was that there was a relationship between divorce and adjustment problems, but the more specific causes of this had only been the subject of speculation.

Factors viewed as important in this study were the financial well-being of the custodial mother, her parenting skills, and the extent of continued involvement by the father. It was also shown that divorce is more emotionally disturbing to boys than to girls.

The study’s results support the notion that children of divorce are more at risk for adjustment problems than those of married couples. Couples can mitigate this risk by engaging in practices which avoid hostile exchanges while in the presence of children. Unfortunately, this mitigating effect applies primarily to girls and less so to boys, who are apt to experience depression anyway due to the loss of the father in the home (in cases of maternal custody).

2) Laub, J., & Sampson, R. (1988). Unraveling Families And Delinquency: A Reanalysis Of The Gluecks’ Data*. Criminology, 26(3), 355-380. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/sampson/files/1988_crim_laub.pdf

This study seeks to review the findings of Sheldon and Eleanor Gluecks’ 1950 work, Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency (UJD), which had been criticized for lack of rigor. The Glueck study was drawn from 500 delinquent and non-delinquent children in the cities of Westboro and Boston, Massachusetts during the 1940s.

A summary of objections to the Glueck study is presented, including concerns about causal ordering (establishing a cause and effect relationship), and sloppy data analysis. This paper attempts to reanalyze the original Glueck data and rescue it from these criticisms. The results are only based on a partial reanalysis, but conclude that further work can make productive use of the raw data that was gathered in the Glueck research, and that, in fact, this data was better in some ways than the then current (1988) data from other sources.

Family process variables are directly related to serious and persistent delinquency. Results support author’s version of social control theory. The factors of supervision, attachment, and discipline, as identified by the Gluecks, were the most important correlating factors with serious and persistent delinquency. This research confirms the findings of the Gluecks. Its second major finding was that, with the exception of residential mobility, none of the other structural background factors were significant. Family processes mediated 80% of these structural background factors. Previously neglected factors such as alcoholism and criminality of parents were found to be important. Finally, this study shows that the Glueck data can still be used to provide additional insights into the causes of delinquency.

3) Haas, H. (n.d.). The Impact of Different Family Configurations on Delinquency. British Journal of Criminology, 520-532. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from
http://troublesofyouth.pbworks.com/f/farrington%2Bet%2Bal%2B-%2Bdiff%2Bfamily%2Bconfigs%2Band%2Bdelinq.pdf

This is based on a sample of 21,314 Swiss male army recruits who completed a survey at age 20 in 1997. The large sample size and concentration on male impacts distinguished it from many earlier studies of the type. Its findings were that the loss of the mother as caregiver was a larger impact than the loss of father. Care by extended family members, however, was found to lessen this impact to some extent.

As with other studies, there were shown to be individuals that were exceptions to the rule who were able to avoid adjustment problems in spite of just the loss of one or both parents alone. The suggestion was made that there may be earlier factors that influence these children before the disruption occurs that need to be studied.

This study confirms that a warm and loving mother can mitigate the impacts of family break-up. Comparisons were made between post break-up habitation with mother, father, or other family members, with the best outcomes produced by continued involvement of the mother.

4) Murray, J., & Farrington, D. (2008). The Effects of Parental Imprisonment on Children. Crime and Justice, 37, 133-206. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from
https://www.i-hop.org.uk/ci/fattach/get/201/0/filename/Murray+and+Farrington+-Effects+of+Parental+Imprisonment+on+Children.pdf

This paper claimed that this cause for family disruption is both understudied, yet significant, roughly tripling the risk for antisocial behavior. It also showed that the impact is worse when it is the mother that is the missing parent. It speculates that higher IQ, hopefulness, and social support may be moderating factors, as well as liberal prison policies and strong welfare provisions.

Parental imprisonment, particularly of the mother, was found to be an important risk factor in adverse outcomes for children. Numerous implications for policy and practice were discussed: Trauma Theories, Strained Caregiving, Economic Strain, and Stigma.

5) McCord, J. (1991). Family Relationships, Juvenile Delinquency, And Adult Criminality*. Criminology, 29(3), 397-417. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from
http://sites.psu.edu/scoratti/wp-content/uploads/sites/975/2013/04/article-on-family.pdf

This study seeks to eliminate variables of poverty, social disorganization, and poor neighborhood conditions by isolating families in similar economic circumstances. As with other studies, it found that the parenting skills of the mother can offset negative outcomes of broken families. The father’s relationship with the family can play an important role too, though, with the good or bad behavior of the father when interacting with the mother producing a corresponding impact on sons as they mature. Another finding was that there can be differences in the causative influence for juvenile delinquency versus adult criminal behavior.

This re-affirmed the value of a competent mother in insulating children from criminogenic influences, even in bad neighborhoods. Competent was defined as possessing self-confidence and providing leadership in an affectionate and non-punitive manner. The father’s influence was found to be less, especially in early years, but increased as children got older. Best results were obtained when cooperation existed between parents. Fathers who undermined the mother’s efforts yielded worst results. The impact of the father setting a good example of behavior was particularly important for boys.

6) Wells, L., & Rankin, J. (1991). Families And Delinquency: A Meta-Analysis Of The Impact Of Broken Homes. Social Problems, 38(1), 71-93. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from http://socpro.oxfordjournals.org/content/socpro/38/1/71.full.pdf

This paper lamented the fact that there was so little correlation among the results of studies of the effects of broken homes on criminality. It demonstrated this by examining 50 such studies, and attempting to, where possible, find patterns of agreement which would suggest more reliable results in that area. For example, several of the studies included data for families broken up by either divorce or the death of one parent. Notably, a stronger correlation with crime was detected for the case of divorce.

Another useful result was that, given the wide range in time for the various studies, it could be concluded that there was no apparent change in the model between the earliest studies and the later ones. It also confirmed that the impact is stronger for minor juvenile offenses than for later adult criminality.

7) Mednick, B., Baker, R., & Carothers, L. (1990). Patterns of family instability and crime: The association of timing of the family's disruption with subsequent adolescent and young adult criminality. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 19(3), 201-220. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24272449

This study was based on 410 males aged 19-21 over an 18-year period and demonstrated that divorce alone could not explain subsequent criminality. The existence of a stable replacement family structure could compensate for the broken home effects. On the other hand, disruptive changes to the family structure after a divorce were found to be more likely the cause of the subsequent criminal behavior.

8) Amato, P. (1994). Life-Span Adjustment of Children to Their Parents' Divorce. The Future of Children, 4(1), 143-164. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/04_01_08.pdf

This paper reviewed a number of studies on the topic, noting that at one time, death of a parent was the number one cause of broken homes, but that at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was overtaken by divorce. This was due to the combination of longer life spans and an increasing divorce rate. It covered the primary sampling techniques that had been used up to that point.

It also covered the method of meta-analysis which takes data from previous studies and combines them using different methods. As an example, the author references a study of his own that used data from 92 previous studies to draw new conclusions. Contrary to Wells, L., & Rankin, J. (1991), there appears to be a difference based on the time of the study, with more recent studies showing a decreased impact of broken homes on the likelihood of antisocial behavior. A possible explanation for this is that, with divorce becoming more common, the social stigma is lessened, and the increased number of children in this situation can provide support for one another. Additionally, the introduction of no-fault divorces leading to less acrimony between parents may also be a factor.

This study’s results somewhat contradict those of earlier studies on which is it based, and so it constitutes a reanalysis (meta-analysis) of some of that data, showing that the impact of divorce on children may be lessening as it becomes more common. This can be partially attributed to reduced stigmatization.

9) Wildeman, C., & Western, B. (2010). Incarceration in Fragile Families. The Future of Children,20(2), 157-177. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from
http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/20_02_08.pdf

This paper presented strong support for sentencing reform to avoid the impact that lengthy incarceration, or incarceration at all, for minor drug offenses has on family break-ups and the resulting impact on children. It pointed out that imprisonment had increased by a factor of five times since the mid-70s and suggested that it has a greater impact on poor families that are already at a disadvantage.

Solutions, however, must include solving problems that lead up to imprisonment in the first place, such as joblessness, untreated addictions, and mental illness. Comparisons are made between the U.S. prison system and that of Western Europe. That has had a cascading effect that first showed up in the U.S. starting in the 80s.

10) Barber, B., & Eccles, J. (1992). Long-term Influence Of Divorce And Single Parenting On Adolescent Family- And Work-related Values, Behaviors, And Aspirations. Psychological Bulletin, 111(1), 108-126. Retrieved on February 14, 2015, from
http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/garp/articles/eccles92a.pdf

This survey and summary of other research concluded that it cannot be demonstrated that keeping a two-parent structure in place will always produce the best outcome in a particular case. Rather, in cases where there may be a continued conflict if the parents stay together, it might actually produce a better outcome for them to separate early. This echoes other suggestions that it is not the absence of two parents at all which causes increased criminality among children, but rather, the stress of animosity between parents that is a more important factor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Casual Musings II: Why I Am Not a Feminist

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Someone recently asked me why I am not a Feminist.

There are several reasons, a few of which I have covered briefly before (and which I won’t review in full here again). Many of the general reasons are differences in views on society and social and political structures, as well as a number of the issues plaguing the world today.

I don’t employ much Feminist theory in my evaluations and critiques. I don’t subscribe to any theories of patriarchy in the ways that Feminists tend to (I have my own perspectives on the systems of power in society). I do not believe in rape culture in the sense that most Feminists do. And, I do not interpret social privilege as most Feminists do. I could go on at length about each of these items, and many more, but those things are not the focus of this post.

Instead, I will provide a more personal reason for my refusal to align with Feminism.

As some know from my first Q&A video, I grew up in an abusive home. I was not abused much myself, at least physically, but my mother and brother alike were, verbally and physically—black eyes, broken bones, bodily bruises—everything that one would expect in such a scenario, for years.

My mother was not a child abuser. She was a drug addict and the enabler of the abuse. My stepfather was the abuser. He never laid a hand on me, and was hardly ever even unkind to me. But, he regularly harmed my mother and, for reasons unknown, beat my brother on a semi-regular basis.

I believe that forgiveness is a virtue, so I do not hate my mother for any of what transpired, though I blamed her for much of it, and still do, but I do not hold any respect for her today (and I presently no longer keep in touch with her either). I strongly dislike my stepfather from that time as well, but I scarcely see him anymore.

Nonetheless, my mother was never fit to be a parent. An individual who is nearly useless throughout most of your childhood because they spend the majority of their time high to the point of almost being unconscious, and who brings abusive partner after abusive partner into your home, is not a fit parent.

After a while, her parental incompetence became too blatant to ignore, and so my brother and I spent some time in a foster home along with other children, and again we were met with abuse. Though more of it went to the rest of the children than to us, our foster mother might have been one of the most monstrous and disturbed people that I have ever had the displeasure of encountering.

During our period living with her, she managed to give a young boy third-degree burns all over his body by dropping him into a sink of hot water (and got into no trouble for it). When we upset her or did something that bothered her, she would frequently enact bizarre punishments such as sitting on us, on top of a pillow, for hours as she watched television (among other things). She was never penalized for that or any of the numerous misdeeds that she carried out, but she, as well, certainly wasn’t fit to care for any children. She wasn't even fit to be free and unsupervised.

Throughout the entirety of all of these events, and despite my (essentially) utterly useless and indifferent family, I had one individual in my life who wanted to help, wanted to be there, who truly loved my brother and I deeply, that we both loved as well, and who actually was fit to be a parent.

That was my father.

I loved my father nearly more than anyone else in the world then, and longed every day during most of my childhood to be able to live with him and escape everything that went on. He desired that as well, and fought for it persistently, and yet I was only able to see him on rare occasions.

My mother, along with the assistance of the state, notwithstanding her clearly being an unfit parent to the extent of my brother having to visit the hospital over injuries inflicted by our stepfather, and later us having to move to a foster home for a brief stretch, was able to keep our father from seeing us for the better part of our early lives.

He did everything that he could, but he simply had no power to rescue us because of her and the authority that she undeservedly had over our lives (and later due to the lies that she had spun about him before and when she lost us for a bit). And not a single person would help him.

Now, what does this have to do with Feminism? Well, the answer is simple.

I do not pass the blame entirely to Feminism, particularly for the outdated manners wherein the legal system works from the past (and including the chivalry bias in courts which tends to favor women), but there is a certain amount of fault that can be ascribed to Feminism for its overall lack of progress in correcting imbalances of this nature.

And Feminists with any interest or authority in these sorts of realms of activism ought to gladly accept a portion of the blame for such failures because they, more often than not, contend that they fight for everyone and against all inequalities in society, impacting women and men alike. In fact, they commonly claim to be the only ones needed.

Where were or are they to correct these kinds of issues? They seem to have done a fine job in several other legal realms where rights related to children are concerned, and yet they can’t manage, after decades of relentless advocacy and advancement, to make it possible for a man who is far more fit to parent children to achieve that against a mother who is so unfit that it endangers the physical, emotional, and mental health of her offspring?

Moreover, after I discussed all of this in a video, my first Q&A, and (fairly) blamed my mother for much of the abuse, including some that she took, which she routinely encouraged or even initiated despite the fact that her children were often in the same room, I happened to come across a thread where some Feminists were discussing my video, and they took offense to my blaming her for any of what occurred (they accused me of lying and being an “MRA” because I faulted her even partially, around the same time that a small cluster of MRAs online were hassling me).

Meaning, because my past life did not conform to their worldviews, or made them uncomfortable, they attempted to delegitimize my experiences by questioning my “alignment,” so to speak. Or in other words, they aimed to attribute my recollections and interpretations of my experiences to some sort of ulterior agenda, when all that I did was plainly state what had happened and how I felt about it and thought of it.

I couldn't care less now who me sharing my reality does or does not benefit, and I didn’t care then. The fact of the matter is, I grew up in an abusive home with an unfit mother and watched my brother and her get brutalized every other day because of her and our stepfather, all while our father, who was a fit parent, who loved us and whom we loved, fought a futile battle—thanks to my mother and the courts—to help us.

Then, on July 16, 2007, twelve days after my 15th birthday, and following over a decade of all of this terribleness and him fighting continuously to make things better for us and for himself to no avail, my father worked late one night on overtime, fell asleep while driving home, and then died in an accident, and my brother and I were left with virtually no one decent or reliable to care for or assist us, except each other. I practically raised my brother on my own.

For years, I have witnessed hundreds of Feminists, at times directly to me, undermine, repudiate, or attack experiences similar to mine because they make them uncomfortable, or because the existences of such experiences do not benefit Feminist agendas and pursuits, along with smugly laughing at and making a mockery of the hardships of men like my father (or outright denying that they even exist).

I care not if a minority of Feminists somewhere happen to concern themselves with these things (like some that I know personally and call friends); on a larger, general scale, most do not. Not unless it is convenient to them at any given moment to pretend to. I will care when any Feminists with some measure of influence or authority, who can and are actually doing things, care. Until then, it is all meaningless, deceptive, and shallow. Hollow, worthless words.

So, aside from the numerous philosophical and interpretive differences, and my disapproval of how some Feminists analyze and employ data, I do also have a personal reason for my refusal to adopt the label, born of years of interactions with hundreds of Feminists, and reading countless statements from self-identified Feminists.

As long as there are so many people within Feminist circles who would belittle, dismiss, or erase my personal experiences for political reasons, or who would jeer at even the very idea of someone struggling as my father, who died while still fighting that battle only to lose in the end, did, I will never be a Feminist. And, no, that does not make me an MRA either. Not everything is about some petty war chiefly taking place on the internet.

I can find outlets superior to each for pursuing fairness in society, which will, and have, not come with the additional baggage of misguided and callous people sneering at my past adversities and laughing at the wrongs faced by someone that I loved, and still love, dearly. Someone whose time, thanks to an unjust system and the cruelty of life, I will never be able to have, even though both of us wanted it when I could have had it, and he deserved it.

All else that I will say is this:

If you are an individual who genuinely finds even the very idea of someone such as my father suffering amusing, as if it is absurd to merely suggest the occurrence of it at all, then your views and efforts mean nothing to me, you will never have my support, and I will drive as many people as I possibly can away from supporting you as well.

I do not consider myself “Anti-Feminist” in particular, because I deal in few absolutes, but there is a special place of disdain and disgust reserved in my heart for some Feminists and Feminism in general, and that aversion is as unlikely to dissipate as my father is to rise from his grave and live again.

Thank you all for reading.

Author: Krista [@Femitheist]
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NOTE: I am certain that a few folk can and will draw all sorts of silly assumptions from this. Regardless, it has been bothering me for long enough that I felt like writing on it briefly, so I don't care too greatly how anyone takes it in that regard at this point. If it loses me some “friends,” then that is something which I will gladly accept.

NOTE II: If you are Feminist, and my blame of Feminism in this post for these systemic failures offends you, don't waste your time getting upset, hand-waving, or apologizing for the odious behavior of your insensitive cohorts; work toward doing something about these problems. That will be the only thing that could make a difference.

NOTE III: I may discuss all of this at greater length in the future. Feel free to share your stories and thoughts below.

NOTE IV: One of the only pictures of him that I still have, including a little me (likewise linked above).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Sarkeesian Effect: Issues and Suggestions (on Production)

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NOTE I: I have been informed that Owen and Aurini have apparently completed filming for The Sarkeesian Effect. Regardless, I am going to leave the re-filming suggestions in this just in case (they could still help with editing).
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The Sarkeesian Effect is a documentary film currently under development by Jordan Owen (producer) and Davis Aurini (director), and its tagline promises viewers a look “Inside the World of Social Justice Warriors.”


As the content for the documentary has not been released in its entirety yet, I will not be focusing on that facet of the film here. Instead, I will talk about what many who criticized the documentary’s trailer have:

Various aspects of its production values.

I won’t be saying much in this that I haven’t already stated on Twitter, and that hasn’t already been said by people in the responses on the video for the trailer, and in other places, but I will, hopefully, provide some commentary or links that might help Owen and Aurini with improving the project later.

After viewing the trailer, a few elements stuck out to me:

1) The transition effects.
2) The Owen/Aurini logo quality.
3) The fonts.
4) The music.
5) The interview format, angles, framing, lighting, and coloration.
6) The appearances of the subjects in the videos.
7) The overall audio and video quality.

I realize that some of these things will likely not be changed, either because it is too late or would be too costly, and may not be the same in the final product as they are in the trailer, but I will go over each of the items nonetheless.

The Transition Effects

The transition effects in the video, particularly the static during the news media clips and the pixels, seemed a bit too stock and noticeable to me. Transitions in a documentary should be subtle, and as the man in a video that I will link below stated, even though a video is edited, the editing should not be something that viewers notice. My suggestion for the transitions, then, would be to aim for subtly.

(So, not the abrupt, stock static jumps or pixels.)

Some links on transitions:


The Owen/Aurini Logo

This issue isn’t that important, but the Owen/Aurini logo at the start of the trailer, to be frank, was just not very good. Even finding a premade intro template would be an improvement.

Slim white text on a plain black background might look better, with a subtle fade in and out, or a subtle fade in and then a slightly harder transition out. Or, Owen and Aurini could simply pay someone to make them a quick introduction logo clip. With all of the people supporting them on Patreon and elsewhere, surely some have graphic and video editing skills; a few may even do it for free. Who knows.

The Fonts

Though Owen and Aurini might have used a font from the list below, the fonts in the trailer looked fairly bad and cheap, and so did the effects on them. Even, again, a premade font template would have looked better. I would recommend searching how other films or documentaries use fonts, or watching some video tutorials related to fonts in graphic design and video, for improving this.

You don’t have to do or envision everything on your own; that is why tutorial and tip videos exist.

Don’t be afraid to use them.

Some links on fonts:


The Music

I initially thought that the music in the trailer was royalty free stock music that Owen and Aurini had collected from somewhere, but then later discovered that Owen apparently made the music himself. In my opinion, the music is strange, sort of tacky, and does not create any kind of coherent tone or mood.

I would not go with music which sounds too “grim” for the documentary, as that wouldn’t fit the subject matter and might make the film seem almost cartoonish or over-the-top, but too light of music would not work well either. It probably needs to be something right in the middle, serious but subtle, which the current music is not. I don’t really know how to describe the issue with the present music other than to call it “unfitting.”

Though the music was just in the trailer, so you sort of expect it to be more prominent there, it is also a reflection of how the music will likely sound in the film, which is why I mention it.

As an aside, for the sake of future reference and thinking in editing, the music should also not overpower any of the talking throughout. Music in a documentary is intended to be in the background during narration or speaking, much like scenery in a photograph of a person or house.

Some links on music for documentaries:

Choosing the Right Music for a Documentary

Tips for Selecting Music for Your Documentary Film

The Interviews

This is probably one of the most significant issues with the trailer, and additionally, I would imagine, one of the more difficult problems to solve, due to time, budget, logistics, and so forth.

First, I found it peculiar and off-putting that Owen and Aurini were in nearly every interview of the trailer, either completely in the frame or halfway (the latter of which is even worse), and usually in a partial profile view. The interviews need improvements in format, angles, framing, lighting, and coloration.

The interview audio and video quality in general was also not the best, and I will provide links to some relatively affordable equipment of fair quality below in case any of that can be redone. But these two issues, with some better editing during the interviews and throughout the documentary, could be given passes due to budgetary constraints.

For the rest, however, the interviews, ideally, need to be re-shot with improvements, mostly in framing, angles, and lighting (color correction and other such editing would be done in post-production anyway, but all editing is made easier with better lighting and video quality).

If they cannot be re-filmed, I would suggest looking through the links below for some ideas on how to improve the footage that has already been recorded. The interviews still won’t look the greatest, but they will, at the very least, appear better than they did in the trailer; and as they seem central to the documentary, that makes this important.

Going with show instead of tell here.

Interview tip links:




(Standard for seated interviews would probably be most similar to the “clean single” example.)





Lighting Tips #3

Audio and Video Equipment

-Cameras

Being ambitious here, but this one costs $2,000.

SSDS (~$100 each).

-Plus lenses

EF lenses from Cannon are $12k a set, but they can be rented (~$125 per day).

Could buy a cheaper lens (~$700).

*Total costs with a cheaper lens is around $3,000.

Alternatively, there are many DSLRs that likewise work:



Add a ~$700 lens and you're looking at $3K again for this kind of video quality.

-Audio

Zoom Recorder ($200).

Or, audio via laptop with one of these:



-Mic/Accessories

Rode NTG3 or equivalent ($700).

Stand ($20).

Clips ($5-$20).

(You want booms to be aimed toward the solar plexus—the middle chest area—or mics to be attached to the chest.)

Audio costs ~$920-$1,000, depending.

-Total Costs:

Video: $3,000
Audio: $1,000
VO: $1,000

*Grand total: $5,000 to make a film.

Then, throw in a top-of-the-line editing PC (~$5,000).

So, all in all, the cost would be around $10K to have essentially top-of-the-line gear, at most. I would likewise recommend, if the interviews can be re-shot, considering investing in a green screen to sit behind the subjects so that there is nothing to worry about related to how the spaces around them look.

-Green Screen (~$390).

Other editing links:



(Even if Owen and Aurini don’t use any of the above software/equipment, the suggestions can help.)

Notes on Each Interview Featured in the Trailer

-Viewers do not need to see the interviewer’s notebook of points/notes.
-Semi-profile views from a distance/odd angle are not good camera positioning.
-Try for some semblance of uniformity in angles and positioning.
-Frame interview videos as you would frame a picture.
-The following points are merely recommendations for improvement.
-Some of this can be corrected with editing if redoing sections is not an option.

Aaron Clarey Interview (0:51) – Bad framing (get Aurini out of the shot; halfway in the shot from the side is probably the worst framing; the nodding was mildly distracting).

Karen Straughan/Other Women Interview (1:04) – Awful lighting, poor coloration (get Jordan out of the damn frame and center or point the camera on each person when they are speaking; the white socks look ridiculous).

Christina Parreira Interview (1:13) – Get Jordan out of the frame (viewers do not need to see the interviewer sweating profusely and wiping his forehead).

Jason Miller Interview (1:24) – Get Aurini out of the frame.

Paul Elam Interview (1:32) – Elam’s interview was one of the better ones, if not the best one, throughout in terms of angling/framing; not quite there, but almost. The lighting was somewhat poor.

Brad Wardell Interview (1:41) – Get Jordan out of the frame, stop the nodding, and lose the notebook.

Nick Robalik Interview (1:55) – Probably one of the poorer angles in the video, though at least Robalik wasn’t completely gazing off to the side of the camera while speaking (but Aurini is more distracting in this one, and what looks to be a pizza box is clearly visible in the background; that could’ve easily been moved).

Jack Thompson Interview (2:02) – To its credit, there was no interviewer to be seen in this clip, but the fact that Thompson was looking entirely to the side was not ideal (and him petting his hair was a bit distracting/casual).

Alex Hinkley Interview (2:18) – Get Jordan out of the frame. This clip was probably the worst offender in terms of the notebook being visible; I could almost read the sloppily written notes on the paper.

Jim Goad Interview (2:26) – Kick Jordan out the frame, son.

-Another minor point on the interviews: a few subjects in the interviews, excluding Aurini and including Jordan, looked as though they were just hanging out, or had only, moments before, gotten out of bed, and then decided to record a friendly, informal visit. At the very least, attempt to strive for some appearance of professionalism in attire.

-Jordan, unfortunately, was probably the greatest offender in terms of garb in a few of the trailer’s clips.

At the end of the trailer, Jordan Owen states that he is approaching what he believes to be Anita Sarkeesian’s tax return address (which I think is a PO Box). What could be so diabolical about the fact that she has her mail forwarded to a PO Box like many self-employed people, I do not know.

(I suppose that we will find out!)

But, the worst part about that segment had to be Jordan Owen’s attire. Viewers do not need to see a subject’s overflowing chest hair. For future shots, Owen should probably button up his shirt, or get a nice t-shirt (not a v-neck).

Final Thoughts

Overall, I hope that this post will help Owen and Aurini improve their documentary, either with re-filming some portions, filming future video, or with editing their current and future footage.

Content aside, as we do not really know the content yet, documentaries are always content plus presentation, and their success depends on the total package. A documentary film, including music, fonts, transitions, narration, and video clips, should be woven together skillfully, seamlessly, and subtly, with each component flowing in accordance with the whole as the film reveals its narrative and story and draws in its viewers.

At the moment, I do not think that The Sarkeesian Effect is done well, but there is still hope for it.

I fear, due to the production values—not all of which can be chalked up to budgetary limitations, as many of the issues are simply due to mistakes and ineptitude with filming, preparation, and editing—that the film will fail to truly persuade (or even reach) many outside of those who already agree with its likely message and/or who already have some sort of negative perceptions of Anita Sarkeesian and “SJWs.”

If that is to be the outcome, then the documentary will have been a failure. Jordan Owen himself, in a clip related to The Sarkeesian Effect, stated that the point of the film was to have the voices of the opposition to Sarkeesian and “SJWs” heard (and they even, at one point, wanted the documentary to go to some theaters). But, to genuinely achieve such ends, the quality of the film will have to improve from what it is now.

Dramatically.

Even as a low-budget documentary, far more could be, and could have been, done.

You want viewers who may not agree prior to watching your film to question their beliefs as they view it; not to simply rehash what people who already agree have already heard or read for the sake of reinforcing what they already think. That achieves little of meaningful value and would render the documentary nearly pointless.

And all of that, again, relies on the content of the film and its presentation.

DocumentaryTube.com gives some worthwhile commentary on what makes a good documentary:

Here are some components of a good documentary film.

⋗The people who wield the power, influence and information are identified and become a part of the film. The filmmaker must remain impartial and be open minded enough to present all sides of the story.

⋗A well edited film allows for a more unprejudiced approach. Each person or subject that is identified brings a unique focus to the film and requires a voice that is impartially heard.

⋗A good documentary raises more questions than answers. There is a myth that a good documentary film serves as proof or the ultimate explanation of something. Even if audience members are left pondering at the end of the film credits, that can be an excellent outcome.

⋗Film tells the truth even though the people in documentaries do not always do so. It is not necessary that they are publically called out during the film. Good documentaries can contrast content from many sources. The viewer serves as the juror. In well made documentaries the camera is the great truth teller. The viewer is able to easily figure out who is telling the truth. And in serving as a juror the viewer is often spellbound to the screen.

Once the story, structure and interviews are set the filmmaking process must be considered. The technical qualities of a film can move it from the great to the forgettable ranks.

There are a variety of elements which are required among the documentaries of greatness.

⋗The filmmaker will need to have high quality technical equipment which includes microphones, video camera, and editing equipment. Professional technicians are the best bet if a true film of quality is the desired outcome.

⋗Live action shots are imperative to a good documentary. It shows scenes as they are actually happening in real time. These shots will serve as evidence of truth or deceit for the film’s viewers.

⋗Still shots serve as filler between scenes. They are important to good documentaries because they do serve as credible transitions between live action and interviews. They are never to be considered ‘fluff’ filler but should be relevant people, information or places.

⋗The soundtrack or music is very important. It sets the tone for a good documentary. The right music must be chosen and then edited by musical editor. This moves the documentary film one step closer to greatness.

Finding the story, assembling the team, filming and editing are all part of the process that makes a documentary successful. The devil can be in the details, so along the way these questions should always be asked, ‘Are we still pulling on the viewer?’ ‘Are they still sitting in their seats spellbound?’ If the questions can be answered with a yes; the documentary film is well on its way to excellence.

(Not all of the above is entirely relevant to The Sarkeesian Effect, but it is a useful page for consideration.)

Thank you all for reading. I hope this helps.

Author: Krista [@Femitheist]
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NOTE II: If you liked this post, feel free to share it, and if you have any thoughts on it or the general subjects discussed within, or even merely semi-related topics, please leave them in the comments below. I always enjoy reading the feedback of others whether they liked and agreed with what I had to say or not.

NOTE III: All links in the text above were last accessed on June 8, 2015.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#MediaGate - Mad Max: The Boycott That Wasn’t

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Jonathan Swift wrote in The Examiner, November 9, 1710: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

Variations of this quote have been attributed to Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and several others, with deviations having the character of Truth slipping its shoes on, lacing its boots up, putting its pants on and so forth. This truism exists in so many forms, with so many apparent authors, because it is so blindingly obvious to anyone who takes more than a passing glance at how information travels, not just in the modern world, but throughout history.

In much of journalism, the general objective is to find a story wherein “Man Bites Dog,” because the idea of a dog biting a person is so commonplace. Another variation on this theme that was too much trouble to source is that “you never read about a plane that didn’t crash.” [1]

On social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but also for many years in ordinary emails, “news” has traveled swiftly because most of the people who report or share the news via these mediums do not have jobs that depend on maintaining a reputation for accuracy. For those who do make their living that way, however, one slip-up or blunder can be disastrous (e.g., Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Jason Blair, Stephen Glass, et cetera [2]).

And, as folk do still tend to seek sources that they can count on not to mislead them, the worst kinds of “supporters” to a cause are those who constantly spread bad information, losing and degrading credibility, not only for themselves, but for nearly everyone else in their “group.”

This, of course, brings us to the topic of this post:

The recent reports of “MRAs” allegedly boycotting Mad Max: Fury Road.

A Basic Timeline of Events (and Other Related Information):

1) On May 11, 2015, writer Aaron Clarey published an article on the Pick-up Artist (PUA) site ReturnofKings.com (RoK) bitching about the new Mad Max: Fury Road movie (which consulted Eve Ensler, Feminist author of The Vagina Monologues).

This event, apparently, led to the “MRAs are boycotting Mad Max” myth.

Aaron Clarey, for the uninitiated, claims to be:

“The resident economist of the mano/androsphere . . . a misanthropic, hedonist, nihilistic, cynical type, [who] keeps getting proved right every day.”

After bemoaning the failure of a previous film that might have appealed to men, and/or boys that aspired to be men, Clarey wrote a piece on the new movie Mad Max: Fury Road, which is a continuation of the Mad Max series created by George Miller, previously starring Mel Gibson (and in the new film, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron).

Clarey recommended that men boycott the movie, not because it received negative reviews, but because it received positive reviews from (among several other places) Time Magazine. Heavens! And because a Feminist had something to do with the film.

His sound analysis concluded that, if this movie is a success:

“Then you, me, and all the other men (and real women) in the world will never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesn’t contain some damn political lecture or moray about feminism, SJW-ing, and socialism.”

Uh-huh.

Having never heard of a single movie having such a sweeping permanent impact on the world before, one almost wants to go see it for that reason alone, no matter what its message might be.

The official trailer is here.

The trailer does not, as far as I can tell, contain anything that would be objectionable to anyone who has ever seen an action film of any kind, and the reviews appear to be generally good from everywhere. If there is any movie in circulation currently that seems almost destined to sell or perform well, this would be it. And so will (likely) end Aaron Clarey’s nascent career as a film critic.

But, now that I think about it, who would want to read a story about an action movie sure to appeal to a wide audience of action film lovers? It would be about like a story concerning a dog that bites a man, or a plane that doesn’t crash. Predicting “sure things” isn’t really very interesting.

Journalists, at least in general, aren’t entirely stupid; this movie needed something other than merely being a slam-dunk success. And, what’s one of the most effective mechanisms for achieving such an end?

Manufacturing a controversy.

2) Someone picked up on Clarey’s review, confusing him for an MRA, intentionally or not, and wrote that MRAs were boycotting Mad Max. This error, naturally, spread rapidly.

(Some suggest that The Mary Sue [TMS] was one of the first outlets to misreport the story.)

Regardless of who came first, whether it was The Mary Sue or some other site, the ripple that the misreports created has led to at least around 199 misinformation repeats (that Google can find, anyway):

 (Screenshot from May 18, 2015.)
 - Bonus screenshot (May 19, 2015):
 (Some general criticisms of The Mary Sue’s reporting, courtesy of a GamerGhazi subreddit user on a thread regarding Game of Thrones.)
And, while Aaron Clarey’s days as a film critic may be numbered, he might have something going on in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) department. The RoK website will be receiving millions of hits for some time, or at least thousands, if only from people coming to mock the review after the movie breaks some records. [3]

3) Return of Kings is a PUA site, not MRA, despite being a part of the multifaceted “manosphere.” They have had a strained relationship with a fair amount of MRAs for some time, and Roosh V, the proprietor of RoK, has openly stated that RoK is not an MRA site.

Of course, the chief aspect that the media gets, or has gotten, wrong in this story, mainstream or otherwise, is the idea that Clarey is an MRA. He comes right out and says that he is not here.

The video above came post-controversy, so its evidence couldn’t be applied to those who wrote about MRAs boycotting the film before the video was published, but it was known that RoK was not an MRA site prior, and Clarey never indicated that he was an MRA. Thus, now that it has been made clear (reinforcing what was already true), there is no excuse for anyone else, journalist or not, to continue to repeat the same debunked falsehoods.

Make no mistake, though, Clarey isn’t a Feminist either. Like many, he says the word as if it shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company. A more accurate description of Clarey would be that he is simply Anti-Feminist. Some articles, despite all of the above, are continuing to call him an MRA, and it may well be the case that much of the media doesn’t really even know what the acronym means. For example, famous site perezhilton.com said: “Male rights activist (seriously, someone thinks that's a thing!)” [sic], and others quoted Clarey’s article at length, poking fun at its assertions. Needless to say, most outlets don't appear well-informed on the subjects of MRAs or the “manosphere.”

But, it is difficult to pigeonhole Clarey. He doesn’t seem to refer to himself by any of the standard or more common designations: MRA, MGTOW, PUA. In describing his life in the past, PUA appears to have come the closest. Yet, he says that he is sorry for hurting people in his heavy dating days, and also sorry that he missed out on some possibly good lifelong companions. He additionally doles out financial advice that many cellar-dwellers probably don’t want to hear, and he does so with a heavy hand of arrogance which many other Anti-Feminists don’t seem to care for. [4]

He distances himself from these groups, too, however, although he does claim to be in the “manosphere.”

4) The misinformation is becoming discourse canon.
(A graphic from my Twitter; click to enlarge if necessary.)
What will happen as this tale is told and retold countless times is that many in the media, and elsewhere, will never bother to find the facts. They will take an original story from their favorite sources and rework it so as not to be out-and-out plagiarism and then attempt to garner their own hits.

The result will be that this film will perform better, at least to some degree, than it would have otherwise. Women will see it in droves; men will go with their wives or girlfriends, or boyfriends or husbands. Men without partners will attend just to be horrified by the fact that women are portrayed as “tough” and self-sufficient. (That was a joke.)

Box office numbers are already good for the movie, even if not off the charts [3], so Clarey’s review either has not had the desired effect, or perhaps had a reverse effect. His effort, and this entire kerfuffle, might have even contributed to inflating the seemingly overwhelming positivity of many of the ratings and reviews of the film as well.

I have compiled two lists below under citations [5] and [6], far from comprehensive, of course. One consists of media outlets that have kept to the “MRA” theme, and another is of those who have, at least now, taken a more nuanced approach to the story. I, likewise, made a list under citation [7] of reviews that didn’t mention the controversy at all and merely stated what they thought about the film. All such examples that I found were positive.

One thing is for certain, other than that there is no substantial evidence of MRAs boycotting the film and that RoK is not an MRA site, and that is that Aaron Clarey has scored a major hit for himself and the blog that he writes for. Whether they will receive a great deal of new regular readers, or simply amplify the more negative aspects of their reputation, or both, remains to be seen.

Who would have thought it possible to make controversy out of a movie that is intended to be nothing more than an action-packed thriller. No hidden messages, no deep philosophical truths, no need to explain how, 40 years after a worldwide apocalypse, people are still driving gasoline-powered vehicles. In the desert.

There is genius lurking somewhere in this “controversy.”

Author: Krista [@Femitheist]
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NOTE I: I hope that I have now, once again, lowered your expectations regarding what mainstream journalism is capable of, even when they are willing purveyors of the truth. It is a profession becoming less and less valued, except for those rare journalists who leave no stone unturned in their reporting. But, the reality is that the job environment for journalists doesn’t make much room for such individuals anymore. My story here isn’t primarily about Clarey, or MRAs or PUAs or Feminism, but about reporting and how it can be so poorly done that it creates and perpetuates false narratives. These narratives can, and frequently do, live on for months or years. A hotel break-in four decades ago still causes us to nonsensically add the suffix “-gate” to nearly anything that seems controversial. A “review” that wasn’t a review should have been ignored, and now it takes on a false importance. A movie that should have been enjoyed and then forgotten also takes on political meaning that was probably never intended for it. How many days, weeks or years of distraction from important things will this provide? #MaxGate

NOTE II: AVoiceforMen.com (AVfM) has also come out to note that there was no boycott of the film by MRAs, which, unless a handful of posters scattered across the internet and a single non-MRA writer count as a boycott, appears to be correct and true. Judge for yourselves here.

+Update (May 19, 2015): AVfM has published a review of the movie, awarding it 4/4 stars.

NOTE III: If you liked this post, feel free to share it, and if you have any thoughts on it or the general subjects discussed within, or even merely semi-related topics, please leave them in the comments below. I always enjoy reading the feedback of others whether they liked and agreed with what I had to say or not.
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References (Last Accessed on May 19, 2015):

[1] Journalist Truisms
http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/11/22/dog-bites/
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/20542-a-lie-gets-halfway-around-the-world-before-the-truth
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu103564.html
http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/07/13/truth/

[2] Handy List of Journalistic Scandals
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalistic_scandal
+Even longer list:
http://catalog.freedomforum.org/FFLib/JournalistScandals.htm

[3] Early Box Office Results
http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2015/05/17/box-office-mad-max-fury-road-scores-lovely-44m-weekend/ (Keep in mind, naturally, that these numbers will increase even more over time.)

[4] Ample Evidence That Several MGTOWs and Others Don't Consider Clarey One of Their Own
http://www.reddit.com/r/MGTOW/comments/2zvc05/aaron_clarey/
http://www.reddit.com/r/TheRedPill/comments/2rempu/mgtow_veterans_boy_geniuses_posers/

+Aside: TRP is slightly different from the MR subreddit, and MGTOWs ≠ MRAs, but the differences can be felt out, and there is certainly a great deal more where the above came from, including on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and in other places as well, I imagine. So, anyone reading this, feel free to post your own evidence in the comments below.

[5] Sample of Media Outlets That Got It Wrong, Over-Emphasizing the MRA Aspect
http://cnn.com/2015/05/15/entertainment/mad-max-fury-road-boycott-mens-rights-thr-feat/
http://www.themarysue.com/mra-to-the-max/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2015/05/16/mens-rights-activists-are-selling-a-whole-lot-of-tickets-to-mad-max-fury-road/
http://consequenceofsound.net/2015/05/any-male-outrage-over-mad-max-fury-road-is-ridiculous/
http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-05/13/mad-max-fury-road-mras-anger
http://www.avclub.com/article/mad-men-mad-mad-max-having-mad-women-219391
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/mad-max-fury-road-when-a-film-upsets-misogynists-it-only-makes-me-want-to-see-it-more-10254227.html
http://perezhilton.com/2015-05-14-charlize-theron-mad-max-fury-road-female-character-male-rights-boycott/
http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/68556180/mens-rights-activists-call-for-boycott-of-mad-max

[6] Sample of Media Outlets That Took Slightly More Balanced Approaches, at Least on MRAs
http://www.inquisitr.com/2090647/mad-max-makes-misogynists-sad/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/13/mens-rights-activists-mad-max_n_7276144.html
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/15/the-man-o-sphere-is-outraged-about-mad-max-hand-me-my-popcorn
http://www.people.com/article/how-mad-max-fury-road-save-action-movies
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/0514/Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Why-are-anti-feminists-so-angry-about-action-film-video
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/rendezview/why-the-misogynists-are-mad-at-max/story-fnpug1je-1227358302660

[7] Some Positive (and Non-Controversial) Reviews
http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/mad-max-fury-road-20150513
http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/Mad-Max-Fury-Road-66583.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/movies/review-mad-max-fury-road-still-angry-after-all-these-years.html
http://screenrant.com/mad-max-4-fury-road-reviews

[8] Additional Links of Disassociation from, or Critique of, MRAs From Roosh V and RoK
http://www.rooshv.com/the-mens-rights-movement-is-dead
http://www.rooshv.com/mens-rights-has-become-a-euphemism-for-sexual-loser
http://www.returnofkings.com/5351/mgtow-make-more-sense-than-mras