November 16, 2014

"In these times of compassion when conformity’s in fashion...."

A Bob Dylan line arrived at this morning as a consequence of researching the word "fashion." That's the only time Bob Dylan ever used the word "fashion," in a song about Jesus. Meade recommends Lou Reed's version of the song:



Now, the reason I'm researching the word "fashion" is that yesterday — a propos of the rocket scientist's pinup-festooned shirt — I said: "In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel." I didn't elaborate at the time, because it would have been a detour, and also because I thought it would be much more interesting and entertaining to see how much scorn I could incur for saying something that I knew was a cinch to defend.

Click on this blog's "fashion" tag and see all that is encompassed in this topic. I've found 618 occasions to discuss something that fits my conception of "fashion" over the past 10 years. Few subjects rival fashion. Law has 5000+ posts, but other than that. Dylan? 337. It's bigger than Dylan. The Beatles? Only 173. Are The Beatles bigger than Jesus?



Are The Beatles bigger than Jesus on this blog? No! The Jesus tag is used 301 times. So Jesus is bigger than The Beatles, but not bigger than Bob Dylan, according to the metric of blog tags.

Fashion is more important than space travel drew the predictable scorn — much of it in the this-is-why-women-can't-do-science mode — but there were some comments that took things in the direction I'd intended. Dustbunny said:
I like this site because it is smart, funny and littered with Dylan references.
Yes, it is!
Unlike a number of left wing or right wing sites Althouse plays with the stereotypes with which those sites proudly and quite stupidly adhere. I am going to think deeply about the influence of fashion throughout history, but I'm not convinced there is a great deal there except on an esoteric level. Fashion leads to variations on a theme, science lead to space exploration. I am a woman, I grew up reading Seventeen and Vogue, I studied art history and I concede that Coco Chanel was a badass who changed a small but recent block of history..Also I studied art because math was way too hard — l'stereotype c'est moi. Is this about the court at Versailles? sans-culottes vs the aristocrats?
And furious_a had already said:
Hmmm, maybe fashion precedes space travel. Since fashion is intrinsically foreign and requires travel to acquire. Demand for silk and spices drove the merchant adventurers of the Middle Ages to open trade routes to the Far East, after which Columbus and Magellan followed. Demand for furs drew trappers to the Trans-Mississippi West, after which Lewis & Clark followed.
And chickelit said:
Cave people and aboriginals have fashion and very little science (that we know of). So fashion is more basic somehow to human nature. Insofar as fashion is related to mating behavior, fashion is more important than science. You can't advance culture if you can't even reproduce.
Eventually, some people noticed that a lot depends on the scope of the term "fashion." Rusty said:
I suppose, Althouse, it would depend on how you define fashion, but in the grand sweep of human history nobody cares what pants Lee Harvey Oswald wore.
And yet, if Lee Harvey Oswald had not been wearing pants, he would never have assassinated John F. Kennedy. As Mark Twain said: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." He also said: "Strip the human race, absolutely naked, and it would be a real democracy. But the introduction of even a rag of tiger skin, or a cowtail, could make a badge of distinction and be the beginning of a monarchy." And: "A policeman in plain clothes is a man; in his uniform he is ten. Clothes and title are the most potent thing, the most formidable influence, in the earth. They move the human race to willing and spontaneous respect for the judge, the general, the admiral, the bishop, the ambassador, the frivolous earl, the idiot duke, the sultan, the king, the emperor. No great title is efficient without clothes to support it."

Glad that someone had finally focused on the scope of the term, I banged out an answer late at night on my iPad, typing with one finger and therefore stating it bluntly:
By fashion, I mean to include all of the clothing that everyone wears. It's important for basic survival, comfort, and protection, and it's a powerful mode of expression for the wearer and the designer. It's intimately tied to the body and thus to our personal presentation. We see others almost always only with their clothes as part of their image, and it affects how we feel and think about them. Clothing is a big part of nearly everyone's life, a huge part of our visual world.
Having missed the issue of defining the term, Joe spoke words of anger:
Way to backtrack, Althouse. Fashion ≠ clothing except in the minds of elitist snobs. If you meant clothing, why the hell didn't you say "clothing"? And you wonder why most people think lawyers are arrogant dicks.
Oh? So now do I get to be a boy? Suddenly, I'm not one of those women who can't do science, nor am I one of those females who outperform males in language-based enterprises. My verbal achievement gets categorized as male, and suddenly, I am a dick. Well, at least I get to be an arrogant dick.

And arrogance brings me back to where this post started, because that Bob Dylan song quoted in the post title is "Foot of Pride." That song begins: "Like the lion tears the flesh off of a man/So can a woman who passes herself off as a male." I can only speculate what that might mean, even as I've only speculated about what Matt Taylor meant to say as he arrayed himself in a shirt patterned with bosom-y ladies. But I wasn't trying to pass myself off as male.

To the extent I applied lawyer-mind to the task of understanding Matt Taylor's fashion statement, I was sticking to the evidence I had: He wore a very loud, attention-getting shirt, and that implies that he intended a message and thus invited us to think and talk about it. I'm still wondering what he meant, why he took it back, and why taking it back made him cry. I wanted to understand. A commenter criticized me for knowing "very little about geek culture," but I never claimed to know. I was the one who didn't want to talk about Matt Taylor's shirt until I noticed the question: What was he thinking?

Anyway, fashion is a broad term in my book, which is this blog of 10 years. And I am not guilty of making it overbroad: As a word in the English language, it is far broader. The original meaning is "The action or process of making." The meaning related to clothing is: "A prevailing custom, a current usage; esp. one characteristic of a particular place or period of time...  with regard to apparel or personal adornment." That's from the OED, which has as one of it's oldest quotes for the clothing-related meaning, Shakespeare's 1616 line: "'Tis some odd humor pricks him to this fashion/Yet oftentimes he goes but mean-appareled."

Pricks? Are we to think of pricks in the sense of dicks? With Shakespeare, it's a good bet anything that could be a pun is an intentional pun. And I like to think that even with lesser beings, the expressions that could have deeper meaning really do.

I'm not talking through my hat when I say: You're talking through your shirt.



You can't wear that and claim you didn't mean to say anything.

So be more subtle if you want deniability.

Subtlety is my bag....

175 comments:

Julie C said...

I'll jump on the new thread since I missed the other one.

I agree with Althouse about fashion being more important in the overall scheme of human experience than space travel. Althouse was an artist first, right? I think she sees this through the lens of an artist.

Fashion is art. You may not think that old t-shirt and jeans you're wearing are art, but they have their historic roots in the art of fashion. Look at the designs of Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Calvin Klein - all of them had incredible influence on how we dress today. And sculpting amazing creations out of fabric - that's a skill and an art.

Where I differ with Althouse is with finding this guy's t-shirt disrespectful (that is the word I believe she used). I'm more annoyed that he apologized (at all) and in such a pussy way. Crying, for Christ's sake?

If you don't believe there is meaning to be found in fashion, take a look some time at Tom and Lorenzo's very interesting fashion 'recaps' of each episode of Mad Men. They are fascinating and well-written.

Ann Althouse said...

"And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."

Jesus, on fashion.

Ann Althouse said...

Jesus said nothing about space travel.

Meade said...

I just hope this whole thing doesn't lead to Matt Taylor being sacked. That would shirt my feelings.

Meade said...

sure hurt

Original Mike said...

"“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’"

Ann Althouse said...

"Where I differ with Althouse is with finding this guy's t-shirt disrespectful (that is the word I believe she used)."

I said that I didn't know what was in his mind, but that it's undeniable that he meant something and therefore we were invited to interpret the meaning and that some people read it as disrespectful to women.

It's possible that he believed he was saying: Women are wonderful, powerful creatures.

The fact that he cried when he cut himself off from his own statement is part of what I'd put into the interpretation.

I note that he wore shorts, which I associate with immaturity and hiding within the self-conception of being a boy and therefore not available for sex with a woman. When the boy-man imagines he can say — via shirt — I love women and women say back to him, essentially, you did that wrong, you bad boy, the boy cries.

I recommend wearing long pants — literally and figuratively.

To men.

To women: Skirts are better.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

It's fun to troll one's own readers is the lesson, then?

Ann Althouse said...

"“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’"

If you know that words have multiple definitions and any given speaker may have a particular meaning for the terms he uses, why do you tumble like a fool into the trap of vehemently debating a proposition without examining the definition of a key term?

You're quoting literature, as if that's a sophisticated move, but you are not demonstrating sophistication.

And I didn't have a weird secret meaning for the term. My meaning was within the zone of normal and had been demonstrated over a period of 10 years that was easily revealed by clicking on a tag at the bottom of the post.

Meade said...

Talk about boldly going where no one has gone before. Resurrection: the final frontier

chillblaine said...

Great post! Very diverting. Feminists are tired of getting the high hat from men of science.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Fashion, as a statement, is a bourgeois thing. Most men could not tell you what they wore the previous day.
With their eyes closed, they may not be able to tell you what color shirt they are wearing today.

Original Mike said...

Debates are uninteresting if they are about word games. That's what lawyers do. The intention is to obfuscate.

Have you met Jonathan Gruber?

Original Mike said...

"And I didn't have a weird secret meaning for the term."

I don't agree. Clothes are not fashion. The style of clothing is fashion.

Henry said...

This gives "fabricated rivalry" an entirely new meaning.

Ann Althouse said...

"The style of clothing is fashion."

All clothes have some kind of style, beginning with Adam and Eve's fig leaves. Where are the clothes with no design, not choice made by a human mind, no speaking? Have we ever talked about that?

Michael K said...

"it's undeniable that he meant something "

Yes, he meant, in the language that engineers understand, "I'm happy." You feminists fixed that quickly !

God, I am sick of lawyers dominating society !

Words, words, words.

Children do not learn math and science but they learn all sorts of words. Language is debased and thought quickly follows.

College students don't know who fought the Civil War but they know who the Kardashian whores are married to this week.

The poor guy should have hired a PR bullshitter to run that press conference. Never appear before a group whose collective IQ is less than half yours.

Birkel said...

I took Althouse's view as she intended it.

I also think those who would call themselves feminists harmed their own cause by attacking some until-now anonymous scientist's choice of shirts.

I also think Althouse assuming he meant something with that shirt is an unsupported assumption that tells us more about Althouse than the scientist.

YMMV

Original Mike said...

"Where are the clothes with no design, not choice made by a human mind, no speaking? "

Yes, my t-shirts are "designed" with two arms, a neck hole and a torso hole.

Fernandinande said...

Cave people and aboriginals have fashion and very little science (that we know of).

Except for aboriginal Europeans.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...why do you tumble like a fool into the trap of vehemently debating a proposition without examining the definition of a key term?

Romans 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way

You set a trap for your readers and commenters. Many of them fell for it. Is that a success, then? You are smarter than many of your commenters and demonstrated that your readers can't trust that you aren't using ambiguous language intentionally to trap them into reacting inappropriately. Is that a success?

Writ Small said...

I was struck by Althouse's bewilderment at the scientist's choking up a bit during his mea culpa. It's an extremely common experience when delivering a genuine apology. It makes one wonder if the clever professor has ever sincerely admitted a mistake.

The problem with her statement on fashion and space travel is not that it is false, but that it is trivially true. Nearly anything that has existed since the dawn of humanity will have greater significance over the "grand sweep of human history" than anything developed over the past 50 years. Trivial truths born of category errors do not equal profundity.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

"In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel." I didn't elaborate at the time, because it would have been a detour, and also because I thought it would be much more interesting and entertaining to see how much scorn I could incur for saying something that I knew was a cinch to defend.

Really, how about -

"Dateline 2067: "WE SHALL SURVIVE! Today, scientists report that NASA, vindicating a century of work, and innovation and , yes, scorn from some benighted corners, successfully deflected asteroid HRC-666, which has been known, for 30 years, to be on an all-life extinction course with the earth.

In other news, the mini-skirt is back!"

Original Mike said...

"I also think Althouse assuming he meant something with that shirt is an unsupported assumption that tells us more about Althouse than the scientist."

That was my point (and just to be clear, I've had a good time with these posts!). My desire was to advise Althouse that not everybody thinks about the clothes they put on in the morning. I don't think she believes it.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Ann Althouse said...
"And why take ye thought for raiment? . . . . Jesus


Boy, for a person who makes a living with words, you sure are sloppy.

The correct attribution is "Jesus is said to have said"

And when you say it correctly, it has the benefit of reminding you that quoting 'divine' pronouncements from scripture, one might as well be making up words from whole cloth.

redcybra said...

"he meant something"

According to his sister, he can land a probe on a comet, but can't park a car, and lacks common sense. He's a nerd, a dork, who I bet just thought he shirt a (woman) friend made for his birthday was cool. I think he cried because it never occurred to him that the shirt would be offensive to some and he wouldn't deliberately do that.

"he wore shorts, which I associate with immaturity and hiding within the self-conception of being a boy and therefore not available for sex with a woman."

He wore shorts to show off the tattoo of the mission on his legs. Also, he's married with 2 kids. And a lot of Brits thought he was pretty cool too.

You have to read the British press to get this info.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?sel=site&searchPhrase=matt+taylor+shirt

Anonymous said...

Jesus had never heard of space travel. He wasn't omniscient, after all.

CStanley said...

In the other thread I noted that the issue wasn't only about the scope of what you meant by "fashion" but also the scope of how you characterized what it was being compared to: "space travel". That's not even an accurate description of this scientific project, and even if accurate, it is a narrow description. So of course something else can be seen as "more important" if you define the two categories in such a way.

Trashhauler said...

"You set a trap for your readers and commenters."

Not a trap, exactly. What I like about this blog is the odd combination of lawyerly precision and professorial...obscuration. Teasing, if you will.

And I'll claim credit for asking for a definition in the previous thread. Blame my military-derived obsession with clear meaning. I still say form generally follows function and the rest is merely faddish pretense.

And now, I suppose we're engaged in Feminism and Fashion 302.

Original Mike said...

"You set a trap for your readers and commenters. Many of them fell for it. Is that a success, then?"

It's what she does for a living; teach people to be lawyers.

Laslo Spatula said...

If gay rocket-scientists had pre-labeled such attire 'rocketsexual' we would be having a different conversation. Obviously.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

I read this and the first thought I had was space travel does not exist.

To travel, you have to go somewhere, and there is nowhere to go. The only destinations so far has been the Moon. The space station is another spacecraft that doesn't land. It travels in empty orbit. Traveling to it is like taking a ship to another ship. Neither ship is going anywhere.

The Moon is a place, but there's nothing there. It isn't travel. You travel to a place where you could stay. No one can stay on the Moon. It's exploration, but it's not travel.

People don't go to space. The number of individual astronauts is miniscule, and almost no one now alive or born in our lifetimes will ever go anywhere near space. So, for me, it's a myth.

In order to travel you have to go somewhere, and there is nowhere to go.

Amexpat said...

"Foot of Pride" is one of those songs that only Dylan could have come up with. I first heard it sung by Lou Reed at the 30th anniversary of Dylan's career celebration at MSG. I was blown away by Reed's version, but Dylan's version is even better.

Trashhauler said...

"Jesus said nothing about space travel."

He also never mentioned television or the internet. I suspect the duality of His nature enabled Him to stay on message. If I recall correctly, He experienced what confusion could arise from demonstrating inappropriate knowledge at the age of twelve.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

I'm tired of the romantic nonsense about space. My time in the arctic convinced me of this. At one time the arctic was glamorous, and many men died trying to find nothing, because there's nothing there. Now a few people live there, but it isn't glamorous, or fashionable.

For all the people who want to dump on me, consider this: you aren't going to space, nor will you, nor will your children. It's easy to talk up something that doesn't happen and doesn't matter. It's all theoretical. Talking space is like theology for atheists.

Anonymous said...

Now that Althouse has clarified that "fashion" means "clothing", you critics should clarify that "space travel" means "any movement from one point in space to another"-- so it's more important after all.

Trashhauler said...


I note that he wore shorts, which I associate with immaturity and hiding within the self-conception of being a boy and therefore not available for sex with a woman.

How Freud-like.

http://www.freud.org.uk/events/74659/fashion-and-psychoanalysis-styling-the-self-/

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Trashhauler said...
If I recall correctly, He experienced what confusion could arise from demonstrating inappropriate knowledge at the age of twelve.


Why didn't he see THAT coming?

Original Mike said...

In order to make any sense of Althouse's provocation, you had to read "space travel" as "space exploration" (which is what Rosetta is doing).

Pete said...

Writ Small, Althouse has never apologized about anything or ever admitted she was wrong.

Lem said...

The most tortured attempt at a vortex from Althouse I've come across.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Trashhauler said...

I note that he wore shorts, which I associate with immaturity and hiding within the self-conception of being a boy and therefore not available for sex with a woman.

How Freud-like.


You do know that Freud's theories have been nearly completely discredited, don't you?

Trashhauler said...

"You do know that Freud's theories have been nearly completely discredited, don't you?"

Uh, yes. And your point is?

Lem said...

Writ Small, Althouse has never apologized about anything or ever admitted she was wrong.

If I recall correctly, not in an attempt to say you are wrong or anything drastic, Althouse did apologize to a reader named Kanye West. the hip pop rapper.

The more I have thought about it, could be that she meant it in some sort of hipster ironic way.

It's not clear to me.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Trashhauler said...
"You do know that Freud's theories have been nearly completely discredited, don't you?"

Uh, yes. And your point is?


Uh, you referenced him.

Bob R said...

It's not just the scope of "fashion" that is a problem, but the scope of space travel - which is only one small fraction of human travel and exploration. Your analogy was rigged to start with. Expanding the scope of fashion makes it worse. Narrow it and see if you can defend your ground. "High heeled shoes are more important than space travel."

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

To almost everyone, shoes, high heeled or otherwise, are more important than space travel.

Until there's technological and economic advances far greater than we've yet seen that will remain true.

Space travel and explorations are beliefs far more than realities.

In the late 15th and 16th centuries anyone who was mad enough could get passage on a ship from Europe to the Americas or India. How many people can go to the Moon? Currently, no one. The capability is there, but there's no reason to go. The only motivator right now is pride. It's like going to the North or South pole. A challenge, but almost no one bothers.

Moose said...

You're mistaking the fact that people pay more attention to fashion that space travel as a sign of its "importance". Fashion is a monkey thing. Space travel is much much more than looking at the other monkies.

m stone said...

So I read the post and all 45 comments today and even yesterday's post and now I care even less over this word choice. 93 comments and counting.

I'd like to see a discussion of what is really important in a world without fashion or space travel.

Moose said...

... and calling fashion more important than space travel is a very female thing to say. Disappointing.

Jupiter said...

"In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel."

Well, duh. I would say that the only measure in which fashion and "space travel" are even remotely comparable is in the vast amounts of money wasted on both of them. Even there, fashion comes out ahead. But in every other regard, there is no comparison.

The idea of space travel was fashionable among fantasists even before it actually existed, and most of its current appeal also has no connection to any reality. Granting the importance of low-orbit satellites, what else have you got? As John Lynch points out, there is nowhere in space that any reasonable (that is, non-suicidal) person would want to travel to. The expense and difficulty of Dr. Taylor's enterprise show just how far-fetched is the notion of "asteroid mining". And do you really suppose anyone is going to Mars any time soon? Dr. Taylor would be the first to tell you that there is no way they could survive the trip, and nothing for them to do on Mars if they did, except die.

Like many who defend the importance of "space travel", I grew up reading science fiction, and I was thrilled by the Moon landings. It took me many years, and a fairly comprehensive education in the hard sciences, to make me realize that science fiction is a combination of the Western and the Sailor's Tale, set in conveniently exotic locales that don't actually exist, and what we call the "Space Program" is mostly a fantastically expensive way to barbecue people who aren't even suspected of witchcraft.

Get over it, nerds. Space Opera is loads of fun. But NASA is welfare for engineers. Bread and circuses.

Trashhauler said...

"Trashhauler said...
'If I recall correctly, He experienced what confusion could arise from demonstrating inappropriate knowledge at the age of twelve.'

Why didn't he see THAT coming?"

One must presume He did. And that the entire episode was intended to demonstrate why He never spoke on so many things and never anachronistically. It was my own less-then-ept way of describing it that might have confused you.

Look at it this way. Just as a dedicated communist can always claim that the failures of communism are caused by improper implementation of Marx et alia, a good Bible thumper can always attribute these little quibbles to our own human limitations. ::grin::

(And I don't even rank as an amateur Bible thumper.)

Trashhauler said...

SomeOneHasToSayIt:

"'Uh, yes. And your point is?

Uh, you referenced him."

Dear me. Did you not notice that my comment was in reference to Professor Althouse's excursion into psychoanalysis? My mention of Freud was a gentle nod at the temptation to extend the discussion into areas in which one might not have full competence. Hence, Freud. Should I have used Jung? Or maybe Foucalt?

I apologize for tripping your default setting for correcting things.

Trashhauler said...


"I'd like to see a discussion of what is really important in a world without fashion or space travel."

You mean, like, NFL football?

bgates said...

why do you tumble like a fool

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Jesus, on Althouse.

Freeman Hunt said...

I didn't comment about the assertion that fashion was more important than space travel because I thought the truth of it was obvious.

I love space exploration, but clothes are a basic need. Naked people aren't going to be sending anything into space.

Anonymous said...

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!

www.boycottamericanwomen.com

Original Mike said...

So I've learned that women do not separate clothes from fashion.

sean said...

This is standard Althouse disingenuousness, in which she claims that there is some sense of a word (e.g., belief, fashion) that makes her statement true or at least interesting and coherent. Of course, she never addresses the possibility that there is some sense of the words used by (in this instance) Glenn Reynolds which makes his statement true.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

"You're quoting literature, as if that's a sophisticated move, but you are not demonstrating sophistication."

Says the dumb broad who just above was quoting the most widely read piece of literature on the planet, the bible.

"Ugly"

dustbunny said...

It was such fun to have the professor quote my paragraph to the class that I was ready to put on my leopard skin pillbox hat and dance around. But then I remembered a David Sedaris line, "it's sad really, put me in a classroom...and it all comes back, the brown nosing, the jealousy, the desire to be the best student in class.."

Ann Althouse said...

"Yes, he meant, in the language that engineers understand, "I'm happy." You feminists fixed that quickly!""

How do you know? Why do you presume to speak for him? Why do you think you are scientific when you make inferences that are not necessary from the evidence? I am the one speaking with accuracy here. You are making ideological leaps. This isn't even ethical. Matt Taylor is a human being, with an individual mind, and you do not know what is in it. You are using him for your purposes, and he has not asked for that.

"I also think Althouse assuming he meant something with that shirt is an unsupported assumption that tells us more about Althouse than the scientist."

The one thing that is virtually certain is that he meant something. I can't believe you're denying something so tediously plain.

"I was struck by Althouse's bewilderment at the scientist's choking up a bit during his mea culpa. It's an extremely common experience when delivering a genuine apology. It makes one wonder if the clever professor has ever sincerely admitted a mistake."

Again, you do not know his mind, and you are presuming to speak for him. I am not bewildered, but simply sticking to what I know and don't know. I'd be interested in hearing from him.

"That was my point (and just to be clear, I've had a good time with these posts!). My desire was to advise Althouse that not everybody thinks about the clothes they put on in the morning. I don't think she believes it."

As I said in my original post, if he'd worn something conventional, bland, and neutral, it might have just been the next thing in the pile, chosen with little meaning. But you just can't say that about that shirt! It's such a completely goofball proposition you have there.

"According to his sister, he can land a probe on a comet, but can't park a car, and lacks common sense. He's a nerd, a dork, who I bet just thought he shirt a (woman) friend made for his birthday was cool. I think he cried because it never occurred to him that the shirt would be offensive to some and he wouldn't deliberately do that."

Well, so... his sister is speaking for him. That's interesting. Does she know? Is she covering for him? Does he want that message out in the world -- that he's mentally ill-adjusted to ordinary life and incapable of understanding how others might perceive something? You have the phrase "I bet" in there, so I guess you're just speculating. I've put a similar speculation up (in the comments last night, I think). My point is we don't know his perspective, and his perspective includes his ideas about how things he does make other people feel. Is he on the autistic spectrum, with difficulty thinking in such terms?

Ann Althouse said...

"Jesus had never heard of space travel. He wasn't omniscient, after all."

That, too, is speculation.

""You set a trap for your readers and commenters. Many of them fell for it. Is that a success, then?" It's what she does for a living; teach people to be lawyers."

Yes, in other words, create a thought problem and give you room to work through it in the hope that you will stretch your powers and develop them. If you don't like that sort of thing, why are you reading this blog? (That by the way is a question I once posed to Meade, years before I met him. He really didn't quite get me at the time, but the question itself was a challenge, and Meade kept reading.)

"Now that Althouse has clarified that "fashion" means "clothing", you critics should clarify that "space travel" means "any movement from one point in space to another"-- so it's more important after all."

You can define your terms in your statements, but my statements are mine, and I will define my terms. If I say something that needs elaboration, why not seek to find out what I mean? You can make up your own alternative statements, but you can't then attribute them to me.

"In order to make any sense of Althouse's provocation, you had to read "space travel" as "space exploration" (which is what Rosetta is doing)."

Travel includes the travel of objects. It doesn't have to be limited to the tourism of human beings. I agree that there's not much to travel to, but people seem to enjoy the idea of people in space, even as some people enjoy the idea of new clothes.

Unknown said...

I used to find you interesting...I can't for the life of me remember why

Ann Althouse said...

"The capability is there, but there's no reason to go. The only motivator right now is pride. It's like going to the North or South pole. A challenge, but almost no one bothers."

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids/In fact, it's cold as hell...

Ann Althouse said...

"I'd like to see a discussion of what is really important in a world without fashion or space travel."

Yes, but most people don't want you to look at them naked. You're lucky if even one person does.

Ann Althouse said...

"... and calling fashion more important than space travel is a very female thing to say. Disappointing."

The truth disappoints you? How very... well, I don't do stereotypes.

Ann Althouse said...

"Like many who defend the importance of "space travel", I grew up reading science fiction, and I was thrilled by the Moon landings. It took me many years, and a fairly comprehensive education in the hard sciences, to make me realize that science fiction is a combination of the Western and the Sailor's Tale, set in conveniently exotic locales that don't actually exist, and what we call the "Space Program" is mostly a fantastically expensive way to barbecue people who aren't even suspected of witchcraft. Get over it, nerds. Space Opera is loads of fun. But NASA is welfare for engineers. Bread and circuses."

Which is why it's like high fashion? Expensive, out of reach for almost everyone, and mostly about human emotion and expression.

Fashion is a much larger category than high fashion, and it's got something for everyone. You could do fashion out of the Goodwill store or the dumpster. That could be a "Project Runway" challenge.

I have this fantasy about a "Project Runway" challenge for Matt Taylor, with Heidi Klum saying "And the winner of this challenge will have Matt Taylor wearing their design on the day Philae lands on the comet!" All the designers gasp with excitement, and one — the ultimate winner — gets the idea of making a shirt that will seem to continue the pattern of his tattoos. Then they go over to Mood to buy fabric, and there it is! The sexy lady fabric. In the Tim Gunn critique part of the show, Tim looks worried. He's just not sure a scientist will want to be festooned with buxom-y broads. The designer explains the idea of continuousness with the tattoo pattern, and Tim walks away shaking his head.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I don't see anything wrong with men wearing shorts per se. But I have noticed that a problem with men's shorts is that the fashion of them has always been wrong. When I was young, in mid-70s to early-80s, all shorts for males were ridiculously short. There was no other sort of short available at mall. Then in mid 80's I remember shorts that were plaid, popular with the fraternity beer circuit. Then, in late 80's, thanks to style changes in basketball, I suppose, you especially started to see men wearing longer shorts--excellent. But at the same time, there was the style to wear shorts ridiculously low on waist--ick! Now my problem with longer shorts that come to about the knee or slightly above is that the leg openings look like they are made for people with running-back thighs. Nothing wrong with running-back thighs, but not many males have them. The advantage of wearing shorts over wearing kilts or skirts should be that you don't have to worry how to sit. But from having searched on internet, they just don't seem to make shorts with narrow leg openings for people with normal-sized or thin legs. Unless, of course, you want to go to a skin-tight bicycle short, but no.

I like shorts mainly because they allow me to get more sun to make more Vitamin D and to stay cool. Another advantage is that they take less resources to wash and dry than a full pant.

buwaya said...

My complaint about "fashion" took the meaning to be much broader than clothing, but that of intellectual concepts, value systems, etc., which also behave in the way clothes fashions do - they are adopted, defended, and enforced with a lack of a logical or empirical basis. The complaints about this mans shirt are not really about the shirt but the divergence of the sources of values between the scientists\engineers and their critics. In a way this is a very pointed illustration of C.P. Snows point about the divergence of the two cultures. Fashion, in either a narrow or broad sense, is a feature, or illness, of just one of these two cultures.
Unlike Snow I insist that only one of these cultures is worthy, necessary, or even inherently virtuous. The other is fundamentally corrupt. If one completely eliminated every practitioner of the one culture life would go on, people would be fed and live in comfort, and most probably it would enhance general happiness. If one entirely eliminated the other the existence of the human race would be in question.
This was a case of an honest and useful man assailed and made to kowtow by the worthless. Any decent person should be bothered by this injustice.

Michael K said...

I'm not the only one who thinks the shirt storm was unwarranted.

""Yes, he meant, in the language that engineers understand, "I'm happy." You feminists fixed that quickly!""

How do you know? Why do you presume to speak for him? Why do you think you are scientific when you make inferences that are not necessary from the evidence? "

Other than having been an engineer, you mean ?

Law professors are supposed to know everything, I guess and get resentful when others question their knowledge.

You are in a minority of opinion on this subject and you might think about that.

Preferring consistency to contradiction and clarity to confusion, our techno/science geeks are now reminded why it is that they — amid an unstable and insensible society where people can’t climb down off each other’s backs — are consoled by the stability and sense of mathematical formulae.
10) I don’t blame them for repairing to their labs, where — bound by immutable laws that do not change — they are free.

Funny thing, the people who are making so much noise and are so resolute about controlling everything people think, eat, do, wear…were raised by folks who kept saying this:


Do your own thing.

Ann Althouse said...

"Your analogy was rigged to start with..."

Oh, quit whining. My comparison was framed to be so obviously true I knew I could defend it. You should have thought harder about why I believed it was true. It wasn't "rigged," in that an intelligent, critical reader would see the issues and puzzle it out, and frankly, I'm not interested in other readers, so it's not as if I was celebrating about tricking anybody. I wanted you to think about it, to be intrigued by the concept and explore it. Why do you think I bother writing these things?

richard mcenroe said...

"Jesus said nothing about space travel."

A) No one talks about their commute unless they hate it.

B) Jesus also didn't lecture Israel about texting while driving, either, since almost as few Israelites back then had cell phones as had rocketships.

richard mcenroe said...

"I didn't elaborate at the time, because it would have been a detour, and also because I thought it would be much more interesting and entertaining to see how much scorn I could incur for saying something that I knew was a cinch to defend."

"I meant to do that." -- P.W. Herman, 1985

President-Mom-Jeans said...

"Why do you think I bother writing these things?"

Narcissism, an inflated opinion of your own wit and intelligence, and of course the financial incentive of people foolish enough to to frequent your amazon portal.

Ugly.

Ann Althouse said...

I had to fix a couple typos in that comment of mine about the "rigging" accusation. That put my corrected comment after a comment that responded to it, so I'm copying that here:

Blogger HoodlumDoodlum said...

"Ann Althouse said...and also because I thought it would be much more interesting and entertaining to see how much scorn I could incur for saying something that I knew was a cinch to defend. [my emphasis]

"Ann Altouse said... It wasn't "rigged," in that an intelligent, critical reader would see the issues and puzzle it out, and frankly, I'm not interested in other readers, so it's not as if I [sic] celebrating about tricking anybody."

The point there is that I contradicted myself by saying that I thought it would be interesting to see the scorn pile up and then saying that I wasn't interested in readers who don't see the issues and puzzle things out in a critical, intelligent way.

This isn't a contradiction though. The first statement reflects my understanding of the factual reality of the kind of thing commenters would write.. The second statement is a truthful revelation of who I am writing for. That other people read and populate the comments is just the way it is.

Michael K said...

"an intelligent, critical reader would see the issues and puzzle it out,"

Wow, those of us who don't measure up might have to find a blog that tolerates our low IQs.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...This isn't a contradiction though. The first statement reflects my understanding of the factual reality of the kind of thing commenters would write.. The second statement is a truthful revelation of who I am writing for. That other people read and populate the comments is just the way it is.

The factual reality of unthinking commenters reacting with scorn is what you said you would find interesting and entertaining. You aren't interested in unthinking commenters. Presumably then you're interested in creating the reaction but have no interest in those who make that reaction (their opinions, etc). That's a bit like tossing rocks at animals in the zoo, no? Listen to those primates howl!

You predicted generating a reaction and thought it would be entertaining. Having obtained that reaction you congratulate yourself for your prediction. But that is not "celebrating."

Hey, it's your blog.

Jupiter said...

Althouse said ...

"Which is why it's like high fashion? Expensive, out of reach for almost everyone, and mostly about human emotion and expression."

I know considerably less about fashion than I do about space travel, but to me, the critical distinction is that I am not threatened with imprisonment if I refuse to pay for fashion. Since this does not seem to have crippled the development of fashion, it would seem to be fairly obvious that some people are a good deal more interested in fashion than anyone is in space travel -- so interested that they will pay for it without a gun to their heads.

buwaya said...

And, on the technologists side, this is not about space travel. Science an technology are broad things. I have worked for 40 years as an engineer, sometimes helping aerospace firms with the production of rocket and missile parts, but also with power generation systems, water pumps, pipelines, electric transmission, marine engines, software for everything from industrial production to accounting and insurance. You name it. Space travel is and always has been, in my times, the celebrity side of entire fields of technology, or probably all of it. The inspiration of us all, where the best of the best can hope to go.
We, who may labor humbly on perfecting QC systems for machined parts, feel kinship with they who fly probes past Jupiter.
Insult them and you insult us all.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

The monkeys aren't interesting and it's a waste of time to talk to them, but it is entertaining when I rile 'em up. It'll be interesting to see how much noise they'll make when I do this!

Gotcha.

rhhardin said...

Clothes make the dog.

Lydia said...

"The one thing that is virtually certain is that he meant something".

Pure speculation, but I think the only "something" for Taylor in wearing that shirt was as an advertisement for his friend who made it. She is the wife of the man who did Taylor's tattoos, and Taylor had just given him a shout-out in a Q&A with the Wall Street Journal on November 12: "I like my tattoos, they were done by PriZeMan at eternal art in Chelmsford, UK."

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Trashhauler said...
"Trashhauler said...
'If I recall correctly, He experienced what confusion could arise from demonstrating inappropriate knowledge at the age of twelve.'

Why didn't he see THAT coming?"

One must presume He did.


Exactly wrong. In the absence of evidence, 'one' must presume he did not.

And that the entire episode was intended to demonstrate why He never spoke on so many things and never anachronistically.

Really? I don't take it that way at all. I see it as a belated attempt by the church historians to 'fill in the gap' of the missing years.

It was my own less-then-ept [sic] way of describing it that might have confused you.

Oh, I'm not confused, cousin. But I know someone who is.

Look at it this way. Just as a dedicated communist can always claim that the failures of communism are caused by improper implementation of Marx et alia, a good Bible thumper can always attribute these little quibbles to our own human limitations. ::grin::

(And I don't even rank as an amateur Bible thumper.)


Oh, don't sell yourself short. Even a professional bible thumper is just the tallest midget.

Lydia said...

Meant to add -- Because, you know, he probably thought the reaction would be "hey, cool shirt".

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Your analogy was rigged to start with..."

Oh, quit whining. My comparison was framed to be so obviously true I knew I could defend it.


Bawahahahahahahahahahahaha!

rhhardin said...

Space travel is more important than women doing math.

rhhardin said...

Space travel makes long baseline interferometry possible.

rhhardin said...

It's possible to prefer fashion to space travel, space travel to women doing math, and women doing math to fashion.

rhhardin said...

If you travel near the speed of light, fashion goes out of date more slowly.

rhhardin said...

No fashion statement can travel faster than light.

Virtual fashion can do so, but no message can accompany it.

rhhardin said...

The arrow of time is in the direction of fashion disfavor.

rhhardin said...

Poincaré showed that every fashion statement, given enough time, returns.

kcom said...

"My desire was to advise Althouse that not everybody thinks about the clothes they put on in the morning. I don't think she believes it."

I don't think she can conceive it.

As someone said above, she's looking through an artist's lens. And that's fine if that's what's important to her. But she can't seem to see that that lens is irrelevant to large groups of people who have other priorities. They DON'T CARE about clothes in that way.

Mark said...

Sophistry, pure and simple.

I would like you to contemplate this statement: When one finds oneself in a hole, it's best to stop digging.

Phil 314 said...

disputatious

Phil 314 said...

Lem would have something to say about this series of posts.

Lem said...

If fixating on skin color is undesirable, how is not fixating on a shirt?

Lem said...

Lem would have something to say about this series of posts.

rh is the greatest.

richard mcenroe said...

Intentions? Statements? Let's ask the woman who made the shirt. Or do we know what the artist really meant to say better than she did?

http://ellyprizemanupdate.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/decisions-and-comments.html

Smilin' Jack said...

Fashion is more important than space travel.

Importance is subjective. I doubt fashion is more important than space travel to Matt Taylor.

By fashion, I mean to include all of the clothing that everyone wears.

Bullshit. The essence of fashion is the distinction between clothing that is fashionable and clothing that is not.

He wore a very loud, attention-getting shirt, and that implies that he intended a message and thus invited us to think and talk about it.

Really? If he intended to send a message, did he succeed? If so, why don't you know what the message was? If not, what are all those chicks so upset about?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Mark: When one finds oneself in a hole it's best to stop digging.

There is no hole. If you think there's a hole you need to think more deeply. If you still think there's no hole then you're the kind of uncritical thinker we're not interested in having around here.
In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than tool use, so hole-digging is irrelevant.

HoodlumDoodlum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael K said...

"In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than tool use, so hole-digging is irrelevant."

Yes, lawyers rule the world. If you doubt that, ask them.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...As I said in my original post, if he'd worn something conventional, bland, and neutral, it might have just been the next thing in the pile, chosen with little meaning

As I pointed out last night, even this won't save one from accusations of sexism: Zuckerberg explains gray t-shirts, sounds pretty sexist.
Zuckerberg's not interested in fashion and chooses to wear simple outfits (which is, of course, a fashion choice). The New Yorker writer finds his belief that fashion isn't important to be "pretty sexist." See, even if you're not interested in fashion, fashion's interested in you. Or anyway you're a sexist. Wear the wrong thing, sexist. Choose to wear inoffensive things because you don't care about fashion, sexist. Stupid (white) men.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

New York Magazine, not New Yorker.

exhelodrvr1 said...

1) I don't believe your current explanation.
2) If your current explanation is true, then that is as disappointing as the possibility that you're just making things up now to try and excuse your comments yesterday. You were pretending to have a stupid viewpoint just to see what the reaction would be? That's actually pretty disgusting.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Just asking, but where's the empathy for Dr. Taylor? I mean, I remember hearing about how important empathy is. Seems like Dr. Taylor could'a used some of that sweet sweet empathy--but I guess I'll add that to the list of things I need to think more deeply about in order to understand.

Lem said...

I would love to see a Ferguson pants on the ground protester to please elaborate on his meaning of his constitutional right to protest wearing his pants just so.

Assuming Ferguson trump space travel.

Anonymous said...

Althouse wrote;

"I note that he wore shorts, which I associate with immaturity and hiding within the self-conception of being a boy and therefore not available for sex with a woman. When the boy-man imagines he can say — via shirt — I love women and women say back to him, essentially, you did that wrong, you bad boy, the boy cries. "

I note that lots of women dress like sluts, which I associate with slutty women within the self-conception of being a slut. And therefore, available for sexual intercourse with men.

"As I said in my original post, if he'd worn something conventional, bland, and neutral, it might have just been the next thing in the pile, chosen with little meaning. But you just can't say that about that shirt! It's such a completely goofball proposition you have there. "

If she would have worn something conventional, bland and neutral, she wouldn't have been asking for it.

rcocean said...

His blubbering about the shirt showed him to be a man-child.

n.n said...

So, Feltman's indigestion was caused by a non-conforming shirt? Now get off my lawn! What if a minority of women like it? I though all generational feminists, and certainly corporate feminists, were pro-choice and "progressive".

Travel through space and land has been replaced by virtual travel through wires and electrons, while women and men are fashionably dressed in non-conforming shirts. Viva la revolucion!

Trashhauler said...

SomeoneHasToSayIt:

"Oh, I'm not confused, cousin. But I know someone who is."

I see no need to fisk your fisk. I was wondering if we knew each other and I had somehow angered you.

I participate here for several reasons, none of which involve hostility. It harshes my calm.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Fashion as a concept includes an element of communication in a way that "clothing" does not.
The aspect of fashion the Prof is focusing on is communication (what message was he sending/did he mean to send by wearing this shirt, etc).
"In the broad span of human culture communication is more important than space travel" is a defensible argument, and might have prompted interesting discussion. It is less ambiguous than using "fashion," though, and as such is less likely to cause misinterpretation.
Intentionally making ambiguous statements knowing they will be misinterpreted and enjoying the misinterpretation one helped cause is symptomatic of a "troll."
Saying "I knew it would cause a reaction due to misinterpretation and I would find that reaction entertaining" is calling oneself a troll (or at least admitting that trolling was part of the motivation for one's actions).

n.n said...

rcocean:

To be fair, the introduction of corporate feminism is a new fashion line in Europe. It's like a woman stealing sperm from a used condom in the receptacle. No person would expect that unreasonable behavior. Now that the Euros have experienced Feminism 1.0, let's observe how they respond to future releases.

Lem said...

When Kanye West grabbed the stage away from Taylor Swift, after she had just won some fashionable award, to protest some perceived injustice, the reaction to Kanye's impertinence was not amicable, friendly nor accommodating.

What does that have to do with Matt Taylor and his shirt?

I don't know.

Lydia said...

The Atlantic's Rose Eveleth tweets: "Glad hear @mggtTaylor recognized his mistake & apologized (live stream isn't working for me) and we can both move along with our lives."

Just me, or is there a Nurse Ratched kind of cruelty in that?

buwaya said...

An illustration of the comparative value of world views, as identified by reactions to "the shirt". A thought experiment which can easily be fleshed out in detail, if one wishes, with a knowledge of the people that would be involved-
Let us assume that a natural disaster occurs in Northern California, let us say a major earthquake, such that all necessary infrastructure has taken critical damage - water, electric power, highways, bridges, railroad, gas pipelines, etc. These need to be repaired and brought back online very quickly or the vast majority of the population will be unable to survive, and will have to be evacuated - well, unless at least some of this infrastrucure is repaired even evacuation would be problematic.
Let us say that one was constrained, in assembling crews (to do all the work from manual labor to design to management) to repair this damage, to those who find "the shirt" acceptable or at least not so offensive as to warrant complaint (group 1) vs those who do find "the shirt" unacceptably offensive (group 2). Could you find the trained, skilled personnel to restore this necessary infrastructure from the first or the second group?
My experience tells me that nearly everyone with the required skill and experience would fall in group 1 and a trivially small number in group 2.
So which group is useful for the continuation of human civilization, and which is unnecessary?

Birkel said...

"I also think Althouse assuming he meant something with that shirt is an unsupported assumption that tells us more about Althouse than the scientist." -- quoting me

The one thing that is virtually certain is that he meant something. I can't believe you're denying something so tediously plain. -- Althouse

Bull shit.
He meant to be covered, for sure.
Beyond that you are attempting to speak for him in the same way you criticize others for attempting to speak for him.
Goose. Gander. Some assembly required.

BrianE said...

I didn't wade through 100 comments so it might have already been noted that we define who we identify with by what we wear-- which by extension might be construed as fashion.

When in high school, my kids were very fashion conscious (even my son). He identified with the skaters, so the clothes had to state that-- not a preppy or a jock or a geek, each of which required a different "uniform".

We all did it.

So I don't know about a trap, but, I'm not sure it was worth all the virtual ink spilled about the topic, but then, that's a value judgement, as was Ms. Althouse's assertion.

Lem said...

Racism is an appalling argumentative tool... but I cannot contradict its fashionable appeal.

In other words, please don't try this on at home ;)

Birkel said...

"Now that Althouse has clarified that "fashion" means "clothing", you critics should clarify that "space travel" means "any movement from one point in space to another"-- so it's more important after all." -- quoting another

You can define your terms in your statements, but my statements are mine, and I will define my terms. If I say something that needs elaboration, why not seek to find out what I mean? You can make up your own alternative statements, but you can't then attribute them to me. -- Althouse

I think you'll find the author of the first statement is not attempting to define your terms. I believe you will find the author suggesting a definition that you don't like. There was no attempted attribution.

Try harder.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Dr. Taylor wore a shirt that sent a message he didn't intend/was misinterpreted. He was wrong and it was correct for him to (tearfully) apologize. Ok.

Prof Althouse used ambiguous phrasing and was misinterpreted. Those who misunderstood her were wrong and they should realize their error. Ok.

Michael said...

67 angels can fit on the head of a pin. No more and no less. And it doesn't matter if they are clothed or naked, fat or slim. 67. Remember that when you lawyers go back and forth over meaning.

Oh, and most lawyers make their profit by wasting time looking for the fly shit in the pepper.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that when I say "more important" I mean "containing more letters". It's all a question of who is to be the master.

Moose said...

"well, I don't do stereotypes." Well - you like to think you don't do stereotypes. Other than men in shorts.

dustbunny said...

One day my daughter who was then in high school, came downstairs in very high heels and very short shorts. I said, even though I was aware I should word it more diplomatically, "you can't leave the house in that, you look like a hooker". My daughter yelled back "you're calling me a hooker? You are the worst mother in the world, I hate you!" Did she ask for it? Did I? Is this about evolution or devolution?
I talked to her yesterday and we both liked that he wore the shirt.

Freeman Hunt said...

Fashion has to include all clothes. A piece of clothing cannot be made without deciding what it will be like. That deciding is fashion.

Birkel said...

Freeman Hunt:

That is why my comments on yesterday's thread were supportive of Althouse's musing "for some definitions of the word fashion". But there are other definitions. Preference for one definition does not make it exclusive.

dustbunny said...

She has a number of threads threading together. Is this going to result in new material.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Through both time and space the ejaculate travels, without which we aren't.

Anonymous said...

"In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel."

I'm going to unpack this statement. Your proclamation was in response to an uproar over a whether a certain scientist's choice of clothing bears any relationship to his accomplishments, or, the propriety of criticizing such a clothing choice on behalf of STEM women and potential STEM women. Your definition of fashion doesn't mean what most people think it means. Is that because your critics are short sighted, or verbally ill-equipped? Fashion, there's a nice knock-down argument for you, or meaning is whatever I meant, whenever I happened to have meant it:

"You can define your terms in your statements, but my statements are mine, and I will define my terms. If I say something that needs elaboration, why not seek to find out what I mean? You can make up your own alternative statements, but you can't then attribute them to me."

Which is to be master, indeed. I'll use my own words: you're being intellectually dishonest, and shifting goalposts. The primary definition on merriam-webster.com states the term to mean a "prevailing custom or style" of various modes of human interaction, firstly raiment. Prevailing customs or styles of clothing is arguably what many English speakers think of when they use the word "fashion." You mocked those who thought of a generally accepted definition, because they did not properly analyze the word in terms of the antecedent clause: "in the broad span of human culture," or in terms of how you have tagged posts in this blog. Now we truly are through the looking glass. It is a bit like a chess game here at this blog, because you've set arbitrarily set the parameters and therefore preserved any counter attack that you see fit. It's your blog and you can play however you want.

"More important" Comparative and hinges on relativism. So let us compare space travel and fashion, in terms of human culture, and see how they fare in relative importance. Although, admittedly, I'm still unclear as to what you think fashion means. My definition for you is going to be "to make", as-in Althouse likes to fashion definitions for words as she sees fit.

Your contention, fleshed out: Whatever the prevailing custom or style of clothing is at a given period in human culture is more important than space travel will ever be to human culture. Firstly, what do we mean by human culture? Is there such a thing as human culture yet? Any analysis of the importance of fashion and space travel will necessarily hinge upon subcultures familiar to us. Traps abound: Eurocentrism, classism, colonialism. Perhaps fashion used to be more important than space travel because survival depended upon fashion. Rationally, survival is most important to human culture; without human survival, there is no human culture.

I hazard that currently for much of the first world, fashion is less important to human culture than space travel, because fashion is no longer about survival, as evidenced by this entire dust up. Fashion is a cultural marker, but not of human culture, but for class subcultures, not human culture as a monolith. Space travel on the other hand is concerned with the survival of humans, or the thriving of humans. Part of the point of landing on a comet is to see what's there, and if there's anything there that can help us improve technology.

To tie this up, in this context, your statement is irrelevant at best, because it arises from an Atlantic first world situation. At worst, it is the sort of naval gazing that occurs when unremarkable people attempt to diminish the remarkable. Who cares what he was trying to say with that shirt? The petty and the jealous, IMHO.

Jupiter said...

richard mcenroe said...
"Intentions? Statements? Let's ask the woman who made the shirt. Or do we know what the artist really meant to say better than she did?"

The context in which the item is worn is a critical aspect of its significance. If he had worn a condom on his head like a rooster's comb, would you ask him what he meant by that, or the company that made the condom?

On the other hand, she does tell us that she purchased the fabric. Someone designed that fabric. Was designing that fabric sexist? Is it likely to dissuade young women from fabric-related careers?

Freeman Hunt said...

If you woke up one morning covered by small mammals clinging to you, and you wore them the whole day because they wouldn't let go, including outside where you trusted that they would cover you, I guess that wouldn't be fashion and would sort of be clothing.

Laslo Spatula said...

"If you woke up one morning covered by small mammals clinging to you, and you wore them the whole day because they wouldn't let go, including outside where you trusted that they would cover you, I guess that wouldn't be fashion and would sort of be clothing."

You live inside my head.

William said...

Parkinson of Parkinson's Law fame stated that the Committee for Capital Improvements will approve a new isotope inhibitor gyroscope at a cost of two billion dollars without a mnute's debate because no one knows what such a thing does or is worth. Meanwhile an expenditure for two thousand dollars for a new tool shed will spark endless discussion because everyone knows what a toolshed is and about how much it should cost.....I think this whole debate is a variation of the atomic gyroscope vs wooden toolshed debate. The only thing that people can understand of Dr. Taylor's work is that he wore an inappropriate shirt.....Let's not take our eyes off the prize. Space exploration will lead to the discovery of wormholes that can transport us to distant planets that are populated exclusively with Victoria Secret models who have never seen a man before.

Birches said...

This was the best post on Shirtstorm to date.

The dick shirt was the icing on the cake.

I'm done discussing Matt Taylor's attire and fashion in all its glory.

Ann Althouse said...

"I note that lots of women dress like sluts, which I associate with slutty women within the self-conception of being a slut. And therefore, available for sexual intercourse with men.... If she would have worn something conventional, bland and neutral, she wouldn't have been asking for it."

What you are missing, eric, is that you are equating raping a person with merely criticizing a person.

I'm saying exaggerated clothing is properly interpreted as an intentional message and it's something we are therefore invited to interpret. Whether it's good to express our interpretations in words is another matter, but in the case of somebody voluntarily appearing on television, I say it's fine.

But rape is a matter of action, a very extreme physical intrusion on another person. That's not justified, even if it is your interpretation that the clothing the person is wearing is intended to say: I want to be seen as very sexually desirable. For one thing, your interpretation could be wrong, but more importantly, even if that is what the woman means to say through clothing, it's not an invitation to any given individual and no one has the privilege to initiate sex with her without her specific consent to that person. There is no outfit that says to the whole world: I am consenting to have sex with you.

So, you are missing basically everything that matters.

kcom said...

"So, you are missing basically everything that matters."

As is everyone else talking about a shirt on the day mankind landed a probe on a comet. A comet! Why are people talking about something that doesn't matter?

See how easy it is to define for others "everything that matters."

Birkel said...

Freeman Hunt:
Trying to avoid death by exposure is not fashion unless you define fasion so broadly as to lose all meaning. IOW, you are viewing fashion through a modern lense.

"...by some definitions of the word fashion" still stands.

chickelit said...

Althouse wrote...I have this fantasy about a "Project Runway" challenge for Matt Taylor,..

I dislike Althouse's incessant defense of shows like "Project Runway" and the implication that haute couture is as necessary as generic clothing. To me, it's like insisting that haute cuisine necessary for survival. It's haughty and snooty.

Ann Althouse said...

"See how easy it is to define for others "everything that matters.""

My analysis was confined to his statement. Anyone can make statements about anything, important or frivolous. Within the thing that he was trying to say, he was connecting 2 things, and they didn't connect properly. It was a textual analysis.

It's ridiculous to think that as people decide what to talk about, they need to speak about what is most important before what is less important. If human society worked like that it would be entirely different.

Anonymous said...

"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing The Manolo on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." --JFK

Birkel said...

I think the best definition of the word fashion for this conversation is "clothes meant to signal some meaning to the observer. That would exclude many articles of clothing and make the word fashion meaningful.

Birkel said...

Also, my offered definition allows the imlication of meaning but not necessarily any inference about the wearer's intention. The resulting abmiguity leads to conversations about meaning.

Meanwhile, Althouse is still wrong in describing her implication as the wearer's necessarily wishing to communicate. What is strongly likely does not have to be true.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

I was in Iowa last week and as I was fleeing the global warming back to the PR sunshine, I was reading Mark Steyn's latest book. It is a collection of various columns and articles. A few duds but overall excellent.

He had written an article on Bob Dylan or Frank Sinatra. In any event, it was Dylan appearing at Frank's 80th birthday (1995). Dylan would have been 54.

"...To judge from their respective states, if Frank was 80, Bob had to be at least 130."

Bob sang "Happy Birthday Mr frank" and, according to Steyn:

Frank sat through the number with a stunned look, no doubt thinking "Geez that's what I'll look like in another 20-25 years if I don't ease up on the late nights."

Mark went on to say some other unkind things about Bob.

Not a fan, I gather.

Me either. I was in the 60's but I don't think he's done anything worth listening to since Nashville Skyline back in '69.

Not that I've paid much attention but the little bit I've heard doesn't make me want to seek out more.

He did do OK as a sideman in the traveling Wilburys, I guess.

John Henry

Jupiter said...

William said...
"Let's not take our eyes off the prize. Space exploration will lead to the discovery of wormholes that can transport us to distant planets that are populated exclusively with Victoria Secret models who have never seen a man before."

To boldly go, hey? I can see why the feminists might want to put a stop to that right smartly.

On the other hand, Alice Bradley Sheldon, writing as James Tiptree Jr., described an encounter between a bunch of astronauts, who somehow got transported forward in time, and the inhabits of the Moon at that future era, who were all female, reproducing by parthenogenosis. The women were thinking that maybe having some guys around wasn't such a bad idea. Then they had a big party, at which the gals got the astronauts high on some drug that acted as a truth serum. It became evident that the men regarded the women purely as sex objects. I can't remember if the women killed them all, or just arranged to send them back when they came from.

Not sure why this all had to take place on the Moon.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

Favorite Dylan song of all time?

"If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it all over you"

As covered by Dave Van Ronk and the Red Onion Jazz Band.

John Henry

kcom said...

"It's ridiculous to think that as people decide what to talk about, they need to speak about what is most important before what is less important. If human society worked like that it would be entirely different."

Exactly. You can talk about whatever you want. But to pretend your interests and actions on a subject are identical to someone else's is self-centered and blinkered. Just because it's important to you doesn't mean someone else gives a rat's ass about it or is motivated the way you are motivated by it. Sometimes a shirt is just a shirt and as numerous people have pointed out to you, but you seem unable to conceive, it isn't "undeniable" that a man wearing a shirt "meant something." The only thing undeniable is he meant to cover his torso, therefore fulfilling one of the minimum requirements of coming to work in that office (presumably, since that's a widespread rule of thumb). Beyond that, everything, including your thoughts, is speculation. That you find that line of thinking interesting or "undeniable" just telegraphs your personal interest and not some greater truth. That you find it more interesting than talking about landing a probe hundreds of millions of miles away on a comet (probably the pinnacle of his life's work) strongly suggests that the things that fascinate you and the things that fascinate him are completely different. Yet you insist on ascribing motives to him that seem to come much more directly from your interests than his.

CStanley said...

You can define your terms in your statements, but my statements are mine, and I will define my terms. If I say something that needs elaboration, why not seek to find out what I mean? You can make up your own alternative statements, but you can't then attribute them to me.

Why not criticize Rose Eveleth then, for not seeking out what message Taylor intended to send with the shirt? She attributed an offensive meaning to it- why doesn't he get to define it instead of her?

kcom said...

Here's an example of a blog by someone who is fascinated by the idea of landing a probe on a comet after a journey of hundreds of millions of miles:

Congratulations to ESA Rosetta team on successful comet landing!

There's not one mention of a shirt.

These challenging requirements place enormous demands on the hardware and software in Rosetta’s on-board systems, in terms of extreme reliability, and minimizing software footprint to reduce computing requirements and therefore power consumption. To achieve this, a number of Rosetta’s systems use Virtuoso RTOS which provides a very small scalable microkernel architecture, enabling it to run on processors with minimal resources; and a Virtual Single Processor (VSP) system-level design model which enables an application to run seamlessly in a multiprocessor DSP environment, including radiation-hardened DSPs designed withstand cosmic radiation in deep space.

Different strokes and all that.

chillblaine said...

Celestial Bodies

Michael K said...

Glenn Reynolds pretty much speaks for me.

So how are things going for feminism? Well, last week, some feminists took one of the great achievements of human history — landing a probe from Earth on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away — and made it all about the clothes.

Yes, that's right. After years of effort, the European Space Agency's lander Philaelanded on a comet 300 million miles away. At first, people were excited. Then some women noticed that one of the space scientists, Matt Taylor, was wearing a shirt, made for him by a female "close pal," featuring comic-book depictions of semi-naked women. And suddenly, the triumph of the comet landing was drowned out by shouts of feminist outrage about ... what people were wearing. It was one small shirt for a man, one giant leap backward for womankind.


He does have a way with words.

Freeman Hunt said...

"You live inside my head."

I assumed that's what you were wearing.

Freeman Hunt said...

Birkel
"Trying to avoid death by exposure is not fashion unless you define fashion so broadly as to lose all meaning."

That's not what people do now though. No one merely avoids death by exposure. Even if that's all one wanted to do, he'd be faced with a myriad of clothing choices, and anything he selected would be something designed by someone. Fashion is impossible to avoid, I think.

I don't think fashion and high fashion should be viewed as synonymous.

Freeman Hunt said...

One problem with the mammals (among many), is that you cannot sit down. If you do, you will crush some of them. They will die and let go, exposing your sit upon parts which are usually some of the parts you most want to cover.

Birkel said...

Freeman Hunt @ 9:48PM

Thank you for admitting that your definition, and by extension Althouse's, was over-broad. That is a helpful start. Now, I understand that you attempted to obfuscate your admission but we both can see that not all clothes are fashion. This is as it should be, even though you should have been more direct in your admission.

Also, the idea that "No one merely avoids death by exposure." is so stupid that I know you cannot have meant it. There are 7 BN people in the world, give or take. You must admit that some of them are only attempting to stave off the elements or play the fool.

Try harder.

richard mcenroe said...

Rose Eleveth's column was not in any way about Taylor.

It was about how very, very offended Rose Eleveth felt and what Taylor actually intended or didn't had nothing to do with that. In fact, acting like a professional journalist and actually contacting him and asking never even occurred to her, I suspect, because the sheer absurdity of the act might even have registered on her impacted self-awareness.

Freeman Hunt said...

Birkel, I thought this was light-hearted. Why so hostile?

The admission didn't happen. I'm saying clothes plus choices are fashion. You are right, however, that I should have specified that I was generally referencing American life, not life anywhere in the world, though I do think most people anywhere have to choose what to wear.

Birkel said...

Freeman Hunt:

There's no hostility but you are purposefully obtuse on this issue. Althouse referenced the broad scope of human existence. During most of that time clothing was meant to protect from the elements. That modern life has made so many of us take for granted the advances of the past 5-8000 years is part of my point.

Again, you have admitted that not all clothes are fashion. This is an important admission. Now you wish to misdirect to modern life. That is disingenuous.

Birkel said...

Also, I am physically ill.

Phil 314 said...

This thread has jumped the shark?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...I'm saying exaggerated clothing is properly interpreted as an intentional message and it's something we are therefore invited to interpret.

Are "we...invited" to, though? "She was asking for rape" was absolutely the wrong analogy. Something better would be the recent flap over street harassment. Judging from the comments from the Feminists one certainly isn't "invited" to look. I mean, look too long and that's a leer, and leering is harassment. It's her body, and it's her choice how to dress. IF a woman dresses in a provocative way and you interpret that as an invitation to look...boom harassment. In that situation at least, you are not invited to interpret.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Freeman Hunt:

There's no hostility but you are purposefully obtuse on this issue."

I promise you, I'm not. I'm perfectly earnest here.

" Althouse referenced the broad scope of human existence. During most of that time clothing was meant to protect from the elements."

Primitive people often put enormous effort into fashion. I'd say that they often put much more effort into it than civilized people. .

"Again, you have admitted that not all clothes are fashion."

No, I said that clothes without choice may not be fashion. If you are a refugee with nothing, and an aid worker hands you a donated sweatshirt, it could be argued that that cannot be counted as fashion as you relate to the shirt. (Unless you, say, find a pen somewhere and decorate it or think of decorating it and choose not to.) (It is fashion as the manufacturer relates to the shirt.) But that isn't the usual way of things. Most people do have choice about what they wear, even if the choices are limited, and people who make clothing have choices about what they're making.

Freeman Hunt said...

I hope you feel better soon, Birkel.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

It's sad to think about what would have happened had everyone acted like adults and extended the benefit of the doubt (shown some empathy) all around.

The FemCrits could have said "congrats on the landing, way go to; by the way, we think your shirt was a bit inappropriate and might have sent the wrong message (about your views of women, etc) and you might want to think about that."
Dr Taylor could have then responded "oh, sorry, this was a special day and I picked a special celebratory shirt, one made for and given to me by a friend; I certainly didn't meant to send any messages about women or women in science--as a father myself and a member of this great team with important female scientists I fully support women in STEM! Fashion isn't something I think about much and once again I'm sorry if my choice sent the wrong message."

No tears, no big deal, everyone is civil and expresses their viewpoint calmly and rationally.

Instead we get FemCrits calling Dr. Taylor an asshole, saying his shirt/his choices are a symptom of (or evidence of his participation in!) a patriarchal conspiracy that keeps women out of science. Dr. Taylor's a decent dude and takes this to heart, and here we are. They jumped to 11, his defenders jumped to 10 and I don't think anyone learned any positive lessons. Maybe some people learned not to wear flashy shirts when you'll be on TV--I guess that's something.

chickelit said...

The following passage, written in Spanish in 1769, was taken from the diary of an engineer employed with the first land expedition of California; I think it neatly encapsulates many current themes on the Althouse blog, including fashion, "space exploration" (broadly defined), immigration, polygamy, and even gays. The fuller context is meeting the aboriginal peoples of Southern California:

Both the men and the women are of good figure and appearance, and are fond of painting and staining their faces and bodies. They use large tufts of feathers, and hairpins that they put through their hair with various ornaments and coral beads of different colors.

The men go entirely naked, but when it is cold they wear long capes of tanned otter skins, and cloaks made of the same skins cut into long strips, and turned in such a manner that all of the fur is on the outside. They then weave these strips together, making a fabric, and give it the form mentioned above.

The women are dressed with more modesty, wearing around the waist tanned deerskins, which cover them in front and back more than halfway down the leg, and a little cape of otter skin over the body. Some of them have attractive features.

Polygamy is not permitted among these people; the chiefs alone possess the right to take two wives. In all of their towns there was noticed a class of men who lived like women, associated with them, wore the same dress, adorned themselves with beads, earrings, necklaces, and other feminine ornaments, and enjoyed great consideration among their companions. The want of an interpreter prevented us from ascertaining what kind of men they were, or to what office they were designed; all suspected however, a sexual defect or some abuse among those Indians.
link

dustbunny said...

PuertoRicoSpaceport, I am overly sensitive to Old Bob jokes when someone admits to having not paid attention to his music for the last 40 yrs. Also, dismissing Blood on the Tracks is not smart.
The last of the long line of Mrs Sinatras wrote that she invited Dylan and Springsteen to dinner before the birthday concert and the three gathered at the piano and sang. Sounds improbable but if so, I wonder what they sang and of course, what they wore.

Rusty said...

That is a pretty broad definition of fashion.
I'm pretty sure that Neaderthals werren't all that concerned about how they looked in their animal skins. They just wanted to keep warm. Until some Neaderthal showed up in the skin of another human being.'
That guy invented fashion.

Rusty said...

Fashion vs utility.

Your red gloves are fashion.

Anything I can put over my hands to keep them warm is utility.

kcom said...

"This thread has jumped the shark?"

Well, you know, Hitler was all about fashion.

gerry said...

Hypocrites.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, you know, Hitler was all about fashion."

Armbands... brown shirts....

Read that Mark Twain quote again:

"Clothes and title are the most potent thing, the most formidable influence, in the earth. They move the human race to willing and spontaneous respect for the judge, the general, the admiral, the bishop, the ambassador, the frivolous earl, the idiot duke, the sultan, the king, the emperor. No great title is efficient without clothes to support it."

Riot Nrrrd™ said...

I note that he wore shorts, which I associate with immaturity and hiding within the self-conception of being a boy and therefore not available for sex with a woman.

I'm not sure someone who is married to his childhood sweetheart with 2 daughters would agree with that interpretation.

I can also say that as someone who works in STEM and wears shorts nearly every day (I live in Los Angeles, which makes this quite easy most of the year), I do it not because of immaturity but solely because of comfort. (I was in Rome in late August and having to wear long pants and a sleeved shirt in high humidity basically ruined my trip to the Vatican; all I could think about was getting out of there as the sweat dripped off of me.)

When the boy-man imagines he can say — via shirt — I love women and women say back to him, essentially, you did that wrong, you bad boy, the boy cries.

Or maybe it's as simple as him pussying out.

Roger Sweeny said...

Calling you an "arrogant dick" is not calling you a male. It is calling you the semi-homophonic "arrogant jerk." Males have a, um, ambivalent, attitude toward their penises.