November 11, 2003
Many more holes to fill....
Here's something which has been on my mind.
I had a long discussion about feminization (pussification, perhaps?) with a female friend the other day, and found myself troubled by a few things that do not quite fit the equation. I'll give just one local example.
Not far from where I live, there used to be a beautiful swimming hole. Located in a low, flat area where this particular creek takes a bend, the water is naturally deep (around seven to ten feet) and forms a natural swimming hole. This is the kind of place where my dad learned to swim, and similar places were made legendary by countless American authors. (For all I know, this was one of them; it's a real classic. Much like this one.)
But enter the modern age, the modern legal system, and modern insurance companies. You are not allowed to have "dangerous conditions" on open land, and you are not allowed to have what the law defines as "attractive nuisances." For if you do, and if someone drowns, you are liable. As far as I know, no one had ever drowned at the particular swimming hole in my area.
And now, no one will swim there again. The insurance company made the owner fill the entire hole with hideous cinder blocks -- so that the water is now only a few inches deep.
Try swinging on your favorite inner tube tied to a tree and leaping into that! You won't drown, but you'll be lucky if you don't break something. (And, well, sorry to inform you, but you can be held liable for the trees too -- even in Tennessee. Can Texas be far behind the "tire"less, treeless tort trend? Or will there be swimming hole tort reform?)
As she is an outdoor type who enjoys hiking and camping, my friend was just as outraged as I was about the filling of the swimming hole. Yet she understands as well as any man that this is the way of modern America. Asked whether she thought feminism or feminization was responsible, she questioned the idea of blaming one sex over another -- noting that most of the people involved (lawyers, judges, insurance executives and underwriters, and the contractors who filled the hole) were in all probability men.
Was the filling of that swimming hole part of the feminization of America? Is Tort Law "feminine"? If men create and enforce such a legal system, does it make sense to say that they have "feminized" things? Doesn't the latter term imply that men are imitating women, even though women might not have had the idea and are not to blame? Is it fair to blame one sex for decisions taken by society as a whole? Is all weakness (which this expansion of liability clearly is) to be considered feminine? Why?
I am not denying the outrage here. As a libertarian, I believe in a doctrine called "assumption of the risk." I learned about it in law school, yet today it seems to have little or no meaning. The reason is that there are huge numbers of lawyers, all competing with each other for work, and all dedicated to the endless expansion of liability. Feminization may be the result, but the women didn't do it.
And some of them have had their fill too.
posted by Eric on 11.11.03 at 11:48 AM
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