December 11, 2013
Important Foregrounding Alert!
A sociologist explores the tokenism in Angry Birds II (Star Wars):
...for white, male Star Wars characters, skin color is unimportant; white characters can be represented by a bird of any color. It is the costuming or props used by these birds that convey the essence of the character. But for black Star Wars characters, their skin color (brown) becomes the defining element conveying the essence of the character.
Likewise, gender is also a defining characteristic for the portrayal of female characters. Princess Leia (played by Carrie Fischer, a white female) and Padme (played by Natalie Portman, a white female) are both portrayed by pink birds. There are no other pink birds in the game. Again, the color of the bird is unimportant, unless the bird is female, in which case the character’s gender (denoted by its pinkness) becomes the essential element of that character.
This same pattern also appears in the original Angry Birds Star Wars, in which Princess Leia is the only pink bird and Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams, a black male) is the only brown bird.
White privilege and male privilege persist, in part, by framing the white, male experience as normal. Even in a game like Angry Birds Star Wars II we see the invisibility of whiteness and maleness and the foregrounding of race and gender for people of color and women.
Question for the ages: the gender and race lobby are constantly lobbying for more inclusiveness, which usually takes the form of making sure easily identifiable members of various "disadvantaged" classes are visible in whatever endeavor they're putting under the microscope this week.
Failure to be inclusive enough is evidence of white, male privilege and poorly concealed Otherism. But apparently, so are sincere efforts to comply with the inclusivity demands of race-and-gender activists.
This yet another reason why the Blog Princess never plays video games. The White Man is Everywhere, continually Oppressing and Othering and Foregrounding and... well, you know the drill.
Sacre bleu! Did we just use rape metaphor? Drills are vaguely penis-like. And they are used to penetrate things, often forcefully! We need a safe space from The Man and his violent, rape-filled imagery.
SHAME. Shame on all you penis-havers!
December 03, 2013
Confirmation Bias in the News
One topic that never fails to fascinate the Blog Princess is the human tendency to promote information that confirms what we already believe (and dismiss information that undercuts our position). This headline provides a great example of confirmation bias in its most common form:
What the study actually says is that both men and women have selective hearing, but that wouldn't support the narrative so the headline focuses on half of the study's findings and ignores the other half. But then you totally knew that, didn't you? :p
There's a reason headlines are so often written this way - we pay more attention to simple, dramatic summaries than we do to the more ambiguous and complex stories they introduce. Moreover, biased summaries shape our perception of the information that follows in ways that are useful and enjoyable. They make the world seem simpler, more orderly, and more predictable than it actually is. But sometimes the bias occurs on the interpretation side, where studies or facts with several possible explanations are attributed to a simpler or even single cause. Glenn Reynolds provides a great example of this type of bias here:
IT’S ALMOST LIKE BIOLOGY MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Men’s Top 3 Sexual Regrets Are Extremely Different from Women’s.
The linked article describes a study of sexual regret in which men's regrets focused on not being adventurous enough (hey! aren't men supposed to be naturally more adventurous???) and women's on having been too adventurous (hey! aren't women supposed to... oh, never mind). The study suggests several possible interpretations, but if you believe that biology (and not culture or incentives) is primarily responsible for observed differences in male and female behavior, the study could be viewed as evidence supporting the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate.
The problem is that it could just as easily be viewed as supporting the opposite view - that culture and experience play a large role in shaping sexual choices and sexual regrets. Even "nature vs. nurture" is an oversimplification, because it leaves out a third possible explanation: incentives.
The study where male college students were far more likely to accept an offer of casual sex with a complete stranger than female college students is often cited as proof that men and women innately differ in their desire for sex. The problem is that it doesn't actually establish that at all. The study tells us only the "what" - not the "why".
We've already pointed out several times that the risks of accepting such an offer are far lower for men than they are for women. Part of that could be chalked up to biology: men are bigger (and more aggressive) than women, so women rightly fear violent rape or injury more than men do. Pregnancy is another consequence where biology can fairly be said to factor into the decision. But many who take the "nature" side of the nature/nurture debate argue that women - simply by virtue of biology - don't want or like sex as much as men.
And this may actually be true: it's one explanation among many possible ones: higher risk, lower reward, cultural conditioning, the asymmetrical stigma attached to casual sex... Biology. Or perhaps simply that, for a whole host of reasons, casual sex just isn't as much fun for women?
Natasha Gadinsky, 23, says she doesn’t have any regrets from her years in college. But the time she hooked up with a guy at Brown University does come close.
After his own orgasm that night, she said, he showed no interest in her satisfaction. The next time they got together, it happened again. He “didn’t even care,” said Ms. Gadinsky, a health care case manager in New York City. “I don’t think he tried at all.” He fell asleep immediately, leaving her staring at the ceiling. “I was really frustrated,” she said.
Like generations before them, many young women like Ms. Gadinsky are finding that casual sex does not bring the physical pleasure that men more often experience. New research suggests why: Women are less likely to have orgasms during uncommitted sexual encounters than in serious relationships.
Is this biology? Partly - one consequence of female physiology is that most women don't climax from intercourse alone. But imagine for a moment a culture where it was considered shameful for men to leave a woman unsatisfied. Wouldn't this tend to shift the "reward" part of the risk/benefit balancing test in a way that made casual sex more attractive to women?
Now imagine technology that makes it easier to mitigate some or all the unpleasant biological consequences of casual sex. Conservatives complain about one of these technological advances all the time: the Pill. Supposedly, it turns women into sluts. Here, Science proves inconvenient for the biology is destiny crowd. Still, if biology alone were driving women's sexual choices, one would expect the Pill alone to have little effect on what many conservatives argue is a woman's natural, biological makeup: one of low desire and avoidance of sex.
Now let's consider cultural forces, including another thing conservatives complain about all the time: feminists urging young women to act more like men - to actively seek out the kind of casual sex that is beautiful and natural when men engage in it, but perverse and harmful to society when women engage in it. Again, if women have naturally low desire, why should the urgings of feminists be such a big problem?
Conversely, if we admit that cultural pressures affect the willingness to engage in casual sex, doesn't that imply that the sexual double standard (men who engage in casual sex are alpha studs, women who do the same thing are sluts and whores) could partially explain mens' responses to surveys like the one Reynolds cites? Do we really believe that knowing that society admires men who are sexually adventurous has no effect on their survey responses?
And how do we explain this sort of thing?
At the same time, researchers say that young women are becoming equal partners in the hookup culture, often just as willing as young men to venture into sexual relationships without emotional ties.
If women are "naturally" hard wired to want sex less than men, why (despite the asymmetrically distributed risks and lower reward) are they clearly doing what their hard wiring should be preventing them from doing?
I'm happy to accept that biology has something to do with all of this, but clearly biology isn't the trump card here. It's not even clear that biology works in the way so many people think it does. For instance, there's that whole inconvenient oxytocin thingy:
What is clear, however, is that oxytocin can create unconscious biases in favor of a partner, possibly providing part of the biological mechanism behind monogamy. A prior study by the same researchers, in fact, found that men in monogamous relationships who were given oxytocin actually kept a greater physical distance from an attractive research associate, compared with single men.
Young suggests that oxytocin may actually have a dual effect — by not only making partners more attractive but also actively deterring interest in other potential mates. He notes that in the monogamous prairie voles he studies, males that have a pair bond can actually be hostile to other females. “They develop a very strong preference for the partner and slight aggression towards those who are not their partners,” he says.
Any yet somehow, monogamy isn't natural for men?
When you add in cultural forces, incentives, and technology, none of this stuff is simple or crystal clear. Especially when - instead of asking impersonal, one size fits all survey questions of young men, we were to ask them - in depth - about how they make decisions and react to real life situations?
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Sexting--each successive technology can introduce a new set of practical and emotional challenges for boys as well as girls. And while boys are often cast as thoughtless slobs in this arena--tossing off offensive sexts to girls as a clumsy way of flirting or passing around girls' pics that were supposed to be private--their thoughts and perceptions on the topic are more acute and subtle than one might think.
First off, if you think boys don't obsess over this stuff the way girls do, well, you'd be wrong.
"You can tell what she wants pretty much by how she texts," Dre tells me. "The dry 'Hey' is O.K. But then there's some that have the 'Heyyy' with the extra y's and the winky face [emoticon], and that means this conversation could possibly go somewhere. They're probably the hooking-up type."
Ian, who came out as gay during his sophomore year in high school, also says emoticons play a key role in sussing out a crush's potential feelings. "When I see a smiley face, it's the opening of the doorway to emotions," he says. "That first emoticon is significant. When it comes, it means something."
Brian Tian-Street, 19, whom I met at the magnet school he attended in Maryland, told me over e-mail about how he and a friend tag-teamed communication with a girl the friend had met at a dance. "He kind of wanted to continue it and thought it was easiest to bring it up via text," said Brian, who is now a sophomore at Yale. "What followed was me helping him phrase text messages letter by letter ... We discussed whether to use '...' in certain places, what to capitalize and what to not, emoticons and their placement ... Every detail was discussed, such as the time between responses. Wait at least a few minutes between responses, so as not to appear clingy or desperate." A character from Girls could hardly do a better job of picking apart linguistic minutiae.
Of course, all this technology has its explicit side--which is typically where boys get into trouble, though it's not always boys acting as the aggressors. One mother told me the story of her son's being sent explicit pictures from a girl at school, in various stages of nudity. The images came with the message "You are special, and no one else gets to see this," the mother said. "My son eventually discovered that it had been sent to all her 'special' ones, numbering about a handful."
For boys, getting sexy images from a girl, solicited or not, raises their social status. "It's a big ego boost," says Ethan Anderson, a 17-year-old from Boulder, Colo. Girls send pictures for lots of reasons: to get attention, in response to requests from a boy or to compete with other girls. But the boys don't always know what to think. "I've gotten probably like four unwanted pictures ... just desperate girls who are looking for a good time with everyone," says Winston Robinson, an 18-year-old who is starting his first year at Drexel University this fall. "It's awkward, especially if you didn't ask for it. When it happens, I delete it, so the parents don't try to screw you over if they find it."
Wouldn't it be funny if all the cultural restrictions that have traditionally discouraged women from seeking out casual sex turned out to be grounded in something more complicated than a simplistic "men like sex, women don't" view of 'biology'?
... why do we work so hard to cultivate empathy and submissiveness in women and girls? Could it possibly be because these strong checks on female human nature are just as necessary as are strong checks on male human nature? Is it possible that the reason Islam spends so much time wringing its hands about female sexuality is that it actually exists (and can cause problems)? Or that the reason Western society stigmatizes female promiscuity and worships mansluts is the kind of wretched excess we saw on VMA a few weeks ago? Successful cultures find constructive ways for men and women to express what biology, hormones, and our sex drives impel us to. But we keep confusing culturally approved channels with raw instincts. They're related (they're designed to be), but not identical.
And wouldn't it be amazing if, one day, Science revealed that men are far more decent, loving, kind, sensitive, trustworthy than we give them credit for being? This wouldn't, by the way, make them women. It would just make them far more complicated - and interesting - than we like to think they are.
Naaaaah. There's got to be a simpler explanation. We're guessing it involves cave men.
November 19, 2013
Traditional Morality - the New Transgressiveness
Interesting idea embedded in this review of Masters of Sex (a show the Editorial Staff have assiduously avoided watching):
Sometimes, the most satisfying surprises happen when the 1950s don’t seem so old, or seem to be winking at the present: Bill Masters, for example, gets schooled by a handful of women about faking orgasms as if When Harry Met Sally were old news. But the most compelling moments in Masters of Sex aren’t when the show portrays what’s now common knowledge as a myth-busting breakthrough. Rather, they happen when the show presents ideas about society and sex that we might today consider laughably backwards as legitimate—and makes viewers sympathize with attitudes many have since villainized.
Masters of Sex’s treatment of its female characters, for instance, illustrates why “outdated” ideas about women’s roles once made sense, and perhaps still do to some people. For much of the season, Virginia has struggled to balance her work and home lives, juggling two young kids and her sex research while considering going back to school. But after her young son, fed up with her late nights, briefly runs away, she breaks down after her former fling Dr. Ethan Haas recovers him.
“[Children] want both parents,” she tearfully confesses to Ethan. “It orders a kid’s universe to have both parents there. It orders adults’ universes too. I’m not meant to do this alone.”
Virginia’s relationship status isn’t the real reason she’s struggling to make it on her own—instead, it's probably a combined result of a lack of childcare resources limited job prospects and educational opportunities.
Yet it’s easy to empathize, especially when Ethan manages to be sincerely charming as he offers to act as a part-time, surrogate father for her kids—a role he’s a natural at (despite the fact that he smacks Virginia in the pilot). Virginia turns down his offer, given their history, but it’s clear his support would be a big help. Entertaining the idea that a relationship with Ethan could be an asset, however, raises questions about where society assigns blame for why women “still can’t have it all”: Is having a spouse a prerequisite for a work-life balance? If it’s so easy to think women like Virginia can’t succeed unattached, does that belief linger today?
Masters of Sex has pulled this trick elsewhere. As things heat up between Ethan and the provost’s precocious teenage daughter, Vivian, he discovers their first sexual encounter together was also her first time ever. He’s visibly horrified, not just by the blood on his bed, but by the thought of his casual-rendezvous partner becoming too attached. After the deflowering deed is done, his colleague Jane asks if guys like being a girl’s first sexual partner. “Are you crazy?” Ethan answers. "It’s too much responsibility. Suddenly you’re everything! They want your love, time and devotion. They’re basically glued to you … it’s like those signs you see in thrift shops: ‘You break it, you buy it.’”
Instead of proving him wrong, however, Masters of Sex makes his prediction come true. Later, Vivian corners him outside a party and tells him, “I only seemed grown-up because that’s how you wanted me to seem. I guess now that I really am a grown-up, I brought you out here to tell you … you have my love and devotion, because you and I were meant to be together.” Ethan wonders what he’s gotten himself into—and so does the audience. While Sunday's episode finds him half-heartedly proposing, it seems clear the relationship won’t end well: He’s still pining for Virginia, and Vivian wants to settle down sooner than later.
When you've relentlessly pushed the envelope as far as it can go, the only remaining way to shock people is to suggest that your parents and grandparents might not be as stupid and ignorant as you like to tell yourself they are.
How positively edgy of them :p
November 04, 2013
These guys must not have gotten the "marriage strike" memo:
When it comes to “having it all,” men want more: 79 percent of male respondents said that “having it all” included being in a “strong, loving marriage,” compared to 66 percent of women. Eighty-six percent of men say the calculus includes children, compared to 73 percent of women. Men are also more likely to describe themselves as “family-oriented” than women are. And the proportion of women who don’t prioritize relationships in their definition of success at all has almost doubled—from 5 percent to 9 percent—since last summer.
The Atlantic Wire’s Zach Schonfeld seems surprised by these findings (which Citi and LinkedIn say are based on a “representative” sample of 1,023 American professionals). He calls the gender discrepancy “staggering,” notes that women are “increasingly defying gender stereotypes by deemphasizing marriage, relationships, and children in their definitions of success,” and asks, “are men more obsessed with 'having it all' than women are?”
We blame feminism for this.
"This Is My Calling..."
October 29, 2013
Take Halloween Back
The sexy pirate wriggled her way between a phalanx of Stormtroopers, linked arms with them and stuck a bare leg out — red carpet style — for a photo.
“Why is she dressed like that?” asked my 9-year-old son, who was waiting in line to take his photo with the Star Wars battalion. “She just looks — disturbing. Pirates don’t dress like that. She’s not even wearing pants.”
Or much else.
It was a moment that won’t last. He’ll come to a different conclusion soon enough.
But at last weekend’s annual Halloween party at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum — the Air and Scare — the sexification of the holiday remained mostly in a galaxy far, far away.
The sexy happy-hour costumes were almost as scarce as that pirate lady’s pants. It was a gathering of geeky costumes — perfect Padawans, an orange pool-noodle bowl of mac n’ cheese, Spock covered in Tribbles, those Stormtroopers. It was also a reminder of how trashy Halloween has become elsewhere.
This year’s hot-selling costumes online are the Sexy Pizza or Sexy Watermelon slice (minus one strategically placed bite). There’s the Sexy Hamburger and Miley Cyrus’s teddy bear onesie.
The models in the Halloween costume catalogue that came in the mail this year showed more flesh than the women of Victoria’s Secret.
I guess that’s inevitable as adults take over a holiday once celebrated primarily by children.
So... what are you going to be for Halloween? Possibly offensive/NSFW if the sight of a giant ladyparts costume is something you don't want to see.
October 22, 2013
Double Standard? Or Strained Analogy?
VC asks. You decide.
Grim links to this graphic, and comments:
A friend of mine sent me this picture, which I found rather surprising. I don't think it's a double standard, so much as their just not being interested in the quality of boys' toys to the same degree. I had honestly never thought of their point at all. Of course I remember He-Man, who was just a cleaned-up kids version of Conan, a physically similar character.
The double standard analogy struck us as rather strained, unless of course one believes that little boys seriously imagine there's some kind of real world analog to a fantasy superhero with supernatural powers that come from a magical sword.
Perhaps we should not be so dismissive: who among us doth not continually fantasize about wielding a ginormous Magical Sword?
But let's suspend disbelief and consider the conceit for a moment. To do that, we should compare aspiring to be like Barbie when one grows up with aspiring to be like He-Man. To aid in the discussion, we took the liberty of concocting a side-by-side comparison matrix:
Hmmmm.... if this is your child (male or female) which role model seems most worthy of emulation?
On a more frivolous note, our curiosity about best selling Barbies led us to find a picture of our one-and-only Barbie doll, received in 1964 upon the occasion of our 5th birthday.
Mom was not thrilled - she thought that Barbie dolls were not a fitting toy for a 5 year old. Honestly, we can't say we played with her a lot. She was boring because she didn't DO anything. Dressing her up didn't exactly fire the old imagination. This all got us thinking about how we spent most of our time when we were just a rosy cheeked little Editorial Staff.
We distinctly remember taking great pleasure in our collection of trolls. We spent many happy hours braiding their hair and teasing it into beehive hairdos:
We also liked pretending to be a Mommy:
But then we also liked camping (yes, that's the Editorial Staff at about 10 - not exactly the most graceful age. We hadn't quite grown into our arms and legs yet):
Riding bikes was a major pastime, as were playing tag on summer nights, practicing gymnastic stunts and walking on stilts, playing football and War, and re-enacting episodes of The Girl From UNCLE:
Oddly, we don't remember much pink, Barbies, or princess fantasizing. So, were we some sort of aberration, or is the fervent longing to possess a pink Dream House inextricably intertwined with having two X chromosomes?
October 03, 2013
But.... MEN-AND-THEIR-BEASTLY-URGES! THE PATRIARCHY! RAPE CULTURE!!!!
The Editorial Staff are sorry, but we don't care who you are.
Four former employees of the National Association of Professional Women, a women’s networking group, have sued the organization and three of its executives, claiming that a manager had sexually harassed them and that their paychecks had been docked in violation of New York State labor law.
In a complaint filed in Federal District Court in Central Islip, N.Y., on Sept. 25, the four — Lisa DeLisi, Crystal Alexander, Monique McCabe and Anika Cosbert — said that their former manager, Krissy L. DeMonte, had regularly pinched and grabbed their buttocks and called them vulgar names. After they complained, they said, they were fired or forced to resign because of intolerable working conditions.
In a separate lawsuit filed in New York State court in Nassau County in January, Rose Costantino, another former association employee, said that Ms. DeMonte had approached her from behind on many occasions as she sat at her desk and grabbed, squeezed or rubbed her neck and then dropped her hands “to touch, rub and/or feel the top” of her breasts.
In a written statement on Tuesday, the association called the allegations “completely unfounded,” adding that four of the five plaintiffs had been terminated for documented deficiencies in performance and violations of policies and procedures. One plaintiff herself, the association said, had exhibited “a pattern of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.”
The association went on to say that an independent investigation unearthed no evidence to corroborate “the ridiculous allegations” against Ms. DeMonte.”
The sad thing is that we tend to believe the accused.
This is what happens when well intentioned nitwits think the answer to every human problem that has ever existed is to make it easier for people to sue each other.
September 17, 2013
Feeeeeeeeeelings (Whoa, whoa, whoa)
OK, so we started this post last night and then pasted something new over it. The Editorial Staff have been thinking that it has been too long since we've stunned the assembled villainry senseless with a rambling post about our feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings.
Admit it, people: you have been sad about this, n'est pas?
Fortunately for you, the admirable
Texan99 Grim has started an interesting discussion over at that manly abode known as The Hall. He links to an essay by Sarah Hoyt, and comments:
She manages to articulate something that I hadn't quite sorted out until I read it, which is contained here:And yes, boys can be taught to act weak and much like the sob sisters. The problem is they aren’t. Not even when they’re raised to act that way. The end result is that they don’t know how to express their strength and they’ve never been taught to modulate it. Men who have only been taught to “act sensitive” but have no other discipline, no other moral, no other idea of what it means to be a man, will in fact hoist the pirate flag. Whenever a memoir surfaces from the sixties, the thing that always strikes me is how these men who were considered champions of women were in fact nasty little petulant creatures, taking advantage as much as possible. Say, the story of Ayers raping a girl and then making her sleep with someone she had no interest in, by bullying her with the idea that not to do so would be unenlightened.
This may well be true of some men, but the Editorial Staff have always seen the phenomenon slightly differently. Our quarrel with this formulation is that it rather makes it sound as though those horrid feminists and their unleavened sensitivity training are somehow causing men to treat women badly: that "acting sensitive" somehow leads to being selfish and manipulative. If this is so, we should expect there to be no real history of men abusing women (or raping them) before Betty Friedan and her testicle-shriveling ways came along to harsh the collective mellows of real, manly men.
But clearly that's not right. Though men like Ayers obviously exist, the stereotype that comes to mind when we think, "rapist" or "woman abuser" is anything but sensitive or enlightened. If Hoyt's criticism of teaching young men to be sensitive is correct (it's necessary, but not sufficient to produce men who treat women with respect), how can we not recognize that teaching young men to be overtly masculine (Is manly the opposite of sensitive? I don't think so) is likewise necessary - but not sufficient - to produce good men who treat women well.
Unleavened by self discipline, respect for others, and a strong moral code, both views of "how men really are/should behave" are problematic. Neither the politically correct aggression of radical feminism gone awry or the more direct/open aggression typical of raw, untempered masculinity is socially desirable. For civilization to endure, aggression (a valuable survival trait) must be channeled.
The same is true of women's traditional strengths. Used in the wrong way, our natural gifts can be enormously destructive. Thus, we teach our daughters not to use their verbal skills to bully or belittle others. Traditional culture encourages girls to use their innate sensitivity to resolve conflicts and strengthen family and societal bonds, not to emotionally manipulate others for selfish gain.
The danger of raising boys to be knockoff versions of girls is twofold. First, it leaves them defenseless against the natural aggression that comes with being a person of the testosterone-having persuasion. Having raised two sons, we've always been slightly amazed to hear so many conservatives describe men as inherently unemotional and rational. Men absolutely can be these things, but they don't get there naturally. The original Star Trek TV series presented a great metaphor for the need for strong curbs on normal and natural male emotions like lust, anger, dominance, aggression: the Vulcan race. Vulcans were trained from birth to be coldly logical and restrained: to feel shame at expressing strong emotion... or any kind of emotion at all, really.
Sound familiar? But then there were the times when the mask of impassivity slipped and the audience saw what lay beneath their calm exterior. It turned out their reverence for logic and emotional stoicism was a learned adaptation with enormous survival value. It was anything but natural. So I have always believed is the case with traditional male culture - it's a strong curb precisely because a strong curb is sorely needed.
And why do we work so hard to cultivate empathy and submissiveness in women and girls? Could it possibly be because these strong checks on female human nature are just as necessary as are strong checks on male human nature? Is it possible that the reason Islam spends so much time wringing its hands about female sexuality is that it actually exists (and can cause problems)? Or that the reason Western society stigmatizes female promiscuity and worships mansluts is the kind of wretched excess we saw on VMA a few weeks ago? Successful cultures find constructive ways for men and women to express what biology, hormones, and our sex drives impel us to. But we keep confusing culturally approved channels with raw instincts. They're related (they're designed to be), but not identical.
What horrifies me about radical feminism is the thought of teaching boys and men that their perfectly natural emotions are evil; somehow unnatural. That feeling lust or aggression at all is shameful (or exploitative); that these feelings are caused by outdated gender norms or artificial and divisive labels rather than by human nature.
Not to put too fine a point on it, that's just plain dumb. But even worse, it leaves them with no constructive way to deal with powerful feelings that can drive us all into decisions we'll later regret. Thinking those feelings are external, they drop their guard and never develop the self control and conscience needed to keep those feelings in check.
It's not any smarter to raise girls to think the only reason they are drawn to care for children and develop strong bonds with family members is warped social conditioning. To a greater or lesser degree, most women really do value the relationships in our lives over work. I love my career, but I can't imagine sacrificing my marriage for it.
I don't need to. I just need to accept that every choice has inherent costs and tradeoffs associated with it.
Like Grim, I'm deeply suspicious of attempts to elevate nature over nurture. Little of our modern world is natural: civilization is artifice. That cultural scaffolding can strengthen us or leave us at the mercy of our appetites. I suppose I just wish we could find a way to allow men and women the freedom to find their own balance without trying to force both sexes into a cage match fought from within a single, one-size-fits all straightjacket.
I don't really care whether a person is a good man or a good woman. Hormones have a way of making their presence known. I want a society full of good people, some of whom are male and some are female. And some are transgendered Arctic wolverines, because I'm inclusive like that. I'm pretty sure we need more support from the surrounding culture than we're getting now. Grim concludes his post by observing:
The young women, I think, will work themselves out in time.
The young men need to come back in under the weight of the -- well, 'patriarchy' isn't quite right. The Brotherhood. They need to fall back in under the mastery of better men than they are, so they might become brothers and better men themselves. The best of their nature does not come naturally. It is a product of long and ancient art.
I tend to agree with his prescription for young men, but I'm not as hopeful about young women figuring it all out by themselves because I'm not sure women are innately better than men. Culture shapes us both because we need shaping to become our best selves.
Still, I'm not convinced that the world will never be a good place until girls stick to their gender-appropriate Easy Bake ovens and boys play with Erector sets. Time for the grownups to butt out and let the kids choose their own toys. Morality is a different matter - that's a big wheel for each new generation to invent from scratch.
September 12, 2013
First comes Megan McArdle, refusing to check her unearned race and gender privileges:
... what do you do about women who freely make choices that perpetuate structural inequalities? Do you stop them from making the choices? Neither Harvard, nor Kantor, seems to have a good answer. But that is the core dilemma. Maybe women drop out because they have a deeper biological connection to their kids. Maybe they do so because they’re raised to be nurturers, or maybe because they don’t feel the same personal anguish that a man does when he gives up on the dream of a top-flight career. Maybe if men felt they had the option to stay home, more would. And maybe women find the role of breadwinner more stressful than men do -- all the women I know who are the primary earners are neurotic about it in a way that the men I know don’t seem to be. I’m not talking about the fear that your partner will resent your success; these are women married to admirably feminist men. I’m just talking about a near-constant fear that you will not be able to provide, and your family will end up horribly destitute. I’m not saying that men don’t experience that worry, but they don’t seem tormented by it the way the women I talk to are.
Or maybe it’s that women just don’t want it badly enough. In my experience, one of the reasons that women drop out of finance, and 80-hour-a-week fields more generally, is that they just don’t want it as badly as the men. In their 20s, they’re happy to work those kinds of hours, even at tasks they find boring. They do well at them, too. But a lot of these jobs aren’t actually that rewarding as work: The investment banking associates I observed seemed to spend most of their time on basically clerical tasks, tabulating data and proofreading PowerPoints. And eventually most of the women seem to say “You know, I just care more about relationships than I do about success.” There are always exceptions on both sides: women who will sacrifice anything for the career they feel called to and men who would rather be home. But on average, the women I talk to just aren’t nearly as willing to sacrifice close friendships, and family relationships, for the sake of their jobs.
We can say that they shouldn’t have to, of course, but the sad fact is that there are trade-offs in this world. In your 20s you can finesse them -- work super hard and also have a roaring social life -- because you have boundless energy and no one depending on you. This is the age at which young women write furious articles and Facebook posts denouncing anyone who suggests that women opt-out of high pressure jobs for any reason other than the rankest sexism.
As you age, your body refuses to cooperate with your plan to work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and then hang out with friends. Your parents start to need you more, if only to lift heavy things. And of course, there are kids. You start having to make direct trade-offs, and then suddenly you look up and you haven’t seen your friends for two years and your mother is complaining that you never call. This is the age at which women write furious articles defending their decision to step back from a high-pressure job and/or demanding subsidized childcare, generous paid maternity leave and “family friendly policies,” a vague term that ultimately seems to mean that people who leave at five to pick up the kids should be entitled to the same opportunities and compensation as people who stay until 9 to finish the client presentation. These pleas usually end (or begin) by pointing to the family-friendly utopia of Northern Europe, except that women in Europe do less well at moving into high-test management positions. Whatever the government says, someone who takes several years off work is in fact less valuable to their company than someone who doesn’t.
Ouch. How's a sistah to raise awareness of the Deep Unfairness of Life with all these deniers
thinking for themselves wandering off the ideological reservation?
“Can you say that word? PATRIARCHY?” This woman was not gunning for a laugh; she was dead serious, and pretty angry. She looked to be 30 or so, and from the way she spoke seemed well-educated—the type of woman I portray in the book as benefiting from the new era of female dominance, when women are better prepared for the current economy and have more independence to choose their life path.
As the woman spoke, I started to think of my own Slaughter moment, when, after the birth of my first child, I decided to work four days a week, a capitulation that sank me into a terrible depression. (If only Sheryl Sandberg had been around then to tell me to “Lean in!”) I tried to figure out who, in the series of events that led up to that decision, had played the role of the patriarch. My husband? He couldn’t care less how many days I work. My employer? Relatively benevolent and supportive— willing to let me work four days or five, willing to let me leave early. I suppose the patriarchy was lurking somewhere in my subconscious, tricking me into believing that it was more my duty to stay home with our new baby than my husband’s. But I didn’t see it as a “duty.” I wanted to stay home with her, and I also wanted to work like a fiend. It was complicated and confusing, a combination of my personal choices, the realities of a deadline-driven newsroom, and the lack of a broader infrastructure to support working parents—certainly too complicated to pin on a single enemy.
I said some version of this out loud from the stage, partly because I was looking for sympathy, and partly because I wanted to convey that the “patriarchy” was not a fixed monolith we could never get around but something shifting and changing and open to analysis. But that confessional approach only brought more ire. “Lucky for you that you have the luxury to agonize about your choices,” the young woman said. “What about the woman who picks up your trash after you leave at 5?”
This is when I knew I was dealing with some irrational attachment to the concept of unfair. For my book I’d interviewed plenty of women who might find themselves picking up the trash, likely as a second job after a full day of school or another job, or both, because their husbands—or, more likely, the fathers of their children—were out of work. My young interrogator might be annoyed to learn that many of those women who pick up the trash yearn to bring back at least some aspects of the patriarchy. They generally appreciate their new economic independence and feel pride at holding their families together, at working and studying and doing things on their own, but sometimes they long to have a man around who would pay the bills and take care of them and make a life for them in which they could work less. And they want the men in their lives to be happy. It’s elite feminists like my questioner and me who cling to the dreaded patriarchy just as he is walking out of our lives.
This bean counting and monitoring—an outdated compulsion to keep your guard up, because sexism lurks everywhere—has found new life online, where feminist websites (including our own) and the Twitter police are always on the lookout for the next slight.
Sometimes the critical eye is useful, such as this week when outrage over sexist and racists tweets got Business Insider exec Pax Dickinson pushed out. (Though this is not a sign of THE PATRIARCHY—this is relatively easy victory.) Sometimes it’s just petty, like when Jennifer Weiner recently complained about a critic calling her “strident.” As a form of blogging or tweeting, pointing fingers is endlessly satisfying. But as a form of political expression, it’s pretty hollow and out of tune with reality.
This strain of feminism assumes an exquisite vulnerability, an image of women as “creatures too ‘tender’ for the abrasiveness of daily life,” as Joan Didion put it in her 1972 essay “The Women’s Movement.” (Is this why we now put “trigger warnings” on stories that mention rape or sexual harassment?) Maybe now we pay such close attention to words like “strident” because they are all we have, the only way to access the outrage of darker days. If so, we should treasure them as tokens of how far we’ve come. After all, if the most obnoxious members of the patriarchy can be brought down by a few tweets, how powerful can they really be?
Both these women's observations match my experience in the workplace.
The life of the Editorial Staff has been lived backwards by feminist standards. We married and had children early, giving up education and career prospects to follow the spousal unit from state to state as he pursued a career in the Marine Corps. His job was to earn a decent salary and map out our long term financial strategy. Mine was to raise our sons, run our home, pay the bills, and support his command whether he was in a B billet or a deployable unit. Never for one moment did he or I assume this was the way it would always be, or that there weren't alternatives.
It's just that when we crunched the numbers, this was the plan that made sense to us and reflected our joint priorities. Someone needed to stay home and focus on raising our children, keeping our home running smoothly in an environment of near-constant change and frequent moves. Someone needed to be there to unpack 300-something boxes every time we moved, to find new doctors and dentists and schools, to pay the bills, to squeeze every last drop of value out of his salary. To make an endless parade of bland temporary dwellings feel like "home".
And even when there are no children to consider, two career households simply aren't as efficient as those run by someone who has made it their career to manage the home full time. What's true in the workplace is equally true at home: if you want a job to be done well, someone needs to be put in charge of it (and to be held accountable when things don't go well). Ad hockery is just amateurism, writ large.
To believe that somehow, the same quality work can be done by a person working 1-2 hours as by a person working 8-12 hours a day is a gross insult to the hundreds of talented, smart, and hard working women I've known over the past 3 decades; women who could have done well in the job market but instead made an conscious decision to prioritize their marriages and families over monetary gain and intellectual stimulation.
Not that being a homemaker is necessarily stultifying to the mind. Some of the most thorny problems I've considered over the years were issues related to raising our two sons. I read widely from both the classics and modern works, and played an active role in our children's education and reading lists. It's a shame that the leadership functions inherent in motherhood and homemaking are so rarely acknowledge or appreciated. Being a military wife offers many leadership opportunities: mentoring of younger wives, community activities, helping senior wives with the myriad family issues that crop up during deployments.
These are functions the military has largely outsourced now, and the federal government is paying real money for services they used to get for free from civic minded military spouses. Surprise: jobs performed voluntarily by mostly stay-at-home wives and mothers who saw a need and filled it turned out to be indispensable services with real monetary value (they are, to use an overworked cliché, "force multipliers").
Having finished my education in my late thirties and entered the full time career arena in my forties has given me a different perspective on many things. Conservatives seem just as prone to idealize the motives of those who adhere to traditional gender roles as liberals are to lampoon them. In our world, female homemakers are described as selfless givers who generously sacrifice career and personal fulfillment For The Children. Male breadwinners are unappreciated, selfless protectors who cheerfully trudge off to work to provide for their families; sometimes enduring soul crushing drudgery and hardship.
And the thing is, many of these things are true. That's how traditional gender roles are supposed to work.
But I've also observed the polar opposites of these stereotypes: women who stay at home but don't actively manage their homes, nurture and teach their children, or support their husband's careers or their marriages. Men who use work to escape the demands of maintaining personal relationships; who aren't involved in their own marriages and who don't take an active role as fathers. Entering the work force as an adult, I've often observed the same egotism and destructive behaviors in men that I observed in women who turned volunteerism into a white knuckle demolition derby. Because we're human, our motivations are often an odd mix of nobility and self centeredness. We are driven by duty, but also by our own selfish desires.
If one truly sees women as intelligent beings with agency, it seems patronizing to assume that we are helpless bits of flotsam drifting aimlessly in a flood tide of patriarchal oppression. Why not give women some credit for having enough smarts to figure out what matters most to us and go after it. I suspect that's what most men do, too.
And if they don't (or we don't), shame on us.
September 06, 2013
Bad Panda Sex
It's Friday, peoples, and while other bloggers stubbornly focus on unimportant distractions like whether or not we should bomb Syria into the Stone Age, the Benghazi kerfuffle, lingering income inequality, or IRS stalking of
501c3s of the Reich leaning kind potential terrorist cells planning a pre-emptive strike on 1600 Pennsylvania, this blog will not allow itself to be distracted from covering Stories That Really Matter.
That's right - we're talking about the scourge of reproductive incompetence:
A female giant panda unambiguously signals her approaching receptivity to mating. She wanders over a wide territory and scent-marks stones, the ground, and other surfaces with a waxy, hormone-rich secretion from a gland under her tail. She walks through water, to spread her scent farther. Her main vocalization changes from a throaty whinny to a high-pitched chirp, which one zookeeper translated for me as “I’m here! I’m here! My time is coming!” She masturbates, and when she encounters an adult male at the critical moment she lumbers toward him, rear end first, and lifts her tail.
Still, things don’t always work out. David Wildt, the head of the Center for Species Survival at the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., told me, “Some pandas know how to have sex, and some don’t.” The pair at the National Zoo—Tian Tian (male) and Mei Xiang (female)—don’t. They have been together at the zoo since 2000, but until last week they had produced just two cubs, both by artificial insemination, and one of these had died. At the end of last week, Mei Xiang gave birth for a third time, live on one of the zoo’s panda Webcams.
The latest arrival is also the product of artificial insemination. As Wildt described it to me, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang are simply “reproductively incompetent.” A key difficulty is that Mei Xiang places herself in what he called “pancake position”—flat on her stomach, legs outstretched—and Tian Tian isn’t assertive enough to lift her off the ground. Rather than mounting from behind or pulling her toward his lap, he steps onto her back and stands there like a man who has just opened a large box from Ikea and has no idea what to do next. . . .
Silly humans. Tian Tian isn't incompetent. He's terrified.
Ignoring Mei Xiang's overtures is an entirely rational decision in these post-feminist times when males can be carted off to jail without so much as a trial for failing to secure unambiguous consent before forcing their unwelcome sexual advances upon the distaff half of the species.
Lose the panda porn and the Viagra: there's no aphrodisiac more potent than a SmartPhone and a Facebook account.
August 22, 2013
Isn't That Just Like A Woman?
Betraying her country, I mean? You know the type: can't keep a secret to save her own life. Yakity yak yak, 24/7/365:
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).
Chelsea E. Manning
Somehow, we just *knew* a woman was to blame. We feel sad, though, at the timing. Had Chelsea come along just a tad bit later, she could have had a glorious career in the combat arms.
August 15, 2013
Finally Our Wildest Fantasies Have Come True...
Over the years as the Blog Princess snidely pondered the never ending barrage of women (young and old) who truly, madly, deeply want their fellow Americans to see them in the altogether, she has often wondered what the world would be like if men began doing the same thing?
She has noticed of late several signs that this long awaited happenstance may be just around the corner. From Anthony Weiner's semi-nekkid Tweets to several well known sports stars sending graphic photos of their junk to all and sundry, a growing number of men appear to be discovering the dubious delights of digital oversharing.
Behold! the Dudeoir photoshoot:
Warning, 2nd photo down shows absolutely nothing that Sports Illustrated doesn't show (if one counts body paint photos, considerably less) but it's probably NSFW because let's face it: we're talking about a guy and that's totally different.
Some Dudeoir devotees are keeping their photographic exploits on the down low; sharing their intimate photos with only their significant others and a few hundred thousand of the NY Post's close friends:
Finance worker and former Marine Mark H, who asked The Post not to publish his last name for professional reasons, disrobed for dudeoir as a 2012 Valentine’s present so it would be “insurance against my wife and I ever going through a rocky patch.” The 44-year-old dad of two, from South Florida, paid $500, which included a set of prints, for the shoot at a “clothing optional” Fort Lauderdale hotel. “I wanted [my wife] to see there was more to me than the guy who is the father of her kids who runs errands and pays the bills,” says Mark. “You have to keep the juices flowing so you don’t run into a rut.” He credits his photographer, Noel de Christian, for coaching him on the most effective ways to pose. “He was very good at explaining what women want to see in these types of photos,” adds Mark. “The whole shoot was designed with her in mind — it’s not a case of ‘Hi, here is my penis!’ but a more sensual approach.”
Don't worry, Mr. H... we won't tell a soul. And we're sure no one will recognize you :p
Others are not so
prudish old fashioned:
Larger-than-life software engineer Kiran Paul was gifted the dudeoir session by co-workers at his IT company in Oakland, Calif. “Buying a present for me is hard work, but they were sure that anything that doesn’t require pants would work for me,” laughs the 27-year-old bachelor. Before the shoot, he chatted with photographer Mariah Carle about the kind of look he wanted: channeling the ultra-cheesy character Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell, in “Anchorman.” “As soon as I got Mariah’s consent to disrobe, I was feeling proud and comfortable for some reason,” recalls Paul, who uses the pictures, one of which features him naked and holding an inflatable dolphin, on his business card. “I’m also using one of them on LinkedIn, which is going well,” he jokes. “I’m not getting pinged for software engineering positions as much as I used to!” Meanwhile, he is now planning on blowing up the Victorian couch picture and hanging it in his living room.
In between shaking our head and tut-tutting censoriously, we have to admit that this is pretty funny. And though we have always been a huge fan of the male form, we don't think it's an improvement. This can only be because we are prudish and want to control men. Also, for some inexplicable reason, semi-naked men make us feel insecure about our own attractiveness.
What other possible reason could a reasonable adult have for not wanting to see nearly-nekked people of either sex everywhere she goes? Too funny.
August 07, 2013
A Woman's Prerogative
Oh yes, the Editorial Staff went there:
He thought he was a woman trapped in a man’s body — but it turns out he’s “just another boring straight guy.”
ABC News editor Don Ennis strolled into the newsroom in May wearing a little black dress and an auburn wig and announced he was transgender and splitting from his wife. He wanted to be called Dawn.
But now he says he suffered from a two-day bout of amnesia that has made him realize he wants to live his life again as Don.
Naturlich, one of the very first things he did upon realizing that he was, after all, a man trapped in a man's body was blame his wife... and those lousy doctors who "misdiagnosed" him:
“I accused my wife of playing some kind of cruel joke, dressing me up in a wig and bra and making fake ID’s with the name ‘Dawn’ on it. Seriously,” Ennis wrote in a memo he posted to the newsroom bulletin board Friday, explaining his shock after he woke up from what he called a “transient global amnesia” last month.
...“I have retained the much different mind-set I had in 1999: I am now totally, completely, unabashedly male in my mind, despite my physical attributes,” he said.
“I’m asking all of you who accepted me as a transgender to now understand: I was misdiagnosed.
“I am already using the men’s room and dressing accordingly,” he noted.
Well *that's* a relief!
No matter what your genda agenda, this story is the comedy gift that just keeps on giving.
August 05, 2013
The Demand for Sons
As a firstborn girl, the Editorial Staff couldn't help finding this interesting:
Do parents have preferences over the gender of their children, and if so, does this have negative consequences for daughters versus sons? In this paper, we show that child gender affects the marital status, family structure, and fertility of a signiﬁcant number of American families. Overall, a ﬁrst-born daughter is signiﬁcantly less likely to be living with her father compared to a ﬁrst-born son. Three factors are important in explaining this gap. First, women with ﬁrst-born daughters are less likely to marry. Strikingly, we also ﬁnd evidence that the gender of a child in utero affects shotgun marriages. Among women who have taken an ultrasound test during pregnancy, mothers who have a girl are less likely to be married at delivery than those who have a boy. Second, parents who have ﬁrst-born girls are signiﬁcantly more likely to be divorced. Third, after a divorce, fathers are much more likely to obtain custody of sons compared to daughters. These three factors have serious negative income and educational consequences for affected children. What explains these ﬁndings? In the last part of the paper, we turn to the relationship between child gender and fertility to help sort out parental gender bias from competing explanations for our ﬁndings. We show that the number of children is signiﬁcantly higher in families with a ﬁrst-born girl. Our estimates indicate that ﬁrst-born daughters caused approximately 5500 more births per year, for a total of 220,000 more births over the past 40 years. Taken individually, each piece of empirical evidence is not sufﬁcient to establish the existence of parental gender bias. But taken together, the weight of the evidence supports the notion that parents in the U.S. favour boys over girls.
August 03, 2013
Hamsters, Hypergamy, and Hatred: Oh My!!!
A few days ago, the indefatigable mr rdr sent us one of the most bizarre movie reviews we've ever read (and that's saying something):
Welcome to the Season of Impotent Swagger.
Even by Hollywood’s standards, the summer movie season has been notable for boys blowing up their toys: No sooner did Robert Downey Jr. almost destroy L.A. to save it in “Iron Man 3” than an onslaught of wanton destruction was loosed on the world, from such interstellar fantasies as “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Man of Steel” to the “real world” mayhem of “White House Down” and “Fast & Furious 6.” On Friday, Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington lay waste to greater Texas in “2 Guns,” an exercise in ritualized male aggression in which guns, cars and other things that go “boom” and “vroom” aren’t celebrated as much as fetishistically worshipped.
It’s all in escapist good fun, of course. But, watching Stig Stigman (Wahlberg) and Bobby Trench (Washington) banter and backslap their way through “2 Guns,” audiences may detect a whiff of anxiety beneath the bluster. Maybe it’s director Baltasar Kormakur’s habit of having his characters aim guns at each other’s crotches or the increasingly frenetic (and laughable) escalation in firepower. But as the body count adds up in “2 Guns,” the inescapable impression is that the movie’s pseudo-casual cool isn’t entertainment as much as a cry for help.
It’s the same feeling that Anthony Weiner inspired this week as he tried to brazen his way through calls to exit the New York City mayoral race, with his compulsive exhibitionism outpaced only by his pathological ambition. Weiner’s breathtaking braggadocio called to mind other instances of political posturing this summer, whether it was Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describing the children of undocumented immigrants as probable drug mules “with calves the size of cantaloupes,” or Congress spending this week avoiding substantive work, instead casting meaningless votes to score political points.
Washington and Hollywood have always enjoyed a symbiotic relationship, with politicians looking westward for borrowed glamour and contributions, and the movie industry coming here for reflected gravitas and policy bona fides. But these days, the two cities share something else. Both are fear-based cultures whose once-invincible leaders are facing radical changes and imminent extinction.
And they’re coping with those threats, to use Gloria Steinem’s famous phrase, with massive cases of self-induced testosterone poisoning.
The Editorial Staff found ourselves wondering over the weekend: what on earth did this woman mean to accomplish by writing a movie review that literally drips with venom and contempt for men (or just masculine force and aggression)?
Did she wish to point out to people who don't already agree with her, just how 'harmful' all this testosterone is to the Multiverse? If so, the way she went about it seems unlikely to accomplish that goal. The Editorial Staff are unrepentantly female, and we found her insult-laden diatribe so disturbing that it had the opposite effect: it made us actually look for reasons to defend what the author so desperately wishes to tear down.
Or perhaps her contemptuous rhetoric is designed to rally the troops who already believe that men are primitive, stupid, and violent creatures who create mayhem and destruction wherever they go? If so, the author probably had more success. Gaining the agreement of people who need no convincing isn't exactly difficult.
We couldn't help seeing the parallels to modern political discourse.
Political debate seems to be divided between those whose aim is to fire up the like minded (usually by demonizing anyone who disagrees with them) and those who want to win converts and shift public consensus in their favor. All of which reminded us of this excellent piece on the MRA movement:
NEVER MIND the “war on women:” According to growing numbers of bloggers, activists, and authors — some of them women — it’s males in modern Western society who are under siege and whose rights need defending. Is this the next frontier for gender justice, or a woman-hating backlash? Men’s advocacy raises important and worthy issues that often draw unfair ridicule. Unfortunately, it is also prone to toxic rhetoric that subverts its valid points and alienates potential supporters.
To many, the very notion of “men’s issues” or men’s rights seems laughable. But consider: If women were dying in 90 percent of workplace fatalities and three out of four suicides, would we not see such numbers as troubling—and as legitimate women’s issues? Yet, reversed, the disparities go unnoticed.
Unlike racial profiling of minorities, the disproportionate targeting of males by law enforcement gets no attention (women account for more than a third of illegal drug use but fewer than 15 percent of arrests). And, while men are often presumed dangerous to children, actual female molesters tend to get lenient treatment.
Attempts to restrict abortion are decried as patriarchal control over female reproduction, yet there is virtually no recognition of ways in which current policies treat paternity as a public resource. Men coerced into unwilling fatherhood (through deception about birth control or even, however rarely, such extreme methods as use of stored semen from a condom) must still pay child support. Even those tricked into supporting children they didn’t father find little recourse. On the flip side, divorced fathers often feel they are treated more as wallets than as parents.
Even when imbalances that disadvantage men or boys — such as male academic underachievement — become the subject of concern, such concerns are often viewed with suspicion as potential attacks on women.
Men’s advocacy raises important issues that often draw unfair ridicule.
Many feminists (of both sexes) claim the answer to men’s issues is feminism. Male adversities, they argue, stem from patriarchal norms, which feminism opposes, including the stereotype that women are better parents or the stigma against men showing weakness. Feminist battles against sex discrimination have sometimes focused on the rights of males, from equal parental leave to benefits for husbands of female veterans.
Yet, with a few exceptions, feminists have balked at any pro-equality advocacy that would support men in male-female disputes, acknowledge that women can mistreat men, or undermine female advantage. Supporting paternity leave is one thing; supporting equal parental rights after divorce is another. While the feminist push for gender-neutral laws in the 1970s helped dismantle the formal presumption of maternal custody, actual efforts by fathers to get sole or joint custody brought on a swift backlash from the women’s movement. Likewise, when the campaign for tough domestic violence policies netted more female perpetrators, women’s groups pressed for anti-male double standards, promoting the myth that nearly all female violence is in self-defense. Meanwhile, laudable feminist efforts to secure justice for rape victims have often turned into calls for a presumption of male guilt.
You should read the whole essay - it's quite good. Ms. Young is more sympathetic to several men's rights issues than the Editorial Staff, but this seems like a good time to look at what changes to some of the laws MRA oppose should look like. Let's take them one by one:
1. Male suicide rates and workplace safety. It seems incontestable to us that if we're going to devote substantial public resources to improving the lives of women and girls, we should be just as concerned about the lives of men and boys. There's a real question as to what issues properly demand public resources and government intervention. Arguably, we have overinvested in improvements to the welfare of women and girls, but the basic fairness argument is hard to oppose.
On the other hand, we can't help wondering if men want to be protected by the Nanny state? Grim's writing over the years has convinced me that something in men needs and seeks out danger, risk, and even the strong possibility of death or injury. And it seems plausible to us that men and women may flourish in very different environments. Men may actually need danger, challenge, and risk to reach their full potential while women may actually develop better in a different environment.
Either way, the MRA movements points ought to be seriously considered as they have real merit.
2. "Disproportionate" targeting of men by law enforcement, lenient treatment of female offenders. Here, we'd want to see more data. We are suspicious of disparate impact arguments in general. Laws that are gender neutral on their face, but disparately impact one sex or the other are not sexist laws. If in fact female criminals are treated more leniently by the justice system for equivalent crimes, that's something that seems unjust. How would we go about changing existing laws to counteract biased sentencing, though? Do we need quotas? Should the law mandate rigid sentences across the board?
These are the "remedies" feminism and other identity politics movements typically propose - they use law as a blunt instrument to right perceived wrongs. The questions that keep popping up are, "What specific changes to the law would fix this problem?", and "Would these changes work as intended?"
3. Male "reproductive rights" - we've looked at this one recently. It seems obvious that men should not be forced to support children they didn't even father. This is one area where we wholeheartedly support changing present laws to prevent judges from passing the cost of unintended pregnancies onto wholly innocent men. We would also support careful studies of divorce, alimony, and custody awards. Alimony in particular seems overripe for reform. It was originally intended to prevent women who sacrificed career and earnings from being left destitute after divorce, but in a world where women have more opportunities than ever before, it's hard to justify anything more than temporary alimony.
As for custody, we've also covered that before but this is another disparate impact argument: the laws of most states are facially neutral. Though we're not unalterably opposed to sensible reforms, we're not inclined to think that unequal outcomes that spring from unequal divisions of child rearing responsibility pre-divorce are a pressing social problem that urgently demands immediate government interference.
If there is a case to be made here, it ought to be a case that balances the interests of children, women, men and society. Narrower arguments that cast the issues only in terms of fairness to men (or seek to equalize outcomes according to some arbitrary formula) leave us cold. That they resemble arguments made by radical feminists and the civil rights crowd is no accident - they are, in fact, the same arguments: "Any time outcomes don't exactly mirror our representation in the population, social injustice is presumed to have occurred."
4. Male academic underachievement. This is a serious problem that deserves our attention, but once again the causes are not clear. What strikes us most about the argument that schools must be designed around the special needs of girls (or boys) is just how rarely special pleaders for girls/boys are willing to grant what they demand to the opposite sex. But if you believe that boys can't flourish unless schools are "boy friendly", you can't very well resist the argument that girls can't flourish unless schools are "girl friendly". Such arguments tend to turn competition for scarce resources into a zero sum game where progress for one sex can only occur at the expense of the other.
Young makes several strong points in her essay. Mainstream feminism absolutely has reflexively treated the demands of the men's rights contingent as threats to female progress. If society is to prosper, both men and women must be treated fairly. What constitutes "fairness" isn't a simple question, especially given the disparate influences of biology and culture on real world outcomes for men and women. And it won't be settled on the Internet. But radical feminists lose credibility when they reflexively resist the gender equity they claim to support.
Young's other point is that the strident, angry, and contempt laden rhetoric of a vocal subset of men's rights activists really does cost them support among people of both sexes who are otherwise inclined to help. The movement is rife with name calling (Uncle Tims, White Knights, Beta/gamma/omega males) and insulting and often laughably unselfconscious stereotypes. The rationalization hamster is a particularly amusing example of the latter tactic:
Bad Decision: “I deserve only the most attractive and successful man despite the fact that I don’t have much to offer in the context of dating and relationships.”
Can’t find any man for dating or a relationship or only has one-night stands.
Hamster Processing Result:
“There are no good men” or “Men suck”
“It’s not my fault.”
A big part of the backlash against radical feminism is caused by the anger, contempt, and loathing for men. Broad brush stereotypes are distressingly common: "all men" are said to be violent, oppressive, stupid, dishonest, or [insert pejorative du jour here]. They brandish outrageous anecdotes, while rarely bringing actual data to the table to establish the prevalence (and often, even the existence) of the problems they wish society to address. Sadly, similar voices in the MRA movement have adopted the same tactics, and as with feminism the loudest and most unreasonable voices are the ones we remember.
The real tragedy here is that serious issues like the shrinking burden of proof for sexual assaults don't generate the attention they deserve. It's hard to argue with Ms. Young that we'd all be better served by a united gender equity movement that doesn't see everything as a zero sum game where women can only win if men lose.
August 02, 2013
Day Late, Dollar Short...
...still, this is hysterical:
CWCID: the Spousal Unit
July 15, 2013
Shocker: Mommy-Friendly Policies Not So Friendly to Moms
The Clue Bus, il est arrivé!:
After moving to France two years ago and having my first child, I’ve decided to go back to work. Or rather, I need to go back to work, for both financial and mental reasons. I’ve read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, and I am ready to lean in.
Here in France, leaning in should be a piece of cake. France has both the highest birth rate in Europe and one of the highest percentages of women in the workforce. There are wonderful supports and guarantees here that we don’t have in the United States—a four-month-long maternity leave, inexpensive health care for all, five weeks of vacation a year, and many quality and affordable full-time day care options. France has made getting mothers back to work a priority.
But after my first job interview here, I realized that progressive France might not be quite as enlightened as I thought. I interviewed at a small, female-led company for a job for which I was quite qualified. The interview was in French, which made me a bit nervous, but after a few minutes I was chattering away. Everything was going great.
Then my interviewer asked if I had children. I told her I had an 18-month-old, and that we found Paris to be a much friendlier city to raise a family in than New York, where we’d moved from. “Ah,” she said, “Votre fille—comment est-elle garder?” What followed was a long discussion of my child care situation, who cared for my daughter during the week, and for how long, and if I’d have to leave work early to pick her up. Then she asked how old I was, and if I was planning to have more children. I felt myself cringing —why was this coming up, and in such detail so early in our discussion? Would you even be allowed to ask these questions in the United States? (No.) My French became emphatic, Neanderthal like, as I tried to assure her I wouldn’t leave at 6 p.m. every day: “I can hire nanny. I want to work at job I like, not just leave every day at six hours.” Eventually, either impressed by my vehemence or appalled at my French, she dropped the subject. And though I haven’t heard one way or another, I’m pretty sure the possibility of hiring me got dropped as well.
I don’t want being a mother to change the way employers see me, but of course, it does. I’m in my 30s. It’s true that I’ll likely get pregnant again. It’s true I will sometimes want to have dinner with my family. And it’s true that any company that hires me is making a long-term investment—it’s much more difficult to fire people in France than in the United States. This causes employers to think about the future when hiring, including how a woman’s eventual or actual children might affect her job performance. It’s also not illegal in France to ask about a person’s age and marital status in an interview. It is illegal to discriminate based on the answers, but this kind of discrimination can be very hard to prove.
As I continued to look for work, I learned that France actually does quite poorly in world rankings of gender equality in the workplace. In its 2012 Global Gender Gap Index, the World Economic Forum ranked France a shocking 57th, behind most other European countries, the United States (too low at No. 22), Jamaica, and Russia. This year, the Economist ranked it slightly higher on its list of best countries to be a working woman, at No. 11—just in front of the United States. And while the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows France doing better than most of the developed world on key indicators, such as women’s education, health care, and the availability of child care, the country has comparatively few women in senior management positions, and even fewer elected female representatives in Parliament (20 percent as opposed to the OECD norm of 25 percent). Though the government has passed legislation calling for equal pay for men and women, an appreciable wage gap (currently 12 percent) still exists, and gets worse as employees age.
Why is a country that is so outwardly progressive still plagued with such basic workplace inequalities? While France has a wonderful safety net for women, much of it is designed to promote the growth of families as a way of boosting the birthrate. Indeed, families in France receive numerous supports and subsidies the more children they have. A family with two children is eligible for an automatic monthly stipend of 125 euros, regardless of income. With three children, a family is designated a “Famille Nombreuse,” which includes a raise in the automatic stipend, a possible further subsidy of up to 500 euros a month for the mother if she chooses not to return to work, and even reduced admission for transportation, museums, and amusement parks. And, at four children, a woman becomes eligible for the “medaille de la famille,” an honorary medal from the French government.
But some of the government protections and incentives offered to mothers in France may in fact make their advancement in the workplace more difficult. Paid maternity leave increases with the number of children, from 16 weeks for one or two children to 26 weeks for three or more. (In contrast, paternity leave stays fixed at 11 days.) This much guaranteed leave can make employers nervous to hire and promote women. In a 2010 survey of French employers, only 25 percent said they were strongly interested in hiring mothers, and 41 percent expressed fear that there would be less flexibility in the schedules of mothers who worked. Interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), employers didn’t express this fear when asked about hiring fathers.
That any of this was a revelation to this woman is surely one of the great mysteries of the modern world. This is the problem with policies that focus solely on what's perceived to be "fair" or "good for women/blacks/transgendered Arctic wolverines" - they ignore the obvious fact that raising the cost of hiring Identity Group X relative to other applicants is probably not a great way to boost their chances of getting or keeping a job.
Looked at straight, such "benefits" are actually handicaps.
Quote of the Day. Possibly the Year.
The secret to success isn't intelligence. It's self discipline:
Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success… Students who exerted high levels of willpower were more likely to earn higher grades in their classes and gain admission into more selective schools. They had fewer absences and spent less time watching television and more hours on homework. “Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable,” the researchers wrote. “Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”
Think about that carefully the next time you read an article about how we shouldn't expect boys to exercise (much less develop) self control.
July 11, 2013
Should Fathers Be Allowed to "Opt Out" of Supporting Their Children?
Asks Neo-neocon, in a thoughtful essay. Though you owe it to yourself to read her entire post, here's a quick summary of her points. Anything in brackets was added by me and should not be attributed to Neo:
1. When it comes to the consequences of unplanned pregnancy, biology makes men and women unequal.
2. Widespread availability of birth control hasn't reduced unplanned pregnancies. [They've increased, though other factors may also be at work].
3. Legally, the mother decides what to do about unplanned pregnancies because women bear 100% of the physical impact of pregnancy. [This is true, by the way, regardless of whether a woman decides to bear the child].
4. But the emotional and financial impacts of unplanned pregnancies are shared by both parents. [Note - I expanded slightly on her point here.]
5. Abortion laws give full legal weight to the mother's wishes and completely ignore the father’s wishes.
6. The law is designed to deal with reality, not the wishes of mothers/fathers. In an ideal world, consequences would be equal and/or "fairly distributed". In the real world, they can't be. [Possible corollary - if nature distributes consequences unfairly and the law seeks to even things up, then it stands to reason that the law itself cannot be perfectly evenhanded. The only question then is, 'by how much'?]
7. Allowing men to refuse to support their children may result in both intended and unintended consequences:
More fatherless kids
More abortions [added by me]
State picks up support tab
More women might decide to behave responsibly
Men definitely have LESS incentive to behave responsibly [added by me]
Unless married men are allowed same "opt out" in name of fairness, marriage will be even less attractive to men. Thus, fewer couples will marry.
Whenever I wade into these topics I find it depressing. There doesn’t seem to be any good solution to the problems of love gone bad and the resulting turf wars over children. And the comments sections of various blogs (including this one) for posts dealing with these questions often devolve into rageful shouting matches. I see many of the problems, but (as in this post) the solutions that come to mind are fraught with other problems, many of them even worse for children and society.
Life isn’t fair, sad and difficult choices must be made, and you can’t always get what you want—and although the law can change, it can’t change that basic fact. Nor can it change the law of unintended consequences.
I'm actually far more sympathetic to the opt out suggestion than one might think. During a 2005 blogging hiatus, I noted the legal absurdities of our present system:
As we are constantly reminded, the abortion debate is all about something called reproductive choice. Of what does this reproductive choice consist? If a man and a woman, married or unmarried, conceive a child together, both are on the hook financially to support that child until he or she is grown. But there are rules. If the woman decides to rid herself of a fetus that she does not want (but the man does) she may kill it and this is perfectly legal. If the man decides to rid herself of a fetus that he does not want (but the woman does) - perhaps by slipping her an abortifact that does not otherwise harm her - this is murder, and he will go to jail.
Thus, two utterly contradictory things occur at the moment of conception:
Legally, from the point of view of a woman: the fetus is a lump of tissue which may be excised at will if she subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes no obligation or legal duty unless she chooses to accept it.
Legally, from the point of view of the man: the fetus is a human being which must be allowed to live, even if he subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes an absolute and irrevocable legal duty, regardless of his wishes in the matter.
That post has stood the test of time fairly well.
So what do you think? Should men (married, single, or both) be allowed to opt out of supporting their children? The fairness argument suggests they should. But the law isn't always and only about consequences and fairness to individuals. It's also about the relative rights and responsibilities of individuals and the societies they live in.
What bothers me so much about this debate is the twisted points raised by both sides. Though I'm mostly unimpressed by fairness arguments (biology is profoundly unfair), I'm disturbed by the fundamental contradictions in the way the law views unborn children. And the legal status of the unborn is really what's at the heart of this issue: not men's rights, or women's rights, or even society's rights.
Their legal status can't magically change depending on whose rights and responsibilities we're legislating this week, and without addressing this fundamental question we cannot hope to craft laws that are humane (much less fair to all three human beings in this tortured triangle). Abortion laws that allow no limit to so-called abortion rights don't merely insult and infantilize adult women. They insult and infantilize men and make society party to the brutal torture of the weakest and most helpless among us:
It is because I understand women's lives have value and because I respect their intelligence - because I am a woman - that I expect them to behave like adults rather than overgrown children whose lapses in judgment must always be paid for by someone else: a convenient man who can be tapped by the court whether he happens to be the biological father or not (if she wants the child), a helpless fetus who can be vivisected without anesthesia if she puts off an unpleasant "choice" for too long. Sometimes, other people's rights - other people's lives - have value too.
Though I do support limited abortion rights, there is no doubt in my mind that we got where we are today because we are afraid to contemplate the simple truth of what our laws allow us to do to each other:
“It seems as though it is okay to talk about the issue in general, but when you actually put a face to the discussion, then it becomes controversial,” Heroic Media Executive Director Joe Young told the National Review.
Maybe it's time we did just that - confronted and openly embraced the principles embedded in our current laws. This may be the only way both squabbling sides will ever see the ugliness and selfishness behind their respective arguments.
Let them look into the eyes of children abandoned by their fathers. Make people who have acted responsibly pay for the maintenance of unwanted children and then by all means, let's talk about "fairness"! In the posts linked earlier, I outlined the flaws in the abortion rights platform. The underpinnings of the "male abortion" platform are equally pathetic and irresponsible. Let's walk through them one by one:
1. "Men shouldn't have to take even simple precautions to avoid pregnancy. We should be able to have sex with anyone we want, and trust women to take care of birth control!" This one is so transcendently, asshattedly stupid that it's hard to know where to begin. Birth control is a two way, non-delegatable responsibility. And here's a news flash: we can't trust everyone in life. In particular, we can't trust people we don't know well, or whose character we haven't bothered to examine. Adults used to understand this.
2. "But... but... she lied to me!" Guess what: any time you become intimate (and we're not just talking sex here) with another person, you have just made yourself vulnerable. People you associate with can lie to you or about you. They can steal from you, ruin your reputation, and run up your phone bill or your credit cards. The biggest reason they have the ability to hurt you is that you decided to let them close enough to. In light of this undeniable truth, shouldn't we expect adults to exercise prudence and caution in their associations with others? Have some standards, and take responsibility for the choices you make. This goes equally for men and women.
Repeat after me: There is no legal right to consequence-free casual sex. Pregnancy and STDs don't care one bit about your feelings.
3. Birth control sabotage works both ways, even though you won't hear about it from the "it's not fair!" crowd. It happens to both men and women. See item 2, and protect yourself.
4. For God's sake, stop with the historical revisionism on no fault divorce, abortion, and child support:
The effect of legalized abortion on illegitimacy rates is at best unclear (extrapolation lines and legalization of abortion reference added by me):
And finally, child support laws predate feminism by literally hundreds of years. If the State was going after men who refused to support their children back in the 1600s, it's a fair bet that significant numbers of men were shirking their responsibilities long before feminism and the Nanny state came along to provide convenient excuses for the postmodern cad.
It's depressing to watch grown men and women argue over responsibility for an event they both have the ability to prevent unilaterally. And the saddest thing of all is that the only thing that may bring either side to its senses is to give them exactly what they want. Then - maybe - we'll relearn something we should have known all along.
Two wrongs don't cancel each other out. And other people's misdeeds don't relieve us of our own responsibilities in life. Especially when the harm of "adult" (I use the term loosely) irresponsibility is visited upon an innocent child who had no say in any of the decisions that will come to shape his or her life. Or death.
There are no illegitimate children- only illegitimate parents.
- Leon Yankwich
Because I'm human, and eminently fallible, (and also in a hurry), before responding to any of Neo's excellent points, please take the time to look up what she actually said. Don't rely on my summary unless you're only interested in arguing the point as restated by me.
Holy Hypergamy, Batman!!!!
Is hypergamy more economic than biological? Say it isn't so!
A new poll has revealed that when it comes to an extra marital fling, working class women are pining for a Mr Darcy. 67% of working class women polled described an upper class men as their dream date if they were to embark on an affair. Conversely cheating men are hankering after a working class women with a a huge 83% of middle class male members of married dating site AshleyMadison.com choosing affair partners from that class.
Only 40.7% of the middle class women on the site would like an affair with an upper class man, 53.6% specifically preferring to stick to the middle class.
Biderman added: ‘Middle class women are more likely to be financially independent and better educated, their needs are different. They want intimacy and shared experience with an equal rather than to be swept off their feet, Jane Austen style.’
Good Lord. Whatever will James Taranto write about now? We have a suggestion: male hypogamy (which unlike female hypergamy appears to manifest itself pretty evenly across the economic spectrum):
When it comes to male members of the site 83.1% of the middle classes say they want to cheat with a working class woman, 51.8% of upper class men are looking for a middle class woman and 42.4% of upper class men want a working class woman for an affair.
‘Despite the changing socio-economic landscape men across the board still want to be the Alpha partner in a relationship’, says Biderman. ‘Men want someone to admire and look up to them, someone they can impress because fundamentally most men lack confidence.’
For whatever it may be worth, the Blog Princess doubts either hyper- or hypogamy are all that hard wired into either half of the species. We've already covered evidence that this once-useful adaptive behavior is on the wane, which suggests that human adaptivity trumps hyper/hypogamy:
A larger share of men in 2007, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of demographic and economic trend data. A larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.
From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage. In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women.
...There also is an important gender component of these trends. Forty years ago, the typical man did not gain another breadwinner in his household when he married. Today, he does — giving his household increased earning power that most unmarried men do not enjoy. The superior gains of married men have enabled them to overtake and surpass unmarried men in their median household income.
But we can't help yanking Mr. Taranto's chain just a bit, and we're just certain the evo-psych crowd have a handy dandy explanation for the pleasure both sexes get from teasing each other.
Must be hard wired!
July 09, 2013
The Rise of Single Fathers
A record 8% of households with minor children in the United States are headed by a single father, up from just over 1% in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Decennial Census and American Community Survey data.
The number of single father households has increased about ninefold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011.1 In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.
As a result, men make up a growing share of single parent householders. In 1960, about 14% of single parent households were headed by fathers, today almost one-quarter (24%) are.
The Pew studies contain quite a bit of food for thought. For instance, I was surprised that the majority of families with children are still two-parent households. This surprised me quite a bit, too:
Through Different Eyes
I've always been fascinated by the idea of seeing the world through someone else's eyes:
We have such a hard time not seeing others through the lens of our own wishes and desires. I can't help wondering how much of the anger and nastiness between men and women would vanish if we were all required to walk a few miles in each other's shoes.
Is it really so difficult as all that?
July 02, 2013
Laughter is a dish best served cold:
The most successful Subway customers, of course, are the ones who can't keep their hands off their sandwich. Join your artist in the sandwich assembling process. That sneeze guard is a suggestion. That sneeze guard is trying to intimidate you into staying on the "customer's" side of the partition. Are you a customer? Or are you a man?
If you want avocado, you'll get avocado. Avocado is a fruit; it cannot stand up to you. You are a human being, and a very powerful man. Avocado wants to be on your sandwich. It can't help itself. Your job is to make the avocado realize that you know where it belongs.
...Decide that you're going to place yourself in a position where you can touch your sandwich as it's being created. Physically pick it up and get the lettuce yourself. Touch the condiments with your own two hands -- not through the lids, the lids are a barrier designed to scare off lesser men -- touch the condiments.
Don't ask for permission. It's your sandwich. It's not the manager's sandwich. It's yours by all the laws of God and man and commerce. Stick your fists deeply into stacks of cold cuts and inhale their unique bouquet. Force the employees to push you out of their work station. They'll let you know if they're uncomfortable. If they say "PLEASE EXIT THE KITCHEN IMMEDIATELY, YOU'RE CREATING A PUBLIC HEALTH VIOLATION" or "SIR, STOP LICKING THE SPICY MAYO MISTER," you know they're not interested. It happens. Stop escalating immediately and say this:
"No problem. I don't want to do anything you aren't comfortable with." See how you're respecting their boundaries, but also being assertive (and covering yourself in delicious spicy mayo)? Don't let this "no" put you off permanently, however. They want you to want your sandwich. You should make sure that the store employees feel comfortable. If they're not comfortable, take a breather. Use the bathroom, or check out the Otis Spunkmeyer cookie display case.
All that really matters is that you continue to try to escalate things -- burying your hands in the banana peppers, really experiencing the cheese triangles in a physical, sensual way, whatever -- until they make it genuinely clear that it's not happening. They want you to be excited about your sandwich, but circumstances need to be right. You'll learn to distinguish between "No, you can't...the bacon slices are only for the Chicken and Ranch Bacon Melt, that's why they come prepackaged in groups of four..." and "We're calling the police." The important thing is that you're always learning and experimenting with boundaries.
June 27, 2013
We Blame Feminism for This
June 18, 2013
"Playful", "Unapologetic Masculinity"? Really???
I'm always somewhat mystified when I see "masculinity" defined as a flagrant lack of self control coupled with a broken moral compass. Sometimes it seems that we have forgotten the distinction between acting like a child and choosing to be an adult; between doing what comes naturally and doing what's necessary to ensure not just the survival but the continued evolution of our species.
Last week, I read an essay that moved me to tears. I read it again this morning and cried just as hard as I did the first time I read it.
They were tears of anger as much as tears of grief.
The essay was written by a man remembering his father, and that still, quiet voice reaffirmed everything I have always admired and loved about the best kind of man - the one who isn't in it for himself. The one who thinks ahead; who looks before he leaps; who tempers emotion with reason. Who thinks about the future of the society he lives in, the children he fathers, the destiny of the human race.
After decades of self-justifying articles about how men are hard wired to value quantity over quality and transitory gratification over permanence and progress, we're now being treated to similar arguments about the true nature of women. Being female (and therefore no stranger to the darker impulses of femininity), I'm less skeptical about such arguments than one might suppose. Like Chesterton, I've always thought the traditional restrictions on men and woman were put there for a reason. They are there to restrain us, and to protect others from the deeply destructive aspects of human nature.
Both sexes tell themselves comforting stories about the nature of our better halves. Men like to believe they are the only ones whose instincts bear watching. It's comforting to reduce complex phenomena to a simplistic, almost mathemagical formula: women are hypergamous (which means men's looks don't really matter - in theory at least, any man with a fat enough wallet can die surrounded by compliant, nineteen year old Czech supermodels). Hope springs eternal, so long as one can view females as mostly inert, asexual objects of the male sex drive who can be relied upon, contradictory beliefs about the arbitrary and capricious nature of womankind notwithstanding, to behave in predictable ways. We women just live for marriage and commitment; never acting, always acted upon. When they don't, that's not nature! It's some outside force, acting upon them. Both sides do this, by the way. Conservatives do it every time they fulminate about how feminism has "tricked" a whole generation. It's as though we can't be expected to think about our own lives. When we screw up, it's not our fault! We were sold a lie.
Even our most idiotic lapses our not our fault, really. There's no personal responsibility; only helpless, pathetic victims of feminism (or patriarchal oppression - take your pick) whose choices, like those of all those men who are "only doing what comes naturally", mustn't be questioned or judged because people who judge are prudes. Or busybodies.
Such a framework explains so much. Except it doesn't, really. If women value marriage above all else, why are 60-70% of divorces initiated by women? The conventional wisdom has several answers: they're gold digging hussies (never mind that their standard of living actually drops, post divorce). Or they're brainwashed by the siren song of feminism (never mind that rising divorce rates predate no fault and The Feminine Mystique by a good century or so). Failed marriages are never their fault, nor their husbands' faults. Facts have never been able to compete with a really comforting narrative that essentially dismisses the notion that all of us - male or female - have the ability to move beyond our wiring and assume responsibility for the decisions we make.
We women have our own fables. Too many of us continue to believe that men can be trained, like seals, to want what we want and value what we value. We tell ourselves that it's "the system" that makes people behave the way they do. This is the opposite of the hard wiring meme - it's not human nature, it's those unnatural, rigid gender stereotypes that are holding us back. If we could just cast aside the shackles of patriarchal oppression, women could be just.like.men - wanting what they want, valuing what they value, and thereby achieving the same outcomes; improbably without sacrificing one iota of what makes us female, and feminine.
And men would be 'free' to want what women want and value what women value, in scrupulously equal amounts.
I'm so sick of reading articles about why women (and men) can't have it all. What about our children? What kind of selfish jerk seriously thinks he or she deserves to have everything they want?
All this focus on what men and women naturally want, coupled with furiously reflexive defenses of what various parties perceive to be "natural" for men or women, can't be good for the future of the human race. We have all but divorced parenthood from marriage, because why on earth should men and women have to limit their lifestyle choices simply because they chose to express their beautiful and natural desire to bring a child into the world?
Selfishness and self absorption are the New Rationality. Self restraint is wimpy and eminently mockable, shame is off limits, and "What's in it for me?" is now the gold standard by which moral judgments are made. Thumbing our noses at our opponents (#winning!)has become more important than doing what's right even though it's hard. Or doesn't get us ahead. Or gets us laughed at.
Dear God, what a wasteland we're leaving our children.
June 14, 2013
"More Women = More Female Friendly Policies"
How would this debate go if America had a female POTUS and Commander -in-Chief?
What could she do with her executive power without the legislature or judiciary meddling?
But unlike India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brazil. Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, the U.K., Russia, China, and Australia, America has never had a female head of state or government.
- Comment on Military Rape article
One of the more amusing themes that crops up in gender punditry is the notion that getting more women into X (whether X is government, corporate leadership, positions of power, or the male dominated profession de jure) will magically lead to more female friendly policies and outcomes. If some of the astoundingly tone deaf utterances we've heard from both sides lately are any indication, the idea isn't completely without merit. It's always somewhat appalling to the Editorial Staff how quickly humans of both sexes dismiss problems that uniquely or disproportionately impact the other half of humanity.
But there's plenty of evidence against the notion that simply getting more women (or more men, for that matter) involved in policymaking will result in policies that are fairer to people of the same sex. Furious denunciations of feminists (a notable minority in government) aside, most of the laws deplored by the "manosphere" were in fact passed by overwhelmingly majority-male legislatures bedazzled by the tantalizing possibility that passing Female-Friendly Law Y will
get them laid attract hordes of lust-filled women clutching well thumbed copies of the Kama Sutra and dreaming of breaking all 10 Commandments at once. The mind boggles at the possibilities: "Come here, Mitch McConnell, you big female friendly law-slinger, you!"
Or maybe they're just afraid of having to sleep on the sofa when they get home, men being innately so much more logical and rational than women but yet utterly at the mercy of their hormones. Unsurprisingly, we find ourselves confused by the irrefutable logic of such arguments. Perhaps they're just too complicated for a woman to grasp :p
The thing is, contra the comment cited at the beginning of this post, nations that have had one or more female leaders are not exactly noted for the unusual freedoms and rights granted to the women living under female rule. Many of these nations are downright backwards in their attitudes towards the oft-debated humanity of women.
Believing as we do that neither men nor women have a monopoly on gender sensitivity or objectivity, imagine our delight at this mellow-harshing passage from an article on the military "rape" crisis:
When Senator Carl Levin of Michigan stripped a measure aimed at curbing sexual assault in the military out of a defense bill this week, it was widely seen as a trampling by a long-serving male committee chairman on female lawmakers seeking justice for victims.
But the truth reflects a more complex battle driven by legislative competition, policy differences and the limits of identity politics in a chamber where women’s numbers and power are increasing.
The vote to replace the measure offered by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, in favor of a more modest provision pushed by Mr. Levin, the Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did not break down along gender lines: of the seven women on the committee, three, including a fellow Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, sided with Mr. Levin. “I think all of us need to acknowledge that this isn’t a gender issue,” said Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, during a recent hearing on the issue.
Nor was it particularly partisan. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, two of the most conservative Republicans on the committee, sided with Ms. Gillibrand, while seven Democrats and an independent peeled away.
This carefully crafted narrative dies so beautifully.
June 12, 2013
Sex As Be-All and End-All of Marriage
The Editorial Staff loved this essay by Noah Berlatsky:
How do you maintain desire in a long-term relationship? How can you keep that edge of excitement and danger through long years of monogamy, convention and familiarity? How do you keep rutting like horny adolescents when you're pushing middle-age?
Well now there's a unappealing mental image for the ages. "Get some, Grandpa!" may well be the stuff of which nightmares are made.
Daniel Bergner, author of What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, is asking readers to contemplate such questions at Slate's Double XX. Specifically, he asked, "How can women maintain desire within long-term committed relationships?" In response, readers have written in with a series of predictably titillating responses from the familiar grab-bag of shocking alternative lifestyles and fetish. You've got threesomes, you've got costumes, you've got group sex, and so forth. As of this writing we haven't gotten to bondage or S&M yet, but presumably something along those lines will show up before we're done.
The almost ritual tour of kink suggests strongly that Bergner's question is less an interrogative, and more an excuse. The way the issue is framed—how to maintain desire?—makes the answers inevitable. This is, clearly, good copy—everybody likes to read about sex. But it seems like the predetermined nature of the exercise might, possibly, be leaving something out.
...I read his essay and the responses and I feel like every possible lifestyle choice is validated—except that old, boring one, where you have sex occasionally with your wife and maybe go to Good Vibrations if you're in San Francisco, and generally enjoy your marriage in part because it means you don't have to place desire at the center of your lives. How many people will react to this essay by assuming that my marriage is less stable than I think it is, or by thinking that I'm missing out on real passion and real love and real life? The one sin left, it sometimes feels like, is not being sexy enough.
By far our favorite head exploding comment was this one:
... there are simply too many of us for whom sexual satisfaction is key. For me, it's a pillar of who I am as a man, and whether or not I'm in a committed relationship, I deserve a fulfilling, rewarding, and exciting sex life, period.
When we wonder what has happened to marriage, it might help to look at attitudes like this. How does anyone come to believe they "deserve" a fulfilling/rewarding/exciting sex life regardless of their relationship status? Such self absorption boggles the mind. If you "deserve" something, are others obligated to provide it to you? Or does this simply mean that you're entitled to it, that whole for better or for worse thingy be damned?
Married sex can be many things: joyous or simply comforting, elevating or debasing, magical or tawdry, selfish or generous, cherished or regretted. But a pillar of who we are as human beings?
We must be more screwed up than we thought. We can think of many things that make us who we are, but up until now we wouldn't have said that having an exciting sex life was one of them.
June 07, 2013
Sounds like good advice:
Advise her to give that poor young gentleman back his family ring. Miss Manners is not recommending this as a way to allow your daughter to squeeze another ring out of him, along with some treacly drama of a proposal. Rather it is to spare him from a marriage made miserable by the influence of childish ideas from his wife’s scatterbrained friends.
The other advice is for you: You have a lot of parenting left to do. No matter what your daughter’s age is, she is too immature to be married. You may not be able to ground her, but you should strongly oppose any idea of marriage until you are able to instill some values in her.
That made our day.
June 04, 2013
Grim's recent comment reminded me of something I have promised to find and post a gazillion times - an NPR series on the effects of testosterone on personality and perception:
Consider my wife. Over the years I have learned that the world that she lives in is not like the world I inhabit at all. For one thing it is more brightly and more warmly colored. Many things that seem grey to me are blue or green to her, and purples and reds pop out to her where I wouldn't notice them.
Her world is full of flowers, which leap to her attention. I might walk past a field of wildflowers and never see them at all, but each one stands out to her.
Moreover, it's a world inhabited by very different kinds of people. Her brain contains, science tells us, about 1/30th the testosterone of mine. We have learned that the hormone has a huge effect on your experience of the world. Of course she has entirely different chemicals that likewise transform her experience in ways I cannot but begin to imagine. As a result, the people she meets and knows are completely different from the ones I do, even though they are the same people.
It is actually impossible for me to really understand what it would be like to live in her world.
This series is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever listened to. You may (or may not) be surprised to see me recommend it, given the number of times I've argued that men and women are in many ways as much alike as we are different. But life (and youth) are short. Over the course of our lives hormone levels wax and wane, our experience and understanding deepen, and we respond to - and are changed by - circumstances and events.
My relationships with my husband and sons and my male friends and co-workers continually remind me of just how much we have in common despite our differences. That doesn't mean I don't believe there are no differences, but rather that we often overstate them. Our differences don't always define us, and I will never stop believing that men and women are capable of understanding each other better, if not completely. Certainly, we're capable of loving and honoring each other.
As early as the 1980s, large-scale US research began to endorse Erin Pizzey’s view: women often initiated violence and could give as bad as they got. In Britain a big Home Office survey in 1995 found that 4.2 percent of men said they had been physically assaulted or injured by their partner within the last year – precisely the same figure as for women. A subsequent trawl through over eighty studies, mostly from America, came up with a similar verdict: there was little difference between men’s and women’s perpetration rates. Even so the terms ‘domestic violence’ and ‘wife battering’ continued to be used interchangeably. Again and again successive BCS and other surveys showed how strikingly the prevailing view was incomplete, yet still none of this made much impact on popular or political consciousness. When fifteen years of British findings were put together in 2012, they told an essentially consistent story: between 30 and 40 per cent of those assaulted were men and they suffered a quarter of all the attacks. Although in many cases neither men nor women reported injury or emotional effects, about one in ten in both genders had suffered bleeding or broken bones and 3 per cent of men and 2 per cent of women had attempted suicide.
Not that most men would confess how they were injured. Females are twice as likely as male partners to confide in a professional, five times more likely to tell a doctor or a nurse and three times as likely to go to the police. Bear with me on this because the women-as-victims view is so entrenched the evidence does need spelling out. And if anyone could still be unconvinced, the same pattern emerged more or less by accident from a landmark health investigation in New Zealand. In the early 1970s about a thousand children born in Dunedin’s Queen Mary Hospital were chosen for regular checks on their well-being as they grew up. The idea was to see if there were paediatric indicators of what would happen in later life. When the cohort reached the age of twenty-one, the researchers became interested in the relationships that were being formed, and were intrigued to find that violence between couples was quite common. What was even more surprising, and was crosschecked by interviewing partners separately, is that the women generally hit out first and ‘engaged in serious woman-to-man domestic abuse that was not explained by self-defence’. The researchers point out that because women are usually physically less powerful they tended to come off worse but ‘naively’ believed that if they hit their partner he would not hit back.
The Dunedin study shows, along with other studies, that women’s overall rates of partner violence perpetration are similar to those of men. This is not an isolated finding. Many studies have found that substantial numbers of women self-report abusive behaviours toward male partners, and epidemiological studies show that although males are more likely than females to engage in almost every type of violence, the single exception is family violence.
The fact that males as well as females are victims does not diminish the horror of domestic abuse, especially when it is repeated, severe and one-sided. Women do tend to come off worst, and a small proportion of them suffer relentlessly, staying out of low selfesteem or fear, out of stoicism or because, as more than one has told me, they find themselves ‘attracted to the rugged ones’. But we should not underestimate the extent of mutual aggression that takes place within the hurly-burly of mundane human discord. Nor should we forget the extent of emotional bullying, where the wounds don’t show, or the effect on children, with the demonstrable likelihood that they will grow up to be violent themselves. Mothers as well as fathers must take much of the blame. Incidentally, feminists, criminologists and journalists have paid scant attention to violence in same-sex relationships. Claire Turner, who founded a British support group after her female partner tried to strangle her, said:
You end up thinking that society will not think it serious enough because it was another woman who perpetrated the abuse. I did not report it. I really believed that women were great and incapable of being anything but nice to each other. But you come to realise that anybody in society has the potential to behave badly.
...So let’s now turn to the other crime with which women are almost exclusively identified as victims: rape. Here too we need to challenge assumptions while avoiding the flying fur which purports to be rational debate. Rape is one of the most violating crimes. Victims tend to feel dirty, embarrassed, wracked with revulsion and self-blame. And, since it almost always involves a male assailant, rape is one of the defining issues for radical feminism. But have the red mists of politics and emotion clouded reality here too?
Again we owe much to advances brought about by feminist campaigning. For centuries women were belittled and held responsible if they let themselves be ‘ruined’. Until quite recently it was perfectly acceptable for sons to sow wild oats while daughters’ purity had to be protected – and in some cultures that remains the case. Until at least the 1970s and ’80s the institutions of the state were steeped in prejudice. There was tactless condescension from judges and, as a seminal TV documentary showed with shocking candour in the 1980s, police officers sometimes treated rape complaints with crass insensitivity. There was a widely held assumption that victims had probably been asking for it or at least had rashly encouraged it. Conviction rates were said to be a risible 10 per cent.
Reforms in court procedure and changing public attitudes brought improvements to the way rape victims were treated in the 1990s. Several police forces set up dedicated sex crime facilities, with officers selected and trained for sensitivity; complainants were allowed anonymity when giving evidence in court; judges began to frown on cross-examinations which implied promiscuity. When that failed to raise conviction rates, England’s Solicitor General announced packages of targets and ‘guidelines’ for judges and juries which would shift the presumption of innocence towards a presumption of guilt. Yet conviction rates appeared to fall. The figure of 6 per cent was widely quoted in the media.
As so often, the politicians and the media misunderstood the problem. In this case they were suckers for politicised advice powered by a desire to push rape higher up the political agenda. On cool analysis it is not that prosecutions fail; they just don’t happen. So far as we can tell, roughly 4 per cent of women are raped at some point in their lives, some repeatedly, and about 0.6 per cent of women (and 0.1 per cent of men) are victims of rapes and other serious sexual assaults each year. Yet despite the fact that reporting rates have soared, fewer than 20 per cent go to the police. When they do, about a sixth of rape complaints are rejected (rightly or wrongly) by police as implausible, a third are abandoned for lack of evidence, and a third are dropped because the complainant withdraws. Bear in mind that some of the allegations are made weeks or even years after the event took place and the average rape case takes nearly two years to get to trial. Officers have sometimes pressured women to abandon complaints – if they have no crime it improves their detection rates – but there is no evidence that police fail to prioritise sex offences in general. In fact the detection rates for sex crimes are comparable with many other crimes including robbery, burglary and fraud. For rape specifically the conviction rate is around 33 per cent with a further 23 per cent of those accused found guilty of lesser charges such as sexual assault. The real issue is that hardly any rapes ever get before a jury in the first place.
Is that such a bad thing? The implicit assumption is that any woman who chooses not to pursue a claim is being let down by the state or is acting irrationally. But could it be that she is right? What if she feels partly responsible for what happened? What if she realises there is no evidence other than her word against his? What if her life is bound up with that of her assailant? What if she feels humiliated as well as violated? Should she be expected to disclose all this in public and then put her life on hold for the greater good? Do we want a justice system that overrides the victims’ sense of what is in their own best interests, or one that, in order to accommodate them, ceases to be just? Indeed, before we complain about the failure to get more convictions it might be sensible to ask women themselves whether a formal prosecution process is always the most rational way to deal with rape.
Homo sapiens is a narrative race: we like our facts to fit neatly into a story like framework that makes a profoundly messy reality appear linear and orderly. We construct templates and use them to organize information; snapping this usebit tidbit into the structure and discarding the puzzle pieces that don't fit as unimportant or irrelevant:
The notion of templates is an interesting metaphor for the value systems and lenses we use to evaluate ourselves and those around us. Templates can be as simple as a set of expectations - often other people's expectations - that prevent us from being satisfied when we get what we want (but what we want doesn't conform to someone else's idea of what we should want). This is the problem with viewing unequal results as prima facie evidence of social injustice: such a stance assumes that we all deserve the same outcome. More importantly, it assumes - incorrectly, as it turns out - that we all desire the same outcome...
It is farcical to insist that women be viewed as "equal" to men while buying into a narrative in which women (unlike their supposedly-equal counterparts) are always presumed to be the prey and never the predators.
Surprise: Married Men, Women Pretty Much Equally Happy
Three charts from an article about "marriage myths":
Thus, in average families across the nation, married men and married women work roughly the same total hours for their families, judge their marriages to be fair, and enjoy happy marriages.
How utterly depressing. The pundits and the grievance peddlers had best gin up some hate and discontent. This can't be good for business.
May 21, 2013
Grim makes an excellent point regarding Obama's Marine umbrella kerfuffle:
We can see the inequality inherent in the system in Marine Corps regulations on umbrellas:Per Marine Corps uniform regulations, the men are not allowed to carry or use umbrellas while in uniform. Female Marines can carry “an all-black, plain standard, or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather” but not with combat uniforms.
At their option? What kind of nonsense is this?
...If it's winter and your hands are cold, are female Marines permitted to put their hands in their pockets 'at their option'? If not, why the discrepancy in the pursuit of female comfort? After all, the new primary mission of the US military could reasonably be defined as ensuring the psychological comfort of female servicemembers. Why not their physical comfort as well?
At first glance, it's not hard to see reasonable justification for the disparity in umbrella regs. After all, women wear their hair longer than men even in civilian society and longer hair is harder to keep neat. Women also wear makeup.
For a male Marine, getting caught in a downpour while in uniform may make him wet and uncomfortable, but it will have little effect on his appearance. Most uniforms are wool or wool blends and they stand up well to water, and the ubiquitous "high and tight" haircut is so short that even a thorough soaking doesn't affect it.
For a female Marine, getting caught in a downpour while in uniform can result in mascara smudges/raccoon eyes reminiscent of Alice Cooper and bedraggled hair that is no longer neat and military looking.
But this raises a question: what is the justification for the high and tight required of male Marines? Certainly it carries practical advantages. In hand to hand combat, a shaven head offers no handhold to the enemy. Shaven heads are easier to keep clean than long hair, and make it difficult for lice (who lay their eggs about 1/2 inch from the scalp) to establish themselves.
These are unisex considerations: they apply equally to men and women. So what is the justification for holding men to a different (and more rigorous) standard than women?
This is the problem with the "only as equal as we wanna be" ethos. When it's not calling time tested restrictions on male soldiers and Marines into question, it creates the appearance (and the reality) of preferential treatment for female soldiers and Marines.
That can't be good from either a morale or efficiency standpoint.
May 14, 2013
An enlightened solution to the "military rape problem"!
The outspoken mayor of Osaka is under fire not only from the government but from members of his own party for saying that the use of “comfort women,” some of whom were forced into prostitution, during World War II was necessary for the morale of Japanese soldiers.
Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, made the comments during a news conference Monday.
“Whether it was of their own volition or against their will, the comfort women system was something necessary,” he said. “For military morale back then, it was probably necessary.”
Who says women don't have a role to play during wartime?
On days when we're tempted to despair, it's good to contemplate the fact that other nations have politicians who are even more clueless than ours.
May 06, 2013
Notice how many of them are men.
May 01, 2013
We had no idea this sort of thing was going on amidst the peonies and daylilies:
Nothing sounds more harmonious than a virgin sisterhood all labouring to help their ageing mother, but everything changes in mid-summer when the females suddenly turn on each other and the nest is rife with cannibalism, infanticide and incest.
This ensues when the queen begins laying unfertilised eggs from which, by a quirk of bumblebee genetics, males are born.
All would be well if the female workers were happy to look after their new brothers but, although celibate, they are also able to lay unfertilised eggs and can thus have sons of their own.
The result is bumblebee bedlam as mothers, sisters and daughters battle over whose sons will survive, eating each other’s eggs and biting and stinging one another. Sometimes, the queen is even killed by her daughters.
The males who have survived the in-fighting go on to mate with new queens from other nests, but will also happily impregnate those from their own nests, including their sisters. Their sole purpose in life now served, they will soon die.
So, too, will the female workers, the only survivors of the nest being the new queens who, once mated, enter hibernation. They will remain dormant until the following spring, when they are ready to begin this fascinating cycle of life all over again.
Bee careful, peoples. It's a jungle out there.
April 25, 2013
The Dove "Real Beauty" Sketches for Men
April 18, 2013
Those Pesky, Long Term Trends
This chart fascinated me:
Two things that leapt out at me:
1. In the early 20th Century, about half of unmarried women 25-54 did not work. How did they survive? Did they live with siblings? Parents? Were they (perhaps) performing domestic work in return for their room and board that did not show up in official labor statistics? Were there large numbers of Naughty, Kept Women roaming the fertile plains?
Remember: this is before the social safety net supposedly made women into mindless, zombie-like wards of the state :p That 50% of single adult women didn't work is a surprising number to me.
2. The steep increase in the percentage of married women who worked from 1920-1960. This is the much mourned golden age of Leave it to Beaver fame, where women lived lives of blissful contentment in suburban houses with white picket fences.
Now admittedly, two World Wars and a Great Depression occurred during a fairly short period of time (1920-1945). But the acceleration only increases after that time increment... before The Pill, and before Betty Friedan came along to tell us how miserable and oppressed we were.
This reminds me of the long term trends we observed with divorces (not to mention the inconvenient decline in divorce rates once No Fault became the law of the land):
I never fail to be amazed the power of looking at a longer time window. One other sentence from the linked post struck me as odd:
In a previous post I suggested that stalled progress [emphasis mine] resulted from feeble work-family policy, anti-feminist backlash, and weak anti-discrimination enforcement.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that sounds like a narrative in search of supporting evidence. Why should "progress" be defined as lots of married women working? What evidence do we have that the majority of married women want to work outside the home?
"Progress", in this woman's view, consists of families having the freedom to arrange their lives in ways that make them happy and prosperous. Being a two wage earner couple is not the only path that leads to that end, especially when one considers the costs (both social and economic) of day care.
April 12, 2013
The last stanza always just takes my breath away.
I can hear you downstairs crying on the phone
Telling someone that I'm here but you still feel all alone
Maybe we were too young?
"Goodbye, I've gotta go"
I can hear the baby waking up
Got to get back to the life I know
I should have never believed him
Maybe I should just leave him?
Maybe I'm not, but you're all I got left to believe in
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive.
And I know that it's been hard
And it's been a long time coming
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive
No one thought I was good enough for you
(Except for you).
Don't let them be right, after all that we've been through.
'Cause somewhere over that rainbow
There's a place for me -
A place with you
Maybe I'm not, but you're all I got left to believe in
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive.
And I know that it's been hard
And it's been a long time coming
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive
In every frame upon our wall
Lies a face that's seen it all.
Through ups and downs (and then more downs)
We helped each other up off the ground.
No one knows what we've been through
But making it ain't making it without you.
April 05, 2013
Situational Awareness Is Not All That Complicated
... this is the point when guys complain that they are cursed if they do and cursed if they don’t, and you wind up with scenarios like this, where a “post-gender-normative” man is rejected by a woman in a bar and concludes by saying “I thank you for your time, which was equal to mine.”
“You are creating a hideous nightmare dystopia,” they say, “where I am confronted with a beautiful woman in a very fetching black dress and I have to stare at her and say, ‘What a great Thursday! I have never felt more strongly that you were my intellectual equal!’”
I think we need a variant of the comic-book Hawkeye Initiative. How about the McCain rule? If you wouldn’t say it about John McCain — don’t say it about Hillary or Michele or Michelle or Kamala. “And before we finish introducing war hero and veteran public servant Senator McCain, allow me a moment to comment on his raw physical magnetism. Hottie with a legislative body, right there!” “Senator McCain, looking especially fetching in a variant on his usual two-piece suit ensemble, bestowed smiles on all around him.” “Senator McCain’s Haircut: Three Tips To Achieve The Look.”
Certain compliments are worse than insults. It’s not just the back-handed– “You look so much healthier now” — or my favorite that I’ve actually heard someone deliver, “Oh my gosh, that shirt. It’s — it’s so you.” It’s like the beginning of that New York Times obituary for a female rocket scientist that first complimented her skills in the kitchen. True, sure. And I’m sure it took effort. But it seems like a waste of time spending years studying and working hard, just to get the exact caliber of compliment you would have gotten if you had just stood on the street corner in sweatpants near a construction site. “Oh, hey, you’re a nationally respected [Blank]!” these compliments say. “Here is a compliment on your looks, over which you have comparatively limited control and into which you did not put years of effort! You’re welcome!” Remember all the chatter about John Edwards’ hair? It’s dismissive — whether intentionally or not.
“So what should he have said? Nothing?” Yes.
Setting aside the usual howling about (and often by) feminists, this really isn't all that big a deal.
But it's not really appropriate, either. Over the years, I can think of several co-workers of the male persuasion that I have found attractive. What I can't imagine, under any circumstance, would be my voicing that opinion.
It's simply not appropriate. It has nothing to do with the work we do, and it's out of place in a professional setting for all the same reasons low cut tops, tight skirts, and manscaped, shirtless guys in assless leather chaps are inappropriate.
Adults are supposed to understand these things. And leaders are expected to set a higher standard.
Discuss amongst your ownselves.
President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday to apologize for his comments about her appearance that have drawn a storm of criticism.
"He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments," White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his briefing Friday, later adding that the president had also "apologized for the remark."
The distraction??? If he didn't think it was inappropriate, why is he apologizing?
"I'm really sorry those mean spirited poopy heads made such a big deal about nothing. Umm.... I'm also sorry for what I said." Never waste an opportunity to take a swipe at your critics. If you can combine it with an act of humble contrition, so much the better :p
Before we bid adieu to this fascinating news story forever, allow us to unequivocally and strongly condemn this EXTREMELY INAPPROPRIATE AND DEEPLY INSULTING DISPLAY OF... err.... sexistpiggery.
We want anyone who just clicked that link to know that we just lost all respect for you as a human being.
April 02, 2013
The Alaskan Department of Victimization
A couple of items over at Grim's place caught our wand'ring eyeballs last week, but we were too busy to stop and think about them. The first one concerns the State of Alaska which - for some reason - conducts a Victimization Survey every now and again. Now we are not too sure how many discrete identity groups are being Victimized (or just who is to blame for all this Victimization -- the State of Alaska? Feral, Transgendered Arctic Wolves? Sarah Palin and her Scary Black Helicopters of Death?), but one has to admire a state that doesn't wait for its victims to come looking for them. No, indeedy - when it comes to victim-handling, the State of Alaska is most definitely leaning in:
Senator McGuire requested the Status of Women Report after reviewing a 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, which interviewed nearly 1,000 women and found that 59 percent have experienced domestic abuse, sexual violence, or both.
“We were waiting until the timing was right to release the report,” McGuire’s legislative aide Amy Saltzman told Yahoo! Shine, explaining that the office had spent the start of 2013 mired in issues including the recently passed oil tax bill.
Among the state’s upsetting findings: In 2010, women working in Alaska only earned 67 cents for each dollar a man earned (the national average is a still-low 77 cents to the dollar). As for crime and imprisonment, the number of women going to prison in Alaska is growing: In 2007, women made up 6.5 percent of Alaska’s prison population, but that number had jumped to nearly 11 percent in 2011.
Alaskan women are slightly more likely to have health coverage than Alaskan men, but the coverage for Alaskan women is still below the national average, with 21 percent going without (compared to the national rate of 20).
In the mental-health realm, the suicide rate for women in Alaska is twice as high as the rate nationally—nearly 10 percent of girls in high school attempted suicide in 2011. In addition, nearly two-thirds of Alaskan women were found to be in treatment for alcohol related problems, compared to just one-third nationwide.
As far as homelessness is concerned...
We'll stop here, because we're fairly certain you can see where this is going. With all these Victims lying thick upon the
ground never ending snow and ice, you can bet there are a whole passel of Victimizers lurking about. Care to guess who they might be? If you guessed "Men", a stuffed marmoset is on its way to you by parcel post:
So why the raw deal for women in this state? It may have something to do with the ratio of men to women there, which was noted in the state report as being higher in Alaska than in any other state, with 108.5 males to every 100 females. Nationally, there are 96.7 men to every 100 women. (Among the women in Alaska, 70 percent are white, over 17 percent Alaska native or Native American, and just 4 percent African American.)
As a reference point, the average global male-to-female sex ratio at birth is 105. Over time, it evens out to something closer to 1:1. The logical inference here is just so self-evidently self evident as to require no refutation (or proof, either!):
1. Women are being Victimized.
2. There are more men than women in Alaska.
3. Ergo, men must be responsible for the following outrages:
- Preventing fully-equal (and equally capable!) women from taking higher paying jobs
- Causing women to commit crimes at rates far in excess of the national average
- Driving the distaff sex to drink
- Causing the number of women who have health insurance to plummet to a full 1% below the national average
- Somehow causing large numbers of young girls to commit suicide
It's a good thing we already know who the culprits are, because none of the disturbing statistics cited by The Victimization Survey could possibly have anything to do with the fact that Alaska is cold, dark, and has fewer of the amenities, comforts, and opportunities offered by more densely populated states, could they? Of course they couldn't - that's just silly. Consequently, we're pretty confident that the problem is menfolk... oppressing everything within groping distance, keeping women from leaving the state or seeking better lives for themselves or their children, depriving young girls of the will to live. Guys can't help it, the poor dears - it's just how they're wired. Perhaps it's something in the culture of masculinity... or maybe it's the toxic combination of white skin and testosterone?
Imagine if African American men and boys were committing mass shootings month after month, year after year. Articles and interviews would flood the media, and we’d have political debates demanding that African Americans be “held accountable.” Then, if an atrocity such as the Newtown, Conn., shootings took place and African American male leaders held a news conference to offer solutions, their credibility would be questionable. The public would tell these leaders that they need to focus on problems in their own culture and communities.
Let's take a moment to put all this hyperbole into perspective. To ensure valid comparisons, we'll use a consistent time window: 1980-2010, or three decades. During this period:
1. There have been 20,223 multiple homicide cases (mass murders).
2. According to the source just linked, whites were responsible for 60% of those murders. And blacks were responsible for 36%.
3. So how many mass murder victims are we talking about during our 30-year period? According to this source, a good estimate is 100 per year x 30 years, for a total of 3,000 victims: That's right - a whopping 3000 people. Over 3 decades. If that doesn't qualify as an Epidemic of Violence, we're not sure what does.
Now let's look at the overall homicide rate, because last time we checked, victims of single homicides end up just as dead as victims of multiple homicides.
So we're looking at an average of 100 people per year (mass murders) vs. an average of 15000 people per year (all murders). That means for every mass murder victim, about 150 people are killed in single homicides. Now let's look at the percentage of single and mass murders committed by white and black men and contrast each stat with their relative share of the population:
Now if we accept the bizarrely racist and sexist notion that individuals share some form of collective responsibility for the actions of other individuals with the same skin color or genitalia (we don't accept it for one second, but let's set that aside for just a moment), who has the most pain and suffering to answer for?
It's not white men. Not by a long shot.
That's the problem with broad brush characterizations: they are a weapon that cuts both ways.
And it's not just progressives who do this. We've written about sly suggestions that we'd all be better off if the 19th Amendment were repealed. Never mind that the proportion of women who vote Democrat isn't nearly as high as the proportion of Blacks or Jews who do so... and yet we don't recall seeing calls to take away their voting rights. Decent conservatives don't say this sort of thing because punishing or blaming an entire class of people for the actions of a subset of that class is not just profoundly stupid, but inimical to what conservatism is supposed to be about.
Just as trying to hold all white men - the vast majority of whom have never killed anyone (much less multiple people) - answerable for the actions of a few is not just profoundly stupid, but inimical to progressive values.
Imagine what the world would be like if people of all political persuasions avoided such sloppy, broad brush characterizations? Failing that, imagine a world where we stood up for each other instead of trying to divide people into warring camps?
Yeah. Kinda dumb, isn't it?
March 26, 2013
Shocker: Acting Like a Colossal Jackwagon Can Get You Fired
Yes, we know - it is deeply surprising:
A donation campaign supporting the man whose crude joke led to the the firing of a female developer who tweeted about it is stirring controversy across the internet. Adria Richards was fired last week from her job at SendGrid - developers of a cloud-based e-mail system - after she overheard the joke from a couple of developers sitting behind her at the PyCon Conference in Santa Clara, California.
She said the men had made a remark concerning 'big dongles' - a device that plugs into a computer - but Richards maintains the men were using it in a sexual manner. She tweeted a photo of the two men with the message: 'Not cool. Jokes about forking repo's in a sexual way and "big" dongles.
The joke teller, known only as 'Mr Hank,' was also dismissed from his job at PlayHaven as a result of Richards' tweet. But now, a group of Reddit users have founded the Feminist Victims Fund, designed to help men like Mr Hank and others they deem to be oppressed under the 'tyranny' of feminism.
Stipulated: Ms. Richards is a pretentious nitwit and SendGrid was completely within its rights to fire her. The Editorial Staff would have fired her, too. No one wants to work in an environment where the slightest verbal faux pas ends up on the Internet, festooned with overwrought women's studies rhetoric.
The Feminist Victims Fund, on the otter heiny, strikes us as almost too good to be true. In a way, we're grateful: if this highly diverting brand of Speaking Truth to Glower didn't occur with such gratifying regularity, we'd have to make it up lest we find ourselves with nothing but nekkid elephant photos with which to amuse the assembled villainry.
What hallowed constitutional right is being protected from the frilly pantied oppression of the bra burning set? If, dear readers, you guessed "The right to make dirty jokes at a professional conference your boss is probably paying you to attend whilst wearing a T-shirt with your employer's name emblazoned upon it", a stuffed marmoset is on its way to you by parcel post. We can't work up too much sympathy for the "victim" here. It's a shame he ran into a Professional Person of Cholor with online Tourette's syndrome, but it should not be news to anyone in the tech community that what happens in public (or - sadly - in private, for that matter) all too often ends up on Twitter. Or, if you're attending a tech conference, on PowerPoint slides:
Richards' decision to tweet a photo of the men struck many people as an overreaction, but her actions make more sense in the context of the widespread hostility to women in her field, both online and offline. That hostility is one of the reasons I co-founded a nonprofit that fights harassment of women, the Ada Initiative, after one of my friends was sexually assaulted at a computer conference three times in a single year. The Ada Initiative's first project was helping hundreds of conferences adopt anti-harassment policies that explicitly banned pornography in presentations, groping, stalking, and other obnoxious behavior that had become common at many technology conferences.
Obviously, the Editorial Staff have been attending the wrong sort of conferences of late. One struggles to imagine an atmosphere where it is actually necessary to ban pornography in presentations, much less groping and stalking.
Nevertheless, the system worked precisely the way it ought to work. Ms. Richards complained to conference officials and she was within her rights to do so. Perhaps we might have simply confronted the gentlemen (one uses the term loosely) directly, but we can also understand why a person might wish to handle the matter in a less confrontational manner. If only the incident had ended there. But no, Ms. Richards made it worse by broadcasting the resolved incident to Twitter and posting about it on her blog, for which lapses her employer promptly fired her.
And rightly so - she wasn't fired for reporting the incident. She was fired for embarrassing her employer by displaying poor impulse control and even worse judgment in a public venue. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what got "Mr. Hank", now a world famous Victim of Feminist Oppression, fired.
Perhaps we're finally moving beyond those outdated gender stereotypes, after all :p
March 25, 2013
Proposed: A Gender-Neutral Standard for Identity Group Whining
Last week we espied yet another idiotic piece of identity group bean counting in the NY Times:
In the United States, girls have outshined boys in high school for years, amassing more A’s, earning more diplomas and gliding more readily into college, where they rack up more degrees — whether at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral levels.
But that has not been the trend when it comes to one of the highest accomplishments a New York City student can achieve: winning a seat in one of the specialized high schools. At all eight of the schools that admit students based on an eighth-grade test, boys outnumber girls, sometimes emphatically.
The problem, as the Times sees it, is that NYC's elite schools rely more on standardized test scores than grades. That's bad, we are told, because girls were more likely to be admitted under the older system that balanced grades and standardized test scores:
Even the specialized schools with a focus on the classics and humanities, Brooklyn Latin and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, now have a majority of male students. It was not always that way: Girls outnumbered boys at both schools until recently. American Studies has used the specialized admissions test since it opened a decade ago.
But in the first few years at Brooklyn Latin, founded in 2006, it had a broader admission policy based on grades and exams. Once it was made one of the specialized test schools, its population swung toward males.
“Sometimes, we see boys who are very bright, and can do well on an admissions test,” said Jason K. Griffiths, the principal. “But then I think the skills that a student needs to succeed in a school may be a little bit different.”
A corollary, perhaps, of the masculine leanings of the eight schools is the makeup of some of the elite high schools that do not use the specialized admissions test for admission.
At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, which admits students based on grades and auditions or portfolios of artwork, 73 percent of the students are girls. At Bard High School Early College, which has campuses in Manhattan and Queens, as well as at Millennium, Beacon and Townsend Harris High Schools, girls outnumber boys by at least 3 to 2.
Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer in the city’s Education Department, said the eight specialized-test schools represented just a portion of the city’s best schools, so there was a flaw in studying gender disparities solely in those eight schools. “These are not the best schools in the city,” he said of the eight specialized schools. “They are among the best schools in the city.”
He said that at the highest echelons of test-takers, girls scored as well as boys, but that overall, fewer of the strongest female students were taking the exam.
Hmmm... where have we heard this reasoning before? Here, perhaps?
Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.
The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.
So when fewer girls choose to take specialized entrance exams (and therefore are outnumbered at elite schools), but are admitted at higher rates when both grades and test scores are considered, gender injustice has occurred and we should be concerned.
And when fewer boys choose to complete assignments on time (or at all), take challenging Advanced Placement classes, or put in the time required to get good grades, or even bother to apply for college (and therefore are outnumbered in all BUT the most elite colleges), gender injustice has occurred and we should be concerned.
Here's a suggestion: why don't all the zero sum game grievance peddlers just quit whining?
This used to be a country famous for opportunity. No one was guaranteed to be evaluated by the instrument that most favors their disaffected identity politics group. Whatever the criterion, America offered the chance to try to meet that standard. If you want to attend an elite school in NYC and standardized tests aren't your forte, you need to try harder and figure out a way to do well on the test. And if you want to attend college, but completing assignments, taking AP classes, and filling out all those applications just seems like too much of a hassle, you need to try harder and figure out a way to do these things anyway. Just try finding a job where your boss allows you to opt out of tasks you find too "boring" because you're just super-smart. Most employers will take an employee of average or above average intelligence and strong work skills over a brilliant one who only does what he/she thinks is important every time. And for God's sake, can both sides please quit crying "sexism" every time we don't have exactly equal numbers of pink and blue jelly beans in the national Easter basket?
For decades, we've been listening to radical feminists complain about how The Patriarchal Hegemony unfairly favored boys and men, discouraging girls from even trying. Now we're listening to the same kind of nonsense from conservatives about Feminized Pretty-Much-Everything-on-the-Planet and how The Matriarchy discourages helpless boys and men, preventing them from even trying.
Frankly this last is a bit much, given that the vast majority (it's somewhere around 85%) of American companies and high level government positions are still held by men. And that's just fine with me - it's not gender injustice because no one is actively preventing women from competing for these positions. Success in certain endeavors may or may not be harder for women than it is for men (and vice versa). But women appear to be opting themselves out of the top echelons for reasons - family, a more healthy work/life balance, an aversion to the insane hours and stress levels that characterize jobs in the top echelon - that seem good to them. Meanwhile, whilst we weep and wail about how boys are being "left behind" because of feminized schools, young men still predominate at the nation's most competitive universities. Are we seriously to believe that there is some kind of magical exemption from the prevailing attitude of female sexism that only benefits Princeton and Yale students? How does that happen?
Glenn Reynolds, linking to the NYT piece about girls at elite schools, writes (without providing examples of anyone claiming boys are inferior):
WHEN BOYS FALL BEHIND, IT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE INFERIOR.
Who has said this? I've read numerous studies claiming that boys put forth less effort in school, or that they are socialized (by their parents, mind you!) to think that real men don't study or go to college. Oddly, boys with parents who teach them to work hard are doing just fine:
Boys’ underachievement compared to girls has nothing to do with intelligence. Study after study shows that boys and girls are very similar in terms of cognitive ability.
“But what is striking is that at every level of cognitive ability, boys are getting lower grades than girls. It is not about ability – it is about effort and engagement,” Buchmann said.
More girls than boys report that they like school and that good grades are important to them. They also study more than boys.
“Success in academics, like success in sports, requires time and effort. Because boys put forth less effort and are less engaged, they get lower grades and are less likely to get through college,” Buchmann said.
Some of boys’ underperformance is related to outdated views of masculinity that devalue hard work and effort in school, she said. This is particularly true for boys from blue-collar and lower-class families. Working class fathers may reinforce the idea that school is feminizing because, for them, masculinity is more about physical strength and manual labor than about getting good grades.
Many boys from middle-class families, whose fathers have managerial and white-collar jobs, often develop an “instrumental” approach to school, Buchmann said. Regardless of how much they like school, they have learned how to do well in school in order to get a well-paying job and achieve material success.
“For these boys, notions of what it means to be a man are much more in tune with what is required to be successful in today’s economy,” she said.
Like it or not, the entrance criteria for college (and most decent paying jobs) has less to do with how one scores on a test than with a candidate's work ethic, dependability, and ability to complete work without constant prodding or intensive oversight. These are the qualities that traditionally led to success: perseverance, hard work, and the ability to do what needs to be done whether or not one finds the task personally fascinating. This is an insight that applies equally to men and women.
Women: if you want equal pay, a spot in the executive suite, or a career in a tech field, you need to put in the same hours men do and make your career (not your husband or children) your first priority. That's what successful men do, and women who do those things are paid just as well as men.
Men: if you want to succeed in today's economy, you need to figure out how to get a job with a decent living wage. If you can figure out a way to become economically secure without a college degree, go for it. But don't cry "unfair" when you find out that high paying jobs that don't require a degree are scarce, or your job is the first to go (and the last to come back) during an economic downturn. Here, history is not on your side. Do what is needed to get and hold onto the job you want. Even if it requires going to college. Young men who are willing to do those things are doing just as well academically as young women.
We really need to get a grip on this "War on Men/Women" business. Life is hard enough as it is. It's even harder if you go through it expecting everything to be fair and balanced. Repeat after me:
THERE IS NO WAR ON WOMEN (or girls, for that matter)
AND THERE IS NO WAR ON MEN (or boys, for that matter)
There are only differences, most of which you will never be able to control: differences in aptitude, work ethic, effort, luck, and yes - often policy that may favor you or make succeeding harder. That's no excuse. Figure out what you want and put in the hard work needed to meet or exceed whatever threshold is required to get you in the door. Whining about how the prevailing standard doesn't play to your unique snowflake status isn't just unimpressive.
It's borderline suicidal, both at the individual and societal level.
March 15, 2013
At long last, the media discovers that rarest of rare things: something women *can't* do better than men:
In the war of the sexes, it is their perceived talent at multi-tasking that often gives women the upper hand.
But the belief that they are better at juggling jobs than men is a myth, psychologists claim.
Both sexes are equally poor at dividing their attention, according to research.
Equality being all the rage these days, we find ourselves profoundly grateful that in this one instance at least, no one is any better than anyone else. Men of VC, you are on notice: please avoid your tiresome displays of masculine competence, lest they upset this precarious balance and upset the equality apple cart :p
March 05, 2013
The Hollow Middle
Via Tyler Cowen, an interesting observation:
Mid-wage occupations, paying between $13.83 and $21.13 per hour, made up about 60 percent of the job losses during the recession. But those mid-wage jobs have made up just 27 percent of the jobs gained during the recovery.
By contrast, low-wage occupations paying less than $13.83 per hour have utterly dominated the recovery, with 58 percent of the job gains since 2010.
This isn’t a new phenomenon: Over the past decade high-wage and low-wage jobs have been growing at a decent clip. But that middle rung continues to get hollowed out. Mid-wage jobs endured a major drop after the 2001 recession, largely stagnated during the 2000s, and have now declined even further in the most recent downturn.
Are we experiencing a repeat of the industrial revolution?
If we turn to the industrial revolution, what do we see? Relatively high productivity from “restructuring,” (machinery replacing labor) but relatively low productivity from innovation or total factor productivity.
...During the early 19th century, there is much creative ferment, but much less in terms of products which translate into gains in living standards for the average person.
By the way, you also have theorists — Malthus, Lauderdale, Chalmers, Attwood, and others — who thought the main problem was simply lack of aggregate demand, which Malthus called effectual demand. They were absolutely right about part of the picture in the short run but missed most of the larger truths.
Eventually all of the creative ferment of the industrial revolution pays off in a big “whoosh,” but it takes many decades, depending on where you draw the starting line of course.
If middle-wage jobs are hollowing out while low and high wage jobs grow, how much sense does the current flirtation with "going Galt" make for young men (don't go to college, don't get married, don't "play their game")? That road seems to lead almost inevitably to relative poverty and a lifetime of dependence and economic insecurity. It's certainly not advice I'd give either of my sons.
In a labor market where "living wage" jobs have grown increasingly scarce, the economic benefits of partnership (aka, marriage) would seem to be maximized. On an earlier post, Texan 99 alluded to a conversation among conservatives who were waxing uber-outragey about "all those pesky women taking jobs that rightly belong to men". The Spousal Unit and I were discussing this over the weekend and were a little surprised to realize that, of our four grandmothers, 3 had college degrees and 3 had careers. Not one had neither a degree nor a job.
All of which got us thinking about skewed perceptions of history. The most interesting part of this chart is the percentage of women working during the 1940s and '50s. I was surprised to see that over one third of women worked:
During our growing up years (the 60s to mid 70s), that percentage grows from 40-50%. Compare and contrast rising female labor force participation with fluctuations in male unemployment over time:
If there's a clear and compelling argument for the existence of oppression or gender injustice in any of this, we're not seeing it. But lest it be averred that we're not all "equal opportunity" in our goring of gendered oxen, we found this observation on the much-ballyhoo'ed gender pay gap darkly amusing as well:
To what extent has legislation narrowed the gender gap? One piece of legislation is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring, promotion, and other conditions of employment. The other is affirmative action. There is only scant evidence that either law has had any effect on the gender gap in earnings or occupations, although not enough research on this has been done to justify strong conclusions one way or the other...
No doubt this phenomenon explains why, in the wake of The Most Significant Blow for Equal Pay Evah, WRA are now clamoring for yet another piece of landmark legislation that will finally (!) level that pesky playing field. Lily Ledbetter, we hardly knew ye!
Never attribute to other factors what can conveniently be attributed to discrimination. Data be damned, how we mortals love the simplistic/single cause theory of pretty much everything. Especially if it lets us blame our problems on the opposite sex.
Discuss amongst yourselves, oppressed knuckle draggers of both sexes.
December 31, 2012
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
Could it be ... the headlights on the Clue Bus?
By the following spring, they were talking openly about marriage. Pepper knew it was right because she found herself being flexible in ways she never had before. “It was probably the first time in my whole life where I’ve been willing to compromise,” she says. “In the past I’d say, ‘Well that’s just me, that’s my personality, and if you try to change it, it wouldn’t be me.’ That’s an interesting stance, but it’s a good way to be alone for the rest of your life.”
December 18, 2012
To Change Others, First Change Yourself
I loved this:
10:20 pm. I emerged from the garage entrance to the house, setting down my computer bag and purse, and walked into the kitchen. Six hours earlier, the crock pot worked preparing a meal for the family while I left to teach my business communications training class downtown. Now it sat in the sink, filled with soapy water, soaking. Dirty dinner dishes lay on the counter. The pan with the cornbread sat uncovered on top of the stove. I heard snoring. I gazed across to the living room, where my husband lay on the couch, television playing in the background. Tears of exhaustion, anger, and hurt welled in my eyes.
I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves and went to work cleaning up. With each dish, I grew more resentful. "How could he not see these?" I stewed. "I work all day, I prepare a home-made dinner for him and the kids before I go teach a class, and he can't even make sure the mess gets cleaned up," I fumed. The slamming of the dishwasher roused the sleeping husband. "I was going to get those before I went to bed," he mumbled, sensing my irritation. "Well, you already went to bed, didn't you?" I responded, wondering how long he'd been blessed with sleep, when both of us had been up since 5:00 am. "Here, let me help," he offered. "I'm nearly done now. I don't want your help," I lied. His brow furrowed. "Fine. Suit yourself. I'm going upstairs," he said.
I had no idea he really did plan on doing the dishes, but accidentally fell asleep on the couch because he, too, was exhausted. I didn't know that he had lovingly spent time with each of our kids, reading them stories before tucking them in and praying with them before bed. He went to bed that night feeling disrespected. I went to bed feeling unloved. Small interactions like this occurred often enough to create a growing chasm between us. These little conflicts went unresolved or were dealt with in unhealthy ways and resulted in a barren relationship on the road to destruction.
...Being a practicing Christian, I eventually ran across a Bible verse that at first angered me: Ephesians 5:33, "and the wife shall respect her husband." Another verse suggested I "submit" to my husband, and I had the same reaction. I couldn't believe God expected me to pay homage to a man who was, in my eyes, uninterested in working on our relationship.
A decade later, I can say that those two concepts--"respect" and "submission"--saved my marriage. And it wasn't because I became a doormat or no longer communicated my feelings. I learned that Biblical submission, boiled down, is basically "don't be a contentious competitor to him." After learning that, I argued with him less. I stopped rolling my eyes with disgust when he had something to say - even if I thought it was not such a great idea at the time. I started practicing the Bible verse which reads, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to become angry."
I started asking him questions about his life. I started being interested in him again as a person. I decided he was more important to me than whether or not a dish made it into the dishwasher or his socks were left on the floor. There were even a few things he did that could be considered big mistakes that just didn't seem to matter as much when I viewed him as a person of worth. I could forgive him - and I saw my own flawed nature clearly.
This frame of mind, where the default state is for each sex to treat the other with respect and gentleness, is how I think of chivalry. Unlike Grim, I know little of the history or origins of chivalry. So I cannot comment knowledgeably on what it is supposed to be or how it was practiced in bygone ages. When done correctly, it brings out the very best in both men and women because at its heart, it is based upon respect and love:
A code that teaches men how to love women is good. If it also makes men into the kinds of creatures that are worthy of love themselves, it is better.
Lack of respect makes us suspicious of each other's motives and can lead us to react antagonistically to each other instead of extending the benefit of the doubt. This weekend, I was at the mall. I stepped into the entryway briefly to throw out my coffee cup. As I turned to go back into the store, I spied a man walking towards the door. So instead of walking through, I opened the door and held it for him.
He paused, and as he did a woman I had not seen approached from the other side and walked through the door I was holding without saying a word. I attributed this, not to her being female or to feminism, but to the fact that some people are self absorbed.
The man was still paused on the other side of the door, so I stayed where I was and gestured with my hand to show that I was holding the door for him. He hesitated a moment, then walked through. He had a look of slight amazement on his face as he said, "I'm not used to that! Thank you."
That struck me as very sad. The gesture was automatic on my part. I've said the same thing when a man has obviously gone out of his way to hold a door for me because I don't expect doors to be held open simply because I'm female. To work, I think chivalry has got to be reciprocal, and moreover at some point it has to include some recognition that men and women don't see the world through the same eyes and don't need the same things (love, or respect) in equal amounts. That's one reason a template can be helpful:
I think is very healthy for society to have gender roles, because men and women are quite different. On average, such roles help us relate to each other by giving us forms we can rely upon to smooth our interactions just where misunderstandings are most likely.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for me to understand about men (or my sons) has been male pride. Men often complain about women being unreasonable when they get their feelings hurt over some slight that wouldn't even register to a man, and sometimes they are right. But women are often just as mystified by the male need for respect - like the hurt feelings thing for men, it just doesn't register with most of us because - after all - *we* wouldn't react that way! Things that don't seem disrespectful or antagonistic to us often seem that way to men.
The interesting thing about chivalry is that it seems to build in the unique needs of men and women without necessarily making those needs explicit. Where it can sometimes go wrong is (as Grim notes) when it becomes too rigid, assuming that women don't need respect.
Or men don't need love.
Sets of rules are great for ordering societies, but I can't help thinking that understanding is important, too. The real irony here is that I've often observed that men can perceive helpfulness from a woman as implied disrespect ("You obviously think I am the sort of person who needs help") when often it's proferred with the best of intentions and no disrespect. So men obviously understand on a gut level how deference or helpfulness might be unwelcome in certain circumstances, especially if the recipient feels the need to project strength or independence. If this feeling is natural for men, why should it be a cause for offense in women?
What I loved about the reaction of the man in that store is that he was mildly taken aback, but put the best construction on my gesture and accepted it graciously. It requires effort to set aside our instinctive reactions, but it's well worth the trouble.
December 11, 2012
Let's hope Mrs. Claus had a nice steak and a cold beer ready for him when he got home.
Punished for Succeeding
A female entrepreneur - an example of the kind of success Democrats claim to want for women everywhere - writes Obama to ask why the Affordable Care Act is forcing her to move operations overseas?
Theragenics makes “medical devices for prostate cancer, vascular access and wound closure.” In her letter to Mr. Obama, Ms. Jacobs noted that her company has four factories in four states in the U.S., which employ 626 people. She stated: “In our 30-year history we have treated over 200,000 men for prostate cancer, and we have been proud of our workforce and proud to have treated so many dads, brothers and husbands for cancer. As a public company we have fallen prey to the heavy burden of being public with increased expenses associated with [Sarbanes Oxley] and now Dodd Frank.” She also reminded the president that she had written to him back in 2009, when she stated, “We were paying about $8,000 per employee per year to be public and comply with the new Dodd Frank regulations. That money could be better spent on jobs and expansion.”
Under Obamacare, there is a new tax specifically on the gross revenue of medical device manufacturers. Most people (outside of Washington) understand that if we tax something, we get less of it. A higher tax on medical device manufacturers means fewer and more expensive medical devices that save lives, and less research and development to develop new and better devices. As Ms. Jacobs explains: “Our products are for people with prostate cancer, heart disease, breast cancer and orthopedic knee or hip surgeries. Our 626 employees’ futures are now uncertain. The cost of regulation, legislation and now the Device Tax have provided an atmosphere that is close to untenable.”
Ms. Jacobs, who started out as a nurse with a passion for science, has headed Theragenics Corp. for the past two decades. She is a classic entrepreneur, an all-American woman, who likes to hunt, fish and go to the symphony. She serves on the boards of many civic institutions and other organizations. Now, having built a successful company that competes in the global marketplace, she is being forced by ignorant and misguided legislators and regulators to move operations outside of the United States. She concluded her letter to the president: “Our 30-year-old company has done all our country has asked of it and has been punished. I am immensely sad at this writing.”
Perhaps she should look into green energy? The federal government is willing to invest millions of dollars in unsuccessful companies with no strings attached.
December 06, 2012
Nature, Nurture, or Perceived Benefit?
So the Blog Princess saw this yesterday and it amused her extremely:
Yesterday, a video asking "What if guys and girls swapped roles at the bar?" went viral, skewering every part of the club-going experience. In the video's world, girls, rather than guys, end up waiting in line forever to get past the doorman, pressure men into taking shots, and harass guys with low-cut tops. And guys don't know their limits when they drink, talk sloppily about commitment to women they've just met, and grind with each other on the dance floor. As far as pointing out bad/lame behavior via gender role reversal, the video's an equal-opportunity expose.
The video embedded in the article is pretty funny but we thought the one on dating/relationships was even better:
We showed both vids to the spousal unit over a pre-prandial libation and gained the oink seal of approval, so we thought you might enjoy them too. I was more than a little surprised at how differently I react to the same behavior depending on whether it is exhibited by the male or the female of the species.
During the inevitable marital "discussions", the blog princess has more than once been known to say, "Be honest here - if someone did that to you, how would you feel?" It's a question I've learned to ask myself over the years, because it's really hard to step outside your own skin and try to imagine the world as it looks to our better halves. But it's very much worth doing - I've had my mind changed more than once as a result of such exercises.
The videos reminded me of another thought I have fairly frequently: how many of the observable differences in male/female behavior and decision making have to do with biology, and how many have to do with the simple fact that the world doesn't work exactly the same for men and women? We are faced with many of the same decisions in life, but the risks and benefits attached to various decisions are profoundly different depending on whether one is male or female. Decrying these differences as "unfair" has become something of an equal opportunity sport on the Internet. So is the elaborate man- or woman-splaining often used to massage gender studies around until they neatly "prove" what various combatants in the battle of the sexes already believe:
Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Conley describes a series of experiments that refine the results of a seminal 1989 study widely cited in articles and textbooks. That study, by psychologists Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield, found that when a female college student introduced herself to a male colleague and asked if he wanted to have sex with her, 69 to 75 percent of the guys said yes. When the genders were reversed, not a single woman was interested. That huge difference has largely been explained in terms of Sexual Strategies Theory, an evolutionary approach that focuses on the desire, conscious or unconscious, to pass one’s genes to the next generation. If that’s our driving impulse, women need to be choosy about their sexual partners; they’re looking for men who are likely to stick around and provide support during their child-rearing years. Men, on the other hand, have an evolutionary incentive to spread their seed as widely as possible.
Setting aside for a moment the most glaring flaw in this analysis - that women are smaller and physically weaker than men, and therefore have more to fear from going home with a complete stranger - leaves several other differences in the risk/benefit calculation. One I almost never see cited when this study comes up occurred to me within seconds of reading it for the first time: society looks down on women who engage in casual sex. They are sluts, whereas promiscuous men are studs. So imagine my amusement upon reading this study:
... why did the young men and women in the 1989 study — and in a repeat of that experiment that Conley conducted — react so differently to the offer of casual sex? After conducting a series of follow-up experiments, in which she tweaked Clark and Hatfield’s sexual-invitation scenario in different ways, she came up with an answer sports-conscious men should be able to easily grasp: The playing field isn’t level. Men, after all, can almost be guaranteed a pleasurable sexual encounter if they’re with someone they find attractive. But Conley points to new, yet-to-be published research by sociologist Elizabeth Armstrong which finds “women orgasm only 35 percent as often as men in first-time sexual encounters.” “Women’s perception that their heterosexual casual sex partners will be unlikely to give them pleasure is not unwarranted,” Conley states. This lack of confidence in men as pleasure-givers was indirectly supported by another of Conley’s experiments, which focused on bisexual women. They were “significantly more likely to accept an offer (of a one-night stand) from a woman than from a man,” she reports.
On first glance, this explanation isn't exactly flattering to the male ego but once you take into account the fact that men have to do more to arouse/satisfy a woman than women do to arouse/satisfy men, it makes perfect sense. And it strikes me as far more plausible than attributing disparate willingness to have casual sex to abstract evolutionary theories about spreading one's seed (because guys are totally thinking, "Woo ha! An opportunity to spread my seed!" when they see an attractive female) or equally unsupported ones about men having vastly stronger sex drives. Positing - for a moment - equally strong sex drives but very unequal prospects of surviving or merely enjoying a casual one night stand, is it really surprising that women are less willing? How much sense does it make to construct elaborate rationalizations involving the survival of the species to explain spur of the moment decisions?
If a proposed activity has more risks and fewer benefits for a certain group, shouldn't we expect the decisions of that group to reflect the risk-to-benefit ratio? And if this is the case, shouldn't we expect the decisions of both sexes to change when the risk/benefit balance changes? The clear implication here is that humans of both sexes adapt to their circumstances. Though we may tend more or less in a particular direction, we are not completely hard-wired to choose commitment or casual sex. To a far larger degree than we may wish to believe, our choices reflect our circumstances: we weigh the perceived benefits against the perceived harms that may result from our decisions. Change the circumstances, and we can expect different reactions.
This argument, by the way, applies just as much to many male behaviors that women don't understand, like to criticize, or attribute to Evil Testosterone: change the incentives and you often change the behavior. If such behaviors were hard wired, they'd be incredibly difficult to change. If they change with the perceived benefits, incentives, or risks, then they're probably not as hard-wired as we thought they were.
Increasingly, I'm becoming convinced that we really have a very poor grasp of the degree to which various gender differences are caused by biology, culture, or more abstract considerations like opportunity, risk, benefit, and even perceived power. There has been a huge shift in the opportunities afforded to women, and they are making decisions that surprise a lot of folks in the biology-is-destiny crowd. They shouldn't.
October 11, 2012
Attention Men: Your "Sexual Rights" Are Being Eroded
Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
A woman is not property, and husbands who think otherwise are living in a dreamworld.
- Robert Heinlein
In the brave new world the Blog Princess dreams of betimes, it will someday be a truth universally acknowledged that adult men have far too much self regard to write creepy posts about their sexual rights. But perhaps this is too ambitious a vision, even for dewy-eyed admirers of both the estate of matrimony and the other half of humanity? Could it be that the key to happy marriages lies in understanding that a woman who demands expensive trips or jewelry in return for marital services rendered is commoditizing acts that should be loving and voluntary, while a man who demands sex twice a week in return for marital services rendered is doing no such thing? Even if, say, he leads off by calculating the market value of intercourse with a prostitute vs. his wife before asserting a uniquely self serving vision of the marriage contract that replaces, "for better, for worse" and "'til death do us part" with "until you do something that gives me an excuse to cheat"?
...if a woman is unwilling to commit to having sex on some sort of regular basis, then how on Earth can any man be reasonably expected to commit to never having sex with anyone else?
...men's reasonable marital expectations have been debased, but are we really supposed to believe that marriage, with all of its responsibilities, sexual and otherwise, now provides absolutely no sexual rights to the husband?
Inexplicably, my sentimental recollections of my wedding day in 1979 do not include a vow to provide sexual services at regularly specified intervals, much less the right to expensive jewelry or fancy vacations. Such bartering, like the weird expectation that a man is owed sex if he pays for dinner, formed no part of my youthful dreams of finding a man worth spending the rest of my life with. Even more strangely, after more than three decades of wedded bliss (during which, far from having to be bribed into having sex, I looked forward to it) this author would have sworn that people who think a marriage license entitles them to demand anything from their spouse don't really understand what marriage is all about.
I would have thought that both men and women have the right to decide what they will tolerate in a relationship, but that none of us has the right to demand obedience in such a personal matter. We all have needs. As a woman, I absolutely need to know that my husband loves and at least tries to understand me. I need to love and understand him. Without that sense of closeness - of shared intimacy - marriage would be utterly worthless to me.
But my personal desires don't give me the right to demand that my husband open himself up to me whenever I'm feeling needy. I don't have a right to insist that he talk about his feelings or our relationship at specified intervals because he doesn't "owe" me physical or emotional intimacy. Certainly, I can ask for what I need from our marriage. And if I am wise, I will make sure that over time he gets as much from our partnership as I do. I ought to find out what he needs from the relationship (not what I think he should want or need) and give it to him voluntarily, because I love him and trust that my actions will be reciprocated.
But at the end of the day, the decision is his.
And that's as it should be. Why would any mature man or woman think they have the right to demand of another what they are not willing to give freely? Curious as to the nature of these one sided "sexual rights", I made the mistake of clicking on the linked essay and learned that once upon a time, men were entitled to a beautiful, young, non-college educated virgin with no career! They traded their earnings and material goods for the exclusive right to have sex with a young hottie. Now *that's* a value proposition you can punch right into your pocket calculator!
Sadly, today's men are all too often forced (by their penises!) into misguided liasons with women who fall a few items short of their fantasy shopping lists. Now if we were talking about women with fantasy shopping lists, the problem with this formulation would be obvious. Romance novels, you see, create unrealistic expectations that no real man can - or should! - have to satisfy. Are men not human beings who have their own dreams and aspirations - who do not exist merely to satisfy some warped female fantasy?
Of course the converse - that women might be human beings with dreams and aspirations of their own who do not exist merely to fulfill male fantasies - is just crazy talk. The fact that some misguided individuals think otherwise only proves that traditional marriage is debased beyond all recognition or repair.
If only we could get back to the good old days, when young men who delay marriage until they've graduated college and established themselves in a career while sleeping with women they have no intention of marrying are considered to be moral, upright, and desireable husbands. And young women who do precisely the same thing are immoral sluts.
It's these traditional values that we need to get back to - you know, the ones we learned from our parents and grandparents. I'll never forget my parents telling me to hold out for a guy with a big wallet who slept around until he was 30 or so. If the Bible teaches us anything, it's that biological urges trump the confining strictures of morality and civilization every time. So whenever I'm trying to decide upon the right course of action, I like to fall back on a fantasy world where I can act as I please while holding others to a completely different standard.
Yep - the best morality is relative morality, and don't let anyone tell you differently.
We permit all things to ourselves, and that which we call sin in others, is experiment for us. It is an instance of our faith in ourselves, that men never speak of crime as lightly as they think: or, every man thinks a latitude safe for himself, which is nowise to be indulged to another.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
October 10, 2012
12 Steps to Raising Strong Sons
Mindful of the impermanence of the Internet, the blog princess is in the process of collecting up various essays she has written over the years. This one was originally written for Rightnetwork.
When I was young, masculinity was a one-size-fits-all affair. Men defended the weak, brought home the bacon and kept the world running smoothly while maintaining a stiff upper lip and a heroic reserve. Women had their own carefully prescribed role to play. We were caretakers, teachers, tenders of home and hearth. If men built the world, women connected it. As volunteers, bakers of cupcakes and holiday feasts, keepers of time honored rituals and faithful recorders of birthdays, anniversaries and the names of maiden aunties; women bound families and communities together. Our world offered fewer choices than the world of men, but in some ways it was indescribably richer.
The days of rigid gender roles are gone, but so (for the most part) are the restraining influences of morality, social convention, and taste. Today’s world has little use and even less respect for manly strength and character. Too often we confuse maleness with manliness, defining masculinity down to an uninspiring collection of barely controlled biological urges.
This is a grave mistake, for a world with diminishing standards and few enforceable rules needs men more than ever.
What is the essence of masculinity and how can we cultivate and honor it in our sons? Harvey Mansfield once defined manliness as “a quality that causes individuals to stand for something”. If men have a salient quality, surely it is strength of body, mind, spirit and character. Is it still possible to raise strong, adaptable sons in a society that views manhood as a debased currency? The good news is that with a bit of tweaking, the old standards still work:
1. Challenge your son to find and develop his own strengths. In an era of expanding choices, masculinity should not be a straitjacket. Not all boys love to fight, make noise, or play football - they need freedom to discover their abilities and the discipline to develop them. Confidence flows from achievement, not empty praise. Whether your son excels on the baseball field or in the computer lab, challenge him to become good at something.
2. Don’t make excuses for bad behavior. Being male is not a handicap. Boys shouldn’t be expected to behave like girls, but they should be expected to behave well.
3. Teach responsibility by delegating responsibility. Children whose parents do everything for them rarely develop the habits and discipline needed for independence and success. Masculine forcefulness is an admirable quality. Channel your son’s natural urge to take command of situations and people by putting him in charge of small jobs he can master with reasonable effort.
4. Sometimes, reality is the best teacher. Boys are usually far more impressed by actions than words. If you find yourself repeating the same warnings, stop talking and let him experience the consequences of his decisions. You can’t protect him from every danger. Let him take a few risks – that’s how boys learn.
5. Give him unconditional love, but not unconditional approval. Boys need love, but they also need firm limits. Insist that he treat others with respect and consideration.
6. Boys need heroes. Books are full of them. Teach him to love great books and they will inspire him to be a better person.
7. Speaking of heroes, give him time alone with his father. As boys mature, it’s normal for them to pull away from their mothers a bit. Wanting time with Dad is a sign that your son is beginning to see himself as a man – and an adult.
8. Teach him how to love. A mother’s relationship with her son prepares him for the relationship he’ll one day have with his wife. Older boys may need less mothering, but you can help him in other ways. Teach him how to talk to (and more importantly, handle conflict with) women as people.
9. Respect the father of your children. A boy raised in a home where men are honored is more likely to become a man worth honoring.
10. Look beneath the surface. Despite outward appearances, boys can be infuriatingly indirect. Many can’t – or won’t - admit they need attention or want to talk. One of my sons loved to provoke me when something was on his mind. Years later, his wife tells me he still does that. Now that’s a smart woman!
11. Teach him to believe in something, defend something, serve something. Don’t neglect his moral education. The noblest expression of manhood occurs when strength and courage serve some larger purpose.
12. Hold on… but loosely. No matter how old he gets your son will always need caring, engaged parents. But he also needs space to take risks, make mistakes and most importantly, chart his own course.
If men are driven to stand for something, it follows that the world will be a better or worse place depending on what they strive for. Help your sons find worthy goals and then step back and watch them move mountains.
July 13, 2012
I don’t text in long enough sentences to get in whether I think something is funny. In email, which I’m beginning to think is old-fashioned, I don’t use the bouncing emoticon because I think that is girly, but I use the little smile signs, with a colon and parentheses :) — a more male emoticon, where you comprise it yourself, because men build things? I don’t know.
The Editorial Staff found this amusing, as we have always rather favored the build-it-yourself smile thingy, mostly because we also detest the yellow happy face. Does this mean we're a man, trapped in a woman's body?
A while back, we ran across this post in Scientific American:
Dating back to the Great Depression, times of recession have consistently yielded anomalous gains for the beauty products industry, even while consumers rein in spending on household goods and recreational products. Journalists have dubbed this curiosity the “lipstick effect.” I recently sought to test the lipstick effect in a series of studies, the results of which were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Our findings confirmed that the lipstick effect is not only real, but deeply rooted in women’s mating psychology.
While economic recessions are a recent development in human history, fluctuations in prosperity and resource availability are not. Human ancestors regularly went through cycles of abundance and famine, each of which favorsdifferent reproductive strategies. While periods of abundance favor strategies associated with postponing reproduction in favor of one’s own development (e.g., by pursuing an education), periods of scarcity favor more immediate reproduction. The latter strategy is more successful during times of resource scarcity because it decreases the likelihood that one will perish before having the chance to reproduce.
For women, periods of scarcity also decrease the availability of quality mates, as women’s mate preferences reliably prioritize resource access. This preference stems from the important role that mates’ resources have played in women’s reproductive success. Because economic recessions are associated with higher unemployment and minimal or negative returns on investments, news of a recession may therefore signal to women that financially secure men—those able to invest resources in rearing offspring—are becoming scarce.
Now we might have fallen for this, had we not vividly remembered several articles about the bump in plastic surgery shortly after the financial crisis of 2008:
More people are getting everything from facelifts to liposuction these days. And it's the so-called less vain sex who is helping to drive those plastic surgery numbers up. New statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed that cosmetic plastic surgery procedures among men rose 2% in 2010 from 2009.
Men underwent more than 1.1 million cosmetic procedures in 2010 -- both minimally invasive and surgical -- accounting for 9.9% of all cosmetic procedures last year.
(In 2010, 13.1 million people overall underwent plastic surgery, up 5% from the year ago period, according to the ASPS.)
Men and women between the ages of 40 and 54 make up the majority of cosmetic procedures, the ASPS says.
To what, you may ask, do The Experts attribute this decidedly masculine Man-ifestation of the Lipstick Effect? If you thought to yourself, "Obviously, this lipstick effect thingamajobber is not only real, but deeply rooted in masculine mating psychology", deduct 10 points from your IQ score:
Experts say the growth in male plastic surgery is partly due to the gender's efforts to gain marketability career-wise.
"Men have a new attitude toward cosmetic surgery than what we've seen historically," Dr. Phil Haeck, ASPS president and a board-certified plastic surgeon, told WalletPop. "Many stashed away some cash during the recession so they could come out of it with a younger look, ready to attack the job market."
Ann McMahon, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, says the still-tenuous economy and employment picture is driving older men to feel more competitive with younger men. "In our culture, younger is better" -- and that's true today more than ever, McMahon told WalletPop. And "lines and jowls are not [considered] attractive in our culture."
More men are undergoing plastic surgery "because of the economy specifically: There just aren't as many jobs out there. They're saying, 'Anything that will give us an edge, why not?'"
Well alrighty, then. Let that be a lesson to you, knuckle draggers :)
July 11, 2012
Preglimony & Sex Lead To Equal Opportunity Silliness, Part I
What is it about sex that prompts otherwise sane and sagacious writers of both sexes to heretofore unseen feats of solipsistic sophism? [Full disclosure: we tried to work a few more scintillatingly sibyllant "s" words into the preceding sentence, but our alliterative powers generally require a second cup of coffee before they reach full potency.] The sexy sex foolishness begins, as it so often does, in the Opinion section of the Paper of Record:
FOR most of human history, a woman who became pregnant after sleeping with more than one partner had no way of definitively knowing the identity of the man with whom she had conceived. Likewise, a man whose lover became pregnant had no way of knowing for sure whether his or another man’s DNA was gestating inside her.
Since the 1970s it has been possible to genetically link a father and his baby with increasing levels of accuracy.... Since a small amount of fetal DNA is present in a pregnant woman’s blood, the pregnancy can be genetically linked to her partner through a simple blood draw from the woman’s arm.
One of the potential ramifications [of this new technology] is that men might be called upon to help support their pregnant lovers before birth, even if the pregnancy is ultimately terminated or ends in miscarriage. They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes, to help to cover the loss of income that often comes with pregnancy, or to contribute to the cost of an abortion.
Of course, plenty of men already treat the costs of pregnancy as a shared responsibility. But some do not, leaving the woman to shoulder the burdens alone.
As the saying goes, hilarity ensues. First up is a response linked via Grim, who comments:
I'm willing to accept that a man who gets a woman pregnant ought to take responsibility for providing for her needs during pregnancy. That all makes sense to me, although Taranto's objections regarding incentives do seem like relevant concerns.
But there can be no accommodation on the question of forcing a man to pay for the abortion of his own child. It's hard enough that we require a man to endure the killing of a child he may want, if the woman carrying the child decides that she prefers it dead. There can be no moral argument for forcing him to pay for the poisoning of his own flesh and blood.
Grim's response makes sense as far as it goes. Last time we checked, pregnancy requires the active participation of two people, both of whom have a non-delegatable duty to use birth control if they do not wish to conceive a child.
Admittedly no method of birth control is foolproof, but then few precautions in life are designed to withstand the combined efforts of not one, but two fools. The actual failure rate for most birth control methods (which measures their effectiveness when used carelessly or inconsistently) far exceeds the "perfect use" failure rate (the chance of unplanned pregnancy when a given method is used correctly and consistently).
If both partners take the physical risks of casual sex (pregnancy and STDs) seriously, each will use birth control and take precautions against sexually transmitted diseases. Two methods offer more protection than one alone. Thus, when both partners use birth control - even badly - the chance of unintended pregnancy is vanishingly small. The actual failure rate for condoms is about 15%. For the Pill, it's about 8%. The combined failure rate using these two methods (someone please correct me if I've done this wrong) should be .15*.08=.0120, or about 1%. Keep in mind that this combined failure rate applies when both parties fail to use their respective methods correctly. If one partner uses birth control correctly, the risk will be smaller. And if they both use birth control responsibly, the combined failure rate is so small as to be insignificant.
Moreover, this particular discussion assumes two sexual partners who are unmarried and thus in many cases, not in an exclusive relationship. So in addition to the pre-existing duty of both partners to use birth control, the man has an additional incentive to use a condom: the prevention of STDs. Here, simple biology places most of the burden on the male. Female contraceptives are not designed to prevent the transmission of many STDs. The importance of these inconvenient calculations becomes clear when reading Taranto's response to the preglimony proposal. Mr. Taranto's first objection rests on ostensibly practical grounds:
Motro is vague about the details--in particular, the question of how a DNA sample would be extracted from an unwilling man. It does seem clear, however, that she means "asked" as a euphemism for "forced," as when President Obama "asks" the "rich" to "contribute" by paying higher taxes.
At first, one is tempted to think he has never heard of paternity suits, but Mr. Taranto later acknowledges that legal mechanisms for holding unwed fathers financially accountable for children they choose to sire (and refusing to use birth control - or use it correctly - IS a reproductive choice) already exist and are fairly commonplace:
Motro's proposal would bring back the shotgun, but without the wedding. To some extent it would merely extend existing practice, in which courts sometimes order fathers to pay child support even when they have never been married to the mothers. But it differs in that it would make the father responsible for the mother's welfare, not just the child's.
This seems a tad misleading. Ms. Molto's suggestion doesn't make the father responsible for the mother's welfare. It merely asks him to share the costs of their joint carelessness. Oddly, Mr. Taranto seems surprised and vaguely offended at the suggestion that an adult male who could easily prevent unwanted pregnancies should be expected to suffer the predictable costs of his beautiful and natural refusal to protect himself. The myth of consequence free sex (for men, at least) dies so beautifully. Things get stranger a few paragraphs later:
Before the pill and abortion, unwanted pregnancy was a foreseeable risk of sexual intercourse, one that was equally beyond the control of both partners. Afterward, the matter was entirely under the control of the woman. It was, and is, a woman's choice whether to use the pill and, if pregnancy results anyway, whether to have an abortion.
It's hard to know what to say here. Condoms have been in existence since the year 3000 BC. Herbal contraceptives, natural abortifacients, and intrauterine devices in various forms have been around nearly as long as the condom. By 1920, well before Betty Friedan single handedly destroyed Western Civilization as we knew it, American couples, using a combination of condoms and other well known birth control methods, had already cut the U.S. birth rate in half. And that was before mandatory sex ed hit the public school system:
In the 1920s, the U.S. birth rate drops by half. Condom reliability is still terrible by modern standards, but people achieved effective birth control by combining condoms, the rhythm method, male withdrawal, diaphragms, and/or intrauterine devices.
Nowhere in Taranto's column does he mention the availability of condoms. This is not an inadvertent omission: a few paragraphs later he repeats his astounding assertion that men have no ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies, following it up with an even loopier conclusion:
Short of surgical sterilization, the only way single men could be assured of avoiding shotgun nonmarriage would be to abstain from sex. As we noted in April, there is evidence that teen boys are doing just that. But while male teen abstinence may be desirable, only female abstinence can prevent out-of-wedlock births.
Now wait just a durned minute! Doesn't it take two people - a man and a woman - to create an unwanted baby? Male abstinence is just as effective in preventing pregnancies as female abstinence. What is it about sex that causes rational adults to make such blissfully afactual arguments?
The real objection to Taranto's analysis is he proposes to replace one distasteful solution to the "problem" of asymmetrical consequences with another that's just as bad. He would counter the feminist vision of female sexual irresponsibility with an equal dose of male irresponsibility, conjuring up a brave new world in which infantilized men can't be expected to protect themselves from STDs, nor lift a fingerlike appendage to prevent a predictable consequence of casual sex: the creation of children they are unwilling to support.
It's worth noting that Molto's preglimony proposal, however impractical, does not ask men to bear ALL the responsibility for the costs of an unwanted pregnancy. Rather, it asks men to SHARE responsibility for those costs. On equitable grounds, it's hard to argue against such a proposal (with the exceptions cited by Grim: a man should never be forced to split the cost of killing a child he is willing to raise, and if he is willing to raise that child then the mother should be "forced" (!) to pay her share of the child's support). It is far from certain that the majority of unwed fathers actually desire to take on that responsibility. But where they do, it would be both cruel and unjust to force them to subsidize the ending of a life they value, even if the mother does not.
Finally, the Brookings study Taranto cites at the beginning of his essay takes issue with his assertion that financial subsidies for unwed mothers cause more out of wedlock births:
Efforts by social scientists to explain the rise in out-of-wedlock births have so far been unconvincing, though several theories have a wide popular following. One argument that appeals to conservatives is that of Charles Murray, who attributes the increase to overly generous federal welfare benefits. But as David Ellwood and Lawrence Summers have shown, welfare benefits could not have played a major role in the rise of out-of-wedlock births because benefits rose sharply in the 1960s and then fell in the 1970s and 1980s, when out-of-wedlock births rose most. A study by Robert Moffitt in 1992 also found that welfare benefits can account for only a small fraction of the rise in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio.
Somewhat ironically, the conclusion to the Brookings study recommends the very thing Taranto fears will cause men to abstain from casual sex (a consummation devoutly to be avoided!) and drop out of the sexual marketplace: make fathers share the costs of unplanned pregnancies!
It has been suggested that measures should be taken to make fathers pay for the support of their out-of-wedlock children. While probably difficult to enforce, such measures give the correct incentives. They will make men pause before fathering such children and they will at least slightly change the terms between fathers and mothers. Such measures deserve serious consideration.
When it comes to sex, reasoned argument seems to fly right out the window. Part II will dissect a feminist response to the preglimony proposal.
June 19, 2012
Dads In The News
In today's edition of "Fathers are awesome":
Beaver dads are often among the best in the animal kingdom, but one beaver widower who lost his long-time mate merits special attention.
"Dad," who lives in a Martinez, Calif. beaver colony, was suddenly left with three young kits to care for when his devoted partner died of an infection. They had previously raised 12 other kits together.
Heidi Perryman, president and founder of Worth a Dam, told Discovery News, "We were worried about their (the three kits') safety. Would Dad be able to provide for them and could he care for them as well as she did? Would they learn everything they needed to know without a mother?"
Their fears were understandable. Dad could only do so much in a day. He not only built the family home (his clan's lodge), but he also regularly repairs it. This is in addition to building dams, gathering food and other time-consuming duties.
He more than stepped up to the plate, though. In addition to tackling care-giving basics, he gave the kits beaver-back rides and taught them how to dive. He brought them gourmet tender new shoots for dinner.
"Dad's transition to single parent was a seamless one," Perryman said. "All three youngsters have survived to adulthood, and Dad is still at hand, showing them the finer points of dam management.
This, in particular, cracked me up:
When Mom was alive, Dad never received much onlooker attention because Mom was such a crowd favorite. She had a distinctively patterned tail that made her easily identifiable.
Dad may not have such natural tail bling, but he's now drawing fans in California. His family seems to think he's pretty amazing too.
As well they should! Tail bling is highly overrated.
The Power of False Myths
Back in January when the Costa Concordia ran aground, the rightosphere was awash in comparisons to the sinking of the Titanic with its now famous chivalric standard: "Women and children first". It wasn't far from there to the inevitable lesson we were supposed to draw from the cowardly behavior of the captain and some passengers and crew: the real culprits were those evil feminists and their chivalry-harshing ways:
Shortly after the sinking of the Costa Concordia we started having a low level grumble in the media about the failure to implement a “women and children first” evacuation policy. Others including Elusive Wapiti and Vox Day have rightly pointed out that it is wholly irrational for our society to expect men to follow cultural norms which have long been invalidated by feminism. As Brendan put it in a different context:If liberation for women meant liberation from accountability to men, liberation for men meant liberation from responsibility to women.
At the time, the Blog Princess pointed out one problem with this impressive display of post hoc rationalization. It turns out that the story that has come to define how civilized men respond to a disaster was not the norm, but in fact an exception to the general rule of "every man for himself":
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic, from which many of us get the notion that when a ship goes down, it's "women and children first" into the lifeboats. After all, the survival rate for first-class women passengers, according to Wikipedia's handy chart, was 97 percent, while for first-class men it was 33 percent. (Of third-class women, only 46 percent lived, but that's still far above the 16 percent of third-class male passengers who made it.) However, hard-nosed research on actual human behavior has found that male self-sacrifice in shipwrecks in general is a myth: According to this review (pdf) of data from 18 non-wartime shipwrecks from 1852 to 2011, men have generally been twice as likely to survive a shipwreck than women. Hence the title of the paper, by Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson, economists at Sweden's Uppsala University: "Every Man for Himself."
According to the data gathered by the pair, the Titanic disaster also spawned another myth: Captains went down with their ships in less than half the cases, and crews had better survival rates than passengers. The data also suggest that a gender norm of male chivalry doesn't do nearly as much for women as egalitarianism: Survival rates for female passengers have improved in the past few decades, probably because more women now than then are taught to swim, encouraged to be physically fit, and not stuck in bustles and corsets.
The really impressive lesson from the sinking of the Titantic is not that chivalry was once the norm, but that one good man standing up for a principle has the power to change our perception of the way the world works:
...why was the Titanic an outlier in the shipwreck data? Elinder and Erixson note that Captain Edward Smith insisted on women going first into the lifeboats. Men who disobeyed found themselves staring at officers' drawn guns (and some shots were fired). Only when captains insist on the standard with this kind of determination, write the authors, does the male advantage disappear.
The power of the "women and children first" myth illustrates the degree to which compelling stories trump more thorough analysis:
... narratives are simple. What is ambiguous, inexplicable and accidental tends to get filtered out of them, leaving an impression that the world is more orderly and predictable than it really is. So stories incline us to blame (this didn't just happen, it's their fault) and to hubris (I know the real story, I don't care what other evidence you want to present). Then, too, we don't have a lot of different forms for our stories. Under all their variety are a few structures that occur again and again. So thinking in narrative encourages us to see disparate experiences as if they were the same (as in, "I'm turning into my mother!" or "Afghanistan is Vietnam all over again!"). And, of course, stories compel our attention and emotions, so people who tell us a powerful story can manipulate us.
Politics is organized around emotionally compelling stories: individual anecdotes eclipse the more important question of how public policy affects us in the aggregate. Which leaves the Editorial Staff with a question: is it better to see a false myth with an inspiring moral message take root, or are we better off knowing the truth?
Just as a side note, during our discussion on supposedly outdated gender roles, Grim brought up an interesting possible consequence of the recent spate of female action hero characters:
If T99 is right that these movies are about a kind of 'sweet mental revenge,' then they fall about the middle of the scale: about where that book on BDSM did. If it's about dealing with a psychological upset that comes from day to day life, then it's about getting by while doing your duty; a minor good, but not a great good.
If on the other hand it's actively causing harm by encouraging children to view 'girly' things as inferior, or encouraging the breakdown of the norm against boys using violence on girls, then it's more to the negative end of the scale. Strong criticism is warranted.
Here's a related question: do we need a strong societal prescription against boys using violence on girls? When I was growing up, it was generally considered shameful for a larger, stronger boy or man to fight a much weaker opponent. This was the concept of a "fair fight": analogous concepts would be a knight dismounting to fight an opponent who had been knocked from his horse or a man with a gun tossing it aside to fight with his fists or with a sword (if that was the weapon his opponent had).
Do we need a sex-specific ban here, or would the more general one against punching below one's weight (so to speak) suffice?
June 14, 2012
Fun with Outdated Gender Stereotypes
In today's edition of Gender Sensitivity Is Important, Unless Of Course We're Talking About You (in which case, it's political correctness run amok) disrespected Dads are pushing back against inaccurate and outdated stereotyping of fathers in ads and the media:
There's a movement under way among dads in America that's changing what you see on TV. Across the country, more and more are fed up -- and rising up against the stereotype of the inept, clueless father.
"We're not the Peter Griffin or the Homer Simpson that we're often portrayed as," said Kevin Metzger, who runs the Dadvocate blog.
It's often the chief gripe among the dads I interview about modern fatherhood.
David Holland, father of three, rails against "doofus dads" in ads. In his blog Blather. Wince. Repeat., he calls them "Madison Avenue's go-to guy."
During every commercial break, he says, he and his wife "try to see who can be the first one to spot the idiot husband or father."
In a sign of their growing power, dads out to end the stereotype recently scored a knockout blow against a pair of TV ads.
A Huggies ad earlier this year said the company put its diapers "to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."
What exactly made time with dad "the toughest test imaginable?" The ad showed dads making some unpleasant faces and ended with a woman saying, "good luck, babe."
Another Huggies ad featured a group of dads not changing their babies' diapers while watching an entire game through "double overtime."
Angry dads and moms responded with complaints, saying fathers aren't incompetent parents who leave their kids in dirty diapers.
Chris Routly took it a step further, creating a petition on change.org.
"This wasn't just that they had created a bumbling dad character or that sort of thing or just excluding dad," like so many other TV portrayals, he said. "They were using language that was really saying dads are terrible at this stuff."
Huggies took action.
It's hard to know what to think of this, frankly. I find the lazy/irresponsible/dumb slacker male stereotype offensive on lots of levels, but then I have found negative stereotyping of women offensive for as long as I can remember. But the fact is that stereotypes exist for a reason: they are a sort of shorthand for phenomena we see over and over again in the real world. A stereotype that runs counter to our experience doesn't resonate - it literally doesn't make sense to us.
What I'm having some trouble with is the "not all Dads are like that..." argument. Not all wives are emasculating nags, not all professional women are vicious, ball breaking harpies who enjoy humiliating men and are threatened by/undermine other women (in fact, literally every mentor I've had in my professional life has been female, which is remarkable since I've worked for far more men than women), and not all gorgeous blonds are ditzy, gold digging bimbos. The real question here is not so much whether all men or all women conform to the stereotype, but rather whether enough men and women conform to the stereotype to make it recognizable to us?
Complaining - or simply being offended - about stereotypes is something I understand. And I have no problem (in theory) with letting companies I do business with know if they're offending me. If they want our business, it's probably a good idea not to insult the customer.
What bothers me about this is the gender grievance aspect. While men absolutely are depicted in negative ways in media, they are also depicted - more often than women - in very positive ways. Which portrayal we get is context sensitive - if the focus is on adventure or heroism, men are portrayed positively as strong, capable heroes:
One of the most prominent male stereotypes in the media is that of the alpha male. Whether a character is the strong silent type, an action hero, a big shot, or an athlete, the ideal of masculinity is the figure of dominance. He is in control of his own emotions and actions, and is often in control of others as well. He is physically strong, or socially powerful. He is probably physically attractive and aggressive. The alpha male character is likely to be either violent, or put in violent situations, which he is more than capable of dealing with.
Characters who possess the alpha male traits are found in movies, cartoons, and video games. He-Man, Rambo, and Batman are quintessentially masculine. Popular actors such as Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Bruce Willis, and Wesley Snipes all have played many alpha male roles.
Recent attempts to show women as strong, capable heroines have met with resentment and derision, as though being someone others can look up to/emulate is strictly male turf (or simply laughable on its face). Often cited are the improbable scenarios where a female defeats men in a fight, though the point is somewhat undermined in the context of cartoons, fantasy and science fiction movies, and other genres that regularly show men doing wildly improbable things like jumping onto a truck moving 60 mph from an overpass or the hero with no previous fighting experience who magically (!) defeats 6 ninjas in a dark alley armed with nothing more than improvised numchucks constructed on the fly from a string of extra strength dental floss and two stale Twix bars.
When the context shifts to comedy, we get an object of ridicule: the beta slacker dude.
Another influential trend in the media portrayal of men is the beta male. This character is often found as one of the main characters of television sitcoms. Unlike the capable alpha male, the beta male is more or less incapable of everything. He tends to fail, and rarely tries to be successful. He is fundamentally worthless to society, and manages to survive through luck, or a capable mother, wife, sister, or friend.
He is Homer Simpson and Al Bundy. He is Spencer Shay from the children's sitcom iCarly, and Raymond from Everybody Loves Raymond. This male stereotype is another version of masculinity; another choice for boys and young men to emulate.
I often wonder whether the real solution to the problem of negative stereotypes isn't more complaining but more praise for the companies who get it right? Let's face it: whether it's an ad campaign, a blockbuster movie or a children's show, what companies really want is a product their customers like.
At the risk of conforming to another negative stereotype (the smug, know it all mother), positive reinforcement works - and without the tiresome, speech and humor squelching side effects of campaigns to pressure companies to show us only pleasing depictions of ourselves that bolster our amour propre.
What do you think?
May 23, 2012
Double Entendre of the Day
Women and their incessant, unreasonable demands:
Time: Of all the things we talk about women wanting, time with their spouse is it. The vast majority of women in happy relationships get 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with their husbands each day. Twenty-four percent of women who claim to be in unhappy relationships spend fewer than five minutes a day with their spouses.
Ask yourself, “How much time do I spend with my spouse?” Uninterrupted time means time spent without iPhones and Blackberrys, a conversation with nothing else on.
We can dream, n'est pas?
Update: Of course in some circles this sort of thing is viewed as evidence of matriarchal oppression (video at 5:14).
Kind Gestures: Hugs, kisses, unexpected telephone calls to say ‘I love you.’ Simple things. I suggest five touch points a day for one week – any kind gesture that takes 30 seconds or less. If a man can do this for his partner for one week, both will be amazed at how much better they feel in the relationship.
I loved the part in the middle of the article about the need for women not to temper their appetite for conversation to their husbands' lower tolerance for it. I have trouble with that one still.
If only there were a way to have a happy marriage without ever having to think about the other person's needs, what a wonderful world that would be.
Somewhere out there, such a perfect woman is waiting for Bill Maher :p
April 14, 2012
Housewifery as a Luxury Good
Texan99 riffs on the President's dubious assertion that he and Michelle couldn't afford for her to stay home with the kids:
A definition of luxury becomes even more fraught with unconscious moral assumptions when the term is applied to activities that at one time were considered duties. You hear people talk, for instance, as though the prohibition against theft were a luxury that only the rich can afford, because they are not truly hungry. A more thoughtful way to apprpoach that issue would be to say that a rich man's honesty has not been tested by hunger, with a cautionary note that a rich man should be slow to assume that he would do a better job than his neighbor of avoiding theft if he ever were equally hungry. By defining a virtue as a luxury, however, someone who wants to remove the stigma from violation of a duty can score an indirect moral point in his own favor, or at least disarm his critics in advance -- as if everyone in less desperate straits than oneself were at least unpleasantly complacent, if not outright greedy.
I am referring, obviously, to the President's recent statement that he and his wife did not have the "luxury" of letting her stay home with the kids. This statement is remarkably full of loaded assumptions. To begin with, it's hard not to laugh at the idea that a family with hundreds of thousands of dollars of income "can't afford" to forgo a second paycheck. But even if you buy that notion, calling a stay-at-home mom a "luxury" is essentially to make a judgment that the big house and the cable TV are basic necessities, while personally raising their children constitutes the frill.
The President presumably considers himself something of a feminist, without ever thinking about it very hard. Being a man of his culture, however, he naturally assumes that the man works and then, if there's still not enough money, the woman works too, which just shows you that he's not nutty enough to expect even a very liberal electorate to swallow too many transformative social experiments all at once. But a real feminist wouldn't justify her decision to earn a living by saying her husband couldn't afford to support her. She might suggest that, if it were clear that at least one parent ought to stay home with young children, then some careful thought should be given to which parent it should be. She might also take the position that it's no one's business but hers and her husband's how they arrange to share the adult duties in their household.
I've read her post three times now, and like a fine wine it just keeps getting better.
March 26, 2012
They have the mad dance moves:
Update: Today in Maryland news....
January 18, 2012
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc?
Could the causal connection be any more clear? I think not.
1912: Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose/Republicans become the first national party to champion womens' suffrage. Shortly thereafter, the Titanic hits an iceberg.
Stupid/evil/chumpy white knights, not yet having read their copies of the feminist manifesto, heroically offer women and children first dibs on available lifeboat seats.
1915: A second ship, eerily similar to the Titanic, sinks. But this time it's every man for himself!
The makeup of the passengers and crew on both of them was similar, and the sinkings happened relatively close in time, the Titanic in 1912 and the Lusitania in 1915.
In their analysis, the researchers studied passenger and survivor lists from both ships, and considered gender, age, ticket class, nationality and familial relationships with other passengers. The differences emerged after a closer look at the survival rates.
On the Titanic, the study found, children were 14.8 percent more likely to survive adults, while on the Lusitania they were 5.3 percent less likely to do so. And women on the Titanic were 53 percent more likely to survive than men, while on the Lusitania they were 1.1 percent less likely to do so.
The implication, Dr. Torgler said, is that on the Titanic, male passengers went out of their way to help women and children.
From chivalry to "Dude, where's my lifeboat" in just three years. You've got to hand it to those horrid feminists... They're fast. And apparently quite effective.
There are two inescapable conclusions we can draw from this sad story:
1. We womynfolk have far more power than we ever suspected.
2. When bad things happen, it's a fair bet that Republicans are involved.
Update: Smitty eloquently defends a vanishing idea - we are all responsible for our own actions:
The traditional, mutually supportive roles of women and men are as simple as 2+2=4. Just because Andrea Dworkin and company came along and contended that arithmetic was an oppressive patriarchal regime, and that 2+2=5 is every bit as emotionally satisfying as the correct answer, does not an excuse make.
I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies:
A king may move a man, a father may claim a son, but that man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, "But I was told by others to do thus," or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice.
I'm also reminded of one of my favorite definitions of masculinity:
Manliness," he says, "is a quality that causes individuals to stand for something."
... Manliness, says Mansfield, thrives on drama, conflict, risk, and exploits: "War is hell but men like it." Manliness is often aggressive, but when the aggression is tied to the concept of honor, it transcends mere animal spiritedness. Allied with reason, as in Socrates, manliness finds its highest expression.
Manliness cannot be taken from a man, but it may be voluntarily surrendered. I thank God each day for men who utterly refuse to be defined by the actions of others.
January 17, 2012
When Grievance Politics Trumps Civilization
“This was not so much predictable as predicted. Women have methodically attacked the concept of male duty and honor through every possible means for the past ninety years, and now they are whining that they don’t get special treatment simply because a ship happens to be sinking. Why, exactly, should any man ‘prioritise women, expectant mothers and children’? On what grounds can they be reasonably expected to do so, those outdated traditional grounds that the schools teach is hateful, sexist, and bigoted? Those big, burly crewmen shoving aside women as they prioritized their own escape should have been wearing t-shirts that said ‘this is what a feminist looks like’. Enjoy the crash.”
As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
Wow. Just wow. Six dead and 29 missing in a tragic accident that (so far as I can see) is attributable to the cowardice, negligence, and poor example of the captain and crew - note carefully: to *some* men, not *all* men - and the reaction is, "Up yours, feminists/women - you got what you deserved"?
If a little boy is elbowed aside by an able bodied man and drowns as a result, has he "reaped what he sowed"? Alternate form of the implied argument is, "It's not the man's fault - those horrid feminists and their mind control rays made him do it!" Allow me to riff on the ubiquitous Heinlein quote:
Any society that allows morality to be defined down to the lowest common denominator will not long survive.
Using the bad behavior of others to justify your own misbehavior is the lowest of lowest common denominators. But that's not the only problem with the "as you sow" formulation. Let's examine the underlying argument (such as it is) more closely. Have women actually argued - for ninety years, no less! - that it is sexist for men to put women and children first? Have they argued that men have no duty to protect the weak in an emergency? I'm curious: where has this argument been made?
Some women, somewhere may have made this argument but have "women" (or feminists, for that matter) as general class of people made it? How many women would have to make such an argument to justify dereliction of duty by the captain and crew of this ship (not to mention able bodied adults of either sex pushing children aside and saving themselves first)?
If women (or feminists - the two terms seem to be used interchangeably, objections to broad brush stereotyping of men notwithstanding) are really arguing for perfect equality between the sexes, how do we explain feminist demands for special and/or preferential treatment?
The answer is, "They're not". It seems to me - and this is precisely what I have objected to so many times - that some feminists have argued for a double standard in which women are, on the one hand, viewed as being weak and in need of protection from aggressive men (sexual harassment laws, affirmative action laws, gender discrimination laws) but also, that there are no significant differences in our ability to protect ourselves (demands for women to be admitted to the combat arms, police, traditionally male jobs in equal numbers, physical and psychological differences between the sexes notwithstanding).
Who has been arguing that men should look out for themselves first? The only place I've seen this argument made openly is on the so-called MRA blogs. The argument I've seen made here (along with much ridicule of traditional masculine values) is that the family court system is so hopelessly biased against men that men are justified in essentially adopting a "Screw you - I'm going to protect myself first" attitude.
The interesting thing here is that there are huge logical inconsistencies in the complaints of both radical feminists and radical men's rights activists.
If you believe the biological differences between men and women are real, and that women are naturally better suited to child rearing (or that there is - in general - a closer bond between mothers and children than exists between fathers and children), then on what possible basis can you argue that the family court system is "unfair" and biased against men if more women than men get custody? Even before we examine the question of how many men vs. women ask for custody, the presumption that a "fair" system would automagically result in equal custody awards for fathers and mothers doesn't follow logically from the belief that men are better suited for some tasks and women for others.
Radical feminists have a similar problem, though I'm not sure they are arguing that women should always get custody. If you truly believe that men and women are by nature EQUALLY able to care for children (and further, that men should assume equal parenting duties), then wouldn't you want men and women to get custody in roughly equal proportions?
Note that I have not actually seen feminists arguing that they think women should always get custody. If they're arguing from genuine conviction, they should WANT men to get custody more because that would result in a more equitable sharing of parental duties and more freedom for women.
This is what happens when men and women engage in identity/victimhood politics: they end up defending things they don't really believe because in the end, they'll do/argue anything just to win the argument.
I really like Texan99's formulation of the problem:
"Women and children first" is the kind of simple, clear code of behavior that can persist when you're close to losing your mind. It's an old-fashioned short-hand for "Civilization and self-respect and our duty to God require us to consider self-sacrifice in the form of putting first the needs of the more helpless among us in an emergency." It may also have to do with saving the sex who can repopulate the tribe. It's painted with broad brushes and doesn't stop to calculate how many childbearing years are left to the old bag you're helping into the lifeboat. It does sometimes lead the old to sacrifice themselves for the young, the able-bodied for the handicapped. Maybe I'd like to see it evolve so that we wouldn't have to inquire, as Karen Blixen was said to have responded to the phrase "women and children first," "Is that one category, or two?"
When gender grievances and identity politics trump the survival of the species (or just plain common sense), we all lose.
January 16, 2012
"Women and Children Last"
This may well be the most fascinating story I've seen in ages:
It was every man – and crew member – for himself. Survivors from the Costa Concordia spoke angrily yesterday of the nightmare evacuation from the stricken ship as women and children were left behind.
In the terrifying moments after the giant vessel began to list, fights even broke out to get into the lifeboats.
Men refused to prioritise women, expectant mothers and children as they pushed themselves forward to escape. Crew ignored their passengers – leaving ‘chefs and waiters’ to help out.
In heart-rending footage, recorded on mobile phones, British children could be heard shouting ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mummy’ in the melee.
As she waited for a flight home from Rome, grandmother Sandra Rogers, 62, told the Daily Mail: ‘There was no “women and children first” policy. There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats. It was disgusting.’
Mrs Rogers, a widow originally from Chester who has retired to Minorca, was sailing with her daughter Karen, 39, and seven-year-old twin granddaughters Emma and Chloe.
She said: ‘I want everyone to know how badly some people behaved. It was a nightmare. I lost my daughter and my grandchildren in the chaos.
‘I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls. It was awful. There was a total lack of organisation. There was no one telling people where to go.
‘And when we finally got into a lifeboat, people, grown men, were trying to jump into the boat. I thought, if they land in here we are going to capsize.
A few observations:
1. It's very tempting to turn this kind of story into some sort of uber metaphor for all the ills that modern society is heir to, but some temptations ought to be vigorously resisted.
2. The unwillingness of some subset of the men on this ship to adhere to the traditional "women and children first" will be blamed on Feminism in 10...9...8...7...
Never mind that these men also pushed ahead of children, some of whom were little boys. Those durned feminists are reaping the whirlwind now !!!11!!!.
3. If the purpose of women and children first is to ensure the continuation of the human race, it seems relevant to point out that the entire human race wasn't on this particular ship. Also, any woman past childbearing age isn't going to be much help when it comes time repopulate the planet.
If the purpose of women and children first is to give the physically weakest passengers the added advantage of a boat (on the presumption that men are physically stronger and hence more likely to be able to fend for themselves), it would seem that the progressive ideal of a level playing field is something of a hothouse flower.
4. The entire account reeks more of individualism eroding the sacrifice ethic than of anything having to do with gender....but I'm pretty sure both sides of the gender debate will see it what they want to see in it.
What say you?