November 07, 2014

Quote of the Day

One of the strangest themes in the conservative blogosphere is that it's not a big deal that young men aren't getting married, having children, and generally living the "Father Knows Best" traditional lifestyle. We can't help wondering how anyone reconciles that position with observations like this? of the biggest, but largely unheralded, factors associated with 2014 voting patterns was marriage. Indeed, marital status proved to be more important than gender and age in predicting voting. The marriage gap in House voting stood at 31 points, compared to a gender gap of 20 points and an age gap of 27 points (between 18- to 29-year-olds and those 65 or older).

Given that young women already vote in larger numbers than young men, shouldn't we be concerned about the impact of young men NOT voting? The concern seems somewhat lopsided - we agonize about young women getting college degrees and putting off marriage, but there seems to be little support for encouraging young men to do what we so badly want young women to do: put marriage and family first.

Weird. And very unbalanced.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:17 AM | Comments (52) | TrackBack

November 04, 2014

Not To Put Too Fine a Point on It, But WTF????

This, from Glenn Reynolds, has got to be one of the most bizarre reactions we've seen (admittedly a very high bar) to that viral catcalling video that has been making the rounds:

Second, and more troubling, the notion of going after minority males for inappropriate behavior toward white women raises unsettling memories of Jim Crow. Emmett Till, for example, a 14-year-old black youth who visited Mississippi from his home town of Chicago, broke the local behavioral code by flirting with a white cashier while buying some bubble gum. A few days later he was kidnapped, brutally beaten, and fatally shot in the head. An all-white jury, presumably viewing Till's behavior as culpable, refused to convict his killers.

I feel sure, of course, that the makers of today's catcalling video didn't think for a moment about the Emmett Till case, and I am positive that they would not endorse the fatal lynching of the men they pictured. Nonetheless, it's worth noting that the history of controlling minority men's intersexual behavior in this country is closely intertwined with the history of lynching. Those who choose to get involved in this field need to be aware of that history, lest they unintentionally make things worse.

After this, the Editorial Staff don't want to see any more complaining about accusations of coded language or RAAAAACISM hyperbole from the Left. Once you actively endorse behaviors and arguments you've complained about vehemently, why should anyone take you or your arguments seriously?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (61) | TrackBack

October 08, 2014

Fighting, Manliness, Freedom, and the Last Frontier (a repost)

Jonathan Chait's liberal defense of male aggression prompted us to look for this old post. Much to our delight, we found at the end of it a poem we wrote in 2005 or 2006 on another blog that we thought was lost forever. Anyway, enjoy. If you want to read the original comments, they're here.

One of my favorite things about blogging is the way it often turns into a huge freeform discussion, sometimes on site, sometimes continuing offline via email or phone conversations, hopping from one blog to another. It just fascinates me. Another thing I love is the sheer connected-ness of ideas: the way even thoughts which, at first glance, may not appear to have anything to do with each other often end up (at least in the zig-zagging breadcrumb trail that is my mind) taking me to totally unanticipated destinations.

Considering the topic of today's peroration, it is perhaps not surprising that the trouble all started with mr rdr, who is himself a veritable feast of manliness. Last week, he sent me a wonderful WSJ piece (unfortunately subscription-only) that has been driving me mad all week because I kept seeing things in it that applied to different topics. But there was also the germ of an idea in the back of my mind that I didn't have a place for, which strangely enough wasn't really the focus of the article at all. It lay in this line:

For Shakespeare, inflexible virtue becomes its opposite, vice. The subtlety of his understanding of the human predicament is incomparable. We pride ourselves, perhaps rightly, on our vast accumulation of scientific and other knowledge; but when it comes to self-knowledge, self-understanding, I doubt that we shall ever progress beyond him.

Believe it or not, that paragraph has been worrying at me all week. They say the first step in the recovery process is admitting that you have a problem.

Oddly enough, I started out thinking I would apply the article, about the play Coriolanus, the protagonist of which is a noble Roman consul too honest to hide his scorn of the vulgar plebians, to the Abdul Rahman story and George Bush. As with most of Shakespeare's plays, things do not end well. The Bard's characters tend to be larger than life, and twinned with their outsized virtues are tragic flaws, often the obverse of the very qualities which make them great. For Coriolanus, his downfall is virtue carried to such extremes that it becomes rigid and inflexible and so, what was within moderation admirable, turns to evil.

But during the week I ended up linking to this piece about young men adrift, in my opinion because they've been emasculated and infantilized by an increasingly out of kilter, feminized society; and as a result my fellow bloggers have given me quite a bit to think about. Grim dropped the next crumb on the trail, and as usual, it was quite thought-provoking:

Nothing could be more natural to a young man than fighting other young men, not just for people but for anyone: it's featured in every nature documentary ever made.

We need a way to expand this concept into the main American society, so that young men will be freer to express themselves naturally. We also need, however, to continue to constrain fighting: like drinking, it can be a good thing that relieves tension and adds to the pleasure of life; but it can also be very destructive to you and others around you.

I propose, then, what I shall call "the Fair Fight Bill." I suggest you write your state representatives and suggest that the laws in all 50 states should come to include it.

Now I had to laugh at my initial reaction to this, which was a decidedly feminine, "Eeeeewwwww!!!!"

I haven't seen many fights. I suppose I've lead a sheltered life. I saw one in the parking lot outside our townhouse when we lived in Annapolis about 15 years ago and I remember that it really upset me hearing the smack! of one man's fist on another's flesh. They were really going at each other and it frightened me. I saw another when I was 21 and managing a store on East-West highway in DC. Oddly, it was the day Reagan was shot. A store detective tried to grab a thief after he tried to smash one of my glass display cases containing power tools and they got into a fistfight that continued up one of the aisles, through the doors and out onto the street outside the store. I had to pull my cashiers off the registers - several of them were crying and my head cashier (an Indian girl in a sari) had fled up to the cashier's cage and locked herself inside so I couldn't get to a phone to call the police until I finally talked her into unlocking the door. What a day. When I finally got back outside, the two men were on top of a stopped car in the intersection punching away at each other like mad.

Reading Grim's post, I had to ask myself if I had raised my sons all wrong. When my boys were little, my husband was often gone: deployed, or in the field. So I couldn't always ask him for advice on how to handle boyish misdeeds like fighting.

My own policies on such things were shaped by a combination of reading books (fiction, mostly) and childhood experiences. I was the oldest of two children and we moved every year. Military kids living out in town are easy target for bullies because you have no friends for the first few weeks or even months. My younger brother was smaller, shyer, and rather quiet and since we walked to school, he got picked on sometimes so I was protective of him.

At times, walking home from school was like running a gauntlet - either someone was threatening to beat me up because I'd refused to back down during some playground altercation, or some group of twits was lying in wait for my little brother and I had to try to find him and walk him home in hopes they'd be afraid to take both of us on. I remember in particular one enormous black girl named Linda. Everyone was terrified of her. The rumor was she had beaten up several people. Of course I never actually saw any of these people, so I was the only skeptic on the topic of Linda's superpowers. But she was enormous and had arms like jackhammers.

Linda detested me. We were always getting into it at school because she cheated at all the games and butted in line. No one would stand up to her, and it really frosted me that people just let her get away with it. She had this little white girl named Karen who clung to her side like a remora, and Karen started threatening to beat me up too, which really made life a Living Hell. I used to mock them mercilessly, which only made them both madder, but I was starting to get scared.

The thing is, I never got into a fight with either girl. A boy would have. There were a couple of big showdowns when I met them after school. They resulted in verbal sparring matches, but no fighting, because I had been taught not to fight. I was able to talk both of them out of fighting by simply pointing out that fighting was dumb. It really wasn't going to solve anything other than getting everyone suspended for no reason, which was pretty idiotic over a dodgeball argument. Eventually they got tired of picking on me and moved on to bigger and better things. I don't know what would have happened if I'd been a boy.

I have always wondered why neither they, nor any of the twits who came after my brother, ever hauled off and just hit me. At any rate, the upshot of all this is that when it came time to raise my boys, I tried to teach them the same thing, because it worked for me. I told them that if they couldn't avoid a fight, to hit as hard as they could, knock the other person down, and walk away. But to try reason first, and above all, to show no fear and no emotion, because my big theory was that it is really, really hard to haul off and hit someone who is just dead calm. I think it just unnerves people and they feel slightly foolish if they persist. I think fighting requires escalation and anger, and if one person refuses to play then it's hard (though not impossible) to manufacture a fight out of thin air.

Reading Grim's post, I have to question whether I did the right thing or not, though. I wonder if there is something in boys that needs to fight, and if I squashed it? I'm not stupid - I know both my sons got into tussles, though neither of them ever got into a major donnybrook. What I don't know, though, is whether that's a bad thing or not?

Fuzzybear Lioness sent me this wonderful piece on being a man. It asks some intriguing questions about our attitudes towards masculinity:

Manliness," he says, "is a quality that causes individuals to stand for something." The Greeks used the term thumos to denote the bristling, spirited element shared by human beings and animals that makes them fight back when threatened. It causes dogs to defend their turf; it makes human beings stand up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. "Just as a dog defends its master," writes Mansfield, "so the doggish part of the human soul defends human ends higher than itself."

Every human being possesses thumos. But those who are manly possess it in abundance, and sometimes in excess. The manly man is not satisfied to let things be as they are, and he makes sure everyone knows it. He invests his perception of injustice with cosmic importance.

Manliness can be noble and heroic, like the men on the Titanic; but it can also be foolish, stubborn, and violent. Achilles, Brutus, and Sir Lancelot exemplify the glory of manliness, but also its darker sides. Theodore Roosevelt was manly; so was Harry "The Buck Stops Here" Truman. Manly men are confident in risky situations. Manliness can be pathological, as in gangsters and terrorists.

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.

I loved this piece, because it embodies the same view of men (and women) that my Dad taught me, and this is why I believe so strongly that little girls need fathers so desperately. Though I was a bit of a tomboy as a child, I firmly believe men and women are intrisically different and our different natures are designed to balance and complement one another.

Fathers teach their daughters not only what to look for in a man, but also something about being a woman. My father always had a great respect for women. He taught me that, at their best, women are a civilizing influence on men. We guard society’s moral traditions, we appeal to their protective, nobler side and channel the innate aggression in the male spirit in a positive direction so that it is used for good: to build, to protect, to explore and expand and extend our knowledge.

This is why I think the whole "gender-neutral" business is so pernicious. In addition to being unnatural, it robs us of that balancing influence and causes people to make rules that defy observable reality:

After almost 40 years of feminist agitation and gender-neutral pronouns, it is still men who are far more likely than women to run for political office, start companies, file for patents, and blow things up. Men continue to tell most of the jokes and write the vast majority of editorials and letters to editors. And--fatal to the dreams of feminists who long for social androgyny--men have hardly budged from their unwillingness to do an equal share of housework or childcare. Moreover, women seem to like manly men: "Manliness is still around, and we still find it attractive," says Mansfield.

The disturbing aspect to the more radical feminist agenda is that it produces aberations like Nancy Hopkins: academicians who see no contradiction in a purportedly-equal woman who gets the vapors when a man dares to express a scientific theory she disagrees with. If a man were to suggest that women be barred from future conferences because they were "too delicate" to hear shocking theories like the one she wanted Larry Summers sanctioned for uttering, Ms. Hopkins would rightly have accused him of sexism. Yet she conveniently hid behind her feminine frailty when it suited her: "How dare he suggest such a thing! The big bully! I feel faint....".

Just try to imagine a man doing such a thing. All right. You can stop laughing now. And yet where is Larry Summers? Gone. Only Nancy Hopkins remains. She won in the end. Which makes me feel just a little bit sick.

Well actually, to tell you the truth, it makes me mad as hell. And to finally close this circle, if it mades me mad as hell at my age, when I've learned to make my peace with things I can't change (or at least most of the time I have) can you imagine how it must make a young man feel, who is still railing against the status quo? Is it really any wonder young men are tuning out in increasing numbers, or choosing to act irresponsibly? How many positive channels do we give them for the exercise of their masculinity? More importantly, how comfortable are we as a society with masculinity itself, anymore? Doc Russia comments:

Talking with my friends who are a little older or of a more rural upbringing, I am struck by how they had somewhere to go where the laws of man lost their power. Today, everyone in double digit years wants to "rebel." Nevermind that they are "rebelling" by Parroting exactly what a bunch of MTV execs have decided the next fad should be, or that they are questioning only what some clueless lefty propagandist says should be questioned. Everyone wants to rebel. Actually, what they really want to do is to exist unfettered. When you go off into the wilderness, you are free. You are unfettered. You do not need to rebel because there is nothing to rebel against. If you want to run around naked screaming "booga booga booga!" nobody is going to be shocked or dismayed, or call the cops, or call the TV station. In fact, all you have to worry about is not paying attention to the brambles your birthday suit is headed for. And if you do wander into those brambles, there will be nobody there to help you out of them, or tend to your wounds. There are no rules, no responsibilities, and no limitations. There are only consequences, and as long as you can handle that, then you can do whatever you want.

So, we now have a population of frontiersmen with no frontier. So they sit, stew and eventually rot.

Some of us get lucky, and avoid screwing up too badly before we can go out and at least see the frontiers, even if we cannot explore them. I do not know what the solution is. I just have this sneaking suspicion that if you were to tell a young man that he had a shot at wealth and prosperity which relied upon his own innate abilities, and not upon what school his degree is from, or whose ass he kisses, and how well he does it, that there was something out there which he could never find the end of, I bet you that a lot of this teenage horseshit would stop.

I had a thought the other day. Who knows, I may be going off the deep end. Shakespeare's inflexible virtue, carried too far, became vice.

We are currently engaged in a titantic struggle with radical Islamism, which is, if has, if you stop and think about it, all the characteristics of unbridled thumos - they certainly have no problem standing up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. The problem with Islamism is that it is untempered by the feminine influence. There is no partnership: they have totally subjugated women, shut them away, as the Left would say, silenced their Voices, marginalized them and treated them as the Other.

America, on the other hand, seems to be going too far in the other direction. We are marginalizing the masculine and becoming femininized in an attempt to right past imbalances, and that is just as great a mistake as what radical Islam is doing. In fact, it may be an even greater error, for it leaves us defenseless. We are becoming, as Kim du Toit says, a nation of women.

Reading Doc Russia's post, I was overcome with a feeling I have often: the urge to run away. I felt it all the time when I was a little girl. I used to dream of escaping from my safe home and having adventures. Sometimes I would sneak out of my bedroom early in the morning before anyone was awake just so I could wander for hours without getting caught. When I was a teenager I used to go out the window of my bedroom and walk around at night, just glorying in the freedom of being out under the stars. I wonder, sometimes, what kind of society we are becoming, where we lock our doors and our children up and everything becomes one giant calculation of risk.

I think it is that, most of all, that makes me want to open the door sometimes and just keep on going:

I opened my door
and the night air rushed in

crisp, and cool

and the scent of woodsmoke
and fallen leaves
and possibilities was everywhere

and for a moment
I saw myself walking
down the hill and into the moonlight
like I used to do

when I was younger

Someone has to push the boundaries. I hope we never lose our tolerance for those who are willing to try.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Masculinity and Aggression

Jonathan Chait has written a magnificent piece about male aggression (and football!). The Editorial Staff found these passages particularly thought provoking:
Time strongly implies that high-school football is a uniquely dangerous activity. “Eight people died playing football in 2013, the highest toll since 2001, when there were nine, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina,” the magazine reports. “All were high-school players. During the 2013–14 academic year, no other high-school sport directly killed even one athlete.”

Those statements are all factually true. The implication is false. The same organization cited by Time found that, over a 30-year period, football is not a uniquely deadly sport for high-school athletes. It is not even the deadliest sport. High-school football has a fatality rate of 0.83 per 100,000 participants. This is actually lower than the rates of boys’ basketball (0.92), lacrosse (1.00), boys’ gymnastics (1.00), and water polo (1.3). There were three heartbreaking deaths of high-school football players last week, each of which attracted wide media coverage the way that tragic low-frequency events often do. But the unusual cluster of unfortunate deaths does not indicate a broader trend any more than the crash of an airliner signals an increasing danger associated with air travel.

And this:

Perhaps we’d all be better off if boys could be guided into totally peaceful pursuits, but not all teenagers are cut out for chess club. Football channels boys’ chauvinistic belligerence into supervised forms, shapes them within boundaries, and gives them positive meaning. These virtues, like those often attributed to the military, can feel like clichés imported from an earlier era — and yet discipline and directed ambition are, as every social scientist knows, the bedrock of success in adulthood. And also like the military, that other bastion of social authoritarianism, football has actually changed with the culture — its disregard for player safety and its misogynistic conflation of weakness with femininity have shrunk from the norm to the hoary exception. To cite just one example, over the last dozen years, the program Coaching Boys Into Men, which uses coaches to teach male athletes to respect females, has flowered nationally. Football has fallen victim to the paradoxical dynamic by which liberal culture’s awareness and sensitivity have succeeded in reducing violence but in so doing made the problem of violence seem even more anachronistic.

Over the last generation, the social experience of American youth has rapidly liberalized. The cultural mores of my school life largely resembled those of my parents’, but the socialization awaiting my children has transformed beyond recognition. Rather than allowing kids to “settle their differences” — i.e., allowing the strong and popular to prey upon the weak and vulnerable — authorities aggressively police bullying. Schools are rife with organizations to support gay students, something unimaginable not long ago. Nerdy and cool, once antithetical terms, now frequently describe the same things, like affinity for comic-book characters or technological savvy. American schools have mostly moved beyond a world where football players (and, correspondingly, cheerleaders) embody the singular hierarchical ideal of their gender. This is entirely to the good, a triumph of egalitarianism.

In fact, it is a sign of this advance that American society is now questioning whether football has any role within it at all. But it also marks a point where the advance of social liberalism has swung from the defensive (creating a place of respect and value for those who have long been excluded) to the offensive (suggesting that only a world conforming closely to down-the-line-liberal values is worth living in).

The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued that people naturally gravitate toward competing notions of morality. Some of those, like fairness and caring, are associated with liberalism. Others, like loyalty and respect for authority, are associated with conservatism. Football is obviously not just for conservatives, but it does embody the conservative virtues. The backlash against it is a signpost of a new social system unwilling to consider that the worldview of one’s political adversaries might have any wisdom to offer at all and untroubled by the fear that, perhaps, football exists because it channels a genuine, deep-seated impulse. In this case, that discipline might be a helpful response to impulses of aggression, and not just a false-heroic myth used to legitimize and justify brutality.

Theodore Roosevelt is remembered today for his populist economic sentiments, but the more coherent theme of Roosevelt’s life is a way of thinking about strength, honor, and violence. As a boy, Roosevelt fanatically built up his sickly body and developed an obsession with athletics, danger, and war. This is one of the many things that we love about him — and yet it is an attitude about self-­mastery, aggression, and courage that is completely alien to the way we think of coming of age today. Any good contemporary liberal could reuse, with modest syntactical changes, Roosevelt’s speeches assailing greed or exhorting the rich to accept social obligations. But his beliefs about masculinity could not be repeated without embarrassment. “A coward who will take a blow without returning it is a contemptible creature,” Roosevelt wrote in a 1900 essay, which naturally ended with a rousing football metaphor: “In short, in life, as in a foot-ball game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!”

Though we don't agree with everything in Chait's essay, there is much to ponder. It made us go looking for an old post that we had lost track of on the same subject - a sort of time capsule we shall repost separately.

Of all the changes in our life over the past three years, we miss the loss of time to think and write the most. Here's hoping some of you will be inspired.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 02, 2014

Pockets are Sexist. And iPhones. Also, Bicycles

This kind of hand wringing over supposed First World Sexism makes us crazy**:

...the biggest problem might be the lack of pockets in the first place: women's slacks, dresses, and blazers often have no pockets, or worse, “fake” pockets that serve no utilitarian purpose besides sartorially leading the wearer on to believe they have a handy wardrobe aide, until it’s too late.

So how can an industry that focuses on women—whether it be models or products created primarily for a female demographic—consistently dodge the very people it markets to? Camilla Olson, creative director of an eponymous high tech fashion firm, points to inherent sexism within the industry. Mid-range fashion is a male dominated business, driven not by form and function, but by design and how fabric best drapes the body.

“I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance,” Olson said. And the lack of functional designs for women is one example. "We [women] know clearly we need pockets to carry technology and I think it’s expected we are going to carry a purse. When we’re working we don’t carry purses around. A pocket is a reasonable thing.”

First of all, the Blog Princess has no pressing need to "carry technology". Most women already carry purses - ginormous, bottomless satchels in which we manage to cram approximately half of our personal property. Because one never knows when one might urgently require a Matchbox sports car, a nail file, 20 gazillion shades of lip gloss/eye pencils, or a nifty little disposable toothbrush that comes with its own toothpaste all in a neat little shrinkwrapped package that we got in our Christmas stocking. Oh, and BOTH keys to the car we drive. Because you never know.

Most women do this to ourselves voluntarily. The Patriarchy is not demanding that we haul 25 pounds of useless objects with us everywhere we go. And don't even ask us what's in our briefcase.

You don't want to know.

The Patriarchy has likewise expressed very little interest in the size or functionality or placement of pockets in the clothes we buy. We will admit to elevating form over function quite voluntarily. We don't like clothes with big, bulging pockets. They make our hips look bigger and most short women prefer streamlined clothes with very simple lines for aesthetic reasons. Aesthetics tend to matter to a lot of uterus-having folk. Because we have uteruses, or estrogen, or something.

But this just frosts our cornflakes (and not in a good way). Bicycle inequality must be stopped before it kills us all:

Elizabeth Plank at Mic took to the bike paths of New York City to investigate the "huge and under-reported" gender gap in, of all things, bicycle-riding. Turns out way more men ride bikes than women: "In the U.S., 1 woman for every 3 men gets around on a bicycle," Plank writes. "In London, 77% of bike trips are taken by men and only 5% of women identify as frequent cyclists."

This is a gender gap that actually surprised me. After all, if you stick your head into any given spin class, 80-100 percent of the people huffing through sprints are women, guaranteed. So why isn't that the case out on the street? Plank dug in and found that women face a number of obstacles: "Women's aversion to risk, women's clothing, economic and time poverty, as well as sexual harassment."

When we were just a rosy-cheeked little Editorial Staff, we loved our bicycle more than just about anything on earth. We rode every day and ranged far and wide on our trusty green bike.

We almost never ride anymore for all sorts of reasons: weather, hair, distance, definitely (when we were younger) aversion to being continually accosted by random men in cars. We are skeptical of the notion that women will never be free/equal until we stop making decisions like this for ourselves and mindlessly seek to imitate the male half of the species.

For what it's worth, the Spousal Unit wouldn't ride a bike to work either. Even if work were only a few minutes away.

You know the Multiverse has become a far more enlightened and tolerant place when we have time to become uber-outraged about stupid things like this:


Does anyone else from DC remember the kerfuffle when DC Mayor Anthony Williams was excoriated by his black constituents for his supposedly insufficient appreciation for watermelon and fried chicken? We tried to find a contemporary news article, but turned up only a lame "Is Anthony Williams Black Enough?" article seeking to elaborate the many and splendored ways in which one could demonstrate Authentic Blackness.

Random acts of extreme violence are likewise a huge problem in the First World. Which totally explains this story:

Four schools in Onslow County, North Carolina were sent into police lockdown when a cafeteria worker panicked when the employee saw someone dressed like a pirate.

It was “International Talk Like A Pirate Day” and one school employee apparently decided to take it one step further.

A staff member reported seeing a “suspicious person” – the “pirate” – approaching the school and called police.

“The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office said that ‘suspicious person’ turned out to be a Richlands Elementary staff member dressed as a pirate,” ABC 12 reports.

Get a grip, people. A society that has time to worry about such inanities can probably pat itself on the back.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 01, 2014

Valuable Perspective on False Rape Accusations

Have been meaning to link to this excellent piece on false rape accusations for some time now. Here are the two strongest points:

False rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.

More than a quarter-century ago, feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon wrote that “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men”; today, Jessica Valenti urges us to “believe victims en masse,” because only then will we recognize the true prevalence of sexual assault. But a de facto presumption of guilt in alleged sexual offenses is as dangerous as a presumption of guilt in any crime, and for the same reasons: It upends the foundations on which our system of justice rests and creates a risk of ruining innocent lives.

Here's the second, which is just outstanding:

...official data on what law enforcement terms “unfounded” rape reports (that is, ones in which the police determine that no crime occurred) yield conflicting numbers, depending on local policies and procedures—averaging 8 percent to 10 percent of all reported rapes. Yet the truth is even knottier than these statistics suggest. The answer to “How common are false allegations?” depends largely on how false allegations are defined. Do we count only cases in which a police report—or a complaint to some other official authority, such as a college administrator—is shown to be deliberately false? Do we include informal, word-of-mouth charges like the one against Oberst? What of he said/she said cases in which the truth is never known?

Not all reports classified as unfounded are necessarily false. In some cases, women who were victims of rape were disbelieved, pressured into recanting, and charged with false reporting only to be vindicated later on—the kind of awful story that adds to people’s skittishness about discussing false accusations. Some police departments have been criticized for having an anomalously high percentage of supposedly unfounded rape charges: Baltimore’s “unfounded” rate used to be the highest in the nation, at about 30 percent, due partly to questionable and sometimes downright abusive police procedures, such as badgering a woman about why she waited two hours to report a street assault. By 2013, an effort to provide better training and encourage full investigation of all complaints reduced that rate to less than 2 percent.

On the other hand, “unfounded” statistics do not capture all false allegations—only cases rejected at the earliest stage (correctly or not) because of what investigators believe to be strong proof that no crime was committed. This does not include cases in which charges are filed but rejected for prosecution (between a quarter and nearly half of all cases), or the relatively small number of prosecutions that end in dismissal or acquittal. Of course not all such cases involve innocent defendants—probably not even most; but surely some do.

A similar pattern can be found in a recent study often cited as evidence of the rarity of false accusations: a 2010 paper by psychologist David Lisak, which examined all 136 sexual assault reports made on a northeastern university campus over a 10-year period. For 19 of these cases, the files did not contain enough information to evaluate the outcome. Of the 117 cases that could be classified, eight—or 6.8 percent—were determined to be false complaints; that conclusion was reached when there was substantial evidence refuting the complainant’s account. But does it mean that 93 percent of the reports that could be evaluated were shown to be truthful?

More than 40 percent of the reports evaluated in Lisak’s study (excluding the ones for which there was not enough information to classify them) did result in disciplinary or criminal charges. However, 52 percent were investigated and closed. Lisak told me that the vast majority of these complaints did not proceed due to insufficient evidence, often because the complainant had stopped cooperating with investigators. His paper also mentions another type of complaint that did not proceed: cases in which “the incident did not meet the legal elements of the crime of sexual assault.”

Both sides of the political spectrum are prone to hyperbole, exaggeration, and moral panics. Last week we read something that seems particularly on point:

...why then do 69% of Americans believe that the NFL suffers a "widespread epidemic of domestic violence problems"? The answer is rooted in how we think. Humans are prone to rely on examples and experiences that can be easily recalled. The idea is that if we can remember it, it must be important. This mental shortcut is termed the availability heuristic. A key drawback of the heuristic is that it leads us to overestimate the prevalence of memorable events. Here, you can legitimately blame popular media. Because plane crashes are widely covered, many erroneously view flying as more dangerous than driving. Thanks to Shark Week, people are wearier of sharks than deer. Because 91% of people have seen, read, or heard something about Ray Rice's domestic violence, they overestimate the problem of domestic violence in the NFL.

But it's not just the media - it's also the new media: bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook posts, anything that goes viral. Exposure does not suggest relative frequency. Last week Grim made an interesting point whilst rebutting an unusually idiotic (and that's a high bar) op-ed by Jessica Valenti:

...the figure for frat boys who admitted to rape or attempted rape is nine percent. Now one way of expressing that is that 91% of frat boys are not rapists. That means that 97% of the general population of college men are not rapists. That's a pretty substantial percentage. We may not be all the way to where we want to be, but we've still established that the overwhelming majority of these men don't commit rape.

Now apply that same logic to false rape accusations and think about that for a moment.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday Inflammatory Debate Topic

From time to time, the Editorial Staff have a tradition of throwing out what we only half-jokingly refer to as "inflammatory debate topics". Often we do this as a means of testing a position or stance we have always pretty much assumed was valid on the merits. That doesn't mean we've already decided to reject the position, nor does it necessarily mean we've already decided what we think. The outcome is not decided ahead of time - hence, the debate: an opportunity to hear what you all think and critically examine our position to see how well it holds up to closer inspection.

Today's debate question reached out and grabbed us (WITHOUT AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT, MIND YOU!!!!) whilst we perused an article on California's new affirmative consent law for colleges and universities receiving government funding. The point we wish to examine is this one, taken from the law:

The California bill, SB 967, makes clear that silence, a lack of resistance or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs does not equal consent to sexual activity.

“Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time,” the bill states. “The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

The inflammatory debate question is, "As a standard of behavior, which part of this do you think is wrong?" To help focus the discussion, let's break the standard down into its constituent parts:

1. Do you believe that "silence, lack of resistance, or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs" ought to be viewed as sufficient evidence of consent?

This is a harder question than it may seem at first. First of all, there are both legal and moral duties involved (and they're not necessarily the same). It may help to separate your responses into the legal duty/moral duty framework. Here, the Blog Princess will happily climb out on the limb of bloggy bloviation and provide a preliminary, not terribly well thought out response that you are encouraged to rebut:

Is silence consent? Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

Is lack of physical resistance consent? Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

Has a person who is clearly drunk/drugged/asleep consented to sex by virtue of being incapacitated/unconscious? Absolutely not.

We strongly suspect the answers here will depend to some extent on whether one happens to be male or female. Over the years, we've often heard men argue that women have a duty to forcibly and physically fight off unwanted advances. In other words, when a woman claims to have been raped, she'd better be able to show physical injuries consistent with a physical struggle: bruises, scratches, broken fingernails, perhaps a black eye or a split lip. Quite possibly, broken bones or choke marks around the neck or tearing in places we don't like thinking about. That's what we're talking about when we say "forcible", and in the strict sense a man who physically forces himself upon a silent, unresisting, or unconscious woman cannot really be said to have used force. He may have intimidated or coerced her, but those are distinct from physical force. They leave no convenient evidence behind, and thus are almost impossible to prove in a court of law.

As a moral matter, we have no trouble whatsoever declaring that an adult - male or female - who assumes in all cases that silent, lack of physical resistance, or incapacity equate to consent is acting wrongly. Note the qualifier: in all cases.

We realize this will be an unpopular opinion, but we believe that a woman who seduces a man who is struggling mightily to resist for whatever reason (but does not verbally object or physically fight her off) is acting at least somewhat coercively and - in our opinion - wrongly. Having sex isn't like having another helping of chips and pico de gallo during happy hour. It's a profoundly moral decision with serious ethical and real world consequences, even though popular culture and a sizeable part of both the right and left like to pretend sex is an act of no more moment than deciding which TV show to watch. It's not "entertainment" and it's not risk free because you're not interacting with an electronic device. There's another human being involved.

So to us, expecting people to exert themselves enough to reasonably ascertain that the other person actually wants to have sex (as opposed to being afraid/confused/ashamed) doesn't seem like a terribly high bar, morally speaking. We don't have any trouble whatsoever saying we think that's a reasonable moral duty, especially when the two people involved are strangers or don't know each other well. The duty of care increases when two people don't know each other and decreases the closer they are.

But we're talking about moral rather than legal duties. There are a great number of acts we would unhesitatingly condemn, yet don't think the law should declare to be criminal. Has the CA law "criminalized" them? No, clearly not, because no criminal charges will be filed by colleges or universities and no one will go to jail. Other consequences, some quite serious, will flow from a determination that sexual assault (whatever that means this week) has occurred, but it's not accurate to say that this law criminalizes anything.

What this law concerns is colleges and universities making rules governing the behavior of students who attend CA postsecondary schools. There are no criminal penalties involved.

This is not a trivial point. What we're asking here is, "As a standard of behavior (leaving aside for the moment the reasonableness of the penalties thereuntoappertaining), is it unreasonable/unjust to make a rule saying that silence alone, lack of physical resistance alone, or unconsciousness/incapacity alone will not be considered to be sufficient evidence of consent to sex"?

Framed and limited that way, we would have to say, "No, no, and no." But "framed and limited that way" presents only a small part of the total picture.

2. On to the second part of the standard:

Can consent be revoked during sex? Dear God, I hope so. A man or woman who consents to be kissed does not necessarily consent to any act that hurts, disgusts, or upsets them. If they aren't enjoying themselves, either partner gets to walk away. The oft-cited, "Just let me finish" is utter rubbish given that "finishing" is an act of which we are all capable all by ourselves. You don't get to force the other person to participate in the manner you prefer.

If a person has sex with another person once, have they lost the right ever to refuse sex with that person again? Again, the suggestion is preposterous.

The conclusion we can't help coming to is that - taken in isolation - the standard of behavior posed by the CA affirmative consent law is not only quite reasonable but consistent with what we would expect from anyone old enough to have sex. It's not inherently discriminatory or anti-male (though it will almost undoubtedly disparately impact men). Depending on how it's worded and implemented, it will very likely be misused, and we're already on record as saying we think there are very strong cases to be made that one-way application of the "intoxication invalidates consent" standard is a clear violation of Title IX's prohibition on sex-based discrimination in higher ed.

The main concern we have is that what appears on the surface to be a fairly reasonable standard of behavior will be twisted into an excuse for either shifting the traditional burden of proof from accuser to accused or impermissibly using Title IX (the purpose of which is to ban sexually discriminatory policies in higher ed) to violate - pun fully intended - both the spirit and the letter of Title IX.

We oppose this administration's ill advised meddling in the running of postsecondary institutions. But in all the outrage overthe supposed "epidemic" of false rape accusations (more on that in another post), an important point is being missed. It's this: there is (and should be) a difference between policies set by colleges and universities that govern student behavior and the standards that govern criminal law. Surely we don't want to put universities in the position of saying to their students, "Yes, Student X is causing all kinds of problems on campus, but we lack the ability to discipline, suspend, or expel him or her unless/until he or she is convicted in court of a criminal offense"?

What the administration (and now, California) is doing is clearly not the right response but the ongoing conflation of criminal law and civil policy and rule making troubles us greatly.

Is there a reasonable middle ground? If so, where does it lie? And where does assumption of the risks of casual/drunken come in - on both sides?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:48 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 24, 2014

On Grading, A Sensible Compromise

For many moons, the Editorial Staff have labored mightily to point out the many and diverse bad arguments put forward by the WARONBOYS!@!!ELEVENTY!!! crowd. First, there was the "But.... but... we musn't expect boys to work hard in school because it's so.... BORING!" meme:

Note to parents: the world, whether it manifests itself as a prospective employer, a boss, a professor, or a spouse, is under no obligation to rearrange itself to keep your child amused and entertained.

Our own job contains many tedious and even unpleasant tasks, and the notion that one needn't complete assignments unless they are designed to be personally fascinating (or worse, that we need only do things we "see the point of") is about as good a recipe for a lifetime of chronic unemployment and failure as we can imagine.

Adults are - or ought to be - capable of drawing the line between spineless obedience and entitled narcissism. What gets most of us to the point where we're able to make such choices wisely is a lot of experience (much of which involves having our own stupidity and lack of foresight pointed out to us by older and wiser humans).

Children, on the otter heiny, rarely have the wisdom or experience to see the point of most things adults ask them to do. If they did, kids would be running the world and adults would be going to their 10 year olds for pocket money.

As bad arguments go, this one is particularly destructive. It's right up there with the equally preposterous notion - sadly prevalent when we were just a rosy-cheeked little Editorial Staff - that girls won't read unless they are fed a special diet of Things Girls Like to Read. It must be nice to live in a fantasy world where people seriously believe the world exists to make them feel important and valued, employers will cater to their every whim, and workers will only have to perform tasks that amuse and entertain them.

Then there was the chorus of folks who clamored that boys were doing worse in school over time. This is true only if you magically change the definition of "worse" to make improvements over time look like something bad:

1. More young men (both in absolute numbers, and as a proportion of all men) going to college than before.
2. Half as many boys dropping out of high school.
3. Boys/men are getting better grades than they used to.
4. Math SAT scores for boys have risen over time.

The debate got so silly that people were seriously suggesting that boys - apparently because "fairness" demands that we lower expectations for anyone carrying a Y chromosome - should not be expected to show up for exams or meet deadlines because they are special snowflakes whose every whim must be catered to by the educational establishment:

The solution:
Woodward supports the contention that grades should not be based on behavior unrelated to learning and knowledge.

Grades should not be based upon attendance, punctuality, or behavior in class.

Grades should not be used to reward or to punish students. The purpose of the grade is to represent what students have learned.

Homework completion should not be a part of the grade. For many reasons homework completion is not an indicator of what was learned.

Based on this seminal (pun fully intended) research, the Editorial Staff have decided to eliminate all deadlines from the workplace... but only for male co-workers, who cannot be expected to follow rules, complete assignments on time, or - apparently - even be at work during normal working hours. The poor dears - one must make allowances...

All of these arguments had previously been put forward by feminists looking to redress gender-related disparities in educational outcomes. They were bad arguments then, and they're still bad arguments when the opposing side uses them. We on the right should know, having dismissed them as worthless just a few years ago.

So imagine our delight to see (finally!) a sensible suggestion that (we think) would help both boys and girls become better students and more well rounded adults:

Teachers realized that a sizable chunk of kids who aced tests trundled along each year getting C’s, D’s, and F’s. At the same time, about 10 percent of the students who consistently obtained A’s and B’s did poorly on important tests. Grading policies were revamped and school officials smartly decided to furnish kids with two separate grades each semester. One grade was given for good work habits and citizenship, which they called a “life skills grade.” A “knowledge grade” was given based on average scores across important tests. Tests could be retaken at any point in the semester, provided a student was up to date on homework.

Here's why the Editorial Staff like this suggestion.

The purpose of grading is to provide information about a student's level of performance, subject matter mastery, and preparedness to move to the next level. Having tutored college algebra, stats, and calculus in college, we often saw students who had passed tests at the previous level - but who had not mastered the material, nor the skills needed for more advanced math - fail Calculus. As a wee lass (and up until her 30s) the Editorial Staff were - in matters academic, at least - far more like a boy than a girl. Put simply, we aced tests (often getting the highest grade in the class on exams) and were terrible about doing homework or turning in what we considered to be "boring" or "pointless" assignments.

A student like that may have memorized the material, but he or she has serious deficits in the skills study after study has found are crucial to long term success:

What Drs. Seligman and Duckworth label “self-discipline,” other researchers name “conscientiousness.” Or, a predisposition to plan ahead, set goals, and persist in the face of frustrations and setbacks. Conscientiousness is uniformly considered by social scientists to be an inborn personality trait that is not evenly distributed across all humans. In fact, a host of cross-cultural studies show that females tend to be more conscientious than males. One such study by Lindsay Reddington out of Columbia University even found that female college students are far more likely than males to jot down detailed notes in class, transcribe what professors say more accurately, and remember lecture content better. Arguably, boys’ less developed conscientiousness leaves them at a disadvantage in school settings where grades heavily weight good organizational skills alongside demonstrations of acquired knowledge.

The thing is, conscientiousness can be taught. That may well be the primary task for parents and teachers: passing a test is like having a fish. Mastering the skills needed to succeed across the board is more like knowing how to fish. Guess which one is more predictive of life success?

Having raised two sons to adulthood, the Editorial Staff are pretty sure that lowering expectations for boys (and worse, failing to teach them self-discipline and self-control) is not the answer. The military knows this - that's why the armed forces consistently turn around lives and produce so many successful men and women:

When video of Adm. William H. McRaven's 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin was posted online, the speech went viral. Millions of viewers will remember the core message summed up in his memorable line: "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."

The Navy SEAL veteran recalled that "if you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better."

Attention to detail counts, and conscientiousness - widely poo-poohed by conservatives when doing so supports the WARONBOYS message, but lauded by them when it comes in handy for explaining disparate outcomes in other areas of life - is a trump card, beside which most other traits pale in comparison.

The real world demands that adults pay attention to their surroundings, pay their bills on time, perform boring tasks well and thoroughly. A grading system that allows students to take credit for skills they've mastered (taking tests, completing assignments on time, or hopefully both) is more accurate and informative than one that makes it impossible for employers or colleges to correctly assess a student's strengths or weaknesses.

We've often thought that most girls may need coaching to test up to their potential and most boys probably need help with following directions and completing tasks on time. Wouldn't it make sense for grades to explicitly track performance in both areas?

Discuss amongst your ownselves, haters.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:59 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

September 16, 2014

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that, if they're willing to admit fault and want to change, domestic abusers can learn better ways to resolving marital disputes:

While both men and women commit acts of intimate-partner violence, as experts call it, approximately 85% of victims are female. Decades of studies show that about 60% to 70% of abusive men who complete a comprehensive batterer treatment program can reform, says Jeffrey L. Edleson, professor and dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on domestic abuse.

One of the most thorough and well-designed studies on the topic was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by Edward Gondolf, now a professor emeritus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. It was summarized in 2004 in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. The study spent four years following 618 men who entered batterer-intervention programs in one of four cities, as well as their female partners starting when the men entered the program.

The study found that at the 30-month follow-up, more than 80% of the men had not re-assaulted their partner in the previous year, and at the 48-month follow-up, 90% of the men had not assaulted their partner in the past year. The treatment programs were small education-therapy groups, meeting at least once a week for between four months and a year. "Men who completed the program were much less likely to abuse their partners," Dr. Gondolf says.

The study also showed that at both of these follow-up points, two-thirds of the women (some the original partners of the men, some new) said that their quality of life had improved, and 85% of the women said they felt very safe.

One of the main reasons the blog princess stated up front that she would leave if she was physically threatened was the fear of having her children grow up in a home with a violent father as an example. That kind of conditioning is hard to overcome.

On the bad news front, it turns out that forgiving a philandering spouse can cause other people to view you as weak:

Forgiveness has been linked to health and happiness. But it may be dangerous to your social status.

That’s the conclusion of a newly published study, which finds people—particularly those in leadership positions—pay a price when they forgive a mate for infidelity.

“Even with a clear indication that the romantic partner apologized, and the recognition that to forgive is a mature reaction, observers viewed a victim who forgave to be weak and incompetent,” reports a research team led by psychologist Heather J. Smith of Sonoma State University. “This research suggests there are negative consequences for victims who forgive.”

...Why the harsh judgments of the wronged person?

“A victim who forgives a romantic partner can fail to affirm shared values about how people should respond to sexual infidelity,” the researchers write. They add that the importance of upholding such values increases “if other audiences might view the victim as a group representative.”

Furthermore, they note that third parties could feel that “victims who forgave their romantic partner failed to address the power and status inequity that the original offense created.” Doing so, in some people’s eyes, is a sign of weakness.

So if you’re in a position of prominence, your actions have symbolic value whether you want them to or not. And the symbolism of forgiving a straying mate is decidedly double-edged.

We found this interesting in light of the oft-expressed belief that women are especially hard on cheaters out of some purported, gender-specific insecurity and/or desire to control men. That theory has never really made much sense to us. For years, most studies consistently found that men were less likely to forgive infidelity.

But I've always wondered how much of that tendency was innate and how much was influenced by culture and/or circumstances:

"Women are more likely to take into account their children, their economics, their general survival," Schwartz said. "Men are just crushed or upset about what happened to them. They won't think as quickly about their children as the first or second issue; but they will eventually consider that." She added that men generally experience a flooding of anger over the violation.

That rise in blood pressure could result from a guy's perception of cheating as something done to him more than something done to the relationship.

"Men are less willing to forgive," said Ruth Houston, founder of and author of "Is He Cheating on You? - 829 Telltale Signs." She added, "Men view infidelity as a statement about their manhood, so it's such an affront to him that most men cannot get over this hurdle."

Practical concerns can also steer a woman in one direction or the other.

"Wives are also less likely to consider divorce if they are economically dependent on their husbands, have children or hold strong religious views," Amato said. "Nevertheless, most wives at least consider the option of divorce. And, in fact, infidelity is the marital problem most likely to lead to divorce."

Thank Gaia we have scientists to tell us these things:

In three studies, “individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships,” reports a research team led by psychologist Joshua Foster of the University of South Alabama.

Those who reported they had been poached from another partner began the study with lower levels of commitment to their current mate, “and in general these functioning differences grew wider as the study progressed.”

“They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality, and engaged in higher rates of infidelity.”

Shocking, we know.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:51 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

September 10, 2014

Ray Rice and Female Privilege

So this whole kerfuffle over Ray Rice clocking his then-fiancé puzzles the Editorial Staff mightily.

One the one hand, seeing a guy that size literally knock a physically smaller/weaker person unconscious and then casually drag her across the floor is sickening. But the calls for boycotting the NFL (or suggestions that watching football amounts to "co-signing" violence against women, or even more bizarrely, that doing away with football is some kind of Important Step In The Fight Against Domestic Violence) are just mind numbingly stupid.

Does anyone seriously believe we'd be having this conversation if Ray Rice had clocked a physically smaller man? The thought is laughable. Football players commit crimes all the time. Some of them are minor, some are truly reprehensible. This is not news:

It has been an awful offseason for the NFL.

Twenty-seven active players have been arrested in total so far, most notably star New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Since the Super Bowl on February 3, NFL players have been arrested for common crimes like DUI and public intoxication, but also for things like street racing, child abuse, and trying to solicit a prostitute.

In 1999, there was even a study that compared relative crime rates between NFL players and a relevant sample of young men. Inconveniently for the uber-outraged, the study found that normalized offense rates (incidents per 100,000) for NFL players were less than half those in the general population (see bottom line in the table below):



Why should it matter more when NFL players commit violent acts against women (at rates that - at least in 1999 - were half those in the relevant general population!) than when they commit violent acts against men (and especially, physically smaller men)? Isn't this simply a form of blatant female privilege to match the oft-cited male privilege that apparently needs to be "checked" because.... equality!!!?

Grim observes:

Sometimes the only way to get a man to listen to you is to knock him upside the head. That's true for other men, too: once in a while, a man just needs a good knock on his door.

The double-standard is wise and proper, though, because if he knocks you back he could kill you.

We're not sure we agree with Grim. It's actually fairly rare for men to be physically disciplined these days, and in any case "the end justifies the means" isn't a terribly strong argument. The Marine Corps seems to be able to get men to pay attention without hitting them.

We're not really sure what the feminist argument for treating women differently in these cases would be. There's a clear legal precedent for punishing battery that leads to serious injuries more seriously than cases where the injuries are minor or even nonexistent. Don't we already have a rule in place for dealing with such cases that doesn't involve a sexist double standard that argues that women are weaker and less capable of defending themselves than men (except, of course, in combat situations and when applying for any job with physical fitness/strength standards)?

Sounds to us like someone needs to totally check their female privilege.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:02 PM | Comments (94) | TrackBack

August 12, 2014

Why Smart, Capable, Fully-Equal Women Need Free Stuff

Because even though women ARE TOO! just as smart, capable, and hard working as our hate-filled, patriarchal oppressors, we are simultaneously helpless and incapable of figuring how to provide for ourselves:

Sanitary products are vital for the health, well-being and full participation of women and girls across the globe. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch, for example, have both linked menstrual hygiene to human rights. Earlier this year, Jyoti Sanghera, chief of the UN Human Rights Office on Economic and Social Issues, called the stigma around menstrual hygiene “a violation of several human rights, most importantly the right to human dignity”.

In countries where sanitary products are inaccessible or unaffordable, menstruation can mean missed school for girls (UNICEF estimates 10% of African girls don’t attend school during their periods) and an increased dropout rate, missed work for women and repeated vaginal infections because of unsanitary menstrual products. One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days – and six days of pay – every month because of their periods.

I'll tell you what other things necessary for people of all kinds to live and work and thrive.

Food isn't free, and it's about as basic as things get. Without it, people starve to death.

Shelter isn't free.

And we're pretty sure that clothes are a big "must-have" item in the workplace or classroom. But by all means, let's focus on tampons.

Dear Lord, please make it stop.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:16 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

August 07, 2014

Thursday Inflammatory Debate Topic (or... not)

Over the past week or so, the Editorial Staff have been seeing references to this video here and there, generally accompanied by uber-outragey objections and cries of "MISOGYNY!!!11!" and the equally annoying riposte of people who can't understand (generally while complaining bitterly that The Other makes no attempt to understand their point of view) why everyone isn't just like them? Yes, we're talking about "Lighten up" and its near cousin, "Secure/attractive/normal people think this is hysterical, so obviously you're insecure/unattractive/abnormal". Or [GASP!]... a MAN-HATING, WESTERN CIVILIZATION DESTROYING, ALL POWERFUL FEMINIST!!11!

Humor being a notoriously subjective affair, we had firmly resolved to ignore the video and skip the ritual taking of offense and retaliatory bestowing of insults. But then Tex linked to it over at Grim's place. We like Tex, so we overcame our aversion and clicked the hateful little "view" arrow:

There was a time when the Editorial Staff would automatically have assumed a video entitled, "A Man's Guide to Women/Hot-Crazy Matrix" was virtually certain to contain some elaborate feat of intentional, self-defecating humor. Sadly, years of exposure to the blissfully un-selfconscious rantings of the pickup artist/game crowd have strained our credibility to the point where we no longer feel safe assuming anything.

So here's a time lapse summary of our evolving response to the video.

First few moments: "OK, this is pretty much what the title led us to expect. It's a joke."

"Ummm.... why is there an equal-parts-hot/crazy line?"

"All women are at least a 4 on the crazy scale? Does he believe this, or is he making fun of the male propensity to belittle anything they don't understand"?"

"In what universe does dating anyone who rates 7-10 on your personal crazy scale seem like a good move?"

"Oh..... now I get it. This explains all those guys who claim not to have noticed that the person they married was completely insane until after the wedding."

On the female version:

"No dating zone?"

"If a guy has enough money, women don't care about their looks?" This is arrant nonsense.

Later that evening, it occurred to us that he had the female version all wrong. It should have had "hot" on the X axis and "acts like a jerk" on the Y axis with pretty much everything else the same as the male version.

So why did people get so upset over the video? We can't speak for them, but it's not all that hard to imagine why. Men and women have a hard time understanding how the world seems to the other half of humanity, and both sexes have a disturbing tendency to think their own world view is normal, sane, and sensible while the opposite sex's is utterly incomprehensible and needs fixing. Why can't a woman be more like a man (i.e., 'not crazy')? Why can't men be more empathetic/loving/understanding?

In the comments to Tex's post, Grim links to what he calls the female version of this stupid advice, which had (amusingly) been linked to disapprovingly by Glenn Reynolds (Hey! Only insecure/unattractive people fail to see the dark humor in what I find hysteri...... oh, nevermind...):

Young single straight women, take cover! Susan Patton is out there flacking for her book, “Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE.” She stopped by the “Today” show this morning to tell college-age women to find a husband immediately — and also to learn how to bake bread, get plastic surgery in high school and, you know, not get themselves raped, as women are so often wont to do.

It’s such patently absurd advice and yet this is exactly the sort of cultural messaging that used to freak me out as a 20-something single straight lady. In acts of self-punishment, I would read these self-appointed gurus, or watch them on the “Today” show spouting their B.S., and genuinely worry that they were right — that I would end up sad and alone.

Well, guess what.

I did everything the Susan Pattons of the world said not to do and I ended up marrying a freaking wonderful man — not despite disobeying these retro rules, but because of it. That’s why, amidst all the “Princeton mom” noise, I bring you instructions on how to actually marry smart, according to me. True story, I recently went to the optometrist and she told me, “Your eyes aren’t young anymore,” so I feel like that makes me at least as qualified as Patton to give life advice.

In his comment, Grim describes Patton's advice as traditional and the Salon author's criticism of that advice as vicious. But it's not terribly hard to see why so many women (including this author, who planned for her family first and school/career only afterwards) were annoyed by Ms. Patton's attempts to scare young women into heading for the nearest altar:

SP: One, you have to plan for your personal happiness. Two, men and women simply are not the same and it’s unreasonable for women to think that they can pursue their personal happiness in the same way that men do. The third thing I would say is, there will never again be this concentration of extraordinary men to choose from as you have while you’re an undergraduate on a campus like Princeton or any school that you go to. And probably the last thing I would add is about how women are responsible for their own safety; not only for their own happiness, but they’re responsible for their own safety.

DP: You write in the book that men do not need dating advice, but it seems as though you portray men as having bad dating habits, since they have come to “expect free sex” and end up dating “dumb, mean or nasty” women. What advice have you given your sons in regard to finding love?

SP: Well, I’ve given my sons no advice whatsoever. They need no advice from me, nor do most men need any advice from me. Men can take as long as they want; there’s no time clock on them, there’s no limitation on their ability to become fathers, and as a result they don’t need any advice from me. They can date for as long as they want to date. When they’re ready to settle down, they’ll settle down. There’s nothing that’s at risk for them.

Ah: the golden standard against which all human actions should be measured: "What's at risk for ME?"

By the time your formerly rosy-cheeked Editorial Staff was 17 or so, she had begun thinking about college and probable trajectories for the rest of her life. Being a practical sort of lass, she immediately flashed on the fact that life is full of tradeoffs and opportunity costs. Just before her 18th natal day, she fell in love with the Spousal Unit (and he with her). Both of us had several years of dating experience under our belts, and so it wasn't long before we both acknowledged that the heady rush of infatuation was looking like something more permanent in nature. In due course, marriage, delayed college and career plans, and two offspring ensued.

What can we say? It worked for us. But that doesn't make it a recipe for Everywoman. We have friends who did things the other way 'round and are likewise happy with the way their lives turned out. Which we took to be pretty much the point of the advice offered by the Salon author: some people make careful plans, some learn by trial and error and painful correction.

And who in the heck is Susan Patton to tell other women how to live their lives? Certainly she's free to offer her advice. And people are free to take it or not, as they see fit. They're free to think (or say, or write) that it's dumb advice. Patton's a big girl, she went about offering her advice in a way that wasn't particularly respectful of other people's sensibilities. Having done this, she isn't in a strong position to complain when they find her tiresome and offensive.

Understandably Grim found the article disheartening, though we'll pass on the time honored practice of insulting anyone who doesn't react the way we did. As with the hot/crazy matrix, it expressed a fair number of uncomfortable truths that upset people. Oddly enough, the Editorial Staff (being unrepentantly female) saw that article completely differently than Grim did. But it would never have occurred to us to dismiss his reaction or infer from it that he was insecure or offer him whatever insults are customary in such situations. And that sadly common mutual disrespect shown by both women and men for each other's feelings, thoughts, and reactions is probably a big part of what produced the kerfuffle over what seems to us in both cases to be somewhat serious points presented in an unserious manner.

The one that offends you may well depend on your life experiences or whether you're male or female. So who's "crazy", or insecure, or humor-impaired now? How about no one?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:29 AM | Comments (85) | TrackBack

July 07, 2014

Sounds Like A Job For.... UNILATERAL ACTION MAN!!!

Congress refuses to act on Paycheck Fairness. For some time now, the President has been bragging about his phone, his pen, and his willingness to go around those legitimately and democratically elected representatives of The People... err... mean, womyn-hating Rethugs.

So why can't Obama even get his own White House in order?

With the White House’s release of its payroll, administration officials once again are having to explain how it is that they can complain about the gender pay gap and then have one of their own. It didn’t go so well the last time this contradiction came up in April. And it didn’t go so well this time either. What the new salary release shows is that the administration has not narrowed the pay gap between men and women employees at the White House since 2009.

...“The president is strongly supportive of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The president signed an executive order essentially applying the principles of the Paycheck Fairness Act to federal contractors. That’s as much as he can do using his executive authority.”

Which leaves this question: Can’t Obama also use his executive authority to hire more senior-level women in the White House who make over $100,000?

Luuuuuuuuuuuucy! Jou got some 'splainin' to do!

UPDATE: Uh-oh...

Although the sample size is significantly smaller, a similar analysis of the salaries of First Lady Michelle Obama's staff shows a substantially larger difference.

... there are only two men on the first lady's staff. They are the directors of Let's Move and Joining Forces. Their salaries average $123,307.....The average pay for the remaining thirteen women is $84,133, a 46 percent difference from the men's average.

There are three women whose pay is higher than the men's average, including one making $172,200. The position title for each of these women also includes "assistant to the president" in addition to responsibilities for the first lady. A fourth woman, whose salary of $103,000 is well above the women's average, is also listed as assistant to the president.

... President Obama was the subject of criticism even from allies at the start of his second term for a shortage of women selected for replacement cabinet positions. Mrs. Obama herself has largely escaped such criticism for her own staffing choices despite the fact that her husband's staff is far more diverse than her own.

Of course all of this is just plain silly, but these are the kinds of ridiculous, innumerate arguments the President has been making all along. Now that those arguments are being used to suggest that he's just as sexist as those mean-spirited, womyn hating Rethugs, the White House tells us that "it's complicated". And there are "a variety of measures" to measure inequality that only seem to matter when we're talking about the White House.

And his hands are tied. On other things, he's perfectly willing to go around Congress. But when it comes to his own staff, there's nothing he can do.

The video is priceless:

Posted by Cassandra at 07:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 20, 2014

Great Inflated Expectations

They took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from the circumstances.

...“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.”

- Great Expectations

One of my favorite essays on the intricate dance of men and women contained the line, "A guy in a relationship is like an ant standing on top of a truck tire."

It's a funny line because it contains a painful truth. Several painful truths, actually. It illuminates by exaggerating: men aren't really - or all - as clueless and random as they often claim to be. And women aren't really - or all - as passive and helpless; as overly invested in (and trapped by) other people's needs and feelings as we claim to be. These are natural tendencies. But they are also excuses that prevent us from understanding the world we live in.

How we choose to respond to events beyond our control matters. In the battle of the sexes, the so-called enemy gets a vote.
But so do we. Every single day.

Whether you're male or female, a hallmark of adulthood is the capacity to look beyond our innate preoccupation with self and grapple with hard truths. One of these hard truths is that the world doesn't revolve around us and our feelings. In the real world, other people's thoughts and priorities and agendas matter, too. Our fellow humans don't exist to fulfill our fantasies or make us feel happy and secure. We can't rightly treat them as means to our peculiar little ends.

We're expected to behave like grownups, not toddlers.

The real world - as opposed to the fantasy world in our heads - is a place where choices have consequences; where decisions are (or ought to be) informed by inescapable tradeoffs between freedom and security; immediate gratification and long term happiness; independence and the sense of meaning, connectedness, and purpose that repay us for shouldering the duties and burdens of marriage and family life:

This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers. The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.

So, women who intentionally select (and commit to) men who "mate for life" are statistically less likely to be abused or assaulted than women who admit casual sexual partners into the most intimate and vulnerable of places - their homes, their children, their beds? This is surprising news. Any moment now, some insensitive brute will claim that women who get drunk and hook up with men they don't know well are statistically more likely to be raped than women who recognize risk and avoid situations that place them in danger. Or that - can you believe this nonsense? - young men who get drunk and have sex with drunk women they don't know well are placing themselves at risk of being accused of rape, of fathering unwanted children, of enduring other unpleasant consequences.

Good Lord, what fools these pundits be! Don't they understand that it is the RIGHT of every human being on the planet to expect - nay, demand! - risk and consequence free sex? It's in the Constitution! The idea that intelligent, rational adults cannot go about blithely ignoring risk is an abomination. No one deserves to be forced to live in the real world. It's dangerous - we might get hurt! Something unfair might happen, and then where would we be?

This is the thing about the real world: ignoring risk doesn't make it go away. All other things being equal, people who deliberately refuse to consider risks are statistically more likely to be unpleasantly surprised by the shocking realization that that reality is.... well, real.

And sometimes, it bites.

There is a certain logical inconsistency in believing that men are violent and dangerous and potentially abusive while demanding the right (!) to behave as though the danger you're continually fulminating about did not actually exist. And there is a certain logical inconsistency in believing that women are more passive, less assertive, and physically weaker than men while expecting them to assertively and aggressively defend themselves from unwanted physical advances.

If you believe that testosterone makes men naturally more aggressive, less aware of conversational nuances and body language, more sexually adventurous than the average woman, then it logically follows that men are going to have to exercise greater self control than women in certain areas. This isn't sexism - it's a logical outcome of the male propensity to push the envelope, to aggressively reach beyond their natural grasp, to overestimate their attractiveness to women. We may actually have to teach some of them that rape is wrong, just as we teach them that theft, bullying, lying, and other behaviors are wrong.

Likewise, if you believe that women are naturally more cooperative, less comfortable with confrontations, more sensitive, more hesitant to assert themselves, then it logically follows that women are going to have to exercise greater care in certain areas. Again, this isn't sexism but rather a rational recognition of the very biological and cultural differences we use to justify treating women preferentially in a whole host of situations. We can't, as Nancy Hopkins did, complain that Scary Ideas give us the feminine vapors (can you imagine a man saying that?) and then turn around and claim there are no significant differences between men and women that might explain the dearth of women in science.

These differences - in culture, in training, in biology and hormones, in life experiences - are what make honesty and responsibility so important in dealing with our fellow humans:

It went from courting, to dating, to hanging out. Sometimes even hanging out reeks of too much commitment, in which case ‘talking’ can be used. And if talking sounds too serious, maybe we’ll start hearing ‘vicinitizing.’ That’s a word I just made up, and it means that you and your female friend are often in the same vicinity, but it doesn’t get all intense by insinuating that you’re actually in that general location together on purpose.

When did men become so afraid to make a commitment, to take the lead, to say what they want, to make long term plans, to set goals, to pursue, to talk about the future?

We are devolving into primates, losing the ability to even discuss our own behavior using words and sentences. The average single American man is now relegated to grunts and shrugs and ‘whatevers’ and ‘you knows’ when pressed to have a conversation about his dating habits. Or his vicinity habits. Or his whatever habits, because whatever, you know?

The Blog Princess grew up in the late 60s and early 70s. It was an intoxicating time - an age where the air smelt faintly of pot and a nation of permanent children experimented with the glorious freedom to pretend life was something other than what it demonstrably is: difficult, challenging, sometimes dangerous. Viewing that world through the obscuring haze of black light and florescent bromides ("You go your way and I'll go mine... and if by chance we touch... it's... like... beautiful") didn't change its essential nature.

Of course neither did the rigid, formulaic rules we grew up with, exactly. Like the "ant on the truck tire" line, they reflected things that are true. But they were also exaggerations of the real world.

Many women do want more out of life than marriage, a house in the suburbs, a passel of kids, and a white picket fence. We have intellects as well as emotions. We can be selfish and venal and foolish and nasty just as often as we are loving, self-sacrificing, nurturing, and steady. Men are not mindless, heartless sex-seeking missiles (in fact, every man I ever dated pushed for commitment and they were decent, kind, and often tender). The man I married has all these qualities along with the more stereotypical ones we associate with masculinity: aggression, forcefulness, a tendency to compartmentalize.

Our instincts are part of us, but they are not all of us. Civilization is based upon the suppression and channeling of innate tendencies, and the joy of committed relationships is that they force us to grow: to grapple with views of the world that could not be more different from our own, to understand things that mystify and upset us, to temper natural selfishness with devotion to something bigger.

One of the most chilling things I've ever read was written in response to the tragic story of a young man who threw a gigantic temper tantrum. But unlike the often comical rage of the frustrated toddler, this tantrum had deadly consequences:

All your life, your parents and teachers told you that you were unique and wonderful, that you could accomplish anything if you tried hard enough. But after puberty, effort actually makes things worse. The harder you try to ingratiate yourself with the popular kids, the more obvious it is that you'll never become their friend. The harder you try to impress a girl, the more you sound like Ralph Wiggum walking Lisa Simpson home on Valentine’s Day. (“So … do you like … stuff?”)

If relationships have anything to teach us, it's that we're really not the center of the universe. We have no right to expect others to understand us, like us, or make us happy. Some people will never like us, and many - most, perhaps - are not worth our time or attention. Some people are actively dangerous to us. If we ignore the warning signs and let them close, we have given them the power to hurt us where we're most vulnerable.

But we don't have to be helpless victims. Though there are no guarantees in life, there are things we can do to minimize risk and maximize the chances of getting what we want. Listening to the gender grievance peddlers on both sides, I often find myself thinking that no one can afford to be so clueless about the world we live in.

Some wag once opined that Hell is other people. But the real Hell is going through life with the ludicrous expectation that it's someone else's job to shield us from the consequences of our own freely made decisions. That's an equal opportunity observation that applies to both men and women.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:12 AM | Comments (71) | TrackBack

June 16, 2014

Fathers and Work

Who teaches children the value of hard work? Arthur C. Brooks argues that fathers do:

... hard work is correlated with well-being. The University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics polls thousands of American families, and its 2009 results show that people who feel good about themselves work more than those who don’t. It asks how often the respondents felt so sad that nothing could cheer them up. My analysis of the study showed that people who felt that way “none of the time” worked 10 percent more hours per week than those who felt that way “most of the time.” This holds true when we eliminate people who worked zero hours, so it is not merely that unemployed people are miserable. This doesn’t prove that extra work hours chase away sadness, but it weakens any argument that the cure for the blues is a French workweek.

So vocation is crucial to leading a satisfying life. Who teaches this truth to children? Many traditions emphasize the role of fathers. Jesus defended himself to the Pharisees for working on the Sabbath by saying, “my Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” And the Talmud instructs us, “For a man not to teach his son a trade or profession is equivalent to teaching him to steal.”

The best way for a father to teach this is by example. This explains why a child’s ability to grow up to be a productive adult is so strongly predicted by the presence of a working father in the home. The Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan has for decades studied what happens to sons and daughters when their fathers are absent. She finds that after controlling for demographics, children in fatherless families are roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school as kids in intact homes. Even after controlling for student talent via standardized test scores, a sharp decline in grades and attendance persists. And young men who grow up without a father are 1.5 times more likely to be idle — that is, neither in the work force nor in school — than those with a father in the home. And this brings us to a particularly serious issue this Father’s Day: Our growing national jobs deficit. In 1953, just 14 percent of adult American men were neither working nor seeking work. Today, that rate has more than doubled, to 30 percent. And this doesn’t only reflect an aging population with more retired men: Just after World War II, 8 percent of noninstitutionalized males ages 25 to 54 were not working. Today, 17 percent of that same group of men are idle.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

Why Don't "They" Ever....

One of the themes that crops up whenever feminism is mentioned is something I like to call "Why don't they ever...."?

As in, "If feminists really believe in equality and fairness for both sexes, why don't they ever fight for men's rights/notice the ways men are treated unfairly?" In a moving essay, Cathy Young pays tribute to a former president of NOW who spent her life fighting for men's rights, too:

Karen DeCrow, the feminist attorney and author who served as president of the National Organization for Women from 1974 to 1977, died of melanoma last Friday at 76. Although her passing was widely noted in the media, most the obituaries and tributes overlooked the more unorthodox aspects of her work. A lifelong champion of women’s rights, DeCrow was nonetheless skeptical about many key aspects of latter-day feminism, including its focus on sexual violence and male abuse of women. She was also, for much of her career, a men’s-rights activist.

DeCrow raised eyebrows in 1981 when she served as defense counsel to Frank Serpico, the former New York detective and whistleblower, in a paternity suit. Serpico claimed the plaintiff had used him as a “sperm bank” and lied about being on the Pill while knowingly trying to conceive, and asserted that he had a constitutional right not to become a parent against his will. (The family-court judge, a woman, ruled in Serpico’s favor, but he lost on appeal.)

DeCrow, by then a lawyer in private practice in Syracuse, New York, endorsed Serpico’s argument on feminist grounds. “Just as the Supreme Court has said that women have the right to choose whether or not to be parents, men should also have that right,” she told The New York Times, calling this “the only logical feminist position to take.”

One quote struck me as particularly apt:

In a 1994 interview, she lamented that “in the battle between the sexes, men and women will go practically to the end of the earth in illogical, irrational ways to give each other pain.”

There is so much we don't know about the world, and it doesn't help our understanding to assume that journalists and activists we already know to be biased are telling us the whole story.

Why don't we know these things?

Easy. They don't fit the narratives either side finds useful.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 13, 2014

Harsh Words Provoke Harsh Reactions

Shocking, we know, but hardly surprising:

Commentators, feminist leaders, and even some lawmakers are blasting George Will for a recent column that they say trivializes sexual assault.

Will penned a column titled “Colleges become the victims of progressivism” over the weekend in the Washington Post. (The column also appeared at National Review Online and other publications). In the column, Will raises questions about the recent efforts by the Obama administration and Congress to address sexual assault on college campuses and the potential impact of fostering a victimhood mentality among students in other areas of academia as well.

Will’s most contested line is in the column’s first very paragraph: “[Colleges and universities] are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (‘micro-aggressions,’ often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate,” he writes.

For many moons, the Editorial Staff have blasted the feminist position that pretty much everything, from thinking Bad Thoughts to clumsy dating behavior to drunken hookups gone awry is "sexual assault".

But even we cringed - and not just a little bit - at the suggestion that young women who complain of having been sexually assaulted are doing so because it's just a pleasant, ego-enhancing thing to do.

This strikes us as an extraordinarily insensitive and cruel thing to say, and we're not at all surprised at the reaction it provoked. Mr. Will should not apologize for the arguments he made in his column. They are basically sound and it is heartening that the Washington Post is standing behind the value of discourse.

But Mr. Will is widely famed for his skill with words. In this case, as we all do at times, he was unnecessarily harsh and - we think - actually unjust. He cannot know the motives of any of these young women, and attributing the worst of motives to them adds little to the debate.

When one lobs rhetorical Molotov cocktails, return fire is perhaps not unsurprising. Sadly, the age-old maxim that a soft answer often turneth away wrath is now widely viewed as "political correctness".

It is nothing of the sort. It was - and always has been - good advice, even when dealing with the more unreasonable among us.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

June 12, 2014

The Power of Touch

I loved this:

“Often a bedmate became your best friend. Not just married couples, but sons sleeping with servants, sisters with one another, and aristocratic wives with mistresses. Darkness, within the intimate confines of a bed, leveled social distinctions despite differences in gender and status,” Ekirch says. “Most individuals did not readily fall sleep but conversed freely. In the absence of light, bedmates coveted that hour when, frequently, formality and etiquette perished by the bedside.”

We sleep together not because it’s fiscally responsible, but because we are affectionate beings. Our minds need rest, but our minds also need camaraderie and intimacy and whispering. Anxiety and stress seem less intimidating when discussed with a partner while wearing pajamas. It’s important to talk about our days lying side by side, discuss children and household situations, gossip about neighbors and colleagues, plan for tomorrow in the confines of private chambers. We cuddle. We laugh. At the end of each day we remove the onerous cloaks we’ve donned to face the world, and we want to do this lying next to our best friends, to know we’re not in it alone.

“We are creatures of attachment,” Crespi says. “We like to have someone close, to be in proximity to other people.”

Even when they snore. Especially when they sleep sideways.

At Villa Cassandranita, our little nuclear family (Mom, Dad, two sons) were somewhat unusual in that all four of us are introverts. This makes us somewhat less apt to want to deal with other people 24/7 and somewhat more likely to value time alone.

The Editorial Staff know it made long deployments easier: enjoying solitude definitely makes the inevitable loneliness and longing for your significant other easier to bear.

But I'm still a big fan of the invisible language of human contact. I held my babies a lot, mostly preferring to carry them than to put them into a stroller. We had a backpack that I used until our boys got to be about 30 pounds: the ability to tote a toddler while mowing the lawn or doing light housework was invaluable. I could talk to them as they watched what I was doing over one shoulder, or reach up and reassure them if they became restless or fretful.

Even tiny babies communicate through touch. Though it happened over 30 years ago, I've never forgotten the first time my firstborn - only 6 months old - tried to comfort me. As I stood there, holding him as I sobbed out my loneliness and frustration, I slowly became aware of a tiny hand rhythmically patting my back.

My baby was comforting me as I had comforted him innumerable times when he cried - by gently patting my back. A small miracle I will never forget.

And then there are those times when even in a relationship between adults, words aren't terribly effective. But a touch of the hand or a quick hug conveys love and connection, even at times when we don't understand each other all that well.

"It's OK. We may not agree, but I'll always be there for you." All without a single word spoken.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2014

Men of VC, Strike a Blow Against Sexist Piggery!

Do it for the children:

Who wears short shorts? This summer, men wear short shorts, according to a delightful fashion dispatch from the Wall Street Journal’s David Coleman. “In the past few years, the low-water-mark length of a 15-inch-or-so inseam receded to knee-length (11 inches), then a knee-baring 9 inches, then to a quadriceps-exposing 7 inches and on to the newly fashionable thigh-flaunting 5 inches,” Coleman reports. “If men's shorts were a glacier in Greenland, scientists would be freaking out.”

...If short shorts on men are dangerous, then I welcome a state of emergency. The shorter short can, of course, make for a compelling visual—think Daniel Craig emerging, boy-shorted, from the sea in Casino Royale—but short shorts on men also confer social benefits to everyone. In a world where women’s bodies are often dismissed as “dangerous” and “wrong” when exposed, girls are made to pass fingertip hemline tests to gain access to middle-school classrooms, and authority figures claim that these rules and regulations are put in place to protect girls from boys, pulling the short short onto the other leg implicitly dismantles these sexist structures. Craig’s ocean scene wasn’t just a proud moment for short-shorted men everywhere—it helped to restore the cosmic balance between cheesecake and beefcake in the Bond universe.

As you strut about in your gloriously proud manliness, know that the womenfolk of America are ogling have got your backside.

What a brave new world, that hath such wonders in't.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:14 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 01, 2014

Separate and Unequal Replaces Separate, But Equal

A while back, the indefatigable mr rdr sent us this pithy summation of the absurdity of using Title IX (which forbids sexual discrimination in federally funded schools) to justify discriminating against male students on the basis of their sex. The argument, as this author puts it, is pretty much irrefutable:

The customs and practices of the field of higher education have adopted, as a common policy formation, that sexual actions with a person the respondent knows to be incapacitated, or should know to be incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, sleep, etc., are prohibited.

This is a non-discriminatory way to frame policy.

But in a recent case, the campus policy stated that intoxication creates an inability to consent. Thus, in any situation in which a male student and a female student have sex, and both are intoxicated, this college will commit an act of gender discrimination by only charging one of them.

If both are intoxicated, they both did the same thing to each other. Why should only the male be charged if both students behave in ways defined as prohibited by the policy?

The simplicity (and neutrality) of this line of reasoning is a thing of beauty. It is the gender neutral standard Title IX aspires to in theory, but fails to deliver in practice:

If intoxication creates lack of consent,

And both parties are intoxicated,

Then neither is capable of consent.

Sokolow goes on to observe that since sex itself is not a crime (nor is drunken sex), then some other offense must be invented to push the drunken hookup over the line into full blown sexual assault. That something is a presumed desire to take advantage of the drunken state of the woman. Since there is no direct evidence of this desire, colleges invent it out of whole cloth.

But apparently, only men will be presumed to take advantage of drunken sexual partners. Women have no duty to know (and no duty to find out) whether a man they have sex with is too drunk to consent.

Which rather begs the question: if women are equally capable, equally intelligent, equal in every conceivable way to men, then from whence do these profoundly unequal and opposite duties and presumptions spring?

Surely they have no basis in law, for the language of Title IX is simple and straightforward:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

No one can look at this policy and seriously maintain that these colleges are treating women and men equally, regardless of their sex. Under the authority of a law explicitly created to outlaw sexually discriminatory treatment, men are being held to completely different standards than women.

That's the textbook definition of sexual discrimination, and under Title IX any college that holds women and men to different standards based on their sex is in violation of the law.

Of course this should be no surprise coming from a President who is fond of saying that he wants everyone to play by the same set of rules, but constantly creates exceptions to those rules for classes of people he favors. Legalized discrimination under the guise of non-discrimination: in a twisted way, one has to admire the sheer gall of these folks.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:19 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Supposed Boy Crisis in Education

The Editorial Staff have written many times about the narrative, popular in righty and right-leaning circles, that "feminized" schools are to blame for the supposedly declining educational performance of male students over time. In this post, we pointed out (with data to back up our assertions) that many of the arguments being made on this topic are just plain wrong. Not slightly wrong, but fundamentally, deeply wrong (as in, "there's not really even any evidence that problem you're complaining about is a problem"):

1. College attainment is UP, not down for both sexes over time. The rate of increase is stagnant (in other words, male college attainment is still increasing at the same rate over time).
2. Male HS dropout rates have declined over time by almost 50%.
3. Boys' average GPAs have actually gone up over time. Oops.
4. So have boys' math SAT scores.

But for some people, no amount of data is powerful enough to overcome the pull of a sensational news story or a handful of anecdotes. We count our ownself among those who uncritically accepted what we were reading on conservative blogs and conservative op-eds...

...until we looked into the data and found what we were reading was both wrong and misleading, that is. We don't have time to find it right now, but we're pretty sure we also researched grades over time and posted about this with the same results: the facts simply do not support the narrative that "feminized" schools are keeping our boys down.

And then there are articles like this one, from AEI, that claim that (mirabile dictu!) it's not schools at all (feminized or otherwise) that drive male academic success - or the lack thereof - but the involvement of fathers!

This new research brief from the American Enterprise Institute indicates that teenagers with involved or highly involved dads are 98 percent more likely to graduate from college than teens who report their dads are not involved in their lives. The figures below also suggest that paternal involvement is especially important for teens whose mothers have at least a high-school education.

Gratified as we were to see conservatives refusing to adopt the whiny, only-the-government-can-solve-our-personal-problems mantra of the radical left, we couldn't help noticing in all these charts that there were actually two strong influences on the academic achievement of teens.

One is undoubtedly the involvement of fathers.

The other is the mother's education level, which oddly enough was barely mentioned in the article. Guess that doesn't fit the desired narrative. Having written about this for over a decade now, we don't need to be convinced of the importance of active, engaged dads in our children's lives. But it sure would be nice if we didn't continually cherry pick our arguments, ignoring this and promoting that.

A basic tenet of conservative ideology has always been that individuals have the power to overcome obstacles, perseverance matters, and individual responsibility is a vitally important foundation of any free society. But when it comes to this issue, all of a sudden we absolve students and parents of their responsibilities and call for top-down changes to "the system" because it's keeping boys down? Where is the evidence of this? Most evidence we've seen seems to be of the disparate impact variety - notably an argument conservatives have soundly rejected on the merits.

Eh... we don't need no stinkin' merits.

We're also a big fan of research that looks at long term trends, so we found this quite interesting:

In 2006, Newsweek magazine declared it, loud, on their cover: America's boys were in crisis.

Boys were falling behind their female counterparts in school. They were getting worse grades, lagging on standardized tests, and not attending college in the same numbers as girls. "By almost every benchmark," Peg Tyre, the author of the cover story, wrote, "boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind."

And so it began—the end of men, but also an ongoing conversation on how to better boys' performance in the classroom.

This "boy crisis," however, was based on an assumption: that males had previously been on top. Granted, there was evidence to support that idea. For one, educational institutions for most of modern history have been openly sexist, favoring boys. And traditionally, males had outperformed girls in standardized tests and in math and science. But "by the mid-1990s, girls had reduced the gap in math, and more girls than boys were taking high-school-level biology and chemistry," Tyre wrote.

The assumption that boys had been the better students didn't seem right to (married) researchers Daniel and Susan Voyer of the University of New Brunswick in Canada. "I've been collecting grade data for a long time," Daniel Voyer says in a phone interview. "Typically if you find gender differences, they are in favor of girls—it doesn't matter what it is. So it started to kind of puzzle me." And so the pair set out to test, collecting every study they could find on grades and gender since 1914 and crunching the numbers in a mega-meta analysis, the first of its kind.

What resulted was a data set totaling more than 1 million students and this conclusion: Not only are girls the better students in every subject tested, that has been the case for at least 100 years. Boys may very well be in crisis when it comes to the classroom, but if so, that's the way it's always been.

The Voyers read through more than 6,000 articles to arrive at their final sample of 369 studies. It was an exhaustive process. "I just called it the bane of my existence," Voyer, who embarked on the work in 2011, says.

The Voyers limited their sample to studies of teacher-assigned grades and excluded those of standardized tests. Tests can exhibit a phenomenon called stereotype threat, in which stereotypes (let's say, girls don't do well on the math portion of the SAT), become self-fulfilling prophecies. The grade data are also richer: encompassing the entirety of academic experience, not just one afternoon test date. Plus researchers have shown that grades in high school are as good or even better indicators of college success than standardized tests.

While the girls' advantage is largest in reading and language studies, it exists for all subjects, even math and science. And though they tested data from across the world, the Voyers found the gender gap was largest in the United States.

What's most striking is that the gender gap held across the decades. If the boy crisis existed, they would have seen boys' performance peak and fall over time. That wasn't the case. "Boys have been lagging for a long time and ... this is a fairly stable phenomenon," the paper concluded.

The Internet has a nasty way of stoking confirmation bias. We frequent sites whose authors share our values and tend to avoid those whose authors despise us and our principles. But data - especially long term time series data - is pretty neutral.

A fairly common theme here at VC has been that we need to be careful of embracing the flawed, identity politics rhetoric of the radical Left. We can't complain about disparate impact arguments and then use them ourselves. And we should care what the data say. We should care about the facts.

The Editorial Staff remain deeply concerned about the refusal, failure, inability (whatever we choose to call it this week) of so many young men to assume adult responsibilities, become self supporting, marry, vote, be active in their communities and plan for the future. We have NEVER bought into the notion that in our age of ease, prosperity, and perpetual excuses, everything is just "too hard" for men: the engine behind Western Civilization.

What fathers so often add to the parental mix is challenge and uncompromising standards. Most men of older generations understand that teenaged boys in particular often require a swift kick in the tuckus before their attention is fully engaged. Ours did, and it didn't kill them. Boys are not as easy to motivate as girls, they're not as inner directed, and the forces that drive them are sometimes different as well. The military knows this, and the most successful parts of the military are those where excuses for poor performance or lack of effort simply are not tolerated.

I'm growing increasingly worried about the identity politics wing of the libertarian/right-leaning coalition. We won't change the immensely destructive and divisive effects of race- and sexism- mongering by adopting their tactics and flawed reasoning.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

April 27, 2014

The Journalism Biz is "Frighteningly Male"

And the left-leaning parts of it are orders of magnitude worse than that horrid, Rupert Murdoch owned reich wing rag:

A new report by the Women’s Media Center found that male reporters still accounted for 63 percent of bylines in the nation’s top 10 papers and about the same proportion of newsroom staff. All but one of the individual winners of Pulitzer Prizes in journalism this year were male.

Men’s dominance in the field tends to be highest in prestige or “hard” topics like politics, crime, business, technology and world affairs; women put up better numbers in “soft” subjects like education, lifestyle, culture and health. Male opinion columnists outnumber women by more than two to one at The Wall Street Journal, more than three to one at The Washington Post, and five to one at The New York Times. As for sports — do you need to ask?

Men also represent authority and expertise in more subtle ways. On the front page of The New York Times, the study noted, men were quoted three times more often than women. When women were writing the stories, the number of women quoted went up.

What the report doesn’t answer is why this disparity persists, and why women are more equal in some sectors of journalism than in others. And even as newsrooms may be recruiting more women to hard-news beats, a new generation of big-name entrepreneurial ventures like and seem to be favoring the men.

This, from the profession that continually bangs the "war on women" and pay equality drums. Perhaps they should try practicing what they preach.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 21, 2014

Good Enough for Women, Not Good Enough for Men?

In a rather bizarre response to an article asserting that "alpha" (don't get us started on how much we hate the whole alpha/beta/gamma shtick) women are better off marrying "beta" men who are willing to share child rearing and family duties, Glenn Reynolds asks, "What's in it for him?"

Hmmm. What could a man possibly get from being a more involved husband and father? It is hard to imagine, n'est pas?

What is "in it" for women who want to be an integral part of their children's formative years? Who put their marriages and families ahead of earning a big salary and the ego boost/social status that go with having an important sounding job title?

We can think of many possible benefits. The satisfaction of close family bonds and supporting the people you love is one. A strong, happy marriage another. The joy of watching the next generation grow up - of sharing the thrill of your child's first steps, the first bicycle ride with the training wheels off, elementary school band performances, soccer or baseball games, choosing a career or college, the thousand speed bumps on the road from infancy to childhood to the teen years and finally adulthood.

The never ending miracle of knowing - really knowing - your children as human beings; of watching their intellects and personalities develop over time. The glimpses of grandparents, aunts, and uncles (some of whom are no longer living) in your child's face, walk, or manner.

Of what possible value are these things, compared to being able to say you're the top dog by some arcane and frankly ridiculously competitive formula? Why is it so important to be the "alpha"; the winner, the best... even in your marriage?

If it is foolish and destructive for feminists to continually strive for perfect equality between the sexes, how much more foolish and destructive is it to question the value of being a better husband, a more involved father, a person who chooses to put home and family first in their list of life priorities?

The relentless obsession with hypergamy (even in the face of considerable evidence that women - and men, for that matter - are actually quite adaptable) seems more like insecurity than wisdom. Why not let people sort out for themselves what kind of lives and marriages will make them happiest instead of sneering at the freely made choices of people who don't share your priorities?

Or, to put Mollie Hemingway's question a bit differently, "Why are some men so insecure (that they have to put down other men's choices)?" This doesn't seem like a position of strength, rhetorically or philosophically.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:46 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

April 01, 2014

Great Moments in Scientific Journalism

Surely the Editorial Staff can't be the only ones who found this sentence amusing:

...thankfully, the prestigious journal PNAS found this research sufficiently compelling to publish in its gilded pages.

Since we're doing double entendre with a half twist of lemon this morning, this just seems like gilding the willy:

Holly Wilson: About a year ago, I was at a gallery where I had made a contract to show my work. We’d worked out an agreement where I’d get two-thirds of the commission when I sold a piece, and the gallery would get the rest. The opening went really well. I sold a beautiful bronze piece. But when I came back to the gallery the next day, they wanted to revise the arrangement. All of a sudden, they wanted to split the commission 50/50. I had this sinking feeling. I’ve been casting bronze for 20 years, but it was clear that the gallery didn’t value what I was doing and that it treated me like I didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t breathe. My knees were shaking. I was just insanely mad. I called my husband and said, “What would you do in this situation?” and he said, “I would hold my own.” I realized that if I only had a dick, the gallery wouldn’t be doing this to me. The only thing coming between me and the man across the table was the fact that I didn’t have a dick. Slate: Now, you can whip it out of your pocket and say, “Here it is.”

Wilson: To be clear, I’m not slapping it on the table or threatening people with my tiny dick. It’s more about reminding ourselves that the only reason we’re being devalued is because of this ridiculous appendage we don’t have. That day, the only thing in my pocket was a stick of ChapStick, and I put my hand in my pocket and held on to that ChapStick while I stuck up for myself through the negotiation. I made a joke about it to my husband: I told him I should have a little bronze dick that I could put in my pocket, so I could hold on to the little dick whenever I had trouble. Though there’s humor there, there’s also real statement—wow, here’s what’s been keeping me from this job, this thing right here in my hand. Bringing your dick to the table has more to do with yourself. It’s not going to change a gallery owner’s opinion of me, but it could remind me that I am good enough and deserve to be sitting at that table.

And you know this only happened because you're a woman how, exactly? How self absorbed does a person have to be to think that unscrupulous businesses never try to take advantage of men? If the only way you can convince yourself that agreements should be honored (or that you deserve to be treated fairly) is to pretend you have a penis, wethinks the real sexism problem lies in your own mind.

If only there were a political movement, whose aim it was to empower women to stand on their own two feet and respect themselves instead of continually demanding that other people value them!

UPDATE: Unrelated, except that it involves Scientists bravely exploring the Multiverse so you don't have to. Beer: is there anything it can't do?

Beer-bathed pork formed fewer potentially cancerous chemicals than non-marinaded pork when grilled close to hot charcoal in a recent experiment by Portuguese and Spanish chemists.

Black beer, like a stout or porter, proved more effective than pilsners at preventing the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), worrisome chemicals formed in smoked and grilled fatty meats. The European Union regulates levels of PAHs as potential carcinogens, following concerns raised in a 2002 report by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food.

You're welcome, Sly :p

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 28, 2014

The Eye of the Beholder

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion...

- Robert Burns

Many moons ago, the Blog Princess aroused the wrath of the assembled villainry by daring to suggest that the way a female politician (or any female professional, for that matter) dresses affects how she is perceived:

Women, whether they dress for social occasions or the workplace, have far more fashion options than men do. No matter the occasion, our attire is more individualistic and more nuanced. The standard male wardrobe, on the other hand, tends to be fairly formulaic. In a formal office environment one sees charcoal grey suits with white shirts and small patterned ties. A more artsy (but still formal) workplace or a sales environment features colored shirts and suits with edgier tailoring and fabric. For social occasions, ensembles range from the suit to the quintessentially Southern khaki-pants-and-navy-sport coat to khaki pants and polo shirt/button down oxford, to the truly casual jeans and t-shirt. On the negative side, male dress codes don't provide much opportunity for the expression of personality. On the positive side, deciphering the dreaded "Business Casual" or "Casual" on a social invitation is far less fraught for men than it is for women.

My mother and I returned home triumphantly brandishing a cute navy suit with a short, peplum jacket and pencil skirt. It looked good on me. Like Palin, I look best in closely tailored suits that are nipped in at the waist and skirts that don't flare out at the hems. After regaling Dad with carefully chosen examples of our shopping mojo, I was dispatched to the back bedroom to subject my purchases to paterfamilial inspection. And this is where I love my Dad. As I paraded back and forth across the living room carpet showing off my best fashion-show model pivot, he beamed with paternal pride. "You look marvelous", he said.

"Well, the skirt needs to come up about 2 inches", I said. At only 5'4", I've learned that skirt and sleeve length makes all the difference between looking sharp and looking like a child playing dress up in Mommy's clothes.

My Dad said, "No. Leave the skirt where it is. And you should wear a lower heel for the office."

I wasn't pleased. Not by a long shot. Anyone who knows me knows I love my high heels. But after a short time in my new office environment I had to admit something: he was right. I didn't like admitting that a shorter skirt and higher heels injected the wrong note into what was supposed to be a professional environment. I'm a woman. I wanted to like what I saw in the mirror; to feel pretty. But that wasn't the goal. The goal was to look professional; to get work done, not attract admiring gazes from my co-workers. I knew Dad was right. It wasn't the office that needed to adjust to me: it was I who needed to adjust to the office.

Thus it was with considerable sympathy that she observed the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth occasioned by this poor man's sage advice.

Jeez, ladies: sometimes it really isn't all about you and your beautiful and natural right to embrace sex positivity in the workplace. None of this has anything to do with sexism.

The real double standard is that men are expected to conform to a certain standard and we women are all too often given a pass. From a male perspective, one might even say that women are given an "unfair" amount of latitude.

If you want to be seen as a professional and a team player, try conforming to the standards of your profession. If you truly don't care how you're perceived, person up. Own it. Stop expecting other people to conform to your standards when you've plainly shown unwillingness to conform to (or worse, utter contempt for) theirs.

Why yes, the Princess is feeling feisty this morning!

UPDATE: Hmmm... so *that's* why I thought of Burns...

For a moment I was feeling positively erudite. Dang.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:44 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

March 07, 2014

Hands Off My Remote!!!

Tex linked to this story over at Grim's place:

A machine that delivers an orgasm at the push of a button has been patented in the US. The implant could help women whose lives have been blighted by an inability to achieve orgasms naturally.

Orgasmic dysfunction is not uncommon among women, says Julia Cole, a psychosexual therapist and consultant with Relate, the relationship counselling service. And a number of issues can cause it, says Jim Pfaus, who studies the neurobiology of sexual behaviour at Concordia University in Montreal.

"Some women confuse what's called sympathetic arousal, like increased heart rate, clammy hands, nerves and so on, with fear," he explains. "That makes them want to get out of the situation." Psychotherapy is a common treatment for the condition, although if anxiety is a factor, patients may also be prescribed valium. "But valium can actually delay orgasm," says Pfaus.

The patient remains conscious during the operation to help the surgeon find the best position for the electrodes. Stuart Meloy, a surgeon at Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, made the breakthrough came one day when he failed to hit the right spot. "I was placing the electrodes and suddenly the woman started exclaiming emphatically," he says. "I asked her what was up and she said, 'You're going to have to teach my husband to do that'."

Meloy expects clinical trials to begin later this year with Medtronic, a company based in Minneapolis. He says the stimulating wires could connect to a signal generator smaller than a packet of cigarettes implanted under the skin of one of the patient's buttocks. "Then you'd have a hand-held remote control to trigger it," he says.

Combine the well documented masculine love of pushing buttons and getting a reaction with the fact that in over 3 decades of marriage, we still have not figured out how to pry the Spousal Unit's hands off the TV remote and this story is terrifying...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:54 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

March 06, 2014

"Proof" of Hypergamy?

Mein Gott im Himmel! Our beloved Texan99 (who is all about the giving) offers up good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Finally, Science has helpfully provided a "carefully controlled" study that can be use to "prove" that women are hypergamous!

corvette.pngLike Tex, we can't recall ever being terribly impressed with cars. We dated a lot of guys in high school. Only one drove a fancy car (a 1962 white corvette convertible), and frankly we decide to go out with him despite the fancy car, not because of it. After the first date, we declined to go out with him again. He was from a wealthy family and had a privileged background and we really didn't have much in common.

But as we've repeatedly pointed out, these are anecdotes (the plural of which is not "facts"). Science is concerned with cold, hard facts and rigorous, carefully designed studies that use the scientific method to counter the natural human tendency to cherry pick evidence that conveniently confirms what we already thought was true. OK, you can all stop laughing now.

Let's take a look at this study. Dr. Helen describes it thusly:

I frequently hear women or even men say that hypergamy, the tendency for women to find mates of higher status, is untrue or rarely true. However, a study on status in the book shows otherwise: In a carefully controlled experiment (Guéguen and Lamy 2012), researchers tested the idea of how important status is to women. They placed men in expensive cars and instructed them to approach women and ask for their phone numbers. Then they had the men do the same thing in medium- and low-status cars.
The results? The men were successful 23.3 percent of the time when women saw them in a high-status car, 12.8 percent of the time when they drove a middle-status car, and 7.8 percent of the time when they drove a low-status car. Clearly, women are monitoring our status, and we’re acutely aware of that fact.

So the next time someone asks for “proof” of hypergamy, now you can just give the statistics of the willingness of women to give out their number to the guy in the Maserati.

There are a number of problems with this study (not the least of which is the possibility that driving an expensive car makes a man feel more confident, confidence being a well-known factor in romantic success), but let's start by looking at the numbers. If we assume the results of this study can be correctly applied to all women, the study "proved" that if a random man in a car approaches 100 random women and asks for their phone number, more than half (56%) about 85% will say no regardless of what kind of car he's driving. [Note to self - do NOT attempt math with percentages when you're in a hurry. See explanation at end of post! Thanks, MikeD :)]

That 44% 14.6% would say yes seems more than a bit suspect to us, so we searched for more information about the study. It turns out that the sample of men asking for phone numbers was purposely biased - they were screened for high attractiveness to women. The sample of women they approached was random, though. This doesn't seem like an accurate model of real dating behavior, much less real marriage behavior. Extremely attractive men don't usually approach women randomly, regardless of age or attractiveness. Their standards are higher than those of less attractive men because they can afford to be picky. The same is true for women.

What does the willingness of women to accept non-random propositions from handsome men prove about women's marriage standards? This is important, because marriage behavior (not hooking up behavior) is what hypergamy is actually about:

hypergamy: the practice among Hindu women of marrying into a caste at least as high as their own.

1. anthropol a custom that forbids a woman to marry a man of lower social status
2.any marriage with a partner of higher social status

Notice the surprising lack of references to female biology, the scientifically reconstructed social behavior of prehistoric cavemen, or bonobo chimps in the wild. Hypergamy is about cultural practices and norms, and how women decide whom to marry, not how they decide whether to give their real (or fake) phone number to a decidedly non-random sample of very handsome men in cars of varying price tags.

According to the study abstract, this study wasn't even designed to measure hypergamy (the preference for marrying men of the same or higher status) at all!

Research has found that, for long-term dating, women value men with greater financial resources and higher status, while for short-term dating they value men with greater physical attractiveness. However, there are discrepant results for both long- and short-term dating. As most of the previous studies used only questionnaires, we conducted a field experiment to evaluate women’s receptivity to men’s date requests.

All of this retroactive embroidering of "scientific" studies reminds us of another frequently cited study among the hypergamy-is-destiny crowd:

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?

Perhaps ironically, hypergamy doesn't actually strike us as a bad thing. Marriage and family formation are all about the creation and preservation of wealth and security. Men and women alike want to see their genes passed to the next generation and presumably want their progeny to be at least as secure and prosperous as the families they grew up in. But if you're a scientist and want to find out whether women are predisposed to marry men of equal-or-greater status, wouldn't it make sense to look at the comparative socio-economic status of actual women who have actually gotten married?


Or maybe we could look at how many wives are more educated or make more than their husbands. When it comes to how real people choose spouses, decades of research show that homogamy is the actual norm.

But never mind all this actual marriage data. Explaining complex human behaviors in terms of bonobos, cave men, and non-random handsome men picking up random women makes tons more sense.


Hopefully correct math this time. Note, this works only if each man conducts an equal number of trials per car type... I think. Please let me know if I'm wrong and I'll gladly correct and credit you!

horrible math.png

I am such a dork.... sorry about that.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:59 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

February 26, 2014

Shocker: Risky Sex Is Risky For *Both* Men and Women

Via another excellent and evenhanded essay by Cathy Young, the Editorial Staff are disturbed to learn that the National Organization for Offended Womyn is calling for the firing of James Taranto:

The subject of alcohol and sexual assault, particularly among college students, has generated much sound and fury recently. A few months ago, there was the outcry over Emily Yoffe’s article arguing that we should be more outspoken in warning young women that heavy drinking puts them at risk of rape. Now, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto is under heavy fire, accused of arguing that rape victims who are drunk are just as guilty as their rapists.

Taranto, whose past commentary includes blaming too much female education for the downfall of marriage, is not a particularly sympathetic figure when it comes to gender issues. But on this occasion, he’s getting a bum rap, and his column makes an important (and egregiously misinterpreted) point that needs to be made: A lot of current rhetoric wrongly conflates drunk sex and rape—and perpetuates a blatantly sexist double standard.

The "Ready-FIRE!-Aim" response seems to be NOW's default answer to any argument they don't like. Rather than marshaling their inherently-equal brain cells to craft a reasoned rebuttal, their first impulse is to threaten and intimidate anyone who disagrees with them. Their claim that women can handle anything men can (so long as that list doesn't include drinking alcohol, doing pullups, exercising reasonable discretion in their choice of sexual partners, simple budgeting, or participating in public policy debates in a dispassionate and civilized manner) cannot and must not be questioned.

As it happens, we actually read the offending column the day it came out and - despite previous objections to Mr. Taranto's rhetoric and reasoning when it comes to the mare's nest of "gender issues" - we couldn't see a single thing wrong with what he said or the way he said it. His column was measured in tone, impeccably reasoned, well written, and thankfully avoided the one-sidedness that has landed him in hot water with us in the past. All in all, it was an admirable piece of work that we would have been more than proud to call our own.

It's hard to see how anyone could object to it.

Mr. Taranto did not, as NOW dishonestly alleges. assert that rape victims are just as much to blame as their attackers:

In his Monday Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto stated that in sexual assault cases where both the victim and rapist are drunk -- both parties are equally to blame for the attack.

Taranto even went as far as to compare rape to a car crash involving two drunk drivers saying, "one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex."

The point Taranto actually made is lucid, astute, and devastating. In his column, he asks a simple question: "If alcohol consumption presumptively renders women incapable of consenting to sex, then wouldn't intoxication have exactly the same effect on their male partners?"

This point is so clear and compelling that it's not hard to see why NOW - despite their frequent assertions that women are just as intelligent and capable as men - would try to silence Mr. Taranto instead of responding to his argument on the merits.

On the merits, there is no principled rebuttal to Mr. Taranto's point - at least for an organization that claims to support equal treatment of men and women under the law. Ms. Young does a fine job of exposing the lunacy behind the "alcohol incapacitates ostensibly-equal women, but not men" argument:

...if sexual assault is defined as drunk sex that one later feels was unwanted, the gender gap may not be that huge: several studies find that male college students are almost as likely as their female peers to have such experiences. In a 2005 survey of 2,400 students at the University of New Hampshire, 11 percent of women and 8 percent of men reported having sex when “too drunk to consent” in the past six months.

To a large extent, the double standards reflect a decidedly pre-feminist, conservative mindset that lingers despite women’s liberation: sex is something men get from women. Many social conservatives would no doubt argue that this assumption is based on natural distinctions and that trying to get rid of it is both futile and harmful. Some of those conservatives, including Taranto, regard the crusade to redefine rape as evidence that women can’t handle sexual freedom: take away traditional norms of male chivalry and female chastity, and young women will end up feeling hurt and used by sex-seeking men and clamoring for special protections.

Actually, there is little evidence that, outside a dedicated core of activists, college women are demanding special protections from drunk or reckless sex. (Reports of women feeling victimized by the campus “hookup culture” are greatly exaggerated.) Yet the activists, for all their feminist rhetoric, are indeed promoting a disturbingly paternalistic view of women. A man who has too much to drink and wakes up in bed with someone he wouldn’t have chosen to sleep with when sober may feel embarrassed or queasy, but he is generally expected to move on and perhaps learn from his mistake. A woman who has the same experience is encouraged to see it as devastating, traumatic—and not her fault.

Taranto's column was written in response to an excellent article in the NY Times about programs that encourage young people to look out for each other and step in when they see intoxicated fellow students - male or female - endangering themselves. This is good advice, and in response, Mr. Taranto made another point that deserves to be repeated (and not just because we've made that point so many times): men and women who voluntarily ingest large quantities of alcohol or drugs are behaving recklessly. Contrary to what a disturbingly large number of conservatives maintain, this behavior isn't just reckless and harmful when women do it. It's reckless and harmful when men do it, too:

Whom exactly did Martel save from danger? The answer is quite possibly both the young woman and his friend. Had she awakened the next day feeling regretful and violated, she could have brought him up on charges and severely disrupted his life. Both of them were taking foolish risks, and it seems likely that he as well as she had impaired judgment owing to excessive drinking.

Winerip notes that between 2005 and 2010, "more than 60 percent of claims involving sexual violence handled by United Educators"--an insurance company owned by member schools--"involved young women who were so drunk they had no clear memory of the assault." We know from Sgt. Cournoyer that the accused young men typically are drinking to excess, too. What is called the problem of "sexual assault" on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike. (Based on our reporting, the same is true in the military, at least in the enlisted and company-grade officer ranks.)

The problem with so many identity politics movements who claim to want only equal rights is that over time, it turns out that their real goal is not equality but preferential treatment: delivered via government-enforced "equal outcomes" that limit choice and ignore real world incentives and behavior.

This is not just true of feminists, by the way. We are seeing the same weak arguments from the more radical of the men's rights crowd. Taranto's argument deserves to be taken seriously, not used as a flimsy pretext for shutting down discussion.

If you agree, please link to his column and give him your full support. Thuggish intimidation and heavy handed persecution are not fit tactics for debate in a free society. I believe Mr. Taranto's point is an excellent one that deserves our support, our attention, and hopefully, wider dissemination.

Fair is fair. Or at least it should be in any discussion, the purported goal of which is "equality".

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

February 14, 2014

Love, In An Unexpected Place

Before she happened upon this diary excerpt in the comments section of a post about a college class called Marriage 101, the blog princess knew HL Mencken mostly as a self described cynic and the author of several stinging quotes about marriage that men seem to rejoice in repeating.

So imagine her surprise to read this:

Sara is dead five years today--a longer time than the time of our marriage, which lasted but four years and nine months. It is amazing what a deep mark she left upon my life--and yet, after all, it is not amazing at all, for a happy marriage throws out numerous and powerful tentacles. They may loosen with years and habit, but when a marriage ends at the height of its success they endure. It is a literal fact that I still think of Sara every day of my life, and almost every hour of the day. Whenever I see anything that she would have liked I find myself saying that I'll buy it and take it to her, and I am always thinking of things to tell her.

-- H. L. Mencken, diary, May 31, 1940

Curious about the woman who had touched such a cynical heart, I searched for something about her life and was touched to find this tidbit:

In 1930, Mencken married German American Sara Haardt, a professor of English at Goucher College in Baltimore and an author who was eighteen years his junior. Haardt had led efforts in Alabama to ratify the 19th Amendment. The two met in 1923, after Mencken delivered a lecture at Goucher; a seven-year courtship ensued. The marriage made national headlines, and many were surprised that Mencken, who once called marriage "the end of hope" and who was well known for mocking relations between the sexes, had gone to the altar. "The Holy Spirit informed and inspired me," Mencken said. "Like all other infidels, I am superstitious and always follow hunches: this one seemed to be a superb one." Even more startling, he was marrying an Alabama native, despite his having written scathing essays about the American South. Haardt was in poor health from tuberculosis throughout their marriage and died in 1935 of meningitis, leaving Mencken grief-stricken. He had always supported her writing, and after her death had a collection of her short stories published under the title Southern Album.

Eventually my random Googling led me to some of Mencken's writings which I had not known existed, but which pretty much sum up my view of the oft-mangled relations between men and women. I am not sure I agree with Mencken in the particulars but I could not agree more in his final conclusion that neither men nor women are all one sex and without each other, we fail to reach our full potential as human beings:

Women, in truth, are not only intelligent; they have almost a monopoly of certain of the subtler and more utile forms of intelligence. The thing itself, indeed, might be reasonably described as a special feminine character; there is in it, in more than one of its manifestations, a femaleness as palpable as the femaleness of cruelty, masochism or rouge. Men are strong. Men are brave in physical combat. Men have sentiment. Men are romantic, and love what they conceive to be virtue and beauty. Men incline to faith, hope and charity. Men know how to sweat and endure. Men are amiable and fond. But in so far as they show the true fundamentals of intelligence—in so far as they reveal a capacity for discovering the kernel of eternal verity in the husk of delusion and hallucination and a passion for bringing it forth—to that extent, at least, they are feminine, and still nourished by the milk of their mothers. "Human creatures," says George, borrowing from Weininger, "are never entirely male or entirely female; there are no men, there are no women, but only sexual majorities." Find me an obviously intelligent man, a man free from sentimentality and illusion, a man hard to deceive, a man of the first class, and I'll show you a man with a wide streak of woman in him. Bonaparte had it; Goethe had it; Schopenhauer had it; Bismarck and Lincoln had it; in Shakespeare, if the Freudians are to be believed, it amounted to downright homosexuality. The essential traits and qualities of the male, the hallmarks of the unpolluted masculine, are at the same time the hall-marks of the Schalskopf. The caveman is all muscles and mush. Without a woman to rule him and think for him, he is a truly lamentable spectacle: a baby with whiskers, a rabbit with the frame of an aurochs, a feeble and preposterous caricature of God.

It would be an easy matter, indeed, to demonstrate that superior talent in man is practically always accompanied by this feminine flavour—that complete masculinity and stupidity are often indistinguishable. Lest I be misunderstood I hasten to add that I do not mean to say that masculinity contributes nothing to the complex of chemico-physiological reactions which produces what we call talent; all I mean to say is that this complex is impossible without the feminine contribution that it is a product of the interplay of the two elements. In women of genius we see the opposite picture. They are commonly distinctly mannish, and shave as well as shine. Think of George Sand, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth of England, Rosa Bonheur, Teresa Carreo or Cosima Wagner. The truth is that neither sex, without some fertilization by the complementary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches of human endeavour. Man, without a saving touch of woman in him, is too doltish, too naive and romantic, too easily deluded and lulled to sleep by his imagination to be anything above a cavalryman, a theologian or a bank director. And woman, without some trace of that divine innocence which is masculine, is too harshly the realist for those vast projections of the fancy which lie at the heart of what we call genius. Here, as elsewhere in the universe, the best effects are obtained by a mingling of elements. The wholly manly man lacks the wit necessary to give objective form to his soaring and secret dreams, and the wholly womanly woman is apt to be too cynical a creature to dream at all.

When either sex imagines itself to be the source of all that is good and right in the world, we deny our true nature; one that is in no way as separate and distinct from the other half of humanity as we would like to believe.

Men and women were - and are - meant for each other.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:38 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

The Procrastinator's Guide to Buying Memorable VDay Gifts

Every year at about this time, the Editorial Staff inveigh against the horror that is Valentine's Day. But because we are all about the caring and sharing, every year we womanfully strive to help the Oink Cadre impress their significant others with a gift that truly reeks of thoughtfulness and empathy.

So without further ado, we present this year's last minute gift list - carefully chosen to make a lasting impression on the lady (or gent) in your life.

#1 Choice:

Feeling tongue-tied? Let Mr. Romance do the work for you!


2. With this dandy little gift, the object of your affections will always carry a little piece of you with them:


3. Nothing says "I put a *&^%load of thought into this )%^@^%$# so-called holiday" like Build-a-Bear:


4. It's the thought that counts... Really.

5. Please tell me this is a cooking implement....

6. A new twist on an old favorite... plus, you can say you made it yourself!


7. The Nanny State wants you to get lucky:


8. Don't have a "special someone" to spend the holiday with? There's always Craigslist:

My friend and I are 2 mid-twenty guys in Boston from some where far away on business. Don't ask us where we're from - you've probably only seen it in movies. We're old enough to be successful (I bet you have our app on your phone) but still young enough to have fun and not have wrinkly balls.

We're looking for 2 females interested in spending their Valentine's Day with 2 pretty awesome dudes. We like to eat and get fat on good tasty food (even though we're both pretty fit). We're willing to buy you dinner and dessert in exchange for some awesome company. We don't really care if your "boyfriend" is out of town or that you were dumped last week and we're not dudes who expect you to eat a salad - Get that big ass steak and a bud light. Maybe not the bud light though, lets go for something classier like a Mai Tai or one of those girly Apple-Tini things like in "The Social Network".

Sheer magic.

9. A bouquet of roses is, like, so unimaginative:

bouquet of puppies.jpg

10. For the do-it-yourselfer in your life: the personalized Love Kit.

Bonus gift for pachyderm lovers.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 12, 2014

That Oozing Sense of Entitlement

The Editorial Staff used to laugh every time she read that line from Glenn Reynolds. Today, he links to a story about a woman who complains that her ex-husband was a sex addict, commenting:

SO A “SEX ADDICT” IS A MAN WHO wants to keep having as much sex as when you were first married.

Actually, in the linked article a sex addict was defined as a man who demands sex once a day and tells his wife she's lucky he isn't demanding it thrice daily (or more!). A man who - if we can believe the author - simply "climbs on board" whether she's willing or not. Granted, we have only her word for this. But it's her story he's commenting upon. That's the scenario being evaluated.

Question: what kind of person seriously thinks that marriage will be exactly like courtship? Would it be reasonable for a woman to expect exactly the same number of dates, gifts, compliments, attention from her husband as the relationship matures, children arrive, and new responsibilities are added to her husband's plate?

Again, we have only this woman's word for what actually transpired during the marriage. And readers are justified in viewing tell-all articles with a certain degree of skepticism. But let's assume for a moment that she's telling the unvarnished truth here:

My ex-husband truly believed he owned my body and that I was in the wrong if I ever denied him access. When I wouldn’t give in to his advances because I was friggin’ tired from taking care of little kids, or not feeling well, or just because I didn’t feel like it right then, he would coldly turn his back on me and heave deep sighs of put-upon-ness, and I would cry myself to sleep because I just wanted to feel loved without having to have sex.

He told me that he was being respectful by only wanting it daily, because he thought three times a day or more would be a good amount, but even he realized that was a bit much to ask of a wife.

Is this reasonable behavior for an adult?

The Blog Princess is trying to imagine the spousal unit's reaction to her demanding that we sit down as a couple and have a good, long talk about our feeeeeelings (PAY ATTENTION TO ME, DAMN YOU!) once a day because durnitall! that's what he did during courtship and she's ENTITLED to her emotional fix!!!! Nothing must ever change or the whole deal's off!

Is that a reasonable interpretation of the marriage vows?

This is what happens when one starts viewing every story through the lens of identity politics. If you can't turn a story around and imagine it from the someone else's point of view, you're not looking at things straight. Marriages require compromise and consideration: the ability to understand someone else's point of view and feelings. Marriage vows are not intended to be a set of inflexible and non-negotiable demands. The Editorial Staff happen to enjoy sex greatly, but it's a team sport. Generally speaking, people don't have to be pressured into playing when the game is actually fun for them, too.

We can't think of a single activity that an adult would be justified in expecting/demanding their spouse to participate in with them three times a day. Or even, necessarily, once a day without fail 365 a year. In any event expecting your relationship not to change (at least temporarily) after you have children is just plain delusional.

Sheesh. That's not a marriage. It's a straightjacket.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:39 AM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

February 05, 2014

Hairy Oppressors from Hell...

Of course you knew we were referring to Beastly Bearded Men and their Facial Hair Flaunting Ways:

...Like countless other histories, [the story of American facial hair] is rife with contradictions. It begins with white Americans at the time of the Revolution who derided barbering as the work of “inferiors.” It continues with black entrepreneurs who turned it into a source of wealth and prestige. And it concludes with the advent of the beard—a fashion born out of desperation but transformed into a symbol of masculine authority and white supremacy.

Yep. That's exactly what the Blog Princess thinks whene'er she doth espy a manly mug sprouting a veritable forest of whiskers... THERE GOES YET ANOTHER DEEPLY SCARY SYMBOL OF MASCULINE AUTHORITY/WHITE SUPREMACY. There are days when she doesn't know if her delicate ladyparts can bear the sight of one more "potent.symbol.of.mastery". But one thing's for certain: all this talk of "manly appendages" and rampant, unrepentant Othering is leaving her feeling downright tingly.

Good nightshirt. We're not sure we even want to know what this means:

Johnson’s diary even refers to a moment of unexpected intimacy between two townsmen: “Mr [Blank],” Johnson confided, “attempted to suck Mr [Blank]s El panio.” Just as Johnson had intended, no one discovered this record until long after he had died.

Indeed. We are thinking that delays of this sort are probably a very good thing.

More patriarchal oppression here and here:

Young Romney, showing early signs of the sociopathic tendencies breezy leadership style that would one day shower him with undeserved race, gender, and class privileges, grabbed a pair of scissors, rounded up a few classmates, and...did Lauber's hair. Sadly, this was not to be Young Mitt's last foray into the wild and woolly world of non-consensual makeovers, though the obvious connection to Barack Obama's startling evolution on gay marriage may require a bit of explaining...

Thankfully, would-be explainers are as abundant as the hair on a shameless oppressor's mug.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:26 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

January 23, 2014

Today's Moronic Tempest in a Teapot

Conservative man expresses opinion about what women should voluntarily do. You know, only if they choose to.

Which is pretty much what "voluntarily" means:

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) believes that although a wife is supposed to "voluntarily submit" to her husband, she is not inferior to him, according to the Washington Post.

"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," Pearce wrote in a December memoir "Just Fly The Plane, Stupid!" that discusses the Bible. "The husband's part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."

Pearce also writes that while the wife is not inferior, she must nevertheless be obedient to her husband.

"The wife's submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband," he said in the book.

In the book, Pearce criticizes men who "bully their wives and families" based on the Bible passage that says wives should submit to their husbands.

"Authoritarian control is not given to the husband," he wrote.

Question for the ages: why on earth should it be considered outrageous or offensive for one adult to express an opinion (especially one grounded in religious faith) about how another fully autonomous adult ought to behave?

Opinions have zero coercive power, and people express opinions about what other people ought to do all the time. Feminists are constantly expressing their very strong opinions about how men ought to behave (and in all fairness, men erupt in outrage over this sort of thing all the time as though somehow, simply voicing an opinion were actively endangering their autonomy). Still, if expressing opinions about how the other half of Humynity should behave or what they're allowed to say is somehow wrong/bad/offensive, why do feminists do it so often? Shouldn't they practice what they preach? Why would anyone voluntarily (there's that word again!) limit their own behavior without the expectation of reciprocity?

The Editorial Staff have seen conservative men say some mind-bogglingly idiotic things with respect to women. But they're hardly alone here. For that matter, the Editorial Staff (female, at least the last time we checked) have several times expressed the opinion that there's some value in women being gentle and - dare we say it? - yielding in relationships with men. We have also expressed many opinions on things both sexes can do to get along better with each other.

But none of us has the luxury of redesigning the other sex to our own specifications. They are what they are, just as we are what we were designed to (and decide to) be. Adults should be able to stand on their own two feet, and a stray opinion from the other half of humanity shouldn't be enough to rock anyone's world on its axis.

Sheesh. Everyone's a fragile snowflake these days.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

January 22, 2014


Well, really only devastating if you subscribe to the notion that women "ought" to prefer working for other women:

A recurring issue in glass-ceiling debates revolves around whether women are, either directly or indirectly, excluded from high-level jobs. Many offices tend to promote people according to a concept called "homosocial reproduction"—essentially, the spoils go to the workers who move in the right social circles. If your workplace is a boy's club where the high-performers smoke cigars and play golf together, this theory would dictate that the next big promotion is likely not going to the quiet female analyst who knits during lunchtime.


That's why this one fact, from a Pew survey released last month, is so devastating.

Pew asked 2,002 people if they would prefer to work with men or women. Most—78 percent of men and 76 percent of women—said they didn't care. But for the 22 percent who did have a preference, "it’s men who get the nod from both sexes by about a 2-1 margin," Pew's Rich Morin writes. In fact, more women said they'd rather work with men than men did.

One interesting way to look at this study is that - despite the shrieking of the perpetually aggrieved crowd who contend that allowing women into the workplace has terrified men to the point of utter helplessness - there's hardly any difference between the co-worker preferences of most women and most men.

To evaluate the efficacy of a policy, most analysts pay more attention to how well it works in the majority of cases. Here, 85% of men and 81% of women either have no preference or prefer working with women.

This would appear to be bad news for the argument that feminists have made the workplace so unfriendly to men that they've gone on strike. The converse (an even higher proportion of women than men - 94% vs 92% - either have no preference or prefer working with men) is bad news for the argument that Evil, Patriarchal Hegemonists are oppressing women left and right.

The differences here are marginal at best. And the majority of workers - male and female - appear not to have gotten the outrage memo :p

Posted by Cassandra at 08:05 AM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

21st Century Advice for Parents of Boys

I wonder how many parents have done this?

... advise your son not to have virtual or real sexual contact with someone he doesn't know well.

Encourage your son to avoid sending any pictures of his body using social media. No sexting. No oral sex parties. They should not have sexual contact with someone with whom they have not shared a meal.

The bar for getting to know a person seems to have been considerably lowered with time.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 06, 2014

There's Someone For Everyone...

...and these gentlemen must be the perfect match for all those women who fall in love with prison inmates:

Next, she demanded men to let her pull out their teeth.


They were still undeterred so Reed tried tactic three: Talking utter nonsense, partly because of 'the mental and emotional toll' the social experiment had taken on her. However, that didn't work either.

On the otter heiny, this sort of thing probably explains a lot of material on PUA/MRA sites. Funny how often we find exactly what we're looking for...


Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

December 30, 2013

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Compliments!

Interesting quote from an article about why men don't generally welcome comments on their appearance:

In wanting to be praised for his looks, it would appear my date falls into a minority, according to one 1990 study by researchers at SUNY Binghamton and the University of the Witwatersrand, which concluded that compliments from men were generally accepted, especially by female recipients, but "compliments from women are met with a response type other than acceptance": as a threat.

Men often see compliments as "face-threatening acts," or acts intended to embarrass or patronize, the study authors found. What was meant as a nicety could be seen as a way to assert control.

Funny - that's pretty much the feminist take (one we never understood or agreed with, by the way, but it seems more than a little ironic that men appear to interpret compliments on their appearance in exactly the same way feminists do). Must make way more sense when men do it :p

We've been known to compliment men we know on their appearance, but such remarks generally take the form of something like, "That suit/tie looks especially nice on you", or "New beard/haircut! I like it/you look nice!".

It's pretty alarming to think that fairly innocuous remarks like that would be seen as hitting on another person, but I suppose the delivery and context may have some influence on how they're perceived. For whatever it may be worth, we've generally gotten a pretty good response though it has sometimes been clear that the recipient was a little surprised.

It's exactly the same kind of thing we'd say to a female co-worker, though. How do people know when an outfit or hair cut looks nice if everyone's afraid to say so?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:42 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 19, 2013

Platonic Friendships

Grim has tempted me to bloviate with this post about men who have numerous friends of the opposite sex:

Via Thought Cloud, I learned that it's problematic for a man to have too many female friends.

But the author of the linked post doesn't actually seem to be complaining that her new boyfriend has female friends. She admits having male friends herself. Her summarized concerns seem pretty valid to this happily married woman: the problem seems to be more with the nature of the friendships than the fact that they exist. To hear her tell it (and we have only her word for this), when her boyfriend's with her, he's not really "with her":

He’s constantly texting these people and returning their phone calls when it’s like, “Hello, I’m right here.” Mind you, he never does any of this behind my back- it’s always right in front of me. Sometimes, I wish that it would be done when I’m not there because you know, ignorance is bliss.

And, though he thinks there's nothing wrong with his having female friends, he's not fine with her having male friends:

Personally, I know if roles were reversed, he’d have my head. He already hates the idea that I have male friends to begin with and he claims that they’re all trying to flirt with me. Really?

But wait! There's more insanity where this came from:

I don’t have a problem with most of those girls that he’s constantly talking to. They seem pretty cool and most of them seem to respect our relationship. Operative word being most. When some of them are calling at midnight wondering where he is, they’re taking it way too far.

One of the rewards of an exclusive romantic relationship is that the person you're involved with is supposed to occupy a special place in your life. Why limit your options and give up your freedom for a lover/husband/boyfriend who considers you no less (but no more) important than everyone else in his life? There's a reason these lines are so often read during marriage ceremonies:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother,
and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

That "one flesh" thing is intended to be limiting. Then there's that bit about forsaking all others and keeping only unto your spouse. That doesn't only apply to people of the opposite sex - it also applies to parents, friends of your own sex, our own children, and a whole array of other people and things that can and will (if you fail to put your spouse first) eventually come between you.

I dated my husband for only two months before we both went away to college. For the next two years, we were in a long distance relationship. We lived apart for nearly a year right after getting married. Then he joined the Marines and we spent even more time apart - four 1 year unaccompanied tours and countless shorter deployments and field exercises. So the blog princess could hardly be called a clinging vine. But if I ever got the idea that I was no longer number one in his life, I'd be gone so fast it would make his head spin. And I suspect the same is true for him.

The expectation of exclusivity - that no one is more important to your husband or wife than you are - is what makes marriage so special. The reciprocal agreement to put your partner first in your life really the only thing that makes all that sacrifice worth it.

Grim writes:

Is this right? When I was a boy, my elementary school did something that was at the time actually illegal: it took our standardized test scores on reading and used them to sort us into levels. We had an "advanced" class, a "medium" class, and a slow class (which wasn't given a name). Now girls mature faster than boys, especially in terms of academic work, so as a consequence I spent my formative years in a class with 26 girls and 4 boys, of whom I was one. Since we were sorted alphabetically, I was perforce surrounded by girls all the time except at recess.

Was this really illegal? Tracking was the norm when I was in school, and standardized testing was how it was accomplished. Of course these days, such horrid Othering of Boys by feminized public schools is simply not tolerated :p

And yes, I'm yanking Grim's chain because he does it to me all the time. Also, it's just plain fun. The part of his post that I love is this:

From my perspective this has always meant that I learned early how to like and talk to girls, which has been a tremendous benefit. It turns out (boys, I am talking to you here) that girls are interesting, and have markedly different perspectives on life. If you're curious about big-T Truth, it's good to hear what other people with different perspectives have to say. If you're not interested in big-T Truth, you should rethink your life. As Aristotle rightly suggests, the contemplative life is one of the best ones available for our limited time here on Earth.

The same is true for women: we gain so much by talking to the men in our lives; by trying to understand them and allowing them to glimpse the world through their eyes, however imperfectly.

I understand Grim's point about learning to live with temptation, but people are weaker than we like to let on and marriage lasts a long time. That's why character is so important, whether we're talking about a man choosing a woman or a woman choosing the right man. It concerns me that we seem to have so little appreciation for the dangers of walking too close to the edge.

In the ancient legend of Tristan and Iseult, there is a wonderful image of the lovers sleeping in the wood with a drawn sword between them. I've always thought that a good metaphor for friends of the opposite sex: there should be a carefully drawn line that may not be crossed because the danger is real. Something in our polar opposites calls to us. A mother feels a special tenderness for her sons and a father for his daughters. And the male-female friendships I've known have been qualitatively different from friendships with other women. Perhaps this isn't common to everyone, but it seems sensible to me.

The trick is not to deny the danger, but to keep it always in mind. We are, after all, only human.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:11 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

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:

Yes, men DO have selective hearing, says new study

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.

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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

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November 04, 2013

Hard Wiring?

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

"This Is My Calling..."

A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.

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October 29, 2013

Take Halloween Back

sexy_binladen.jpgAn idea whose time has come?

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.

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook

Posted by Cassandra at 06:42 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

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?

barbie.JPG 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:

girl from uncle001.jpg

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?

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October 03, 2013


The Editorial Staff are sorry, but we don't care who you are.

This is tres amusing:

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.


Posted by Cassandra at 12:52 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 PM | Comments (114) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:18 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

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).

Thank you,

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:33 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:55 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:48 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

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.”

Resulting Consequences:
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”

Final Result:
“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.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:37 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 02, 2013

Day Late, Dollar Short...

...still, this is hysterical:

CWCID: the Spousal Unit

Posted by Cassandra at 08:34 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:02 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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.

She concludes:

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:

No fault did not cause the divorce rate to skyrocket:

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

Discussion note:
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.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:55 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

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 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!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 09, 2013

The Rise of Single Fathers

Via Noah Berlatsky, a new Pew study on 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:


There's a more comprehensive slideshow of key findings here for those who are interested. Full report here.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2013

We Blame Feminism for This

...once free of The Man, who has been exploiting her labor for his own glory all these years, she galloped, liberated, like the wind.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

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.

Who continually strives to be a better person than the one he was born to be.

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 - 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?

Or not.

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:04 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

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.

Good Lord.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:45 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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.

Anyway, enjoy.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Framing Reality

The Editorial Staff got to this remarkable excerpt via a post from Texan99:

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:46 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Surprise: Married Men, Women Pretty Much Equally Happy

Three charts from an article about "marriage myths":




Key quote:

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:38 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:03 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

May 06, 2013

The Protectors

Notice how many of them are men.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 01, 2013

Great Googly-Moogly!!!

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 25, 2013

The Dove "Real Beauty" Sketches for Men

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:39 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 05, 2013

Situational Awareness Is Not All That Complicated

Sensible take on the kerfuffle over the President's recent comments on AttyGen. Harris' looks:

... 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!’”

Well, maybe.

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.


Oh for Pete's sake:

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:47 AM | Comments (129) | TrackBack

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.

Mass Shootings 1980-2010-thumb-533x320-79419.jpg

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.

mass vs single murders.png

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?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:28 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

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

Posted by Cassandra at 08:30 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

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):


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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:28 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

March 15, 2013

Mirabile Dictu!!!

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

Posted by Cassandra at 06:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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.


The linked article continues:

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:

Labor Force Participation Rate by Gender Over TIme.jpg

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:

unemployment rate for men over time.jpg

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

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.”

Good Lord.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:22 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:29 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

December 11, 2012


...they are gentle with small things:

Let's hope Mrs. Claus had a nice steak and a cold beer ready for him when he got home.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:16 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:21 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

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?'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

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:24 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

July 13, 2012

Male Emoticons....

...and other stories we construct to make the world seem more orderly and predictable:

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 :)

Posted by Cassandra at 06:49 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:16 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 AM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

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
"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?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:46 AM | Comments (93) | TrackBack

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

Posted by Cassandra at 08:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:36 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

March 26, 2012


They have the mad dance moves:

Update: Today in Maryland news....

Posted by Cassandra at 07:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:10 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

January 17, 2012

When Grievance Politics Trumps Civilization

Well it didn't take long for observation #2 from the Women and Children Last post to be validated:

“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.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:59 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Cassandra at 04:00 PM | Comments (49) | TrackBack