Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Reading Material And Some Eye Candy

The eye candy first: Pippin (I can see my mouse from here!) by FeraLiberal.

Then the reading/watching material:

The Stupak amendment. Offered by your pro-birth Democrat, Mr. Stupak, who will never need abortions.

Wal-Mart offers swine flu advice while still punishing workers who are sick and stay at home.

Exploding tits in China (link thanks to sharl).

Weekly Poetry Slam Thread

A continuing experiment posted by AMc

On Sgt. Kimberley Munley

Based on current information, she is the officer who took Nidal Malik Hasan down:

The police officer who brought down a gunman after he went on a shooting rampage at the Fort Hood Army base was on the way to have her car repaired when she heard a report over a police radio that someone was shooting people in a center where soldiers are processed before they are deployed abroad, authorities said on Friday.

As she pulled up to the center, the officer, Kimberly Munley, spotted the gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, brandishing a pistol and chasing a wounded soldier outside the building, said Chuck Medley, the director of emergency services at the base.

Sergeant Munley bolted from her car and shot at Major Hasan. He turned toward her and began to fire. She ran toward him, continuing to fire, and both she and the gunmen went down with several bullet wounds, Mr. Medley said.

Whether Sergeant Munley was solely responsible for taking down Major Hassan or whether he was also hit by gunfire from another responder is still unclear, but she was the first to fire at him.

Sergeant Munley, who is 34, is an expert in firearms and a member of the SWAT team for the civilian police department on the base, officials said.

Such a courageous act saved lives.

Last night the following exchange took place on Eschaton comments threads:

this female MP was the first responder

What does her gender have to do with it??????
Hecate, Runnymeade Conspirator | Homepage | 11.05.09 - 9:29 pm | #

everything, because it shows that woman can't fucking kill someone when they have to.
BURP | 11.05.09 - 9:30 pm | #

Trolls will be trolls, you might mutter. But it's still worth pointing out that Sgt. Munley is a trained firearms expert, an experienced police officer and a SWAT team member, yet many still judge her first as a woman, and attribute to her their stereotypes about how women are.

I have thought about that a lot, starting with the phrase "throws like a girl." To throw in that particular manner has to do with not being trained to throw. Indeed, many such sexist comparison compare an untrained woman (in, say, fighting skills) with a trained man. This is faulty thinking in general but it is also extremely disrespectful of people (men or women) who ARE trained to act a certain way in emergencies.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Love letters (by Suzie)

I learned to love love from a mother who romanticized romance.

The following is stolen from an email I wrote some years ago to a man who thought I was intense. I'm out of town today, but I wonder how others have struggled with Heterosexual Love in the Time of Patriarchy. TMI warning.

Academically, everything I
 touched turned to gold. But I was so afraid that I wasn't attractive that, when I started to have sex, I learned as quickly as I could how to please
 men. I thought I could be the best at love and/or sex, as if it were an
 intellectual pursuit.

And yes, a lot of men have found me too intense, but then they end up
being drawn to the fire, and they crash their cars or call me drunkenly in
 the middle of the night. When a man protests I'm too intense or passionate, I know he's mine;
 it's only a matter of time. He's like a fish flopping in the bottom of my
 boat, protesting, "You'll never catch me."

When a man says he likes intensity, I know I will lose him. It's very
hard to sustain that over time. My experience is that intensity can smolder, flaring up occasionally, but it can't exist like the
blue tongue in the flame forever.

Tonight is the birthday of a man I loved, and I've been rereading emails to him:
"You do so much for me, give me so much, and I
still misbehave. I have all these wonderful experiences and, instead
of being satisfied, I want more. I'm like a damned child, lying on the
 floor, crying.

"I'm sorry I bit you."
"I long to see you at different times and in different places. I want to see how your expressions change, how your body moves. I am like Monet, who painted haystacks over and over, because they were different in different light.

" 'Have restraint,' I am told. 'Wait for him to make a move. Don't
burn yourself out.' But how do you tell a fire: 'Don't burn so brightly.' I would rather someone walk away from me because I was too intense, I
 was too much, I was too much myself, than because I was trying to be
something I'm not: a woman who follows the rules."
"In class, my least favorite grad student started the
discussion by saying how much she hated
this week's readings. I blurted out how much I loved them and how I had read them to my lover.
If only I had had a little to drink, if only the lights had been a
little lower, I would have talked about your scent and your taste.
'I have hung his clothes from my bedposts so that his presence will surround me,' I would say. 'In the afternoons, if I nap, his
shirt blindfolds me, and I inhale him. When he
crawls into bed, I warm him.' "
"(After my mother's death.) I wish I could inhabit a
rational world of philosophy. Last night, in my 19th century French
book, I was reading about debates over whether men embodied the
rational and women the emotional. I wanted so much to be rational, to
hold up my end of the bargain, even though I know the either/or debate
is a trap.
I wish I didn't have to be student and friend and lover as if nothing has changed.
Damn, the crying is back. This must be some version of the flu, in
which, instead of sneezing and vomiting, one just cries and cries.
 I need to pull myself together and read
a book on lesbians for
 class. It would be easier if I loved you less. (I'm referring to both
the crying and the lesbians.)"

"Here is a quote from
one of the authors I'm reading: 'After years of considering my body little more than an unruly nuisance, I found
myself wanting to yield up control over it, to learn what it had to teach me, to experience the willing or grateful surrender of "I" to
 flesh.' "
"Twilight, and the palms are dark, silhouetted against a lighter horizon.
How do I wean myself off wanting you?
 I don't listen to music when I'm reading for school, but still, there are sounds, the mechanical hum of the machines that surround me,
the faraway traffic that sounds like rushing water, someone laughing
or crying in the distance.
Distance defines my night.

"All week I have wagged my tail to please people. I have smiled and nodded my head in class when I wanted to lay it down on the table and sleep.
I wonder if I exist only as the reflection of what other people

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

The Stoopid. It Burns

So I read about yet another list of Great Books:

The trade publication Publishers Weekly likely wanted to provoke discussion with its annual list of the year's best books, but not like this. In its issue of Nov. 2, Publishers Weekly compiled its PW Top 10, a decidedly subjective ranking of the best fiction and non-fiction published in 2009, including the biography "Cheever: A Life" by Blake Bailey; the novel "Await Your Reply" by Dan Chaon; and the graphic novel "Stitches" by David Small. But as The Guardian reports, the ranking has drawn protests from a women's literary group, which notes that there are no female writers on the list.

No female writers at all. Now that is conclusive proof that women cannot write, whatever tests seem to suggest about our verbal talents, and nope, there was absolutely no bias in the selection process:

In her introduction to the year-end lists, Louisa Ermelino, the reviews director of Publishers Weekly, wrote, "We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz," adding: "It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male."

This is so stupid it's almost incandescent in its glorious stupidity. Unless none of the reviewers saw the title pages of the books they certainly could NOT ignore the gender of the author. It's usually pretty obvious from the name written there in fairly large letters. Have we learned nothing from all those studies which demonstrate that the gender of the supposed author of something DOES affect how the piece (interpreted widely here) is evaluated?

Gah. The only way a selection like this could truly ignore the gender of the author is if all books were submitted for review without any identifying information.
It is worth noting that a woman, Hilary Mantel, won this year's Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall. Other good books written by women are suggested in the comments thread of the quoted post.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

An Alien Post

How would an ethical alien from outer space see the way we analyze violence? Some types of violence are analyzed to the bones (no pun intended), with all sorts of experts chipping in. Other types of violence (trigger warning for the links which follow) are analyzed very little, and this is usually the case with stories where the victims are mostly women. It is as if the sex of the victim is explanation enough.

We simply assume that these things unfortunately sometimes happen to women and spend very little time in trying to understand the killer's/killers' motives. In other cases we do spend time trying to understand what made someone commit such heinous acts, and ultimately this is so that future events of the same kind could be avoided.

Why the different treatment?
Added later:

Astonishingly, I now have an actual example of the analysis that follows violence which is not specifically against women:

Before making judgments about the shootings at Fort Hood, a thorough investigation needs to take place, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Thursday.

"It is imperative that we take the time to gather all the facts, as it would be irresponsible to be the source of rumors or inaccurate information regarding such a horrific event," Cornyn said in a statement.

"Once we have ascertained all the facts, working with our military leaders and law enforcement officials on the ground, we can determine what exactly happened at Fort Hood today and how to prevent something like this from ever happening again," he said.

My Blogday Week Post IV

This is part of the continuing celebration of my sixth anniversary in blogging, where I re-post some of my earliest contributions. The one below has to do with some news about women in management not wanting the brass ring, after all, and probably reflects the early mutterings of the "opt-out" phenomenon:

On Glass Slippers and Ceilings

Cinderella's foot fitted the glass slipper and so she married the prince and lived happily ever on. At least in fairy tale terms. But imagine how uncomfortable glass shoes would be, how easily they would crack and splinter around your unprotected feet.

In some ways that's what women in business management wear every day. Their slippers are made of all sorts of contradictory materials: assertive, but not too much so or you'll be called bitchy, nurturing, but not too much so or your capabilities are suspect, just-like-the-guys but not too much so or you'll be called a ballbreaker. That these slippers crack and splinter is to be expected. That they cut the wearer's feet is not surprising.

So what does this have to do with glass ceilings? Glass ceilings are nice, they let us gaze at the sun rays or the moon and the stars, and pretend that there's nothing between us and these vast upper reaches. But of course there is. The glass is there.

Or is it? The corporate glass ceiling is supposed to keep women out of higher management; all they can do is to gaze at the stars. But now some say that there is no glass ceiling that would prevent women from flying straight up and getting a comet named after themselves. Instead, the reason for few women in leading positions is said to be.... Guess. If you are even one tenth as old as I am, you have heard this before.

Well, the blame belongs to the women, of course. They don't want the brass ring hard enough to grab it. They don't want the long hours. They want to be with their children, and to write poetry or ride a horse. They want to go to Africa to cure hunger. Women are just different.

Hmmm. Different from what? Men, of course, you thick-headed goddess.

Aah! That's why they don't fit into the public sector; the public sector was built to fit men's desires. Well, this is really interesting: why doesn't the public sector reflect the desires of both men and women? Why doesn't the fact that children must be taken care of by somebody, that families must at least meet once and a while, that human beings might need to write poetry or ride horses or cure hunger; why don't any of these things affect the way the jobs and the labor market are structured?

Why is a good manager one who has no life outside the job? Who thinks that managers are equally bright and energetic in their sixteenth consecutive work hour as in their first eight? Do you want important economic decisions made by people who don't remember what their children look like, or who haven't smelled at a flower or played a game for fun for decades?
Never mind if they are men or women, I'd shudder if humans took the division of labor to such extreme degrees.

What I see through my divine sight, are glass mountains on which people slip and slide in their glass slippers. Only those who also have glass hearts thrive. Too sad.

The glass ceilings are still there, of course. That so many deny their existence is because they are not there all the time. When some people look at the stars, they can feel the breeze and sense the raindrops, too. They know that the road is open. When others look up, they see the stars but they also see gates and locks, tree houses with "No girls allowed" signs, preachers telling what good motherhood is, coworkers looking at you askance when you are pregnant and tell that you are coming back, husbands 'helping out' but not knowing if the fridge has milk or what the pediatrician's name is. These people don't imagine things.

It's not as bad as it used to be. Families are more democratic, employers are more open-eyed and many men do their fair share at home. But turning the looking-glass back to face nothing but the women, each alone and separately, is a very cruel thing to do. Women are neither evil step-mothers nor Cinderellas, and the story doesn't reward the one who fits the glass slippers.

Very Bad

From the New York Times:

At least one gunman killed 12 people and wounded 31 in a shooting on Thursday afternoon at Fort Hood in Texas. Military police killed one shooter, who had two guns, and at least two soldiers are in custody.

Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, the commanding officer at Fort Hood, the largest active military installation in the country, said the base was in lockdown as military authorities, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigate the rampage.

"This was a terrible tragedy," said General Cone, speaking at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "Stunning."'

An Army spokesman, Gary Tallman, said that the dead gunman was an Army major. A law enforcement official identified the him as Malik Nadal Hassan.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My Blogday Week Post III

This is another six-year old post, from the babyhood of my blog. It's a glance into my life as a goddess and tells you about my visit to see Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. She was in the big leagues while I was nothing but an idol of the snakes. How things change!

I hope you enjoy this little reversal:

Pornography Goes Mainstream

Did I ever mention that retired gods and goddesses may sometimes take human form? Aphrodite has chosen to become an eighty-year old widow living in Florida. She adores Mickey Mouse, neon pink golf carts and polyester pant suits. She was really fed up with her long reign as a sex goddess, and wanted a more active life. I stopped by recently. We had a ball.

She took me to this new Viennese tearoom for women. They served exquisite little pastries, and the place was packed with 'dite's cronies. After we were served our cappuccinos, the waitress told us to help ourselves to all the tidbits on the center table. Can you believe this? The cakes and pastries were daintily arranged on the reclining still form of a gorgeous naked man? He was a real cupcake!

I reached out for a canape in his left armpit and watched his pupils dilate. His eyes moved to point at the large painted sign which warned against any bodily interference with the 'model'. So we could only look, not touch. And look we did.

I asked the waitress if the tearoom had had any problems with meninists protesting against their use of a male platter. She laughed and said that all publicity was good publicity. Besides, everybody knew that meninists had no sense of humor. We all agreed that we really respected and admired men, especially this lovely studmuffin!

When we were replete with cakes and the platter covered but with crumbs, 'dite took me back to her condo to watch some daytime soaps. I kept nodding off on the couch until she turned the channel to Oprah's show. The day's topic was "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Erection". It seemed to consist of some man flogging his book on 'bagel dancing'. The gyrations and contortions around a bagel suspended from a string in the ceiling were supposed to make men fit and better in the marital bed. I started feeling slight bouts of indigestion. I'm not a prude, as any of you may check on the Google, but this was just getting to be too much.

Men are people, too, after all. What was going on? Had 'dite interfered with earth's essential vibrational frequency? She adamantly denied having anything to do with these sexxee developments among men. Supposedly men had just collectively decided that titillating women was sex-positive and healthy. As proof 'dite mentioned a newspaper article about men's athletic wear stores in Paris. To drum up more business, these stores had hired coaches to teach men how to remove their jockstraps in an alluring fashion. One young man was quoted as saying that he had never before really understood how important it was to remove the football socks before rather than afterwards. The store had hung up framed sayings supposedly by Simone de Beauvoir: "The high time of the day on the sports fields is not when a man suits up but when he takes it all off for his woman."

I did mention to Aphrodite that according to the article there had been protests by some men's groups outside the store. She waved this detail away with her tennis-braceleted arm and pointed out an ad in a magazine I was leafing through as further proof of the same trend in sexual liberation. The ad was selling sweatshop-free underwear for men, but the pictures were extremely revealing crotch shots from below.

"Sort of pornographic, don't you think?" I asked. She nodded. "Porn has gone mainstream now. Care for a round of golf?"


I have slightly played with the truth in recounting this story. If you insist on the more politically correct but boring facts, here they are: Sushi served on a naked female, pole-dancing on Oprah, Parisian strip-tease lessons for women who buy underwear and American Apparel's ad for women's panties.

Sexxeee Men

The Halloween costume thread below has an interesting discussion about what kinds of outfits might be sexy for men to wear, and a more serious discussion about what heterosexual women might find sexy in men in general. And I mean looks, here. We are talking superficial, sisters! We are gonna objectify in a big way!

Sorta kidding (though I know I'm going to get yelled at for this post and I deserve it). But anyone who spends much time on unmoderated political comments threads will find out that women's bodies are discussed a lot, men's bodies not so much (unless I'm present and doing reversals), and everybody then assumes that women aren't at all interested in the way men look in general, just in their pocket-books (usually) or their soulful minds (sometimes). The corollary is that men don't have to try to dress for their partners at all. The deeper corollary is then that the society demands all that pleasing from women and not from men.

I AM interested in the soulful minds of people, including men, and in brains and in kindness and in good ethics and good window-washing skills. But this doesn't mean that looks wouldn't be a nice plus. Or rather, I think that there are certain looks (not necessarily the ones that the popular culture assumes) which I admire and feel drawn to, and I suspect that this might be true of other women, too.

So the real point of this post is not to objectify men but to see what it is that heterosexual women might find visually pleasing in men in general. Because the popular culture (and evo-psychos and so on) keep telling women that women don't care about youth and looks and good bodies in their partners it may be hard to go past that to see whether we actually might have some preferences.

Of Special Interest: Wimminz

You wouldn't think that women could be viewed as a special interest group, given that we are the majority. But that's how the game is played in politics. Wingnuts hate us (they hates us, my precious), and the Democrats would prefer us to be really really quiet. And not to cost them any money whatsoever. Or so I think tonight.

And these are the reasons:


Consider what happened when the subject of women's preventive healthcare services came up in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) in July, after the minimum benefits package had already been determined. Because some essential care for women wasn't included in the list, HELP committee member Senator Barbara Mikulski proposed an amendment that would require the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to stipulate that basic women's health services would be covered. The language said nothing about abortion, referring only to "preventive care and screenings."

Yet the voting on the amendment went exactly along pro- and anti-choice lines. The amendment passed by just one vote, with all the committee's Republicans as well as Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, voting against it. The committee's discussion of the amendment was dominated by Republicans' worry about the possibility of government money winding up in the hands of Planned Parenthood. Since there is no similar language included in the just-released House bill, the only hope for requiring full coverage for these essential services now lies with the Senate.


Adding insult to injury, birth control isn't on the list of essential services insurers are required to cover in a basic plan. Thanks, House and Senate! Probably another nod to the religous right, who also hate contraception.

There is something mean-spirited about all those who voted against the amendment. Or there would be if one assumed that women are citizens and taxpayers and not ovens or aquaria for future fetuses. The latter interpretation seems to fit the worldview of Republicans and conservative Democrats. Some Republicans would even let gang-rape go unpunished, just to retain the sanctity of business contracts.

And Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is going to work his ass off to make sure that no abortion coverage will be available in the planned insurance exchange, even if it would be funded from private sources. But then Mr. Stupak is never going to be mistaken for an oven, just as Mr. Reid (who wants to have conscience clauses in the plan) is never going to find that his pharmacy prescriptions will not be filled because he is an aquarium.

There are good things in the basic list of covered services for women, too. Pap-smears and mammograms might be covered, for example, and when I have calmed down and accepted my second-class-special-interest status again I shall write about those, too.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Glenn Beck, The Go-To Gossip Guy

He is hilarious, natch, and also now the King of the Traditional Media or some such thing, because you have to react to everything he says and he makes money for the Republican Organ (pun intended) which is also called Fox. Once you have that circle completed (from nutcase to pay-attention to money), the problem is also circular.

At the same time, there is something seriously sob-producing about a country which focuses on Beck and his emotional utterances. If he were a woman nobody would take him seriously, because he is all about sobbing and weeping and exaggerating and passing on gossip and hearsay of the hairiest kind.

Now he is on a hunt for communists, Marxists and Maoists inside the Obama administration and outside it, too. Anyone who has ever met a real meatspace Stalinist, for example (which I have) finds her or his brain go at some Twilight frequency when Beck talks about serious communists. Real Stalinists, for instance, are frightening people. Beck would run very fast indeed if he ever met one. It's a lot less frightening to accuse milquetoast centrists of red-hot Maoism.

I'm not sure why I bother writing any of it. I still suffer from the Excessive Sanity Syndrome which makes it hard for me to admit that what matters is Scandal! Sensation! Superficiality!

TRIGGER WARNING. Rape As Evolutionary Adaptation. TRIGGER WARNING.

I'm reading about the slaughterhouse found inside the house of a convicted rapist:

Police say a rapist living in an Ohio home where several bodies have been found has been charged with five counts of aggravated murder.

Cleveland police spokesman Lt. Thomas Stacho (STOCK'-oh) says 50-year-old Anthony Sowell was also charged Tuesday with rape, felonious assault and kidnapping.

Police recovered the bodies of six women last week from Sowell's home. A Cleveland television station reported Tuesday that two more bodies were removed from the home.

No, it is not good to read about such things. But the recent discussion in a comments thread here about how rape is about sex and about desperate men wanting to pass their genes on should ALWAYS be brought up when these cases come into the public eye. Always.

My Blogday Week Post II

I'm celebrating my sixth blog anniversary this coming Sunday and in its honor want to repost some of the very first stories, the better ones. This is about terrorism and women and I think it shows well my ability to see the future about Iraq. It is also relevant, because just yesterday someone said that thing about one man's terrorist being another man's freedom fighter, and while we are supposed to see the woman being embraced in that the reality is that there are no freedom fighters for women:

Women and Terrorism

The BBC's World Program asked listeners to send in their definitions of a 'terrorist'. The answers were what one expected, ranging from the definition of a terrorist as someone who targets civilians to someone who is called George W. Bush. But one definition really stood out:"One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."

These are men who define terrorism. Terrorism is something that might bring them freedom or terror. But for women? Granted, there are women terrorists, and women do experience the effects of terrorist activity as much as men do. But are there freedom fighters for women? Do terrorists ever work for women's causes?

I can't think of a single cause like that. The early British suffragettes came the closest, but even they stopped their violence at property or their own bodies. If freedom fighters ever fought for women, it was most likely in the sense that they fought for the right of previously oppressed men to have free access to their 'own' women or to bar other men from such access. Some women must have benefited from such movements, but this was not the intended effect.

Iraq is an interesting example. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women first gained additional freedoms and rights. More women attended the university and there were women in his government. Later, some of these gains for women were sacrificed when Saddam courted the religious muslims and launched an islamization program. Yet women in Iraq are still more literate than in any other Arab country.

The liberation of Iraq may change this. The new freedom fighters there want an Islamic society. Some want obligatory veiling, and there are arguments about whether education is a good thing for women under Islam. The lawlessness makes going out into a major adventure for women, and there are news about kidnapping and rape. So who there is fighting for the women? Who really cares about the fact that women are the majority of the Iraqi population, with something like ten percent representation in the Provisional Council?

The answer is that very few people care about women. The status of women in Iraq is low, and determined by both traditional culture and certain ways of reading the Islamic law and the Koran. Who are outsiders to decide that things should be different for them? Yet outsiders decided that other things in Iraq were unacceptable, however much they, too, were based on tradition and religious precedent. Women just don't matter, very much.

Women don't matter awfully much in the greater terrorist wars, either. Their importance is as symbols: symbols of western decadence as the semi-naked women cavorting on our tv screens in the west, symbols of eastern backwardness as the totally shrouded shapes cowering in the corners of their hidden rooms in the east. Or as reversed symbols: the independent, self-confident western woman vs. the modest, pure eastern woman. Yet it's all about symbols.

In the wars of terrorism most real women are in the middle, in the mined no-man's land where they are possible victims for both sides. The war goes on over their heads and sometimes through their bodies. They are the ultimate definition of collateral damage.

Most women don't think this way, you might say. That's probably true. It's hard to get much constructive thinking going when the media bombard you with one false message after another, when daily life is enough to pull you down, when to realize that you ARE collateral damage would demolish your whole world view. So yes, most women don't think this way.

That's the unfair thing about being a goddess. We goddesses see through the smoke and fog and scraps of flying bombs right through to the truth. Sometimes.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Today's Light Bulb Post

As in one lighting up inside my skull. I was reading about food stamps and poverty among children, and then I came to this conservative interpretation of the findings that about half of U.S. children will be on food stamps at least once:

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, says the study design and survey data are solid. But he says the findings are neither surprising nor troubling.

"That's effectively like saying that at some point in a 20-year period, a parent would be unemployed for a month or so," Rector says.

"There's no evidence that even consistent poverty in the U.S. produces a nutritional risk," he says, noting that rich and poor children tend to have about the same intake of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Do you see where I'm going here? The wingnuts usually tell us that being poor is fun: lots of singing and dancing and watching cheap televisions and owning cell phones and getting enough food. If that is the case, why not apply strong income progression in all taxes? That way the rich can become happy, too, and the rest of us can get health care and education covered from those tax receipts.

A Little Lady Blogger Signing In

It's that time of the year again, the time when we find to our utter surprise that there are more men than women blogging on Important Matters (note the careful definition of those), and then we speculate on Innate Differences which make women incapable of blogging when in fact nobody at all is stopping them! Or we wonder why girls can't take the malicious trolling as well as guys can take it!

So hard to be cheerful and lady bloggerish and kind and understanding about that, because I have been on this merry-go-round several times in the past. Indeed, I feel my fangs growing longer and demanding the blood of idiots.

How the f**k do you do lady blogging? Do you spray the keyboard with Chanel 5 first? And does that keep the trolls at bay, hmh? Do you put up a picture of yourself with cleavage? The Mother Jones story does suggest that both of these things are required for women to blog. The poor little things.

I'm being unfair. The piece itself (on why men are the majority of some type of bloggers) is not bad and does address a few important questions (though not others, such as whether mommy bloggers were sampled in the study). But honestly. Why do we have this silly conversation over and over again? And if we truly want to do something about getting more women into blogging, why not do a really careful study of all bloggers? We might begin with the study which shows that female pseudonyms get more harassment on the net than male pseudonyms.

Sigh. Now that post was a big FAIL. I can't do lady blogging.
Added later: It seems that the original study was focused on political blogs, where "political" was defined to exclude feminism? That's what I have heard. If true, this means that I don't count in the statistics, for instance, despite the fact that I write a lot on politics. Well, pretty much everything I write is on politics when the term is widely defined.

My Blogday Week Post I

This blog turns six next Sunday, and in its honor I'm going to republish some of my very first posts. I used to edit in those days! Also, I took the goddess role more seriously.

Here is an excerpt from one of the very first posts. It is on Mummy Wars and still pretty relevant. The bit I reproduce here gives you my theory of what drives those wars (other than the spectators eating their popcorn while watching with enjoyment):

The human cultures have a biased view of women. Mostly, men are seen as individuals, but women are seen only partially as individuals and largely as members of an amorphous mass 'womanhood'. Think of actors: male actors are not asked the sorts of questions that women actors are, about how they cope with combining family and career, about how they stay beautiful. Men are asked individual questions about their acting choices and lives. Women are asked largely 'woman' questions (how do you compare to other women?). And so on.

So all humans, to some extent, see women as a mass and men as individuals. If these humans happen to be women themselves, they will partly view themselves as individuals, but also keep asking themselves how they compare to others in the mass 'women'. All other women then affect their self-esteem; others' choices affect how right our choices look. If a woman stays at home with the children and another one works outside the home but also has children, their choices are not seen as independent of each other. One woman affects the other, her self-esteem and the society's judgment of her 'goodness'. And this effect goes both ways. A working mother will be blamed because she is not at home, a stay-at-home mother feels that her choices are made unimportant by the existence of women who appear to be able to both work for money and care for children. Thus, both feel exposed and criticized by the existence of the other's different life. Sisterhood? Not likely. But it doesn't have to be so.

There are two secret devices that cause the Mummy Wars. One I have already referred to: women's tendency to be treated as an undifferentiated mass of femaleness, both by men and by women themselves, when in fact we are all individuals with different temperaments, talents, limitations and life situations. The second one is the presumption that if two women make opposite choices, one of these choices must be wrong. This I call false duality. It is false, because we don't apply it to people's choices in general. Matt may choose to enter into engineering, Jessica into medicine. Yet nobody would argue that EITHER Matt OR Jessica must be right.

But when we talk about the 'female' kinds of choices, suddenly one choice must be right and the other wrong. This is because we see all women as essentially the same woman in this sphere, and therefore it appears obvious that one of the choices is better than the other. This is wrong, an example of false dualism, and it is false because all women are not the same woman.

These two devices also explain why women often have the tendency to be more judgmental towards other women than men. What other women do affects the self-esteem of the judging woman. What men do has no such effect in general cases, because the same false dualism is not applied to men.

So we women (I'll count myself here as one, to look less judgmental here...) are cruel to our sisters, we keep them in line, because if we don't do so, our own self-image might shatter. This is all so sad and all so unnecessary. If we could only climb over the obstacles of regarding womanhood as one amorphous lump and of making snappy falsely dualistic judgments we could actually approach some idea of realistic sisterhood, lower our weapons in the Mummy Wars, pack up our armor and go into life.

Let the audience watch the empty arena, or get a life, too.

A Health Care View From The Other Side Of The Pond

I was looking for something else when I came across this short piece from 2006 on what ails the U.S. health care system, written by a British health economist. You can tell it's not by an American economist, from the very first paragraph:

The American health care systems perform impressively, producing what they are designed to deliver: cost inflation, inefficiency, and inequity. At regular intervals, local pundits declare that the outcomes of the incentive structures in the constituent parts of the systems are unacceptable, usually emphasising that "the nation cannot afford to spend 16 percent of GDP on health care". Such "insights" ignore the fact that inflation is a consequence of the systems' perverse incentives and that improved control of expenditure inflation would oblige physicians, nurses, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry to moderate their lifestyles.

Bracing, isn't it? Even if you disagree with the views given in that piece, they certainly should be discussed in our grand health care reform debate. At least as often as the views of those who tell us that any public option means long waits in gray corridors and treatment with horse medicine by fanatical (and bewhiskered) bureaucrats wearing Stalinist uniforms.

Not sure why I had to add bewhiskered there.