Saturday, July 30, 2011

For a Possible Sunday Evening Book Discussion (by res ipsa)

Here is the full text of Susan Glaspell's A Jury of Her Peers. I'll put up a thread on Sunday evening where we can discuss it.

Biographical information about Susan Glaspell is here.

Mammograms, Calcium & Hormones (Oh, My!) (by res ipsa)

How do you deal with the constantly-changing, often-conflicting recommendations regarding women's health care? Obviously, you talk it over with your doctor and choose a path that he or she recommends and that you can live with. But how do you process every release of new data? Since I was old enough to pay attention to my own health, I've lost count of the flips, flops, and back flips on the subject of, say, the benefits vs. risks of birth control pills and/or hormone therapy for women with a family history of breast cancer; recommendations for which women should get mammograms and at what age they should start; and guidelines for taking calcium, Vitamin D, and/or iron. The shifting data and recommendations provoke anxiety in me, so I have to admit that defer entirely to my GYN for two reasons. First, I've been seeing her since I was a teenager and after all these years she's like a second mother to me. I feel like she knows me and my medical history very well and I feel that she's very cautious and methodical when it comes to my care. Second, due to an especially nasty family history involving both breast and uterine cancer and a tendency to spin out worst case scenarios at the observation of, say, a hangnail, I do a lousy job of managing the aforementioned anxiety, so in essence, I am letting my GYN manage it for me.

I am fortunate to have such a trusted adviser, but I realize that not everyone is as lucky as I am in that respect (and that someday, my GYN will retire), and so I am wondering, how do you do it?

Something Funny

The Onion on ways to reduce the burden of Social Security:

Social Security Reform Bill Encourages Americans To Live Faster, Die Younger

Yeah, this is satire.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Get Ready for a 360° S#$tstorm (Breasts Edition) (by res ipsa)

NYT: Breast Feeding Doll is Coming to America
There’s a new doll entering the American toy market called the Breast Milk Baby. In addition to the doll, little girls (and boys) get a halter top that they can wear, with two flowers that symbolize breasts.

As the doll’s mouth is brought to the flowers, it makes a sucking sound, as if it is drinking milk. Afterward, the doll cries until it is burped.

“The whole purpose behind a doll is to pretend like you’re a parent,” said Dennis Lewis, the American representative for Berjuan Toys, the Spanish company that makes the dolls. “The dolls are meant to just let kids play as mommies and daddies naturally.”
Oh, Mr. Lewis: you're so cute. I don't know what's going to freak out Americans more: the whole idea of a child play-acting at breastfeeding or the fact that you're marketing it to little boys as well as little girls. I see that Father Cough I mean, O'Reilly has already weighed in on the controversy (and as we know, he's well qualified to discuss all manner of topics, including breasts) and the requisite "For" and "Against" Facebook pages established. As soon as our esteemed congress gets through blowing up the world economy I'm sure they'll enact a ban, potential Constitutional challenges be damned.

Some days, I think our entire society needs to be burped.

Forced Birth: A Father's Right?

Welcome to Handmaid's Tale! It's not a dystopia, this time, but an actual proposal by a Fox News medical commentator, Keith Ablow, posted about a week ago as an opinion column:
The abortion debate has left one issue largely off the table: The proper rights of men to prevent the abortion of their children. 
I believe that in those cases in which a man can make a credible claim that he is the father of a developing child in utero, in which he could be a proper custodian of that child, and in which he is willing to take full custody of that child upon its delivery, that the pregnant woman involved should not have the option to abort and should be civilly liable, and possibly criminally liable, for psychological suffering and wrongful death should she proceed to do so.


Allow men who want to be fathers, and who could be good parents, to compel the women they impregnate to bring their children to term.

I love the language. Men "impregnate" women and then "compel" them to bring "their" children to term. Ablow notes, as a quick aside, that his proposal has certain negative consequences for women:
I understand that adopting social policy that gives fathers the right to veto abortions would lead to presently unknown psychological consequences for women forced to carry babies to term. But I don’t know that those consequences are greater than those suffered by men forced to end the lives of their unborn children. 
In Ablow's world no woman can die or become seriously ill from pregnancy or from giving birth! There are only "unknown psychological consequences," probably minor, from being forced to bring to term the child of any man who has successfully impregnated her! The pregnancy does not happen inside her body, the stakes in the pregnancy are identical for both men and women, and, honestly, pregnancy has no physical health risks whatsoever!

But this is one of those chilling and cold-blooded arguments you will get once you define a fertilized egg as a child. The woman has become an incubator for a child and the man has parental rights from the minute the egg and sperm unite. Inside the woman's body. Which means that he has rights to endanger that body if he so wishes.

Indeed, all our Keith thinks a man needs to make is a credible claim that it is his sperm! Any woman can then be forced to give birth. Perhaps even by a rapist, say? Ablow is unclear on that point.

When I began to use the term "forced-birthers" for anti-abortion folks, I never expected that some of them would truly take that term seriously and decide that, yes, indeed, women should be literally forced to give birth, never mind the minor inconveniences they might have to experience.

The logical answer to Ablow (which he does not deserve) is that he can force the birth the minute he uses his very own uterus for it, the minute it is his body which might suffer or die from the pregnancy. Absent those options, he must wait until the artificial uterus is completed.

Though Ablow also offers the usual argument that no woman ever need to be forced to give birth, as long as she simply takes full responsibility for her sexuality:
And I am absolutely certain that no woman needs to become pregnant who wishes not to become pregnant. Women taking full responsibility for their sexual activity and their bodies would mean that no woman would face the prospect of being compelled to bring a child to term.
Which really means that fertile women should not have sex with men, whether willingly or not. Complete abstinence and avoidance of all rape are what "full responsibility for her sexuality" would mean in Ablow's world. Either that, or sterilization. In all other cases women should be prepared to expect possible forced birth consequences.

This guy is a monster.

I'm not discounting the psychological suffering of men who wanted to be fathers and did not become fathers. But the two scenarios Ablow presents are not equivalent, the two sets of costs are not the same, and the human rights aspects of his proposal are monstrous. This is the kind of thing which happens when fertilized eggs are treated as born children.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Ginger the Chihuahua rests her head on a toy, as the morning sun moves across the carpet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Question (by res ipsa)

Why is Maureen Dowd so good re the Catholic church but so absolutely craptastic re everything else?

I always thought Dowd's overweening cruddiness could generally be attributed to the fact that Dowd divided men into two groups: those who love women and those who hate women, and that Dowd wanted love from the latter.


Didja Hear the One About the Old Lady Who Spilled Coffee On Herself and Became a Multimillionaire? (by res ipsa)

Of course you did. And because you are forward-thinking, fabulous, feminists you knew -- or at least suspected -- that there might be a bit more to the story than that.

I once wrote a paper about the gulf between public perception and reality of tort suits: about the the number of suits filed versus the number that came to trial versus the number in which a verdict was reached; about the distance between initial jury awards and final judgments; about the truly egregious behavior that prompted some of the enormous verdicts that are legend. I wasn't surprised that people who ran around flapping their gums about "frivolous lawsuits," "runaway verdicts", and "greedy lawyers" knew nearly nothing about the mechanics of lawsuits, had only a single-sentence grasp of the facts in any particular case, and had not thought through the implications of what "tort reform" -- as advocated by its most shrill and well-funded proponents -- would mean to them. None of that mattered. What did matter was their rage -- a nasty, uniquely American obsession -- that somewhere someone with whom they had no connection might be getting something they did not deserve. I hope they're never forced to bring a tort suit, because if they do, they're in for a rude awakening.

If you have HBO, I urge you to check out Hot Coffee. When I wrote my paper, I filled in the gap between my own perception and the realities of "The McDonald's Coffee Case", and to do this day, I don't think justice was served.

Economic News About Wealth

The Pew Research Center has published the results from a new study which looks at the impact of the current recession on the wealth levels of majority and minority households:
The recession, which included a collapse in home values and high unemployment, took the greatest toll on minority wealth. From 2005 to 2009, median wealth fell by 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent among blacks, compared with 16 percent among whites. The losses left Hispanic and black wealth at their lowest levels in at least 25 years.
“It’s not so much that the wealthy were busy getting richer – it’s that they slipped back less than those at the other end of the ladder,” says Rakesh Kochhar, a demographer and co-author of the analysis released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

In 2009, the median net worth of white households was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks. That gap is about twice as large as the 1 to 10 white-to-minority wealth ratio that prevailed during the two decades before the recession.
The reason? It is probably partly due to the greater incidence of unemployment in the minority populations but mostly due to this:
The housing crash that began in 2006 reduced home values for most American homeowners, but it hit minority families particularly hard because more of their wealth is tied to their homes.
If the value of your house drops by 40%, and all your wealth is tied up in its equity, what happens to your wealth?

This graph shows the impact of the recession on the net wealth levels of different ethnic or racial groups:

The New York Times article suggests that the Latinos suffered the largest drop in net wealth levels because they are concentrated in areas of the country where the housing market collapse was the hardest.

This may also explain the large drop in the Asian households' net wealth, given that this is a group which has not suffered from equally high unemployment rates or low average incomes as the African-American or Latino populations. Another reason for the larger effect on Latinos and Asians might come from more recent immigration status. Immigrants mostly enter without much personal wealth, and to gather it takes time.

But neither of these arguments explains why the median wealth levels of whites are twenty times those of African-Americans. We should be very concerned about these differences. Likewise, the housing markets should get more presidential attention than the deficits.

Meanwhile, in Texas, A Fire Bomb Attack At A Clinic Which Does Not Perform Abortions

Luckily, it seems that nobody was hurt in this act of domestic terrorism. But this story is still worrisome:
Planned Parenthood of North Texas said someone threw an ignited container of diesel fuel that smashed the outer glass of the front door and started a small fire around the door and on the sidewalk. The container was not thrown inside the clinic which is located in a small strip mall shopping center.
Planned Parenthood said this is the first time one of its 21 health centers in North Texas has been attacked with some kind of incendiary device and called it "alarming."
The McKinney clinic provides women's health and reproductive services, but does not perform abortions, according to Planned Parenthood.
The clinic opened in June 2008 and frequently draws anti-abortion protesters who have demonstrated without incident.
This is a clinic which does not provide abortions but services such as checkups, cancer screenings and so on. Yet it was attacked with an incendiary device.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cannibals Vs. Their Dinners

Imagine a political debate between the heads of the Cannibal Party and the party representing their dinner. The way American media would cover that debate is by stating that each side is fractious and combative and that a compromise and maturity is strongly needed.

Paul Krugman writes about a gentler and kinder version of this in American current politics:
Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.
So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.
The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.
What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.
This is a feature, not a bug, of a system where the journalists are given absolution of the need to actually study a topic or to learn the relevant facts about the policies. Many of them do know the topics, but they are not required to educate us about them. That would be biased!

I Read The Comments, Sowwy

We should start a support group! Something which would force me NOT to read woman-hating comments on the net. This time it was in a Finnish afternoon rag, called Iltalehti, and the story began with a letter to the editor (by a Master of Economics, of all things!) which stated that there should be NO quotas for women on the highest levels of firms (something apparently under debate in Finland*) because men are more intelligent than women.

The numbers given in the letter begin with the assertion that an IQ of 105 or more is required for a person to successfully complete a four-year university degree, and that slightly more than 30% of men in Finland qualify, whereas only slightly more than 20% of women qualify. I have no idea where those numbers came from and they sound unlikely to me. They certainly seem not to be supported by the actual gender ratios among Finnish university students.

But never mind! It was the comments about this letter to the editor that I then read. They are absolutely and totally horrible (with a few exceptions). The majority agree that women are stupid, only good for routine work under supervision, better still, they should stay at home which they really want to do in the first place (despite Finland not having much of a history or tradition of housewives).

Women are illogical (despite the fact that logic tests do not show sex differences), emotional and should acknowledge their own intellectual inferiority. Nobody wants a female boss and women cannot really become men, however hard they try. By "men" the comments really mean a human being, but that role is reserved for male people in their opinion.

Even evolution was all about man-the-hunter, this time on the tundra, not in Africa, while the prehistoric Finnish woman sat in the cave (very few of those in Finland, by the way) suckling her babies. So she never evolved, and to this day remains stupid, weak, emotional, illogical and good-for-nothing. Indeed, she only exists because the prehistoric man protected her! (Which is really funny, given that even misogynists need women to give birth to sons, so had the prehistoric women died out, so would the prehistoric men.)

Foreign women are better than Finnish women, but the worst of all are something called "femakot" which is a wordplay with the plural of a "sow" (like in female pig) and feminism.

So. The comments allow anonymity and don't seem to be moderated. And of course a story (well, it's not really a story as we are given no links to the supposed data or anything else to judge it) about the stupidity of women WILL draw a certain kind of man. A self-selected sample, for sure, and I cannot use this experience to draw conclusions about the average level of misogyny in Finland. And who knows, perhaps all those nasty comments were written by one man.

But a Finnish strand of misogyny exists, and is of the same totalizing type as the misogyny over here (and quite comparable to what is written on the really bad sites on the net):

Women are always bad! It doesn't matter if a woman works or stays at home. If she works she is pretending to be a man or taking a job from a man or acting too uppity or backstabbing other women or having illogical quarrels with them. If she stays at home she is lazy, watches television all day long and uses the man as a wallet. If she works hard physical jobs with poor pay only, she is regarded as being in her proper place but gets no respect, because she is well suited for jobs which require low intelligence and good subservience skills.

If she is not well educated, it is because she is too stupid. If she is well-educated, what she studies is fluff and rubbish and does not contribute to anything in the society. Psychology is often mentioned in that context.

Everything about women is always wrong, with the possible exception of total self-sacrifice, silence and ever-present offerings of sex. It's not so much a doormat that these men want but a mummy/inflatable doll/servant.

Or perhaps a plate of ginger cookies? One comment stated that a plate of ginger cookies needs no intelligence; all it needs is not to start drooping.

The way sexism works in these stories is that all women are represented by one imaginary woman, created by picking all the worst stereotypically female characteristics the misogynist can think of. This creation is then offered up as "all women."

Men, on the other hand, are either portrayed by someone like Einstein or another famous man, not a man with the worst stereotypically male characteristics. It is a neat trick.

I am upset, and that's why I wrote this post. I always find it hard to accept totalizing hatred, especially when it is sold as a fun debate in the so-called "war between the sexes." Because there is no escape from being the object of that hatred, nothing that one might do not to be hated.

Whom can I call next time I feel the draw of a horrible comments section?
*One commenter reacted to this by stating that if women were as intelligent as men and as good leaders, no quotas would be needed.

A Blast From The Past

While looking for something else, I happened to come across this 2006 popularization of Louann Brizendine's book, The Female Mind:
It is something one half of the population has long suspected - and the other half always vocally denied. Women really do talk more than men.
In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.

Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat - and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.
The book - written by a female psychiatrist - says that inherent differences between the male and female brain explain why women are naturally more talkative than men.
In The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says women devote more brain cells to talking than men.

There is no correction to that Daily Mail article, despite the fact that this appeared a day before the Daily Mail piece:
Mark Liberman, professor of phonetics at the University of Pennsylvania, has turned the demolition of the women-talk-threetimes-as-much-as-men fact into a personal crusade. The 20,000 v 7,000 numbers that appear on the book jacket, he says, "have been cited in reviews all over the world, from the New York Times to the Mumbai Mirror". They are rapidly hardening into fact, but where do they come from?

Brizendine's book runs to 280 pages, of which almost a third are notes. Liberman was sure he would find "a reliable source for this statistic" among this battery of supporting data. Instead, according to a piece he wrote in the Boston Globe, all he found was an apparent attribution to a self-help book - Talk Language: How to Use Conversation for Profit and Pleasure by Allan Pease and Alan Garner. He was not impressed.

In the end, he concluded that the figures were probably based on guesswork, likening the "fact" that women talk more than men to the often stated "fact" that the Inuit have 17 words for snow. Both, he said, were myths. The Inuit actually have only one word for snow; and research shows only minute differences between the amount that men and women talk. "Whatever the average female v male difference turns out to be," he concluded, "it will be small compared to the variation among women and among men; and there will also be big differences, for any given individual, from one social setting to another."
Mmm. In short, there is no such research.

But notice something funny? The false assertions still live out there, on the net! And the next bunch of false assertions will also live there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Update (by res ipsa)

Quick but important update on the woman convicted of "homicide by vehicle" because her son died jaywalking: she will serve no jail time. Not only that, the judge at her sentencing offered her a new trial, which pretty much says that the prosecutor -- a cruel and stupid woman named Annamarie Baltz -- never should have brought the case in the first place. (And no, Baltz gets no props for asking for probation. I suspect that absent the giant shitstorm that occurred when news of the case made it beyond the borders of Marietta, Georgia, she would have asked for jail time and then some.)

I hope this poor woman (her name is Raquel Nelson) can find some peace now. Her son died. She has suffered enough.

h/t (once again) to watertiger

Today's Republican Cuts: Not Equal Sacrifices

National Women's Law Center asks you to contact your member of Congress about the Boehner budget proposal:
The $1.2 trillion dollars slashed over 10 years in Speaker Boehner’s proposal would devastate programs that we care about – programs like child care, Head Start, K-12 education, Pell grants, job training, family planning and other women’s health services, and services for the elderly.

But that’s just the beginning. Speaker Boehner’s plan also requires an additional $1.8 trillion worth of cuts by the end of the year, which forces Congress’ hand even further. Dismantling the Affordable Care Act, cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, slashing Medicaid, or unraveling other key pieces of the safety net for women and families would be all but guaranteed. All this, without promising a single penny raised through additional tax revenues from those with the greatest means to pay.
You must have heard by now that "everyone must sacrifice" in this sudden perceived need for austerity.

What you are not told is whether the sacrifices are ever going to be equal. Some sacrifice practically nothing, others sacrifice practically everything. Calling for sacrifices from "all" means nothing if those sacrifices are left unspecified and if nobody ever checks whether someone sacrificed or not. Besides, the term "equal" in this context should mean that the sacrifice hurts equally. In practical terms this means that the wealthy could afford bigger sacrifices, in absolute terms, because even larger sacrifices would not leave them destitute.
P.S. And no, Boehner's proposal is unlikely to pass the Senate. But even as it stands, it moves the perceived "middle" to the right, especially given the opposition to it from the tea-partiers in his own party.

Elizabeth Parker's Confession

EB sent me a link to this interesting nineteenth century embroidery:

You can left-click on the picture to make the writing large enough to read. It's not cross-stitch, by the way. Looks like back-stitch to me. Whatever the stitch, Parker was an extremely skilled needlewoman.

Her work throws an interesting light on the person behind a piece of needlework. Most early samplers that I have seen quote Bible verses or pious wishes, and the texts may not have been chosen by the embroiderer herself. That's why the few pieces with different messages are so fascinating.

The initial function of the samplers (among those social classes who could afford them) was to teach young girls the skills they required, from darning, button-hole making and sewing a straight seam to elaborate embroidery techniques. The samplers were also used to teach girls basic numbers and the alphabet.

They were kept by many, both because they were reminders of how to perform the necessary tasks and because they could be framed to demonstrate the skills of the young needlewoman.

Today those early samplers are viewed as decorative. But their initial functions were different, and, as Elizabeth Parker's confession tells us, they could be used in ways having nothing to do with the job of a housewife.

Some of you may know that I'm interested in embroidery and related techniques, their social interpretation and the way arts and crafts are interpreted when they are done predominantly by women. The website link at the top of this blog shows you some of my (much clumsier) work.

Rick Warren on Taxes

Pastor Chris Warren sent a tweet about the horrors of taxes:
Yesterday famed "Christian" pastor Rick Warren, wealthy author and megachurch leader, tweeted the following:

HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they're happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay any taxes.
After a firestorm ignited decrying this egregious mix of selfishness and ignorance, Mr. Warren deleted his tweet. But the screenshot is preserved for Internet eternity.
Warren confuses federal income taxes with all taxes. People who earn too little to pay federal income taxes still pay many other types of taxes, including payroll taxes.

But Warren's statement is interesting, even with that mistake. Is Warren saying that a man of God can also be a man of mammon in this country, despite the tremendous difficulty of finding anything to support that attitude in the biblical writings about Jesus?

All this may be more complicated:
Warren holds conservative theological views[7] and holds traditional evangelical views on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research. Warren has called on churches worldwide to also focus their efforts on fighting poverty and disease, expanding educational opportunities for the marginalized, and caring for the environment. During the 2008 United States presidential election, Warren hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency at his church with both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. Obama later sparked controversy when he asked Warren to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration in January 2009.
Warren's invocation may have been the first of the many compromises we have watched since then.

I'm still confused about Warren's values, as demonstrated by his tax comment. Perhaps he was simply uninformed of the characteristics of those who don't pay federal income taxes? Perhaps he thought that the half of tax payers not paying any are drawn out of some kind of demonic lottery, with no thought to the incomes of those people?

Or perhaps what he and others like him are arguing is something different: That social transfer payments should be decided by private individuals and their religious codes, not by the governments? First make the poor pay more taxes, then donate money to those poor you deem deserving or to those causes that agree with your own values?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Political Kabuki Theater on The Debt Ceiling

This is such fun! The Republicans want to raise the debt ceiling only until next March when we are all promised a new round of these theater performances where the Republicans growl and breathe fire and the Democrats wring their hands and talk about compromise.

The Democrats want the ceiling raised until after the 2012 elections, which the Republicans see as a dastardly plot about elections and electability. But then having this tiresome spectacle again in March would be all about helping the Republican presidential candidates' electability.

It would all be great fun to watch from another planet. I especially wish to point out this:
Both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-dominated Senate prepared to take up partisan plans to raise the debt limit and cut deficits. First votes are expected Wednesday.
The plans share a number of similarities - both would cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion and set up special committees to find more savings. And neither plan includes new revenues - a major concession by Democrats to the GOP's bottom line.

I wouldn't call that a major concession. A better term would be an almost-total-surrender. But even that does not suffice for the boyz on the right. And yes, it's hard to remember that the administration and the Senate are not run by Republicans right now. I guess that is where the hilarity lies for me.

Soon the real bosses may appear on the scene, given the rattling of the stock markets! Pass the popcorn for one more act of these plays.

Is It Because She's a Woman and/or Because She's Black? (by res ipsa)

I don't have time to analyze all of the issues at play in these two cases, but I wanted to put them on your radar. If there were Trigger Warnings for sexism, racism, and injustice, these cases would need them.

First: Mom Convicted in Son's Jaywalking Death . With regard to this one, I think the answer is "Both". Society is very hard on mothers, and especially on black mothers. Oh, and just as an aside, this is Newt Gingrich's former district.

Then: Black Student Can't Be Valedictorian (h/t watertiger) Take a look at the case docket; the judge assigned to the case sure has an interesting background.

What a lot of mean, pig-ignorant, punitive creeps walk among us.

Anders Behring Breivik: A Supporter of the Subjugation of Women?

Yes. In fact, almost all terrorists would fall under that category. Misogyny may not be the central focus of their anger but it is one thread in the net they have wrapped around themselves.

Michelle Goldberg has waded through Breivik's long manifesto, and points out his misogynistic thinking:
Breivik describes himself as a disaffected product of the Norwegian liberal political elite, furious at the way sexual instability has affected his own life. His father was a diplomat, stationed first in London and then in Paris. His parents divorced when he was a year old, after which his feminist mother married a Norwegian army captain, and his father wed a fellow diplomat who Breivik calls a “moderate cultural Marxist and feminist.” Though he describes his stepfather as somewhat conservative, he nevertheless complains of a “super-liberal, matriarchal upbringing,” which he says has “contributed to feminise me to a certain degree.”
A terror of feminization haunts his bizarre document. “The female manipulation of males has been institutionalised during the last decades and is a partial cause of the feminisation of men in Europe,” he writes.


Nevertheless, the right clings to the idea that feminism is destroying Western societies from the inside, creating space for Islamism to take cover. This politics of emasculation gave shape to Breivik’s rage. Thus, while he pretends to abhor Muslim subjugation of women, he writes that the “fate of European civilisation depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism.” When cultural conservatives seize control of Europe, he promises, “we will re-establish the patriarchal structures.” Eventually, women “conditioned” to this new order “will know her place in society.”
I have written about the odd bargain the race-war conservatives offer women: You can submit to us or you can submit to the new Muslim overlords! In either case, your place in the society is to obey a man and to have many, many children if your lord and master so decrees.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Reading

Rebecca Traister wrote about the Slutwalks some days ago. Despite the less-than-felicitous summary in the linkage code, the article is nuanced and worth a read.

Another New York Times piece worth reading is today's article on male contraception. It raises all sorts of interesting questions, many (but not all) of which are addressed in the article.

Is The Norwegian Terrorist A Christian Fundamentalist?

The horrors that Anders Behring Breivik committed in Norway fall under the rubric of domestic terrorism, though currently both international and domestic terrorism tend to be about gods and how the society should be arranged.

After the initial assumption that the attack was by extreme Islamists (visible in many of the early write-ups), it turns out it was by an extreme anti-Islamist who regards most even mildly left-wing parties in Europe as Marxists.

But then political extremes are in some ways not that far removed from each other. The dimension on which to measure political opinions about methods form a circle, interrupted between the two extremes which lie close together, not a straight line where the extreme end-points would be far apart.

The actual platforms of right-wing and left-wing extremists are quite different, of course, and Breivik is of the former kind:
Authorities described Anders Behring Breivik, 32, as a gun-loving, highly religious Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country.
"We are not sure whether he was alone or had help," police official Roger Andresen said during a news conference. "What we know is that he is right-wing and a Christian fundamentalist."
Breivik's writings certainly support the idea that he is politically a social conservative of the anti-immigration type. But is he a Christian fundamentalist in the American sense of the term?

So far I have not read any writings by him which would discuss the creed of Christianity or its religious issues. No Bible quotes, no conclusions about what Jesus might want him to do, no great focus on the evils of same-sex marriage or abortion.

He shows some concern about the falling birth rates and the troubles of the nuclear family, and he disapproves of ordained ministers who wear jeans. But he is not the kind of fundamentalist Americans are used to.

What he seems to fear is the death of a Christian culture in Europe, and he sees this as happening through wide-spread immigration of Muslims which will turn the continent into a Saudi Eurabia governed by the sharia laws.

Yet he did not attack Muslim immigrants in Norway but those he perhaps sees as the future "door-openers" for future immigration: The youth of the Labor party (Arbeiderpartiet) which currently governs Norway as the senior partner in a coalition government. Though Breivik would call them Marxists. In that sense the label "right-winger" is more appropriate for him than the label "Christian fundamentalist."

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Eight: The Sixteenth Century

(Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ,part 5, part 6 and part 7.)

Marguerite de Navarre (French: Marguerite d'Angoulême, Marguerite
d'Alençon, or Marguerite de France) (11 April 1492 – 21 December 1549),
also known as Marguerite of Angoulême and Margaret of Navarre, was the
queen consort of King Henry II of Navarre. As an author and a patron
of humanists and reformers, she was an outstanding figure of the French
Renaissance. Samuel Putnam called her "The First Modern Woman".

Marguerite wrote many poems and plays. Her most notable works are a
classic collection of short stories, the Heptameron, and a remarkably
intense religious poem, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of the
Sinful Soul). This poem is a first-person, mystical narrative of the
soul as a yearning woman calling out to Christ as her

Her work was passed to the royal court of England, suggesting that Marguerite had influence on the Protestant Reformation in England. The Heptameron is available in English as "The Heptameron: Margaret, Queen of Navarre ; Translated From the Old French Into English With Eight Original Etchings by Leopold Flameng (1881) by King of Navarre, Queen Marguerite consort of Henry II." The Mirror of the Simple Soul is available in English as "The Mirror of the Sinful Soul: A Prose Translation From the French of a Poem by Queen Margaret of Navarre (1897) by Queen, consort of Henry II, King of Navarre, Marguerite."

Marguerite Briet (c. 1510, Abbeville - after 1552), who wrote under the
pen name Hélisenne de Crenne, was a French novelist, epistolary writer
and translator during the Renaissance. Her three original works are:
Les Angoisses douloureuses qui procèdent d'amours ("The Torments of
Love") (1538), Les Epistres familières et invectives ("Personal and
Invective Letters") (1539), and Le Songe ("The Dream") (1540). She was
also responsible for the first (partial) French prose translation of
Virgil's Aeneid: Les Quatre premiers livres des Eneydes du treselegant
poete Virgile, traduictz de Latin en prose Françoyse (1542).

Hélisenne de Crenne's novel "The Torments of Love" is a unique blending of
sentimental and chivalric elements (at the end of the novel, Athena—who
sees the work in terms of battles and combats—and Venus—who sees the
work in terms of love—fight over the book), humanist scholarship,
orality and eloquence. The work is divided in three books and an
epilogue all told in the first person, and the first person narrations
and the justifications given for the existence of the book are unique
in French literature of the period. Furthermore, the three sections of
the novel are extremely different in tone and genre: the first book is
sentimental (and judgements made by the female narrator about her lover
Guenelic in the first book are modified by his actions in the second
part), the second chivalric; the final epilogue shows both the
influence of Hélisenne's translation of the Aeneid and her interest in
"dream" tales. It is available in English as "The Torments of Love",
from the University Of Minnesota Press.

Tullia d'Aragona (1510–56) was a famous courtesan, renowned more for
her intelligence than her beauty; in fact she was considered quite
plain, but won over many rich and famous men, and became financially
independent, a rare thing for a woman in her day.

Her book "Dialogue on the Infinity of Love", first published in 1547, casts a woman rather than a man as the main arguer on the ethics of love. She argues that sexual drives are fundamentally irrepressible and blameless, challenging the Platonic and religious orthodoxy of her time, which condemned all forms of sensual experience, denied the rationality of women, and relegated femininity to the realm of physicality and sin.

Human beings, she argues, consist of body and soul, sense and intellect, and honorable love must be based on this real nature. This book is available in English as "Dialogue on the Infinity of Love (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Rinaldina Russell and Bruce Merry.

Louise Labé, (c. 1520 or 1522, Lyon – April 25, 1566, Parcieux), also
identified as La Belle Cordière, (The Beautiful Ropemaker), was a female French poet of the Renaissance, born at Lyon, the daughter of a rich ropemaker, Pierre Charly, and his second wife, Etiennette Roybet.

Thanks to her acclaimed volume of poetry and prose published in France in 1555, Louise Labé remains one of the most important and influential women writers of the Continental Renaissance, best known for her exquisite collection of love sonnets.

Her works are available in English as "Complete Poetry and Prose: A Bilingual Edition (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Deborah Lesko Baker and Annie Finch. A recent book by a female scholar has argued that the poetry ascribed to her was a feminist creation of a number of French male poets of the Renaissance, but this is highly debated.

Gaspara Stampa (1523?-1554) is one of the finest female poets ever to
write in Italian. Although she was lauded for her singing during her
lifetime, her success and critical reputation as a poet emerged only
after her verse was republished in the early eighteenth century. She
was believed to have been involved in a love affair with Count
Collaltino di Collalto, and it was to him that she eventually dedicated
most of the 311 poems she is known to have written. The relationship
broke off in 1551, apparently resulting from a cooling of the count's
interest, and perhaps in part due to his many voyages out of Venice.
Stampa was devastated.

The first complete translation of Stampa into English, as well as the first modern critical edition of her poems, is available as "The Complete Poems: The 1554 Edition of the 'Rime,' a Bilingual Edition (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Troy Tower and Jane Tylus.

Modesta Pozzo (1555–92), who used the pen name Moderata Fonte, was a
Venetian woman who produced literature in genres that were commonly
considered "masculine"—the chivalric romance and the literary dialogue.

Her book "The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their
Nobility and Their Superiority to Men" is an imaginary conversation
among seven Venetian noblewomen. The dialogue explores nearly every
aspect of women's experience in both theoretical and practical terms.
These women, who differ in age and experience, take as their broad
theme men's curious hostility toward women and possible cures for it.
In this work, Fonte seeks to elevate women's status to that of men,
arguing that women have the same innate abilities as men and, when
similarly educated, prove their equals.

The book is available in English as "The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Virginia Cox.