Saturday, September 17, 2011

Real men & hormones (by Suzie)

“Manhood is measured in so many ways.” -- Robert Saxton, father of three.
This sentence is in the last paragraph of "Fathers and the XX-Factor," in the NYT's "Fashion & Style" section, where gender issues get treated less seriously than the colors for spring clothes. I wish this quote had been in the first paragraph. Instead, the author reinforces stereotypical ideas of what a man should be, beginning with this theme:
[N]ew fathers everywhere were calibrating the state of their manhood after the release of a much-discussed study of 600 men that indicated that testosterone — the defining hormone of maleness — drops after a man becomes a father.
I much prefer the piece by Lisa Belkin in Motherlode, in which she diplomatically refers to the "jokes" in the Style story.

This ties into what I have written about some transgendered people -- specifically, Chaz Bono and Susan Stanton -- who have made sweeping generalizations about the differences between men and women, which they attribute to hormones. Their statements bother me more than similar ones by conservatives because some progressives think that transgendered people should never be questioned.

ETA: The idea that more testosterone makes a man more of a man also is offensive to men with prostate cancer who have had their testosterone suppressed. Similarly, I take a pill every day to suppress my estrogen, in hopes that will keep my cancer at bay, but that does not diminish me as a woman.

Dear TSA: An Underwire Bra is Not a Weapon of Mass Destruction (by res ipsa)

From the Annals of Flying With Breasts...

Okay, so I recently flew the tremendously unfriendly skies. On each leg of my journey, I was stopped, pulled aside, and maul patted down by the TSA (in full view of thousands of fellow travelers) after I set off the metal detector. In each case, the TSA called for a "female assist" at which point a female TSA agent came over to do the pat-down. On all but one occasion, the female agent seemed embarrassed at having to do the pat-down (the exception, the first woman, was an exceptionally miserable human being who can go to hell.). They explained what they were going to do before they did it and in one case, the agent apologized. They also kept telling me that this wouldn't be necessary when the TSA upgrades the software in its body scanners (although if you believe that, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you). I am really sick of this crap. It happens every time I fly and I've already curtailed my flying because of the giant hassle that it's become.

Notes to the TSA:
  • A LOT of women wear underwire bras.
  • Underwire bras can set off a metal detector because they're made of, um, METAL.
  • Underwire bras are not Weapons of Mass (or even Minor) Destruction (unless the end of the wire pops through the fabric and pokes you all day, but I digress...)
  • If a woman sets off a metal detector, you might want to think, "Hmm...underwire bra?" before you think, "Hmm...terrorist?"
  • Your "pat downs" are intrusive and obnoxious.
  • Last time I checked, a woman ran your operation. Would you please put the underwire bra problem on her radar? I suspect she will immediately get it.
  • How about using your fucking heads?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Useful Things To Read

Digby on epistemology and the media. Well, really about Social Security and how the press over-identifies with the low-information voters.

What types of jobs are we creating? The problem of new job creation centering too much on low-pay jobs without benefits is not a new one. It has been exacerbated by outsourcing. And note how many of those low-paying jobs are in female-dominated areas. (This link is courtesy of DWD.)

Rep. Joe Walsh is a first-termer with strong Tea Party opinions about fiscal responsibility and such. Thus, his private history of fiscal irresponsibility does matter.

Finally, some interesting questions about whether we really need to go on growing, to guarantee everyone a good life. (This link courtesy of Quentin Compson.)

What Good Are Governments?

Ask Somalians. Or citizens of any country where the government fails.

I have been thinking of this because of the prominence of weirdos such as Ron Paul, given his current run for the president of the United States. Why would someone so anti-government wish to run it? Unless it's to run it to ground.

That must be it.

I'm joking, but not much. Libertarians, in the most extreme mold, do desire a world with almost no collective action, even though such a Paradise would probably turn them into Objectivist Jerky. No fanatic Libertarian will ever need the help of another person, no Libertarian project requires cooperation, and all Libertarians stay strong, self-sufficient and spry until they painlessly die in a blink of an eye.

Yet I'm not immune to some parts of the Libertarian creed, about self-government, freedom and letting other people live their own lives as they wish. All that is appealing. The problem lies in the fact that humans are herd animals, that humans need other humans and that the herd must be organized. Otherwise the strong and vicious will stomp the rest of the herd to the ground.

Besides, there are tasks which can only be completed by people working together. Markets and for-profit firms will not cope with those tasks as well as collective arrangements do.

Amanda has written about the way the infrastructure and services governments provide us are invisible, and that may well be part of the reason why the "tax relief" arguments get so much support. It would be wonderful not to pay any taxes, wonderful! Of course provided that the services those taxes fund would still somehow be available.

The crucial puzzle is this: Do those who desire no taxes or minimal taxes really understand which services that would cut? That it would be their elderly relatives who would no longer get Social Security or subsidized nursing care or government-funded health care? It is, after all, those "entitlements" that people like Ron Paul wish to destroy.

And does the "tax relief" contingent understand that the alternative they advocate does not mean no-costs-to-them? If the government does not provide retirement security or old-age health care, then either the families of the elderly must provide it or we must let those people who don't have enough saved die for lack of food and care.

This topic provokes extreme reactions. Either the government is the Monster Godzilla, rising out of the ocean to wring the necks of innocent tax-payers or it is the Holy Mother of us all. In reality it is neither, of course. But it is necessary, and though its overall size can be debated, no government should be made small enough to drown in a bathtub, as Grover Norquist once famously advocated.

Norquist would not survive in the kind of world he advocates, and neither would many in the current Tea Party.

Bros Before Hoes

You may have heard that expression before. I came across it yesterday in a context where fifteen young men had decided to abide by "bros before hoes," though I have no idea what was driving the pact. Still, a closer look at the saying seems worthwhile, don't you think?

The statement is of course a slang form of "brothers before whores." I looked for early documented uses of it and found this:
Michael Scott: "Bros before hoes." Why? Because your bros are always there for you. They have got your back after your ho rips yours heart out for no good reason. And you are nothing but great to your ho, and you told her that she was the only ho for you, and that she was better than all the other hoes in the world... and then... and then suddenly she's not yo' ho' no mo'.
It's pretty obvious from this that the reference to "brothers" is to male friends of a man and the reference to "whores" is to his girlfriend or wife. Or more succinctly:
Bros Before Hoes - A term used between male friends when one of them has become a whipped pussy ass bitch over a girl who in most cases is a tease.
Interesting, no? My first reaction to the saying was a punch in my gut because I read it as a shorthand definition of misogyny in general: Men are brothers, women are sexual relief machines to be regarded with general contempt and certainly never to be included in the privileged circles of friendship.

But the term is really about something slightly different. Granted, it is full of misogyny of a fairly basic sort: A desire to define a woman by her sexual use, the normal misogynistic trick of picking opposite and extreme examples from each gender as pretend-representative. The latter turns all men into potential reliable friends, always there for you, and all women into unreliable sexual aids.

Still, the way the saying is used is in a specific context: A man has been let down by his female partner and he is ranting about that. The context could easily be reversed, by the way. Women who are let down by their male partners sometimes rant about men in general. These generalizations are sexist. But at least one can see that they come from hurt.

Here's where things get very nasty: I have seen (you can find examples in Google) "bros before hoes" listed as part of the masculine code of behavior in general, something that all (young) men should stick to when it comes to all (young) women.

That application IS the punch in the gut I wrote about above, a way to define women formally as "the other," as prey rather than as hunter, as never a sister. Except when it comes to the actual sisters of the "bros." They are "good" and not to be touched. The rest of women out there are, however, hoes. Note that the old madonna/whore distinction is well and alive in those circles.

Other versions of "bros before hoes" include "mates before muffs." I also spotted "misters before sisters," though that looks like a good candidate for a reversal ("sisters before misters"). An actual reversal is "chicks before d***s."

All these are astonishingly childish and cruel at the same time.

Today's Cartoon

By Jen Sorensen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More on Letting People Die Without Health Insurance

Remember some in the Tea Party audience shouting: "Let Him Die!" when Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul a question about?:
...who would pay to treat a 30-year-old healthy man who chooses not to have health insurance, then ends up in a coma. Paul responded that freedom is about “taking your own risk.” “Are you saying that society should just let him die?” Blitzer asked. A few audience members at the Tea Party-sponsored debate cheered and yelled “yes.” Paul said no, and suggested that churches, friends and neighbors would take care of the person, and government should not have to.

I have already covered the blood-thirstiness of the audiences in the two Republican presidential debates. Now it's time to address something in Blitzer's question which does matter: The qualification that the hypothetical 30-year-old man in his example did have enough money to afford health insurance.

Why Blitzer chose this particular example is worth thinking about. The largest group among the uninsured Americans are the working poor, people who cannot afford to pay for adequate health coverage. The other two large groups without insurance are the medically indigent: those with expensive pre-existing conditions, and certain groups among young adults.

Given this, why did Blitzer specify his imaginary coma patient in a way which makes him a poor fit with the typical types among the uninsured? Was he fishing for a particular type of answer?

Or was he that interested in the problem of well-paid young adults not buying health insurance? Note that the reasons why young individuals might not have health insurance are not limited to recklessness or the refusal to take responsibility for one's own needs (as Paul suggests):
Young adults make up the largest age segment of the uninsured, are the most likely to be uninsured, and are one of the fastest growing segments of the uninsured population. They often lose coverage under their parents' health insurance policies or public programs when they reach age 19. Others lose coverage when they graduate from college. Many young adults do not have the kind of stable employment that would provide ongoing access to health insurance.[13][14]

Given all this, there are young adults who could afford to pay for health insurance but choose not to do so. The explanation for that has to do with the small risk of illness at that age and the fairly large costs of getting coverage. One approach to solving this is to offer healthy young individuals cheap policies which reflect their actual low risks of ill-health.

But guess what? If this is done to all the low-risk individuals, what happens to the cost of health insurance to high-risk individuals?

It will go up. Ultimately the markets might offer different policies for the low-risk people and the high-risk people. The more such fragmentation happens, the less the benefits of insurance (the pooling of risks) will be over one's lifetime.

The basic problem is not the short-sightedness of the healthy young or their willingness to take risks or even their lack of personal responsibility. The basic problem is this: Insurance is a poor model for the funding of health care expenses. It's well suited for cases where an illness strikes a person like a lightning from a blue sky. But most health care needs are nothing like that. For one thing, the need for health care increases fairly predictably by age.

But this means that voluntary participation in health insurance is also going to increase with age. Thus, either many among the young will decide that health insurance is too expensive for them or we lose the benefits of real risk-pooling by offering the young cheap policies and by raising the premia for everyone else.

A universal health care funding system would avoid this problem, by the way, especially if it is tax-based. The "contract" would be the length of one's lifetime. One might pay more in when young but would most likely take more out later in life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bush's Useful Idiots. The Liberal Hawks of 2001 And The Testosterone Defense.

The topic of this post belongs to my Surreal Files. It is about the Liberal pundits who supported the invasion of Iraq as an obvious consequence of mostly Saudi terrorists attacking this country.

Bill Keller was one of these birds which he now regrets. The blame, he suggests, goes to male hormones.
But my prudent punditry soon felt inadequate. I remember a mounting protective instinct, heightened by the birth of my second daughter almost exactly nine months after the attacks. Something dreadful was loose in the world, and the urge to stop it, to do something — to prove something — was overriding a career-long schooling in the virtues of caution and skepticism. By the time of Alice’s birth I had already turned my attention to Iraq, a place that had, in the literal sense, almost nothing to do with 9/11, but which would be its most contentious consequence. And I was no longer preaching “the real-world vigilance of intelligence and law enforcement.”
During the months of public argument about how to deal with Saddam Hussein, I christened an imaginary association of pundits the I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club, made up of liberals for whom 9/11 had stirred a fresh willingness to employ American might. It was a large and estimable group of writers and affiliations, including, among others, Thomas Friedman of The Times; Fareed Zakaria, of Newsweek; George Packer and Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker; Richard Cohen of The Washington Post; the blogger Andrew Sullivan; Paul Berman of Dissent; Christopher Hitchens of just about everywhere; and Kenneth Pollack, the former C.I.A. analyst whose book, “The Threatening Storm,” became the liberal manual on the Iraqi threat. (Yes, it is surely relevant that this is exclusively a boys’ club.)
In several columns I laid out justifications for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. There were caveats — most significantly, that there was no reason to rush, that we should hold off to see whether Iraq’s behavior could be sufficiently contained by sanctions and inspections. Like many liberal hawks, I was ambivalent; Pollack said he was 55 to 45 for war, which feels about right.
But when the troops went in, they went with my blessing. Of course I don’t think President Bush was awaiting permission from The New York Times’s Op-Ed page — or, for that matter, from my friends in the Times newsroom, who during the prewar debate published some notoriously credulous stories about Iraqi weapons. The administration, however, was clearly pleased to cite the liberal hawks as evidence that invading Iraq was not just the impetuous act of cowboy neocons. Thus did Tony Judt in 2006 coin another, unkinder name for our club: “Bush’s Useful Idiots.”

Later in his article Keller refers directly to testosterone:
“I was particularly struck by the tape-recording of an intelligence intercept that Powell played — a phone conversation in which one Iraqi Republican Guard officer tells another to clean out a site before the inspectors get there,” Kaplan recalled. We learned much later that the Iraqi officers wanted to erase traces of chemical weapons that had been stored before the first gulf war. Kaplan dropped out of the hawk club within a month when he concluded that, whether or not an invasion was morally justified, he doubted the Bush administration was up to the task. The rest of us were still a little drugged by testosterone. And maybe a little too pleased with ourselves for standing up to evil and defying the caricature of liberals as, to borrow a phrase from those days, brie-eating surrender monkeys.
I'm not sure if Keller means his hormonal excuses to be taken seriously. But let's take them that way. What is he really saying here?

That men are not to be trusted when it comes to wars because they will go all protective and goofy with hormones, they will set their logical brain aside and replace it with the Helmet of He-Men. That you can pull the strings of Liberal male pundits by suggesting that they are not masculine enough, not good at groin-scratching or burping or pissing competitions. That nothing is as painful as being called a brie-eating surrender monkey.

No, Keller does not mean any of that. If he did, he would advocate having only women in power when it comes to deciding about wars. Oops! I forgot. Women are too emotional to be given keys to nuclear weapons.

Ruth Rosen has written more carefully on these topics and Greg Mitchell on the general contents of Keller's piece. What I wish to do with the rest of this post is to look at the way one person of girly persuasion looked at these issues: Me.

And that was by using logic. It was illogical to invade Iraq right after 911 events, in particular when the most likely culprits were not in Iraq but in Afghanistan and when a second war-front meant splitting resources away from the most burning problem of that year.

Completely and utterly illogical, unless one accepted that the Iraq invasion was something George Bush had long planned to undertake the minute he became a president, and unless the reasons for it had much more to do with the oil under the sands of Iraq and the personal grudges the Bush family may have held. But accepting that as the internal logic of the administration did not turn the invasion of Iraq into a good plan.

The Miss Universe Competition 2011

Leila Lopes, Miss Angola, was crowned the most beautiful woman in the universe in 2011. The runners-up were Miss Ukraine, Olesia Stefanko, Miss Brazil, Priscila Machado, Miss Philippines, Shamcey Supsup and Miss China, Luo Zilin.

It reads a bit like the countries of the United Nations, does it not? And that is the subject matter of this post, or rather how what we have here is an example of a case where racism and sexism are not moving in the same direction.

Put another way, the concept of beauty in the Miss Universe competitions is not dependent on the color of one's skin, and that is good and proper. All women can be beautiful (though they do have to look the same in certain aspects, as these pictures tell you)!

But then all women can stuff themselves into tiny bikinis and strut about wearing high-heeled shoes while being judged for their looks, and beauty pageants can become something little girls watch in all countries of the world, dreaming about one day standing on that very same stage! Clad in bikinis.

The point I chase here is that something can be an advance in terms of one set of social values (reducing racist thinking) and not an advance in terms of another set of values (reducing sexist thinking). But because the effects of race and gender can interact in complicated ways how a particular woman might feel about the final outcome depends on her place in that initial grid.

Two Moments From The Republican Debates

Watch the audience responses:

From the first debate:

And from the second debate:

I have not picked these moments as representative of the debates. I have picked them as representative of the audiences of the debates. I have serious problems with identifying myself as belonging to the same species as that audience.

But then, luckily, I have just applied to become an elf and my application is under consideration.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Today's Hilarity: Translating Ross Douthat

He is one of the right-wing boyz in the New York Times columnist stables. His latest column is about Obama Finally Seeing The Light:

Now, nearly three years after Rivlin’s warnings went unheeded, President Obama has groped his way to an agenda that looks more like what she originally recommended. His speech to Congress last week suggested that he intends to campaign for re-election on what should have been the blueprint for his first four years in office: a short-term stimulus highlighted by a payroll tax cut, a medium-term push to overhaul the tax code and a plan for long-term entitlement reform.
To Republicans, this agenda holds out the possibility that a second Obama term might feature more opportunities for compromise and common ground
Bolds are mine.
The hilarious bit is about all those opportunities for compromise and common ground! Nope, Obama never ever compromised in the past! The Republicans were so very willing but Obama just held firm in his extreme commie/socialist position!

But of course there is more scope for compromises with the right if Obama simply chooses to pursue the agenda of the extreme right. I love the idea that this is what compromise looks like.

Then the translation: Take this sentence:
highlighted by a payroll tax cut, a medium-term push to overhaul the tax code and a plan for long-term entitlement reform.
What does it mean in plain talk? Less taxes for the wealthy, less taxes for the wealthy and less taxes for the wealthy.

The first and third statement are also directly aimed at cutting Social Security and Medicare, or old-age security in this country, whereas the middle statement is about rolling existing taxes down the income pyramid to be paid for by the less well-off.

It would be pretty hard for the Republicans not to want to compromise with their own agenda. But I'm sure they would manage to do exactly that, by shifting their agenda even more to the right.

I Cannot Write When

Someone is scratching and slamming at the window I have carefully covered with a shade and curtains. Nope, it's not a vampire trying to get in but a team of painters preparing the building for exterior paint. The process is noisy, noisy, noisy and then wet.

And I cannot write under those conditions. Neither can I really write when traveling.

This is of no interest to anyone else. It's just weird, because I can write outside, inside, in the car, any time of the day or night, and I can construct stories while running or doing chores or even when talking with people. But I need to have control over the immediate environment, in some odd sense, for my Muse (the guy with tattoos) to stay with me.

Read Athenae on 9/11 Commemorations

She makes a point that troubled me this weekend, and she makes it very well:
If your child is musical
don't study piano
and if he's dying
stay off his turf
So begins a poem Charlotte Mayerson wrote after her son died of AIDS. Her book about losing him, The Death Cycle Machine, clarified the way I felt about a lot of things, but this most of all: Ownership of another's experience, and how violently opposed to it I am. Someone else's suffering is not yours, it's not for you, and while you can be profoundly changed by things that have happened to others, you can't forget who those things happened to.
I had to be slammed to the ground
A thousand times
Before I figured out
Whose tragedy it was
People said this stuff all the time, in the days following 9/11, and they're saying it again now, in the relentless waves of anniversary coverage. "This has reminded me of how short life is." Umm, okay? Great? For you? I'm sure every single dead person is grateful for the chance to give you a little psychic kick in the ass? "This has made me love my family more." "This has made me go back to church." "I'm going to learn more about the world now." Awesome! But wasn't it kind of a lot of pressure to put on New York, on its still-smoking skyline, to teach you a lesson?

Yes. This is what bothered me about the tenth anniversary of the slaughters. Yet the ownership of a tragedy is more mixed when the tragedy is a public event, televised over and over and over again.

I cannot tell where decency would draw the line but I am fairly sure that imaginary line was crossed too many times yesterday.

A Happy Correlation Between Progressive Taxes and Well-Being of People

A new study suggests that the more progressive the tax policy of a country is, the happier its citizens are:
The way some people talk, you'd think that a flat tax system -- in which everyone pays at the same rate regardless of income -- would make citizens feel better than more progressive taxation, where wealthier people are taxed at higher rates. Indeed, the U.S. has been diminishing progressivity of its tax structure for decades.

But a new study comparing 54 nations found that flattening the tax risks flattening social wellbeing as well. "The more progressive the tax policy is, the happier the citizens are," says University of Virginia psychologist Shigehiro Oishi, summarizing the findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Oishi conducted the study with Ulrich Schimmack of the University of Toronto at Mississauga and Ed Diener, also at University of Illinois and the Gallup Organization.
I'm quite willing to believe that less income inequality does create a happier society. But studying happiness is very tricky and finding a correlation between the progression of taxes and reported levels of happiness is not sufficient to prove causality.

Countries with more progressive taxes may also have other values which contribute to greater levels of expressed happiness, such as more social mobility, better access to health care and higher education. How the tax system is organized may affect happiness directly and/or it might stand as a proxy for all those other goodies which greater governmental funding offers citizens.

On flat taxes (as a fixed percentage of all income levels): Flat taxes have major problems, not easily apparent to those who like the simplicity of the system. The biggest of these is that making people give up the same percentage of their earnings in taxes does NOT make the sacrifices equal.

This is because the value or utility of every dollar is much greater for a poor person than a rich one. Ideally, such a system is supposed to reflect "equal" sacrifices, but in practice the sacrifices would be much greater for those with lower incomes. Put another way, a poor tax-payer might have to choose between paying those taxes or eating enough to stay healthy. A rich tax-payer would not face similar harsh choices.

The usual remedy for this problem is not to tax very low incomes. But once remedies like that are introduced, we are back in a system with a certain amount of progression.

I believe that progressive taxes are fair taxes, myself.
Added to clarify: The above is not meant as a criticism of the possibility that progressive taxes (either directly or through what they allow governments to finance)
indeed make people happier. I just wanted to point out that proving that with studies like this is very tricky to do.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Nine: The Seventeenth 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, Part 7 and Part 8.)

Mary Herbert (née Sidney), Countess of Pembroke (27 October 1561 – 25 September 1621), was one of the first English women to achieve a major reputation for her literary works, poetry, poetic translations and literary patronage.

Mary Sidney was highly educated in the humanist tradition. In the 16th century, noblewomen were educated to enable them to have a good understanding of theological issues and the classics, to interpret original texts and, if necessary, to deputize for their husbands. Her education enabled her to translate Petrarch's "Triumph of Death" and several other European works. She turned Wilton into a "paradise for poets", known as "The Wilton Circle" which included Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, Sir John Davies, and Samuel Daniel, a salon-type literary group sustained by the Countess's hospitality.

She is regarded as one of the best female poets of the English Renaissance. Her complete works are available in "The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, Vols 1 & 2," by Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998.

Anne Dudley Bradstreet (c. 1612 – September 16, 1672) was America's first published poet. Her work met with a positive reception in both the Old World and the New World. In 1650, Rev. John Woodbridge had "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America" composed by "A Gentlewoman from Those Parts" published in London, making Anne the first female poet ever published in both England and the New World.

Bradstreet's education gave her advantages to write with authority about politics, history, medicine, and theology. Her personal library of books was said to have numbered over 800, before many were destroyed when her home burned down. This event itself inspired a poem entitled "Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666". She rejects the anger and grief that this worldly tragedy has caused her and instead looks toward God and the assurance of heaven as consolation.

Long considered primarily of historical interest, Bradstreet won critical acceptance in the 20th century as a writer of enduring verse, particularly for her sequence of religious poems "Contemplations", which was written for her family and not published until the mid-19th century. Bradstreet's work was deeply influenced by the poet Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, who was favored by 17th-century readers. Nearly a century later, Martha Wadsworth Brewster, a notable 18th-century American poet and writer, in her principal work, Poems on Diverse Subjects, was influenced and pays homage to Bradstreet's verse.

Despite the traditional attitude toward women of the time, Bradstreet clearly valued knowledge and intellect; she was a free thinker and some consider her an early feminist. Her complete works are available in "The Works of Anne Bradstreet (John Harvard Library)", by Anne Bradstreet, with a foreword by poet Adrienne Rich (Author).

Aphra Behn (10 July 1640 – 16 April 1689) was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers.

Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature. A widow at the age of 26, she then became attached to the Royal Court, and was employed as a political spy at Antwerp. Leaving that city she cultivated the friendship of various playwrights, and produced many plays and novels, also poems and pamphlets.

Virginia Woolf declared in her famous book "A Room of One's Own", "All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." Her complete works are available for free at: (scroll down to Behn, Aphra), as well as in the book "The Plays, Histories, and Novels of the Ingenious Mrs. Aphra Behn: With Life and Memoirs. Complete in Six Volumes", published by Nabu Press in 2010.

Sor (Sister) Juana Inés de la Cruz (12 November 1648 – 17 April 1695), fully Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, was a self-taught scholar and poet of the Baroque school, and nun of New Spain. Although she lived in a colonial era when Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, she is considered today a Mexican writer, and stands at the beginning of the history of Mexican literature in the Spanish language.

In Juana's time, the convent was often seen as the only refuge in which a female could properly attend to the education of her mind, spirit, body and soul. Nonetheless, she wrote literature centered on freedom. In her poem Redondillas she defends a woman's right to be respected as a human being. Therein, she also criticizes the sexism of the society of her time, poking fun at and revealing the hypocrisy of men who publicly condemn prostitutes, yet privately pay women to perform on them what they have just said is an abomination to God. Sor Juana asks the sharp question in this age-old matter of the purity/whoredom split found in base male mentality: "Who sins more, she who sins for pay? Or he who pays for sin?"

Matters came to a head in 1690, when a letter was published attacking Sor Juana's focus on the sciences, and suggesting that she should devote her time to soft theology. However, powerful representatives from the Viceregal Court and the Jesuit Order were her protectors and she was widely read in Spain, being called "the Tenth Muse".

She was lauded as the first great poet of Latin America. Her work was also printed by the first printing press in New Spain. In response to her critics, Sor Juana wrote a letter entitled Respuesta a Sor Filotea (Reply to Sister Filotea), in which she defended women's right to education. In response, the Archbishop of Mexico joined other high-ranking officials in condemning Sor Juana's "waywardness".

By 1693, Sor Juana seemingly ceased writing rather than risk official censure. However, there is no undisputed evidence of her renouncing devotion to letters, though there are documents showing her agreeing to undergo penance. Her name is affixed to such a document in 1694, but given her deep natural lyricism, the tone of these supposed hand-written penitentials is rhetorical and autocratic Church formulae – one signed, "Yo, la peor de todas" (I, the worst/meanest of them all (the women) According to Octavio Paz, Sor Juana's writings were saved by the Viceroy's wife.

In April 1695, after ministering to the other sisters struck down by a rampant plague, she is said to have died at four in the morning on April 17. Some of her works are available in "Poems, Protest, and a Dream: Selected Writings," translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, which includes the Reply to Sister Filotea.

As they were (by Suzie)

David Lubin took this photo in the early '90s.