Friday, November 09, 2012

Senator Ron Johnson Mansplains to Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin

This is a very good example of mansplaining*:

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D), Wisconsin's new senator-elect, is confident that she will be able to understand the federal budget without the assistance of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
In an Associated Press interview on Wednesday, Johnson said he hoped he would be able to work with Baldwin in the Senate -- as soon as he explained the "facts" of the budget to her.
"Hopefully I can sit down and lay out for her my best understanding of the federal budget because they're simply the facts," he said. "Hopefully she'll agree with what the facts are and work toward common sense solutions."
"I was a double major in college in mathematics and political science, and I served for six years on the House Budget Committee in my first six years in the House," Baldwin responded in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday.
"And I am very confident that when proposals come before the U.S. Senate, I will be able to evaluate them as to how they benefit or harm middle-class Wisconsinites. A yardstick of 'does it create jobs,' 'does it lower the deficit' and 'does it help grow the middle class' is an important one. I'm quite confident that I have those abilities," she added.
Baldwin has served in Congress since 1999; Johnson took office in 2011.

What makes Johnson's statement arrogant is that he pays no attention to the known facts about Baldwin:  That she, in fact, has twelve years more experience and that she served six years on the House Budget Committee.  And, of course, the whole tone of the statement:  Baldwin is going to be taught the facts about the budget.

*The term "mansplaining"  is discussed in an earlier post, here. It used to have an interesting comments-thread but, sadly, I have been unable to import the old comments to Disqus.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

This Blog Is Nine Years Old Today

It no longer needs training wheels, I guess.  Alternatively, if blog years are like dog years then this place is approaching old age. 

A cute picture to celebrate the day and to thank you all for your company!

I only spotted the anniversary date today.  I  need to think a bit more before writing something meaningful about all these years.  But you can send me money if you have extra!

Mr. Stable Vs. Mr. Sexy. More Evolutionary Psychology Popularizations.

Back to evolutionary psychology, my dear readers!  This time I want to point out one basic problem with many popularizations in this field:  Statements like this one:

Long after women have chosen Mr. Stable over Mr. Sexy, they struggle unconsciously with the decision, according to a new study by UCLA researchers who look at subtle changes in behavior during ovulation.

At their most fertile period, these women are less likely to feel close to their mates and more likely to find fault with them than women mated to more sexually desirable men, the research shows.

The study popularized above is in that new field: female hormonal fluctuations*.  It's a growing field, and almost all the results are magnified by the popular media write-ups. 

What I mean by that is something of this sort:  A study might have found a few percentage point difference in some opinion or behavior when women are compared at two different points in their menstrual cycles.  In short, the kind of finding which is statistically significant but not big in real-world terms.  This is then translated into huge swings across the cycle.

But the magnification also applies to something else.  Note the beginning of that publicity piece I linked to above:  "Long after women have chosen Mr. Stable over Mr. Sexy...."

How long after?  What sort of relationships are we talking about here?  You might be surprised to learn that all the study subjects were undergraduates.   College undergraduates have rarely been a long-term relationship to which terms such as "long after" could be applied.  These are young people!

Why would any of this matter?  For several reasons:  First, the first sentence in that popularization has nothing to do with the study itself.  The study is all about asking young students questions within a very short time-frame.  There's no way a study like that could properly measure long-term "unconscious struggles" with one's choice of Mr. Stable over Mr. Sexy.  I'm not even sure if calling someone Mr. Stable makes much sense when the study subjects are so very young.  They haven't had enough time for instability to rear its head.

What I found especially hilarious about that write-up is its exaggerated reach in two directions.  Not only are we told what women unconsciously struggle with, but we are also later told this:

"Since our female ancestors couldn't directly examine a potential partner's genetic makeup, they had to base their decisions on physical manifestations of the presence of good genes and the absence of genetic mutations, which might include masculine features such as a deep voice, masculine face, dominant behavior and sexy looks," said Haselton, who is affiliated with UCLA's Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture.

"It is possible that we evolved to feel drawn to these visible markers because, at least in the past, they proved to be indicators of good genes," she said. "Ancestral women who were attracted to these features could have produced offspring who were more successful in attracting mates and producing progeny."

Remember that the actual studies consisted of having young undergraduate women fill in questionnaires.  From that we get sweeping generalizations.

Are there actual studies that men with deep voices, masculine faces, blah-blah have "better genes"?  Given that the whole argument here hinges on those studies, I find it odd that I haven't come across any that would conclusively prove that sexy=healthy genes argument.  

But then that whole quote discusses a hypothesis which we cannot subject to any kind of real testing.  Evolutionary Psychology is a bit like religion in that sense.

This post is about the popularization only, not about the study, because I have recently overdosed on these kinds of studies (send emergency chocolates!).  But I did find this rather interesting:

She and Haselton began the study by pinpointing the ovulation cycles of 41 undergraduate women involved in long-term heterosexual relationships. They asked the women to rate the sexual attractiveness of their mates by answering such questions as "How desirable do you think women find your partner as a short-term mate or casual sex partner, compared to most men."

They also asked the women a series of questions designed to measure their partner's stability or suitability as a long-term mate, including questions about how his present and future financial status compares with that of most men.

Then at two different points in her monthly cycle — at high fertility (just before ovulation) and at low fertility — each woman was asked about the quality of her romantic relationship. The researchers, who used a questionnaire designed exclusively for the study, found no significant change across the cycle in how the women perceived their level of commitment to the relationship or, at least initially, in their satisfaction with it.

But an exercise that required the women to rate how close they felt to their men yielded dramatic results. As women mated to less sexually attractive men moved from their least fertile to most fertile period, their closeness scores dropped one point on a seven-point scale. Women mated to the most sexually attractive men, meanwhile, experienced the opposite effect. As these women moved from their least to most fertile period, their closeness scores rose by a point.

I have bolded the interesting bits.  The reason the boyfriend's future financial status is  introduced has to do with the Evolutionary Psychology tenet that women marry for resources, men for looks.  Or men look for pron stars, barely legal, and women look for the Donald Trumps of this world.  I'm exaggerating ever so slightly there, because I find this annoying for a very simple reason:  IF all these things really are evolutionary adaptations fixed in our Stone Age brains and so on, surely they got fixed that way when prehistoric humans were nomadic.  Male resources under those circumstances would have been embodied in the person:  Youth, health, muscle tone, good food-acquisition skills, good social talents etc.  The list wouldn't have included any Stone Age equivalent to a man's bank account.

The remaining bolded sentences in that quote tell us the magnitude of the measured changes.  They also suggest that a certain amount of digging was required for the necessary findings to turn up.   This makes me immediately wonder what happens to those Evolutionary Psychology studies which can't come up with the results the basic stories require.  Do they get published?

Note, finally, that the men in this study are not divided into sexually attractive and less sexually attractive men on the basis of any objective criteria (if such exist).  That judgment is based solely on what the girlfriend herself answers.   Sorta like saying that if she finds him hot, then she is going to find him hotter when she feels especially sexy herself.

To go from that to our "prehistoric female ancestors looking for good genes" really is quite a stretch.
*My term for this growing field.  I am not aware of an equally important Evolutionary Psychology  field studying male hormones, even though they, too,  fluctuate.  

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Election Thoughts: On Voting Gaps, Mandates and The Losers

You already know the federal-level results:  Barack Obama won a second term as the president of the United States, the Democrats increased their majority in the Senate some and slightly decreased   the Republican majority in the House.

I'm happy with these results in the same way Maurice Chevalier was happy getting older:  It beats the alternative.  Nah.  I'm really quite pleased!  As pleased as a goddess of gloom can be.

But I'm delirious about Elizabeth Warren becoming the first female US senator from Massachusetts.  She is needed in the Senate as a consumer advocate (the other side has plenty of advocates already).  Besides, never having sent a woman to the US Senate was a stain on the pristine feminazi reputation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Wisconsin is also sending the first female senator to Washington, D.C., Tammy Baldwin.  But that "firstness" has not been noted as much as the fact that she is also the first openly gay/lesbian senator in the US Senate.  Other happy news concern marriage equality:  At least Maine and Maryland voted for it.  Though it could be argued that one's human rights should not be based on what others think about them, the outcome is still a sign that prejudices against gays and lesbians are diminishing.

Mazie Hirono will also be the first female US senator from Hawaii.  

Speaking of women in the US Senate, their number has now risen to one fifth of the total.  We may be approaching the critical mass where being a woman no longer makes one stand out as the representative of that group but just as an individual politician?  I hope that is the case.

On the other hand, sixteen of those twenty female senators are Democrats and only four are Republicans.  Given the roughly equal support of the two parties,  the Republicans should do some soul-searching.  Hmm.

The Voting Gaps

This links to the gender gap which again reared its snaky head.  On some right-wing blogs comments urge that women shouldn't be allowed to vote at all because they vote the wrong way!  All emotional and driven by Obama's good looks.  The Founding Fathers knew that and so rationally refused women the vote.  Besides, they were all ugly as hell.   Well, that last sentence is my addition.

The discussion of gender gap in various places is trivial and ends with the moan that the country is so very divided, not only in terms of men and women but also in terms of blacks and whites and Latinos and Asian-Americans and so on.  The next sentence then argues that the president must now be the great uniter (yes, I know that is hilarious, given the last four years of Republican Opposition To Everything).

Deeper probing would tell us that the gender gap is much smaller than the gaps between blacks and whites or between Anglos and Hispanics, and that millions of women voted Republican and millions of men voted Democrat.  What makes the gender gap so crucial is that it applies to very large numbers of voters, what with everyone being counted as either male or female.  The following table is from polls before the elections but it reflects the differences (click on it to make it bigger):

Deeper probing would also ask why the various voting gaps exist.  There are several reasons for them, and probably the most important ones are economic reasons:  Wealthier people are more likely to vote Republican and white men are the wealthiest people in this country, on average.

But we should also make explicit the fact that the Republican platform is explicitly against women's reproductive rights.  It's not against men's reproductive rights.  The Republicans oppose parental leaves or child care which are still, sadly, mostly women's issues in this country, and the Republicans also oppose any interference with the way corporations treat their workers, whether discriminatory or not.

This means that the Republicans oppose attempts to curb labor market discrimination against blacks and Latinos.  They have also chosen a very anti-immigrant approach in their attempt to appease parts of their base.

In short, the Republican Party offers one platform to white men and a different one to all the rest of us.  It's like a menu in which  some people are offered delicious dishes, others are offered up AS the dishes.  It would be pretty miraculous if that didn't cause large voting gaps.

What's a lot more astonishing is the fact that so many white women do vote for the Republicans.

On Mandates

Remember what George Bush said after he won his second term in 2004?

"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now, I intend to spend it. It is my style," he said.
And there are plenty of voters intending to hold President Bush to his word.
At an impromptu prayer service outside a federal court in Washington, evangelical leader the Reverend Pat Mahoney leaves no doubt that he and other Christians are expecting the president to deliver on such issues as banning gay marriage and abortion.
"We have an expression in America: 'Dance with the person you brought to the dance'," he said.  

A salutary reminder, don't you think?  Because pundits now question whether Obama has any kind of mandate at all:
A divided nation did not hand President Obama a mandate in his re-election victory.
He'll have to earn that -- making the next stretch of his presidency as critical as anything he did to earn a second term.
On the other hand, the Republicans still controlling the House tell us that there's certainly no mandate to raise taxes because they kept the majority:

“The American people want solutions, and tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican majority,” House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who ran unopposed in his re-election bid, declared Tuesday night. "With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there’s no mandate for raising tax rates. What Americans want are solutions that will ease the burdens on small businesses, bring jobs home and let our economy grow."
“Just as in 2010, our House Republican candidates listened to the American people and rejected the Democrats' tax-and-spend agenda that threatens the American Dream,” added Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
It seems to me that the question of "a mandate" depends very much on whether it is applied to Democrats or to Republicans.  Democrats are expected to reach across the aisle, to hold hands.  Republicans are expected to reach across the aisle, to punch.

I'm somewhat kidding there.  But I don't recall any hand-wringing and soul-searching about bipartisanship during the Bush era.  Not that there's anything wrong with some types of bipartisanship, of course.

The Losers 

Ah.  This is the fun part!  How about Messrs. Akin, Mourdock and Walsh?

It's as if Kali, the goddess of destruction, decided to have a look at those guys.  Akin told us that a rape victim cannot get pregnant because her body has a way of shutting that off, Mourdock told us that rape victims shouldn't have access to abortions because god wanted that child to be born if the egg got fertilized, and Walsh  told us that the likelihood of the pregnant woman's death is no excuse for an abortion which might save her life.

To call any of that "cultural" or "social," as if it's less important than jobs, say,  is a real insult against people who can become pregnant.  That group is not the one in which any of those gentlemen might find themselves, which makes their apparent callousness more... callous.

So they got kicked out, which is excellent news.   But honestly, what would it have said about this country if they had NOT been kicked out?  These guys are extremists, willing to let women suffer almost anything for the sake of the zygote or fetus.

Some have argued that corporate donations and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision were also losers in this election.  That may be the case but rejoicing on that count may be premature.  It takes time to set all those donation ducks in a row.  It's unlikely that corporate money would now quietly go away. It will work on the ducks a bit more.

Finally, a loser worth mentioning is the, a site which decided to replace traditional statistical analysis with something new, simply because that "something new" made the polls look better for the Republicans.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

While You Wait For The Results

In the US federal elections,  you can watch this slide show of  American women voting in earlier elections (via Hecate).    I assume that you have already done your civil right (and duty) by having voted if you can vote in the US.

Speaking of those who cannot vote for the president of "the free world," but are also affected by who it might be, the BBC surveyed people in several countries on whether they'd prefer Barack Obama or Mitt Romney to have the steering wheel of that bus of western civilization.  Here are the results:

I have no idea if the surveys are proper random ones.  But it's interesting that Pakistan is the only country among this group which might have gone for Romney.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Destroying the Fabric of Democracy

Funny how that threat looks very different depending on which side of the US political aisle you stand.  The Republicans fear voter fraud:
A strategist for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign said on Monday morning that voter fraud was virtually nonexistent in the U.S. and yet has somehow become part of the Republican “mythology.”


McCain, Schmidt’s former boss, warned at the last presidential debate in 2008 that the election could be affected voter fraud and claimed the community organizing group known as ACORN was “now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”
Here are two opposite stories about possible voting fraud:  The first is about Ohio and uses a conservative angle,  the second is about Oregon and employs a liberal angle.  Enjoy!

The Democrats are more concerned about the effect of money in federal elections, after the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates.  If much of the information you see ultimately comes from the Koch brothers and other wealthy industrialists, the messages are bound to tilt towards the interests of the corporations, right?  

An interesting story about this culminated today when "California’s campaign finance watchdog on Monday publicly released the names of the donors behind an Arizona group’s $11 million donation to ballot initiative efforts in the Golden State."  To get the whole flavor of the story, start with this Bloomberg article and then read about the case in California.  The shadowy faces of the Koch brothers are just visible against the murky background.

The difference between the two concerns?  Well, I think the second concern is something which very well might destroy the fabric of democracy, unless we are content with equal rights for all dollars.  The former would be a concern if voter fraud was widespread.  But most evidence suggests that it is not.

The second difference is that those humongous donations to influence the political outcomes in other states are perfectly legal, voter fraud is not.

Baumeister and Vohs: Women Were Never Excluded From Important Organizations. PART 3.

This is the last post in the Baumeister-Vohr series.  The introductory post is here and the post discussing their "sexual economics" is here


I am concluding this somewhat hallucinatory trip into the Baumeister-Vohs world by looking more closely at the following argument which they present to explain why the public sphere belongs to men and why  it should properly be viewed as the boys' tree-house where girls should not be admitted.   Because such admissions are a real mystery for the authors, they conclude that men opened that tree-house door just to lure women in to have sex.  And now women are getting unfair preferential treatment:
All of this is a bit ironic, in historical context. The large institutions have almost all been created by men. The notion that women were deliberately oppressed by being excluded from these institutions requires an artful, selective, and motivated way of looking at them. Even today, the women’s movement has been a story of women demanding places and preferential treatment in the organizational and institutional structures that men create, rather than women creating organizations and institutions themselves. Almost certainly, this reflects one of the basic motivational differences between men and women, which is that female sociality is focused heavily on one-to-one relationships, whereas male sociality extends to larger groups networks of shallower relationships (e.g., Baumeister and Sommer 1997; Baumeister 2010). Crudely put, women hardly ever create large organizations or social systems. That fact can explain most of the history of gender relations, in which the gender near equality of prehistorical societies was gradually replaced by progressive inequality—not because men banded together to oppress women, but because cultural progress arose from the men’s sphere with its large networks of shallow relationships, while the women’s sphere remained stagnant because its social structure emphasized intense one-to-one relationships to the near exclusion of all else (see Baumeister 2010). All over the world and throughout history (and prehistory), the contribution of large groups of women to cultural progress has been vanishingly small.

Such riches!  I feel as if I'm standing in front of twenty heaped smorgasbords, all full of delicious tidbits for the critical part of my brain!  For a while I was like Buridan's ass, frozen in place, not knowing which of the many possible directions I should take.  And all of them would keep me occupied for months!

On the Baumeister-Vohr theories

Should I go back to Baumeister's earlier Evolutionary Psychology musings about why women hardly evolved at all whereas we are all descended from risk-taking men who were the winners in the big sperm race but also from security-seeking women who never took any risks because they got laid whenever they wanted (and somehow that is viewed as equal to having brought up a child to fertile adulthood and therefore not at all challenging)?  Should I point out the JustSo-stories-aspect of all this?  Should I wonder how poor me didn't get to inherit any of those wonderful characteristics from my forefathers or how my brother managed not to inherit any security-seeking from our foremothers?  Should I go on a long tour of what's wrong with the narrow kind of evolutionary psychology, the kind I denote with those capital letters?  Should I point out that it is pseudo-science because it doesn't lend itself to tests of falsification?

Or what about that Baumeister theory about the men's spheres and women's spheres?  The idea that men are better in large organizations and women in one-to-one relationships?  Has anyone else ever proposed that theory?  The references seem to go back to Baumeister.  Has anyone tested that theory?  How would one go about doing that?  What are those spheres?   Baumeister seems to equate them with the public and the private spheres, putting women firmly inside the latter.  But who defined those spheres in the first place?  Baumeister?  Was any individual completely free to move from one to the other?

And were the two spheres really gender-equal in the sense that only women ruled in the women's sphere, over other women,  and only men ruled in the men's sphere over other men?  Most historical evidence suggests that men have had control over the family, both legally and in terms of customs.  So in what sense did the women's sphere belong to women?

I don't think it did.  Besides, women have not been free to roam about, in order to get together with other women, without any men being present.  Think of the conservative slogan "a woman's place is at home" or the Nazi slogan "Kinder, Kirche und Küche,"  think of the purdah of traditional Islam.  Notice how until quite recently restaurants might not be willing to serve women who entered unaccompanied by a man.

Then there are the really fun detailed bits:  For instance, if women are better at one-to-one relationships, shouldn't women "win" in all of those when the other person is a man?  But once the whole family is together around the dining table, shouldn't he then "win" if a family is regarded as a large organization?  When, exactly, does an organization become "large?"  -- The point, of course, is that these men's and women's spheres are probably not some kind of fixed concepts of equal size.

Women Were Not Excluded?

I want to write about all this so badly!  But really, the part that deserves the rest of the post is this assertion from the above quote:
The large institutions have almost all been created by men. The notion that women were deliberately oppressed by being excluded from these institutions requires an artful, selective, and motivated way of looking at them. 
Emphasis is mine.

At first that bolded sentence made me wonder what color the sky is in Baumeister and Vohs's alternative reality.  It's not at all hard to find enormous amounts of actual evidence on women's formal exclusion from many of those "men's organizations," starting with the government and the military, continuing with higher education and professional societies and ending with religious institutions as well as the institutions of arts and music.

I sat and pondered this.  What should I do?  Write thirty volumes detailing every single legal exclusion of women in all countries?  Surely Baumeister and Vohs can't argue that women were always admitted to the Catholic Church as priests, say?  That women could vote and run for political office everywhere on the very same day that universal male suffrage passed?   That all armies have always welcomed women as soldiers with open arms?  That all universities admitted women from day one?  That the scientific societies of, say, France and Great Britain never refused to admit women as members (it took the French academy until 1979 to admit a woman)?   Or that similar exclusions never applied to women in the fields of arts?

And what about the  exclusion of women from Europe's medieval guilds, after a long period when both men and women belonged to them?  Or the possibility that the early Christian church was created by both men and women but that women were later excluded when the institutional structure turned rigid?

What is artful, selective and motivated about noticing the widespread exclusion of women from most of those "men's organizations?*  Or the fact that some of those organizations may not have been "men's organizations" to begin with but created by both men and women?  Both of these are important counter-criticisms of Baumeister and Vohs's argument that men created all large organizations simply because they were psychologically more suited to the role.  After all, if that's the real explanation then we cannot account for the frequency of women's legal exclusion from those same organizations.  It wouldn't have been needed.

I'm still not quite certain how the bolded sentence is intended to read.  Could it be the case that Baumeister and Vohs want us to read it somewhat differently:  Perhaps we are assumed to take it for granted that women were excluded from those institutions but that to interpret this as "deliberate oppression" is "artful, selective and motivated?"

Is that their point?  Something of this sort:
For much of our nation's history, laws regulating family and employment granted different rights to women and men at home and at work. The so-called maternal difficulty — that is, the supposed incompatibility between women's biology and certain roles in the workplace and public life — held that women were best suited to the home, allowing men to flourish at work. As Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley explained in 1872, rejecting the argument that the Constitution protected a woman's right to be a lawyer, the "paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother."
Nah.  I'm splitting hairs here.  In any case, that interpretation would not salvage the Baumeister-Vohs basic theory of all large organizations as fairly and squarely belonging to men.  The history the authors create is a tremendously revisionist one, and Baumeister and Vohs cannot be unaware of the actual historical evidence?  Right?  Right?

Let's do some micro-slicing of those hairs, in a final effort to salvage the Baumeister-Vohs worldview or at least make it something one can relate to, not a missive from an alternative reality.  Suppose that they believe men own the large organizations and have the right to exclude women if they so wish.  Suppose that this ownership decision leaves women no other avenue but to create their own comparable organizations.  Two sex-segregated countries, one for men and one for women!  That women didn't create something like that then means that they were psychologically unable to do so and should stop whining and moaning and asking for preferential treatment.

But this way of looking at their case doesn't work, either.  If we view the world in those terms, then women should have had ownership rights to families and even to the children they give birth to, and men would have been told to go and create their own families if they desire to have children or sex or psychological one-on-one stroking.  What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and in the Baumeister-Vohs world nothing would stop women from doing that because they have their own spheres and they can easily and freely get together with other women.

Except that this has not been the case, historically speaking.  Women were not in command of their own spheres (however those might be defined) and they did not have access to independent sources of income, partly due to inheritance laws and laws such as coverture

I must therefore conclude that Baumeister and Vohs, indeed, argue that women were never really excluded from those "men's organizations."  A big blind spot, don't you think?  Hence, Baumeister in an earlier piece could write this with a straight face**:

Thus, the reason for the emergence of gender inequality may have little to do with men pushing women down in some dubious patriarchal conspiracy. Rather, it came from the fact that wealth, knowledge, and power were created in the men’s sphere. This is what pushed the men’s sphere ahead. Not oppression.
Giving birth is a revealing example. What could be more feminine than giving birth? Throughout most of history and prehistory, giving birth was at the center of the women’s sphere, and men were totally excluded. Men were rarely or never present at childbirth, nor was the knowledge about birthing even shared with them. But not very long ago, men were finally allowed to get involved, and the men were able to figure out ways to make childbirth safer for both mother and baby. Think of it: the most quintessentially female activity, and yet the men were able to improve on it in ways the women had not discovered for thousands and thousands of years.
Let’s not overstate. The women had after all managed childbirth pretty well for all those centuries. The species had survived, which is the bottom line. The women had managed to get the essential job done. What the men added was, from the perspective of the group or species at least, optional, a bonus: some mothers and babies survived who would otherwise have died. Still, the improvements show some value coming from the male way of being social. Large networks can collect and accumulate information better than small ones, and so in a relatively short time the men were able to discover improvements that the women hadn’t been able to find. Again, it’s not that the men were smarter or more capable. It’s just that the women shared their knowledge individually, from mother to daughter, or from one midwife to another, and in the long run this could not accumulate and progress as effectively as in the larger groups of shallower relationships favored by men.

Except that women were excluded from those large networks which can collect and accumulate information better than small ones.  Those were medical societies and medical schools.  Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the US and the first woman on the British Medical Register, got her degree in 1849.  Others rapidly followed.  When the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania opened only a year later forty women immediately enrolled.  Still, the last medical school that refused to admit women changed that policy only in 1960.

My point is that Baumeister's example may well have been a consequence of the exclusion of women from the medical societies, given the clear interest women had in acquiring a medical education.  Without more specific information about when these life-saving innovations were adopted it's hard to say anything more except that taking into account the exclusion of women matters.

Some Final Thoughts

Here's the invisible elephant in Baumeister and Vohs's world:  The fact that women give birth to children.   The piece I write about in this series almost pretends that children don't exist.  No, they are not one possible consequence of intercourse, and no, they in no way ever handicapped women who wanted to be artists, composers, generals or stateswomen.  It's mind-boggling when you think about it, that omission.

Yet the fact that women are the sex which gives birth, combined with no good access to contraception, is probably the most significant historical reason why women have not participated in the public sphere to the same extent as men have.  It is also one of the central reasons for the exclusion of women from many public sector institutions:  The desire to guarantee that the reproduction of the next generation would take place, together with traditional views on how to accomplish that task.

That's my first final thought.  The second one has to do with the motivation behind this whole approach.  It is best described by quoting the authors themselves:

Indeed, the world of work is a daunting place for a young man today. Feminists quickly point to the continued dominance of men at the top of most organizations, but this is misleading if not outright disingenuous. Men create most organizations and work hard to succeed in them. Indeed, an open-minded scholar can search through history mostly in vain to find large organizations created and run by women that have contributed anything beyond complaining about men and demanding a bigger share of the male pie.
 Why have men acquiesced so much in giving women the upper hand in society’s institutions? It falls to men to create society (because women almost never create large organizations or cultural systems). It seems foolish and self-defeating for men then to meekly surrender advantageous treatment in all these institutions to women. Moreover, despite many individual exceptions, in general and on average men work harder at their jobs in these institutions than women, thereby enabling men to rise to the top ranks. As a result, women continue to earn less money and have lower status than men, which paradoxically is interpreted to mean that women’s preferential treatment should be continued and possibly increased (see review of much evidence in Baumeister 2010). Modern society is not far from embracing explicit policies of “equal pay for less work,” as one of us recently proposed. Regardless of that prospect, it appears that preferential treatment of women throughout the workforce is likely to be fairly permanent. Because of women’s lesser motivation and ambition, they will likely never equal men in achievement, and their lesser attainment is politically taken as evidence of the need to continue and possibly increase preferential treatment for them.
Bolds are mine.  "Complaining about men?"  "Demanding a bigger share of the male pie?"  What interesting insights those sentences offer us about the authors!  Men and women no longer live in the same families, the pie belongs to men, all women do is complain.  And us feminists are viewed as divisive and haters of men!

The next bolded sentences express the authors' views on affirmative action and the possibility of sex discrimination at workplaces.  They detest affirmative action***  because they see it not as a correction to past (or present) discrimination (or exclusion) but simply a way to pass more of the "male pie" to women who are not as competent at work as men.  They also stipulate that men deserve to be promoted more often because they work harder.

I don't know of any research that would have singled out that variable for closer study, assuming that "working harder" can somehow be easily operationalized.  But the authors most likely argue that if men work longer hours per week****, say, then they deserve to keep a bigger chunk of that "male pie." 

The final bolded sentence tells us about the dismal future:  We women have less motivation and less ambition and thus we will never equal men in achievement.  What fun!

So what motivated this paper, hmh?  I think it's real dislike of and anger at women.  Not just some individual women or us dratted feminists but all women.  Well, with the possible exception of professor Vohs.
*I don't want to make the Baumeister-Vohs mistake and argue that all this was always and everywhere based on some kind of explicit collusion of men against women (though it probably was inside the religious organizations).  There have always been women who supported the exclusion of women and there have always been men who worked hard to gain women access into those "men's organizations."  It's also important to remember that both women and men of the past were taught the gender norms of their era.  Some aspects of women's lives today would probably have been simply unthinkable to, say, medieval women in Europe.

**Credit for this point goes to ann2 in the comments of an earlier post.

***I wonder what they would say about the argument that colleges and universities now practice affirmative action in their student selection in favor of male applicants.  Would that be acceptable in the Baumeister-Vohs world?

****This also ignores the possibility that men who are fathers of young children can do this because either the mothers of those children take care of them at home or leave work earlier to pick them up at the daycare center.  Put another way, single fathers cannot work long hours without paid help.  One could argue that the "male pie" is part of the "family pie" and that all family members deserve a share in that.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Guest Post by Anna: Literary Canon of American Women Writers

The American literary canon is still often considered to consist largely of male writers-Twain, Whitman, etc. Yet there are many American women who have contributed greatly to the literature of the country. In order to help give them the recognition they deserve,and to help those searching for female American writers (for example, in teaching or taking an American literature class), I haveassembled this list of American women writers I believe belong in the canon, from my earlier "literary canon of women writers" series.

Phillis Wheatley (1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first published African-American poet and the first African-American woman whose writings were published.

Born in Gambia, Senegal, she was made a slave at age seven. She was the slave of the Wheatley family of Boston, though they did teach her to read and write English, and helped encourage her poetry. In 1768, Wheatley wrote "To the King's Most Excellent Majesty" in which she praised George III for repealing the Stamp Act. However, as the American Revolution gained strength, Wheatley's writing turned to themes from the point of view of the colonists. In 1770 Wheatley wrote a poetic tribute to George Whitefield that received widespread acclaim. Wheatley's poetry overwhelmingly revolves around Christian themes, with many poems dedicated to famous personalities. Over one-third consist of elegies, the remainder being on religious, classical, and abstract themes.

Many white Americans of the time found it hard to believe that an African woman could write poetry, and Wheatley had to defend her literary ability in court in 1772. She was examined by a group of Boston luminaries, including John Erving, Reverend Charles Chauncey, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, and his lieutenant governor Andrew Oliver. They concluded she had written the poems ascribed to her and signed an attestation which was published in the preface to her book "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral", which was published in Aldgate, London in 1773. The book was published in London because publishers in Boston had refused to publish the text.

The publication of Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" in 1773 brought her fame, with figures such as George Washington praising her work. Voltaire stated in a letter to a friend that Wheatley had proved that black people could write poetry. John Paul Jones asked a fellow officer to deliver some of his personal writings to "Phillis the African favorite of the Nine [muses] and Apollo." Wheatley also visited England for five weeks accompanying her master's son and was praised in a poem by fellow African-American poet Jupiter Hammon.

Wheatley was emancipated by her owners after both her poetic success and the death of her master, and she soon married. However, when her husband was imprisoned for debt in 1784, Wheatley fell into poverty and died of illness. Her collected work, including her letters as well as her poetry, is available in English in “Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings”, by Phillis Wheatley.

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850) was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.

Born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was given a substantial early education by her father, Timothy Fuller. She later had more formal schooling and became a teacher. In 1839, she began overseeing what she called "conversations": discussions among women meant to compensate for their lack of access to higher education. A number of significant figures in the women's rights movement attended these "conversations", including Sophia Dana Ripley, Caroline Sturgis, and Maria White Lowell.

Margaret Fuller became the first editor of the transcendentalist journal The Dial in 1840, before joining the staff of the New York Tribune under Horace Greeley in 1844. By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female, and became the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College.

Her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845. A year later, she was sent to Europe for the Tribune as its first female correspondent. She soon became involved with the revolution in Italy and allied herself with Giuseppe Mazzini. She had a relationship with Giovanni Ossoli, with whom she had a child. All three members of the family died in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York, as they were traveling to the United States in 1850. Fuller's body was never recovered.

Fuller was an advocate of women's rights and, in particular, women's education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women's rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist.

Shortly after Fuller's death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, were not concerned about accuracy and censored or altered much of her work before publication. “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” is widely available in English, as are her letters.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet whose work became widely known and critically acclaimed after her death. She spent most of her life as a recluse in her Amherst, Massachusetts home. After her death in 1886 her younger sister Lavinia discovered her poems, and in 1890 Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Louis Todd published a heavily edited collection of her poems. A complete edition was not published until 1955, and an edition arranged in the way she originally arranged her poems was not published until 1981.

There were initially unfavorable reviews and skepticism of her literary prowess during the late 19th and early 20th century, but now Dickinson is considered a major American poet. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation.

Some scholars have suggested that the numerous letters and poems that were dedicated to Susan Gilbert Dickinson indicate a romance, but this is difficult to verify as Lavinia and Susan burned some of Emily's letters, as Emily had asked them to. Emily Dickinson's complete poems are available in English in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson and Thomas H. Johnson.

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and designer. Although wealthy and female, she was also one of the few American civilians who traveled to the front lines in France during World War I. She wrote a series of articles about that experience, and in 1916 was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Wharton was divorced from her husband in 1913, but rather than view a divorce as scandalous she saw it as a “diploma of virtue.” For her novel The Age of Innocence (1921), Edith Wharton became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature. She remained in France until her death in 1937, but she did return to the United States on one occasion to get an honorary doctorate degree from Yale. Despite the time she spent away from the United States, Edith Wharton is celebrated for her novels that perfectly captured (and gently criticized) the upper class in America. Her works are widely available in English.

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as her “prairie trilogy” of O Pioneers! (a 1913 novel about a family of Swedish immigrants), The Song of the Lark (a 1915 novel about an ambitious young heroine, Thea Kronborg, who leaves her hometown to go to the big city to fulfill her dream of becoming a famous opera star), and My Ántonia (a 1918 novel about Ántonia Shimerda, as told by her friend Jim to another friend). In 1923 Cather was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I.She is considered one of the leading figures of American literary Modernism.

Pearl Buck (1892-1973) was an American writer who spent most of her time until 1934 in China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932; it caused considerable popular sympathy for China. It concerns family life in a Chinese village before World War II. In 1938, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her works are widely available in English.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American writer, poet, and art collector who spent most of her life in France. Her Paris home became a legendary salon after World War I, attracting artists including Picasso, Braque, and Matisse. Stein’s most famous work, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), purports to be the memoirs of Stein’s partner (she was a lesbian) but is actually a history of Stein’s own life. Her works are widely available in English.

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. Her 1962 novel Ship of Fools (which concerns people sailing from Mexico to Europe aboard a German freighter and passenger ship) is an allegory that traces the rise of Nazism and looks metaphorically at the progress of the world on its "voyage to eternity."

It was the best-selling novel in America that year, but her short stories received much more critical acclaim. She is known for her penetrating insight; her work deals with dark themes such as betrayal, death and the origin of human evil. Her works are widely available in English.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, which she was a part of. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel about the life of an African-American woman in her forties named Janie Crawford.
Set in central and southern Florida in the early 20th century, the novel garnered attention and controversy at the time of its publication, and has come to be regarded as a seminal work in both African American literature and women's literature. Her works are widely available in English.

Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was an American author of short stories and novels about the American South. Her novel The Optimist's Daughter (about a woman named Laurel Hand who travels to New Orleans from her home in Chicago to assist her aging father) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Welty was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous awards. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America. Her works are widely available in English.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was an American poet and short-story writer. She was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1956 and a National Book Award Winner for Poetry in 1970. Elizabeth Bishop House is an artists' retreat in Great Village, Nova Scotia dedicated to her memory.

She is considered one of the most important and distinguished American poets of the 20th century. She was a lesbian and considered herself to be a “strong feminist.” Her works are widely available in English.

Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was an American novelist, short-story writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries.

She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. O'Connor's writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics.

Her two novels were Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960). She also published two books of short stories: A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (published posthumously in 1965). She had lupus throughout her life and eventually died of it. Her works are widely available in English.

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was an American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967 for her book Live or Die. The book’s poems, written between 1962 and 1966, are arranged in the book in chronological order. Their subjects are Sexton's troubled relationships with her mother and her daughters, and her treatment for mental illness. Themes of her poetry in general include her suicidal tendencies, long battle against depression and various intimate details from her private life, including her relationships with her husband and children.

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and they lived together first in the United States and then England, having two children together: Frieda and Nicholas. Following a long struggle with depression and a marital separation, Plath committed suicide in 1963.

Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two published collections: The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. In the 1965 edition of Ariel, Ted Hughes changed Plath's chosen selection and arrangement by dropping twelve poems, adding twelve composed a few months later, and shifting the poems' ordering, in addition to including an introduction by Robert Lowell.In 2004 a new edition of Ariel was published which for the first time restored the selection and arrangement of the poems as Plath had left them; the 2004 edition also features a foreword by Plath and Hughes' daughter Frieda Hughes.

In 1982, Plath became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously, for The Collected Poems. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death. Her works are widely available in English.

Toni Morrison is an American writer. She was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970, about a year in the life of a young black girl, named Pecola, in Lorain, Ohio, against the backdrop of America's Midwest as well as in the years following the Great Depression), received mixed reviews, didn't sell well, and was out of print by 1974. Critical recognition and praise for Toni Morrison grew, however, with each novel.

She received the National Book Critics Circle Award for her third novel Song of Solomon (1977) and the Pulitzer prize for Beloved (1987, about Sethe, a runaway slave who kills her daughter and tries to kill her other three children when a posse arrives in Ohio to return them to Sweet Home, the plantation in Kentucky from which Sethe had recently fled. The daughter, Beloved, returns years later to haunt the house in which she was killed, Sethe's home.) Morrison received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 for, in the words of the Swedish Academy, her "visionary force and poetic import" which give "life to an essential aspect of American reality." Her works are widely available in English.

Diane DiPrima (born 1934) is an American poet of the Beat Generation. Her major work is the long poem Loba (meaning She-wolf in Spanish), first published in 1978, with an enlarged edition in 1998.The poem is a quest for the reintegration of the feminine, and is considered by some critics as the female counterpart to Allen Ginsberg’s famous Beat poem Howl. DiPrima was one of the few women in the Beat inner circle. Her works are widely available in English.