Saturday, March 05, 2011

Bright Girls Blues

A HuffPo post argues that bright girls take their brightness as an innate talent, not something one has to work on, and that this is what keeps them and bright women back from achieving:
Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty -- what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright Girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence and to become less effective learners as a result.
Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their "goodness." When we do well in school, we are told that we are "so smart," "so clever, " or "such a good student." This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't.
Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.") The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.
We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because Bright Girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves -- women who will prematurely conclude that they don't have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.
I'm not sure what to think about this theory. It rings partly true, but then I start hearing all those anti-feminist arguments in my head about how girls just work away like little ants while boys are too creative and individualistic to do so, and how that is the reason why girls do better at school. Which is another theory in search of real evidence, I guess.

When I was about fifteen, my body met the front of a van in a snow storm and got tossed quite a long distance into the air. I missed school for several weeks, what with being in the hospital and such, and when I got back the math class had long (sibilant?) Ss all over the board. I had no idea what the teacher was on about, and I failed the next examination. Which was about integration. Which was covered when I was elsewhere.

This would have provided a good opportunity for the quoted theory to kick in, and indeed I do remember thinking that I was stupid, not somehow knowing about integration. But then I learned about catch-up work. Still, the stage when I really learned hard work at school was in the graduate program. Perhaps that was because everyone there had to work hard?

These are all scattered thoughts of no great importance, and they don't even get to the question of how certain types of groups are deemed to own their talents in some innate sense as a way to put those talents down. For instance, nurturing is assumed to be an innate characteristic in women, not something you have to work to learn. That allows us not to pay that much for nurturing occupations.

Today's Shallow and Self-Centered Thought

I am the world's best anti-marketer, even without trying. It's because I am deeply conflicted about fame and influence. Or rather, I want to be the dictator of the universe already and don't want to have to market to get there.

Saturday Reading Material (Good Stuff)

1. Katha Pollitt asks if the GOP has gone too far in its war against women.

2. Kenya is finally fixing the reason why women (who provide the bulk of agricultural labor) only own five percent of the land. Though it is only the beginning of the fixing.

3. What the public would cut from the federal budget, as opposed to the politicians. Prepare to be astonished, in a positive way.

4. The new survey about sexual behavior in the US. Remember that survey answers are tricky because social norms may push them in one direction for some, another direction for others. Still worth reading.

These are all things I planned to write more about but my talons have worn thin in the last few weeks.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday Good News: The Dickinson College Sit-in

Around 200 students took over the Memorial Hall at Dickinson College to demand changes in the college's sexual assault policy. It seems that they got those changes, though it's unclear whether they already were in the works as the college administration argues.

This is one of those stories where you might get very different information from different articles. Compare these two, for example.

From the latter:
Dickinson officials said they take the students' concerns seriously and have been addressing them, including hiring a sexual violence prevention coordinator and implementing a required orientation program on sexual misconduct for new students. The university recently concluded an 18-month study to improve handling of sexual misconduct cases, and is using a $300,000 federal grant to make improvements.
But officials cautioned that the issue is a thorny one, with more gray areas when it comes to conduct and to laws that require the confidentiality of those involved be protected.
"It's an extremely difficult situation, and it can frustrate people who want to know everything and want to know it now," Dickinson president William Durden said in an interview. "We've been doing quite a bit to work on these issues. In this case, everything they demand is already in process."
Because the cases are date rape or acquaintance rape, they can be difficult to investigate and deal with, Durden said.
"It's all behind closed doors. It's extremely complex. Some folks would like to make it more simple than it is," he said.

Note that the focus in these comments is not on student safety but rather on the safety of those accused. Or that is how I read them. Perhaps the protesting Dickinson students argue that the process has been tipped too far into the direction of not caring about their safety? In any case, it must be possible to create general alerts without giving out details which might harm those still under investigation.

As Long As You Don't Frighten the Horses. On Charlie Sheen and Women

Piers Morgan interviewed Charlie Sheen on Monday night, and during the interview told him: “You’re entitled to behave however the hell you like as long as you don’t scare the horses and the children.”

The debacle of Charlie Sheen (who appears to suffer from either the effects of long-term cocaine use or the manic phase of the bipolar disorder) is something I have not written about, mostly because an adequate number of scavengers is already pecking on his mental corpse.

But there is something else about Sheen which is worth discussing (as was done by Suzie in an earlier post), and that is his violence towards women. To put that initial quote into perspective, Anna Holmes from Jezebel writes about Sheen and his girlfriends and wives in the New York Times:
CBS executives, not to mention the millions of viewers of his “family” sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” have consistently turned a blind eye toward Mr. Sheen’s history of abusing women. Part of this, of course, is about money. The actor’s F-18 of an id — to borrow a metaphor from Mr. Sheen himself — had long provided the show a steady stream of free publicity. It also helped make Mr. Sheen the highest-paid actor on television, at $1.2 million an episode.
But it’s also about apathy. Even now — after Mr. Sheen began carpet-bombing his bosses in radio rants, prompting CBS to shut down production on the show — observers still seem more entertained than outraged, tuning in to see him appear on every talk show on the planet and coming up with creative Internet memes based on his most colorful statements. And while his self-abuses are endlessly discussed, his abuse of women is barely broached.
Our inertia is not for lack of evidence. In 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancée at the time, the actress Kelly Preston, in the arm. (The engagement ended soon after.) In 1994 he was sued by a college student who alleged that he struck her in the head after she declined to have sex with him. (The case was settled out of court.) Two years later, a sex film actress, Brittany Ashland, said she had been thrown to the floor of Mr. Sheen’s Los Angeles house during a fight. (He pleaded no contest and paid a fine.)
In 2006, his wife at the time, the actress Denise Richards, filed a restraining order against him, saying Mr. Sheen had shoved and threatened to kill her. In December 2009, Mr. Sheen’s third wife, Brooke Mueller, a real-estate executive, called 911 after Mr. Sheen held a knife to her throat. (He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation.) Last October, another actress in sex films, Capri Anderson, locked herself in a Plaza Hotel bathroom after Mr. Sheen went on a rampage. (Ms. Anderson filed a criminal complaint but no arrest was made.) And on Tuesday, Ms. Mueller requested a temporary restraining order against her former husband, alleging that he had threatened to cut her head off, “put it in a box and send it to your mom.” (The order was granted, and the couple’s twin sons were quickly removed from his home.) “Lies,” Mr. Sheen told People magazine.
Do read the whole article. It is excellent in pointing out what it is that makes us ignore the real pain of Sheen's violence to its victims, including his white-famous-guy standing and the assumption that these victims were sluts:
“Gold diggers,” “prostitutes” and “sluts” are just some of the epithets lobbed at the women Mr. Sheen has chosen to spend his time with. Andy Cohen, a senior executive at Bravo and a TV star in his own right, referred to the actor’s current companions, Natalie Kenly and Bree Olson, as “whores” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on Tuesday. Arianna Huffington sarcastically tweeted that Mr. Sheen’s girlfriends “symbolize modesty, loyalty and good taste.”
Holmes links the non-reactions of the wider audience to reality television. Reality television turns gratuitous violence and humiliation into Entertainment Without Shame. The shame would be there if the participants had been tricked into playing the game, we think, but they have not: They volunteer because they so desire the prize at the end.

This attitude, Holmes argues, has spread wider. Thus, the young women competing for the attention (and money, we assume) of men like Charlie Sheen KNOW what they are in for: Slaps and threats are just par for that course. They volunteer. This means that the violence is partly their own fault.

I can't help seeing this also as a part of the new emphasis (brought by Men's Rights Activists) of mutuality in intimate partner violence. The more we focus on HOW the victims might have contributed to their own violence (they asked for it because they were gold-diggers or prostitutes), the less empathy we will feel when they turn up battered in some hospital or buried in some park.

But this emphasis on mutuality and volunteerism is ultimately extremely one-sided. We don't ask the same questions about the perpetrators of the violence, especially if they are famous celebrities like Sheen. He's a "bad boy", she is a whore.
Jennifer Pozner's Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty-Pleasure TV is an excellent look into the deeper meaning of reality television.

Happy Women's History Month (by Suzie)

In honor of National Women's History Month, 1000memories has partnered with the National Women's History Project and the Internet Archive to remember the contributions of women in history - those whose lives shaped and were shaped by history. You can help us write as many women into history as possible by adding the significant women from your life. - from its website.
This is a terrific idea. Feel free to write about yourself, too. In addition to this site, you can write a summary of your life, adding to it as you have time. Or, you can beg a woman in your life to do it as a gift to you. More stories will enrich our history.

My mother died 10 years ago, and I'm glad that I interviewed her beforehand. I just wish I had started the project earlier. Here are a few tidbits from the blank book where I jotted notes:

My Irish great-great-grandparents immigrated to New York. "I don't think they spoke to anyone who wasn't Irish," my mother said. My great-grandparents Eliza and Charlie didn't get past the third grade in school. Charlie and one of his brothers had taken their mother's maiden name because their drunken father had beaten their mother so much. Charlie didn't beat Eliza, but he spent most of his time away from home, with his mistresses or buddies. He came home for meals and managed to father six children, three of whom died.

Charlie owned a saloon in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, before losing it to creditors. "Everyone loved Charlie," my mother said. "My grandmother used to say, 'If everyone who loved him had paid their bar bill, the saloon could have prospered.' "

Customers liked to run a tab, which they didn't always pay. One day when Eliza was tending bar, she refused to serve a man who wouldn't pay. He insisted. "She said, 'You want a beer? Here's your beer.' She said, 'I just slung it in his face, and I put it on his tab.' "

I think this happened in the late 1800s, and as a woman in a bar, she would have had to be tough. Most women who wanted a pint would go to the saloon's backdoor. If they did come in, they had to stay behind a glass partition. Eliza and Charlie lived above the saloon, and one night, she came downstairs in her nightgown and found Charlie with a woman behind the partition. She smashed the glass and threw the "dirty hussy" into the street.

Eliza left, but came back the next day. I don't know why, but I do know it was hard for a divorced woman with children to survive. Charlie, who was about 15 years older, had divorced his first wife, a "showgirl," and their two daughters became showgirls.

My grandmother boasted that she had never had to work, but Mom said that wasn't true. Grandma had cleaned homes, sewn clothes, and done clerical work before she gave birth to Mom. Afterward, she did "kit work," beading shoes and purses.

None of this is exceptional, but it does add to important issues, such as the unrecorded work of women. For example, Eliza would have been considered a wife, not a saloon keeper or bartender. The same goes for my grandmother, although she also supplemented the family's income.

ETA: The National Museum of Women in Military Service for America also lets women register basic information, plus their experiences. Here's a screen shot. This is a wonderful archive and museum at the ceremonial entrance to the Arlington National Cemetery.

From Anna: The National Women's History Museum also lets you submit chronicles of women's lives.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Case of Sam Arora

Is a weird one. Arora, a Maryland House Delegate, campaigned, among other things, on marriage equality and co-sponsored a bill on same sex marriage. Now it looks like he will not vote for his own bill.

The case is one of those where Arora won't be legally punished for changing his mind. But from an ethical angle his actions stink.

Note also that the more politicians act like this, the less likely it is that the campaign promises of any politician will be believed. So in an odd (and ultimately less important way) Arora is not only hurting his own ex-supporters but also all politicians.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan. May Trigger

This is about alleged rape:
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has demanded the judicial bodies of Afghanistan to investigate the case of a 17-year old girl [Sahifa] who was raped by a local influential. The girl claimed that she was raped by the head of the Provincial Council of Kunar.


According to the AIHRC report, Sahifa's family has been pressurized by the head of the provincial council to hide the matter. To resolve the issue and make the family silent, this man wants to give away a girl to Sahifa's family in 'baad' (exchange).
I want to draw your attention to the way in which girls and women are traded to solve what is seen as family disputes. It may be commodification of women (replace the broken one with a whole one). Or it may be a view which gives precedence to the family/kinship unit over individuals in it. Either way, it will not contribute to a feminist awakening for some time.

I'd Like To Get Into Your Panties

That's from a joke about street harassment. A construction worker hollers that message to a woman passing by. She answers: "No thanks, I already have an a***ole in them."

There are pretty good reasons why that is not likely to be a real-world answer, and many of you know those reasons well. But I was reminded of the joke by an article about street harassment and female business travelers in the New York Times.

The article mentions Hollaback:
EVERY female business traveler I know concedes that she has experienced at least some kind of sexual harassment on the road. Usually it’s verbal, though sometimes it’s physical.
But rarely is it reported — not to the authorities and not at the office, where a woman who talks about harassment on a business trip may worry about being marked as a problem traveler.
Now, though, something new and aggressive is being done to publicly address street harassment of women. It’s a movement driven by young women in the United States and abroad who are using social networking and crowd sourcing to shine a light on the issue and organize support for doing something about it.
Street harassment of women has been around “probably since the advent of streets,” said Emily May, 29, the co-founder of, a Web site that encourages women to share stories and provide data about harassment so they can map locations where it occurred.
We really should get that Internet-equivalent started. A place where women can list the newspapers and websites which just love having woman-haters congregate and breed more hatred. But no, I cannot take on a single new duty. (Also, I need someone to do my laundry, take my teeth to the dentist and vacuum the Snakepit Inc.)

Back to the topic which is street harassment. The article focuses on business travel most likely because that was the assignment. But street harassment is not limited to women away from their home bases. Those who seldom walk to work or rarely take public transportation at home may not realize that until they travel on business or for pleasure.

At the same time, while street harassment can occur everywhere it is much more common in some cultures than others, and if a woman travels into a country with a different culture she may be shocked by the limits that being harassed places on her freedom.

Abuse women, but don't insult your boss (by Suzie)

That seems to be the rule in Hollywood, writes David Carr in the NYT. He serves up the example of Charlie Sheen, star of the popular TV show "Two and a Half Men," which has been put on hiatus. During its eight years, two wives and a paid escort have accused Sheen of abusing them physically and threatening to kill them.

Recently, however, he has been spouting insanity in interviews, including garbage about producer Chuck Lorre, who he says he "violently hates." Carr writes:
For years on the show, Mr. Sheen has been playing to type as a naughty boy in a man’s body: the result was often scabrous and funny and a hit in the ratings. It also fits another depressing pattern. From “Animal House” to Howard Stern, from “Pretty Woman” to “The Hangover,” Hollywood has long had a soft spot for male misbehavior and, in claiming to parody childish misogyny, it seems to provide an excuse to indulge in it further.

... Mr. Sheen may have gone off-script last week. But in his attitudes toward women both on and off screen, he’s right on message.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Men's Depression in The Future

I wrote a post at the Ms. magazine blog on the treatment given to a mere editorial on the topic of possible rises in men's rates of depression, what with the "Mancession" and uppity women taking over the labor markets. Now, depression in anyone is not a laughing matter and I would be the last person to laugh at it.

But the media treatment is not about a new epidemic of male depression, only about someone speculating that such an epidemic might be in the works. At the same time, women, today, are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.

The Texas Miracle: Two Fishes and Five Loaves for the Children

Paul Krugman wrote a post about education in Texas a few days ago:
Now, politicians — and especially, in my experience, conservative politicians — always claim to be deeply concerned about the nation’s children. Back during the 2000 campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush, touting the “Texas miracle” of dramatically lower dropout rates, declared that he wanted to be the “education president.” Today, advocates of big spending cuts often claim that their greatest concern is the burden of debt our children will face.
In practice, however, when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.
Consider, as a case in point, what’s happening in Texas, which more and more seems to be where America’s political future happens first.
Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.
But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.
And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.
But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way — they, ahem, got the numbers wrong.
And what now when the Texas Miracle turned out to be a mirage and the state is suffering from serious budget problems? Education spending will be cut back.

I don't really need to tell anyone smart enough to read my blog that this is like the farmers eating the seed corn. There will be little to plant next year, which in terms of education means that the next generations will have few skills, will not be able to handle complex work tasks and will, in general, suffer from lower earnings and standards of living.

The conservatives sometimes buy the argument that we should spend some public funds to educate the children so that corporations in the future will have a better labor force. But we shouldn't stop at that pecuniary level. An educated society is a much nicer society for all of us to live in. An educated society means that an old conservative will be taken care of by skilled nurses and doctors, for example. An educated society has fewer desperate people, less poverty and less crime, all nice things for an elderly conservative wanting to rock on that front porch watching the sun set.

But mostly conservatives see children as the punishment their parents deserve for having dared to have sex. Nobody else should pay for them, they should be educated at home by their mothers and somehow a miracle is required that all this would provide the kind of educated society the conservatives would ultimately want. Without them having to pay anything. A Texas Miracle of sorts.

In defense of gossip (by Suzie)

The reporters on the Guardian disappointed me. They failed my masculinity test. They behaved like gossiping schoolgirls. -- Julian Assange,™ as quoted in Britain's Private Eye.
According to the magazine, Assange made this remark after ranting that certain Guardian journalists were part of a conspiracy against him, and, oh, by the way, they are all Jewish. (They aren't.) He quickly denied saying anything bad about Jews, adding that he treasures his Jewish supporters and staff members. (Why does WikiLeaks even bother to pay a PR firm?)

I haven't seen any retraction about the schoolgirl statement. Apparently, it's OK to malign them because they don't send him money, and they're too young to properly support him, unlike, say, his assistant Sarah Harrison, a recent college graduate, who has, the London Times reported, "been in very close contact and organising his diary and washing his socks." As part of the Jewish conspiracy, Yossi Melman in Haaretz wrote that Harrison is the accused rapist's current girlfriend.

Some might accuse me of writing like a gossiping schoolgirl, which I once was. My response would be: "Go gossiping schoolgirls! Yay team!" Gossip refers to spreading personal or private information about someone. But the idea of a private sphere divorced from the public and political sphere has long been used to hush up men's abuse of women. Rape or abuse by family members, whether brothers, fathers or husbands; sexual assaults by acquaintances, from a guy picked up at a bar to a trusted priest; and various other abuse that falls under "domestic violence" -- all have been kept secret by schoolgirls and women who felt forced to protect themselves or someone else.

Assange supporters have described the sex-crime case in Sweden as a personal or private matter.

That's why we need gossip. We need one schoolgirl to tell another: Watch out for X because he'll try to grope you in the hallway. Or, an older schoolgirl to say: I thought I was going on a date with Y, but he drove out into nowhere, and wouldn't take me back until I went down on him. Or, a WL supporter: What!? He had sex without a condom with you, too? Or, another to say: You're intelligent. Why are you washing his socks for him?

Yes, yes, I know that gossiping schoolgirls weren't Assange's target. But, as the exemplar of masculinity, he knows that comparing a man to a girl is the worst insult. Girls are for f*cking and washing your socks! It was also his way of saying those Guardian guys are sooooo gay, just as if he were a gossiping schoolboy.

Please check out Katrina Voll-Taylor's idea of his masculinity test.

Perhaps you wonder what inspired the rant about gossiping schoolgirls who also happen to be Jewish (or vice versa). Assange was attacking Private Eye's article on Israel Shamir. Earlier, the Guardian printed this article on "Israel Shamir, a Jew who has converted to Orthodox Christianity and passionate antisemitism, and his son Johannes Wahlström. ... [Shamir] also denied that he had any special connection with WikiLeaks, though the group's spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, confirmed that he was their representative in Russia, just as his son is in Scandinavia."

Another Guardian article notes that WL paid Shamir for "services rendered -- journalism," and Shamir says this was for work in Russia.

Shamir co-wrote the article in CounterPunch that first published the libel that one of Assange's accusers worked for the CIA, a lie that Assange and his lawyers have backed off of, after it became widespread on the Internet.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What Digby Said

While discussing The Daily Show on Wisconsin and the teacher-bashing:
This attack on teachers has a very strange tinge to it. It was a traditionally female profession and I think it's still more heavily weighted to women than men, especially in the lower grades. Watching a bunch of red faced, right wingers attacking them for being selfish, lazy fat cats is disturbing and I can't help but wonder if the loathing for people like this runs a little deeper than politics
Watching those clips is pretty fascinating. The wingnuts don't compare teachers with other workers with the same education but with everybody, or at least imaginary people who bear grudges.

The former comparison would provide a very different picture, you know. Teachers earn less than others with similar degrees. That is partly compensated for by the longer vacations and more flexible work days, both reasons why women are more likely to choose teaching as an occupation. It dovetails with the traditional ideas of who should be in charge with children.

News From The War Against Women

Via Amanda Marcotte, in Ohio:
A fetus has been scheduled as a legislative witness in Ohio on a unique bill that proposes outlawing abortions after the first heartbeat can be medically detected.
Faith2Action, the anti-abortion group that has targeted Ohio to pilot the measure, called the in-utero witness the youngest to ever come before the House Health Committee at nine weeks old.
The fetus arrived in a taxi cab some call a woman.

What I Had For Breakfast And Other Thoughts On the State of Blogs

I woke up from a nightmare which I immediately forgot. Then I fed the birds and squirrels in the backyard with some trail mix and dry bagels and sunflower seeds. Like stepping into that Hitchcock film, it was, with about ten rooks silently waiting. But I'm used to being haunted.

Breakfast consisted of a tiny eclair with artificial whipped cream in it. Usually I bravely masticate horse food (oats) because it does good to the gutters of a goddess but I had a long and tiring day yesterday and the fridge offered this poor little forgotten eclair as its only offering.

That is how the New York Times views blogs. It must, because of this article a few days ago:
The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.
Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.
Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.
Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.
Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

The article tells us that blogs are on the wane and that Twitter is the new fad. This means that you will no longer be told about the rooks but only about the breakfast because the rooks would take more than 140 letters.

I'd do well as a full-time tweeter/twitterer, because the one thing I have always been in writing, in all languages, is concise. I was born that way. Still, it's pretty tough to talk about something complicated in sound-bites.

Who knows if political blogs are on the wane or not? They are not the same as personal blogs and neither are they particularly focused on the younger age groups.

Still, maintaining a blog over time is hard work. It's especially hard if you don't get paid for it because life needs intervene. I noticed this when I started working on my blogroll. Many of the blogs I linked to no longer exist, and the blogroll right now (before I get to adding new blogs) is what has survived the last three years, with few later additions. And yes, I'm a dreadful housekeeper. I use my own bookmarks to read blogs and not the blogroll itself.

What I Learned While Arguing in Comments Threads

1. If someone had the very same experience, why, then the article must be generally true.
2. If someone did not have the same experience, why, then the article must be generally untrue.
3. If someone likes the message of the article, why, then it must be true!
4. If someone dislikes the message of the article, why, then it must be untrue!
5. If an article has been published at all, it must be true!
6. If an article is published on a site the person does not like, it must be untrue!
7. Getting the conclusions of the article wrong does not matter. The wrong conclusions must be discussed with the same earnestness as the right ones.
8. Arguing in comments threads is not worth my time or the state of my stomach.

A New Hymowitz Piece. It's Women's Fault That Men Hate Them.

Poor deluded lass. She read those same woman-hating comments to her earlier piece I did, but arrived at a very different conclusion:

Men in their twenties and thirties are fed up with women, but author Kay Hymowitz says you can’t blame them when women are demanding equality except when it comes to romance.


So, is this what Susan Faludi famously called the backlash? Is it immaturity, as my own book seems to suggest? Is it the Internet as an escape valve for decades of pent-up rebellion against political correctness? Or, is it just good, old-fashioned misogyny?
A bit of all of the above, probably. But there’s another reason for these rants, one that is far less understood. Let’s call it gender bait and switch. Never before in history have men been matched up with women who are so much their equal—socially, professionally, and sexually. By the time they reach their twenties, they have years of experience with women as equal competitors—in school, on soccer fields, and even in bed. They very reasonably assume that the women they are meeting at a bar or café or gym are after the same things they are: financial independence, career success, toned triceps, and sex.
That’s the bait; here comes the switch. Women may want equality at the conference table and treadmill. But when it comes to sex and dating, they aren’t so sure. The might hook up as freely as a Duke athlete. Or, they might want men to play Greatest Generation gentleman. Yes, they want men to pay for dinner, call for dates—a writer at the popular dating website The Frisky titled a recent piece “Call me and ask me out for a damn date!”—and open doors for them. A lot of men wonder: “WTF??!” Why should they do the asking? Why should they pay for dinner? After all, they are equals and in any case, the woman a guy is asking out probably has more cash in her pocket than he does; recent female graduates are making more than males in most large cities.
This is really weird stuff. She's trying to find a reason that would blame women AND wouldn't be just a sign of general woman-hating of the kind that would always exist, whatever women as a class do. She fails miserably, I think.

Compare her argument to some of those comments attached to her earlier piece of nasty fluff, to be found in my earlier post and its comments. Here are a few more (MAY TRIGGER):
Others have walked round and round this Topic with few "manly" enough to take on the "Generation of Vipers" and/or the "gender equality feminists", so I will. 

Who wants an ordinary-looking or a Hymowitz plain jane whose interest in promoting masculinity is like, nowhere!! 

I'll take a feminine - never feminist! - woman who resides with me for the dual purpose of catering to my wishes as I would be to the rare as a dodo, less harridanish of a woman. 

And the word marriage has zero appeal to me. Been there, done that and couldn't wait to get her out of my sight. OK, I shouldn't have married her in the first place - NOW you tell me!! 

I think manliness for many men is what you see is what you get. I like outdoor activities, can't stand community plays and other poorly structured 'artsy performances', and will never again try to be what some female has been taught to expect. 

After living with continuously arguing, uneducated parents, I swore I would NEVERI marry.

I failed ... once ... but never again. 

If a male needs a maternal influence in his life, he should get the real thing ... a female dog!!
A comedian said it great: "I was gonna get married but thought I'd just buy a house for a women I didn't like instead." 

Men follow the incentives: the incentive for getting married is a huge negative for men. 

Want men to grow up? Raise them to be men, not sensitive new age naval gazers. 

Want them to marry? Raise your women to be wives, instead of spoiled brats. 

Legally we treat husbands like they are in coach, and wives ride first class. Gotta' change this if you want the men to come back to the table.
was born a man, society tried to make me a woman, but then I became a man again. Male adolescents today are not allowed to be "boys". The Slightest Infraction has them either "Pilled Out" if they show Ambition or Energy, Suspended from School, or Even Arrested. When Not in Trouble the Parents Track them with GPS and Call Them Every 10 minutes to see if they are Still Alive and Behaving. By Not Letting them be "Boys"you are simply Delaying the Process of Maturity. Eventually, They Have to Get It Out, This Occurs when they are Older than 18yrs. There whole Lives to this Point they have been Tracked, Punished, and many Pilled Out. Now they are Mansized and Over the Age. What Comes around Goes Around and now Its.... Party Time! By the way Kay, I think your hot.
But the problem is even greater than an academic discussion of men being disposable and women being given the false illusion of 'Sheena' invincibility. We have been told to scorn the old adage of 'women and children first.' I shudder to think what will happen to Western civilization in an increasingly more violent world, and as economic realities deteriorate, Even in the predations of past dark ages in human history, there was a symbiotic relationship in society between the majority of men and women who cared about each other and their children - it made the difference in survival or anihilation. On the road we are now currently taking, what will happen to the future of mankind in the West? 

Is it an accident that the media portrays and promotes the view of terrorists as brute testosterone hairy animals, while Western men have been emasculated with a vengeance, and portrayed as weak adolescent boys living in Never-Never Land? It has been said, there are no accidents in history.

And of course Amanda is quite right on her take on this newest Hymowitzing:
It didn't seem possible to me that Kay Hymowitz could come up with a piece that's lighter on evidence than her recent Wall Street Journal piece that cast all twentysomething women as dour marriage obsessives and all twentysomething men as perennial children, because that's how she saw it in a Judd Apatow movie.  But she really outdid herself in the Daily Beast, with an article explaining why men are universally angry with women.  Her evidence for this?  The rantings of men on internet boards that are dedicated to misogyny.  That's like reading a white supremacist website and concluding that all white people worship Hitler.
The Web sites Hymowitz (who has a forthcoming book, Manning Up)  uses as evidence for her "men all hate women now" theory are all on the far end of the "men's rights activist" spectrum, which is a subculture of anti-feminists who spend all their money on "pick-up artist" scams and mail-order bride businesses, at least when they're not tying their ex-wives up in court for years at a time with frivolous lawsuits.  George Sodini, the misogynist who shot up a gym class and killed three women, sprang from this subculture.  So did the guy who keeps suing nightclubs for having Ladies Night, because he's still bitter that his Russian bride got the hell out the second she secured her green card.  And so did Darren Mack, the man who killed his ex-wife and tried to kill the judge presiding over their divorce. Men join up with this subculture because they buy into the belief that feminists have convinced women to make up rape, domestic violence, and child abuse to control men, and that men are a deeply oppressed group, and that the more money and leadership positions thing is just an illusion concealing the truth of our matriarchy.
In other words, not the guys you want to ask if you're looking for average male sentiments about women.
In short, those kinds of comments threads are flooded by misogynists. They come in as a group and support each other. After a while you can smell them, the flavor of the arguments, and the repeated reference to the same short list of horrors that affect men (false accusations of rape, for instance, or how men really kill many more men than they kill women).

But whatever those comments threads tell us or don't tell us, none of them reveal that the greatest grudge men have would be about having to pay for a meal while dating if that's what is still expected of them (I wouldn't know, not having gone through the American dating rites).

It's true that quite a few argue that sex should be the natural payment for a free meal. But that's not the same as being upset about pre-feminist dating rites still existing in places. After all, pre-feminist comments threads exist, too! And pre-feminist earnings differences! And pre-feminist lists of the gender of American presidents and of the popes and of the mullahs and of the priests and so on. The world changes but slowly.

IF we were to take Hymowitz's ideas seriously, I'd argue that the various comments threads I have, sadly, read suggest that many of these misogynists hate traditional (heterosexual) women, women who stay at home. Those women are seen as leeches who suck up the man's resources, who are lazy and greedy and who are just waiting to kick the man out in order to get even more in a divorce settlement. These men also hate women who don't follow orders or who get less sexually attractive with age or who don't put out when expected.

But nowhere have I read comments demanding that women should call men for a date or that women should pay for dates more often. Nowhere.

Another filthy fluff piece from Hymowitz.

Monday, February 28, 2011

And More Silence, This Time on the Wisconsin Protests

Paul Krugman:
I don’t watch cable news, or actually any kind of TV news. But I gather that there’s a virtual blackout on the huge demonstrations in Wisconsin, except on Fox, which portrays them as thuggish and violent.
I was watching the streaming last night on my computer when the cable in the building was accidentally cut. By something or someone.

First Draft has much coverage of the events in Wisconsin.

The Sound of Silence and Clarence Thomas

Justice Thomas has given a speech which he finished with these words:
Thomas closed by citing a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – which Thomas said he has on a sign hanging in his chambers.
“And what I think is important for you all, is that when you see people standing in defense of what’s right, that you make sure that your voice is not remembered as one of the silent,”
You can watch the speech at Politico. What you don't necessarily get there is this:
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has passed a unique anniversary. As of Tuesday, it has been five years since he asked a question at the court's oral argument — a phenomenon unmatched in recent history.
The Sound of Silence

Today's Happy Post

I have made yet another affirmation to pay more attention to the good side of things. Not easy for a melancholy goddess or a raging one, but important. So here is a nice story for you:
AS the gregarious Ronaldinho, one of the world’s best soccer players, emerged this month from the locker room in his black-and-red Flamengo club jersey and pulling at his trademark ponytail, fans erupted in applause. But a group of shirtless men in the seats below had their sights on someone else, turning toward a private box above and chanting.
“Pa-tri-cia! Pa-tri-cia!” they shouted. “We love you!”
Patricia Amorim, the president of Flamengo, Brazil’s most popular sports club, blushed and acknowledged them with a small wave.
It was a hopeful moment for Ms. Amorim, a former Olympic swimmer, after a year to forget as the first woman to run the 115-year-old club.


As Ronaldinho took the field this month, there were no fans urging Ms. Amorim to “go back to the kitchen” or to “go take care of the house and kids,” as she said they did last year.
“People underestimate you,” she said. “Now, I think they are no longer underestimating me.”

I can't help if my fingers itch to point out that Ms. Amorim's job obstacles are not just the usual ones but the extra ones created by people who don't believe a woman is up to the task. But to defeat all of those obstacles surely should make her feel victorious, for the moment, at least. More importantly, it changes stereotypes over time to have women in new roles. The progress is excruciatingly slow, however.

The War On Women

The New York Times has an editorial on the Republican war on women. It is on ongoing war, of course, waged at least since the Reagan administration, but most people don't see it or recognize it as a war on women. It is hidden in several different sections in our brains and sometimes it is hard to see the simple fact that, indeed, Republicans do have a very sour and violent approach to half of humanity.

Putting some of the information in one place helps, and that is what the editorial achieved, despite leaving out the myriad additional state-level projects aimed at this noble cause:
The budget bill pushed through the House last Saturday included the defunding of Planned Parenthood and myriad other cuts detrimental to women. It’s not likely to pass unchanged, but the urge to compromise may take a toll on these programs. And once the current skirmishing is over, House Republicans are likely to use any legislative vehicle at hand to continue the attack.
The egregious cuts in the House resolution include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.
An amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, would bar any financing of Planned Parenthood. A recent sting operation by an anti-abortion group uncovered an errant employee, who was promptly fired. That hardly warrants taking aim at an irreplaceable network of clinics, which uses no federal dollars in providing needed abortion care. It serves one in five American women at some point in her lifetime.
The House resolution would slash support for international family planning and reproductive health care. And it would reimpose the odious global “gag” rule, which forbids giving federal money to any group that even talks about abortions. That rule badly hampered family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths before President Obama lifted it.


Beyond the familiar terrain of abortion or even contraception, House Republicans would inflict harm on low-income women trying to have children or who are already mothers.
Their continuing resolution would cut by 10 percent the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month, and has been linked in studies to higher birth weight and lower infant mortality.
The G.O.P. bill also slices $50 million from the block grant supporting programs providing prenatal health care to 2.5 million low-income women and health care to 31 million children annually. President Obama’s budget plan for next year calls for a much more modest cut.

Note that these attempts punish poor women for being pregnant in every possible way. First they insist on forced births, then they insist on cutting out all help after the child is born. How else can you interpret that than as hatred of women? Well, hatred of living children works, too.
Hat-tip to sm.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mary Bergin and Alec Finn



Meanwhile, in Iran

The problem of universities filled with women appears to have been solved in a simple fashion: Maximum quotas to keep women out:
The head of Iran's Research and Planning Organization of Higher Studies has said that the number of male and female students in the Islamic republic is now equal.

Massoud Hadian Dehkordi has said that there are currently 3,790,859 students in the country, of which he said about 50.5 percent are men and about 49.5 percent women.

Previously it had been reported, based on official figures, that women made up 60-65 percent of university entrants.

Some Iranian officials had expressed worry over the rising numbers of women at universities, and said that it represented a threat to traditional values and that it would limit women's marriage opportunities.

In 2008, the Research Center of the Iranian parliament expressed concern over the trend, which it described as "alarming" and called on the government to stop it.
And so it seems to have been stopped. Engineering and medicine are two of the fields in which women now face maximum quotas.

But note the sentence I have bolded: Iranian sexists don't have to veil their words the way American ones do. Thus, we are never told the real reason why fewer women should go to college. But that reason is the very same one: to uphold traditional values of a patriarchal sort.

Today's Deep Thought

I have been reading Slate's Doublex, something I usually avoid doing for all sorts of reasons, including the resident misogynists in the comments.

The site is an interesting attempt to cover women's issues by allowing all sorts of opinions on them. Of course, in practice that boils down to two sides, one arguing that women should be equally treated, the other arguing that women are wind-driven rubbish which should be kicked into the gutters if not already found there.

This is the real problem in the mainstream debates about women. The alternatives really are that women are OK or that women are pieces of s**t. That women might be the best thing since Wiener nougat is not an option that Doublex covers.

The absence of that option means that any "compromise" conclusions on the site would necessarily be somewhere in the middle of those two options. Perhaps that women are not equal to men though not quite the anti-family monsters the other side proposes.

And as many of my smart commentators have noticed, the same problem applies to ALL discussions about women's proper roles or about women's mental abilities. Either women are seen as having the right to do whatever men are doing or they are seen limited to the home, and either women are seen as roughly equally smart as men or they are seen as inferior to men. The third alternatives are missing from the public debates.

Perhaps none of this is news to you. But I found this explains my disinclination to visit Doublex, despite the many good articles posted there. The setup is biased from the beginning in a way which makes equality an extreme view rather than the view in the middle.