Friday, March 23, 2012

Hahah! Women Are The Richer Sex

It's even on the cover of the Time Magazine.

You get to be the richer sex by earning less, on average, than the other sex earns, you know. A well-known factoid.

Or as Bryce puts it in the Nation:
This is the heart of her thesis: “Almost 40 percent of U.S. working wives now outearn their husbands, a percentage that has risen steeply in this country and many others.” She adds that “[w]ives are breadwinners or co-earners in about two-thirds of American marriages” and that “[a]lmost 7 percent of wives—nearly 4 million women, up from 1.7 percent in 1967—[are] sole breadwinners.” These are impressive statistics to be sure, but as some have pointed out, the math doesn’t add up to a claim that women are already the richer sex. After all, to flip her numbers around, 60 percent of men are still outearning their wives, a third of married women are still contributing less to their families than their husbands and 93 percent of wives are not sole breadwinners. But Mundy predicts that the time when the balance will tilt toward women is “just around the corner.” “We are entering an era where women, not men, will become the top earners in households,” she says. “We are entering the era in which roles will flip.”

There are several reasons why any flip of the gender roles is not just around the corner, and Bryce discusses several of them in the quoted article:

Women are still concentrated in low-pay occupations and industries, many of the growing female-dominated occupations of the future offer very low pay and women are severely underrepresented among the very highest earners.

Add to that the unchanged division of labor at home (CHILDREN) and the fact that even women with college degrees are over-represented in those fields with relatively low pay and under-represented in the well-paying STEM fields, and the fact that most earnings differences between men and women develop over time and are not visible among young workers, and you become much more skeptical about the idea that women could be the higher-earning sex any time soon. In any country of the world, actually.

These stories are very popular. I hear that Hannah Rosin's book The End of Men will be out in September, and most likely will present the same arguments. Thus, my earlier comments on her work might be relevant here, too. As are my comments on that often-cited study on young women out-earning men in a few places and only when very educated, single and childless.

I'm not arguing with the fact that women are doing better than in the past here. I'm criticizing the odd aspect of these kinds of stories which can leap from women earning roughly 80% of what men earn (when comparing full-time workers only) to predictions about the sky falling, men ending and the world turning into a matriarchy. Or predictions about a complete flip in the gender roles! Whatever these people are drinking I'd like some of it, please.

Yes, indeed, women have bridged the education gender gap in this country and turned it into a reverse gender gap, by a small amount. But all the other bits of the mechanisms which cause average differences in the earnings of men and women are still in place. It is extremely unlikely that the sky will fall or the golden era of matriarchy will dawn.

Never mind all that. Stories like these are click magnets!

They are also very much based on what provoked this representation of women's suffrage:

I am going to read Mundy's book, of course I am. But by the time I have done it we are all talking about something completely different. That's how it goes.

Helen of Troy. Friday's Fun Post.

The Trojan war, caused by the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy!

She was, we are told in the myths, the wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta, but spirited away (either willingly or not) by Paris of Troy, after Aphrodite, the goddess of love, promised him the most beautiful woman in the world as a reward for picking her among all goddesses as the most beautiful. All the Greeks then attacked Troy to get Helen back. Hence the Trojan wars, the trap with the wooden horse and everything else.

Myths are such fun. I've just read two books on the Helen of Troy. She may have been a fertility goddess, she may not have existed at all but she certainly had an impact on Western literature and art. The face that launched a thousand ships!

I've had a theory about Helen's role as the initiator (whether passive or active) of the Trojan wars (whether real or mythical). I consulted the two books on her but found no real mention of my theory, though I'm quite sure that someone else has proposed it before me. Most things have been.

Still, it's a fun theory and goes like this: The Greeks went after Paris and Helen not because she was the most beautiful woman in Greece but because the rule over Sparta belonged to the man who was Helen's husband. By abducting Helen Paris also abducted the kingdom of Sparta. If he could present himself as the husband of Helen he would also have the rule of Sparta.

This is a much more likely theory than the one about Helen's beauty. It is also supported by other parts of the myth, including the myth about Helen's birth.

She is supposed to have been the daughter of Zeus, the boss of the Greek gods, and Leda, the wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta. Zeus, in the shape of a swan, either seduced or raped Leda who then laid one or more eggs. Out of the egg(s) hatched Helen, and according to some stories also Clytemnestra and the twins Castor and Pollux.

None of these mythical children are the children of the king of Sparta. But they are the children of the queen of Sparta, Leda. And note that some myths suggest that Helen had full brothers, too.

So why did Menelaus, Helen's husband, become the king of Sparta? Why not Castor or Pollux? Why did the crown of Sparta go to an outsider, the husband of one of its princesses?

The most likely explanation is that the Spartans used the female line to determine inheritance of the crown. A man had to marry the correct princess to become the king of Sparta. That Tyndareus is not Helen's biological father in the myth does not matter if the right to rule was based on Leda being the queen of Sparta. It would then be the husband of her (oldest?) daughter who would be the next ruler.

That the myths assign Zeus as Helen's real father complicates matters, of course. But even if a divine father is preferable to a human one, surely Castor or Pollux would have qualified before Menelaus?

Many aspects of the myth support the idea that the inheritance of city-kingdoms in Greece was once linked to the female line. Even the early abduction of Helen by Theseus fits into the same pattern, and so does the whole idea that a large number of suitors would turn up to compete for Helen's hand:
When it was time for Helen to marry, many kings and princes from around the world came to seek her hand, bringing rich gifts with them, or sent emissaries to do so on their behalf. During the contest, Castor and Pollux had a prominent role in dealing with the suitors, although the final decision was in the hands of Tyndareus.[27] Menelaus, her future husband, did not attend but sent his brother, Agamemnon, to represent him.
This looks comprehensible if the kingdom of Sparta went with Helen. But once that link faded from general consciousness something like Helen's beauty had to take its place, to explain both the large number of suitors and the Trojan war.

Old European fairy tales may reflect a similar early inheritance custom. Just think how very common it is in those tales for the hero to get the princess and half the kingdom. If she was an only child, why not the whole kingdom? Perhaps the hero and the princess were once expected to rule together?

How Feminism Is Covered in The Media. Echidne Thoughts.

Brought to me courtesy of this article last weekend about why there is no new Gloria Steinem in the movement.

Try to get past the fact that the article appeared in a section called "Fashion and Style." Feminism is about fashion and style, you see.

I've written about that placement many times before. Today's topic is slightly different: Feminism is almost always covered by focusing on the people in the movement, their personalities, their names, what they said or say. Who leads the movement? Who should lead the movement? What about those fights between older feminists and younger feminists? What about racism inside the movement, from the first wave to the last?

Then there's the attribution of something a famous feminist has said to the whole movement of feminism. A synecdoche, if you like. Those who hate feminism dig up extreme comments for that purpose, of course. But even more generally the movement is condensed to a few sentences by one woman, picked somewhat arbitrarily.

And essentially all of it, in the United States, is strictly about the domestic feminist movement.

These kinds of stories are also written about other civil rights movements, sure. But I don't think they are equally common. The overall flavor is different. Feminism is covered the way celebrity magazines would cover it or the People magazine, with much stronger focus on personalities and on the problems inside the movement.

There's nothing wrong with discussing the problems inside the movement. That is all good and necessary. Even talking about the individual leaders or followers inside the various waves is good. What I find weird, however, is the relative division between stories which discuss what the movement aims for, what it achieves or does not, and then the insider stories.

What if the labor movement was only discussed in the latter terms? Articles would be about the internal power struggles within the movement, the prejudices (sexism, racism etc.) of its leaders, their personal charisma, the factions inside the movement and so on. Or apply similar thought experiments to anti-racism movements or immigrants rights movements.

These are my thoughts on this topic so far. The term "feminism" gets confused with the term "feminists" and that confusion influences the relative number of stories written on the former and the latter. We get more stories about real and imaginary "feminists" than about "feminism or feminisms," and we get many more stories about the American feminist movement in recent history than about feminist movements in other countries or feminist ideals and goals.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This is Lovely. Activism Works in Idaho!

Remember the Idaho Republican Senator Chuck Winder who compared pregnant women to cows and chickens and used his veterinary knowledge to inform people about abortions for rape victims*? He got lots of publicity for his views!

And what happened next? Winder revealed even more about himself:
Despite ultrasound theater and overwhelming senate support, a mandatory ultrasound bill that would have forced women seeking abortion to pay out-of-pocket for an additional and unnecessary medical expense, while also trying to trick them into visiting crisis pregnancy centers, may not even make it to the House floor for a vote.
The bill became a political hand-grenade after bill sponsor Sen. Chuck Winder admitted that his sole reason for introducing it was to stop women from having abortions by whatever means necessary. Criticism of Winder began to escalate as he used his closing remarks during the senate vote to claim women with "rape issues" might lie to get abortions.
Facing national outrage, Winder then explained that he was merely trying to advocate for a "rape test" to ensure a woman who claimed she was rape was sure she was raped, and wasn't "accidentally terminating" a pregnancy resulting from consensual sex instead.

Do read the whole linked post. It's very giggleworthy.

It also shows that activism works. When lots of women get very angry and demonstrate their anger, politicians decide not to push a particular bill through. At least right now.
*I confused him there with the Georgia legislator Terry England. My apologies to both these gentlemen. It was Mr. England who ranted about cows and chickens. Mr. Winder just ranted about pretend-rapes in abortions.

Thanks to Kierra in the comments for setting me right.

The Trayvon Martin Case

I have not written about the case because I have nothing special to add to it but I have of course followed it.

The whole thing is a racist monstrosity, beginning from the parents not been told that their son lies in a morgue despite his cell phone having numbers marked "mom" and "dad." If the police did not have his cell phone, where did it go? The shooter was not arrested or tested for drugs and alcohol though Martin was, and the initial police investigation appears to have been completely biased and one-sided.

In addition to racism the other strands that made this possible are pretty obvious, too. Laws which allow vigilantes like George Zimmerman to cruise neighborhoods legally armed to the teeth and laws which offer him a possible defense (the Stand Your Ground law), however unlikely, for shooting an unarmed teenager.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Brookings Study on Government-Funded Contraception

This is quite interesting, given all the conservative misplaced furor about private health insurance coverage for contraceptives. The kind which is not paid by the tax payers.

A simulation suggests that access to family planning within the Medicaid program (which covers health care expenses of certain groups of low-income individuals) could save taxpayers quite a bit of money. The study concludes:
The research reviewed in this brief shows that evidence-based pregnancy prevention interventions are public policy trifectas: they generate taxpayer savings, they improve the lives of children and families, and they reduce the incidence of abortion. These cost saving policies are particularly well suited to the current fiscal climate, in which state lawmakers are struggling to balance their budgets and the federal government is grappling with a yawning debt that is projected to increase in the years to come.
Simulations are no better than their basic assumptions, of course. But common sense also suggests that avoiding unplanned pregnancies is a win-win for all concerned. If it also results in net governmental savings, what's not to like?

Ah. There's that thing about paying for someone else's sex life. Limbaugh told us all about that in a context which isn't even about taxpayer funding.

This Is Priceless!

Mitt Romney:
“I keep hearing the president say that he’s responsible for keeping America from going into a Great Depression,” Romney told a crowd at a town hall meeting in Maryland Wednesday. “No, no no. That was President George W. Bush and Hank Paulson that stepped in and kept that from happening.”

The Rape Of Amina Al Filali

She was a sixteen-year-old Moroccan girl who was raped at knife point and then made to marry her rapist:
Amina Al Filali, 16, drank rat poison last week in Larache, near the city of Tangiers after being severely beaten during a forced marriage to her rapist.
The girl's rapist had sought to escape prison by invoking an article of the penal code that he claimed would exonerate him if the rape victim was his wife.
Activist Abadila Maaelaynine wrote on the social network site Twitter:  "Amina, 16, was triply violated, by her rapist, by tradition, and by Article 475 of the Moroccan law."
An online petition has been started and protests are planned for Saturday against a law branded by campaigners as an "embarrassment".

It is good that the law might be changed. It is sad that Amina had to die for that to happen.

Laws of this type have existed in the past in many societies. Their point has been to fix the disorder a rape causes for all concerned except the woman/girl who was raped: The man doesn't have to be punished, the family of the victim hasn't lost its honor by having a deflowered unmarried daughter whom nobody else might now want to marry.

The extreme outcome of such laws is to sentence a victim to be permanently available to a sadistic torturer. Sadly, this was the case here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fun in Pro-Choice Politics

The Facebook pages of forced-birther politicians still get questions asking for advice on menstrual problems and such, what with those guys' great desire to provide women with useful reproductive information. Texas governor Rick Perry is the most recent oracle women approach with their questions.

And this is a really fun idea: Knit a uterus and send it to a politician who wants to control uteri but doesn't happen to own one himself! Not sure what to send to those forced birth politicians who already have a uterus.

But expanding on that idea: You can also crochet, and patterns are provided. But why not embroider or quilt? Realistic-looking embryos could be embroidered on the surface of the womb or if it is made like a pocket the embryo could be the happy find an inquiring finger locates there! You could do a menstruating uterus, too, by using fabric paints and such.

And what about a gigantic sleeping pouch, in the shape of the uterus? The whole Congress-critter could fit inside it and finally we would have peace.

Meanwhile, in Idaho. Or What Forced Birthers Really Think About Women.

Idaho state senator Chuck Winder (R-Boise) is a busy forced-birth bee! First he proposed a bill, passed in the Idaho Senate, which requires that women seeking abortion must have two medically unnecessary ultra-sounds, not just one! And the first one will have to be at a crisis pregnancy center.

Then this:
In his closing debate in favor of SB 1387, Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “This bill does not require a trans-vaginal exam. … It leaves that up to the patient and the physician to make that determination.” He said, “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on.”
Mmm. I guess Sen. Winder is another expert in women's health issues, given that he has such deep and meaningful ideas about what happens after a woman is raped.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How About That Health Insurance?

Paul Krugman links to a study which shows a big drop on the number of people who have health insurance from their employers. Most of that is due to the loss of jobs in a recession, but the drop also shows the vulnerability of a system which is based on employment. As Krugman notes:
What this says is that the system that has provided workable insurance coverage to many (but not enough) Americans is coming apart at the seams. And this in turn means that if health reform goes down, we’re going to be looking at a wave of misery spreading across the land.
The employment-based aspect of health insurance has never been as generous to those who have jobs with lower pay. But if firms can pick and choose the way they can now, we are all going to be at the mercy of the employers' moral and other values when it comes to health insurance.

The market-based alternatives to job-linked group plans are more expensive because they are not group plans and because the sellers of those have been able to exclude people or charge higher premia based on existing health problems. Combine that with the need for such policies being greater for the lower earners (both because firms are less likely to offer health insurance in such jobs and because small firms, also less likely to afford health insurance, have more low-pay employees), and you get a situation where the feasible alternative for many working families is not to buy insurance at all, assuming that they don't qualify for Medicaid.

Housekeeping Post

About this blog, not about the Snakepit Inc. It has a few problems.

You may have already noticed that the only thing I like to do is think and write. To decide what to do about all this makes me grit my fangs and pretend that the problems aren't there.

But they are:

First, Blogger is doing weird stuff which make the comments on this blog (and other blogs which use blogspot) not appear for those of you who read it from outside the US. The fix, kindly provided by Shakesville, and passed on by a Guest here, can be found in this post.

Second, several of you have had comments problems even without that extra complication. After some discussions, I have found that Echo (for which I pay about fifteen dollars each month) is not supported anymore! So we appear to be on our own with any problems that will crop up. And there will be more of them as time passes, naturally.

Third, there is the old problem with links to my archives. When Blogger changed the system of archiving and forced me to change the archives to weekly ones all the old links elsewhere to this blog are only approximately right because they are to the monthly archives. It's possible to find the correct link because it is somewhere near that overall link to the month. But I have found no way to fix that link problem.

The possible solutions to the more recent problems:
1. To migrate the blog out. I don't want to do it for the reason Melissa mentions in the post above.
2. To stay with blogspot, even given the hassle, and to get a new commenting system. The problem here is how to retain the old comments for the readers. I can archive them myself but I want them to be available more generally.
3. Duh. To continue procrastination the way I usually do.

My apologies for the hassles.

A Conservative Man Advises Women About Men

If you have ever cruised the misogyny sites you get a pretty good idea how woman-hating men want women to be: They must kowtow to The Man, they must never put on weight, they must not talk much at all, they must stay at home and clean house and cook (but if they do they are still sucking off the man like a leech).

They must have their vaginas (and mouths) always available for the men who own them but other men must not have access to the said vaginas. And even then they are still horrible bitches and fat slags who only want the Alpha Males when the Omega Males who want to be treated as alpha males demand equal vaginal rights. But most of all women are seen as horrible on those sites. Nothing women could do will ever alter that.

Given this background, I was somewhat surprised to see a bowdlerized version of all this on a conservative site as an advice column on how women should behave if they want to date a man or get married to one.

The column is much gentler than the hate sites, almost humorous, but it is based on the same extreme gender caricatures. Women are emotional wrecks who bubble and bubble and bubble, men are silent and simple lords of the universe who just want to get laid and obeyed. Men do not have emotions! But women: Remember not to try to manipulate those nonexistent emotions of men! And so on and so on.

It's that Mars/Venus bullshit with some slight updating. Here's one snippet:
Men are not as comfortable with their emotions as women. Typically, we don’t use our emotions as often or as fully as women, we don’t get in as many emotional situations, and we feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of crying or getting choked up.
So, ramped-up drama can take a much harder toll on men than women. For example, men have it drilled into them from the time they’re young that they’re supposed to protect women. So, if a man says something that makes a woman cry, it may be no big deal for her. Depending on their mental state, there are a lot of women who can break into tears if a waiter brings them the wrong kind of salad dressing. But to a man, a woman crying over something he did means that he FAILED as a man to protect her and worse yet, he did the opposite and inflicted pain on someone he cares about.
This means that women are not allowed to cry. It reflects badly on a man, you see, and then he won't want to protect the woman or provide for her!

I had to read the whole column several times, what with being a feminazi and all, until I realized that this is not an advice column on romance, not even a humorous one.

This is a job application column where women can look for the job of a wingnut wife. In Wingnuttia men protect women and provide for them, in exchange for something which this column leaves undefined. But once I realized that this is about a job the column started making sense. How to dress for the job interview, how to deal with the boss. That there is no advice for the boss goes without saying. He is not applying for the job.

Some of the comments are lots of fun, too, as you might expect. There's general agreement that feminists have caused all the sexual and marital problems of wingnuts, and that men are at least as oppressed as women, most likely more so. That, too, sounds a lot like those misogynistic sites.

Then there are the people commenting-as-female who agree that men are by far the better gender and that they themselves have never felt comfortable with those odd creatures called women. These comments always leave me dizzy because other people won't give the honorary-man-women an out when it comes to this kind of mud-slinging on a whole gender. However hard they try to earn that. Because the advice is to all women, my dears.

It's sadly true that columns like this one are not unheard of on the other side of the political aisle, though they tend not to be quite as misogynistic. It is equally sad and true that we don't get many (if any) columns where a woman tells men how they should act to find a woman to date or marry.

Is there then no advice for lonely heterosexual men? Sure. You can find several sites on the net which tell men how they can cheat women into going to bed with them without getting at all emotionally entangled while doing that.

That's a little odd. All the advice we are offered tends to have a whiff of woman-hating in it!

The gender caricatures in these kinds of pieces are offensive, and not only to women. It's shocking how much misandry is hidden inside the basic story (men are simple and strong but fall apart if a woman cries) and how acceptable it appears to be as long as the gender dominance hierarchies are not threatened.

It's not that I mind silly humorous-intended pieces of the sexes though everything those say will fail to apply to the large majority of individual relationships and in that sense turn out to be sexist. What I mind is the opportunity they give for those little stabs of loathing, aimed at half the humanity, really, and the idea that the humor somehow makes them OK.