Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Vatican Gives A Voice To Women!

In a newspaper:

The Vatican's official newspaper is for the first time in its 150-year history publishing an all-colour women's supplement "to give voice to the value that women bring to the church".
Women, Church, World will be edited by women and published with L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper founded in 1861 and published by the Holy See on the last Thursday of every month.
The new section will promote a keener understanding of the "under-appreciated treasure" of women in the church, according to editor Giovanni Maria Vian.


The pullout will compete with L'Osservatore Romano's stories explaining the Vatican's approach to women, from its views on abortion to condemnation of female ordination.

This comes right at the heels of the Vatican  War Against Uppity Nuns and from a church which has declared female ordination a very grave sin.  All of which would be utterly delicious to an alien from outer space.

But the story can also be autopsied to get wider understanding of how the world in general has responded to feminism:  Give women a supplement of their own so that they will leave the rest of the culture be in peace!  Thus, we get the women's pages in newspapers and the Women's Studies in universities.

Wait a few decades, and what happens?  Men's Rights Activists yell and scream about the preferential treatment women get!  There are no men's pages in newspapers!  There are no Male Studies at universities!

Women get both what men get and then all that extra.  That, say,  the Vatican official newspaper might be a Boys' Own Paper goes unnoticed.

I would have preferred a true integration of the so-called women's concerns to the separate-but-equal-although-a-supplement approach.  For those reasons and for also the reason that women are half the humanity.  And half of the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, read Digby on what the Catholic Church otherwise thinks about women.  Trigger warning for rape applies.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Paul Krugman on What's Wrong With Austerity Policies

Watch this conversation

Today's Parenting Tweet

Comes from Sweden:


My American guests were fascinated with all the gay nannies in Sweden. I explained that they were the children's fathers.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On PRENDA, Sex-Selective Abortions And Son Preference

PRENDA stands for the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act:

House Republicans are teeing up a vote Thursday on legislation aimed at criminalizing abortions on the basis of the unborn child’s gender.
Opponents take no issue with the goal of the bill but argue its real purpose is to further the broader anti-abortion cause.
“Nobody that I know — nobody that I’ve ever talked to — is for abortions for the purposes of gender selection, period,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press briefing. “Having said that, as a practical matter, the proponents of this bill are against abortion. … It’s not a question of the purpose of the abortion. They’re against abortion.”
The Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act (or PRENDA), spearheaded by noted anti-abortion advocate Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), would subject doctors to a fine and imprison them for up to five years if they knowingly perform a sex-selective abortion. It would also require medical professionals to “report known or suspected violations” or otherwise face fines and up to one year in prison.
“Sex selection is violence against women, and it’s the truest kind of a war against women,” Franks said on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.

The most recent news is that PRENDA failed to pass in the House.

It was intended as  a "caught ya" act, of course:  To force the House Democrats to either vote in new limitations on abortions or to come across as apparently supporting the idea of aborting female fetuses just because they are female. 

This would juxtapose reproductive freedom, which feminists and most lefties are for, with the abortion of female fetuses which is caused by what is commonly caused by the euphemism of "son preference."  Of course "daughter loathing" would be an equally correct term for the practice.  But in either case, sex-selective abortions are not a huge concern in the United States.

Representative Trent Franks doesn't care about the war against women at all, of course.  He cares about Egg-Americans and wants their aquaria (otherwise called pregnant women)  to be safe places for his constituency of fertilized eggs.  Every restriction on abortions serves his goal.

Globally  son preference  has its roots in the lesser powers of women in patriarchal societies and in the way those societies have traditionally been arranged.  Those arrangements keep women powerless, whether that is their intention or not.

Daughters will be less desirable than sons in societies were old-age security is based on having sons and where women are expected to care not for their old elderly parents but for the parents of their husbands.  Daughters will be less desirable than sons if paid work opportunities are limited for women but not for men and if bringing up daughters means having to pay for their upbringing and having to furnish them with a large dowry while then watching them permanently move into a different family altogether.  Indeed, daughters will be less desirable than sons because that is part of the basic definition of a patriarchal society.

When such societies get access to abortions and  tests which allow the determination of the sex of the fetus, what do you think will happen?    Infanticide of girls will be supplemented or replaced by sex-selective abortions.

The reason for both those practices is in son preference.  Banning only sex-selective abortions is unlikely to work in the first place but even if it did it would not make having  daughters a less loathed outcome, it would not reduce female infanticide or the unequal treatment of sons and daughters.

Indeed, one might argue that if we went along with Representative Trent's wishes in countries such as India and China and banned abortions altogether then women there would become even more powerless in regulating the number and spacing of their children and less able to hold down a job which might let them contribute to their parents' old age, say.  The only long-term solution is to make those societies more gender-equal.

This is not a simple problem in some countries.  The preference for sons has had dire consequences in China which now seems to have millions of permanent bachelors, and I understand that non-feminist arguments can be made for banning sex-selective abortions while retaining general abortion rights.  But I believe Representative Trent is wrong when he argues that

“Sex selection is violence against women, and it’s the truest kind of a war against women,”

The truest kind of a war against women starts after birth.  Sex-selective abortions just serve to remind us how very unwanted girls can be and urge us to ask ourselves why that is the case.
Several posts discuss these questions in wider frameworks.

What Atrios Said

Atrios has a very good and succinct post on what is wrong with the current economic thinking in the world.  The Powers That Be have been touched by the magic wand of the nonexistent (or at least very miniscule) Confidence Fairy!

The Powers That Be read only right-wing economic theories which swear to them that the Job Creators really exist, not among the ordinary people who actually do create jobs by buying food, clothing, houses and cars, but as some rare and benevolent but terribly frightened breed of rich entrepreneurs.  Those Job Creators must be given reassurance that they don't have to face bad risks in the future!  Then they will agree to carry out the task for which actual economic theory says entrepreneurs get paid:  The assumption of risks that go with running businesses.

An even more succinct way to put all that is to note that the Powers That Be are only concerned about the well-being of Other Powers That Be, or that at a minimum the only people who could be given free money are Other Powers That Be.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma

Provider conscience clauses clash with the treatment of a rape victim:

The young woman asked the doctor whether or not emergency contraceptives were available and whether the doctor was simply refusing to provide them. The nurse told her “I will not give you emergency contraceptives because it goes against my belief.” The doctor refused to help her, even though she had just been raped, and refused to find another doctor to help her.

The hospital in question argued that the nurses specializing in the care of rape victims were circulating ones and were not at this hospital at the time.  Therefore, proper treatment of a rape victim required treating her badly so that she would go to the correct hospital more rapidly!

That last interpretation is mine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pink Opinions. That's Me.

An interesting article about women as opinion writers:

From Sept. 15 to Dec. 7, 2011, the OpEd Project — which is designed to enrich public conversation by expanding the range of voices we hear — looked at more than 7,000 articles from The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal (categorized by the research as legacy media), The Huffington Post and Salon (new media) and Harvard, Columbia, Yale and Princeton (college media).
The third annual survey found that women wrote 38 percent of the op-eds that appeared in the college publications surveyed, 33 percent of those at new media outlets and 20 percent at legacy outlets.
While past Byline Surveys have found that legacy news outlets tend to feature the fewest female voices in op-eds (usually around 15 to 20 percent), the newest survey says there’s been an increase in the number of op-eds written by women in The New York Times (22 percent now compared to 17 percent in 2005), The Washington Post (19 percent now compared to 10 percent) and The Los Angeles Times (24 percent compared to 20 percent).

In both legacy and new media, women tended to write a lot of stories on “pink topics” — food, fashion, family and furniture. Among the new media organizations surveyed, 34 percent of the stories women wrote were on pink topics. In legacy media, pink stories accounted for 12.4 percent of female writers’ overall output, compared to 3 percent of male writer’s overall output. “Put another way,” the survey says, “out of 1,410 general interest articles (politics, economy, health, education, etc.) women wrote only 261.”

The good news is that the percentage of op-eds written by women has increased, though it's nowhere near the percentage of women in the population or the percentage of women in those professions where opinion writers are most likely to be found.

The reference to economics writing is of obvious interest to me, an economist goddess:
“Just 11% of economics articles in legacy media were written, or co-written, by a woman. In new media, that number was less grim, but still sad, 19%. It’s true that this number is, at least in part, a result of a higher number of men in economics. In fact, only 9% of economics doctorates were awarded to women in 1974, but the number has been steadily on the rise, reaching 27% by 2000. Not only is this 10% figure not representative of women in general, but it is not representative of women in the field of economics.”
Yves at Naked Capitalism is a woman and writes extensively on economic topics.  Though under a male handle.

It's hard to know what is going on, to be honest.  Part of the problem is that the New York Times or the Washington Post will not publish an opinion piece by a minor blogger goddess, or by a woman who just happens to have a PhD in economics.  Those who get to opinionate on the most august pages are on the top of their profession.  To get there takes time, even if the glass ceiling has holes in it.

I love the idea of food, fashion, family and furniture called "the pink topics!"  Why not the f-words?  And would feminism qualify?

What if we call these topics nutrition, protection against the weather, procreation/survival and tools for daily living?  The obvious point is that the very topics themselves have been steeped in pinkness and that pinkness itself is a made-up societal marker of gender.  Thus, it's just one merry-go-round!  With pink horses, of course.

As you can tell, my thought process here resembles a carousel:
The Byline Survey renews attention to an argument that women have been making for years: there aren’t enough female voices in opinion pages. In an interview last year, OpEd Project Founder Catherine Orenstein told me the problem isn’t so much that news organizations aren’t featuring female contributors; it’s that women aren’t contributing in the first place.
“A lot of [women] will in some way discount themselves and their knowledge,” she said. “If you think about it, what it means is that there’s a disconnect between what we know and our sense that it actually matters.”
The OpEd Project’s Katherine Lanpher said in an interview today that she thinks editors want to feature more op-eds from women. “Women and others who aren’t out there need to submit their ideas more,” she said via email. “To this day, many women and other minorities need to be reminded that they’re sitting on powerful solutions to big problems and if they don’t share their knowledge the world is a poorer place. … Op-eds aren’t about writing. They’re about power. And it’s just time for more of it be shared.”

Orenstein is correct in stating that women submit fewer pieces than men do.  The reasons for that can be complicated, however.  The slush pile might not be the way to get one's piece looked at, for example, and fewer women are linked to the networks which actually lead to someone having a look at your work.  Some of those networks might still be run by the old boyz, too.

My personal hunch is that women are sterner critics of their own work, on average.  Why that is the case is another  complicated question.  But when I feel hesitant about writing on a particular topic I remind myself about idiots like Zeus and Ares and then I press the Publish-button.

At the same time, I'm also aware of the fact that if I write something even slightly feminist outside this blog I get a lot of very nasty comments and e-mails.  Not all pieces written by women face that particular type of response.  Still, it's worth remembering that there might be all sorts of gender-specific reasons why some female writers choose to use a male handle or why women might hesitate to write about a feminist issue outside feminist blogs.

A Deep Thought on Blogging

Blogging (a horrible word, like having hot potatoes in your mouth) is just like doing the dishes.  You do them, then they get dirtied again, as if you never had done the work in the first place.

On Memorial Day, Very Late

This article (via Cabdrollery) has much food for thought but even much more need for a competent researcher to study the issues:

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.
What's more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.
It's unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors. Many factors are driving the dramatic increase in claims — the weak economy, more troops surviving wounds, and more awareness of problems such as concussions and PTSD. Almost one-third have been granted disability so far.
Government officials and some veterans' advocates say that veterans who might have been able to work with certain disabilities may be more inclined to seek benefits now because they lost jobs or can't find any. Aggressive outreach and advocacy efforts also have brought more veterans into the system, which must evaluate each claim to see if it is war-related. Payments range from $127 a month for a 10 percent disability to $2,769 for a full one.

The questions are set up in that paragraph:  Have the recent wars been so devastating that almost half of all veterans seek compensation  for their injuries or is that to do with the bad economic times or both?

To answer those questions properly requires academic research and time.  But my impression is that both the technology which allows survival after bad brain damage and the psychologically hellish character of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may have caused an increase in the number of victims who cannot work.  Not that all war isn't hellish.  But a war without any distinction between the front and the rest of it certainly is more hellish.

Such wars also make the distinction of people who engage in wars voluntarily, as soldiers, and those who engage involuntary and as "collateral damage" pretty fuzzy.  We probably should have a day for remembering all the innocent victims of wars, too. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Some Laura Nyro

On Social Conservatism, Again

This YouTube clip from Saudi Arabia is a good reminder why the so-called culture wars and other similar issues are real political issues, not something one should shut up about:

No, I'm not arguing that the US could overnight turn into something similar.  But social conservatism does have an end-point of that sort, and the kinds of political changes social conservatives support make the allowable circles of life smaller for women, for LGBT folk and for those whose religious views differ from the mainstream religious views.

All these things can affect someone the same way economic oppression affects people.  In the extreme cases there's not much to distinguish the extra-conservative laws about women from serfdom or slavery.

My point is that if issues such as culture wars look trivial and frivolous to you then you are not among those the wars attack.