Friday, June 15, 2012

The Vagina Control Monologues

Remember this, from yesterday?

State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, were told today that they wouldn’t be recognized to publicly speak on any matters before the House because of comments they made Wednesday during an emotional debate on a bill that puts new restrictions on abortion providers.
Brown, who voted against the legislation, told supporters of the bill, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.”

If all this wasn't on a very serious attempt to control who controls reproduction it would be necessary to point out that the Michigan Republicans are giving us vagina-control monologues but the term itself cannot be mentioned.  It's not decorous or mature to mention that what these forced birthers wish to control is intimately tied to the control of vaginas and the control of women.

My Twitter machine has gone crazy on the theme of vaginas.  It may well be that ridicule is the best weapon in this particular case.  At the same time, the people who don't want vaginas mentioned but do want to control them are deadly serious about their business.

On Tipped Female Workers

Getting your earnings mostly from tips is the lot of many in service industries.  It turns out that the usual gender gap in wages can be found in those industries, too:

"The sub-minimum wage hits women hard because 72.9 percent of tipped workers are women compared to less than half the overall labor force," says Allegretto, co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment of the University of California, Berkeley. "The federal tipped minimum wage was originally 50 percent of the regular minimum wage, but it has eroded over time to just 29.4 percent of the current minimum wage for all workers because it has been frozen since 1991 unlike the federal minimum wage, which was raised in 2007."

Allegretto's research shows that female tipped workers, overall, average 50 cents less per hour than their male counterparts because they are employed in lower paying sectors, such as food service and home health.
Among wait staff, the wage gap is even worse: women earn 83 cents less per hour than do men because they are more likely to be employed by fast food restaurants than fine dining establishments.


Rep. Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat, introduced a bill in 2009 that would have increased the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage by 2012. Opposition by Republicans and the restaurant and hospitality industry, which employs the largest number of tipped workers, stymied the bill. Edwards plans to reintroduce the bill this spring.
But advocates are looking past Congress and pinning more hope on the states, many of which have stepped ahead of federal lawmakers.
Over half the states and the District of Columbia have tipped credits that are higher than the federal standard. These range from $2.33 an hour in Wisconsin to $7 in Hawaii.
Washington is one of seven states that has no tipped credit law. Employees' tips are excluded from the calculation, so employers pay the state's full minimum wage, $9.04 an hour, the highest in the nation.

Thus, a hike in the basic wages for those jobs would help women.

This is an interesting example of the way the gender gap in wages often appears:  Women tend to be congregated in the jobs which pay less within each industry.

The reasons for this are likely to be many but at least one audit study in Philadelphia in the 1990s found that when actors pretending to have the same work experience and other credentials auditioned for server jobs men got better offers than women.  Discrimination, in other words, cannot be ruled out as one of the causes for earnings differentials.

Note, also, that the customers can decide how much each worker is worth.  That may be OK or not, depending on the reasons the customers have for tipping someone or not tipping someone.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Only Anti-Woman Politicians May Speak

About this new Michigan House bill:

The House bill, passed on a 70-39 vote, provides for sweeping new regulations and insurance requirements for abortion providers, makes it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion and regulates the disposal of fetal remains. It won’t be taken up in the state Senate until at least September. A companion bill that would have outlawed abortions past 20 weeks, with only an exception to save the life of the mother, was tabled by the House.

When two Democratic women wanted to point out that this legislation is all about controlling women, what happened?  This:

State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, were told today that they wouldn’t be recognized to publicly speak on any matters before the House because of comments they made Wednesday during an emotional debate on a bill that puts new restrictions on abortion providers.
Brown, who voted against the legislation, told supporters of the bill, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.”
And Byrum was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn’t allowed to speak on her amendment to the bill that would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.
Today was the last day of session for the House before it takes a long summer break.

You can watch a video about this on the linked site.

From that article:

Ari Adler, spokesman for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said it was the prerogative of Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, to maintain order and decorum during session of the House.
They “will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives,” Adler said.
“House Republicans often go beyond simply allowing debate by welcoming open and passionate discussion of the issues before this chamber,” he added. “The only way we can continue doing so, however, is to ensure that the proper level of maturity and civility are maintained on the House floor.”

Discussing vaginas or men's reproductive health issues is not decorous or ladylike but discussing how to make sure that all women must give birth, whether they wish or not, is decorous and mature.  I get it.

The-God-Made-Me-Do-It Initiative Failed in North Dakota

North Dakotans voted down a law intended to reflect the desires of conservative Catholics:

Now, another conservative state has delivered a huge win in the effort to keep religious ideology out of personal medical decisions. Yesterday, by a margin of 69 66 percent to 34 percent, voters in North Dakota could not have been clearer in rejecting Measure 3, a ballot initiative promoted by, among others, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop (USCCB), whose Orwellian campaign to promote "religious freedom" actually seeks to impose strict Catholic doctrine on everyone, no matter their professed religious affiliation (or lack thereof), via state and federal law. An editorial on Measure 3 in the North Dakota news site, Inforum, called the effort by the USCCB to pass it "an ecclesiastical mugging."
Laws such as Measure 3 are being pursued by religious fundamentalists throughout the country, and they have profound implications for the health and rights of individuals, and for public health. Measure 3, for example, would have allowed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to refuse to provide care and medication which "conflicts with their religious beliefs," and would have extended "conscience protections" to virtually any employee of any medical facility, ensuring that one reilgious belief could prevail over another in the realm of health care. Measure 3, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, would also have allowed "a man to claim that domestic-violence and child-abuse laws don’t apply to him because his religion tells him he has the right to discipline his wife and children as he sees fit," and would have allowed employers to use their personal religious beliefs to discriminate against their female employees by denying contraceptive coverage under insurance plans.

I haven't checked if the law actually would have protected a child abuser from punishment if that person gave religious grounds for beating a child.  But it seems to be the case:

Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights groups praised the defeat of a North Dakota ballot measure on religious freedom that critics said would create a legal haven for law-breakers. 

Sixty-four percent voted down "Measure 3" on Tuesday, according to reports. It would have amended the state constitution to include an explicit protection for religious liberty against government interference. 

The president of the region's Planned Parenthood Action Fund warned that Measure 3 would have undercut state laws against child abuse, domestic violence and workplace discrimination by allowing North Dakotans to justify actions that do harm on religious grounds.

Let's not forget that initiatives like this one are part of the Catholic Church's war against women, at least to the extent that they firmly support them.


My Migraines

Have a caretaker role.  Echidne goes traveling, for instance, visits lots of people, some of them fierce wingnuts, eats lots of unfamiliar food (McDonald's), sleeps in weird beds, has conversations about the Christian god, not pleasant ones, and is late for several travel connections.

Echidne then returns to the Snakepit Inc., reads her e-mail, averts four malware attempts, finds that all the milk is now so sour it's dancing the f**k-you-dance in the fridge while the vegetables shrivel in fear.  She returns to her computer and accidentally-on-purpose reads one of those women-are-utter-shit articles which causes her to stay awake a total of thirty hours.

Mother Migraine then shakes her wise head and presses her painful fingers on Echidne's clammy forehead.  A blessed pain!  Giving her twenty-four hours of sweet sleep.

What do you think of that theory about Pain And Us?

The Icelandish Miracle

I bet you never read that before!  There has been the Irish miracle, of course, but not an Icelandish miracle.  Krugman reminds us that the latter also exists.

It's worth pondering why Iceland gets so little credit for its good survival of the crash or why we are supposed to discount that survival.  One of the first comments to Krugman's post argued that such a tiny, tiny country can teach the US nothing.  But if anything, a tiny country should not have been able to surf the economic horrors that well but should be found among the first that were drowned.

Here are my guesses:  As a very rough cartoon, the world's political powers now are shared between extreme capitalists and extreme fundamentalists.  The rest of us consist of the flock of sheep to be shepherded in one direction or the other.  We may baah miserably on our blogs and around our formica kitchen tables (to go all Brooksian here)  but we have no real power at all.

Except, for some reason, in Iceland where we the sheep were able to elect an Angry Sheep government.  Why that succeeded there but not elsewhere is fascinating.  Perhaps a very small country is harder to take over by the monied powers?  Everybody knows everybody else and one's ethical reputation cannot be hidden.  Or perhaps the fishy eyes of the very wealthy are not aimed at Iceland because a small country doesn't have very much to steal?

Then there are the political traditions.  The Nordic countries in Europe, in general, have not gone for political corruption and graft in the same way the countries in the south of Europe have.  Voters have less tolerance with bad behavior from their politicians or their capitalists.  Voters are more tied into the system.  The reasons for that are not clear to me but it is encouraging that the types of solutions I envisage indeed are possible, even if that is the case only in one very cold country.

And yes, women in Iceland are also tied into the system and aware of what is going on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Write-Like-David-Brooks Day

Because I'm bored with dissecting his columns.

In the past  real Murkans were green and had leaves.  Now there are no leaves and the heartland of Murka is bare of trees and pollen.  The new baldness is caused by the vulgarity of Murkans who shave their heads and use foundation over all the greenery.  The government makes this so much worse by selling combs and skull polish, and the liberal elites of the two coasts hide their own leaves in the ivory towers which smell of marijuana.  Churches are the answer and they cost taxpayers nothing.

But wherever honest and real Murkans gather around their formica kitchen tables,   popcorn is still the national pastime and charity the way to finance war and peace alike.  Let us not steal from the future generations.  Let us steal from the present generation.

Today's Idiotic Evo-Psycho Popularization

It's in Finnish, and by "an evolution researcher" (a new euphemism for Evolutionary Psychologists of the weird type, I think).  He states that he has studied the horrible effects of the contraceptive pill on women and perhaps he has.  But here are a few of the quotes:

Ehkäisypillerillä on todettu olevan merkittäviä vaikutuksia parinvalintaan. Ehkäisypillerien vaikutuksia tutkinut Turun yliopiston evoluutiotutkija Markus Rantala kertoo Uudelle Suomelle, millaisia ongelmia ehkäisypillerit voivat aiheuttaa.
- Kaikki mikä muuttaa naisen hormonitasoa, sotkee parinvalintaa. Ehkäisypillerit vaikuttavat siihen, miten naiset valikovat parin ja miltä nainen näyttää. Se muuttaa koko systeemin, Rantala sanoo


The contraceptive pill has been found to have significant effects on mate selection.  Markus Rantala, a Turku university evolution researcher who has studied the effects of the pill,  tells Uusi Suomi  about its possible problems.

All which affects a woman's hormonal levels messes up mate selection.  The contraceptive pill has an impact on how women select their partners and what a woman looks like.  It changes the whole system, Rantala says.


2. Naisellisuus vaarassa kadota

Ehkäisypillerien lisäksi ja etenkin niiden kanssa käytettynä alkoholi vaikuttaa Rantalan mukaan naisen estrogeenitasoon ja sitä kautta seksuaalikäyttäytymiseen.
 Alkoholi estää testosteronin hajoamisen maksassa, mikä saa naisen testosteronitason nousemaan ja naiset käyttäytyvät miehekkäämmin ja haluavat seksiä. Se johtuu hormonien vaikutuksesta.

2.  Femininity at risk of disappearing

In addition to the contraceptive pill, and especially when used with it,  alcohol, according to Rantala, affects a woman's estrogen levels and through that sexual behavior.

Alcohol prevents the dissolution of testosterone in the liver which raises the woman's testosterone levels and women behave in a more masculine manner and want sex.  This is a hormonal influence.

Did you get it?   An evolution researcher pontificates on the impact of the contraceptive pill AND on the impact of alcohol.  Alcohol is dangerous for femininity and makes women behave in a masculine manner.  Women even desire sex when drunk!  Besides, human mate selection is wholly based on female choice.  And of course men drunk are no different from men sober...

Elsewhere in the piece Rantala argues that when a woman has picked wrong while being on the pill the relationship will collapse once she comes off the pill and her natural hormones once again rule.  Then the guy she picked earlier will bore her.

I'm almost 100% certain that not a single study has been carried out on the effects of hormones on actual mate selection and on the dissolution of relationships in this context.  But never mind, Rantala tells us how things are.

And here's the loveliest quote of them all:

1970- ja 1980-luvulla ehkäisypillerit olivat Rantalan mukaan 100-kertaa voimakkaampia nykyisiin verrattuna.
– Voisi kuvitella, että naiset olivat naisellisemman näköisiä, ennen kuin olivat saaneet hillittömän estrogeenibuustin pillerin takia.


During the 1970s and 1980s the contraceptive pill was according to Rantala hundred times stronger than today.

One might speculate that women looked more feminine before they received this humongous estrogen boost from the pill.

It's a beauty.  Women today are somehow affected by the pill use of some women in the 1970s and 1980s!

Why do I bother translating a silly little writeup in an obscure Finnish web newspaper?

Because THIS, my friends, is an example of evolutionary psychology in action!   This is science, which should remind us to remain critical of the label "science."  Some science is sewn together from various patches, collected from diverse places without any attempt for internal consistency.  The total is then flavored with personal opinions, biases and even misogyny.

I can't help adding one more quote and its translation:

Naiset tuoksuvat Rantalan mukaan vetävämmiltä lähellä ovulaatiota eli silloin kun he voivat tulla raskaaksi, kuten muutkin eläimet. Ovulaation puuttumisen takia ehkäisypillereitä syövä nainen menettää tämän tuoksuvaikutuksen.


According to Rantala women smell most appealing close to ovulation, i.e., when they can become pregnant, as is the case with other animals.  Because a woman on the contraceptive pill does not ovulate she loses this scent effect.

Brilliant!  How did they manage to study how other male animals rank the scents of the females of the same species?  Did they offer, say, male guinea pigs, scratch-n-sniff squares soaked in various female guinea pig smells?   And should women really care about losing the scent effect which might make her more appealing to potential inseminators out there?

Have you noticed that EP practitioners always, always overstate their case?  There's a whiff of defensiveness in all that, perhaps.  But it works in reverse because I, at least, am used to researchers stating their conclusions carefully and with reservations and so on.  This does not happen with EP.  Rather, the conclusions are hammered into our eyes like square blocks into round holes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why Women Pitch Less In Some Fields of Journalism

This story (which I wrote about earlier) got me thinking about various reasons why women might pitch fewer stories in certain fields of journalism than men.  Possible theories abound, of course, from essentialist arguments to the impact of culture and upbringing.

But one which might not occur to you right away is the impact of expectations.  For instance, if 80% of those who write on economics are men, might it not be possible for a woman to feel (on some unconscious level) that the probability of a randomly selected male economics journalist to get published is 0.8 but that the similar probability for a female economics journalist is only 0.2 (based on the 20% figure among those published)?

That wouldn't be the correct way to think about the odds.  Still, if a certain field has many more men than women a feeling like that could be created.

Or put in other terms,  how do our unconscious thoughts explain the scarcity of women in some field?
Might they account for it by assuming that the bar is raised quite high for women?  Or  that whatever ideas and thoughts women themselves might have obviously cannot be good enough, given the small numbers of women that do get published?

I started thinking about this based on conversations where others argued that women hold themselves to much higher standards than they should, that women are hesitant to put themselves forward and so on.

It should be possible to test this idea by looking at any differences in pitching percentages between fields in which many women publish (the so-called pink opinions) and fields in which they do not.   If women, in general, have higher standards for themselves or  more reluctance to put themselves (or less interest in getting published) the problems should be comparable across different fields of journalism, right?

That's not a fool-proof test and could not prove or disprove alternative explanations.  Still, it might be an interesting study to carry out, especially if the alternative is to assume that women just are that way and should shape up.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Religious Freedom And Women

When I first read that headline for Sarah Posner's post I couldn't help thinking that religious freedom for women is an oxymoron.  Too many religions tell women that they must not have freedom.

But the topic is not about what religions offer to women.  It's about the inherent conflict between religious freedom and women's rights.  What makes it inherent (for literalists, at least)  are all those writings on us wimminz in the holy books.

Sarah Posner discusses these issues with constitutional scholar Marie Ashe on Bloggingheads:

On my most recent Bloggingheads program, I spoke with constitutional scholar Marie Ashe of Suffolk University Law School, about the history of the American conception of, and Supreme Court jurisprudence on religious freedom and what that means for women. Ashe has argued in two law review articles that the more case law (and statutory law) has expanded the religious liberty of mainstream religion, the less it has expanded legal protections for women.

I haven't had time to watch the program but it should be interesting.