Friday, June 22, 2012

More Thoughts on Blogging

I have a post in the oven about this furor-provoking  Atlantic Monthly opinion piece.  "In the oven" sounds considerably more pleasant than the process itself.  Some topics make me suffer, they do.  It's like running the marathon (which I have never done) while fighting  a 200 lb black belt in martial arts (which I have done).  The hope is that whenever I finally get it written it will have been worth it.

Of course by that time the soundbites are about the most recent shocking revelations on the topic of how equality just means that women shoot themselves in that foot which really should be operated on to make it fit into f**k-me-now six-inch stiletto heels.

That's a real problem in wanting to think things through.  One is late for the horse-races.  But a goddess must weigh her choices carefully and I'd rather be right and lonely than wrong and popular.  Of course I'd prefer an apartment in Paris and faithful admirers everywhere.

Sigh.   That's the first problem.  I should have called myself the goddess of the snails.

The second problem is that "furor-provoking."  Provoking furor sells.  It increases readers and increased readers increase donations and advertising income and other pitiful forms some goddesses try to eke out a part of their living. 

Anger has its rightful place, especially righteous anger.  It's a good form of clean-burning energy and women in general should use their anger in constructive ways.  But anger provoked just to create more divide et impera for the powers-that-be?  That's an old method of ruling:  Telling people that they must all fight over the crumbs under the table of the actual rulers, that the enemy is that other person crawling there next to you, not the guys and gals sitting at the table.  The mummy/mommy wars are real but they are also excellent devices to keep women divided and thus easier to control.

We should probably all get anger training.  Some of us need to reign our anger in more, others need to let it out albeit in controlled ways.  But the kind of anger Wurtzel's piece provokes is not going to be used for any kind of constructive energy. 

This is why I don't want to join in the debates as such although the basic theoretical reasons why the debates exist need to be analyzed.   And that is why I want the anger aimed at the real culprit:  The system and its myths and how they manage us, not on other women. 

But what I do want to write is probably too theoretical and too arid.  I've jotted all the basic ideas down on various slips of paper around the Snakepit Inc..  When I look at them I think they are a book, not a blog post.

The third problem in blogging is always trying to know what is general and what is specific.  Which of my weird ideas were spawned by nothing than my weird mind and which are general ideas but not so general that a reader might just go "duh, how obvious?"  Mostly I cannot tell without writing the post and seeing what happens.  On those weird ideas:  Do you rescue insects which have entered your dwelling uninvited?  And if you do, how do you go about it?  Do you talk to them and then offer your arm as a landing field?  And are the daddy longlegs the only ones who refuse your help?


Friday Fun

1.  From George Takei's Facebook page:

Note the second from the top.  It's the reigning mood of the Twilight series.

2. This is sorta serious but the underlying assumptions that require it to be said are funny:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Foot-in-the-Mouth Disease Among Michigan Republicans

Remember the Michigan Vagina Control Monologues? The ones in which Democratic State Representatives were not allowed to join:

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.

The Republicans in Michigan decided to make things worse for them by first clarifying their position this way:

Just to be clear, despite the misinformation being spread by Reps. Brown and Byrum, and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, there are two representatives not being recognized on the House floor today because of their actions yesterday. It has nothing to do with their gender, their religion or the topic they were discussing. All day today, we have had representatives of both parties, both genders and several different religions passionately debating important issues that will significantly impact the future of Michigan. I would urge you not to become too distracted by temper tantrums designed to score political points.

I bolded the crucial words for you.

And what did they do next, to clarify their position?  This:

Michigan state Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R) recently compared prohibiting two Democratic women legislators from speaking to punishing a child.
“It’s like giving a kid a timeout for a day,” he told Lansing radio host Patrick Shiels. “You know, hey, timeout, you wanna comment too far, you spoke your piece. We’re gonna let these other people have their dissenting comments, and then we’ll get back to business.”

Bolds are mine.

Hmm.  Do we detect a pattern here?  Heh.

The Right To Work

Those euphemisms are really funny.  Because the Right To Work laws pretty much should be called the Right To Workers laws.  Michigan, the state where vagina is a naughty word, is also debating the adoption of the Right To Workers laws.

A Baby in the Briefcase! Look What Feminism Did!

Here's something for you to ponder:  The role of the Atlantic Monthly in the gender wars.  I first spotted it when Caitlin Flanagan ruled supreme about the desirability of returning to imaginary 1950s gender roles, it continued with articles which told uppity women that the sky is falling (no good men), that men are going extinct  (The End of Men) and it may have culminated with that blog post about how men are discriminated against in the US economy.  Though perhaps that was not the culmination.  I may be just oversensitive because I got called feminist scum in the comments.

But most recently the Atlantic seems to try to eat its cake and save it, too, by posting two at least quasi-feminist takes on the issues of women and work.  Well, on the issues of pretty well-off educated women and the kind of work they are trained for.

This post is about one of those two articles, Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece fetchingly titled
Why Women Still Can't Have It All

 Too bad that the whole message for those sailing past the actual article is in what I have shown you here because the article is much more complicated though still essentialist.   But that short message is the usual one the Atlantic Monthly has been sending to uppity women.

I encourage you to read Slaughter's article because she makes several good points.  But I also urge you to notice that the scenario she discusses involves living apart from her family during the weekdays while her husband takes care of their two young sons.  It is this arrangement that raises her doubts about whether women can have it all.  Of course any parent living apart from his or her family cannot have it all, given that the family is in another geographic location.   That's also true for the Philippine nannies who come to the US while leaving their own children at home.

I'm utterly sick of something that crops up in this context, so sick that I need to write about it before discussing any of the issues Slaughter brings up in her piece.

This is the way feminism, out of all social justice movements, is the only one blamed for anything that might go wrong in women's lives.  Advocate for  wider avenues for women?  If they are not as wide as we may have hoped, blame feminists, that lazy work crew which should have fixed the roads by now!

Urge women who want to have a career to pursue it?  You get told off for "having sold a fiction to younger women."

You know, I have read extensively in the literature of the second wave of feminism and I don't recall anyone promising that all women can have it all or  that there would be no resistance for entrenched sexism.  Such a book probably exists somewhere but the "have-it-all"  phrase probably came out of silly popularizations.  Do people really believe that anyone,  man or woman, can have it all?  To rephrase the idea that women, just as men, have a right to have both a family and meaningful work has now become "have it all?"  And nope, you cannot have it!

All that feminism-bashing!   Even Slaughter refers to that silly study about why women are presumably less happy now than when they were all tethered to their traditional roles!  That must be the fault of feminism so let's turn back the clock!

Be my guest.  Better still, turn it back to Afghanistan-time and see whether the work of past feminists had any value at all.

It's enough to make a goddess want to give up.

Now to the meat in the article:  Slaughter's own personal example of "no-she-couldn't-have-it-all" is an extreme case because she clearly is having it all with her academic job (if "having it all" means both meaningful full-time  work and time with the family).  But the points she makes are relevant for women in less high-flying occupations:  The US labor market is still organized on the implicit assumption that every worker has a wife at home to take care of everything.

This can  amounts to structural discrimination  when combined with the expected gender of those who are responsible for the running of the household, the care of minor children and the care of elderly and sick relatives.

Slaughter's essentialist argument is a bit trickier to handle.  She appears to state that had it been her husband who spent weeks in Washington D.C. while she continued working at Princeton and taking care of the children it all would have worked out better.  Her reason is that she felt she cared more than her husband did, in essence.   In the attached video she argues for a different essentialist explanation:  That with three males in the house her presence was needed to balance the testosterone.

What about the implications of this piece, then?  It has several good points, about the arrangements in the labor market and about the fact that most of us do really want to have both love and work, just as we need both food and water.   It mentions that work-home balance is an issue younger men are also confronted with because of the more involved fathers of the current generation.  And it urges for societal change, not just individual adaptations.

On the other hand, it's about a very privileged situation and some of the undertow is not helpful for most mothers in the labor force who need the paycheck and need good and affordable daycare.  Things like flexible work arrangements tend not to seep down in these kinds of organizations.  They are mostly helpful in the more powerful types of jobs.  And it's still true that the employers are not going to reward women for being family-centered,  rather the reverse, because that is seen as a signal about someone planning to quit.

Which means that the societal change she is looking for might be slow in coming.

Oh, I nearly forgot!  Do read Rebecca Traister's take on this.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Life Is Complicated

Sometimes I despair of people's desire for very simple solutions to complicated problems.  Life is complicated, human behavior is complicated and the causes for many phenomena are myriad and interacting.  Yet what most people want are the kinds of explanations which can be made into television soundbites or which can be understood immediately by a person who has no training in the field.

Hence the popularity of, say,  evolutionary psychology where my guesses about the past are as good as your guesses about the past, and neither one of us needs actual data from that imaginary past!  We can just make up simple explanations.  That's partly why those theories apply to so many.  Why they apply to misogynists goes without saying.

Take that Search For Simple Answers to politics and you get Ron Paul believing in some weird god of free markets who will take care of everything for him.  He's not the only politician or public person who loves Simple-But-Wrong-Answers, and they are not all on the right side of the political aisle.  But that search for simplicity appears to be almost universal.  And very wrong.

I've been following the obesity debates and the same thing is going on there:  The Search For One Cause.  It's much more likely that the causes are many and that they, once again, interact, though I'm willing to bet quite a lot that the most important part of that puzzle is some change in the practices of the food industry, sometime before 1980s.  Other causes do, however, also exist.  But the change in extreme obesity levels, in particular, was too fast to be caused purely by lifestyle changes and the shape of obesity itself looks to me to have changed as well.  Fat deposits on the sides, even in an otherwise thin person, for instance.

The obesity debate is also interesting in revealing that unpleasant moralizing side of Americans (and probably people in general).  If only we all had enough willpower we'd all be slim and supple!  This turns the focus to purely individual solutions, purely individual failings and leaves the societal changes and frameworks unaffected.   Never mind that the food industry advertises soft drinks all the time!  Never mind that exercise has been cut in schools, that fears of pederasts make middle-class parents keep their children indoors and that the environment really is too dangerous for poor children to play outside.  Never mind that healthy food is expensive and bad food is cheap.  It's all about willpower and even that is assumed to be something you can acquire if you are good enough.

OK, that aside was more like a rant.  It's a hot day here at Snakepit Inc..

The Search For Simple Answers often has false duality built into it.  If the choices for an explanation are apples or bananas we tend to accept the initial setup and vote for either apples or bananas.  But what if the cause is in both?  Or in neither?   Public political debates are usually set up in those falsely dualistic terms and any attempt to explain that things are more complicated becomes inaudible.  For some weird reason.

Then take the reductio ad absurdum.  This is a common trick in political debates:  All liberals want to live off the government so that only conservatives end up working hard and paying all taxes.   All feminists want to kill unborn babies.

Substitute your own reverse argument for that one.  Then note how common such arguments are in political squabbling.  There's no good way of responding to those arguments, by the way, not because they were true (they are not) but because the debate would deteriorate into addressing an absurd argument.  Their point is not to present facts but to express loathing or hatred of the political opposition, and they work for that purpose.

The soundbite mode of public conversation makes things much worse, much more focused on short emotional comments.  Think of Twitter or television programs.  Television, in particular, may warp our understanding more than it aids it, given the short amount of time one has for presenting complex issues.  The one with the funniest soundbite wins!

Let's Drop Ron Paul Into A Jungle

Armed with a machete (I'm kinder than he would be) but nothing else.  That's the sort of world he desires, the sort of world he thinks we should all desire, the sort of world he believes he would thrive in.

Or so I surmise, from this:

During an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul admitted that he got a monthly Social Security check, a program that he eventually wants to eliminate (video below).
Rep. Paul said: “I want young people to opt out of Social Security."
Guest Sam Stein then asked: “Are you on Social Security? Do you get Social Security checks?”
“I do,” Paul replied.
Stein countered: “You just told younger generations that they should wean themselves off of this social contract but you haven’t done it yourself. You’re not the wealthiest man in Congress, I’m not saying that. But you have enough means to take care of yourself in retirement. Shouldn’t you provide an example?”
Rep. Paul answered: “No. I think the programs are so designed, just as I use the post office too. I use government highways. I do that too. I use the banks. I use the Federal Reserve system. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work to remove this. The same way on Social Security, I am trying to make a transition. I personally don’t see any inconsistency in that."

Never mind the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do bit.  Focus on the fact that Paul wants to get rid of government highways,  the post office and Social Security.  He believes in some weird nonexistent god of "free" markets, without apparently ever having gotten far enough in Economics 101 to learn about externalities or  uncertainty or lack of information.   His "free" markets are a weird religious concept, defined by the Deus ex Machina of Greek plays.  The markets just work if you give them a chance! 

A guy who doesn't want federal highways really would be happy in that jungle.  He could cut his own roads, hang his own lanterns for street lights and fight the predators with that machete.

The video of his comments:

Mitch McConnell: Lying Accidentally On Purpose?

McConnell is the Senate Republican leader and he doesn't like the US tax system.  It's too progressive!

In an interview that aired on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican said he is ready to sit down with "this president or the next president" and have an animated discussion about the tax code to "reach a conclusion" that would bring down the ballooning U.S. deficit.
"Almost 70 percent of the federal revenue is provided by the top 10 percent of taxpayers now. Between 45 percent and 50 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all. We have an extraordinarily progressive tax code already. It is a mess and needs to be revisited again," McConnell said in the interview, taped Monday.

What McConnell wants is a less progressive system, one in which the tax burden of the poor will rise and the tax burden of the rich will drop.  This in a country where 400 people have more wealth  than 50% of all Americans.

Yes, I know wealth is not income.  I referred to the wealth comment because of the vast income and wealth inequalities in this country.  Given those inequalities, McConnell's comment is disgusting.

It's also false:

Claim: The top 10 percent wealthiest Americans pay 70 percent of federal income taxes.
Fact: This statistic presents a deeply misleading picture of the actual federal tax burden because (1) it fails to include payroll taxes, which every worker pays, and which fall disproportionately on the middle class, and (2) because it doesn’t reflect that high-income Americans earn a disproportionate share of income.    
    •    Payroll taxes account for 34 percent of federal revenues. They only apply to income earned on the job – not income from capital gains on investments, which make up a much greater share of the income of the top 10 percent. And payroll taxes for Social Security are capped at $106,800.
    •    For both of these reasons, wealthier Americans face a disproportionately lower burden from payroll taxes.   According to the independent, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the wealthiest 10 percent only pay 25 percent of all payroll taxes.
    •    Counting both payroll and income taxes, the top 10 percent only pay about 50 percent of that tax burden – not much larger than their share of our nation’s income (around 42 percent).
    •    The top 10 percent (households earning an average of nearly $400,000) has been earning a larger and larger share of our nation’s income. Twenty years ago, they accounted for 34 percent of our nation’s income. In the past twenty years – as tax rates have fallen for the highest earners – the income share of the top 10 percent has grown to 42 percent of our nation’s earnings.
    •    This aggregate figure also masks the fact that certain high-income Americans pay far less than others—and less than the middle class.  That’s what the Buffett Rule is meant to address.

Got it?  What the US has is a very mildly progressive tax system with respect to federal income taxes and payroll taxes combined.   It is NOT extraordinarily progressive, and if we add state taxes and sales taxes and all other taxes it comes out roughly proportional.

A small detour on the concepts of progressive, regressive and proportional taxes is in order.  A proportional tax means that the taxes you pay are the same percentage of each dollar you earn, whether you earn a lot or only a little.   The tax rate (e.g. 0.3 for a 30 cent tax on each dollar) remains constant.  This is the flat tax plan many conservatives support.  Sounds fair, right?  Everyone pays the same percentage!  But wait...

A regressive tax rate decreases as one's income rises.  The more you earn the less tax you pay on the last dollar you earned.  For instance, you might pay 30% on each dollar earned up to, say, 20,000 dollars a year, then 20% on each dollar earned for incomes between 20,000 and 50,000 and so on.  Regressive taxes are seldom sold that way because of their obvious unfairness.

A progressive tax rate increases as one's income rises.  The more you earn the more tax you pay on the last dollar you earned.  Thus, you might pay 20% on each dollar earned up to 20,000 dollars a year, then 30% on each dollar earned for incomes between 20,000 and 50,000 and so on.  Progressive tax systems are common in practice.

And there are good reasons for that.  The obvious one is that one cannot squeeze blood from a stone.  It is easier for the government to get money by going where the money is.  But there are deeper reasons for progressivity.

Consider someone very poor.  So poor that getting enough food and safe housing is extremely difficult.  If that person had to pay proportional income taxes those taxes could cause starvation.  To avoid that outcome, the government has two choices:  Either exempt the poor from paying income taxes (which turns the system into a  progressive one) or set the tax rate (percentage of taxes on each dollar) so low that even the poorest of the poor can afford to pay it.  The latter would mean a government which wouldn't be able to afford anything, not even the kinds of things drown-the-government-in-a-bathtub conservatives want it to be able to afford.

The deeper theoretical reason is this:  We want income taxes to be fair in terms of actual sacrifice.  But the sacrifice of, say,  an additional 100 dollars in taxes, is not the same for a person earning a million a year and a person earning 30,000 a year, because the value of money declines the more of it one has.  Just ask yourself under which income scenario you are more likely to take a cab when it rains.

What this means is that in order to have fair taxes (everybody contributes the same sacrifice) we need to have progressive taxes.  Probably even McConnell agrees on this.  But he regards the current, mildly progressive income tax system as extraordinarily progressive!

The real world tax system is messier than the simple case I've described, what with deductions and loopholes and so on.  Often (but not always)  those work to reduce progressivity.  For instance, to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction you need to have enough money to get a loan from the bank for a house or an apartment, and only the wealthy can take advantage of intricate financial tax planning.

That's it from me, pretty much.  Except that I should note the reason why such a large percentage of taxpayers pay no federal income tax:  It's Republican tax cutting policies.  Those still cannot apply to only the rich so every such proposal has pushed more people into the group of non-payers.  Note, also that those Americans do pay other kinds of taxes, including payroll taxes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Today's Picture

From the Michigan State Capitol, on the reading of the Vagina Monologues.  Thanks to knuckles for the link:


This links to the Vagina Control Monologues ongoing in so many American states.

More On The Labor Market Sexism Study

After thinking about the results (i.e. that men with stay-at-home-wives have more sexist views of women in the labor force) I believer that the role of religion might be what drives the findings.  The researchers do mention religion in the preface to the study:
Finally, another benefit may be spiritual in nature since specific tenets within religious doctrines sometimes focus on gender relations and men’s and women’s roles for childrearing (Davis & Greenstein, 2009). So, for instance, a follower of a particular religion may feel more spiritually endowed by believing that it is women’s primary responsibility to nurture the children in her family (Hinckley, 1995).

They also indicate that they controlled for religion as a background variable but did not report the results on that due to space constraints.*  But the kind of religious impact I'm looking for would not be reflected in Christian/Jewish/Muslim etc. and not even in more specific denominational information.

What would be needed is knowledge about fundamental religions.  It's likely that fundamentalist believers would have stay-at-home-wives and it's also possible that those are the beliefs which drive the results.  After all, stating that one group exhibits more sexist opinions does not mean that all members of that group do so; simply that there are more such expressions in one group than in the other group.

This is just a guess and could be wrong.  But it might make sense to gather data on the fundamentalism axis of religions for a study of this type.

Are Men With Stay-At-Home-Wives More Sexist Than Men With Wives in the Labor Force?

An interesting study missed my snake-eye view in early June.  It's really a group of studies, done in different ways, but all on the same topic:  How married heterosexual men with stay-at-home wives differ from married heterosexual men who have wives who work (in the labor market)  when it comes to their views about women in the workforce.

Turns out that the former men express more sexist sentiments about women than the latter group of men.  The crucial question, for the researchers, is the chicken-and-egg problem:  Do men with more sexist values choose to have marriages where the wife stays at home?  Or does having a wife who stays at home make men more sexist in their opinions about women at work?

Perhaps both are true at the same time?

All the sub-studies are worth having a look at, but I'd like to address only one of them, the fourth study in the paper*:

Studies 1-3 focused on passive attitudes of men in different marriage structures toward women. In Study 4, we examined whether these men would actively engage in actions that would prevent women in the organization from advancing their careers. A second goal of the study was to examine our hypothesis using a sample of men who might be accustomed to making important decisions—managers. To this end, we conducted a controlled quasi- experiment using male managers that were married and working full time. In this study, we examined if compared to men from modern marriages, men from traditional marriages deny qualified female employees opportunities for promotion (Hypothesis 4).

I  picked this study for closer scrutiny because the subjects in it are managers which means that they might have real power to influence how their subordinates fare.  Also, this study is a pretty neat experiment.  It  consists of telling the 232 male accountants in the study that they are to judge the desirability of a candidate for a fictitious but fantastic MBA program (on full pay)  and a consecutive promotion at work.   The study subjects were asked to either recommend or not recommend the candidate for admission in the program, and they were told that accuracy is very important.

I bet you can guess what the researchers did next.  That's right.  Roughly half of those 232 accountants were given a package of information about a candidate called Diane Blake, the rest were given the same package but the candidate's name was David Blake.

I love these types of studies because they control for the possibility that David might, in fact, be the better candidate.  Given that the information about Diane is the same as the information about David, an unbiased assessment should find the two candidates equally good.

And indeed that is what happened in the current study.  A test attempting to establish whether the study subjects thought one person was more qualified than the other person showed no difference.  Thus, the study subjects did not attribute lower skills or ability to Diane or David.

Given this, it is fairly shocking that men with stay-at-home wives were significantly less likely to regard Diane a good fit with the MBA program than David.  Remember that this doesn't seem to arise from the kind of sexism where Diane is viewed as less able (even though she cannot be, given the same information for both candidates).

So what's going on here?   It could be that the men with stay-at-home wives believed that the fictitious Diane would be more likely to quit for family reasons than the fictitious David.  But as both pretend-people already  had 25 years of work experience this seems unlikely to be the main explanation.

Whatever the proper explanation,  this study suggests that managers with certain gender values could harm the career prospects of women.  Those values correlate with having what the researchers call "a traditional marriage."
*Ever since I got the Mac I've had trouble with linking to pdf articles.  Let me know where I can find the link, please.  Also note that the methods in this paper come across as somewhat basic (off the statistics textbook) to me.  This is less of a problem because the different studies use different methods.  Thus, the findings are unlikely to be caused by simple methodological problems.  But one should be careful about not imputing too much power to the findings.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Guest Post by Anna: A Feminist Literary Canon, Part Three: 1900-1950

Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882 –1941) was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist  literary figures of the twentieth century. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925): Orlando: A Biography (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own.  (1929).  
Mrs. Dalloway concerns Clarissa Dalloway, a woman in post-WW1 England, in a single day in her life. Clarissa at first appears to be a typical housewife, though she finds ways to express herself in the parties she throws, and of course her thoughts find expression in the novel itself, challenging the idea that women do not think much on matters other than stereotypical ones. The novel also brings up homosexuality in the fact that Clarissa recalls being very attracted to her old friend Sally Seton, but “had not the option” to be with her; Virginia Woolf herself had several same-sex relationships, though she was married. The novel eventually reveals that Sally Seton is now married and has become a typical housewife, far from the independent figure she once was.  
Orlando: A Biography concerns an immortal man who magically changes sex. Despite the restrictions on women at the time (which the book acknowledges) the character Orlando concludes, “Praise God I’m a woman!” 
 A Room of One's Own is a nonfiction essay arguing for both literal and figurative space for women writers. It most famously declares that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” noting that few women in the past did, so their failure to produce great literature should not be considered a failure of genius. It also discusses the low opinion in which women’s intellect and writing was often held, and their lack of access to education; Woolf herself was not sent to college, though her brothers were.

Mrs. Dalloway can be read in English here.
Orlando: A Biography can be read in English here.

A Room of One's Own can be read in English here.

Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, often shortened to Simone de Beauvoir (1908 –1986), was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, political activist, feminist theorist and social theorist.  

She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism. 

Beauvoir researched and wrote the book in about 14 months. It denounces Christianity as oppressive of women, and it is worth noting that the Vatican placed it on its List of Prohibited Books.In the first volume, in addition to denouncing Christianity, she rejects Freud – then very much in vogue – details the history of women’s oppression and accomplishments, and details myths against women (such as "It is an indisputable fact that meat goes bad when touched by menstruating women." This particular myth appeared in no less than the British Medical Journal, as late as 1878.) 

In the second volume Beauvoir discusses the then-contemporary oppression of women, for example in confining her to marriage and motherhood. She concludes by wishing for a time in which “women raised and educated exactly like men would work under the same conditions and for the same salaries; erotic freedom would be accepted by custom, but the sexual act would no longer be considered a remunerable "service"; women would be obliged to provide another livelihood [other than homemaker] for themselves; marriage would be based on a free engagement that the spouses could break when they wanted to; motherhood would be freely chosen—that is, birth control and abortion would be allowed—and in return all mothers and their children would be given the same rights; maternity leave would be paid for by the society that would have responsibility for the children, which does not mean that they would be taken from their parents but that they would not be abandoned to them.”

The Second Sex helped to inspire subsequent feminist arguments against psychoanalysis, including those of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, and Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. However, it should be noted that the 1953 English translation of The Second Sex, often reissued, was greatly flawed and omitted a great deal of the text. A more accurate and unabridged translation into English, translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevalier, was at last published in 2009 and is widely available.
For earlier posts in this series:  Part I is here, Part II here.

A Lullaby

This is a Carelian/Karelian folk song

If I understand it correctly, it was originally sung by Larin Paraske, a most interesting woman who could easily have been forgotten had she not happened to be sought out by a collector of folk songs and traditional poetry.

According to Wikipedia (her whole bio is well worth reading):

Larin Paraske (December 27, 1833–January 3, 1904) was an Izhorian[1] oral poet. She is considered a key figure in Finnish folk poetry and has been called the "Finnish Mnemosyne".[2] Her frequent listeners included several romantic nationalist artists, such as Jean Sibelius, seeking inspiration from her interpretations of Kalevala, an epic poem compiled from Finnish folklore by Elias Lönnrot.[3]
Paraske could recite over 32,000 verses of poetry, which made her an important source for Karelian culture.[4] Her poems were written down by Adolf Neovius in the 1880s, and after several years of work, approximately 1200 poems, 1750 proverbs and 336 riddles were documented, along with several Finnic lamentations known as itkuvirsi, performed by crying and sobbing.[5]