Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday The Thirteenth Speed Blogging. Nine Quick Posts On Good News, Bad News And News

(Contents of Seventh Post Include Sexual Violence)

First, this on income inequality in the US is worth watching.

Second, Twitter reversed its attempt to reduce the power of blocking harassers, and Zerlina Maxwell was instrumental on getting that reversal done.  Kudos to her.

Third, free contraception is now available to many more women than before, thanks to ACA.  This is important because of the economic and social benefits of contraception.  Fewer abortions because of unwanted pregnancies!  Savings to state and federal governments later on!  What's not to like?

Well, the usual argument is that women are getting stuff for free.  But the benefits from free contraception also fall on the heterosexual men whose partners get it.  Couples, one might say, because most people are partnered.

Fourth,  Mary Barra will be the next CEO of General Motors.  The first woman in that role:
This week, General Motors tapped longtime GM employee and executive Mary Barra to be its next CEO. In January, she’ll become the first woman to head up a major international car company. “There's nobody with more years of honest 'car-guy' credentials than she has,” University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon told the Associated Press. "She started off as a little-girl car guy. She became a big-girl car guy and now she's a woman car guy."

Such fun, that quote.

The reason why her appointment is worth celebrating is that reducing gender segregation in jobs would be a very good way to both use our human resources better and to reduce the earnings difference between men and women.

A large chunk of that famous gender wage gap has to do with women working in predominantly female fields, for instance.  The kinds of people who get the top jobs* give us signals of what is feasible.  In this case it is that at least one woman made it in the automobile industry.  Those signals also serve to change or not change stereotypes.  And more diversity in the leadership of firms is probably a good thing for the firms themselves.  Women buy cars, too, and so on.

Fifth, the Michigan Legislature has banned abortion coverage in private health insurance plans, including those sold on the insurance exchange,  for all Michigan women.

Sixth, remember the plan to allow gender segregation in British universities, if a guest speaker demands it?  I wrote about that earlier.

The good news is that the plan appears to have been withdrawn:

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "Universities UK agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers. However, where the gender segregation is voluntary, the law is unclear. We are working with our lawyers and the EHRC to clarify the position.
Nicola Dandridge is hilarious, by the way.  In one interview she supposedly stated that gender segregation is different from, let's say, the segregation of LGBT people from heterosexuals, because gender is "visible."   So if you can see it, you can segregate it

Seventh, a pastor accused of raping young girls gives the kind of excuses one often hears at certain types of sites about false rape accusations and so on:

 "These are not really kids," Kindred said when reached by phone Thursday. "They have the mind of the adult."
He accused them of making up "lies" because their mother was angry with him.
"I never did anything like that," referring to the allegations. "Anyone can make up anything when you sit there long enough and you rehearse it.
"All a woman has to do (in Minnesota) is make an accusation, true or false, and the man's going to be in trouble," Kindred said.

Eighth,  some reactions to BeyoncĂ©'s new album, from various feminist  and other angles.  It's important to point out  that I know nothing about popular music myself (hums old blues songs).

Ninth, the affluenza defense:

"Affluenza," the term used by a psychologist to argue that a North Texas teenager from a wealthy family should not be sent to prison for killing four pedestrians while driving drunk, is not a recognized diagnosis and should not be used to justify bad behavior, psychologists said Thursday.
The term was popularized in the late 1990s by Jessie O'Neill, the granddaughter of a past president of General Motors, when she wrote the book "The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence." 
It has since been used to describe a condition in which children - generally from richer families - have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol, explained Dr. Gary Buffone, a Jacksonville, Fla., psychologist who does family wealth advising.
It was also used by an expert defense witness in the trial of the 16-year-old teenage driver, who after confessing to intoxication manslaughter in the fatal accident avoided what could have been a sentence of up to 20 years in prison when District Judge Jean Boyd gave him 10 years of probation.

That sounds a bit like the Twinky defense, except worse, because very few people could use the excuse of extreme affluence behind their crimes. If we go that route, we can probably create a defense for being born into any social class. The snag is that it is only the wealthy who can afford to pay for the necessary expert psychologist opinions or to cover the costs of a ten-year therapy treatment for the accused. -- I get that determining the causes of what made someone end up killing four people, even if by involuntary manslaughter, is a useful exercise.  But defenses of this sort turn the law even more into a game based on money.
*There's a different criticism about whether we should have hierarchies at all and all the different aspects those hierarchies: class, race, ethnicity, gender etc.  From that point of view the success of one white woman is not success at all.  On the other hand, it's at least possible to state that since women are about half of all humanity, in every country, the complete absence of any woman on top of some hierarchy, whatever her other characteristics might be, tells us something about gender.  What that is depends on how much you believe in the innateness of differences and how much you believe in societal norms, steering and the impact of gender roles.