Friday, February 01, 2013

Good News Friday

It's this little piece of news I spotted on Twitter:
 Marine Corps survey shows 17 percent of male Marine respondents say they would likely leave the Corps if women move into combat positions.
The survey says that number jumps to 22 percent if women are assigned involuntarily to those jobs.
Results of the survey of 53,000 Marines were released to The Associated Press on Friday.

Why good news?  Because the following version says exactly the same thing, except for the tone (that can be picked to influence shit):

Marine Corps survey shows 83 percent of male Marine respondents say they would not leave the Corps if women move into combat positions.
The survey says that number drops to 78 percent if women are assigned involuntarily to those jobs.
Results of the survey of 53,000 Marines were released to The Associated Press on Friday.
Isn't it wonderful what a very simple change does?  The tone I pick here is that the vast majority of male Marine respondents (or of female Marine respondents, check the linked item) are not dreadfully upset with the proposed change.

A Good Cartoon (Content Warning Atttached)

Content Warning:  Rape Avoidance

This one.

It makes you think about the way we frame issues and it makes an important point.  Courses on how to avoid getting raped do not decrease rape; they just make someone else the victim and put all the onus on the shoulders of those who are prey. 

But I also get why courses on how not to rape are unlikely to be run.  The assumption is that everybody already knows that rape is wrong, that hardened rapists wouldn't change from such courses and that those who would never want to rape anyone would be insulted by having to take such a course.  Though of course there's something insulting in being regarded as the natural prey of rapists, too.

Courses on "rape cultures" might work, however.  They could probe common ideas and misconceptions about what constitutes rape and what consent means and they could be taught simultaneously to men and women (or not, as one decides what is best), with the self-care measures included.

This could all be wrong.  The topic is a tricky one to write about and I haven't spent a long time thinking about this.

How Dare You Attack Science? The Usual Response From Evolutionary Psychologists

Because I'm working on some evolutionary psychology stuff you are getting extra doses of all that makes me thunder about it.  Aren't you the lucky duckies!

Today I'm frustrated by the great difficulty of criticizing evolutionary psychology in the following sense:  The responses to any criticism, however careful, tend to be:  "How Dare You Attack Science?"

Helena Cronin, one of the mothers of evolutionary psychology makes the point here:

Generally, the public reception of a scientific theory concurs by and large with the judgement of the objective world of ideas. Not, however, in the case of the scientific understanding of our evolved human nature and, above all, male and female natures. If the arguments against the evolutionary science of human nature were conducted in the world of the objective content of ideas, there would be no contest; evolutionary theory would win hands down. But, as a sociological fact, in the public market-place it loses disastrously against its vociferous critics.
How? Because, in a complete reversal of the objective relationship between the science and these critics, all the asymmetries are reversed.
First, the burden of 'proof', the burden of argument, is transferred from the criticisms onto the science; it is Darwinism that's on trial. Meanwhile, anti-Darwinian attitudes don't have to defend themselves—they are accepted uncritically; the standards for judgement of these views involve all-too-ready credibility and suspensions of disbelief.
Second, adding insult to injury, a plethora of home-made alternatives is conjured up to fill the gap where the real science should be. This DIY-science includes: pseudo-methodological denunciations, where mere name-callings suffice—essentialist, reductivist, teleological, Panglossian (all very bad) and politically incorrect (very bad indeed); the immutable 'entanglement' of nature and nurture, which renders nature impenetrable—thereby freeing 'pure nurture' to be discussed at length; a cavalier disregard for hard-won empirical evidence—though with a penchant for bits of brains lighting up (no; I don't know either); the magical potency of 'stereotyping' (bad) and 'role models' (good); a logic-defying power to work miracles on tabula-rasa psychologies, as in 'socialisation' (bad) and 'empowerment' (good); made-up mechanisms, even though discredited—multi-tasking, self-esteem, stereotype threat; complaints of 'controversial' and 'tendentious' – which are true sociologically but false scientifically (a case of raising the dust and then complaining they cannot see). The science-free policy that this generates is epitomised by the 'women into science' lobby, which is posited on a 'bias and barriers' assumption and an a priori rejection of—yes, the science of sex differences.
This mish-mash is low on scientific merit. But it is not treated as opinion versus science. On the contrary, psychologically and sociologically, it has a voice far more influential and persuasive than its objective status warrants.

She views what she does as science, what the critics do as opinions.  And of course there are critiques of evolutionary psychology which are based on opinions or on the political harm it can accomplish.  But there are loads and loads of studies and scientific critiques of the field, pointing out its methodological stumbling stones and, indeed, its arrogance, the religion-like anger any criticism elicits*.  The latter is notable by the fact that the criticisms are almost never acknowledged or responded to, except in the terms of that quote.

It's a type of kidnapping of the term "science" which makes me angry.  Even poor research is viewed as science if it is within evolutionary psychology, as evidenced by Cronin herself when she quotes the Baron-Cohen study about one-day-old children in a different context.  Given that one-day-old children have very little ability to move their heads unassisted and that it's unclear what one-day-old children actually see, the assertion that girls already at this age look more at human faces and boys at mobiles should certainly be open to questioning without making the questioner just someone with an opinion.

I see this closing-in among evolutionary psychologists over and over, a reaction so defensive that it's hard to interpret as a scientific one.  Most scientists I know love to debate their science, love to address criticisms and ponder them.  The common evolutionary psychology response is such a strongly emotional one that it really makes me think of religions and their responses to those who question the basic dogmas.  Anathema!

Take the bit in the above quote where Cronin says that
The science-free policy that this generates is epitomised by the 'women into science' lobby, which is posited on a 'bias and barriers' assumption and an a priori rejection of—yes, the science of sex differences.
So analyzing and discussing the biases and barriers women might face in the STEM fields and making theories about them and testing those theories  is not science?  Refusing to simply accept the idea that men's greater participation in those fields is caused by an (unproved) evolutionary adaptation which is unchangeable is the same as an a priori rejection of the science of sex differences?   And might it not be the case that the "women into science" lobby consists of at least some researchers who are, indeed, very well versed in the science of sex differences AND in the science of sex similarities?

What that above example shows is something I've met often from evolutionary psychologists:  If you don't accept our specific theories, then you are not scientific.

And if you don't accept our specific theories, then you are a denier of evolution, a creationist or something worse.  As I've written before, this is like arguing that I must not believe in our ability to predict anything about the future if I don't accept astrology as a valid method of future prediction.

Another common response is that anyone who criticizes evolutionary psychology must believe in human beings as "empty slates" (tabula rasa) on which the environment rights everything that matters.  That doesn't follow, of course.  One might, for instance, believe in evolution of the human mind but not in the particular stories evolutionary psychology has invented about it, or all parts of those stories.

The human mind has plasticity.  To assume that whatever is might be so in an immutable and rigid sense and as an evolutionary adaptation to some assumed stone age circumstances is not the only story we can tell about psychological evolution.  It is also a story, if false, which has very harmful consequences in terms of the support it gives to gender prejudices and which might seriously hamper future improvements in the fairness of human societies.  After all, if whatever exists is supposed to be immutable, why bother?  Imagine if the educators of the past had decided that it is not worth sending girls to school because education is clearly something that is only of value to male humans with their competitive instincts and external orientation,  or if politicians of the past decided that democracy is impossible, what with humans being hierarchical creatures.

These are also fairly good reasons for insisting that the proof must be provided by evolutionary psychologists.  Cronin laments that demand in the above quote, but anyone who argues that evolutionary psychology should be used to guide actual social policies (as she does) certainly should provide extensive and generally accepted evidence for those arguments.

Why all that ire at the critics?  In my opinion, thinking about the criticism and either incorporating it or countering it effectively is what makes a field of research advance.  Ignoring the criticism or attacking the critics does not.

Indeed, I can see some improvements in evolutionary psychology already, when I compare the early cartoonish models to the later slightly more realistic ones, and much of that is the consequence of external criticism, I believe.

Prehistoric women,  for instance, are now seldom treated in evolutionary psychology as if they had the agency of barrels of beer or ham hocks, objects to be competed over by virile men.  Yet that was the case in the very first evolutionary psychology paper I came across in the 1990s.

And the field has moved from using the old " Higgamous hoggamous Women are monogamous; Hoggamous Higgamous Men are polygamous!" saw to acknowledging that both men and women can be promiscuous.  Perhaps one day the field advances to a point where it doesn't regard all women as attracted to only the resources of men, given that anything like "resources" in the prehistoric nomadic small tribe must have been embedded, and thus equal to youth, strength and skills, not that different from the current assumption that men are drawn to youth and beauty in the search for a mate.**  

On the other hand, criticizing any part of the whole is often seen as a nuclear attack on the field, causing not discussion and reconsideration but denial without real explanations.  This defensiveness and inflexibility is especially odd, given that evolutionary psychology is a baby as research fields go. There's no way that its current state can somehow be the last word on evolution in human psychology.  Indeed, given the almost-total lack of actual evidence on our prehistory, we are in for many more decades of these types of debates.
*The links here go to largely popular articles, because I can't find my academic file right now.  But there are also several books which address the problems within evolutionary psychology. such as  Susan McKinnon,  Neo-Liberal Genetics: Myths and Moral Tales of Evolutionary Psychology,
Robert C. Richardson,  Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, David J. Buller,  Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature, Anne Innis Dagg, Love of Shopping Is Not A Gene: Problems with Darwinian Psychology and so on.  The point is that the critics of evolutionary psychology are not just feminists or laypeople with opinions.

**I'm not presenting this as a support of the sexual selection theories in evolutionary psychology but simply pointing out that internal consistency would require that the proponents of the women-dig-money school explain exactly how resources were carried by those nomadic prehistoric forefathers in the small hunter-gatherer groups.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tired To The Bones

I have no idea what the lyrics of that song are because English lyrics still give me trouble. I hope they are not somehow inappropriate.

Today's Funniest Study Popularization

OK.  Now I'm getting worried about my mental health.  I've just finished quickly skimming  a study which concluded that based on data from the early 1990s those married couples with the most gender-traditional division of labor at home (she does cooking, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, he does bills and the yard and driving) had the most sex.  Those married couples who had a less gender-traditional division of labor at home had a lower frequency of sex.  Or rather, the larger the share of the husband in traditionally female chores, the lower the frequency.

More about the study itself in a later post, after I have read it more carefully.  But after finishing skimming  it I murmured to myself (as us goddesses do):  "I bet your ass that almost all the popularizations are going to be about men and sex, not about couples and sex, or about women and sex, and I also bet your donkey that many of them hint that men should do fewer of those female chores because that way they will get more sex!"

And then I Google the study and start reading the popularizations and I laugh and I laugh and I laugh and then I wonder how I can find it so very funny that my predictions are 100% correct.  Whatever.

First, there are 116 separate popularizations of this study, the Google machine tells me.  Wow!  Even important health studies rarely get to those numbers.

Second, many of them indeed seem to think that the study is about men-and-sex, not about couples-and-sex.  Examples:
Fox News:
Listen up, men.
Before you listen to your wife tell you doing more chores around the house will lead to more sex, read this.

PolicyMic headline:

Valentine's Day Tip For Men: Sex More Likely For Those Who Avoid House Chores

The Australian headline:

For men, doing housework means less sex, say sociologists

The UK Telegraph headline:

Husbands who only do 'manly' chores have more sex - study

Digital Journal headline:

Study: More housework equals less sex for married men

And so on and so on.  Can you see why I was laughing?  Humans really ARE hilarious.  And not the English speaking ones only: 
Hombres: más tareas del hogar, menos relaciones sexuales

Studie: Ehemänner verlieren durch Hausarbeit Lust auf Sex

Tutkimus: Tiskaava mies saa vähemmän seksiä

Mmm.  So the study was about how men could get more sex and its message was that they should stop helping with the dishes or childcare or the vacuuming.  Except that the study was NOT about men but about couples and it did NOT find that men who did fewer chores overall got more sex.

I'd also be a little bit wary about generalizing the results to today, given that the data was collected in the early 1990s, even though the authors hope that this can be done.  They have a vested interest in the current applicability of the findings, of course, but there's no data to tell us whether things are the same or different twenty years later.

I can't stop laughing at those popularizations.  They are so very obvious.

But they are also political, in the sense of sexual politics, and that's why they get popularized so much.  Here is a weapon to use when the wife nags again about the laundry or the dishes or the vacuuming!  Here is a way to goof off AND get rewarded for it by more sex.  A 2010 study which found that the total hours of household work by both men and women correlated with more sex (using the same data or something very close to it, I think), didn't get much attention at all.  That's because those findings didn't have that political significance. 

Poor study authors.  They sorta tried to go against the flow:
One of the study’s authors warned that husbands should not take the findings as an excuse for not helping with the cleaning and cooking.
Sabino Kornrich said: "Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives' marital satisfaction."
Mmm.  "Help around the house" indeed.  Even the phrasing assumes that those tasks are hers to do.

Third, and most hilariously,  not a single popularization I saw suggested this:  Women!  Do more traditional female chores and you get more sex!  But that's also the implied conclusion of the study.


Where Our Rationality Fails: Parenting Worries

This piece about the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a locked car for a few minutes (when it is not hot)  reminded me of an earlier similar story about a pediatrician who ran into the store to get some milk and left her children in the locked car, also for a few minutes.  She was accused of child abuse, if I recall the story correctly (can't find the link now).

Yet the actual risk of anything bad happening to children being left alone for a few minutes in a locked car is very, very low.  Indeed, the risk they might face by being taken inside the store is probably about equal, because both choices have very small risks attached to them  :  Perhaps a pedophile just then happens to pass by, happens to have a hammer with which to break the window, and then your child is gone.   But perhaps there's someone inside the store going berserk with a gun.  Or your child could run away from you while in the store to a candy counter, and a pedophile might grab him or her there and run out of the door.  And so on.  All these are extremely unlikely events.)

This risk of a stranger pedophile kidnapping a child is widely (WIDELY) publicized in the popular media, and eagerly read everywhere.  The latter  has to do with the utterly horrible fear that a pederast kidnaps a child, tortures the child and then kills the child.  Indeed, this risk is viewed as something so unbearable that the streets and playgrounds in wealthier American cities are now empty of children playing without an adult present. 

That there are real risks evident in a childhood spent up mostly  indoors, with video games as a substitute for exercise, is not something that feels like a risk with the same urgency to parents.  That always being under parental supervision might stunt a child's development and decrease his or her skills is not viewed as a real risk, either.

In many ways, the threat of some stranger kidnapping one's child is treated by our brains and nervous system with the same errors as the fear of an airplane crash.  For those of us who have feared flying, all the statistical evidence in the world about the comparative safety of flying makes no difference.  And the reason is that the fear of that kind of death ranks so large in the mind of the phobic that no information about the probability of the event (unless it can be made to equal zero) makes any real difference.

Similarly, it is the content of the thoughts that enter a parent's mind when even thinking about a child being kidnapped that overwhelm our ability to be rational.  Or so I think.  Because rationally speaking, the odds of a stranger kidnapping a child for heinous purposes really are very small indeed.  Most child abuse is done by the relatives or family friends of the child, for instance, and the vast majority of child abductions are by the other parent after a divorce.  Stranger abductions are rare.

When I was searching for information on the actual probabilities of child abductions by strangers, I came across a site which told me that the probability of a child being abducted in this manner is one in a hundred:

S  T  A  T  I  S  T  I  C  S
* Every 40 seconds, in the United States alone, a child is reported missing or abducted.
* 1.5 million children are abducted each year. Can you imagine what this figure must be worldwide?
* With approximately 75 million children in the United States, every person has a 1% chance of being snatched away before surviving to adulthood to a parent (even 1% is 1% too much!)
* Of child kidnapping victims, 40% are killed, 4% are never found, with 71% being taken by a complete stranger

That is mostly hogwash.  Because the site gives no sources for the numbers it's hard to know what concepts get confused in that list, but given that the most common child abductions are by the other parent (200,000 in 2010) that 1.5 million figure makes no sense.  And neither does the parent who abducts the child intend to kill the child (or only extremely rarely).

A better source (from 2002) tells us this:

It's every parent's worst fear: a dangerous stranger snatches their child. However, the vast majority of missing children are not kidnapped at all. They are runaways and throwaways, kids who leave and don't come back or are told not to come back, according to a 1990 study by the U.S. Justice Department. Of the remaining cases that are considered abductions, some 350,000 each year, are committed by family members as part of a custody dispute.
In a country with some 59 million children, abductions by a stranger are perhaps the most terrifying of crimes. But they are also the rarest. There are about 114,600 such stranger abductions attempted each year, and about 3,200 to 4,600 or around 4 percent, are successful, according to the study.
Of those, an even smaller fraction, about 200 to 300, are what the FBI calls "stereotypical" kidnappings, where a child is gone overnight, transported over some distance, intended to be kept by the perpetrator or even killed. These incidents make up far less than 1 percent of the total stranger abductions.
The numbers of these cases are small and getting smaller despite the recent publicized incidents, according to FBI statistics. In 2001, agents investigated 93 cases of abduction by someone outside the family. That is a decline from the 115 cases reported in 1998, when such statistics were first kept.

If I had more time for this post I'd look for more recent data because what I found suggests that child abductions have become rarer since 2002.  But you can figure the real probability of a random child being abducted by a stranger for truly heinous purposes.  It is much, much smaller than one percent.  Even the largest probability (applying to attempts by strangers) is only one fifth of a percent.  The probability of the "stereotypical" stranger abductions is 0.0000051, and the probability of the child being killed in those is even smaller (perhaps a little more than one half, given the data in the linked article).

Let's compare all that to car accidents, the major killer (or one of the major killers) of children between the ages of two to fourteen years.  In 2003:

In 2003, there were a total of 42,643 traffic fatalities in the United States. The 0-14
age group accounted for 5 percent (2,136) of those traffic fatalities.

You can figure out the rough probability of a child dying in one of those traffic fatalities by dividing the number of deaths by the number of children in the US in 2003.   But perhaps a clearer comparison would be between actual numbers of death from traffic accidents and from murders by strangers who have abducted a child.  The latter can only be approximated from the data I have given here but the figure was somewhere between 50 and 225 (using the data from the 2002 article on "stereotypical kidnaps": 100 to 300 cases, and assuming rates of murder between 50 and 75%).

Here is what I mean by our rationality failing:  Parents do not change their child-rearing behavior in response to information about traffic fatalities, even though the worst outcome:  the death of a child, is higher in those than in stranger abductions.  Indeed, some of the tradeoffs people make to reduce the probability of the latter, such as chauffeuring the children more, might actually increase the likelihood that the child will die.

And the reason is that failing rationality.  In some ways the contents of one death and the emotional meaning of it are so overpowering that actual probabilities do not matter very much, or one seeks for verification that the risk is not only impossible to contemplate but also very high.  Hence sites like the one I linked to above.

Because data on stranger abductions and related deaths has not been kept in the past we don't know if the problem has become more common.  I doubt that myself.  What HAS become much more common are the media reports about some cases of child abductions, and this is one of those cases where rationality can suffer from more "information."  Those stories trigger our hind-brain reflexes and make it harder to look at the risks logically.  Then we make choices which are not the choices we would arrive at were we able to silence those horror movies that the stories have elicited.

What to do about this all?  I think the media should take a more responsible role in how it covers these kinds of stories, and some media sources have done just that.  But much more remains to be done.  I also think that it's good to acknowledge that no parent, however perfect, can ever keep a child completely safe, that risks are part of being human and that the most important parental task is to protect the child adequately (and first against the largest dangers) while also teaching those skills we all need to cope with the risks inherent in life.
My numbers here are "on the back of the envelope" and based on very little study.  They may be roughly indicative of the current situation but most likely incorrect as specific figures.

I have also ignored the fear of other types of violence which might befall children playing out unattended.  In most higher income areas all those risks are quite low.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Evo-Psycho Stuff From My Archives

Reading most of my evolutionary psychology (ep) posts in order, one after another, is quite an accomplishment.  I needed to do that for another project, but thought that you might enjoy one almost universally shared aspect of the popular media descriptions of various  ep studies:

They tell us that something has either been proven to be an evolutionary adaptation or at least is suggestive of an evolutionary adaptation, when not a single one of those studies can present such a proof, given a) the complete lack of empirical evidence from some misty prehistoric era where our supposedly Stone Age (and now rigid) brains were sculpted by Mother Nature, and b) a comparable lack of actual genetic evidence.

Here are a few examples picked from my old posts (pretty much every single one of them could be added here, sadly).  All the bolds are mine:

Why men prefer to marry their secretaries and not their bosses:

The findings, she says, reflect males' evolutionary need for mates who don't pose the specter of "paternal uncertainty". Men may consider subordinate women less likely to cheat on them, Brown explains, and "female infidelity is a severe reproductive threat to males in long-term relationships."
Note the leap there from "paternal uncertainty" in general to the idea that men "may consider" subordinate women less likely to cheat on them.  One gets these sorts of leaps when proximal explanations are ignored (such as the societal expectation based on Christianity that the man should be the head of the woman).

 Why women's sexual desire diminishes in marriage while men's sexual desire remains constant:

Researchers from Germany found that four years into a relationship, less than half of 30-year-old women wanted regular sex.

Conversely, the team found a man's libido remained the same regardless of how long he had been in a relationship.


Dr Dietrich Klusmann, lead author of the study and a psychologist from Hamburg-Eppendorf University, believed the differences were down to human evolution.

He said: "For men, a good reason their sexual motivation to remain constant would be to guard against being cuckolded by another male."

But women, he said, have evolved to have a high sex drive when they are initially in a relationship in order to form a "pair bond" with their partner.

But, once this bond is sealed a woman's sexual appetite declines, he added.

He said animal behaviour studies suggest this could be because females may be diverting their sexual interest towards other men, in order to secure the best combinations of genetic material for their offspring.

Or, he said, this could be because limiting sex may boost their partner's interest in it.

As I mention in the linked post, it would make equal sense for the results to be reversed, from an evolutionary point of view.  But then most any results could be explained by some story.

On why some men would find dumb-looking women attractive:

Ask a straight man, “How do you like your women?” and it’s unlikely he’ll answer, “Dumb and sleepy.” But according to new findings, these characteristics—and any other traits suggesting that the lady isn’t particularly alert—are precisely what the human male has evolved to look for in a one-night-stand.

This make no sense at all, as an evolutionary explanation, as I explain in the blog post I link to above.  But the alternative explanation, also touched upon in that Slate article, makes excellent sense.   Why then prioritize the explanation based on sexual strategies rather than the more likely one?

And here's one which blames men's sexual instinct for wars:

From football thugs clashing on the terraces to soldiers killing each other on the front line, most conflict can be blamed on the male sex drive, a study suggests.
The review of psychological research concludes that men evolved to be aggressive towards  towards ‘outsiders’, a tendency at the root of inter-tribal violence.
It emerged through natural selection as a result of competition for mates, territory and status, and is seen in conflicts between nations as well as clashes involving rival gangs, football fans or religious groups, say the researchers.

In contrast, they add, women evolved to resolve conflicts peacefully. They are said to have been programmed by natural selection to ‘tend and befriend’ to protect their children.
The article this popularization discusses isn't a study but a meta-analysis of literature and it doesn't prove the evolutionary origins of wars in general or the narrower hypothesis that it's somehow sexual competition between men which causes wars.  The article doesn't say much anything about women, by the way.   But other evolutionary psychology studies argue that women, too, have negative feelings about outsiders.  My guess is that men's sexual instinct is not the best explanation for wars.

In other contexts we learn that women can't read maps because men evolved to read them through their assumed ancient hunting roles (yes, makes no sense), but then we learn that women are better navigators than men but only for high-calorie food because women are assumed to have been the gatherers of ancient times (and I guess meat from hunting is low-calorie food).  And so on and so on.

None of the many studies and their popularizers I have discussed provide any evidence about our evolutionary past.  Yet that assertion almost always appears in the first few paragraphs of the popularizations.  Sometimes it is taken from the study or its authors, sometimes it is an enhancement by the popularizers.

Seeing all those popularizations in a long row made me realize that the final outcome looks like a giant mountain of solid evidence for the evolutionary psychology explanations, because of those common assertions (blabla evolutionary blabla) in all these popularizations.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fun Reads For Today

The story about a dolphin communicating with beached whales which then followed her easily to freedom.   Assuming it is a true story, it makes me dig up my old idea that dolphins and whales might communicate through ESP!

This cartoon about the dangers of studying economics.  It might only be funny to another economist, however.  But economics, in general, makes little sense to anyone outside the cult.

And Chapter No 345618 on whether women can perform in combat.  This one has to do with carrying wounded soldiers off the field.  It also has to do with the fact that women have a lower center of balance, on average, than men, which makes the differences in carrying strength much smaller than one might expect.

Finally, these color photographs of early Paris (1909-1930) are fascinating.  I realized how much the black-and-white nature of old photographs had tinted my ideas about what the world looked like then.  Harder to explain than for you to experience by seeing some actual color snaps.

The LIghtning Rod For Conservative Anger: Hillary Clinton

And not just for conservative anger, by the way.  I've heard from several Liberals (mostly men but not just men) who viscerally hate her.  Perhaps she provokes both personality and behavior related anger and then that general anger against uppity women?

Never mind.  Rush Limbaugh (slowly sailing into the sunset of historical oblivion, by the way) certainly gives us the sexist angle on Hillary Hatred:  She reminds him of a third or fourth wife when mad.  His own third or fourth wife?  Later he compares her to an abused wife.   So the framework is "wives" and how "wives" might behave.  That, of course, is what makes his jokes sexist.  They are only funny if you think a third or fourth wife mad is funny, as opposed to the third or fourth husband, say.

All this is sorta subtle if we can call anything coming from the guffaw-branch of anti-feminism subtle.  And so is this:

CNN's Howard Kurtz finds the New York Post's Hillary Clinton coverage funny.  And yeah, it's kind of funny to catch her face looking really angry and then to imply that this is why Bill Clinton is scared of her.  But reverse the genders and check if you still think it's funny.  Pick some male politician who shows anger and suggest that his wife is scared of him because of that angry face.

It stops being funny.  Now, what does this tell us?  Depends how deep you wish to dig, but essentially the idea of female anger as dominating in a marriage is viewed as funny stuff because the husband is supposed to be the top dog.  Or so I think.  The reason why I said this depends is that en route to that conclusion you can wade through all sorts of stuff about male victims of domestic abuse not being taken seriously, about women's rage being seen as ineffective and something to laugh at etc.

Subtle, I said.  What I probably meant that this is one of those cases not worth fighting over.  If you stop at every barking dog you never get to your destination.  At the same time, it's a useful theoretical exercise in understanding how much subtle stuff in the culture IS based on certain ways of acting out one's gender and how all that subtlety sticks to evaluations of Hillary Clinton and other powerful women like a large bunch of thistle burs to a dog's coat.