Friday, March 15, 2013

A Liberal Plant?

(Content warning:  Racism and sexism)

That was my first instinct when I viewed this recent video of an audience question at a panel of the Conservative Political Action Committee on Republican minority outreach :

But perhaps he is a real thing.  Often the "real thing" is as bad as any sarcasm I might be able to create, after all.  (For instance, just try to create a sarcastic story about the advice the American Taliban would give to the mothers of America.  I once did that and couldn't get it to differ from reality by exaggeration.)

Think Progress reports:

ThinkProgress spoke with Terry, who sported a Rick Santorum sticker and attended CPAC with a friend who wore a Confederate Flag-emblazoned t-shirt, about his views after the panel. Terry maintained that white people have been “systematically disenfranchised” by federal legislation.
When asked by ThinkProgress if he’d accept a society where African-Americans were permanently subservient to whites, he said “I’d be fine with that.” He also claimed that African-Americans “should be allowed to vote in Africa,” and that “all the Tea Parties” were concerned with the same racial problems that he was.
At one point, a woman challenged him on the Republican Party’s roots, to which Terry responded, “I didn’t know the legacy of the Republican Party included women correcting men in public.”

He claimed to be a direct descendent of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Bolds are mine.

Lawyers, Guns&Money also wonders if Terry is a liberal plant.  Probably the guy is not a liberal plant, only someone who manages to make conservatives look really bad by expressing his sincere opinions in that place.  If so, he is just as extreme as sarcasm would write him.  Which is very unfair for all us writers and bloggers.

I wandered from that blog to all sorts of pretty disgusting places by following the initial references and then by digging some more.  If you choose to do that, remember the bleach and the iron brush for cleaning yourself later on. 

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

In the US belongs more often to the daddy than in the past.  That's the main take from a new Pew Research study on parenting opinions, or at least the optimistic take from it.  The roles of parents are becoming more similar, compared to the olden times:

Balancing Work and Family
The Pew Research survey finds that about half (53%) of all working parents with children under age 18 say it is difficult for them to balance the responsibilities of their job with the responsibilities of their family. There is no significant gap in attitudes between mothers and fathers: 56% of mothers and 50% of fathers say juggling work and family life is difficult for them.
Feeling rushed is also a part of everyday life for today’s mothers and fathers. Among those with children under age 18, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers say they always feel rushed. 
With so many demands on their time, many parents wonder whether they are spending the right amount of time with their children. Overall, 33% of parents with children under age 18 say they are not spending enough time with their children. Fathers are much more likely than mothers to feel this way. Some 46% of fathers say they are not spending enough time with their children, compared with 23% of mothers. Analysis of time use data shows that fathers devote significantly less time than mothers to child care (an average of seven hours per week for fathers, compared with 14 hours per week for mothers). Among mothers, 68% say they spend the right amount of time with their children. Only half of fathers say the same. Relatively few mothers (8%) or fathers (3%) say they spend too much time with their children. 
Mothers, Fathers and Time Use 
A lot has changed for women and men in the 50 years since Betty Friedan wrote “The Feminine Mystique.” Women have made major strides in education and employment, and the American workplace has been transformed. But with these changes have come the added pressures of balancing work and family life, for mothers and fathers alike. Trends in time use going back to 1965 clearly show how the increased participation of women in the workforce has affected the amount of time mothers devote to paid work. In 2011, mothers spent, on average, 21 hours per week on paid work, up from eight hours in 1965. Over the same period, the total amount of time mothers spend in non-paid work has gone down somewhat. 
For their part, fathers now spend more time engaged in housework and child care than they did half a century ago. And the amount of time they devote to paid work has decreased slightly over that period. Fathers have by no means caught up to mothers in terms of time spent caring for children and doing household chores, but there has been some gender convergence in the way they divide their time between work and home.
Roughly 60% of two-parent households with children under age 18 have two working parents. In those households, on average, fathers spend more time than mothers in paid work, while mothers spend more time on child care and household chores. However, when their paid work is combined with the work they do at home, fathers and mothers are carrying an almost equal workload.

What still remains unchanged is interesting, too.  Consider the public opinion question (asked of all respondents, whether they were parents with children under eighteen at home or not) about the ideal amount of work for mothers and fathers who have children (not sure of the age of those children, by the way):  Is it best for mothers to work in the labor force full-time, part-time or stay at home?  And then (kudos for Pew to ask about this) the same question about fathers.

The answers, about mothers and work:

Survey respondents were also asked what the ideal situation is for mothers and fathers with young children. Among all adults, only 12% say it’s best for mothers of young children to work full time. A 47% plurality say working part time is the ideal situation for mothers of young children, and one-third say it’s best if these mothers not work at all outside the home.

The answers, about fathers and work:
The public has much different views about what is best for fathers of young children. Fully seven-in-ten adults say the ideal situation for men with young children is to work full time. One-in-five endorse part-time work for fathers of young children, and only 4% say the ideal situation for these dads would be not to work at all.
Fathers themselves are bigger proponents than mothers of full-time work for parents with young children. Among fathers with children under age 18, 17% say the ideal situation for mothers of young children is to work full time. Only 7% of mothers agree with this. When it comes to what’s ideal for fathers, there is somewhat more agreement: 75% of fathers say the ideal situation for fathers of young children is to work full time; 66% of mothers agree.
The latter answer, about what is ideal for fathers,  has not changed much over the decades, whereas the former, what is ideal for mothers,  has.  In other words,  expectations about the gendered division of labor have changed when it comes to mothers but have not changed when it comes to fathers.  That creates some very obvious problems.

There are differences in the answers from demographic groups in this study:

Views on What’s Best for Children Differ by Race, Age 
Among all adults, blacks (31%) are much more likely than whites (13%) to say that the ideal situation for young children is to have a mother who works full time. Only one-in-four blacks say it’s best for young children if their mother does not work at all outside the home; this compares with 36% of whites. The gap on this issue between black men and white men is particularly large. While 40% of white men say the ideal situation for a young child is to have a mother who stays home, only 21% of black men agree. The views of Hispanics are similar to those of whites. 
There is also an age gap in views about what’s best for children. Adults under age 50 are more likely than those ages 50 and older to say having a working mother is the best thing for a young child. Some 18% of those under age 50 say having a mother who works full time is the ideal situation for a young child, and an additional 47% say having a mother who works part time is ideal. 
By contrast, among those ages 50 and older, only 13% say having a full-time working mother is ideal for children, and 37% say having a mother who works part time would be best. Fully 40% of those ages 50 and older say the ideal situation for a young child is to have a mother who doesn’t work at all outside the home. Only 28% of adults under age 50 agree. The age differences are more pronounced among men than among women.
Note that those differences are about a slightly different question than what might be best for the fathers and mothers.  It's about what might be best for the children, and on that the general public holds the views shown in the following graph when it comes to mothers:

The research report mentions in several places that the percentage of both the general public and parents which supports the single breadwinner models has declined from 2007 or from 2009.  That is probably a consequence of the recession which has demonstrated the dangers of that pattern when economic times are bad.

The wider connections this research report suggests are fairly obvious.  As long as the ideal division of labor is seen in terms like these we are going to struggle with having women in the kinds of decision-making roles which require having a history of many years of full-time work.  We are also going to struggle with the attempt to see childcare as a general problem for parents rather than as a problem women have in trying to balance family and work.

Still, I'm optimistic about the direction of the changes and also about the fact that the fathers in this study are roughly as likely as the mothers to admit struggling with their dual roles.  And many fathers would prefer to spend more time with their children than their work commitments allow them.
The whole report (fairly long) is worth reading.  It has interesting data on the amount of leisure time mothers and fathers have.  On the whole, fathers have more leisure time than mothers, except for sole breadwinner fathers who have quite a bit less leisure time than their partners:
When paid work, child care and housework are combined, parents in dual-income households have a more equal division of labor than parents in single-earner households. In dual-income households, fathers put in, on average, 58 hours of total work time a week, compared with 59 hours for mothers. In households where the father is the sole breadwinner, his total workload exceeds that of his spouse or partner by roughly 11 hours (57 vs. 46 hours per week). In households where the mother is the sole breadwinner, her total workload exceeds that of her spouse or partner by about 25 hours (58 vs. 33 hours per week).
    •    Men spend more time than women in leisure activities (such as watching TV, playing games, socializing and exercising). The gender gap in leisure time is bigger among men and women who do not have children in the house (37 hours per week for men vs. 32 hours per week for women). Among parents with children under age 18, fathers spend, on average, 28 hours per week on leisure activities, while mothers spend 25 hours on leisure.

Kudos To Sara Volz

This is good news:

Sara Volz of Colorado Springs won first place — and $100,000 — in an Intel Foundation science competition for her research into algae biofuels. (Courtesy of Sara Volz)
Sara Volz has lived and breathed her science project on algae biofuels since ninth grade — in fact, she has literally slept the research, in a loft bed just above her home lab lined with flasks of experimental cultures.
That self-driven dedication helped earn 17-year-old Volz, a senior at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, the top honors in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search, a national competition that features a $100,000 award.
Why is this good news for other women and girls except for  Sara Volz herself?  Because it is an entry into one kind of conversation, the kind that some misogynist sites conduct, the kind that the weird evolutionary psychologists (Satori Kanazawa and Roy Baumeister ) support, the kind which argues that women have never invented or created anything whatsoever, that, indeed, women are biologically and innately incapable of creating anything at all because it is the men who have had the need in the past to create things or otherwise they would not have gotten laid.

This particular conversation is linked to the idea that men have evolved more than women, due to sexual competition for mates and other similar poorly-studied and unscientific arguments.  The crux of that argument is that men are creative because our ancestors had to be, to get mates, but women are not creative because men f**k anything that moves.  So even quite stupid women passed their genes on but only the Einsteins among the Pleistocene men managed to pass their genes on.  And as today's evo-psychos think that smart genes (if they exist) are inherited solely from the same-sex parent, well, there you are!

It never occurred to me that publicizing creative and intellectual ventures by women could be taken in any other way than as a response to that continuous muttering I have had in my life from the beginning, the idea that Roy Baumeister summarized as men having created all of culture.  To take it in any other way seemed just utterly and totally weird.

But the same anti-women sites who tell me that women cannot as much as draw a stick figure also tell me that the tiniest, silliest little research project by women is now publicized, whereas men get no support at all. 

Which is, naturally, utter and total rubbish.  But what they really mean is that the success stories of individual men are written up as just that, success stories of individual men, not as stories about the whole gender.  The reason for doing it differently for women and girls is naturally in that misogynistic background muttering.  If some people really believe that women cannot be creative, well, then we must remind them of the facts that contradict that belief.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The New Pope

Is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, who takes the name Pope Francis.  He is the first non-European Pope (of the modern era) and the first Jesuit Pope.

He is not, however, the first female Pope or the first non-white Pope.  Neither his he anything much but very conservative:

Here's more about Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina: He is 76, and is considered a straight-shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church's most conservative wing. He is a former archbishop of Buenos Aires.
He has clashed with the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
On the other hand, he is believed to care more about the poor than your average run-of-the-mill Pope:

Back in 2005, Bergoglio drew high marks as an accomplished intellectual, having studied theology in Germany. His leading role during the Argentine economic crisis burnished his reputation as a voice of conscience, and made him a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world's poor.
Bergoglio's reputation for personal simplicity also exercised an undeniable appeal – a Prince of the Church who chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop's palace, who gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of taking the bus to work, and who cooked his own meals.
Bergoglio has supported the social justice ethos of Latin American Catholicism, including a robust defense of the poor.
"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least," Bergoglio said during a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007. "The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."
At the same time, he has generally tended to accent growth in personal holiness over efforts for structural reform.
Bergoglio is seen an unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. In 2010 he asserted that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children, earning a public rebuke from Argentina's President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Nevertheless, he has shown deep compassion for the victims of HIV-AIDS; in 2001, he visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet of 12 AIDS patients.

Bolds are mine.
On the third hand, kissing and washing feet doesn't cure AIDS and neither does expressing concern for the poor help the poor, in itself.

We shall see what we shall see, as wiser people say.

I watched some of the BBC coverage of the people waiting for the new Pope to come to the balcony.  Very nice marching by several groups of men dressed in medieval clothing, very nice music by several groups of men, too.  Then a group of men came to the balcony to open the doors and pull the curtains aside so that three men could come to the balcony, one of whom told us the new Pope's new name.  Then more men and the Pope who is a man.

None of it is very interesting or even worth pointing out, except that this large church is a church of men when it comes to its hierarchy, and it is celibate men who decide that there should be no contraception.  But probably the majority of the believers are women who do much of the grunt work for the church, in the hope of eternal life, I guess.

Even that is none of my business, being a pagan goddess, except that the tentacles of the Catholic Church (as do the tentacles of Islam and other large religions) directly and indirectly reach into  my life and the lives of all women on this earth.

In the United States the Catholic Church has a strong influence on government policies concerning women's bodies, and not being a Catholic doesn't release one from that influence.  In other countries religions that one might not belong to can influence how one must dress or whether one can go out alone (at least in the sense that the religion justifies treating a woman alone as somehow sinful and therefore a fair target) or have a job and so on.

All of it makes watching the pomp and circumstance of the papal elections a weird experience.  In one sense it is nothing to do with me.  In another, deeper sense, it is very much to do with me and people like me. 

On Crime And Aging

I have written about this before, but a new crime where the sought culprit is 64 years old makes me wonder about the same thing again:  Have violent crimes committed by older men risen in numbers in the last decade?

Or have I just not been aware of them?  What I learned once was that crimes are hardly ever committed by the oldest age groups or the very youngest, and that the vast majority of violent crimes are committed by men in their twenties and thirties.  It could be that "hardly ever" in a high-crime country such as the US would amount to so many publicized cases in the last few years where the culprit is a man in his sixties.  But somehow I doubt that.

I suspect that there has been a real change.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writer's Block. Or The Vida Counts.

I don't really have a writer's block of the usual type,  but last week I wrote fourteen hours one day (my fingertips still hurt!) and then got food poisoning the next day (monsters really should have better hygiene if they wish to be divine food).  And the overall effect is to quiet me down.

Which means that you will be spared the long litany about the multiple causes of the lack of reviews of women's books in all sorts of serious places.  You can look at which magazines do well and which do not do terribly well here.  And here's more information about the count.  And here's an article which argues that the scarcity of women is linked to the scarcity of women in sciences and such.  And, finally, this article   is linked to in the previous one.

As I mentioned, addressing all this properly is complicated (what is the role women's "choice or preference"?  what role does the invisibility of women play?  is it OK to argue that discrimination is not a problem if it hits in earlier stages of the game?  can we even define a "good and important book" without noting that anything about war is by definition going to be important, anything about childbirth is by definition going to be of lesser universal significance, despite the fact that we are all born but we don't all experience war).  And I really should have more energy to write about it.

Instead, I steer you to a piece by one of the sites which has done much better in recent years.  This is what they say:

It really isn’t rocket science. For us, the VIDA count was a spur, a call to action. Our staff is 50/50 male-female, and we thought we were gender blind. However, the numbers didn’t bear this out.” So why not?
“We did a thorough analysis of our internal submission numbers and found that the unsolicited numbers are evenly split, while the solicited (agented, previous contributors, etc.) were 67/33 male to female. We found that women contributors and women we rejected with solicitations to resubmit were five times less likely to submit than their male counterparts. So we basically stopped asking men, because we knew they were going to submit anyway, and at the same time made a concerted effort to re-ask women to contribute. We also adjusted our Lost & Found section, which featured short pieces on under-appreciated writers or books. We had been asking 50/50 writers, but the subjects were coming back 80/20 male to female, meaning that both men and women were writing about men versus women writers. We then started asking both male and female writers if there are any women writers they would like to champion. It has been a total editorial team effort, and each editorial meeting we take a look at our upcoming issues to see where we are for balance. Again, these are all simple solutions. What I found interesting was that we had all assumed that we were gender balanced, when in fact we weren’t. Now, with a concerted effort, we know that we are.”

Women's Role in The Selection of The New Pope

Here it is:

The cardinals locked away to choose the next pope will be served plain but wholesome food — and nothing so delicious that they will want to drag out their deliberations, an Italian newspaper reported on its website on Tuesday.
The nuns who will cook for the 115 cardinals during the papal conclave at their Casa Santa Marta residence “are already preparing meals of soup, spaghetti, small meat kebabs and boiled vegetables”, the Corriere della Sera reported.
“All of the cardinals consider these dishes as rather forgettable compared to the menus at the restaurants in Rome,” the paper added.

So it goes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

And The Other Side Reacts to the International Women's Day

That would be Rush Limbaugh:

He takes the opportunity the day offered to discuss why he loves the term "feminazis" (which he invented) and then he tells us that feminism is the movement which made women want to dress like men, have men's jobs and grab for power just like men do.  Instead of being properly veiled and silently at home, I guess.

Rush is such a sweetheart.  I'm proud of being a feminazi.  I braid my long armpit hair into whips ready for the detesticularization of the Rush Limbaughs of this world.  That, dear Rush, is your true nightmare.  Not the fear of queen bees.

That was a joke.  I have to add an explanation because we feminazis are commonly without any sense of humor at all, so a rare exception needs to be pointed out.