Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Fun

This video (via Gromit) about animals shaking to get rid of water really is very relaxing.  When I was little I envied cows their ability to quickly move a small piece of skin to get rid of a fly, say.  I couldn't do it, however hard I tried.

But I got really good at waggling my ears.

Meanwhile, in Kansas and North Dakota

Women seeking abortion must be told that it can cause breast cancer.  Except that this is not the case:

Results from major prospective studies
The largest, and probably the most reliable, study on this topic was done during the 1990s in Denmark, a country with very detailed medical records on all its citizens. In this study, all Danish women born between 1935 and 1978 (a total of 1.5 million women) were linked with the National Registry of Induced Abortions and with the Danish Cancer Registry. All of the information about their abortions and their breast cancer came from registries – it was very complete and was not influenced by recall bias.
After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found that induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. The size of this study and the manner in which it was done provide good evidence that induced abortion does not affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Another large, prospective study was reported on by Harvard researchers in 2007. This study included more than 100,000 women who were between the ages of 29 and 46 at the start of the study in 1993. These women were followed until 2003.
Again, because they were asked about childbirths and abortions at the start of the study, recall bias was unlikely to be a problem. After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found no link between either spontaneous or induced abortions and breast cancer.
The California Teachers Study also reported on more than 100,000 women in 2008. Researchers asked the women in 1995 about past induced and spontaneous abortions. While the women were being followed in the study, more than 3,300 developed invasive breast cancer. There was no difference in breast cancer risk between the group who had either spontaneous or induced abortions and those who had not had an abortion.
What do the experts say?
In February 2003, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) held a workshop of more than 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. The experts reviewed human and animal studies that looked at the link between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. Some of their findings were:
    •    Breast cancer risk is increased for a short time after a full-term pregnancy (that is, a pregnancy that results in the birth of a living child).
    •    Induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.
    •    Spontaneous abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.
The level of scientific evidence for these findings was considered to be “well established” (the highest level).
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Gynecologic Practice also reviewed the available evidence in 2003 and again in 2009. ACOG published its most recent findings in June 2009. At that time, the Committee said, “Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.”

The interesting ethical point here (for those of us who regard women as more than aquariums)  is that the bill Kansas House passed requires the health care provider to lie to women, presumably in the interest of the higher goal which is to reduce the number of abortions by scaring women.

What is most ironical about the actual evidence is the fact that it is a full-term pregnancy which might increase the risk of breast cancer!

The Kansas bill also argues for the rights of all egg-Americans, stating that life begins at fertilization.

What that does to all the frozen embryos in fertility clinics is unclear (of course always thinking about the time after Roe v. Wade is overturned, because until then many of the restrictions are just political maneuvers). 

But North Dakota decided to be utterly two-faced in its new draconian abortion law:

 North Dakota lawmakers who approved what would be some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. are now considering outlawing all abortions.
The "personhood" measures would ban abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. It's drawing opposition from some doctors who say it could cause problems for infertile couples seeking to use in vitro fertilization to conceive, but supporters insist that's addressed in the legislation.
The state Senate passed two personhood measures last month, and the House could vote as soon as Tuesday. One of the bills would make the proposal a state law and another is a resolution that would put the definition into the state constitution, if passed by voters.
North Dakota is one of several states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and GOP governors that is looking at abortion restrictions, but the state is could go further than any other in challenging the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
Last week, the Legislature sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple what would be two of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S., banning abortions as early as six weeks in a pregnancy and on the basis of genetic defects such as Down syndrome. North Dakota also would be the first to adopt a personhood law if that measure passes. Abortion-rights activists have vowed to fight the measures in court.


One of the key players in the anti-abortion campaign, state Sen. Margaret Sitte, a Republican from Bismarck, said she was "floored" by the assertions about limitations on in vitro fertilization. She said the proposals allow exceptions for the "screening, collecting, preparing, transferring, or cryopreserving a human being created through in vitro fertilization for the purpose of being transferred to a human uterus." Sitte said that clause was crafted with Dahl's help.

However, rape does not justify such exemptions:

North Dakota lawmakers are considering several bills this session that would restrict abortion. Dahl said that the legislation would ultimately impact medical care to women and families and allow no exceptions for rape or incest.
"A woman who has been sexually assaulted will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, regardless of the nature of her assault," she said.
Sitte said she doesn't think women should abort pregnancies resulting from rape.
"Rape is a horrible crime. It is absolutely devastating," Sitte said. "But do we believe in capital punishment for those children?"
So it goes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More on the UN Commission on The Status of Women

Women's eNews reports that the head of the commission has resigned:

The 17-page document produced by the latest global gathering here on women's rights leaves open what appears to be a long-term fight between conservative and progressive factions within the Commission on the Status of Women.
"It's turning into a battle ground over women's rights and that was not the original intention of the Commission on the Status of Women," said Savi Bisnath, associate director of the Rutgers University-based Center for Women's Global Leadership, in New Jersey, in a phone interview. "It was supposed to be a forum in which we can discuss and negotiate and advance women's rights."
UN Women's Executive Director Michelle Bachelet announced her resignation as the head of the gender equality superagency on March 15, the same day 131 U.N. member nations jointly issued the outcome document.
In parting words, the former president of Chile said she was "particularly heartened" that conclusions were reached, given that in 2003, when the commission also tacked the thematic issue of violence against women, it ended without an agreement.
The rights of women are becoming more prominent and contentious at the U.N., as more agencies, offices and initiatives are expected to work together on gender equality, sexual violence in armed conflict and maternal health.
Member nations of the U.N. sit in on the Commission on the Status of Women, a policy-making body of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. They negotiate mostly as regional factions.

What is more interesting is the fight the author of this piece believes is taking place within the commission:

Shannon Kowalski is director of advocacy and policy of the New York-based International Women's Health Coalition.
"One of the biggest challenges was that the African group, which includes Egypt and a number of ultra-conservative countries, continued to work together as a group," Kowalski said. "The more progressive countries, like Kenya, Zambia and South Africa, were not able to moderate those positions in the way we would have hoped."
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood criticized a draft agreement last week, calling the document misleading, deceptive and contradictory to the principles of Islam. It listed free contraceptives for adolescent girls, equal rights for adulterous wives, equal rights for homosexuals and the right for women to file legal complaints against their husbands accusing them of sexual assault as "destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution."
The Observer Permanent Mission of the Holy See also mustered strong conservative positions on sexual and reproductive health. The mission was unable to respond to an interview request to meet this publication's deadline.

I have  bolded the sentence which seems crucial in so many debates about women's rights.  There are two general arguments opposing feminism (other than the men-are-better-people-than-women argument or the women-suffer-under-equality argument), and those are the focus on some presumed ideal family which cannot survive without the oppression of women and the assumed pushmi-pullyu aspect of gender equalityIf the lot of women improves, then by definition the lot of men gets worse.  The latter usually ignores the fact that the two lots are not identical, to begin with.

These arguments come together in countries with patriarchal laws and beliefs about marriage and family.  That women's increasing equality IS a real threat for the kind of marriage where the husband has all rights is true, of course.  But that shouldn't imply that no alternative family arrangements are possible, arrangements of greater equality and ultimately greater well-being for all, and to regard this as a threat suggests that the speaker ignores the negative aspects of the patriarchal marriage or privileges the husband's role in such marriages.

What struck me about that bolded part of the quote is that it is just a somewhat more exaggerated form of much of the debate about the role of women in the society everywhere.  

What about the children?  Who is going to take care of the children (on a salary of just bed and board) if women can earn a living wage or decide to go for careers?

What about the men who are falling behind in the labor markets (well, not leading by as much as before, actually)?  The writing on these issues often implicitly argues that it would be sufficient if women did less well, not that men should objectively get more education or learn to share more in childcare or anything of that sort.  It's a pushmi-pullyu kind of argument.

Ultimately the debate really is about who is deemed valuable and in what role.  But I have never really understood the privileging of a concept, such as family, over the well-being of all the individuals in it.  Families are not living creatures but social arrangements.  It is the members of a family who should matter, and the mothers should not matter any less than other members of the family.

Is Violence Ever The Proper Response? Thoughts About A Photograph.

I saw this picture yesterday and it haunted me.  It was taken by a Swedish photographer, Hans Runesson,  in 1985, during a march in Sweden by a small number of neo-nazis:

Everything else I was able to find about the picture is rumors.  One rumor states that the woman hitting the flag-carrying neo-nazi with her handbag is a concentration camp survivor. 

Because I don't have the names of the people in the picture, I cannot falsify or verify that or any of the other rumors, including some which suggest that the neo-nazi in the picture is currently in prison for murder.

But it is really the picture itself which haunts me, because it proposes difficult questions:  Is violence ever the proper response?  What if one is the survivor of horrible violence and others are free to celebrate that violence in public?  Does it matter that the violence in the picture is clearly more symbolic than real?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fun With Christina Hoff Sommers

She is best known as an anti-feminist who wrote a book attributing the world-wide phenomenon of boys doing worse at school than girls to American feminists, pretty much.  Now she has joined the Lean-In debate, centered around Sheryl Sandberg's book (which I still haven't bought).

Guess what her message might be?  It's not very hard if you know that she is an anti-feminist.

Yup.  She argues for innate differences between men and women as the cause why women don't really want to lean in.  That's a rather weird response, given that nobody is forcing women to lean in.  The approach is aimed at women who want to advance at work.  It's not some new feminazi law or anything similar.

But Hoff Sommers does have a deeper goal here, I think, and that is to argue that there is no actual need for businesses to change, because the reason women CEOs are almost as rare as hen's teeth is that women don't want to be CEOs.  And of course most women don't want to be CEOs, at least after they figure how unlikely that outcome might be.  But then that's true of most men, too,  I would guess.

Never mind.  Us girls get a separate treatment, because not giving us such a separate treatment is ignoring the fact that men are innately and immutably different.  With which I agree, of course.  Only women can give birth, for example.   The other possibly innate characteristics are much trickier to analyze.  The state of the arts right now seems to be that everyone and their aunt Agatha decides on an opinion and then believes that it is a fact.  I prefer to stay skeptical.

Anyway, Hoff Sommers uses two pieces of evidence for her arguments.  One is the Pew survey I discussed in an earlier post. Hoff Sommers:
In a 2013 national poll on modern parenthood, the Pew Research Center asked mothers and fathers to identify their "ideal" working arrangement. Fifty percent of mothers said they would prefer to work part-time and 11 percent said they would prefer not to work at all. Fathers answered differently: 75 percent preferred full-time work. And the higher the socio-economic status of women, the more likely they were to reject full-time employment. Among women with annual family incomes of $50,000 or higher, only 25 percent identified full-time work as their ideal. Sandberg regards such attitudes as evidence of women's fear of success, double standards, gender bias, sexual harassment, and glass ceilings. But what if they are the triumph of prosperity and opportunity?
Or what if they are traditional gender role requirements?  I think*  that she makes a mistake here.  The parents were not asked what they themselves would prefer to do about work.  They were asked what they thought was in general better for mothers and fathers.  The distinction is subtle but it does make a difference, because the way the question was framed means that general gender role norms could enter the answer.  That is less likely if people were asked what they themselves wanted to do.

But the major piece of evidence Hoff Sommers uses is a 2008 international study about gender differences:
Sandberg's goal is to liberate her fellow Americans from the stereotypes of gender. But is that truly liberating? In a 2008 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a group of international researchers compared data on gender and personality across 55 nations. Throughout the world, women tend to be more nurturing, risk averse and emotionally expressive, while men are usually more competitive, risk taking, and emotionally flat. But the most fascinating finding is this: Personality differences between men and women are the largest and most robust in the more prosperous, egalitarian, and educated societies. According to the authors, "Higher levels of human development—including long and healthy life, equal access to knowledge and education, and economic wealth—were the main nation-level predictors of sex difference variation across cultures." New York Times science columnist John Tierney summarized the study this way: "It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India's or Zimbabwe's than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France."

Why should that be? The authors of the study hypothesize that prosperity and equality bring greater opportunities for self-actualization. Wealth, freedom, and education empower men and women to be who they are. It is conspicuously the case that gay liberation is a feature of advanced, prosperous societies: but such societies also afford heterosexuals more opportunities to embrace their gender identities. This cross-cultural research is far from conclusive, but it is intriguing and has great explanatory power. Just think: What if gender difference turns out to be a phenomenon not of oppression, but rather of social well-being?
I got the study** and skimmed it, fairly quickly.  Then I had to go back and check that my reference was correct, because the study doesn't look at nurturing, risk aversion or competitiveness.  It looks at four characteristics:  extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism, and finds that men and women differ along those dimensions, on average.

The measure of difference, the d-value, ranges overall from 0.4 for neuroticism to 0.1 for extraversion.  These are fairly small gender differences.  The d-value for the difference between the average heights of adult men and women is 2.6, for example.  A value of zero denotes no average gender difference.

The researchers argue that more egalitarian societies (which are economically more developed societies)  exhibit larger differences than traditional and more hierarchical societies.  BUT the result is completely driven by differences between men in the two types of societies,  NOT by differences between women.

So assuming that all calculations in that study are correct, what do the results tell us?  That women and men in traditional cultures are closer to each other in extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism than women in more egalitarian societies, and that this result is driven by differences in men.  How does this relate to Hoff Sommers' argument that women are freer to be what they are innately meant to be in the more egalitarian societies?

I can't think of any actual relevance of the study to her argument, unless she argues that men in more egalitarian societies are freer to assume the male breadwinner role?  But that is rubbish.  It is the hierarchical societies where men are more likely to assume that role.

Neither can I see what relevance the traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism have to do with women's desire to lean in (unless neuroticism makes work impossible, of course) .

In short, that particular evo-psycho study does not support Hoff Sommers' argument.  Even if the characteristics it studies were directly relevant for labor market participation rates of men and women, the average difference values are pretty small.  But I do admire the web she weaves from rather unlikely bits and pieces!

Sigh.  None of what I say here will have any influence on the debate.

The first footnote is added later, to clarify that point:
*I wrote "I think that Hoff Sommers made a mistake" because I couldn't match her data.  The closest I got was with the questions about what is ideal for mothers and fathers in general.  But a second search unearthed the most likely bit she refers to.  Only it doesn't apply to all  mothers but to mothers who work either part-time or full-time.  The Pew report states this:
 The recent shift toward a preference for full-time work has been more pronounced among working mothers themselves than among those who are not employed. Fully 37% of today’s working mothers say their ideal situation would be to work full time, up from 21% of working mothers in 2007. (Among non-working mothers, the increase from 16% to 22% is not statistically significant.)
Only 11% of working mothers say their ideal situation would be not to work at all, down from 19% in 2007. Part-time work remains the most appealing option for working mothers; 50% now say working part time would be ideal for them, down marginally from 60% in 2007.
Among mothers who do not work outside the home, in 2007, roughly half (48%) said not working was their ideal situation. Today only 36% of these mothers say the same. The share saying they would prefer to work either full or part time has increased slightly over the same period (from 49% in 2007 to 63% now).
For their part, fathers prefer full-time work. Fully 75% of fathers with children under age 18 say working full time is ideal for them. Some 15% say working part time would be ideal, and
10% say they would prefer not to work at all. In general, fathers’ views about what is ideal for them have not changed significantly in recent years.

**To get the pdf file, Google Why Can't A Man Be More Like A Woman. Sex Differences in Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures.

Some News on Violence Against Women

1.  This picture, from Ms. Foundation for Women, gives quite a nice summary of the television coverage concerning the Steubenville rape sentencing:

As I wrote before, think whether such things would be reported about someone who got his wallet stolen while inebriated, or about his hypothetical young attackers.

2.  When I read about this year's meeting of the UN Commission of the Status of Women  which did, happily, end up with a document aimed at reducing violence against women, I noticed that the group of countries which opposed such a document didn't just include the usual suspects (the Vatican, Iran and some other Muslim countries) but also Russia.  In addition to that, Egypt's new government was vocal in its opposition to the document.

About the latter:

It's not just Russia, Iran and the Vatican that are alarmed at the prospect of gender equality and women living lives free of violence. They found an ally in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which issued one of the most odious – and telling – responses to the CSW, claiming:
"This declaration, if ratified, would lead to the complete disintegration of society."
Why? Because, according to the Brotherhood, the proposed language granted women basic sexual rights and bodily autonomy; gave wives the right to report marital rape and requires law enforcement "to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger"; required equal inheritance rights for men and women; replaced "guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores"; recognized the rights of marginalized groups like lesbians, trans women and sex workers; and removed "the need for a husband's consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception".

But it was Russia's new fervor in this camp which interested me the most.  After all, Egypt was pretty predictable, given who is in power there, but Putin has been in power in Russia (whether formally or not) for a very long time.  So how come this shift in Russia's policies?

What I found in my research is the argument that Putin doesn't like abortion or homosexuality because he wants people to have more children.  As is the custom in such cases, the government tries to pressure women (and men) into doing that or tries to make not doing that impossible.  The government (as is also the global custom in almost all such cases) refuses to try to understand why people have fewer children and what could be done to change that, if so desired:

Russia's difficulties with language on sexual, reproductive and gay rights appears to be driven by what critics have described as a bid by President Vladimir Putin to shore up support in his country's largely conservative society.
Putin has criticized gays for failing to help reverse a population decline. Putin has also drawn closer to the Russian Orthodox Church, one of the most influential institutions in Russia.
 On the positive side, the document was adopted, and:

Suffice it to say that bringing all 193 countries into consensus wasn't easy, and it didn't happen without hard work and drama. There were many member states who expressed reservations about the document, including Russia and the non-voting but permanent member, the Holy See.
Those who disagreed most vehemently with the UN's Commission on the Status of Women's document were mostly from conservative Muslim countries, which focused their ire on references to women's sexual and reproductive rights, and equality in marriage and other human rights. There were moments during the negotiations when media reports from Egypt grew inflammatory, with the Muslim Brotherhood proclaiming that adopting such a proposal would result in "the compete disintegration of Egyptian society." Well, Egyptian women would have none of that. Protests erupted in Egypt, and work at the UN continued.
The strong-willed women, girls, and men at the conference were determined to work through the many complications, cultural differences, and language nuances, and dedicated the long hours it took to tediously parse every paragraph -- word by word, to arrive at a document that could finally be adopted by all 193 countries. In the end, the only member state that apparently didn't agree to the final document was Libya, and they, gratefully, did not block adoption of the 18-page text.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brainless Politics. The Cyprus Example and Others

Reading about events in Cyprus reminded me once again about the weird illogical aspect of so much politics.  Stuff, where you have to put your brain away to keep going.

The list can be very long but these are the items that I could think of right away:

1.  The United States spends humongous amounts of money on its military, more than the next ten (or more) biggest spenders put together.  Yet that military spending is a Holy Cow for both parties, pretty much, whereas this country of great riches cannot afford health care for the poor or retirement for anyone below the one percent.  A related Holy Cow is that the contributions to social security must remain regressive so that the burden is mostly on those who have lower incomes.

2.  The largest funder of Islamic terrorism is Saudi Arabia.  And Saudi funding of mosques and schools and such in other countries comes with a link to an extreme form of Islam, the form which spreads the kind of thought basis from which terrorism can grow:  An extreme one.  Yet George Bush responded to the 911 attacks by attacking Iraq, pretty much, and we pretend to ignore the Saudi influence here because it's the largest oil producer.

For similar reasons, the extreme sex segregation and oppression of women in Saudi Arabia is not really addressed.  The West wants the oil, not fairness and justice without the oil.

3.  The whole financial markets sausage.  Those who prepared the poisonous sausage and served it to the rest of us really did not get punished at all.  They got bailouts and high bonuses and are largely back in the saddle.  Those who ate that poisonous sausage, not knowing any better, are punished, however.

Indeed, the remedies the government had adopted seem to be going to those who should have gotten the punishments, not more money.

4.  This whole silly "equal sacrifice" bullshit.  The sacrifice is not equal if we demand equal monetary sacrifices from the very poor and the billionaires, or larger sacrifices from those with lower incomes.  In the former case, the billionaires hardly feel the sting whereas the lives of the poor are destroyed, and in the latter case (which seems more realistic) those in power can make more money from the so-called sacrifices by gaming the system again.

Now add to this the collapse of the ethical base for the sacrifice.  In Cyprus, people who acted the way that was assumed to good and careful, by saving and by not spending, by acting responsibly rather than by gaming the market, those are the people who are now made to pay for the fun others had.  It is irrelevant if the real target of the saving taxes is the Russian savings in Cyprus.  The sacrifice demanded will be greater on the poor and it makes no difference how ethically one may have acted.

Then, of course, freezing the bank deposits in Cyprus so that the tax can be applied to all is the same as telling people in Spain, Greece and other similar countries to do a run on the banks.  Which is truly an odd thing to want to initiate.

Feminism Is Dead. Take 4358.

These stories are as regular as a menstrual cycle, you know.  And about as exciting.  Feminism is dead so often that I wonder what kind of a zombie it must be to be able to die again and again.

Another interesting aspect of these stories is that they always focus on the upper class women,  mostly white ones and with lots of education.  Yet even such highly blessed women toss their careers into the corner!  They did so in the early 2000s, they did so in the 1990s, and now they do it in 2013.

The novel aspect of these newest death throes is that the article mentions a famous evolutionary psychologist, David Buss, who firmly believes in the innateness of sex roles.  You see, our prehistoric women suddenly don't seem to have been gatherers, after all,  who might have provided most of the calories in that gathering/hunting mix but cavewives:

All those bachelors’ vows of future bathroom cleanings, it turns out, may be no more than a contemporary mating call. “People espouse equality because they conform to the current normative values of our culture,” says University of Texas evolutionary psychologist David Buss. “Any man who did not do so would alienate many women—yes, espousing values is partly a mating tactic, and this is just one example.” At least in one area, there’s scant penalty for this bait and switch. Last year, sociologists at the University of Washington found that the less cooking, cleaning, and laundry a married man does, the more frequently he gets laid.
 “My sense,” says Buss, “is that younger women are more open to the idea that there might exist evolved psychological gender differences.” Among my friends, many women behave as though the evolutionary imperative extends not just to birthing and breast-­feeding but to administrative household tasks as well, as if only they can properly plan birthday parties, make doctors’ appointments, wrap presents, communicate with the teacher, buy the new school shoes. A number of those I spoke to for this article reminded me of a 2010 British study showing that men lack the same mental bandwidth for multitasking as women.

In other words, women belong in the home because of evolution.  That cannot be proved, of course, but it's enough if women believe in it, because then they will stay at home. Or will feel guilt for not doing so.

I am bored with these kinds of stories as is pretty apparent from what I wrote above.  The reason is this:

Not all women are ambitious in the job sense.  Not all women want those kinds of jobs.  But then neither do all men.  The society condones the lack of ambition in women but disapproves of it in men.  Thus, the number of men who would report a desire to be a stay-at-home-dad will probably be lower than the number of men who really would prefer to be a stay-at-home-dad, and to some extent the reverse is true for women.

The point is that we have different talents and different desires.  And the previous paragraph could equally well have been written by saying that not all women are suited to taking care of small children or wish to do that full-time, even if they love their own children more than anything in the world.  And the same applies for men.  And so on.

But the stories are not written that way.  They are written to apply to all women on one side, and all men on the other side.  Thus, all men obviously somehow wish to work in the labor force 24/7 and all women obviously get kidnapped by their maternal instincts and toss their jobs overboard if they possibly can.

Thus, the basic setup is this:  Men will work in the office or the factory or in the fields 24/7, no matter what.  If that is taken as a given, how should women behave? 

The other reason I'm utterly bored with these kinds of stories is that the way labor markets are arranged is kept as the invisible elephant in them.  Those stresses the article speaks about are arranged stresses, largely caused by impossible expectations about working hours and the absence of good childcare and proper vacation time.

Though I must admit that this story is slightly more interesting than the usual one because it hints at the idea that the ability to organize children's birthdays and the ability to cook and clean is somehow genetically wired in women but not in men.  Which is unlikely when you consider that the most famous people in those types of fields tend to be men.  Like the most famous chefs.  Even the most famous childcare experts of the past are men.

We should also see enormous catastrophies in the families of all single fathers.  If men lack the necessary hard-wiring to remember children's physician and dentist appointments, how come the studies I've seen of single-father families suggest that those fathers do a pretty good job, on average?

So I fell for this "controversial" post in the way it was intended:  Get a lot of links, create a lot of discussion, and the advertising income will flow in!  Bad Echidne.  She will get no chocolate mousse today.
Added later:  This is a good take on the article.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Rape Culture Inside CNN. We Are All Steubenville Football Players Today.

Content Warning:  Sexual Violence

This, my friends is rape culture.  I have been sitting on the fence about the general validity of the term, for various reasons, but CNN's coverage of the guilty verdict in the Steubenville rape case certainly tells us something about CNN's own rape culture.

Do watch the video at Raw Story.

Then consider how a similar story would have been reported if the two young men had been accused of, say, armed burglary or the severe beating of someone or other crimes deemed as real.

Huffington Post has more on CNN's determination to focus its sympathy on the perpetrators of this crime.

I would be the last person to argue that one shouldn't feel sorry for those who have been found guilty of crimes.  The consequences to them, when caught, are awful.  As the CNN coverage states:

Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for “a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds.”
“What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.
“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan remarked. “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law.”
“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

But note that the rape didn't somehow grab these young men or force them to act in a certain way.  They did it.  Just as young men sometimes commit burglaries or robberies.  A rape is a crime.  But the way CNN approached it was qualitatively different from how they would cover the sentencing of a teenager who, say, robbed a bank.  We would not then hear how a young life is ruined and so on.

I can see no reason for the difference except for something which must be called a rape culture.  A rape is not deemed a serious enough crime for the punishment  the two young men received, despite the fact that the actual punishment ranged from one to two years; not a terribly heavy sentence.

Indeed, underneath this treatment squirms something truly nasty:  The idea that these school athletes shouldn't have been taken to court at all, that the crime they committed cannot justify the sentence they were given.  That they should have been forgiven for the greater good.  Which does not apparently include rape victims.

I also get that CNN wants to pull all the emotional strings it can, for the sake of those viewership figures, and because the victim is unavailable those emotions must be obtained in other ways.  But something really is wrong when we are asked to extend our sympathies to those found guilty with only a fleeting comment about the victim's life, too, having been severely damaged if not ruined, and that in the hands of the two football players, not as a consequence of the crime they themselves committed.

And what about the victim and our sympathies for her?  Will she be perfectly fine tomorrow morning?  Did CNN report that her mother earlier told how her daughter stays in her room, doesn't want to go to school and cries herself to sleep, night after night?  That her daughter feels alone, except for her family, and ostracized?

There are rape victims who never quite recover, who never quite trust anyone enough to let them come close.  There are rape victims who, years later, have no feeling in the pelvic area.  There are rape victims who resort to narcotics to self-medicate or who spend years in therapy.  Whether this case is one of those is something I cannot tell, but the point CNN almost ignores is that at least one life could have been destroyed even before this case came to court at all.

This article is a good general introduction to the case.  This post  at Jezebel gives an example of the lack of support surrounding the rape and the great enjoyment at least one person present had in discussing it.  Warning, the video at Jezebel can be upsetting.  And it certainly gives one example of a rape culture.

Here is an early article about the events with more examples of what is hard to see as anything but a metaphoric further rape of the girl in social media.  Rape culture in action, that is.