Saturday, April 23, 2016

In Honor of Yesterday's Earth Day

Some of you may remember that I have always been at war with ivy at Snakepit Inc.  and until recently the ivy was winning.  This anecdote should be read in that context:

I spent two hours outside pulling ivy off plants and windows. As part of that, I had to go on all fours inside large shrubs. My neighbor heard the crackling sounds (me pulling ivy, making up new swear words) and feared that I was a coyote.

But luckily I wasn't.

Then I found a wonderful paperweight, all covered with dirt,  inside a shrub! After a bath it looks like a wintry night sky.

 It's not mine. I believe mother/father Earth brought it up from the soil to thank me for being such a wonderful warrior for her. Earth Day was yesterday, but I count this as a thank-you-present for having celebrated it.

Well, perhaps battling ivy is not quite the same thing as being a warrior for mother/father Earth.  On the other hand, a certain power balance is desirable both in international politics and inside our gardens.

Friday, April 22, 2016

This is funny

Donald Trump writes an academic paper:

How funny Trump is depends, naturally, on who you, the reader, might be.  He's not funny if you are an immigrant to the US or a Muslim, and he is certainly not funny if you happen to belong to that half of humanity which he judges by butt shape and tit size.  But for all of us laughing at his utterances is also tinged with that small frisson of fear, when one thinks of those famous fingers on the nuclear button.

Maybe this is just gallows humor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

News about Women, April 20, 2016: Harriet Tubman, Indian Housewives, Pulitzer Prizes and Female Refugees in Europe

1. Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.  As some on the wide and varied Internets have said about Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, this, too,  is only symbolic. But more representative symbols looks like a fantastic idea to me!

2.  A BBC story  about the suicides of housewives in India makes a  point about the invisibility of some issues:

More than 20,000 housewives took their lives in India in 2014.
This was the year when 5,650 farmers killed themselves in the country.
So the number of suicides by housewives was about four times those by farmers. They also comprised 47% of the total female victims.
Yet the high number of homemakers killing themselves doesn't make front page news in the way farmer suicides do, year after year.
In fact, more than 20,000 housewives have been killing themselves in India every year since 1997, the earliest year for which we have information compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau based on occupation of the victim. In 2009, the grim statistic peaked at 25,092 deaths.
That quote has a statistical problem, by the way, because it does not relate the suicide numbers of farmers and housewives to their population bases, i.e., the total numbers of farmers and of housewives in India.  It's theoretically possible that 5650 farmer suicides is a higher percentage of all Indian farmers than 20,000 suicides is of all Indian housewives, though I doubt it.

The point of that article still stands:  Certain social problems are more visible than others.  New problems get more attention than old but continuing problems, problems affecting women tend to be slotted into the sub-group of "women's issues" and thereby become less visible as general problems, and such problems are less often named.  Naming is a type of power, because we cannot attend to a problem we cannot identify.

3. Women did well in this year's Pulitzer Prizes.  Another interesting aspect of the 2016 prizes is the slight relaxing of the idea that certain topics belong to male journalists to cover and other topics to female journalists:

4.  A new study of the labor market integration of refugees in Europe makes for fairly dismal reading, with a few points of light.

The study also notes that from January to September 2015 young men dominated the group of asylum seekers.  Seventy-four percent of them were male and 82% below the age of 35:


Women and older people are vastly under-represented in the group which manages to reach Europe.  That's one problem with the current European refugee problem:  it tends to reward the young and the male and those who have money to pay the people smugglers.  It leaves behind the women, the sick, the elderly and the truly poor, though obviously many of the men who arrived in 2015 plan to bring their families in later.

The study has a short section about the labor market integration of female refugees.  It notes that women integrate less well than men:

Female refugees have significantly worse labour market outcomes, especially in the short to medium run. This might be partly due to cultural patterns as participation rates of women in their home countries are usually lower. Survey results in main source countries (e.g. Syria) suggest that participation rates of refugee women remain also low in host countries, at least in the short to medium term.
Thus, cultural patterns may hinder female refugees' labor market participation rates in Europe.  That is a posh way of saying that the norm is for women to stay at home, and such norms have staying power*.  One of the consequences of that is likely to be higher poverty rates among the refugees, because single-earner families in general tend to have higher poverty rates.

All is not gloom and doom in that respect.  An earlier Swedish study found that refugee women's labor market participation rates do rise with time, as this table shows:

5.  Finally, a question:  Are you interested in these kinds of complications?  One reason I write them is simply because I don't see many others doing it, but there are days when I wonder if it matters at all.


*  Francine Blau has studied the effect of social norms and culture of source countries in this context using data from immigration to the United States:

Abstract: This paper examines evidence on the role of assimilation versus source country culture in influencing immigrant women’s behavior in the United States—looking both over time with immigrants’ residence in the United States and across immigrant generations. It focuses particularly on labor supply but, for the second generation, also examines fertility and education. We find considerable evidence that immigrant source country gender roles influence immigrant and second generation women’s behavior in the United States. This conclusion is robust to various efforts to rule out the effect of other unobservables and to distinguish the effect of culture from that of social capital. These results support a growing literature that suggests that culture matters for economic behavior. At the same time, the results suggest considerable evidence of assimilation of immigrants. Immigrant women narrow the labor supply gap with native-born women with time in the United States, and, while our results suggest an important role for intergenerational transmission, they also indicate considerable convergence of immigrants to native levels of schooling, fertility, and labor supply across generations.
These results probably mean that when refugee source countries (say, Afghanistan, the source country for 10% of the asylum applicants in Europe in 2015) have considerably more patriarchal beliefs than the average beliefs in the new host countries in Europe those stronger patriarchal beliefs will take a long time to change.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Meanwhile in Poland, the Catholic Church Works To Take Control Or Reproduction

Poland already had the strictest abortion laws in Europe, but now those might become even stricter:

But now a new bill, pushed by a pro-life foundation and the Ordo Iuris legal institute, would make abortion illegal in all circumstances. Doctors who performed an abortion could be punished with jail terms of up to five years. The only exception would be the “unintended” death of a fetus while saving a woman’s life.

I assume we should thank God for that exception, though in practice it might not necessarily save pregnant women's lives.

The linked Washington Post article argues that the Poles don't really mind such a draconian law, what with being devout Catholics and all (and possibly because illegal abortions and abortion-travel to neighboring countries are already "flourishing" alternatives).  I don't know if that assessment is correct, but it seems that a strong protest movement has finally been created:

Here’s what’s new: civil society’s unprecedented and immediate backlash. Within five days of the announcement, 85,000 people had signed up for the Facebook page of a protest group, Dziewuchy dziewuchom, which roughly translates as “Women for Women.” In an organized protest on April 4, hundreds of men and women walked out of Mass when priests read the Church’s official letter supporting an abortion ban.
But, argues


Here is an interesting story about the power of definitions of terms such as "men" or "women", about who gets to define us and then put us into those categories and on what grounds, and about the possibility that greater inclusiveness might mean that more and more people must share a cake of a constant size.  It is also a story about good intentions which, in my view, have some exceedingly bad outcomes.

A group inside the Green Party in the UK, Young Greens Women, sent this tweet out in late March:

“Women/non-men who are Young Greens can find and join our Facebook group 'Young Greens Women'”

The tweet made some waves (1) given that it could be interpreted as meaning that women are defined by being non-men, with men as the default position, and that has been Business As Usual for much of human history.

But that is not what Young Greens Women intended by their tweet:

And Young Greens Women responded to criticism in a series of tweets.
“We currently use 'non-male' because this is inclusive of other non-binary genders which have a place in our group”, the group wrote.
"However we understand why people may have issues with language that defines us in relation to men.
“We are currently discussing within the group if we can/should change the language we are using.
"Rest assured that we are always striving to practice correct intersectional feminism and to be as inclusive as we can."

Bolds are mine. 

The Green Party Equalities (Women) spokesperson Sarah Cope later explained:

"Language is all-important."
"It was never the intention of the Young Green Women to use the term "non-male" to describe women, and this has now been clarified."
"What Young Green Women were doing was being inclusive not just to women, but also to individuals in the party who perhaps identify as non-binary or gender queer, as befits a party with a proud history of inclusivity."
"The Green Party is a truly feminist party."

Bolds are mine.  For both of these two quotes and the bolded parts, in particular, note the group that is made more inclusive.  It is not the general Green Party, and it is not the men in the Green Party.

Finally the Facebook page of Green Party Women added to the explanation:

A recent issue, taken out of context of its intent, has arisen and caused quite a stir. As a result, the committee of Green Party Women would like to reassure our sisters that we by no means intend to erase women’s identities by forcing members to define relation to men. "Non-male" and "women" are not synonymous.
However, Green Party Women are happy with uses of the term “non-male" as an umbrella term when gender balance practices are conducted. This umbrella term groups together all who face gendered oppression; women, transgender women and individuals of non-binary or no genders. We all deserve to be recognised and included.
For too long, marginalised women have been excluded from most women's movements and circles. As a group we affirm that trans women are women, and that non-binary genders and other gender identities experience oppression and deserve respect. After all, we are part of a political party, The Green Party, which has a proud history of inclusivity.

The bolds are mine, once again, and it is especially that bolded paragraph I wish to understand better.  It is not much of an improvement from the first interpretation of women=non-men, because the term "non-male" still defines several groups of people by lumping them together and then calling the resulting wider group "non-male,"  compared to the default option which is "male."