Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

I read a lot of blog posts last week about the new research study that somehow PROVED that women intrinsically prefer pink. I didn’t bother looking at any of the news articles on the study, though, because I mostly got the gist from the blogs. Today, however, I came across an article about it in my hometown paper, and decided to click the link. My oh my. It’s worse reporting than I could have imagined. Mind you that the subjects of this study were grown adults, not babies — people who’ve had years to internalize which colors are for girls and which are for boys. How does it possibly make sense for a reporter to offer up this explanation for the study results —

Hurlbert surmised that women might have evolved an interest in red because of their primary role as gatherers in early human history.

— without even mentioning the fact that, you know, cultural factors just might have made a difference?

I know this probably doesn’t seem like anything to get worked up about. So the study says women like pink? Women do like pink! So what? But this isn’t about women liking pink. I like pink okay (though I much prefer navy blue, mustard yellow, pistacio green, eggplant, and bright orange). I’m not bothered in some way by a lot of women liking pink. What I care about is dubious research studies getting widespread media attention by purporting to offer hard evidence that men and women’s brains are “hard-wired” in different ways. Because while being hard-wired for a color preference may seem pretty innocuous, when you concede that, it’s not a far leap to men’s brains being more “hard-wired” to do math or science or participate in politics, and women being more “hard-wired” to be awesome grocery shoppers.

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We all know there are men out there who don’t think women are much good for anything other than being available for sex whenever and however they want it. Roissy in DC takes this one step further and says women aren’t even good for that — at least, not as good as inanimate objects.

It makes you wonder about some people’s sex lives.

The basis of Roissy’s New Theory of Life, Dating and the Future of Male/Female Interactions as We Know It is that, with the increasing technological advances in sex robots (“she’ll move her limbs and gyrate during sex as well as talk dirty and respond to commands,” Roissy explains), men will actually no longer have any need for real live women. Given the choice between a sexbot designed to look like a supermodel or a real live “average-looking” woman, men will, in aggregate, choose the former, Roissy predicts.

His predictions are surprisingly (embarrassingly?) detailed, with sub-predictions for different castes of human beings, as he sees it. The basic premise is that unattractive women will be forced out of the dating/mating pool as unattractive and less-than-perfect men have sex exclusively with their sexbots; averagely attractive women will have to become more subservient to men in and out of bed just to be able to snag one away from his sexbot; and beautiful women will harem-style date the “alpha” males, who are the only ones who won’t rely on sexbots. All in all, this will lead to more polygamy, adultery, and male power.

Sexbots are a very real threat to the established order because men’s sexuality is so visually driven. The entire market structure of dating will shift seismically in the direction of men becoming choosier and less willing to please and women becoming looser and more willing to please.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s the perfect Nice Guy® fantasy, priceless in its equal mix of misogyny, insecurity, and entitlement (for a definitive rundown of the Nice Guy® phenomenon, see here). Yeah, yeah, well who needs all you real women when I can have sex with my Jessica Alba robot? Guess you’re all gonna hafta start putting out more and stop demanding treatment as an actual human being, aren’t ya now?

So let’s even just put aside for a moment here the fact that Roissy and his commenters seem to think that real live women are pretty much obsolete (except for making babies, as a few insightful commenters point out). Moving on to the “And People Say Feminists Hate Men” category … dear god, what kind of low expectations of the male species does it take to posit that a good portion of men, given the choice between sex/love/companionship with a fellow human and an inanimate object, would choose the inanimate object? Roissy Inc. seem to feel that no men actually have the capacity to feel emotions, care about people, desire love, etc. Real men are, in fact, only concerned with finding the prettiest possible thing, living or not, to stick their penises in. I mean, non-batshit-crazy guys, don’t you take offense to that? I’m offended, just on behalf of all the guys I know.

Of course, I take more offense to on behalf of women, who I’m pretty sure would be okay even if the whole futuristic sexbot scenario did play out. I mean, Roissy seems to believe that in a world where men showed no interest in sleeping with them, women would continue to be so desperate to snag a man that they’d either convert to polygamy en masse or revert back to an idealized 1950s style of submission. Sheesh. It’s as if Roissy’s never heard of lesbians.

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McClatchy Newspapers has a “Wounded Warriors” blog, which is basically a collection of reports about veteran issues.  It’s a great resource for stories which, in my mind, are essential to understanding the Iraq War.  And it is also how I came across this commentary, “Pervasive wound of war,” from the Washington Times. 

The commentary is about a hundred blog years old, which means it was posted a few days ago, but it has lingered with me since I read it.  In particular, the part (pointed out by the Wounded Warriors blog) about females in the military. 

The problem [of PTSD] becomes even more complex in the context of women serving in the military. In their combat roles, service women in Iraq are subject to both violence from the war and assault from fellow service members or superiors. According to a 2003 study, about one-third of female veterans visiting the Veterans Administration for health care reported having been subject to rape or attempted rape during their military service.

The combination of sexual assault with the psychological trauma from combat known to contribute to PTSD in military personnel has created an environment in which an estimated 20 percent of servicewomen will develop this condition — 4 times the rate in the civilian population and more than double the rate of PTSD in male soldiers (about 8 percent).

Yet despite these alarmingly high rates of PTSD, the unique needs of servicewomen have not been adequately addressed. This lack of attention is significant given the recognition over the last decade of the inequities in women’s health research and care and the importance of focusing on sex differences.

The prevalence of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the military disturbs the hell out of me but it does not shock me.  My five years in the army only served to confirm that men and women have completely different experiences while they serve.  While attending one of the many classes on how to be aware of and prevent sexual harassment made mandatory by the military, one of the instructors told us that over half of all female servicemembers experience some level of sexual harassment.  Over half. 


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According to a recent NYT article, women age 21-30 working full-time and living in cities such as New York, Dallas, Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago are now making more money then their male counterparts.

The analysis was prepared by Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College … It shows that women of all educational levels from 21 to 30 living in New York City and working full time made 117 percent of men’s wages, and even more in Dallas, 120 percent.

I guess the question is whether this trend with Gen Y women will continue throughout our lifetimes, or whether it will reverse once young women reach, you know, peak child-rearing age in their early 30s and start having all the career complications associated with that? Ann at Feministing notes:

I don’t really expect this women-outearning-men trend to continue as these women age. Those who decide to have kids will be mommy-tracked after the birth of their first child. Many will get passed over for promotions, or decide to take a lower-track or part-time job. And the second child is often what causes women to leave the workforce altogether.

Before anyone tries to take this post and accuse me of being all women-rule-men-drool or something like that, I’d like to point out that I’m not saying women making more money than men is a good thing, per se. But it’s nice to know that — in some very limited circumstances — women are at least not making less all around.

Of course, the news that a select group of women in select cities are making more money than men their age due to a whole confluence of very non-dramatic and non-threatening social factors is provoking all the requisite crisis-of-masculinity-mongering. No pro-women news or research would be complete without being met with outraged accusations of gender discrimination

The truth is out. Women aren’t being discriminated against. Men are being discriminated against. But no one seems to care. While articles about women earning less than men come with pleas that something must be done about this inequity, the tone of this article is one of celebration. Obviously, there is a big double standard when it comes to all things gender.

… futuristic visions designed to tease out gender anxiety …

So where is this taking us? Over time, expect to see large corporations increasingly dominated by women and small organizations increasingly dominated by men.

… feeble attempts to explain away the news in a way that puts women back in their place ….

This is because women receive more financial support from their parents. This allows women to move to Manhattan where they earn higher salaries. Men, who can’t afford to move to Manhattan because they are less likely to receive financial support from their parents, are living, often with their parents, in less expensive locations.
For example, the article features Kelly Kraft, a 25-year-old woman from Indiana who moved to Manhattan. A man from Indiana would be more likely to still be in Indiana.* Kelly is probably receiving some financial support from her parents so she can afford to live in Manhattan.

… gentlemanly concern over whether women having a brain and/or earning ability will damage their marriageability …

Several experts also said that rising income for women might affect marriage rates if women expect their mates to have at least equivalent salaries and education.

“When New York college women say there are few eligible men around, they’re right if they mean they’ll only settle for someone with an education akin to their own,” Professor Hacker said.

.. and references to cats.

More money, more cats: We have fundamentally altered the composition of our workforce in order to permit women to delay having children for a decade or more and for older men to play golf. Whether you think this has been a bad deal for women depends on your perspective. It’s been a good thing for women who want to remain single, make Powerpoint slideshows and live with their cats. It’s been a bad thing for women who want to get married, have children and stay home raise them, because their husbands make less money and find it more difficult to support a family on a single salary.**

You here that, Gen Y women? If you keep going to college in vast numbers and trying to earn your own money, men will soon all be living in their parents basements while our parents support our shoe shopping habits in New York City where we will never marry, overtake corporations, and raise a generation of cat overlords. Next time your boss offers you a raise, you should probably just politely suggest it go to that male intern. He may be several years and experience levels your junior, but if he’s not making more money than you in 3 years, our social structure will collapse.

*This sentence is bolded because I think it is hilarious.

**The problem with Vox’s argument is that he seems to be saying that a man working as a family’s sole breadwinner is not going to be able to do so simply because some women are making more money than some men, which doesn’t really make any sense. No one’s saying that a man who is supporting his family is not going to be able to make significant amounts of money because he is a man and there’s now some sort of inherent pay gender bias in favor of women. It’s just that he’s not going to automatically be making more than all women just because he is a man. It’s not a zero-sum game, it’s just a game in which men in some circumstances can’t automatically be expected to be paid more just for having a Y-chromosome.

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So the House passed a bill yesterday countering the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., a gender/pay discrimination case involving a female employee, Lilly Ledbetter, who found out after 19 years of employment with Goodyear that she was being paid much less for her efforts than her male counterparts. She sued. The company argued that Ledbetter was paid less because she was a bad worker who had to be repeatedly disciplined, and there was some evidence to support this. The court didn’t rule against her for this reason, though. Instead, it ruled that she had filed her suit too late – that a worker’s wage discrimination claim must be filed within 180 days of the initial instance of pay discrimination.

Before this, many courts held that each individual instance of pay inequity – each pay check or pay period, essentially – counted as a new instance of discrimination, and thus restarted the statute-of-limitations time clock. But under the Supreme Court’s new ruling, those who are victims of pay discrimination must somehow realize this within about 6 months from the time the first discriminatory decision is made, which is clearly somewhat of a difficult task. People don’t generally run around asking people in their workplaces how much they get paid, so obviously this thing isn’t usually immediately brought to light.

So the House introduced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in June, and in July Sen.Edward Kennedy introduced a companion bill (the Fair Pay Restoration Act) in the Senate, clarifying that the time limit for suing an employer for pay discrimination begins anew with the issuance of each paycheck, essentially. The House bill passed yesterday; the Senate bill is still in committee. But apparently Republicans are against the bill, which they said would expand current pay discrimination law, and the White House (which has threatened to veto) said the bill would “impede justice and undermine the important goal of having allegations of discrimination expeditiously resolved.” Blogd notes:

The White House read is that discrimination only occurs at the time the initial decision to discriminate is made. So, in principle, if I were to start refusing today to hire a black person based upon their race, and then continued to make the same decision every week for 20 years, I would only be guilty of discrimination the first time I made such a decision, and not the subsequent 1,041 times after that. Presumably, this is based upon the “I forgot I was continuously breaking the law” defense, that a business could not be expected to remain aware of an ongoing illegal activity beyond a certain time frame.

As I mentioned above, the decision was originally played as being essentially a typo, and that the Supreme Court regrettably had to point out that typo though nobody really wanted it that way–but the White House stance is now that they agree with the typo, they believe the typo was the best thing all along, and that the typo should be followed, because it wasn’t really a typo, it was actually a feature. It even goes so far as to claim that the Ledbetter Fair-Pay Act would be a “major change” when actually it would simply reverse the Bush Supreme Court re-interpretation, and bring the law back to where it has been for decades.

Really what the White House is saying is, “we like the fact that Roberts and our other stooges made it possible to discriminate based on sex and color and whatever else we like, and we want it to stay that way, otherwise it could cause all sorts of nasty legal problems for our bigoted corporate pals.”

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It seems DC-dating-scene blogger Roosh V has written an entire book telling men how to get laid, titled “Bang: the average man’s modern guide to getting laid.”

In my humble opinion, anyone who needs an entire book telling them how to get laid is actually never going to get laid. Ever. Anyone who even has the first inclination to pick up this book (for anything other than mocking purposes) WILL NEVER ACTUALLY HAVE SEX.

Please — can we stop perpetuating the myth that there is some secret set of rules, some intricate game, or whatever, that men need to use to trick women into having sex with them? That’s really needlessly complicated and deviant, kids. You want to know how to get laid?

1. Talk to people of the opposite sex (be they friends, co-workers, people you meet in a bar, whatever), AND
2. Don’t be a complete dickhead who’s only thinking about how to trick them into sleeping with you while doing it.

The sex will follow. Really. Do you think that advice seems too simplistic? Yeah, well, it’s a hell of a lot better than this:

“The next common question girls ask is, “How old are you?” Your answer to this question will be, “Guess!” Constantly giving straight answers sucks energy out of male-female interactions. Again, be the mysterious and shady character that she always has to work to get stuff out of.

You will run into girls who respond to “Guess” with something like “I don’t want to play games and guess.” This translates to, “I want you to answer me in the way that I desire.” Not only do these types of girls want their needs served first, but in a way that they dictate.”

Ahh, yes. Stay away from girls who would rather have a conversation with you in a bar rather than act like one of those amusement-park-guess-your-name-age-and-weight-game hosts. Sage.

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I’ll admit it.  I saw the headline of this column (“Pretty Formidable in Pink“) and I was so ready to pounce with my snark claws extended.  Here comes another vacuous article about the fact that Hillary is a woman and whether the country is ready and the other day we saw cleavage and did we mention she’s a woman? 

But then I read it.  And laughed.  And nodded my head.  And thought, amen. 

[Elizabeth] Edwards’s specific criticism of Clinton was misplaced, but her general point is important. Clinton has a three-decades-long record of working on issues related to women and families, and she’s seeking the presidency at a time when national security is paramount. If she’s talking more about Iraq than family and medical leave, that’s less about trying to overcompensate for the inconvenient fact of her gender than what issues are at the top of voters’ agendas.

But as a columnist who happens to be a woman — you may have noticed, there aren’t too many of us — I understand what Edwards means. In fact, I initially resisted writing about her comments, reluctant to be pigeonholed as a “woman columnist” and not taken seriously by the Big Boys.

Clinton faces that challenge on a grander and more complex scale. Any woman in the post-Sept. 11 world faces an extra hurdle in convincing some voters that she’s strong enough to be commander in chief. Clinton has the extra challenge of appearing simultaneously formidable and likable, commanding and not cold, smart and approachable.

Indeed, even as Clinton was getting slapped by Edwards for playing down her gender, she was being dissected by Post fashion critic Robin Givhan for showing cleavage: “It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative — aesthetically speaking — environment of Congress.” Givhan contrasted Clinton’s decolletage with the more abundant display by Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, and her complaint seemed to be that Clinton was showing too little, too unassertively.

Might I suggest that sometimes a V-neck top is only a V-neck top? As a person of cleavage, I’d guess that Clinton’s low-cut shirt simply reflected a few centimeters of sartorial miscalculation, not a deliberate fashion statement.

Breasts may be an advantage in certain settings; the Senate floor isn’t one of them. If you’re giving a speech on higher education, as Clinton was, you don’t want Ted Stevens thinking about — and you certainly don’t want to think about Ted Stevens thinking about — your cleavage.

The upside of all the attention Clinton gets as the most serious female presidential candidate ever is all the attention Clinton gets as the most serious female presidential candidate ever.

I do not know many people who consider Clinton to be their top choice but I do know many who are starting to respect her on a level they never did before. 

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Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon comments on the passive aggressive nature of Cary Tennis’s advice/response to this letter

Basically, a women writes in to complain about her catch of a boyfriend who has a habit of oogling other women when she’s around. 

Cary Tennis warns the letter-writer not to get too nagging by trying to discipline him or resentful by ignoring it.  The best course of action in his opinion is to join in the fun of checking out chicks. 

To be honest, as a man, I’m having a hard time understanding what the hell Cary is getting at here. 

However he responds, the fact is that you are attempting to cross over into his realm. He may want to deny you entrance. But he may also feel a tingle of excitement, as though you had suggested an activity you read about in the Kama Sutra.

And what the hell does this mean? 

Checking out chicks with your boyfriend is tricky, however. You may want to discuss it with your girlfriends to determine if it is allowed under the terms of your membership in the sisterhood. It may not be.

I just feel there’s a psychology here beyond my comprehension. 

And here’s my answer and advice to that letter-writer.  It’s about respect.  Your respect for you and his respect for you.  It means different things to different people and you don’t have to agree with everyone else on this issue.  But you and your boyfriend should be on the same page.  Talk to him.

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There was package on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Barack Obama. He was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. He was wearing a black blazer over black slacks. The slacks were tight around his mid-section, especially in the front. The bulge of his package registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of bulge showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

Wow. That’s a really innappropriate paragraph for WaPo to run, right? And, okay, they didn’t. No, they just ran this:

There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton. She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

Regendering is a fun little game I learned from Pandagon and PunkAssBlog. If you think something written about women is kind of offensive or annoying but you’re not sure, just switch the genders around and see if it’s still offensive, because often we’re so used to reading sexist or ridiculous tripe about women that we don’t even really recognize how sexist or silly it is until the same thing is written about men.

P.S. While we’re on WaPo and gender here, did anyone see this article?

    Mom’s in the House, With Kids at Home

Having a mother in Congress can be tough on children, too, said Wilson, from New Mexico.

“There are times when they want me to be just a mom,” she said. “They’re very patient, very tolerant of people who want to talk to me in the grocery store and things like that. But sometimes it’s too much.”

When that happens, her 10-year-old, Caitlin, makes a fist like an “O” and then points her three middle fingers downward like an “M” — a signal that she wants an “ordinary mom,” Wilson said. “We all have that moment when we ask ourselves — are we doing the right thing?”

I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it does bring up some valid points about the public opinion struggles congresswomen with young children deal with. On the other, it still seems to imply that kids whose mothers are away are somehow uniquely suffereing (as opposed to those whose fathers are away), or that there’s something different about a mother leaving her child for work than a father doing so …

Edit: Ugh, and now Ann Althouse, Self-Proclaimed Proprieter of All Boob Sightings Everywhere, weighs in with one of her now-famous attacks of the fact that women have women’s bodies and sometimes this is evident in public.

Or are you going to say that “flaunts” is too active a verb? She has cleavage. Just happens to have it. Just happens to wear a top that happens to be low enough that you can see it if you happen to have eyes. Just happens to wear it to the Senate floor to give a speech about the cost of education. Are you going to say that we ought to be giving attention to the content of that speech and not to the presentation of the woman who would be President?

Yes. Yes, Ann, I am going to say that. I am going to make the radical statement that we should be paying attention to what a presidential candidate has to say about education policy and not the fact that she, like 99.9 percent of her fellow females, has boobs.

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sigh …

Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune believes scientific studies can’t be true if they’re contrary to his anecdotal experience:

Saw the news on how much men and women talk. Seems some scientists toted up the oral output and got the same number of words from each gender. Find it hard to believe.

… Once, when the grandparents were over for dinner and three charming females were dominating the conversation, my eldest son winced as though his ears hurt and said, “I had forgotten how much talk goes on when there are women around.” He had just returned from a fishing trip with some buddies and recalled: “We could go all day sitting in the boat without saying anything but ‘Beer?’ and ‘Sure.’ “

Men are neanderthals, women spend hours on the phone chatting about shoes. And somehow trotting out age-old gender stereotypes passes as an editorial column.

All I can say is that if the average male is putting out 16,000 words every day, then I’m living in a verbal desert. Some guys I haven’t met must be gushing verbiage like Old Faithful to make up for the ones I know, many of whom might easily be mistaken for victims of lockjaw.

Obviously, Chapman has never been around drunk male policy wonks.

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political writer gender gap

In the disappointing but not surprising category: Women writers still lacking at “serious” magazines.

Last year, an American website, http://www.WomenTK.com, began tracking the ratio of male to female writers in Harper’s, The Atlantic, The NYT Magazine, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Arguably, the ratio should be more or less one to one because that’s what life is like. As it turned out:

Vanity Fair 2.7:1.
The New Yorker 4.1:1.
The Atlantic 3.6:1.
Harper’s 6.9:1 (118 male bylines, only 17 female). Fully six of its 12 issues from September ’05 to August ’06 had one or no female writers.

Via feministe.

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In his latest New York Times op-ed, John Tierney wonders “why do women suffer to look like skeletons even when men don’t want them to?”

I love this opening line, Tierney’s not-so-concealed awe that women might be doing something even when men don’t want them to! The fact that extreme thinness is even an issue of contemplation for him is men don’t find extremely thin women attractive! Oh goodness — women are doing something that is not categorically focused on maximizing their attraction potential for men? Preposterous! Ridiculous! Women, don’t you know that’s supposed to be the de facto goal of your existence??? Seriously, what good are you if you’re not striving to conform to the ideal of patriarchal beauty standards?

Tierney’s thesis, then, is that women strive to be thin and wear high heels and all the rest because of pressure from other women. The whole basis for the op-ed is, in usual Tierney style, incredibly patronizing — geez, women are such silly and ridiculous little creatures, always creating their own little problems for themselves and one another! — as if there is no such thing as, you know, a dominant culture to take into effect (he does take into effect is, of course, evolutionary biology).

Tierney does go beyond his women-make-other-women starve themselves basis to point out that “People admire whichever body seems harder to attain.”

Which, as Amanda at Pandagon points out, perfectly plays into women-doing-things-in-order-to-attractt-the-male-gaze, because even if most men will express a visual preference for a “womanly” body with hips and boobs and all the rest, the hyper-thin woman still conjures up all those Victorian-ly feminine issues about deprivation and moderation and restraint, willingness to sacrifice pleasure in order to fulfill an culturally-preferred body standard, and this makes her a high-value commodity, which in turn makes her attractive in a women-as-commodities based society. I’m not saying it quite as eloquently as I’d like. Just read Amanda:

Thinness is valued because it’s on a sliding scale—there’s super-thin, just thin, average, etc. Sort of like cars come in a scale from Rolls Royce to clunker. If I sound harsh, like I’m describing women’s bodies as purchasable items, then that’s on purpose. Because in our capitalist patriarchy, they are indeed purchasable items and the entire reason that the very thinnest women in the world are snatched up to model the more ridiculously expensive clothes is an extension of these factors. Hyper-thinness indicates that the “owner” of the woman, in this case the fashion industry in general, is so rich they can just pay for women like that, who are so thin that many of them are obviously barely alive the way they are dropping like flies from anorexia. The model who died in Madrid did so right after walking the catwalk, which makes me wonder if the energy it took to stalk up and down it was a factor in her heart attack. Displaying useless women has always been a symbol of wealth and you don’t get much more useless than someone who can’t walk fast for fear of dropping dead.

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links for 2007-01-23

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