Aside

I use this blog as a thinking space; it’s not polished/organized, and that’s on purpose. You’ll find entries that relate to my interdisciplinary interests (see word cloud in sidebar). While I will be excited for comments here and in other venues, lurkers are very welcome.

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She’s not perfect.

This is just a short rant. The midterm elections are over, but those last few days leading up to the election were filled with editorial content encouraging people to vote for women candidates based on the following logic: “She’s not perfect, but the person running against her is awful” or “She’s not perfect, but no one is.” The following is one example, from a profanity-laced River Front Times column that I’m not linking:

“Maybe you don’t really like Claire McCaskill. That’s fine. Is she perfect? Nope, she isn’t. And sometimes she’s downright infuriating, too.”

This rhetorical move is annoying and sexist. I haven’t seen a single story about how we should vote for a man even thought he “isn’t perfect.” Perfection is an impossible standard. We have historically held women to impossible standards, but it’s time to stop making the standards different for men and women. So, I’m committing to never ever describing a woman candidate for any political office as “not perfect.” “Not perfect” is too often code for, “I know you’d rather she were in the kitchen, but … .” No. I’m not making these sorts of concessions. If I’ve got something to say, I’ll voice my specific concern. Beyond that, no empty commentary on the perfection or lack thereof of female candidates. Starting now.

 

 

Dancing Backwards in High Heels

Some empirical evidence to justify what is common knowledge to academic women …

“Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly From Academically Entitled Students.”

In any case, Misra argued, the root of the problem is that people view women as “helpers” and men as “doers,” which she “has a tremendously negative effect on the careers of academic women, who either engage in helping behaviors — and spend less time on more valued work — or do not, and are viewed as selfish or not team players, even when their men colleagues are similarly less likely to engage in helping behavior but face no consequences.”

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 2.42.04 PM.png

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/01/10/study-finds-female-professors-experience-more-work-demands-and-special-favor

On abortion

My work has taken up abortion in the past, usually through what I would describe as common-sense, feminist accounts of the impact of state-level abortion legislation. I’ve read a lot about abortion and learned a lot over my years of study, but I still keep learning new things. (For example, while I don’t agree with all her premises, Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights taught me things I didn’t know after years of thinking about this issue.) Recently, I had another one of those experiences–while reading a Twitter thread shared by a friend, of all things. The link below is an essay-form version of that Twitter thread, by Gabrielle Blair. It’s a brilliantly argued account of some ways to eliminate abortion that have not been considered in the mainstream. (Be aware that this link contains descriptions of biological processes that sometimes include slang. If you’re interested in learning about how to prevent abortions, you have to be willing to engage biology and the ways people talk/think about it.) In short, these methods have not been made mainstream because they would inconvenience men; I think women matter just as much as men do, and thus we should consider some alternative ways of reducing/eliminating abortion.

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1040363431893725184.html

How cultural myths impact science

Remember the opening to that 80s movie Look Who’s Talking? It features a whole bunch of sperm with clever dialogue racing to fertilize a largely inanimate egg. I remember being intrigued by that scene as a kid, but now it really bugs me that the sperm get to have full personalities and the egg doesn’t. It really mirrors medieval (and some modern) ideas of the woman/egg as just a reproductive vessel. Now, this fascinating story from Robert Martin (emeritus curator of biological anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago) sheds some light on how popular-culture myths like the one showcased in Look Who’s Talking actually impact understandings of scientific processes. For example:

“Most notably, the legacy of the homunculus survives in the stubbornly persistent notion of the egg as a passive participant in fertilisation, awaiting the active sperm to swim through a hailstorm of challenges to perpetuate life. It’s understandable – though unfortunate – that a lay public might adopt these erroneous, sexist paradigms and metaphors. But biologists and physicians are guilty as well.”

The most interesting thing I learned in this article is that sperm are much more passive than we imagine–and the female reproductive tract as a whole is much more active: “most mammalian sperm do not in fact swim up the entire female tract but are passively transported part or most of the way by pumping and wafting motions of the womb and oviducts.”

(We could also construct this sentence in the active voice: “The womb and oviducts transport sperm most or part of the way to their destination with pumping and wafting motions.”)

Read the whole article here:

https://aeon.co/essays/the-idea-that-sperm-race-to-the-egg-is-just-another-macho-myth

**My one quibble with this article is that it claims “Both IUI and IVF potentially increase the risk of polyspermy and the likelihood of miscarriage.” The article it cites as evidence (“Biology of Polyspermy in IVF and Its Clinical Indication” in Current Obstetrics and Gynecology Reports 2.4) actually suggests the opposite–that in vitro maturation results in a “lower polyspermic rate because of application of ICSI.” (ICSI is intraplasmic sperm injection, when an embryologist inserts a single sperm into an egg “by hand.”) The article states clearly that reasons for this correlation are unknown.

“And for each of us that might look different, as each of our masculinities exist at intersections with other parts of who we are.”

I found this piece by Jamie Utt to be really thoughtful and reflective. I’m linking below and including a few favorite quotes. I especially liked the first example he gives, when he slammed his hands on the table, and how he realized that even though he knows he would never hurt his partner, she lives in a system where men often are abusive and it’s scary to her regardless of his intent.

If we, as men, can think of ourselves as “the good guys” and construct a boogey man abuser in our head, then we never have to turn the lens inward. We never have to consider the ways we’ve been socialized to be abusive.”

My actions exist in the context of how I was taught to be a man. My actions exist in the context of patriarchy.

we have a responsibility to consider the ways that we might be complicit in that violence – simply by living out the patterns of how we were taught to be men.

we teach partners or children that they need to manage our anger (rather than that our anger is something we can control and manage).

And for each of us that might look different, as each of our masculinities exist at intersections with other parts of who we are.

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/5-common-behaviors-cis-men-may-not-realize-are-abusive-and-how-to-stop-them/

Annapolis

It’s been one week since the Annapolis shooting. All mass shootings bother me, of course, but this one especially so. Maybe it’s because my first career was as a journalist. Maybe it’s because we seem to have moved on so quickly. Maybe it’s because of our president’s vilification of a free press (1, 2). For whatever reason, this particular act of terrorism left me breathless. When the Capital Gazette published a blank editorial page (3), I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

So, I want to thank all my journalist friends. I see you. You’re doing a hard and important job under difficult conditions. I respect that so much. We need you.

I hope others will reach out to journalists as well. I can say from my own experience that the hours are long, the pay is not enough, and the abuse from readers can be both exhausting and frightening. But for me, at least, it was always worthwhile when somebody told me that my reporting had an impact on them. (And the colleagues also made it worthwhile. In my experience, journalists are just some of the best people you’ll ever meet.)

The free press is important, people. Protect it. Reach out to a journalist. Subscribe to a newspaper. For heaven’s sake, consume multiple news sources.

Here is the text of the First Amendment, the constitutional root of our free press and our free speech in this country, for reflection. (And this is from memory, btw, because our journalism teachers are also amazing.)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(1) https://apnews.com/4c271099c9944ebe8f5f2c16d60a5dfe/Arizona%27s-GOP-senators-denounce-Trump-attacks-on-news-media

(2) http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/anne-arundel/annapolis/bs-ac-cn-flag-request-denied-20180702-story.html

(3) https://twitter.com/capgaznews/status/1012625503986044928/photo/1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-newsprint-tariff-is-a-tax-on-americas-free-press-1530225939

 

 

Even more troubling than the economic damage the tariff is causing is the threat it presents to the strength of America’s free press. The rise of online advertising already has shattered the business model of many newspapers, and most small regional dailies have been forced to consolidate or close. Those that have shifted to an online-only format have tended to offer fewer well-reported stories of interest to local readers.

In such an environment, a sharp price hike in newsprint, which is generally the biggest budget item after labor, could force dozens of additional publications to close or be reduced to shadows of their former selves. The killing of local newspapers by the imposition of tariffs would gut the nation’s free press. It is local newspapers, not cable news networks, that scrutinize the goings-on at town halls, and how tax dollars are spent on schools and public works. Local papers are indispensable in uncovering corruption in government. They expose hospitals that mistreat patients and companies that dump chemicals into local streams. For many people of modest means or who live in rural areas, these papers are the top source of community news and information.

 

 

 

 

 

http://time.com/5328851/annapolis-mayor-president-trump-capital-gazette-shooting-victims/

 

 

 

 

Trouble with Gender Flips

I do like the absurdities a gender flip points out, but the complexities sometimes get lost. Pretty good piece here from the NY Times: