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December 19, 2007

Jamie-Lynn's pregnancy has eclipsed Ashley Tisdale's new nose

Britney Spears' little sister Jamie Lynn is pregnant. Okay, fine. But her employer, Nickelodeon, issued this statement:
"We respect Jamie Lynn's decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn's well being."
"Take responsibility"? I think that sounds a lot like saying she needs to be punished for having sex, and that women who have abortions are "irresponsible."

When did Nickelodeon turn paternalistically weird?

Update: I just discovered that Feministing wrote basically the exact same post twelve hours before I did. There ought to be some gaydar-type word for picking up on this shit. Misogyny-dar sounds terrible. If Nickelodeon is being a big corporate douchebag, can I call it douchedar?

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Misogynistic Advertising of the Week


I find this repulsive. I have no problem with wanting to look good naked, or with shows dedicated to that purpose. However, all of the women here are naked and terrified, and that gross, facelifted man is fully-dressed and hideously smug. I know he's gay, but I'm not any less repulsed. Gay men do not get a free pass to tell women to hate their bodies. Or -- as is apparently the case -- to pilfer clothing.

Certainly one could get across the message about looking good naked by picturing some attractive, lean, muscled men and women, perhaps the trainers who might help you look good naked. Only semi-repulsive might be an ad featuring both men and women looking terrified at the unattractiveness of their naked bodies. Also, all three of those women are way better-looking than creepy Botox-forehead-man. Maybe he needs a show called "How to Hide in Seclusion Until Your Plastic Surgery Relaxes."



Click to enlarge: "The intelligence you require, with the beauty you desire."

This I just find ... disappointing. The Blackberry Curve? It's ... curvy? It's both smart and beautiful, like a desirable woman you can put in your pocket and use to view miniature Excel spreadsheets? What? I think I'm more just disappointed that Blackberry thinks women don't want to buy Blackberries, and are best used as a trope for selling Blackberries to men.

Also, E = 36-24-36^2 is just stupid. If those were your measurements, your hips would be 1,296 inches around, which is equivalent to 108 feet. Also, your hips would be 36 times greater around than your bust, which is taking the pear shape to a bit of an extreme.

Blackberry: We're bad at math and think mini-computer-phones are like having sex!

Good work, guys.

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July 10, 2007

Egg Donors vs. Sperm Donors: Who Is Valued More and Why?

This article suggests that sperm donors are underpaid because we don't really value fatherhood. And additionally, that egg donors are treated like precious, beatific saints because that's what we like to think about mothers.

That sounds kind of flattering for the women, at least, until you realize the flipside -- women who are mostly in it for the money are pathologized, whereas it's expected that men would donate sperm entirely for the money.

This stigmatizaton of market-motivated egg donors is aptly analogous to issues surrounding motherhood, as women who prefer participation in a market economy to the oh-so-precious task of wiping tiny noses have also long been pathologized.

I'm off to the fertility clinic for an ovarian reserve test to see if my eggs are still any good (28 is antediluvian for an egg donor!) If they are, I have a taker!

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July 6, 2007

Street Harassment Post, Part Trois

I was very amused by Mandy Stadtmiller's article on street harassment in the Post. (From a four-foot-tall dude: "Yo, check it out. I don't need to be the champ, I just want a shot at da title!")

While visiting my family in Virginia, I was harassed on the street exactly once:

I was traversing the crosswalk, wearing shorts, and I heard "Hey, gorgeous!"

I turned around and saw a guy in the passenger seat of a pickup truck -- he then smiled and waved as the truck drove away. How adorable is that? It was positively ... refreshing.

Here are some things that my quaintly old-fashioned street harasser did not do:
  1. Suggest any specific sexual acts involving one or both of us
  2. Say something untoward about any specific body part of mine (or his)
  3. Suggest we might see each other in the future
  4. Slow down the car and drive alongside the sidewalk at approximately 2.8 miles per hour, so we can have a "conversation"
  5. Make creepy kissing noises
  6. Suggest that I smile more often
  7. Hiss
Previous street harassment posts here and here.

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May 22, 2007

this energy drink ad is a little rapey



I would like to suggest some alternate text for this ad:

"Do you feel bad about your rape skills? Check out this dude -- at least you've figured out that your penis needs to point downward! Hahahahaha! Women belong on their backs under people who drink our energy drink, hahahahaha!"

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May 12, 2007

getting paid for being hot is not inherently anti-feminist

Let's talk about three items in the hot-girl news:
  • Back in November on the Tyra Banks Show, Tyra Banks did an "exposé" of "modeling scams", in which she hired independent models (those unrepresented by agencies, often meaning shorter, curvier models who are perfectly-well qualified to do lingerie or nude modeling, or various type of "alternative" modeling) to come to fake photo shoots, had fake photographers try to convince them to take their clothes off, and then burst into the room and told the girls what dumb sluts they were!

    Tyra's message was that these girls aren't doing "real" modeling, so they should go to high-fashion agency open calls (where nearly all of them will be rejected) or just stop modeling entirely. (While, yes, going to someone's house for a photoshoot can be dangerous, so can many other professions that require you to go to people's homes. And also, of course, some people choose to do fairly obviously dangerous things to get ahead. Whoop-de-do). From the recap:
    Tyra encouraged the girls and said, “not being accepted by an agency doesn’t mean that you are not beautiful or spectacular, it means you may not have a certain look they are looking for.” Tyra took it a step further and told them it was also okay to do something else.
    Tyra then shows her comp cards from her real modeling agency -- look, "no nudity"!

    Of course, there is a whole world of independent modeling run off sites like this, and including offbeat stunners like, say, Kumimonster (NSFW), a fetish model with a shaved head who wears a variety of amazing wigs, or Bettie Page lookalike Bernie Dexter (at right), who has managed to succeed in indie modeling with clothes on, and fabulous clothes at that (she's also only 5'2!) I could link to a hundred more of these, all with more personality and verve than high fashion models (whose job it is to be a blank canvas for designers and photo editors) ever get to display. It's just a totally different job.

    So, essentially, Tyra, all haughty 5'11 of her, is telling girls who will never be qualified to be high-fashion models, that any type of modeling that a girl under 5'9 and with a healthy amount of bodyfat could actually be successful at just makes her a dumb slut. It's like Candid Camera, but the message is "Surprise, you're genetically inferior!"

    Kumimonster could kick Tyra's ass.

    (Additionally, hiring a model for a "fake" modeling job, wasting her time, and not paying her is probably fraud. The models could -- and should -- sue in small claims court).

  • In other news (thanks to Feministing for the link), Snoop sticks up for women who appear in rap videos.
    Snoop waxed philosophical as he told MTV.com: "Who's to say that these women in videos are hos? They are classy women. Not every girl in the videos has sex with the rappers. A lot of these women do this as a means of modeling or being appreciated for their looks."
    ...
    "It's a shame that they are being classified as video hos. Halle Berry was in a video with [Fred Durst]. Does that make her a ho? TV is a long way for a lot of these girls from the country or small parts of the world."
    ...
    "The women allow themselves to be in these videos. We don't force them to be in these videos. They want to be seen, and they have calendars, portfolios, headshots, cards."
    What a world, in which upwardly-mobile hotties can expect better treatment from Snoop than from Tyra!

  • And finally, an editorial on Fox Sports sticks up for swimmer Amanda Beard's decision to pose for Playboy. A couple of choice quotes:
    Being attractive helps female athletes become famous. This is indisputable. But it is also indisputable that being an athlete helps attractive women become famous.
    ...
    Beard is not exchanging her athletic fame for the fame of a model — her athletic fame is the fame of a model.
    An observation about Amanda Beard: when the world has already seen a million unflattering photos of her (like the one at right) in a Speedo racing swimsuit and swim cap with no makeup, are Playboy readers really paying her to take the swimsuit off? Or are they paying her to put some makeup on and smile?

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May 5, 2007

"Moms' work would bring in $138,095 a year": A Rebuttal That Should Be Kind of Obvious

According to "research" conducted by Salary.com (just in time for Mothers' Day!), mothers' work, if compensated, would bring in $138,095 a year.

(If this story sounds familiar, it's because Salary.com releases a new figure each year, which is a great way of keeping their name in the news).

Before I get started on this, can we all agree that there's something not-right about this? That this $138,095 figure is bound to provide some satisfaction to underappreciated mothers, but ... this all sounds a little wonky, right?

Good. Let's get started.

I think it would be reasonable to hypothesize that mothers who take a salary survey on Salary.com on this topic may not be entirely representative of mothers as a whole. They are likely the overachievers. Perhaps some have applied their education and ambition to child-rearing in a way that adds to their workloads; at very least, they are mothers with internet access and have enough familiarity with paid workplace activities to be familiar with Salary.com. But even disregarding that possible skew, let's continue. From CNN:
The typical mother puts in a 92-hour work week, the company concluded, and works at least 10 jobs. In order of hours spent on them per week, these are: housekeeper, day-care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive officer and psychologist. By figuring out the median salaries for each position, and calculating the average number of hours worked at each, the firm came up with $138,095....
Mmn-hmmn. Ten points:

1) First off, we all have to conduct Normal Life Activities. Those of us who do not have children still must wash our dishes and bandage our own cuts and scrapes. The respective hourly wages of dishwashers and nurses are wholly irrelevant. We are all uncompensated for the business of keeping life going.

2) If you do parts of each of ten jobs, you don't get paid proportional parts of the salary of each of the ten jobs. Shift managers at Starbucks perform part of the jobs of CEOs in that they manage people. Great, you're still a shift manager! If you're not qualified to do the whole job (of a CEO or a full-time "computer operator," for instance), then it's very unlikely that your salary will go up for being able to do part of the job. A worker at Barnes & Noble operates computers, but is not doing the whole job of being a "computer operator"; he or she does not receive a proportionally-higher salary during the time that he or she operates computers.

3) Let's talk about the CEO thing. CEOs create wealth for shareholders. They manage companies that have thousands or millions of employees, and head organizations with multiple levels of management. Even if you have ten kids and part of your job is to delegate to or co-manage with a spouse and possibly the hired help, your job is still more like that of a middle manager -- you know, like someone on The Office who has twelve people's activities to orchestrate. A middle manager might make $50,000 a year, as opposed to the millions made by a CEO. Why do CEOs make that much money? Because they work harder? Of course not. It's because shareholders are banking that attracting the best CEO talent will increase their own investment in the stock. This -- in any other than the most shady metaphorical sense -- is wholly irrelevant to parenting. (In fact, if millions of people were buying stock in your kids and you were then obligated by the Securities and Exchange Commission to act entirely in the interest of increasing the value of your stockholders' shares, you'd be a pretty shitty parent). So again: middle manager.

4) Middle managers (and psychologists) are generally salaried. So you can't take the amount of the salary, divide it by 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, figure out an hourly wage, and then multiply it back times the 92 hours a week you are actually working. The salary figure is fixed; it does not change based on hours worked. If you have a salaried job and you are asked to work too many hours, you can try to be more efficient, you can ask a superior for some kind of adjustment or assistance -- or you can quit. Notice how irrelevant this seems to the profession of mothering? (It's hard to leave for a better offer). This is wonky math.

5) Since we've done "CEO," let's talk about "psychologist." JUST BECAUSE YOU PERFORM DUTIES "LIKE" A PSYCHOLOGIST DOES NOT MAKE YOU A PSYCHOLOGIST. A million dudes who call themselves "amateur gynecologists" don't deserve $100K+ a year for that, either. Psychologists, I'm sure, are pleased that apparently their medical degrees and licenses are irrelevant. I've sometimes offered advice to a friend in need, but I don't charge, and if I did, my counsel would be worth less than that of someone who, you know, passed the MCAT.

6) Jobs are worth however much other people will actually pay you for them. Obviously. This is the first thing that probably made the Salary.com report seem a little wonky at first. (Notably, the whole point of rest of Salary.com is not to advocate for what people "should" be paid for their jobs, but rather to aggregate data about what they are paid). If the job of mothering is "worth" $138,095 a year, how come no one ever pays anyone that amount for it? (If such a position were to be offered, it would probably only be available to exceptionally beautiful young women -- the Melania Knauss-Trumps of the world -- which would make it a different kind of job and skew our results. But even then, a mail-order bride is cheaper and does not demand an annual salary. (See how this monetization business is getting a little insulting? Never fear, Feminist Wrap-Ups follow!)

7) People who prioritize making money make more money. Shocker! If the average salary for a receptionist is $40,000 a year, but you make $22,000 a year because you are a receptionist at an environmental nonprofit that you believe to be saving the world, then you're probably not shocked that you make less than the Salary.com average. You knew that when you signed up. If making money were your top priority, you'd be a receptionist at Bear Sterns, or, better yet, not a receptionist. If you choose a path that does not provide a traditional wage, or you follow -- through intention or simply going along with things -- one of the less lucrative paths available, it doesn't mean anything to say you "deserve" some other salary.

8) Corollary to the above: If you accept a "job" working for your husband -- who very likely makes less than $138,095 a year himself -- of course you are not surprised that you make less than $138,095.

9) Let's keep going with that. It's unclear what meaning it could have to say that the wife of a man who makes, say, $60,000 a year is really doing a $138,095 job, even if no one on earth will pay her that to do it. Hmmn. Well, say we're talking about even a very appreciative husband here (the one who makes $60,000). Obviously, he can't pay her more than he even makes -- just as a "CEO" can't expect to be paid more money than a company has access to. I can't go work as "CEO" for a company with less than $1M in revenue and expect to be paid more than $1M a year, even though that's small potatoes for CEOs -- unless, of course, I can raise the small company's revenues by many millions of dollars per year, such that it becomes possible and worthwhile to compensate me in proportion to my having increased the value of the firm. How does that apply to mothering? It doesn't. Because having children is not a profit-making enterprise. To ask for CEO-type compensation for it would be to ask to be paid based on how much money you can make off the children. (And if you are one of the few Dina Lohans who makes money off the children, you're already getting your $138,095. Is that the model we're aiming towards? I think not).

10) Basic economics: jobs become worth less when more people are qualified to do them. Take "being a patent attorney" versus "delivering Chinese food in New York, on a bicycle." The second is hard, unpleasant, and extremely dangerous, and, as I understand it, often pays less than minimum wage. This is because a great many people can do it, including illegal immigrants who speak near-zero English. How many people are qualified to be patent attorneys? In America, under 100,000. How many people are qualified to be mothers? Over a hundred million. (You might argue that not all of them are good at it, which is certainly true, but only the very worst are ever removed from their positions by Social Services, so I think it's fair to count all of the mothers allowed to remain in their jobs). When more people are able to perform a certain job, the wages for that job are driven lower. Everyone who's every studied the Industrial Revolution, Taylorism, the AFL, or the Progressive Era should be familiar with this concept.

Okay, that was the ten points. Now, please keep in mind, I'm a feminist. So where do we go from here?

Feminist Wrap-Up A: Maybe instead of painting mothers as oppressed women forced into roles in which they are embarrassingly being exploited by their overlords (who pay them zero percent of their earned wages!), we should think of them as women who've chosen to do things they think are more important than making money. Perhaps women are adults who have the ability to make their own choices in a capitalist society.

Feminist Wrap-Up B: Maybe putting out feel-good reports right before Mothers' Day telling mothers that they're performing a $138,095 a year job -- when they know that no one will pay them that much money to do the job (and, like most Americans of both genders, no one will pay them that much to do any job) -- is just a little patronizing. Women are supposed to lap up blatant lying because we enjoy flattery oh-so-much? Condescending in the extreme.

Feminist Wrap-Up C: No one is performing this sort of calculus for, say, male activists who don't get paid for their labor. What if a male global-warming activist works 92 hours a week, performing parts of the jobs of CEO, marketing director, van driver, computer operator, etc.? Does anyone feel the need to calculate some kind of pseudo-salary expressing the total dollar value of his unpaid, but very important, work? Seems kind of meaningless. I think we assume that the unpaid male global warming activist doesn't need emotional shoring-up, or pretty lies. A double-standard here is patronizing and anti-feminist.

xo,
Jen

Update: This post made it to Economist.com, courtesy of Megan McArdle. In the comments below the generous excerpt of my original post, one man comments that no one's proposing he receive overtime for the professions of painter, carpenter, electrician, plumber, etc.

p.s. Mom, I love you very much, but, of course, no one in our family has ever made $138,095 a year. I mean, if we were a multimillion-dollar corporation (note: maybe we should've founded a chain of discount stores: Dziu-Mart), I'd vote you a big bonus and stuff. But I think you're going to have to settle for having produced a daughter who writes blog posts like this one. If only that were its own reward. Happy Mothers' Day!

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March 30, 2007

An open letter to men who yell things at women on the street

Dear men who yell things at women on the street,
Obviously, it is not okay to say "Nice tits!" or "Nice ass!" or "Come over here and get raped now!" Sometimes you say those things anyway, but you and I both know they are wrong.

However, I would like to discuss some of your comments that fall into the gray area.

"That is a very nice dress, ma'am." Assuming you are saying this in any normal tone of voice and not, you know, inching closer with a knife, this is fine by me. For real. Sometimes it is in fact okay to say things to strangers.

"Hey, are you married?" This is an East Harlem special. The implication that, if I am not married, I would want to go out with you, is a prime example of The Fallacy of False Dichotomy.

"You're pretty -- why don't you smile more often?" This is the one I really want to talk about. For real? I should've been smiling ... just now? While walking down the street by myself? Carrying groceries? On my way home? WHO THE FUCK SMILES ALL THE TIME FOR NO FUCKING REASON? Bipolar people in their manic phases? Seriously, most women, much like you, maintain a fairly neutral facial expression while walking down the street and not talking to anyone. Were you just smiling at the air in the moments before you saw me and suggested that I should be smiling? No? Among people and animals, a smile is often a sign of submission. Why don't you smile more often?

In closing, I would like to say that I am aware that you, men who yell things at women on the street, don't read my blog. Yes, I know.
-Jen

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June 22, 2006

married to a snake

This is a traditional Hindu wedding between a woman and a King Cobra (the snake didn't show, so a brass replica is standing in for him):


Dan Henninger on Fox News said:
A woman in India last week married a snake. I would like to ask the proponents of gay marriage--which violates, after all, traditions going back through all of human history--to now absolutely, positively guarantee that the next movement is not going to be allowing people to marry their pet horse, dog or cat. And you know What? Given the "anything goes" culture we live in, I don't think they can deliver that guarantee.
Stephen Colbert's response (we are "manning the barricades at Fort Marriage!") is here.

According to the Khaleej Times, this was a love match, and Bimbala Das's neighbors were delighted that she had fallen in love with a snake, because they believe the marriage will bring good luck to the village. (From an AFP story: "Snakes and particularly the King Cobra are venerated in India as religious symbols worn by Lord Shiva, the god of destruction.")

Hrm. So the conservative argument is: if you can marry someone of the same gender, it's a slippery slope to ... snakes!

What I haven't heard anyone mention is that alternatives to traditional marriage, however restrictive or weird, have long been sought out by gay people living in societies restrictive to gays. For instance, nunneries were at one time chock-full of (along with girls who'd gotten knocked up) women who simply couldn't bear the thought of marriage to a man -- so being a bride of Christ, along with lots of other chicks, seemed a suitable alternative.

Das says "Though snakes cannot speak nor understand, we communicate in a peculiar way. Whenever I put milk near the anthill where the cobra lives, it (the snake) always comes out to drink." She will now live in a hut near the snake's anthill.

Hrm.... Maybe Bimbala is pulling a fast one, no? Here are the choices -- get married off to a man twice my age, be a slave to his jealous mother-in-law, have his kids, and do everything he says until he dies, after which, fortunately I won't be burned alive, but I'll still be considered basically useless; or ... live by myself at this anthill! Do some embroidery, cook whatever I want, maybe get a Netflix membership....



...and maybe my best friend Priya can come over, scented with cardamom, and we'll have privacy, glorious privacy, as long as we don't get strangled by a cobra mid-cunnilingus.

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June 16, 2006

on the topic of femininity

Whee, new topic! A lesbian separatist (who describes herself as a very large person with a mustache who gets called "sir" a good deal) says insightful things about femininity...
Femininity is men’s idea of what women should look like, not a description of how women actually are—that’s why it’s so much freakin’ work. Femininity has nothing to do with femaleness, which is why drag queens and transsexuals are able to adopt it.

She also observes that "the original purpose of femininity in the 50s was to get women to buy things." And finally, the perspicacious conclusion:

Here’s the thing. I’m a lesbian. If you’re straight, and passingly feminine, I do not have power over you. There’s no way I can tell you what to do, let alone make you do it. So it would be good for you to sit down and think about why you think I can. Why do you think it’s acceptable to discredit the feminism of women like me because we point out the ways you benefit from your ability and willingness to conform to men’s ideas of what women should look like? It doesn’t mean we think you’re responsible for the system, or that getting harassed by some yahoo because you look cute in your short skirt is what we think you’re after or what you deserve. But it’s a fact that women who’ve decided not to worry about pleasing men can see things about patriarchy the rest of you can’t afford to acknowledge.
Certainly one cannot help but agree that there is privilege involved in conforming to norms of feminity.

There is also, however, privilege involved in conforming to norms of masculinity (and, as has often been observed, being a tomboy is usually more socially acceptable than being a sissy). And masculinity has, of course, changed greatly over the years (Louis XIV wore tights and, if he'd had a car, wouldn't have fixed it himself all greasy-James-Dean-style).

And if you reject norms of femininity and masculinity but enjoy the companionship of other humans, you'll probably find yourself in some kind of academic queer/feminist circle with privilege awarded to those who conform to much, much stricter standards of conformity (here one could digress about [some] lesbians-hating-on-bisexuals, or men being physically barred from campus women's resource centers, or the disturbing trend of liberal academic institutions to perniciously censor conservative speakers or silence any speech that might be offensive to anyone, or feminist charges of "betrayal" to women who marry and have children).

There is, to continue on this track, a certain amount of privilege in conforming to anything, which is why people conform. Basically by definition.

It has always seemed obvious to me that people tend to value and pursue the sort of pursuits at which they are already naturally good. People who think that success in sports defines all of life tend to be (shocker!) naturally good at sports. And rarely does the naturally-dumb-but-quite-good-looking kid value erudition above all else. Thus, women who are naturally feminine-looking, according to their own society's standards, tend to milk it for all it's fuckin' worth. Just as anyone who is freakishly good at math or cake decorating or croquet might milk that for all it's fuckin' worth. No mystery. I'm not sure that gender roles are a class apart from these things.


What to take away from this discussion? The world is a hard and competitive place full of arbitrary rules, and the answer is pick some of areas of expertise and be as good as possible at them, while possibly trying to de-emphasize the ones that you are less good at, and accepting the extremely obvious fact that six billion unique individuals in a hard, competitive world full of arbitrary rules are not, of course, going to be involved in a fair contest, but it's nevertheless a contest, and if you're uncomfortable with that, you may actually be uncomfortable with Darwinism, and the alternative to that is to try to make the school board in Kansas reassure young Christian children that they absolutely were not descended from monkeys.

On a freaky (and extremely offensive to lesbian separatists) note, this guy has developed an extremely detailed website (chock full of protestations in the comments from feminists, people of color, fashionistas, et al) in which he dissects the (supposed) components of female beauty, complete with long charts and graphs...


Never has the link between "beauty pageant" and "dog show" seemed more clear (check her gums!) At least he's calling it that Gisele is kinda busted.

And finally, this web essay points out in an interesting way that advertising is completely sexist, which, of course, it is.


Somehow, though, I'm still not too worked up. While advertising is sexist towards women, "coal mining" and "the draft" are, I hear, kinda rough for men. I'll take anorexia over black lung, thank you very much.

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August 27, 2005

IQ TESTS are to INTELLIGENCE as the BBC is to UNBIASED NEWS REPORTING

I feel I must address this men are cleverer than women business, as reported by the BBC:
A study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology says that men are on average five points ahead on IQ tests.

...The study showed that, up to the age of 14, there was no difference between the IQs of boys and girls.

"But beyond that age and into adulthood there is a difference of five points, which is small but it can have important implications."
When I first heard about this, I wrote the following reply (to my college alumni list):
The first IQ test, designed for French schoolchildren, was immediately redesigned when it gave erroneous results -- the girls scored higher. After some adjustment, that was no longer the case, and the test was judged to be valid.

If you've seen an IQ test lately, you might have been expecting some magic diagnostic tool to actually tell you how smart people are -- instead, it's like an SAT with some spatial puzzles added. It is, quite frankly, pretty dumb looking.

It is not surprising to me that men perform better on a test designed by men, but that's kind of a facile point. I think an even better one is that men's and women's brains are different, and -- just taking into account the differences that are verifiable in neuroscience -- I think it's a quite reasonable hypothesis that some of the things men excel at are easier to test in standardized-test form.

For instance, I think one of the least controversial gender differences is that men have a better sense of direction (sure, some of that is from social conditioning and practice, but much of it is because men process directions in the hypothalamus, a "primitive" part of the brain that interprets directions literally -- that is, electrical impulses within it actually work in a compass-like way, whereas women process directions in the cerebral cortex, along with everything else, which is why many women use landmarks and such to navigate).

Women, however, have a much better ability to read people's body language. This is useful in "relationships," yes, but also in diplomacy, corporate management, spying, etc.

Which is more valuable? Depends on what you're doing. Which is easier to test? Probably spatial abilities. There do exist tests wherein the subject is asked to guess the moods of people pictured in photos, but that's a poor substitute for real-life interaction (or at least video), and, more to the point, such a skill is not tested on an IQ test at all.

Originally, the IQ test was designed to test the potential of children, like a school-placement exam. It is unclear what value exists in giving the test to adults, whose "potential" is by and large already played out.

(Additionally, the test is enough like an SAT that I could teach nearly anyone to raise their 'IQ' by a substantial number of points. No magic there).
Amusingly, Feministing just made a quite similar point: "When I used to teach SAT classes for The Princeton Review, the biggest lesson was to make sure kids knew that the only thing the SAT measured was how well you took the SAT." (I had no idea a popular feminist blogger was a former Princeton Review teacher).

However, Lakshmi Chaudhry of The L-Files has rather scooped the whole thing, pointing out that Richard Lynn, the "researcher" behind this whole "men are cleverer" thing, is a known eugenicist. You can follow the link if you want to read about "phasing out" cultures that are "incompetent."

I'll also add here: a male friend of mine suggested that men are "cleverer" for getting everyone to believe that men are cleverer for all these years. Cute.

A reader comment on the BBC site asked "Have these researchers looked at IQ levels below the average, at gender differentials among prison inmates?" The reader seems to be suggesting that, in contrast to the researchers' claim that for every female genius, there are 5.5 male geniuses, that perhaps the dumbest men are dumber than the dumbest women -- that is, that men are more widely spread out over the IQ spectrum, whereas women are clustered in a place of rarer brilliance but greater general competence. Interesting. (But again, I would apply all my previous arguments regarding the nature of the IQ test itself).

As a concluding thought, I'd like to note that when "The Bell Curve" came out, the book was roundly denounced as racist propaganda for suggesting that races differ in intelligence. However, when researchers report than men are smarter than women, the BBC reports it like it's cute.

Aww, look at those little ladies trying to defend their intelligence -- when all they have to do it with is ... their intelligence! Whatsamatter, darlin', can't handle a little tautology?

Update: Apparently the BBC reported the exact opposite claim in December 2004.

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August 11, 2005

Amazon reviews that make me sigh

"I always read a book written by a woman about gender issues with a lot of caution and suspicion. And every man should approach this book the same way."

That's it. That's someone's entire review for Cathy Young's "Ceasefire."

This reminds me of the "Stop Her Now" campaign, set out to defame Senator Clinton to the sorts of people who, really, only need the pronoun.

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June 30, 2005

I punched a girl with braces

My latest article, about being the first woman captain of Dartmouth's boxing team, is up in the Writing section.

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June 13, 2005

"try purging in the shower to block out the noise"

So, the Onion this week ran an Infographic which used a background image of a pro-anorexia site, with the name of the site mostly visible. So I googled "fragile innocence"...

This "pro-ana" site includes some tips on not eating, including (seriously):
  • Watch other people eat and smell their food (this can be bad if you're on the verge of a binge) and try to convince yourself afterwards that you were in fact that one eating and that you are full.
  • Watching people eat can also make you more determined. You'll feel stronger watching them give in to food. You're superior and don't want to grow disgustingly fat like them.
  • Listen to other people eat. It sounds so gross you'll lose your appetite.
  • If your craving is so strong that you can't resist, just take a bite, chew, and then spit it out. If you crave even more put what you spat out back in your mouth. You'll be so grossed out you won't want to eat anymore.
And now, the punch line (so to speak) -- this is my favorite:

You can train yourself to forget hunger by gently punching your stomach every time you get hungry because you'll hurt too bad to eat.

I feel the need to purge my brain.

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March 25, 2005

Salon post of the week re: feminism

I spent a couple of semesters at Dartmouth taking women's studies classes. I'm not sure anyone's ever quite hit on this before. On Salon, from one very perspicacious Mary Schumacher:
After 58 years of being a thinking, observing, participating woman in America, I've come to the conclusion that in our culture sexism is in many ways a secondary problem shaped and intensified by a much more primary problem -- our hypercompetitive culture's concept of masculinity is almost entirely bound to the concept of winning.

The upshot of that is, inevitably, that our culture is highly emasculating. Because winner-take-all competitiveness must naturally produce many, many more losers than winners.

Hypermasculinity (masculinism) is used both as a competitive tool (winners are more masculine, so the more masculine I act the more likely I am to win) and a face-saving device (the more masculine I act the less likely I will be seen as a loser).

Underneath all the acting, of course, are a lot of men who are and feel like losers. Especially as middle age approaches (when the hypermasculine browbeating of people deemed even weaker than oneself -- women, minorities, liberals -- administered by loudmouths like Limbaugh and O'Reilly -- offers some psychic compensation for the low rung you've settled on in the pecking order.)

In this dynamic women are seen not so much as inferior as outside the game. This is a competition between men. What women are suppose to be is reward and compensation, what they are suppose to provide is consolation.

When women enter the game, when they do compete, there is a double whammy -- more competition, and, even more important, less consolation. This creates incredible resentment.

This resentment and fear of losing the compensation and consolation women are expected to provide is, I think, a much more important component of sexism in our culture than actual feelings and ideas about women's inferiority.

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