Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

You cheated, you lied

Mar 21st, 2014 10:20 am | By

One reason (one that most people are probably already aware of, at least intuitively) for adults not to model lying to children.

A new experiment is the first to show a connection between adult dishonesty and children’s behavior, with kids who have been lied to more likely to cheat and then to lie to cover up the transgression.

Not a big surprise, is it. Children take their cues from adults. Where else are they going to take them? Goldfish? They learn what to do from people who are older than they are.

So there’s one of those lab experiments, which seems fine as far as it goes but not necessarily all that relevant to more natural kinds of relationships.

The study was not designed to get at the reasons that children are more likely to lie when they have been lied to, but to demonstrate that the phenomenon can occur, Carver said.

What happens when trusted care-givers do the lying also remains an open research question. But Carver and Hays are still urging restraint. Even if it’s expedient for an adult to lie — to get cooperation through deception, for example, or to get children to control their emotions — it’s probably a bad idea in the long run.

That would include religion. Of course hardly anyone will take it that way, but it would. It would include all kinds of claims framed as certain when they’re not even close to certain.

H/t Dan Fincke.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Students singing

Mar 21st, 2014 9:29 am | By

NPR has a great story about an inspirational music teacher and what students get from her teaching. I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for stories like that.

Debra Kay Robinson Lindsay rehearses one more time with her Honors Chorus group before a concert for Music in Our Schools month, a national event to celebrate music and emphasize its importance in school curriculum.

(Students singing)

Parents beam and students eagerly share what they’ve learned from Mrs. Lindsay, an award-winning music educator, author and composer who has taught in Fairfax County public schools for 39 years.

Students: I’ve learned that the people who you see on television who are really good singers, you need to really work hard and you really need to want this if you want to end up like them . . . She’s taught us a lot of things, especially looking at her and also inhaling and exhaling at the right moment of a song . . . Mrs. Lindsay has taught me numerous things but the one I remember the most is just to believe in yourself, not to be afraid just because of what other people think of you, just go for it, go for your dream.

It’s the obverse of what I’ve been saying about modeling, in a way. There is some overlap – public performance, being looked at – but there is also difference. There’s more than just being looked at.

Although the arts are often targeted in school budget cuts, advocates like Lindsay point out that music instruction helps brain development and overall student achievement.

Debra Lindsay: We teach them experience, we work with them on writing, about what music is, understanding terminology, learning how to write about music, comparing and contrasting, learning how science and sound are related. It’s just not music, it is learning all around.

Lindsay invited her students to help give a training session at the Teaching and Learning 2014 conference in Washington, DC. It’s the first time most of them are performing publicly and while some admit they’re nervous, the performance is a hit and helps demonstrate Debra Lindsay’s teaching techniques.

So that will be a big thing in their lives, which is great.

And then…

Musician Bobby McFerrin is headlining the closing plenary at the Teaching and Learning conference.

McFerrin: And he’d march the whole class out to the front lawn and we’d sit under a tree and have a jam session.

(McFerrin singing)

Mixing his improvisational songs with stories about learning music, it doesn’t take long for McFarrin to ask the audience to get a bit closer.

McFerrin: Come sit on the stage if you want to, we can probably pull up some of these chairs and you can sit up here if you want to …

A couple dozen people move toward the stage; Some bravely join him in song, others ask questions. About 40 minutes in, he hands the mic to the youngest on stage – one of Debra Lindsay’s students:

Nelsa Tiemtore: My name is Nelsa, I’m from Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy, Virginia Public Schools.

McFerrin encourages Nelsa to sing. After some hesitation, she chooses her song.

(Nelsa, McFerrin singing)

How cool is that?!

I saw this story via a tweet by Ron Lindsay. He knows Debra Lindsay.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A spin on the Easter story

Mar 21st, 2014 9:16 am | By

Why did nobody think of it before? Get a homicide detective to investigate the Jesus story. Of course! Then even the small minority of people who are atheists will throw in the towel.

A New Jersey church will put a spin on the Easter story by bringing in a professional detective to examine Christ’s death and resurrection.

Homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace will utilize his “cold case investigation skills” to examine the historical circumstances surrounding Christianity’s sacred weekend in a four-week series that starts on Sunday at Liquid Church’s four locations.

“Cold case investigation skills” can investigate stories from 2000 years ago to determine the truth of elements of the story? I did not know that! Right then; let’s start with Euripides. Did Medea really kill her children?

“We know people’s faith rests on understanding if the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was real or not. What better way than to bring in a CSI detective and have him examine the biblical evidence available for a homicide investigation?” Tim Lucas, lead pastor of Liquid Church said in a statement.

The biblical evidence? Words in a book count as evidence of more than the fact that this story has been told?

A self-proclaimed “angry atheist” for 35 years, Wallace shares on his website that he enjoyed frequently debating his Christian friends, and admits that he was “hostile to Christianity and largely dismissive of Christians.”

But once Wallace began to use the same tools he used in the field to examine Christianity, he “found the evidence for Christianity to be as convincing as any cold case I’d ever investigated.”

Uh oh. Maybe some of his cases should be re-opened.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Interview with Rebecca Goldstein on Plato at the Googleplex, philosophy for the public, and everything

Mar 20th, 2014 5:20 pm | By

OB: As a fan of philosophy I’ve been delighted to see the rave reviews for Plato at the Googleplex in major media – the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Slate, NPR, The Atlantic. This has to be a good thing: a sign that philosophy can be made interesting to the reading public, and itself a step to getting more people interested in philosophy. It’s all the more gratifying because part of your point, as I understand it, is to show readers that philosophy has value and has not been rendered superfluous by science. Can you tell us a little about why philosophy does indeed have value?

RG: I’ve been delighted to see the rave reviews, too.

Okay, why is philosophy of value?  The short answer is that it addresses, in a systematic and progress-making way, questions of deep concern to everyone.  There are of course, technical, narrow philosophical questions of concern to only professional philosophers, and I don’t mean to disparage them, since I’ve spent a good part of my life on them. But what I’m speaking about here are problems that just about all of us confront in virtue of our being thinking humans: What—if anything— are our lives about?  Even if they’re not really about anything—goodbye to the old monotheistic usurpation of this question—can we find answers that will allow us to maximize our own flourishing and—of equal if not greater importance—reasons to care about the flourishing of others?  (Caring about ourselves comes kind of naturally to us.) Philosophy has been addressing such questions and making significant, if invisible, progress with them almost ever since there’s been philosophy.

Elaboration on short answer: Philosophy emerged in the ancient Greek world contemporaneously (800-200 BCE) with the emergence of the major religious and spiritual traditions that have survived into our day: Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and the Abrahamic religion.  Confucius, the Buddha, Ezekiel, and Pythagoras were all contemporaries of each other. Obviously there was some profound existential self-questioning going on during this period, in all the parts of the world that had attained a certain degree of political organization and stability (all the areas involved in this normative ferment minted coins, as the anarchist anthropologist David Graeber points out in his Debt: The First 5,000 Years) and thus met basic survival needs (all the areas involved had a high energy-consumption).  So it seems that once basic survival wasn’t continuously occupying the mind, questions about putting our survival to some kind of meaningful purpose began to emerge. I like to put these questions in terms of “mattering.”  Do we matter? Is there something we have to do or be in order to achieve mattering, or is mattering something that we’re born into?

Greek philosophy didn’t address these questions in religious/spiritual terms, but rather in human, secular terms, applying reason to problems of mattering.  And systematically applying reason as opposed to appealing to dogma, so-called revelation, and authority, it’s the only one of the normative systems that emerged during that ancient age to have actually made progress.  I have, in the imaginary dialogues I scatter throughout the book,, Plato being amazed by how far he’s been left behind—not just scientifically and technologically, but philosophically, ethically and politically—by the field that he helped create.

Because of the failure of religion to offer satisfying answers to an increasing number of people, it’s time for philosophy to address forcefully these questions that everybody is wondering about.  Our society is falling back increasingly on rampant consumerism and self-promoting social media as a way for people to feel that their lives matter—self-centered means of numbing the questions of mattering. And given the self-centeredness of the kind of conclusions we’re gravitating toward, it’s no wonder that issues of social justice are not at the center of our attention. Our culture has relapsed back into the kind of self-aggrandizing, self-glorifying answers that the Athenians had presumed, which had Socrates railing against them until he got so annoying that they killed him.

OB: It’s a truism of sorts that people do philosophy all the time, it’s just that they do it badly. Would you say that’s one of the themes of Plato at the Googleplex? Are Roy McCoy and Dr. David Shoket and the rest doing philosophy but doing it badly? Or are they doing something entirely different, which they would do better if they had some education in philosophy?

RG: If forced to choose, I’d say they’re not even doing philosophy badly, but rather seeking to foreclose the very possibility of doing philosophy.  Of course, they put forth arguments—bad arguments—for this foreclosing, and one might want to count these bad arguments against the very possibility of philosophy as engaging in philosophy—really bad philosophy, because internally incoherent: using philosophical arguments to argue for the futility of all philosophical arguments.  My character Roy McCoy would foreclose philosophy by appealing to religion as answering all the questions, while my character Dr. Shoket, would foreclose philosophy by appealing to science as answering all the questions. Both are tone-deaf to the (bad) philosophy they’re putting forth.

OB: It’s a good moment for public education via mass media, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s remake of Cosmos airing. I think it’s quite apt that your book is making a stir at the same time. But Carl Sagan was frowned on and even sneered at for doing so much public outreach. It’s well known that academics tend to think popularization is infra dig. Is that still true? Do you ever get the hairy eyeball for writing novels and accessible books about philosophy?

RG: How do I even begin to tell that sad story? I think it’s particularly egregious when it’s philosophers who are doing the sneering.  Almost everybody thinks about philosophy, even if they don’t realize it’s philosophy and even if they have no sense of the difficulty of the problems, the array of possible answers.  If philosophers have special expertise here, if through their natural talents and their training, they can shed some light on the questions that perplex people not trained as they are, then they damn well ought to do it.   Yes, we analytic philosophers love precision, and yes the best philosophical thinking demands a precision that lost on—that loses—most non-philosophers.  But I think that a certain compromise can and should be struck between absolute precision and general accessibility.  Scientists who write for popular audiences have brilliantly struck such compromises..  Why can’t philosophers? Well, I think one reason is that philosophers are more insecure to speak accessibly because non-philosophers are skeptical that philosophers have any special expertise.  After all, all people—not just philosophers—have attitudes and points of view on various philosophical questions, and they rather resent being told that there are professionals who can think about these things better.  So philosophers feel a little more cautious about letting down their technical guard lest the general public doesn’t recognize their special credentials.  It’s the fact that philosophy is of general interest that, paradoxically, keeps philosophers from wanting to speak in a way that’s accessible to the general public.

OB: I must say, I see the MacArthur grant as a glorious vindication of doing the kind of thing you do; of doing academic philosophy and literary writing. Has it made it easier for you to combine things any old way you want to?

RG: The MacArthur grant came to me when I was in career-despair, feeling both spurned by the community of philosophers for being a novelist and cold-shouldered by the literary community for being a philosopher. I was actively considering a third career, one which would have involved educating young children.  The MacArthur gave me encouragement to continue with my experiments in writing about philosophy in non-academic ways. I’ve  always felt that playfulness is essential to good thinking, and so that’s always been involved in my experiments, the non-fiction and the fiction.  I have my Plato talk a great deal about the importance of play in thinking.

OB: What about Plato himself? Would he be pleased to see A C Grayling on the Colbert Report? Or would he think it was far too vulgar to mix up philosophy and television. In the Protagoras, Socrates seems down on the very idea of trying to teach arête, and perhaps anything else that’s not purely how-to. Do you think Plato loaded the dice against the sophists? Or was he making a good point about the marketing of canned wisdom?

RG: I’m going to answer your question first for Socrates and then for Plato. Socrates plied his trade in the agora, the Athenian marketplace, and he was a sly old fox, willing to use all kinds of tricks to try and wake his fellow Athenians out of their habitual ways of thinking and acting.  Now Plato went and created the Academy, separating himself from the non-philosophical populace.   Perhaps, after the trial and execution of Socrates, carried out by the restored Athenian democracy, he just threw up his hands at trying to figure out ways of speaking to the general population. But maybe not.  After all, he created the dialogues, which were read by the general population. The dialogues are great art and they’re often extremely entertaining, even hilarious—to us, who live 2400 years later. How much more  entertaining they must have been to his contemporaries, who got all the in-jokes, and knew about the real-life characters he peoples his dialogues with.  And it was Plato who gives us, in the dialogues, that sly old fox Socrates.

OB: I encounter a lot of people who have an annoyingly philistine attitude to philosophy, claiming that it’s just a lot of useless pretentious verbiage. I urge various titles on them in hopes they will learn better. Do you have any favorites for this purpose?

RG: Ah, Ophelia, you and I probably encounter many of the same people.  I would say Spinoza’s Ethics, though the book is almost impenetrable without a good background or teacher.  But that book probably did more to bring about the European Enlightenment than any other single work, as beautifully demonstrated by Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment, which I also enthusiastically recommend to those who think philosophy does nothing.

Here is the thing about philosophical progress: it changes what we take to be “intuitively” obvious, and this change covers up the tracks of the laborious arguments that preceded the changes.  We don’t see these changes, because we see with them.

OB: Even worse than that, I think, are the people who think Sam Harris wrote a revolutionary book on moral philosophy, and one that has made all other books on moral philosophy pointless. Do you ever encounter such people, and if so, what do you say to show them their error?

RG: No, I’ve never encountered such people. But I would say to anybody who thinks that all the problems in philosophy can be translated into empirically verifiable answers—whether it be a Lawrence Krauss thinking that physics is rendering philosophy obsolete or a Sam Harris thinking that neuroscience is rendering moral philosophy obsolete—that it takes an awful lot of philosophy—philosophy of science in the first case, moral philosophy in the second—even to demonstrate the relevance of these empirical sciences.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

El salvador

Mar 20th, 2014 4:49 pm | By

Hey who knew, god has a Facebook page – or rather, God, since if there’s a Facebook page, the person behind it must be a person, i.e. God.

So God has a Facebook page.

It’s pretty funny.

Here’s another one.

Riley Robertson's photo.

Let me save you

From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t worship me.

It’s having some innocent fun with Fred Phelps, naturally.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A big hand for god

Mar 20th, 2014 4:44 pm | By

Just this onnnnnnnnnnnne more thing.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

No significant workplace protections

Mar 20th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

Last year New York state did a little regulating of the modeling industry. Good.

The New York State Legislature approved a measure Wednesday night that would recognize fashion models under the age of 18 as child performers for print and runway work, a step that has the potential, if signed into law, to alter not only hiring practices in the fashion industry, but also the overall look of models appearing at Fashion Week.

As it stands, the majority of models start their careers well under 18, with some young women appearing in runway shows when they are 13 or 14. Reacting to concerns about the health and well-being of such young models, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has repeatedly urged its members to set a minimum age of 16 for runway models. Though most designers have complied, there are still examples of extremely young models on New York runways, and no significant workplace protections for those under 18.

Never mind health and well-being; they get glamour!

“There is tremendous pressure on girls who are still in high school,” said Sara Ziff, a former model who started an advocacy group called the Model Alliance, which worked with legislators on the proposed changes to child labor laws. “I know firsthand how models can be pressured to forgo their education and sometimes are put on the spot to take photos that may be age inappropriate.”

But it’s such a dream job. If they can be models, who cares about their education?

“This is the day that modeling moved from being a girls’ profession to a women’s profession,” said Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University. “There is no doubt models who have started at 14 have gone on to great careers, but it’s just too young to be subjected to this industry.”

Wait; stop right there. That thing she said is one reason so many girls see this as a career plan. It implies that it’s common for models to have great careers, but that’s like implying it’s common for aspiring actors to have great careers. Most don’t. The glamour industries get way more aspirants than there are great careers for them. People should be cluing these girls in.

Ms. Ziff also said she suspected that designers will be less inclined to hire young models. “I don’t think that would be such a bad thing,” she said. “Designers are marketing their clothes to adults, so I think that would be appropriate.”

Modeling agencies, which have for decades resisted attempts to regulate ages, are likely to disagree to some extent. But complaints about the standards of beauty being set by their industries in regard to weight, race and age have prompted many prominent agents and designers to advocate some form of protection for models.

How about a union?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: It’s really not a great job

Mar 20th, 2014 1:50 pm | By

Originally a comment by Jen B Phillips on You oughta be in pictures, you oughta be a star.

Suppose she’s bubbling over with excitement about her future educational plans, and one of the guests tells her, “You’re so pretty – you should go into modeling!”

Something very close to that scenario happened to me more than once. It’s vexing.

I thought the main point of Ophelia’s original post was that gendered limitations (through marketing) on toy choices fail to present girls with the full range of career possibilities that is more readily available to boys. I think this is dead on.

I have tried to get caught up on this in the other comment threads, but I’m probably still missing a lot. I think it’s safe to say that most of the 30% of girls who aspire to become models when they grow up are basing that opinion on how fun it is to play dress-up, and are not fully informed about the life of a professional model. I think it’s also true that for *some* girls or women with this particular career goal, it is a way to gain validation through the marketability of conventional beauty and thinness.

I had some minuscule amount of success as a model as a young woman, on the runway here and there and in regional department store flyers, greeting cards, etc. I earned enough to pay rent and buy my (used) textbooks for a few years of college. It was occasionally fun, but rarely something I found rewarding–that is, I don’t recall thinking ‘hey, that was a good day’s work, standing on that fake boat deck for 4 hours’ or ‘Boy, I’m really proud of the way I wore that Anne Klein outfit!’. Rather than being affirming or validating, having agents, stylists, photographers and clothing vendors fussing over my face, body, or posture and treating me like a living wax work was quite dehumanizing. The agency representing me indicated that I needed a lot of ‘work’ (boobs, nose, lips) if I wanted to take it to the next level. I didn’t.

It’s really not a great job. The parameters defining its existence are pretty crappy ones, and the reasons for wanting to get into and stay in it can be unhealthy. I don’t think it maligns the integrity or intelligence of models to point that out.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

You oughta be in pictures, you oughta be a star

Mar 20th, 2014 12:18 pm | By

Look at it this way. Suppose you have a young daughter, or niece, or friend’s daughter whom you’re close to. Suppose you’re at a gathering with her and a bunch of people. Suppose she just won a math prize, or a scholarship, or a literary prize. Suppose she’s bubbling over with excitement about her future educational plans, and one of the guests tells her, “You’re so pretty – you should go into modeling!”

Would you find that insulting? I certainly would. Why? Well first of all it’s a diversion from what she’s talking about and planning – but it’s more than that. Why?

But maybe you wouldn’t find it insulting. Maybe you would suggest it yourself. If so, why?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Depraved heart

Mar 20th, 2014 11:29 am | By

ProPublica reports on a terrifying prosecution in Mississippi.

Rennie Gibbs’s daughter, Samiya, was a month premature when she simultaneously entered the world and left it, never taking a breath. To experts who later examined the medical record, the stillborn infant’s most likely cause of death was also the most obvious: the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

But within days of Samiya’s delivery in November 2006, Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s de facto medical examiner at the time, came to a different conclusion. Autopsy tests had turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in Samiya’s blood, and Hayne declared her death a homicide, caused by “cocaine toxicity.”

In early 2007, a Lowndes County grand jury indicted Gibbs, a 16-year-old black teen, for “depraved heart murder” — defined under Mississippi law as an act “eminently dangerous to others…regardless of human life.” By smoking crack during her pregnancy, the indictment said, Gibbs had “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” caused the death of her baby. The maximum sentence: life in prison.

Seven years and much legal wrangling later, Gibbs could finally go on trial this spring — part of a wave of “fetal harm” cases across the country in recent years that pit the rights of the mother against what lawmakers, health care workers, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and others view as the rights of the unborn child.

Sometimes the level of hatred for women just scares me into silence.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Careers fashion day at school

Mar 19th, 2014 6:01 pm | By

As dolls go, Barbie is not a good inspiration for girls. Therefore the Girl Scouts should not be getting mixed up with Barbie. Alexandra Petri has more at the Washington Post blog.

Thanks to what a new Girl Scouts badge-earning booklet describes as “a generous donation from Mattel, Inc.,” there is a new patch Girl Scouts can get — the Barbie “Be Anything, Do Everything” patch. It’s bright pink, like the booklet, which includes some paper Barbie dolls whom you can costume in lovely career-related ensembles with pink accents. Barbie and her friend Teresa can be veterinarians (in short pink skirts) or chefs or even ballerinas.

No. Wrong. Bad move. Work isn’t about what clothes you were (except when it is, e.g. when you’re a model, but we already know that’s a lousy kind of work). Work is about what you do, not what you wear. Wearing something isn’t doing anything. It’s passive.

In theory, Barbie’s message is empowering. Be Anything. Do Everything.

But what about in practice?

Well, take the Barbie Career Quiz on the Girl Scouts Barbie tie-in page and you begin to understand why some people are already pressing the Scouts to sever their Barbie ties. I took it. It was a disaster.

You’ll have to go there to see all the screenshots. The whole thing is all about the mistake I just pointed out – it’s about what the doll is wearing. Barbie in a pink skirt and a blue top, teaching. Barbie in pink tights and a long black T shirt and bling, fashion designing. Barbie in a tiny dress and a lab coat, being a veterinarian. Barbie in a space suit with pink accents, being an astronaut.

And much much more.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Mrs Potato Head wins a Nobel prize for physics

Mar 19th, 2014 5:00 pm | By

Yes but does gender stereotyping actually matter? Isn’t it just some trivial thing that floats past like dandelion fluff but doesn’t actually do anything? A couple of researchers decided to ask the question.

A duo of researchers at Oregon State University hypothesized that playing with sexualized dolls not only hurts self-esteem, it influences the way young girls think about their adult lives.

Past research in the U.K. has shown that nearly a third of female teenagers want to be models, while only 4 percent wanted to be engineers. Adolescent girls, it seems, are drawn to careers based on appearance, not knowledge.

That’s a pretty shocking finding, if it’s true. Models? Nearly a third? One of the most brainless and passive lines of “work” it’s possible to think of, and also one of the most useless…and that’s a big career goal. Ugh.

For the study, published in the journal Sex Roles, 37 girls between the ages of 4 and 7 were randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls: a typical Barbie doll wearing a fancy party dress; a “career” Barbie, decked in her career-ready lab coat, stethoscope, and “low-heeled shoes” (look out world!); or a Mrs. Potato Head doll, who comes adorned with chunky high heels and hot-pink purse, but otherwise has the countenance of a tuber, like her husband.

The children played with their respective toys for five minutes. Then they were presented with photos of 11 male- and female-dominated professions, so appointed according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The female dominated occupations were teacher, librarian, day care worker, flight attendant, and nurse. The male dominated occupations included construction worker, firefighter, pilot, doctor, and police officer. The neutral occupation was a server in a restaurant.

The girls were then asked, “Could you do this job when you grow up?” and “Could a boy do this job when he grows up?”

Depressingly, all of the girls thought a boy would more likely be able to do more of both the male- and female jobs…

…but the potato head girls thought they could do more of both kinds of jobs than the girls who played with either kind of Barbie.

It’s a small study and a small effect but WHAT ARE WE DOING TO GIRLS AROUND HERE? In a decade or two will all women actually resemble the Martian-world Real Housewives?

Women have been shown to perform worse on math tests when they wear swimsuits rather than sweaters. Barbie, then, might act like a perpetual swimsuit for the brain.

“Barbie may be one way that ideas about a girls’ place in the world is communicated to the girl,” Sherman said.

Ya think?

There are other things too; Barbie dolls aren’t the only cultural artifact girls ever see or play with…but there is a hell of a lot of this gender-policing pink bubble-gum girls-are-airheads stuff around, one way and another. It’s not good enough.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

From a great height

Mar 19th, 2014 4:38 pm | By

The Tories look out for the little people, don’t let anyone tell you different.


Grant Shapps MP @grantshapps

#budget2014 cuts bingo & beer tax helping hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy. RT to spread the word

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, eh?

Update: This makes a nice commentary. H/t Maureen.

Embedded image permalink

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Nowhere to hide

Mar 19th, 2014 3:16 pm | By

Catherine Briggs of LifeSiteNews (yes, the anti-abortion site) seems to have missed the point of a certain fundraising campaign by a wide margin.

In the world of social media, instant news has become a way of life.  Thanks to Twitter and the diffusion of information at less than a moment’s speed, the DC Abortion Fund’s latest outrage has nowhere to hide.

In a move that can only be described as tasteless and sickening, the DC Abortion Fund has offered a gift of a coat-hanger pendant to anyone who signs up to donate $10 a month or more to their organization.

Far from being a disgusting joke, the DCAF is serious about this reward for their loyal donors.  The organization’s motto itself features a coat-hanger dangling from the end of its last word.

Yes, and?

The pendant isn’t what’s tasteless and sickening, it’s the policy that would lead to more and more coat-hanger abortions that is tasteless and sickening. LifeSiteNews’s policy. The policy that opposes legal abortion.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Non-Muslims may not inherit at all

Mar 19th, 2014 11:25 am | By

From the Lawyers’ Secular Society, a practice note issued by the Law Society.

This practice note provides guidance to lawyers specialising in areas such as wills, succession and inheritance, and in particular how to accommodate the wishes of clients who want to ensure their assets are distributed according to ‘sharia law principles’ on their death.

Uh oh.

But what this guidance does is legitimise discrimination towards women and “illegitimate children” – if that term still has any meaning in English law. In an astonishing few paragraphs the guidance states (at Section 3.6):

“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.

“This means you should amend or delete some standard will clauses. For example, you should consider excluding the provisions of s33 of the Wills Act 1837 because these operate to pass a gift to the children of a deceased ‘descendent’. Under Sharia rules, the children of a deceased heir have no entitlement, although they can benefit from the freely disposable third.

“Similarly, you should amend clauses which define the term ‘children’ or ‘issue’ to exclude those who are illegitimate or adopted.”

So the guidance by the Law Society instructs lawyers in how to draw up wills according to sharia, as if they were temporarily bound by sharia.

This raises serious questions about professional ethics and the role of the Law Society. The guidance seems not to recognise that there is a serious potential conflict between the Code of Conduct for solicitors and the guidance. Here is what the Code of Conduct – which all solicitors must abide by – says about equality and diversity (at Chapter 2):

“This chapter is about encouraging equality of opportunity and respect for diversity, and preventing unlawful discrimination, in your relationship with your clients and others. The requirements apply in relation to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

“Everyone needs to contribute to compliance with these requirements, for example by treating each other, and clients, fairly and with respect, by embedding such values in the workplace and by challenging inappropriate behaviour and processes. Your role in embedding these values will vary depending on your role.

“As a matter of general law you must comply with requirements set out in legislation – including the Equality Act 2010 – as well as the conduct duties contained in this chapter.”

The Code of Conduct makes it clear that solicitors cannot discriminate, yet this guidance is encouraging us to facilitate discrimination in advising Muslim clients on their wills.

That seems outrageous. It will be interesting to see if there is any pushback.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

For sure

Mar 19th, 2014 9:57 am | By

It’s conventional wisdom. It’s common sense. It’s what everyone knows. It’s for sure. It’s obvious. It’s dangerous for women to walk around alone, especially after dark or especially in places like parks where there aren’t a lot of people around. Imagine how dangerous it is to go into a park where there aren’t a lot of people around after dark!

It’s common sense, and it’s bullshit.

I’ve been treating it like bullshit my whole life, and I’ve been right to do so.

Think about it. Do rapists and thieves hang around in parks hoping someone will fall into their trap? Are parks after dark crawling with hopeful rapists and thieves, wasting their time while all the victims stay away?

Of course they’re not.

Beware of conventional wisdom. Beware of what you think you know if you’ve never for a second actually thought about it. Check your bromides.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Rooted in stereotype, and applied only to women

Mar 19th, 2014 9:36 am | By

Even Time – never a radical, lefty, groundbreaking, nonconformist magazine – gets it that words do matter, because they say things and people pick up the things and believe them.

So, in an attempt to save you — writers, speakers, humans, journalists — from falling into the gender bias trap unintentionally, we’ve put together this handy guide:

Don’t Call Girls Bossy. Or Grown Women Aggressive.

Seriously, don’t do it. And while you’re at it, don’t call them pushy, angry, brusque, ballbusters, bitchy, careerist, cold, calculating — you get the point. Also: shrill and strident, both of which imply high-pitched and screechy women a la your mother, finger pointed, scolding you to clean your room. Bossy is the subject of the new Sandberg campaign, but it’s something linguists have written about for decades. The reality is that these words are rooted in stereotype, and they are only applied to women. Think about it: girls are bossy, boys have “leadership qualities.” Women are deemed aggressive, while men are simply decisive (or just, um, bosses). From Ruth Bader Ginsburg (called “a bitch” by her law school classmates) to the “ball-busting” Hillary Clinton, historians will tell you: women in power have long been punished for exhibiting qualities of assertiveness, because it veers from the “feminine” mold. And yet, isn’t it precisely those assertive qualities that will help women get ahead?

And aren’t they just a necessary part of many lines of work? Yes, they are, so if women are bullied for demonstrating them, that’s an obstacle that shouldn’t be there. It’s dancing backward in high heels with a pitcher of water on your head.

Please Avoid the ‘Crazy Woman’ Trope. And While We’re At It: She’s Not ‘Moody,’ ‘Hysterical,’ or ‘Emotional’ Either.

Female hysteria was once the catch-all diagnosis for a woman with problems, and it didn’t disappear entirely from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders until 1980. But the trope of the crazy, emotional, moody, hysterical, PMS-ing, crazy woman — or worse, the crazy, emotional, hysterical romantic stalker — remains in full force. Crazy is the catch-all putdown for any woman you don’t like/makes you uncomfortable/doesn’t fit the mold. (Or as Tina Fey said in her book Bossypants, “the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her any more.”) The problem with being a woman is that it’s impossible to avoid this label. So what even is crazy? A woman who expresses opinions? A woman who speaks too loud, or out of turn? Am I crazy if I yell? Am I crazy if I like a guy? Am I crazy if I act like a leader? Whatever it is, it usually doesn’t refer to any kind of real life mental illness. So keep the crazy label in check.

Except when singing the Patsy Cline song.

Leave Looks Out Of It.

That means Hillary Clinton’s cleavage, her cankles, her haircuts, pants suits, or the color of her blouse — all irrelevant to whether she’s going to make a good president! I also don’t need to know about Huma Abedin’s “rich, glowing hair,” Elena Kagan’s “drab D.C. clothes” or that Janet Yellin wore the same outfit twice (she’s the motherfucking head of the Fed). Here’s what the Washington Post’s internal stylebook says about references to personal appearance in print: that they “should generally be omitted unless clearly relevant to the story.” In case that wasn’t clear, a few specifics. TV hosts: Probably a bad idea to comment on how hot a woman is on air. Interviewers: Let’s avoid asking badass ladies in various fields about their looks, diets or favorite fashion designers. (And for more on this topic, check out Lindy West’s great piece over at Jezebel on how to write about female politicians.)

Ok, I’ll do that. Lindy West is going to be at Women in Secularism 3.

Others? Catfight. Shut up about catfights. Skip the stupid “can she have it all” trope.

When in doubt, read this column, from the public editor of the New York Times, published last month amid outrage over a magazine cover titled, “Can Wendy Davis Have It All?” “Despite its well-intentioned efforts,” the Times ombudsman wrote, “this piece managed to trip over a double standard with its detailed examination of Ms. Davis’s biography, including her role in raising her two daughters.” And while we’re at it, let’s stop asking how women manage to “do it all.” Tina Fey declared this “the rudest question you can ask a woman.” Because the answer is simple. She’s doing it the same way a dude would, except that he doesn’t have to answer questions about it.

Well actually no, she’s usually not, because she’s doing both the job and the bulk of the domestic duties. While feeling guilty. Backward and in high heels.




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Equine contributions

Mar 18th, 2014 5:19 pm | By

So now that you know how to conduct yourself if you have the audacity to go out in public, let’s turn our attention to Congress and the pope. Congress has asked the pope to come along and talk to them next time he’s in town, officially.

Congressional leaders have invited Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress during his expected visit to the United States next year.

He’s planning to come over in September for a conference on families. Because that makes sense, right? Having an officially celibate cleric participate in a conference on families? They should invite him to a conference on early childhood development, too; he could explain the benefits of being raped by the priest and watching nobody care.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), as the constitutional officer of Congress, made the formal invitation on behalf of House and Senate leaders, according to House and Senate aides. The House speaker is the officer who formally invites the president each year to give a State of the Union address. All joint sessions of Congress occur in the House Chamber because it is the larger of the two chambers.

As the constitutional officer of Congress, he sent that invitation to the world’s only King and Emperor of a Global Religion. As the constitutional officer of Congress, did he give any thought to the separation of church and state? Did he pause to wonder why secular legislators should have the world’s only pontiff lecturing them?

If there’s one person in the whole world who should not be invited to lecture the US congress, it’s the pope. There is no one else on earth who has the position the pope has. Not one. It’s a unique position, and uniquely anachronistic, and uniquely theocratic. Congress has no business inviting him to talk to Congress.

Aides to Boehner said he sent the invitation Thursday to officials in Vatican City. If Francis accepts the invitation, he would be the first pontiff to ever address American lawmakers from the U.S. Capitol, according to Boehner aides.

In his formal invitation, Boehner noted that Francis’s ascension to the papacy and his social teachings over the past year “have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice.”

What horse-shit.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Avoid isolated areas, don’t carry bags, be aware of your surroundings

Mar 18th, 2014 4:22 pm | By

And then, RAINN has

Avoiding Dangerous Situations

which is kind of them, because otherwise women would just keep seeking out dangerous situations, because women are so stupid that way.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
  • Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
  • Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
  • Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
  • Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
  • Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.

Do you notice something about all that? Because I do.

It’s basically telling women not to go outside like normal people. It’s telling them to act and feel like a fat juicy sheep strolling around in wolf country.

Excuse me, I like to go outside for walks, and I like to do it freely and without any obsessive worried planning and listchecking and rule-following and behavior-eliminating. I bet other women do too. I don’t want to “walk with purpose” all the time; I like to wander and gaze and be lost in my thoughts. I load myself down with packages and bags all the time, because I don’t have a car.

That list just boils down to telling women to stay inside, or if they must go out, act like a Jew in 1943 Warsaw nipping out for a package of cigarettes.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Exposed to 18 years of prevention messages

Mar 18th, 2014 3:57 pm | By

The RAINN advice seems to be wrong in another place – page 2 of the pdf:

By the time they reach college, most students have been exposed to 18 years of prevention messages, in one form or another. Thanks to repeated messages from parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, the media and, yes, the culture at large, the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category.

Really? These students have heard, in those 18 years, nothing but “rape is wrong”? They’ve been exposed to no repeated messages that pull the other way?

Of course they have. They’ve been exposed to countless repeated messages to the effect that sex is a kind of battlefield, and that men who don’t win battles are losers. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that men are supposed to be pushy and aggressive and confident about sex. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that women secretly or not so secretly want to be “overcome” or nudged into it or seduced or made drunk and then fucked. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that men are supposed to “score” a lot and if they don’t they’re pathetic. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that women are kind of stupid and dishonest and manipulative. They’ve been exposed to all kinds of messages, and many of them are to the effect that women are more or less contemptible and men are supposed to get and keep the upper hand.

So no, the situation is not as simple and easy as the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category. That would be nice, but it’s not true.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)