Archive for the 'Stereotypes We Know And Love' category

Quick, Who's A Geek?

Not you, I bet! Unless you're a dude, that is. I know this for sure because just this morning I came across a helpful new tome, The Geek's Guide to Dating, written for dudes who want to get girls.

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall.

What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

It would have been out of the question, of course to have written the above thus:

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl Person of Interestwho just moved in down the hall.

What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages types will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys cosplayers everywhere to love long and prosper.

Out of the question, of course, because then how the hell would you have written the book to go with that? It is geeks, who are dudes, white dudes to be specific, who need help with mating, and it is girls, who may or may not be geeks, who cares, who are out there waiting to be properly mated. Always this way. Dudes, seeking and finding girls, like a precious grail quest. Too bad if you are a geek girl who would like some dating tips on sorting dudes from duds. Or a geek dude who fancies other geek dudes. Or likewise a geek girl whose heart beats faster for other geek girls. No book for you!

The book authors were on this morning's Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane. I hasten to add that they declared, many times, while talking about the book and answering questions, that geek is not an identity owned solely by dudes, that anyone can be a geek, that geek culture has broad meanings and shapes, that it is welcoming to all, and that the openness and welcoming to all is part of what makes geek culture so great.  The irony of having written a book that takes as its unacknowledged knowledge-we-all-share that geeks are dudes completely escaped them. It also seemed to have gone right by Moss-Coane, for the usually quite sharp host did not remark upon this at all.

Why does it take so much help to be a dude? Some years back there was The Dangerous Book for Boys, because boys were in danger of growing up as namby-pamby nancy boys who wouldn't know a penknife if a Real Boy jammed it in their thigh. The Dangerous Book for Girls was promptly produced as an antidote (and for more book sales). Now Real Geekness needs shored up a little with an Actually Real Geeks ARE Men Even Though We As A Community Say We Are Totally Welcoming To All dating manual.

Oh come on, it's all a bit of light-hearted good fun, can't you relax and laugh a little, you feminists have no sense of humor! We even put in a Note To Girl Geeks (see page 19)! Where we said this book is for dudes but if you try hard you can see yourself in it! Except facial hair! If you're so bothered by it, why don't you write your own Geek Girl's Guide to Dating?

Would a Geek Girl's Guide to Dating be of any help? (1) No. (2) No. (3) No. It doesn't address compulsory heterosexuality in geek culture. It doesn't solve the problem of Real Geeks Are Men, But There Are Some She-Geek Oddities As Well. It doesn't address the problem of a book that stakes the claim of a single very specific identity as the center of the universe and equivalent to the community identity. The book is more accurately called The White Geek Dude's Guide to Dating. The following phrases are crutches used to walk away from that: "well, we really do welcome everyone; you should just write your own book" and "some women think it's funny" and "just try to picture yourself in it" and "there aren't that many gay geeks, I never met any" and "if we had to take all that into account,  it wouldn't be funny anymore".

Ah yes. If you had to take everyone else's perspective into account in writing your book, then 95% of the jokes in it wouldn't be funny, would they? Because the funny is based on the unacknowledged knowledge that Real Geeks Are Dudes. Where's the funny in having to admit that Real Geeks Are Men is just a bit of bad cosplay, and that the costume is wearing mighty thin, eh? No book for you.

Share

One response so far

Rethinking the Normality of Attrition

There are few things so beloved by the professoriate as the faculty retreat – amirite? And the highlight of every faculty retreat is surely that hour when we gather and form small groups to contemplate How Diversity Is Making Us Stronger!!1!! These are nearly always well-planned, adroitly led, and very effective. In my dreams.

At one such gathering, the first exercise our group was given consisted of a sheet of paper with four photos: a young white man in casual clothing; a middle-aged white woman in a suit; a young African-American woman in a suit; and an old, bespectacled, gray-haired, bearded eminence in tweed jacket and tie. Our task: which of these people did we think was a professor, and why? Nobody wanted to go anywhere near that booby-trap. Nobody, that is, except the old, bespectacled, gray-haired eminence in a jacket in our group. He promptly pointed to the bearded dude and said “oh, he’s the professor. He just looks like one. Don’t you think that’s how a professor is supposed to look?” The diversity workshop leader happened to be standing next to our group at the moment and the rest of us cringed. Now, this professor was a really nice guy, and he said this without any guile. In retrospect I applaud him for saying what we were all thinking but self-censoring ourselves from saying. Gray-haired bearded dude did look like what we thought a professor should look like. The question was why did we, committed as we were to diversity, still think that? How could we come to see the others – especially the women – as equally valid images of the professoriate?  And what did all this mean for our work at the university?

Well, it should be no surprise, and should not make anyone feel guilty or ashamed, to realize that we carry these internalized stereotypical images of what a professor or scientist or engineer looks like. We daily bathe in the sea of stereotypes.  We may also carry a picture in our heads of what a successful STEM student looks like, without realizing it, and may make advising decisions based on that image rather than on the student’s interests, desires, and real potential.

The first step in interrupting the circuit is to interrogate the term “successful student”. Is a successful student one who makes top grades? One who rallies after a failure? One who doesn’t have a lot of distractions to get in the way of focusing on the degree? One who learns how to manage the non-negotiable constraints of life and still continue with their studies? One who goes on to a satisfying and successful STEM career post-graduation? One who takes their STEM degree as a springboard into another career direction? Is a successful student one whom we help to succeed?

Of course, I can tell you my anecdata about getting a D in calculus and going on to a successful STEM career despite a frosh advisor who suggested I switch out of engineering, and you can counter with your scores of advisees and your, as we will see, oh-so-unfortunate example of George.  And then I’ll walk over to my bookshelf and peruse the research.

The classic reference text on students switching out of STEM majors is, of course, Seymour and Hewitt’s Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave The Sciences. If you are a STEM professor, make yourself familiar with this book if you are not so already.  The book is an exhaustive presentation of the results of a three-year study of 335 students at seven four-year institutions of different type and location. The authors question the assumption that leaving, or switching, is natural or normal.

The revolution did not swing by anytime in the last 15 years so you can pretty much go with what the book says. Here’s the

most important single generalization arising from [the] analysis…switchers and non-switchers [were not] two different kinds of people. That is to say, [they did not] differ by individual attributes of performance, attitude, or behavior, to any degree sufficient to explain why one group left , and the other group stayed…What distinguished the survivors from those who left was the development of particular attitudes or coping strategies – both legitimate and illegitimate. Serendipity also played a part in persistence, often in the form of intervention by faculty at a critical point in the student’s academic or personal life. [emphasis mine] [p. 30]

It turns out that STEM is bleeding students, male and female, white students and students of color. Only, the bleed rates for females and students of color are slightly higher than for white males, so the overall impact of culling the herd is to reduce diversity. After all that hard work to recruit the best and brightest to your uni, and to get all those women and students of color to your doorstep! Such a shame. Well, what can you do, eh?

Seymour & Hewitt note, by the way, that inappropriate choice, underpreparedness, and overconfidence, while present for many students of color, are not sufficient factors to explain the higher switching rate of this group compared to white students. So one thing you can’t do is lay the burden for the problem on the students.  The extra difficulties that students of color face include: differences in ethnic cultural values and socialization; internalization of stereotypes; ethnic isolation and perception of racism; and inadequate program support.  It’s true. Your unis are not doing a good job of supporting students of color.

Seymour & Hewitt speak in their conclusion of a desire to marginalize the issue of wastage of students, given the consequences of taking seriously the loss of 40 to 60 percent of a group of students with above average ability.

Switching is not defined as a problem when it is believed to be caused, on the one hand, by wrong choices, underpreparation, lack of sufficient interest, ability, or hard work, or on the other, by the discovery of a passion for another discipline. Either way, there is little that faculty feel they can, or should, do about people who leave for such reasons. The difficulty about our data is that they support neither type of explanation for switching. We find no support for the hypothesis that switchers and non-switchers can be sufficiently distinguished in terms of high school preparation, performance scores, or effort expended...Nor do switchers neatly divide into those who are pushed out (by inappropriate choice of major, lower ability, poorer preparation, lower levels of interest, or unwillingness to work), and those who are pulled out (because they discover a vocation elsewhere)...[W]e posit that problems which arise from the structure of the educational experience and the culture of the discipline (as reflected in the attitudes and practices of S.M.E. faculty) make a much greater contribution to S.M.E. attrition than the individual inadequacies of students or the appeal of other majors. [p. 392]

Ouch. That hurts.

Students who wash up on your advising shores performing poorly in their major classes may be doing so for any number of reasons. In my opinion, if you let them get to their junior year and flunk a major course three times without an intervention, your uni is failing that student, and not by giving them a failing grade, if you follow me. Read the conclusions chapter of Seymour and Hewitt if you read no other part of it. There's more in there about the groups of students that are being lost from STEM, groups that faculty members might very much want to retain. And rethink your notions of the successful student and beneficial advice to switch majors. Even if you think you're doing the student a favor, is it really a good thing for your uni to continue recruiting, but not retaining, STEM students?

Share

22 responses so far

A Blurb For Venker's "How To Choose A Husband"

We lived in a strictly gendered world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out of gender norms. Everything stopped working. We weren't prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the hedonistic cities. The government collapsed. Women took over, controlling their own fertility and stockpiling their own money. We still don't know why the power went out of gender norms. But we're hopeful that Suzanne Venker will come and lead the way.

With apologies to the showrunners of Revolution, which I love.

Share

4 responses so far

Easy-Peasy Reproduction of Gender & Race Norms!

Somewhere in the Twitterz a link popped up to this slideshow presentation:

Academia to Entrepreneur: How and Why to Leave Academia

It's a decent enough slide presentation and you'll learn a little about Mendeley along the way. Near the end there's a slide titled "Engineers" with 9 pictures variously titled "What my friends think I do", "What my parents think I do" etc.  You are supposed to enjoy the hilariosity of each group's total misconception of who engineers are and what they really do.

Let's ask who the "I" of the photo captions is.  Is this slide addressed to you at all? Depends upon who you are.  If you are a white male, the answer is yes! In the first photo, we see that what your friends think you are doing is sitting around on a couch gaming - you, a white male, and all your white male buddies. In the "What my parents think I do" photo at least there is one female, with three male figures, all white, looking at construction plans.

The fourth photo is of a young, slightly overweight white boy wearing glasses, non-fashionable clothing, and sitting in front of a computer.  The caption reads "What girls think I do."   Engineers are boys, and they're white boys, too. There is no corresponding picture for "What boys think I do".  There is, however, one for "What kids think I do."  So you can be a kid wondering what the grown-up (white male) engineer does, or you can be a girl wondering what the (white) boy does, but you can't be a boy wondering what the girl (of any color) does because that would be...

Well that would just upset our gender norms. And consequently wouldn't seem funny to most of us.  The "what girls think I do" is funny only if you accept the premise that the speaker is, indeed must be, a white male who can't get a girlfriend. The girls he cannot attract would, of course not be engineers.

In the last photo we see "What I really do":  a grown up white man, sitting in front of a computer.  This is so non-inclusive, and so non-representative of the multitude of things engineers do, that it makes me want to cry.  This one slide, with very few words but very strong images, hammers home the tired old gender and race stereotype of the engineer as a lonely white male in front of a computer.  It's not funny, it's sad and wrong. No one should ever use this visual again, except as an illustration of how easy-peasy it is to do gender and race norming without even trying.  I'm fairly certain that wasn't the intent of the person who put this slideshow together, but it is indeed the unfortunate outcome.

The only non-white person that appears in this slideshow is a floating head shot of Aretha Franklin in a slide making a point about respect. She is used more or less as an icon or signifier of the word respect, and has no relation to what engineers or scientists do. This use, combined with the total exclusion of people of color from the imagery of who engineers are, makes me unhappy.

It takes an effort to be inclusive, but it is an effort every speaker should make. If you aren't sure that your speech or presentation is free of unintentional bias, ask someone you trust to review it for you to be sure - especially when illustrations or pictures are included, but for language too.  Or I may have to come puke on your shoes.  I can understand that people may not see the bias themselves, but by now we all should be aware that it could be there. We all have a responsibility to try, to educate ourselves so we become more aware, and to ask for help before we send our words and chosen images out into the world. Don't be part of the (lazy-ass) easy-peasy bias reproduction machine!

Share

5 responses so far

Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing


Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

Storified by · Sun, Sep 09 2012 20:00:14

At 10:34 am on 9 Sept 2012, @Scicurious tweeted (really sorry, I can't figure out how to embed this tweet):

"Open letter to commercials targeting women: So true. I express my own uniqueness through feminine care products."

(The bolding is mine.)
You must go read that article NOW!
@GertyZ tweeted the same article and also replied to @Scicurious
Haha! But true. MT"@GertyZ: Open Letters: Open Letter 2 the People in Charge of Commercials Targeting Women. http://zite.to/PORwow via @Zite"TSZuska
@scicurious doesn't everyone? BRING ON THE MINIVANGerty-Z
And we were all off and running!
@scicurious but the poor guys who keep getting rejected from the yogurt aisle? So sad!biochem belle
@scicurious enjoy it now. Someday, menopause. Then: no uniqueness, no femininity. Unless you eat yogurt.TSZuska
@scicurious Although those yogurt-eaters always look awfully young. I thing all that's left post-menopause is bone loss & hot flash meds.TSZuska
@TSZuska And wrinkle cream! LOTS of expensive wrinkle cream.sci curious
@scicurious Indian commercials include vaginal tightening creams, vaginal fairness & well, regular fairness creams. http://youtu.be/vPayFrCOiZMManasi Jiwrajka
Well now, that's something to look into! I am certain I have not been nearly worried enough about my vaginal fairness.
@TSZuska @scicurious @kateclancy perhaps you've missed news that Poise has developed a whole line of menopause-related products #innovative?Lisa Hinchliffe
Depressingly, there will come the day when we all need something like a Poise pad, or worse. #oldagesucks But I am seriously not going to worry about "feeling confident" in my bladder leakage years with panty fresheners and feminine wash. There will be no equivalent of an Air Wick Stick-Up on the bottom of my pantaloons.

Let's change the subject.

@TSZuska I really pity all the guys who, according to the commercials, don't eat yogurt. That stuff is great!sci curious
@biochembelle @scicurious I'm starting a Men Can Eat My Yogurt support group. There's an entry requirement for each straight man.TSZuska
@TSZuska @biochembelle Is it like a hazing process for men who want to eat yogurt? Like they have to eat plain?sci curious
@scicurious @TSZuska Or require them to distinguish regular vs Greek, nonfat vs full fat by blind taste test?biochem belle
@biochembelle @scicurious Well I was thinking of making them prove they'd eaten something else, but that's good, too.TSZuska
@scicurious @TSZuska Though the dude from Burn Notice is apparently the only man who isn't stripped of his masculinity by eating yogurt.Kate Clancy
@KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska and John Stamos. He's in a yogurt commercial. Greek yogurt. Manly yogurt. :DRadium Yttrium
@KateClancy @scicurious Always an exception here & there. Most men don't have the biological necessities to digest yogurt. #EvolutionTSZuska
@TSZuska @KateClancy @scicurious I've heard that they've got ways of shutting all of that down, though.Emily Willingham
@ejwillingham @KateClancy @scicurious If legitimately forced to eat yogurt, no gaseous bloating will result. It's a known scientific fact.TSZuska
@DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska You mean greek yogurt is MANLY?! I've been eating MANLY yogurt! HORRORZ.sci curious
@DrRubidium @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska but John stamos isn't eating the yoghurt, it's just who appears when women eat yoghurtNatC
You are safe, @Scicurious.  Still appropriately feminine!
@SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska I do remember him eating some, but he was also feeding a woman, which is just creepyRadium Yttrium
@DrRubidium @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska clearly I'm not paying sufficient attention to ads aimed at me. Whoops!NatC
AARGH! RT @scicurious: @DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska You mean greek yogurt is MANLY?! I've been eating MANLY yogurt! HORRORZ.NatC
Or......not.  That manly yogurt may have some biological effects on gendered behavior.
@scicurious @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska yes, I eat it and then start random street fights :DRadium Yttrium
@DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @TSZuska @scicurious I eat it before roller derby bouts for MOAR TESTOSTERONE.Kate Clancy
And now, a semi-serious tweet...
@TSZuska @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 wrote a post about it. If memory is correct, the adverts we want don't do well in focus groupsScientistMother
@ScientistMother @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 i have been in focus groups. Ppl r anxious 2 get out & get their $$; herd mentality...TSZuska
@ScientistMother @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 one or 2 strong voices, everyone follows them. Drink coffee, get done, get cash.TSZuska
This, among other reasons, is why we have such crap-ass commercials.  This, and the undying belief that patriarchy sells. Because #evolution!
@TSZuska @biochembelle @scicurious perhaps @Mom101 could provide more info. She's pretty awesome about getting change in advertisingScientistMother
@scicurious @ScientistMother @TSZuska @biochembelle Oddly, that's the first McS essay where I've ever felt, "Seen it."Liz Gumbinner
@Mom101 @scicurious @TSZuska @biochembelle seen it bc others have said it before?ScientistMother
Sigh. Sometimes I get the feeling it's all been said before, a thousand million times.  Still, we have to say it again and again, and laugh a little along the way. 
Share

3 responses so far

Pinkification: Robbing Girls of Self Worth

Sharon Astyk at Casaubon's Book has a post that is both a review of Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter and an insightful analysis of pinkification's effect on young girls, especially girls in the foster care system. You MUST read it. Here's an excerpt:

I have a theory about the pinkization myself.  Femininity used to be commodified by giving children the cultural markers of feminine WORK – little girls got toy kitchens, baby dolls, toy brooms, toy houses.  Domestic labor was what marked out womanhood.  This definitely sucked in some ways, if instead of the erector set you got a toy wash basin, and you really wanted the erector set, but the cool thing about it was that you told little girls that in some measure they were being defined by their competence.  Yes, it was a limited sphere.  No, the “you can’t have an erector set because you are a girl” is wrong.  But in trying to end the “the only work you can do is girl work” we replaced it with “girls don’t do anything different, so you have to define yourself in other measures – by how you look and what color you wear.”

Whoa.  I think she's on to something there. Remember that god-awful girls-n-pink-n-dazzle!-n-science video disaster?  The ladies in the video weren't doing any science.  But they were lookin' mighty good.

Read the post, the whole post, it is full of awesome.

Share

4 responses so far

When They Read The News, What Are They Telling Us?

I'm feeling my Olympic groove this evening, when here comes a commercial break blurb for the local newscast. They're promising me all sorts of wonderfully lurid stuff if I tune in later. Here's one exciting pitch:

This man's wife and baby were held up at gun point!...Details later...

There is a very, very quick shot of a man, and then we see the woman with her baby telling us "He had a gun and he told me 'don't make me do this, you have a baby with you'."

Here's my question:  Why "this man's wife and baby" and not "this woman and her baby"? In reporting crime against women, must we do it so as to make clear who owns them, in favor of that the crime was against them?  When we say "this man's wife and baby were held up at gunpoint" we are implying that the crime, although committed on the woman and baby, was against the man.

There's no excuse for locution like this.  News writers/readers, women are their own agents. You don't need to identify their closest male in order to report news on them.

Share

6 responses so far

Olympical Ponderings

Who hasn't been watching a lot of Olympics lately?!?! It's time-delayed and spoiled, even by the announcers on the time-delayed broadcast (damn you!) when you've managed to keep away from twitter, radio, papers, etc.  But still, you can't look away.  Well, you can, when you are shown inane announcers nattering on rather than the sports you want to watch.  Between that and the commercials and the highlights of decades-old Olympics, now and again you do get to see something recent and athletic.  And that's what you live for!

  • Swimming:  I love it, and I wanted to watch a lot of it.  What I did not want: a bunch of  manufactured crap rivalries that may or may not have existed between Lochte and Phelps, or that other guy who says Phelps doesn't train, or this or that or something else.  Now they hate each other! Now they are great teammates for the relay! We at NBC totally love Phelps, except that the poking of athletes must begin now that he failed to medal in the 400 IM.  "Tell us Michael, how totally awful does it feel to have FAILED to medal? Are you totally completely CRUSHED? Will you ever be able to recover and swim again? Please, give us all the details of your agony! America wants to know" This American did not.  You could read all you needed to on his face. The rest was invasive and ultimately uninformative.  What America REALLY wanted to know was this: Just how effing tight are those swim caps? Tight enough to give you a migraine? Are there any migraineurs among Olympic swimmers? Because I would totally be out there going for the gold, if it wasn't for those swim caps.  That, and the fact that I can't swim and I'm old and fat.
  • Gymnastics and gender: I REALLY love me some gymnastics. The men's exhibition of strength, agility, and control is always astonishing to me. This year for some reason I focused on a move on the floor exercise, where they'd bend over, put their hands out on the floor, and then just slowly lift their legs up and bring them together - and then just stay there for awhile. So awesome.  Women's gymnastics, of course, is all about pixies, ponytails, and diva behavior. Tears! Little darlings who are just going to crack under pressure and have to be kissed and hugged by their coaches to survive! Ethereal beings who fly in the air! You get my picture.  I want to hear more about strength, agility, and control, and less about tears, diva bla bla, (Eager commentator: "Tell me, has there been any diva behavior yet?")and ANYTHING about Gabby's hair.  (That last one is mostly a race issue, but I can't imagine a black male gymnast getting lambasted for not having done the right thing with his hair. It's a gender issue too.) I want to see male gymnasts loosen up on the floor-x and do more tumbly-jumpy-dancey stuff like the women do; I want to see women build in some of those strength elements men display in the floor-x that are so breathtaking.  Why do they always have to be flying? Why can't they stop a minute and show their awesome strength, too? My really serious complaints are these, however: why the hell are the men dressed in footie pajamas that they can accidentally grab hold of while they are on the pommel, thus causing them to mess up? Can't they get some nice shorties more akin to what the women get to sashay around in? And why those poor pixie gymnasts gotta perform gender soooo hard while they're out there working and sweating?  Ban the makeup!  Or else make the men wear it too. Thus speaks Zuska.
  • I get all my mother's mail, including the Senior Times of Southwestern PA.  The last issue had a story about the local Senior Olympics. It was so cool.  There was a ninety-something dude who's won a gold medal in some racing event in every year they've had it.  That's kind of vague. With a fey Lehrian stroke, I  confidently declare he was 91, the sport was a 100 m dash, and the Senior Olympics have been held for six years now.  You're never going to know the difference because how are you going to get hold of a copy of the Southwestern PA Senior Times? (90 years old, 1 mile walk, 16 years - Mr. James "Jiggs" Grubbs, July 2012 issue) What gets me is I am pretty sure that this nonagenarian could beat me in the Senior Olympics in a head-to-head match.  Mr. Grubbs reports that he was not very active until he was in his seventies, so there may still be some hope for me.  I have commenced a 30-min per day walking program (interrupted by days when I walk up with migraine and then it's too hot in the afternoon) and am eating healthy food and smaller portions.  Look out Michael Phelps!  As soon as I get that swimming cap technology worked out, I'm coming for you!

When I think of Mr. Grubbs, active into his nineties though he didn't really start till his seventies, and Z-mom, who nearly died but is now walking again and recovering nicely, I think there is no excuse for me not to get my foot out the door on the days I feel well.  There is no excuse for me not to eat well and not pig out.  There is no excuse for me not to take care of my body just because my body has not been very good to me with all these migraines.  There is more excuse to do so because of the migraines.  The care I give it will be given back to me.  It's not that I can control my migraines by exercising, or that if I just find "my food triggers" my migraines will go away.  Migraine disease is neurological and the cause is not well understood.  But exercising and eating well gives my body the best fighting chance.  So I have to say no to the depression and discouragement, not eat to comfort myself, and work at getting out there to exercise. Getting out of the house and moving, seeing something different, is rejuvenating.  Walking outdoors is more so than a half hour on a treadmill in a gym, but in a pinch, that's better than nothing.  I hate it when people tell me that I "should" be doing x or y, as if it is all my fault I am having migraines just because I am not doing x or y.  But I am going to be better to myself, and give myself a better chance.  I want to win the 1 mile walk in the Senior Games when I am 90.

Share

5 responses so far

The Working Mom Issue: It Depends

I recently lost my mind completely and went on the twitters.  Due to my folly, I caught a link from @DoubleXSci to this article at the LA Times about the science of being a working mother: The MD: What Science Says About Working Moms, and What the Heart Says.  I have read a skajillion of these kinds of articles in my lifetime.  This one tells us no worries!  Go on and be a working mom!

Searching for more definitive answers, researchers at UC Irvine combined the results of 69 different studies on the topic. Their findings, published by the American Psychological Assn. in 2010, were reassuring. With few exceptions, children whose mothers returned to work when they were young fared just as well as those with stay-at-home moms.

"The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full-time employment early on," says Wendy Goldberg, a professor in the department of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "We have to look at other factors that affect child achievement and behavior. Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."

I firmly believe that if decent childcare is readily available, no one's going to be seriously damaged if mommy goes back to work whenever she wants.  Daddy goes back to work on day 1 and somehow kids survive.  We rarely think about the consequences of that separation at birth, do we?

But two lines in the above quote get me.  "The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full time employment early on" and "Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."  I would think not.  I would guess that whether or not you call your work a "career" and whether or not your work pays enough to keep you and your kid(s) from starving are two big, related factors, that might also tie into that intensive, full-time employment early on biz.  You might call what I am picking at here "class issues".

Here are some stereotypes we know and love:

1.  Welfare queens who just keep having babies so they can get a bigger check and stay home and not have to work.

2.  Hardworking middle class people who do their part and don't want to see their taxes go to support someone else.

3.  Women in science who have babies don't work as hard and want special treatment and extra credit for lesser quality work.

Take note that in theory, women are also included in "hardworking middle class people" but in practice deployment of the statement invokes an ideal of a nuclear family with hardworking man supporting wife and kids at home.  So, we can now start putting together rules for being a woman with kids:

If you are poor, you should not have kids, because then you will need the government to support you, and that is unfair to hardworking middle class people who do their part.  If you are poor and work, you can have kids, but don't expect childcare because again, that would be unfair to the hardworking middle class.  If you are poor and work and your kids are endangered because your part-time WalMart wages won't pay for adequate childcare, they will be taken from you because you are a bad mother. Also, try not to get sick, because health insurance? Ha!

If you are middle class, congratulations!  You have a hardworking husband who will take care of you and the kids, and of course you will probably want to homeschool the kids.  If your husband's salary is inadequate to support this lifestyle, he is not hardworking enough.  You may have to get a job to help out, but don't expect childcare.  That would be unfair to other hardworking middle class people.  Keep your fingers crossed that hubby does not die or divorce you. You may have insurance, but it may be mostly useless so again, try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women, you should not be having children at all, just to pay someone else to raise them.  If you really want to have children, then you can't devote yourself to your career anyway.  So why hurt both your children and yourself?  Besides, if you have children, no one will take your work seriously.  Even if you get married and don't have children, people will be wondering if you might not just pop out a kid at any moment, confirming their suspicions that you are not serious.  Probably best to stay single.  Then they will just gossip about how you are an ice queen and frigid and a bull dyke and lesbian and ball-breaker and not a normal woman and need a good fucking and who would want to fuck you anyway.  It's not too late to think about becoming a nurse, or teacher, or even an executive assistant.  Then you can look for a nice man, settle down into a middle class lifestyle, and have some kids.  Try not to be poor, and try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women who runs a company, you can do pretty much whatever you want because you will have lots of money and you own a company.  Not that it will be easy or that you will be universally loved or respected for it.  Just sayin', money=choice.

If you are one of those career women who wants to go into politics, you had better have children, and be prepared at all times to talk about (1) how important being a good mother is to you and how you have always arranged your schedule to be there for your children when they need you and (2) how having children will in no way ever impact on your ability to function as [fill in public office here] in even the slightest manner.

I think that mostly covers it.  Good luck!  Anyone with additional advice on how to be a woman with children, please leave a note in the comments!

Share

11 responses so far

Things I Found Ponderable: #scio12 Report the Second

Gather round, Zuskateers, and you shall hear the tale of Clang!2 - White Privilege.

If you will recall, in Report the First, Zuska looked deep inside her own brain and found a squirming pile of sexist maggots gnawing away at her will to transform the world.  Report the second is just as unlovely!  So grab your popcorn and let's get started!

Many of you Zuskateers know that some years back I had a stroke caused by a migraine, and that the stroke made my migraines much, much worse - so severe and frequent that I had to quit working.  You may not also know that I lost nearly all my vision at the time of the stroke.  It gradually returned over a period of several months, but I did not get it all back.  I was left with a blind spot in the upper right quadrant of my visual field. It's not a black spot in my vision.  If I really pay attention, I can see that the area of the blind spot seems to have been rubbed or erased out.  But most of the time I don't even see the blind spot.  It's as if my brain takes everything it sees around the hole that is the blind spot, knits it together to patch up the whole, and tells the rest of me, "Okay, no problem here.  What you are seeing is all there is to see."  Oliver Sacks has written about this phenomenon in an essay titled "Scotoma: Forgetting and Neglect in Science".  (It's in a hard to find book called Hidden Histories of Science that is worth seeking out.)

My blind spot is a case of my brain not letting me know what I don't know, and I have to actively work around this to get the information I need, properly interpret the world, and keep myself safe.  Signs are sometimes hard for me to read because I don't get all the information at once, my brain can't make sense of it, and is too stupid to imagine that there might be something I'm missing.  Same thing when I'm reading the paper - I get to the end of a column and think "that story ended oddly".  Then I move my head and see there's an upper right part of the page - oh look! more story!  Finding things on the computer screen can be a nightmare.  I work hard to pay attention because I know I'm missing stuff, but it is exhausting, and sometimes I just quit.  I watch tv knowing I'm seeing about 3/4 of the picture but so what.  It'll do.

I tell you all this because my scotoma is the perfect metaphor for Clang!2.

Continue Reading »

Share

23 responses so far

Things I Found Ponderable: #scio12 Report the First

Once in New Orleans I went on a late night walking ghost tour.  The ghost stories, the architectural beauty, the historical tidbits have all mostly vanished from my brain, but one bit of the tour stays ever with me.  A careless tourmate paying little attention to the terrain ahead ran smack clang! into the metal upright of a street sign.  His head hit so hard it sounded like a rung bell; he bounced backward, the pole shook.   We stopped, startled and hushed. As terribly as it must have hurt, out of embarrassment he waved us off as though it was nothing and resumed walking.

I've often wondered how I would respond if/when I slammed my own head into an upright metal pole.  Now I have my chance!  Metaphorically speaking.  This post is part of my attempt to not just resume walking as if nothing had happened.

I had two metal-pole-to-the-head moments at SciO12.  The first came right away. No one saw me run into this particular street sign, but rather than just resume walking, I thought it would be better to share the story.  It was at the keynote address Thursday morning: The Vain Girl's Survival Guide to Science and the Media given by Mireya MayorIf you read the page of notes I took from her talk, you would get the sense that I experienced it in a very positive way, enjoyed it, maybe even found it inspiring and found some useful ideas in it.  All of which is true. At the same time, however, I was having an appalling out-of-body sort of experience, listening to an ongoing monologue in my head, wondering "who is this sexist asshole and how did she get inside my brain?"

At first I was conscious only of having a very negative reaction to Mayor.  This felt bizarre, since I knew absolutely nothing about her. Long ago a wise woman told me, "when you find something that makes you angry, upset, or disgusted, move toward it instead of away. Try to figure out why you feel that way.  You may learn something about yourself."  So I attended to the incoherent thoughts in my brain, to puzzle out this negative reaction.  Here is the ugliness I unraveled as Mayor spoke.

Continue Reading »

Share

127 responses so far

Humorless Feminazis Everywhere!

Regular Zuskateers know that I am a humorless, hairy-legged feminazi.  Day in, day out, my grim outlook never wavers. I devote myself to the serious pursuit of feminism, which is no joking matter.

Thus, you can imagine how my little feminazi heart beat just a little faster, how the hairs on my legs stood up all a-quiver from the tops of my thighs all the way down to my Doc Martens, when I read these two posts last weekend:  Scicurious on Are men really funnier than women? Who's asking? and Stephanie Zvan on Humor Study is Funny Peculiar.   Sci and Stephanie together were discussing Greengross & Miller's paper "Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males" Intelligence, 2011.

I absolutely refuse to admit that anything is higher in males, not even cholesterol, and fortunately Sci and Stephanie were able to shoot this paper full of holes.  Feminazism is spreading all over the internets!  I do think, however, they could have been a little bit more serious and angry in their posts, maybe shouted a few revolutionary slogans and given some press to the Wimmin's Front of Scienceblogging, which, as you know, is vastly superior to the Scienceblogging Popular Wimmin's Front.

Also:  Congrats to Stephanie on moving Almost Diamonds to Freethought Blogs!!!!!

Share

14 responses so far

Taking Another Look at the Cheerleader Thing - Literally

Call me Zuska. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on t.v., I thought I would surf the web a little and see the bloggy part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever those apologists for the oppressor get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically puking on peoples' shoes - then, I account it high time to get to the blogosphere as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the posts and comment threads. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all hairy-legged feminazis in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the blogosphere with me.

 

I went off all whiny and screechy about SciCheer in this post.  But hey, if it’s inspiring, can it be wrong?

Yes, you idiot.  If the young girls are “inspired” by the cheerleaders now, why not move on to pole dancers?  That takes some serious upper body strength! And you can earn money pole dancing to pay for your college tuition!  Work nights and weekends, it won’t interfere with classes!  Let us be inspired by the heartwarming tales of pole dancers, in costume, encouraging the wee ones to go into science. They could talk about physiology! And physics! It would be awesome.

I understand that it is fashionable to claim that things like cheerleading and showing off one’s fabulous tits in tight clothing are empowerful for the young girls today.  This is a steaming crock of bullshit. When they are yelling "show yer tits!" this week in Nawlins and tossing beads at the compliant minxes, they are are not thinking "how empowered these young women are today!  so in control of their own sexuality!"  They are thinking "fuck yeah, I got that bitch to show me her tits for some plastic beads!" And don't go spitting that sex positive bla bla at me.  I love me some sex as much as the next person.  What I don't love is seeing women's sexuality debased and exploited, and I especially don't love seeing it done in the spurious name of recruiting young girls into science.

The vast majority of men, when pondering cheerleaders, think of one thing:  fucking. There’s a chain of “gentlemen’s clubs” in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that goes by the name of Cheerleaders.  Let’s compare.  SciCheer or Cheerleader's Club?  You make the call!

Continue Reading »

Share

15 responses so far

Blame Jonah Lehrer for this SciCheer Screed

It’s no secret I am not a fan of SciCheer.  At the very best, it is eight blocks back from the beachfront, and I’m not even sure I’d grant it that.  But let’s face it:  women have been sold a pack of lies about their true worth.  They have been systematically taught to value themselves with the currency of society, and that currency is: the attention of men.  It just so happens that at this historical moment in the U.S. of A., SexxayHawt is what will get you a gazillionaire’s worth of attention, at least for a moment or two, until the next SexxayHawt-er comes along. Given this, it is unsurprising that some women would think whatever modicum of success they’ve had at the SexxayHawt Olympics should be used for good! not understanding that SexxayHawt is a sword which cannot be beaten into a plowshare. It’s like Project Orion’s long-ago dream of powering rockets into space with mini-nuclear bombs. Yay! except for that unfortunate nuclear fallout side effect.

Jonah Lehrer, in a post called The Scientific Gender Gap, describes the effects of stereotype threat in his convincing and compelling prose.  He ends with this bit about a

...2002 study led by the psychologist Paul Davies [in which] two groups of male and female undergrads were shown three minutes of television commercials. Students in the first group were shown a variety of “gender stereotyping” ads, such as a woman gleefully touting the benefits of a skin product, or a “slender female” talking about the deliciousness of diet soda. (All of the ads were real.) Students in the second group, in contrast, were shown a mix of gender-neutral ads, such as a pitch for an insurance company and a commercial about cell-phones. Then, the women were quizzed about their interest in pursuing a career in math or science. Once again, the results were depressingly clear: Women exposed to the gender stereotyping ads were far less interested in anything quantitative. Instead, they were more than twice as likely to choose careers in the verbal and service industry, such as retail, sales and communication. The pattern was reversed, however, in the women who saw neutral ads. They were actually more interested in pursuing quantitative careers. All it took was the absence of a blatant stereotype to increase their interest in math.

Well whaddya know.  I think cheerleaders fall under the blatant stereotype category.

Jonah thinks the cure is more female math teachers, but he didn’t say anything about their dress. The study by Davies doesn’t examine the situation of women exposed to gender-stereotyped-women promoting careers in science. But really - dressing women up as gender stereotypes and sending them out to tell young girls to pursue STEM careers – this will help those young girls overcome stereotype threat about STEM careers?  I mean, REALLY?  The mere presence of the cheerleader trope is more likely to evoke stereotype threat than to overcome it.

We already know, from the voluminous research literature on K-12 outreach programs that young girls like to hear stories about what scientists and engineers do outside of work.  Involvement in cheerleading may be one activity that helps to make a scientist seem more like a regular person to a young girl. But young girls also need to see the scientists and engineers doing or performing some aspect of their career – something they can aspire to.  Every message they already get everywhere they turn in society asks them to be, tells them they need to be, SexxayHawt when they grow up.  STEM recruitment that says you can be SexxayHawt! and do some science, too does a disservice to young girls, and in the end is neither revolutionary nor even particularly fresh.

STEM recruitment should send the message that STEM careers are a place where mind matters. If STEM outreach programs are talking about physical appearance at all, then it should be positive body image messages about accepting ourselves just the way we are, rejecting the culture of SexxayHawt, and not finding our value in how others look at us.

Share

9 responses so far

But I Want To Earn Everything All On My Own Merits! #scio11

At SciO11, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Anne Jefferson, Joanne Manaster, and Kathryn Clancy did a great session titled "Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name".  (See summary here.) The discussion ranged over a lot of topics, and near the end, someone in the audience said "I don't want to get a [job/fellowship/grant/whatever] because of affirmative action, I want to get it on my own merits." I said, why do you imagine that the dudes getting those jobs now all got them all on their own merits?

Not that they aren't qualified, but do you imagine they had no help along the way, that there was no one pulling levers for them, no one setting them up, no one greasing the wheels for them, no one opening doors and helping them glide along? Why do we imagine everyone else who gets stuff got there all by their lonesome with no assistance from anyone else? I don't even know what the fuck it means to get somewhere all on your own merits. You can't even learn to wipe your own ass all on your own merits.

UPDATE:  Hermitage's post on this same topic is tremendously awesome and full of much wisdom.  Please read.

Share

32 responses so far

Older posts »