In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Brave college newspaper columnist reserves his right to yell, “I’m not gay”

We really do need an “Entitled idiot douchebag college newspaper columnist” category.

The latest, sent on by Doug, is written by Virginia student Alex Cortes. Cortes finds it extremely important to emphasize how he is not gay, and therefore wants the right to scream out his not-gayness at Virgina football games. The background is this: At the games, fans sing theGood Ole Song” after every touchdown. The song contains the line “We come from old Virginia/Where all is bright and gay.” Sometime in the last 10 or 20 years, people began adding the line ” . . . but not TOO gay” at the end. An LGBT group started a campaign to get people to stop chanting the extra line. No big deal, right? Well, to Alex Cortes, this is a major affront to his religious liberty (yes, this young man somehow got himself into college; no, I don’t understand how). He writes:

The “not gay” chant has been completely written off on Grounds. Some call it a drunken joke while others refer to its adherents as homophobes. Unfortunately, in doing so, this University has completely disregarded the religiously and politically-minded like myself who say the chant out of disgust for the gay lifestyle and support for our natural heterosexuality given to us by God.

Not surprisingly, the chant’s opponents found it much easier to write us off as drunks and homophobes then address our intellectual concerns.

See, using the term “intellectual concerns” implies that you actually have, you know, intellectual concerns. Which, as the rest of the article makes clear, you don’t.

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International Day of Action Against the Northern Territory Intervention

Via Laurelhel and BFP, today is the International Day of Action Against the Northern Territory Intervention. The Northern Territory is a territory in Australia that is sparsely populated and largely made up by Aboriginal people, whose ancestors were the original inhabitants of Australia and the victims of white colonization.

The Day of Action is based around a hugely racist and imperialistic “intervention” on behalf of the Australian government in Aboriginal communities, purportedly designed to combat child abuse, but instead resulting in gross human rights violations.

I wouldn’t expect most people who have not lived in Australia to be familiar with the history of Australian Aboriginals — many Australians themselves aren’t, and though I lived there three years I’m not nearly as knowledgeable as I should be. But I have put together a very brief, very simplified overview of the negative “highlights,” because the current actions cannot be divorced from historical oppression. I invite anyone who is more knowledgeable to fill in the blanks and, though I have taken care with accuracy, to correct me if and where I am wrong.

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Sex shouldn’t matter in politics. Let’s all be gender-blind!

Here’s what happens when USA Today tries to write from a feminist point of view: you end up with a headache.

Women are more kind and nurturing than men. They are natural altruists, placing the common good — including education, health and the environment — ahead of their narrow personal interests. And that’s why we need a woman president. Right?

Wrong. We don’t need a female president, any more than we need a male one. Instead, we need to jettison the gender stereotypes that block half the population — the female half, that is — from participating equally in our politics.

Oh boy.

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Not without my coffee

prague_coffee1.jpg

Tim Hanford at Slate reports on a study of coffee shops by an economist, Caitlin Knowles Myers, which found that women waited, on average, 20 seconds more between placing their order and receiving their coffee than did men, which held even after adjusting for the complicatedness of the drink:

She, with her students as research assistants, staked out eight coffee shops (PDF) in the Boston area and watched how long it took men and women to be served. Her conclusion: Men get their coffee 20 seconds earlier than do women. (There is also evidence that blacks wait longer than whites, the young wait longer than the old, and the ugly wait longer than the beautiful. But these effects are statistically not as persuasive.)

Perhaps, says the skeptic, this is because women order froufrou drinks? Up to a point. The researchers found that men are more likely to order simpler drinks. Yet comparing fancy-drink-ordering men with fancy-drink-ordering women, the longer wait for women remained.

And, rather interestingly, the wait was affected by other factors as well:

It is also hard to attribute the following finding to a female preference for wet-skinny-soy-macchiato with low-carb marshmallows: The delays facing women were larger when the coffee shop staff was all-male and almost vanished when the servers were all-female.

It is not clear whether women were held up by male staff because the men viewed them with contempt or because the male staff members were flirting furiously. The “contempt” explanation seems more likely, as the extra time that women have to wait seems to increase when the coffee shop is busy. Who would take extra time out to flirt just when the lines are longer?

Don’t think 20 seconds is a long time? Plunge your hand in ice water and wait for 20 seconds. You’ll think differently then. And this is just one aspect of one’s day — if this kind of discrimination occurs not just in coffee shops but in every kind of service environment, then women are losing time relative to men throughout the course of an average day. And 20 seconds here, 20 seconds there can add up, especially when that 20 seconds makes you miss your train.

But Zuzu, you say, isn’t this just another example of you feminists (you and your ouija uterus in particular) just cherry-picking the research you’ll be skeptical about or support? Aren’t you just being hysterical rather than logical?

Well, no. Most of the real bullshit studies we debunk here are based on evo psych. This one is observational and draws no conclusions about why slow service was important on the savannah. And it’s particularly interesting from an economic perspective, because discrimination on the basis of non-economic factors is largely* irrational, particuarly in a highly-competitive industry like coffeeshops. Indeed, Harford observes that the more competitive a market is, the less discrimination there tends to be. So why are coffeeshops anomalous?

Well, could be they’re not anomalous, or that they’re not so competitive that the discrimination is zeroed out. Could be that things are much better than they used to be, even if they’re not completely equal yet, which means that this study might motivate some companies to improve their service.

I have to say, though, that in an otherwise good article, Harford really struck a sour note with the way he wrapped up his piece:

But an alternative explanation is that the market is still working on the problem. Over time, we’ve moved from gentlemen’s clubs to male-dominated pubs to coffee shops, which are far more female-friendly. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before some entrepreneur decides to set up a big chain of coffee shops with “no men allowed” on the door.

Right. Because the answer to smallish but measurable irrational discrimination in economic markets in favor of one group of people is complete discrimination in favor of the other group. That’s what we call a false binary there, Tim.

H/T: Kat.

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* Sometimes, it’s not entirely irrational, such as when you have a fashion-conscious brand and you want to be sure to sell to the right customers. So a high-priced salon may take your money if you’re a schlump, but they’re not going to make you feel like you want to come back because you’re not necessarily going to be the best advertisement for their product and attract the kind of customers they want. Of course, sometimes that strategy just ends up with the company shooting itself in the foot, alienating a potentially lucrative and mostly untapped market segment even as their share of the highly-competitive slice of their preferred market stagnates or shrinks.

Mind you, some people are completely in favor of discrimination and against the “PC tyranny” of anti-discrimination laws, because, goddamnit, a man should be able to run his business as he sees fit!

Are women’s rights human rights?

One immigration court says no.

When Alima Traore was a young girl in Mali, parts of her genitalia were cut off, which is the custom there.

“In my country, usually there is an old lady who does circumcision,” said Ms. Traore, who is 28, lives in Maryland and works as a cashier. “They have a small knife that they cut the intimate parts with. It is very atrocious.”

In September, the Board of Immigration Appeals rejected Ms. Traore’s plea for asylum and ordered her sent back to Mali. It ruled that she did not face persecution there, because the cutting, while “reprehensible,” could not be repeated. “The loss of a limb also gives rise to enduring harm,” the board said, but it would not be a good enough reason to grant asylum.

The board also said that Ms. Traore’s fear that any daughters she might have would be subjected to similar barbarity was of no moment. Nor did it matter that Ms. Traore’s father has said he will force her to marry a first cousin — his sister’s son.

The woman had parts of her genitals cut off, is being forced into marriage, fears her daughter will also be forced to undergo genital cutting, and will face serious consequences if she refuses forced marriage — but that isn’t enough to justify an asylum claim, because there isn’t a “risk of identical future persecution” (the full decision can be found here). I’m with Bonnie Goldstein:

In this latest case, however, the board stubbornly reasserted its earlier interpretation and rejected the higher court’s reasoning. It also took a hard line against Ms. Traore’s secondary plea that if returned to her village, she will be forced into marriage with her first cousin. “It is understandable that … an educated young woman would prefer to choose her own spouse rather than acquiesce to pressure from her family to marry someone she does not love and with whom she expects to be unhappy” (Page 5), the board concluded. But “we do not see how the reluctant acceptance of family tradition over personal preference can form the basis for a witholding of removal claim” (Pages 5 and 6). Nor could Ms. Traore prove, the board said, that her father, who stated in a letter that she must enter the arranged marriage “to uphold the reputation of our family” (Page 6), would take severe action if the wedding failed to occur. The board’s basis for believing this was that Ms. Traore’s father did not spell out what the anticipated punishment would be. Score another victory for traditional family values.

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Want to live a longer life? Don’t be pregnant in America

Sarah Blustein’s got the reasons why, especially if you’re a woman of color:

Good news! if you are an ordinary mortal living in the United States, your chances of staying alive are better than ever. According to new government numbers, the rate of Americans dying in 2004 (the most recent year to be calculated) hit a record low, while life expectancy — for blacks and whites, men and women — hit a record high. Men were closing their historic life-expectancy gap with women, and African Americans were closing their life-expectancy gap with whites. Even the babies were doing well: The infant mortality rate dropped, too.

Sadly, however, if you are a pregnant mortal living in the United States today, your chances of dying appear to be greater than ever. Yes, the total number of women who die in childbirth in America is low. But according to the Centers for Disease Control’s new “National Vital Statistics Report,” the number of women dying in or around childbirth has risen — putting the United States behind some unsurprising countries, like Switzerland and Sweden, and some surprising ones, like Serbia and Macedonia, Qatar and Kuwait, in its rate of maternal mortality. In rankings calculated on 2000 numbers, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the United States at No. 29 on the list, even though, according to the most recent statistics, there is only one country, Tuvalu, that spends more on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United States.

Be sure to read the rest.

The US healthcare system is irrevocably broken. There’s no reason at all that the maternal mortality rate should be so high in a country with world-class healthcare facilities, except for the fact that we don’t have world-class access.

I knew people in my very first job, where few people made over $30,000, and only because they’d been hired away from union papers, where pregnancy and birth care wasn’t covered because the pregnant woman’s husband had been hired after she’d become pregnant and it was considered a pre-existing condition. And that was in 1990; it’s much worse since then.

Even I don’t have health insurance ATM, and I make somewhat more than the Frosts, with no kids. But I have student loans, and a mortgage, and unless you work for the kind of law firm that I turned my back on long ago, you’re not going to make a hell of a lot. I also have no dependents to consider taking a gamble on; the only person’s health I’m taking a chance on is my own. But I’ve priced health insurance in the private market, and thanked my lucky stars that I qualify for a couple of different group plans. If I could spare the cash. And I’m only getting it for myself.

Via Bean, who’s got some more information on a ruling which struck down an injunction against getting pregnant again as a condition for a homeless couple to regain custody of their children.

Those gossipy female prison guards

Give me a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Okay, ready now. The State of New York’s Department of Correctional Services has, as the result of a lawsuit, stopped distributing a handbook to its female employees that made it very, very clear that the powers that be weren’t very happy about women working their turf:

The state Department of Correctional Services is no longer distributing or using a handbook that told its female officers to not gossip at work, be too bossy at home or swear to “be one of the boys.”

That handbook, which had been given to officers who graduated from the training academy for more than 20 years, was featured recently in an article in The Post-Standard.

Women were encouraged to play tennis or eat ice cream on their days off to relieve stress and to not dress for work as if they were going to a nightclub or beach.

Department officials had been reviewing policies, as well as the handbook, in recent months. In light of publicity about the handbook, “Whatever speed it was being done at before is being sped up,” said Erik Kriss, public information director for the department.

“We decided to update or possibly discontinue it, but in the meantime decided the best thing to do is not use it for the moment,” Kriss said of the handbook.

No such handbook exists for male officers, who outnumber female officers by about 10 to 1.

The book had sections on catcalls and wolf whistles, discouraged women from being flirtatious on the job and encouraged them to seek out other women’s advice in child-rearing.

The best thing to do is not to use it “for the moment”?

How about, it was a stupid thing to distribute in the first place!

The department claims that it received only one complaint about the handbook, and that only recently (a claim disputed by the plaintiff in a sex-discrimination suit, who submitted the handbook as evidence of disparate treatment). Corrections departments are not the most forward-thinking of places, but you’d think that someone, somehow, in 20 years, might have cottoned to the idea that telling your female employees — and only your female employees — that they’re untrustworthy, gossipy airheads who can’t be trusted to put on a standard uniform and need to be told to eat ice cream and ask other women for child-rearing advice just might be a wee bit sexist.

Via.