Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fundraising Day Four. On Fox News As The Alternative To Me.

You got yesterday off from my whining!  And tomorrow is the last day.  Thanks for your contributions to this blog.  Not only the financial ones!

My arm is still broken, but it doesn't hurt much.  I will find out tomorrow what happens next.

Staccato writing...  That and conciseness are my trademarks, together with a measly vocabulary.

I was going to write about The Endangered White Guys Television which is Fox News.  Even their woman-dominated program is called Outnumbered!  But instead of a long rumination on that topic, let me just quote from Media Matters for America:

Fox's Tantaros: "The Last Acceptable Form Of Discrimination In This Country Is Against White Men"

Fox Host To Actresses Suffering Pay Discrimination: "Be Grateful" You Get To Star Alongside Famous Men

Andrea Tantaros: "I Do Think There's Different Wiring Between Men And Women, Where Women May Want To Go Have Kids And Stay At Home"

Fox Business' Gasparino: "Overt Feminization Of Our Culture" Has Created A Situation Where "Men Are Becoming Women"

And that's just in the last ten days or so!  I could go on for a long time about the illogicality of being "wired" to stay at home (what happened to those nomadic hunter-gatherers who evolutionary psychologists believe were the group for all that wiring?  or are we back in the 1970s cave-wife cartoons?) and the awkward juxtapositioning of "natural" sex roles with the idea that men are now becoming women (heh).

See what you get if you don't support this blog?


Is trending on Twitter.  It's about the Black Lives Matter movement, only this time about Black Women's and Girls' Lives mattering.  The overall context is complex, having to do with the lost childhoods of black girls, racist versions of sexism and sexist versions of racism, income inequality, wings cut short before the time to fly and much more.

But it is also about the way the police treats black women and about the way that treatment doesn't quite produce the same protests as similar outrages experienced by black men.

I don't have statistical data on the gender distribution of those who are killed by the police, or the underlying data on contacts with the police by men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, but even if men die more frequently in the hands of the police, it still looks like their individual cases get more coverage and more protests.  For example:

It is clear that #BlackLivesMatter struggles to generate as much concern for the safety and welfare of black women as it does for black men. The death of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax County jail is a case in point.

McKenna, who suffered from mental illness, was shocked four times with a Taser stun gun by a sheriff’s deputy. She was in coma for several days before she died. A “Students March for Natasha McKenna” was supposed to have been held earlier in May to protest her death, which was ruled accidental. But the march has been postponed because of a lack of participation.
A meeting to discuss ways to drum up more interest in the march was scheduled for Tuesday in Fairfax City. More than 300 were invited on Facebook. Only 35 have confirmed, with 26 saying maybe.

We must do better.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Today's Research Popularization Fail

Several summaries of a study about online dating attracted my beady eyes recently.  The study, supposedly telling us that more groomed dating photographs  affect heterosexual men and women differently, looked useful grist for my mill.  For instance:

Researchers at the University of Connecticut conducted an experiment to determine how people judged each other based on their online dating profile photos. They presented 671 volunteers with a single photo that was either casual or enhanced and of a man or a woman. Researchers reported that men were less likely to trust women who posted an "enhanced" photo with good angles, good lighting and make-up.
But that didn't stop the men wanting to date those women anyway, said lead study author Rory McGloin, a communications professor at UConn.
"They thought she was more attractive, they wanted to go on a date with her ... but they didn't trust her," McGloin said.

On the flip side, women found men with enhanced photos to be more trustworthy, according to their findings, which is set to be presented at the International Communication Association annual conference later this month.
Bolds are mine, and they are very important bolds.

Suppose that I tell you my research shows that hats created from aluminum foil really do keep Fox News from corrupting your brain.  Suppose that I tell you I tested this with hundreds of individuals.  But nope, you CANNOT see the research paper, even though all you have is my word about the results!  After all, I'm going to read it aloud to some colleagues in a few weeks!

I'm not accusing the researchers of making anything up.  But to popularize a paper which nobody can get hold of is extremely bad manners.  Even unethical, because of this:

Let's say that some paper popularized this way turns out to be utter rubbish (such as my tinfoil study).  When the criticisms come in, the popularizers are no longer at all interested in correcting their earlier messages, so readers are left believing in lies.  Here's one example of a retracted study which was widely popularized, but its retraction got no publicity.  More examples here.

For the sake of completeness I should mention that I asked Mr. McGloin for the paper by e-mail.  That was ten days ago, but if I get his answer I will write more about online dating and mating.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fundraising Day Two. Flat Heels, Ties Or Codpieces?

I bet you wonder if this begging thing ends soon...  I'm using the donations to partially gauge readership etc., to learn if I should go on or not.  That's today's knot to unravel.

The instructions for giving are in the left column.

The rest of the title has to do with this story:

The Cannes Film Festival is reportedly not allowing women into screenings if they’re wearing flat shoes. I’m not sure I could’ve come up with a better metaphor for sexism in the film industry if I was really, really trying. If you wrote this into a novel about sexism in the film industry, it would seem heavy-handed. “Too much,” your editor would say. “Tone it down.”
Flatgate erupted on Twitter this week after several women were apparently turned away from a red carpet screening of Cate Blanchett’s new movie Carol because they were in the demon flats.

So I lean back and ask if this is any different from men having to wear ties (does the Cannes Film Festival require that?) or visible codpieces, perhaps with tassels (that could be fun)?

The main difference is that high heels have possibly serious health consequences for their wearers (you could even fall and break your humerus!  though I fell barefooted), and unless ties are so tight as to strangle the wearer, my other examples do not.  And the rule, if real, discriminates against women who already have health problems which make heels impossible to wear.
Added later:  Three guys plan to wear high heels in solidarity.

The Regrets Of History. By David Brooks.

Brooks' newest column is on the inexplicable and illogical Bush decision to invade Iraq, because of bin Laden who was known not to be there and because of oil, naturally.  If we believe Brooks, history is HARD to learn:

Which brings us to Iraq. From the current vantage point, the decision to go to war was a clear misjudgment, made by President George W. Bush and supported by 72 percent of the American public who were polled at the time. I supported it, too.
What can be learned?


The Iraq war error reminds us of the need for epistemological modesty. We don’t know much about the world, and much of our information is wrong. A successful president has to make decisions while radiating hesitancy, staying open-minded in the face of new evidence, not falling into the traps that afflict those who possess excessive self-confidence.

Time to tear out whatever hair we might have left.  The whole fiasco was a fiasco, decisions made by politicians who acted like they had never read about the history of Iraq, the arbitrary nature of the country, the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds.  For goddess' sake, Bush sent out freshly-hatched AynRandians to build Free Markets there!

As I said (repeatedly), it was a fiasco, and nothing Brooks wrote makes it any less so.  It's NOT the case that those in power can just make up policy as they go (well, it worked in Russia..).  That's a high school student essay level work.  And no, it doesn't make any difference if the majority of Americans supported the invasion, because they were not the experts who needed to be heard.

Then Brooks, the eternal optimistic preacher, tells us that the farce, the fiasco, was at least a partial success.  Ask what people fleeing Ramadi think of that!  Sadly, you can't ask the opinions of all those who died because of the invasion.

ISIS would probably exist even in the absence of the Bush invasion, because its real breeding grounds were in Syria. But surely the American invasion and the removal of Sunnis from power prepared the fields in Iraq for its seeds of religious fanaticism, cruelty, slavery and extreme Saudi-type patriarchy, the harvest to be watered with blood.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fundraising Day One. The Price Is Right.

I traveled a bit last week, surfing through living-rooms where Fox News provides the only reality one can trust and the only '"news" one can rely on.  Frightening experiences!  The world looks very different when half the news on other channels are missing and the remaining ones are blown out of all proportion.

But on television I was really affected by this show:  The Price Is Right. 

To participate in it you have to suffer from St. Vitus Dance whenever you see a waffle-iron or a toaster.  Or move by making only rabbit jumps and squeal a lot.  It's a quiz show, and the attraction to the viewers just might be how silly people can be made to act for some money.

Or perhaps not, and now I feel mean and heartless. But surely better programs are affordable in a country which spends enormous sums on its military?  Now I can't help thinking of the US military being governed by squealing and jumping generals.

Speaking of money, the official fundraising for this blog has begun.  Thanks to all who already gave and thanks to all whom I'm mesmerizing here to give.  As always, don't feel bad if you can't give.  I value all my readers.

Friday, May 15, 2015

An Oldie But Goodie: Why Would Walmart Hire Any Men If Women Are Cheaper And Equally Productive?

This is the "aha! got you there!" argument I often hear from those who believe that firms couldn't possibly discriminate AND remain profitable.  After all, a firm which could save on its labor costs by not discriminating would make higher profits, right?

The shadow side of that argument is naturally the assumption that women are worse workers and deserve lower pay.

A response to all this can be found in this post.

It's worth reading if you often engage with people making the above argument.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Convict the Perpetrator. On True And False Rape Accusations

Anti-feminists and MRAs frequently write about the fear of false rape accusations, the idea that a man's life can be ruined just on some woman's say-so.

Those  stories and Twitter messages see false rape accusations as a giant problem, perhaps amounting to half of all accusations!  That the best studies suggest rates much, much lower* doesn't make the smallest dent to the edifice of "known knowns" created in that alternative reality of manosphere,** because outside information is ignored there.

Given all that, I found this story about a sexual assault conviction fascinating:

Baltimore jury convicted a man Friday who had been acquitted in four previous sexual assault trials, a win for prosecutors who revived the discarded case in a bid to secure an elusive conviction.

Nelson Bernard Clifford, a convicted sex offender, was found guilty of two counts of third-degree sex offense. While the counts individually carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, prosecutors say Clifford faces an enhanced penalty — up to life in prison — because of prior convictions.

Prosecutors said that on Sept. 30, 2007, Clifford broke into a woman's home in the Barclay neighborhood, tied her hands with a belt and sexually assaulted her. Clifford also was found guilty of theft for stealing the victim's laptop and $45, prosecutors said.

Bolds are mine.  Get it?  This is the gist:

Clifford had gone to trial four times since 2010. In each case, the women said he broke into their homes and bound and attacked them. Each time, he took the stand and claimed that the encounters were consensual, and was acquitted of the most serious charges.

If this "perfect" type of sexual assault by a stranger  has such a hard time getting convictions,  what are the chances in cases where the victim knew the perpetrator? 

The specific reason why the legal system favored Clifford seems to be the inadmissibility of prior evidence in Maryland:

Prosecutors were dealt a setback before the most recent case, after trying to enjoin it with another to show a pattern. Clifford allegedly attacked a woman and stole her phone, which was left behind at the scene of a second attack four days later. But Chief Judge Alfred J. Nance ruled the cases be tried separately. On the witness stand, Clifford acknowledged leaving the phone behind, but jurors had no idea it was stolen from another alleged victim.

What makes this example crucial in the false-accusations context is this: Based on the way MRAs use the concept the three women who lost their cases against Clifford would have been counted among those falsely accusing someone of sexual assault.  After all, the court found for Clifford in each case.


*  The best estimates are between 2% and 8% of all rape accusations. 

**  And fascinating theories about the reasons why men should be the revered bosses of women, both viewed as classes.  For instance, I recently read that women should make sandwiches to men, because men built the cities (and presumably gave them freely to those women who made them sandwiches), and it takes a lot of sandwiches to build a city.

That's a good example of the nuttier manosphere arguments.  Note the view of all men as builders of cities, the view of women's contributions to civilizations as zero, the omission of who built the men themselves and so on.

It's in the same family as arguments that all women should make all men sandwiches because certain men died in the wars.  It's not the dead warriors who deserve the sandwiches, but anyone with the same y-chromosome.

Then never mind that women have been banned from the military, in the past had little say over whether countries would go to war or not,  and still face sexual harassment in construction jobs.

But none of that matters, because the point of those arguments is not gender equality but the perpetuation of male supremacy.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Conservative War Against Teachers. Or How To Shoot At Your Own Foot.

US conservatives have an odd schizophrenic angle to the power of markets:  They are all-important (godlike, even), and must not be meddled with in finance, for instance, but when it comes to teaching professions those same markets can be totally ignored.  Indeed, the conservatives like a command economy there, as in "We command, teachers obey."

The point I've made before is that conservatives shouldn't completely ignore markets in their attempts to behead the political power of all teachers' unions.

To give you an example, cutting back on teachers' retirement benefits means cutting back on their total compensation packages.  In Chicago, for instance:

The district, which says it is wrestling with a $1.1 billion deficit weighted with pension payments, wants to save millions of dollars by having teachers pay more into their pension fund. The district wants to end a long-standing agreement that limits teacher paycheck deductions for pensions, the union said.

That CTU said the result would be a 7 percent cut in take-home pay for members. The union also says health care premiums could take another 3 percent under a district proposal.

What do you think a seven-percent compensation cut would mean for the supply of new teachers?  Remember that they must invest in a college degree which is not getting cheaper, even as the financial pay in the occupation declines.

Here's the answer:

The number of students interested in becoming educators continues to drop significantly—From 2010 to 2014, the number of ACT-tested high school graduates interested in education majors or professions decreased by more than 16%, while the number of all graduates who took the ACT increased by nearly 18%.
Those who express interest in teaching tend to score lower in all areas except English than those who express no such interest.

This is another case of short-sighted politically motivated dinners where the politicians happily eat the seed corn to make sure that the Democrats don't get today's bread.

The topic matters for women's employment.  Traditionally*, teaching has been one of the few areas which has allowed an easier combination of childcare duties with paid work (getting home at the same time as the kids, being at home during their vacations).  The lower pay, compared to other jobs which have similar college investment requirements, has been acceptable because of that flexibility.  But if the pay keeps going down further we will see a drop in the supply of teachers and the quality of the incoming teachers.

*In the bad-old days US women had three somewhat wide job paths into middle class earnings.  They were teaching, social work and being a secretary.  See what is happening to teaching, then read what is happening to secretarial jobs, and the importance of opening the IT jobs to more women looks pretty clear.