Friday, December 16, 2011

Today's Quote

It's actually a few days old:
Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America's top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.
America's highest paid executive took home more than $145.2m, and as stock prices recovered across the board, the median value of bosses' profits on stock options rose 70% in 2010, from $950,400 to $1.3m. The news comes against the backdrop of an Occupy Wall Street movement that has focused Washington's attention on the pay packages of America's highest paid.
This is probably because those CEOs are the only Americans willing to work very very hard. Or perhaps they are such rare geniuses that they can command any price they wish in that mythical free market for executive talents?

What other wingnut explanations could one find? That these are the job-providers and deserve to be paid for it, whether jobs are forthcoming or not?

Being A Dude Is Hard

Are you familiar with the Good Men Project? I wasn't until one particular post on the website got some publicity. Its title is "Being A Dude Is A Good Thing." That made my hair crawl a bit because its obvious corollary would be "Being A Non-Dude Is Not A Good Thing." Though of course I know that it is not intended to be that way. But still: I never go around muttering to myself "Being A Goddess Is A Good Thing."

The real reason for that title seems to be that the writer of the post believes men are blamed for everything (and, as an obvious corollary, women are blamed for nothing):
As the founder of the Good Men Project, I am the butt of my share of jokes. Guys in high places love to take pot shots at me, laughing at my silly little obsession.


I’ve been doing my own soul-searching during this last week as a series of articles broke out on our site about the end of men, gender war, and whether or not men have made enough progress collectively to be considered “good” (that’s not exactly how others defined it but that’s how I think about the issue underneath it all).
Amidst all this comes the question of blame.
Why do men get blamed for everything? 
Emphasis mine.

It's hard to continue the analysis after that bolded bit, because men, as a class, are not actually blamed for everything.* In some parts of the world men, as a class, are blamed for very little.

Now, I could go on writing about the things women, as a class, are blamed for. But that's not for everything! And still I think it's for many more things than men, as a class, are blamed for, especially if we limit the blame to the class of uppity women**.

The reason for all those italics is that you gotta be careful about generalizing. The writer generalizes to an extreme extent. He also implies that everyone blames men for everything.

Then there's that reference to the end of men. I wrote about that silly article earlier (first post here, second here), but men are not ending so you can stop worrying about that possibility. Even male dominance is not ending. It's very healthy on the global level (Egypt and so on) and even in the US the number of female presidents is still a perfectly round number.

Onwards and downwards. In the blog post, I mean. Here's what has happened and what caused it:
One close friend jokes, “When speaking to my wife I always make sure to look at the ground in deference. And I make sure not to make any sudden movements.” I’ve watched him. He loves his wife.
He’s a very competent human being. But with her he’s decided the only way to survive is to submit. The female view is the right view. The male view just gets you into trouble.
So where does the blame come from?
My unscientific theory is from a fundamental disconnect between men and women at the micro level. Men know women are different. They think differently, they express emotion differently, they are motivated by different things, they think about sex differently, and they use a very different vocabulary.
Why can’t women accept men for who they really are? Is a good man more like a woman or more truly masculine?
There is "the female view" and then "the male view". The individuals are no longer individuals. They are randomly drawn from two boxes, one pink and one blue, and they can't speak the same language! So they speak the female language and the man submits. There is no human language.

Let's see. Individual differences are unimportant and the idea that people do, in fact, communicate across that chasm of gender is unimportant. The ultimate explanation is biological, of the men-are-from-Mars-and-women-from-Venus type. Sadly, the writer never tells us how men really are. Does masculinity mean dominance over women, for instance? I would really like to know.

I'm not criticizing the kind of angst this post reflects. It must be hard to know what the dude rules are, these days. But there's a tremendous problem whenever "masculinity" is defined as "what women are not" because the next stage often means embellishing it with adjectives such as brave, honest, assertive and so on. Then those adjectives become part of "what women are not."

Having said all that, I quite agree that the popular culture representations of men as beer-guzzling idiots are nasty and I also agree that both boys and girls should be encouraged to get as good an education as they can. I have never met a feminist who wouldn't agree with me on these issues.

* The real danger of the Internet sites where like-minded people gather is that shared concerns become validated and reinforced, even when they might not be realistic concerns. This may not matter in many cases, but it does matter when it comes to some hate sites (not referring to the site I link to here).

**Off the top of my hat, women are blamed (by some or by many) for bad mothering outcomes, bad parenting outcomes, working for pay when they should be at home, wasting their human resources if they stay at home with their children, having children just to get on welfare, not being able to negotiate a good salary, not having the drive to succeed, not having the skills needed to do mathematical or technical work, not having enough testosterone to succeed in financial jobs. Some groups blame women (though not usually men) for having sex outside marriage and for not being a strict enough gatekeeper when it comes to sex. Women are also still argued to be ruled by emotions rather than intellect, while men are assumed to be ruled by cold logic only. Feminists have been blamed, by some, for the end of the Western culture, for the death of the white race, for the end of men, for the end of family, for latchkey children, juvenile delinquency, alcoholism among women, the unhappiness of women and on and on and on.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Thursday Fluff Post

Yesterday was all about vulvas and today is all about income inequality. Which just proves that goddesses can multi-task (though there is an ultimate societal belief connection between those topics, oh yes).

I'm thinking of starting a "mean gifts" list for public persons. Just as a joke.

For instance, Martial Arts for Dummies might fit into the president's Christmas stocking, and Mr. Gingrich might consider a chastity belt or two.

This was the custom in my school when I was but a tiny goddess. Each teacher got a book recommendation from us students. It taught us the value of literature and the difficulty of irony and sarcasm as forms of writing.

Income Inequality Revisited

There are days when I'm strongly in the tar-and-pitchforks group of thinkers. Note the word thinkers there. Like all benevolent divinities, I refrain from directing thunder storms and painful boils of the bottom to those who deserve them.

But still. Here is the reaction of one economist to the news that the income share of the top one percent fell from 23% in 2007 to 17% in 2009, largely because so much of the income in that group comes from stock market investments which haven't been doing well during the recession:
“It’s very interesting that this has become such a big topic now when the numbers are back to where they were in the 1990s,” said Steven Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago’s business school. “People didn’t seem to be complaining about it then.”
What's the message in that last sentence? If you let us rob you poor in the past, why complain now? Just kidding.

But picking a particular non-recession year to compare with a recession year is not terribly meaningful, as the linked article points out:
In 2009 the average income of the top 1 percent, adjusted for inflation, fell below its 1998 level, but remained well above where it was in 1990: $662,000. While the protests follow the worst downturn since the Great Depression, inequality has been growing for three decades, driven by economic and political forces. Globalization created larger markets for those with scarce talents but hurt less educated workers by pitting them against cheap foreign labor. New technology also hurt unskilled workers, by replacing many with machines.
Unions declined, eroding blue-collar bargaining power. The financial industry grew, with paydays heavily weighted toward the top. Corporate culture accepted the growing gap between the executive suite and the factory floor.
Falling tax rates on the highest earners added to the net income divide, by allowing top earners to keep more of their pay and increasing their incentive to maximize it.
In the decades after World War II, by contrast, the average income of the top 1 percent grew only marginally faster than inflation and significantly slower than middle-class incomes. That combination caused inequality to decline throughout much of the 1950, ’60s and early ’70s.
As recently as 1980, only about one-tenth of the nation’s pretax income went to the top 1 percent. By 2000, that share had grown to about 22 percent. It slumped to about 18 percent in 2003, after a market crash, only to rebound by 2007 to levels not achieved since the Roaring ’20s.

And what the share of the top one percent is of today's income is not known.

But here's the bit that made me grind my fangs:
Pointing to the recent declines at the top, Mr. Kaplan argues the Occupy protesters have accused the wrong villain by focusing on inequality, which he called an inevitable byproduct of growth. “If you want to reduce inequality, all you need to do is put the economy in a recession,” he said. “If you want the economy to do well, as all of us do, then you’ll get more inequality.”
What does it mean for the "economy to do well" in that statement? Something like this?
About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That's up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.
The new measure of poverty takes into account medical, commuting and other living costs. Doing that helped push the number of people below 200 percent of the poverty level up from 104 million, or 1 in 3 Americans, that was officially reported in September.
Broken down by age, children were most likely to be poor or low-income — about 57 percent — followed by seniors over 65. By race and ethnicity, Hispanics topped the list at 73 percent, followed by blacks, Asians and non-Hispanic whites.
Even by traditional measures, many working families are hurting.

The point is, of course, that the economy is NOT doing well if the majority of people are not doing well. It's quite possible for an economy to grow and for all that growth to fall into the laps of a tiny minority. Besides, to argue that inequality is an inevitable byproduct of growth does not explain how the United States managed such impressive growth rates with reduced inequality in the past.

Public Sector Layoffs and Unemployment: The Case of Black Women

This is a useful article on public sector layoffs and their disproportionate impact not only on all women but especially on black women. And note that when jobs are outsourced in this way it is pretty likely that the employee who will then work that job will have lower pay and might not have health insurance or retirement benefits at all.

From the piece:
Women, meanwhile, have suffered a disproportionate majority--nearly 66 percent--of the public sector job losses. For black women--who have higher overall levels of unemployment and rely on public sector jobs as their second-biggest source of employment--outsourcing is particularly harmful, according to Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist at University of California, Berkeley.
From 2008 through 2010, a black woman was 22 percent more likely to be employed in the public sector than a non-black woman, Pitts found in an April 2011 research brief on black workers and the public sector.
Pitts says questions of race and gender haven't factored into the national dialogue of public sector cuts and who they are most likely to affect.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data on unemployment by gender, race/ethnicity, age and marital status. Following the numbers over time can be instructive. I don't think the public sector layoffs are yet completely visible in those numbers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Newt on Economic Liberty: It Means No Annual Vacations For American Workers

My eyes bulged when I read what Newt Gingrich just wrote:
I opened the chapter on “Work” in my book A Nation Like No Other with this anecdote because I believe it cuts to the core of what makes America exceptional. While other countries have enshrined 35-hour work weeks and 60 days’ paid vacation in their laws, America remains one of the few developed nations that have declined to restrict these economic liberties. Here, we value hard work and free enterprise as the substance of opportunity.
I don't know which country Newt has in mind in that quote (probably France), but it is indeed true that the United States is about the only industrialized country which does not legislate annual vacation time for its workforce.

But to turn that into an economic liberty! Whose liberty, exactly? And how can Europe ever compete with this country, given that it not only regulates overtime and offers annual paid (!) vacations but also provides paid parental leave?

No, it's not the economic liberty of the workers Newt has in mind here; it's the economic liberty of the capitalists. American workers are not loudly protesting at Occupy Vacation Time sites, scornfully flinging off the presumption that they might ever want to have some time off to get acquainted with those other people who share the same address. Neither are they demanding that they should be allowed to work Thanksgiving, Independence Day and Christmas Day, without any extra pay! They are not marching against the idea of family leave.

What's so nasty about this drivel is that Newt equates not being a robot with laziness, that only those who are willing to work and work and work are somehow looking towards a better future! What will they do in that better future? Finally take some time off if they haven't dropped from a heart attack first?

Newt then goes on to tell us again about the advisability of child labor, though mostly for poor children:
Eleven or twelve year old children, and especially those in the poorest areas, should have the chance to learn the value of hard work, part time and in the safe environment of their schools. Strong evidence suggests the benefits of starting to work at an early age, and there are dozens of tasks they could be paid real money to do: working in the cafeteria, clerking in the front office, straightening up classrooms, and cleaning bathrooms. Not strenuous labor. Not dangerous work. Exactly the type of things that many parents ask their children to contribute at home.  

It won’t solve the whole problem, but it would go a little way towards helping America’s poorest children learn the habits that can make them successful.
Mmm. And do the children of the richer parents just watch all this work happening? What are the lessons they would learn from that? That work is for the peons?

Newt is an asshat. The government is supposed to be for the benefit of the people who live in it. It is not supposed to be a tool to increase the productivity of the labor input for the firms. People are not robots, and there are better ways to teach work ethics than turning the children of the poor into the servants of the school system and possibly other children.

The hilarious ending to Newt's piece warns us about the ominous shadow of France. That, my friends, might be the alternative if Newt's advice is not followed. Like good food and wine and such. And summer vacations to the beach with the whole family! For weeks and weeks!

The Bald Vulva

It sounds like the national bird (of the US, that is), doesn't it?

The Atlantic has an article about women shaving off all their pubic hair or getting Brazilian waxes down there or even having the pubic hair permanently zapped with laser treatment. I recommend reading the whole piece from the beginning to the end to note how the actual reasons for this trend are subsumed in all sorts of dead-end theories about why young women, quite suddenly as history goes, have decided that a bald vulva is a necessary fashion or health accessory. Nothing replaces that reading as an exercise in learning how smoke is blown into our eyes when it comes to political issues about women. And this IS a political issue.

I'm not really blaming the writer who does do the necessary work of discussing the real reasons. But all the fluff around that real reason, about low-slung pants requiring the shaving of pubic hair (what about men?) to the age-old argument that women are smelly by nature are trotted out, and so is the idea that femininity means hairlessness (even if biology disagrees).

And this bit is really hilarious:
So what does it all mean? Is pubic hair removal a symbol of feminine pride, something that Gloria Steinem might be proud of? Or does it signify submission to a domineering male agenda?
"It's all in how people deal with it," Herbenick says. As she's seen in her lecture-hall encounters, the hairless vulva isn't always analogous to the clenched fist of female solidarity; just as often, it's a telltale sign of oppression or forced conformity.
But, she says, uncovered, demystified genitalia can just as easily be a symbol of empowerment. "Many women have started to feel a sense of ownership over their bodies -- an autonomy," she says. "If they want to take it off, they take it off. If they want to grow it back, they grow it back. If they want to shave it into a heart, they shave it into a heart. But they're doing it because they want to."
They are doing it because they want to? No wider societal influences there? Why don't we have lots of women completely shaving off their eyebrows? They are hair, after all, and unfeminine, and they might smell when you are sweaty after a workout or sex.

The reason, of course is in p*rnography (which so far isn't that interested in eyebrows). It became widely available, in forms which did not require a man to walk into a crummy shop to buy a magazine, about twenty years ago. We now may have a generation of heterosexual men who formed their first ideas about how naked women look by watching p*rn. And women in those depictions do not have pubic hair. This is so that one can see all the dangly bits and the jingly bits better, of course.

Imagine such a man having first-time sex with a woman who actually has pubic hair! Might he not express shock or disgust at this horror? Might she not then feel that she, too, must shave her vulva bald?

That explanation suffices. All the other stories told in the article are either dead-ends or tales about the roads this influence took to get into the popular culture in general. But the direct route works really well, too:
Herbenick recalls one encounter in which a popular, well-liked college student in a class she taught openly professed that he had never hooked up with a girl who had pubic hair, and would frankly be disgusted to undress a woman and discover a veil of genital fur.
"Some girls talked to me and wrote in their papers that they had always had pubic hair, and in a couple cases never did anything to their pubic hair," she said. "They never thought it was a problem. But when he said that, they went home and changed it. They really started to feel ashamed about their bodies."
Fitzpatrick, similarly, finds himself in a collegiate scene full of young women far too obsessed with the hair down there. "It becomes a compulsion," he says.
Fitzpatrick's female friends, especially those who confess to not having waxed in a while, have added a distinct new routine to their social calendars: weekend-evening freak-outs. "When they go out on a Friday night to the bar, if they think they might be having sex with somebody later, they're like, 'Is he gonna judge me? What is he gonna think?'" Fitzpatrick says. Other non-waxed coeds simply skip the bar altogether.
Pinto, too, admits that she gets nervous about having sex toward the third or fourth week after getting a wax. "If I haven't waxed and I suddenly end up hooking up with someone, I'm like, Oh, God. No, no!" she says.
And it's true, says Fitzpatrick: Guys can be, and often are, "absolutely brutal." It's not uncommon for a college-aged man to "go out of his way" to make fun of a girl's pubic grooming habits with his buddies after he's hooked up with her -- even if he's never expressed a preference one way or the other, he says. "Then all of a sudden, instead of just being a girl who's had a fun night with her respective guy, she becomes that girl who has weird pubic hair. And nobody wants that label."
"Weird pubic hair." There you have it!

Two important points about this post: First, do a gender reversal on the arguments. All the arguments for a bald vulva seem to me to equally apply to men's pubic hair. The skin would be softer, the experience of intercourse would be more powerful, with less hairy padding, and so on. But do women shame men into shaving down there? And of course the real point about this first point is the absence of articles like this about men's pubic hair.

Second, and this is very important for any reader I have angered by downplaying "choice" here. We obviously have a choice about how much hair we want on our vulvas or around our penises. But those kinds of choices are never made in a vacuum. As I wrote in an earlier post, the women in this picture look very much alike, because their clothing was influenced by the culture they lived in:

Yet I'm pretty sure if we could have asked them about their choice of hairdo (the "Gibson Girl" of the early 20th century) or the dresses they would have given us individual choice explanations.

We are all affected by the culture we live in, and different choices carry different societal benefits and sanctions. This post is to point out why one particular "choice" has become more common and what drives its popularity.

Softer Than A Baby's Bottom: Vagisoft

This is a hilarious name for a blanket: Vagisoft. According to the softometer in the advertising picture, the only thing softer would be the womb of a marshmallow mermaid!

Marshmallow mermaids would melt in the ocean. And the texture of vaginas is not exactly what most of us have in mind when wanting a soft blanket. You don't want the blanket to sorta slide off you, right? Or feel slightly moist?

If we lived in a reality-based advertising world, the kind where it would have been men who ride side-saddle, this blanket would have been named penisoft. The skin of the penis is extremely soft. That's all I meant. Err.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Von Spakovsky On Home Schooling

He writes in the National Review, a conservative publication. While home schooling is done by people with all sorts of political opinions or none, a sizable chunk of home-schoolers are religious conservatives.

Von Spakovsky:
Educators and liberals always seem surprised when faced with evidence of the high quality of the education that home-schoolers get, particularly when compared with the politically correct assembly-line instruction that passes for an education in so many public schools these days.
Both my brothers and their wives home-school their children (and my wife is now home-schooling our youngest daughter). All of their children are well-read, disciplined, polite, creative, and full of information that I find lacking in many children their age. One of my 15-year-old nephews was recently assigned to read Lives by Plutarch, about Greece and Rome, and to write a short essay summarizing their society, identifying what they valued most highly and arguing whether or not each was a good and virtuous society. Can anyone imagine a 15-year-old getting a similar assignment in a public school in today’s America?
The whole post makes the mistake of comparing children from Spakovsky's extended family to some imaginary grungy public school outcome in general. If, as is likely, Spakovsky's brothers and sisters-in-law are educated and affluent, the proper comparison is to the children of equally educated and affluent parents who go to a public school.

Likewise, any real comparison would require knowing how many home-schooling parents assign Lives by Plutarch to their children and whether the concept of a "good and virtuous" society is at least challenged in that teaching.

Not that reading Plutarch has any greater value than reading many much more recent books. It just has the sniff of High Educamation to those who envy the nineteenth century British upper class for their governesses and stern fathers with excellent libraries.

As a purely personal aside, Plutarch compares only the lives of famous men, not women, because women did not easily become famous in those days.

As a purely personal second aside, I wonder how many conservative men would be such strong advocates of home schooling if the consensus was that it had to be done by fathers. They might suddenly note that one parent's income has dried out and that one parent's future career prospects have been severely limited. These are the major costs of the home-schooling option, not the acquisition of books and teaching materials and so on.
This post is not intended as an attack against the concept of home-schooling which has both obvious advantages and disadvantages, just as public schooling does. Much depends on the specific circumstances and so on.

What I criticize is von Spakovsky's one-sided treatment of the topic and his implicit assumption (or so it seems to me) that there should be no publicly funded schools or any improvement in those schools because people obviously can just educate their children at home. And that is simply not practical for the vast majority of American families.

Today's Political Lesson: The Pennsylvania Shale-Gas Industry and Conservative Beliefs

A YouTube comment attached to this video about millionaires who would like to pay more taxes gives such a good example of the vast problems when one tries to communicate across the political aisle (more of a chasm than aisle):
The reason we're in the crapper is because of a century of socialist government policies, government involvement in the free markets and cancerous relationships that involvement spawns. Due to unconstitutional "subsidies" paid with money stolen through taxes, we don't know the real price of anything.
Yeah, it's YouTube comments, the place one goes to find the very worst stupidity and misogyny and so on on this planet. But the statement is not that different from others I have read on the net. It has the magico-religious term "free markets" and the usual argument that what the US government has done in the last hundred years is "socialist" and it argues that taxes are theft.

The best way to interpret that quote is as something do with a religion. It does not lend itself to any kind of logical arguments, because the term "free markets" is not an economic one and because the term "socialist" is clearly used in quite a different sense than its dictionary definitions. But once one sees this as a religious assertion, the conversation stops right there as I well know. One cannot debate religion with facts.

This came to mind when I read the article about the Pennsylvania shale-gas industry that Atrios linked to. The quote he gives is worth giving here, too:
In what is shaping up as a key victory for the shale-gas industry, Gov. Corbett and the legislature appear close to stripping municipalities of the power to impose tough local restrictions on wells and pipelines. Under a pending measure, wells and pipelines would be permitted in every zoning district - even residential ones - statewide.
And the industry isn't stopping there.
Two pipeline companies are seeking the clout of eminent domain. While the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has yet to rule, it signaled this year that it was leaning toward giving firms condemnation power to gain rights-of-way for their pipelines.
The saga of the shale-gas industry in Pennsylvania is about much more than the pipelines. It is about jobs, about profits, about possible environmental degradation and possible polluted waters. But this particular quote is an odd reversal of the argument made in that YouTube quote:

Here are the markets! They appear to be damn free to do whatever they wish! But they still have that cancerous relationship with the state government! Talk about subsidies! The government is simply giving in to them, so we will never know "the real price" of the gas. Theft? Did anyone mention theft and the government?

I bet that is not what the YouTube commentator meant, however. And note that the so-called "free markets" here are ONE FIRM negotiating (or extorting) one state government. That is not the definition of a competitive industry.

The Pennsylvania problem is an interesting one from a conservative angle. What should the state of Pennsylvania do? If it courts only the firm (and the jobs) it will do what it seems to be doing.

But by doing that it takes away property from voters who just might vote Republican. A house someone bought in an expensive residential area with good schools some years ago will now have a humongous pipeline under the backyard where children play. The house will sell for less. Will every house owner get an exactly calculated sum of money from the firm to compensate for the financial and other losses?

In the actual fracking areas the landscape might look like shit. The water might be polluted. Those rich enough can move, of course, or at least buy clean water to drink, and I guess that most of the really nasty stuff will ultimately be located in the poorer communities, because that's how power works.

My point here is not to analyze the Pennsylvania events in any great detail. I haven't followed them well enough to do that. Instead, I wanted to bring a realistic example of how an industry and a government can get into a "cancerous relationship," and this with Republicans in power. I also wanted to point out that there is no such thing in reality as the magico-religious free market. In this particular case there is one very powerful firm fighting municipalities. Finally, all large projects of this type have winners and losers. If power is allowed to prevail, the winners will decide all the rules and nobody will compensate the losers.

Monday, December 12, 2011


If you are not familiar with this organization, you should be. It's all about fighting sexual harassment on the streets and elsewhere, and it is spreading to many countries across the world. Which is great, because of that "the right to go out" thing.

More Laura Nyro

To celebrate her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Today's Cute Video

Of a baby bat.

The Benevolent Patriarch

Rebecca Traister has written an excellent piece on what the recent teenagers-and-Plan-B debacle tells us about the president:
“As the father of two daughters,” Obama told reporters, “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”
Traister then tells us why that statement is facile.

Obama comes across as a benevolent patriarch. In the context of minor children this will appeal to many voters who also don't want their young daughters to have sex. But when this attitude spreads to those oh-so-endearingly-silly wives?
In 2010, while appearing on “The View,” Obama made a creaky Take-My-Wife-Please joke about how he wanted to appear on “a show that Michelle actually watched” as opposed to the news shows she usually flips past. The joke being that his missus, the one he met when she mentored him at a high-powered law firm, just doesn’t have a head for news delivered by anyone other than Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Mmm. Read through Traister's whole article and it almost defines benevolent patriarchy of the 1950s style.

What is really sad is that this attitude still works. It works well in the Plan B case because it appeals to the parental desire for control, and it works in the implied silly-wife/henpecked husband jokes because those still permeate the popular culture and serve to create ties to other husbands. And it works so well because women don't demand anything better.

But mostly it works, because the alternative is not some kind of equality but malevolent patriarchy Republican style. Benevolent patriarchs are, by definition, to be preferred over malevolent patriarchs, because the former will deliver some good things. The latter will not.