Signorile on the Scouts

images-4“The latest decision by the Boy Scouts of America, proposing to end its ban on gay scouts but not its ban on gay and lesbian scoutmasters and den mothers, is at once ridiculous and blatantly anti-gay,” writes  Michaelangelo Signorile in today’s Huffington Post, continuing as excerpted below

“Sorry, but there’s just no middle ground on bigotry. The idea that you can end discrimination against some — and actually admit that it is discrimination — but not against others is truly breathless in its illogic. The BSA actually says in its new proposal that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” but that the organization “will maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders.”

“So a boy can come out as gay, be a great scout and be accepted by the organization but not even think about being a scoutmaster as an adult? And how can a boy who comes out as gay, or is simply known to be gay because of his other associations and friendships, feel that he is not stigmatized by the BSA when the organization is still discriminating against gay adults? Continue reading “Signorile on the Scouts”

The academic underclass

New York Times recently reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits, as the ever-insightful Sarah Kendzior writes in Al Jazeera this week.

“Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. images-1Some are on welfare or homeless.  “Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.

“No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?

“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled “The Adjunct Mystery”. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)

With roughly 40 percent of academic positions eliminated since the 2008 crash, most adjuncts will not find a tenure-track job. Their path dependence and sunk costs will likely lead to greater path dependence and sunk costs – and the costs of the academic job market are prohibitive. Many job candidates must shell out thousands of dollars for a chance to interview at their discipline’s annual meeting, usually held in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In some fields, candidates must pay to even see the job listings. Continue reading “The academic underclass”

The New “mean world syndrome”

Decades ago media theorist George Gerbner coined the term “mean world syndrome” about a mindset of disproportionate fear among individuals.

Now the mean world syndrome is taking on international proportions. The communist enemy, with the “world’s fourth largest military,” has beentrundling missiles around and threatening the United States with nuclear obliteration, writes Tom Englehardt in today’s issue of Le Monde.  Guam, Hawaii, Washington: all, it claims, are targetable. The coverage in the media has been hair-raising. The U.S. is rushing an untested missile defense system to Guam, deploying missile-interceptor ships off the South Korean coast, sending “nuclear capable” B-2 Stealth bombers thousands of miles on mock bombing runs, pressuring China, and conducting large-scale war games with its South Korean ally.

Only one small problem: there is as yet little evidence that the enemy with a few nuclear weapons facing off (rhetorically at least) against an American arsenal of4,650 of them has the ability to miniaturize and mount even one on a missile, no less deliver it accurately, nor does it have a missile capable of reaching Hawaii or Washington, and I wouldn’t count on Guam either. Continue reading “The New “mean world syndrome””

Complexity in creative personalities

Creativity researchers have long-ago accepted the fact that creative people are complex. Almost by definition, creativity is complex, reports Huffington Post. ” Creative thinking is influenced by many traits, behaviors, and sociocultural factors that come together in one person. It would be surprising if all of these factors didn’t sometimes, or even most of the time, appear to contradict one another.Unknown

“As creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes in his 1996 article for Psychology Today entitled “The Creative Personality,” creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”

“To me, some of the most fascinating contrasts are those found in creative performers — those who are constantly on stage and in the public eye. Out of Csikszentmihaly’s list of 10 complex personality traits of creative people, which were based on interviews with a wide variety of creative people, I think these three are the most relevant to creative performers: Continue reading “Complexity in creative personalities”

Public school and private interests

At first glance, it is one of the nation’s hottest new education-reform movements, a seemingly populist crusade to empower poor parents and fix failing public schools. But a closer examination reveals that the “parent-trigger” movement is being heavily financed by the conservative Walton Family Foundation, one of the nation’s largest and most strident anti-union organizations, a Frying Pan News investigation has shown. As TruthOut explains:images

“Since 2009, the foundation has poured more than $6.3 million into Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles advocacy group that is in the forefront of the parent-trigger campaign in California and the nation. Its heavy reliance on Walton money, critics say, raises questions about the independence of Parent Revolution and the intentions of the Walton Family Foundation.

“While Parent Revolution identifies the Walton Family Foundation as one of several donors on its Web site, the full extent of contributions from the Walton foundation and other donors hasn’t been publicly known until now. Information supplied to Frying Pan News by Parent Revolution and publicly available tax records show that a total of 18 separate foundations have given more than $14.8 million to the group since its founding in 2009. Continue reading “Public school and private interests”

Debating gender justice

“Gender justice at the top is not enough. Mainstream debates on gender must also grapple with how to address increased insecurity at the bottom end of the labor market — including the challenge faced by poorly protected, self-employed women,” states the report, “Great Expectations: Exploring the Promises of Gender Equality,” as it wrestles with the question of whether the triumphs of British feminism (such as they are) have been equally shared by women of all classes. images-21-218x150As the New York Times comments:

“The report wonders why we persist in looking at a few outrider women at the top of the professional ladder instead of analyzing the fate of a more representative cross-section of women. It highlights how excessive focus on the few empowered women who have succeeded can have a disturbing “decoy” effect, suggesting that women have made it, while ignoring the fact that for the vast majority of women, huge inequalities remain. Continue reading “Debating gender justice”

A “Ministry for Men” Proposal

Getting unfairly greater pay for equal work, having too much responsibility, occupying a disproportionately large number of leadership positions – might this be more than men can handle? Jenna Price comments in today’s Canberra Times that there may be a solution in a “Ministry for Men”images-4

“For that matter, I might just have a go at it myself.

“And if I were the Minister for Men, there are some clear areas where I could make a difference. Blokes wouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibility for occupying 90 per cent of all the board seats in the top 200 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. That’s far too much of a burden for any one group.

“I’d slash wages for men, so they wouldn’t have to be paid more to do the same work as women any longer. Why advocate for a pay cut? Because the gender pay gap is a trick to restrict mens’ roles. When you get paid more to do the same work as someone else, it leads to all sorts of expectations. It leads to the expectation that men will never want to stay home with their kids – or work part-time – or take time off to care for their elderly parents. We know that’s just not true any more; and we can’t pigeonhole men any longer. They’re men, not pigeons*, and they have a right to live their lives as God intended. Continue reading “A “Ministry for Men” Proposal”

“Accept” and “tolerate” not good enough

Last month U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reversed his stance on gay marriage, largely because his son is gay, and although I felt like I should have been happy about it, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, I’m happy that there is another senator willing to support the civil rights of all U.S. citizens, but my knee-jerk reaction was, “Oh, you support gay marriage now because it directly affects your family? Well, guess what, Mr. Senator: The rest of our kids matter too.” I know that that thought was not generous, and I’m not proud of it, but my frustration is real, and the problem of homophobia is real, reports Huffington Post

“Then U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) made his own announcement. It turns out that he has a gay son too, but his opposition to marriage equality is not going to change. He also made a point to say that he loves his son. A few days later his son did an interview in which he spoke about how his father loves him and is incredibly tolerant. Now I wasn’t frustrated; I was furious. I was furious at this father for putting his politics before the rights of his kid, and I was furious that his child felt the need to defend his father when his father sure as hell isn’t defending him.

“But when I let my temper simmer down and took a step back, I saw that this is an issue that goes far beyond two GOP politicians and their kids.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from gay kids all across the country. A lot of them don’t have supportive families, but some do. I cherish the good stories, but there’s often a moment in those good stories that makes my heart hurt: when they tell me how happy they are that their parents “still” love them — because all those kids knew that not loving them was an option. Continue reading ““Accept” and “tolerate” not good enough”

On transgender military service

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement just weeks before leaving office that he would bring an end to the policy of excluding women from combat assignments surprised, well, everyone. To call this move historic is to put it mildly. Today’s Huffington Post carried the following article on the last frontier’s of military equality: the ability of transgender service people to serve openly:Unknown

“Not long after that, he made history again, bringing a measure of equity to the benefits offered to same-sex military families before leaving D.C. to return to his much-loved walnut farm in California. History will remember Panetta’s tenure at the Defense Department favorably for these decisions to change policies that no longer reflected the reality of our wars or, just as importantly, the values of our nation.

“As a woman veteran, I was elated with these changes. As the wife of a woman veteran (my wife Danyelle was a West Point classmate of mine and served as an Army officer with honor and distinction), I felt encouraged by them.

“But as a transgender veteran, and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service members, veterans and their families, the changes that Secretary Panetta brought about in his last days in office have left me emboldened. Here’s why: As the combat exclusion for women comes to an end and open service for gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans edges closer to truly equal service, it becomes more and more obvious that there is no longer any rational basis on which to bar qualified transgender people from serving in our armed forces. Continue reading “On transgender military service”

How not to wreck California’s universities

Things must be pretty bad in California if it takes the New York Tims to assemble a coherent argument to save their universities. But this is what happened today in an NYT editorial stating that current plans to force the universities to shift to online teaching will probably wreck the UC system, fail students who need the university most, and damage the California economy to boot:images

“Even before the recession hit, the public colleges and universities that educate more than 70 percent of the nation’s students were suffering from dwindling state revenue. Their response, not surprisingly, was to raise tuition, slash course offerings and, in some cases, freeze or even reduce student enrollment. The damage was acute in California, whose once-glorious system of higher education effectively cannibalized itself, shutting out a growing number of well-qualified students.

“The same California State Legislature that cut the higher education budget to ribbons, while spending ever larger sums on prisons, now proposes to magically set things right by requiring public colleges and universities to offer more online courses. The problem is that online courses as generally configured are not broadly useful. They work well for highly skilled, highly motivated students but are potentially disastrous for large numbers of struggling students who lack basic competencies and require remedial education. These courses would be a questionable fit for first-time freshmen in the 23-campus California State University system, more than 60 percent of whom need remedial instruction in math, English or both. Continue reading “How not to wreck California’s universities”

Reflections on Islamic feminism

In some Muslim circles, the “f” word (feminism) raises as many tensions as eyebrows, immediately conjuring images of the dominating, angry, family-hating woman, writes Rachelle Fawcett in todays Al Jazeera.images

“But like other images that come to mind upon mention of any label – including the image of the oppressed woman that often comes to mind when one hears “Muslim” – this gut reaction is based on stereotypes that may be true in a very specific historical and social context, but does not hold water when compared to a larger reality, and therefore does not justify the hostility that follows.

“While popular Islamic rhetoric touts the liberation of women with the coming of Islam over 1,400 years ago, to continually return to this story does nothing to alleviate women’s suffering today except by going back to the beginning, starting with Islam’s foundational text, the Quran. Continue reading “Reflections on Islamic feminism”

Male losers and the “traditional” family

imgres-3“Culture of poverty” and “cycle of dependency” theories have largely been discredited as biased and often ethnocentric. They also often don’t square well with popular American ideals of individual achievement and upward mobility.

But recent economic studies looking at the changing gender gap in education and income suggest new reasons for explaining the shrinking numbers of people living in what used to be called the “traditional” nuclear family, as discussed this week in the New York Times

“The economic struggles of male workers are both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of traditional households. Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners. Continue reading “Male losers and the “traditional” family”

Photography now booming in museums

imgresA new generation of museum curators and directors is pushing photography to unprecedented heights – and audiences seem to love it.

On a recent wintry afternoon, Jeff Rosenheim, the newly appointed head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s photography department, stopped in at its special exhibition galleries, reports today’s New York times.  “He was checking on the installation of a new acquisition: a 61-minute video called “Street,” by the British-born artist James Nares.

“As brilliantly colored images splashed across a 16-foot-long screen, teams of art handlers and curators were placing photographs, drawings, sculptures and paintings in adjacent galleries. “This is exactly what we’re trying to do,” Mr. Rosenheim said, “to show photography in the context of many different kinds of art.” Continue reading “Photography now booming in museums”

Working women, weight, and biased science

A new study adds a gendered dimension to the rise in adult obesity, suggesting a correlation between women who work outside the home and women who are overweight.

This news is sure to feed conservative arguments favoring traditional gender roles, although fortunately one media outlet – Al Jazeera -takes issues with such assumptions, as excerpted belowimgres-2 Continue reading “Working women, weight, and biased science”

Heteronormativity in school

It’s commonly thought that teenagers these days are so much more hip about gender and sexuality than their parents ever more. But this perception can obscure the facts that concepts of “normality” and  “fitting in” still drive much of the culture of the young, As discussed today in Huffington Post:

“Popularity in middle and high school operates as a heterosexist reward system. Who “fits in” and who does not has a great deal to do with heterosexuality and gender conformity, which makes it difficult for LGBTQ kids to engage in the school social scene. For adolescents, school is (significantly) about social connections, social possibilities, social hierarchies and navigating through them. A great deal of school social life is about reinforcing the “normalcy” of heterosexuality and marking those considered to not measure up as “weird” or “less than” in some way. Continue reading “Heteronormativity in school”

Clinton sends his doma regrets to high court

Say what you will about our old freind Bi,, h still hs his moments. as in this Op-Ed in the Times ‘.  “In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act.images“Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress. Continue reading “Clinton sends his doma regrets to high court”

Gender bias in online games

Verbal abuse is a pandemic in the online gaming community.And while it affects all sorts of gamers, there’s a select brand of vitriol reserved for women who venture into voice chat. For an interesting article on this phenomenon, see themarysue.com, excerpted as follows: ” This is an oft-discussed issue, and we still don’t have a good understanding of the root causes, or of what we can do to alleviate it. But some recent academic research provides a interesting (and sobering) look at how persistent the problem is.imgres-2 Continue reading “Gender bias in online games”

School transgender decision raises questions

imgres-2A Colorado school’s ruling over a transgender child has sparked questions that could affect schools all over the country. As reported by CNN, the  questions and their implications include the following:

“Which bathroom should be used by a child who identifies as a different gender from his or her body? Where’s the line between accommodation and discrimination? Continue reading “School transgender decision raises questions”

The Oscars in retrospect

Everyone was thinking this, and a few said it at the time, but this year the Academy Award show really crossed the line.

It’s always been an irreverent affair – poking fun at egotistical celebrities and, by extension, an overly commercialized industry. So, off-color jokes are nothing new. But this is a program that boasts a global audienceimgres

of one-billion viewers, many of whom watch in prime time. And this time it was frequently patently offensive. While the blame is currently being dumped on host and front-man Kevin MacFarlane, one can hardly conceive that one person is permitted to write the lines for such a heavily hyped spectacle. This is an industry putting its ugliest misogyny and racism on display, with bits of antisemitism thrown in for good measure. The New York times today summed up what people inside and outside of Hollywood have been saying Continue reading “The Oscars in retrospect”

You’ve not come a long way baby

In 1968, the Phillip Morris Company launched a memorable campaign to sell Virginia Slims, a new brand of cigarettes targeting women, itself a new phenomenon. It had a brand-new slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.

As a thoughtful piece by Ruth Rosen in today’s edition of Le Monde explains, “The company plastered it on billboards nationwide and put it in TV ads that featured women of the early

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twentieth century being punished for smoking. In all their advertising, smoking was equated with a set of traits meant to capture the essence of women in a new era of equality — independence, slimness, glamour, and liberation

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“As it happened, the only equality this campaign ended up supporting involved lung cancer. Today, women and men die at similar rates from that disease.Still, women have come a long way since the mid-twentieth century, and it’s worth considering just how far — and just how far we have to go.

Once upon a time

“These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work. Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty.

“Radio producers considered women’s voices too abrasive to be on the air and television executives believed that women didn’t have sufficient credibility to anchor the news. Few women ran big corporations or universities, or worked as firefighters and police officers. None sat on the Supreme Court, installed electrical equipment, climbed telephone poles, or owned construction companies. All hurricanes had female names, due to the widely held view that women brought chaos and destruction to society.

“As late as 1970, Dr. Edgar Berman, a consultant to presidents and to Medicare, proclaimed on television that women were too tortured by hormonal disturbances to assume the presidency. Few people ran into women professors, doctors, or lawyers. Everyone addressed a woman as either Miss or Mrs, depending on her marital status, and if a woman needed an abortion, legal nowhere in America, she risked her life searching among quacks in back alleys for a competent and compassionate doctor.”

 

Complete story at: http://mondediplo.com/openpage/you-ve-come-a-long-way-baby-or-have-you