When gender policing turns violent

Brooklyn fashion blogger Rachel Tutera knows that you might not see her the way she sees herself. As discussed on PBS.com,tutera-1024x519

“There’s a weird tendency in people to panic when they can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman, or how you may identify,” Tutera, 29, said. “There are people who find me provocative in a way that I don’t exactly understand.”

“As a gender non-conforming person, someone who behaves and appears in ways that are considered atypical for one’s sex assigned at birth, Tutera said she feels constant stress and anxiety from the outside world.

“Whether I’m read as what I am, which is a masculine-presenting woman, or if I’m read as a feminine-presenting man, there’s a lot of danger there — physical danger,” Tutera said. “I’ve gotten shoved by guys, certain slurs.”

“Tutera has been the victim of gender policing, the act of imposing or enforcing gender roles based on an individual’s perceived sex. This type of behavior can range from banal actions, like a confused look on the subway, to more insidious behavior like getting thrown out of a gendered public restroom or fitting room, she said.

“Gender non-conforming people get harassed on the basis of not being the right kind of woman, a failed woman, or not being the right kind of man, a failed man,” said Professor Anne Pellegrini, the director of New York University’s Gender and Sexuality Center. Pellegrini said gender policing amounts to a form of cultural oppression.

“According to Pellegrini, in most states, transgender and gender non-conforming people are not protected from workplace or housing discrimination. Just a few decades ago, state laws allowed police to arrest individuals for impersonating another sex if the police deemed they weren’t wearing gender-appropriate clothing. Continue reading “When gender policing turns violent”

Harassment in the sciences

Most women working in the sciences face sexual assault and harassment while conducting field work, according to a study released Wednesday that is the first to investigate the subject, MotherJones reports:

“The report surveyed 516 women (and 142 men) working in various scientific fields, including archeology, anthropology, and biology. Sixty-four percent of the women said they had been sexually harassed while workingimgres
at field sites, and one out of five said they had been victims of sexual assault. The study found that the harassers and assailants were usually supervisors. Ninety percent of the women who were harassed were young undergraduates, post-graduates, or post-doctoral students.

“Our main findings…suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive,” Kate Clancy, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science.”

“Many university science programs require students to complete fieldwork. Those who do work in the field are more likely to receive research grants. Consequently, women scientists “are put in a vulnerable position, afraid that reporting harassment or abuse will risk their research and a professional relationship often critical to their academic funding or career,” the Washington Post noted.

“The study comes as Congress investigates the response of US colleges to campus sexual harassment and assault. Two out of five colleges and universities have not conducted any sexual assault investigations in the past five years, according to arecent survey by the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

“Men vastly outnumber women in the sciences. According to Census data, women make up only about a quarter of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math fields.”

Women quitting in peak years

As the economy struggles to get back on track, the labor participation rate remains feeble for almost everyone. Still, the losses affecting this group of women — who normally would be in the prime of their careers — stand out imgres-2from the crowd and highlight the challenges facing middle-aged workers who, for whatever reason, find themselves out of a job.

The New York Times reports that “Since the start of the recession, the number of working women 45 to 54 has dropped more than 3.5 percent. There are now about one million fewer women of that age in the labor force than at their peak at the end of 2009. For younger women the rate of decline was about 2 percent — and many of those in their 20s dropped out to return to school or left the work force temporarily to focus on caring for young children.

“Men, too, have been pushed out of the labor market as jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries have been slow to return. But the rate of decline among adult men has largely tracked the curves of the economy and has been spread more evenly across ages. Mr. Shepherdson, who highlighted the drop in working women in a recent report for his firm, Pantheon Macroeconomics, said that even in a slow-growing economy “women’s participation should not have fallen at all, especially among the women in their prime earning years.”

“The fact that more elderly people are living longer may be behind many middle-aged women’s decision to stop working. Most employers do not offer flexible schedules for workers caring for elderly family members. And increasingly, women in their 40s and 50s are sandwiched between caring for aging parents and their own dependent children, including young adults still living at home.

“A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2013 reported that 27 percent of the women surveyed had quit their job to care for a child or family member. Sarita Gupta, co-director of Caring Across Generations, an advocacy group for home care workers and patients, said the difficulties can stack up. “Women are falling out of the work force to be primary caregivers to aging parents,” she said, “but as women go out of the work force it means they sacrifice their own financial security.” Continue reading “Women quitting in peak years”

Millennials reject gender

More than two-thirds of millennial say gender doesn’t matter as it once did. Now conventional gender roles = conformity.images-1

As USA Today reports, “They’re young. They like things their way. They don’t like stereotypes and steer clear of conformity. Because young people ages 34 and younger are legions larger than the dominant-until-now-Baby Boom generation, their likes and dislikes command lots of attention. High on their list is gender identity — a concept they’re increasingly resisting.

“Gender stereotypes are conformity,” says Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group, a consumer insights and strategy group based in Los Angeles whose summer/fall 2013 report about gender paints a vivid portrait of younger generations’ attitudes.

“The survey reveals that “gender is less of a definer of identity today than it was for prior generations. Rather than adhering to traditional gender roles, young people are interpreting what gender means to them personally.”As a result, gender rules and traditional stereotypes are fading. From college housing to clothing, language and parenting, gender-neutral increasingly is the preferred positionGeneration Y alone is estimated at 80-90 million in the USA (compared with 75 million Baby Boomers) and 2 billion worldwide. It’s growing because of immigration. And because they think and behave the same globally, experts say these young people will change society in profound ways.The online survey measured opinions of a nationally representative sample of 900 people ages 14-34, two-thirds of them 18-24 (termed Generation Y or Millennials), and the remainder 14-17 (often termed Generation Z).

“Among the findings:

• More than two-thirds agree that gender does not define a person the way it once did.

• 60% think that gender lines have been blurred;

• Nearly two-thirds say their generation is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be feminine and masculine. As a result, 42% feel that gender roles today are confusing.

“You can be one thing one day and another the next,” Gutfreund says. “In previous generations, there was no going back and forth. Now, there’s incredible fluidity to everything.”

“Fluidity” is exactly how generational expert Bruce Tulgan, founder of a management, research and training company in New Haven, Conn., describes what he’s observed.

“They would say not just men and women; it’s everyone along the spectrum. Everybody has his or her own gender story,” he says. Continue reading “Millennials reject gender”

Google vs the gender gap

Google has promised to do all it can to recruit more women into Silicon Valley, and now the company is putting its money where its PR is. On Thursday, it launched a $50 million initiative to teach young girls how to code.images

Just last month, Google announced that only 17% of its tech employees are women. The gender disparity is a dire issue for all tech companies. There will be 1.4 million computing jobs available in 2020, but only 400,000 computer-science graduates from U.S. universities to fill them. Part of the problem is that only 12% of computer-science degrees go to women, and in order for Silicon Valley to survive and thrive, it must be able to recruit more engineering talent from the other 50% of the population.

“Coding is a fundamental skill that’s going to be a part of almost everything,” Megan Smith, VP of Google[x], tells TIME. “So for kids to really at a minimum just be able to express themselves in code and make things and feel confident, that would be important — no matter what their career is.”

Google has invested a lot more than just money in the project. The company conducted research to determine why girls are opting out of learning how to code: the number of female computer-science majors has dropped dramatically since 1984, when 37% of computer-science degrees went to women. How do we get them back into computer-science classrooms?

Google found that most girls decide before they even enter college whether they want to learn to code — so the tech world must win them over them at a young age. They also found that there were four major factors that determined whether girls opted into computer science: social encouragement, self-perception, academic exposure and career perception.  Continue reading “Google vs the gender gap”

Pre-natal gender bias

Want to find out your baby’s sex before he or she is born? Then you’re probably either a perfectionist or have conservative views about gender, a new study suggests.images

As reported in Time, “Researchers at Ohio State University asked 182 expectant mothers to take personality tests that assessed their thoughts on gender roles and parenting perfectionism. More laid-back moms who seemed open to new experiences were less likely than perfectionist moms to ask the doctor about whether their babies would be boys or girls. “These results suggest women who choose not to learn their baby’s sex may not worry about having clothes, toys and colors for their child that match traditional gender expectations,” said Letitia Kotila, lead author of the study, which will be published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“Finding out your child’s sex before their born, the researchers suggest, may push them towards a certain gender identity later. “If you know ahead of time that you’re having a girl, are you layering on all the pink and purple in a way that is going to push an extremely feminine ideal on your child?” Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, another researcher who worked on the study, said. Continue reading “Pre-natal gender bias”

Medicare to cover reassignment

imgresA federal board ruled Friday in favor of a 74-year-old veteran seeking to have Medicare cover the costs of her gender reassignment surgery, a landmark decision that recognizes it as a necessary medical procedure.

As time magazine reports, “The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services overturns a longstanding rule preventing the government health insurance program from covering such procedures and opens the doors for other Medicare enrollees to make similar requests. It comes at a time when states are beginning to prohibit insurance companies from including specific exclusions for treatments related to gender transitions. So far, five states—California, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut and Colorado, as well as Washington, D.C.—have prohibited such exclusions. Organizations like the Oakland, Calif.-based Transgender Law Center are fighting for more states to follow suit.

“Though numbers are far from concrete, studies estimate that that 0.5% of the U.S. population is transgender, meaning that they identify with a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth. Not all of the country’s estimated 1.5 million transgender citizens desire reassignment surgery, a serious procedure that alters a person’s sexual characteristics. That decision may depend on the desire to have children or physical preference, fear of surgery or having other health conditions that would make such surgery risky, as well as the cost of surgery.

“The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a 2011 report that is the most comprehensive source for data on transgender-related issues, found that the majority of its 6,500 respondents desired surgery of some kind. However, many couldn’t afford to undergo such procedures. Continue reading “Medicare to cover reassignment”

More on bias in the lab

Federal health officials are taking steps to correct a longstanding gender imbalance in laboratory research on potential drug treatments.An Editorial in the New York times states that “For the past two decades, federal law has required that women be included in clinical studies funded by the National Institutes of Health in recognition of the fact that drugs often have vastly different effects in men and women. As a result, more than half of the participants in N.I.H.-imgresfunded clinical research are women. But there has been no similar requirement to eliminate the sex bias from more basic laboratory research that can lead up to a clinical trial or doom a drug to the discard pile if it seems not to work.

“That is about to change. Top N.I.H. officials announced in the journal Nature this month that the agency would soon require researchers applying for grants to balance male and female cells and laboratory animals unless there is good reason to include only one sex “based on rigorously defined exceptions.” A laboratory study of ovarian cancer or of prostate cancer could presumably include only animals or cells of the relevant sex, for example. The new rules could have a significant effect on how laboratory research is conducted because the N.I.H. is a major funder of biomedical research around the world.

“The gender imbalance results in part from resistance to any change in ingrained practices, fears that costs may rise, and obsolete views that fluctuations in female hormones would complicate results in female laboratory animals. Yet for some traits and behaviors there is far more variability among males than females. Continue reading “More on bias in the lab”

More on the wage gap

When Jill Abramson was fired from her post as executive editor of the New York Times last Wednesday, the world took notice. The New Yorker reported on tensions between Abramson and the paper’s owner, which may have been heightened in part by an argument over her pay relative to that of her male predecessor.images-1

Whether Abramson’s pay did or didn’t have anything to do with her dismissal from the Times, one thing is certain: there is a gender wage gap. Among full-time workers, women earn 77% of what men earn. Even after accounting for the fact that women often work in different occupations and industries than men, as well as differences in work experience, union status, education and race, 41% of that gap is still unexplained. When social scientists control for every employment factor that could possibly explain the disparity, women still earn 91% of what men earn for doing the same job.

Female-dominated occupations tend to pay less, often much less, than male-dominated occupations. Women made great progress in the 1970s and 1980s in moving into careers traditionally dominated by men, but since the mid-1990s that progress has largely stalled. Today women still account for the vast majority of waitresses, retail workers, administrative assistants and nurses, but very few engineers, scientists, managers and technicians. Women also tend to work in service jobs and not-for-profit and public-sector organizations, which aren’t highly valued in a market economy. Moreover, though women lost fewer jobs than men did in therecession, they gained fewer during the recovery. And many of the gains were in sectors facing serious budget cuts, like education and social services.

What’s more, education has not effectively reduced the gender wage gap, even though women are now substantially more educated than men. Women surpassed men in college enrollment in the mid-1990s, and the gap has been growing ever since. Today 45% of young women are enrolled in college, compared with 38% of young men; 36% of young women have a bachelor’s or a graduate degree, compared with 28% of young men. Yet women with graduate degrees earn the same as men with bachelor’s degrees, and women with bachelor’s degrees earn the same as men with associate’s degrees.

What’s behind these differences? Part of the problem lies in what women study, which plays a large role in where they work later on. Women aren’t likely to choose high-paying majors like engineering; instead, they often gravitate to low-paying majors like education, psychology and social work. Women represent 97% of early-childhood-education majors but only 6% of mechanical-engineering majors. Continue reading “More on the wage gap”

On gendering childhood chores

It was the headline that made lazy teens worldwide shudder: Spain is to introduce a law forcing children to do chores, as The Guardian reports:images-1

“Now, if you’re thinking it seems more than a little heavy-handed to legally codify the responsibilities of under-18s in private households, then I agree, but check your liberal sensibilities for just a moment. There’s a surprisingly progressive detail in the Rights and Duties of Children Bill that’s worth noting: the “co-responsibility in caring for the home and performing household tasks” shall be carried out “regardless of… gender”.

“Hurrah! Reading the sex equality provision for these put-upon kids made me cheer, because its opposite has such dire consequences: gender inequality in childhood leads to stultified, ill-equipped adults.

“Its effects have certainly been noticeable to me. While my own household was fairly progressive, many of my friends, both male and female, were inculcated with gender stereotypes inside their homes from a young age.I can remember the visceral, fist-clenching resentment I felt whenever I alone was asked to cook and lay the table, while a young male friend was allowed to continue watching telly, or, at a push, was asked to zoom around the garden with a mower or wield a drill.

“The “male” tasks always seemed so much more fun. More sporadic too: John might be asked to fill up the log basket by the fire once a week, but Jane was expected in the kitchen every evening. Continue reading “On gendering childhood chores”

Mansplaining 101

In the grand history of feminist neologisms, there has perhaps never been one more satisfying to slam down into a bad conversation than “mansplaining.”

As InTheseTimes reports: “The term, which caught fire in the late-’00s feminist blogosphere, describes a particularly irritating form of sexist micro-aggression: namely, a man explaining a topic of conversation to a woman who a) has already demonstrated adequate knowledge of that topic; b) could reasonably be presumed to know about that topic; and/or c) could reasonably be presumed to know much more about that topic than he does, because she is an expert in the field.images Once coined, the term spread into the mainstream so quickly and thoroughly that in 2010, “mansplainer” landed on the New York Times’ “words of the year” list.

“Efforts to establish a definitive lineage for the term tend to run afoul of the fact that it seemed, like many great ideas, to crop up in multiple places at the same time—but one common reference point is author and activist Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” originally published at TomDispatch.com.Solnit had fallen victim to the third variety of mansplaining: After Solnit introduced herself as the writer of a book on the photographer Eadweard Muybridge, the man she was speaking to began to tell her about a book on Eadweard Muybridge she ought to read. As it turned out, the book he was hectoring Solnit to read was in fact the book she herself had written—a fact he had to be informed of three or four times before he stopped lecturing at her. Even after Solnit told the man she’d published a book on Muybridge, he couldn’t believe she’d published that book on Muybridge.

“Most women fight wars on two fronts,” Solnit concluded. “One for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being.” Continue reading “Mansplaining 101”

Obama moves on gender identity

imgresTucked away in a document on reducing sexual assault at school – part of an unprecedented effort by the Obama administration to address such abuse – the Department of Education included a historic guideline extending federal civil rights protections to transgender students on Tuesday.

Title IX – the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities – also bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity, announced the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, marking a major victory in the fight to codify LGBT protections into federal law.

“Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation,” reads the 46-page document. “Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations. Indeed, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth report high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence. A school should investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBT students using the same procedures and standards that it uses in all complaints involving sexual violence.”

Though aimed at clarifying how Title IX relates to sexual violence, the guidance carries far broader implications. LGBT advocates note that transgender students will not just be explicitly protected from physical or sexual abuse under Title IX, but from all forms of discrimination in education.

“It certainly would be our view that transgender students should be given the ability to participate in sex segregated activities, like sports teams, consistent with their gender identity,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative at the American Civil Liberties Union, to msnbc. “Failure on part of the school to allow that would be discrimination against that student.” Continue reading “Obama moves on gender identity”

The allowance gap

Nearly 70 percent of boys say they get an allowance, compared to just under 60 percent of girls, according to a new survey from Junior Achievement.images-1

But unfortunately, it’s not likely because boys do more chores. One study found that girls dotwo more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys. A study in Europe also found fewer boys contribute to work around the house.

And it’s not just that boys are more likely to be paid by their parents, but they also get more money. One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45. A British study found that boys get paid 15 percent more than girls for the same chores.

Young girls suffer a wage gap even when they leave their home in search of wages. Despite the fact that the vast majority of babysitters are girls, the few boys who take on those jobshave higher hourly rates.

A chore and wage gap for young girls may seem trivial, but they are both problems that only grow as they age and the socializing children experience at home may contribute. Asking girls to do more chores without paying them teaches both genders that women are meant to do unpaid work. And when they’re older, far more women will end up doing housework than men. Mothers spend nearly double the time on unpaid work in the home that fathers do each week. On an average day, nearly half of women do housework compared to 20 percent of men, and on the days when they do those activities, women spend more time on them, on average. Meanwhile, fathers manage to find three more hours of leisure time.

At the same time, a record number of families is relying on women’s wages as the main source of income. Yet women are paid less than men in nearly job and at every educational level.

More at: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/23/3430025/gender-gap-allowance/

Changing times

Remember the good old days when men were men and women were women? You know, when the manliest of men wore their hair long and curly with their best high heels.imgres

Oh, maybe you were imagining a slightly different picture of modern gender? Consider the earring. Associated exclusively with women for about 200 years, guys have recently started to reclaim them. “In the last two decades,” Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told The Huffington Post, “men have gotten in touch with their inner pirate.”

While there are real biological differences between the sexes, gender is generally considered to be a social construction — it can be pretty much whatever we want it to be, and we’ve wanted it to be a lot of things over the years. Below, find some ways our perception of gender presentation has already changed from the past to present.
Not so long ago, parents dressed their babies in white dresses — due to the fact they could be bleached — until about age six. Yes, even the boys.

Pastels came into style when a 1918 retail trade publication attempted to nail down the rules: pink for boys and blue for girls. “Being a more decided and stronger color, [pink] is more suitable for the boy,” the article stated, “while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Whether or not people listened (and blatantly sexist rationale aside), they at least seemed to accept a much wider variety of color options for their infants until sometime around 1940, University of Maryland historian Jo B. Paoletti notes, when preferences switched to the color divide we’re familiar with today.Persian soldiers wore high-heeled shoes in the name of necessity when riding horseback, since shooting an arrow from a saddle was easier with a heel to secure the foot in its strap. As the European elite became fascinated with the unfamiliar culture, men adopted the horsemen’s masculine footwear for their own (totally impractical) use around 1600. After the (gasp!) lower classes began sporting heeled footwear, the leisure class responded as only they could — by making the heel higher. Continue reading “Changing times”

The persistence of gender pay inequity

For all the progress made on women’s rights, one measure of inequality still stands out: Females earn less than males, even in the same occupations. Closing this gender gap will require changing the way employers think about work.

It’s hard to overstate how far women have come in the last century. They are now almost as active in the labor market asmen, and equally or even better educated. They account for about half of all law and medical school enrollments, and lead men in fields such as biological sciences, pharmacy and optometry.images-1

Still, women have yet to reach the same level of pay. As of 2010, the annual earnings of the median full-time, full-year female worker stood at 77 percent of the median male’s — up from 56 percent in 1980 but still far from parity. For college graduates, the number was an even lower 72 percent.

Why the persistent difference? U.S. data provide two clues. First, the gap increases with age: Women start their careers close to earnings parity with men, then fall behind over the next several decades. Second, wage differences are concentrated within occupations, meaning that women earn less not because they choose lower-paid professions.

The earnings gap is most pronounced in occupations such as law that place a premium on the willingness and ability to work long hours, be in the office at specific times and build face-to-face relationships with co-workers and clients. In these professions, the penalty for working part time or taking time off — to give birth or care for a child, for example — is particularly large. Small differences in time away or in hours translate into large differences in pay.

Consider the case of women with master degrees in business administration. At 10 to 16 years into their careers, they are typically earning only 55 percent of what men do. Child bearing is a primary reason for the divergence. A year after giving birth, women’s workforce participation rate declines 13 percentage points. Three to four years later, the decline increases to 18 percentage points. In other words, many MBA moms try to stay in the fast lane but ultimately find it unworkable.

The huge value that so many employers place on a standard work schedule affects more than the careers of women. Anyone who, for whatever reason, needs to take time off or work flexible hours gets penalized. The broader economy suffers when businesses are unable to make full use of highly educated and productive people.

To be sure, some professions may never be able to offer much flexibility. Merger-and-acquisition bankers, trial lawyers and the U.S. secretary of state have 24/7, on-call-all-the-time jobs. That said, the universe of such jobs is probably smaller than it appears.

Many professions that once tied people to specific hours are finding ways to reduce the cost of flexibility by making employees more substitutable. Veterinarians, optometrists, pharmacists, pediatricians, anesthesiologists and primary-care providers are shifting from self-employment to group practices and corporate ownership structures that allow them to cover for one another. Smaller veterinary practices that once required staff to have weekend, night and emergency hours are giving way to larger regional hospitals. Such changes often occur because of increased economies of scale, or in response to pressure from employees.

 

More at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-21/close-the-gender-pay-gap-change-the-way-we-work.html

India recognizes third gender

India’s Supreme Court for the first time recognized a third gender Tuesday in a judgment aimed at giving transgender Indians their own legal status and better legal protection and privileges.

The Wall Street Journal reports that: “A two-judge bench ruled that transgender people will now have the option to identify themselves as a third gender—instead of just male or female—in government documents, including passports and identification cards.The Supreme Court said discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation violates constitutional guarantees of equality, privacy and dignity.

“This is an extremely liberal and progressive decision that takes into consideration the ground realities for transgender people in India,” said Anitha Shenoy, a lawyer who helped argue the case. “The court says your identity will be based not on your biology but on what you choose to be.”India is the latest of several South Asian countries to recognize a third gender. Neighboring Nepal has added a third gender option to government documents, as have Pakistan and Bangladesh. Germany became the first European country to recognize a third gender last year, allowing parents to mark “indeterminate” on birth certificates.India’s top court Tuesday also directed the federal and state governments to include transgender people as members of the country’s “backward classes,” an official designation, often based on caste, which entitles socially and economically disadvantaged groups to affirmative action in school admissions and state employment.The decision is revolutionary, some activists said, especially for a court that just last December reaffirmed a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality.In that ruling, the court upheld Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which makes consensual gay sex punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years. Continue reading “India recognizes third gender”

Sweden moves toward gender neutrality

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women.It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. As reported in Slate, “Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are

images-1reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.

“But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don’t identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

“Activists are lobbying for parents to be able to choose any name for their children (there are currently just 170 legally recognized unisex names in Sweden). The idea isthat names should not be at all tied to gender, so it would be acceptable for parents to, say, name a girl Jack or a boy Lisa. A Swedish children’s clothes company has removed the “boys” and “girls” sections in its stores, and the idea of dressing children in a gender-neutral manner has been widely discussed on parenting blogs. This Swedish toy catalog recently decided to switch things around, showing a boy in a Spider-Man costume pushing a pink pram, while a girl in denim rides a yellow tractor.

“The Swedish Bowling Association has announced plans to merge male and female bowling tournaments in order to make the sport gender-neutral. Social Democrat politicians have proposed installing gender-neutral restrooms so that members of the public will not be compelled to categorize themselves as either ladies or gents. Several preschools have banished references to pupils’ genders, instead referring to children by their first names or as “buddies.” So, a teacher would say “good morning, buddies” or “good morning, Lisa, Tom, and Jack” rather than, “good morning, boys and girls.” They believe this fulfills the national curriculum’s guideline that preschools should “counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles” and give girls and boys “the same opportunities to test and develop abilities and interests without being limited by stereotypical gender roles.” Continue reading “Sweden moves toward gender neutrality”

Flexibility Stigma

Flexibility stigma is a term scholars use to describe work places that punish those who don’t fit the “ideal worker” profile: solely devoted to one’s job, available 24 hours a day and traditionally male. studies suggest that in academe, such biases are very prevalent in the sciences, and that women with young children are the most frequent targets — hence a “leaky,” gendered  pipeline.images

But a new study discussed in InsideHigher Ed “argues that both men and women with small children report and resent inflexible department cultures. The study also finds that even non-parents resent flexibility stigma, with negative consequences for the department over all.  “Much of the flexibility stigma literature presumes that it is mothers rather than fathers whose parenthood obligations are more likely to trigger stigma,” the study says. “In contrast, we find that flexibility stigma is not just a mother’s problem; mothers and fathers of young children are equally likely to report the presence of flexibility stigma in their departments.”

“It continues: “Related, we find that perceived flexibility stigma is negatively related to desires to remain in one’s position, overall satisfaction, and feelings of work-life balance over and above [researchers’ emphasis] gender, family status, and career-relevant variables.” The study, called “Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers,” was published in the most recent Work and Occupations journal. (The full study is available to subscribers only, but an abstract is available here.) Lead author Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University, said she wanted to look at the “mismatch” between outdated, 9-to-5-type expectations for workers and their actual needs, and the consequences of that mismatch. She said that doing so in an academic environment, where workers exhibit devotion to their jobs and scheduling flexibility is relatively high, would be a good place to start.

Continue reading “Flexibility Stigma”

Australian court recognizes gender neutrality

Australia’s highest court has ruled that a person can be legally recognised as gender neutral as opposed to male or female, ending a long legal battle by a sexual equality campaigner.

The Telegraph reports : “The High Court… recognises that a person may be neither male nor female, and so permits the registration of a person’s sex as ‘non-specific’,” it said in a unanimous judgement, dismissing a New South Wales state appeal to recognise only men or women.

“The case centred on a person called Norrie — who does not identify as either male or female — who fought a legal battle for a new gender-neutral category. Norrie, who uses only a single name, was born male and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1989 to become a woman.But the surgery failed to resolve Scottish-born Norrie’s ambiguity about their sexual identity, prompting a push for the recognition of a new, non-traditional gender.The campaigner made global headlines in February 2010 when an application to the NSW Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages accepted that “sex non-specific” could be accepted for Norrie’s records.But soon afterwards the office revoked its decision, saying the certificate was invalid and had been issued in error. At the time, Norrie said the decision felt like being “socially assassinated”.That sparked a series of appeals which resulted in the NSW Court of Appeal recognising Norrie as gender neutral last year, a decision which the High Court backed on Wednesday. Norrie’s lawyers argued in court that the activist was “being forced to live a lie” every time their client filled out a document that listed only two options for gender. Continue reading “Australian court recognizes gender neutrality”

Microaggressions

A tone-deaf inquiry into an Asian-American’s ethnic origin. Cringe-inducing praise for how articulate a black student is. An unwanted conversation about a Latino’s ability to speak English without an accent.

The New York times reports that “this is not exactly the language of traditional racism, but in an avalanche of blogs, student discourse, campus theater and academic papers, they all reflect the murky terrain of the social justice word du jour — microaggressions — used to describe the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.

“On a Facebook page called “Brown University Micro/Aggressions” a “dark-skinned black person” describes feeling alienated from conversations about racism on campus. A digital photo project run by a Fordham University student about “racial microaggressions” features minority students holding up signs with comments like “You’re really pretty … for a dark-skin girl.” The “St. Olaf Microaggressions” blog includes a letter asking David R. Anderson, the college’s president, to address “all of the incidents and microaggressions that go unreported on a daily basis.”.

“What is less clear is how much is truly aggressive and how much is pretty micro — whether the issues raised are a useful way of bringing to light often elusive slights in a world where overt prejudice is seldom tolerated, or a new form of divisive hypersensitivity, in which casual remarks are blown out of proportion.

“The word itself is not new — it was first used by Dr. Chester M. Pierce, a professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, in the 1970s. Until recently it was considered academic talk for race theorists and sociologists. Continue reading “Microaggressions”