Shared posts

08 Apr 13:22

"I’m giving a presentation tomorrow on the experience of...

"I’m giving a presentation tomorrow on the experience of African American males growing up in America."
"What’s the thesis?"
"Hundreds of interviews have been conducted, and we’ve found that not only do most African American males fail to acknowledge institutional racism, they mainly tend to blame themselves for their failures. They say things like they didn’t work hard enough, or made too many mistakes. They don’t understand that they weren’t afforded the same opportunities."

08 Apr 06:19

First Things First

by Greg Ross

We [Einstein and Ernst Straus] had finished the preparation of a paper and were looking for a paper clip. After opening a lot of drawers we finally found one which turned out to be too badly bent for use. So we were looking for a tool to straighten it. Opening a lot more drawers we came upon a whole box of unused paper clips. Einstein immediately started to shape one of them into a tool to straighten the bent one. When asked what he was doing, he said, ‘Once I am set on a goal, it becomes difficult to deflect me.’

– Ernst Straus, “Memoir,” in A.P. French, ed., Einstein: A Centenary Volume, 1979

(Einstein said to an assistant at Princeton that this was the most characteristic anecdote that could be told of him.)

07 Apr 20:42

The art of destruction These three images represent a...

The art of destruction

These three images represent a realization I had the other day: a damaged or destroyed object may be visually more appealing than the same object in its original state. The top image shows the pulpy remains of the National Library of Iraq, which was destroyed in 2003. At present the library, which included thousands of ancient books, looks more like the surface of a rock than a collection of thoughts and ideas. The charcoaled objects in the middle are three papyrus scrolls from Herculanaeum, a Roman city that was covered by volcanic ash in 79 AD. Its famous library was reduced to cigaret buds like these. The lower book, made in the fifteenth century, is damaged by beetle larvae - “bookworms” - who ate through its pages. As much as I would love to see these objects restored to their full glory, there is something oddly appealing about them in their present state. Sometimes destruction creates beauty.

Pics: the three rolls are Oxford, Bodleian Library, Gr. Class. f. 25-27 (more here); I blogged about them here. The story of the destroyed Iraq National Library is presented here (the image above is from that story). The “bookworm” image is from Emir O Filipovic (@EmirOFilipovic) and I used it in a blog some time ago (here).

07 Apr 19:27


01 Apr 18:01

My favorite label in the University Archives is on this teaching...

My favorite label in the University Archives is on this teaching collection.

31 Mar 00:00

Shooting at books Books and wars do not mix well. Riddled with...

Shooting at books

Books and wars do not mix well. Riddled with bullets, the lovely brown volume you see here was nearly fatally shot. It is a survivor of the siege of Monte Cassino abbey, which took place in 1944. The abbey’s strategic location, on top of a mountain near Rome, made it of vital importance for both the German and allied forces. The battle that ensued levelled the monastery and parts of the town beneath it (more about it here). While the oldest books were rushed out of the abbey’s ancient library before the battle began, all those from after 1800 had to remain behind. When you look at the post-battle images of the abbey, like the one above, it will be no surprise to hear that many of the ones left behind were damaged or lost (70,000 books were destroyed). Over fifty years later, some of them are still patiently waiting to be repaired, including this shell-shocked brown volume with the gaping bullet hole.

Pic: taken from this article about the restoration of the books from Monte Cassino, Check out this blog I wrote about my visit to the abbey.

29 Mar 17:20

Cat paws in medieval book - again This great image was brought...

Cat paws in medieval book - again

This great image was brought to my attention by the archivist at Balliol College, Oxford (here is the tweet). In a similar case, an image I tweeted some time ago showed a trail of inky cat paws, which was sent to me by @EmirOFilipovic (here is that tweet). The Balliol manuscript again provides evidence of cats walking over books, in this case in a manuscript from the 15th-century. It’s lovely to see that cats walking over books is a universal practice, with currently two medieval cases identified. In the image above the cat appears to merely have had dirt on his feet, not ink. It’s hard to say when this intrusion happened, but it will likely have been before modern times. Cats are, after all, refused entry to library reading rooms.

Pic: Oxford, Balliol College, MS 192 (England, 15th century).

28 Mar 14:00

Snickers Mocks the Idea that Men Can Respect Women

by Lisa Wade, PhD

This is one of the most demoralizing ads I’ve seen in a long time. It’s an Australian ad for Snickers in which construction workers on a busy city street yell pro-feminist comments at women, like “I’d like to show you the respect you deserve” and ”You want to hear a filthy word? Gender bias” and “You know what I’d like to see? A society in which the objectification of women makes way for gender neutral interaction free from assumptions and expectations.”

1 (2) - Copy

The construction workers are actors, but the women on the street are (or appear to be) real and their reactions authentic. The first thing women do is get uncomfortable, revealing how a lifetime of experience makes them cringe at the prospect of a man yelling at them.  But, as women realize what’s going on, they’re obviously delighted.  They love the idea of getting support and respect instead of harassment from strange men.

1 2 3.5

This last woman actually places her hand on her heart and mouths “thank you” to the guys.

And then the commercial ends and it’s all yanked back in the most disgusting way. It ends by claiming that pro-feminist men are clearly unnatural. Men don’t respect women — at least, not this kind of man — they’re just so hungry they can’t think straight.

1 (2)

The twist ending is a genuine “fuck you” to the actual women who happened to walk by and become a part of the commercial.  I wonder, when the producers approached them to get their permission to be used on film, did they tell them how the commercial would end? I suspect not. And, if not, I bet seeing the commercial would feel like a betrayal. These women were (likely) given the impression that it was about respecting women, but instead it was about making fun of the idea that women deserve respect.

What a dick move, Snickers. I hope you’re happy with your misogynist consumer base, because I don’t think I can ever buy a Snickers bar again.  What else does your parent company sell? I’ll make a note.

A petition has been started to register objections to the commercial. Thanks to sociologist and pro-feminist Michael Kimmel for sending in the ad.  Cross-posted at SoUnequal.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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28 Mar 01:00

Liters of Light: DIY Solar from Used Bottles, Bleach & Water

by Urbanist
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

liters of light roofs

Now setting its sights on a million homes, the organization behind this remarkably cheap approach to solar home lighting has already transformed the lives of thousands who were previously living in the dark.

liter of light roof

Installed in the metal roofs of windowless shacks, bottles of water help spread incoming light while the bleach keeps each bottle clean and clear, resulting in an output equivalent to that of a 60-watt bulb.

liter light project roof

These light bottles reduce the fire danger posed by poor electrical connections, cuts down on the cost of electric lighting and encourages recycling at the same time.

liter of light bottle

But a big part of the brilliance of the endeavor, pardon the pun, is in the simplicity of installation: effectively anyone can scavenge the major materials involved and teach others how to put them in place.

liter light construction steps

liters of light project installation

A Liter of Light grew out of an idea by Alfredo Moser from Brazil, enhanced by MIT students and aimed at addressing a problem facing millions in the Philippines: the absolute absence of natural light in their often-informal dwellings. Their latest goal is to raise funds to install these light bottles in homes across Manila.

Want More? Click for Great Related Content on WebUrbanist:

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Capturing the sun and storing up its power for a dark moment is a sweet daydream. You can make it happen for real with DIY plans to build your own Sun Jar. Click Here to Read More »»

Bottle & Sell It: 14 Designer Bottles that Break the Mold

These 14 tweaks on standard plastic bottle packaging make water, sports drinks, shampoo and cleaners more user-friendly and multi-purpose. Click Here to Read More »»

Invisible Apparel: Material-Free Dresses Made of Light

Combining light art photography and high fashion, these show-stopping runway gowns are manufactured without physical material and composed purely of light. Click Here to Read More »»

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

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23 Mar 14:00

Why Income Inequality Will Likely Keep Getting Worse

by Martin Hart-Landsberg, PhD

Thomas Piketty has just published a massive new book tackling the explosive growth in income inequality.  Here’s what it looked like in Europe and the United States in 2010 (source):
A New York Times review of the book, Capital in the Twenty-First Centurybegins as follows:

What if inequality were to continue growing years or decades into the future? Say the richest 1 percent of the population amassed a quarter of the nation’s income, up from about a fifth today. What about half?

To believe Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, this future is not just possible. It is likely…

His most startling news is that the belief that inequality will eventually stabilize and subside on its own, a long-held tenet of free market capitalism, is wrong. Rather, the economic forces concentrating more and more wealth into the hands of the fortunate few are almost sure to prevail for a very long time.

Piketty’s pessimistic view is based on his argument that income generated from capital normally grows faster than the economy or income from wages.  This means that the private owners of capital benefit disproportionately from growth, which makes it easier for them to increase their asset holdings and by extension future income.  And, since wealth and income translate into political power, we face a self-reinforcing dynamic leading to ever growing inequality.

This suggests that embracing a system based on maximizing the returns to private owners of capital is a mistake for the great majority of working people. A recent study by the investment bank Credit Suisse provides more evidence for this conclusion.  As Michael Burke explains,

The study… shows that long-term growth rates of GDP in selected industrialized economies are negatively correlated with financial returns to shareholders.

That is, the best returns for shareholders are from countries where GDP growth has been slowest, and vice versa. Where growth has been strongest, shareholder returns are weakest…

The negative correlation [seen in the chart below] does not prove negative causality. But it does support the theory which suggests that the interests of shareholders are contrary to the interests of economic growth and the well-being of the population.


All this information is worth keeping in mind the next time business and political leaders tell us that the key to our well-being is boosting business confidence, the market, or private returns on investment.

Cross-posted at Reports from the Economic Front.

Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College. You can follow him at Reports from the Economic Front.

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08 Mar 14:00

Femininity: Feared and Reviled

by Lisa Wade, PhD

11The paradox: masculinity is strength, power, and dominance… but femininity is terrifying. Gender rules insist that men must avoid association with the feminine at all costs because, if they do not, they are weak.  They are pussies, bitches, women, girls. Femininity is weakness and yet, oddly, it has the power to strip men of their manliness.  It is as if, as sociologist Gwen Sharp once put it, “masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it.”

Behold the best example of this phenomenon ever:

Let’s be clear.  The reason he’s afraid of femininity is because it’s reviled.  It makes you a woman, which makes you worthless.  Which is fine for the ladies, but dudes are advised to avoid personal denigration if at all possible.

Thanks Summer’s Eve, you make my job easy.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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10 Feb 18:01

c. 1945 : c. 1945: Boris Kobe, Tarock Card Game/Tarot Cards from Dachau

by Amanda Uren
Boris Kobe Tarock Card Game Tarot Cards 1

Boris Kobe Tarock Card Game Tarot Cards 2

05 Feb 20:39

Female Movie Stars Peak at Age 34, but Men See Success Till the End

by Lisa Wade, PhD

A new study on the differential earning power of male and female movie stars beings with a quote from Jennifer Jason Leigh:

It’s the nature of the business. People equate success with youth (source).

She’s half right.   Irene Pater and her co-authors looked at the pay of 265 actors and actresses who appeared in Hollywood films from 1968 to 2008.  They found that the average earnings of actors rises until the age of 51 and remains stable after that.  The average earnings of actresses, in contrast, peaks at 34 and decreases “rapidly thereafter.”


Source: USA Today

Sarah Jessica Parker, then, was more on the mark:

There is still a discrepancy in earning power between men and women in Hollywood. And it becomes doubly unfair when you think of our earning potential in terms of years.  Actresses are like football players. They have a small window of prime earning ability (source).

So, is this sexism or just “market forces”?  That is, is female acting work devalued compared to men’s because people in positions of power don’t value women?  Or is it because casting women over 34 decreases box office returns, whereas casting older men does not?  Pater and her colleagues suggest that it’s sexism.  One study, they explain,

…actually examined the combined effect of gender and age on box office performance [and] revealed that casting a female lead older than 32 years of age does not influence a movie’s box office performance, whereas casting a male lead older than 42 decreases box office revenues by almost 17% (source).

So the presence of male actors in their forties and over decreases box office revenue, but they still get paid more than women of the same age.  In contrast, casting women in their mid-thirties and over doesn’t bring down profits, but she’s still less valuable in the eyes of producers.  Sexism sounds like a plausible explanation to me.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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01 Feb 13:00

Black Women 40% More Likely to Die from Breast Cancer than White Women

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Thanks to advances in early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, white women’s survival rates have “sharply improved,” but black women’s have not.  As a result, white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but black women are more likely to die from it.  Researchers from the Sinai Institute found that Black women are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women.


Experts trace the majority of the widening gap in survival rates to access, not biology.  Black women are more likely than white to be low income, uninsured, and suspicious of a historically discriminatory medical profession.

From Tara Parker-Pope for the New York Times.  Hat tip @ProfessorTD.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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21 Jan 14:10

Fore-Edge Paintings

by Greg Ross

Some of your old books may contain hidden artworks: Beginning in the 17th century, a book’s binder would sometimes paint a watercolor scene on the edge of the book’s page stack. If the pages were then gilded, the image might remain hidden for years until the pages were fanned.

Sometimes two different images are hidden in the same book, revealed successively when the pages are fanned “up” and “down.” In rare cases paintings are hidden not just on the book’s fore edge but on the top and bottom as well, offering a panoramic view of the painting’s subject.

20 Jan 22:26

Be Not Afraid…

by Isis the Scientist

A couple days ago Henry Gee tweeted what he believes to be my real life identity. To address the elephant in the room, if such things are important to you, he was correct in his identification of me.  But, really, what Henry did required only high school level sleuthing.  Any amateur with a Cracker Jack decoder ring could have figured it out, largely because my pseud has eroded as you all have become a more important part of my life. When you’ve reached out and needed me, I’ve never hesitated to help you as my real self when that has been helpful to you.  Even when we haven’t agreed. I’ve met with many of you in real life and we’ve laughed and cried together. I’ve read fellowship and grant applications and manuscripts. It’s makes me chuckle and brings me happiness to see myself (as my real named self) acknowledged in book chapters and in publications and know that there was something I could do for some of you to help you succeed. I started doing Pub-Style Science with Michael Tomasson because he had a neat vision for how science communication should look and an openness and enthusiasm for hearing a diversity of voices.  We don’t see that in science communication and I saw what he wanted to do as an opportunity to do something good. I never wore a mask to hide. I knew that when many of you heard my voice, or saw the lower half of my face, you’d know who I was. I wore it as a symbol of our relationship here. When we meet as professionals, that’s how I promised to engage with you. The things that you may have shared with “Dr. Isis” remain with Dr. Isis.

Henry  referred to me as an “inconsequential” scientist. In the long term, he could be right. But, that comment has made me think a lot about the person I am and the person I want to be. I have been humbled by the support I have received in response to these shenanigans.  While I may be inconsequential, maybe never winning a Nobel, I’ve been generally pleased with my work. But, who do I want to be here? I have been happy to share with you the up and down realities of my life. I’ve been happy to help when you’ve called for me, and I have been happy  to help people find the resources they need. I realize more and more that this is what I should be doing here. There’s no point in getting through doors if you can’t help others find them and walk through them with you. I have been helped substantially along the way and am thankful for it. I also think that I should speak out when I think something is not just. Otherwise, what’s the point? I am neither brave nor revolutionary. I sit in a place of privilege compared to where I came from and I see no point in having it if I don’t use it for what I think feels meaningful and right.

So, to address the question that so many of you have lovingly asked in the last 24 hours, “Am I ‘ok’?” I am fine. My pseudonym has never been a secret to the people I work with and they all know what a swearing, scotch drinking, pain in the ass I am. I will admit that it has given me pause to have online people contacting me through my professional email, especially in light of some of the crazy, sexually explicit, and violent email I get. But, I always knew that level of wackaloonery reaching my real life was a possibility. My silence over the last day came only from that – from pondering the realization that the probability of that sort of nonsense reaching my real life was increased by his actions..but I won’t be afraid. I have always been motivated by the goal of increasing the participation of women and minority scientists in science and I can’t be surprised that this ruffled some feathers. It feels like the right thing to do.

So, while I am “ok”, were his actions “ok?” Of course not, and they give me pause. I have undoubtedly been vocal over the last four years of the fact that I believe Nature, the flagship of our profession, does not have a strong track record of treating women fairly. I believe that Henry Gee, a representative of the journal, is responsible for some of that culture.  That’s not “vitriolic” and it’s not “bullying”. That is me saying, as a woman, that there is something wrong with how this journal and its editors engage 50% of the population (or 20% of scientists) and I believe in my right to say “this is not ‘ok’.”  Henry Gee responded by skywriting my real name because he believed that would hurt me personally – my career, my safety, my family. Whatever. Regardless of the actual outcome, the direct personal nature of the attack is highlighted by its support from some that I “had it coming..

Krueger tweetHenry Gee’s actions were meant to intimidate me into silence. He took this approach likely with the thought that it was the most powerful way he could hurt me. Nothing more. Although I am ok, there are some recent victims of outing behavior that are not. That’s frightening. To think that the editor of a journal would respond to criticism of his professional conduct regarding the fair treatment of women by attempting to personally injure and damage..

Michael Eisen raises a valid point – what about the other identities that are trusted to the editors of that journal?

eisen tweet

And, what about people that might submit to Nature? He’s clearly willing to use his knowledge of people’s identities to injure them personally. If you’ve ever criticized him, or the journal, in the past, can you really be confident in fair peer review?

I speak only for myself and I have no personal feelings about Henry. My only concern has been in his conduct as an editor of a journal that very publicly represents my profession. When Henry Gee said, in reference to my self-professed boycott of Nature (until they get their act together regarding the treatment of women), “Nature boycotted by [an] inconsequential sports physio… Nature quakes in its boots”, he spoke as a high level representative of that publication, making a statement as to how that publication regards me.

That someone would engage a personal vendetta and conflate it with how I should expect to be treated by an allegedly peer-reviewed publication gives me more pause than having my name displayed publicly. And, it should serve as a gentle reminder of the possible outcome women face when they speak up about misogyny and sexism in their field. Retaliation can be a real bitch.

12 Jan 13:00

The SocImages Re-Touching/Photoshop Collection

by Lisa Wade, PhD

We’re cultivating a Pinterest page featuring revealing examples of re-touching and photoshop.  Here are our nineteen newest contributions, borrowed from JezebelBuzzfeed, and Photoshop Disasters.

12 3 4 5 6289 10 11 12

Perfect without a belly button (ebay); Lindsey Lohan once also had a mighty migrating belly button:


Terrifying proportions (Westfield Mall):


And Good Housekeeping too:

Take care with the placement of that right hip (Victoria’s Secret):


Let us count the ways (Speigel, Victoria’s Secret, and Laffy Taffy via Photoshop Disaster):

7 6 3

See our full Pinterest page here.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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09 Jan 13:00

Many Americans Overestimate, Fear Racial Diversity

by Lisa Wade, PhD

New survey data shows that the average person overestimates the diversity of the American population, both now and in the future.  Today, for example, racial minorities make up 37% of the population, but the average guess was 49%.


Many Americans fear rising diversity.  Over half worry that more minorities means fewer jobs, nearly half think that it means more crime, and almost two-thirds think these groups strain social services.  If people think that minorities are bad for America and overestimate their prevalence, they may be more likely to support draconian and punishing policy designed to minimize their numbers or mitigate the consequences they are believed to bring.

Not all Americans, of course, fear diversity equally.  Below are the scores of various groups on an “openness to diversity” measure with a range of 0-160.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 1.34.24 PM

For the future, Americans are still strongly divided as to what to do about diversity and the racialized inequality we currently see.

last chart

Via The Atlantic; thanks to @_ettey for the link.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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02 Jan 06:35

In a Word

by Greg Ross

n. a lover of knowledge

n. ignorant; lacking knowledge

n. a lover of the truth

“Have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of everything.” — Sydney Smith

From a letter from Ben Franklin to John Lining of South Carolina, March 18, 1755:

I find a frank acknowledgment of one’s ignorance is not only the easiest way to get rid of a difficulty, but the likeliest way to obtain information, and therefore I practice it: I think it an honest policy. Those who affect to be thought to know every thing, and so undertake to explain every thing, often remain long ignorant of many things that others could and would instruct them in, if they appeared less conceited.

30 Dec 06:53


by Greg Ross

“I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.” — Albert Einstein

“I want to be a human being, nothing more and nothing less. … I don’t suppose we can ever stop hating each other, but why encourage that by keeping the old labels with their ready-made history of millennial hate?” — Isaac Asimov

“Patriots always talk of dying for their country, and never of killing for their country.” — Bertrand Russell

“Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” — George Bernard Shaw

29 Dec 17:14

"My son got killed when he was eighteen." “What...

"My son got killed when he was eighteen."
“What happened?”
“He got shot, of course. That’s all they do.”

27 Dec 12:00

Why Are People Changing Their Minds about Same-Sex Marriage?

by Lisa Wade, PhD

We’re celebrating the end of the year with our most popular posts from 2013, plus a few of our favorites tossed in.  Enjoy!

We’ve seen a real shift in support for the issue and acceptance of homosexuality in general.  Since 2011, the majority of Americans are in favor of extending marriage to same-sex couples and the trend has continued.

What is behind that change?  The Pew Research Center asked 1,501 respondents whether they’d changed their minds about same-sex marriage and why.  Here’s what they found.

The overall trend towards increasing support is clear in the data.  Fourteen percent of Americans say that they used to oppose same-sex marriage, but they now support it.  Only 2% changed their mind in the other direction.


People offered a range of reasons for why they changed their minds.  The most common response involved coming into contact with someone that they learned was homosexual.  A third of respondents said that knowing a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person was influential in making them rethink their position on gay marriage.  This is consistent with the Contact Hypothesis, the idea that (positive) experiences with someone we fear or dislike will result in changes of opinion.


As you can see, lots of other reasons were common too.  A quarter of people said that they, well, “evolved”:  they grew up, thought about it more, or more clearly.  Nearly as many said that they were simply changing with the times or that a belief that everyone should be free to do what they want was more important than restricting the right to marry.

I thought that the 5% that said they’d changed their minds for religious reasons were especially interesting.  Support for same-sex marriage is rising in every demographic, even among the religious.  Following up on this, Pew offers an additional peek into the minds of believers.  The table below shows that 37% of the religious  both believe that same-sex marriage is compatible with their belief and support it, but an additional 28% who think marriage rights would violate their religious belief are in favor of extending those rights nonetheless.



While we’ve been following the trend lines for several years, it’s really interesting to learn what’s behind the change in opinion about same-sex marriage.  Contact with actual gay people — and probably lovable gay and lesbian celebrities like Ellen and Neil Patrick Harris — appears to be changing minds. But the overall trend reflects real shifts in American values about being “open,” valuing “freedom” and “choice,” extending “rights,” and accepting that this is the way it is, even if one personally doesn’t like it.

Cross-posted at BlogHer and Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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21 Dec 13:00

Racism and Xenophobia in “War on Christmas” Rhetoric

by Lisa Wade, PhD

1Last year a drug store chain in Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart, started playing Christmas music more than a month before the holiday.  Customers complained, perhaps, Tom Megginson suggested, because it is customary in Canada to wait until after  Remembrance Day on November 11 (a holiday honoring those who’ve died in wars) to start celebrating Christmas.

In response to complaints, Shoppers pulled the Christmas music and announced their decision on Facebook:

How might people interpret this decision?   Here’s a sampling of one type of response, collected by Megginson:

Notice that not wanting to hear Christmas in early November is conflated with not celebrating Christmas and that is conflated with a whole host of identities: not being a “real” Canadian and being non-Christian, non-white, an immigrant, and of a different “culture.”

For these commenters, the so-called War on Christmas is about much more than a competition between religious and secular forces, it’s also about the centrality of whiteness and a defense of “true” Canadianness against an influx of foreign cultures.  It is worth considering whether, in general, this debate is really code for racism and anti-immigrant sentiment more generally.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil. Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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19 Dec 21:33

Cranky Misogynists and the Pain of Being Demoted to Equal

by Lisa Wade, PhD

I’m in Salon today responding to the “men’s rights activists” who spammed Occidental College’s anonymous sexual assault reporting form this week.  I, um, compare them to myself as a child:

I thought I failed fourth grade.  It’s funny now that I’m a tenured professor at an elite college, but it wasn’t funny then.  I lived a 45 minute walk from school and I ran home that day, tears in my eyes, clutching my unopened report card in my fist.  I don’t remember much from my childhood, but I remember sitting on my front stoop and opening that horrible envelope.  All Es for “excellent.”  Huh.

Looking back I realize that my sense that I’d failed was based on how my teacher treated me.  She was the first adult who didn’t talk to me in a baby voice like I was the most specialest little girl in the whole world.  She treated me like a small adult instead of kissing my ass.  But it was terrifying because my ass had been kissed by everyone around me my whole life and, when I was demoted to “regular person” without any special privileges, it felt terrible and unfair.  I was being persecuted.

See how special I was? I’m the one with the inflated sense of self.


The men attacking Occidental’s survivors are feeling something similar to me in fourth grade.  They’re angry that “women are being listened to… They’re mad because they’re not the only ones that matter anymore.”  They’re no longer being treated like they’re the most specialest little girl in the whole world.

It hurts when privileges are taken away, no matter how unearned.  But that doesn’t make it okay to be an asshole.  Just sayin’.

PS – Thanks Ms. Singh!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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16 Dec 13:00

When Cowboys Wore Pink

by Rebecca Hains PhD

What would you think of Woody from Toy Story if he wore pink?


Would you think the color choice was incongruous — that it didn’t seem masculine enough for a 1950s-era cowboy toy?

Well, you’d be wrong. Check out these images from the 1955 Sears Christmas Book catalog that Elizabeth Sweet, a newly minted Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis, sent me. Here’s Roy Rogers Apparel, featuring Roy Rogers and his son, Dusty – who is wearing a cowboy outfit with red, yellow, and pink accents:


To modern eyes, this is surprising. “Pink is a girls’ color,” we think. This association has become so firmly entrenched in our cultural imagination that people are flabbergasted to learn that until the 1950s, pink was often considered a strong color and, therefore, was associated with boys.

But it wasn’t only for boys. Although gender segregation is de rigeur today, it wasn’t back then. Look at these outfits for boys and girls, also from the 1955 Sears catalog: There are brown and red outfits for boys and girls. Pink and blue outfits for boys and girls. Blue and green outfits for boys and girls.


These spreads make it clear that in the 1950s, when Woody’s Roundup is supposed to have originated, Woody would have been pretty darned stylish in pink.

A decade later, things had started changing; pink was more closely associated with girls. (As Elizabeth notes of the Sears catalogs in her collection, “I didn’t find anything similar in 1965.”)

In today’s marketplace, I believe parents would love to see options like these. In fact, just yesterday, one of my friends posted this to facebook about his failed shopping trip:

Alright, parents, I went to buy my daughter cool costume stuff like pirate stuff and cowgirl stuff and all I found was princess outfits. She doesn’t know the word “princess.” She knows the words ‘cowgirl” and “pirate.” What’s the deal? Why does every company want her to be a princess? Why can’t she be an awesome cowgirl pirate?

Sadly, the reason is that in the retail world, this kind of diversity just doesn’t fly anymore. The status quo is segregation; as Elizabeth Sweet has argued, “finding a toy that is not marketed either explicitly or subtly (through use of color, for example) by gender has become incredibly difficult.” And the more entrenched this practice becomes, the harder it becomes to change, as change is perceived by marketers and retailers as a risk.

Therefore, for the foreseeable future, pink will serve as a clear delineation in the marketplace: If something is pink, it is most definitely not for boys, who regard it as a contagion — something to be avoided at all costs.

So it is that if Woody wore pink today, he would be unintelligible in the marketplace. And so it is that my friend can’t find a good cowgirl outfit for his little girl: he’d have to travel back to 1955 to do so.

The push for “girly” to be synonymous with “pink” saddens me. It has caused girls’ worlds to shrink, and it only reinforces for boys the idea that they should actively avoid anything girlish. Monochromatic girlhood drives a wedge between boys and girls — separating their spheres during a time when cross-sex play is healthy and desirable, and when their imaginations should run free.

Instead, we’re limiting our kids.

Rebecca Hains, PhD is a media studies professor at Salem State University.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  Read the original post here.

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27 Nov 00:00

48% of U.S. Schoolchildren Live in Poverty

by Lisa Wade, PhD

A new study has discovered that 48% of the nation’s 50 million public school students are in poverty, as measured by whether they qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches.  In 17 states, the majority of schoolchildren are poor.  Poverty rates are led by Mississippi, where 71% of children are in poverty.

These data represent a startling rise since 2000:


While the statistics are the worst for states in the South and the West, the percent increase in poor children was the highest in the Midwest (up 40% since 2001, compared to 33% in the South, 31% in the West, and 21% in the Northeast).  All, of course, extraordinary increases.

h/t @Miel_Machetes.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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05 Nov 00:50

Fuck Wordsworth: Impolite Romanticisms, Edited Anthology

This edited anthology considers impolite Romanticisms, absolutely and unequivocally excluding that total fuckwad Wordsworth, that polite pondscum sucking, ass-kissing douchebag. While we're at it, let's fuck his fucking daffodils too, because they're just fucking weeds, and his fucking leeches and his fucking fuck-all suck-ass cliff. In fact, let's fuck the entire fucking Lake district with its fucking pretty mountains and its Dove fucking cottage -- oh hell, let's fuck every cottage and bower from the get-go, especially lime tree bowers, so we can fuck Coleridge too -- and its little white fucking fence and its fucking pretty mountains. Michael can go fuck himself too, though we will admit we're still rather drawn to that little girl in "We Are Seven." Lucy can fucking fuck herself, though, and so can the fucking Sublime, Picturesque, and Beautiful all at once (so you're fucked too Edmund Fucking Burke), along with every fucking abbey that was ever fucking built. Do you get the fucking point? Fuck the "lyrical" fucking "ballads." Wordsworth can blow his fucking clouds of glory up his fucking ass. We will focus instead upon urban Romanticisms, queer Romanticisms, transgressive Romanticisms, Romanticisms that will fuck anything that moves, angry Romanticisms, atheist Romanticisms, drunken Romanticisms, drugged Romanticisms, and any fucking Romanticism that doesn't give a fuck about forests, lakes, bean fields, and being fucking poet fucking Laureate for Queen Fucking Victoria of all fucking people. Say the things you've always wanted to say but couldn't. Fake names are acceptable only if accompanied by fake biographies and fake CVs that approximate your real ones.

30 Oct 06:08

Beyond the Pale

by Greg Ross

Expressions banned from use in New Zealand parliamentary debate:


Retardate worm

Clown of the House
Idle vapourings of a mind diseased
I would cut the honourable gentleman’s throat if I had the chance

His brains could revolve inside a peanut shell for a thousand years without touching the sides

Kind of animal that gnaws holes

Member not fit to lick the shoes of the Prime Minister

Energy of a tired snail returning home from a funeral

Shut up yourself, you great ape
Snotty-nosed little boy
You are a cheap little twerp
Ridiculous mouse

Could go down the Mount Eden sewer and come up cleaner than he went in
Dreamed the bill up in the bath
Frustrated warlord

The full list is here. In brighter news, saying that a fellow member “scuttles for his political funk hole” was deemed allowable in 1974.

29 Oct 13:44

nasty effect

nasty effect
n. The polarization of opinions on a particular topic caused by exposure to uncivil commentary about that topic.
Example Citations:
Science magazine reported on the effects of nasty comments about science stories online: Not only do they fail to improve debate, they also make people stupider. The “nasty effect,” as the researchers call it, has a polarizing effect in that readers react by becoming more entrenched in their previous opinions, whether positive or negative.
—Stephen Marche, “There Are No Saints Online,” Esquire, May 1, 2013

But the nasty effect isn’t new, or unique to the Internet. Psychologists have long worried about the difference between face-to-face communication and more removed ways of talking—the letter, the telegraph, the phone. Without the traditional trappings of personal communication, like non-verbal cues, context, and tone, comments can become overly impersonal and cold.
—Maria Konnikova, “The Psychology of Online Comments,” The New Yorker, October 24, 2013

Earliest Citation:
Uncivil discourse is a growing concern in American rhetoric, and this trend has expanded beyond traditional media to online sources, such as audience comments. Using an experiment given to a sample representative of the U.S. population, we examine the effects online incivility on perceptions toward a particular issue—namely, an emerging technology, nanotechnology.
—Ashley A. Anderson, et al., “The ‘Nasty Effect:’ Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies”, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, February 19, 2013

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Posted on October 29, 2013 


23 Oct 20:32

Today's young women live with constant surveillance. It has to stop

by Laurie Penny
To be a white, middle-class male in this society is to live without a certain sort of scrutiny that people from other demographics grow up expecting. Meanwhile, intimate surveillance creeps into every aspect of young women's lives.

Would you put a camera in your daughter’s bedroom? Gordon Ramsay would. Last week, the celebrity chef boasted jokily on Jonathan Ross that he’d done just that to his fifteen-year old to make sure she and her boyfriend aren’t getting up to anything untoward. Barbara Ellen jumped to his defence in the Guardian, explaining that she has installed a webcam to spy on her own teenage daughter just to check that she is always doing her schoolwork when she should be. Parents, it is assumed, are allowed to spy on their children to whatever extent technology allows, particularly if those children are girls. The logic of constant surveillance - already employed in many factories and workplaces, where every minute of an employee’s time is now mechanically accounted for - has been extended to the home in a way that, were it to involve a relationship between adults, would immediately be pegged as abusive.

I was alerted to this disturbing trend by the Telegraph’s Mic Wright. Wright has reported before on the trend of liberal parents using the same tracking technology they would quite like various nation states to stop deploying against citizens to spy on their own children - specifically, on their daughters. It is significant that it is daughters who are subject to this sort of surveillance - being tracked on their parents’ smartphones, having their online activity monitored or, in Barbara Ellen’s case, having to put up with the parental panopticon checking that they’re always working and never fucking.

It has become a cliche for parents to snicker that whilst their sons may engage in whatever extracurricular activities they please, their daughters will be locked in their bedrooms until marriage. The joke wasn’t funny even when the worst concerned parents could do was scrabble under their children’s beds for sex toys and stimulants. Writing in The New Inquiry, Rahel Aima was amongst the first to link contemporary creeping surveillance with the patriarchal gaze, which she says is “something seemingly basic but as yet unacknowledged: these new ways of watching are unavoidably gendered technologies of control and domination.”

Aima quotes Madeline Ashby, who notes that:

Apparently, it took the preponderance of closed-circuit television cameras for some men to feel the intensity of the gaze that women have almost always been under … It took Facebook. It took geo-location. That spirit of performativity you have about your citizenship now? That sense that someone’s peering over your shoulder, watching everything you do and say and think and choose? That feeling of being observed? It’s not a new facet of life in the 21st century. It’s what it feels like for a girl.

It’s not just parents who watch young women, of course. Intimate surveillance, as I discuss in my book Cybersexism, creeps into every aspect of young women’s lives; from curated selfies to policing of Facebook photos to the sexual exchange and currency of nude photos and videos, women and girls grow up expecting to be on camera, and fretting about controlling how and by whom we are seen.

To be a white, middle-class male in this society is to live without a certain sort of scrutiny that people from other demographics grow up expecting. It makes sense, therefore, that one so often sees white, middle-class guys leading the charge against surveillance technology online and elsewhere. People get angriest about rights and freedoms being taken away when they have grown up expecting those rights and freedoms as a matter of course. This does not invalidate anybody’s rage when the rules of engagement with a state are rewritten without our permission.

The special sort of adulthood that comes with not being watched, with being free in the short-term to take responsibility for your own actions, is a privilege of which white men get an extra helping. Women and girls, for example, are generally watched more closely by their parents because of the ongoing terror that if they’re not kept tightly under control they will end up pregnant, unemployed, abused, or all three. Implicit in that that constant surveillance is a denial of adult agency. 

One of the uncomplicatedly wonderful things about being a grown up is not always having to explain your behavior. To have ice-cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner until you’re sick of ice-cream. To go to bed with people who are personally unsuitable or politically unsound. To take the train to a new city without saying goodbye. I’m not suggesting you do any of those things, or that they come with no consequences. I’m just saying that if you no longer live with your parents, you probably could if you wanted to. 

Part of growing up is grasping for that unwatched place, testing the boundaries of irresponsibility, evading intimate surveillance in order to establish boundaries of our own. We cannot speak seriously of young women’s freedom if we never let them push at those boundaries. To live under constant surveillance is to learn submission, and young women know this more than most.  No wonder Barbara Ellen’s daughter chucked her camera in the bin.