"Being disabled in America is like living in a third world country."
"Being disabled in America is like living in a third world country."
Below is a guest post by Kieran Snyder, taken with permission from her always-interesting tumblr Jenga one week at a time.
About a month ago at work I overheard one woman complaining to another woman about a man’s habit of interrupting everyone in meetings. Then they went further. “That’s just how it is around here. The women listen, but the men interrupt in meetings all the time,” one of them summed it up.
As a moderate interrupter myself – I’m sorry if I’ve interrupted you, I just get excited about what you’re saying and I want to build on it and I lose track of the fact that it’s not my turn and I know it’s a bad habit – I started wondering if she was right. Do men interrupt more often than women?
Search for “do men interrupt more than women” and you will find a variety of answers. The answers loosely break into two categories: 1. no, they don’t, and 2. yes, they do.
The empirical linguist in me got to thinking, and a few weeks ago I decided to figure it out.
The setup: I wanted to find situations where I could observe groups of men and women interacting without being a significant participant in the conversation myself. I am not always a talker, but when I am a talker, I am a seriously big talker and I am a definite interrupter. So I needed to find contexts where I wasn’t going to be tempted to talk myself. I also didn’t want to eavesdrop, so I needed to find contexts where I was a welcome listener.
I defined an interruption as any communication event where one person starts speaking before the other person has finished, whether or not the interrupter intends it.
The reality: I spend a lot of my weekday hours in the office, and in the job I have, I am invited to a lot of meetings. I started looking at my calendar to identify meetings where I was mainly going to be present as a listener, where there were at least four other people in the room, and where the gender mix was close to even. Since I work in tech, this last one is easier said than done, so I wasn’t able to strictly apply it, but I got close. On average, 60% of the speakers in any given room that I observed were men, and 40% were women.
I wanted to understand four things: how often interruptions happen; whether men or women interrupt their colleagues more often; whether men or women are interrupted by their colleagues more often; and whether men and women are more likely to interrupt speakers of their own gender, speakers across gender, or some other pattern.
I took notes that covered fifteen hours of conversation over a four week period, and the conversations contained anywhere from 4-15 people (excluding me). It is totally possible that I missed some interruptions since I didn’t record the meetings like I would have done in a real field linguistics study.
What I found was interesting.
People interrupt a lot.
And the more people who are in a conversation, the more interrupting there is – until some peak rate is reached and holds steady no matter how many additional people are added into the conversation.
I noted 314 interruption events spread over 900 minutes of conversation, which means that collectively people interrupted each other once every two minutes and fifty-one seconds, or just over 21 times per hour. But the actual interruption rate (y-axis) correlated closely with the number of active participants in the conversation (x-axis):
This is interesting because it suggests that there are only so many interruptions that a conversation will tolerate before it’s not a conversation anymore. Keep in mind that all the conversations I observed were formal work meetings where people mostly adhered to a single conversation thread; it is very likely that in a more informal setting, many of the larger groups would have split themselves into smaller groups having multiple conversations. In fact, these results make me wonder if 7 people is the natural tipping point for that kind of splitting in social groups. Someone has definitely studied this, but I have not.
Men interrupt more than women overall.
All told and no other factors considered, men accounted for 212 of the 314 total interruptions, about two thirds of the total. The men I observed accounted for about twice as many interruptions overall as the women did.
It’s worth noting that the groups I observed were not 50/50 split between men and women to begin with. Among the individuals I observed, 60% were men; I worked hard to find rooms to observe that included high representations of women, which took some doing but luckily is not as hard to do in design as it is in engineering. That means that if men and women had shown the same rate of interruption, we would expect to find that 188.4 of the interruptions came from men. We actually see 212.
So there you have it: at least in this male-heavy tech setting, men do interrupt more often than women do.
Men are almost three times as likely to interrupt women as they are to interrupt other men.
Here’s where things start to get really interesting. Of the 212 total interruptions from men that I logged, 149 of them – that’s 70% of the total – were interruptions where women had been previously speaking. Men do interrupt other men, but far less often.
These numbers are a little worse than they look in terms of balance since the rooms had only 40% women to begin with. Although I didn’t track gender representation in overall speaking turns (I only tracked interruptions), I believe women in this setting are taking far fewer than a 40% share of speaking turns. That would make these numbers even more skewed than they already appear; whenever women take a speaking turn, they are getting interrupted.
Women interrupt each other constantly, and almost never interrupt men.
Of the 102 interruptions from women that I logged, a staggering 89 of them were instances of women interrupting other women. That is to say, 87% of the time that women interrupt, they are interrupting each other.
Let’s pause and dwell on this for a sec: In fifteen hours of conversation that included 314 total interruptions, I observed a total of 13 examples of women interrupting male speakers. That is less than once per hour, in a climate where interruptions occur an average of once every two minutes and fifty-one seconds.
Does anyone else think this is a big deal?
I’m used to thinking of myself as an irritating interrupter, and I probably am. I didn’t track my own behavior over the same time period because it’s impossible to get that right. But looking over the data has made me wonder whether I really exhibit the pattern that I thought I did. How many of my own interruptions are directed towards female colleagues?
There’s lots more to investigate here. If I were still a Real Linguist, I’d see this as an opportunity for a Real Study. For instance, how much does the male-centric nature of the tech setting bias these results? Like, if someone did the same observations during faculty meetings at an elementary school, would they find the inverse pattern? And what actually does happen in single-sex environments? And this is a whole other enchilada, but how much does sexuality play a role in interruption patterns? I didn’t attempt to track that this time, but my informal observations suggest that this would be worth a study unto itself.
So there you have it, take or leave: men interrupt more than women. And when they interrupt, both men and women are mostly interrupting women.
Above is a guest post by Kieran Snyder.
A relevant study, whose findings are somewhat similar and somewhat different from Kieran's findings, is Jiahong Yuan, Mark Liberman, and Christopher Cieri, "Towards an integrated Understanding of Speech Overlaps in Conversation", ICPhS 2007. The abstract:
We investigate factors that affect speech overlaps in conversation, using large corpora of conversational telephone speech. We analyzed two types of speech overlaps: 1. One side takes over the turn before the other side finishes (turn-taking type); 2. One side speaks in the middle of the other side’s turn (backchannel type). We found that Japanese conversations have more short turn-taking type of overlap segments than the other languages. In general, females make more speech overlaps of both types than males; and both males and females make more overlaps when talking to females than talking to males. People make fewer overlaps when talking with strangers than talking with familiars, and the frequency of speech overlaps is significantly affected by conversation topics. Finally, the two conversation sides are highly correlated on their frequencies of using turn-taking type of overlaps but not backchannel type.
Note that we looked at very different sorts of conversations — Kieran observed business meetings in a male-dominated technology company, while Jiahong, Chris & I analyzed telephone conversations among family and friends – the CallHome corpora in Arabic (LDC97S45), English (LDC97S42), German (LDC97S43), Japanese (LDC96S37), Mandarin (LDC96S34), and Spanish (LDC96S35) — and telephone conversations between strangers — the Fisher English corpus (LDC2004S13).
As Kieran notes, there are results pointing in several different directions on the question of whether men interrupt more than women. There are several obvious (and compatible) reasons for this variation: differences in types of people and types of conversations; possible failure to distinguish among the several very different sorts of speech overlaps; interactions among gender, age, and status of interrupters and interruptees; etc.
It would be interesting to compare (for example) the ICSI Meeting corpus (speech and transcripts), which include about 75 hours of recorded and transcribed meetings held at ICSI during the years 2000-2002. These are multi-person face-to-face working meetings in a high-tech organization, and thus similar in that respect to Kieran's sample.
After a performance of his play The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter received a note from an audience member:
Can you tell me the meaning of your play? There are three points I do not understand.
i. Who are the two men?
ii. Where did Stanley come from?
iii. Were they all supposed to be normal?
You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions I cannot understand your play.
He wrote back:
I would be obliged if you could explain to me the meaning of your letter. There are three points which I do not understand.
i. Who are you?
ii. Where do you come from?
iii. Are you supposed to be normal?
You will appreciate that without the answers to these questions I cannot fully understand your letter.
At the end of last year, Robin Thicke took a lot of heat for both the lyrics of his song, Blurred Lines, and the accompanying video. The latter is a transparent instance of a very common strategy for making men look cool: surround them with beautiful and preferably naked women.
It seems especially effective if the men in question act unimpressed and unaffected by, or even disinterested in, the women around them. It’s as if they are trying to say, “I am so accustomed to having access to beautiful, naked women, I don’t even notice that they’re there anymore.” Or, to be more vulgar about it, “I get so much pussy, I’ve become immune.”
This is all to introduce a satirical series of photographs featuring performance artist Nate Hill who, on the mission page of his “trophy scarves” website (NSFW), writes: “I wear white women for status and power.” And, so, he does. Here are some maybe safe-for-work-ish examples:
There are more, definitely NSFW examples, at his site (and thanks to German C. for sending the link).
Hill brilliantly combines a tradition of conspicuous consumption – think mink stoles – with a contemporary matrix of domination in which white women are status symbols for men of all races. It’s not irrelevant that he’s African-American and the women he chooses are white and, yes, it is about power. We know it is because women do it too and, when they do, they use women below them in the racial hierarchy. Remember Gwen Stefani’s harajuku girls? And consider this FHM Philippines cover:
I’m amazed at the ubiquitousness of this type of imagery and our willingness to take it for granted that this is just what our visual landscape looks like. It’s social inequality unapologetically laid bare. We’re used to it.
Somebody — lots of somebodies, I guess — sat around the room and thought, “Yeah, there’s nothing pathetic or problematic about a music video in which absolutely nothing happens except naked women are used to prop up our singer’s masculinity.” The optimist in me wants to think that it’s far too obvious, so much so that the producers and participants would be embarrassed by it. Or, at least, there’d be a modicum of sensitivity to the decades of feminist activism around the sexual objectification of women.
The cynic in me recognizes that white supremacy and the dehumanization of women are alive and well. I’m glad Hill is here to help me laugh about it, even if nervously. Gallows humor, y’all. Sometimes it’s all we got.
Cross-posted at Jezebel.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
In the lasts 15 years, student debt has grown by over 1,000% and the debt held by public colleges and universities has tripled. Where is the money going?
The scholars behind a new report, Borrowing Against the Future: The Hidden Costs of Financing U.S. Higher Education, argue that profit is the culprit. They write:
Scholars have offered several explanations for these high costs including faculty salaries, administrative bloat, and the amenities arms race. These explanations, however, all miss a crucial piece of the puzzle.
Sociologist Charlie Eaton and his colleagues crunched the numbers and found that spending on actual education has stagnated, while financial speculators have been taking an increasing amount of money off of the top.
Higher education fills the pockets of investors in three ways:
Take a look at this figure breaking down the sources of the rise in the cost of higher education. Interest on debt — taken on by both students and the colleges they attend — has risen. Meanwhile, direct profits from for-profit colleges have skyrocketed.
Overall, Eaton and his colleagues found that Americans are spending $440 billion dollars a year on higher education and that 10% of that goes into the pockets of investors who are skimming profit off of all forms of higher education.
Want more? Read their report or watch their summary:
Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
"Even if we work hard to be a teacher, or a lawyer, or a doctor, we are seen first as outsiders."
"If I feel like there’s a chance of losing someone, I’ll always try to be the one that backs out first."
"I’ve been a deep believer my whole life. 18 years as a Southern Baptist. More than 40 years as a mainline Protestant. I’m an ordained pastor. But it’s just stopped making sense to me. You see people doing terrible things in the name of religion, and you think: ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They’re just as convinced as I am.’ And it just doesn’t make sense anymore. It doesn’t make sense to believe in a God that dabbles in people’s lives. If a plane crashes, and one person survives, everyone thanks God. They say: ‘God had a purpose for that person. God saved her for a reason!’ Do we not realize how cruel that is? Do we not realize how cruel it is to say that if God had a purpose for that person, he also had a purpose in killing everyone else on that plane? And a purpose in starving millions of children? A purpose in slavery and genocide? For every time you say that there’s a purpose behind one person’s success, you invalidate billions of people. You say there is a purpose to their suffering. And that’s just cruel."
The idea that women might not just be supporting characters in men’s stories, but rather individuals who are free to fancy bad boys, or weird guys, or women, is still unaccountably threatening.
Jeremy Meeks is a very bad man. The entire news media is keen to remind us of this, after a photo of the convicted felon’s mugshot failed to have the desired effect when authorities in Stockton, California, shared it on social media and women noticed that, criminal or no, Meeks is really quite attractive. Apparently that observation makes women idiots, or evil, or both.
I’m familiar with Meeks’s face – that carved jaw, those steely blue eyes, the single tattooed teardrop making him appear at once very dangerous and just a little bit vulnerable – because my Facebook feed has been full of nothing else for the past week and a half. Yes, he may have done a great many terrible things, but, much to the distress of that part of straight dudekind that lives online, women fancy him anyway. Because he is pretty. I’m not typically even into studly guys, but objectively speaking, this is a very pretty man. It seems that saying so makes me not only a fool but everything that’s wrong with “girls” today.
The message Lafata and a great many others are sending is: rather than this black man arrested for “gang-related offences”, you should fancy this morally upright, slightly homely white guy. Or Benedict Cumberbatch. Or really anyone else at all.
The idea that women might not just be supporting characters in men’s stories of personal development, that they might be their own people with their own desires – free to fancy bad boys, or weird guys, or women – is still unaccountably threatening. It rips right through to the plaintive core of the manosphere, the distress that women’s sexual attention isn’t being distributed justly, that women are evil and stupid for making the “wrong” decisions. At best, it’s the Nice Guys of OKCupid. At worst, it’s Elliot Rodger.
Has there ever been a world where women expected sexual attention from men – wanted or unwanted – on the basis of their accomplishments and moral character? I don’t think so. Character of any sort is considered, at best, a fetching accessory, and at worst an active impediment to attraction. There is yet to be an accepted social narrative whereby homely but morally accomplished or heroic women get rewarded with the hot dude of their choice. Personally, no charmer has ever yelled at me in the street, “Hey, girl! I hear you’re a really nice person!”
New technology, same old rules: men are meant to be judged on their moral and personal worth while women are bodies and nothing more, and our sexual preferences, our personal desires, are condemned if they don’t serve the tired old narrative of boy-gets-girl, with boys do the getting and girls getting got.
Comparing Meeks to Kyle Carpenter as a better model of internet crush, Ms Lafata suggests that “once we see someone’s appearance as more valuable or important than their character, it’s time to re-evaluate”. That’s what women have been saying over centuries of being judged on looks alone, and it’s what we’re still saying today. Could it be that payback, as they say, is a bitch?
Laurie Penny will be in conversation with classicist and author Mary Beard on 30 July at Conway Hall, London. More details and tickets here.
Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
How do people in the U.S. become wealthy? According to the myth of meritocracy, they do so by hard work: blood, sweat, tears, a trace of talent, and a tad bit of luck. This is the story told in this two-page ad for U.S. Trust in The New Yorker:
On the first page we learn she’s rich, but she’s still a home-town girl at heart. On the second page, we learn a little about how she might have gotten so wealthy:
Note the first few sentences:
Who’s to say how it happened. A big idea. A gutsy work ethic. A lucky break here and there.
Well, uh…what about, “She inherited it”? That’s a pretty common way to end up with a whole bunch of houses and in need of a wealth management team.
The notion that rich people are rich because their parents are rich, however, interrupts the American mystique, the one where we are a country of self-made immigrants who pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. People, even people who inherited wealth, like to think that they’re rich because they worked hard. Hence, the romanticization of the self-made millionaire in the ad and the corresponding invisibility of the inheritance loophole.
On the flipside, this narrative also supports the converse idea that the poor are poor because of their lack of personal efforts and merits. Perhaps they didn’t have a “big idea’ or the “gutsy work ethic” that enabled them to profit from the lucky break that they inevitably encountered, right?
This ad is just one drop in the sea of propaganda that makes it seem right and normal that a small proportion of our population is able to hoard wealth and property.
This post originally appeared in 2008.Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Over three hundred bus shelter ads across the UK have been replaced with thought-provoking works criticizing capitalist culture by 40 street artists. The ‘Brandalism‘ posters were installed in high-traffic areas, from the busiest shopping district of London to the Leeds Half Marathon route and even outside Scotland Yard, right under the noses of the police officers lambasted by several of the designs.
“The large print giveth, the small print taketh away,” reads one, while another parodies Harrod’s department store with “Horrids – trite gewgaws, trinkets & trash, the cluster bombs of consumerism.” “The market is dead, long live the market,” a third repeats.
The campaign is a response to the fact that the UK’s advertising industry pays just under 250 per person each year to reach the ears and eyeballs of the citizens i the hopes of selling things like “adjustable mops and leather sofas.” Plus, the industry relies on manipulation ranging from the subtle to the overt, convincing us that we won’t be happy until we make more money in order to purchase all of this stuff. It’s not about catering to our needs, it’s about creating new desires.
The campaign explains, “The fight against advertising is not a fight against desiring. We should want more from life not less, and we should demand it. The question is more of what? This exhibition is about trying to open up questions about the ills created by advertising, the false needs and destructive desires it attempts to distill in us, and it is about trying to reclaim some of the spaces taken from us.”
Brandalism even has a suggestion for anyone who isn’t a big fan of the work their artists produced: “Swapping them is easier than you’d imagine. All you need are some o the magic cabinet keys and a trusty hi-viz vest to remain hidden in plain sight. So if you don’t like what we’ve put up, check out our guide to opening the cabinets, and replace it with something you prefer. Because after all, they’re your streets.”
Just own up to it. Seriously. Don’t freak out, don’t spend time trying to justify whatever you just said. And, HINT: the more of an urge you feel to justify what you just said, the greater the chance that it was indeed very shitty and this is your way of coping with your own shame.
Say, “Wow, you’re right. I’m really sorry, and thank you for letting me know that.” Then, don’t say that shitty thing again.
In the wake of Elliot Rodger’s misogynistic killing spree, the media’s role in male entitlement and violence against women has brought commentators to virtual blows. One right hook came from Ann Hornaday, who argues in the Washington Post that male entitlement fantasies are part of a climate in which women are displayed as objects for the sexual fulfillment of men. This post is about how full frontal nudity in True Blood, Hung, and Game of Thrones contributes to this climate.
While there are dozens of examples of full frontal female nudity in True Blood’s six-season run, from lead actors to extras, there are only two instances of full frontal male nudity.
A striking example of the exploitation of women as sex objects is in the appearance and figure of Lillith, a vampire goddess who is featured rising from a pool of blood, walking around fully nude for extended scenes. Her minions do the same and are also shown full frontal.
When a male character drinks Lillith’s blood and effectively becomes her, he too rises out of the pool of blood. But unlike the actresses associated with Lilith before, the camera cuts away before reaching his waist.
In another stark example, vampires hold several dozen humans captive. While all the humans are naked, men in one cage and women in another, it is only the women who are displayed fully frontally nude.
When the werewolf packs in True Blood disrobe to turn into wolves, again it is only the females who are demonstrated fully frontal.
Hung is a program about a down-on-his-luck teacher who, because of his large penis, became a prostitute. Though the entire show is about Ray Drecker’s member, we only get one brief glimpse of it — and not even the whole — yet his clients and sexual partners are often shown fully frontal.
Even when a show is about the sexual objectification of a man and his sexual organ, it’s still women who are the default sex objects.
Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones has come under fire for its sexism, misogyny, gratuitous nudity, and violence against women. As usual, women are portrayed fully frontally nude in most Game of Thrones episodes, even when their male sexual partners are not. This is especially striking in the many brothel scenes (unnecessarily) scattered about the seasons; even when there are both male and female prostitutes, only the women are shown full monty.
To date there has been only one full frontal male on Game of Thrones: Theon Greyjoy. Through a horrific series of events, Theon is tortured and castrated. In episode six of season four — “The Laws of Gods and Men” — we are offered once again a gratuitous display of naked women in a bathhouse. In the same episode Theon is also offered a bath and while his full frontal, for once, would have actually been part of the plot, we do not see it.
In episode eight — “The Mountain and the Viper” — we are given another bathing scene in which members of the Unsullied, an army of castrated men, bathe in the vicinity of women in the same convoy. Surprise, surprise, the women are fully frontal and the men are not. Even sans one particular physical marker of male sexuality, these castrated men are deemed unseeable.
Neil Marshall, who directed the Blackwater Bay siege episode in Game of Thrones‘ 2nd season, recently spoke about how he was urged by a producer to include more full frontal female nudity. The producer explained that he was “not on the drama side of things,” meaning that he didn’t care about the story. Instead, he said, he was on the “perv side of the audience.” This is concrete evidence that orders for the systematic sexual objectification of women comes from upper management.
Ultimately, nudity is rarely necessary to further a storyline. Women’s nudity isn’t about plot, it’s about treating women as objects and men as human beings. The problem is systemic. Women’s bodies exist in many of HBO’s varied worlds to serve men, circling us back to a culture of male entitlement that, in the case of Rodgers at least, led directly to violence.
Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.
According to data gathered from the Corpus of Contemporary American English by linguistics PhD student Nic Subtirelu, women are called “pushy” twice as often as men, while men are more likely to be described as “condescending.”
At his blog, Linguistic Pulse, Subtirelu argues:
Condescending seems to differ from pushy and bossy in an important way, namely that it seems to acknowledge the target’s authority and power even if it does not fully accept it.
Subtirelu has also ran the numbers for “bossy” and found that it was used to described women 1.5 times more often than men.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
In 1964 British meteorologist Allan Crawford visited tiny, freezing Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic, the most remote island in the world, to investigate the possibility of establishing a weather station there. When his helicopter touched down near a shallow lagoon in the island’s interior he found a surprise:
There was an abandoned whaleboat in quite good condition, though lying at the bottom of the lagoon, gunwales awash. What drama, we wondered, was attached to this strange discovery? There were no markings to identify its origin or nationality. On the rocks a hundred yards away was a forty-four gallon drum and a pair of oars, with pieces of wood and a copper flotation or buoyancy tank opened out flat for some purpose.
Thinking that castaways might have landed on the uninhabited island, Crawford’s party made a brief search but found no human remains. The boat’s presence has never been explained.
(From Crawford’s book Tristan da Cunha and the Roaring Forties, 1982.)
“In the 1860s and 70s, photographer Timothy O’Sullivan came across this evidence of a visitor to the West that preceded his own expedition by another 150 years — A Spanish inscription from 1726. This close-up view of the inscription carved in the sandstone at Inscription Rock (El Morro National Monument), New Mexico reads, in English: “By this place passed Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, in the year in which he held the Council of the Kingdom at his expense, on the 18th of February, in the year 1726″.
A gentleman, who had been described as a ‘Pettifogger,’ accused another gentleman, whom he had styled a ‘Fish-fag,’ with an assault. It being a very intricate point, it was of course referred to the Lord Mayor. It stood as follows: — ‘Whether puffing a cloud of tobacco-smoke in a man’s face constituted an assault?’ After some grave consultation with that encyclopaedia of wisdom, Mr. Hobler, the decision ran thus — The Lord Mayor: ‘There has been no assault; nothing but words, words.’ — Complainant: ‘I beg pardon, my Lord.’ — The Lord Mayor: ‘Well, then, all smoke, if you please, or words and puffs. There have been no blows.’ — Now we beg his Lordship’s pardon. Pray what is a puff but a blow?
– The Age, Aug. 8, 1830
"I still see the same people on the corner that were there when I was eleven years old. It’s tough to evolve when your surroundings never change. So I wasn’t sure that I could be the one to make it out. The first time I took the GED, I failed. But for two months after that, I did practice tests everyday. And my aunt is a teacher, so when she was finished grading her papers, she’d help me break down all the problems that I couldn’t figure out. And there were a lot of people in my corner. My mom encouraged me, and my sister, and my grandmother. Then the second time I passed. It felt so good to see something in yourself, and then to see it come true."
A few days ago, Juliano Pinto kicked off the World Cup with a first kick. It was a media stunt designed to make us verklempt. Pinto is a paraplegic who wore a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton to make his move.
We were to be awed by the technology, too, of course, which is being developed by the Walk Again Project, a scientific consortium. Says the leading scientist on the project, “With enough political will and investment, we could make wheelchairs obsolete.”
Red Nicholson isn’t having it.
Ask any wheelchair user, particularly one who’s been in the game a while, and they’ll tell you that they’re far too busy living their life to sit there worrying about whether or not they’ll ever walk. We just get on and do.
From his point of view, the exoskeleton is for people who aren’t in wheelchairs. Getting “non-walkers to walk again,” he says, is about making everyone else happy. As for him, he says, he’s fine:
My wheelchair is a very capable tool and to be honest, the last thing I want is to be strapped to a District 9-esque robot and become a puppet in some corporation’s half-baked execution of an obsession…
In the meantime, he says, everyone’s concern with getting him to walk again suggests that he, and everyone else who uses a wheelchair, is living a pitiable life. “These stories,” he says, “are unwittingly invalidating a unique way of life for millions of people around the globe who are really happy with their wheelchairs.” So, he goes on record: “This is not my dream.”
William Peace, an anthropologist who also uses a wheelchair, goes further, arguing that the exoskeleton is harmful to people who are newly paralyzed. The scientists developing the exoskeleton are “sell[ing] the dream of walking to newly paralyzed people who cannot imagine life as a wheelchair user.” This is bad, he says, because it encourages people to reject their new body instead of accept it. He writes: “the exoskeleton is symbolically and practically destructive to a newly paralyzed person.”
Instead of focusing on the one thing people using wheelchairs can’t do, Peace argues, we should focus on all the things they do everyday:
Work, make a decent living, and be autonomous. Own a home even. Have a family. Get married. In short, be ordinary. Walking is simply not required for all this nor should it be glorified.
Nicholson concurs: “My life as a wheelchair-user is a very good one.”
So hey, able-bodied media: quit making me feel like wheelchairs are a shitty, sub-par option. Stop beating your exoskeleton drum. And most of all, let go of your obsession with walking, because it’s totally overrated.
Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born — a hundred million years — and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together. There was a peace, a serenity, an absence of all sense of responsibility, an absence of worry, an absence of care, grief, perplexity; and the presence of a deep content and unbroken satisfaction in that hundred million years of holiday which I look back upon with a tender longing and with a grateful desire to resume, when the opportunity comes.
– Mark Twain, Autobiography
We have the money and the know how to tackle most of our social problems. Certainly unemployment, houselessness, and poverty. So, why don’t we?
In large part it is because our socially created wealth remains outside social control. Critical economic decisions are driven by private interests not the public good. One result is hipster economics.
If you are not familiar with the concept, I recommend Sarah Kendzior’s The Perils of Hipster Economics. Here is the first part:
On May 16, an artist, a railway service and a government agency spent $291,978 to block poverty from the public eye.
Called psychylustro, German artist Katharina Grosse’s project is a large-scale work designed to distract Amtrak train riders from the dilapidated buildings and fallen factories of north Philadelphia. The city has a 28 percent poverty rate – the highest of any major U.S. city – with much of it concentrated in the north. In some north Philadelphia elementary schools, nearly every child is living below the poverty line.
Grosse partnered with the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak to mask North Philadelphia’s hardship with a delightful view. The Wall Street Journal calls this “Fighting Urban Blight With Art.” Liz Thomas, the curator of the project, calls it “an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurtle through every day.”
The project is not actually fighting blight, of course – only the ability of Amtrak customers to see it.
“I need the brilliance of colour to get close to people, to stir up a sense of life experience and heighten their sense of presence,” Grosse proclaims.
“People,” in Grosse and Thomas’s formulation, are not those who actually live in north Philadelphia and bear the brunt of its burdens. “People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by.
Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised.
The rest of the article is here.Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College. You can follow him at Reports from the Economic Front.
“Patriotism ruins history.” — Goethe
- PhD Comics.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
The lyrebird of Australia is an astonishingly gifted mimic, and its talents extend beyond the natural world: Above, a lyrebird imitates the human technology it has encountered; below, a captive bird mimics construction at the Adelaide Zoo.
In 1969, park ranger Sydney Curtis heard a lyrebird producing flute sounds in New England National Park on the coast of New South Wales. After some sleuthing, Curtis discovered that a neighboring farmer had played the flute for a pet lyrebird in the 1930s. When ornithologist Norman Robinson studied the call, he discovered that the bird was singing two popular songs of the 1930s — “The Keel Row” and “Mosquito’s Dance.”
“It is now seventy years since a lyrebird learned these fragments,” wrote David Rothenberg in 2006, “and today the flute song has been heard a hundred kilometers from the original source. A human tune is spreading through the lyrebird world, as they’ve decided through generations to prefer just two shards of our particular music.”
At that time, a man who stayed single was suspected of homosexuality. The idea of being an unmarried heterosexual adult of sound mind and body was totally foreign. Hugh Hefner changed all of that by inventing a whole new kind of man, the playboy. The playboy stayed single (so as to have lots of ladies), kept his money for himself and his indulgences (booze and ladies), and re-purposed the domestic sphere (enter the snazzy bachelor pad full of booze and ladies).
With this in mind, check out this attempt to attract advertising dollars from a 1969 issue (found at Vintage Ads). It nicely demonstrates Playboy‘s marketing of a new kind of man, one who lives a free and adventurous life that is unburdened by a boring, dead-end job needed to support a wife and kids.
What sort of man reads Playboy? He’s an entertaining young guy happily living the good life. And loving every adventurous minute of it. One recipe for his upbeat life style? Fun friends and fine potables. Facts. PLAYBOY is read by one of out every three men under 50 who drink alcoholic beverages. Small wonder beverage advertisers invest more dollars in PLAYBOY issue per issue than they do in any other magazine. Need your spirit lifted? This must be the place.
Today, we commonly come across the idea that men are naturally averse to being tied down, but Hefner’s project reveals that this was an idea that was invented quite recently and promulgated for profit.
This post originally appeared in 2008.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
We commonly hear claims that men are naturally more muscular and physically intimidating than women. “It’s a biological fact,” someone might say. If that were true, though, we wouldn’t have to work so incredibly hard to make it so.
@IllMakeItMyself sent in this great example of the way in which we are pushed to force our bodies into a gender binary that we pretend is natural. On the upper right part of the Men’s Health cover, it reads: “Add 15lb of muscle” and, right next door on the Women’s Health cover, it reads “5 ways to lose 15 lbs.”
If we have to try this hard to make it true, maybe we’re not as different as we think we are.Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
"Today my dad needed a haircut, and I didn’t need a haircut. But I went with him anyway because he wanted me to."
The fourth hurricane of this year’s season will be named Dolly and that might be a problem.
Dmitriy T.C. sent in a link to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using experiments, the study found that people believe that hurricanes with female names will be less deadly than those with male names.
No, not because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Because, sexism. People underestimate the power of Victoria vs. Victor, Christina vs. Christopher, Alexandra vs. Alexander.
Does this translate into a higher death toll due to a failure to evacuate? That we don’t know. Ed Yong at National Geographic is skeptical. The researchers compared the death tolls of hurricanes with female versus male names but were unable to come up with a statistically significant difference. It may be because of a small sample size; they only started giving male names to hurricanes in 1979. (The researchers contest Yong’s critique here.)
Hurricane season is upon us and, according to nola.com, this year’s hurricane names will be named Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.
Maybe, to be safe, we should perhaps re-work this season’s names. I recommend Aggressor, Butch, Crowbar, Death, Evisceration, Fear, Gore, Hannibal, Ice Pick, Juggernaut, Killer, Laceration, Measles, Nerve Damage, Oblivion, Pain, Redrum, Scabies, Torture, Voluminous Agony, and Woe.
Photo: Hurricane Isabel, as seen from space. Credit: Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center. Color-corrected by yours truly.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.