Why none love for the MILs?

Mother-in-law jokes are seemingly ubiquitous.  And pernicious.

What is up with the pervasive and destructive cultural meme that women can’t get along with their in-laws, specifically their mothers-in-law?

Sweetums

Fig. 1: Monsters-in-law?

For the record, I love my in-laws.  It’s awesome when we see them or when they come stay with us.  They are fun people and we all get along really well.  I wish we could spend time with them more often!

It’s disrespectful to all parties to imply that women and their MILs don’t get along.  It implies that women can’t be friends (in many versions, because they fight over a man, the husband/son).  It also implies, in many versions, that the mother needs to control her adult son, which is terrible for both of them (maybe because she is trying to live vicariously through him because as an older woman, she has no life except her children and grandchildren).

It says that adult women can’t have mature, reasonable conversations about points of disagreement, instead letting resentment simmer and seethe for years, usually in a passive-aggressive way.  It says the MIL does not respect her son’s wife, and that she can’t be polite about this.  There is also the problem of the husband/son not having his wife’s back, not telling his mother to back off… the implication that there is a contest for affection… the implication that the MIL even needs to back off… the problem where the man puts his mom above his wife.  SO MANY PROBLEMS!

It’s true that you won’t always get along with your in-laws, just like you won’t always get along with any random set of people, even if you are related.  But we don’t have to degenerate into society-wide melodrama about it.

I see this relationship in media all the time and it never fails to induce hulk-y rage.  My in-laws are good people and have welcomed me into the family.  Let’s stop pitting women against each other over issues of control, identity, and a man in the middle.  Can’t we all just get along?

#2 notes that her mom thinks #2’s partner is fantastic (and more than once has expressed surprise that #2 managed to find someone so great, thanks mom).  Also, #2’s partner’s mom has helped her with research in the past!  It doesn’t get that much more collegial than that.

Readers, hit us up with positive stories of your in-laws!

Sexual Harassment

There’s been a lot of talk lately about sexual harassment in male-dominated fields.  That’s because there’s a lot of it.

In this post, people share their experiences with harassment or the feelings that they have wondering why they haven’t been harassed.  All in tweet form.

I have to say, my first thought was also, “Why haven’t I been harassed?” And I’m going to attribute that mainly to two things (but I’m going to use more than two points).

1.  Luck

2.  Being warned off creepers and knowing not to take their classes or to have anything to do with them (also luck, also potentially hurting my career, though in my specific case, the creepers also tended to be not as good as the people who substituted for them, and that was lucky)

3. Having a big burly partner who looks like he could beat someone up (also luck)

4. Being on edge to be professional with male colleagues at all times in a way that men do not have to… this may be why I naturally gravitate towards female coauthors and mentors even though there are so few… I can talk normally around them (something men don’t have to do that could well be hurting my career)

So I thought about all of that, and then I remembered that before work, before graduate school, and before college, I actually was sexually harassed fairly frequently.  That’s probably part of the reason for #4.  The physics professor who couldn’t keep from putting his arm around girls and told us at the beginning of the first class he had been told not to frequently but he didn’t mean anything by it so he would continue to do it and we shouldn’t bother to complain because we were wrong to complain and we should just expect it.  He also copped a feel on my breast that one time.  The weird men at the grocery store who couldn’t stop leering at my 16 year old figure.  The girl who called me “queer” as an insult when I was so young and naive that I thought she meant I was weird and said I stuffed my bra before I even wore one.  The guy in middle school who I thought was jealous that I was doing better in geometry and then later realized must have had a crush on me but now I’m thinking that maybe that first belief was more right.  What an asshole.  Throughout the week more memories of incidents have been coming to my mind unbidden.

But I’ve been lucky.  What if I hadn’t had older women in my major telling me which male professors to stay away from?  Knowing what I know about them is a big reason I didn’t go back to teach at my undergrad, even though they were hiring in my field.  I didn’t even apply, even though I applied places much less fun to live and ended up at a place not as good for my partner as that city would have been.  What if I’d wanted to go in that field in graduate school with the guy who I’d been told had affairs, though I guess mostly with his students’ wives and junior professors?  I was able to avoid him entirely.

What if I didn’t have that big partner?  If I was on my own?  My single friends have to fend of creepers that see the guy standing next to me and decide to move on.

And what have I lost being unable to be “one of the guys”?  Would I have more coauthorships?  Would I have more conference invites?  Would it be easier to publish?  Of course.

I hope things get better as we get more women into my field.  Nobody should have to worry about sexual harassment.  Nobody should sexually harass people.  Work is work.  And it isn’t really about personal vs. professional anyway.  It’s about power.  And this is one way that asshats working for the patriarchy keep women down.  Absolutely we should name and shame, because if we don’t, nothing is going to change, and that’s not right.

Ponderings on feminisms in children’s (and young adult) literature

Everyone loves the Paperbag Princess… except we kind of didn’t.  We know we’re probably alone in that.

#2 did have a recording of the author reading it that she listed to a lot as a child and liked.  #1 didn’t read it until she was older and felt too deeply about it.  Like, why is she even giving this jerk the time of day?  Poor dragon, stuff like that.  #1 thinks perhaps she wasn’t getting the messages it was trying to give, but the ones it wasn’t trying to give.  Like, women are supposed to be subordinate to men.  That thought would not have crossed my mind, and yet, it is presented as the default option in the Paperbag Princess.  Sort of like educational television that makes kids behave worse because seeing the bad behavior that gets resolved at the end is more striking than the eventual resolution.

We like the books that don’t present it as a conflict, but instead present the ideal as status quo.  And we really only know one book like that.

Boy meets boy

We LOVED Boy Meets Boy.  It takes place at a school where there’s no question about whether it’s ok to be gay.  It’s like 2/3 of the book in where the author addresses how weird that it’s not like that in other towns. Boy Meets Boy is a splendid book and people should read it!

Of course, we also know that ignoring -isms doesn’t make them go away.  They do need to be brought to light and discussed.  But maybe subtlety isn’t the best way in children’s books.

Should literature present the ideal or present the reality, and when?

Ask the grumpies: Gender and Publications

The Frugal Ecologist asks:

I really want to know what you guys think about this study about publication quantity vs. quality in males vs. females. In particular Figure 1 – so many women at the bottom… so many men at the top…
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169534713000839

Do they control for time in the profession?  You would get that picture if women have only entered into the field of ecology recently.  Old guys who have been around for a while will have both more pubs and more citations, just because their work has been around longer and they’ve been around longer.

A resource you could check out is:

http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/gendertutorial/   starting with tutorial 1.  It will tell you what the numbers are across multiple fields (STEM, law, medicine, etc.) and how we can interpret them (later moving on to why they got this way and how we can change things).  This is a site prepared by an expert in this field, crunching down the data and making it in an easy-to-display form.  The tutorials have voiceover narration that tells you the main points, and you can click around for getting more numbers if you want.  Or read the transcripts.  This is where I would usually point people when they want to know about this topic.  Happy reading!

Language is important: A feminist primer

Dr. #2 is going to have to help me out on this post since she’s the feminist scholar.  (Everything I learned about feminism I’ve been learning from her and academic blogs!)  But I’m beginning to know subtle sexism when I see it.

Language is a tricky thing.  We can say one thing overtly but use language that implicitly says something quite the opposite.  How we say something can be more important than what we actually say.

Woman as child

There is so much infantilizing of women.  When’s the last time you called a woman over age 18 a girl for any reason?  Please, check yourself.  If you get together with a group of women, are they girlfriends?  Who gets called baby?

[disclaimer:  I think this song is MAD CATCHY!]

Pronouns matter

Much of this information comes from the work of Janet Shibley Hyde and colleagues. 

Much research shows that when people read, say, or hear “he” or “him” as generic pronouns, they almost always think of male examples.  In one study, participants read a sentence about “the average student” at a university, and that student was referred to as either  his, their, or his or her.  Then participants had to make up stories about this fictional student.  When “the average student” got the his pronoun, 65% of the stories were about men.  Using their resulted in 54% of stories being about men.  Using his or her, 44% were about men.  There are a lot of studies that replicate this finding.

That study was from 1978 with adults, so Hyde wanted to look at children and how they developed these ideas. She gave children a sentence such as:  When a kid goes to school, ____ often feels excited on the first day.  She filled the blank with either he, they, or he or she.  When the word was he, not a single boy in all of elementary school (through fifth grade) made up a story about a girl.  In fact, most children, girls and boys, did not even know about he being (supposedly) gender-neutral.  However, despite not being aware of the rule, most children thought of “human” as equivalent to “male”.  In another sentence, Hyde had children fill in the blank: If a kid likes candy, ____ might eat too much.  Overwhelmingly, the children filled in “he” to represent a random kid.  Even the girls.

This is true in English, which does not have genders on all our nouns, and also in other languages, like German and Spanish, which do.

Finally, Janet Shibley Hyde gave elementary school children a paragraph describing the fictional occupation of wudgemaker.  She varied the pronouns, and then asked children how well a woman could do the job, and how well a man could do it.  When rating men, pronoun had no effect on what children thought of them as wudgemakers.  They answered that a man could do the job pretty well whether the pronoun described wudgemakers as he, they, she, or he-or-she.  However, when figuring out how well a woman could do the job, pronouns mattered.  Children who heard the pronoun he to describe a typical wudgemaker rated a woman as being “just ok” at that job.  Children who heard she rated a woman as being very good at the job.  The other two pronouns were in the middle.

Sexist language can even lower females’ ability to remember content from a passage of reading.

Media and sexual abuse

Rape

And don’t get us started on language used in rape cases.  Well, I guess it’s too late.

Problems include passive language“Every year thousands of women are raped.  How can this problem be stopped?”  Hello.  Every year thousands of men rape women!

In another study of sexual assault coverage, most of the quotes used were from the perpetrator or his lawyer (eww).  Who gets to tell their story?

Child Abuse

It gets worse with child sexual abuse in the media.

The media often use “it” to describe a child (most victims of sexual abuse are girls), and even when the media identify the gender they will later revert to using it, in something called Gender Slippage.  Language is of critical importance in influencing societal views.  When they do this, the article becomes more neutral and reduces the reader’s emotional involvement.  It also reduces the perceived seriousness of the problem.  Do we want to do that?

When adults abuse children, the media often frames the situation as a consensual relationship.  Media sometimes use the word “affair” between a 60-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.  That is not an affair.  That is abuse.  “Jailed teacher afraid lover boy will dump her”  (O’Mahony, 1998) is one example.  Again, ewww.

Domestic Violence

Johnson (1994) did an incredible study of San Francisco newspapers’ coverage of domestic violence (DV) cases involving death of the victim.  Professional DV experts were quoted in only 25% of articles; the main source of quotes was perpetrator’s family.  Who has voice?

The term “domestic violence” was used repeatedly for non-white couples but rarely for white couples.  White perpetrators were usually described as nice, normal, sweet, and loving; minority perpetrators were described negatively.  In the articles, violence was seen as aberration in white communities but expected in minority communities.

Bullock and Cubert (2002) studied over 200 Seattle newspaper accounts of domestic violence.  They find that many many articles shifted blame from attacker onto victim or circumstances (“the divorce was hard on him”).  EWww!  One possible mechanism for how this happens is DARVO.  There was also a misconception that abusers should be readily identifiable (i.e., not the rich white people-next-door).

But wait, you also get…

We’ve already covered stereotype threat.  Yes, words really can hurt.

You get to choose what you consume in the media.  What will you tolerate?  Do you write letters to the editor?

The Grumpies Weigh-in on Current Issues

Topic 1: students who don’t read the syllabus.
THE SYLLABUS, YOU MUST OBEY!  OBEY!!!!
 (or, take your F and go away)
email me and you will see
how very angry I can be
 #2:  scary!
 #1:  I know right
 #2:  “Dr. #1 is scary.  Don’t take classes from her unless you’re really smart and responsible.”
 #1:  True story
Topic 2: Boobs.
 #1:  so who do you agree with re: boobgate, Historiann or Dr. Crazy?
 #2:  I haven’t read dr crazy yet.  I did read historiann and mildly agree with her.
 #1:  I also agree with historiann
and also understand that most people would have excused the misogyny if he’d at least been funny (and not just “women have no sense of humor” unfunny, but even unfunny to sexist men!)
 #2:  My partner chuckled occasionally, but also felt that a lot of it fell very very flat.  He remarked, “Chances that Seth McFarlane ever hosts anything again:  Approaching zero.”
#2:  I’m reading dr crazy too, and I slightly agree with her as well.
#1:  I think Dr. Crazy is right that this points out the standards of Hollywood.  But I also am fairly sure that was not Seth McFarlane’s intention.  I think that no, really, his audience is jerky 12 year old boys
#2:  actually I think it kinda WAS his intention
#1:  really?
#2:  yes, but our views are not mutually exclusive.  He could be honestly poking at Hollywood while at the same time also appealing to 12-year-olds
 #1:  and even if it did, hollywood can feel good about slamming him down and getting back to business as usual, meaning he messed up.  He needs the “wink” to show he’s being ironic.
 #2:  I feel like Seth McFarlane at the Oscars is such a tiny blip in the landscape of prevailing misogyny that I can’t get that upset about it.
 Sexist or not-sexist, I wish he had been FUNNIER
 #1:  that’s what everyone is saying!
 #2:  some parts were mildly funny
some parts… were bombs
(relatively independently of what the subject matter was)
 #1:  also I watched Will Ferrell accept the Mark Twain award, which also made me laugh and had a little bit of poking at the patriarchy in it, which was a pleasant surprise
 #2:  Yes!
 #1:  the steve martin/alec baldwin intro to the oscars was not actually particularly politically correct, but it sure was funny
 #2:  ah, see, here:  I agree with Flavia:  “I actually wasn’t particularly bothered by the “boobs” number. It was the casual, relentless misogyny in the rest of MacFarlane’s act that did it for me. Like his description of “Zero Dark Thirty” as testimony to women’s ability “to never, ever let anything go.” Like his saying that it didn’t matter if we can understand a word Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz say, because they’re great to look at. And on, and on. “
 #1:  right
 #2:  right
the boobs number was actually somewhat amusing.  The “women can’t let go” joke was offensive.
 #1:  I don’t think seth mcfarlane was trying to point out misogyny– I think he just is a misogynist
 #2:  he can be both.
 #1:  well, I meant boob controversy as teh whole thing
he lives and breathes misogyny
can’t help it
 #2:  and here is where I agree with dr. crazy:  “And so, while I don’t think that McFarlane was a laugh riot, and I am deeply suspicious of the way that irony is used as an alibi for sexism these days, I didn’t find him demonstrably more offensive than most of the pop culture that I encounter on a daily basis.”
 #1:  no, it was obviously the combination with being offensive and not being funny
even ricky gervais was forgiven for skewering hollywood becasue more folks found him hilarious
Topic 3:  Creepy education.
 #1:  I think that this is a good idea:  http://money.msn.com/now/post.aspx?post=07ca13bf-c915-4b87-a44e-55ba4d02ba55  but MUST we start an article about education with an assassination analogy?  I think that’s tasteless.
 #2:  more than a bit creepy
 #1:  yes
 #2: intro analogies are pretty bad journalism anyway
 #1:  goddamn, I know.

Ponderings on perfection

One of DC1’s classmates is a doctor married to another doctor.  (Her youngest is best friends with my oldest– they skipped first grade together.)  Dr. Bestfriendsmom is also gifted with organizational and artistic abilities.  Her kids seem similarly endowed and often win the school-wide art contests.

Dr. Bestfriendsmom also throws amazing parties.  She knows interesting people, both with kids and without, even though they’ve only been living here a couple of years.  She and her husband are both total extroverts.  Their parties are honestly the only ones we’ve really enjoyed (including the ones we throw) since our odd assortment of non-work friends graduated, getting their PhDs, and moved to other states.

The children’s parties that Dr. Bestfriendsmom throws are generally themed.  She does the decorations.  (She makes pinatas in her hotel room on conference trips.)  She does the baking.  (The baking can include 30+ gingerbread houses made from scratch.)  She’s totally amazing.  A non-anal Martha Stewart.

At the last party, other mothers tried to engage me and did engage each other with catty comments about Dr. Bestfriendsmom and her over-the-top baking.  I responded with earnest, “It’s totally amazing,” and “DC1 is loving this” kinds of comments.  Mentally narrowing the eyes in my mind while doing so (the eyes on my face got wider and more innocent looking).

I don’t get the vitriol.  The jealousy.  Why are people so hostile when presented with someone who is awesome?  Why do they feel like they have to tear someone down who is just trying to do things well?

I don’t particularly want to be her… crafts are not my thing even if I had artistic ability.  (Also:  it is my understanding that MDs have to deal with blood.  Urp!)  So much extroversion would tire me out.  But I appreciate that there’s someone in our life who puts in that kind of effort to throw a big party and to make sure her guests are having a great time.

It could be that I don’t feel jealous precisely because I don’t particularly want to be a crafty person who throws awesome parties (though I appreciate being invited to them!).  But I also look up to the awesome women in my field who are at better schools and more published than I am, even though I do want to be them!  I strive for their accomplishments and I appreciate the way they’re opening doors for all women.  (Come to think of it, the ex-friend whose therapist told her to stop talking to me often took instant dislikes to some of these shooting stars, and also accused me of being jealous of her own success.)

Maybe it’s a fixed mind-set vs. growth mind-set thing.  I assume that with enough concentrated effort I could do things, or at least do more things, so there’s no need to tear anybody down to my level.  But really I have no idea.

Related:
Sylvia:  The woman who does everything so much better than you do.
Also Historiann’s recent series on Hillary Clinton.  (Another awesome woman.)

Why do you think some people hate perfection?  Do you?

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This [grant thing] that [redacted] has is really stupid.  So much bad science to “further women and minorities”.  Reading through their annual report and it’s thing after thing of, “We had this workshop, but nobody came.”  They’re also not checking to see if anything works even when people do come.  There’s not even data collected before and after to see if there’s even a change, much less a treatment effect.  There was one thing where they’re like, “we were going to do this survey but…”  They sent the report to me to evaluate, but the entire campus was “treated” and uh… the treatment seems to have been nothing.

Bad science makes the baby Jesus cry.  Poor baby Jesus.
They seem to have a lot of meetings too.  So basically, trying to further the careers of women and minorities at this school consists of making them go to pointless meetings.
See, this is why women and minorities can’t have nice things.

Argh!

(Note:  Some details in the above rant have been changed to protect both the stupid and our own rear ends.)
Are you ever astonished by the amount of bad science done for a good cause?  Have you ever noticed that it’s always the under-represented who have to waste time in meetings?

Does living frugally mean you should settle for a smaller salary?

Something that people who follow YMoYL note from time to time is that if you don’t spend much, you don’t need to make as much to become financially independent.  You can choose to do jobs that don’t pay as well, to follow your muse, save the world, that sort of thing.

One thing that is noted is that you can make a big sacrifice by choosing a career that helps people and makes you feel warm and fuzzy rather than one that rakes in the big bucks… teaching in an inner-city school instead of in a highly paid suburban district, for example.

Of course, if you make a super big salary, you can do a lot more charitable giving, enough that could actually make a real difference on its own.

Should you settle for a smaller salary just because you can?  That depends on what your trade-offs are. If you’re really into something that a lot of other people are into and doesn’t pay well… like art, then yes, settling for feeding your muse may be worth it.  (Though note:  Scalzi doesn’t think a person should get paid less than 20cents/word for freelance, but he’s also not beneath taking technical writing assignments!).  If a smaller salary means you get something tangible like a more flexible schedule or the ability to work fewer hours per week, sure.

However, if living frugally means you’re allowing yourself to be exploited… no, we don’t think that’s a good idea.  Obviously, you do have agency, and you are allowed to make that decision to be exploited if you’re conflict-averse, if you don’t mind the negative spillovers being a doormat has on other people who don’t want to be doormats and so on (we’re ambivalent about choice feminism here at Grumpy Rumblings)… But we’d like to remind you that money buys goods and services.  Living frugally means that you can use your extra money that you deserve by being a productive person to help make the world a better place.  You don’t just have to spend it on yourself.  There are better ways to make sacrifices than by accepting a lower salary just because you can.

Motherhood Online: A book review

We  were sent Motherhood Online by the editor, Michelle Moravec.

This book is a scholarly academic tome, but even given that, there are only two articles in it that I would call inaccessible to non-academic readers.  (And those two articles are both short and probably inaccessible to most academic readers as well.)  Non-academic readers will find the first section just as amusing and the second and third sections just as interesting as this academic reader.

The book starts out with case studies that will be familiar to anyone who has ever been on a pregnancy or mothering forum.  It does seem that if you’ve been on one of these forums, you’ve really been on all of the forums, for all the differences we perceive between the mothering.coms and the babycenters of the world, the dynamics are not that much different, even across forums from different countries.  Oddly, this section is titled “Theoretical perspectives” but is, for the most part, a-theoretical and, for the most part, focuses on each author’s own experiences with an online parenting community.

The second section… titled, “Case studies” includes articles with a broader theory base, more formal qualitative methods, and comparisons across different cases.  This second section focuses on communities that many of us have had less experience with, but are interesting in their own rights.  I especially enjoyed the studies of teenage mothers, autistic parents, port-wine stain, stay-at-home dads, and really most of the articles in this section.  I felt like I learned something reading many of these articles.

The last section focuses on blogs and community, with the stand-out piece being one on the community of people from developed countries who use (employ?) Indian women as surrogate mothers.

Although the introduction focuses on the positives to these online communities, the articles themselves are even-handed with both the positives (community building, information sharing, support) and the negatives (conflict, incorrect information, rationalization, etc.)  The authors come from a number of different disciplines, including communication, sociology, public health, anthropology, history and others.  These different disciplinary paths and perspectives come across in the methodology and writing.  Obviously we feel more comfortable with the social scientist methodologies, but other disciplines provide for entertaining reading and discussion.

Is this worth reading?  Sure!  Especially if you’re into non-fiction and would like to think a bit about they dynamics of online communities.  The book includes a nice collection of articles that, should, for the most part, be as easy to read as a Malcolm Gladwell book, but with perhaps a few more citations included.

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