On privilege and patriarchy and Gwyenth Paltrow

The media has it out for Gwyneth Paltrow.  They’ve got a thing going where she’s out of touch and too-perfect and privileged and whatever.  She doesn’t help it with the things she posts on her blog.  After reading this post by Family Building with a Twist, I had to see what the latest thing was.  Turns out she’s suggested hundred dollar hostess gifts and stocking stuffers (cynically, I would not be surprised if some of the items on that list were sponsored or put down as favors for someone invested in their sale).  Useless over-priced crap that rich people give to each other even though they don’t need more stuff.  Because they can.

It actually reminded me of this recent CNN article on the huge amounts being spent on art and jewelry.  Money that is definitely not “trickling down” to the little people.

This is what wealth inequality does.  It makes useless luxury items more expensive and it moves wealth around amongst the wealthy.  It doesn’t feed kids.

But that doesn’t make me hate Gwyneth Paltrow.   Infinitely worse are people like the Koch brothers or Roger Ailes and other extremely wealthy people who are against higher marginal taxes for the 1% or for cutting food-stamps.  If Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t realize that not everybody can afford organic foods, personal trainers, or $200 hostess gifts, then she should be educated on that.  Maybe a little mingling with the hoi poloi could spark some social activism on her part, though she doesn’t have to become an activist.  Pretension isn’t worth worrying about unless it harms others.  She’s not actually doing real harm, just providing media fodder for fun little let’s hate the privileged rich girl stories.  (Now that Paris Hilton has dropped out of the public eye.)

And why do we have the privileged little rich girl stories instead of stories about people who are actually doing harm?  Well, Gwyenth Paltrow is harmless.  She’s a side-show.  She can’t harm us.  She can’t harm a media organization.  She’s probably even well-intentioned.  And she’s female.

People love to put down “perfect” women.  Paltrow is thin, pretty, rich, and self-confident.  Crabs in a bucket like to pull people like that down.  It provides circus entertainment to distract us from real problems, like unemployment, failing education systems, or children going hungry while the top 1% gets wealthier and wealthier.  It is her very irrelevance that makes her the perfect sacrifice.   Attack the perfect woman and we’ll feel better about ourselves and we’ll be less likely to riot in the streets.  We’ve dealt our blows to the system by making fun of an actress who doesn’t know any better.   And that isn’t going to fix a damn thing.  It’s just sending yet another signal that women shouldn’t get too uppity or other women will hate them.  That’s a stupid signal.

The patriarchy is insidious in its divide and conquer strategies.  It’s great at distracting us from real problems, because those real problems are caused by people we can’t be catty about.  Those people are dangerous and powerful.  They’re not writing up silly over-priced gift lists on their blogs.  Much easier to channel that ire against women.   The patriarchy is good at this stuff.  It’s had lots of practice.

Out of curiosity…

So my kids were not blessed with fast-growing hair.  For each of them sometime before age 1.5 they ended up with awful mullets.  Their heads grow faster than the hair, so it gets short on the sides with the proverbial party in back.  Awful.

For boys, that’s an easy fix.  First haircut and you’re back to presentable.

For girls… there’s either the pixie cut, or there’s the putting up teeny tiny rubber-banded spikes on the side of the head (“Pebbles-style”)… and I think that’s it.  Maybe a person can try to even it out, but it’s still going to be longer in the back than on the sides.

So what do people do with the toddler mullet?  Just leave it?

Partial-retirement/self-employment experiment over

As of today I am no longer the breadwinner.  DH’s new salary is more than twice his old salary (and is more than mine).  If all things stay the same in 2014, we’ll have jumped up two marginal tax brackets for that tax period.  I guess it’s true what they say about the private sector!

This will be his first time working for a real company.  He was given a choice of start dates and he picked the earliest one.  He was eager to get back to work.

I don’t think either of us is cut out for the Mustashian lifestyle.  Maybe if we were living in California it would be more fun to have more free time, I don’t know.  We both like working, that’s all there is to it.  DH was happiest during this self-employment stint when I needed his help with a knotty programming problem.  He got very little done on the large set of home-improvement tasks we listed (though he did do a lot of yard work and did some pretty elaborate cooking experiments).  That’s just not what makes him happy.

Does that make us haters?  No!  (Though we’re fairly sure MMM would say it does because anyone who doesn’t want to be him is a hater.) It just means that different people have different preferences.  Some of us prefer desk jobs that use thinking and computer skills over manual labor, no matter how creative that manual labor can be.  DH’s father likes doing home improvement as a hobby… it’s pretty clear that DH doesn’t.  Or at least only in moderation.

DH said he could never be quite at ease during this self-employment stint.  Of course, he loved the year he spent working on a start-up with his friends (one of whom he’s working with again), even though he brought in very little money that year.  But maybe the difference was that he had interesting projects to work on even if they weren’t lucrative.  And we’d saved a set amount for that year to spend down and didn’t really have to worry about economizing.

Turns out we prefer working and making money to not working and spending time having to think about money.  Even though I love money!  I’d rather have a wide margin of more than enough from earnings than from spending time doing things to save more money.  Given our already reasonable levels of spending (particularly if you subtract out non-negotiable private schooling), the bang for the time buck is a lot bigger for us with earnings than it is with savings.

And spending time on earning activities a lot more fun for us– DH would rather create a computer program that makes lives better for people than replace the bathroom carpeting with tile himself (something that will eventually have to be done because small children are gross).  I’d rather determine whether a program does what policy makers want it to do than get rashes (from severe allergies) doing yard-work.  Not only do we have comparative (and absolute) advantage in these activities, but we also get utility rather than disutility from them.  We can’t help it, it’s the shape of our utility functions and our budget constraints.

And, of course, we all have our own utility functions and budget constraints, so what makes us happy isn’t what makes all other folks happy.  What we are good at doing isn’t what all other folks are good at doing.  And that’s a good thing– when different people do different things, the economy has a better chance at working.  If everybody had identical preferences and abilities, everybody would be miserable because the people following their passions would be getting minimum wage at most, and the people making money would hate their jobs.  (California would also sink into the ocean from everyone trying to live there.)

Variety is the spice of life.  And I’m glad now that we can afford buy cardamom even if it’s crazy expensive.

Where are you on the work for pay/work for savings continuum?

Another late link love

Yeah, we’ve been kind of falling down on the job with these.  #1 blames her ipad making it a pain to do the links.  She’s not sure what #2’s excuse is.

And of course gmail is having problems right now so grabbing the links we collected is being SLOW.  There we go, it’s better now.

I just had to go through a video training that was almost identical to this.  No fast-fowarding, no letting you skip ahead.  And she was reading slowly off the slides.  STOP READING THINGS OFF THE SLIDES.  I CAN READ.

Not sure what to make of this article about qwerty keyboards.  Have we been told lies or is there an element of truth?

I miss Dr. Tingle.

Simon is totally not lame.  He’s pretty darn awesome.  It’s neat how some people who are internet peeps work hard and find fulfillment.  It’s sad how some people have a flash of fame and money and are irresponsible and always searching for the next big thrill and never do find happiness, except in small doses.

Delicious literary cakes.

Adults can get whooping cough, thanks to noted baby-killer Jenny McCarthy.

Employers want college graduates who know how to write.  (This just in…)

I already knew that Feynman was an asshole (like one of the commenters, I found out in high school shortly after reading that same passage in The Double Helix, though that galvanized me to want to go into science… wasn’t until I actually experienced sexism myself… moving on…)  But here’s some more Feynman was a misogynist asshole stories.

Irony on yoisthisracist

the joys of student statements

An update on mouse obesity— maybe it’s not related.

And now for some seriously hot guys:

(Salt and Pepa were AWESOME.  Though knowing that two of them have kids in college now makes us feel a little old.)

Ask the grumpies: why does the patriarchy think it owns pregnant women?

Rented life asks:

Why is it every time I make a comment about how you shouldn’t comment/touch/etc pregnant women, some asshat needs to tell me that “like it or not” pregnant women are seen as public property? (I’d frankly argue ALL women are seen this way but I won’t fill up this comment with why). That these things are primal urges and I should just accept them? Hello slippery slope.

I know the short answer is patriarchy, but seriously, I am tired of having to work so hard against this.

Yeah, it’s the patriarchy.  You have our sympathy.

Sympathy and related complaints from the Grumpy peanut gallery?

Fun books that our parents read as young adults

And we read at the library as teens…

I wonder if our kids could do the same or if they’re long gone?  Ah, the glorious 60s.

Richard Armour wrote a series of brilliant hilariously funny lite-history books, with titles starting, “It all started with…”  It All Started With Eve, It All Started with Columbus, It All Started With Europa: Being an Undigested History of Europe from Prehistoric Man to the Present, Proving That We Remember Best Whatever Is Least Important, and so on.  I devoured these in the non-fiction adult’s section.   Twisted Tales From Shakespeare was another fun one.

Peg Bracken wrote a brilliant cookbook called The I Hate to Cook Book.  I recently purchased another copy and read through it, marveling at how nice it is that women are no longer responsible for 100% of the cooking.  And how many of the recipes in there were already familiar to me– things I know how to make from memory because my mother and everybody else’s mother made them too.

Jean Kerr wrote a series of books collecting delightful essays together.  She was in the humor section.  (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was made into a movie.)  I remember most her essay about why she writes– because she has children and she wants to sleep in and therefore must make enough money to hire a nanny.  Sleep is an excellent reason/way to choose a career.

Erma Bombeck was not quite as good as Jean Kerr, but still good to read.

I suppose James Thurber will still be around and not forgotten… his stuff probably qualifies as classics.

What are your favorite books from the 50s, 60s, and 70s?

How to write a good personal statement for grad school in our social science fields


1.  Tell a story about your research interests.  (Not a story about your personality.  Not a story about your feelings.)  A story that explains what research interests are driving you to graduate school and why this graduate school can help you fulfill your professional goals.
2.  What questions/fields are you specifically interested in?
3.  What is your research experience?
4.  (Advanced)  How would you go about answering the questions you’re interested in and how would graduate school help you answer them?
5.  Use specific examples.
6.  Get proofreading help!  Show it to your professors or employers (depending on where you are in your current career) or whoever it is that is writing recommendation letters for you.
Do not:
1.  Start a personal statement with, “Ever since I was…” or “I have always…”
2.  Talk about your personality.  This is not a college application, this is a graduate school application.
3.  Talk about your non-academic dreams.  Ditto on the college application difference.  Well-rounded for graduate school means an entering class interested in different sub-fields.
4.  Put this off to the last minute and do a shoddy job.
Academic grumpeteers, what recommendations would you have for writing an application statement for graduate school?