I got asked to do a women’s history month thing

I got an email late on a Wednesday in February asking me to let the emailer know by that Friday if I could participate in a women’s history month showcase of women’s research.  See the attached letter for more details.

I opened the attached letter.  It started,

Dear [friendly adjunct in another department, that is, NOT ME],

Then the letter itself didn’t say much.  Like… I don’t know what they want me to do.  Just that they have 24 women participating in 40 minutes and they want to spotlight “my” research and will be a huge honor for them if “I” participate.  Then it repeated itself a lot over three paragraphs without providing any actual information other than the day of the event and time.

Then I looked up previous years and it looks like maybe this part is a poster presentation (with big name speakers previous to this), and, importantly, all of the research being presented is gender research.  I do not have any current research on gender.

My guess is here that someone said no and I am definitely not their first choice.  On the one hand I should go as a public service.  On the other hand it sounds like a lot of work for no good reason.  On that first hand again, it probably wouldn’t kill me to network with other women across campus.  On the other hand, I don’t WANT to.  (Especially if having to make a poster of an already published paper is involved!  I don’t do conference posters.)

Being a woman sucks.

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“Pretending” to be a Darth Vader husband is not cool or funny.

There’s this personal finance blogger who often “pretends” to be a jerk to his wife.  It’s a running gag with him and he puts in her commentary as editors notes.

For one of these he spent the entire post complaining about how much laundry she does.  It read very much like a painful other side of a captain awkward post.  So in the comments I told him it wasn’t funny, and explained why.

Two days later we got a bunch of blog hits from him mocking me for calling him Darth Vader (which I didn’t—I was explaining why that humor isn’t funny in the context of Captain Awkward).  Turns out he elevated my comment to a post, twisted it, and accused me of reading incomprehension because he didn’t understand I was complaining about his failed attempt at humor.

So, in short, “pretending” to be a jerk to your wife in a public forum isn’t funny.  Back in the day more people probably thought Ralph Cramden’s  repeated line from the honeymooners about sending his wife Alice to the moon with a punch right in the kisser was funny.  Now we are less likely to laugh about threatened spousal abuse.  I hope that one day doods like this guy will stop their controlling husband shtick because nobody finds controlling husbands acceptable anymore.  Until then, these kinds of posts further the patriarchy by making the unacceptable seem acceptable.  And that’s really not funny at all.

Scalzi says the failure mode of clever is asshole, and misogynistic humor fits right in there.  Even if the woman is “in” on the joke.

Ask the grumpies: Better political and economic systems?

Solitary Diner asks:

Working in an inner-city clinic, I think a lot about the political and economic systems that contribute to the poverty and marginalization of my patients. What do you think can/should be done to make the world’s systems more fair to everyone?

Yeah, these aren’t hard questions at all.

Most economists favor socialism-lite.  We think government should intervene in cases of market-failure when the benefits of intervention outweigh the costs of intervention.  In practice that usually means something like what Europe has (not entirely though), with a lot of focus on making sure that the social safety net is high for everyone and even more focus on early childhood equality.

Of course, the rational-actor model is blind to structural inequalities stemming from racism, and many of our models seem to think that sexism is a feature, not a bug (they start out with the assumption that women are differently-abled and that’s why they get paid less… even in jobs for which they have comparative advantage).  I don’t know how to get rid of -isms.  I can tell you that Marxism doesn’t do it.  Nor monarchy.  I presume a benevolent dictatorship would even have difficulty, though maybe it would have a shot depending on how long the dictator can stay in power and how good they are at forcing behavior.  If we could somehow manage to get rid of segregation, that might also help since so many of our policies use geography as a way to discriminate.  Though perhaps changing those policies to be less local could help.  There’s no reason, for example, for local property taxes to fund schools.  Of course, we would no doubt still see inequalities from “voluntary” requested donations.  Paradise requested a $500 donation from every parent at the beginning of the year, and got it from many– less wealthy areas are not able to do that.

So… what should be done?  More socialism with a focus on the children.  What can be done?  Beats me.  :(  If I knew the answer to that, I’d tell it to one of the economists who hangs out with Bill Gates and they’d get to work!

 

Random comment on a small-penis-man #notallsmallpenismen from like 6 years ago

So about 6 years ago, this douche named Ed Rybicki wrote a really sexist short story that inexcusably and inexplicably got published in Nature, because the board of Nature was (is?) full of sexist asshats.  We talk about it some in this post from November of 2011.

In that post, we’re making note of the fact that tiny-penised* Rybicki kept harassing women who called him out, but completely shied away from giving men who called him out the same treatment.  We assumed he was going to wander into our comments as well because he seemed to enjoy googling himself and going into the comments of women (and only women) to generally be a clueless asshat.  Oddly, even though we dared him to, he didn’t show up in our junk mail filter (or it’s possible he did later and we didn’t notice, in any case, he didn’t do it right away).

We didn’t know if we’d scared him off or if he’d just missed our blog or if someone close to him had finally hit him with a clue stick and told him to get a life.

Well, the other day, for a completely unrelated post, I was wondering why we were getting so many hits from twitter.  Unlike my usual situation, I was on my cell rather than on the computer, and it turns out that searching twitter on the iphone gives a LOT more hits than does searching on the computer (which seems to just limit to major twitter feeds like @DLFreedman), and curious, I followed our twitter cites to nicoleandmaggie back to 2011.

In the middle of years of praise (thanks grumpy tweeters!), I found this little gem:

 

Well, we did get tenure.  And we’re still not on twitter.  And it took us 6 years to see your passive-aggressive whatever that was.  But thanks for playing.  Really hope in the intervening 6 years you’ve become less of a sexist asshat!  No, really!  (But it’s likely we’ll never know.)

*#notalltinypenisedmen — penis size actually isn’t that important, but misogynists tend to think it is

Notes from a 3 hour implicit bias training

Faculty and staff had mandatory implicit bias training this year.  Last time (>5 years ago) we did this it was voluntary and all I remember from it was the speaker bringing up a (female, foreign-born, adjunct) volunteer from the audience and white male full professors commenting on her clothing and appearance because the speaker asked them what their initial impressions of her were.  It was enormously cringe-worthy.  This time it was a bit better, but I still came away with the feeling that, like economics, perhaps a little training is worse than no training at all.

I think I understand now why implicit bias training has been shown* to decrease implicit bias in people who already understand implicit bias and increases it in people who don’t really believe in it.

The first audience comment was an ageist joke.  Most people laughed.  I told the commenter that was not appropriate.  If I hadn’t been there, would anybody have said anything?

The students took this training for the first time last year.  I now understand why I got comments on my course evals saying that I was micro-aggressive towards white men and favored under-represented minorities and women over said white men.**  This training is focusing on making everybody in the audience feel like victims and giving them the language to talk about that.  I work very hard at inclusion in my classes and inclusion can feel like micro-aggression to the majority who is used to feeling like they’re special.  The first example the speaker gave was an example about the speaker hearing someone using the term “redneck” and joking, “you did not just say that.”  To her credit, she noted that most of the (Southern) audience was staring at her in disbelief and asked why.  After some native Southerners pointed out that was a pretty milquetoast insult, I noted that there really aren’t any powerful epithets against native straight white men in the US.  People in the audience seemed to agree.  (They probably didn’t need me there for that one.)

During various exercises, one straight white guy after another shared anecdotes about when they felt like they’d been discriminated against or stereotyped.  So many short-haired white guy heads nodded during these recounting while the rest of us just sat there.  The speaker applauded them for their sharing and made points about how everyone is put into groups.

It went on like that.  I broke in a few times to note that thinking you’re aware isn’t enough– people don’t realize that they’re calling on men more than women– they think they’re being equivalent.  They think 35% is 50%.  So you really do need to keep track of who is talking, or (as another professor suggested) you need to randomize cold-calls.  I talked about how to make cold-calling less scary and how to include more students, even those who are silenced.  I talked about other techniques that can be used to make groups more inclusive.  Having good intentions isn’t enough.   But thinking it is enough is dangerous.

There was a lot of talking about problems, nothing about solutions.   The speaker brought up examples of incidents and asked if we’d seen them and to discuss them (and how they make people feel), but didn’t talk about possible bystander reactions.  There was no discussion of relative difficulty, no checking white guy privilege.  Most of the exercises had the purpose of making people understand what it feels like to be discriminated against… but, as I said before, for people who aren’t actually discriminated against, not being treated like princes feels a lot like discrimination.

I suspect there’s implicit bias training that works better than what most universities are presenting.  This is not yet a solved problem.  What can be done in a 3 hour lecture hall, even with group exercises?  I don’t know.  But my other colleague who has studied this a lot for that university-level committee we were on thinks that maybe not trying to cover everything and instead focusing on the major problems affecting our students and our faculty right now according to the latest campus climate survey (islamaphobia, racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, or some subset thereof) and providing solutions on what to do for various instances might be the way to go.  If these were smaller sessions, maybe the IAT (though again, its use has had mixed results depending on how receptive the participant is).

Have you seen implicit bias training that actually works?

*too lazy to look up the citation, but it featured heavily in a university-level committee I was on

**fairly sure I’m not micro-aggressive towards white men.  However, I am intentionally micro-aggressive (as well as explicitly “you coming in late is disruptive stop doing that”) to people who wander into class late, and last year only white men wandered in late.  Most white men did not wander in late.

Should we empathize with Trump voters?

In a word, no.

People who vote for Trump care about racism, and to a lesser extent, misogyny over *any other issue*.

There’s a movement among some liberal white folks (even our beloved wandsci) to empathize with these jerks.  They’re poor.  They’re seeing privileges stripped away.  They’re not used to being so close to the bottom.  They’re uneducated.  They’re scared and don’t know any better.  We should try to understand their point of view.  That’s the argument.

First, although the media narrative is an economic one, it’s not actually true.  White Trump voters are better off than the average American.  It is true that they’re generally not college educated.  But that’s on them.  They’re making plenty of money without the fancy degree that they could still get if they wanted.

Second, even if the media narrative were true, which it isn’t, that’s still no excuse to be racist.

Racism is deplorable.  As the ladies on the Here to make friends bachelor podcast note, plenty of people have bad things happen to them and don’t become assholes.  Your reaction to hardship or tragedy doesn’t have to be voting against your economic interests so that you can feel superior to someone with a different skin color.

There’s no point in trying to empathize with racists anymore than there’s a point in trying to empathize with dangerously misogynistic Chad on the Bachelor franchise.  Empathy will not change their behavior.  Shaming might.  More likely these hardcore racists are just lost to humanity and will either someday see the light or they will die bitter horrible people.  And that’s ok.  The importance of shaming is not to change their beliefs.  Shaming does two things.  First, it changes the behavior of the bulk of these horrible people because it forces them to watch what they say and how they act, so it is harder to hurt minorities.  Second, it shows that bulk of easily-led people that casual racism is not cool and tilts them for good over evil, which means they too are less likely to commit acts of overt racism.

Empathy has no place.  These people are racist.  Their behavior is deplorable.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  We should shame them.  This behavior has no place in mainstream society and if it can’t be removed entirely, it should be treated as the abomination that it is.  Let them dress up in their costumes and play their stupid games by themselves where we can laugh at them as losers who can’t get past 1865.  But when their behavior starts affecting normal people, and when it starts having a negative effect on people who are already discriminated against, that’s when any residual caring about their racist fee-fees should disappear.  They are bad people with bad beliefs and hopefully one day their children will escape and see how much better the world can be without their hate.

Driving douchy 1960s country songs out of my head with Anne Murray and Aretha Franklin

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of Little Green Apples or Gentle on my Mind?  They’re both about patriarchal douches asserting their male privilege on devoted wimmenfolk.  The Apples guy does these creepy power tricks to prove his wife’s devotion, calling her up specifically when he knows she’s busy because he loves seeing her drop everything for him and then he’s always late on purpose because he likes the proof that he can force her devotion.  He brags about how she loves him.  He doesn’t say anything about loving her and definitely doesn’t respect her time.  But that’s the ideal of womanhood– self-sacrificing.  What more could she want than to bear his children and take care of him with selfless devotion?  Similarly the Gentle on my Mind dude is all, I travel a lot and also cheat on you with young women who don’t know they’re being cheated on, but it’s ok because I always come back to you so you’re devoted to me.  Both these dudes make a big deal about how selfless unquestioning devotion eases their minds.  Of course, because they’re douches.

Unfortunately Little Green Apples has a really catchy chorus, and Gentle on my Mind shares enough chords with it that they both get stuck in my head.  And not even Yellow Submarine can drive them out because it’s not similar enough.  The 1960s sucked really hard for women.  It was the backlash before the storm that would be the 1970s.  And when you’ve got 1960s country stuck in your head, sometimes the best thing to drive it out is 1970s country.

We played Could I Have this Dance by Anne Murray at our wedding.  Very sweet song about joint love and devotion.  Catchy tune.  A reasonably good earworm.  And when you put it into youtube to listen to it, the next song that comes up is one that is strikingly similar to the sentiments behind Little Green Apples and Gentle on my Mind, but absent the douchiness, “You Needed Me,” which is an anthem to being loved… and loving in return.

you put me high upon a pedestal
so high I could almost see eternity
you needed me

I needed you
and you were there
and I’ll never leave
why should I leave I’d be a fool

And isn’t that a better kind of love?  One where both partners love and respect each other?  Not selfless devotion on one side and mildly appreciative power on the other.  And isn’t it better to love someone who loves you in return?  To love a person or a goddess and know your sentiments are returned in full?  Leave loyal devotion to your pets, not your partner.  And that’s the power of feminism– elevating love to love between consenting adults, not a jerk and the two-dimensional pet he doesn’t even respect.