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Women Are Passive? Think Again

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

Most of us think women are more passive than men. It’s natural, right? Men’s testosterone makes them tough and assertive.

Think again.

Actually, it’s hard to untangle the effects of biology and society.

In fact, it’s hard to untangle the effects of biology, alone.

Testosterone makes men aggressive?

Yes, men have more testosterone. But:  Read the rest of this entry

Moms Jailed Cause Childcare Unaffordable. GOP Superego Hides Solutions

Kids playing in a park

Kids playing in a park

Poor moms face no-win situations where conservatives are concerned.

Moms shouldn’t work outside the home, because kids need them every second.

But POOR moms SHOULD work outside the home.

Which leads to another double-blind:

Poor moms must work outside the home, even when they can’t afford childcare.  Read the rest of this entry

Turning Indian Girls Into Boys

india_1931596cIndian parents are paying to have their daughters turned into sons through sex-change operations that cost about 145,000 rupees ($3,200). Up to 300 girls have been surgically turned into boys in one city.

The procedure involves fashioning a penis from the little girls’ female organs. Afterwards they are injected with male hormones, which they will need to take throughout their lives. The procedure will leave these children impotent and infertile in adulthood. No sons or daughters for them.

The Madhya Pradesh government is investigating.

Read the rest of this entry

Racism: Genetic or Learned?

end-racismEvolutionary psychology says racism is in our genes — a genetic adaptation that helps groups survive by favoring themselves over others. Skin color cues us in to who’s “in” and who’s “out.” (Yet the most prosperous areas of the world are those that cooperate and trade with each other?)

When I explain the theory, my students are appalled. (Though they readily accept evolutionary psych when it comes to explaining supposed sex differences.)

I once wrote a comment questioning evolutionary psychology on Slate and got the following response:

And what about all of those studies on doctors that found they treat patients differently because of race? What about those studies that show that we show preference to people wearing the same color of shirts as us?

Then shouldn’t children prefer parents who have their same hair/eye color? Not in my case. My mom has brown eyes and very light skin like me and my dad has green eyes and darker skin. Yet as a child I preferred him because mom was the disciplinarian.

And doctors could treat patients differently because they learn prejudice and not because they are genetically programmed to discriminate.

You also have to wonder why so many brown-haired, brown-eyed people have a preference for blonde, blue-eyed looks if our genes cause us to prefer our own type. But then, we’re all bombarded with messages that teach us that blue eyes and blond hair are best, at least on women.

Relatedly, about half of the Black people who take Harvard’s test of unconscious prejudice show a preference for Whites. If evolutionary psychology is right, shouldn’t they have a preference for Blacks? But again, Black Americans (just like the rest of us) are barraged with unfortunate messages that White is prettier, smarter, and less criminal.

Meanwhile, some people show “no preference” for either race when they take Harvard’s “implicit” test of unconscious bias.

Or consider the most recent presidential elections. The younger a person was, the more likely she or he cast a ballot for Barack Obama. Was there a mass genetic mutation that caused younger voters to be less racist? Or has society changed enough through the years that young people have simply learned less racism?

Evolutionary psychology says racism is in our genes. Looks more like it’s learned.

You inherited you grandmother’s eyes. Did you inherit her racism, as well?

February is Black History Month

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Prejudiced People Are Stupid

Prejudiced people are stupid. That’s not me pre-judging. That’s science.

An article published in the Journal of Psychological Science, and reported in Live Science says children who have low IQs tend to become prejudiced adults who are drawn to socially conservative beliefs that – in turn – encourage prejudice, adherence to hierarchy and authority, and promote resistance to change.

The researchers suggest that low intelligence makes it difficult to grasp the complexity of the world, which could explain the appeal of oversimplifications like, “Poor people are lazy.”

But you also have to wonder if the appeal of prejudice comes partly from a desire to feel like you are better (and smarter?) than someone.

John Dean wrote a book (which he had begun writing with Barry Goldwater just before Goldwater died) called Conservatives Without Conscience. These two conservatives presented a list of characteristics that are common among right-wing authoritarian “followers” (as opposed to “leaders”). The traits seem to fall into two categories: those that would appeal to the less intelligent and those that are just mean. Right-wing authoritarian “leader” traits fell almost entirely into the “mean” category.

Examples of beliefs and behaviors that fit well with not thinking too hard include: conventional, submissive to authority, highly religious (follow God’s authority), prejudiced, narrow-minded, inconsistent and contradictory (“Get your government hands off my Medicare!”) and having little self-awareness.

The “mean” list includes these traits: prejudiced, aggressive on behalf of authority, dogmatic, mean-spirited, intolerant, bullying, and highly self-righteous. All suggest a desire to feel bigger and stronger than someone else — as in overcompensating for insecurities?

Ahhh, that was fun for a liberal like me who gets so annoyed by both right-wingers and prejudiced people.

But there is a crimp in the analysis. First, the researchers recognize, not all liberals are brilliant, nor are all conservatives dense. We’re talking averages here. Certainly there are smart conservatives, including John Dean and Barry Goldwater. Also, the less intelligent are drawn to social and not fiscal conservatism.

And of course, extremists on the left and the right may both be simplistic. As the authors admit:

A study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like “every kid is a genius in his or her own way,” might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist, over-simplified views in general.

The main advantage of this research is finding clues to decreasing fear and hatred. For instance, many anti-prejudice programs ask people to see things from others’ perspectives, but that might be too hard for those with low IQ. And since prejudice is more emotionally than intellectually rooted, it’s probably better to change feelings instead of thoughts.

Who knows, perhaps the fear of appearing dimwitted will itself advance the cause against fear and hatred.

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Saudi Women Can Vote. West, Middle East Can Learn From Each Other

Saudi women got the right to vote and run in municipal elections this week. It’s a big step forward.

There are limitations. It’s hard to run for office when you can’t drive or show your face. Some fear political stalling. And men could keep their wives and daughters from voting. But the women are optimistic. Let’s hope for the best.

Interestingly, only about five years ago George W. Bush sent Karen Hughes to Saudi Arabia to express her hope that one day Saudi women would be able to vote and drive. She was surprised when many said they didn’t want to do either.

Past relations between Western and Middle Eastern feminists have sometimes been strained with Western feminists lecturing Middle Eastern women, and Middle Eastern women rejecting what they see as Western arrogance.

Yet the road to women’s rights presents plenty of opportunity for all of us to learn from one another.

There is plenty that Westerners could have, and may have, learned from our Arabian sisters and brothers in the early years of Islam. When we were in the Dark Ages.

Back in the 7th century the Koran gave women the right to work, own property and inherit, and provided protections from domestic violence. Women were also granted the right to give their consent to marry.

But lately Arab women have been taking some cues from us.  Both the Arab Spring and Saudi women’s suffrage were inspired by Western democracies.

And perhaps now it is time for us to learn from them, again. The Arab Spring has inspired many Americans who wonder at our current state of democracy which is marked by legalized bribery (large campaign contributions) that make important matters like environmental sustainability and economic renewal political impossibilities.

Too often Western women think they have nothing to learn from their Middle Eastern sisters, while Middle Eastern women reject Western notions out of hand.

Perhaps we would do better to have dialogue and learn from each other.

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Norway Terrorist is also Misogynist. What’s the Connection?

The Norwegian terrorist who killed scores of people in late July was motivated by racism, particularly Islamophobia. But he is also a misogynist. It’s not unusual for racism and sexism to go hand in hand. But why?

David Futrelle, who blogs about misogyny on, points out Anders Behring Breivik’s deep sexism on the Ms. Magazine Blog, highlighting quotes like this:

It’s the destructive and suicidal Sex and the City lifestyle (modern feminism, sexual revolution) [that] we are taught to revere as the truth. In that setting, men are not men anymore, but metrosexual and emotional beings that are there to serve the purpose as a never-criticizing soul mate to the new age feminist woman goddess.

Futrelle says Breivik’s rants are typical of “manosphere” blogs, which his manifesto
plagiarizes in part. When a prankster posted his quotes anonymously, they got the “thumbs-up” – at least until his identity was revealed.

Other obsessions of Breivik/the manopshere include no-fault divorce, STDs, and women
manipulating men with their feminine charms. Worried that Islam will out-breed Westerners, Breivik advocates limiting contraception, banning abortion, and discouraging women from education and full-time careers, which “will involve certain sexist and discriminating policies but should increase the fertility rate.”

In his video, “Call to Arms” Breivik displays big-breasted women in tight T-shirts wielding assault weapons. Reduced to sex-object parts plus firearms, she’s the sexist terrorist’s dream girl.

Breivik’s misogyny doesn’t surprise Michael Kimmel, a feminist who studies men, and who says that racist and sexist right-wing movements are largely about manhood. Men who are drawn to them feel emasculated by “Nanny States” that demand equal rights for everyone and whose taxes prevent people from making a free and independent living, as they see it.

These same men also feel that feminism makes men “wimpy, more pacifist, less authoritarian, more ‘sensitive’, less competitive, more androgynous, (and) less possessive.” The merging of masculine and feminine is a problem because how can men be superior if women and men are similar, or equal?

They add racism to further inflate their self-worth. As Kimmel describes it:

White Protestants are set against various “others” who aren’t men the way they are – blacks, Jews, gay men, other non-white immigrants – who are variously depicted as either “too” masculine (rapacious beasts, avariciously cunning, voracious) or not masculine “enough” (feminine, dependent, effeminate).

Bringing sexism and racism together, “real men” can feel “better-than” everyone else.
And by “protecting” white women from (so-called) non-white beasts, they may earn
women’s love and admiration, and further reclaim their manhood.

Breivik and men like him are desperate to feel like they are better than everyone else.

Even when they so clearly are not.

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If Gays Can’t Rule on Gays, Can Whites Rule on Whites?

Anti-gay rights activists want to overturn a ruling to allow same-sex marriage in California. In their most recent attempt, they maintained that because San Francisco Chief Judge Vaughn Walker is gay, and could personally benefit, he acted with bias when he rendered his decision. This week Judge James Ware rejected the claim, calling it warrantless.

No one calls “bias” when whites or men make rulings that benefit them. Affirmative action cases, for instance. White Justices have been known to rule in ways that would benefit their own white children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts seems to vote consistently
in ways that benefit Republicans, and therefore himself, as a member of that
party. As court watcher, Jeffrey Toobin, observes, “In every major case
since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with
the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive
branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual
plaintiff… Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the
contemporary Republican Party.” Yet no one says that Roberts should recuse
himself from said cases.

Worries of bias seem only to rise when members of the LGBT community, women and people of color hold positions of judicial power. Many wondered whether Sonia Sotomayor could judge without favoritism as a Latina.

Meanwhile, in their search for justice gays, women and ethnic minorities have usually been at the mercy of white, straight, males. In the past it’s been argued that minority judges can’t be objective on affirmative action. Why would a white judge be fairer? It has been claimed that women can’t be objective on abortion rights. Why would a male judge be fairer? And now accusations that gays cannot rule objectively on gay marriage. Why is
the privileged perspective constantly deemed more fair-minded?

Why? Because most of our information has come to us over the years through straight, white men’s eyes, whether via the media or over the political, corporate, or religious pulpit. We are so inundated that after a lifetime, their view comes to seem like the “normal” and unbiased way of seeing.

But really, if gays can’t rule on issues affecting gays, should whites be allowed to rule on matters that impact whites?

June is LGBT Month

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Black Isn’t Beautiful Claims Evolutionary Psychologist

 Somalian-born supermodel, Iman

Evolutionary psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa, claims Black women are less attractive than others. It’s apparently such good science that Psychology Today posted his piece on their website. Maybe not. They quickly took it down and recently apologized.

 Hmmmm. Thinking about Black women, there’s
Somalian-born supermodel, Iman or Sudan-born supermodel, Alek Wek. And then
there’s Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Thandie Newton, Beyonce, Janet
Jackson, Lisa Bonet, Jada Pinket Smith… Beautiful Melia Obama fits right in
with these folks.


Lupita Nyong’o

A few years back FX had a reality show called  “Black. White.” in which a White family’s coloring and features were  changed to Black, while a Black family’s coloring and features were changed to  White. I thought the White girl looked great Black.

Black. White.

Really, we need to take evolutionary psychology with a grain of salt. Some research from this field may have some basis. But much carries cultural bias. Indeed, as Tami Winfrey Harris over  at Ms. points out, others have demonstrated Kanazawa’s bad methodology and his taste for fashioning racism, sexism and conservatism as science. As much of evolutionary psychology is prone to do, I might add.

 Supermodel, Alek Wek

That said, as Harris eloquently observers:

All women bear the burden of the European beauty standard and the fact that, as women, our value as human beings is too often defined by how closely we fit the
standard—how close we are to being white, blond, blue-eyed, thin, with long, straight hair, and a keen nose and lips. Narrow standards of beauty are oppressive to all but a few, but it is Black women as a whole who are held up as the opposite of the ideal

  Ethiopian woman

On Harris’ point, people do tend to prefer the features and fashions of powerful groups, but the bias is about power, not innate beauty. Just a couple examples:

When prosperous and influential Chinese families bound the feet of their daughters to signal wealth (what woman could work with bound, dysfunctional feet?) small feet came to be seen as beautiful. Unfortunately, poor Chinese soon imitated the fashion in pursuit of this excruciating “beauty.”

Or, when tanned skin indicated outdoor, poorly-paid, physical labor, Americans avoided the sun. But when Coco Chanel came back deeply tanned after vacationing in St. Tropez, her sun-kissed skin – now linked to wealth and privilege – appeared beautiful.

 Sudanese woman

Blacks do have less power than other ethnic groups due to intense prejudice which was created to support their enslavement and the discrimination that followed. (It’s easier to feel okay about enslaving someone if they’re not quite seen as people.) Due to a history of educational and occupational discrimination, it has been more difficult for the Black community to gain and pass on wealth.

And yet, looking at all the women on this page all I can say is black is truly beautiful.

Lupita Nyong’o on Black as Beautiful here.


More beautiful black women here:

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Higher Suicide Rates in Conservative “Values Voters” States

Values voters. That’s what those who vote their principles on gay rights and abortion are called. So long as they vote anti-gay and anti-choice. 

Really? Are those the only values? And are they good ones? 

Why is voting to deny gays and lesbians equal rights a value, while voting to defend their rights is not? Why is voting against the right of women to control their bodies not a value? Abortion rates are about the same whether legal or not, so many girls and women die when safe and legal options are not available. 

Are they called values voters because they vote their morals against their pocketbooks? Plenty of well-to-do liberals do the same thing, voting for greater equality and opportunity for women, people of color, gays and the poor against their own financial interests.  

Why are progressive ethics seemingly invisible? 

I got to thinking about this while looking over research that finds teen suicide rates are higher where values voters live. 

According to a Columbia University study, suicide attempts by both gay and straight teens are more common in politically conservative areas, even among kids who weren’t bullied or depressed.  

The difference in suicide rates might have something to do with differences in conservative and progressive principles. 

Conservatives focus on tradition and authority. 

Progressives recognize the worth and dignity of each human being, whether female or male; black, white, or brown; gay, straight, bi or trans. And progressives seek to avoid inflicting harm on others. 

No wonder teens are less likely to commit suicide in communities that hold these ideals. 

Interestingly, the Bible, which is a major source of conservative morals, contains a progressive message.   

True, Leviticus 18:22 does say, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman,” which many interpret as banning homosexuality. But Leviticus 20:13 deems killing the proper punishment. Yet I don’t know anyone who insists on adhering to both points, leaving them inconsistent in relying on Biblical authority. 

At the same time, Jesus declared the greatest commandments loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). 

When it’s all about love and the golden rule, good progressive values, there will surely be much less suicide. 

Georgia Platts

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