Social · writing

Mary Catherine Bateson on Domesticity – NYTimes.com

garden art at Dr. Bateson's New Hampshire farm

A nicely written article in the August 25th edition of the New York Times on anthropologist Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson (Margaret Mead‘s and Gregory Bateson‘s daughter) on her latest book which looks at domesticity, homemaking, and what it means to be part of a couple.

In Dr. Bateson’s parlance, homemaking is … a metaphor for community, for the design of an environment — professional or domestic or societal — that challenges and supports its inhabitants, an ideal closer to the arrangement of a Samoan village than a perfectly appointed living room. “It’s critical that home not just be a place that you use whatever is there, but that it be a place you are truly responsible for,” she said. “It’s not just your home and you get to mess it up.”

Homemaking, she added, is also a metaphor for longevity, a way of looking at the second stage of adulthood that precedes old age — what she calls “adulthood II” — which is the subject of her new book.

Yes, it’s a sequel to her 1990 meditation on the stop-and-start nature of women’s lives, except that this time she has invited men into the conversation.

more at At Home With Mary Catherine Bateson – Mary Catherine Bateson on Domesticity – NYTimes.com.

Social · technology · writing

Open Diary: Chronicling The Hidden World Of Girls : NPR

It’s not too late to submit! Be a part of the story on NPR’s Open Diary: Chronicling The Hidden World Of Girls.

one submission to the Flickr account

As part of the Hidden World of Girls project, we’re looking to create a database of intimate diary entries. With enough of them, they could form a comprehensive tapestry — from elation to depression — of life experiences. We already have a small collection on Flickr.

How Can You Help? Submit pictures or scans of your diary’s pages — or even the pages of your mother’s diaries or grandmother’s diaries.

How To Submit: Photos should be submitted through The Hidden World Of Girl’s Flickr group. Or if it makes things easier, just upload them anywhere and leave us a link to the picture in the comments section. We will be getting in touch with you through Flickr mail or through the e-mail address provided when you sign up for an NPR community account. On Flickr, you’ll know if you’ve submitted photos correctly if they show up here.

via Open Diary: Chronicling The Hidden World Of Girls : NPR.

gender

How women should ask for a raise

A couple of years ago I read the study that discussed how women who ask for raises are seen as pushy and it usually doesn’t go so well as for men. So how do we not come off as pushy, but still receive equal pay, I thought. FINALLY someone has done a study to try and figure out the answer. From the New York Times:

The work by Ms. Riley Bowles and her peers suggests that women in the work force can use specific advice. Here are some of their suggestions:
BE PROACTIVE If you believe you deserve a raise, don’t sit around and wait for someone to notice. “A lot of women, and this is quite commonly found, think, ‘As long as I work really, really hard, someone will notice and they will pay me more,’ ” said Karen J. Pine, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain and co-author of “Sheconomics” (Headline Publishing Group, 2009). But “people don’t come and notice.”
You also want to think about the best time to approach your boss. It may make sense to approach him or her after an annual performance review, said Evelyn F. Murphy, president of the WAGE Project, a nonprofit organization, who runs negotiation seminars for women. “Or, if you just took on a major responsibility or won an award.”
BE PREPARED Doing your research pays, literally. A study found that men and women who recently earned a master’s degree in business negotiated similar salaries when they had clear information about how much to ask for.
But in industries where salary standards were ambiguous, women accepted pay that was 10 percent lower, on average, than men. “In our experiments, we found that with ambiguous information, women set less ambitious goals,” said Ms. Riley Bowles, who ran the study. “They asked for less in a competitive negotiation and got less.”
That theory also holds in other areas where there aren’t set expectations, like executive bonuses and stock options. “You get bigger gender gaps in those less standard forms of pay,” she added.
children · gender · play

Effects of prenatal exposure of phthalates in boys

First came across this in Discover Magazine:

A new study in the International Journal of Andrology has raised a storm of concern that prenatal exposure to these chemicals could make boys less masculine in their play preferences.

Phthalates, which block the activity of male hormones such as androgens, could be altering masculine brain development, according to Shanna H. Swan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the new report [Los Angeles Times]. To test whether that link extended into behavior, Swan’s team tested women for phthalate levels midway through their pregnancy and then checked back in on the children four to seven years later.

The researchers asked parents to report their children’s patterns of play, but they knew they also had to separate any potential phthalate effect from the “nuture ” side of question. To determine how parental views might sway behavior, parents completed a survey that included questions such as, “What would you do if you had a boy who preferred toys that girls usually play with?” They were asked to respond with whether they would support or discourage such behavior, and how strongly [TIME].

The study of about 150 kids found that while girls were mostly unaffected, boys who had been exposed to the highest phthalate levels showed a lower likelihood than other boys to participate in what we consider typical rough-and-tumble male recreation—play fighting, pretending to play with guns, and so on. But the research might not imply the national masculinity crisis that some headlines suggest. Play in the most highly phthalate-exposed boys wasn’t “feminized,” Swan explains, since these kids didn’t preferentially play with dolls or don dresses. Rather, she says, “we’d describe their play as less masculine” [Science News]. Rather than play-fighting, she says, those boys tended toward “gender neutral” play like putting puzzles together or competing in sports.

Read full article here.

culture · gender · psychology

Gender in the brain

Scientific American recently published an article suggesting that boy brains and girl brains were not as biologically different as one might think.

Excerpt: “At first glance, studies of the brain seem to offer a way out of this age-old nature/nurture dilemma. Any difference in the structure or activation of male and female brains is indisputably biological. However, the assumption that such differences are also innate or “hardwired” is invalid, given all we’ve learned about the plasticity, or malleability of the brain. Simply put, experiences change our brains….

“…[For example] If the sex difference in the straight gyrus (SG) is present early in life, this strengthens the idea that it is innately programmed. Wood and Nopoulos therefore conducted a second study with colleague Vesna Murko, in which they measured the same frontal lobe areas in children between 7 and 17 years of age. But here the results were most unexpected: they found that the SG is actually larger in boys ! What’s more, the same test of interpersonal awareness showed that skill in this area correlated with smaller SG, not larger, as in adults.”

Here is Rafe‘s response to the article:

This article is terribly written, with ridiculous assumptions.

The first one – “On the other hand, sex differences that grow larger through childhood are likely shaped by social learning, a consequence of the very different lifestyle, culture and training that boys and girls experience in every human society.”

This is patently ridiculous. Virtually all sex differences grow larger with age as males and females diverge hormonally. Obviously we wouldn’t use culture to explain the accelerating gap in height and mass, or bone structure or secondary sex characteristics. Even gaps in things like aggression and neuroticism increase with age to peak in the early twenties before coming more in line with each other as we age beyond the 20’s.

Secondly, “Individuals’ gender traits—their preference for masculine or feminine clothes, careers, hobbies and interpersonal styles—are inevitably shaped more by rearing and experience than is their biological sex.”

This is just wishfull thinking. There is no experimental evidence to support this; essentially we are just talking about two sides of the same coin the masculinity or feminity of the body vs. the mind. Both are largely genetic, we just don’t fully understand all the mechanisms.

It pisses me off that they have to frame every story about this like somehow culture is the good guy riding in, that we can’t write it off, it might just save us from the big bad genetic bad guys after all. It’s editorializing and literally twisting the actually meaning of the study backwards, the important lesson of that study is yet another consistent and persistent cognitive difference between the sexes but they try to make it seem ok by implying it really all might be cultural.

gender

What she wore

The BBC reported an incident where a woman in South Africa had her pants stolen in public and her house burned down. Why? Because she was wearing pants instead of a skirt: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6917332.stm

Okay, I’m not going to try and be a post-modern type and say “oh, it’s all relative, we need to be accepting of other people’s cultures.” Bull. Burning down a woman’s house and stripping her naked because she’s wearing pants is horrible and I can’t believe people don’t get more pissed off about this sort of thing. Even the article’s author has this attitude of, “oh, well, she was living in a men’s neighborhood, she should have known better.” No, no, no! That sort of behavior is inappropriate in any society.
I know this is an extreme case, but even in 1999 the Italian Supreme Court of appeals ruled that a woman’s rape was excusable because she was wearing jeans: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/277263.stm, so obviously it is still known to happen. This sort of “she/he was asking for it” mentality is just wrong regardless of gender, regardless of culture, regardless of religious beliefs. Period.