Modern Views on Parenting

Granted I’ve learned you can’t taking anything too seriously in grocery store magazines (just look at how TIME handled parkour), but Newsweek came out today with two editorials that are actually quite good at analyzing how men and women’s roles in parenting have evolved over the course of a generation or two and what expectations are compared to real life, and I found myself agreeing with both perspectives.

A mom’s perspective: When I read this my first thought was, “dear god, this is my future.”
A dad’s perspective: The third paragraph summarizes his whole point.

Of course this is all totally a modern Western view. So many other groups would think the parents are making too big a deal of their own situations, and from all scemas. Too much energy spent on the kids, not enough energy, etc. However, being a modern Western woman who plans on having kids someday, I am personally pleased that my culture is still talking and thinking about this and things are moving in this direction. Not just for my own sanity, but for the well being of my future children. I found the statistic in the dad’s article about dads in the 60’s only spending a couple hours a week with their kids really sad. Both dads and kids missed out on a lot of possible knowledge and skill sharing.

Anyway, interesting stuff.


Handling various tools

The Museum of Visual Materials opens in South Dakota: http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070524/ENT01/705240319/1005/ENT
Why this idea rocks: you can touch and play with stuff, and the building itself energy efficient (solar cells, uses roof runoff for irrigation, etc.)

An article discussing how “Women’s work” helped shape human social evolution (including farming, fishing): http://www.paramuspost.com/article.php/20070517211038765

Babies learn language WAY earlier than we first suspected: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18849824/


The human brain, old and new

Some dude says that the KNM-ER 1470 skull should be adjusted and that the brain therefore weren’t as big as originally hypothesized: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/070405-human-skull.html
Rafe’s hero, John Hawks, and others had a great response (summation: No, you idiot!): http://johnhawks.net/weblog/fossils/habilis/er/bromage_1470_2007.html

New research shows that art classes make you a better doctor: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17707457/
So, now that they’ve cut all the art programs from schools, does that mean we’ll have stupider doctors? :/


Moody teens and fighting humans and chimps

Recent research shows that there is a biological reason that adolescents are overly-emotional, as opposed to social or psychological reasons: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/healthnews.php?newsid=65035. My response: Great, but when do they grow out of it? I know some 21-year-olds who still aren’t completely over that stage.

Next, we saw the movie “300” this weekend. It was bloody, but not too bloody, and overall an entertaining film. Rafe’s two reactions were very similar to mine: 1) Great translation of what a comic book looks like onto the big screen, boobs included; and 2) “That is the best piece of pro-war, specifically Irag-war, propaganda I’ve seen!” It was indeed very good propaganda, and as another interesting statement: All the Greeks were played by white, British-looking actors, and all the Persians were played by either Black or Arab looking people (Xerxes was a Brazilian actor). Whites good, dark skin bad? Hmmm. Iranians (modern-day Persia) agree: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17599641/?GT1=9145

Finally, an interesting study for Rafe; one anthropologist has come out with the theory that hominids and our other ancestors evolutionarily kept their short legs for so long because it made them better fighters: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17584912/.

They already had a good reach with their arms, which many scientists assumed was for staying in trees, but this is an interesting take on why we kept our long arms and short legs: to beat each other up better. Woot!

I’m off to Eastern Washington tomorrow to present my paper. I’m not super-prepared, but I’m decently prepared, and have two more nights to practice my delivery.


First, researchers have discovered primate fossils in Yellowstone National Park that date back to way before the first undisputed primate (55 million years ago):

I was surprised that they found this in North America, but then I only know about human migrations, but honestly I have no idea where they’ve found other primate fossils, and they have done research that shows horses actually developed in North America and then moved into Europe and Asia, so migration among the continents seems common enough.

On to humans:
This article talks about how Indian women are “renting” their wombs to infertile couples who can get a better price in India (up to $5000, versus $10,000 in the U.S.): http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16988881/, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-surrogate19apr19,0,4100387.story?coll=la-home-headlines
These articles talk about the cultural implications, how it’s mostly lower-middle-class wives, are rich countries taking advantage of people in need, etc., which is all important, but my first thought was about the biology of it all.
More and more research is showing that the lifelong health and nutrition of the mother have a big effect on the fetus. I don’t mean to sound negative, but India is a poor country (hence why $5000 goes such a long way). The country doesn’t have a very good health care system, a lot of Indians probably don’t have very good nutrition, and living in a big Indian city like Mumbai or New Delhi is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day! They said the majority of these women are living in Anand, which is India’s milk production capital according to Reuters, so the Anand women are possibly healthier overall because of easy access to the milk and they are possibly more prosperous than some other cities, but, bear with me here, I still think it fairly possible that by outsourcing fetus-growth services to a developing nation would result in a lesser-quality product (i.e. baby), as well as putting women at a greater risk for illness and death from the stress of carrying an extra child to term (all these surrogates already have at least one surviving child).
I have spent time in India, and have just spent months writing an article on entrepreneurship in India, and I know that in some ways India is ahead of the game, but in some ways they’re really far behind.
I could be delving into this way too much and I should also point out that so many U.S. women spend their lives drinking Coca-cola and eating McDonald’s, and their kids come out healthy (although they may not stay that way eating that crap), but it just made me stop and think.
Disclaimer: I am also not a mother, medical doctor, or even biological anthropologist, just your average cultural anthropologist who lives with an evolutionary biologist and in a community of hippies that talk about Chakras and don’t drink caffeine while pregnant (although doctors just recently decided a pregnant woman can drink up to three cups of coffee a day without potentially harming the fetus. Just shows that medicine isn’t exact).

Deep thoughts on language and culture

Happy Halloween/Samhain!
Just reading an interesting article from a man in India saying that because the lower castes are not taught English, they are therefore prohibited from getting high paying jobs: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/15658.html
He writes in the article “A Middle-eastern friend was lamenting that they have been driven into an intellectual blind alley because they are stuck with medieval Arabic, which determines their mindset. (Incidentally, their plight is really bad. More books are translated into Spanish in one year than into Arabic in a couple of hundred years!). They are literally trapped in the language of real and imagined pasts. The very idea of progress becomes impossible.”
Assuming the statement above is correct, I think it brings up an interesting argument (and an entire field of anthropology): how much does language influence how we think and view the world? I don’t just mean derogatory terms like calling someone a faggot (which is bad enough in itself). I mean like everyday things. For example, in Spanish, a spoon is feminine but a knife is masculine. A road is masculine but a mountain is feminine. How does that effect how they see the world? I know in some south pacific language (maybe papua new guinea?) the word for girl translates as “little mother,” or something like that. Just a moment of anthropological introspection.
I’d be interested to hear from someone who actually knows another language (you have seen the extent of my Spanish in the above paragraph: El camino va a la montana. My madre tiene una cuchara. Tengo un cuchillo).