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« Reply #200 on: November 27, 2008, 10:53:39 PM »

Male superiority on mental rotation tasks may develop within a few months after birth By Bruce Bower Web edition : Tuesday, November 25th, 2008    Text Size NEW ANGLES ON BLOCKSHow long babies spent time looking at rotated blocks and the mirror images of blocks was a measure of the ability to mentally rotate an object.

IMAGE CREDIT: Robert M. Ditto
The gender gap in spatial abilities — charted for more than 30 years — emerges within the first few months of life, years earlier than previously thought, psychologists report.

Males typically outperform females on spatial-ability tests by age 4, especially on tasks that require mental rotation of objects perceived as three-dimensional. Yet,

two studies of 3- to 5-month-olds, both published in the November Psychological Science, conclude that a substantially greater proportion of boys than girls distinguish a block arrangement from its mirror image, after having first seen the block arrangement rotated. Babies who prefer looking at the mirror image are presumed to have mentally rotated the block arrangement, recognized it and chosen to gaze at the novel mirror image.

One investigation was conducted by David Moore of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., and Scott Johnson of the University of California, Los Angeles. The other was directed by Paul Quinn of the University of Delaware in Newark and Lynn Liben of Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Both sets of researchers suspect that sex differences in mental rotation develop shortly after birth due to an unknown mix of genetic, biological and environmental influences.

“The result we found was really somewhat of a shocker,” Moore says. He had expected to demonstrate no sex difference in infants’ mental rotation skills, laying the groundwork for pinpointing the age at which this spatial gap first appears.

“Simultaneous reports by two different labs using two different techniques are difficult to dismiss,” remarks psychologist Nora Newcombe of Temple University in Philadelphia.

Still, the new reports don’t confirm that baby boys perform mental rotation tasks better than baby girls do, comments psychologist Susan Levine of the University of Chicago. That’s because both studies first familiarized babies with a block arrangement oriented at specific angles but then presented it from a new angle for comparison with its mirror image, a process that may mask baby girls’ spatial insights.

By 3 months of age, girls — but not boys — may notice changes in a block arrangement’s angle, Levine proposes. If so, girls would regard both a newly oriented block arrangement and its mirror image as novel, spending roughly equal amounts of time looking at both. Scientists have yet to address this possibility, she says.

If infant boys don’t notice angle shifts, they would spend most of the time looking at novel mirror images, Levine suggests. Baby boys would thus falsely appear to be better than baby girls at mental rotation.

“Even if there is an early advantage in favor of males, there is ample research showing that mental rotation skill is malleable,” Levine says. Preschool activities such as block building, assembling jigsaw puzzles and playing certain video games have been linked to stronger mental rotation skill. In 2005, Levine reported that second- and third-graders from poor families, who receive little or no exposure to such activities, show no sex difference in the ability to mentally rotate an object.

Some parents play with their children and babies in ways that promote spatial thinking, such as naming the shapes of toys and guiding a child’s hand to rotate a toy, notes Penn State’s Liben. It’s not known whether parents target such behavior at boys, she says.

Researchers have yet to show that early proficiency on mental rotation tasks translates into an aptitude for spatially challenging subjects such as geometry, geography and science, Levine cautions.

Moore and Johnson showed 20 boys and 20 girls, all 5 months old, videos of a block arrangement rotating back and forth through a 240° angle. Each child sat in his or her mother’s lap as the mother kept her eyes closed. After tiring of looking at this image, infants saw alternating videos of the original block arrangement or its mirror image rotating through a 120° angle.

Video records of infants’ gaze and head movements revealed that 14 boys, or 70 percent of them, preferred looking at mirror images, compared with 9 girls, or 45 percent of them.

Quinn and Liben showed 12 boys and 12 girls, all 3 to 4 months old, a series of images of either a black number 1 or its mirror image, each drawn to appear three-dimensional and situated at a different degree of rotation. Each baby then saw presentations of both the number 1 and its mirror image in a new degree of rotation.

In the latter trials, 11 boys preferred looking at the image that they hadn’t seen before, compared with 5 girls.

It may be possible to study mental rotation in babies within the first few days after birth, Quinn says.
« Reply #201 on: December 02, 2008, 08:11:12 PM »

I'm not a big fan of the "Men do traditional women's work; are shocked to learn it's hard" genre of human interest story, but John Leland's article in Friday's New York Times about men caring for elderly parents is actually pretty good. It acknowledges some of the unique problems men face with taking on this traditionally female role, without the usual implication that this means women are somehow "naturally" better suited to it, and thus the status quo is best for everyone. In fact, I'd say this article is a great argument for why men need feminism as much as women do.

For instance, Leland points out that men are less likely to use employee-assistance programs for caregivers because, as one man who looks after his mother puts it, "I think it would be looked at like, when they hire a male, they expect him to be 100-percent focused. I don't want to appear to be someone who has distractions that detract from performance." The idea that any employee should be "100-percent focused" on his or her job, to the exclusion of fully participating in domestic life, is something women have been working against for decades -- it's just that employers have too often taken that to mean women are lousy employees, not that everyone needs a decent work-life balance. The sexist assumption that men are more committed to their jobs and women are more easily "distracted" by petty concerns like ailing parents (or children) hurts both genders.

Similarly, the expectation that female children should be their parents' caregivers -- and men with no sisters, presumably, will hire help -- stands in the way of some men being as involved as they'd like to be. Amy Torres, helpline director at Fria, says, "Nursing homes have a very difficult time dealing with male caregivers. It's unusual for them. The male caregiver is made to feel their interest in their relative is inappropriate." As a woman, I can't imagine being told that my interest in my elderly father's health is "inappropriate," which goes to the root problem here -- the sexist assumption that women are "natural" caregivers, ergo men are not.

I think it's scandalous that a grown man being compassionate, nurturing and responsible is considered such an unusual sight that nursing home employees will be suspicious of his motives. But then, a couple of weeks ago, I listened to a friend of my boyfriend's talking about how his 5-year-old daughter just cries about everything -- due to "some kind of girl logic" -- while his son "naturally" understands that crying is to be reserved for especially devastating occasions. When people are still teaching their kids that only girls are supposed to have and express feelings, is it any wonder that middle-aged male caregivers are seen as weirdos?


November 29, 2008
More Men Take the Lead Role in Caring for Elderly Parents

When Peter Nicholson's mother suffered a series of strokes last winter, he did something women have done for generations: he quit his job and moved into her West Hollywood home to care for her full time.

Since then, he has lost 45 pounds and developed anemia, in part because of the stress, and he is running out of money. But the hardest adjustment, Mr. Nicholson said, has been the emotional toll.

"The single toughest moment was when she said to me, 'And now who are you?' " he said. "My whole world just dropped. That was the pinnacle of despair."

Mr. Nicholson, 53, is part of a growing number of men who are providing primary care for their aging parents, usually their mothers.

The Alzheimer's Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimate that men make up nearly 40 percent of family care providers now, up from 19 percent in a 1996 study by the Alzheimer's Association. About 17 million men are caring for an adult.

"It used to be that when men said, 'I'll always take care of my mother,' it meant, 'My wife will always take care of my mother,' " said Carol Levine, director of the families and health care project at the United Hospital Fund. "But now, more and more men are doing it."

Often they are overshadowed by their female counterparts and faced with employers, friends, support organizations and sometimes even parents who view caregiving as an essentially female role. Male caregivers are more likely to say they feel unprepared for the role and become socially isolated, and less likely to ask for help.

Women still provide the bulk of family care, especially intimate tasks like bathing and dressing. At support groups, which are predominantly made up of women, many women complain that their brothers are treated like heroes just for showing up.

But with smaller families and more women working full-time, many men have no choice but to take on roles that would have been alien to their fathers. Just as fatherhood became more hands-on in the baby boom generation, so has the role for many sons as their generation's parents age.

Mr. Nicholson said his family had not discussed who would take care of his mother, Bernice, if she became frail. But as the unmarried child among his two siblings, and the one who was most readily available, he had spent increasing time with her as she aged.

Still, he was not prepared for the isolation of full-time care. "There's absolutely no involvement in the outside world," Mr. Nicholson said. "When I finally get out to a Dodgers game, walking to the car, I say, Oh, this is what life is about. I forgot about this. I can't be doing myself any good by not getting out of here."

Isolation affects women as well, but men tend to have fewer lifelines, said Donna Benton, an assistant research professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California and director of the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Network. Men are less likely to have friends going through similar experiences, and depend more on their jobs for daily human contact.

"That's the harder part for men, to find someone to talk to," Dr. Benton said. "It's the emotional side: the guilt, the sadness, the anger. For men it becomes more stressful because they can't talk about it. They feel cut off."

And then there is the inevitable question: What happens when I have to bathe her?

"That's where the rubber meets the road," said Donna Wagner, the director of gerontology at Towson University and one of the few researchers who has studied sons as caregivers.

For Mr. Nicholson, the whole experience has been a journey into the surreal, but especially at bath time.

Though he is not squeamish about it, he said: "The weirdness permeates our relationship. She doesn't know if I'm her husband or her boyfriend or her neighbor. She knows she trusts me. But there are times when it's very difficult. I need to keep her from embarrassing herself. She'll say things like, 'I adore you.' I don't know who she's loving, because she doesn't know who I am. Maybe I'm embarrassed about it — it's my mom, for Christ sakes. But it's weird how the oldest son becomes the spouse."

Matt Kassin, 51, said he had no role model for male caregiver in his family. His father had been distant; he, in turn, had been the rebellious son.

"I was the son who went through divorce, who needed to separate from my mom when I was teenager," Mr. Kassin said. "I'm the son that wanted distance. Now I'm the son who hears every morning, 'It's so nice to hear your voice.' "

On a recent evening, Mr. Kassin visited his mother, Doris Golden, in her Manhattan apartment. Ms. Golden, 82, is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and still lives independently, but relies on Mr. Kassin to arrange her schedule, pay her bills and make sure she remembers her daily tasks (his sister also helps).

His care has surprised his mother. "When he was young, I couldn't get him to raise a finger," Ms. Golden said. Her conversation looped repeatedly back to this point, and with each return, Mr. Kassin grew more irritated. That was when he was a teenager, he said, sharply; hadn't he been more attentive since?

Finally she looked at him tenderly and asked, "When did I start relying on you?"

Interviewed apart from his mother, Mr. Kassin said: "It's kind of like living my nightmare situation. But it's a great opportunity here. Here's the woman who nurtured me. She now is the child. You worry if you're up for the challenge. If I don't make this challenge, what kind of human being am I?"

In past generations, men might have answered this question by pointing to their accomplishments as breadwinners or fathers. Now, some men say they worry about the conflict between caring for their parents and these other roles.

In a 2003 study at three Fortune 500 companies, Dr. Wagner found that men were less likely to use employee-assistance programs for caregivers because they feared it would be held against them.

"Even though the company has endorsed the program, your supervisors may have a different opinion," Dr. Wagner said. "I had a man who worked for a large company with very generous benefits, and he was told that if he took more time to go with his dad to chemotherapy, he was at risk of losing his job. He ended up not going with his father."

Mr. Kassin said that although his employer had been understanding, he was reluctant to talk about his caregiving because "I think it would be looked at like, when they hire a male, they expect him to be 100-percent focused."

"I don't want to appear to be someone who has distractions that detract from performance," he said.

For many men, the new role means giving up their self-image as experts, said Louis Colbert, director of the office of services for the aging in Delaware County, Pa., who has shared care of his 84-year-old mother with his siblings since her Alzheimer's made it necessary.

"I've been a professional for 32 years," Mr. Colbert said, "but yet I remember the first time I was driving to my mother's house, being afraid because I didn't know if I knew what to do."

Once a year, Mr. Colbert organizes a get-together for male caregivers. The concerns they raise, he said, are different from those of women in support groups. "Very clearly, they said they wanted their role as caregiver validated, because in our society, as a whole, men as caregivers have been invisible," he said.

This invisibility can extend to hospitals and nursing homes, said Amy Torres, helpline director at Fria, a national nonprofit organization based in New York that represents family members and residents in long-term care facilities.

"Nursing homes have a very difficult time dealing with male caregivers," Ms. Torres said. "It's unusual for them. The male caregiver is made to feel their interest in their relative is inappropriate. Our male callers say they're made to feel what they're doing is unusual, that it's wrong."

She gave the example of a son who was the health care agent for his mother and wanted to be in the room when the staff changed her diaper because he was concerned about her skin condition. "The staff refused to allow it," Ms. Torres said. "They said the mother's dignity was at risk."

After two weeks of pressing, she said, he finally got his way. With a daughter, this would not have been an issue, Ms. Torres said.

And even when they are acknowledged, for many male caregivers, as for women, there is the lingering sense that whatever they do is not enough.

Mr. Nicholson said he knew this feeling too well. As a teacher, he could measure his contribution by the students' progress. But with his mother, he can only watch her decline.

"I'm always asking myself, Am I even qualified for this?" he said. "Just because I love her a lot doesn't mean that I have any idea if I'm doing the right thing, or doing what's best for her."

He sounded exhausted, rattled even.

"I don't know if this is just the musings of someone who's on the verge of tossing everything and putting her in a home," he said. "But this is a very revealing journey about who I am to me and my family, and what's important to me."

« Reply #202 on: December 02, 2008, 08:19:11 PM »

It is apparently a big money maker there.
« Reply #203 on: December 09, 2008, 08:36:46 PM »

I thought this was interesting.   I definitely remembering struggling with the decision of  who should pay before I was married.   I would have have preferred it be more egalitarian but  at the I was just starting out in my career working for  a non-profit and eating a lot of Peanut Butter and Jelly.  I couldn't afford the restaurants my now husband wanted to eat at. I ended up planning a lot of  free or very reasonable dates.
 Here are links to the Kay Hymowitz articles
Dudes try "dating Darwinism"

After Kay S. Hymowitz wrote an article about the alleged throngs of single young males "lingering in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood, shunning marriage and children, and whiling away their leisure hours with South Park reruns," she received a vitriolic response from some such young dudes. In response, she proposes a theory in City Journal for what is causing all that anger: "The dating and mating scene is in chaos" thanks to women's liberation.

    Guys are resorting to "Darwinist dating" or, to put it another way, survival of the asshole-iest

Young men, she argues, are exposed to a series of "miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations that are alternately proudly egalitarian and coyly traditional." They don't want you to open the door, but they do want you to pay for dinner; they want chivalry one moment and evolved egalitarianism the next. Young women just can't make up their minds about what they want from a man, Hymowitz writes: She "may be hoping for a hookup, but she may also be looking for a husband, a co-parent, a sperm donor, a relationship, a threesome, or a temporary place to live … In fact, young men face a bewildering multiplicity of female expectations and desire."

Then there's the fact that "men face a situation -- and I'm not exaggerating here -- new to human history," writes Hymowitz. "Never before have men wooed women who are, at least theoretically, their equals -- socially, professionally, and sexually." Retro dating manuals have been rendered obsolete, and feminism has failed to provide men with a guidebook for navigating courtship. So, "as middle-class men and women are putting off marriage well into their twenties and thirties as they pursue Ph.D.s, J.D.s, or their first $50,000 salaries," they are left with several years, perhaps even a decade or more, of this "heartbreak and humiliation."

As a result, she says, guys are resorting to "Darwinist dating" or, to put it another way, survival of the asshole-iest. It's appears to be a modern reimagining of that myth of the caveman clubbing a female over the head and dragging her back to the cave, and explains the "the litany of stories you hear from women about the troglodytes in their midst."

The pickup artist scene is one approach to "Darwinist dating" (or, more accurately, Darwinist screwing). While there is something to these theories of seduction, just as there is something to teaching someone basic social skills or training him or her to become a better public speaker, it's all about artifice. They are taught to suppress the nice guy by putting on the armor of the asshole -- but how fulfilling is that, ultimately? The essential message is: Toss out your feelings and don't be yourself -- act the part of your better self or, preferably, someone else entirely.

Nothing in the seduction community seems to prepare a guy to find himself, grow genuine and warranted confidence, or start a real, emotionally rewarding and lasting relationship. As Hymowitz ultimately points out, to my great relief, the problem with this approach is that it's "an uncompromising biological determinism that makes no room for human cultivation." Not to mention, "dating Darwinism" suggests that all young men want is to successfully spread their seed -- but something tells me that if they have to defensively put on the tough guy act in the first place, that isn't at all the case.

Every time I read articles about this alleged Menaissance (a rebirth of medieval-style masculinity, in case you aren't hip to the obnoxious buzzword) a few words come to mind: anxiety, insecurity, confusion and anger. But, get this, young women are feeling all those things, too. Those "miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations"? They don't come from a place of total illumination and enlightenment on the dating front -- they are often a confused response to" miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory" cultural expectations, whether they come directly from men in their life or the world at large. And men certainly aren't just reacting to women, but to similar contradictory cultural messages directed toward them.

Let's not make this a war between the sexes. As girls overturn traditional gender roles, boys are forced to do the same, leaving both sexes in scary, unscripted territory. This has, indeed, come as a result of feminist advancements -- but  feminist advancements within a culture that is not yet egalitarian. I think many young women are still in search of an empowered and authentic sexual identity -- a way to be active participants in our sexual culture. Given that they are doing this within a culture than defines sexual power in male terms, is it any surprise that they -- as well as young men -- perform contradictions and make mistakes along the way?
― Tracy Clark-Flory
« Reply #204 on: December 10, 2008, 09:03:40 PM »
1,069,000 fewer men are working than a year ago. 12,000 more women are working.

By Robert Gavin, Globe Staff  |  December 5, 2008

The careers of Neal Boyle and Scott Hacker couldn't be more different. Boyle, whose education ended with high school, worked 20 years crushing rocks at the US Gypsum plant in Charlestown. Hacker, who holds an MBA, changed firms several times as he moved up the management ranks in New England's financial services industry.

But today they find themselves in the same place: laid off and looking for work. And together they represent the face of the current recession, one that is overwhelmingly male.

Men are losing jobs at far greater rates than women as the industries they dominate, such as manufacturing, construction, and investment services, are hardest hit by the downturn. Some 1.1 million fewer men are working in the United States than there were a year ago, according to the Labor Department. By contrast, 12,000 more women are working.

This gender gap is the product of both the nature of the current recession and the long-term shift in the US economy from making goods, traditionally the province of men, to providing services, in which women play much larger roles, economists said. For example, men account for 70 percent of workers in manufacturing, which shed more than 500,000 jobs over the past year. Healthcare, in which nearly 80 percent of the workers are women, added more than 400,000 jobs.

"As the recession broadens, the gap between men and women is going to close somewhat," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. "But right now, the sectors that are really getting pounded are intensely male."

The divide is far starker than it was in last recession, when the technology crash battered professional and technical sectors in which women now hold more than 40 percent of jobs. From the beginning of 2001 to the beginning of 2002, the number of employed men declined by about 900,000, while the population of women with jobs fell by about 700,000.

The male-dominated construction industry held up much better then, too, as falling interest rates began to fuel the housing boom. This time, the housing bust that sparked the recession took construction with it. The downturn spread from the mortgage industry to the investment industry, leading to a credit crunch that undermined consumer spending and manufacturers of consumer goods, like auto makers.

Construction firms, in which 90 percent of workers are men, have cut more than 500,000 jobs, or nearly 7 percent of employment, over the past year. Men account for more than 60 percent of employment in investment firms, which through October had cut 1 percent, or 9,000 jobs.

That figure, the most recent available, excludes thousands of recently announced layoffs within the financial industry, including large cutbacks at two Boston companies: mutual fund manager Fidelity Investments and State Street Corp., which provides a variety of services for investment firms.

Hacker, 49, of Providence, worked for SS&C Technologies of Windsor, Conn., which also provides service to investment companies. When SS&C recently lost a client, it cost Hacker his job as manager of corporate governance. Several weeks later, he's talked to recruiters and staffing agencies, but all they have to offer are short-term contract jobs. And even so, he has yet to see a company hiring manager.

"I've been laid off before, but I've always managed to find work pretty quickly," he said. "But I've never dealt with this kind of financial meltdown."

Many analysts expect the investment industry that emerges from the financial crisis to be significantly smaller, with fewer jobs. Still, said David Autor, an economics professor at MIT, highly educated workers like Hacker are likely to fare well in an economy that values technical skills, analytical abilities, and advanced degrees.

"These guys will bounce back," Autor said. "But the job opportunities for less-educated males have declined substantially over the past 30 years, and there is a lack of alternatives for them."

Boyle, 54, for example, made about $70,000 a year, including overtime, at US Gypsum, and he's had no luck finding anything that will get him even close to that since getting laid off in March. He's tried manufacturers, construction firms, and sand and gravel companies. He recently completed training for a truck driver's license.

"You go to these places and they don't want to take on anyone else," he said. "It's really tough out there."

Finding jobs to replace the high-paying, blue-collar work that traditionally sustained men like Boyle and their families is among the greatest challenges facing the US economy, said the Center for Labor Market Studies' Sum. The erosion of these jobs has undermined both family income and family structure, he said.

Inflation-adjusted median income for young families has declined from $44,000 in 1979 to $38,000 in 2007, Sum said. During the same period, as jobs that allowed less-educated men to support a family have diminished, out-of-wedlock births to young women rose to 50 percent of births, from 20 percent in 1980.

"We lost a lot of jobs that used to be an opportunity for these young guys," Sum said. "But we haven't figured out how to create good-paying, blue-collar jobs for men who don't have a college degree."
Power User
Posts: 42015

« Reply #205 on: December 11, 2008, 11:45:25 AM »

Two interesting posts there Rachel.

Turning to the Dating Darwin one, I commend the author for what seems to be a honest search for Truth.

She writes:

"As girls overturn traditional gender roles, boys are forced to do the same, leaving both sexes in scary, unscripted territory. This has, indeed, come as a result of feminist advancements -- but  feminist advancements within a culture that is not yet egalitarian. I think many young women are still in search of an empowered and authentic sexual identity -- a way to be active participants in our sexual culture. Given that they are doing this within a culture than defines sexual power in male terms, , ,"

The word "egalitarian" is a slippery one.  Properly understood, it simply means "equal in value" but in point of fact it is often used to mean "identical in all ways"-- which IMHO is foolishness.

As I see it, the underlying Darwinian question is presented by the interregnum between the onset of puberty and actual childbearing in the modern era.  In many cases, this lasts for decades!!!  The consequences of this separation of sex and reproduction, greatly enabled by technology (the various forms of birth control) and fetus-cide) are as profound as they are outside of Darwinian logic.
IMHO THIS is what drives the dynamic the author seeks to address.

What I sense feminists (even a lucid one such as this author) imply when they use the phrase "traditional gender roles" is that these traditions are simply some sort of arbitrary social construct with oppressive overtones-- one that can be replaced by the "identical in all ways" construct.  Men and women are equal in value, but they most certainly are not the same, and the liberal PC feminazi ideology that says they are ultimately will fail.

A very simple and direct Darwinian example of this is the dramatic decline in birth rates below replacement rates.  I submit the proposition that the more "egalitarian" the culture, the lower the birth rates.  Look at Europe for example.  In many major countries such as Germany, France, and Spain the birth rates are as low as 1.1- 1.4!!!  In contrast, the Muslim birth rates (both Turkish and Arabic) are way above the replacement rate of 2.1.   The net result is the pre-emptive dhimmitude chronicled in various nearby threads.

A large subject, but right now my day takes me elsewhere.


« Reply #206 on: December 11, 2008, 10:37:25 PM »


Certainly birth control has had a large impact on the delaying of marriage and lowering the birthrate

However I would actually blame/credit  capitalism for lowering the birthrate. I think it has had much bigger effect than feminism.

Women joined the work force not because of  feminism but because of economic necessity.
I would credit feminism for  encouraging woman to be doctors as well as nurses but not for getting them a job outside the home in the first place

Capitalism encourages people to wait before having a family. Longer schooling is necessary now for people to have good jobs.  You are much more likely to be economically successful if you put off having a familyfor a little while. Don't get me wrong I like capitalism-- best economic system ever but it encourages people to be valued by how much money they make. A stay home  parent is often not valued as much by society because they are not making money. 

Israel has a fairly egalitarian society but is less capitalistic the the US and has a strong birthrate.  Partly because in Israel  people get married early and  more women  than in the US start and continue  having kids while attending college/grad school. 

Urban societies in general have  a lower birthrates than rural.  Kids are much more of an economic advantage on the farm. 
Power User
Posts: 100

« Reply #207 on: December 12, 2008, 03:33:14 PM »

Hi all,

A correlation between more "advanced" society (capitalism, high tech, egalitarian work, and so on) has been documented before though I cannot for the life of me remember the really cool documentary that really emphasized the point to me (apologies).  It would seem that birth rates do indeed decline as societies become more egalitarian due to feminist influence but also due the development of labor saving technologies that allow people to live differently than traditional cultures.  Such societal developments are in turn a function of the availability of cheap energy. If energy is not cheap then people have to do more physical labor.

« Reply #208 on: December 14, 2008, 08:46:10 AM »

 I have not read this book before  and I didn't find this until after I had posted but I have read something similar  to this  before.

How Society Makes Itself
 By Howard J. Sherman
bottom of page 178 and page  179,M1

Karsk --if you  remember the information for the documentary at some point I would be  very interested.

It makes sense that more capitalist societies are more egalitarians
Capitalism  would encourages a more egalitarian less discriminatory society. If  you hire the best person for job regardless of gender, race, religion, etc  you are going to have better run business that someone who discriminates.
However it always annoys that economists think people  always act rationally or in their best interest  all  the time, or wouldn't sacrifice themselves individually for what they see as the best for their group.  I  am not saying all problems have market solutions.  Government should have a role in protecting  against discrimination.

I was thinking that my Israel example might not be the best because obviously the role  religion plays in that society  and the fact that they are war would effect the birthrate.
« Reply #209 on: December 14, 2008, 08:47:25 AM »

The bondage of matrimony
Dec. 11, 2008

On the way into his house in the Negev Beduin city of Rahat, Samir leads me quickly past a small, bare concrete hut. Inside I glimpse a haggard-looking woman sitting at a table. "That's her, that's where she lives," says Samir, embarrassed, speaking of his first wife.

A few steps further is the front door to his old, two-story house. We go in and sit on the cushiony, worn couches in the salon. The TV is tuned to the settler evacuation in Hebron. Soon his second wife - younger, more attractive, dressed in a black-and-gold Beduin robe - comes out of the kitchen and serves us a lunch of chicken stew and meat, rice, humous and pita. She smiles when I thank her, but doesn't say a word, disappearing back into the kitchen.

Samir, in his 50s, is a teacher, one of the "educated" Beduin, as he says - not the folkloric, primitive sheikh who keeps a harem for his ego. He took a second wife because his first one couldn't bear him more than one child. "If she'd been healthy," he says, "I'd say there's an 80 percent chance I wouldn't have thought of getting married again."

He has 10 children by his second wife - five grown and out of the house, five living upstairs. If he had it to do over again, he says he'd have only one or two. "The expenses are so high. I can't even afford a computer for them." Unshaven on a school day, he seems downcast. He takes his medicine for a chronic illness.

Photos of his elders line the patched-up walls. Samir was born in the house. His father had one child by his first wife, then 12 children, including him, by a second. "I grew up herding sheep and goats. In those days it didn't cost anything to raise kids. What did you have to buy them? The more children you had, the bigger your family, the bigger your tribe, the bigger your clan. But today, living in the city, things are different."

Rahat, the "capital" of the Beduin sector, is a raw, disordered, sprawling, dirty place filled mainly with poor people, many of whom still keep sheep and goats. In Samir's neighborhood, little children who can barely stand play in the middle of the street, with the cars veering around them.

His first wife "took it hard" when he told her he was going to marry again. She didn't want to get divorced - it's a terrible stigma in Beduin society, a ticket to economic ruin, and the Shari'a (Islamic law) courts that decide most Beduin family disputes grant custody of the children to the father, not the mother.

Samir felt bad for his first wife and daughter; he didn't want to divorce, either. "I felt that a little girl belongs with her mother." So he moved his second wife into the big house and, a few steps away, built the hut for his first wife and their daughter. That was more than 20 years ago.

According to the Koran, a Muslim can take up to four wives, but he is supposed to care for them equally. "At first I tried to spend time with both of them, to sleep some nights here and some nights there, but it didn't work out. Little by little I was spending all my time here," he says, sinking back in his chair, smoking.

Today his first wife lives alone, although her grandchildren often come over. Between the money Samir and one of his sons give her, plus a little welfare, she survives. The entrance to her hut allows her to come and go without passing through the house. Unlike in most polygamous families, the children of the two wives "all get along like brothers and sisters," says Samir.

He goes over to the hut from time to time to see his first wife. But she doesn't come into the big house. "The wives don't talk to each other," he explains.

ABOUT ONE out of four Negev Beduin live in polygamous families: some 45,000 men, women and children. Despite modernization, the rate has been going up in recent years, says Prof. Alean el-Krenawi, who researches Beduin society at Ben-Gurion University. "Maybe it's because some Beduin men have been doing better economically, so they can afford more than one wife," suggests the professor, a Negev Beduin himself.

At the other end of the economic scale, though, the culture of poverty also can lead to polygamy. "The men are married off very young by their families; they don't finish school, they're poor, they have no future, they fight with their wives, get frustrated and think that taking another wife will solve their problems. But the problems only get worse," says Krenawi in his office.

Polygamy among Israeli Beduin nearly always means two wives, not three or four. Typically, the first wife and her children live separately from the husband's new family, but very close by - in a hut next to the main house like Samir's first wife, or in a new floor built onto the house. It's an obvious recipe for domestic warfare, and that's what commonly happens. "I can't think of any instances of murder, but sure there's violence, there's every sort of fighting - between one of the wives and the husband, between the two wives, between the children of the two wives - every combination you can think of," Krenawi says.

As a rule, the enmity begins with the first wife's humiliation and resentment, which deepens as the husband favors the second wife and set of children with more affection, attention and money. It's almost inevitable: The second wife is sought out by the husband, not by his parents as is usually the case in first marriages. The second wife also tends to be younger than the first. The shame and anger, along with the material want, that fall to the first wife and her children result in a range of psychological and social grievances, beginning with depression.

Krenawi has found that in general, the more educated a Beduin is, the less likely he is to practice polygamy. "But there are school principals, engineers and other professionals with two wives, so that's not a hard and fast rule," he says. Samir says he knows many other teachers with two wives. He notes that his first wife is illiterate and his second only went to elementary school for a few years.

Polygamy is practiced in various parts of Africa and Asia, mainly in rural areas, and not just by Muslims. Beduin from the Negev who have some money are known to bring back young second wives from the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and other poor Muslim countries. Among the Beduin in Galilee, who are more integrated into Israeli society, polygamy is not so common.

Officially, the practice is illegal here, but the law has never been enforced because this is a tradition that's embedded in Beduin culture and religion; even activists in the community who oppose polygamy are against the idea of the police and courts coming in to stop it.

Beduin society is ultraconservative, traditional and insular; change takes an awfully long time. The keepers of community tradition - clan elders and Muslim imams - are not about to endorse a campaign against polygamy.

THAT WAS evident at a BGU conference on this matter that Krenawi organized in late October, drawing hundreds of Beduin from across the Negev. While academics, social workers and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog talked about what a disaster polygamy is for Beduin, there were other voices, too.

"Polygamy solves problems," declared Sheikh Hammad Abu Daabis, head of the Negev Beduin branch of the Islamic Movement, quoted at the conference by The Jerusalem Post. He acknowledged the anxiety and depression that polygamy often causes the first wives, yet he maintained that the arrangement offers a solution for men who've married infertile women or who are tempted to roam, as well as for older, single women who have no hope anymore of marrying a bachelor.

In a fairly brave presentation, Talal el-Krenawi (Alean's brother), a Kadima member who was mayor of Rahat at the time of the conference, didn't condemn polygamy, but he came pretty close. He stressed that the Koran compels polygamous husbands to give each of their wives equal financial and emotional support, then joked, "Who is able to treat three wives equally? [Polygamy] is allowed but even the prophet Muhammad did not recommend it."

Change is not only mighty slow in Beduin society, it doesn't necessarily mean progress, either. Last month, Talal el-Krenawi lost the mayoralty of Rahat, a city dominated by tall minarets, to Sheikh Fayez Abu Ziban, who headed the Islamic Movement's local election ticket.

A bright spot in the election, though, was the candidacy of Muna el-Habnin, a Beduin women's rights activist who had the fourth slot on the "Change and Reform" party's ticket. Although the party won only three city council seats, a rotation agreement gives one of those seats to el-Habnin later in the five-year term. If that agreement is carried out, she will be the first Beduin woman in elected political office in the country's history.

A divorced mother of six, el-Habnin, who wears the head scarf and robes of a devout Muslim woman, runs her "Princess of the Desert" organization out of a borrowed, bare office, without even a computer, in the little college next to the Rahat shouk. Among the impoverished, bewildered women who come to her for help are many second wives of polygamous husbands.

"Their depression is very severe," says el-Habnin, 37, in a quiet yet intense voice. "They have social workers, but the social workers don't have time to listen to them." She's brought two second wives to the office for me to interview, and they've brought along three of their children and a divorced woman friend.

The image of Beduin women is exotic and mysterious; they're typically portrayed with veiled faces or impassive expressions, trudging through the sand in flowing robes, often balancing a basket on their heads.

But in a setting where they're free to talk, they're not such severe still-lifes. The three women in head scarves and robes sitting on plastic chairs in el-Habnin's office were laughing and chattering nonstop. The divorced friend was the life of the party, handing out wedges of orange to everyone, including me, while waiting for the interviews to start.

Laila and Yasmin, both in their 30s, live well apart from their husbands. Second wives living in the same house or compound as their polygamous husbands are not likely to come to a place like Princess of the Desert, and they're even less likely to talk to a journalist. I asked Prof. Krenawi and four different Beduin activists if they could put me in touch with a wife living in a polygamous family who was willing to be interviewed - even anonymously - and none of them could.

Laila's story is that she was engaged at 15, then married and had six children, then left her husband after he met a 16-year-old girl (while he was under house arrest for theft) and married her. As for Yasmin, who has three children, she had an off-and-on relationship with her husband until he met a woman (while he was on parole for theft) and married her.

Today Laila and Yasmin work in low-wage factory and housecleaning jobs, which disgraces them further as women in traditional Arab society. Neither wants a divorce; they both want their husbands to come back to them.

"For the children," says Laila, a strong-featured, plain-spoken woman. I ask if she still loves him. "Yeah, I guess - but not like before. Just knowing that he's with her fills me with anger."

Yasmin, who is tall, black and shy, says her husband's second wife, with whom he has two children, won't let him visit his original family. "He never puts his arms around her," she says, looking at her young, quiet daughter. "One time he came over, and we made this," she says with an exasperated smile, indicating her infant boy playing on the floor. "I once loved him, but now it's just for the kids. I want him to come pay the electricity bill, pay the water bill, pay for food."

Yasmin starts to relinquish her shyness. "I've had enough with men," she says, smiling ruefully. "I see a lot of other women in the same situation I'm in."

I ask if, when her troubles began, she was able to go to her parents for help, at least for sympathy. Her father is a Beduin - wasn't this an insult to his pride? Yasmin says her father died a few years ago, but before that, "he had two wives. He did the same thing to my mother. My mother understands, but there's nothing she can do about it."

El-Habnin explains: "The men support each other. The father of a woman who's been betrayed by her husband could have been a polygamist himself - how's he going to object?"

One of the hardest things to understand about Beduin polygamy is that while it favors the husbands at the expense of their wives and children, the husbands end up suffering, too - not nearly as badly as the wives and children, to be sure, but still, they're usually not happy with the arrangement at all. "With all the trouble, the feuds, the envy, the financial responsibilities - a man with more than one wife typically regrets it," says Prof. Krenawi.

So why does this way of life go on? If the wives and the husbands and the children of polygamous marriages are so miserable, why don't the Beduin wise up? "Why?" wonders Krenawi. "I don't know. Tradition, I guess. It's a hard thing to break."
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1228728151540&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
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« Reply #210 on: December 14, 2008, 09:37:40 AM »


I've been meaning to ask you about these words of yours:

"Women joined the work force not because of  feminism but because of economic necessity.  I would credit feminism for  encouraging woman to be doctors as well as nurses but not for getting them a job outside the home in the first place."

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that given a choice, most women would rather have their work be their homes and their families.  I'm OK with the concept, but am more than a little surprised to here it come from you. cheesy

"Capitalism encourages people to wait before having a family."

In that the dynamic we discuss was present in spades in the Russian population of the Soviet Empire, I'd quibble with the word "capitalism" and would suggest using "economically developed" instead.
« Reply #211 on: December 14, 2008, 10:05:11 AM »

I don't know if  most women would rather home.   However definitely some women and men  certainly  would rather be home  full time  or work part time  so they could spend more time with their children.

If G-d willing we have children and we could afford it I would  personally prefer to be home or only work part time.  Though I would never say anything like that at work.

However I certainly don't think it wrong for woman to want to work outside the home  even if she can "afford" to be home or that a working mother is necessary bad for the children.
"Third-wave feminism allows women to define feminism for themselves by incorporating their own identities into the belief system of what feminism is and what it can become through one's own perspective.

Third-wave feminism's central issues are that of race, social class and sexuality. However, they are also concerns of workplace issues such as the glass ceiling, sexual harassment, unfair maternity leave policies, motherhood—support for single mothers by means of welfare and child care and respect for working mothers and mothers who decide to leave their careers to raise their children full-time."

My point was the society change that brought women into the workplace was not the feminist movement  alone but economic necessity.    I  (and other feminists) think it is wonderful  that some mothers  have the "choice to work" but I don't think feminism caused it.
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« Reply #212 on: December 14, 2008, 10:17:02 AM »

Though some may roll their eyes at her name, I think Dr. Laura Schlessinger is on sound ground when she says that at least one parent should be dedicated to the home and the children and that that one parent is usually the mother.    I think a lot of the societal breakdown that we have seen in recent decades is due to children being raised by daycare, nannies, and TV instead of loving mothers.
« Reply #213 on: December 14, 2008, 10:23:45 AM »

 I  don't think society has broken down. I would much rather live in the present that in the past.   I do wish people would spend more time on what it truly valuable like their family and friends rather than making money and mindless entertainment.
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« Reply #214 on: December 14, 2008, 12:28:47 PM »

The average age of homicide perps has been dropping every year. Our murder rate would be much worse were it not for our medical technology.
« Reply #215 on: December 14, 2008, 01:44:41 PM »

I'm sure this does not go  here but I don't know where to put it. I will be happy to move it if someone suggests a better spot.

In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, "[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized." Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth.

In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.

Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.

At one time, these facts were widely appreciated. They were the source of notions like progress, civilization, and man's rise from savagery and barbarism. Recently, however, those ideas have come to sound corny, even dangerous. They seem to demonize people in other times and places, license colonial conquest and other foreign adventures, and conceal the crimes of our own societies. The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset ("War is not an instinct but an invention"), Stephen Jay Gould ("Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species"), and Ashley Montagu ("Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood"). But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.

To be sure, any attempt to document changes in violence must be soaked in uncertainty. In much of the world, the distant past was a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, and, even for events in the historical record, statistics are spotty until recent periods. Long-term trends can be discerned only by smoothing out zigzags and spikes of horrific bloodletting. And the choice to focus on relative rather than absolute numbers brings up the moral imponderable of whether it is worse for 50 percent of a population of 100 to be killed or 1 percent in a population of one billion.

Yet, despite these caveats, a picture is taking shape. The decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon, visible at the scale of millennia, centuries, decades, and years. It applies over several orders of magnitude of violence, from genocide to war to rioting to homicide to the treatment of children and animals. And it appears to be a worldwide trend, though not a homogeneous one. The leading edge has been in Western societies, especially England and Holland, and there seems to have been a tipping point at the onset of the Age of Reason in the early seventeenth century.

At the widest-angle view, one can see a whopping difference across the millennia that separate us from our pre-state ancestors. Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage, quantitative body-counts—such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with axemarks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men—suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own. It is true that raids and battles killed a tiny percentage of the numbers that die in modern warfare. But, in tribal violence, the clashes are more frequent, the percentage of men in the population who fight is greater, and the rates of death per battle are higher. According to anthropologists like Lawrence Keeley, Stephen LeBlanc, Phillip Walker, and Bruce Knauft, these factors combine to yield population-wide rates of death in tribal warfare that dwarf those of modern times. If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million.

Political correctness from the other end of the ideological spectrum has also distorted many people's conception of violence in early civilizations—namely, those featured in the Bible. This supposed source of moral values contains many celebrations of genocide, in which the Hebrews, egged on by God, slaughter every last resident of an invaded city. The Bible also prescribes death by stoning as the penalty for a long list of nonviolent infractions, including idolatry, blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, disrespecting one's parents, and picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The Hebrews, of course, were no more murderous than other tribes; one also finds frequent boasts of torture and genocide in the early histories of the Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Chinese.

At the century scale, it is hard to find quantitative studies of deaths in warfare spanning medieval and modern times. Several historians have suggested that there has been an increase in the number of recorded wars across the centuries to the present, but, as political scientist James Payne has noted, this may show only that "the Associated Press is a more comprehensive source of information about battles around the world than were sixteenth-century monks." Social histories of the West provide evidence of numerous barbaric practices that became obsolete in the last five centuries, such as slavery, amputation, blinding, branding, flaying, disembowelment, burning at the stake, breaking on the wheel, and so on. Meanwhile, for another kind of violence—homicide—the data are abundant and striking. The criminologist Manuel Eisner has assembled hundreds of homicide estimates from Western European localities that kept records at some point between 1200 and the mid-1990s. In every country he analyzed, murder rates declined steeply—for example, from 24 homicides per 100,000 Englishmen in the fourteenth century to 0.6 per 100,000 by the early 1960s.

On the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture: Global violence has fallen steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade. In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.

Zooming in by a further power of ten exposes yet another reduction. After the cold war, every part of the world saw a steep drop-off in state-based conflicts, and those that do occur are more likely to end in negotiated settlements rather than being fought to the bitter end. Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent.

The decline of killing and cruelty poses several challenges to our ability to make sense of the world. To begin with, how could so many people be so wrong about something so important? Partly, it's because of a cognitive illusion: We estimate the probability of an event from how easy it is to recall examples. Scenes of carnage are more likely to be relayed to our living rooms and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. Partly, it's an intellectual culture that is loath to admit that there could be anything good about the institutions of civilization and Western society. Partly, it's the incentive structure of the activism and opinion markets: No one ever attracted followers and donations by announcing that things keep getting better. And part of the explanation lies in the phenomenon itself. The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead. As deplorable as they are, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the lethal injections of a few murderers in Texas are mild by the standards of atrocities in human history. But, from a contemporary vantage point, we see them as signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen.

The other major challenge posed by the decline of violence is how to explain it. A force that pushes in the same direction across many epochs, continents, and scales of social organization mocks our standard tools of causal explanation. The usual suspects—guns, drugs, the press, American culture—aren't nearly up to the job. Nor could it possibly be explained by evolution in the biologist's sense: Even if the meek could inherit the earth, natural selection could not favor the genes for meekness quickly enough. In any case, human nature has not changed so much as to have lost its taste for violence. Social psychologists find that at least 80 percent of people have fantasized about killing someone they don't like. And modern humans still take pleasure in viewing violence, if we are to judge by the popularity of murder mysteries, Shakespearean dramas, Mel Gibson movies, video games, and hockey.

What has changed, of course, is people's willingness to act on these fantasies. The sociologist Norbert Elias suggested that European modernity accelerated a "civilizing process" marked by increases in self-control, long-term planning, and sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others. These are precisely the functions that today's cognitive neuroscientists attribute to the prefrontal cortex. But this only raises the question of why humans have increasingly exercised that part of their brains. No one knows why our behavior has come under the control of the better angels of our nature, but there are four plausible suggestions.

The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy. Any beings with a modicum of self-interest may be tempted to invade their neighbors to steal their resources. The resulting fear of attack will tempt the neighbors to strike first in preemptive self-defense, which will in turn tempt the first group to strike against them preemptively, and so on. This danger can be defused by a policy of deterrence—don't strike first, retaliate if struck—but, to guarantee its credibility, parties must avenge all insults and settle all scores, leading to cycles of bloody vendetta. These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation. Indeed, Eisner and Elias attribute the decline in European homicide to the transition from knightly warrior societies to the centralized governments of early modernity. And, today, violence continues to fester in zones of anarchy, such as frontier regions, failed states, collapsed empires, and territories contested by mafias, gangs, and other dealers of contraband.

Payne suggests another possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. When pain and early death are everyday features of one's own life, one feels fewer compunctions about inflicting them on others. As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life in general.

A third theory, championed by Robert Wright, invokes the logic of non-zero-sum games: scenarios in which two agents can each come out ahead if they cooperate, such as trading goods, dividing up labor, or sharing the peace dividend that comes from laying down their arms. As people acquire know-how that they can share cheaply with others and develop technologies that allow them to spread their goods and ideas over larger territories at lower cost, their incentive to cooperate steadily increases, because other people become more valuable alive than dead.

Then there is the scenario sketched by philosopher Peter Singer. Evolution, he suggests, bequeathed people a small kernel of empathy, which by default they apply only within a narrow circle of friends and relations. Over the millennia, people's moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity, ŕ la Wright, but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one's own station, more palpable—the feeling that "there but for fortune go I".

Whatever its causes, the decline of violence has profound implications. It is not a license for complacency: We enjoy the peace we find today because people in past generations were appalled by the violence in their time and worked to end it, and so we should work to end the appalling violence in our time. Nor is it necessarily grounds for optimism about the immediate future, since the world has never before had national leaders who combine pre-modern sensibilities with modern weapons.

But the phenomenon does force us to rethink our understanding of violence. Man's inhumanity to man has long been a subject for moralization. With the knowledge that something has driven it dramatically down, we can also treat it as a matter of cause and effect. Instead of asking, "Why is there war?" we might ask, "Why is there peace?" From the likelihood that states will commit genocide to the way that people treat cats, we must have been doing something right. And it would be nice to know what, exactly, it is.

[First published in The New Republic, 3.19.07.]
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« Reply #216 on: December 14, 2008, 02:49:02 PM »


May I suggest taking this over to the Evolutionary Psychology/Biology thread on the SCE forum?  Once there I look forward to raising Konrad Lorenz's analysis of this issue (Jung too) -- which is completely to the contrary.  He held that the 20th Century was the most brutal in human history.


PS:  Wright's book on "Non-Zero Sum" is brilliant.
« Reply #217 on: December 14, 2008, 09:12:20 PM »

Another funny Sarah Haskins video
« Last Edit: December 15, 2008, 08:04:44 PM by rachelg » Logged
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« Reply #218 on: December 18, 2008, 08:32:26 PM »

Too bad she didn't shoot him the first time.
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« Reply #219 on: January 03, 2009, 10:28:25 AM »

Gays angered by Pope’s stand on ecology
If we don't trash the physical environment, do we have a right to trash the moral environment?
If nominations for the best bright idea of 2008 are still open, I’m voting for Pope Benedict XVI’s  “ecology of man”. It goes without saying that this will not pass unchallenged. His intriguing suggestion surfaced in a speech to his staff a couple of days before Christmas -- and instantly the gay lobby had conniptions.

An Anglican priest in London, Giles Fraser, founder of the pro-gay Inclusive Church movement, told the London Times: “I thought the Christmas angels said, ‘Fear not’. Instead, the Pope is spreading fear that gay people somehow threaten the planet. And that’s just absurd. As always, this sort of religious homophobia will be an alibi for all those who would do gay people harm.”

What did the Pope actually say?

He was discrete, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines. He said that the Church had a duty to “protect Man from destroying himself”. The Church “ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself” by gender-bending. True, it was a critique of homosexuality, but it was not based on the yuck factor or even primarily on the Bible.

He did not intend to insult gays, either. Even the gay Australian writer David Marr acknowledged that. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, he scolded his over-sensitive buddies: “But poofs who love the planet more than themselves should acknowledge the pontiff was onto something here: not just saving homosexuals from their ‘own destruction’ but announcing a new role for the church defending ‘the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us’”.

Marr’s reaction suggests that the notion that man is part of the ecological web could be fruitful and persuasive. It could, in fact, lead to a better understanding of why homosexuality is wrong and a violation of human dignity.

But to grasp why, you have to read the original text,not just scraps from jaded Vatican journos. These were not just off-the-cuff remarks. Instead, they represent a consistent theme in Benedict’s teaching: that because nature has been created by God, it is rational, orderly and ultimately comprehensible. Hence it is possible to carry on a rational dialogue with people like David Marr.

This is an idea that Benedict visits again and again, and it is very similar to his critique of Islam in his Regensburg address a couple of years ago. In that controversial speech he declared that "The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby."

In his Christmas speech, Benedict plays the same tune. Human bodies, having been created by God, are evidence for an authentic sexual morality: “The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Creator Spirit, clearly means that their rational structures which, transcending the mathematical order, become almost palpable in our experience, bear within themselves an ethical orientation.” If the biology of male and female sexuality are complementary, there must be an ultimate reason for it. A rational person searches for that reason and draws ethical conclusions.

He also appeals to a principle that now seems self-evident, at least in the Western world: that we trash the environment at our peril. Why? Because “the earth is not simply our possession which we can plunder according to our interests and desires. It is rather a gift of the Creator who has designed its intrinsic laws and with this has given us the basic directions for us to adhere as stewards of his creation.”

Man, even though he has a spiritual element, is part of this ecology. He may not – he cannot – reshape himself without risking his own destruction, just as abusing the atmosphere, the earth or the sea could lead to catastrophe.

“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysics. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him.”

Admittedly, this will not be easy for supporters of homosexuality to accept. What they feel is that biology is less important than the longings of the heart, or the desire to conquer and manipulate nature. They are unwitting disciples of Francis Bacon, the English Renaissance philosopher who argued that the destiny of science and technology was to remake and triumph over nature. In his recent encyclical Spe Salvi, Benedict treated Bacon as an important figure, whose naďve enthusiasm for scientific progress ended up justifying the terrifying and destructive potential of modern technology. Not long ago Bacon was worshipped as a visionary thinker, but contemporary philosophers are less complimentary. They regard him as a forerunner of Western science’s continuing legacy of alienation, exploitation, and ecological oppression. Someday, the Pope hints, we will realise that the gay culture is just an extension of this.

The inescapable fact of human existence is that we are both rational and animal. As W.B. Yeats put it in one of his great poems, we live “sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal”. Even if our reason transcends it, we are as much part of the ecology as beetles and sea gulls. We can no more defy the laws of nature than they can.

Will the Pope's brief words, just a couple of dense paragraphs actually, convince people that homosexuality is “unnatural”? Absolutely not. But they could spark a realisation that it is inconsistent to demand respect for the laws of ecology with the single exception of man himself. When that philosophy was adopted by the Industrial Revolution, it turned forests into deserts, fields into wastelands and seas into stagnant ponds. Benedict wants us to see that the Sexual Revolution could do much the same.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet
« Reply #220 on: January 03, 2009, 02:07:39 PM »

I would agree that our sexual attitudes effect the world we live in.

However--   um "some of my best friends are Catholic"  and they do  find great strength and  a path to be a better person  in the catholic church  and if you find the popes comments helpful to you that is your business

Personally I don''t find the Catholic church attitudes towards sex to be particularly inspiring

Sex and shame seem to be very interconnected in Catholicism.

Sex is sort of a necessary evil. ..better  to be married than to burn with lust---  procreation is the main point of sex--

Most Human being are designed to be a loving relationship  and requiring you leaders to celibate is not healthful for them or for the church they lead.

Personally I have gotten most of the best relationship/marriage advice from Rabbis. I don't think it would have been quite as good  or I would have been willing to listen if they were never married themselves.

Extremely Casual Sex  would strike me as being bad for the world. Committed Gay Marriage  I see as a  positive event. 
« Reply #221 on: January 03, 2009, 04:39:02 PM »
January 1, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

The Evil Behind the Smiles

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Western men who visit red-light districts in poor countries often find themselves surrounded by coquettish teenage girls laughingly tugging them toward the brothels. The men assume that the girls are there voluntarily, and in some cases they are right.

But anyone inclined to take the girls' smiles at face value should talk to Sina Vann, who was once one of those smiling girls.

Sina is Vietnamese but was kidnapped at the age of 13 and taken to Cambodia, where she was drugged. She said she woke up naked and bloody on a bed with a white man — she doesn't know his nationality — who had purchased her virginity.

After that, she was locked on the upper floors of a nice hotel and offered to Western men and wealthy Cambodians. She said she was beaten ferociously to force her to smile and act seductive.

"My first phrase in Khmer," the Cambodian language, "was, 'I want to sleep with you,' " she said. "My first phrase in English was" — well, it's unprintable.

Sina mostly followed instructions and smiled alluringly at men because she would have been beaten if men didn't choose her. But sometimes she was in such pain that she resisted, and then she said she would be dragged down to a torture chamber in the basement.

"Many of the brothels have these torture chambers," she said. "They are underground because then the girls' screams are muffled."

As in many brothels, the torture of choice was electric shocks. Sina would be tied down, doused in water and then prodded with wires running from the 220-volt wall outlet. The jolt causes intense pain, sometimes evacuation of the bladder and bowel — and even unconsciousness.

Shocks fit well into the brothel business model because they cause agonizing pain and terrify the girls without damaging their looks or undermining their market value.

After the beatings and shocks, Sina said she would be locked naked in a wooden coffin full of biting ants. The coffin was dark, suffocating and so tight that she could not move her hands up to her face to brush off the ants. Her tears washed the ants out of her eyes.

She was locked in the coffin for a day or two at a time, and she said this happened many, many times.

Finally, Sina was freed in a police raid, and found herself blinded by the first daylight she had seen in years. The raid was organized by Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman who herself had been sold into the brothels but managed to escape, educate herself and now heads a foundation fighting forced prostitution.

After being freed, Sina began studying and eventually became one of Somaly's trusted lieutenants. They now work together, in defiance of death threats from brothel owners, to free other girls. To get at Somaly, the brothel owners kidnapped and brutalized her 14-year-old daughter. And six months ago, the daughter of another anti-trafficking activist (my interpreter when I interviewed Sina) went missing.

I had heard about torture chambers under the brothels but had never seen one, so a few days ago Sina took me to the red-light district here where she once was imprisoned. A brothel had been torn down, revealing a warren of dungeons underneath.

"I was in a room just like those," she said, pointing. "There must be many girls who died in those rooms." She grew distressed and added: "I'm cold and afraid. Tonight I won't sleep."

"Photograph quickly," she added, and pointed to brothels lining the street. "It's not safe to stay here long."

Sina and Somaly sustain themselves with a wicked sense of humor. They tease each other mercilessly, with Sina, who is single, mock-scolding Somaly: "At least I had plenty of men until you had to come along and rescue me!"

Sex trafficking is truly the 21st century's version of slavery. One of the differences from 19th-century slavery is that many of these modern slaves will die of AIDS by their late 20s.

Whenever I report on sex trafficking, I come away less depressed by the atrocities than inspired by the courage of modern abolitionists like Somaly and Sina. They are risking their lives to help others still locked up in the brothels, and they have the credibility and experience to lead this fight. In my next column, I'll introduce a girl that Sina is now helping to recover from mind-boggling torture in a brothel — and Sina's own story gives hope to the girl in a way that an army of psychologists couldn't.

I hope that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will recognize slavery as unfinished business on the foreign policy agenda. The abolitionist cause simply hasn't been completed as long as 14-year-old girls are being jolted with electric shocks — right now, as you read this — to make them smile before oblivious tourists.
« Reply #222 on: January 13, 2009, 08:57:09 PM »

GREENFIELD, Calif. — Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier said on Monday that his officers keep hearing rumors of arranged marriages between girls and older men.

Some of the rumored marriages involved girls as young as 10 years old being matched with men from their teens to their 60s, he said.

Until one case broke last weekend, Grebmeier said, it has been difficult for police to look into the stories. People didn’t want to talk about the subject.

“Knowing and proving something are two different things,” he said.

The case started when a Greenfield father reported his 14-year-old daughter as a runaway on Jan. 2. Police now believe the father actually agreed to sell his daughter into marriage to an 18-year-old neighbor, and he wanted the police to help return the girl because he hadn’t been paid.

The agreed-upon price was $16,000 in cash, 150 cases of beer, 150 cases of soda, several cases of meat and two cases of wine, Grebmeier said.

After the couple spent a week together in Soledad, Calif., they returned to Greenfield and police interviewed them, he said. Police are seeking charges of statutory rape against the 18-year-old, Margarito de Jesus Galindo, Grebmeier said.

But officers, after interviewing the father again last weekend, suspected there was more going on than simply a runaway teenager.

“He wanted us to pick up his daughter because the deal had been finalized, but the remuneration was missing,” Grebmeier said.

Grebmeier said arranged marriages are part of the custom in many countries, including parts of Mexico. All of the people involved in the case are Mexican immigrants from Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, many of whom have settled in Greenfield.

“From what I understand this doesn’t violate Mexican law or their customs where they came from,” Grebmeier said.

But the girl is four years under the age of consent in California, he said.

“We want to send a strong message with regard to the law on sex with minors and the sale of minors into marriage — that it’s illegal.”

The girl’s father was arrested Sunday and booked into county jail on a charge of accepting something of value in exchange for placing a person into cohabitation.

A man who acted as a broker in the would-be marriage was cooperating with police, Grebmeier said.

“This is the most evidence we’ve had on this type of transaction,” he said.

He said officers have heard rumors of arranged marriages involving sums of $2,000 to $40,000. He said police are concerned about cases involving underage victims and possible coercion.

“All societies have had arranged marriages at some time,” he said.

“Sometimes they may be a mask for prostitution, sex crimes, molestation and abuse.”

The girl was returned to her family, and police have reported the case to child welfare officials, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hulsey said her office had not yet received the police reports.

Hulsey said she was not aware of a similar case since at least 1999.

Sam Trevino, a spokesman for the county social services department, said child welfare workers haven’t dealt with any similar cases.

Grebmeier said the case has provoked strong community reaction.

“Some portions of the community are outraged, including the Mexican community,” he said. “Some portions feel, ‘What’s the issue?’”

“I’m trying to be culturally sensitive, but I also took an oath to enforce our law,” the police chief said. “We have to send a message to the entire community this behavior is illegal,” he said.
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« Reply #223 on: January 25, 2009, 08:52:38 AM »

Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She is a 36-year-old psychology professor at Queen’s University in the small city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull — “bonobos don’t seem to make much noise in sex,” she told me, “though the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds” — she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.

While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively. The participants sat in a brown leatherette La-Z-Boy chair in her small lab at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, a prestigious psychiatric teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where Chivers was a postdoctoral fellow and where I first talked with her about her research a few years ago. The genitals of the volunteers were connected to plethysmographs — for the men, an apparatus that fits over the penis and gauges its swelling; for the women, a little plastic probe that sits in the vagina and, by bouncing light off the vaginal walls, measures genital blood flow. An engorgement of blood spurs a lubricating process called vaginal transudation: the seeping of moisture through the walls. The participants were also given a keypad so that they could rate how aroused they felt.
The men, on average, responded genitally in what Chivers terms “category specific” ways. Males who identified themselves as straight swelled while gazing at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while watching the masturbating and exercising women. They were mostly unmoved when the screen displayed only men. Gay males were aroused in the opposite categorical pattern. Any expectation that the animal sex would speak to something primitive within the men seemed to be mistaken; neither straights nor gays were stirred by the bonobos. And for the male participants, the subjective ratings on the keypad matched the readings of the plethysmograph. The men’s minds and genitals were in agreement.

All was different with the women. No matter what their self-proclaimed sexual orientation, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. They responded objectively much more to the exercising woman than to the strolling man, and their blood flow rose quickly — and markedly, though to a lesser degree than during all the human scenes except the footage of the ambling, strapping man — as they watched the apes. And with the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded. Whether straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while staring at the bonobos.

“I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest,” Chivers said, describing her ambition to understand the workings of women’s arousal and desire. “There’s a path leading in, but it isn’t much.” She sees herself, she explained, as part of an emerging “critical mass” of female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods. These researchers and clinicians are consumed by the sexual problem Sigmund Freud posed to one of his female disciples almost a century ago: “The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?”

Full of scientific exuberance, Chivers has struggled to make sense of her data. She struggled when we first spoke in Toronto, and she struggled, unflagging, as we sat last October in her university office in Kingston, a room she keeps spare to help her mind stay clear to contemplate the intricacies of the erotic. The cinder-block walls are unadorned except for three photographs she took of a temple in India featuring carvings of an entwined couple, an orgy and a man copulating with a horse. She has been pondering sexuality, she recalled, since the age of 5 or 6, when she ruminated over a particular kiss, one she still remembers vividly, between her parents. And she has been discussing sex without much restraint, she said, laughing, at least since the age of 15 or 16, when, for a few male classmates who hoped to please their girlfriends, she drew a picture and clarified the location of the clitoris.


Page 2 of Cool

In 1996, when she worked as an assistant to a sexologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, then called the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, she found herself the only woman on a floor of researchers investigating male sexual preferences and what are known as paraphilias — erotic desires that fall far outside the norm. She told me that when she asked Kurt Freund, a scientist on that floor who had developed a type of penile plethysmograph and who had been studying male homosexuality and pedophilia since the 1950s, why he never turned his attention to women, he replied: “How am I to know what it is to be a woman? Who am I to study women, when I am a man?”

Freund’s words helped to focus her investigations, work that has made her a central figure among the small force of female sexologists devoted to comprehending female desire. John Bancroft, a former director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, traces sexological studies by women at least as far back as 1929, to a survey of the sexual experiences of 2,200 women carried out by Katharine Bement Davis, a prison reformer who once served as New York City’s first female commissioner of corrections. But the discipline remains male-dominated. In the International Academy of Sex Research, the 35-year-old institution that publishes Archives of Sexual Behavior and that can claim, Bancroft said, most of the field’s leading researchers among its 300 or so members, women make up just over a quarter of the organization. Yet in recent years, he continued, in the long wake of the surveys of Alfred Kinsey, the studies of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the sexual liberation movement and the rise of feminism, there has been a surge of scientific attention, paid by women, to illuminating the realm of women’s desire.

It’s important to distinguish, Julia Heiman, the Kinsey Institute’s current director, said as she elaborated on Bancroft’s history, between behavior and what underlies it. Kinsey’s data on sexuality, published in the late 1940s and early ’50s in his best-selling books “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” didn’t reveal much about the depths of desire; Kinsey started his scientific career by cataloging species of wasps and may, Heiman went on, have been suspicious of examining emotion. Masters and Johnson, who filmed hundreds of subjects having sex in their lab, drew conclusions in their books of the late ’60s and early ’70s that concentrated on sexual function, not lust. Female desire, and the reasons some women feel little in the way of lust, became a focal point for sexologists, Heiman said, in the ’70s, through the writing of Helen Singer Kaplan, a sex therapist who used psychoanalytic methods — though sexologists prefer to etch a line between what they see as their scientific approach to the subject and the theories of psychoanalysis. Heiman herself, whom Chivers views as one of sexology’s venerable investigators, conducted, as a doctoral candidate in the ’70s, some of the earliest research using the vaginal plethysmograph. But soon the AIDS epidemic engulfed the attention of the field, putting a priority on prevention and making desire not an emotion to explore but an element to be feared, a source of epidemiological disaster.

To account partly for the recent flourishing of research like Chivers’s, Heiman pointed to the arrival of Viagra in the late ’90s. Though aimed at men, the drug, which transformed the treatment of impotence, has dispersed a kind of collateral electric current into the area of women’s sexuality, not only generating an effort — mostly futile so far — to find drugs that can foster female desire as reliably as Viagra and its chemical relatives have facilitated erections, but also helping, indirectly, to inspire the search for a full understanding of women’s lust. This search may reflect, as well, a cultural and scientific trend, a stress on the deterministic role of biology, on nature’s dominance over nurture — and, because of this, on innate differences between the sexes, particularly in the primal domain of sex. “Masters and Johnson saw men and women as extremely similar,” Heiman said. “Now it’s research on differences that gets funded, that gets published, that the public is interested in.” She wondered aloud whether the trend will eventually run its course and reverse itself, but these days it may be among the factors that infuse sexology’s interest in the giant forest.

“No one right now has a unifying theory,” Heiman told me; the interest has brought scattered sightlines, glimpses from all sorts of angles. One study, for instance, published this month in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior by the Kinsey Institute psychologist Heather Rupp, uses magnetic resonance imaging to show that, during the hormonal shifts of ovulation, certain brain regions in heterosexual women are more intensely activated by male faces with especially masculine features. Intriguing glimmers have come not only from female scientists. Richard Lippa, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, has employed surveys of thousands of subjects to demonstrate over the past few years that while men with high sex drives report an even more polarized pattern of attraction than most males (to women for heterosexuals and to men for homosexuals), in women the opposite is generally true: the higher the drive, the greater the attraction to both sexes, though this may not be so for lesbians.

Investigating the culmination of female desire, Barry Komisaruk, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University, has subjects bring themselves to orgasm while lying with their heads in an fM.R.I. scanner — he aims to chart the activity of the female brain as subjects near and reach four types of climax: orgasms attained by touching the clitoris; by stimulating the anterior wall of the vagina or, more specifically, the G spot; by stimulating the cervix; and by “thinking off,” Komisaruk said, without any touch at all. While the possibility of a purely cervical orgasm may be in considerable doubt, in 1992 Komisaruk, collaborating with the Rutgers sexologist Beverly Whipple (who established, more or less, the existence of the G spot in the ’80s), carried out one of the most interesting experiments in female sexuality: by measuring heart rate, perspiration, pupil dilation and pain threshold, they proved that some rare women can think themselves to climax. And meanwhile, at the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory of the University of Texas, Austin, the psychologist Cindy Meston and her graduate students deliver studies with names like “Short- and long-term effects of ginkgo biloba extract on sexual dysfunction in women” and “The roles of testosterone and alpha-amylase in exercise-induced sexual arousal in women” and “Sex differences in memory for sexually relevant information” and — an Internet survey of 3,000 participants — “Why humans have sex.”

Heiman questions whether the insights of science, whether they come through high-tech pictures of the hypothalamus, through Internet questionnaires or through intimate interviews, can ever produce an all-encompassing map of terrain as complex as women’s desire. But Chivers, with plenty of self-doubting humor, told me that she hopes one day to develop a scientifically supported model to explain female sexual response, though she wrestles, for the moment, with the preliminary bits of perplexing evidence she has collected — with the question, first, of why women are aroused physiologically by such a wider range of stimuli than men. Are men simply more inhibited, more constrained by the bounds of culture? Chivers has tried to eliminate this explanation by including male-to-female transsexuals as subjects in one of her series of experiments (one that showed only human sex). These trans women, both those who were heterosexual and those who were homosexual, responded genitally and subjectively in categorical ways. They responded like men. This seemed to point to an inborn system of arousal. Yet it wasn’t hard to argue that cultural lessons had taken permanent hold within these subjects long before their emergence as females could have altered the culture’s influence. “The horrible reality of psychological research,” Chivers said, “is that you can’t pull apart the cultural from the biological.”


Still, she spoke about a recent study by one of her mentors, Michael Bailey, a sexologist at Northwestern University: while fM.R.I. scans were taken of their brains, gay and straight men were shown pornographic pictures featuring men alone, women alone, men having sex with men and women with women. In straights, brain regions associated with inhibition were not triggered by images of men; in gays, such regions weren’t activated by pictures of women. Inhibition, in Bailey’s experiment, didn’t appear to be an explanation for men’s narrowly focused desires. Early results from a similar Bailey study with female subjects suggest the same absence of suppression. For Chivers, this bolsters the possibility that the distinctions in her data between men and women — including the divergence in women between objective and subjective responses, between body and mind — arise from innate factors rather than forces of culture.

Chivers has scrutinized, in a paper soon to be published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the split between women’s bodies and minds in 130 studies by other scientists demonstrating, in one way or another, the same enigmatic discord. One manifestation of this split has come in experimental attempts to use Viagra-like drugs to treat women who complain of deficient desire.
By some estimates, 30 percent of women fall into this category, though plenty of sexologists argue that pharmaceutical companies have managed to drive up the figures as a way of generating awareness and demand. It’s a demand, in any event, that hasn’t been met. In men who have trouble getting erect, the genital engorgement aided by Viagra and its rivals is often all that’s needed. The pills target genital capillaries; they don’t aim at the mind. The medications may enhance male desire somewhat by granting men a feeling of power and control, but they don’t, for the most part, manufacture wanting. And for men, they don’t need to. Desire, it seems, is usually in steady supply. In women, though, the main difficulty appears to be in the mind, not the body, so the physiological effects of the drugs have proved irrelevant. The pills can promote blood flow and lubrication, but this doesn’t do much to create a conscious sense of desire.

Chivers isn’t especially interested at this point, she said, in pharmaceutical efforts in her field, though she has done a bit of consulting for Boehringer Ingelheim, a German company in the late stages of testing a female-desire drug named Flibanserin. She can’t, contractually, discuss what she describes as her negligible involvement in the development of the drug, and the company isn’t prepared to say much about the workings of its chemical, which it says it hopes to have approved by the Food and Drug Administration next year. The medication was originally meant to treat depression — it singles out the brain’s receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin. As with other such drugs, one worry was that it would dull the libido. Yet in early trials, while it showed little promise for relieving depression, it left female — but not male — subjects feeling increased lust. In a way that Boehringer Ingelheim either doesn’t understand or doesn’t yet want to explain, the chemical, which the company is currently trying out in 5,000 North American and European women, may catalyze sources of desire in the female brain.

Testosterone, so vital to male libido, appears crucial to females as well, and in drug trials involving postmenopausal women, testosterone patches have increased sexual activity. But worries about a possibly heightened risk of cancer, along with uncertainty about the extent of the treatment’s advantages, have been among the reasons that the approach hasn’t yet been sanctioned by the F.D.A.

Thinking not of the search for chemical aphrodisiacs but of her own quest for comprehension, Chivers said that she hopes her research and thinking will eventually have some benefit for women’s sexuality. “I wanted everybody to have great sex,” she told me, recalling one of her reasons for choosing her career, and laughing as she did when she recounted the lessons she once gave on the position of the clitoris. But mostly it’s the aim of understanding in itself that compels her. For the discord, in women, between the body and the mind, she has deliberated over all sorts of explanations, the simplest being anatomy. The penis is external, its reactions more readily perceived and pressing upon consciousness. Women might more likely have grown up, for reasons of both bodily architecture and culture — and here was culture again, undercutting clarity — with a dimmer awareness of the erotic messages of their genitals. Chivers said she has considered, too, research suggesting that men are better able than women to perceive increases in heart rate at moments of heightened stress and that men may rely more on such physiological signals to define their emotional states, while women depend more on situational cues. So there are hints, she told me, that the disparity between the objective and the subjective might exist, for women, in areas other than sex. And this disconnection, according to yet another study she mentioned, is accentuated in women with acutely negative feelings about their own bodies.


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« Reply #224 on: January 25, 2009, 08:53:57 AM »

Page 4 of Cool

Ultimately, though, Chivers spoke — always with a scientist’s caution, a scientist’s uncertainty and acknowledgment of conjecture — about female sexuality as divided between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective. Lust, in this formulation, resides in the subjective, the cognitive; physiological arousal reveals little about desire. Otherwise, she said, half joking, “I would have to believe that women want to have sex with bonobos.”

Besides the bonobos, a body of evidence involving rape has influenced her construction of separate systems. She has confronted clinical research reporting not only genital arousal but also the occasional occurrence of orgasm during sexual assault. And she has recalled her own experience as a therapist with victims who recounted these physical responses. She is familiar, as well, with the preliminary results of a laboratory study showing surges of vaginal blood flow as subjects listen to descriptions of rape scenes. So, in an attempt to understand arousal in the context of unwanted sex, Chivers, like a handful of other sexologists, has arrived at an evolutionary hypothesis that stresses the difference between reflexive sexual readiness and desire. Genital lubrication, she writes in her upcoming paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior, is necessary “to reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring.”
Evolution’s legacy, according to this theory, is that women are prone to lubricate, if only protectively, to hints of sex in their surroundings. Thinking of her own data, Chivers speculated that bonobo coupling, or perhaps simply the sight of a male ape’s erection, stimulated this reaction because apes bear a resemblance to humans — she joked about including, for comparison, a movie of mating chickens in a future study. And she wondered if the theory explained why heterosexual women responded genitally more to the exercising woman than to the ambling man. Possibly, she said, the exposure and tilt of the woman’s vulva during her calisthenics was proc­essed as a sexual signal while the man’s unerect penis registered in the opposite way.

When she peers into the giant forest, Chivers told me, she considers the possibility that along with what she called a “rudderless” system of reflexive physiological arousal, women’s system of desire, the cognitive domain of lust, is more receptive than aggressive. “One of the things I think about,” she said, “is the dyad formed by men and women. Certainly women are very sexual and have the capacity to be even more sexual than men, but one possibility is that instead of it being a go-out-there-and-get-it kind of sexuality, it’s more of a reactive process. If you have this dyad, and one part is pumped full of testosterone, is more interested in risk taking, is probably more aggressive, you’ve got a very strong motivational force. It wouldn’t make sense to have another similar force. You need something complementary. And I’ve often thought that there is something really powerful for women’s sexuality about being desired. That receptivity element. At some point I’d love to do a study that would look at that.”

The study Chivers is working on now tries to re-examine the results of her earlier research, to investigate, with audiotaped stories rather than filmed scenes, the apparent rudderlessness of female arousal. But it will offer too a glimpse into the role of relationships in female eros. Some of the scripts she wrote involve sex with a longtime lover, some with a friend, some with a stranger: “You meet the real estate agent outside the building. . . .” From early glances at her data, Chivers said, she guesses she will find that women are most turned on, subjectively if not objectively, by scenarios of sex with strangers.


Chivers is perpetually devising experiments to perform in the future, and one would test how tightly linked the system of arousal is to the mechanisms of desire. She would like to follow the sexual behavior of women in the days after they are exposed to stimuli in her lab. If stimuli that cause physiological response — but that do not elicit a positive rating on the keypad — lead to increased erotic fantasies, masturbation or sexual activity with a partner, then she could deduce a tight link. Though women may not want, in reality, what such stimuli present, Chivers could begin to infer that what is judged unappealing does, nevertheless, turn women on.

Lisa Diamond, a newly prominent sexologist of Chivers’s generation, looks at women’s erotic drives in a different way. An associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, with short, dark hair that seems to explode anarchically around her head, Diamond has done much of her research outside any lab, has focused a good deal of her attention outside the heterosexual dyad and has drawn conclusions that seem at odds with Chivers’s data about sex with strangers.
“In 1997, the actress Anne Heche began a widely publicized romantic relationship with the openly lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres after having had no prior same-sex attractions or relationships. The relationship with DeGeneres ended after two years, and Heche went on to marry a man.” So begins Diamond’s book, “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire,” published by Harvard University Press last winter. She continues: “Julie Cypher left a heterosexual marriage for the musician Melissa Etheridge in 1988. After 12 years together, the pair separated and Cypher — like Heche — has returned to heterosexual relationships.” She catalogs the shifting sexual directions of several other somewhat notable women, then asks, “What’s going on?” Among her answers, based partly on her own research and on her analysis of animal mating and women’s sexuality, is that female desire may be dictated — even more than popular perception would have it — by intimacy, by emotional connection.

Diamond is a tireless researcher. The study that led to her book has been going on for more than 10 years. During that time, she has followed the erotic attractions of nearly 100 young women who, at the start of her work, identified themselves as either lesbian or bisexual or refused a label. From her analysis of the many shifts they made between sexual identities and from their detailed descriptions of their erotic lives, Diamond argues that for her participants, and quite possibly for women on the whole, desire is malleable, that it cannot be captured by asking women to categorize their attractions at any single point, that to do so is to apply a male paradigm of more fixed sexual orientation. Among the women in her group who called themselves lesbian, to take one bit of the evidence she assembles to back her ideas, just one-third reported attraction solely to women as her research unfolded. And with the other two-thirds, the explanation for their periodic attraction to men was not a cultural pressure to conform but rather a genuine desire.

“Fluidity is not a fluke,” Diamond declared, when I called her, after we first met before a guest lecture she gave at Chivers’s university, to ask whether it really made sense to extrapolate from the experiences of her subjects to women in general. Slightly more than half of her participants began her study in the bisexual or unlabeled categories — wasn’t it to be expected that she would find a great deal of sexual flux? She acknowledged this. But she emphasized that the pattern for her group over the years, both in the changing categories they chose and in the stories they told, was toward an increased sense of malleability. If female eros found its true expression over the course of her long research, then flexibility is embedded in the nature of female desire.

Diamond doesn’t claim that women are without innate sexual orientations. But she sees significance in the fact that many of her subjects agreed with the statement “I’m the kind of person who becomes physically attracted to the person rather than their gender.” For her participants, for the well-known women she lists at the start of her book and for women on average, she stresses that desire often emerges so compellingly from emotional closeness that innate orientations can be overridden. This may not always affect women’s behavior — the overriding may not frequently impel heterosexual women into lesbian relationships — but it can redirect erotic attraction. One reason for this phenomenon, she suggests, may be found in oxytocin, a neurotransmitter unique to mammalian brains. The chemical’s release has been shown, in humans, to facilitate feelings of trust and well-being, and in female prairie voles, a monogamous species of rodent, to connect the act of sex to the formation of faithful attachments. Judging by experiments in animals, and by the transmitter’s importance in human childbirth and breast feeding, the oxytocin system, which relies on estrogen, is much more extensive in the female brain. For Diamond, all of this helps to explain why, in women, the link between intimacy and desire is especially potent.

Intimacy isn’t much of an aphrodisiac in the thinking of Marta Meana, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Meana, who serves with Chivers on the board of Archives of Sexual Behavior, entered the field of sexology in the late 1990s and began by working clinically and carrying out research on dyspareunia — women’s genital pain during intercourse. She is now formulating an explanatory model of female desire that will appear later this year in Annual Review of Sex Research. Before discussing her overarching ideas, though, we went together to a Cirque du Soleil show called “Zumanity,” a performance of very soft-core pornography that Meana mentioned to me before my visit.


Page 6 of Cool

On the stage of the casino’s theater, a pair of dark-haired, bare-breasted women in G-strings dove backward into a giant glass bowl and swam underwater, arching their spines as they slid up the walls. Soon a lithe blonde took over the stage wearing a pleated and extremely short schoolgirl’s skirt. She spun numerous Hula-Hoops around her minimal waist and was hoisted by a cable high above the audience, where she spread her legs wider than seemed humanly possible. The crowd consisted of men and women about equally, yet women far outnumbered men onstage, and when at last the show’s platinum-wigged M.C. cried out, “Where’s the beef?” the six-packed, long-haired man who climbed up through a trapdoor and started to strip was surrounded by 8 or 10 already almost-bare women.

A compact 51-year-old woman in a shirtdress, Meana explained the gender imbalance onstage in a way that complemented Chivers’s thinking. “The female body,” she said, “looks the same whether aroused or not. The male, without an erection, is announcing a lack of arousal. The female body always holds the promise, the suggestion of sex” — a suggestion that sends a charge through both men and women. And there was another way, Meana argued, by which the Cirque du Soleil’s offering of more female than male acrobats helped to rivet both genders in the crowd. She, even more than Chivers, emphasized the role of being desired — and of narcissism — in women’s desiring.

The critical part played by being desired, Julia Heiman observed, is an emerging theme in the current study of female sexuality. Three or four decades ago, with the sense of sexual independence brought by the birth-control pill and the women’s liberation movement, she said, the predominant cultural and sexological assumption was that female lust was fueled from within, that it didn’t depend on another’s initiation. One reason for the shift in perspective, she speculated, is a depth of insight gathered, in recent times, through a booming of qualitative research in sexology, an embrace of analyses built on personal, detailed interviews or on clinical experience, an approach that has gained attention as a way to counter the field’s infatuation with statistical surveys and laboratory measurements.

Meana made clear, during our conversations in a casino bar and on the U.N.L.V. campus, that she was speaking in general terms, that, when it comes to desire, “the variability within genders may be greater than the differences between genders,” that lust is infinitely complex and idiosyncratic.

She pronounced, as well, “I consider myself a feminist.” Then she added, “But political correctness isn’t sexy at all.” For women, “being desired is the orgasm,” Meana said somewhat metaphorically — it is, in her vision, at once the thing craved and the spark of craving. About the dynamic at “Zumanity” between the audience and the acrobats, Meana said the women in the crowd gazed at the women onstage, excitedly imagining that their bodies were as desperately wanted as those of the performers.

Meana’s ideas have arisen from both laboratory and qualitative research. With her graduate student Amy Lykins, she published, in Archives of Sexual Behavior last year, a study of visual attention in heterosexual men and women. Wearing goggles that track eye movement, her subjects looked at pictures of heterosexual foreplay. The men stared far more at the females, their faces and bodies, than at the males. The women gazed equally at the two genders, their eyes drawn to the faces of the men and to the bodies of the women — to the facial expressions, perhaps, of men in states of wanting, and to the sexual allure embodied in the female figures.

Meana has learned too from her attempts as a clinician to help patients with dyspareunia. Though she explained that the condition, which can make intercourse excruciating, is not in itself a disorder of low desire, she said that her patients reported reduced genital pain as their desire increased. The problem was how to augment desire, and despite prevailing wisdom, the answer, she told me, had “little to do with building better relationships,” with fostering communication between patients and their partners. She rolled her eyes at such niceties. She recalled a patient whose lover was thoroughly empathetic and asked frequently during lovemaking, “ ‘Is this O.K.?’ Which was very unarousing to her. It was loving, but there was no oomph” — no urgency emanating from the man, no sign that his craving of the patient was beyond control.

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« Reply #225 on: January 25, 2009, 08:54:38 AM »

Page 7 of Cool

“Female desire,” Meana said, speaking broadly and not only about her dyspareunic patients, “is not governed by the relational factors that, we like to think, rule women’s sexuality as opposed to men’s.” She finished a small qualitative study last year consisting of long interviews with 20 women in marriages that were sexually troubled. Although bad relationships often kill desire, she argued, good ones don’t guarantee it. She quoted from one participant’s representative response: “We kiss. We hug. I tell him, ‘I don’t know what it is.’ We have a great relationship. It’s just that one area” — the area of her bed, the place desolated by her loss of lust.

The generally accepted therapeutic notion that, for women, incubating intimacy leads to better sex is, Meana told me, often misguided. “Really,” she said, “women’s desire is not relational, it’s narcissistic” — it is dominated by the yearnings of “self-love,” by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need. Still on the subject of narcissism, she talked about research indicating that, in comparison with men, women’s erotic fantasies center less on giving pleasure and more on getting it. “When it comes to desire,” she added, “women may be far less relational than men.”
Like Chivers, Meana thinks of female sexuality as divided into two systems. But Meana conceives of those systems in a different way than her colleague. On the one hand, as Meana constructs things, there is the drive of sheer lust, and on the other the impetus of value. For evolutionary and cultural reasons, she said, women might set a high value on the closeness and longevity of relationships: “But it’s wrong to think that because relationships are what women choose they’re the primary source of women’s desire.”

Meana spoke about two elements that contribute to her thinking: first, a great deal of data showing that, as measured by the frequency of fantasy, masturbation and sexual activity, women have a lower sex drive than men, and second, research suggesting that within long-term relationships, women are more likely than men to lose interest in sex. Meana posits that it takes a greater jolt, a more significant stimulus, to switch on a woman’s libido than a man’s. “If I don’t love cake as much as you,” she told me, “my cake better be kick-butt to get me excited to eat it.” And within a committed relationship, the crucial stimulus of being desired decreases considerably, not only because the woman’s partner loses a degree of interest but also, more important, because the woman feels that her partner is trapped, that a choice — the choosing of her — is no longer being carried out.

A symbolic scene ran through Meana’s talk of female lust: a woman pinned against an alley wall, being ravished. Here, in Meana’s vision, was an emblem of female heat. The ravisher is so overcome by a craving focused on this particular woman that he cannot contain himself; he transgresses societal codes in order to seize her, and she, feeling herself to be the unique object of his desire, is electrified by her own reactive charge and surrenders. Meana apologized for the regressive, anti-feminist sound of the scene.

Yet while Meana minimized the role of relationships in stoking desire, she didn’t dispense with the sexual relevance, for women, of being cared for and protected. “What women want is a real dilemma,” she said. Earlier, she showed me, as a joke, a photograph of two control panels, one representing the workings of male desire, the second, female, the first with only a simple on-off switch, the second with countless knobs. “Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man.”

After our discussion of the alley encounter, we talked about erotic — as opposed to aversive ­— fantasies of rape. According to an analysis of relevant studies published last year in The Journal of Sex Research, an analysis that defines rape as involving “the use of physical force, threat of force, or incapacitation through, for example, sleep or intoxication, to coerce a woman into sexual activity against her will,” between one-third and more than one-half of women have entertained such fantasies, often during intercourse, with at least 1 in 10 women fantasizing about sexual assault at least once per month in a pleasurable way.

The appeal is, above all, paradoxical, Meana pointed out: rape means having no control, while fantasy is a domain manipulated by the self. She stressed the vast difference between the pleasures of the imagined and the terrors of the real. “I hate the term ‘rape fantasies,’ ” she went on. “They’re really fantasies of submission.” She spoke about the thrill of being wanted so much that the aggressor is willing to overpower, to take. “But ‘aggression,’ ‘dominance,’ I have to find better words. ‘Submission’ isn’t even a good word” — it didn’t reflect the woman’s imagining of an ultimately willing surrender.


Page 8 of Cool

Chivers, too, struggled over language about this subject. The topic arose because I had been drawn into her ceaseless puzzling, as could easily happen when we spent time together. I had been thinking about three ideas from our many talks: the power, for women, in being desired; the keen excitement stoked by descriptions of sex with strangers; and her positing of distinct systems of arousal and desire. This last concept seemed to confound a simpler truth, that women associate lubrication with being turned on. The idea of dual systems appeared, possibly, to be the product of an unscientific impulse, a wish to make comforting sense of the unsettling evidence of women’s arousal during rape and during depictions of sexual assault in the lab.

As soon as I asked about rape fantasies, Chivers took my pen and wrote “semantics” in the margin of my notes before she said, “The word ‘rape’ comes with gargantuan amounts of baggage.” She continued: “I walk a fine line, politically and personally, talking frankly about this subject. I would never, never want to deliver the message to anyone that they have the right to take away a woman’s autonomy over her body. I hammer home with my students, ‘Arousal is not consent.’ ”
We spoke, then, about the way sexual fantasies strip away the prospect of repercussions, of physical or psychological harm, and allow for unencumbered excitement, about the way they offer, in this sense, a pure glimpse into desire, without meaning — especially in the case of sexual assault — that the actual experiences are wanted.

“It’s the wish to be beyond will, beyond thought,” Chivers said about rape fantasies. “To be all in the midbrain.”

One morning in the fall, Chivers hunched over her laptop in her sparsely decorated office. She was sifting through data from her study of genital and subjective responses to audiotaped sex scenes. She peered at a jagged red line that ran across the computer’s screen, a line that traced one subject’s vaginal blood flow, second by second. Before Chivers could use a computer program to analyze her data, she needed to “clean” it, as the process is called — she had to eliminate errant readings, moments when a subject’s shifting in her chair caused a slight pelvic contraction that might have jarred the plethysmograph, which could generate a spike in the readings and distort the overall results. Meticulously, she scanned the line, with all its tight zigs and zags, searching for spots where the inordinate height of a peak and the pattern that surrounded it told her that arousal wasn’t at work, that this particular instant was irrelevant to her experiment. She highlighted and deleted one aberrant moment, then continued peering. She would search in this way for about two hours in preparing the data of a single subject. “I’m going blind,” she said, as she stared at another suspicious crest.

It was painstaking work — and difficult to watch, not only because it might be destroying Chivers’s eyesight but also because it seemed so dwarfed by the vastness and intricacy of the terrain she hoped to understand. Chivers was constantly conjuring studies she wanted to carry out, but with numberless aberrant spikes to detect and cleanse, how many could she possibly complete in one lifetime? How many could be done by all the sexologists in the world who focus on female desire, whether they were wiring women with plethysmographs or mapping the activity of their brains in fM.R.I. scanners or fitting them with goggles or giving them questionnaires or following their erotic lives for years? What more could sexologists ever provide than intriguing hints and fragmented insights and contradictory conclusions? Could any conclusion encompass the erotic drives of even one woman? Didn’t the sexual power of intimacy, so stressed by Diamond, commingle with Meana’s forces of narcissism? Didn’t a longing for erotic tenderness coexist with a yearning for alley ravishing? Weren’t these but two examples of the myriad conflicting elements that create women’s lust? Had Freud’s question gone unanswered for nearly a century not because science had taken so long to address it but because it is unanswerable?

Chivers, perhaps precisely because her investigations are incisive and her thinking so relentless, sometimes seemed on the verge of contradicting her own provisional conclusions. Talking about how her research might help women, she said that it could “shift the way women perceive their capacity to get turned on,” that as her lab results make their way into public consciousness, the noncategorical physiological responses of her subjects might get women to realize that they can be turned on by a wide array of stimuli, that the state of desire is much more easily reached than some women might think. She spoke about helping women bring their subjective sense of lust into agreement with their genital arousal as an approach to aiding those who complain that desire eludes them. But didn’t such thinking, I asked, conflict with her theory of the physiological and the subjective as separate systems? She allowed that it might. The giant forest seemed, so often, too complex for comprehension.

And sometimes Chivers talked as if the actual forest wasn’t visible at all, as if its complexities were an indication less of inherent intricacy than of societal efforts to regulate female eros, of cultural constraints that have left women’s lust dampened, distorted, inaccessible to understanding. “So many cultures have quite strict codes governing female sexuality,” she said. “If that sexuality is relatively passive, then why so many rules to control it? Why is it so frightening?” There was the implication, in her words, that she might never illuminate her subject because she could not even see it, that the data she and her colleagues collect might be deceptive, might represent only the creations of culture, and that her interpretations might be leading away from underlying truth. There was the intimation that, at its core, women’s sexuality might not be passive at all. There was the chance that the long history of fear might have buried the nature of women’s lust too deeply to unearth, to view.

It was possible to imagine, then, that a scientist blinded by staring at red lines on her computer screen, or blinded by peering at any accumulation of data — a scientist contemplating, in darkness, the paradoxes of female desire — would see just as well.
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« Reply #226 on: January 28, 2009, 01:59:35 PM »

This editorial from today's NY Slimes.  Some things BO said on the campaign trail in this regard got my spider sense tingling-- and unless I miss my guess this is an absolutely Orwellian Liberal Fascist play to get the government, particularly the courts, in the business of determining the comparative pay for different lines of work because some lines of work are more male or more female.

Lets keep our eye out for this one!


Progress on Fair Pay

Published: January 27, 2009
Congress has given a significant boost to civil rights by approving legislation to overturn a notorious 2007 Supreme Court decision that made it much harder for employees to challenge unlawful pay discrimination based on gender, race, age and disability. Following its passage with a final House vote on Tuesday, the measure goes to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it this week.

The 5-to-4 decision involved Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Alabama. She received much smaller raises over several years than men in comparable positions. Overriding longstanding legal precedents and government practice, the court’s conservative majority decided she was entitled to nothing. In doing so, it imposed an unrealistic deadline for filing claims that rewarded employers who successfully disguise their discriminatory pay actions.

After signing the corrective measure, Mr. Obama ought to press Congress to continue the fight for equal pay for equal work by passing a second bill — the Paycheck Fairness Act — that would further strengthen current laws against gender-based wage discrimination. Among other things, this bill, which Mr. Obama co-sponsored while in the Senate, would make stronger remedies available under the existing Equal Pay Act; ensure that courts require employers to show that wage disparities are job-related, not sex-based, and consistent with business needs; and protect employees who discuss salary information from retaliation. 

These changes may not please some business interests. But women still make, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men for performing substantially the same work. To narrow that yawning wage gap, tighter rules are plainly in order.  (actually once the numbers are screened for age variables, this 78 cents number is horse excrement-- Marc)

The House, to its credit, passed both bills. But Democratic leaders in the Senate peeled off the Paycheck Fairness Act after determining that pairing the two measures could jeopardize the chamber’s approval of the more familiar Ledbetter bill.

The new president can play a useful role in helping to rally Senate Democrats not to rest on their Ledbetter laurels and to persuade Republicans to come on board. In the House, only three Republicans voted in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In the Senate, five did. By now, Republican opposition to civil rights and pay equity is not surprising. That makes it all the sadder.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2009, 11:51:27 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #227 on: January 29, 2009, 10:46:13 AM »

The bill was signed today by Obama.

What is the objection?

Isn't equal pay for equal work fair?  I mean why should a female be paid less if she is performing substantially the same job a male is performing? 

And why shouldn't a female have 180 days to file suit from the date she first leaned of the transgression rather than
180 days of the first paycheck (she may never have known what her male co-worker
was making).  I'm not a lawyer but in civil matters the clock often starts ticking from the date knowledge of the transgression is discovered.
« Reply #228 on: January 29, 2009, 11:28:25 AM »

What is the objection?

Uhm, because women and men are in fact different, they make different sorts of vocational decisions that are then reflected in their pay checks, "comparable jobs" is often an apples and oranges assessment that elbows aside the impact of market forces, and bureaucracies do a poor job of replacing market forces while litigation drives up the cost of doing business and impacts everyone regardless of gender. Beyond that, demanding equal outcomes with disparate inputs is a really swell idea, as the piece below points out.

Comparable Worth
by June Ellenoff O'Neill
About the Author

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Home | CEE | 1st edition | Comparable Worth
Should a truck driver earn more than a telephone operator, or an engineer more than a librarian? Questions like these are largely resolved in the labor market by the forces of supply and demand. Proponents of comparable worth, however, challenge the resulting pattern of wages by arguing that occupations dominated by female workers are paid less than comparable male-dominated jobs because of systematic discrimination against women. Under comparable worth, employers would be required to set wages to reflect differences in the "worth" of jobs, with worth largely determined by job evaluation studies, not by market forces. Advocates expect comparable worth to increase pay in jobs dominated by women and to sharply narrow the overall gender gap in wages.
The campaign for comparable worth policies has generated heated controversy. Advocates of the concept, who also refer to it as "pay equity," have won important political support. A policy that promises substantial pay increases for many women in the name of equity is bound to have popular appeal. Opponents, however, argue that comparable worth would reduce economic efficiency and would even reduce employment opportunities for women.

The issues are complex. Does the evidence on the male-female wage gap justify new and more radical methods for combating sex discrimination? How would a comparable worth policy actually operate? Would it ultimately benefit women and correct the inequities it is designed to remove?

The Wage Gap

In 1988 the ratio of women's to men's hourly earnings in the United States was around 70 percent. This ratio was close to 90 percent at 20 to 24 years of age and 80 percent at 25 to 34 years, but it was only 63 percent at 45 years of age and older. The extent to which these differentials reflect discrimination, and the form this discrimination takes, are issues central to the debate over comparable worth.

Proponents of comparable worth believe that most of the gender gap in wages is caused by discrimination. According to this view, employers, out of habit or prejudice, reduce the pay scale in traditionally female occupations to levels below the true worth of these jobs, even when the jobs are held by men. Discriminating against a whole occupation is not the same as unequal pay for equal work, or discriminatory hiring or promotion. The latter are widely considered unfair and are illegal under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the view of comparable worth supporters, however, equal-pay legislation is inadequate or even irrelevant because women tend to work in different occupations than men. Comparable worth is intended to address discrimination against the occupations in which women predominate.

Critics of comparable worth question whether the type of discrimination the policy seeks to remedy is important or even exists in a meaningful way in our economy. If firms with a large fraction of their work force in traditionally female jobs held wages below the value of the employees' services to the firm, they argue, profits would be high. The prospect of high profits would attract other firms to the industry. To fill the new female jobs created, new firms would offer higher wages, raising wages industry-wide. The competition for workers could be thwarted only by collusion among employers. Most economists believe, however, that the prospect of collusion among literally thousands of firms is unrealistic because each firm has too strong an incentive to cheat on the collusive agreement by paying a little more in women's occupations. Moreover, critics of comparable worth point out that no evidence has been found that firms and industries with substantial employment in female jobs earn higher-than-average profits.

The critics question why workers in predominately female occupations do not leave the supposedly undervalued occupations to take the better-paid male or mixed-gender jobs if discrimination is the sole reason for lower wages. Some supporters of comparable worth have argued that women's mobility is limited because they are barred from entering nontraditional occupations. But this argument, which was valid in the past, has lost force over time as barriers have eroded. Moreover, if barriers to entry were the problem, the logical solution would be to remove the barriers, which are illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Many comparable worth supporters, however, do not allude to barriers but instead simply argue that women who choose to work in traditionally female occupations should not be penalized for their choices.

Although pay in women's occupations is below pay in typically male occupations, many economists believe that this fact alone is not evidence of discrimination by employers. Other factors unrelated to discrimination can explain gender differences in occupations and in pay. One important factor is that women typically have primary responsibility for the care of home and children and, as a result, work outside the home for 40 percent fewer years than men. Anticipating a shorter and more uncertain career, therefore, women are less likely to invest in lengthy vocational schooling or training. Moreover, many women choose jobs that provide hours and other working conditions that are compatible with home demands.

The factors that limit their work reduce the wages women can earn in two ways. First, the occupations many women enter are paid less because they require less work experience and training and may impose costs on employers for providing the schedules and working conditions women value. Second, women are likely to earn less than men in the same occupation because they typically have less experience and, therefore, less skill on the job.

The situation described is by no means static, however. Younger women are working longer and taking shorter breaks for childbearing and child rearing. Because women expect to remain in the work force, they have greatly increased their representation in careers such as medicine and law, which require lengthy training periods. As a result the wage gap narrowed considerably during the eighties. The relatively high ratio of women's to men's earnings at younger ages partly reflects the increased experience and skill acquired by younger women.

Attempts by social scientists to measure the component of the wage gap accounted for by nondiscriminatory factors are inconclusive for two reasons. First, data on complete work-life histories are hard to obtain, and what economists call career attachment (basically, dedication to work) is even harder to quantify. Several studies have found that about half of the wage gap can be explained by fairly crude measures of years of experience and schooling, leaving the reasons for the other half of the gap unresolved. But when women and men with more similar backgrounds are compared—such as women and men with training in a particular field, or women and men who have never married—the pay gap tends to be much smaller than in the aggregate. For example, the pay gap between men and women with doctorates in economics is about 5 percent.

Discrimination almost certainly accounts for some of the gender gap. But the most likely form this discrimination takes is the restricted access of women to certain positions or promotions. Critics of comparable worth, who include most economists, argue that it would do nothing to address these problems.

Effects of Comparable Worth

Regardless of the sources of the gender gap, the proposed method for implementing comparable worth deserves attention in its own right. Under comparable worth, jobs within a firm or government would be rated, and points would be assigned according to characteristics such as necessary knowledge and skills, mental demands, accountability, and working conditions. Jobs scoring the same would then be paid the same, regardless of the pay differentials that might prevail in the market.

The evaluation procedure may appear objective, but it in fact is highly subjective. Although it makes sense for job attributes such as skills and working conditions to influence pay, there is no one correct method for determining the number of points to be assigned to each attribute, or for determining the weight each attribute should have in the overall worth of each job. Which takes the most skill, playing the violin, solving an engineering problem, translating a language, or managing a restaurant? How should skill be weighted relative to working conditions or accountability? Answers to these questions are bound to be subjective. Therefore, different job evaluation systems and different job evaluators are likely to assign different rankings to the same set of occupations.

Most economists would agree that the outcome is not likely to be efficient, since the procedure cannot incorporate the myriad factors that influence supply and demand in the market. One need only consider the economies of Eastern Europe to observe the results of replacing the market with administered and planned systems.

The imposition of comparable worth would likely raise pay in traditionally female jobs; appointing persons favorable to the concept to conduct the job evaluation would all but guarantee that result. But because the higher pay in female jobs would raise costs, employers would reduce the number of such jobs, by automating or by reducing the scale of operations, for example. Workers with the most skills would be more likely to keep their jobs, while those without the skills or experience to merit the higher pay would be let go. The ironic result is that fewer workers would be employed in traditionally female jobs. While the higher pay might induce more workers to seek these jobs, the reduced demand could not accommodate them. Less skilled women would lose out to more skilled women and, quite possibly, to men who would be attracted by the higher pay. What's more, some employers would respond to the higher wages by providing fewer of the nonmonetary benefits (like flexible hours) that help accommodate the needs of someone who dovetails home responsibilities and a job.

The few instances where comparable worth has been implemented in the United States tend to support those conclusions. Thus far, comparable worth has been almost entirely confined to the civil service systems of about twenty state governments and a number of local governments. When Washington State implemented comparable worth, according to one study, the share of state government employment fell in those jobs that received comparable worth pay adjustments. The largest relative declines in employment were in the occupations that received the largest comparable worth pay boosts. Other studies have found that Minnesota's well-known comparable worth plan has reduced employment growth in female jobs relative to male jobs.

Comparable worth has not fared well in the courts. It suffered its biggest setback in 1985 when the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals rejected a comparable worth job evaluation as evidence of discrimination. In a case involving the government employees' union (AFSCME) versus the state of Washington, the court upheld the state's right to base pay on market wages rather than on a job evaluation, writing, "Neither law nor logic deems the free market system a suspect enterprise." The judge who wrote the decision was Anthony Kennedy, now a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. The state of Washington, despite its victory in court, found the political heat too great and implemented comparable worth anyway. But the momentum toward comparable worth appears to have slowed since the Ninth Circuit's ruling.

About the Author
June Ellenoff O'Neill is Wollman Professor of Economics at the City University of New York's Baruch College, where she directs the Center for the Study of Business and Government. She has previously served as director of the Congressional Budget Office and as director of the Office of Policy and Research at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, as a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, and as a senior economist with the president's Council of Economic Advisers.

Further Reading

Aaron, Henry J., and Cameron M. Lougy. The Comparable Worth Controversy (on the fence; neither pro nor con). 1986.

Paul, Ellen. Equity and Gender (in opposition). 1989.

Treiman, Donald, and Heidi Hartmann, eds. Women, Work and Wages: Equal Pay for Jobs of Equal Value (the bible of proponents). 1981.

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Comparable Worth: Issue for the 80s, vol. 1 (a collection of 16 articles on comparable worth, pro and con). June 1984.
« Reply #229 on: January 29, 2009, 12:29:12 PM »

Another piece that criticizes the recent pay equity legislation BHO signed. If the piece is indeed correct that the clock starts ticking from time an employee claims to have become aware of a pay issue, what's to keep 10 year old "awareness" from arising? Can you imagine the overhead that follows as companies seek to document equity lest they be bitten a decade down the road?

“Fair Pay Act” Will Only Further Damage Economy

Posted by Ilya Shapiro

When President Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, he will be fulfilling a campaign promise but undermining the American economy.  This bill is not about sex discrimination — paying men and women different wages for the same job has been illegal for nearly half a century — but rather about statutes of limitations.  How long after an incident of discrimination should someone be allowed to sue?  The Supreme Court ruled that an employee has six months after a company’s initial pay decision to file a discrimination claim.  While this was a fair reading of existing law, critics legitimately questioned whether the law itself unfairly foreclosed redress for a decision made long before an employee discovered the pay discrimination.  They correctly went to Congress to fix the law, instead of demanding that courts rewrite it themselves.

But the solution is not to eliminate statutes of limitations altogether, which is essentially what the Fair Pay Act does when it restarts the litigation clock with every new paycheck.  No, the proper solution is simply to codify the common law “discovery rule” for these types of cases, making clear that the statute of limitations begins to run only when the employee discovers the wrong that had been committed against her way back when — a compromise that was proposed by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison but rejected by the Senate.  Instead, the new law introduces major uncertainty into business operations and gives every employee a Sword of Damocles to dangle over her employer’s balance sheet.  Companies will all of a sudden be subject to decades-old discrimination claims they have no ability to defend.

At bottom, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act takes a bludgeon to an already reeling economy, acting as a stimulus only for the lawyers bringing and defending the coming avalanche of lawsuits.
Power User
Posts: 2004

« Reply #230 on: January 29, 2009, 12:36:50 PM »

Do you know what your co-worker makes?  Well if your female, and the pay is unequal and you don't find
out within 180 days you've lost your right to sue.  Does that make sense?

In most Civil litigation the clock starts upon discovery of the transgression.  For example
Medical Malpractice; the clock starts upon discovery of the problem, not time of treatment.
Most litigation is based upon a time limit after discovery; doesn't that seem fair?  Especially
when the employer has an incentive to hide any inequities.
« Reply #231 on: January 29, 2009, 01:59:30 PM »

Do you know what your co-worker makes?  Well if your female, and the pay is unequal and you don't find
out within 180 days you've lost your right to sue.  Does that make sense?

In most Civil litigation the clock starts upon discovery of the transgression.  For example
Medical Malpractice; the clock starts upon discovery of the problem, not time of treatment.
Most litigation is based upon a time limit after discovery; doesn't that seem fair?  Especially
when the employer has an incentive to hide any inequities.

Yes, by all means ignore the responses and restate your gross simplification then expect the rest of us to pretend it's an intelligent argument. It's worked so well before. . . .

In a professional environment you should NOT know what your coworker(s) make as it invariably causes work place friction. Work places, moreover, respond to market forces, forces that, as stated above and then ignored, don't respond to egalitarian ideals. I've worked plenty of places where someone who has plodded in the trenches for many a year gets paid less than a young turk that comes in and proves to be highly productive. As I read it the plodding long time employee can now sue at any point she or he learns about the turk's salary. If said plodder has been employed for two decades it now appears they can demand 20 years worth of discovery to unearth market caused, prima facia inequities and then demand recompense. You claim fiscal responsibility as a value, yet you'd open this litigious can of worms?

Face it, this mess is a boon for lawyers, a strong Democratic constituency. The 800 however many billion dollar bailout is a boon for big government, another Democratic party specialty. The "Employee Free Choice Act," if passed, will be a boon for unions, who are, what do you know, another Democratic constituency. Gussy it up in whatever egalitarian huff you want to don, but slathered pork is slathered port, regardless of any "fairness" guise.
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Posts: 15426

« Reply #232 on: January 29, 2009, 02:42:28 PM »

**Yes, the dems are well on their way to doing for America what they've done for California.**

Trial Lawyer Bonanza
Off and suing with the 111th Congress.
Well, that didn't take long. Democrats are planning to kick off the legislative portion of the 111th Congress as early as today with two big donations to one of their most loyal retainers: the plaintiffs bar. Higher labor costs will result from a pair of bills designed to create new lawsuit possibilities in cases of alleged wage discrimination.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is an effort to overturn a 2007 Supreme Court decision, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber. Lilly Ledbetter had worked for Goodyear for almost 20 years before retiring. Only in 1998, after she took her pension, did she sue and allege wage discrimination stretching back to the early 1980s. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against her, noting the statute clearly said claims must be filed within 180 days, or sometimes 300 days, of the discrimination.

That ruling put to rest Ms. Ledbetter's creative theory that decisions made decades ago by a former boss affected her pay all the way to retirement, so that each paycheck was a new discriminatory act and thus fell within the statute of limitations. Yet that is exactly the theory Congress would now revive with the Ledbetter bill. There would no longer be time limits on such discrimination claims. They could be brought long after evidence had disappeared or witnesses had died -- as was the case with Ms. Ledbetter's former boss.

For the tort bar, this is pure gold. It would create a new legal business in digging up ancient workplace grievances. This would also be made easier by the bill's new definition of discrimination. Companies could be sued not merely for outright discrimination but for unintentional acts that result in pay disparities.

Since these supposed wrongs could be compounded over decades, the potential awards would be huge. Most companies would feel compelled to settle such claims rather than endure the expense and difficulty of defending allegations about long-ago behavior. The recipe here is file a suit, get a payday. And the losers would be current and future employees, whose raises would be smaller as companies allocate more earnings to settle claims that might pop up years after litigating employees had departed.

The Democratic majority is also resurrecting the concept of "comparable worth" with the Paycheck Fairness Act. This idea holds that only discrimination can explain why female-dominated professions (teachers, secretaries) tend to command lower wages than male-dominated professions (plumbers, truck drivers). Yet most of these pay disparities are explained by relative experience, schooling or job characteristics. Teachers do tend to earn less than truck drivers, despite more education. Then again, truck drivers work long, hard, often unpredictable hours. The market -- not some secret patriarchy -- places different values on different jobs. And in the case of teachers, the main salary setter is the government.

The paycheck fairness legislation would nonetheless require labor officials to use comparable worth in creating "voluntary" wage guidelines for industries. Voluntary or not, these guidelines would become the basis for more litigation against companies that didn't follow them. Meanwhile, the bill strips companies of certain defenses against claims of sex-based pay discrimination. It also makes it easier to bring class actions, and it allows plaintiffs to claim unlimited punitive damages even in cases of unintentional discrimination.

House Democrats passed both bills in the last Congress, but they were blocked by Senate Republicans. With at least seven more Democrats in the Senate, they may be able to roll enough GOP Senators to pass both this time. Barack Obama supports both, notwithstanding that they would raise workforce costs in a recession. Elections have consequences, and one price of November's vote is going to be a more powerful, and much richer, plaintiffs bar. Whether or not the U.S. economy creates more income in the coming years, Congress is clearly determined to redistribute it.
Power User
Posts: 2004

« Reply #233 on: January 29, 2009, 06:10:23 PM »

BbyB stated:
"In a professional environment you should NOT know what your coworker(s) make as it invariably causes work place friction. Work places, moreover, respond to market forces, forces that, as stated above and then ignored, don't respond to egalitarian ideals. I've worked plenty of places where someone who has plodded in the trenches for many a year gets paid less than a young turk that comes in and proves to be highly productive. As I read it the plodding long time employee can now sue at any point she or he learns about the turk's salary."

I agree; but I think the point of this law was whether a female, solely because she is female is being paid less.  And if the answer is "yes" when she finds out that her employer has broken this long standing law (as you previously pointed out is already on the books) she will have six month from the date she finds out that her employer has acted illegally.  Simple I think; treat women fairly and equally and there will not be an issue.  But to hide behind a six month statue of limitation starting from date of employment when as you pointed out she often doesn't even know that her employer has acted illegally seems wrong to me.  As I pointed out in most civil litigation the clock starts ticking from the date of discovery, not the date of occurrence.  Imagine if your wife's physician made a gross negligent error, but the symptoms did not manifest themselves until six month had passed; that being the statue of limitations and therefore you had no recourse.  Does that seem fair?
Power User
Posts: 42015

« Reply #234 on: January 29, 2009, 06:17:58 PM »

Unless I'm missing something, missing from your discussion is the distinction between equal pay for the SAME work, and the government/courts/lawyers/bureaucracies deciding what is COMPARABLE.
Power User
Posts: 2004

« Reply #235 on: January 29, 2009, 06:26:04 PM »

I understand and agree with your point; I am addressing the issue of SAME or at least approximately "SAME".  I have no idea how you equate "COMPARABLE" but distinctly different jobs nor do I think the government et al should decide what is "COMPARABLE".  Different jobs deserve different pay based upon supply and demand however one's sex should not enter into the decision.

Note, in the Ledbetter Case the matter concerned a woman doing "exactly" the same job as a man; of course she was discriminated against.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2009, 06:38:49 PM by JDN » Logged
« Reply #236 on: January 29, 2009, 07:47:31 PM »

Does that seem fair?


I agree; but I think the point of this law was whether a female, solely because she is female is being paid less.  And if the answer is "yes" when she finds out that her employer has broken this long standing law (as you previously pointed out is already on the books) she will have six month from the date she finds out that her employer has acted illegally.  Simple I think; treat women fairly and equally and there will not be an issue.  But to hide behind a six month statue of limitation starting from date of employment when as you pointed out she often doesn't even know that her employer has acted illegally seems wrong to me.  As I pointed out in most civil litigation the clock starts ticking from the date of discovery, not the date of occurrence.  Imagine if your wife's physician made a gross negligent error, but the symptoms did not manifest themselves until six month had passed; that being the statue of limitations and therefore you had no recourse.

You still fail to address the legal burden this puts on the employer and neglect to factor in both market forces and decisions made by individual employees that impact their marketability over time. Don't know what kind of management experience you've had; mine is extensive. How does an organization keep track of wage data over decades and track forces that create disparities without assuming a large administrative overhead? Answer is that turnover alone will make the task darn near impossible, so settling will indeed become the norm, as GM's piece points out.

Moreover, though you posit a situation where two people did identical jobs, how do you control for variables occurring over decades? At one point in time the market might teem with widget makers so you hire one cheap. Five years later there might be a shortage so you pay more. If you haven't found some way to document those market trends, how do you defend yourself 20 years later? Further, I've read several analyses stating when things like time taken off work for child rearing, amount of overtime worked, amount of travel taken for the company and so on are controlled for, apparent gender disparities significantly shrink. How does a company document that kind of calculus over decades without assuming costs that burden current employees, consumers, shareholder et al?

As for your medical analogy and it's implications, close consideration weakens rather than strengthens your side of the argument. Malpractice can be pursued whenever evidence of its occurrence emerges. Discrimination can be pursued whenever evidence of its occurrence emerges. You want to take multivariate pay scales emerging over years or more and then examine only a single variable to determine if something untoward occurred, often times long after mitigating documentation may be obtainable and staff has moved on. A more appropriate use of your analogy would be to take patient outcomes a decade after treatment and penalize doctors for negative ones. One person treated for pneumonia is perfectly fine, one has a chronic lung condition, while a third is dead and variables contributing to those negative outcomes are hard to find. Clearly the doctor should be penalized for the sick and dead, right?

You know, breaking this stuff down for you gets old. Whether its explaining why terrorists shouldn't be rewarded by providing them exactly what they seek, or pointing out burdening business with the probability of endless litigation is ultimately worse for the employees you claim to champion than the claimed disease, I've got better things to do than outline the obvious. Do your synapses truly have a hard time wrapping themselves around simple concepts or is the intent to bludgeon with inanities those you disagree with to the point they cease arguing against you?
« Last Edit: January 29, 2009, 07:50:59 PM by Body-by-Guinness » Logged
Power User
Posts: 2004

« Reply #237 on: January 29, 2009, 08:53:00 PM »

BbyG; best get your own logic in order first before you criticize.

There is no legal "burden" on employers IF they don't gender discriminate.  The Ledbeter case was an example of SAME job;
she was obviously discriminated against and the employer was held liable; what's wrong with that?  The facts proved it.  The issue
was the timing of the filing.

You said, "Discrimination can be pursued whenever evidence of its occurrence emerges."  Actually No, unlike Medical Malpractice until this law was passed
sexual wage discrimination could NOT be pursued whenever evidence of its occurrence emerges.  The statue of limitations to file was 6 months from
the date of first paycheck, not knowledge of the transgression.  That is the whole point of the new law. 

Are you having trouble understanding the new law?  It changes the date so that that discrimination CAN be pursued
after evidence of it's occurrence emerges just like my Medical Malpractice example.  But really it is simple; just treat women fair and equal.  Is that so hard?
Or do you seem to think women should be paid less for the same job?  And that's ok? 
« Reply #238 on: January 29, 2009, 09:39:23 PM »

Restate the same shopworn thesis, ignore arguments that demonstrate how costly the new law will be, fail to grasp that there are many discrimination relief mechanisms out there that don't have ticking clocks attached, refuse to note the impossibility of two jobs remaining equal over 20 years, and clutch the mantle of logic while doing so.

I think you are a Zen koan for the short bus crowd. Alas, those of us unimpressed by amphiboly derive nothing from your convoluted constructions.

Bet I've taken more work issues to more mats for more employees both female and male than you and contended with more vocational opprobrium for my efforts, to boot, so imagine where I might suggest you stick the questions you ask in closing.
Power User
Posts: 42015

« Reply #239 on: January 29, 2009, 10:32:24 PM »

Now, now, play nicely please!


Please indulge my laziness in looking this up.  What does this mean?
Power User
Posts: 2004

« Reply #240 on: January 30, 2009, 10:50:41 AM »

"and contended with more vocational opprobrium for my efforts, to boot"

Perhaps over and over middle and upper management were trying to tell you something but you somehow simply didn't get it?
I understand their frustration.  grin

As for "how costly the new law will be" that remains to be determined.  But then I am sure it was "costly"
to eliminate age discrimination, religious discrimination, race discrimination, gender discrimination, and I'm sure disability
laws are expensive too; yet I would like to think in the long run we are better off as a country with all of these protections.

Did you take time to even read my post?  For your benefit, I will repeat myself. Before this law there were NO gender wage discrimination relief mechanisms if the claim was filed more
than 180 days after the first paycheck; please quit claiming that there was relief when non existed.  And yet, as you pointed out, rarely does one know that they are being discriminated
against since salaries are not discussed.  Logically then, isn't it only fair that only AFTER one finds out about the transgression that the six month clock
start to tick?  Before you exhaust yourself writing responses not addressing this issue (the time of filing) you might want
to review the case.  The EEOC and the Jury both agreed that Ledbetter was clearly discriminated against.  Ignoring clear discrimination, the ruling however was reversed by the Court of Appeal and
upheld by the Supreme Court (5-4) solely based upon this 180 day rule.  In a stinging minority rebuttal, Justice Ginsburg stated,
"In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination," she said.

Her opinion is now vindicated.  And women hopefully will be treated fairly in the marketplace.

« Reply #241 on: January 30, 2009, 11:03:22 AM »

Please indulge my laziness in looking this up.  What does this mean?

Scrambled sentence structure/thought process. I had been hoping to make JDN look something up and respond to it, you see. . . .

With that said, I note I'm getting pretty darn snarky in this thread. Think some of the ongoing issues with the dynamic of the discussion should be clear, and accusing someone of sexism who doesn't embrace PC orthodoxy, or of racism when say discussing affirmative action, or of genocide when supporting Israel, et al ad nauseam gets on my nerves. Combined with non-responsiveness on other fronts, I go into verbal terminator mode.

I much prefer responsive, informed discussion and don't want to drive those who don't hold my views out of the discussion as the resulting homogeneity is boring. It'd be a lot easier for me to adhere to that path, though, if the restate your thesis ever more loudly and accuse your foe of PC improprieties while doing so circle jerk was avoided. If I sought that kind of sport I'd hang out at the Daily Kos where they have that down to an art.
Power User
Posts: 15426

« Reply #242 on: February 03, 2009, 07:34:21 PM »

- Pajamas Media - -

Hiding the Truth About the Pay Gap Between Men and Women
Posted By Michael J. Eastman On February 3, 2009 @ 12:00 am In . Column2 01, . Positioning, History, Legal, Money, Politics, US News | 27 Comments

The debate over pay equity is front and center on the Congressional agenda. The first bill signed into law by President Obama, the Lilly Ledbetter [1] Fair Pay Act, overturns a U.S. Supreme Court decision and vastly expands the opportunity to file pay and other discrimination cases. Another bill, the [2] Paycheck Fairness Act, has already passed the House of Representatives and is likely to be considered by the Senate in the spring.

Paying someone less because of their sex is illegal and two federal laws, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, provide the framework whereby victims of pay discrimination can seek redress. However, some argue that these two laws are not effective at eradicating pay discrimination and that the laws must be changed. Central to their argument is the so-called “pay gap,” the difference between the average earnings of men and women.

In debate over the Paycheck Fairness Act, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said that today women earn “78 cents for ever dollar that is earned by a man doing the same job with the same responsibilities.” Miller then went on to say “if we are serious about closing the gender pay gap, we must get serious about punishing those who would otherwise scoff at the weak sanctions under current law.” President Obama expressed similar sentiment as he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.

To close the wage gap, Miller and his colleagues support punishing violators of the Equal Pay Act with unlimited punitive and compensatory damages. They also seek to make it harder for employers to justify legitimate pay differences, make it easier for trial lawyers to create large class actions lawsuits, and effectively eliminate the statute of limitations for many types of claims, among other things.

The argument that the pay gap must be closed rests on the assumption that the pay gap is largely attributable to employer discrimination. However, if the pay gap is to be used to justify such significant changes in the law, it seems entirely appropriate to examine the pay gap itself. Does it really measure employer discrimination? Do other factors play a greater or lesser role?

Economists who have studied the pay gap have observed that numerous factors other than discrimination contribute to the wage gap, such as hours worked, experience, and education. For example, Professor June O’Neil has written extensively about how time out of the workforce, or years spent working part-time, can reduce future pay. Likewise, economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, in her book Women’s Figures, has written about the decisions that women are more likely to make to choose flexibility, a friendly workplace environment, and other nonmonetary factors as compared to men.

Recognizing the importance of unbiased research on the pay gap, the Labor Department recently contracted with [3] CONSAD Research Corporation for a review of more than 50 existing studies as well as a new economic and statistical analysis of the pay gap. CONSAD’s Report, which was finalized on January 12, 2009, found that the vast majority of the pay gap is due to several identifiable factors and that the remainder may be due to other specific factors they were not able to measure.

CONSAD found that controlling for career interruption and other factors reduced the pay gap from about 20 percent to about 5 percent. Data limitations prevented it from considering many other factors. For example, the data did not permit an examination of total compensation, which would examine health insurance and other benefits, and instead focused solely on wages paid. The data were also limited with respect to work experience, job tenure, and other factors.

The Labor Department’s conclusion was that the gender pay gap was the result of a multitude of factors and that the “raw wage gap should not be used as the basis for [legislative] correction. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

The Labor Department’s new report is clearly an important contribution to the debate over pay equity. But where is it? Although it was posted on the Labor Department’s web site just days after it was finalized, it was apparently removed as the transition in power was occurring between former President Bush and President Obama. We don’t know why the report was taken down, but certainly the timing is suspicious.

If the debate over pay equity is to be at the forefront of the Congressional agenda, then the Labor Department and the new administration need to acknowledge that the overwhelming evidence is that the pay gap is not based primarily on employer discrimination. Disclosure of the Labor Department’s report would be a good first step.

Article printed from Pajamas Media:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] Fair Pay Act:
[2] Paycheck Fairness Act, :
[3] CONSAD Research Corporation:
Power User
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« Reply #243 on: February 03, 2009, 08:22:18 PM »

Exactly so.
Power User
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« Reply #244 on: February 14, 2009, 06:03:22 AM »

Career choice: spouse first
Mr Right is unlikely to just turn up while a girl is getting on with her own life.
An interesting interesting article caught my eye this week with its catchy subtitle: "I should have ditched feminism for love, children and baking". In that article, Zoe Lewis writes about her regret at pursuing a career at the expense of relationships and children. Now nearly 37 and a successful playwright, she has woken up to the reality of an empty pot at the end of the feminist rainbow: "from what I see and feel, loving relationships and children bring more happiness than work ever can".

The article provides an interesting contrast to Guiomar Barbi Ochoa's wonderful story on MercatorNet of meeting the right man in a chance encounter at 33 years old. This was slightly ironic in that Ochoa had not been leaving things to chance but had pursued the matter of a spouse quite deliberately for some time -- unlike those of her peers who want to believe that you can do your own thing, pursue your career dreams and interests, and, at the right time the perfect man will simply pop into your life and sweep you off your feet. In my experience, however, this kind of dream encounter eludes many good women today who seem to be doing everything else according to plan -- that is, following their own careers, dreams and interests and "working on themselves" while trying to be happy and optimistic about their lives despite the continued lack of a partner.

Indeed, while a majority of young women still hope to get married, the statistics show that more and more women are remaining single into their thirties and beyond. This is perhaps especially true of women focused on pursuing their careers. In a Harvard Business Review article in 2002, economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett reported that in the 41-55 year age group, "Only 60 per cent of high-achieving women...are married, and this figure falls to 57 per cent in corporate America. By contrast, 76 per cent are married, and this figure rises to 83 per cent among ultra-achievers." Moreover, Hewlett found that "between a third and a half of all successful career women in the United States do not have children", yet, "These women have not chosen to remain childless. The vast majority, in fact, yearn for children." 

One explanation for this phenomenon was advanced by Danielle Crittenden in What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us (2000). There she writes that feminism, which launched young women on a quest for careers at the expense of children and family, overlooked a crucial difference between the sexes: the "disparity in sexual staying power". At a certain point an aging single woman will realize that "Men will outlast her. Men, particularly successful men, will be attractive and virile into their 50s. They can start families whenever they feel like it" while women's biological clocks are ringing in alarm by age 35. Crittenden concludes that for this reason, "it is men who have benefited most from women's determination to remain independent…moderately attractive bachelors in their 30s now possess the sexual power that once belonged only to models and millionaires. They have their pick of companions, and may callously disregard the increasingly desperate 30-ish single women around them".

Hewlett agrees with this conclusion: "Clearly, successful women professionals have slim pickings in the marriage department—particularly as they age. Professional men seeking to marry typically reach into a large pool of younger women, while professional women are limited to a shrinking pool of eligible peers. According to U. S. Census Bureau data, at age 28 there are four college-educated, single men for every three college-educated, single women. A decade later, the situation is radically changed. At age 38, there is one man for every three women."

While I was still in law school, I stumbled across Hewlett's book Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children. Two years later, while working long evenings as a junior lawyer in a large corporate law firm in Manhattan, I realized that her analysis was right. Around me I saw aging single women lawyers working side-by-side with mostly married male colleagues (often with stay-at-home wives). It's harder for women to meet and marry men and have families when they are trying to get ahead in what is still, in essence, a man's world. It is a man's world because the career trajectory is much better suited to men than to women, in that our prime career-building years also coincide with women's peak years of fertility. In that sense, women have a much harder time "having it all".

One solution to this problem was proposed last year by Lori Gottlieb, a 40-year-old single mother of a child conceived via sperm donation. She wrote in the Atlantic that although she still describes herself as a feminist, she now admits her desire for a traditional family: "ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won't tell you it's a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she'll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child)." Gottlieb didn't seem to regret pursuing career and education, but she regretted holding out for a romanticized notion of true love. Her advice to younger women: settle while you're young, for "Mr. Good Enough".

Gottlieb's advice is certainly extreme and justifiably sparked much outrage, but there may be something to it, at least to the extent that she is asking women to be more realistic about men. Today, many women are so self-sufficient that they've in effect become their own men, providing for themselves and arranging for their own protection. They need men less than ever, which may also lead them to be more picky than they perhaps should be, holding out for a dreamy Hollywood version of "Mr. Romantic" while missing the good real men along the way.

But certainly, "settling" in one's search for a marriage partner can only be taken so far. Some criteria can perhaps be made more realistic, but I would not advocate for abandoning your core values and principles. Ochoa is right in that regard - marriage, as the most important partnership in life, has to be built on a solid foundation.

Yet perhaps there is another way that women may want to consider "settling", at least during their childbearing years. Today, there is a lot of pressure on women to be high achievers in every area – often, pressure they put on themselves. I can speak for myself: as a Harvard Law graduate, how could I not pursue a high-powered career? If I were to "settle" for a less demanding career path, if I were not to rise to the top in whatever field of work I chose, wouldn't I be wasting my brain and my education? On the other hand, as I laboured away my nights and weekends at the law firm, I also started to realize that my heavy-duty work schedule did not leave much space for a personal life. If I were to ever get married, I couldn't see how I would successfully juggle all my work demands while giving adequate time to a family.

In the end, something had to give. I knew within myself that work could never fulfil me as much as family and children. So I consciously chose my priorities: marriage and family first. At 27 years old, I quit the law firm and decided to pursue non-profit work, which was not only much more satisfying, but which also decreased my stress level and allowed me more free time.

I made conscious efforts to meet a future husband – not by compromising on his qualities, but by increasing the opportunities for meeting the right man. Incredibly, only three months after I quit the law firm, he ended up clicking on my photo on A year and a half later, we were married.

Now, nearly three years later, I am about to take a further step – becoming a stay-at-home mom to the baby we are soon expecting. While it's not always easy letting go of my own career for what may be either a short or long time, the truth is that I can't wait to be home with our baby, and I am the happiest I have ever been. I still agree with Crittenden and Hewlett, and I am so glad that I did not succumb to the pressure to focus on a career at this time in my life. Zoe Lewis is right, and the feminists got it wrong.

Lea Singh graduated from Harvard Law School in 2003. She works for a nonprofit organization in Ottawa, Canada.
« Reply #245 on: February 15, 2009, 06:15:19 PM »

This gallery of woman and children murdered to appease Islamic "honor" could be posted numerous places. It is sad commentary both on the societies that condone it and those who provide them aid and comfort:
Power User
Posts: 42015

« Reply #246 on: May 08, 2009, 11:27:13 AM »

Around this time every year, we begin seeing state-of-motherhood reports that analyze how moms are faring. In our prosperous past, feel-good angles, like how much a mom's housework is worth, took center stage. But thanks to the struggling economy, this Mother's Day has seen a rise in more serious stories. Take, for example, the case of Eleanor Hemmert.

 In a recent segment on how the country's rising unemployment is affecting moms, "Good Morning America" gave viewers a glimpse into the life of Ms. Hemmert. Because male-dominated industries like finance, construction and manufacturing have been the hardest hit by the economic meltdown, men have experienced nearly 80% of the layoffs in the current recession. Ms. Hemmert's husband, Rick, is among them. To compensate for his lack of income, she has started spending as many as 14 hours a day at the office trying to close deals. In contrast, Rick, now the at-home parent, has taken up most of the tasks that used to belong to his wife -- cooking dinner, doing the laundry, and caring for the couple's 7-year-old daughter.

The role reversal caused by men's job losses is one byproduct of the economic downturn that has many news outlets, if not outright cheering, at least tentatively applauding. In her online column for Forbes, Elisabeth Eaves likened stay-at-home mothers re-entering the workforce to more-permanent Rosie the Riveters, commenting, "thanks to the recession, we may be at just such another socio-sexual inflection point." New York Times contributor Lisa Belkin wondered if women might finally become the majority of American workers, suggesting that such a development would be a "silver lining" in these dark times. One Salon writer celebrated the possibility that the "long-awaited redistribution of domestic labor might prove crucial in finally evening the professional playing field," while another wondered whether the financial crisis could turn out to be "accidentally feminist."

It isn't just the media promoting the idea that increasing numbers of mothers putting in more hours in paid work represents progress for women. Left-leaning think tanks, as well as the Obama administration, are also undertaking efforts to further the trend the recession began.

In mid-April, the Center for American Progress announced that it is teaming with the University of Southern California and Time Magazine to explore the impact the recession has had on women. While acknowledging that being the family breadwinner may be a burden to some mothers, Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the center and project co-editor, said that it can also be "an opportunity." On April 22 she informed Congress that the rising unemployment of men has provided many working moms much-needed domestic help.

That may seem a rather callous perspective to out-of-work men, but Ms. Boushey's take is perfectly appropriate to "A Woman's Nation," a venture that John Podesta, the CEO of the Center for American Progress, promises will consider "the central question of the role government, business, and faith organizations, as well as individual women and men should play in supporting women's role now in the workforce…. " Given how many of the center's former employees work for the Obama administration, it's little surprise how closely the project dovetails with a March 11 executive order forming a White House Council on Women and Girls that aims to increase women's employment in various male-dominated industries.

There's only one problem with all these efforts to support mom in her new financial-provider role, and Ms. Hemmert presents a stark picture of it. However empowered the media, the think tanks and the White House tell her she should be, she is profoundly unhappy to have changed places with her spouse. "I don't like coming home and seeing him in my apron," Ms. Hemmert says while watching her husband make dinner. She reacts with outright revulsion to the phrase "Mr. Mom," and her mouth hardens into a thin line when her husband explains that it isn't necessarily a man's job to earn a living for his family, that a man can also be "the person who handles children and sets up play dates."

Ms. Hemmert admits that she sees her own parental job as something separate and different from her husband's, and she not only resents him for usurping her role but has lost some respect for him. "I'm a woman, and I want to be a mother first," she states simply.

To be fair, many women who found themselves in Ms. Hemmert's position wouldn't experience the same level of displeasure and disappointment in their husbands that she expresses. But research indicates that most do share her desire to be a mother first and an earner second. And they, too, prefer a husband who's more interested in bringing home the bacon than in cooking it.

Virtually every reputable poll taken on mothers and work reveals that a strong majority of moms prefer to work part time or fewer hours. Reflecting the results of many other polling organizations, the Pew Research Center's most recent survey found that only 21% of mothers with children under the age of 18 say full-time employment is the ideal situation for them. The rest prefer either part-time work or not working at all. In contrast, fully 72% of fathers say a full-time job is the best option for them.

But Ms. Hemmert isn't just an everywoman in wanting to work fewer hours; she's also an everywoman in wanting her husband to take the lead in providing. In 2006, a University of Virginia study found that contrary to many feminists' preoccupation with equal division of household tasks, dishwashing men do not happy women make. Along with a spouse who offers affection, attention and empathy, what really makes women happy is one who earns at least two-thirds of the family income.

The study's authors, W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock, expressed surprise at finding that even self-described feminist women are happiest when their husbands do most of the breadwinning. Though the study resulted in a great deal of clamor among commentators who objected to its seemingly outdated conclusions, it differs little from the work of many evolutionary psychologists. David Buss, one of the founders of the field, conducted the largest investigation to date into the subject of human mating. After studying more than 10,000 subjects in 37 countries in the late 1980s, Mr. Buss and his team found that "women more than men in all 37 cultures valued mates with good financial prospects…."

Of course, this is one of those observations likely to elicit a "well, no kidding" from average people. The idea that most moms would rather not work full time and that most wives want their husbands to provide for their families is news only in the news business. Yet Capitol Hill continues to focus on women's employment. The House added a section to the Troubled Asset Relief Program that creates an "Office of Minority and Women Inclusion" to, among other things, ensure that companies receiving TARP money maintain an adequate (though unspecified) percentage of female workers.

If our media and our government really want to show support to mothers, they might consider actually listening to them. What they're saying is quite clear: If you want to help us, help the men we're married to.

Ms. Basham is the author of "Beside Every Successful Man: Getting the Life You Want by Helping Your Husband Get Ahead."
« Reply #247 on: May 21, 2009, 01:06:43 PM »

Good thing we have paragons of virtue such as these involved in world government.

Sexual-Harassment Cases Plague U.N.

The United Nations, which aspires to protect human rights around the world, is struggling to deal with an embarrassing string of sexual-harassment complaints within its own ranks.

Many U.N. workers who have made or faced accusations of sexual harassment say the current system for handling complaints is arbitrary, unfair and mired in bureaucracy. One employee's complaint that she was sexually harassed for years by her supervisor in Gaza, for example, was investigated by one of her boss's colleagues, who cleared him.

Cases can take years to adjudicate. Accusers have no access to investigative reports. Several women who complained of harassment say their employment contracts weren't renewed, and the men they accused retired or resigned, putting them out of reach of the U.N. justice system.

"No matter which way the cases go, they mishandle it," says George G. Irving, a former U.N. attorney who now represents clients on both sides of such cases.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the system is troubled. "I fully share your concerns regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination," he wrote in February to Equality Now, a women's rights group that had complained to him. "This scourge remains a high priority issue for me."

On July 1, the U.N. plans to make changes to its internal justice system for handling all employee disputes, including harassment complaints.

Yasmeen Hassan, an Equality Now attorney and former U.N. employee who met with Mr. Ban in December to discuss the issue, says she has "no faith" that the new system will be better, in part because complainants apparently still won't have access to investigative reports to help them with appeals.

The Wall Street Journal examined the U.N.'s handling of five sexual-harassment cases, reviewing hundreds of pages of confidential U.N. documents and interviewing U.N. employees who brought the complaints, supervisors they accused, the lawyers involved and U.N. officials.

It is impossible to know whether sexual harassment is a bigger problem at the U.N., whose global staff numbers about 60,000, than at other large multinational organizations. Officials in the secretary-general's office say they don't know how many sexual-harassment cases are filed at the world body because each U.N. entity tracks cases separately, and confidentially. The secretariat, the U.N.'s main administrative body, says it handles between five and eight cases a year. But those figures include only cases referred to its human-resources department for possible disciplinary action, not complaints that have been dismissed.

A spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, said it has handled 15 complaints since 2004. Five alleged perpetrators in those cases have been dismissed, and two others were issued lifetime employment bans from Unicef because they resigned during investigations. Disciplinary proceedings are being initiated against another accused staffer.

In one important respect, the U.N. handles such problems differently than other large organizations, such as multinational corporations. Many U.N. managers have diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution or civil litigation. Except when the U.N. lifts immunity, its internal justice system is the only one workers can turn to.

Bewildering System
The current system, which dates back to 1946, has a bewildering array of investigative channels and appeals processes. Many of the 10 U.N. agencies, programs and funds have their own investigative systems. A multilayered appellate process includes "joint appeals" boards that can review departmental decisions. The U.N. Administrative Tribunal is the final authority.

The system gives the secretary-general the authority to rule on appeals. Confidential U.N. records in two cases show that Mr. Ban rejected the recommendations of an appeals board and ruled against the women who brought those cases. A spokesman for Mr. Ban declined to discuss any specific cases. Under the new system, the secretary-general no longer will play a major role in the process.

Last year, Mr. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister who became secretary-general in 2007, issued a bulletin stating that "any form of discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuse of authority is prohibited." A spokeswoman for the secretary-general said in a statement that the U.N. has "zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. And we take seriously every single case."

In 2002, Joumana Al-Mahayni, a Syrian, was working as a secretary to Yusuf Mansur, then chief of the Kuwait office of the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, the U.N.'s global development network.

The following year, U.N. records show, she filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Mansur had made sexual advances, including grabbing and kissing her hands while saying "my darling, my darling" -- then refused to renew her contract when she didn't respond to his advances.

In an interview, Mr. Mansur, who now lives in Jordan, denied the allegations, calling them "baloney."

'Unnecessary Touching'
U.N. documents state that the UNDP's investigative report found evidence that Mr. Mansur had subjected Ms. Al-Mahayni to "physical assault," "verbal abuse," "unnecessary touching," "patting," "constant brushing against a person's body" and "pressure for sexual activities." The coordinator of the UNDP's investigative panel asked its human-resources director, Brian Gleeson, to take "appropriate action" against Mr. Mansur. In April 2004, 10 days after the investigative report was filed, Mr. Mansur resigned, U.N. records show.

Mr. Gleeson later told Ms. Al-Mahayni, in an email reviewed by the Journal, that the internal probe "vindicated your allegations and directly contributed" to Mr. Mansur resigning. Mr. Gleeson wrote that he "possibly" could have refused the resignation and pursued disciplinary action, "but advice from legal sources and past practice strongly suggested that it is better to get the person out of the office and the system asap" and avoid litigation. He also stated that "no further action can be taken after a staff member resigns." Mr. Gleeson declined to comment.

Mr. Mansur says he resigned because he was "disgusted" with the U.N., including its handling of the case. "The way the system deals with it, you become accused right away, the person becomes a monster right away," he says. He says he provided evidence that he wasn't in Kuwait when some of the alleged incidents occurred. "I should have hired a lawyer and sued back," he says.

Ms. Al-Mahayni requested compensation for being harassed and losing her job. UNDP rejected the request, saying, in part, that her contract had simply expired. She appealed. In April 2006, the U.N. Joint Appeals Board found that she had "no legal expectancy" that her employment contract would be renewed. But it unanimously recommended that she be awarded $10,000. Kofi Annan, then U.N. secretary-general, accepted the recommendation.

Ms. Al-Mahayni appealed the decision before the U.N. Administrative Tribunal. She argued the compensation was inadequate and she shouldn't have lost her UNDP job. She also requested reimbursement of $8,000 in legal expenses. On Jan. 30, 2009 -- more than five years after she first filed her complaint -- the tribunal rejected her appeal "in its entirety," arguing that the $10,000 award was "adequate in view of the harm caused to her."

Ms. Al-Mahayni, who in November 2006 got a job with the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in Sudan, didn't respond to a request for comment.

In a written statement, the UNDP said it regretted that Ms. Al-Mahayni's supervisor "was allowed to resign before disciplinary action could be initiated."

U.N. records detail other cases in which internal probes supported women's claims of sexual harassment, but the employees they accused went unpunished.

A French woman who worked as a legal officer in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East shared records from a case she initiated.

According to the records, in November 2004 she complained that she was sexually harassed by Lionel Brisson, then director of operations for the Palestine Refugees unit. She alleged Mr. Brisson had used binoculars to spy on her while she was in her Gaza apartment, and repeatedly made sexually explicit comments and groped her buttocks, according to a subsequent report by the U.N.'s main investigative unit, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS.

'Completely Ridiculous'
In a telephone interview, Mr. Brisson denied the allegations, calling them "completely ridiculous." He said he had tried to help the French woman advance her career, and "this is the kind of thanks you get."

At first, a probe by the Palestine Refugees agency cleared Mr. Brisson. An agency official says the man in charge of the investigation, the agency's health director, was a "colleague" of Mr. Brisson, and was assigned to investigate because he headed the agency's human-resources committee.

The French woman had also complained directly to the OIOS, which began its own investigation. Mr. Brisson reached his mandatory retirement age and left in December 2005, before that probe was complete. One month later, his accuser's employment contract ran out and wasn't renewed.

In February 2006, the OIOS reported that the evidence "tends to support a finding" that the complainant was sexually harassed. If Mr. Brisson "was still with the Organization," the report said, "we would recommend counseling."

Mr. Brisson, who is French, said the U.N. had rejected his requests for a copy of the OIOS report, and he hadn't seen it until one was provided to him by the Journal. He called its conclusions "very vague" and noted that it didn't recommend any disciplinary action. He said he had pressed the OIOS to investigate because "I wanted to clear my name."

In February 2008, Mr. Ban weighed in on the dispute. The French woman had appealed her case to the U.N. Joint Appeals Board, seeking an equivalent job and compensatory pay. It had urged Mr. Ban to allow her to pursue her case elsewhere in the U.N. system "to ensure both fairness and impartiality." Mr. Ban's office rejected that recommendation, saying that the secretary-general had no "competence" over the Palestine Refugee agency's internal justice system. Her appeal there is pending.

In another case, Fatima Moussa, a U.N. translator in Lebanon, had accused a U.N. security officer of raping her. A probe by the U.N. commission where she worked did not substantiate her allegations. She appealed, and calls the investigation a "travesty." The appellate board unanimously recommended that Mr. Ban extend her employment contract until her appeal was heard. On July 15, 2008, Mr. Ban rejected the board's recommendation and Ms. Moussa's contract expired. U.N. records show that Mr. Ban didn't accept the board's findings that Ms. Moussa would suffer "irreparable injury." The man she accused now works for the U.N. in Darfur.

Impetus for Change
Much of the impetus for the U.N.'s effort to change the way it handles sexual-harassment cases stems from a 2004 case. An OIOS investigation concluded that Ruud Lubbers, then head of the U.N.'s main refugee agency and the former prime minister of the Netherlands, had sexually harassed Cynthia Brzak, a longtime American staffer. The probe found that Mr. Lubbers engaged "in serious acts of misconduct" of a "sexual nature."

Mr. Annan, then secretary-general, didn't accept an OIOS recommendation that Mr. Lubbers be disciplined. He said at the time that the findings could not be sustained. Mr. Lubbers, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, resigned in 2005. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Ms. Brzak said she faced retaliation, including threats to abolish her position. She filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan seeking damages from the U.N., Mr. Lubbers and others. Last year, a federal judge ruled that U.N. officials had diplomatic immunity, and dismissed the case. Ms. Brzak has appealed.

Diplomatic immunity also factored in a more recent case at Unicef in India. In October 2006, Archana Pandey, an assistant communications officer in New Delhi, accused Cecilio Adorna, then Unicef's top officer in India, of sexual harassment. She alleged he threatened not to renew her contract, which was due to expire at year end, if she didn't grant him sexual favors, according to U.N. records and Ms. Pandey, in an interview. She said she suffered an emotional breakdown and had to take sick leave. Mr. Adorna denied all the allegations. That December, Ms. Pandey's Unicef contract wasn't renewed.

Unicef investigated. On Jan. 16, 2007, the agency's top personnel officer sent her a letter stating that its probe failed to find "clear and convincing evidence" to support her claims. The letter, which was reviewed by the Journal, accused her of misrepresentation, and said "if you were still a staff member, Unicef could consider taking disciplinary actions against you."

U.N. records also show that the same Unicef personnel officer sent Mr. Adorna a written reprimand that same day. That letter, which was also reviewed by the Journal, stated that while nearly all the allegations couldn't be supported, the inquiry found that he "at times touched female staff in a manner they considered inappropriate" and had a tendency to tell jokes or make comments with sexual connotations.

"The Investigation Committee itself witnessed one of such comments during your interview when you stated that you would not have invited anybody for romantic drinks in your hotel room, because you 'can't do sex without food first,' " the letter said. "Such a comment is highly inappropriate, particularly in light of the fact that you were being interviewed on sexual harassment allegations." The letter threatened Mr. Adorna with disciplinary action for "any further misconduct."

In a written statement to the Journal, Mr. Adorna said Unicef later wrote to him stating that it couldn't find "clear and convincing evidence" to support Ms. Pandey's allegations. He said the Unicef letter also said: "Insufficient evidence does not necessarily mean that the allegations were found to be false." He accused Unicef of "negligence" for failing to defend him.

In 2007, Ms. Pandey, who is Indian, filed a criminal complaint with the New Delhi police that accused Mr. Adorna, a Filipino, of attempted rape, among other allegations, according to Indian court filings. The police declined to take action because U.N. employees have diplomatic immunity. She has continued to press her case in Indian courts. She also filed an appeal within the U.N. system.

In December 2008, the U.N. appeals board, while not addressing the sexual-harassment allegations, found that Unicef had "let go" Ms. Pandey "wrongfully" and "illegally" while she was on sick leave. It recommended that the secretary-general award her two years' pay, plus interest, or $76,800. In March, Secretary-General Ban accepted the recommendation.

Mr. Adorna retired from Unicef last month. He has filed an appeal with the U.N. seeking, among other things, a public statement of exoneration and monetary damages. He accuses Unicef of making him "its sacrificial lamb" and urging him to resign.

Unicef declined to comment on Mr. Adorna's appeal or his allegations.

Write to Steve Stecklow at
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Posts: 15426

« Reply #248 on: May 22, 2009, 08:58:27 AM »

Feminists Betray Muslim Women
By: Robert Spencer | Thursday, May 21, 2009

A feminist professor has once again passed up an opportunity to stand up for the human rights of Muslim women. Recently Dr. Laura Briggs, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Head of the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona, welcomed new Ph.D. students to the department. 

In the course of her address, Briggs, author of Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico, praised the work of other professors, including that of Saba Mahmood, Associate Professor of Social Cultural Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. Mahmood, said Briggs, “confronted one of the legacies of a long history of orientalism and the recent wars in the Middle East: the way we are invited to see Muslim women as hopelessly, painfully oppressed, without their own autonomy, will, or individual rights.” So apparently the oppression of Muslim women has nothing to do with Islamic law or culture; it is merely a byproduct of “orientalism and the recent wars in the Middle East” – in other words, it is the West’s fault. “If we sometimes notice other Middle Eastern women—women’s rights activists, for example,” Briggs continued, “it is only to reinforce the notion that the great mass of Muslim women are terribly oppressed by the rise of conservative religiosity, by their husbands, by the ways they are compelled to dress.”

Briggs has good news: Mahmood spent two years – two years! – in Egypt and discovered that that oppression is just a mirage: “But after two years of fieldwork in the women’s mosque movement in Egypt, Mahmood asks us to consider a new question: what if community, as much as or more than the notions of individual rights, is a route to living meaningfully? Perhaps we ought to rethink the idea that women’s agency and personhood spring from resistance to subjection, and attend to the ways that in conservative religious communities, the cultivation of virtue and of closeness to God, of certain emotions and of forms of embodiment, are challenging but hardly one-dimensional ways of producing the self.”

Clearing away the pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, Briggs is apparently saying that if women feel fulfilled in being subjugated as inferiors under Sharia law, then their good feelings outweigh their oppression and subjection. One wonders what Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem might have said in the 1960s if this same argument-from-fulfillment had been posed to them regarding American women. But aside from being inconsistent with what has been the feminist view of women’s oppression for decades, Briggs’s words also represent a betrayal of the Muslim women whose suffering is objective, ongoing, and largely unnoticed. 

To take just one of many available examples, wife-beating is largely tolerated, and even encouraged, in many Muslim cultures – largely due to the deleterious influence of Qur’an 4:34, which directs men to beat disobedient women. It is accordingly no surprise that the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences has determined that over ninety percent of Pakistani wives have been struck, beaten, or abused sexually — for offenses on the order of cooking an unsatisfactory meal. Others were punished for failing to give birth to a male child. Dominating their women by violence is a prerogative Muslim men cling to tenaciously. In Spring 2005, when the East African nation of Chad tried to institute a new family law that would outlaw wife beating, Muslim clerics led resistance to the measure as un-Islamic.

But to this – and to genital mutilation, honor killing, polygamy, and so much more that is sanctioned or tolerated by Islamic law – Briggs and Mahmood would apparently turn a blind eye, as long as the women involved were “living meaningfully.” And our concern for them? “Orientalism”!


Ironically, in her address Briggs also praised Saidiya Hartman, a professor of English and Comparative Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Hartman, according to Briggs, “sees everywhere around us and in us the legacies of slavery.” Briggs asks: “Can we exorcise these ghosts by calling into memory the Middle Passage, the rapes, the slave raids, the fortresses of the Gold Coast and the betrayals of the obruni, the stranger, that made the commerce of slavery possible?” And she concludes: “In her books, Scenes of Subjection and Lose Your Mother, Women’s Studies scholar Hartman writes brilliant prose that is full of heart and embodied, because she thinks that we as individuals and communities are not better off when we try to forget these things.”

Fair enough. But if we are not better off when we try to forget slavery, why are we better off when we try to forget the oppression of women in Islam?

It’s a question that Linda Briggs, and other feminists, would do well to consider.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.
« Reply #249 on: May 24, 2009, 11:48:59 AM »

I feel like the article should be called  some feminists betray Muslim women but it made  valid points.

However there  is no feminist  pope  and  those  college professor do not  speak for all feminists.

It seems like you mostly post critiques of 2nd wave feminists.  There are women who believe those theories but it not an accurate description  of mainstream feminism (whatever that is)

Third wave feminism is different

Wikipedia has a somewhat helpful description of third wave feminism

Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's "essentialist" definitions of femininity, which often assumed a universal female identity and over-emphasized experiences of upper middle class white women. A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to third wave ideology.

Emphasizing discursive power and the ambiguity of gender, third-wave theory usually incorporates elements of queer theory, transgender politics and a rejection of the gender binary, anti-racism and women-of-color consciousness, womanism, post-colonial theory, critical theory, postmodernism, transnationalism, ecofeminism, libertarian feminism, and new feminist theory.

Also considered part of the third wave is sex-positivity, a celebration of sexuality as a positive aspect of life, with broader definitions of what sex means and what oppression and empowerment may mean in the context of sex. For example, many third-wave feminists have reconsidered oppositions to pornography and sex work of the second wave and challenge existing beliefs that participants in pornography and sex work cannot be empowered.

Third-wave feminists often focus on "micro-politics" and challenge the second wave's paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for women.[

Third-wave feminism allows women to define feminism for themselves by incorporating their own identities into the belief system of what feminism is and what it can become through one's own perspective. Third-wavers are proactive in issues, such as activism. Authors Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards wrote Manifesta, which introduced the idea of third-wave feminism well by making the connection that feminism can change with every generation and individual:

   "The fact that feminism is no longer limited to arenas where we expect to see it-- NOW, Ms., women's studies, and redsuited Congresswomen-- perhaps means that young women today have really reaped what feminism has sown. Raised after Title IX and "William Wants a Doll," young women emerged from college or high school or two years of marriage or their first job and began challenging some of the received wisdom of the past ten or twenty years of feminism. We're not doing feminism the same way that the seventies feminists did it; being liberated doesn't mean copying what came before but finding one's own way-- a way that is genuine to one's own generation."

If you are interested in contemporary feminism( you may not be). I would check out places like

Double X





I don't think you will enjoy their politics at all. Recently I have only been reading double X and broadsheet. 

Int the twilight zone version of the world here is  an article about this topic  written by a Muslim woman.  There is evidence to support  that she has other goals that are much more important to her than equality for woman.
Feminists Don't Understand Muslim Women
By: Fatemeh Fakhraie
Posted: December 31, 1969 at 7:00 PM

Western feminists don't understand Muslim Women
Fatemeh Fakhraie [1]
Posting Date:
05/20/2009 8:30am

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan argued that American women suffered from a malaise she called "the problem that had no name." Her critique of domestic ennui helped launch the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s, leading to many of the advances women now take for granted. But not everything has changed. So we asked women to answer this question: If you had to pinpoint today's problem that had no name, what would it be? Read the other responses here. [2]

When Aasiya Hassan was murdered [3] earlier this year in Buffalo, N.Y., Marcia Pappas, head of the New York chapter of NOW, blamed the murder on Islam. She said it was a “terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men.”

But Pappas had it all wrong. Around the country, Muslim women and Muslim feminists, along with Muslim men and domestic-violence organizations, rallied to spark a nationwide discussion on domestic violence within the Muslim community [4]. Pappas’ refusal to retract [5] or rethink her statements signifies a larger problem that Muslim feminists have [6] with non-Muslim feminists. We get no respect, I tell ya.

Many women just don’t get Muslim feminists. Some believe that you can’t be Muslim and a feminist or that Islamic feminism just doesn’t work. These assumptions minimize the importance of religion in many Muslim women's lives and deny women the right to incorporate faith into their lives. They also force Muslim women to choose between faith and feminism—a battle that faith usually wins.

Non-Muslim feminists look at Muslim women through a lens that ignores the historical reality of colonialism, occupation, and the importance of religion in public life. When they do so, they sometimes put women at risk. For example, take either of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Several Western feminist groups joined the call for battle: “It is our duty to spread freedom! And we must liberate the women of [insert predominately Muslim country here]! Look at how their men treat them!” And voilŕ: Rudyard Kipling’s “White (Wo)Man’s Burden” [7] is alive and well more than a century after it was written.

These wars actively undermined the work of feminist and women’s organizations within war-torn countries; in a time of conflict, everyone’s first priority is survival and winning, rather than concern about “women’s issues.” The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan [8] was founded for the societal and political advancement of Afghan women in 1977, well before the United States aimed to “liberate” them in 2001. Yet few feminist organizations recognized that RAWA, or any other group led by Afghan women, was fighting its own battle against the Taliban.

Historically, calls for liberation have often created circumstances that are worse for women. Oxfam released a study [9]earlier this year reporting that Iraqi women’s conditions have qualitatively deteriorated since the U.S. invasion. While I’m sure this wasn’t in the grand feminist plan for Iraqi women, the reality is that sweeping numbers of them are widowed, unemployed, and subject to brutalities at the hands of sectarian gangs [10] and occupying forces.

Non-Muslim feminist misunderstandings don’t just affect women in predominately Muslim countries. They affect Muslim women living in the West, too. When France proposed a ban on religious symbols in schools, specifically targeting the hijab [11], French feminists were completely onboard, dismissing the hijab as a symbol of oppression that no Muslim girl would wear willingly. But the ban has systematically denied schooling to girls who wear hijab. Demanding a girl choose between her school and her traditions is a surefire way to keep her down. Many girls choose the latter.

The truth is, many feminist Muslim organizations are already hard at work. The global Musawah [12] movement is working to bring equality to Muslim family laws. The annual International Congress on Islamic Feminism [13], held in Spain, collects Islamic feminist thinkers and activists from all over the world to tackle international issues affecting Muslim women.

We have to have a little faith in Islamic feminism, Muslim feminists, and the work they do. These issues go past the regular feminist infighting—when feminism steamrolls over Muslim women’s choices and capabilities, Muslim women are the ones who get hurt
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