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May 22, 2007

“The sky isn’t evil. Try looking up.”
Posted by Patrick at 05:07 PM *

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority—in fact, their malevolence—is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

Joss Whedon posts a thunderous, prophetic rant.
Comments on "The sky isn't evil. Try looking up.":
#1 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Amen, Joss.

#2 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 05:35 PM:

From the excerpted passage, I assumed this was going to be Joss' Dave Sim impersonation.

#3 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Jen, that has got to be the most disturbing idea I have read this year.

#4 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Jen, that has got to be the most disturbing idea I have read this year.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 05:40 PM:

I saw one of the billboards for that movie. I thought the billboard was out of line, for advertising in public. So did other people; I heard of at least one complaint, in the San Fernando Valley, where one had been put up near a high school. (The movie itself sounds like it should be rated X.)

#6 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:03 PM:

The problem isn't that we're evil. It's that we're property. And we keep forgetting that and behaving as if we're free. Worse, many men have forgotten. Entire societies are in danger of forgetting.

Violence is a tonic. It clears away the cobwebs and reminds everyone of the true status of the victim. Property.

#7 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Wow.

I agree with the idea of womb envy.

I'd also add "Caretaker Antipathy". A lot of "women's work" is based on taking care of others and being a resource and/or a "slave" for someone (usually male). Women are needed to such an extent that we can't be gotten rid of wholesale. (Just look at the gender skewing in the service industries.) When the caretaker bucks the flow of assumption or, in that poor woman's case, tradition, she's killed. Heavens forefend that what others expect and can obtain change on a "slaves" whim.

#8 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:12 PM:

I just saw the rant about an hour earlier. Coincidentally, I had recently read Ehrenreich's For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women and was discussing it with a friend. The book mentions the penis envy theory amongst many others that were propagated to "explain" women; during our discussion I had half-jokingly wondered if men had womb envy, then.

(And I was directly thinking of a Firefly quote, too: "Man is stronger by far than woman. But only woman can create a child. That seem right to you?" said by a male bounty hunter to Inara.)

Of course that thought is as demeaning to men as pushing for a penis envy idea is to women... and I prefer a worldview for myself in which neither is accepted.

But I have to echo Pat Greene in #1: Amen, Joss.

#9 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:12 PM:

I've always thought that It's All About the Genes. Keep women subjected, and you (as a male) can be sure that it's YOUR genes that are being passed on, not the milkman's or whoever else might wander by.

Sucks if true, because that pretty much means we'll never get rid of the attitude. It's hardwired.

#10 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:31 PM:

Janice in GA, that really just means that she'll tell you the kid's yours even if it is the milkman's. Seems more sensible, if we're really invested in knowing the parentage of offspring, that we have an environment that encourages honesty. "Well, honey, the mailman got this one, but I'm sure the next will turn out to be yours, okay?" ;)

#11 ::: kristine N ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:39 PM:

I love Joss Whedon's female characters because they are strong enough to take care of themselves, but still human.

Janice, I've seen suggestions from some evolutionary psychologists that the attitude to which you refer has evolutionary benefit in the short term. However, in the long run, women do choose to leave men like that. Additionally, the offspring of men who are more involved in their children's lives tend to live longer. Assuming men who are more caring are also going to see their wife as more of a partner than a servant (which is generally the case), caring genes may have more of an evolutionary advantage over time. It may not be as hardwired as you think.

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:56 PM:

#5:

I saw one of the billboards for that movie.

I don't know what movie you're talking about. Title?

#13 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:58 PM:

James at #12: I think P.J. Evans was talking about Captivity, the movie Whedon also refers to in his post.

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:01 PM:

James @12:
Captivity, apparently.

I admit it hasn't crossed my radar. I don't think I'm sorry about that.

#15 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:17 PM:

I saw a review of that movie and would have thrown the newspaper across the room had I been reading a newspaper.

Whedon's rant is wonderful. I immediately connected it with the current Supreme Court decision regarding "partial birth abortion" -- no, this is not an invitation to get into a discussion about abortion, please let's not do that -- which essentially buys into the argument that adult women need to be saved by society from making poor decisions about their own sexuality.

*insert sputtering incoherence here*

#16 ::: Synova ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:23 PM:

I would quibble.

I don't disagree with anything Joss said in his rant, as far as I get the connection between honor killing and a movie to watch a pretty girl tortured and killed.

Yet my daughter watches television and watches the world today, new and fresh, without the context adults have and what she sees is, Girls are superior.

Yet as superior as girls are supposed to be they are also supposed to conform to a certain girly stereotype and think it's wonderful.

So she's sort of frustrated and stuck because she likes boy stuff, not girl stuff, and the stuff she likes is "bad" and the stuff she finds stupid, superficial or insipid, is "good."

#17 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:23 PM:

The misogyny that shocked Whedon is only a subset of what humans have always done to to each other, and the brutality on display in that particular murder-with-audience is repeated on a daily basis, with a variety of victims of all genders and ages, all over the world. Think of the daily sectarian bombings and beheadings in Iraq, institutionalized torture at Gitmo, the civil meltdown in Bosnia, whatever goes on in our prisons (all those TV-show references must has some sort of basis in reality)--the list goes on. Statistically, it looks like men are responsible for most of this, but the question is not "Why do men hate women?" but "What is it that allows anyone to behave so?" And if you really want to deal with it, you have to also account for the very large numbers of men who would not only not harm a woman (or a child or a pet) but who are positively sickened at the thought of harming anyone.

Misogyny seems to me to flourish in cultures that separate men and women, so that, for example, after puberty the only women a young man is around are immediate family members and (eventually) his wife (who might have been chosen for him). Exposure to the full range of possible human traits in both sexes--strength, intelligence, stability, courage, humor, beauty--ought to supply some counter-force to all but the most insidious memes about what men or women "really" are. I think that's what formed my picture of the sexes, even in the dark days of the 1940s and 50s. (Anybody who had doubts about the existence of strong women would have had an interesting time with my paternal grandmother or any of my great-grandmothers.)

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:33 PM:

I am reminded of this article from Pandagon, which has my most recent reminder of how much I hate the extra constraints on my life imposed by my gender.

Hate it. Hate the year or so my parents took to teach me those extra constraints. Hate the fact that I'm going to have to do that to my daughter.

Ugh. But I'm glad of every guy who realises that it's a bad thing.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Okay, got the billboards. (Viewer discretion, as they say, advised.)

From the trailer: "The film they don't want you to see." And: "The movie so intense it was punished."

I guess that sounds better than "The film that stinks on ice" and "The movie so lousy we're making our excuses in advance."

#20 ::: Steve Libbey ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:34 PM:

I find myself wondering (like some of the commentators on Joss' piece and the posting here) if the core of this behavior isn't so much gender based as it is control based. A group attempts to maintain control, and singles out subgroups (women, minorities in the culture, other external groups) for repression.

Seems to me that if you can demonstrate your power over one group, other groups will tread lightly around you.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:54 PM:

anaea #10: Why do you think that:

(1) Many cultures emphasise proof of the virginity of a bride;

(2)many of the same cultures practice honour killing, and

(3)FGM?

#22 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 08:57 PM:

I've seen the promotional materials for the movie. They're quite nauseating, and I hope it loses a LOT of money, and what more is there is to say?

One of the many horrible things about Dua Khalil's murder-- I won't say "the most horrible", it seems that there's plenty of horror to go around-- anyway, one horrible thing is that there are about twenty men in her neighborhood who MIGHT have been able to take a better moral position on honor killings, before. Now they can't, because if honor killings are murder, they're murderers!

Worse yet, Dua Khalil's own mother is left with a choice: was her (dead, and beyond harm) daughter a sinner worthy of her fate, or are her (live, and presumably beloved) sons hideous killers? And it's so much *easier* to forgive the living and move on.

#23 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 09:11 PM:

Since penis envy came up, it might be good to note that Sigmund Freud's first theory of neurosis was related to the child sexual abuse he found was common to his female patients. When he presented his paper to the psychologist's association he was exiled for seven-years until he returned with his concepts of Oedipal Complex, penis envy, and the interpretation of dreams, which the association (mostly men) found palatable.

As for the concept, "it's always been this way" there is evidence that goddess following cultures having been more egalitarian. Even in the time of the early christian churches, women played a significant roll, some owning the houses where the churches met. So this behavior hasn't "always been" or is "hard-wired."

#24 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 09:37 PM:

#22 - time to find my "this demeans women" stickers again. The big 8 1/1 x 11 ones, I think.

#25 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Fragano Ledgister at 21, the general answer comes down to passage of property along paternal lines and the perceived need for the fidelity of that line, not so much a need for assurances of genetic relatedness - a fine distinction, but an important one. And everything I say following this is gross generalization for which counterexamples are available if you look for them. But we're talking big general issues here, so I beg forgiveness in advance.

1) This is one part to make sure the bride isn't already knocked up by somebody else, and probably two parts to make sure she's the kind who can keep her legs closed. (Assurances of paternity can be gotten in the case of a non-virgin through two months heavy isolation for the bride-to-be just to make sure she's not already pregnant. This practice is known in some cultures.) If we were worried about genetic paternity, husbands ought to have different priorities. Instead of a blushing virgin, you'd want somebody with demonstrated fertility (best done through prior successful pregnancy) and who's going to encourage your attentions to her. Current theory on the evolutionary motivations for female orgasm is that it promotes conception, meaning you want a bride who's going to enjoy the honeymoon. Virgins generally have no such indications.

2) Honor killings are very complexly motivated. Part of it is to encourage chastity and monogamy among women, another part is to ensure that the women, and the property accompanying them, stays in the family. If you'll note, the Koran was progressive in its time for the property rites it granted women. But do you want that sister who inherited part of Dad's farm running off with a guy from another tribe when if you marrying her and her farm off to your best friend he'll not only like you a lot, but show a little financial appreciation? If genetics are the sole concern, the practice would work more like the behavior you see in other primates where females who run off are forcibly brought back, their pregnancy terminated, and they're reimpregnated by an acceptable male.

3) FGM ought to just go down in the history books as stupid, excepting that most of places and times where it started can't have possibly known just how unproductive it is. Arousal and sexual desire starts in the brain and is expressed in the genitals. Fry the right part of her brain and you'll have a female with no libido. FGM removes the tissue generally required for the sating of that libido, not to mention introducing injury and wounds which can easily lead to infections that leave you with a sterile/dead female. It might reduce libido through the psychological trauma that tends to accompany sexual abuse, but then again that kind of trauma can also lead to acting out and reckless, self-destructive behavior potentially expressed in the form of promiscuity. Typically, with FGM, nobody wins.

Which all brings me back to my original point; if men are concerned about having their genes passed on, it makes more sense to create an environment where you can trust the female to tell you the truth, which means that deterrents for infidelity need to be limited to the male seeking out a different female with which to mate with negligible change to the female's living conditions. You can try to forcibly ensure fidelity, but that's a really good way to wind up a cuckold.

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:43 PM:

anaea #25: You're perfectly right (although 'property rites' sounds positively Confucian). It's all about property and lineage.

Interestingly, in matrilineal societies women have a great deal of social power, even if they don't necessarily have much political power (Kwame Appiah in Cosmopolitanism tells a fascinating story about his father deciding to get circumcised, even though this had not been part of Ashanti culture, because the young women of Kumasi started singing that they wouldn't marry uncircumcised men -- there's a layer of irony here, given that Joe Appiah married an Englishwoman).

#27 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:51 PM:

In my opinion (YMMV) n most 'honor killings', which have also happened in U.S. cities, where, by the way, the family appears to be the one that instigates the murder. (Actually probably the father and brothers, I cannort imagine a mother wishing her daughter dead...)

They consider that something so demeaning has afflicted their daughter's persona that she must be obliterated to maintain their honor.

That's stupid and destructive and horrible. And wasteful. But it doesn't stop people from doing it, even in the U.S., where they end up in the penitentary because U.S. justice cannot possibly overlook the horror committed.

The true horror is in their home countries where girls are buried without comment or any fuss. Because they violated some invisible rule.

I don't know a way to make people who believe these kind of things are stupid and cruel. They believe because of some imam's preaching or somesuch. That can't be vaccinated for or educated against.

#28 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:53 PM:

In my opinion (YMMV) n most 'honor killings', which have also happened in U.S. cities, where, by the way, the family appears to be the one that instigates the murder. (Actually probably the father and brothers, I cannort imagine a mother wishing her daughter dead...)

They consider that something so demeaning has afflicted their daughter's persona that she must be obliterated to maintain their honor.

That's stupid and destructive and horrible. And wasteful. But it doesn't stop people from doing it, even in the U.S., where they end up in the penitentary because U.S. justice cannot possibly overlook the horror committed.

The true horror is in their home countries where girls are buried without comment or any fuss. Because they violated some invisible rule.

I don't know a way to make people who believe these kind of things see that they are are stupid and cruel. They believe because of some imam's preaching or somesuch. That can't be vaccinated for or educated against.

#29 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:53 PM:

In my opinion (YMMV) n most 'honor killings', which have also happened in U.S. cities, where, by the way, the family appears to be the one that instigates the murder. (Actually probably the father and brothers, I cannort imagine a mother wishing her daughter dead...)

They consider that something so demeaning has afflicted their daughter's persona that she must be obliterated to maintain their honor.

That's stupid and destructive and horrible. And wasteful. But it doesn't stop people from doing it, even in the U.S., where they end up in the penitentary because U.S. justice cannot possibly overlook the horror committed.

The true horror is in their home countries where girls are buried without comment or any fuss. Because they violated some invisible rule.

I don't know a way to make people who believe these kind of things see that they are are stupid and cruel. They believe because of some imam's preaching or somesuch. That can't be vaccinated for or educated against.

#30 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:06 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 21

I would beg to differ, honour killings are NOT about the virginity of the bride (although it is known to be one of the excuses.) Honour killings occur when the girl or woman 'betrays' the family's honour going out with / being engaged with / marrying someone the family feels is outside the bounds of convention. (Outside the tribe if you will.)

Better posters than me have commented on this, but the truly mind boggling thing is that
1) the culture that value virginity in their young women, also
2) tend to expect their young men to prove virility by screwing any girl / woman that they can.

PS. Look up Purity Balls. Both Digby and Pandagon had article on this 'cultural' event.

#31 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:08 PM:

I saw that article, and honestly, I'm not impressed.

First of all, even evolutionarily speaking, a lot of scientists would argue that men don't envy women--they envy other men (see Bateman's Principle).

I find that womb-envy arguments avoid the real problem: sexism has frighteningly little to do with biology and everything to do with power. I liked Amanda's response over at Pandagon:

My theory about the origins of misogyny isn’t that it goes back to womb envy or anything like that. I don’t think it’s that complex, actually. All you need to do to see how one group of people can demonize and hate another is to look at the history of American racism. White people’s desire for cheap labor preceded fear and loathing of black people. The hateful stereotypes about black people came about as post hoc justifications for slavery—if you dehumanize someone, it’s easier to justify your oppression over them because you think they’re either hateful and need to be controlled or inferior and need to be controlled, or some combination of the two.

I'm not saying that the same thing is at play here as in slavery, but I think it's clear why things like sexism and racism persist: they're convenient methods of dehumanizing someone for the purposes of exploitation. Let's also not forget that the symbol of penetration is a powerful one, and in that sense biology very much informs dominance structures. We're smaller and lighter, too, easy targets of violence. A perpetrator, through the demonstration of violence against others (particularly public), secures his own safety and dissuades competitors (of food, shelter, sex, whatever).

And sometimes "because I can" is as good a reason as any.

#32 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:10 PM:

I see that I was late to the gate. Other posters were able to make the point in a more elegant manner.

#33 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:56 PM:

Torie:

The thing that makes misogyny complicated is that it is a cross-cultural, ancient aspect of civilizations, civilzations as different as China under the Han, Greece during their Golden Age, Victorian England, and every other culture about which we have sufficient information to make educated guesses. Women's rights within those circumstances are different, but they are always second class.

We've had slavery as long, but slavery is a different problem, one that comes of the exploitation of other tribes, for the most part. While there are some analogies, it isn't close enough to dig out the reasons about misogyny.

Here's how I explain it to myself: One night in Indiana, I was listening to Republican talk radio while driving. It was contributing to my safe driving, although not to my blood pressure. It was open mike, just call and complain.

Someone called in and said, "When you're born, your mother nurses you, she gives you that mother's milk. I feel like women are denying me that. That milk I need to survive."

Read that again and feel your stomach go cold. What women gave as nurture as a child is expected as a commodity when you become an adult. Men can't live without us. We hold an important piece of their selves, which is, peculiarly, ourselves.

My last breakup I felt bad, cause I still loved him, it's just that we'd come to the end of the relationship. I kept on trying to make him feel better, which only made him feel worse. My psychiatrist said that it was no longer my job to try to comfort him. I'd removed myself from that role in his life when I'd told him I was leaving. He needed to find comfort for himself.

In this culture, and in many others, I think, there is an unwritten deal: women accept the nuturing emotional burdens of the men, and the men accept the aggressive emotions of the women. This makes it vital to control women. If they walk away, they will take a part of the man with them. And they will also take their own right of aggression. The fact that the woman has no use for the man's emotional weight and freight, and would gladly give it back, but will in the end simply shed it, isn't relevant to the sheer panic many men feel when their relationships are falling apart. And they'll do almost anything to prevent it.

None of this goes as far as honor killing. All I can think is that an "honor" killing must be the expression of a culture where women are completely devalued. I don't know what emotional trades they are making, but the amount of rage on one side and the amount of submission on the other suggests to me that the system has the two carrying each other's burdens.

#34 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:36 AM:

Alan Dundes (freudian folklorist) interpreted the myth of Adam's rib as womb envy. If the first woman is born from the first man's abdomen, then men get preemptive credit for the birthing process.

Not much of a freudian m'self, but I'd buy that.

#35 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:38 AM:

#16 Synova: man what in TV and the world today leads you to "Girls are superior"?

#17 Russell Letson: but the question is not "Why do men hate women?" In fact, the question very much exactly is "Why do men hate women." You look like a sleaze when you try to change the subject in the face of the horrible stuff we're discussing. And as for your attempt to dodge into "not me!" land with "Misogyny seems to me to flourish in cultures that separate men and women", maybe you missed it in the excerpt Patrick posted, but if you'd clicked through to read Joss's essay, I don't think you would have twice missed "And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority—in fact, their malevolence—is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas."

Every single discussion of sexism on the internet gets some man going "Oh they might be bad but I'm so not." Ok, sure, we've checked that box now.

For actually adding to the discussion, instead of derailing it into "let's pat this poor man on his head" territory, seems to me Lydia Nickerson's post at 33 is a good place to start.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:47 AM:

abi @ 18... I hate the extra constraints on my life imposed by my gender. Hate it. Hate the year or so my parents took to teach me those extra constraints. Hate the fact that I'm going to have to do that to my daughter.

My friend Nicole up in Quebec was going thru something like that with her 16-year-old daughter, when I visited in 2004. For example, don't trust that the boy she's chatting with on the internet is what he says he is, and of course the young lady, who had never encountered the dark side of people, thought that mom and dad were exagerating.

#37 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:47 AM:

Just want to throw this out, dunno what it means:
I live in Japan these days.
This place has very sharp distinctions between men and women. Gender roles are sharply limned. (skirted uniforms don't end with Jr.High)
Women are educated (through middle-school often better than men, after middle-school it deponds on their (and their family) decisions about continuing school) and legally equal.
The last 10-15 years has seen stunning decreases in the amount and acceptability of sexual harassment and overt sexism.
Most women don't seek careers outside the home (give or take a few hours a day at a part time job once the kid(s) are school-aged)

If you educate women, give them the full suite of rights, and tell them that they're women (and that women are different from men) most of them will become housewives? Japan isn't much like the rest of the world, is it?

#38 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:00 AM:

It seems to me that the double standard linnen mentioned--virginity for girls, promiscuity for boys--also feeds into the need for cheap labor. If you have that kind of sexual double standard, you must have socially designated whores and sluts. These women in turn have sons and daughters--and these same societies generally put a heavy stigma on illegitimacy. That implies the existence of an entire underclass (though of course there could be many other reasons for one).

I've seen social conservatives write longingly of the day when people knew the difference between the kind of girls you married, and the girls of easy virtue who you went to for fun--and I've also seen them lament the loss of the Stigma of Bastardy. I don't think it's a coincidence that this is tied to authoritarian, hierarchical attitudes, the insistence that in all things there must be Higher and Lower and the Lower must know their station.

#39 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:02 AM:

I think violence against women has many sources. Men, as a rule, are outer-reactive to stress and confusion and hurt. Our natural instinct is to find an external target for these feelings, and unfortunately that target is too often the women and children in our lives.

Which is why I think we need to bring back chivalry. And not the kind that cloisters women and forbids them from participation as full partners in society.

I mean the kind that basically says the following:

Males don't become Real Men without Service becoming the focal point of their identity.

Every boy should aspire to be a Real Man. Real Men are men who embrace Service. Perhaps the highest possible expression of Service can be found in serving a female. She could be your mom, or your sister, a cousin, a girlfriend, a wife, a daughter, a grandmother, etc. Through Service to our women we magnify ourselves beyond petty machismo and small-penis-syndrome. True masculinity does not lie in the domination of women, grinding them under foot, but in the exhaltation of women, the givers of life and the bringers-forth of our future as humans.

Alas, as men, without strong and dedicated examples to teach and lead us, we fall into corruption. We beat and we rape and we ravage and we never seem to be able to touch the core of our iniquity; though that never stops us from continuing the unhalted abuse.

I am grateful for my father, who has given himself in absolute Service to my mother for almost four decades. He is a kind and gentle man, whose obdurate and tested masculinity never centered on domination or coercion. I have tried to be worthy of his legacy through Service to my own wife, and my little daughter as well. Without them I would be next to useless; a purposeless creature. Through them I hope to prove my worth.

Everything else? All the pain and death we males inflict on women every year? It's a placebo. Snake oil for the shallow of soul and the destitute of spirit. We seek to make ourselves Big by behaving in the Smallest possible way.

IMHO men who rape and abuse face a special kind of damnation, when all is said and done. For in wrecking the lives of women, such men thoughtlessly trample that which is absolutely necessary to give the human male purpose and meaning and substance.

Sorry, I am waxing prophetic here. My wife has worked DV for years, as both a volunteer and a paid case worker. She's also a womens studies major and we're always discussing DV and other forms of abuse against females. I take this subject very seriously, and consider it an unbearable woe on our heads, as men, that we still inflict such misery on our women and our girls.

#40 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:04 AM:

It seems to me that the double standard linnen mentioned--virginity for girls, promiscuity for boys--also feeds into the need for cheap labor. If you have that kind of sexual double standard, you must have socially designated whores and sluts

...unless, of course, the sanctioned male promiscuity is exclusively homosexual. Which I think is pretty rare, though I suppose some societies might have come close.

#41 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:12 AM:

Surely many of us are reminded of Tiptree's The Screwfly Soution? For the person who despaired of Tiptree's feminism: if you are reading this, this is the reality that keeps these stories relevant and powerful. (Oddly enough, it seems likely that Whedon hasn't read that story.) As to the rest, it seems pretty plain that widespread violence against women is the result of both inherited ape behaviors and culture. As with other difficult ape-inherited behaviors, if we want it to stop, we will have to change culture. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to do this; if we do not control our violence, mostly perpetrated by men, we have no future as a species. As I've remarked in other contexts, it is amazing to me how much recent history can be explained by masculinity doubts. (And I am tired & my brain is fried. Hopefully, this post will keep its vowels and tomorrow draw interesting, thoughtful responses.)

#42 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Dear PRV -- I was following your post with sympathetic interest until I got to the last line. "Our women." "Our girls."

I know you absolutely mean well, here. Trust me, I am not nit-picking. Such words are important. Care to reconsider and/or rephrase?

I have other comments as well. But I await your reply to this one.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:23 AM:

Lizzy L @ 42... I think we should bring back the time-honored tradition of shotgun weddings to protect our wimminfolk. (Did they have ballista weddings in the Middle-Ages?)

#44 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:28 AM:

I think that misogyny is motivated by Womb Envy in roughly the same way that racism is motivated by Superior Dancing Skills/Athletic Ability/Sexual Ability Envy. Which is to say, it's a symptom, not the disease.

If you want to look for ultimate causes, I think Steve Libbey @ 20 got it right: Misogyny is primarily a mechanism of control. If one wishes to rule the human race, one must divide us against ourselves, and gender is a bright and obvious divide present everywhere in the world. It disenfranchises over half the world's population in one fell swoop, and gives you a sop to throw to the rest. "Sure, you may be a poor, mistreated, and ultimately powerless male, but at least you aren't a woman! Go kick her around to make yourself feel better."

Lydia Nickerson @ 33:"The thing that makes misogyny complicated is that it is a cross-cultural, ancient aspect of civilizations, civilzations as different as China under the Han, Greece during their Golden Age, Victorian England, and every other culture about which we have sufficient information to make educated guesses. Women's rights within those circumstances are different, but they are always second class."

Sexism is universal in a way that racism isn't because sexual heterogeneity is universal in a way that racial heterogeneity isn't. When situations of cultural/racial heterogeneity arise, you'd better bet that they're promptly used to exclude "different" groups from power--even when they are actually the majority.

#45 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:50 AM:

Sexism is universal in a way that racism isn't because sexual heterogeneity is universal in a way that racial heterogeneity isn't.

That would explain why there is sexism in all cultures, but it doesn't explain why it only goes one way. There are no cultures, and to my knowledge (admittedly, I'm no historian) there have never been any cultures, in which men are systematically oppressed by women.

#46 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:54 AM:

When I got to this part of Joss's piece:

There were security officers standing outside the area doing nothing, but the footage of the murder was taken – by more than one phone – from the front row. Which means whoever shot it did so not to record the horror of the event, but to commemorate it. To share it. Because it was cool.

I could start a rant about the level to which we have become desensitized to violence, about the evils of the voyeuristic digital world in which everything is shown and everything is game, but honestly, it’s been said. And I certainly have no jingoistic cultural agenda. I like to think that in America this would be considered unbearably appalling, that Kitty Genovese is still remembered, that we are more evolved.

...I thought that we should remember that in the U.S. we have a far deeper tradition of this than simply Kitty Genovese. For years photographs of lynchings -- with the faces of the perpetrators clearly visible, smiling, taken "to commemorate it. To share it," sometimes with police looking on -- were very common. They were made into postcards and sent around the country.

If you've never seen them, they're readily available on the web. Look here or here.

Racism rather than misogyny at work here, obviously. But it's worth reminding ourselves that we, as a culture, have done fairly similar things to that honor-killing video on a regular basis, not all that long ago. And not just in the movies.

#47 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Scott @ 37: "If you educate women, give them the full suite of rights, and tell them that they're women (and that women are different from men) most of them will become housewives? Japan isn't much like the rest of the world, is it?"

Really, it's quite the opposite: a significant percentage of women are opting out of marriage altogether, because Japanese culture makes being a working wife--much less a working mother--utterly untenable. If it seems like many are still becoming housewives, it's because previously they ALL became housewives. These days, fewer and fewer women are making that choice. Even many of those who do choose to get married choose not to have kids, because of the enormous pressure to quit and be a full-time mother that they know will be brought to bear against them. If you want a single-cause explanation of Japan's crashing population, look no further than Japan's unwillingness to let married women out of the house, and women's growing reluctance to enter the house in the first place.

Here I am getting out of my area of expertise, but I have heard that a similar trend is developing in Germany, where there is also a strong expectation that women with children will quit in order to parent full-time. Women are being forced to choose between kids and jobs, and unsurprisingly, many are choosing their job.

#48 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:11 AM:

"That would explain why there is sexism in all cultures, but it doesn't explain why it only goes one way. There are no cultures, and to my knowledge (admittedly, I'm no historian) there have never been any cultures, in which men are systematically oppressed by women."

There are still a few matriarchal societies where men don't hold property rights, and have no formal status as husbands or fathers--the Mosuo are the only ones who come to mind right now--but I don't know enough about the culture to say whether or not the men would consider it a marginalization of their personal worth, a type of freedom from obligation, both, or neither.
The power to choose lovers and fathers for their children rests squarely with the girls, who pass into adulthood at age thirteen, while the boys are not "free" until eighteen.

#49 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:16 AM:

I wonder if it's observer bias--I see England as a man and hear about America from women--but I do get the feeling that the USA is much more hostile to women than the UK.

Which maybe has something to do with the apparant shocked reactions of a certain little old lady who recently visited with Bush and Cheney.

#50 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:20 AM:

PublicRadioVet @ 39: Your idea of men placing themselves in "the service of women" seems poorly thought-out. Women are not gods. They are human. They do not warrant worship. They will, as humans inevitably do, disappoint. And how will their worshippers respond when they do? No good will come of treating some humans as innately superior to others, no matter how good your intentions.

And why, why, why is it so hard to imagine a world where men see women as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings?

#51 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:25 AM:

Lizzy, I've been around my DV-working super-feminist wife long enough to know where you're going with that. And really, what can I say? The greatest harm inflicted on women in the U.S. is always inflicted by boyfriends, husbands, and fathers. We, as husbands and boyfriends and fathers, are damaging OUR GIRLS. The ones closest to us and the most dependent on us to do right by them; and who suffer the most ill if we do wrong by them.

I'm not trying to disempower or make claims of proprietary, objectifying ownership.

I would also say that "our" works both ways.

My wife? "He's MY husband." My daughter? "He's MY daddy!" In fact, I'd dare say they have a greater claim on me than I do on them. But then, this is part of the Service ethos as well.

Anyway, I know you were not nitpicking. Well, okay, maybe a little? But I understand the sentiment was benign and that you're just trying to keep me honest. It's appreciated.

#52 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:25 AM:

Jen Roth @ 45: "That would explain why there is sexism in all cultures, but it doesn't explain why it only goes one way."

Any conflict, if it cannot be solved any other way, will be solved by appeal to physical laws, i.e. by violence. Men have a substantial advantage over women when conflicts come to that.

#53 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:26 AM:

I probably should have said "matrilineal," instead of "matriarchal." There are elements of both, but on the whole, the Mosuo seem more interested in a sort of balance between the sexes.

#54 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:28 AM:

PublicRadioVet @39 -- Sorry, but your concept of chivalry gives me the creeps.

My cure for sexism can be summed up in three words: Women are people.

They're not weird aliens we men can never understand. They're not property to be cloistered away, or servants to be ordered around and beaten, or sacred icons to be placed on pedestals. They're people. They're our friends and relatives and co-workers.

I can't imagine how much poorer my life would be if I had to regard all my female friends through a window of exaltation-as-life-bringers.

#55 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:35 AM:

Heresiarch @ #50: Allow me to expound a little further. The "Service ethos" I mentioned ought to also be grounded in humility. In this way the import or worth of the service is not necessarily tied to the "flawlessness" of those who are served.

When I exhort guys to "Serve women!" I am saying that I think men (all men!) need a mission in life, and that service to wives and daughters and mothers and grandmothers and sisters... This is a good mission, a worthy mission, a necessary mission. It harnesses the male and binds him to a higher purpose than his own selfish lusts, desires, wants, etc. In this way the male transcends himself and becomes something greater than he is capable of becoming all on his own; certainly greater than any stature attained through hurtful dominion or abuse.

Yeah, maybe things get a little worshipful at times. But in a good relationship I think the "worship" often goes both ways. I've been with a peer partner since 1993 and we really do complete each other, as cliche as that sounds. I really do worship her. And not because she is inhuman or flawless, but because I think she is perfect for me and I am grateful that she has chosen to stay with me in spite of all my shit. And she feels the same about me.

Does this make sense?

#56 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:37 AM:

Avram, see post #55.

#57 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:59 AM:

I don't see why PVR's idea of service has to be so very gender-defined. Why "Serve women"? Why not just "Serve"? If it is good for a man to serve a women in order to subsume his baser instincts into a cause higher than himself, then it is good for any person to serve another cherished person that way. It is not only women who are valuable, nor men who have baser instincts.

There's also a nasty little side-effect that comes into play with all this elevating of women to Fertility Goddess stature (the idea of serving *women* because they are the source of life). When we overvalue someone for a particular quality, we give the message this quality is *all* they are valued for, that their other qualities do not merit attention. I, for one, do not plan on bearing children. I hope that doesn't make me less valuable as a woman--or as a human.

Another quibble I have is that PVR does not seem to make allowance in his proposal for homosexual couples. It makes his proposal sound like another argument for the obvious natural rightness of the heterosexual norm, which I'm sure he doesn't intend.

#58 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:03 AM:

PublicRadioVet.

"It's a cookbook!"

#59 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:21 AM:

PublicRadioVet, please, pretty please, don't serve me. That kind of behavior incites fits of violence in me. In fact, I find few things as insulting as a guy who won't hit women on principle, even if she took a swing first. A general policy of pacifism can be noble, but refusing to meet me on the same terms you would somebody else with non-metaphorical balls is disparaging, and since I don't pick fights I don't expect to win, might get your ass kicked, and by a girl. If you need something to subvert your inherent masculine foibles, save African children from war and starvation.

Every woman here who's argued that men have the upper-hand when a situation becomes violent is making excuses that don't count. Honestly ladies, a shot gun works just as well for you as it does for your abusive male whatever. Read the thread about guns and what it takes to be a good gun owner that was up here a while back, take the advice seriously, and then if your size is such an issue, hit a shooting range and find out what works for you. Better yet, if you really want to thwart male brutality, get yourself some training and learn how to make your size and weight work for you. I'm not going to say it's easy, but you've got a responsibility to do what it takes to take care of yourself and if you're afraid of violence, then prepare for it. The argument works historically, but it's not a justification for anything going on in the United States (or much of the western world I suspect) today.

I'm dreaming rather idealistically of the day when people are people, where women don't get to cite wonky cyclical estrogen levels for moodswings, and men don't get to cite testosterone for violence. There are inherent differences between the sexes that come down to the effects of different biological makeups, but on the grand social scale of this day and age, they don't matter much.

#60 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:26 AM:

PublicRadioVet: but don't you also serve your son, your father, your grandfather, your brother -- what exactly is the difference? You are describing family love, and it's not split up by gender - do you really become a better person by loving and helping your daughter than you do by loving and helping your son?

(Your wife of course is a different case, because the dynamics in a romantic/sexual relationship are different, but we're not talking only about women in sexual relationships with men - that is half the point).

I have more reservations about this:
'Every boy should aspire to be a Real Man. Real Men are men who embrace Service. Perhaps the highest possible expression of Service can be found in serving a female. She could be your mom, or your sister, a cousin, a girlfriend, a wife, a daughter, a grandmother, etc.'
but I'm not finding the words to express them very well, and I think I'm joining a queue, anyway.


#61 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:31 AM:

Dave @ #58: LOL! I had forgotten that cultural reference.

Nicole, lots of women never have kids, either because of choice or because of biology or because of lack of opportunity. My cousin is such a woman, and she's a fine woman IMHO.

As for childbirthing being given too much importance.... I dunno. What's the whole thing with "womb envy" then, if not placing overt importance on the fact that women (and only women, so far) can produce viable human offspring?

My wife thinks the womb and the ability to make children is an immense and sacred power that women enjoy. She's intelligent and multi-talented and educated, but when it gets down to the baseline stuff of survival and Why We Are Here, she typically sticks childbirth right at the top of her list. Notice, SHE puts it there. I don't touch it. This is her choice for herself. And it doesn't seem to shake her faith in the value of all her other talents or abilities. Nor would my appreciation of her diminish had we been unable to have our daughter. Heck, with how long we waited to have kids, it almost worked out that way anyway.

Now, as to the heterocentric nature of my comments, what can I say? DV is overwhelmingly a problem created by hetero males against hetero females. Obviously it's the hetero males with the problem, hence I am discussing a "solution" in terms of hetero males needing a mission for their lives and a way to change their paradigm and escape the shackles of misogyny.

#62 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:48 AM:

PublicRadioVet @ 55: "It harnesses the male and binds him to a higher purpose than his own selfish lusts, desires, wants, etc."

Not getting any less creepy, PRV. I don't really think that males need to be "harnessed and bound to a higher purpose," certainly not a purpose like being someone's personal servant. Humility is all well and good, but let's give self-respect a chance too, okay?

I don't disagree that helping others is a worthy mission, but why confine it to inter-gender assistance? Why is helping women a more worthy goal than helping other men? And why aren't women in need of a similar life-structuring mission?

I don't mean to knock your personal experience. It seems like this philosophy has enriched your own life. Nonetheless, I seriously doubt its universal applicability, much in the same way I doubt the philosophy of women who go about exhorting other women to devote all their energy and passion to taking care of their husbands and children. If it works for you, then great, but it pretty much gives me the heebie jeebies.

#63 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:49 AM:

Rad Geek had a good three part series on what men can do. Part II sounds pertinent.

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:56 AM:

"I for one welcome our Overladies."

#65 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:59 AM:

Jenny: I think there is worth in all honest service. I'm not trying to say that men should serve women to the exclusion of all else. I am saying that if the majority of hetero men in the world made service to their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, etc, a top priority, and turned the traditional me-first male paradigm on its ear, then the world would be a vastly different and vastly better place.

anaea: I think there is a lot to be said for context. For instance, if I am riding the train on a weekend and it's crowded and a woman gets on who can't sit down, my old-fashioned sense of decorum might kick in and I'll give her my seat. The same is not true if I am riding the same train and it's a work day and we're all headed either to or from work. The context has shifted and in the modern work world gender does (should?) cease to exist as a factor, so the minute I am in "work mode" a lot of my old-fashioned sensibility in this regard goes to sleep.

Also, I think it's important to note that I have intentionally mentioned the following: wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, yadda yadda. Notice, they are all close relations to the man doing the serving, if not a blood relation. I am not advocating "stalker" service, wherein a man picks a total stranger and then throws himself at her in a bizarre attempt to prove himself. No. I am talking about men doing more for the women and girls already in their lives, the people they are closest to and who (according to statistics) are the most likely to suffer DV or abuse at their hands.

Again, we're discussing women-hate and violence against women. My clarion for "Service to Women!" is my personal answer to women-hate and DV, and I practice it every day of my life.

And no, I do not believe when a man serves a woman, and does it humbly, he in any way is sending a message that he thinks she can't do things for herself.

Case in point. My wife hates to make the bed. Hates it, hates it, hates it. She leaves it a rumpled mess, which suits my bachelor instincts just fine. But you know what? I make the bed. Because as much as I know she hates to make the bed, she likes to get into a made bed at the end of a long day, and since I don't mind making the bed and she does... Well, that's a good, modest example of service. We both know she is CAPABLE of making the bed. That's not the point. The point is, I perform a service for her that she appreciates. And that's all I am saying really.

#66 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:25 AM:

There's a huge heterosexual assumption in all this, and it's one that, 20 or 30 years ago, I might have shared.

The world has changed, and so have I.

It sometimes looks as though the whole male power business is driven by a general hunger for power, and the attitude to women is at its heart an effort to eliminate half the competition.

How much were lynchings about the purity of white women, and how much about the maintenance of power? It wasn't just "uppity niggers", it was people such as Ella Watson.

Yes, the current political inferences are obvious. And promoting the power of men over women lets the power-hungry give some politically insignificant power to those who support them.

#67 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:34 AM:

Sexism has an overwhelming stench of fear in it. Violence gives false bravado and disguises the fear. Causing terror and fear in others to deny your own. Misogynists are cowards.

#68 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:35 AM:

Scott @ 37 and Heresiarch @ 47

Pretty much zero pressure to be a stay at home mom is one of the major reasons the Icelandic population is actually growing (not super fast but I think it's currently at around 2.3 children per woman on average). Childcare is cheap compared to most places, i.e atleast half of what it is here in the UK. They also provide childcare and support (and more importantly no social stigma) for universtiy students with children so when I was studying there would occasionally be a sleeping baby with us in class because a babysitter had flaked out.

There isn't stigma either attached to single mothers. I mean yes having two parents is ofcourse recognized as being better for everyone, but there's not a taboo about being a single mother.

I grew up with not a single of my friends having stay at home mums (or dads) and thought the whole concept was just bizarre when I heard of it first.

Also children born out of wedlock are more common than in. On account of the population in general not being hugely religious and tending to get married when they have a 3-4 year old children that can then carry the rings up the aisle in the church.

Things are far from perfect over there but I've had a few culture shocks running into more conservative cultures.

#69 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:59 AM:

anaea @ #59 - Er. Telling other women to carry guns and go out and get some training to protect themselves is all very well and good, but your post feels uncomfortably close to blaming the victim to me. Not all of us have access to/money for/the ability to use/want to use martial arts or guns, and in a hell of a lot of situations where men attack women, the women don't have a good reason to expect it - and not all attacks start out physical.

Was it my fault my second boyfriend berated and abused me until I felt like I should accept his physical abuse, too, because I didn't want to shoot him or beat him up?

Please tell me I'm reading your post wrong. I really hope I am.

#70 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:12 AM:

#42: the point about "our women" reminds me of that Draco Tavern story about the language that has three different forms of the possessive, depending on whether it's "my leg" (intrinsic), "my car" (possessive) or "my sister ("relational").

Also Chesterton's "The Absence of Mr. Glass", which makes the distinction between a man's hat and a hat that is his. My hat is the one I wear. If I own a hat shop, there are hundreds of hats that are mine, but only one or two that are my hats.

English, as a language, needs improving.

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:32 AM:

Power structures and power trips are imposed on people from without: oppression is quite literally top down. And that can't be changed at the top, because the ones in charge are the ones who benefit most from the status quo. As a number of commenters have pointed out, a lot of oppression of women comes from giving men with little power themselves someone else to hold power over, to keep them content with the rule of those who really hold power.

Cultures always change in the long-term bottom up, because people start acting differently and ultimately make the old structures irrelevant and powerless. It's a matter of education in the largest sense: raising people who are educated to recognize as a fundamental part of their world view, not just intellectually, that the old notion of superiority/inferiority is unacceptable and undesirable.

That sort of education comes from being raised by and knowing people who believe it themselves: the people commenting here and their ilk. The idea that misogyny is a bad thing is not new, but it seems to be growing in acceptance, perhaps because it really does have survival value to the human race over the long run. It's clearly not time to pat ourselves on the back, or Dua Khalil would still be alive, and we would not be facing a presidential election in the US where the white electorate might actually vote for a black man because the alternative might be a woman. But it just may be that there is hope for the future.

As a personal example, I was raised in the Eastern US in the mid-20th century; as misogynist a culture as you'll find in Western civilization. The only reason I didn't assimilate that culture and its views completely is that I come from a family containing a number of strong women, including one aunt and one female cousin who were* among the best and most recognized in their respective professions, and several others who had successful professional and family lives.

This exemplar of strong women was what led me to marry a woman who is also strong, and our marriage has lasted 37 years for the simple reason that we are partners, we have each other's back. Neither of us would be alive today without the other, and that's a whole lot stronger a bond than any notion of proper station or a role in life received from above.

* before they retired; both of them are alive, my aunt is going to be 95 this year.

#72 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:57 AM:

Stephen Frug@46: I had not previously encountered those pictures.

The first site you linked to has 100 pictures. I had to stop after 25. I simply could not keep going. I don't have the words to describe my feelings right now.

#73 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:11 AM:

anaea at 59:
"I'm dreaming rather idealistically of the day when people are people, where women don't get to cite wonky cyclical estrogen levels for moodswings"

A woman's hormone levels can and do change radically from one day to the next, and it DOES cause mood swings. One of the treatments I'm on for my bipolar disorder is Seasonale, precisely because it evens out those levels to a large extent for months at a time. Since my hormonal cycle was making my bipolar cycles more severe, it's helped a lot. And when it's time for the week of sugar pills, I can d*mned well fall apart.
While yes, women use it as an excuse to be assholes and men use it as a way to put down women, and both of those things are wrong, it's still a very, very real phenomenon. Acknowledging that both men and women are people doesn't and shouldn't mean ignoring the very real physiological differences between us. It should instead mean that we treat one another with respect and compassion.

#74 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:25 AM:

ajay @ 70

In "The Dispossessed" Ursula Le Guin describes a society whose language has no possessive form at all. Instead of saying "my partner", they say "the partner". As in the Draco Tavern atory, this leads to a different way of thinking.

If you think that the way you speak doesn't fundamentally affect the way you see the world, contemplate martial arts for awhile, and note how training is designed to make action automatic, to create correct habits. Speech is a collection of some of the most basic habits we have, and everything about it affects the way we think of, feel about, and react to the world. Speech about relationships is especially powerful because it describes those relationships to us.

#75 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 07:07 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 70:

On the other hand, it's worth noting that the problem of "honor killings" exists in societies that speak very different languages, e.g., Turkey, numerous Arab-speaking countries, Kurdish speakers like the Yezidis that Whedon wrote about, and Pakistan (several different languages). As a language, Turkish is arguably less "gendered" than English (for example, Turkish lacks gendered 3rd person pronouns like "he" and "she"), and certainly less so than French or Spanish (no grammatical gender for nouns and adjectives). This doesn't necessarily mean that Turkish society has more gender equality than the US or Spain or France, however.

Fiddling with minor bits of language like possessive pronouns sounds like an appealingly easy solution to society's ills, but I suspect it's like treating a minor symptom instead of the underlying disease.

#76 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 07:12 AM:

D'oh. My previous comment was meant as a reply to Bruce Cohen's comment @ 74, not "70". (Although it was also a reply of sorts to ajay's original comment @ 70...)

#77 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 07:59 AM:

Peter @ #75: In another example of your point, Mandarin Chinese also lacks a gendered personal pronoun. (I'm not suggesting here that language doesn't inform thought, but rather that monkeying with pronouns is unlikely to produce gender equality.)

Public Radio Vet: I do appreciate your attempt to oppose evil with good, but among the reasons your position makes me nervous are:

1. It prescribes "correct" behavior for a very large category of people
2. It assigns an active role to all men and a passive role to all women
3. It mandates that all men must be in relationships with women and vice versa

and

4. The attitude you suggest as proper for men is completely compatible with the obsessive, posessive, stalkery attitude my daughters and I have encountered in a few of our male acquaintances.

In short, I honor your intent, but no thanks. Given a wish, the behavior I'd most wish for from the men I know is either (a) treat me as a fellow human being, with due attention paid to my individual likes and dislikes, or (b) LEAVE ME ALONE! (Luckily, most of the men in my life are perfectly willing to do one or the other.)

There's a truly creepy moment in Deepa Mehta's film "Fire"; a woman asks her husband, who has become celibate in search of spiritual perfection, what HER reward will be for giving up sex and the hope of having children; his startled reply is along the lines of "the glory of having served me!"

#78 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:02 AM:

#43 Serge, that would be "crossbow" weddings, ballista are hard to get inside the church. Although, I believe "at the point of the sword/spear/dagger" would also work. A traditional bow would be tiring to hold in the ready position for the whole ceremony.

#79 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:44 AM:

All right, longer post that I've been trying to formulate. The odd thing about PRV's concept of 'service to the females in your life' is that it seems to mirror a traditional view of how women should behave. Just try reversing the genders...

'Every girl should aspire to be a Real Woman. Real Women are women who embrace Service. Perhaps the highest possible expression of Service can be found in serving a man. He could be your father, or your brother, a cousin, a boyfriend, a husband, a son, a grandfather, etc.'

... and watch the hackles rise.

Now, I think the notion of treating your partner (of whatever gender) with the consideration and kindness that PRV describes is a very fine one, and I appreciate his desire that men should behave well towards the women in their lives. But I object to this talk about what makes a 'Real Man' or a 'Real Woman': how about discussing the way a Decent Person acts? It's recognising the common humanity in others that leads us to treat them well -- not some idealisation based on gender, which can just as well swing the other way into a kind of contempt, or worse. (Actually I think that women who take the 'real-women-serve-their-menfolk' line sometimes do seem to have a kind of contempt for the male gender: 'oh, men are really very simple' etc., which I'm none too keen on).

Also, what about women who don't have a male partner/ close male relative/ whatever? Why should they be worse off without anyone to 'serve' them? What I envy about men is not any kind of biological equipment (ha!) but just the freedom to go your way about the world without the worries that stack up on you for being female. I've had male friends go out of their way -- with the kindest intentions -- to walk me home after a party (I've sometimes wondered if *I* should be worried about *them* walking back on their own), and I've walked home alone when there was no such offer forthcoming. I love walking alone at night. It would be wonderful to be able to do this without feeling like a prey species. (In fact it's fairly safe where I am, but I have been hassled sometimes, and I'm always aware there's a certain risk, even when I choose to take it...)

In other words, PublicRadioVet, I'd rather be on your work train than your weekend train -- though it's sometimes nice to be on the receiving end of a chivalrous gesture without sleazy undertones, I'd trade that occasional event very, very gladly for being seen as a human being first and foremost and as a female human being... let's say, only at times in my life where my private parts are relevant. I'm sure that on the work train you would still give up your seat to someone who was infirm, or had small children with them, or was physically uncomfortable standing for whatever reason, and that's what really matters.

Peter Erwin @ #75, I agree with you. I didn't know that about Turkish, but Hungarian also has no gender in the third person (which can lead to some odd effects in translation: I've heard a Hungarian speaking English consistently refer to his daughter as 'he', which gave me a real mental jolt!). I can't see any particular evidence that this has made Hungarians less sexist than their neighbours; I think it's only one facet among greater cultural forces.

Finally, Sica @#68, I am getting the increasing impression, from what I've heard and read, that Icelandic society is pretty awesome, and different/quirky in an agreeable way. I hope I get to visit there someday.


#80 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Heresiarch #47

For callibration purposes, I live in a "second tier" city (Fukuyama) which will be less cosmopolitan, modern, and expensive than the "first tier" cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, maybe more).

In my experience, there are definitely women who are avoiding marriage, and housework. But it's far from a majority. I'm sure it's grown since whenever before. I wouldn't even blink an extra time if somebody told me that the number of women who don't want a family (different from don't want to be housewives) was the same as the number of Japanese men who don't want to join a company and start the last-job-they'll-ever-have (also an increasing number).

Another thing that is very different now than a few years ago for birth-rate is the number of 1-child families has positively skyrocketed. Women who want a child have one, but having 2 is a hassle or whatever. Japanese society, overall, seems to provide just about zero support to a mother. Some random newspaper article (in the Daily Yomiuri) I read said that Japan is still moderately hostile to men as primary caregiver for a child.

An electrical engineer I know is married and has 2 children, works the full run of insane Japanese working hours and still finds time to let her mother to complain that her cooking isn't up to snuff yet. I don't get it but I am in awe. This reminds me that I need to figure out how rude it would be to ask about her husband...

For contrast, at a 2-year college, there's a class of 23 IT/Programming students, 6 of whom are women (girls?) 3 of whom describe their future as doing office-work... maybe. Eh? I restate, I don't get this place.

#81 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:09 AM:

PRV, have you read Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels trilogy? It's set in a society based on male service to female-- and sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. It's one of those worlds that says it's feminist, but sort of isn't.

Your Service does make me a little nervous, but not because of what it is. I'm often wary of unknown people declaring themselves to a cause. Add anything involving sex and gender and I'm going to stay well away until I know it's not going to cause harm. I can understand how someone who has encountered stalkery men would stay well away *period*.
Some of it is also the dichotomy between men (lustful, selfish, violent) and women (chaste, giving, nurturing) you seem to accept. Lately, it seems I'm been running into that a lot-- if men are X, women must be -X. Men only want one thing, so women have to be coaxed or coerced into it. Men are strong, women are weak. Men are good at numbers, women are good at words. Women form strong social groups, men must be solitary.
It's a stupid way to order the world because gender and sex aren't binary. And because the traits people often take as fixed-- men are lustful, for example-- are really, really not. Up until pretty recently, women were wanton and sinful and men had to protect themselves against them. Men had to guard and protect women against the female nature.
And the result was somewhat the same. Serve women or bad things will happen. If women don't have men to help out, they will be unhappy and the world will be worse off. Women cannot live without men.

I know you don't mean to suggest these things, and you live in a way that's right for you, plural you. It seems sometimes that everything I take in involving sex and gender tells me that the world is a messed-up place. I've learned to watch for the barbs past experience tells me are there. Stories, essays, manifestos on sex and gender are almost always bad news or worse news.

#82 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Jenny @#79

Gender equality etc. still has a way to go back home in Iceland, the average salary for women is still a fair bit lower etc. But the lack of taboo around working and/or single mothers is great.

I also like the fact that we still have a last name (patronyms) system that doesn't involve changing your name when you get married. That's another concept I found completely bizarre when I encountered it first and I still can't really get my heard around it.

As a side effect of that, children of a couple have get the same name, no matter if the parents are married or not which probably is one factor in the "lets not get married until we have a house and a few kids" thing that a lot of people do.

That's hardwired enough into me so that I went to a wedding in the UK where the bride and groom to be had borrowed a child the bride used to babysit to carry the rings up the aisle and it felt really *wrong* (in the truthiness place) to me, to have an intruder that wasn't a part of the core family fulfilling that function. It should either be their child or no child at all. Heh..

Anyway to be slightly on topic, I wonder if the lack of surnames has shaped the culture. I.e there isn't the concept of a family linage that hinges only on male children being born.

#83 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:12 AM:

Some random newspaper article (in the Daily Yomiuri) I read said that Japan is still moderately hostile to men as primary caregiver for a child.

Unless you're talking about "Lone Wolf and Cub", of course.

#84 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:16 AM:

To PublicRadioVet:

Every boy should aspire to be a Real Man.

Whenever I see something like that, it looks to me like "I'm trying to take your self-respect hostage. You don't get to like yourself unless I approve of what you're doing."

I've been told by men that the Real Man vulnerability is just built into boys. If that's true, of course I'd rather have a relatively sane and civilized standard of Real Manhood, but is this really necessary? Is it commonly accepted nonsense, deep psychological truth, or true for some temperaments but not for all?

In re making your wife's bed because she strongly prefers having a made bed but hates making it herself: Does this need an ideal of Service, or would reasonable (and probably reciprocal) kindness be enough?

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:21 AM:

Steve Buchheit... A few years ago, during a staff meeting, one of my co-workers announced that she was getting married. That took us all by surprise because we had no idea she was seeing someone. Everybody congratulated her. I, since my mission in life was to tease her, asked if it was going to be a shotgun wedding. People actually gasped, except for my co-worker because, being from Hong Kong, she didn't know what that means. I proceeded to explain. Which gave her nightmares from then until the actual wedding that she'd become pregnant, and visibly so, by the time of the ceremony. Heheheheh...

#86 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:23 AM:

As a man, I'm a bit reluctant to jump in here. However, I think (and it's been stated above) that some (most?) misogynistic behavior is based on male fear. If you're afraid of something, you may react violently.

Misogynistic cultures seem to treat sex as something women have and men want, and go to great lengths to "protect" women from men. The whole point of the burqa is hide a woman's form, so that men don't get "carried away" by a woman's sexuality. Ditto Victorian female attire.

Ritual, violent and public deaths, whether lynchings or "honor killings," are a form of control. They are a symptom, not a cause.

I don't have the training or background in psychology to cite studies in support of this, so all of the above is my opinion, YMMV.

#87 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:28 AM:

Paula Helm Murray #27: I would say that education is the one "vaccine" that will work against honour killings. That, and making clear that they are going to result in condign punishments for the killers.

#88 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:32 AM:

#75 ::: Peter Erwin: Fiddling with minor bits of language like possessive pronouns sounds like an appealingly easy solution to society's ills, but I suspect it's like treating a minor symptom instead of the underlying disease.

#77 ::: Lila: (I'm not suggesting here that language doesn't inform thought, but rather that monkeying with pronouns is unlikely to produce gender equality.)

Agreed. But reading Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness is a very different experience from reading her short story 'Coming of Age in Karhide,' in large part because of her conscientious use of pronouns. These pronouns didn't change the world. They did, however, change my world a little bit.

#89 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:35 AM:

linnen #30: Honour killings occur when the woman in question takes up with an 'unsuitable' man, that's true. The man is unsuitable precisely because he has not been chosen by the family (i.e., by the elder male or males in the family), so the 'dishonour' resides in the woman's sexuality being outside the control of her older male relatives. This is also why a woman 'dishonours' her family by being raped. Her virginity is a commodity to be prized because it can be sold, in essence, to a suitable man. Anything which brings that commodity into doubt is going to be treated as a threat to the stability of the family, the social order, and the natural order of the universe.

In the process, women are completely dehumanised.

#90 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Will A@ #88, I was musing the other day about whether or not The Left Hand of Darkness was a book that it would be possible to film...

#91 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:53 AM:

heresiarch@47

It's not just happening in Japan.

The US Census Bureau has reported that the number of women in marriages (well, marriages in general) have decreased a lot from 100 years ago. IIRC the number is around 50% of the population now where before it was 90 to 95%. (I got the information second-hand and have no links or cites.) Reasons are listed as: Divorced (and not doing that again), Looking (without success), and Just Not Interested.

I also heard that there are various European countries where the birth rate is below replacement. Mostly in countries where mothers get paid to stay at home and can't have other work outside the home.

#92 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Chris @ #86:
The whole point of the burqa is hide a woman's form, so that men don't get "carried away" by a woman's sexuality. Ditto Victorian female attire.

Um, not exactly. Victorian female attire - which, incidentally, includes about half a dozen significantly differing styles - is made to emphasize female curves - bust, waist, hip. This is the precise opposite of what a burqa is supposed to do. It's not just a matter of covering up skin, though there are certainly people whose imagination doesn't extend far enough to process anything other than "showing lots of skin" as sexy.

You might want to read up on Victorian costume history and the preceding and succeding eras of costume before making sweeping statements about its "point".

#93 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:07 AM:

As a woman, here's a question directed to the men: What is it like to grow up without the expectation that you are, at your very core, a nurturer?

When you were growing up, was there any generic message you got from society as a whole on what you were? Some kind of consensus from all the messages thrown at you?

#94 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:07 AM:

I don't have much to add about what PRV said except that it seems well intentioned and that, as a gay man, I'm actually rather sick of being told who a Real Man is. (But this is a personal quirk which has nothing to do with PRV.) Like Niki, I wonder why it's "to serve women" rather than simply to serve and to engage in building a healthy community and society. I don't think PRV means it this way, but his manifesto reads to me like a first step people take as they work their way back to becoming healthy members of society. (i.e., you start off doing the specific case, then you work your way to the general case.)

#77: Written Chinese, OTOH, does have a gendered personal pronoun. I believe this is a comparatively recent invention. It drives me nuts. You end up with a language where gender-neutral speech is pretty simple, but gender-neutral written text is not. (e.g., you can't play the game of shifting into the plural because you indicate plural with a suffix, not with a different word. You wouldn't write "he or she" because "he" and "she" are written differently but identically.)

However, make of this what you will, whenever my Mom spoke, she invariably got "he" and "she" mixed up. (Of course, she also never really got the hang of verb tenses. Chinese has particles to indicate aspect, but none to indicate tense.)

#95 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:07 AM:

PRV, no offense, but stay away from my feminism. Serving women is just as misguided as trying to dominate them. We're not objects, we're not goddesses, we're PEOPLE. See Avram's post. We're just like you. I want to be respected as a human being, not exalted for some parenthetical biological function (not all of us need or want children, and "bearing life" is NOT our greatest calling). You want a higher calling? Join the Peace Corps. Spread truth. Fund good causes. Do something with your life and your money that betters the lives of all people, men and women both.

As far as "innate" differences in the sexes go, whether physical, psychological, or emotional, science has proven again and again that while there probably is SOME biological difference, it's so small as to be negligible. Are women less capable of aggression? More nurturing? Less strong? The biological answer tends to be "Maybe, but not enough to make a difference." The rest is up to culture.

Does anyone else remember this awful book?

I am so sick and tired of throwback feminism that claims to be interested in "protecting" women from their own choices (thank goodness for Justice Kennedy! We can't be trusted to make informed choices about our bodies). Poor poor women who have the unimaginable burden of being 100% responsible for sex. The author says she did not discuss men because women are the "sexual gatekeepers." Yay for blaming the victim.

What really troubles me, though, is this total misunderstanding of the function of sex. To her and so many others, it's currency. She says she wants women to embrace dating and romance "the better to get to know each other" and "Guys will do anything for homemade baked goods." Worse, she claims that "Real power is not giving it away, but using it wisely. That’s when you’re liberated, really." Because liberation shouldn't be about the simple capacity to make sexual choices and not be stoned for it--it should be about using sex to purchase power. And this is in my own country. Is that really the solution? I sure as hell hope not.

#96 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Sica @82:
That's hardwired enough into me so that I went to a wedding in the UK where the bride and groom to be had borrowed a child the bride used to babysit to carry the rings up the aisle and it felt really *wrong* (in the truthiness place) to me, to have an intruder that wasn't a part of the core family fulfilling that function. It should either be their child or no child at all.

I've lived in the UK my entire life, and that sounds wrong to me, too. I don't think that's a cultural difference, that's just a bizarre wedding.

#97 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Jenny @90: Fun! Maybe. So long as it isn't filmed by idiots. The story does have a few dramatic, icy landscapes, and it could be fun to share Genly's visual misreading of gender cues.

Googles . . . okay, wiki claims that "a feature film is being developed for release in 2008," hopefully not by idiots.

#98 ::: Scott Harris ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:17 AM:

"I don't see why PVR's idea of service has to be so very gender-defined. Why "Serve women"? Why not just "Serve"? If it is good for a man to serve a women in order to subsume his baser instincts into a cause higher than himself, then it is good for any person to serve another cherished person that way. It is not only women who are valuable, nor men who have baser instincts."

Absolutely - shouldn't one 'serve' one's parents, one's children, one's brothers and sisters and friends? Shouldn't one do so regardless of one's own sex?

But really, with the exception of actual dependents (and I wouldn't count a spouse as 'dependent' in this sense, regardless of whether they work outside the home), I think the ideal should be less one of service and more one of fellowship and partnership.

My wife works about the same hours that I do, so when we're home it only makes sense that I take on my share of the cooking, cleaning, helping our son with his homework, etc. Fair's fair, and don't partners and friends at least try to be fair to each other?

I find it hard to fathom those who think (and have felt free to say to one or both of us) that the woman should have to take on all these household chores while the man is free to kick back, regardless of the fact that both work hard outside the home. Now, if one or the other of us made enough that the other could afford to stay home, we'd have to reevaluate the division of labor, but by no means do I think that would result in the 'bread-winner' being let off of all household duties; frankly, I think there's probably more to do to keep a home and family running than there is to do at any job I've ever had, with the possible exception of teaching high school. And yet, unless the decision were made for us by who gets a better-paying job first, I think my wife and I would both be fighting to be the one that gets to stay home...

"In "The Dispossessed" Ursula Le Guin describes a society whose language has no possessive form at all. Instead of saying "my partner", they say "the partner". As in the Draco Tavern atory, this leads to a different way of thinking.

If you think that the way you speak doesn't fundamentally affect the way you see the world, contemplate martial arts for awhile, and note how training is designed to make action automatic, to create correct habits. Speech is a collection of some of the most basic habits we have, and everything about it affects the way we think of, feel about, and react to the world. Speech about relationships is especially powerful because it describes those relationships to us."

True enough, but I don't think by this token that PRV necessarily deserves to be jumped on about the use of the word 'our', given that the possessive is also used reciprocally by the ones we're related to; e.g., my wife says 'my husband', my son says 'my father', and so on.

Yes, the lack of different forms for different types of connection is a problem for English, but it doesn't necessarily reinforce one party's role in the relationship more than another's. Nor does it indicate equality, either; a slave could refer to 'my master', after all, without implying ownership. But to assume that the use of 'our women' and 'our girls' has the same inequality built in to it just validates the attitude we're trying to deconstruct.

So, I didn't find PRV's use of the possessive creepy - just the assumption that 'service' would be all or mostly one way and gender-based.

#99 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Torie at 95, I read an interesting post some time ago, possibly at Real Adult Sex, possibly just linked from there, that said that the reason "she's just giving it away!" is such a problem isn't that she is having lots of sex, but that she isn't charging for it.

I liked reading Left Hand of Darkness with the somewhat broken pronouns. I'm stubborn and dislike Messages in books, so being able to point to the pronouns and say, "Hey, that's imprecise," helped. Instead of perceiving a Message that may or may not have actually been there, I had a conversation with the book and my own preconceptions.

#100 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Serge @ 43
Steve @ 78

It's surpising how many medieval marriages ended in divorce (or the other way out, where the man repudiates the woman and the marriage.) From this far away in time, it's hard to tell what caused it, although I suspect changing political alliances and few sons explain many of them.

As for putting women on some kind of pedestal, as PRV advocates: that sounds like almost every male-dominated culture where women have few (if any) rights. Putting people on those figurative pedestals has two consequences: they're unable to do anything (constructive or otherwise), and the only exit is falling off.

#101 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:31 AM:

#93 ::: mayakda When you were growing up, was there any generic message you got from society as a whole on what you were? Some kind of consensus from all the messages thrown at you?

Yes. Machismo. A flawed, reductive ethic whose ostensible goal is to stoically deal with crap (heroic crap, like getting rid of spiders or protecting the family from ninjas, or something--the annoying and mundane crap is for everyone else).

This is bad, but at least it isn't a paradox. Playing the machismo game is much easier than trying to simultaneously avoid the labels "prude" and "whore."

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:41 AM:

P J... That's the problem with pedestals. They don't give you much choice as to where you can go. And they can be wobbly.

As for marriages... It's kind of funny when someone talks about the sanctity of marriage, and how the institution is being devalued by our kind of people, especially when homosexuals are allowed to do it too. (I'm still waiting for the Gay Apocalypse that Governor Arnie warned us against when SF's mayor allowed 'them' to get married.) True, marriage has changed, but for the better. It used to be a function to regulate procreation. Now it becomes more and more what romantic ideals used to talk about, the union of two (or more) souls. What do they see that's wrong about that? A lot, obviously.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:44 AM:

Susan... Still, both approches to female clothing are about physical control, aren't they? How much can one do while wearing a crinoline?

#104 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:50 AM:

PJ Evans at 100-- in my bioethics class some time ago, we discussed sex selection via IVF and abortion. Some people, including me, thought that having a sex imbalance (too few girls) meant that the girls would be treated better, but historically, that hasn't happened. Societies with more boys than girls tend to keep the few girls they have safe and protected, which of course means keeping them away from the world. I think (and this is me making things up) the only way to get a society with far fewer, but more powerful, girls would be to start with one where women are equal to men. It's easy to go from protecting your daughters by keeping them hidden to protecting your one and only daughter by keeping her very hidden, as befits a precious rarity.
It was an interesting bioethics course, not least because it presented me with a group of my peers who didn't always agree with me-- usually, we'd just talk about other things, but I got weird looks for the strangest ideas. Most of my classmates were mystified that I wouldn't want to know the sex of my child until it was born.

#105 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Scott @ 80, about Japanese women and career goals:

One of the stranger bits of culture change in my small town is that the local Benedictine Abbey and College has, over the past two decades, become a place of foreigners learning English and western business administration skills. The large fraction of those students who are Japanese women (wearing Jimmy Choo's on the bus in western Washington mud, dressed to the nines in designer clothing, a sharp contrast to the Evergreen students in hiking boots and vintage hippie gear) are planning to work for Japanese companies, outside of Japan. The interviews I've seen have not addressed the matter of marriage and family directly, but it's notable that, unlike the other college graduates interviewed every spring, the Japanese women do not mention those items on their own.

#106 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:55 AM:

@Serge #103

And how much ass-kicking can you do in an ankle length skirt? Oh wait... I did watch Chinese Martial arts movies... never mind!

If you want to talk about physically incapacitating clothes, your go-to-guy (girl?) is going to be the corset. Breathing is men's work!

#107 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:58 AM:

Susan @ 92 - I don't know how much I don't know* about Victorian fashions, but what I was thinking of was the thrill Victorians seemed to get by seeing a flash of ankle, and how scandalized they were at bloomers.

Of course, Victorians were in general modest folks, so that does confuse matters.

*Rumsfeld was an idiot as SecDef, but he did know how to turn a phrase.

#108 ::: Carri ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:58 AM:

Hi all; I've read Making Light for a couple of years, but have never posted. I tend not to post unless I feel I have something to add to the conversation, and that's rare.

Now though, a couple of ideas on this topic. Chris in #86 stated something similar. The text that witch hunters used to find and convict witches, the Malleus Maleficarum, states that one of the signs that a woman was a witch was that she inspired lust in men. This makes me think in terms of power, and the reasons for subjugation. Obviously, not all women convicted as witches would inspire lust, but to me, it is a clear sign of power dynamics. And also hopefully obviously, I'm making sweeping generalities here and don't mean anything I'm saying to apply to all (or even most) men or women.

A woman who inspires lust in a man has some hold of power over him. This hold of power may threaten the man's masculine identity, by inspiring feelings such as fear of rejection, fear of looking a fool, by feeling threatened or angered that the man can't control his own thoughts and desires. He wants her so badly, and she might not care about him at all.

He may then, in order to restore his feelings of power, transfer that anger to the object of his lust. She, simply by being her, MADE him feel that way, SHE did that to him, he didn't do it. So women end up being manipulative, as Joss says, because the woman twists the man's emotions and makes him feel weak. A woman is a slut because she makes men feel lust. A woman was a witch because she still has power over men even though she does not have any property, political power, or education of her own.

Another thing; I'm not sure how well cited this might be, but I think it was Robert Graves who believed that a lot of societies in ancient Europe were matriarchal until sex was discovered to be the means by which women gave birth. After that, he believed, men were no longer in awe of the life-giving power of the female, since they had discovered they had a part in it as well, and they started taking power.

As a vocal feminist in a red state, I could talk myself blue (heh) on this topic. And I do, and tend to annoy people. I was at my mom's house watching television with her a few months ago and there was a commercial on tv. A man kisses his wife good-bye and leaves their home on his way to work by jumping off a cliff and getting into some fancy SUV. My mom said, "That commercial has always bothered me." I said, "Why? Because they show the man going off to work and just leave the woman to stay at home?" and she looked at me funny and said, "No, I just wondered how he gets back up."

#109 ::: Chris S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Susan @ #92

Victorian clothing didn't just emphasize the female form, it also exaggerated out of all proportion -- partly so that the actual form itself wouldn't be seen. Not logical, but then, fashion often isn't. That cloaking of form also included furniture (which, as someone who once spent WAY too much time cleaning upholstery, I still resent).

#110 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Oh, you have just reminded me of Grey's Anatomy. Season finale, big prom dealy, two characters have an argument.

Woman: Stop looking at me!
Man: Stop making me look at you!

And these are presented as not only equivalent transgressions but *foreplay* and *romantic* and that is a great deal of why I stopped being able to watch the show without mocking it.

#111 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Will@ 97: I think it could be excellent - ice landscapes, very visually striking, and an exciting plot with danger and politics. I was thinking about casting - would you cast women or men, or both, for the Gethenians? How many actors/ actresses are there who could be convincingly androgynous and create the necessary gender vertigo - since, not just the leads, but every single person onscreen has to be gender unidentifiable except for Genly? And if I remember rightly the Gethenians look rather like Inuit, which narrows the casting pool further... On the other hand it would be an interesting acting challenge; maybe a bit of subtle CGI could help? And it would be really fun to design the costumes/architecture/material culture of that world.

I'll be interested to see what the 2008 film is like: I hope it isn't made by idiots.

#112 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Serge @ #103:
Still, both approches to female clothing are about physical control, aren't they?

You're laying a lot of meaning on clothing; it's not like anyone thought up these fashions as a deliberate plan. Modern trousers are "about" physically controlling the male genitalia, right? They make rather less sense than skirts for men. And modern neckties are "about" providing a convenient leash to lead errant husbands by?

The Victorian era was one of the most fetishistic fashion eras in history; one way or the other, women's outfits were as much "about" covert sexual display as anything else, which puts them right in line with (but considerably more developed in this era due to advances in construction technique than) the previous several hundred years of fashion. The burqa is the opposite of sexual display - it hides the face and form under a shapeless sack. Lumping these together suggests an inability to grasp any meaning of sexy that does not closely track with naked, but I assure you that the Taliban and co. do not suffer from this problem - they'd be quite ready to pop a burqa over my hourglass Victorian outfits, even if I'm already covered from chin to toe.

Actually, a rather notable change in fashion in the Victorian era was that men's clothing became less about display and standardized on boring, so the women's stuff stands out rather more by comparison. And one no longer gets to admire men's shapely calves.

How much can one do while wearing a crinoline?

Less than one can do while wearing a hoop skirt, which is one reason women welcomed the development of hoops - it enabled a fashionable silhouette while freeing up the legs and feet. (You do realize that crinolines per se are a brief fashion only at the very start of the Victorian era and not particularly representative of it, right?)

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Welcome, Carri.

About the power of women being a threat to men... That reminds me of the scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharrif tell the sheik played by Anthony Quinn that he should attack a specific place. He isn't too keen on the idea, but they eventually 'seduce' him. He gives in, reluctantly, but says that the two of them trouble him the way women do.

My wife, being a writer, works at home so the woman staying at home didn't bother her. Or it may simply be that what bothered her the most was the same thing that bugged your mom. How does he get back up?

#114 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Scott @ 106

If you want to talk about physically incapacitating clothes, your go-to-guy (girl?) is going to be the corset. Breathing is men's work!

I know someone who wore a corset to a wedding and the reception following, where she was doing the twist, down to the floor and back up. It's a support structure by design, not a breath-stopping device. (For women of a certain build, it beats the alternatives.)

#115 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:18 PM:

Serge @ 103 and Scott @ 106:

Victorian clothing (and this is a huge category, as Susan said) was not about restricting, cloaking, or punishing women (or at least no more so than beauty/cosmetics through the ages). It was a fashion choice. The same goes for Renaissance clothing. Queen Elizabeth I often wore dresses that revealed her breasts because it was a sign of purity and chastity. Victorian corsets aren't about preventing you from breathing but accenting your breasts and hips--the idea was to get a cone-shaped figure. No one said fashion made any sense. But the sometime costume mistress in me will argue that really, there was no oppressive male conspiracy going on--just oppressive, silly, illogical beauty standards (no different than today). How those beauty standards inform or reflect our attitudes towards women is a different story.

And for the record: if you're a certain body type corsets are way more comfortable than bras.

#116 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Susan @ 112... You're laying a lot of meaning on clothing; it's not like anyone thought up these fashions as a deliberate plan.

Oh, I know that, and I had intended my post to originally say something along those lines. If I had put that in, I'd then have had to elaborate on my own argument and say that, if it is indeed about physical control, how did the concerted efforts of fashion converge toward that goal. That'd have meant a longer post than I had intended. And it'd have forced me to confess that I don't really know much about much of anything. But I talk about things anyway because I like to learn.

#117 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Carri said (#108):
Another thing; I'm not sure how well cited this might be, but I think it was Robert Graves who believed that a lot of societies in ancient Europe were matriarchal until sex was discovered to be the means by which women gave birth. After that, he believed, men were no longer in awe of the life-giving power of the female, since they had discovered they had a part in it as well, and they started taking power.

Beware of taking Robert Graves too seriously... much of what he wrote was nonsense. Fascinating, ingenious, and even brilliant nonsense, mind you, but nonsense nonetheless.

I think I recall reading somewhere that anthropologists have never found a culture where people didn't understand the connection between sex and giving birth.


(Oh, and welcome, too!)

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:22 PM:

(cont'd from #116)

Drat... I had meant to write "...how did the UNconcerted efforts of fashion converge toward that goal..."

#119 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:22 PM:

mayakda@93: What is it like to grow up without the expectation that you are, at your very core, a nurturer? When you were growing up, was there any generic message you got from society as a whole on what you were? Some kind of consensus from all the messages thrown at you?

The expectation I had was to succeed. To go out and find something to do and be the best at it. Better than anyone else, at least out to some circle of people. To win. To find some challenge I could win such that I could "prove" myself, whatever that means.

Was it thrown at me? I dunno.

I think there is some level that this comes from an internal source, hardwiring, genes, hormones, whatever, and then there is some level of what does culture do to direct it to something useful or something harmful.

Some time ago, I was reading this thing about a guy who had had testicular cancer and had to have them completely removed due to the cancer. And the interviewer asked him if he felt any different afterwards. The guy said that before, he would sometimes wonder how he would measure up in combat. (He was a middle aged, white collar worker, never in the military.) Afterwards, he said those thoughts never came up. I don't remember his exact words, but I do remember that I recognized the exact same thought.

#120 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:24 PM:

I don't have the time to read in depth for the immediate future (Patriarchy, made someone NUKE the entire structure and social meme of it, COMPLETELY.... and extirpate for eternity Clorox Housewife and all other sociobiology bullshit regarding housekeeping and biology is effing DOMESTIC horseshit), however...

1. I have know SEVERAL non-biological fathers who are completely devoted to the children they have raised, who once again, are NOT their biological offspring, and in at least two cases went far out of their way to become the legal SOLE custodial parents.

2. Lies, lies, and more lies, and telling and spreading control freak slimeball lies does NOT make something Truth.... welcome to 1984.

3. The mythology of woman as Queen of the Night comes out historically in the oddest places--Chatres cathedral, for example, amidst the intense misogyny of medieval France, "Shabbat ha-Malkah" in Judaish (the Sabbath Queen, whatever-the-term-is for denoting the Sabbath as a person, referred to a Shabbat ha-Malkah, Sabbath the Queen), Britomart in the Carolingian cycle, etc.

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Torie @ 115... Duly noted. Like I was saying to Susan, I don't know a damn thing about lots of things, but I am willing to learn, in spite of the risk that I'll embarass myself. This isn't the first time, and isn't likely to be the last.

#122 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:31 PM:

Scott @ #106:
If you want to talk about physically incapacitating clothes, your go-to-guy (girl?) is going to be the corset.

Corsets are more comfortable for me than bras, and I regularly spend hours at a time in aerobic exercise while wearing one (most recently, Saturday night.) I'm guessing that's more personal experience with them than you have. The trade off in torso flexibility with a bra for me is in backaches and bruising (or maybe that's scarring - is a purple mark you have for decades a bruise or a scar?) Oh, and bras also better display my shape and make me more vulnerable and accessible to men, and more subject to random men's obnoxious commentary; is that supposed to be a bug or a feature?

In a corset I am comfortable going up and down stairs, walking, running, and dancing. In a bra, I am comfortable sitting still if the chair has good back support, but at least it's easy to tie my shoes.

Which is more physically incapacitating? It's not nearly as simple as people who have no experience make it out to be.

#123 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:33 PM:

#121 - Serge

Absolutely! You didn't embarrass yourself. Bottom line is that clothing and fashion are mostly illogical, but we already knew that. I saw a woman this morning in a business suit wearing Crocs.

#124 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Peter Irwin says: I think I recall reading somewhere that anthropologists have never found a culture where people didn't understand the connection between sex and giving birth. and by doing so saves me from getting really wanky on the subject.

Archaeology has no means of reconstructing knowledge, belief or thought. Any statement one reads about what preliterate people did, apart from how they made and used tools, houses, and settlement systems, is bound to be compounded of eight parts wishful thinking, one part uncomfirmed assumptions, and one part strained analysis of physical evidence.

#125 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Without launching off on ten seperate arguments with ten seperate people, let me add a few more things to what I wrote last night.

1) In one of my posts I pointed out that the worth of service is not dependent on the "worthiness" of those being served. I did not at any time advocate putting anyone on a pedestal, did not say women were without flaw, nor did I attempt to make women "inhuman" objects for idol worship. All I said, and have been saying since last night, is that if more men in this world spent more time engaged in service to the women they are close to, the world would probably be a better place. I am surprised anyone could see anything sinister about that.

2) Several people have balked at the heterocentrism of my Service concept. Again, I don't know what to say, other than to point out that the topic of this whole thread deals with men being violent and terrible towards women. Homosexuality doesn't enter into it. Homosexual men being violent towards women is not the problem. We're talking about hetero men and hetero-dominant cultures needing a new paradigm that scuttles misogyny. Hetero men needing to find a new yardstick for self-worth and for feeling masculine. I'm not sure homosexuality comes into this kind of discussion at all.

3) Several women have said, in no uncertain terms, "No thanks guy, you can keep your creepy chivalry!" OK. Again, I did not advocate "stalker" service, as seems to be the impression some have gotten. My point was to be kind to and perform service for the women already in our lives; that we're directly related to or that we know on an intimate level somehow. My wife has several woman friends whom I am friends with as well, all professional and all highly-educated and all feminist, for whom I practice the Service ethos; and not a one of them has ever balked or said I was being "creepy" or that I disempowered them through my acts. And these are NOT mousy women. These are outspoken and headstrong and independent women. I think they'd let me know if I was bugging them.

4) This takes me to an IMPORTANT point I failed to make last night. And that point is: all Service is in the eyes of the beholder. What does this mean? It means that the Service ethos cannot, should not be blind to the needs and wants of those who are served. For women who are made uncomfortable with old-fashioned gestures like giving up a seat on a train, the best "service" in this case is to treat the woman as she wishes to be treated, and not give up the seat. Where my wife's friends are concerned, I don't just blindly do shit for them unasked or out of the blue. It's usually something as simple as just listening to them in normal conversation and picking up on something they gripe about and which I know I can do something about or which might help. I'm a computer geek by profession, and I can't count the number of times one of my wife's friends has said, "My stupid computer is all screwed up!" I offer to fix it for them, we make arrangements, I solve the problem, no-charge, and they're happy and I'm happy. If the problem is an easy or non-hardware related fix, I always try to show them how they can effect the fix on their own. Thus, next time, they won't need me. I think this is EMPOWERING, not devaluing.

5) People have pointed out, correctly I would say, that we should ALL server EVERYONE. And I agree. Last night I think I pointed out that Service to women is NOT an exclusive arrangement. But since our context is hetero male violence towards women, I don't think service to kids or the male side of the equation enters much into this. Again, we're talking about altering the current paradigm, and replacing it with something better. Because I truly believe that if we abolish the current paradigm and leave a vacuum, whatever rises to assume its place won't be what we want. We should try to replace the current paradigm with a new and clearly-defined paradigm that inverts the old women-serve-men reality. And in my experience there is nothing debasing or devaluing about being a man who serves women. Again, if your internal definition of your masculinity does not rest on power trips or domination of the female, but instead relies on service as a major component of becoming and being masculine, I don't see how anyone in that mindset can feel debased or otherwise brought low in service.

6) Some people here seem to be saying that we need to neuter our society completely and that only when gender has been absolutely wiped from human consciousness, as a factor in thinking, then we'll be making real progress. I think this is laudable on paper, but I don't think it will ever pass in reality. Because in reality we are NOT neutered. Men and women are physically and biologically different. We each have differing strong points and weak points and I don't think society can function well if we shave off the hills and fill in the valleys and force everything and everyone to be "flat." I think you an celebrate difference without placing emphasis on one sex being "better" than the other. And I think it's odd that in our modern times, when we as progressive people go out of our way to celebrate cultural and ethnic and linguistic and sexual-choice differences, some of us try to stamp out the gender difference at the same time. That trikes me as paradoxical.

#126 ::: Carri ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Thanks Serge.

Yes, I often fall prey to my own rants. Women (or men) staying at home don't bother me at all, it's just the default image that bothers me. And the fairly subtle things, like the Grey's Anatomy episode Diatryma pointed out.

When I first met my husband he rarely paid attention to gender issues in the media. But I've run my mouth about it so much that he's noticing them now. We just got back from camping at Mammoth Cave, and had bought a dvd showing footage, among other things, of one of the more difficult cave tours that I am entirely too lazy to take. They interviewed about four men and one woman who they showed footage of taking the tour. The men they showed climbing over obstacles, talking about how it was hard sometimes, but they just squeezed through or climbed over, and no problem. The one woman they interviewed (and there were actually more women than men they showed taking the tour) was the one who was scared and had to be talked into climbing over a drop.

Now maybe none of the men were scared, or had any problems, on this particular tour that was taped. Maybe the other women on the tour declined to be interviewed. I'm not saying that certainly, there is no doubt, that there was a gender bias in creating this tape, but it was refreshing for my husband to point out the disparity to me.

There are also those Hardee's ads that show men not knowing how to make breakfast. Those bother me too. But I'll have to say, one ad that bothered me more than most was a print ad for a bicycle. It was a picture of a jeep, with a guy driving with his bicycle in the front seat, and his girlfriend or wife or whatever strapped to the bike rack on top of the vehicle. That was just a few years ago, here in the states.

#127 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:39 PM:

Chris @ #109:
Susan @ 92 - I don't know how much I don't know* about Victorian fashions, but what I was thinking of was the thrill Victorians seemed to get by seeing a flash of ankle, and how scandalized they were at bloomers.

Right: sexual display. The game is "peekaboo", boys and girls. Nowadays men don't go all drooly when they see a woman's ankle; why should they, when people wear sandals all summer? The Victorians were past masters at the game of artificially-induced scarcity. Subtlety is an oft-lost art nowadays.

Of course, Victorians were in general modest folks, so that does confuse matters.

Take a gander at Victorian menswear sometime; you'll note the complete absence of display of skin in anything except bathing costume. I wouldn't want to do a lot of exercise while wearing the equivalent of a three-piece suit and a lot of fabric wrapped around my neck. Men seem to have a harder time at Victorian balls than women - they wear much hotter clothing.

#128 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:43 PM:

reading through all the previous posts, I would say that I can recognize a flavor of PRV's idea of serving women in myself, though I don't know if I'd say it occurs at the same level in me.

Generally speaking, I show my wife that I love her by doing things for her. She, on the other hand, just loves me. I can't really explain it more than that because I think I have a sort of blind spot around it, and she's far better at it than me.

I lift heavy things for her and do dirty jobs for her and love her. And she simply smiles at me and loves me.

As it happens, we both love "The Princess Bride" (it might be our favorite movie), and we were watching the beginning one time where Buttercup asked asked Farmboy to fetch a pot she could have easily reached herself, and he said "As you wish" and gave it to her, and they both realized they loved each other, and ever since, I respond to honey-do requests from my wife with "As you wish, buttercup."

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Torie @ 123... Thanks. There is this saying about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, and I think I had stepped in it.

By the way, what are Crocs?

#130 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Re men's and women's fashions: there's a fascinating book called Sex and Suits by Anne Hollander (an art historian by training, I think), which deals with the evolution of the male suit and its subsequent uptake by women. Along the way, she provides what I believe is an excellent overview of European fashion over the last few hundred years (though this is about the only book on the history of fashion I've read, so I could be wrong).

One of the tidbits I remember is the curious fact that women's fashions -- prior to the 20th Century -- played all sorts of games with emphasizing, exposing, and covering up necks, bosoms, arms, and waists... but everything below the waist and above the feet was always concealed. In contrast, men's fashion frequently (though not always) emphasized legs -- but almost never revealed the throat or upper chest.

Also the fact that, prior to the late 19th Century, women's clothing was designed and made by women, not men.

#131 ::: Carri ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Thanks Peter and JESR.

I haven't read much Robert Graves, or much about him. I did find it interesting, and wasn't sure how well supported it was, or how well reasoned his arguments are considered.

Regarding fashion, though it is highly unlikely that some man came up with different fashionable ideas to subjugate women, I wonder how often the fashions could be a symptom of the disease rather than one of its causes? It's almost like a class thing combined with a gender thing. Men and women both could wear elaborate clothes that showed off their wealth, restricted their mobility, and compromised their health, yet it wouldn't affect their ability to provide income?

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Carri @ 126... You ranted? I didn't see any sign of that, unless talking passionately about what matters to oneself is a definition of rants.

As for that DVD... I bet you that some of the guys were just as scared, but there's no way they were going to admit to that. Weakness must never be acknowledged, after all. Me, I'd answer truthfully. I know who and what I am, as I said in another thread when we were discussing gender characteristics. Still, I am enough of a guy that I worked in the backyard in spite of my still recovering from a high fever. Thats's what happens when you grow up with role models like Indiana Jones or James Bond. Push yourself to the limit, that's the message for guys. Otherwise, you have no right to pass on your genes. Not that I ever tried to do that gene-passing thing.

#133 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 12:57 PM:

I worked at a Sears Portrait Studio for about four years in college, and one of the things that irritated me more than anything else was parents enforcing their gender views on children. There were impulse items near the kiosk, of course at children's level, so they could grab one of whatever and drag it over for their parents to see. One of those was a big, floppy, cloth doll with big eyes and a plaid dress. Baby (crawling through about 3 or four years) boys went straight for that thing every time. It was soft and cuddly, and just the right size for hugging. I've got to say, Moms were way worse than Dads about taking it immediately away and saying "that's for girls."
Also, they often went straight for the feather boas in the studio, for much the same reasons-- "what..is that Thing? It's Soooooft." Talk about horrified, embarrassed looks from the parents. Girls who like Boy Toys are just tomboys, boys who like Girl Toys are in danger of being....embarrassing.

#134 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:10 PM:

I happened across this story today, and I'm surprised I hadn't seen it before. It immediately reminded me of this thread, and was yet another reminder of how violence towards women is minimized or shuffled out of sight. The interesting part to this story is that there seem to be at least two female witnesses who not only came forward with their story but were responsible for getting the raped girl to the hospital. They received medals for their actions but are still speaking out, since they are shocked and horrified that no charges have been brought to the players.

As for the mindset of the perpetrators--in the words of one of the players, the seventeen year old victim "got drunk and did this to herself." I know we swim through sexism every day, but I'm still amazed that anybody can justify his behaviour to that extent by blaming it on the woman herself and her very existence.

#135 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:10 PM:

JESR said (#124):
Archaeology has no means of reconstructing knowledge, belief or thought. Any statement one reads about what preliterate people did, apart from how they made and used tools, houses, and settlement systems, is bound to be compounded of eight parts wishful thinking, one part uncomfirmed assumptions, and one part strained analysis of physical evidence.

By and large I'd agree with you.

In case it wasn't clear, I was referring to anthropologists studying living cultures, many of them preliterate, not archaeologists speculating about the beliefs of past preliterate cultures. So, yes, we don't really know about past cultures; but if contemporary preliterate/stone-age cultures understand the connection between sex and giving birth, and if the oldest literate cultures seemed to understand the connection, then it's reasonable to guess that past preliterate cultures probably understood it as well.

#136 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:12 PM:

I agree that the Robert Graves theory about prehistoric European cultures sounds unlikely. If they didn't realise that sex causes pregnancy from observing women's biology (human females don't have an externally obvious fertility period, very rare for mammals), you'd think they'd get the idea by analogy by observing that birds and animals have a mating season closely followed by rearing young. (I mean, heck, it's May here in Britain and I'm seeing pigeons going at it all over the place, even in the middle of a city!)

On the other hand the Trobriand Islanders reportedly didn't believe in a connection between sex and pregnancy, thinking that women were impregnated by spirits. I looked this up on Wikipedia (because if it's on Wikipedia it must be true) and found a link to the bizarrest travel article claiming a) that yams are contraceptive, hence the relation between sex and fertility not being clear in the Trobriands (yams being eaten heavily at certain points in the year); b) that during the yam festival in the Trobriand Islands, women rape men.

Have no idea whether to believe all this (surely lots of cultures consume large quantities of yams without fertility problems?), and am hoping that some anthropologist, or Trobriand Islander, will wander by and shed some light on things.

#137 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:16 PM:

@several re: corsets

Sure, your experience is likely closer than mine. But I've been around enough corsets being unhooked and heard the gulp of air, and watched the face of relaxation erupt to form a meaningful opinion.
My point was never that corsets are intentionally uncomfortable. And perhaps, to people they are comfortable (which is not something I've ever heard before, and am very interested to have learned) but to the women I've known to wear them, they were worn out of an unsubtle preference for fashion/appearance over comfort... well into the land of pointed discomfort after a few hours.

#138 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:20 PM:

(Not piling on PRV with this, just riffing on the conversation already in progress.)

The problem with the call to Service is that it's hard to buy into the idea that serving is its own reward. I think it leads, probably inevitably, to the Pete Seeger summary of "Greensleeves": I gave thee this, I gave thee that, and yet thou wouldst not love me.

I'd rather have friends, myself.

Count me in among the folks who get the wiggins at the phrase "Real Man." Complete personhood doesn't strike me as having much to do with the way your plumbing's wired, and I don't buy the thought that you need examples of your own gender to teach it to you. Speaking only for myself, I know I got the lessons associated with so-called Real Manhood mostly from the women in my family: how to be strong, how to be gentle, how to fight nice and make up afterwords, how to play fair and be a gracious winner and a good loser, how to be respectful of other people. They were the same lessons everyone got, as far as I can tell.

As others have noted, you get problems when you start from the notion that Wimmin Are Speshul. It's a thread that conservative culture and the loopier wing of radical feminism have in common, and I don't like it much in either case. (FTR, I am very much a feminist, just not a radical one, for various reasons; for one thing, I don't think gender oppression is the primary oppression, nor that solving it is the key to making all the other types of discrimination go away. But I digress.)

Honestly, I think we as men don't do much good trying to serve women. I think we do much better just trying to like them. Lots of men really don't; what they mean by "I like women" is "I like to f*ck women," which is not the same thing. The more men are really willing to hang out with women on their own terms, seek out their company for reasons that don't have anything to do with sex, and take care of those friendships in ways other than making them Honorary Guys, the further along we'll be in solving the millenia-deep problems of misogyny. Unfortunately, the fear of girl cooties runs deep.

#139 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:37 PM:

#125:Homosexual men being violent towards women is not the problem.
The word game of "are you saying that it's ok for homosexual men to be violent towards women?" is irresistible. So there, now I've done it and you can ignore it.

It's clear you don't mean that. However, why is solving the problem of violence towards women by reinforcing heterosexism ok? Would it be just as ok to resolve the problem by reinforcing racism?

Again, I don't know what to say, other than to point out that the topic of this whole thread deals with men being violent and terrible towards women.

Not to mention Victorian clothing, the role women play in modern society, and men's fashions. I keep expecting the traditional knitting discussion to start up any minute now. (Every time one of them pops up, I feel the urge to learn how to knit.)

We're talking about hetero men and hetero-dominant cultures needing a new paradigm that scuttles misogyny. Hetero men needing to find a new yardstick for self-worth and for feeling masculine. I'm not sure homosexuality comes into this kind of discussion at all.

Are you honestly saying that homosexuality has nothing to do with how hetero men make themselves feel masculine? (e.g. the role of "the sissy" in cinema. Most of them were not overtly gay, but strongly implied. Certainly, movie watchers of the time took them that way. A friend of mine unironically claimed that THE EIGER SANCTION was an advance in cinema because the sissy villain was overtly gay rather than implicitly so.) Are you honestly saying that when you posit a standard for what a Real Man is in society, you should not take homosexuals into account? Are you honestly saying that male-dominated is bad, but hetero-dominated is ok?

The trumpeting of heterosexism is how we get to the notion that gay bashing is ok, much in the same way that saying the male dominated society is just the way it is leads to implicit acceptance of acts such as honor killings.

Surely there are better solutions for misogyny than substituting heterosexism in its place.

(This has been part of my continuing rant against the notion that heterosexism is normative. We now return you to your regular discussion... whatever it is.)

#140 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:42 PM:

PRV, your 'Service' is my 'treating someone like a human being'. Phrased that way, yes, if more men were in service to women-- if more men treated women as people-- we would have fewer problems. It's a semantics issue on some level.

What do you do for male friends? Do you not listen to them or offer help when it's appropriate?

#141 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:51 PM:

J Austin @133, there's a lot of external/ cultural pressure, still, even with quite tiny children. Have a look at an Early Learning Centre catalogue - it's unbelievable! Every single thing, even down to clothes and mats and towels for really small babies, is gendered pink or blue. And their imaginative play section is appalling. Costumes for a firefighter, police officer, knight, doctor, cowboy, nurse -- guess which one is modelled by a little girl? you got it. There's a page of dinosaur toys (boys only) and another of pastel-coloured fairy castles and little baby make-up sets.

I wanted to buy a toy piano for my god-daughter. They have separate pages in the catalogue for girls' instruments and boys': either blue with geometric designs, or pink with sparkles on.

I got her the blue one because I couldn't live with the practically glow-in-the-dark pink one. But I also reflected that it's quite easy to at least try to counteract the gender-stereotyped toys if you have a small girl. My god-daughter plays with trucks and toy drills and railway sets. No-one tries to prevent her, and she also loves pretty clothes and sparkly things (actually she would probably have liked the pink piano if I hadn't thought it was gross). I can make sure she gets to play with "boys' toys" as well as girls' -- but if I ever had a son? what sort of toys would he play with? I bet he'd get much more flak from parents and peers if he wanted to dress up in pink and play with the fairy castles... In some ways it seems like we've only loosened gender roles in the one direction.

#142 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Peter #130

When I was doing market research, I wound up calling at least one bra manufacturer. The facility was located in the Deep South, and the female phone receptionist said that the bras were all designed by -men-, because any female engineer wanted to be in some OTHER part of the USA than the Deep South textile manufacturing area, and all the women who were interesting in manufacturing engineering from there -left, and women from other parts of the country didn't want to go there...

#143 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:01 PM:

This comment at the Pandagon article abi linked above, at #18, really struck me, as the mother of a "free, fearless, fun-loving girl toddler," as Serge has already noted elsewhere. My partner and I intend to do the best we can to make sure she hangs on to that as long as possible, and it's tragic that that's even an issue. It starts so early. She's obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine right now, and just the other day I was struck by the fact that they only make Thomas underwear for boys. And, as there is a functional difference between boys' and girls' underwear, I don't see myself buying them for her. Though I could. She did show a great deal of interest in them.

To bring the post back to Joss, one of the things I'm definitely going to do is show her all 7 seasons of Buffy when she's ready. Assuming DVDs are still functional in 10 years or so...

#144 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Scott @ #137:
I am always fascinated when men tell me that their observations and guesses are more valid than women's actual experiences. You dismiss women who actually wear these things and work in them as "likely closer" than your experience. This dismissiveness is a good example of what women complain about in men. Could you give me a reasonable estimate as to how many hours a week you spend wearing Victorian corsets, on average? 'cause I think it's "likely closer" to zero, which pretty much puts you in the category of going on about things of which you have no firsthand experience.

And your argument about how it's nice to get out of a corset is just as valid as Justice Kennedy nattering on about how women are harmed by abortion.

#145 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Jenny @ #141;

I know. I liked "pretty" and flouncy and tea-sets when I was little, too, but I also adored going through my older brothers' trunk full of starships, die-cast cars, play guns, and other treasures. The first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a pirate. My mom was sort of weird about things though--"Mom, he hit me!" was usually answered with "Hit him back," but one year (my husband still gets a kick out of how annoyed I still am about this) we all three got little remote controlled robots. My brothers' were blue and red with rayguns and sounds and flashing lights, and mine was pink and purple with a detachable broom and dustpan, and interchangeable mop. I'm not kidding. My mom no doubt just thought it was cute, and I was the most appropriate child to give it to, but for some reason that Christmas stands out above a lot of others.

My husband was so horrified the first time I made him go down the pink aisle in a toy shop--we always just skipped it and made for the action figures and Fisher-Price adventure sets (for us, we have no kids.) He just sort of turned slowly in one place and looked at all the kitchen sets, baby dolls and tiny plastic high heels and tiaras and then said, "No wonder the teenage pregnancy rate is so high."

He also came home the other day from a sports store and indignantly described to me how they'd just gotten in girls' La Crosse equipment (he played all through High School) and how the only thing he could tell that made them different was the color. Pink.

#146 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:15 PM:

I have a big reservation about Hollander's Sex and Suits; I think she does an insightful job of describing how the West understood men's clothing during the rise of capitalism, but that she generalizes this to an innate meaning (!!) of the clothes way past what the evidence says. (One of the clangers I recall was the claim that, until capitalism/industrialism, fashion changed too slowly to drive trade and innovation. The city of Lyons would be startled to hear this; so would Heian Japan. Fashion has very often moved as fast as wealth would let it.)

Shorter Hollander: 'Weber was right, and these are his clothes.' Shorter rebuttal: Rowe on Hankow.

It's still an interesting book, but I think Marina Warner has even better ones, e.g. Monuments & Maidens: The allegory of the female form. In this she discusses why Belle Epoque Paris, for instance, used idealized female figures to represent almost all the virtues (even martial ones), and how this did the condition of actual women no good at all.

#147 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Diatryma@140: 'Service' is my 'treating someone like a human being'. It's a semantics issue on some level. What do you do for male friends?

I don't think its purely semantics in my experience. There is definitely a "Princess Bride" thing going on between my wife and I that follows the Farmboy/Buttercup pair. I don't have that kind of relationship with anyone else. With male friends, I go paintballing, go watch "guy movies", drink a beer, or something like that, which is more like Fessick/InigoMontoya. And I don't have many female friends that I do things with on a regular basis. Of course, my work environment is where most of my hanging out friends come from, and they're all guys. So, maybe its environment. Or maybe I'm a sexist pig and just don't know it.

#148 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:19 PM:

kouredios... Has your very own Scout (aka Atticus's daughter) hit any more home runs since those photos were taken? By the way, there IS a lot of pressure to conform, but the tomboy doesn't always get lost. My wife never played with dolls, but she had action figures. Her only friend was a boy and they played out Star Trek adventures. Interestingly (but not that surprising), he always wanted to be Kirk, and she wanted to be Spock. She's still a tomboy and she's almost 50, but she hasn't done any ST-pretending in a long time. Just as well. She'd still want to be Spock, and I'd want to be Scottie, and there'd be nobody to be Kirk.

#149 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:23 PM:

I don't want to be a killjoy on the topic of raising children to do what they like regardless of societal notions on gender but having an undefined, or underdefined gender role isn't all that great.

Gender and sexuality are not the same thing, but they do go hand in hand. Having vague notions of ones own gender can lead to a lot of ambivalence about ones own sexuality.

It's good to be independant and think for yourself. It's not good to have trouble finding yourself. Kids try to be whatever you tell them they are, if it isn't what they are, it'll be hard on them. But if you don't tell them what to try, it'll be hard on them too. When they're an adult, they can tell themselves what to try... but adulthood is a long way off for a toddler. I'm scared to raise children because every little thing seems like too fine a balance.

#150 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:28 PM:

@Susan #144
Don't look now, your defensiveness is showing.

I was telling you why I felt I had a right to OPEN MY FAT GOB. And you're telling me that I'm telling you your wrong? Please, reread with the notion that I was trying to explain myself, not attack you.

#151 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Serge: she hasn't, but only because it's been rainy here for the past couple of days.

As far as giving her an undefined gender role--what I'm attempting to do, in this as well as all aspects of parenting her, is to follow her lead in areas where it's not otherwise incumbent upon me to force her to follow mine (in areas of safety, for example. I don't let her run into the street, regardless of how much she'd like to). I don't keep her from having baby dolls just as I don't keep her from having a train set. She has both because she wants both. And she's only recently showed any interest in baby dolls at all, I think, because her two closest friends have newish baby siblings. She's intrigued by the real babies, so she's interested in playing with toy babies. Just as she is with trains.

And if you haven't read the article at Pandagon yet, as well as the comments, I strongly suggest it.

#152 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:36 PM:

Susan @ #144: I'm really not getting what you are from Scott; he seems to me to be saying quite explicitly that other women have reported experiences with corsets unlike your own reported experience. Taking their experiences as real isn't the same as taking only his experiences as real, and it isn't even the same thing as *not* taking *your* experience as real: it's just not taking your experience for the only kind.

There are plenty of women and some men who wear corsets to make their waists tiny, and those corsets are even less comfortable than brassieres. I have also known women who wore corsets as cantilevers to let their hips support their breasts, and these women all said about what you do; that, for their figures, corsets are more comfortable than bras.

Because knitting must be brought in, I have been trying to find my notes on a Victorian-era fashion book facsimile that had instructions to either knit or crochet a firm, supportive, and apparently fairly comfortable corset. It might have been Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898.

#153 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Scott @149

I think I'm reading your post wrong, but here's what popped into my mind. Liking "boy" things didn't confuse me about whether or not I was a girl. Of course gender and sexuality go hand in hand, I think it's societal expectations of what is gender-appropriate that are the most confusing for children. When what you like is "wrong" or at least, something you'll grow out of, then it makes you wonder if your views of sexuality and gender are somehow wrong.
As for the balance of child-rearing, I don't worry too much about scarring any future kids by buying them that kitchen set, boy or girl. If anything, I'll probably be waaaay too understanding in an effort to be cool. "Oh, I don't like that black polish on you. Blue is better for your skintone."

#154 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:50 PM:

149: Having vague notions of ones own gender can lead to a lot of ambivalence about ones own sexuality.

In what way, and why is this bad?

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:51 PM:

kouredios @ 151... Otherwise the Field of Dreams would be a field of mud, eh? Anyway, it sounds like your approach is a good one (sayeth he who has no human child). She is being given choices. Still, it looks scary, being a parent.

I just looked at the Pandagon article. I shake my head in disbelief at the comments he got just because those jerks thought he was a woman. I believe him. I'm simply shocked that there are people who behave like that.

#156 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Scott @ 106

Whether or not the corset is uncomfortable depends on if the corset fits the shape of the torso. Whether or not the corset binds to the point of incapacitation depends on the construction of the corset and how tightly it's laced. Yes, I have corsets, and no, they're not uncomfortable or any more binding than well-tailored clothes.

#157 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:58 PM:

It seems to me that the reason it's socially acceptable for girls to play with "boyish" toys but not vice versa is that the "boyish" toys rank higher. And boys rank higher. It's like class, or colonial mentality. The inferiors are expected to emulate their betters. But vice versa is socially degrading.

It's the same thing with baby names. Evelyn, Madison, Leslie, Terry, etc. Names that used to be given to boys, once they start to be given to girls, are no longer acceptable as boy's names. They get girl cooties on them.

#158 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Scott:
I'm scared to raise children because every little thing seems like too fine a balance'
Oh yes, me too. I don't have kids (yet, anyway) and I'd be absolutely petrified that I was going to mess them up some way.

But I honestly don't think any child grows up without a million voices telling them what it means to be a girl or a boy. I just don't want them to be restricted by it: I'd want them to learn everything that's good or interesting or useful for them to know, not just what some idiot selling toys thinks they ought to like.

How's it going to give my god-daughter trouble 'finding herself' if she likes machines and has never been taught that that's 'boy's stuff'?

I'm not very handy with tools (interior decorating, saws and drills and the like): I think I probably would have absorbed more of this as part of my upbringing if I'd been male, and it would be useful. Equally, any son of mine is going to damn well learn to cook and sew (actually, I might have to outsource the sewing, since I personally am rubbish at it, but my sister likes it).

A lot of activities are just assigned to one gender or the other randomly; it would be good if everyone learnt them.

Gender and sexuality are not the same thing, but they do go hand in hand. Having vague notions of ones own gender can lead to a lot of ambivalence about ones own sexuality.

I can't comment on this because I'm not sure I understand it. If you're not a 'manly' man or a 'feminine' woman you won't be confident when it comes to romantic relationships with the opposite sex? Or playing with dolls will make a boy uncertain if he's gay or straight?
I'm pretty dubious about both propositions but I'm not sure which you mean.

#159 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:02 PM:

I'll probably get hit on the head for doing this, but saying your defensiveness is showing is not the best way to put it. No, this isn't a I'd-better-protect-the-little-woman thing, which would be rather ironic considering the thread's subject. Susan can defend herself. But I'd do this if it were a man in her place. May I suggest a timeout? My apologies in advance for any offense caused by this post.

#160 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:03 PM:

clew @146:
Thanks for the comments on Hollander. I'll have to go re-read Hollander on the issue of trade/innovation driven by fashion; I don't recall that bit.

Lyon: I know of Lyon as a medieval center of trade fairs, and vaguely as a sort of 17th Century banking center (thanks mainly to Niel Stephenson, I have to admit) -- when and what was its role in fashion?

As for Heian Japan: where, outside of Heian-kyo itself, did the fashion-related trade and innovation take place? (I have a hard time believing anyone in the courts of Korea or China cared what the Japanese aristocracy was up to...)

#161 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:12 PM:

#143:

Home-made Thomas the Tank Engine images on girl's underwear == fanfic?

#162 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:18 PM:

@J Austin #153 & kouredios #151
Perhaps I was drastically inflating small things into large ones? The thought, in my head but apparently not in text yet, is that gender roles are kind of important, even at the same time they separate us and allow for sexism. In a basically desexualized society I think we can do without them (and good riddance). I liked boy things and still had trouble. The issue isn't toys, it was my (probably mistaken) perception that the goal was eliminating boundaries between men and women by withholding gender identity.

@Dan Layman-Kennedy #154
A) Because we learn our sexuality from the people around us. Because those other people have gender roles which play into their sexuality.
B) Because having little or no idea ensures that you have no place in the sexualized parts of society. If you want to promote isolation from sex, you're in a very different mindset than I am.

None of this is supposed to imply that the current gender roles are what they should be. I don't think that stoicism should be layed unevenly on men, or that desire for the well-being of others should be layed unevenly on women (among other things).

@Jenny #158
(if you keep posting when I preview, I'm never going to post!)
I'm not sure I've kept my wording straight, and I'm sure that if I haven't it's made things confusing. What I think a child needs is Gender Identity (male, female). I don't actually know how a child forms their gender identity, but my guess is a comparison of their behaviors against the Gender Roles (Man, Woman, Tomboy, Sissy, Androgenous, whatever) they see around them. I guess my half-answer is, if you want your child to have a rare Role, you may have to role model it (clearly, I'm getting punchy now).
I certainly don't have meaningful psychological data on the topic, but I hope I've at least waved my hands in the direction of the Gender Identity/Sexuality connection, because I'm decreasingly coherent and need to sleep.

#163 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:22 PM:

My goodness, this thread moves. In lengthy answer to quite a few things posted over the last 12 hours...


anaea @ 59: To everything you said about "never hit a woman" and all that chivalric rot whose premise is that women are fragile china vases that must be protected and given special treatment, and our conversational tendencies to blame things on estrogen and testosterone even where not appropriate: brava, brava, bravissima, encore.


PVR @ 61: You are mistaking me for someone who agrees with the whole "womb envy" thing. Don't. When I call out your over-emphasis on women's breeding capabilities, I am referring to this: "True masculinity does not lie in the domination of women, grinding them under foot, but in the exhaltation of women, the givers of life and the bringers-forth of our future as humans." [emphases mine] I don't want to be your Fertility Goddess, PVR. I don't even want to be fertile. That your wife raises fertility to the top of her Why I Am Worthwhile list should not be extrapolated to the general case.

(In light of your post @ 125, and your total shock that anyone thinks you want to put women on a pedestal, I would like to remind you that you said "exaltation of women.")

Now, as for this:

as to the heterocentric nature of my comments, what can I say? DV is overwhelmingly a problem created by hetero males against hetero females. Obviously it's the hetero males with the problem, hence I am discussing a "solution" in terms of hetero males needing a mission for their lives and a way to change their paradigm and escape the shackles of misogyny.
...that would be all well and good, except that you didn't stop at making Serving/Exalting Women be solution for domestic violence. You turned it into a General Good: "Every boy should aspire to be a Real Man. Real Men are men who embrace Service. Perhaps the highest possible expression of Service can be found in serving a female." This kind of language doesn't encourage the reader to see your proposal as simply a solution to domestic violence. It comes across like a Proclamation of General Good In Any Situation. I mean, it's not like you said, "Every man married to a woman whom he could potentially abuse." You spoke in terms of every boy, every man, everywhere. This is why the questions "Why so gender-centric?" "What about same-sex relationships?" "Is Serving/Exalting The Woman still the highest good for a gay man, even though the love of his life isn't a woman?" remain valid.

Also, in your 125, defending the idea of gender distinctions: "We each have differing strong points and weak points...." Good luck getting everyone to agree on which strong and weak points those are. I think the near impossibility of getting to that agreement points up the general uselessness of prescribing universal behavior based on gender distinctions.


Bruce Cohen @ 74: Your words about words are wise. Personally, I get uncomfortable when I hear people referring to women using terms that infantilize and sexualize them simultaneously: "babe." "chick." "hottie." (Or worse, ones that dehumanize: "hot little number," "nice little piece.") I used to point it out, but I backed down in the face of the usual "don't ask me to be politically correct" rebuttal. I wonder whether I should go back to a thoughtful vocal stance on these issues. There is room for contextual tolerance of some of these phrases, I shouldn't be too anal about it, but still: the way we talk about women is both a symptom of and a propagation of how we as a society treat women.

Or men, too! Another thing I get uncomfortable around: My mother telling me, after I've indulged in a little marital griping - "Honey, that's just men. Men do that." I want to say, "I don't believe that. I can't let myself believe that," but Mom's just gonna come back with "I've been around at least 25 years longer than you, I know what I'm talking about."

You remind me also that I need to be careful about what kind of marital griping I do, and to whom. Careless remarks I made to the barista the other night. Griping I do on the phone to Mom. There are so many ingrained ways of cutting spouses down in public. They sound funny. They sound like just harmless commisseration and blowing off steam. They're not nearly as harmless as they look.


JC @ 139: "I keep expecting the traditional knitting discussion to start up any minute now. (Every time one of them pops up, I feel the urge to learn how to knit.)" Oh, give in already! It's loads of fun! And we need all the male knitters we can get, 'cause as everybody knows, men don't knit. (Of course, come to think of it, the full stereotype continues, "and if any men do knit, they must be gay." Which your knitting wouldn't exactly disprove. But still--!)

#164 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Note that when I said "posts in the last 12 hours," I was necessarily excluding everything since Diatryma's 140. Stupid fascinating fast-moving thread.

I have a friend who went out of her way to follow her son's lead on toys. He has dolls and trucks. And the truck is pink.

I think that in matters of identity it's best to follow the child's lead. So much harm comes of telling the child "This is who you are" and leaving him or her no room to differ. I'd much rather err on the side of asking the child "Who are you?" and, if the child is a little confused on the matter, not panicking at his/her confusion. Heck, many of us don't really know who we are, sexually or otherwise, until our 20s or 30s. Or later. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. What's wrong is a society pushing us to decide, decide, conform, decide.

Slogan for the genderless era: "I'm OK With Your Ambiguity!"

#165 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Jenny @ 141

My mother made baby sweaters in colors like pastel orange, yellow, and green. Pink and blue - never. She figured the sweaters could be used for any kid, and wasn't going down the pink/girls and blue/boys aisle. (To my parents' credit, they didn't do that with us, either. We had non-gender-specific toys, outside of what other people gave us or we bought ourselves. Building blocks and construction equipment, yes; dolls, not so much.)

#166 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:46 PM:

Heh, maydaka (157), that is rather unpleasantly plausible. Though you do occasionally get names that change the other way, feminine to masculine. Julian is one. Christian is another.

(slight riff/ tangent): I wonder if maydaka's theory is relevant to something that's occurred to me about riding horses. 300 years ago, riding = predominantly masculine; for a woman to ride astride, rather than side saddle, was incredibly indelicate, and I get the impression that being involved in horsey things was more typical of men than women (though correct me if I'm wrong, oh ye knowledgeable people of Making Light).

Nowadays (in the UK at least) riding is so much of a 'girly' activity that an adult man can have trouble finding a riding stables that keeps horses large enough to carry him. (The gender balance is the other way among professional equestrians; but see cook: chef for a similar pattern).

This seems very strange and I wonder if it's related to the fact that riding ain't exactly cutting edge technology anymore.
I wonder also if it means that say in a couple of hundred years time, riding and taking care of motorbikes, or aircraft, or the like, will be seen as an incredibly feminine pursuit.

(Though the boy-->girl = downslide in social class analogy doesn't work for riding, it's become more upper-class if anything).

right, I'm starting to speculate and ramble rather wildly, and have other things I should be doing... look forward to seeing where this thread has got to in 24 hours!


#167 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:47 PM:

mayakda, sorry, I spelt your name wrong in the post above.

#168 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Scott @162
"The issue isn't toys, it was my (probably mistaken) perception that the goal was eliminating boundaries between men and women by withholding gender identity."

Not at all. To me, femininity and masculinity are important, it's just that the current ideals of what are masculine and feminine traits and roles have always made me uncomfortable. I guess maybe I feel like "feminine" and "masculine" shouldn't apply to societal roles at all. To me, gender identity has no bearing on what I'm capable of, only how I present myself. I like to look pretty, to dress up, to be attractive for both myself and so other people will notice. I don't think that's especially a female trait, only what goes into the presentation, which is dictated by fashion.

Wow, this is a hard personal thing to nail down, isn't it? The goal *is* eliminating boundaries, but not necessarily minimizing differences. It's not that gender identity is unimportant, I just don't think it has (or should have) a lot to do with any accepted gender role.

#169 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Scott @ 137

Corsets and bras are like shoes. Anything that fits closely and gives support also binds to a certain extent. That is part and parcel of "support". If that support becomes uncomfortable after a time, then the fit is wrong. If the women you know are in pain or discomfort after an hour or two, I suggest they go to a corsetiere and get properly fit.

There is math involved in getting the right fit, so buying off the rack if you don't know what you need is a hit-and-miss proposition.

#170 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 03:53 PM:

I like Scott's comments in #149. I like them a lot.

Now, regarding the many comments on corsets...

IMHO the corset has an unfair reputation, based on the repression of the Victorian era. As a practical garment, I think the corset is seeing a resurgence with women for whom the bra can be torture.

So far as I can tell, it all comes down to engineering: wear points and the distribution of weight.

A woman who is substantially busted (like my wife) can find even a well-made bra murderous. I've literally seen my wife's shoulders bleed; and she's already got permanent dents in her shoulders because of twenty years of having the full weight of her breasts compressed down on the narrow points where her bra straps ride over her shoulder.

Now, one might argue she should just go bra-less. She does this inside the home. But when she goes outside? Beyond fashion, there is the practical problem that she doesn't want to be "swinging in the wind" as it were. She needs support and control.

The first time she wore a corset, it was a revelation for her. The corset did everything bras are supposed to do, yet it distributed the weight of her breasts across a vastly greater area; basically her whole torso. No more gouging shoulder straps. And the strain on her back was much reduced, in the same way my dad (who has a back injury) reduces back pain by strapping a sports "kidney belt" around his middle when he is doing construction or lifting, etc.

My wife liked the corset so much, she immediately put her seamstress skills to use and went out and bought additional boning, sewing it into the existing corset at specific points so that the support became even greater, where she needed it.

No, she does not wear the corset all the time. But as a foundational support garment, I think it was redeemed in her eyes. And I think this is true for many women. My wife has since become something of a "corset advocate" amongst her feminist friends and fellow students.

Perhaps the corset once did represent the possessive control over the female body that Victorianism exhibited. But I think modern feminists are taking the corset and revolutionizing it. New construction materials and fabrics and approach to design have rebirthed it. It's no longer the "fainting mechanism" it once was; though such extreme corsetry still exists for the fetishists and the connoisseurs.

#171 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:00 PM:

The other thing to remember about supportive garments (be they bras, corsets, shoes, or stockings) is that one's person's comfortably strong, entirely necessary support is another person's unbearable constraint, and, conversely, one person's comfortable, barely-there-but-adequate coverage is another's useless bit of fabric that might as well not be there at all.

I can walk miles on little ballet flats that offer no support, and very little goodge. Don't even suggest I burn my bras for feminism—can't go downstairs without one. I have friends who can cheerfully wear those tank tops with shelf-bras, and not want additional support, but don't think of asking them to wear shoes without orthotics, or their arches fall halfway across the room.

Bodies don't come in off-the-rack sizes, nor do tolerances for support/constraint.

#172 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:01 PM:

Also, having made and fitted corsets for several periods of historic clothing, I fell safe saying corsets are only seriously restrictive when they are used to significantly reduce the size of the waistline and severely compress the ribcage--the technical term for this is "tight-lacing".

A corset not employed for tight-lacing is not significantly more restrictive than a long-line bra--it is likely to support the breasts in different ways than a bra does, and especially does not put as much strain on the shoulders and back, which is very imporant to the full-breasted.

Think of it this way: corset = neutral undergarment vs. tight-lacing = extreme and potentially dangerous physical restriction, just as shoe = neutral footwear vs. old Chinese tradition of footbinding = extreme and dangerous physical restriction.

Most women who wore corsets in the Victorian era, or other periods, were not practicing tight-lacing.

#173 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Peter @ 160

Lyon: Silk fabric weaving, especially brocades. (Things I Learned reading the Lymond series.)

#174 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Scott, 162:
A) Because we learn our sexuality from the people around us. Because those other people have gender roles which play into their sexuality.
B) Because having little or no idea ensures that you have no place in the sexualized parts of society. If you want to promote isolation from sex, you're in a very different mindset than I am.

I think I understand where you're coming from with this, but I also think I disagree. Speaking only from personal experience, I think what you want out of sex will make itself known to you no matter what, with potentially very little to do with how you've been gendered; and a little ambiguity to start with isn't such a bad thing when those voices start manifesting.

#175 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:57 PM:

jennie @ #171: well said!

fidelio @ #172: Also well said!

Nicole @ #163: a small quibble. My wife places childbirth at the top of her "Why Am I Here" list, not necessarily at the top of her "Why I am Worthwhile" list. Those are two different lists for her, the former deriving from external forces and genetics and biology and her religion, the latter being entirely self-defined and self-created by her. I think she does a good job balancing them.

As for the rest, you make valid points. I'm not going to rehash what I have already said, suffice to say we view things differently in some ways. Obviously not everyone is going to agree with my whole thing about service to women. I put it out there because that's how I feel whenever DV and misogyny comes up. You and others have rebutted, and I can see where you're coming from, even if I still retain my stance.

Greg London: you've put several posts in here that I agree with very much. Your "Princess Bride" story is actually touching IMHO. That's exactly the kind of thing I am talking about, in terms of the whole "Service to women" thing. To my mind a husband's service to his wife is essential to the health of the marriage. I, too, often find myself serving my wife, and in return I am content to simply have her love me. Maybe some people think this is weird, but I think in many healthy hetero relationships, you will discover the same pattern. And I think there is nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all.

JC @ #94 nailed it when he pointed out that, in any behavioral shift, you have to start SOMEWHERE. If we're specifically discussing misogyny and violence against women, and how to "solve" this problem, I think my suggestions along the line of service are a terrific starting point. I never meant to imply that service begins and ends with men serving women exclusively or to the cost of all else. It's a place to focus, a place where I think most hetero men, even abusers, can find an anchor and begin building a new self definition. From that initial sprouting can grow many branches.

All, regarding assigned genderism in child-rearing...

My general take is this. Too much control is bad for kids. Too little control is also bad for kids. As parents we have to walk this middle ground where we provide structure without stricture, allow freedom without floundering.

I only have a daughter right now. I think it's easier having and raising a daughter, as a father, than raising a son. Because I don't mind that she's a "tom boy".

Would I get uncomfortable if my hypothetical 3-year-old son liked to go into Mama's closet and put on her heels and wear a boa and had an affinity for pink stuff? Honestly, yeah. Would I take these things away from him? Tell him he is bad? Shove a baseball bat and a glove in his hand? No. I'd want to monitor the situation and see where he went with that. I myself grew up with an older sister whom I tagged along with all the time and so I was always playing with she and her friends and doing "girl stuff" from age 2 to about 6. It never "damaged" me in any way that I can recognize.

But I do not think it's a good idea to provide no direction at all for children. Kids, so far as I can tell, do best when they enjoy choices within boundaries. Too little choice, and they will backlash. Too few boundaries, and they will react similarly.

#176 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Jenny said (#79):
I didn't know that about Turkish, but Hungarian also has no gender in the third person (which can lead to some odd effects in translation: I've heard a Hungarian speaking English consistently refer to his daughter as 'he', which gave me a real mental jolt!).

I know exactly what you mean. I remember my (Turkish) girlfriend in grad school, referring to her mother as "he" -- and after I expressed my joltedness, she explained why it was difficult for her to keep track of gendered pronouns in English...

#177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:02 PM:

"Chief, we have a bit of a problem with the upcoming issue of Thrilling Space Yarns."
"Yes?"
"We were all excited about getting the latest serial from Ed Bangington, Corsairs of the Space Lanes."
"Indeed we all were. It's a rip-roaring tale. One of his best."
"We even got Margaret Bondage to do the cover art. Unfortunately..."
"Yesss?"
"Bondage and the typesetter both got a copy of the manuscript with a slight typo in it."
"How slight?"
"Well. They all thought the title was Corsets of the Space Lanes."

#178 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Dan @ #174:
I think what you want out of sex will make itself known to you no matter what, with potentially very little to do with how you've been gendered

It's held true for me. Born female, raised female with most of the usual baby-dolls-and-make-up roles pushed at me... finally figured out that I identified best as a female-bodied genderqueer pansexual, and if you really wanted to pin me down I'd just say 'androgynous' and be done with it.

I doubt my poor mother could have prepared for that. *grins* And I doubt making my experience of gender roles more rigid would have made anything easier; it was quite hard enough as it was being 'female' but not quite comfortable being one thing or the other and not knowing why. I would've gone completely out of my tiny little mind if I hadn't had a little leeway.

It hasn't made me isolated from sex, either.

I've yet to see or experience anything that leads me to believe children must be given one of two gender roles to emulate, lest they be lost in hopeless confusion. Gender, even moreso than physical sex, isn't binary.

#179 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:17 PM:

Serge @ 177

ROFL! (I'd like to see that cover. Does the corset have a pocket for a blaster?)

My brother is a good cook; my sister and I get lost in hardware stores (ooh, tools!). We know what gender and orientation we are, but what we do outside the bedrooms is not usually a result of our gender and orientation.

#180 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Serge #177: Probably as exiting as the saga of Otto Titzling.

#181 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:20 PM:

PRV, I'm not going to tell you that there's anything wrong with your relationship with your wife—not my business, and I've had my share of relationships the details of which others found bewildering, to say the least.

I'd simply like to note what happens if I regender the following part of your explanation of "service" in marriage:

You wrote,

I, too, often find myself serving my wife, and in return I am content to simply have her love me. Maybe some people think this is weird, but I think in many healthy hetero relationships, you will discover the same pattern. And I think there is nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all.

Let me regender that first sentence:

I, too, often find myself serving my husband, and in return I am content to simply have him love me.

If one of my friends said stuff like this very often, I'd be deeply concerned.

Again, I'm not questioning your assertion that the dynamic in your marriage is one that works for you and your wife.

I don't think it would work for me.

But, like bodies, characters and psyches do not come in off-the-rack sizes and shapes.

#182 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Re: Gender assignments and sexual identity:

My sister and I were raised to work alongside our very macho farmer/logger/construction worker dad, being his only children and the ones there when he needed someone to help tear the roof off the old chicken house he was converting to a cow barn, or bleed the brakes on the bulldozer. I got a wrecking bar of my very own before I started grade school, and learned to weave shingles at nine.

The result is that we grew up to be what a lesbian friend of mine has labeled "straight dykes"- we've always been attracted to males, are now in stable, long term, heterosexual marriages, but our affect and day to day dress is very guy-like. In many ways, we mess with the heads of heteronormative sorts more than we would if we were attracted to women.

#183 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Regarding gendering children: I don't know if anyone remembers the NYT article many months ago about a hermaphrodite, sexed at birth (hermaphrodites are nearly always sexed female because "it's easier to make a hole than a pole"), who is now a crusader against this procedure. The procedure itself is pretty awful--if the clit/penis (a growth that will develop into one or the other once puberty hits) is more than x number of centimeters, they make the kid a boy. If it's less, they make the kid a girl. Anyway this woman(?) has organized lots of people who were forcibly sexed as infants. Most parents are told by their doctors that if you don't do it to their newborns, the kid will wind up so confused, ambiguous, and distraught, they'll never fit in socially, etc. The reality is that most of these kids wind up feeling even more confused, ambiguous, and distraught, and because of horrible scarring and damn-near mutilation they can't enjoy sex with anybody. Most of them advocate for leaving the kid alone until he/she is old enough to make a choice about choosing a gender at ALL, and if they DO choose, it's their choice based on their actual life experiences. I remember doing tons of research about this phenomenon in college and let me tell you, it's pretty gruesome, and the suicide rate is extremely high...


In unrelated but relevant news: speaking of feminism in action...

#184 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Fragano @ 180... Probably as exiting as the saga of Otto Titzling.

Exiting? Has he got a... how to put it?... a bowel problem?

#185 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Scott:
Don't look now, your defensiveness is showing.

Don't look now, you're being a patronizing jerk in a typical male tactic when arguing with a woman - evade the actual topic and instead attack her personally. Brilliant!

I was telling you why I felt I had a right to OPEN MY FAT GOB. And you're telling me that I'm telling you your wrong? Please, reread with the notion that I was trying to explain myself, not attack you.

Let's see. I say I have an experience. You avoid answering the question as to whether you have any experience, and instead cite what you guess about what other people and use it to dismiss my experience as

Sure, your experience is likely closer than mine.

and

perhaps, to people they are comfortable

What, my word isn't good enough for you? Or I'm not a person?
Your experience with Victorian corsets - which you have once again avoided explaining - is somehow greater than mine? That's quite possible if you do the drag thing or the fetish thing, but I'm still waiting to hear your answer as to what exactly your experience is other than observing some women - how many exactly is that?

Sure, you have a right to open your gob and dismiss women's actual experiences as "perhaps" valid or "likely closer". And I have a right to tell you you're being patronizing and are right on the edge of calling me a liar.

And then we have

But I've been around enough corsets being unhooked and heard the gulp of air, and watched the face of relaxation erupt to form a meaningful opinion.

And you've never seen a woman take off her bra and go "ahhh!" or kick off her shoes and wiggle her toes happily?

You've done a dishonest little slide from your original position, which was that corsets are physically incapacitating, which is rubbish, to claiming that corsets are merely nice to take off, which is blitheringly obvious and hardly something which qualitatively distinguishes corsets from a number of other items one puts on the body. Like hair elastics. And tennis shoes.

If you want to argue from actual experience, feel free to explain your actual experiences actually wearing Victorian corsets (specify by decade please, since as you of course know the styles vary over time) and we can see if it's significant enough to give you anything like an informed opinion.

Or you can just re-open your gob and keep going about how "perhaps" I might know what I'm talking about.

#186 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Serge @177 - The Chief's solution is simple - tell Bangington to re-write so the story fits the cover!

P. J. @ 179 - why just one pocket for a blaster? The well-armed corset-wearer should always have a spare :-)

#187 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Serge #184: Perhaps, but nothing to get excited about.

#188 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:31 PM:

P J @ 179... Does the corset have a pocket for a blaster?

Of course not. What do you think the cleavage of a Pirate Queen is for?

Coming soon... Corsages of the Space Lanes...

#189 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Gotta agree with the fear aspect. Here's what I posted in his comments:

Me, I think it’s fear. Too many men are afraid they are not strong so they bolster themselves by punishing the weak, just because they can. Too many men are afraid of how lust takes over their thoughts and makes them lose control so they subjegate what they see as the origin of that lust, either by punishing women for being attractive or by just raping them to get what they want. Too many men are afraid of how their friends and family will regard them if the women under their control try to defy orders and live for themselves. Too many men are afraid of life in general, and they banish the fear by becoming an object of fear themselves. And too many women agree with this and stand by as it happens.

I don’t think womb-envy answers it. I suspect Joss personally envies the womb but lacks even the slightest fear of women that would help him recognize it in others. This is a Good Thing, and should be spread around.

#190 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:35 PM:

JESR at 182, you have just given me a perfect descriptor for a friend of mine. She's not terribly feminine in her day-to-day life-- loves to dress up, but daily wear? That's jeans and a T-shirt. Three older brothers gave her a lot of masculine body language to imprint on, and observing her father speaking at church gave her a somewhat minister-like public speaking manner. She has been confusing people for years because she is, as far as they can tell, one of the guys, often with one or two very strong female friendships... but is not gay. This has caused some problems in the past.

#191 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Dropping by again to add to the list of people who've worn corsets (in seventeenth century re-enactment) and think they're quite comfortable when not tight-laced, not to mention flattering. They improve your posture, too.

Also, long, heavy woollen skirts, with lots of petticoats under them, aren't such an encumbrance as you'd think they'd be. You have lots of freedom to move around inside them, they are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, you can use them to protect your hands if you have to pick up something hot. The only thing that I can remember that was a pain to do in skirt and petticoats was climbing a tree.

Women did heavy manual work in these kind of clothes, so they had to be practical and fairly easy to move around in. I guess it's pretty much the same as today, where the high fashion items are restrictive and can be quite painful to wear (stiletto heels, anyone?) but everyday clothes are more comfortable.

#192 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:37 PM:

JESR @ #182: Hah! My wife is the prototypical "straight dyke" in a lot of ways. I think that does confuse a lot of guys. But gay women too. She's had lots of encounters with gay women who hit on her, then get mad when she demurs and says she's both straight and married.

"No you're not!"
"Yes, I am."
"But... But... NO YOU'RE NOT!!!"
"Sorry, I like dick."
"AAAUGHHHH!!!!!!"

Another funny part about that. My wife is pretty protective of me in certain situations. Like the gym. She thrives in the gym. I hate the gym. She is a jock. I am not. Once, we were at the gym, and the prototypical short-man-syndrome muscle-bound jerk came up to me and basically tried to intimidate me off a machine. My wife was there in a flash telling him to cool his jets.

He was this close (hold up thumb and forefinger ever so slightly apart) to throwing a punch at her. He didn't do it, mostly because I think he realized that picking a fight with my wife would have made him look even more small-penised and tawdry than he already looked.

I just smiled at him, and kept using the machine.

'Tis good to be married to a "straight dyke".

#193 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Serge said (#177):
"Chief, we have a bit of a problem with the upcoming issue of Thrilling Space Yarns."

This is one of those magazine about knitting in zero-g, isn't it?

#194 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Serge, I hope that blaster's padded. It's not a comfortable location to keep objects that are very solid or have projections. Why you want a pocket there...

Corsages of the Spaceways/em> ... orchids, perhaps?

#195 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Womb envy is, perhaps, a small part of it.

More of it is property and power = labor. Control of labor is necessary to accumulate property. Women are labor. They birth children, and children too are labor. Property benefit plus power benefit to males.

Additionally males NEED women for every unvalued labor there is. Most of that unvalued labor involves nurturing and cherishing and feeding and cleaning and caring and all that icky stuff that men can't stand to do for themselves, but can't function without. So they hate you, coz you're all mixed up in that icky stuff, whether blood and baby poo, or telling you how wonderful you are when you know you're a looser.

Like in caste systems: despising those who do the necessary labor of death, whether for food (butchering) or for clothing (tanning) or for funerals (corpse washers are also usually women). We are so much better than them that those who do that work HAVE to do all that icky stuff and we = powerful males (and our women) do not!

However, there is also some womb envy going on.

In many a male African secret society that I have men take the birthing thing away from women via ritual birthing of their sons. Sometimes it literally is the birthing of their sons, and sometimes it is a ritual re-birth into manhood, and sometimes they do both.

Constance

#196 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:51 PM:

P J @ 194:
I hope that blaster's padded. It's not a comfortable location to keep objects that are very solid or have projections. Why you want a pocket there...

Solid round objects are okay. Veterans of distraction pool could make multiple billiard balls disappear into a corset. Pointy objects not so good.

#197 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Big post covering many points here:

PRV @ 65, if you want to give up your seat on the train and thing it's okay on weekends, go for it. But don't preach it, and don't think that what you're doing is anything other than misguided politeness. Making the bed for your wife is something you can do in any relationship where you have that kind of emotional investment, and is something you might do for a complete stranger if you took it onto yourself to help them out.

@ Greg London with references to Buttercup behavior, I highly doubt that things are actually so one sided. They might be, but then I'm going to raise an eyebrow at your relationship and suspect it's not as healthy as it might be. Sure, I ask for help reaching things in my relationship when I could climb on the counter, get a step stool, or just stop what I'm doing to get it, but then I tend to fix his collar, give him a second opinion about outfit choices, and a lot of other little things that make life easier for him and don't cost me much of anything. That's not service, it's symbiosis.

Renatus at 69, I think the issue here is that there are two victims, and I do blame one of them. Women as a whole are victimized by their own perceptions of their weakness, and that same perception reflected back to them by society. And every woman who accepts that social perception and lets it make themselves feel threatened and defenseless is a victim I blame because they're doing it to themselves. Abusers, like the boyfriend you mentioned, are responsible for their actions, not their victims, and I heartily wish all such abusers to get what's coming to them triple-fold. But I wasn't talking about DV or rape victims, I was talking about women as a population, and I hold them responsible for their tendency to victimize themselves by making excuses for unnecessary weakness.

If you want to learn to defend yourself, money, time, etc., are excuses. Make the time, and money isn't nearly the issue it's made out to be. If you don't want to do this, then that's a valid choice, but it's a choice you've made for yourself. Acknowledge it, and don't assume that the consequences of your choice apply to every woman.

Rebecca at 73, I'm not arguing that hormone levels in women don't change drastically from day to day. I'm also not arguing that these changes exacerbate preexisting conditions or can be so severe as to be a condition in and of themselves. But I absolutely reject the idea of a normal, healthy female using PMS etc., as an excuse for bad behavior. If women really are victims of their biology to the point that they spend five days out of the month uncontrollably grumpy and irrational then I don't see how we can claim to be just as productive and beneficial in the workplace etc., as the segment of the population that doesn't lose five days out of the month. The male versions of this myth attack their ability to peacefully resolve conflicts and to maintain fidelity - and that's just as feeble as an excuse for bad behavior.

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @74, what you're talking about is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which lots of people like to use to make grand arguments about the power of language, and which linguists have found to be based on faulty data, and in the strong form Whorf presents, false. Weaker versions of that theory talk about "framing" which does indicate that the way things are phrased affects how you interpret them and perceive them, but it isn't absolute and it's inescapable. I'm not aware of any data that indicates that ungendered pronouns will end misogyny.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 163, *bows*

Finally, for the people discussing corsets - I tried one off the rack to see if it was better than killer bras and had disastrous fitting results. I'm considering getting one that's fitted properly, but I'm concerned about overheating. How much hotter (temperature wise, not aesthetically) is a corset than a bra?

#198 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Susan @ 196

I was imagining what a blaster might be like in my cleavage, and shuddering a bit. Speaking as one who has been poked by underwires that have escaped the end of the casing, that isn't fun. A billiard ball in the cleavage, on the other hand, would be considerably more comfortable.

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:08 PM:

P J, Susan... It's a small snub-nosed blaster, without any sharp edges. Just make sure the safety is on.

#200 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Bruce 74: Nitpick: it does have a possessive form, but it's rarely used. It's emphatic and usually insulting.

JC 139: Hear, hear.

Scott 162: I can't be understanding your theory of sexuality correctly. You can't possibly think people develop sexuality only from the messages that surround them. If that were true, there would be NO homosexuals in most modern societies, and I am a counterexample of that.

Nicole 163: YAY! And I say "Well, I find it unacceptable" in at least a couple of the situations you describe.

—, 164: BRAVA!!!!!

Peter 193: I will go out on a limb and state categorically that you cannot knit a corset. (I bet Susan could, but Susan can do anything.)

anaea 197: When I read the end of this comment I suddenly had a vision of a corset with cooling pipes in the boning...you'd pour cool water in one end, and half an hour later go to the ladies' and empty out the hot water from the other end, and refill.

Or, of course, you could become a human samovar, but that requires you to get hotter than is healthy for anyone other than Johnny Storm, who as far as I know never wore a corset.

And now I wish I could draw all my favorite superheroes in corsets. But I can't. I'm going home now.

#201 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:26 PM:

mayakda @ 157:

I hang out on the message board at Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing, and the topic of using boys' names on girls comes up all the time there. You're right that when a name like Leslie goes to the girls, parents of boys shun it. What is perhaps even more infuriating is the reasoning often given for giving a girl a traditionally male name: "I want her to have a strong name." Because only boys' names are strong, of course.

#202 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:26 PM:

Serge 199: P J, Susan... It's a small snub-nosed blaster, without any sharp edges. Just make sure the safety is on.

It's just a naïve domestic blaster without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

#203 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:33 PM:

anea@197, the heat issue is one reason I don't wear a corset for non-vintage dance very often (not never, just not very often). I find those extra layers rather too warm for my liking. That said, one can obtain summer-weight corsets, made from lighter cotton, which might mitigate the problem somewhat. Possibly not enough for my taste (I am a creature of cool climes and wilt in his brutal southern Ontario heat we're getting).

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:48 PM:

jennie @ 203.. If you think that southern Ontario is too warm, where do you currently live? Next door to the Fortress of Solitude? (I wonder how the Postal Service knows when something must be delivered to Superman's Fortress of Solitude or to Doc Savage's. Maybe they are in different zip codes.)

#205 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Constance wrote at #195: "In many a male African secret society that I have men take the birthing thing away from women via ritual birthing of their sons. Sometimes it literally is the birthing of their sons, and sometimes it is a ritual re-birth into manhood, and sometimes they do both."

How many African secret societies do you possess? Or is it that you've studied them?

#206 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Jennie @ 203, thanks. I've got the same temperament. I keep moving north, and it keeps being much too hot for my comfort.

#207 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 07:14 PM:

Jenny @ 166 : Quite a few things can be explained by girl cootie phobia. I'm waiting for it to show up in the DSM IV. Any minute now. (And no problem about the misspell.)

Constance @ 195 : I agree. I think a visiting alien anthropologist would conclude that humans generally have a caste system, with women forming a lower caste.

Jen @ 201: I've never seen that site before. Fun reading. Thanks.

#208 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Xopher 200:

You can knit a corset, but I think you'd have to be fairly small in the bust to get adequate support.

If you *do draw superheroes in corsets, please, PLEASE send the result to Girl-Wonder.org. They'd love it.

#209 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:09 PM:

PRV's "be nice to your womenfolk" reminds me of Chris Rock's "N-----s versus Black People." Which is a bit iffy to riff off of, being as a lot of people took it as a license to be racists, but I think if you step back to the level of "there are some dumbasses, and they're screwing it up for the rest of us" it's widely applicable.

Anyway, the bit I'm thinking of most here is, "N-----s always want credit for some shit they're supposed to do. They'll brag about stuff a normal man just does. They'll say something like, 'Yeah, well I take care of my kids.' You're supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! 'I ain't never been to jail.' Whaddya want? A cookie?!"

"Serve your womenfolk because they're so different and awesome" ain't new. Every culture in history and the modern world has that. The burka supposedly protects women because they're so unsuited to deal with the harshnesses of the world. Dueling in the 1700s supposedly served women by killing people to recover their honor. Failing to fund women's football serves women who might otherwise get head injuries playing.

Only since women have started demanding everything men have have they gotten any equality at all. "Separate spheres but equal worth" has never once worked anywhere ever. "Serve with humility even when you're serving a jerk"? This must be where bigots get their baffling assertions that women want to "have it both ways"... By assuming that women are so different they'll never stop getting all the "perks" of being owned. As every other responder to PRV said, the only thing that works in the grand scheme of humanity is to treat everyone as a human.

And being nice to your womenfolk isn't even sufficient as a reply to Joss's post. I bet Mr. Courtney Solomon of the "Captivity" tortureporn billboards could point to his wife, daughters, mother, and sisters, and say, "Well, she doesn't think photos of tortured women on billboards used to sell a movie are bad, so they're not bad!" Creating his own little echochamber of warm relations isn't going to stop a man from treating everyone else like filth.

Hell, I'm pretty sure Jesus said something like "it's a piss-poor man who's only nice to his friends", but I'm not enough of a Biblical scholar to find the exact quote.

#210 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Am I the only one who thinks Thrilling Space Yarns ought to be about knitting with cosmic string? Or just the only one tasteless enough to mention it?

#211 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:33 PM:

Madeline F #209: "Failing to fund women's football serves women who might otherwise get head injuries playing."

Somebody(ies) actually claimed this? I am gobsmacked.

#212 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:39 PM:

Serge, I'm waiting for Coronets of Space.

#213 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Fragano, that's just silly. You can't even play a coronet in space; there's no air.

What?

It is?

Never mind.

#214 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:50 PM:

[ Constance wrote at #195: "In many a male African secret society that I have men take the birthing thing away from women via ritual birthing of their sons. Sometimes it literally is the birthing of their sons, and sometimes it is a ritual re-birth into manhood, and sometimes they do both."

How many African secret societies do you possess? Or is it that you've studied them? ]

Typo, typo, typ.

"that I have familiarity with ..."

Obviously, I do not possess those societies.

But they have come my way, in many ways. Probably, more to the point for thpse men, and for the women who are in their families, and who have their own secret societies that deal with gender, members of those societies have studied me, and my relationships.

Constance

#215 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Thrilling Space Yarns is the pulp magazine for both knitters and crocheters (crochetiers?) and theoretical physicists, mostly of the superstring variety. The sister publication, Braniacs & Glitter Glue from Points Beyond never really caught on with the brane/scrapbooking crowd.

#216 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:57 PM:

197: @ Greg London with references to Buttercup behavior, I highly doubt that things are actually so one sided. They might be, but then I'm going to raise an eyebrow at your relationship and suspect it's not as healthy as it might be.

Ya know, here's the thing. I never said they were one-sided. I was telling you how my wife and I are different. I do things for her to show her I love her. She just loves me, and I know when its there and when it isn't.

She's better at things that I suck at. I'm better at some things that are difficult for her.

She's got a huge heart and is great with people, I am socially deaf and blind. I'm an engineer, and she'd never turned on a computer until she met me. I try not to let her operate power tools, and she generally handles the shared relationships/friendships we have.

It's clearly not one-sided, but we are clearly an example of opposites attract. We are clearly different. Whether that translates to men and women as a whole, I dunno. I have a feeling that there are two different bell curves, one for men and one for women, and they probably overlap, but they're also probably got some unique spaces to them.

Not that I'm advocating "seperate but equal" between men and women, but I'm trying to figure out how to acknowledge some statistical differences without sounding like a sexist pig, or getting eyebrows raised at me from people thinking I'm in an unhealthy marriage. Women are generally shorter than men, live longer than men. Men are more likely to be the perpetrators of crime and the victim of homocides and assaults, women are more likely to be the victims of sexual assaults.

Is the goal to make the statistics turn out 50-50 down gender lines and to erase any differences between men and women? Or is the goal to separate the differences from the discriminations?

Because I was telling you about the differences between my wife and myself, and I don't think we'll ever be identical. We're more like inverted. But that doesn't mean its one-sided or that there's discrimination, or that there's something wrong with my marriage.


#217 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:09 PM:

In re: male service to women:

I believe it was Peter Wimsy who said that chivalry is, at bottom, based on the desire to keep all the fun to oneself. Harriet let him do all the punting anyway, but it was understood that she was ceding her share of the fun to his better enjoyment, and to let him show off.

I object to the idea that men in general should serve women in general, or even in specific, because it's my experience that such service has high costs to the recipient. In a lot of cases, men expect that if they serve, women will be worthy of their service - whatever worthy means. It's often badly articulated. Unworthiness is punished - which brings us back to honor killings in a swift and vicious loop.

The free stuff is never actually free. It is my experience that when a male person offers me any extraordinary favor at no monetary cost, I am generally better off paying cash. In intimate relationships, the trade in extraordinary favors should run about even, so that everyone's needs are met and no one feels cheated.

To those of you who say that all you get from your female partners is love, and that's enough, I wonder what your female partners would say of that. It's actually a terribly unflattering statement you're making. I direct you to Tom Lehrer's comments on that issue. I have never seen a functional relationship in which one partner contributes nothing but affection, which makes me suspect that y'all are discounting some pretty significant contributions.

#218 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Constance #214: Typographical errors do get noticed here, but I really wanted to know if you were an anthropologist or a sociologist. I happen to know one of the pioneer scholars on West African men's societies, Douglas Manley, and wondered if you were engaged in that kind of research.

#219 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:19 PM:

Xopher #213: The sequel, obviously, would have to be Kind Hearts in Space.

#220 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:35 PM:

RiceVermicelli@217: To those of you who say that all you get from your female partners is love

(sigh)

I know that's what you read, but it isn't what I wrote. I don't know if you were reading my comments or not, but if so, you didn't actually read what I wrote, you read with some kind of yet-unidentifiable filter on.

I will try again.

When I feel the need to let my wife know I love her, I am often driven to do something for her, maybe do something on the honey-to-do list, or do something I think she might want done.

My wife can love me, not do anything, and I know it.

What is not asserted in any of what I just wrote and what you just read is the idea that "All I get from my wife is love" or any claim that "my wife never does anything for me". If you read that in my text, then the problem is in your reader, not my writer.

What is there is an idea that my wife and I are different, but what is not in there is that our relationship is one-sided.

If reading "different" automatically implies "one-sided" or "discriminating", then please let me know, and I'll just stop.

#221 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Actually, Fragano, we changed the title. It was indeed going to be Coronets of Space, but at the last minute it became Gigs in Space. (Yes, Xopher, it is about a cosmic G-string orchestra - how is that for tasteless?)

#222 ::: Vito Excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:37 PM:

Greg @ 216:

Perhaps the confusion is caused by your calling it a "Buttercup relationship". If I recall properly, during the "As you wish" portion of the relationship, Buttercup didn't do dick for Westley except be pretty. This is the sort of thing that leads people to conclude either that the relationship is one-sided, or that the contribution of the woman lies in being pretty (which is rather a poor long-term goal, as we all stop doing that eventually.)

#223 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:41 PM:

Serge #221: You certain it wasn't Gigues in Space? That, of course, would be a more musical work.

#224 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:56 PM:

If I recall properly, during the "As you wish" portion of the relationship, Buttercup didn't do dick for Westley except be pretty.

...

Holy crap.

(shakes head)

If "Princess Bride" is a sexist movie, then I give up. If Farmboy and Buttercup are in a one-sided, unhealthy relationship, then the world is doomed.

And she didn't just "look pretty" for fikes sake, she loved him. It's just that she didn't fetch pots or plow fields or shine saddles for him to show him. She loved him and he knew it, even though she didn't do anything for him. It's actually spelled out for the viewers by the voice over. And "True Love" is sort of a recurring theme throughout the movie.

My head hurts now.

#225 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Greg London at #216, the issue actually stems from where you said, "I do things for her to show her I love her. She just loves me, and I know when its there and when it isn't." That right there says to anybody reading it that you're doing work, she isn't, and that's okay. If that's not what you meant to say, then accepted and let's move on, but I don't really see another reading of that.

And actually, while I wouldn't call Princess Bride a sexist movie in a million years, the relationship between Buttercup and her farmboy is based on the classic romantic chivalrous idea of courting and expressions of love. Just look at the backlash against PRV for his ideas of service which he initially throws back to the same chivalric ideal for an idea of how that would get perceived today. I'd say that Princess Bride isn't sexist because while their relationship starts that way, IIRC, Buttercup winds up having to prove her fidelity to the relationship and then work in order to beat the bad guy and marry her farm boy. It starts with farm boy (Was his name Wesley, or have I watched too much Buffy lately?) serving Buttercup, but ends with the both of them serving "True Love." Or we can ignore my rationalization for the film and just kick back to enjoy it, which I think is better. ;)

#226 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Greg @ 224, I am sorry to disappoint you, but Buttercup and Wesley do not have a healthy relationship. Maybe they eventually grow one - the movie is about the protracted process of the two of them getting together, so it's not impossible.

I get that she's supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and that she supposedly loves Wesley very much. I like the movie too. I just don't think it presents a realistic picture of the way relationships are supposed to work. "She loved him," sure, but could she maybe have, oh, I dunno, ever done anything? Sail with him to the Americas, tell Humperdinck to sod off, yell "it's a trap!" at an opportune moment, say "thank you"? As it is, Wesley's love is demonstrated and Buttercup's is merely asserted. One of these is much more convincing than the other.

#227 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:21 PM:

222 224: To be fair, it took Buttercup a while to realize that "As you wish" signified he loved her, and to realize she loved him in return (prior to that, she took advantage of her station to task the stableboy with a variety of trivial tasks because she could). I think all that was covered in less than ten minutes in the opening of the movie.

#228 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:22 PM:

Greg @ #216: Word!

Madeline @ #207: Wow, I am trying hard not to be offended. But then, maybe that was your point?

I showed your post to my wife. She laughed. Then she said this has come up a lot in her womens studies courses at the university. Apparently there are some circles of feminist thought which view all male deference or service to women as simply a covert form of ownership, suppression, coercion, etc. She said I should probably move on from this thread and let it go, because nothing I say as a male is going to have any impact at this stage.

Before I duck out of this topic, I think we need to check ourselves a little. What I'm seeing happen is that people are cherry picking, apparently bound and determined to find something--anything?--to take issue with. People also seem to be ignoring or overlooking responses.

I'm all about arguing and debate and discussion. But when it gets to the point that people start talking past each other and looking for excuses to take umbrage... I dunno, the fun is gone and it doesn't seem like a productive exchange anymore.

Cheers, all. See you on the other threads.

#229 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:24 PM:

I think the Princess Bride comparison is sweet. It's two different ways of communicating the idea of love-- Greg says he loves his wife by doing things for her (the "As you wish") and his wife communicates that she loves him in some other way that he picks up on without being able to point to how. Some of the confusion may come from its juxtaposition with PRV's service ideals, but it's not exactly the same-- it's communication of love, not service. Some people say, "I love you," some send Hallmark cards, some fix the brakes (and friends' brakes), some are physically affectionate.

#230 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:07 PM:

Hmm. Wesley and Buttercup's dysfunction is also more clear in the book. Could that be where some of the confusion lies?

#231 ::: Nathanielperson ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:22 PM:

As much as I love "Princess Bride," it does bug me that Buttercup just sits around in the castle and waits for Wesley to save her. As one of the Good Guys in a movie with more derring-do per square foot than any I can think of, she should get to do more than simply whomp an ROUS with a stick.

#232 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:44 PM:

Dave@49: Depends on time and place. I was repeatedly shocked by British attitudes, even attitudes in fandom, on my first independent visit (1979) -- but as I look back now, I suspect I could have seen the same in the U.S. as recently as the later 1960's (when I was mostly too young or too much a nerd to notice). Remember that the U.S. is much larger, and probably much more heterogeneous; I suspect it's much more extreme -- some urban centers less likely to tolerate any off-attitude, some rural/economically-deprived/... areas worse than anything you'll see -- but I wouldn't even guess where the relative medians are.

ajay@70: from "Useful phrases for the tourist in Locrine":
"Sir or madam, that is mine(intrinsic)."
"Sir or madam, that is mine(extrinsic)."
(Other parts are much stranger: "That is my companion; it is not intended as a tip.")

mayakda@93: Do you feel you were brought up specifically as a nurturer?
I've sometimes said that my father was too old (54 when I was born) to make a macho idiot of me, but not too old to act on an assumption that my sister couldn't fend for herself. That's obviously an outlier point; I think most of what I got from both parents was an expectation that I'd do well academically.

#233 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:51 PM:

@Susan #185 (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Why haven't I answered your challenge (question?) as to my personal experience wearing corsets?
Because it's irrelevant. Not only to my own justification to say what I said, but also to your ability to tell me that I was wrong. You don't need to be able to say, "You've never worn one, shut-up." You told me I was mistaken without knowing, and knowing doesn't strengthen your point at all. So, out of desire to keep the rhetoric <em>unconfused (clean is far beyond both of us now), I will continue to decline to tell you how much time I've spent in a corset.

For what it's worth, I don't know you from a rock, and if what you're saying matches with my understanding of the world, I'll probably take it as true. From the authority of personal experience you told me something which did not match any of my experience. So I responded to the effect of, "huh, that's strange, you're probably right in some cases, and here's what I based my comment on."
You are very upset at the adverbs of probability. Well, tough luck, your word isn't gold, I don't know you, a statment which has absolutely nothing to do with your gender.
For what it's worth, my explanation of the source of my mistake did bring out the reasons for the mismatch in our experience. Which, I will add as a vicious and unnecessary personal slight, was a lot more effective in clicking me over from adverbially-probable into generally-accepting than demands for the extent of my experience wearing a corset.

If you want to argue from actual experience, feel free to explain your actual experiences actually wearing Victorian corsets [...] if it's significant enough to give you anything like an informed opinion.
Perhaps you have encountered the human ability to learn things from their environment that aren't in contact with their physical body? Your desire to bludgeon me with whether or not I've worn a corset is (to restate myself) absolutely, positively meaningless. Please, help yourself to a couple more adverbs, this time I mean them in an angry, denigrating way, unlike before where I put in hedging adverbs while attempting to reconcile your (now readily believable and thoroughly believed) claim with my own knowledge (a reconciliation helped by (among others) Fidelio's #172 explanation of "tight-lacing" and the relative rarity of rib-compressing corsetry, but not by you. Thank the to everybody else for telling me what I wanted and needed to know based. Thank you Susan for showing me that my view was too narrow, maybe some day you can open people's eyes instead of getting angry at them because they don't see.)

#234 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:56 PM:

PR Vet, you did a really interesting rhetorical thing, here. You've set yourself up to speak for women--and to essentially shout down the women on this thread who dare disagree with you--by telling us what your wife says. According to you.

Your wife is an authority why? Because she's a strong assertive woman. A feminist. A *gasp* dyke (although of course you're very careful to make sure we know she "likes dick.") Again, according to you.

Then, you use your wife--the voiceless, absent, supposed authority--to condescendingly dismiss another poster, an actual woman on this thread trying to have an actual conversation with you, with, "I showed your post to my wife. She laughed. Then she said this has come up a lot in her womens studies courses at the university. Apparently there are some circles of feminist thought . . ."

That very effectively put paid to any assumption of goodwill I could possibly ascribe to you.

Rhetorically effective silencing.

Intellectually dishonest in the extreme.

And if you'd be so kind, don't use the word "dyke" that way. It's ignorant and offensive.

#235 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:07 AM:

Um, showing love to a partner/spouse...

My father came home from a business trip, many years ago, to find the house festooned with diapers on clotheslines, because it had been raining for two or three days (three kids less than four years old ... I'll let you imagine it). He said that he'd be back in a bit, and returned an hour later with a washer and a dryer. (The dryer was used for nearly forty years before it wore out.)

#236 ::: lisa@digitalmedievalist.com ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:15 AM:

PublicRadioVet @ 39 you say:
Which is why I think we need to bring back chivalry. And not the kind that cloisters women and forbids them from participation as full partners in society.

I mean the kind that basically says the following:

Males don't become Real Men without Service becoming the focal point of their identity.

That's both inherently sexist, and reveals a complete lack of understanding about chivalry. You're not talking about chivalry, which was a warrior and horseman ethos, and not, at all, about women, except as prizes, and chattel. The "service towards women" meant convincing them to say yes to one man versus yes to another.

What you're talking about is courtly love, which essentially treats women as sexual objects with the right to say yes, but not the right to say no. If you actually look at it, it's about women as sexual chattel, woman as thing. I certainly don't want a spouse to "serve" me; that's an inherent contradiction of the whole idea of "equal partner" you ostensibly support.

Nor do I think that men who think I'm capable of taking care of myself without being, err, serviced, is in any way not "Real Men."

#237 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:22 AM:

anaea@225: the issue actually stems from where you said, "I do things for her to show her I love her. She just loves me, and I know when its there and when it isn't." That right there says to anybody reading it that you're doing work, she isn't, and that's okay. If that's not what you meant to say, then accepted and let's move on, but I don't really see another reading of that.


please review the full post 216 that you quote above, and tell me how the laundry list of things she does and contributes to the relationship is unclear on the subject.

I can see a misunderstanding on first post because it was a passing comment. But 216 is about as clear as I can get that I never meant to say she sits on her ass and does nothing, and list a number of things she does do. Yet, you insist on your original assumption, cherry pick a quote, and tell me its right there to anybody reading it, and ignore everything else in that post.

If you want me to say she does what I do and I do what she does, and we're both just as good as the other at everything, save your breath and just call me a bigot if you must. My wife and I are different. Deal with it however you need to deal with that.

#238 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:29 AM:

JESR @ #124,
Thank you - I'm printing that out and carrying it around with me. This fall I'll be a university student again (Certificate in Applied Forensic Anthropology, or How To Finally Use This BA To Get a Job That Pays More Than Data Entry). I've had to explain the whole we-don't-really-know stuff before, but not as eloquently as you just did.

#239 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:45 AM:

And, from way back upthread:

Just what are Crocs? Besides reptiles I'd prefer not meeting in dark alleys? Obviously footwear, but formal, casual?

(Note: the commuter trains I ride advise wearing flats or athletic shoes while a passenger, since they sometimes have to stop fast - not necessarily emergency: I was on one with 'grabby' brakes one day - and they prefer that people not fall over and break parts.)

#240 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:54 AM:

The only contribution I feel at all safe making in this thread:
Crocs are casual water-safe footwear. My (um, not the possessive form; associative?) spouse likes them for when we're out kayaking - you can wear them away from the beach, but they are really easy for walking your kayak down and then shuffling them off.
I prefer slip-on sandals.

#241 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:27 AM:

RiceVermicelli@226: I am sorry to disappoint you, but Buttercup and Wesley do not have a healthy relationship.

Oh for the love of pete. The degree to which this boggles my mind is... mind boggling.

Dare I ask? Yes, I darest.

Why is the relationship between Buttercup and Wesley not a healthy one?

Was it because either one of them felt they didn't really love the other? Was it because one of them was using the relationship to fill some void left by a previous relationship, perhaps with their parents? Was Buttercup trying to marry Wesley simply to escape the farm? Was Buttercup somehow "settling" for Wesley when she really wanted someone else?

Was Wesley abusing Buttercup in their relationship? Did he drink? Beat her? Verbally abuse her? Was he somehow trying to control her to do something she didn't want to do?

Were they in any way unsatisfied with their communication of love for each other?

What I recall from the movie (sorry, book's offlimits since I was clear this was our favorite movie) is the following potential issues:

Buttercup may have abused her authority (though what authority she has is not defined) she had over Wesley by ordering him around. But we never get the impression that Wesley actually minded her telling him what to do. Assuming he was a paid farmhand, being told what to do sort of comes with the job description. If she was having him do things that were beyond his job description, it may have been questionable. If farmwork is sufficiently scarce, then perhaps Wesley might have felt the need to go along with it, rather than go unemployed. But that does not seem to be his concern. It would appear that her orders were not unwelcome by Wesley, which means it does not fit the definition of harrassment.

The story quickly moves to the point where both Wesley and Buttercup realize that everytime she asks him to do something and every time he says "as you wish" and does her request, they are both saying "I love you" in their own way. Such behaviour would be considered "unhealthy" if either Wesley or Buttercup wanted to hear or say the actual words but for some reason were unable to bring themselves to discuss it. However, both actually seemed content with their understanding, and neither had issue with it, therefore it doesn't qualify as unhealthy.

Next, Wesley goes off to get rich. Buttercup questions this at first, but after his assurances, she accepts the idea. Since people are able to maintain long distance relationships when one person is serving in the military overseas while the other is at home, it would seem to qualify as acceptable as long as both partners are satisfied with it.

Word comes back that Wesley dies. This is a questionable turn of events, but it wasn't planned by either one. It was an opportunity presented to Wesley after he was captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Wesley probably would have been put to death, but found a way to survive. For that he can hardly be blamed.

The questionable part comes when he becomes the new Captain Roberts and sails the high seas. Perhaps he could have somehow secretly gotten word to Buttercup that he was alive. Rather than let her believe him dead. It would have saved her a lot of grief, but then there wouldn't have been a story. But then again, given that travel was slow, and I can't remember how long he was gone before Humperdink chose to marry Buttercup, maybe he didn't have time.

Which brings us to Buttercup's engagement. I'll never love again, I believe was her words. Again, I'm a little fuzzy on how long after she'd heard Wesley was dead that she said this. People say all sorts of things during their grieving period that they can't really be held accountable for. Including agreeing to marry the king.

Should she have "moved on" and found a new love? Maybe at some point. But that she grieved isn't an indication of an 'unhealthy' relatioship.

Wesley returns to rescue her, but does not reveal his identity at first. He's hurt that she woudl remarry so soon after hearing he had died. How soon is still unclear, but buttercup does not argue it wasn't too soon, she argues that she thought he was dead. So, it was probably too soon to make rational decisions.

They then work together to escape Humperdink through the swamp. I think she even helps him fight off one of the RUS's. Seems pretty healthy to me. And she isn't just "being pretty".

On the other side, Humperdink surrounds them. And Wesley refuses to surrender. At this point, we know that he could probably defeat the handful of cardboard characters that have them surrounded, but Buttercup does not know this. She offers to return with Humperdink if Humperdink will let Wesley go. The female character sacrifices herself to save the male character. Hardly the stereotypical sexist tripe. Whether it is unhealthy or not depends on whether any person can sacrifice something for the love of their life or whether all such gestures must be unhealthy symbiosis. I'd say it's healthy, since both chose it. The circumstances were beyond their control, and they made choices inside fo those circumstances, and went with that.

A rather long story sequence ensues that is the result of this choice. Nothing new is shown about wesley or buttercup until after the wedding and Buttercup goes to her room to kill herself. I assume her thinking was Wesley was dead and she was now married to a murderer of a king. I suppose one could argue that she could kill the king before killing herself, that it would be more "healthy" that way. But again, she doesn't appear to have the thought to commit violence against Humperdink, so she chose not to resist. Certainly, the Princess Leia fans will be disappointed, but it doesn't actually qualify as unhealthy. It would seem that Buttercup doesn't have a violent bone in her body, and that is simply who she is. See earlier thread regarding war-is-never-an-option type folks to argue whether that belief is unhealthy or a moral choice.

So then we're left with the suicide attempt. An unhealthy act, but being attempted when Wesley fails to rescue her, so she might assume he's been killed, and after she just married the man who killed him or ordered him killed. Perhaps a hunger strike would have been a more appropriate non-violent response rather than suicide, but, hey, her true love had just died, she's in grief, and people can't be held too accountable for what they do in grief.

And then they kiss and live happily ever after. Wesley didn't even kill Humperdink, which was a nice change from the standard, all-the-bad-guys-die-in-the-end storyline. The lack of vengeance might even point to a healthy outlook on life on their part.


THe thing about whether a relationship is "healthy" or not is based on whether the two people in the relationship are choosing their actions freely and wanting what they're choosing, or whether they would rather be doign something else, but for whatever reason are choosing to do something they don't really want.

In every instance, both characters are choosing what they want to do given the circumstances they are in. It might resemble the stereotypical damsel-in-distress, swashbuckling-male-hero, but at no point does either character do some action that they did not choose to do given their circumstances. And by that measure, they are in a healthy relationship.

If YOU would have chosen something different, that's fine. That would be your choice. But they didn't do anything they didn't want to do in the circumstances they found themselves in. Which means they had a healthy relationship.

#242 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Greg London @ #237

The actual quote I pulled was, yes, from your second post on the subject, but it was practically identical to what you said in the first one and much easier to find. And all I really did there was explain where the miscommunication occurred and offer to leave it there. Now that I've corrected the second miscommunication, I'm going to once again say that since the disparity initially indicated isn't what you meant to communicate, then I have nothing to say about any such disparity and there's nothing to talk about.

#243 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:25 AM:

Carri @ 108: "The text that witch hunters used to find and convict witches, the Malleus Maleficarum, states that one of the signs that a woman was a witch was that she inspired lust in men. This makes me think in terms of power, and the reasons for subjugation. Obviously, not all women convicted as witches would inspire lust, but to me, it is a clear sign of power dynamics."

I think you are dead on. From a patriarchal point of view, for a woman to ever hold power over a man is wrong. And yet, every woman holds a potentially enormous sexual influence over every heterosexual man. This power is an inherent and inseparable part of her womanhood, impossible to take away. And if your dominant, masculine role is being threatened by a woman's power over you, by her ability to make you want her, how better to reassert your dominance than by demonstrating your power over her via (profoundly masculine) physical violence?

Sexual attraction is the one sphere where women's power remains, despite patriarchy's best efforts, equal to men's. In games of attraction and seduction, men and women are on a uniquely equal playing field. Consequently, it is an area where women have focused their efforts. If the only influence you can exert over others is sexual, you'll put a damn lot of effort into getting good at it.

The reaction has been predictable: given that sex is someplace where women can compete on an equal footing, patriarchy has stigmatized its exploitation (use) by women as much as possible. Women are taught that being willing to be seen as a sexual being (that even being a sexual being) makes them dirty and unworthy, that only by hiding their sexuality can they be even approach cleanliness and worth. Women who use sex to get what they want are sluts, witches, succubi and vamps. Woman willing to use their beauty to their advantage are heartless manipulators--as though men never wield their sexuality as a weapon.

One of the most amazingly pernicious and counterintuitive ideas I have ever encountered is the idea that if a man sees a woman naked, it is he that gains power over her. It is so clearly the opposite.

#244 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:35 AM:

When a man wants a woman
He says it's compliment
He says he's only trying to capture her
To claim her, to tame her
When he wants everything, everything of her
Her soul, her love, her life, forever and more
He says he's persuading her
He says he's pursuing her

But when a woman wants a man
He says she's threatening him
He says she's only trying to trap him
To train him, To taint him
When she wants anything, anything of him
His look, his touch, a moment of his time
He says she's demanding
He swears she's destroying him

Why is it
When a man whats a woman he's called a hunter
But when a woman wants a man she's called
A predator?

--Dory Previn

Seemed appropriate.

#245 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:44 AM:

JESR @ 182

Oh, dear, I'm late to the party again. I wss about to make a joke involving a pun on the fact that the work that's kept me away for the last couple of days involved an electronic church organ design, but in this thread that might be somewhat more controversial than I'm willing to be.

Anyway, the upbringing you described reminds me of a friend I haven't seen in quite a long time. We worked together as software engineers for several years, then kept in touch at different jobs for a few years after. She grew up the daughter of a civilian engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, with three older brothers who all went into technical professions and had military experience. So she knew how to change the brake pads on her car, and was an excellent pistol shot, dressed somewhat tomboy a good part of the time, but was quite definitely hetero.* She was also quite willing to return fire when some paleolithic male made remarks about her body or her dress and demeanor.

It seems to me that there are several axes of variation in that whole bag of sexual/gender/self-image indentification characteristics; trying to constrain it to who you want to have sex with, what clothes you like to wear, and whether "hand-work" means using a knitting needle or a crescent wrench misses the point. And I mildly disagree that we're all the same, male, female, straight, or gay. In fact, that's one of the things that makes the world and the people in it interesting. Biology does make some difference, and it's fascinating to try to learn what that is, as opposed to what we've been taught to think it is.

The real lesson to learn about gender and sexuality, IMHO, is that, as in most things, knowing the label on a person tells you very little about who that person is. It may be true that the average or mean of a given characteristic, say body mass index, for instance, or fine motor coordination for the entire population of males versus that for females may be different. This doesn't mean that all males have different values for that characteristic than all females, or even that there aren't some males way over on the other side of the female mean, and vice versa.

One of the positive aspects of growing older has been that over time, I've been able to take a skeptical look at how I think of myself: my public persona, sexuality, gender, etc., and decide that some of the stuff that was stuffed into me is pretty much useless baggage. Someone upthread asked how males feel being raised the way we are; my answer is, "largely cut off from my own emotions", because men are not really supposed to have (pr at least show) emotions except for (perhaps self-righteous) anger, and lust. These days I have less testosterone to drive my adrenals around, and a lot more interest in understanding how I'm feeling about things, because it matters to me. That also allows me to accept how other people feel about themselves more easily.


* I held the box of tissues and listened when she broke up with a mutual friend. Mind you, that's not something I was raised to know how to do, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I likely wasn't very good at it, but then that time wasn't about me, so that wasn't terribly important.

#246 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:51 AM:

I checked in this evening to find that I am a "sleaze" (or at least "look like" one), a topic-derailer, and some sort of dodger or denier of unpleasant facts.

So, Madeline F @ 35: I seem not to have expressed myself well. Perhaps I should have written, "The question is not *only* 'Why do men hate women?'"--and then added that the habit of framing the question in a way that implies universality amounts to a kind of falsification at the outset.

Violence against women--particularly the sort represented by a brutal and brazenly public "honor killing"--does not exist in a social or psychological vacuum. It takes a particular kind of personality to perform it and to accept it, and I believe that the lack of empathy or sociopathy or objectification-of-the-other or whatever constellation of pathologies enables it does not focus solely on women. (American lynchings have already been cited in this thread, and then there are Bosnia and Rwanda.)

The fact that not all men commit violence against women is significant, as are the facts that not all men commit any violence all, and that some women do commit violence. The fact that scenarios like this honor killing have played out elsewhere and -when with different classes of victim is also significant. (American lynchings have already been cited in this thread, and then there are Bosnia and Rwanda.) The fact that it is men who are overwhelmingly statistically responsible for violence-in-general is significant. But you cannot account for violence without also accounting for non-violence, and you cannot account for pathology without figuring out what makes for a healthy condition. If that's changing the subject, then we would seem to be engaged in different discussions.

(BTW, I did read all of Whedon's piece, and since you bring it up, his assertion that "Women’s inferiority--in fact, their malevolence--is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas" is a considerable exaggeration, even if "popular culture" is read in an extremely restrictive sense.)

#247 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:54 AM:

*de-lurking momentarily -- lurking because several parts of this thread have gotten a bit too ... snippy ... for my tastes*

You can get knock-off Crocs at Payless Shoe Source for $15. And they come in much cooler colors than I've seen on people wearing "real" Crocs: I have a pair I wear all the time that are royal blue with psychodelic hot pink, pale blue, and yellow striping.

#248 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:45 AM:

Just in case we have any more discussion of The Princess Bride:

Westley. (That's Westley.)
Humperdinck.

#249 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 07:01 AM:

Greg @ 241:

Buttercup and Wesley don't have a healthy relationship because they barely have a relationship that we see in the movie. What we see in the movie is that they fall in love, Wesley leaves and apparently dies, Buttercup makes some questionable romantic decisions in the aftermath (no blame there - I can understand what she does), and then Wesley comes back, accuses her of faithlessness on the basis of decisions she made because she thought he was dead, and (rather than telling him that hey, he was dead, remember?) Buttercup collapses in remorse and flails helplessly while Wesley rescues her, rescues her, dies, is resurrected, and rescues her some more. Wesley gets a little speech about the immortality of True Love. Buttercup does not get a chance to explain about the difficulties of romantically disappointing a guy with his own enforcers, especially the absence of a compelling reason not to just lie back and think of the jewelry, or what life down on the farm was like in Wesley's absence. Buttercup is kind of a doormat, and the height of Wesley's ambition is apparently True Love... with a doormat. Maybe they both get better when they start their life together, but it's made clear in the book, if not in the movie, that they have a ways to go before they get to happily ever after.

#250 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 07:39 AM:

This explanation of Pose Power seems to have the right motto at the foot of the page.

#251 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:39 AM:

When discussing The Princess Bride, we must remember that we have not read the entire book, nor is the movie an adaptation of the original. We get the *abridged good-parts version* as edited by a father for his son-- probably not too heavy on the schmoopy. Can we assume that Buttercup's and Westley's reconciliation and string of heart-to-hearts is in the cut folder with the list of royal hats? I'm certainly going to.

#252 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:14 AM:

We gave our daughter what we considered to be a non-gender-specific name because we didn't want bigoted people throwing her resume into the wrong pile.

Being ignorant, I picked a name usually given to black males.

On the bright side, she'll be able to make limited yet informed comparisons between discrimination against a white female and a black male. On the down side, she'll suffer from it.

As they say in the noir world: You play the black, and the female comes up.

#253 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:30 AM:

mayakda@93: Do you feel you were brought up specifically as a nurturer?

I think "You are destined to be a nurturer" was the common message from society. (My parents had a different one for me -- they had the siblings all tagged and I was "the smart one" (or maybe it was the smart-mouthed one)).

#254 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Mayakda, I read in The Agile Gene (I think-- I may be misremembering) that social groups are like that. Little kids are mostly the same, with a few tendencies toward leadership or clowning, and the group organizes itself to reinforce those tendencies. I've experienced it in new social groups (yes, the plural of anecdote is not data) where I've gone from being the weird and brainy one to shuffled in among other people, including another weird one. There was tension until I left that group because both of us were used to being the oddball, and we'd unconsciously try to out-weird each other.
In my family, I came out tagged as Smart, Reads a Lot, then when my sister was born, she was Strong, Independent, Active. Since she'd taken those, I didn't become strong or active. Some of it's innate (Baby Sister was and is independent from the moment she could walk) but the strength? When did I decide that I was the weak one? Why didn't I define myself against my brother instead of my sister-- or is that where the quiet bookishness came from?
It goes back to the dichotomies, or the dichotomies go back to that. If men are X, women are -X.

#255 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:06 AM:

RiceVermicelli@249: Buttercup and Wesley don't have a healthy relationship because they barely have a relationship that we see in the movie.

un.believe.able.

That you don't see it is a function of story telling. It isn't the focus of the story, so the story skips over a lot of it. I'm not sure how long they were on the farm together, but it seems like it could be long enough to establish a relationship. I wouldn't want to spend half an hour watching Buttercup telling Westley to fetch some water, fetch a pot, etc.

Actually, from a story telling perspective, it's pretty clear that how the relationship developed isn't the focus because they tell us, rather than show us. "Show, don't tell" is a rule of thumb, but it can be broken under certain circumstances. one of which being when you need to introduce informatino that would take way too long and be far too boring.

Westley loved Buttercup. Buttercup loved Westley. And the story begins from there.

Buttercup is kind of a doormat

You confuse her passivity with being unhealthy. You apparently would rather she strap on a sword and go swashbuckling with Westley, or kill the king herself after she finds out he didn't release Westley, or whatever. She made choices that you did not like, but for her character they were not unhealthy choices.

Which is actually sort of my point in the beginning. Is the goal to remove all differences between men and women and even remove all differences between women and other women, as well as between men and other men? That to fight discrimination we must eliminate all differences?

Or can you accept she made decisions that were healthy for her character, but you would not have made?

#256 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:47 AM:

One of my few complaints about the movie The Princess Bride was the loss of the penultimate scene, where (SPOILERS) the four are onj the white horses, bruised, battered and bleeding, and the brutes line up in front of them only to have Buttercup stand them down ("I am your QUEEN!"). The one thing she actually did -- aside from being loving and faithful, which is no small thing -- and it had to be chopped out.

#257 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 11:03 AM:

#197--anaea--most period corsets are made of fairly heavy, non-breathing materials--I've had some modern ones that were made of much lighter fabrics (hooray for cotton with 5% spandex!), including stretch lace. These were a lot cooler, and were wearable with street clothing in summer weather in Tennessee--to my relief, since I was coping with an inflamed nerve in my arm and shoulder, and didn't really want the added stress of a bra strap sitting right on top of a nerve that was already yelling very loudly.

#236--lisa--I find that confusion between chivalry and courtly love not uncommon--I don't know if it began with the Victorians, or not. It might be helpful for people inclined to this confusion to bear in mind that chivalry, in its better forms, was intended to keep the people with the most effective weapons from taking wholesale and brutal advantage of everyone who was weaker* than they were, by telling them that it was their duty, as a result of having the most effective weapons, to look after those weaker* than they were, and, ideally, not take shameful advantage of their weakness*. As a concept, it's not a bad way of trying to keep the heavily armed and physically stronger members of a society from running roughshod over everyone else. In practice, in its original period--well, not so much.


*for certain values of weaker/weakness, applying mostly to the ability to defend themselves and their property and look out for their interests by means of physical force.

#258 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 11:14 AM:

#228 ::: PublicRadioVet


Madeline @ #207: Wow, I am trying hard not to be offended. But then, maybe that was your point?

I showed your post to my wife. She laughed.

So what? She married you, which doesn't seem to show an overabundance of good judgment based on your contributions in this forum....

Then she said this has come up a lot in her womens studies courses at the university. Apparently there are some circles of feminist thought which view all male deference or service to women as simply a covert form of ownership, suppression, coercion, etc. She said I should probably move on from this thread and let it go, because nothing I say as a male is going to have any impact at this stage.

Oh, look, the Parthian shot, "I am leaving but before I do I am going to piss all over you first and then run to avoid any retribution!"

Coward, intellectually dishonest bigot, etc.

Before I duck out of this topic, I think we need to check ourselves a little.

"I think we..." How magnanimous of you, how generous, how curfully condscending.... The presumption of telling other people what they should be doing, when you are in the process of doing piss and run, making other people wipe up after your dominance display....

What I'm seeing happen is that people are cherry picking, apparently bound and determined to find something--anything?--to take issue with. People also seem to be ignoring or overlooking responses.

I see wilful blindness and narcissism in this type of post, myself. Wanna try out to replace Antonio Banderas as the Puss in Boots voice actor?

I'm all about arguing and debate and discussion. But when it gets to the point that people start talking past each other and looking for excuses to take umbrage... I dunno, the fun is gone and it doesn't seem like a productive exchange anymore.

Aw thanks for the psych analysis.... {sarcasm}

Cheers, all. See you on the other threads.
Had to get that piss-on-and-run, didn't you.

#259 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 11:25 AM:

(Too much personal acrimony for me here too, even though the original topic was already incendiary.)

Getting back to fashion, neither social ideals nor utilitarianism seem to have much to do with it. After all, Poiret the French designer whose "Grecian" gowns ostensibly freed women by making the more upholstered styles seem old-fashioned, *also* invented the "hobble skirt" [info from a New Yorker review of his museum show a few weeks ago].

On the bra-vs.-corset thing: It really does depend on what needs supporting. In my case, shelf bras in tank tops work fine, but the naturally -- or unnaturally -- well-endowed would have quite different requirements. (Underwire? Horrors! That's as bad as narrow shoes with high heels, i.e. torture, for me.)

#260 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:11 PM:

fidelio @ #257, cool, thanks.

Faren Miller #259, it's my understanding that the unnaturally endowed among us don't really need much support, that's built in as part of the package. Possibly that's just a side effect of low end work done in the backwoods where the people who I know who've been enhanced got it done, but I don't see that as much of a downside.

#261 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:29 PM:

#253 ::: mayakda

mayakda@93: Do you feel you were brought up specifically as a nurturer?

My experience was that that was the institutionalised societal directive and direction and inculcation was girls, to the degree that when I got to MIT, and one of my fellow first year classmates, a male classmate (87.5% of the class was male), was looking at me, I thought, "He's looking at me as if I were female!" Well yeah,, -duh-, I was... but emotionally I'd never been acknowledged by alleged peers as other than an "it."

I think "You are destined to be a nurturer" was the common message from society. (My parents had a different one for me -- they had the siblings all tagged and I was "the smart one" (or maybe it was the smart-mouthed one)).

It was. Be a nurse, or teacher, or clerical worker expected to be Motherly (and paid a pittance) or a Mother/Wife/Caregiver otherwise. there were exceptions for ornamental trophy wife artists and for would-be acting talent 9again, Ornaments.) Ooops, left out the damned Clorox Bimbo Housewife (no, the emphasis is "Clorox Bimbo" modifying "Housewife"... I think that my description of THAT abomination is elsewhere on Making Light, and it's something that was on radio and TV within the past three years or so.

Females were either to be scut labor support, or Ornaments, not -people-.

#262 ::: Vito Excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Greg @224:

Let me try this again.

During the "As you wish" portion of the relationship, Buttercup doesn't do dick for Westley except be pretty.

At the point at which love dawns, she not unnaturally stops ordering him around and he starts saying more than three words to her and so we're off for the rest of the (wonderful) movie. What I am trying to say is that "As you wish" describes only a very small part of their interaction, and really, it's not the good part. Getting all het up over ZOMG-these-crazy-feminists-think-it's-a-sexist-movie there's-no-speaking-to-us is far from the point. The point is that that particular dynamic - and as you justly point out, it's like ten minutes of the movie - isn't terribly convincing as a good model for a relationship.

#263 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Serge @ 204: I currently live in southern Ontario, where the temperature today is supposed to get up to 30 degrees celsius, which is about 10 more than I should prefer. I work in an un-air-conditioned office, live in a third-floor, un-air-conditioned apartment, directly under a flat, mostly black (except for the bits that are garden) roof, and dream of moving north, except that I'm also a big-city girl.

Anaea @ 206: my pleasure and apologies for the absent "a."

Greg London @ 216 Is the goal to make the statistics turn out 50-50 down gender lines and to erase any differences between men and women? Or is the goal to separate the differences from the discriminations?

My goal, my very personal goal, is to learn to examine the differences between people, and their similarities, without a false gender binary. Sure we can say that women show a statistical tendency to be shorter than men ... what does that tell us about any particular woman or man? What does that tell us about Teresa, or Susan, or Anaea, or me? Nothing. Statistics tell very incomplete stories, and make wretched shopping and deportment guides.

I want standards of behaviour that are the same for men and women. I want professional expectations that are standardized to mixed-gender groups. I want lovers who expect me to be me, Jennie, and who interact with me as a person, a lover, a friend, and a partner (among other things), not as a woman/mommy stand-in/object of courtly love and adoration/representative of womanhood/representative of statistical norms.

My goal is to teach people that women are people—nothing more, nothing less, nothing weirder than that.

#264 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:20 PM:

The more I read this thread, the more convinced I become that human parthenogenesis is the technological wave of the future.

#265 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:21 PM:

The point is that that particular dynamic - and as you justly point out, it's like ten minutes of the movie - isn't terribly convincing as a good model for a relationship.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

You just changed the subject. Lemme reintroduce you to the original post I made over here:

If Farmboy and Buttercup are in a one-sided, unhealthy relationship, then the world is doomed.

To which I got the following reply:

Buttercup and Wesley do not have a healthy relationship. ... could she maybe have, oh, I dunno, ever done anything?

The assertion is a simple, flat out, "they have an unhealthy relationship".

I see that this somehow got conveniently shifted into a slightly different idea:

Buttercup and Wesley don't have a healthy relationship because they barely have a relationship that we see in the movie.

Which you now try to reframe into further changes by saying:

The point is that that particular dynamic - and as you justly point out, it's like ten minutes of the movie - isn't terribly convincing as a good model for a relationship.

So, we started out with me saying my wife and I identify with Buttercup and Westley. The reply was a simple, flat-out assertion that those two characters have an unhealthy relationship. which someone then tried to shift to saying it was unhealthy because Buttercup didn't do anything, then you shift it further to it's unhealthy because you were not convinced that their relationship was healthy.

Sorry. subtly changing the assertion until you can find some sliver of truth doesn't fly.

The assertion was that they have an unhealthy relationship, end of story.

Some said it's because Buttercup doesn't do anything, which isn't actually unhealthy, it's just not what that person would have done. It would only be unhealthy if Buttercup wanted to do something but for some unhealthy reason did not do that. That is never the case in Princess Bride. Therefore her inaction is healthy for her character.

This is the first major problem people keep having. They confuse "unhealthy for Buttercup" with "unhealthy for them". If you were in Buttercup's position and wanted to DO something, but did not, then that would be an unhealthy relationship. But as I said, that isn't the case with Buttercup.

Now you're telling me its unhealthy because it's not a convincing model for a relationship? I wasn't arguing whetehr it was a convincing model, I was arguing whether it was healthy. I hope that not every story must have a number of Dr. Phil moments to stop and explain how while the relationship is working for these two characters, not everyone will be able to find a fullfilling relationship using their behaviour as a model.

I would hope that's a basic human assumption.

"Your milage may vary" is sort of assumed.

Basically, fiction and story telling is always about specifics. The author has to make choices, make the characters specific, make them real, make them individuals, make them unique.

You want a "convincing model for a relationship"? Then you need to start talking about stuff like "this works for some people, that works for other people", and stuff like statistically speaking, people who marry before the age of N are more likely to get divorced, or something.

Fiction isn't about statistics, it's about specifics. It is at best, anecdotal evidence, which isn't something you can develop a convincing model for a relationship that everyone can use.

The relationship between Westley and Buttercup as portrayed in the movie was healthy because both characters were choosing their actions inside whatever outside constraints the world was putting on them.

Whether you wanted Buttercup to "do something" or whether you were unable to extract some sort of "relationship advice" for you marriage, is irrelevant to the fact that the two characters had a healthy relationship for them.

#266 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Personally, my problem with Westley and Buttercup is that he appears perfectly willing to strike her across the face "because where I come from there are penalties when a woman lies," while his status as the Man in Black is one large lie.

And she's ready to be struck.

Apart from that, yes, it is a lovely storybook romance, and I can see where anyone would identify with it. Identifying with it, after all, doesn't mean subsuming the whole thing.

#267 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Personally, my problem with Westley and Buttercup is that he appears perfectly willing to strike her across the face "because where I come from there are penalties when a woman lies," while his status as the Man in Black is one large lie.

Yeah, me too. Good for Buttercup pushing him down the hill.
Plus didn't she jump off the ship? She did try to rescue herself. She also bargained for Westley's life; it wasn't her fault she was naive about Humperdinck keeping his end of it.

#268 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:47 PM:

jennie@263: My goal, my very personal goal, is to learn to examine the differences between people, and their similarities, without a false gender binary. Sure we can say that women show a statistical tendency to be shorter than men ... what does that tell us about any particular woman or man?

OK. So, when someone says women are statistically paid less than men, should I dismiss the statistic?

If statistics can point to inequities between men and women, can they also point to differences?

Certainly, I don't use statistics to tell an individual how they should behave. But if statistics seem to invariably be the way to measure the problem (women statistically paid less than men, for example), then how do we measure when we've reached the solution?

Because I think statistically, there will always be some differences. So the question is whether the goal is 50-50, or whether the goal somehow takes into account possible differences that might statistically show up, even if there were no discrimination.

Certainly, women should get paid as much as men for the same job, but what if in a world of zero discrimination it is still statistically true that more women are stay-at-home-moms than men are stay-at-home-dads? Then if the statistics are used as a yardstick for determining discrimination, and 50-50 is the only acceptable goal, Then I forsee a problem.

Is it possible that in a world of zero discrimination, that more women than men choose to be stay-at-home parents while more men than women choose to work? I suppose it could be 50-50, but I don't see why it couldn't be 60-40 or soemthing else and still not be discrimination.

As far as talking about "particular" men and women, I was talking about some particular differences between my wife and I and seem to have gotten swamped with eye-brow raising and accusations of a potentially unhealthy marriage because my particular marriage didn't fit the statistics, or the ideal, or the expectation, or something.

So, I try not to take statistics and tell people how they should behave because they're a man or woman and statistically they should be doing this or that. But I'm finding it interesting to see just how difficult it is to tell some people that in my particular relationship with my wife, we aren't mirror images of one another, but we aren't in an unhealthy marriage either.

Just like the particular case of Westley and Buttercup is not an unhealthy relationship in their particular instance.

Those hinting and suggesting that I'm in an unhealthy marriage are doing so because it doesn't fit their notion of the ideal, and that ideal is something like 50-50 or something I can't quite put my finger on. And I'm just a little stumped.

#269 ::: otterb ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Childrearing and gender roles. I have two daughters, 18 months apart, now 13 and 14. Daughter the elder never cared about dolls (though I do remember her carefully tucking her dump truck in with a pacifier), abhors pink, and has wanted to be a scientist since 3rd or 4th grade if not sooner. Daughter the younger always loved dolls, kitchen toys, and pink and purple frilly clothes (though she's also big on cars, trains, planes, etc.). They had the same parents, day care, etc., and are close enough in age that I have to think they had similar experiences. I really have to think that some of this was inborn. Though I do remember thinking that it would have been harder for me to wholeheartedly support a boy who wanted to play with opposite-gender toys than a girl, mainly because I would have feared I was setting him up for trouble down the road.

#270 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Greg London @ 268, I specifically avoided discussing your relationship with your wife, because your marriage is not my concern. I addressed one question you asked, in the general case. You and your wife may emulate Buttercup and Westley, Beatrice and Benedict, Harriet and Peter, or Ozzie and Harriet so long as you are both happy and fulfilled, and you won't hear anything from me about what you should or shouldn't do. Start pushing any of those models as models I and my partners should follow, and I'll push back, but that's not what you were doing.

I can't speak for others here on Making Light. It may be that the average Making Light commenter on this particular thread is statistically more likely to comment on the health of your marital arrangements, but I did not.

You asked whether "the goal" was to make the statistics turn out 50–50 and "erase" any differences between women and men. I was assuming you meant "the goal" in the general case. Since I don't speak for all women, or all feminists, or all people in relationships, I told you what my goal is. I can't erase differences between a given woman and a given man, nor do I wish to. I do, however, want get away from allowing a social construction of gender to tell me what those differences should be or how I should treat people. And yes, I do want a world in which, on any social scale, the distribution of people reflects the overall population. I want a world in which roughly 50 percent of engineers are women (or people identifying as women), and roughly 50 percent of primary school teachers are men (or people identifying as men). I want a world in which roughly 50 percent of stay-at-home parents are mommies and 50 percent of stay at home parents are daddies. I want a world in which roughly 50 percent of firefighters are women, and 50 percent of cleaning labourers are men.

Actually, I really want a robot housekeeper that does cat boxes. I'll settle for erasing the gender binary, though.

#271 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Faren, #259
Some well endowed ladies also have been blessed with the shoulders, ribcage and pecs to support the twins. Many do not. I was not. But I also have arthritis for other reasons so even flat chested I would still need the back support of a corset over a bra.
What pisses me off is getting non fetish functional corsets that fit correctly for less than a few hundred dollars, But my bras also have to imported specialty size and cost a fortune. Oddly enough for a culture that glorifies big perky busts there are few affordable support options for naturally endowed women in North America that don't double as armor. The assumptions that anyone over DD has a 38 inch ribcage, have self supporting plastic ones, is a nursing cow, is a porn pin up, or is a sagging granny really has an impact on selection.
Men get their undergarments design by those that wear them for comfort and function. Women get their undergarments designed by those that don't wear them for being looked at.

#272 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:42 PM:

I'm feeling an urge to quote Mark Twain quote Disraeli. Yeah, I think I'm going to give into it; "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Arguing anything from statistical data is tricky since statistical data is inherently troubled. Everybody seems to agree that, statistically, women are paid less than men for the same jobs. That looks bad. Most of the statistics I've seen break it down as an annual salary and that leaves me a bit skeptical. Does anybody have statistics that break it down by the hour? (Please link if you do, I'm curious)

And trying to make arguments about salary differences is easy. Statistics about women in traditionally male fields could indicate anything from latent/overt discrimination to a biological reason for women not going into those fields to cultural training pushing them in other directions etc. etc. And people use those statistics to argue whichever point they want.

Using data about perceived discrimination is tough too. There's a phenomena known as stereotype threat where an individual will perform less well on a test, compared to their own previous performances, if told that a group they belong to typically performs poorly on that test. They've studied this on populations of women, Asians and African-americans and found the same trend in all three groups. None of the subjects felt discriminated against, they simply had their performance undercut.

Then there are all the anecdotes about why female executives burn out and quit, and it being sometimes because they were discriminated against, sometimes because the situation was too cutthroat for them when they preferred to cooperate, etc. etc. It could be backlash from culturally taught gender stereotypes affecting their comfort level in a corporate environment, it could be that women biologically prefer cooperative problem solving, it could be that they were surrounded by a bunch of men who didn't want them there. There are too many variables to consider when making the statistical analysis. All you can say is that they quit - you can't argue why. Human society doesn't function as a controlled experiment.

I'm not touching the question about the ultimate "goal" since I've had enough verbal brawls with feminists to know I don't speak for them.

#273 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 03:07 PM:

jennie@270: I specifically avoided discussing your relationship

Yeah, I noticed and appreciate that. I was more looking for what to do when someone's idea of a 50-50 statistics is what they look for in individual relationships, lest they call it "unhealthy".

I do, however, want get away from allowing a social construction of gender to tell me what those differences should be or how I should treat people.

Is it purely a social construction?

A quick list from wikipedia says the physical differences statistically between men and women include that men are more prone to take risks and are more aggressive than women. Women score higher in Agreeableness. men perform better in spatial and mathematical, women perform better in verbal and memory. Men and women have statistically the same average IQ, although men's IQ's span higher and lower ranges than women.

Certainly cultural/social pressures for gender roles should be removed, and any individual should be able to take on any job, regardless of gender, but I don't see how it must follow that removing the cultural pressure means the statistics of the population as a whole will automatically balance at a 50-50 point.

Maybe if the cultural pressure actually swings the other way and actually pushes for a 50-50 result, then statistically, there will be a 50-50 split, but that woudl be the outcome of cultural pressure again.

The problem I'm having is that the measure appears to be statistics, with the assumption that anything short of 50-50 must mean discrimination. And if men and women, statistically, have measurably differnt psychological traits, then that would seem to point to the idea that they would, statistically, make different choices.

And that wouldn't be a world of discrimination, but it wouldn't be 50-50 statistically for every job title, either.

How do the biological differences fit in with a 50-50 statistical expectation as a goal?

Anecdotally, I know someone on testosterone therapy, and they are noticably different when they're on testosterone and off.

#274 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Greg, I think that a great deal of the difference in genders-- risk-taking, agreeableness, et cetera-- is societally driven. We can't tell what's nature and what's nurture without doing our best to make the nurture part even. Yes, there are some innate differences-- I don't think they matter as much as you seem to think they do, but they're there. We just can't examine them as purely innate differences until we've narrowed them down to being purely innate.
As an example, you mention that maybe more women than men will stay home, even if everything's equal. We can't speculate on that, not now-- because even adjusting for having children, being married, all of that, women are paid less than men for the same jobs*.
We aren't anywhere near equal, and a lot of it's institutionalized. A man getting a prestigious job gets it because he's good enough. A woman getting the same job gets it because the company wanted to look gender balanced. A man is never (or not very often) asked if he plans to use his PhD or have kids; I know women who have faced that from their graduate advisor. Boy babies are complimented on their strength; girl babies are complimented on their cuteness.
At the moment, it's a pretty good assumption that most gender disparity is societal, not biological. We can't examine the biology because we can't get any sort of control group.

*I have this from an essay Bitch, PhD wrote at Suicide Girls-- I'm at work, so I can't link it. I'm also talking about the US; I don't know very much about other countries.

#275 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 03:44 PM:

SNARL

A bias in the height of a population does not specify what any individual is going to be--it specifies that there is a greater or less probability that a member of the particular population is going to have certain characteristics, but does not denote that any given random individual is going to have the specific characteristic, unless the probability in that population is unity or very close to it, of that characteristic.

That is, in a population where everyone has dark straight hair, someone popping up with curly blonde hair is either a mutation or adopted or the result of a chance combination of recessive genes that are almost non-existent in that population!

However, talking about things like math and engineering skills, there has been a systematic suppression of women academically in those areas in western culture generally, with a few exceptions--Lady Byron nicknamed "the Princess of Parallelograms" and her daughter Ada, some astronomers who fought all sorts of prejudice, etc. However, that a look at the patterns in quilts, and tell me with a straight face that there is no math talent involved in making detailed complex pattern quilts. Tell me that with all the fancy patterns in handknit wear, and in crossstitch design. Academic math is not the only sort of math out there, but the other types tend to go massively ignore and deprecated.

Size, weight, shape, and dare I say gender, have nothing to do with intellectual ability or lack thereof. Social conditioning however, is quite another story. Susan Shwartz in her SFF.net newsgroup has written about how she deepsixed being erudite in math as a child to keep her psyche intact under the social pressure of what a girl where she grew up was supposed to be. One of my cousins who got Ds in math turned out to be anything but stupid in it--but she just wasn't interested, the cultural values she had picked up, despite having an engineer for a father, were that math didn't matter so why bother?

With the social "rewards" for being female and good in math and science tending to be ostracism, perpetual verbal and physical assault, and rejection, how many girls were going to persevere in the face of all that hostility and detriment?!

#276 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 275... how many girls were going to persevere in the face of all that hostility and detriment?!

I think it was Wendy Pini at Boston's worldcon of 1980 who said the art teachers tended to direct the boys towards drawing machinery, while the girls were encouraged to go away from that.

Meanwhile, based on what I saw here last week at Intel's International Science & Engineering Fair, lots of girls (many of them wearing a traditional middle-eastern scarf on their head) have decided that science is what they want, and not necessarily in those 'feminine' life sciences. In fact, the biggest crowd I saw was at a booth where a girl was talking about lightning balls.

#277 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:16 PM:

Greg I was more looking for what to do when someone's idea of a 50-50 statistics is what they look for in individual relationships, lest they call it "unhealthy".

Well, if they're commenting on your relationship, thank them for their concern, and go about your business, knowing it's none of theirs.

If they're commenting ou your relationship with them ask them how they'd like you to treat them, and, if you can feasibly and honestly do so, treat them that way.

If they're commenting on their own relationships, I don't see why you need to comment any more than I see any reason for me to comment on your relationship. We all have different selection criteria for partners, based on our individual needs. No reason theirs should be the same as yours.

Thing about the whole "men are more prone to take risks" thing is that we've never had a control group that was free of ingrained cultural assumptions about what men do and what women do, what boys do and what girls do. Gender conditioning starts really early—in general, parents interact differently with sons and daughters from infancy. We've never had a statistically significant group of kids raised in an non-gender-coded setting. So all statistics can tell us is what things look like in any one of several highly gendered societies. Current psycho-social research can tell us only how things are and have been, not how they might be.

So, no, I can't say that, all things being equal, gender-coded behaviours would disappear, because I plain don't know. We've never had such a world. I'll probably never witness a world in which expectations are not, to some extent, dictated by societal ideas about gender, a society in which certain traits are not ascribed to women and others to men. I'll probably never really know whether 50 percent of primary school teachers would be male, if the job and the skills relevant to it weren't coded "feminine."

But I want to.

#278 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:31 PM:

jennie... A boy is told he has to be Indiana Jones while the girl is told to be like... who? At least, she now has Starbuck, and numb3rs's Amita the scientist and Megan the FBI agent, but it's not exactly a crowded field.

#279 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Jennie, one thing we can do, however, is look at variation across culture to see which behaviors are consistently assigned to one gender or another, and which vary from culture to culture. Mead's Sex and Temperment started down that path, but later studies seem to have political or intellectual axes to grind which make them hard to compare to each other and to Mead's work.

#280 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:39 PM:

#258

Contrary to Cheers, all. See you on the other threads. PublicRadioVet whosoeverth PublicRadioVet be, read my comment on #258 apparently: there was a missive in my email box ostensibly from that email address, indicating unhappiness with my commentary, and including a "the lurkers support me in email!" sentiment in it additionally.

#281 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:48 PM:

I am not communicating this well, apparently, but I don't know how else to say it.

I think that a great deal of the difference in genders-- risk-taking, agreeableness, et cetera-- is societally driven.

I agree. A great deal. But I would say not all.

At the moment, it's a pretty good assumption that most gender disparity is societal, not biological.

I'd say there is a lot of obvious societal pressures, a lot of real discrimination that is pretty easy to demonstrate. Women should be paid the same amount for the same job is something that doesn't need to worry about biological differences, or biological control groups. Do the same work, get paid the same money.

We can't examine the biology because we can't get any sort of control group.

Well, that is probably the scientifically valid attitude to take, but there are certain things that are socially discouraged in both genders, but have a higher percentage of men. Serial killers, I believe are usually men. Men are more likely to be violent criminals and more likely to be the victim of violent crimes excluding sexual assault. Women are more likely to be teh victim of sexual assault. Is that societal? or is that biology?

In a world of zero cultural pressure on gender identies, will women commit half the violent crimes? Will women commit half the rapes?

That's talking about a fringe element, but I have a hard time believing that it is driven purely by cultural gender roles.

My experience, whcih is purely anecdotal, is that when discussing this with someone passionately active in addressing sexual discrimination, they either state it should be 50-50 or they withold giving any number. Maybe they're afraid if they give an inch, some bigot will take a mile. If they acknowledge there may be differences, they're afraid someone will argue that these differences justify discrimination.

That's not where I'm going. But there's something odd when people tend to either insist that the goal is 50-50 without a control group to show that be the case, or refuse to entertain the idea that it won't be 50-50 when a lack of data has not actually ruled it out.

Yeah, it might be 50-50, but since we don't ahve a real control group that is independent of social pressures, there's no reason to rule out some things might end up 60-40 or some other split.

#282 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 280... Pay no attention. He's not worth it.

#283 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Diatryma 251: You're kidding, right? You know that there never really was an "S. Morgenstern Classic" version, right? And that the guy who wrote TPB is the guy who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

abi 266: I think he was as ready to strike her as Ralph Kramden was to strike Alice. I think he was genuinely angry, and thought he should hit her (which is fucked up), but couldn't bring himself to do it (which shows he still loves her). I think she flinched because she didn't yet know that it was Westley, and if she had, she'd have given him the same "yeah, right, like you'd hit me" stare that Alice always gave Ralph.

T.W 271: I wonder why some enterprising female designer/entrepreneur pair or group hasn't filled that market niche? There have to be thousands upon thousands of women in like case to yours. Maybe they're just not that easy to design?

I have to contend what you say about male underwear, by the way. I've never found any that are actually comfortable; fortunately I don't need a lot of support for ordinary walking around, and if I'm going jogging I have my choice of discomforts. Also there's a similar dynamic between comfort and display: for situations where support is called for, the display is (to my mind, as both a displayer and enthusiastic observer of male body-ness) ruint (I've never been able to cultivate a fetish for jockstraps, alas).

But then most men don't care about how their endowments are displayed, because most women don't care how men look (and by "care how they look" I mean "reject them utterly for tiny imperfections" the way men do women). Gay men are in another category, and clothing choices among us can be quite weird by straight-guy standards.

Myself I'm a stone nerd when it comes to clothes. I clean up pretty good (and own a tux), but normally I wear dumpy stuff when I'm not at work, and generic office clothes when I am. This is because I have given up on the entire idea of ever attracting a mate, not because dumpy clothes "work" for me.

Freeballing and going braless/corsetless are not at all equivalent, I realize. I've seen the deep grooves and even cuts on my friends' shoulders, and I can't imagine how they can stand it. Because they must, of course, barring breast-reduction surgery, and the same friends have told me that going without is even more uncomfortable. So here we are at "choice of discomforts" again.

So I'd say that people who design underwear are no good at making it comfortable and well-endowed people of either gender suffer most from this but also as in most things, women suffer more than men from the inadequacies of underwear.

#284 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:01 PM:

anaea said (#272):
Arguing anything from statistical data is tricky since statistical data is inherently troubled. Everybody seems to agree that, statistically, women are paid less than men for the same jobs. That looks bad. Most of the statistics I've seen break it down as an annual salary and that leaves me a bit skeptical. Does anybody have statistics that break it down by the hour? (Please link if you do, I'm curious)

And trying to make arguments about salary differences is easy. Statistics about women in traditionally male fields could indicate anything from latent/overt discrimination to a biological reason for women not going into those fields to cultural training pushing them in other directions etc. etc. And people use those statistics to argue whichever point they want.

As a small example of how to (perhaps) do such statistics right, I can suggest this study by the American Institute of Physics on the participation of women in physics in the US (full PDF file of the report here).

They report the current fractions of women doing physics (or astronomy) at various levels (high school, bachelor's degrees, Ph.D., various levels of faculty), then work out whether that's what you expect, given the past participation at earlier stages in the career path. They find severe "leaks in the pipeline" between high school and college, perhaps between college and graduate school, but apparently not afterwards: in other words, the low percentage of upper-level female faculty in physics is what you would expect, given the low percentage of female Ph.D.'s several decades ago. But they also note that women in physics are paid less than men with the same amount of experience. (Unfortunately, there's little detailed analysis of the latter finding, though I can point out that faculty and other research positions aren't paid on an hourly basis, so breaking them down that way isn't possible.)

I should stress that this is purely a study of physics and astronomy, and only applies to the US (though there are some fascinating -- and clearly culturally based -- differences in what fraction of physicists are women from one country to another).

#285 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:06 PM:

I think he was as ready to strike her as Ralph Kramden was to strike Alice.

Yeah, I never for a second thought he would actually hit her.

I was in a relationship with a woman who at one point got pissed at me and raised her hand like she was going to slap me. I said flatly "If that lands, we're through."

She stopped herself. and it was never an issue again.

#286 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:08 PM:

I figure the frame story with The Princess Bride excuses any number of faults. I don't remember the nuances of Buttercup/Westley well enough to discuss them, anyway; I may as well derail the conversation a bit.

My experience with women's clothing is that no matter what shape she is, nothing fits well-- or one single brand does, and that one will be discontinued soon. I have yet to meet a woman who can buy pants without trying them on or who doesn't settle for 'close enough' most of the time.

#287 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:15 PM:

I think he was as ready to strike her as Ralph Kramden was to strike Alice.

Yeah, I never for a second thought he would actually hit her.

Although I agree, the threat of violence is enough to give me a deep squick. I can think of no way that he should have raised his hand to his true love that fits with my definition of true love.

It's like my friends who make sexist jokes. I may know that they don't mean it, but I don't want them making them either.

#288 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:17 PM:

JESR @ 279, this is true. It doesn't show us what a society in which females were not consigned by biology to be the child-bearers and rearers (or celibate) would look like, since it's only (comparatively) recently that women have had access to (relatively) reliable contraception. In most societies, gender roles are, to a greater or lesser extent, dictated by women's roles as mothers.

I'll add Sex and Temperment to the reading list.

Serge @ 278, I don't know what popular media shows girls these days, other than the Disney Princesses (gag). My childhood role models included Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Pevensie, Meg Murray, sundry martyred female saints, and the Virgin Mary (at least, people told me I should emulate these last. I wasn't very good at it.) Other than Lucy and Meg, none of these survived the transition to adolescence, and Meg disappointed me by marrying and essentially subsuming her career to her husband's. I mean, yeah, valid choice and all, but not really exciting.

Much later, I adopted Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan.


#289 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:17 PM:

The haterade Paula is serving is precisely why I bowed out of this thread.

I thought the ad hominem content of #258 was surprisingly unnecessary, so I addressed my concerns privately, thinking perhaps some kind of dialogue might be salvaged. When people get sideways with each other, sometimes a little one-on-one is all it takes to straighten the mess out.

Alas, I got silence. And then, when a third thoughtful e-mail from a non-lurker reached me this afternoon, I came back to the thread to see still more haterade.

No thanks. I'm not drinking.

#290 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:18 PM:

on gendering babies:

i want to echo the sentiments above about feminism (& possibly other trends) encouraging us to encourage girls to do "boy things", but that boys doing girl things is still pretty horrifying. we can pat ourselves on the back for being tomboys or raising tomboys, but as long as we're still afraid of raising sissy boys, we haven't come all that far. personal anecdote: i was raised in a feminist household, half by a nurturing, stay-at-home mother. consequently, it seems, i am both a raging feminist & eager to have lots of kids as soon as possible. i was also raised in a religious jewish community, where there's a tradition/superstition among some not to cut a boy's hair until he turns three. & all the two-year-old boys had the most remarkable, beautiful hair (big chunky dark or fair curls, this being a mostly ashkenazic community). poignantly beautiful, maybe, cause you knew it was gonna get cut off soon & they'd never have hair like that again. i told myself, since childhood, "if i had a boy, i'd never want to cut his hair off. oh, but of course he'd be messed up for life & grow up hating me."

most of my thoughts on baby gender now are through my three-year-old niece & my eight-month-old nephew, my brother's kids. i remember shopping with my niece & my sister-in-law for shoes for the niece, & literally not finding anything that wasn't pink, sparkly, both, or for boys. it seemed like even at three years old, boys' shoes were built for more activity (hiking boots vs. mary janes) than girls'. proving that even the "cool-girls-are-into-boy-things" meme has not percolated down to the big-box stores.

my niece has always liked to hug & carry around her stuffed animals, which is normal for both boys & girls at that age. but only since her brother was born does she refer to her stuffed animals as her babies, & say that she's singing to her babies so they will go to sleep, or feeding them (& once, in a tone of joyful self-reproach, "i hit the baby!"). & it makes me wonder where she learned that from.

would grownups really, upon seeing a two-year-old girl with a stuffed rabbit, say, "is that your baby? do you have to feed your baby?"? telling a two-year-old that she now has to care for children seems.... perverse.

on the other hand, it seems natural that this toddler, staying home with her mother half the day, will model her mother's behaviour of talking to the baby, feeding the baby, etc. since these tasks seem to be the most important thing to her mother, why wouldn't the girl do them, too?

but i wonder if three-year-old-boys with younger siblings (i guess especially if they spend a large part of their day home with the sibling & a parent) rock their stuffed animals, feed them, & tell people they are the boy's babies. if not, why not? it seems weirder not to.

#291 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Although I agree, the threat of violence is enough to give me a deep squick. I can think of no way that he should have raised his hand to his true love that fits with my definition of true love.

I think it's a personal call. I didn't hold it against the woman who lifted her hand against me.

And, of course, Buttercup did push him down the hill right after that. Which I thought was pennance enough if Buttercup didn't hold any further grudge about it.

Although she then had to throw herself down the hill after him when he said "Aaaassss yooouuuu wiiisssshhhh!"

#292 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:34 PM:

#289: The haterade Paula is serving is precisely why I bowed out of this thread.

Apparently, you have not yet bowed out of this thread. :)

No thanks. I'm not drinking.

Too late. You replied. You've drunk.

I'm not saying that #228 was a condescending, somewhat passive-aggressive way to save face by attempting to establish the Last Word, by fiat. However, when one says that one is leaving a discussion, it's unseemly for that person to continue to contribute to it.

#293 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:36 PM:

All hail Paula the haterade!

#294 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:39 PM:

miriam @290
i wonder if three-year-old-boys with younger siblings (i guess especially if they spend a large part of their day home with the sibling & a parent) rock their stuffed animals, feed them, & tell people they are the boy's babies.

My son certainly did. Watching him raise his shirt, grab his doll by the head (body, arms and legs hanging down free) and announce that he was "giving Baby milk" was...funny.

My daughter (no younger siblings) spends a lot of time in careful doll care. I think her nursery encourages it. I don't discourage it, but I wish that the gender balance didn't pressure her in that direction quite so much.

#295 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 05:55 PM:

PRV,

I've seen this dynamic before.

Paula, and many of us, have spent a lot of time over the years getting a lot of crap because of our gender. Although we don't spend our days in red fury, it's still there, like a scab ready to be flicked.

Part of that is the frequent message that our opinions do not matter. That we don't matter, because we're female. Often that message comes from men. And most of the time, we suck it up, grin and bear it, because otherwise we get accused of overreacting, and confirm the bigots' prejudices. But sometimes it's a bit much.

So you come into this thread and say, basically, that we should not be angry. That you know women who aren't angry*, so why are we?

What we hear is yet another man telling us our opinions don't matter. That we're wrong to be angry.

It's not haterade. It's not your fault. But it's also not wrong or causeless. Whatever the lurkers say in your support.

-----
* Or aren't telling you they're angry. I don't discuss some of this stuff with my husband; he treats me as an equal, and I don't want him to feel guilt tripped by association with the people who don't.

#296 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:04 PM:

JC,

If I had not gotten the mail I did, I'd probably not have come back to the thread at all.

But you are correct, it is unseemly to re-enter a thread once one has declared one's departure. My bad for not thinking ahead of my typing fingers in that regard.

Maybe I should have just declared that I was exiting the DV/misogyny meme? The corset and child-rearing memes, in addition to the Princess Bride meme, are quite interesting.

Oh well. Time to take my ladle back out of the punch before I poison myself.

For those few who wrote me e-mail with some thoughtful commentary, I thank you.

#297 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Xopher, #283,

At least guys can blame their fellow males for uncomfortable undergarments who should know better. Women however are stuck with men designing their undergarments who have no clue. The industry doesn't even use a universal measuring standard for sizes. And don't get me started on the whole size 14 is now the new 10 to protect our fragile egos and anything over 16 is a plus size for big girls. So my Belgium 32G($$)near perfect fit is an American 38DDD'ish sort of and fitting badly or a 34H maternity bra. Enough to make me want to strangle some folks. At least guys know 34waist/32leg always means that.
Strange that women designers wind up doing the exact same thing as the men despite knowing better.
Girls get their fitting needs met, adult women do not and that is even more telling.

#298 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:24 PM:

abi,

My son certainly did. Watching him raise his shirt, grab his doll by the head (body, arms and legs hanging down free) and announce that he was "giving Baby milk" was...funny.

that sounds absurdly cute. there probably are parents who, fearing for his masculinity, would snatch the baby doll away.

but your kids seem to be in excellent hands, even though it seems frustrating that, as a parent, you're sometimes no match for nursery teachers, television, the toy store aisle, well-meaning grownups....

#299 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:27 PM:

T.W. @297
Have you also noticed that a "c" cup now is what we would have called an "a" not too long ago? Suddenly the old "c" has become a DD. With padding. I was watching a morning news magazine not too long ago, talking about all the wonderful new lines of sports bras while models ran on treadmills. Size "A"--Cute, looks like a top you could wear by itself, red, smells like peppermint. "B"--pretty shape, supportive, flattering, a new material that's even more breathable. "C"--Racy stripes, y-back, black, all business but pretty sexy, too. "D". groan.
Gorgeous girl, what I'd call just shy of a "D," really, just running her butt off on that treadmill. White, unflattering, no decoration, no thought to detailing, and squished everything together into the dreaded uni-boob. While Katie Couric or someone is gravely reading the statistic that fuller a chest can experience up to four inches of bounce during vigorous exercise. So that means the bra equivalent of terribly sensible SAS granny shoes for her. Oh, and wear shirt, 'cause that thing's not attractive.

#300 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:31 PM:

miriam @298
...there probably are parents who, fearing for his masculinity, would snatch the baby doll away.

And yet they'd let him play with action figures. Boys play with dolls, too - toy shops just call them something different.

But don't tell anyone.

#301 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:40 PM:

One of the stupidest things my parents ever did to me happened when I was 5 or 6. I really was excited about my first baby sister and was very affectionate. Nothing inappropriate. That didn't stop the grownups from telling me I was too affectionate. For a long time, I thought that maybe there was something wrong about me. Oh well.

#302 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:42 PM:

abi,

Boys play with dolls, too - toy shops just call them something different.

my boyfriend is a fanboy in the classic mold (i'm not kidding, he literally lived in his parents' basement before he moved in with me), & has a complete collection of kevin smith "inaction figures" lined up in our front hall. & yes, i do refer to them as his dollies.

#303 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:48 PM:

I still don't understand why women put up with ill-fitting, poorly made, disposable crap for clothes. My wife does it all the time - runs out for a 6-pack of knickers, comes back with crap that deteriorates in 3 washings and then goes for more. There are quality alternatives, at a higher price. But if people stopped buying the shite, quality would improve. I have a hard time believing it's some conspiracy of designers to provide crap. I can believe that it's a piece of socialization that causes this purchasing behaviour. Who to fault for that one is much harder to determine.

#304 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:51 PM:

J Austin @ 299

Haven't noticed that yet (the sizing still works for me). The resizing of other stuff, yes. What I hate is clothes being marked in 'S, M, L' with no indication of what number-equivalent or actual dimension it's supposed to fit. And then that's not standardized, so you have to try on the stuff to see whether that 'L' is really a large, or just a medium that thinks big.

#305 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:58 PM:

PJ Evans #304:

The SML thing is one good reason (there are others) to buy from catalogs. They all seem to have a size-equivalency chart buried somewhere in the middle with the order form. What's fascinating is how upfront the mail-order process makes all the different companies be with the measurements, and with how each company has different sizing. (And different notions about which sizes are L vs which are XL.)

#306 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Serge@ 301

That sucks, and I'm sorry you remember it on the one hand, but maybe that's also one of the reasons you turned out so wonderfully (remembering it, I mean.) I think that's why those incidences at the studio always irked me so much--little boys have just as much capacity for demonstrative affection as girls, but they get conflicted about it because of what they're shown and told. It also pisses me off when a woman I work with will snort, "men!" anytime some guy's an ass at work. Whatever.

I bet you were/are still a pretty good brother--mine was too worried about trying to be his ideal image of the oldest brother, and 'man of the house." Bleagh. But the other one--middle child--got it right most of the time, and I still relate to him a lot better.

#307 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 07:46 PM:

TW wrote (297);
At least guys know 34waist/32leg always means that.

I wish.

I wear a 29 inseam, or would if I could find khakis in my waist - 38 - 40 - without hitting specialty shops (check your average department store, and look at the waist sizes available in a 29 leg - not damn many, and usually none over a 36), which means usually wearing 30s.

Depending on the manufacturer, that can mean "30, but ought to be a 29, and fits pretty good" to "30, and should have been 32, and I'd better wear boots with this, because I'll need the heel length to keep from tripping myself."

Same with waistline - a 38 can range from "snug" to "if I don't exhale until the belt is cinched, I might be okay" or "jeebus!"

My only conclusion in all this is that the only way to get clothes that really fit well (for men or women) is to hire a gods-be-damned tailor, and have them make your clothes custom. Which, of course, is on the "step one: Win Lotto." list....

#308 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 07:54 PM:

J Austin @ 306... Thanks. Of course, I remind myself that my parents were doing the best job they could, not having any previous experience at raising a family, and certainly not with someone like me.

#309 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:06 PM:

J.Austin #299
I notice that for many the AA has been phased out all together. Even little breasts need some protection from activity otherwise in time they become two flatten fried eggs look.
Also a critical measure has been shifting around. The span, which in theory is the spacing, nipple to nipple, center point of cups to each other. The span has been increasing so large busts are facing outward instead of forward and wind up getting in the way of your arms but wider span also means straps are sitting further out on your shoulders and sliding down off them more often.

The will to make women's clothes fit is not there despite demand, so many excuses. After a certain point ladies give up pounding against the wall and just learn to be quietly miserable with crap.

Even some military gave up trying to make uniform issue bras for female members and gave them an allowance instead. However they underestimated how much they cost in the real world and overestimated their useful lifespan.

We can put men on the moon but can't make women's clothes fit. That should be a sarcastic throwaway line in some one's future scifi. The technological milestone of making women's clothes fit was a turning point in the history of mankind.

#310 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:14 PM:

TW @309:
After a certain point ladies give up pounding against the wall and just learn to be quietly miserable with crap.

Or learn to tailor, and spend an hour or two retailoring every new pair of trousers. I do, because I hate looking sloppy.

Keeps my wardrobe small, though.

#311 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Serge;

My Mom, too. She was an only who got to do lots of "boy" things with my grandfather, as well as being pretty and popular with boys. I think she honestly had no idea what to do with a daughter, or what to expect from one.

#312 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Scott,#307

Sorry, always been my experience when I go with husband, relatives and male friends for clothes shopping that the size numbers match the numbers on the tape measure. Lots of hemming in your life I take it?
Now there's an imbalance. The cost of alterations between men's clothes and women's.

Hey did you know coloured bras always fit snugger than white in the same size and style. Why? I'm told that to save money they are all made out of the same base colour fabric and then some are separated out after construction for dying which shrinks them a little. Now that tells you a lot about how much manufactures care about accurate fit.

#313 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:29 PM:

T.W.@309;

I haven't had the problems with them getting in the way of the arms yet, but they sure as hell aren't getting any more comfortable.
My poor husband cringes every time an underwire escapes, because he's knows I'm probably going to tear up at some point during the shopping trip.
Having worn the shoes, I can't imagine how bad a military bra would fit.

#314 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:30 PM:

T.W.@309;

I haven't had the problems with them getting in the way of the arms yet, but they sure as hell aren't getting any more comfortable.
My poor husband cringes every time an underwire escapes, because he knows I'm probably going to tear up at some point during the shopping trip.
Having worn the shoes, I can't imagine how bad a military bra would fit.

#315 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:31 PM:

badly

#316 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:39 PM:

P J Evans @ 235

returned an hour later with a washer and a dryer.

P J that's a really lovely story. I can't think of a better way to show you love somebody than to demonstrate concretely that you know what their problems are and are willing to help deal with them. Romanticism is nice, physical affection is always pleasant, but in the long run it's partnership that counts, and caring about the things that affect your partner.

#317 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:40 PM:

My least favorite aspect of women's clothing sizes is that I currently have four pairs of jeans, same brand, same style, same alleged size, and there's three inches difference in the waist and four in the length (not evenly distribited, either, the shortest pants do not have the smallest waist). (Guys' pants are not made for the sort of hips I currently operate).

#318 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:13 PM:

After a certain point ladies give up pounding against the wall and just learn to be quietly miserable with crap.

Anyone besides me remember wearing girdles, stockings, and garter belts? Yeah, I thought you did.

I gave up bras over 30 years ago. I wear an undershirt, often one with a bit of spandex in it -- and yes, I have large breasts. Bigger than a C cup, anyway. So what? I also have pectoral muscles. Does my bouncing trouble you? Tough. When I find a pair of pants, or shoes, or a top, that is comfortable, durable, and not ugly, I buy two or three of the same style. I haven't worn shoes with heels for as long as I haven't worn bras. Am I occasionally unfashionable, dowdy, even? No doubt. Wanna make something of it?

On the other hand -- I am fortunate, even privileged. I work for myself, not a corporation. I wear L. L. Bean size 10 jeans, and I can fit in a lot of standard M or L tops, depending on cut. I like my clothes loose, and I really prefer going braless. Some women find it monumentally uncomfortable. For women who don't come close to standard sizes -- and there are a lot more of them than there are of me -- the choices are more difficult. For women whose work requires them to dress fashionably, it can get very difficult, not to mention expensive.

But high heels?? I don't think they're sexy, I think they're revolting. Like foot binding. How can anyone even stand in those things?

#319 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:17 PM:

T.W 309: I notice that for many the AA has been phased out all together.

People fall off the wagon all the time.

#320 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:24 PM:

Lizzy L @ 318

Am I occasionally unfashionable, dowdy, even? No doubt. Wanna make something of it?

I'm hardly in a position to say something. People tell me I clean up nicely, but I just don't want to wear fashionable or dressy clothes. For a good part of my life that's been a lot easier for me than for most women I know, but that's in part because I made sure I'd live and work in places that wouldn't make a big deal of it. If I'd stayed on the East Coast and taken the customer engineer job I was offered a long time ago I'd have had to wear a tie and jacket all the time, and it just wasn't worth it.

I figure life is complicated and uncomfortable enough without all the extra chickenshit that fashion and dress codes dump on us, so if you don't mind the way I (don't) dress, I won't mind the way you do.

#321 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:27 PM:

she should get to do more than simply whomp an ROUS with a stick.

Even better, she didn't really "whomp" so much as "poke", and even that wasn't terribly effective. Buttercup does a couple of useful things in that film, but hitting the ROUS isn't one of them.

Can we assume that Buttercup's and Westley's reconciliation and string of heart-to-hearts is in the cut folder with the list of royal hats?

Since the "good parts version" tells us exactly what's in the cut folder, nope. :) The Good Parts Version also tells us that Buttercup is, shall we say, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

#322 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:32 PM:

Joann @ 3305

Shirts with pockets, that don't assume all women want lace and ruffles and soft sheer fabrics. Slacks in something like gabardine or twill that won't snag on everything stiffer than a hangnail.

(Dropping things on the floor where they end up in the back corner under the desk ... you don't want to try retrieving things in the clothes usually meant as 'office dress' for women.)

#323 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Bruce at 320: I'd have had to wear a tie and jacket all the time, and it just wasn't worth it.

So who makes those rules? Not you. Not me. What if we all said, "No. Not gonna. Can't make me. Nope."

What if they gave a war and nobody came?

#324 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Bruce @ 316

Why they were married until death parted them.

#325 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Faren, #259, I had a lady come up to me at a restaurant today and say "I fit bras for large-size women, let me give you a card." I said "Thanks, but I like the company I'm using." Boy, that was weird.

T.W., #271, look at Decent Exposures.

Serge, #293, I think he meant haterade as a parallel to Gatorade (just finished mine).

#326 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:45 PM:

she should get to do more than simply whomp an ROUS with a stick.

She attempts an escape by diving into eel infested waters.

She pushes the Dread Pirate Roberts down a hill. Unfortunately, she then discovers it's her sweet Westley.

She pokes the stuntman in ROUS suit with a stick. (Oh, to be able to have ROUS on my acting resume.) I don't think it harmed the ROUS, but I think it distracted it enough that Westley could escape it and get the upper hand.

She surrenders herself to Humperdinkt(SP?) to save Westley.

She uses the hydraulic loader to fight off the alien queen and save Newt, screaming "Get away from her, you BITCH!"

Oh wait...

#327 ::: Rosalie ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:54 PM:

T.W. @ 297: Women however are stuck with men designing their undergarments who have no clue. The industry doesn't even use a universal measuring standard for sizes.

Oh my yes, yes, yes, yes. If I had a dollar for every time I've wondered whether a bra manufacturer had ever seen an actual breast--I could afford to ship my lingerie in from overseas.

Every so often I visit the Victoria's Secret (or other brand) site and use their rubric for determining my correct bust size. They usually come out to about 38-40B, and then I laugh, and laugh, and laugh...

#328 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Other clarification on corsets (which I have worn and built, along with bras and underwired bras):

A lightly laced corset reshapes the lower ribcage from an elongated oval into a circle (place your hands just above your waist each way, then press in gently from the sides, and this will be obvious). This makes the waist look much narrower and by comparison, the hips wider, from the front.

Tight lacing continues to compress the ribs and is a completely different proposition.

Most women who hate underwired bras have never had one that was fit properly. It is somewhat easier (though a lot more expensive) to find a corset in ready-to-wear where the breast support comes from the waist stay, or better yet, from the pelvis.

#329 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Marilee, #325

Thank you.
I've worn those before when I was a couple of sizes smaller, gift from a friend, and they didn't work for me. Just not solid enough even in the firm support fabric. They did however make a nice sleeping bra for when I injured the soft tissue and need to keep things from shifting too much during the night. About the same effectiveness as doing binding with the tensor bandage. The best support I ever had was from a linen seamed cup halter style someone made and husband killed in the wash. Yes I forgave him eventually even though I could never get a replacement again. He meant well, trying to do the laundry for me.

#330 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 11:33 PM:

More on corsets, bras, custom clothes.

I am a professional custom clothier. I can build a "bespoke" bra (underwired for larger cup sizes) or corset that will comfortably fit ANYone. I have, and have taught how to do it. It's too expensive for almost everyone. Mass production, even limited mass production, would get the cost down considerably. Here's why it hasn't happened.

We are up against the Walmart mentality. Sure, if everyone refused to buy cheap crap and were willing (back to the bras) to pay $75.00-$100 for ones that really fit, were comfortable, and would wash and wear well, then I as well as a number of others would gladly fill that market niche. But three devoted followers aren't enough to put several tens of thousands of dollars into development and marketing of such a line. The "despite demand" mindset tends to think a dedicated line can still come in around $20-30/bra, and that's not realistic. How many years do you want me to lose money making competetively priced bras that would fit you?

On sizing: yes, it's pathetic, more so in women's than men's, but true in both. The industry standard is roughly 1" of discrepancy between sizes, PLUS OR MINUS 1", and some sloppier manufacturers don't hit that.

#331 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:17 AM:

Carol, #330

Do you take commissions?

I plunked down $260+tax just for one good German made bra. Made it last five years. If you got multi year lifespan on your product I will pay proper value for it. I just don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for stuff that won't last me the year, like most of what I see out there. I swear I will kill the husband if tries to wash it.

#332 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:59 AM:

Mayakda @93:

The impression I got growing up was that males are supposed to be tough. We're meant to endure a lot of wear and tear -- scrapes and bruises on the athletic field, cuts and black eyes from schoolyard fights, doing the chores that involve heavy lifting and dangerous power tools, and eventually going off to war.

And what advantage did we get in return for this? Precious little, as far as I could tell. When I was a boy I was oblivious to the ways women are disadvantaged in society. The only benefit to being tough that I could see was that men's clothing didn't have all the frills and lace that was delicate and difficult to keep in repair.

Besides unrealistic and unattainable expectations for myself, this also led to mistaken ideas about others. If men are tough in ways that women aren't, then this must mean that women are supposed to be fragile. What a lie that is!

I certainly didn't learn all this from my parents. Must have been peers and television.

As I matured, I learned that it was okay for me not to be tough or not to fit someone else's idea of what that meant. I still appreciate durable, easy to clean clothing, though.

#333 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:10 AM:

The good thing about working in an industrial research lab -- nobody expected me to wear a suit. I was actually better dressed than some of the people more senior to me, because at least I relegated my jeans and teeshirts to gardening wear once they got even small holes in them.

The bad thing about working in an industrial research lab -- the need to wear clothing, including underwear, with no or minimal synthetic content under certain types of safety clothing. Turns out there aren't that many pure cotton bras out there...

#334 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 02:15 AM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy, #138:

you fucking rock, sir. i hope that post doesn't get lost in the flurries.

#335 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:08 AM:

This thread is occupying my thoughts in my free time.
Toys and their gender meaning. I just thought of the most egregious example. My god-daughter, three-and-a-bit, went camping with family and friends and loved it. Her parents wanted to buy her a camping lantern for her own. In the camping shop, there was all manner of child-size equipment. The stuff for girls was pink with flowers on, and the stuff for boys was military camouflague. lordy.

I was mulling this over. When I was three, I’d have probably preferred the pink one, as my god-daughter did. When I was seven or eight, I think I’d have preferred the camouflague. I wasn’t really what you’d describe as a tomboy (more a bookworm, which is kind of gender-neutral), but if you’re going to play a game about camping, you want it to be about adventure and wildness and having exciting kit that looks like grown-up stuff.

It’s not just what your parents tell you: the very objects that you hold speak gender roles to you. They’re both lanterns and they both do the same job, but, when you and your friends come up with the idea of building a make-shift tent in the back garden, and there’s that moment of creation where your game starts to shift into an imaginary world, if you have the camouflague lantern it’s right that it should be a war game,* and if you have the pink one, it’s right that it should be a palace or a tea party.

* the whole ‘how far do you go when allowing your children to play with military toys’ question is an interesting sideline. I fully appreciate the intrinsic coolness of knights in armour etc -- did you know you can get a Playmobile Roman legion nowadays?! -- but I am kind of disturbed when I see little boys (it’s always little boys) running around with incredibly realistic-looking replica machine guns.

-------
Re whether there is an innate difference between male and female psychology: I wrote a longer post about this, but my namesake with an –ie said more or less what I wanted to say in post #277. (Is the proliferation of jenny/ies on this thread at all confusing? Should I adopt a nom de blog?).
My general philosophy is that the commonalities between men and women far outnumber the differences, and I’m agnostic on what those differences really are, because I can’t see a way to untangle them from the mess of history. Bruce Cohen @#245 had a good recipe for dealing with all this in reality: ‘knowing the label on a person tells you very little about who that person is’.

Besides this, it seems to me that a lot of the things we view as gender-marked are absurdly arbitrary. To take a few from otterb’s list @269. what properties do – liking science, disliking pink, and eschewing caring for dolls have in common?

What’s essentially masculine about doing science? Well, there’s a long history of sexual metaphor gendering scientists as male, nature as female, but that’s just how our society has chosen to see it.

At any rate, the ‘women are good at languages/emotion, men at maths/logic’ thing annoys me, for one thing because it goes out of the window when we talk about men in literature. Until recently, it’s been a commonplace that only men could be truly great poets/ writers, and that women’s writing was by definition slighter, unable to attain the same grandeur and depth of human comprehension. I don’t see how in one breath you can portray men as some sort of super-rational, powerful, but morally frail species who can’t comprehend feminine subtlety and depth of feeling, and in the other talk about Shakespeare and Rilke. (I don’t think, either, it does men any favours to characterise them as semi-autistic by virtue of their gender -- poor things, they can’t help not understanding us vastly more emotionally literate women -- it both insults them, and makes excuses…)

Appearance: actually the convention that women wear brighter colours than men is only quite recent: look at C17th paintings to see men dressed up to the nines in lace-covered turquoise silk etc. I’m not sure where pink comes into it, but it’s probably fairly heavily culturally determined. Despite cultural pressures for women to be more concerned about their looks, I think the love of fine clothes/ vanity about one’s appearance applies to both sexes.

Dolls – ha, here it gets complicated – is there a wired-in instinct in women to be more concerned with children than men are? purely anecdotally I know women who abhor children and men with a strong parental sense… I think I’m going to leave that one to brew for a while, since I don’t have a fully formulated answer.

(I find plastic baby dolls creepy, and I did as a child as well, though I had a rag doll that I loved).

------
Relevant to this thread in general, here is the account of a ‘gender spy’, Norah Vincent, who spent a year living as a man and writes about her subjective experience of being viewed as male, what it was like to interact with other men as a man, etc. Some of her impressions support what Carri said in post 108 re lust, power and rejection. She thought that the dating part of the experience would be the easiest and most familiar. She’s gay, and she imagined she would have no trouble relating to a woman on a date in her identity as ‘Ned’. But she found dating and the sexual power relations between men and women to be altogether the most gruelling part of the experience, and she found herself, bizarrely and disturbingly, almost coming to be a misogynist herself. Troubles me: worth reading.


#336 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 07:53 AM:

I hesitate to bring this up again, but it keeps bugging me.

Greg London @ 216: "Ya know, here's the thing. I never said they were one-sided. I was telling you how my wife and I are different.... She's got a huge heart and is great with people, I am socially deaf and blind. I'm an engineer, and she'd never turned on a computer until she met me. I try not to let her operate power tools, and she generally handles the shared relationships/friendships we have."

So you both contribute unique things to the relationship. Good. I think that's one of the best things about relationships, that you can fill in each other's weaknesses. I am in no way accusing your relationship of being abusive. But here's the thing:

@ 128: "Generally speaking, I show my wife that I love her by doing things for her. She, on the other hand, just loves me."

@ 216: "I do things for her to show her I love her. She just loves me, and I know when its there and when it isn't."

I don't get that--she never does anything concrete to express her love? The desire to express externally how you feel on the inside is something of a universal human urge, in my experience. It's the ultimate source of all art, music, and poetry. The desire to demonstrate to all the world (and to the object of your affection) the depth of your love is a big part of what being in love feels like. It's hard for me to believe that anyone doesn't feel that urge.

You freely admit that you both do things for each other all the time. Yet you are sure that, while your motivation for doing these things is to express love, hers is not? Then why does she do them? You know that she loves you; she must express it somehow.

The simplest explanation I can think for this paradox is just a difference of perspectives. You know your own motivations for your actions, but you don't know hers. You know that when you lift heavy things for her, this is an expression of love. You don't know that when she, say, does the heavy lifting in your shared friendships, she does this as an expression of love. But really, it probably is. How could it not be?

There's a simple way to test this, of course. Just ask her, "Do you ever do things to show that you love me?" I can't really imagine the answer being no. If this all strikes you as utter nonsense, then, well, sorry to waste your brainspace. But please do ask your wife that question.

P.S. In terms of requiring 50/50 gender splits in all professions in order to feel like we've reached "equality": I will be happy when every woman and man who wants to be an engineer is an engineer, and every woman and man who wants to be a school teacher is a school teacher, and whether that splits down 70/30 or 50/50 I couldn't care less.

#337 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 07:57 AM:

J Austin @ 311... In my case, most of of my problems with my family stemmed not so much from gender behavior (although they did that too) as they do from something else. Let's put it this way. I am their eldest, and yet I am not their first. Their firstborn was stillborn one year before. If not that that child's death, I wouldn't have been born.

What I'm getting at is that, if I pointed this out to the rest of my family, even today, they'd all look at me and ask what my point is.

#338 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 08:00 AM:

Marilee @ 325... I saw that, but, I wondered if there was another meaning for that word that I wasn't aware of. I realize now that it was probably his idea of subtly calling her a bad-tempered saurian.

#339 ::: jennie1ofmany (formerly just jennie) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 08:02 AM:

Jenny@335 (Is the proliferation of jenny/ies on this thread at all confusing? Should I adopt a nom de blog?).

I confess I've been rather giggling about that. A while back another Jennie (capital J, -ie) was also posting here. A friend IMd me one Saturday to say that he'd commented on my comment at Making Light. I replied that I hadn't commented at Making Light that morning. This friend had utterly failed to notice the significance of the capital J.

Lest anyone be confused by the proliferation of Jenny/ies, I have re-denoted myself.

#340 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 08:09 AM:

jennie1ofmany: I'm pretty sure you were here on Making Light before me, so perhaps you should be after me for copyright violation, or identity theft!
I am renaming myself in honour of a T.S. Eliot poem:

'I have a Gumbie Cat in mind
Her name is Jennyanydots
Her coat is of the tabby kind
With tiger stripes and leopard spots...'

and in memory of my striped and spotted cat, now sadly deceased.

#341 ::: otterb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 10:13 AM:

Jenny #335
it seems to me that a lot of the things we view as gender-marked are absurdly arbitrary. To take a few from otterb’s list @269. what properties do – liking science, disliking pink, and eschewing caring for dolls have in common?

Answer - they are stereotypically male in our dominant culture. Doesn't mean they are inherently male or female. I hope I didn't sound like I thought science was inherently male. Part of my job involves ways to encourage women & minorities to go to graduate school in computer science & computer engineering, and it's both interesting and discouraging that the percentage of women is lower now that it was when I got a degree in CS almost 30 years ago.

In a book entitled "Women and Information Technology: Research on Underrepresentation" by Cohoon & Aspray, there is a chapter by Maria Charles & Karen Bradley on female underrepresentation in computing cross-nationally. I can't lay my hands on the book at the moment so I'm going by memory, but my recollection is that in countries such as the US that emphasize a free individual choice of career, women tended to gravitate toward traditionally female, lower-paying areas. In countries where the ability to continue to college was more controlled and more strictly according to demonstrated academic ability, there were more women in computing, even if the society wasn't much for gender equality.

#342 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Does anybody else here make frequent use of IMdb.com? One thing really annoys me about the site. A few minutes ago, I selected 'bio' and 'Diana Rigg'. The results listed the bios of all the men whose own bio contains a reference to Diana Rigg, then it lists the women.

#343 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Heresiarch@336:I don't get that--she never does anything concrete to express her love?

Oh my head.

When it comes to the "skill" of communicating love, I am generally unable to do so directly. Instead, I spend a couple hours getting my hands dirty fixing the washing machine. I do something.

My wife, on the other hand, has sufficient emotional skill that she can make me feel loved without doing anything.

I know this might be a difficult distinction to make to an audience who insists everything is 50-50, but I will refer you back to one of my first posts about this topic where I said something like "I have a blind spot around it, she's better at it than me."

That doesn't mean she doesn't do anything out of love, it just means that she is adept enough emotionally that she doesn't have to do anything to let me know she loves her.

I haven't bothered to keep a score card to make sure she's doing as much as I'm doing, or to make sure I'm doing as much as she's doing. I haven't made it an obsession to make sure our actions are 50-50. Because physical action is only about one-fifth of all there is.

Now, whether the individual differences between my wife and I map into statistical differences between men and women in general, I don't know. On some levels, my wife and I are fundamentally different, and there isn't anything unhealthy or wrong about our relationship.

And if statistically speaking, men and women fell into categories similar to me and my wife, there wouldn't be anything wrong with those relationships either. But to suggest that statistically there may be a non-50-50 split between genders on even a non-unhealthy scenario, we suddenly don't have enough data or the topic is changed.

Who gives a rat's patoutie if my wife never did anything to show me she loved me? Or that she does less than me? Or even if she does more than me? Action and emotion are two different things, different channels. If she's better at emotion than me, she won't need to go to other channels to tell me she loves me. She'll just love me.

And I've lost count of how many people have said "yeah, but..." to that on this thread.

I'm obviously missing something, and I don't know what the issue is.

I've been kicking around a story idea for a couple years now set in a world where men and women are different. statistically, men are better at some things, and women are better at some things, and it just occurred to me why I've never finished it. Because of this kind of response right here. And I don't know if I'm missing something, if I'm advocating discrimination, or if certain people here are unrealistic in their expectations between genders.

Same pay for teh same job seems easy enough. But if you remove all cultural pressures for gender roles, do you see an equal distribution of genders in every job position, for example?

Do men tend towards military careers because they're culturally pushed to that with camoflaged lanterns? Or are men more aggressive, statistically, than women? The thing is I don't think culture gave me some of my fundamental drives. I felt the need to find something to be good at and succeed at and win at. but I don't know if that need was purely cultural. I think a good chunk of it was internal drives, either born with it, or chose it, or whatever.

So, I'm actually trying to sort something out for myself here to figure out if I've got some kind of discrimnating attitude or not, because I don't want to write that into my story.

But so far, when I've brought it up, I got one person who said they thought the results would be 50-50, but didn't engage any further, and one or two people who said something like "there is too much cultural discrimination for me to worry about that now."

Well, the story is in a fictional world with basically no cultural gender pressures. Now what does it look like?


#344 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:09 PM:

Jenny-with-a-y asks Is the proliferation of jenny/ies on this thread at all confusing? Should I adopt a nom de blog?

This is why I use my initials, although it's because I'm another Julia, not another Jenny/ie. Although I have thought of changing to my maiden name just for the giggles of having a Julia Smith and an Julia Jones posting at the same place.

#345 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:13 PM:

PJEvans #322: (Dropping things on the floor where they end up in the back corner under the desk ... you don't want to try retrieving things in the clothes usually meant as 'office dress' for women.)

Been there, way done that. I actually found that long skirts were the best for this; you can lift them up above the knees as you kneel, and still be relatively modest in the back. I gave up on wearing trousers to work after the hardware store; I'd much rather have dirty stocking knees than dirty trouser knees.

OTOH, I think we've just identified what really bugs me about all the network, etc. cables, and why I love wireless: don't have to go crawling about under the desk.

(There was, of course, also the incident where I was trying to buy an interview suit, and most of the skirts came with slits. OK, but *up the front*? I finally told the clerk, "I'm interviewing for a job as an engineer, not a tart!" and found another store.)

#346 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:20 PM:

joann... "I'm interviewing for a job as an engineer, not a tart!"

Sounds like what a woman applying for a job in the Engine Room would have said to James Kirk.

(As she climbed the ladder alongside the warp core, she looked down and said: "You guys aren't peeking up my miniskirt, are you?")

#347 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Serge, I didn't want to be seen as "frivolous". At least in the interviews. My true nature could (and did) come out later.

#348 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:39 PM:

joann... Heheheh...

#349 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 12:46 PM:

But if you remove all cultural pressures for gender roles, do you see an equal distribution of genders in every job position, for example?

Maybe look at real life cultures were a non-gender difference trumps gender difference, then compare same-gender professions across that line.
Going back to societies with caste systems, frex, or very stratified class systems, one could compare preferred occupations for women in an upper caste vs. women in a lower caste. (Or men, for that matter).
I think that's a similar idea to the study cited by otterb (#341).

#350 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:19 PM:

But if you remove all cultural pressures for gender roles, do you see an equal distribution of genders in every job position, for example?

Maybe look at real life cultures were a non-gender difference trumps gender difference, then compare same-gender professions across that line.
Going back to societies with caste systems, frex, or very stratified class systems, one could compare preferred occupations for women in an upper caste vs. women in a lower caste. (Or men, for that matter).
I think that's a similar idea to the study cited by otterb (#341).

#351 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:30 PM:

otterb said (#341):
I hope I didn't sound like I thought science was inherently male. Part of my job involves ways to encourage women & minorities to go to graduate school in computer science & computer engineering, and it's both interesting and discouraging that the percentage of women is lower now that it was when I got a degree in CS almost 30 years ago.

Yes, and it's oddly restricted to just CS -- it's not true of mathematics, or of engineering, or of any other sciences that I'm aware of. As this graph shows, the percentage of women getting CS bachelor's degrees peaked in the early 80s. That seems very mysterious; are there any clues as to what's going on (or what went on)?

#352 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:30 PM:

On the "natural" tendencies, I am NOT femmy, never have been, never will be, and resent all the crap about sociobiology saying "female is oriented -this- way, male oriented -that- way.

There is no doubt whatsoever, as my medical records prove, that I am biologically female. NONE

However, I have detested pink as a color my entire like, look like something that should have been buried three days ago in anything with that's an orangey pink, played with chemistry sets and toy guns growing up, NOT dollies; DETESTED Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls and thought they there were ugliest least attractive things in existence as a small child and couldn't understand their appeal to anyone, never thought babies were "cute," never found anything appealing about interior life doing dishes and laundry and being domestic, have the domestic instincts of a cuckoo bird (no, I haven't given birth and sent out a kid for adoption or dropped it on a church step or such thing, but I have NEVER had a picture of myself as being a stay at home women doing child minding, -never-), the social graces of a troll (and resent that whole thing about women are supposed to be socially ept... I have all the social eptness of the typical MIT or Caltech grad, which is to say NONE!!! and I resent it enormously that it's socially acceded for MEN to be socially clueless, but all my life I've been shat all over for my lack of social grace when my male contemporaries weren't shat all over for it but humored and allowed the social ineptitude...)...

and those who call upon their wives for Social Clue in this forum, remind me of all that ....

#353 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:32 PM:

otterb@341: in countries such as the US that emphasize a free individual choice of career, women tended to gravitate toward traditionally female, lower-paying areas. In countries where the ability to continue to college was more controlled and more strictly according to demonstrated academic ability, there were more women in computing, even if the society wasn't much for gender equality.

Intersting. And just a little odd.

Thanks.

#354 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:59 PM:

resent all the crap about sociobiology saying "female is oriented -this- way, male oriented -that- way.

Yeah, the "snarl" in 275 sort of signaled that I may be treading on interesting ground.

I'm not looking for statistics to tell some individual woman that she can't go into, say, delta force, but I am wondering whether if all the social presures were removed, would more men than women still choose to do such a job.

all my life I've been shat all over for my lack of social grace when my male contemporaries weren't shat all over for it but humored and allowed the social ineptitude

Oh, I don't know if it's all humor. My wife sometimes gets frustrated with my social tone-deafness like I sometimes get frustrated with her lack of some basic computer skill. I still remember the first time I told her to double-click on something and she went click .....(long pause)..... click, and said "Nothing happened".

I assume you get shat on about social skills by people who have some social skills. The folks who don't have them probably don't give you a hard time about it. Which would say it is at least somewhat about people looking at you and expecting you to be like them.

There is probably some gender expectations too, I'm not saying there aren't. But there's something inherently human about looking at someone else and wondering why they don't know something that is completely obvious to you.

#355 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 02:19 PM:

#341 (otterb): I think the difference is partly explained by whether a career is something you *are* or just something you *do*. US nerds widely think of math/CS/science as something you are, as a strong predictor of dress and social style and chosen amusements; and all of this is marked unfeminine (if not exactly masculine). Women in those fields challenge the self-image of both women and men.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, as I was a math undergraduate 15 years ago; I was often the only woman in a class at a big public R1, though my little liberal arts college had a math dept. about 1/4 or 1/3 female. And now I've gone back to grad school, partly in math, and the big R1s are up to maybe 1/5 or even 1/4 female; but a *huge* proportion of that seems to be second-generation Asians (the largest sense of Asian), who seem to have a different -- a much more practical -- approach to what they study, even when they study it because they love it. But I don't know any of the undergraduates well enough to quiz them about their gender politics, so this observation takes a whole big quern of salt.


#343 (Greg London):

"The thing is I don't think culture gave me some of my fundamental drives. I felt the need to find something to be good at and succeed at and win at. but I don't know if that need was purely cultural. "

This pushes ALL MY BUTTONS REALLY HARD in this discussion, because you would not believe how strong the cultural taboo on women wanting to win is. I can hardly believe how strong it is, and I've been bloodying my nose on it my whole life. I was on the debate team, on the math team, on a crew team, I'm in grad school in an experimental science with a side of nonlinear mathematics, I had pretty much a great time working at MSFT, shouting and all; I know what it is to want to excel. And I have spent a huge part of my life being told that this is a sign of mental illness, because 'girls aren't like that' and 'boys won't like me'. Even my parents, who don't *consciously* believe this, felt it in their bones. (Well, for most of my youth, it was true: girls were rare and boys were annoyed.)

I have a bunch of coping mechanisms to fool people or wind them into their own inconsistencies, but am not going to detail them, because they're just contingent kludges to patch over the fundamental unrealism of our society.

I should add that physical sport was the least conflicted, in my experience, and that although I was a solitary anti-team-sports person until the crew team, I do now understand why girls' sports have the impressive outcomes they do.

#356 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 02:25 PM:

I came back to this thread because it has been bothering me a lot that we started with a discussion of a woman being beaten to death, and devolved to what Anglophone tastes in underwear and flirtation mean. Yo: tacky. And I did it again myself.

So I'm forking over a chunk of my discretionary income, in an attempt at being useful: does anyone have a better group to recommend than RAWA?

#357 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Chew,#356

There are worse tangents.
Women endure the short end of the stick every day and in every thing. Folks will be all outrage at the big events hand wringing and such but then that drops from attention and it's back to being fired from your minimum wage job because you're not flirty, perky, bouncy, and smiling enough at the customers. Those constant little things add up over time and matter just as much. What, I should shrug off having my chest ligaments damaged constantly and be grateful because hey it could be worse I could be dragged out on the street and killed. Well I could be anyways it just won't have the same "Oh lord the humanity!" world news effect.

#358 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:13 PM:

Paula @352:
and those who call upon their wives for Social Clue in this forum, remind me of all that ....

You'd love our house. My husband does a lot of the politeness and delicate negotiation stuff, because I have a foot-shaped mouth and tend to say...things. He's also more patient with the kids than I am, and a better cook.

Meanwhile, the kids know that all broken things go to me, because "Mom fixes things". I cut the grass, balance the checkbook, build small stone walls.

On the other hand, I am also the only one who sews, and I do the laundry. My husband maintains the blogs and the wireless LAN.

Stereotypes kinda don't apply around our place. Even if my daughter loves pink.

#359 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:18 PM:

abi, your house sounds like a wonderful place! If I visit, can you teach me to build small stone walls?

#360 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Xopher,

I've only actually built one small stone wall, though I am (as you can tell) inordinately proud of it. It turned a corner of garden frequently covered in mini-landslides of tanbark into a viable* outdoor seating area.

I'd need to build a few more before I could teach it. But we could build one together, and learn from it. There is required reading before we start.

-----
* Well, viable for Scotland, anyway. No stonemasonry short of a new house could solve the weather problem.

#361 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Greg said:

But if you remove all cultural pressures for gender roles, do you see an equal distribution of genders in every job position, for example?

I don't think there is a way to know this; no matter how much a pair of parents encourages a child to ignore gender roles, the child will still be exposed to commercials, classmates, television shows, other relatives, et cetera. All of these other influences will tell the child what those gender roles are.

The only way to find an answer to your question is to eliminate gender roles, and see what happens a few generations after that.

#362 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Peter Erwin @ 351

My own extremely cynical take on this is that the early '80s is when the public started to notice that there was money to be made in computer science careers, and that being a programmer was not equivalent to being a typist. So men started being more interested in CS curricula and they started pushing women out. I assume the word went out to high school guidance counselors that CS was really scientific and not suitable for girls.

#363 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Greg London @ #343 re: your story idea -

Nobody can give you an honest answer because we just don't know. You're diving head first into a nature vs. nurture type debate, and they feed back into each other so much that it's impossible to untie them.

The 50-50 idea comes from a belief that there are no intrinsic differences between men and women and so there is no reason for there to be extrinsic differences. The problem with that is that there are intrinsic differences between men and women. Whether those differences are just anatomical, and the extent to which they affect the extrinsic qualities is unknown. Even what we know about structural and organizational differences in the brain isn't useful since the brain is so plastic it could have developed that way due to environmental influences.

Once we have reliable data on the intrinsic differences, we can develop an ideal about the extrinsic picture.

What I can say for your story is that while gender representation might not be 50-50, there shouldn't be any resistance in the society having it 50-50; I imagine there'd be an absence of discussion about and decisions based on gender and the statistics would work out from there.

#364 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Sometimes the idea of building a wall just seems wrong. Sometimes, like today, I want to build a foot-high stone wall that spirals and curves and whorls all over the hilltops.

I'd better eat.

#365 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:51 PM:

abi @ 360... I've only actually built one small stone wall, though I am (as you can tell) inordinately proud of it. It turned a corner of garden frequently covered in mini-landslides of tanbark into a viable* outdoor seating area.

I'm hoping to be done with my own wall project in a few days. It's been quite interesting as I've never done this, not on this scale anyway. In some places I've had to build the wall around existing plants that I wasn't allowed to tear out. (Come to think of it, it's not different from my work as a programmer.) I'm rather looking forward to showing the results off to my friends.

#366 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:54 PM:

I don't think there is a way to know this;

If you start by saying things aren't 50-50, therefore there is cultural pressures, therefore we need to remove the cultural pressures, and therefore we don't know what the world will look like once we remove the cultural presures, but the result is not 50-50, then you'll never "know" because you've removed the cultural influence, but the assumption for measurement is wrong.

put another way, I KNOW that we do not now know what may be something we can only scientifically know some long time in the future. The only way to KNOW with scientific certainty is to observe the condition where there are no cultural pressures and see if everything falls 50-50.

Well, we don't have a world with no cultural pressures. So we can't "know" with scientific certainty what that world would look like. Agreed.

Fine.

but I never asked to know with certainty. I would be quite satisfied with people's informed, if incomplete, opinions. And I find it... odd... how often the question has been answered with "We can't answer with any certainty at this time" and sort of stepped over their own personal opinion on the matter, as if they have no opinion, or as if expressing that opinion would be tabboo.

It's actually one of the cool things about fiction that an author, can declare things to be so. So, in the world the story is set in, there are no social pressures to conform to gender roles.

If you were reading such a story, what would you expect? what would you refuse to believe? What would you allow yourself to believe in?

Not that I can write a story for all people, but if I at least have a sense of some expectations, then maybe I can try to work with them, rather than being oblivious to them.

#367 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:58 PM:

clew @ 355

Three houses down from us, when I was a kid, the father did the sewing. There wasn't any real attention given to it - I only found out when my mother mentioned it after he died (heart attack, one evening, while his wife was at a school board meeting).

#368 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:58 PM:

But so far, when I've brought it up, I got one person who said they thought the results would be 50-50, but didn't engage any further, and one or two people who said something like "there is too much cultural discrimination for me to worry about that now."

Well, the story is in a fictional world with basically no cultural gender pressures. Now what does it look like?

Okay, Greg, I'll bite.

I didn't engage because I have no way of knowing what a world without systemic gender-based discrimination between the sexes would look like. None. Zero.

To go into all the ways in which society is gendered, I'd have to sum up for you over a century of feminist thought and theory, as filtered through my own years of research and thought. So this is going to be really, really sketchy, and you'd be far better off dipping into an elementary text in gender theory or women's studies, or maybe taking an intro course.

Someone else recommended Mead. I can recommend Gerda Lerner's The Creation of Patriarchy. It's not the standard intro text, but I really admire her historical approach, and I think you'll get a lot more out of it than you would out of standard feminist texts.

Here are a few reasons that I personally have a difficult time hypothesizing how people would interact in a non-gender-coded society (such as has never existed in recorded human history):

1) The BIG BIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE has always existed. Until very very recently, in historical terms, women's lives have been constrained by the near inevitability of childbirth. Women's work has, from time immemorial, tended to be the kind of work that is congruent with child rearing and nursing. Thus, it's socially advantageous for women to cultivate behaviours that at a minimum don't make it harder for them to do this work.

For less than a century, some women have been able to be sexually active without fear of pregnancy. That's not a lot of time to overturn the mores of millennia.

2) With male power comes male privilege. Groups in power generally do not, as groups, tend to share their power very well. Every change to "the way things are" comes at great effort, and, in most cases those in power dictate the terms of the victory. Each change—entry into the workforce, entry into specific professions, representation in government (both in the halls of government and at the polling stations)—takes a lot of energy, and requires women to prove that they can, to some extent, be like men, do things as well as men can, on terms that were created by men in their positions. So, yeah, I could become a lawyer, if I went to law school, and I'd be judged against male and female peers by my ability to practice law. But being as competent a lawyer as my male peers is not enough, because I'm also going to be judged as a woman, on my appearance, my sex appeal, my niceness. My mom is still going to expect me to do girl things, like take care of my grandmom with her. I'm still going to be the primary caregiver for my kids, probably. And this is going to affect my ability to practice law and to work the kinds of hours expected of young lawyers. The system works best for people with at-home spouses or unmarried people with no dependants—husbands or bachelors.

So, this is a modern example, but I'm trying to show how we build systems of access that favour people like us. It's no mystery why professions that have traditionally been female-dominated (so-called caring professions, such as teaching small children or nursing or social work) tend to deal less harshly with maternity leaves, or family obligations than more "high-powered" professions (unionization also has something to do with this, but that's a whole 'nother discussion).

3) This system of male privilege is so old and so entrenched as to be invisible. We're all steeped in it, to the extent that even the most feminist among us can get tripped up on our assumptions about what men are and do and what woman are and do.

The only way I can figure to find out what behavioural trends in a non-gender-coded society would look like would be to obtain a statistically significant number of infants, and rear them in a non-gendered environment. You'd have to have robots do this, since we all labour under gendered behavioural assumptions. Give them all sorts of toys to play with, but monitor their influences, so they're shown equal numbers of men and women doing the same activities: taking care of babies, driving dump trucks, flying airplanes, and baking cakes. Then observe.

For obvious reasons, (ethical considerations, lack of robot nursemaids, impracticability of raising 50 or so babies in a completely controlled environment and not having them go mad, to name a few) I'm not going to get to do this (and I don't really want to, I'm just curious about how such an experiment would turn out).

Since we can't perform an actual experiment, we're left with thought experiments, which is what you're trying to do. You predict that our hypothetical women raised in a non-sexist society would still show a tendency towards certain behaviours and preferences. I predict that they wouldn't. Your thought experiment subjects are all people who reflect your understanding of human behaviour; mine reflect my understanding. We are at an impasse.

I suspect that if you write a book based on your assumptions, I won't find it believable, and I will find the inherent gender essentialism really annoying. But so what? I'm only one reader. A lot of things in books get up my nose, and if you write a good story, I probably won't be too bothered by the gender stuff, because, like a lot of readers, I'm a sucker for story, and I'll dismiss the gender-essentialism as latent vestigial sexism in a society descended from ours. Or something.

#369 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:08 PM:

anaea@363:

Thanks for the response, you must have posted it after I started my reply to Nancy.

there shouldn't be any resistance in the society having it 50-50

Nope, no resistance.

But what if given a choice between "this" and "that", the women generally choose "this" and the men generally choose "that"?

At what point would suspension of disbelief drop for you?

I imagine there'd be an absence of discussion about and decisions based on gender and the statistics would work out from there.

My parser is tired. No discussion about gender?

#370 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:12 PM:

Is anyone else thinking about The Left Hand of Darkness right about now?

#371 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:13 PM:

Greg #366: I find it ... odd... that you're ignoring (AFAICT) a lot of our explanations about why we think everyone's gender assumptions are warped. I mean, I was told I was crazy by people supposed to support me -- you think that's minor? You think that's a knob you can just twiddle down to 0 and see what happens? No way, dude, we have to do a whole stability analysis on the system and then another one on the model to see what's vaguely believable about our projections.

Also, I am beginning to get a whiff of wilfully-ignorant off your continued objection, rather like that I get from people who don't believe any climate model predictions because weather models aren't perfect yet. Yes, the problem is this complex; we care enough about it not to make frivolous hypotheses; that is our answer. (Tho' jennie1ofmany's answer is better.)

#372 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:27 PM:

abi @ 370... Is anyone else thinking about The Left Hand of Darkness right about now?

Definitely. Gethen, where sauce for the goose is sauce for the gender... er.. gander.

(By the way, abi, did you know that, in the book's French translation, Gethen was renamed Nivôse? That, if I remember correctly, was the name that the French Revolution gave to the month of December.)

#373 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:30 PM:

T. W., #357:

It's nonsensical to imply that having to wear perky painful underwear is as bad as being bludgeoned to death. Our choices show otherwise: we all know the neighborhoods that increase our chances of the latter, and often cram into the Barbie costumes so that we can afford to live somewhere else.

I'm pretty sure it's demonstrably not the case that foreign poor women's deaths take up more media time than US (?) women's. It would take some stats-crunching to prove it, but as a test-point: without looking anything up, can you name a case equivalent to Dua Khalil's that happened at the same time as Kitty Genovese's murder? Do you want to bet I can't find a historical record of one? (Of a dozen?)

I think part of the bitterness we're heading into, you and I, is itself the canny product of sexism; it feels like we have to fight over scraps, that only one class of women (at best) are the ones who Count and get to be treated as human. Believing this weakens us. I will -- I have -- discuss all your concerns; I just think doing so in this thread, ignoring the murder we started with, is skating way too close to wrong.

#374 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:33 PM:

You predict that our hypothetical women raised in a non-sexist society would still show a tendency towards certain behaviours and preferences. I predict that they wouldn't.

so, 50-50. Duly noted. Thanks for the answer.

I suspect that if you write a book based on your assumptions, I won't find it believable, and I will find the inherent gender essentialism really annoying. But so what?

Well, I realize that in writing about something that can't be known, at some point you just have to put a stake in the ground, and tell the critics to buzz off. But it doesn't hurt to do ask a few questions beforehand, either.

#375 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:33 PM:

Serge @372
in the book's French translation, Gethen was renamed Nivôse?

"Nivôse" rather than "Gethen"? Or rather than "Winter", which is what Genly Ai and rest of the people sent by the Hainish call it from time to time throughout the book?

Fascinating titbit either way.

#376 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Is anyone else thinking about The Left Hand of Darkness right about now?

I couldn't get past the infodump in the first couple pages. I had a couple people recommend it, I picked it up. Started reading. The opening is basically talking about a parade or something and is a whole bunch of info about who is who and why I should care about them and what not. After some number of pages of this, and nothing happened, I put it down. Actually one the few books I've never finished. The only other book I can think of that I didn't finish was "Cryptonomicon" and that was after several hundred pages, and nothing had happened.

#377 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:39 PM:

Clew, #356 -- perhaps the Heifer Foundation [I think that that's the name of it...]

Greg #354
I assume you get shat on about social skills by people who have some social skills. The folks who don't have them probably don't give you a hard time about it. Which would say it is at least somewhat about people looking at you and expecting you to be like them.

And you're wrong there. [I started typing more beyond that and decided instead to send myself email with the cut out section instead...]

#378 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:45 PM:

abi @ 375... Nivôse instead of Winter, not instead of Gethen... By the way, do you remember 1980's PBS movie The Lathe of Heaven? The two men who made it originally wanted to adapt another Le Guin novel, but budgetary constraints forced them to change their plans. Can you guess what that other novel is? I'd be curious to see if a movie adaptation of Left is possible. How do you convey that someone has changed sex, besides giving that person exagerated physical sexual characteristics and/or having them in the nude?

#379 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Greg London @376:
De gustibus, I guess, non dicetur. My mother read it to me when I was about eight or ten, and it has stayed with me forever. Therem Harth Rem ir Estraven was the second fictional character I fell hopelessly, permanently in love with (the first was Spock, at age four).

But if you're going to talk about gender roles in an SF story, it's probably worth giving it another go. That and the short story Winter's King, also set in the same world, but written using feminine vocabulary.

#380 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Serge @378
It would be a lot easier now, with current SFX, but you'd still have to choose your actors with great, great care. Androgynous ones like Fiona Shaw (saw her playing Richard III on TV once) and David Bowie, with good makeup and prosthetics, then digital work afterward.

It would be hard to do well. And even things done well, like LOTR, jar with people's internal expectations. Some things are probably better left between the ears.

#381 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:54 PM:

lew #371

No way, dude, we have to do a whole stability analysis on the system and then another one on the model to see what's vaguely believable about our projections.

BINGO!

The number one Garbage Analysis cause in my experience, is the failure to look at the assumptions involved at the START of the analysis.

E.g., there is a prayer in conservative Judaism that starts out, "True and certain it is that...."

BOOM! There's an assumption right there! The prayer starts off with Credo.

One of the best-known examples in math and science involves Euclidean versus non-Euclidean geometry. The latter makes the assumption that the sum of the angles in a triangl is 180 degrees... non-Euclidean geometry asks, "what if this is not true?" It's not true for the surface of a planet, and it's not true walking around on the inside of a spherical surface, and the results therefore are not the same....

#368 jennieoneofmany

The BIG BIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE has always existed. Until very very recently, in historical terms, women's lives have been constrained by the near inevitability of childbirth. Women's work has, from time immemorial, tended to be the kind of work that is congruent with child rearing and nursing. Thus, it's socially advantageous for women to cultivate behaviours that at a minimum don't make it harder for them to do this work.

That's not accurate--something like one-sixth of woman are naturally infertile without medical intervention, etc. Childbirth was not inevitable, not only for those who were sterile, but those whose sex partners were sterile, and apparently societies where there was working birth control--ancient Rome wiped out some giant member of the carrot family which is used as a birth control drug.

The Pythagoreans were more equal than societies since then, there are records still around indicating that the women in that society were thinkers and doers just as much as the men. However, the classical world view is of Athens and Rome, not Anatolian Pythagoreans....

#382 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:57 PM:

Greg 376: I finished both. You missed a good story by not finishing TLHOD; I second abi's recommendation of giving it another go.

Not Cryptonomicon, though. You didn't miss a thing there.

#383 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 362:
My own extremely cynical take on this is that the early '80s is when the public started to notice that there was money to be made in computer science careers, and that being a programmer was not equivalent to being a typist. So men started being more interested in CS curricula and they started pushing women out. I assume the word went out to high school guidance counselors that CS was really scientific and not suitable for girls.

On the other hand, the rise of biotech as a potential moneymaking field (genetics, drug development, etc.) hasn't led to any decrease in the percentage of women studying biology (which is now about 60% at the undergraduate level, and over 46% at the Ph.D. level).


I did find a page which mentions some speculations about the CS situation:

There are many theories as to why women's participation in computer science has declined since 1984 [Gürer & Camp 2002]. One theory is the rise of the personal computer. Before 1980, few people had access to computers at home or in K-12 schools. Thus, young men and women were equally inexperienced with computers when they entered college. Since 1980, computers have become common in (some) schools and homes, where they are disproportionately used by boys, giving them an advantage in introductory college computer science courses [Gürer & Camp 2002, Margolis & Fisher 2001].

Another factor is "The College of Engineering effect", in which the percentage of female students decreased as computer science departments were moved from science to engineering divisions [Camp 1997], consistent with Figure 1 above. Similarly, in the public's mind, computer science, more than any other academic discipline, became associated with antisocial male misfits [Gürer & Camp 2002, Margolis & Fisher 2001].

What's interesting is that the article also shows that the decline is in bachelor's degrees, not Ph.D.s -- at the Ph.D. level, the female percentage has continued to (slowly) increase. So women haven't been radically discouraged from the "academic science" part of it...


A little poking around at an NSF statistics site reveals that the numbers of male and female CS bachelor's degrees both peaked in 1986 and declined afterwards; but women retreated more from the field than men, so that there were half as many women five years later, versus 2/3 as many men.

#384 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Greg,

jennie1ofmany at 368 hits everything I would say in reply to your comment on my comment.

#385 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:03 PM:

I find it ... odd... that you're ignoring (AFAICT) a lot of our explanations about why we think everyone's gender assumptions are warped.

I know there's tons of warpage going on. It's just that wasn't my question.

I mean, I was told I was crazy by people supposed to support me -- you think that's minor?

Where do I say it was minor? Or dismiss your experience? It certainly wasn't my intent. I said I didn't feel like my pressure to win was cultural, that it was at least somewhat internal.

You respond that you had an internal drive to win and cultural pressure to stop. OK. My point was the drive I felt was internal. You agreed with me that it was your experience too, that it was an internal drive.

That you felt cultural pressure to NOT do that (win), and I felt encouragement TO do that (win), is something I'm not denying. I'm not even downplaying it or minimizing it. It's just that I was trying to ask about "nature" instead of "nuture".


You think that's a knob you can just twiddle down to 0 and see what happens? No way, dude, we have to do a whole stability analysis on the system and then another one on the model to see what's vaguely believable about our projections.

It's a simple question of how will you know when you've gotten to your destination if you don't know what it looks like?

Also, I am beginning to get a whiff of wilfully-ignorant off your continued objection, rather like that I get from people who don't believe any climate model predictions because weather models aren't perfect yet. Yes, the problem is this complex; we care enough about it not to make frivolous hypotheses; that is our answer. (Tho' jennie1ofmany's answer is better.)

Uh, right, except the global warming problem has very measurable goals: reduce carbon dioxide percentages in the atmosphere and that will reduce air temperatures, water temperatures, etc, to historical averages.

The thing with global warming is we've got a history to know what "balanced" looks like, so there's a known measurable goal to shoot for.

With something like gender, we've got a history as Jenny pointed out of an inevitability of childbirth, of other cultural pressures, to conform to gender roles. So we don't know with any scientific certainty what it will look like if you remove those pressures.

That doesn't mean that asking what you think it will look like is being "willfully ignorant".

#386 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:09 PM:

abi @ 380... How did Tilda Swinton handle the sex change in the movie Orlando?

#387 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Paula Lieberman said @ 381:
One of the best-known examples in math and science involves Euclidean versus non-Euclidean geometry. The latter makes the assumption that the sum of the angles in a triangl is 180 degrees... non-Euclidean geometry asks, "what if this is not true?" It's not true for the surface of a planet, and it's not true walking around on the inside of a spherical surface, and the results therefore are not the same....

Minor pedantic correction: the key assumption behind Euclidean geometry is the "parallel postulate": that given one line and a point not on that line, there is one and only one line passing through that point which is paralle to the first line. In spherical geometry, there are no such lines; in hyperbolic geometry, there are an infinite number.

(But your basic point is quite true; and the bit about the angles of a triangle follows naturally from how you set up the parallel postulate.)

#388 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:13 PM:

abi @ 379... De gustibus, I guess, non dicetur.

Or, as it says in French, Des goûts et des couleurs on ne discute pas. (I'm so glad when there is something I can contribute besides bad puns and bits of trivia.)

#389 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Couldn't figure out why this stuck with me:

You think that's a knob you can just twiddle down to 0 and see what happens? No way, dude

I think that's oftentimes the goal of speculative fiction. To take an assumption in the world, and say "what if?" What if we turned it down to zero or what if we maxed it out to 100%?

The thing is that if you read something that proposed a possible world you would either (1) disagree to the point of putting it down (2) agree wholeheartedly or (3) disagree with some, agree with some, possibly read it to the end, and maybe even think about some of your own assumptions.

Which is to say, you have an opinion on what is and is not a plausible world with the dial turned down to zero. Even if you don't have any scientific data, even if you don't know what it will look like, you would have different reactions to different possible worlds presented to you.

In the potential possible worlds with cultural gender influences turned down to zero, you have some spectrum of expectations that you would agree with, and some you would not. Some you would go along with, and some you would adamantly refuse to believe. If you don't want to share your opinion, that's fine. But asking "what if?" shouldn't be cause for alarm.

#390 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Serge said @ 386:
How did Tilda Swinton handle the sex change in the movie Orlando?

As I recall, Orlando wakes up one morning and discovers he's now a she. This is demonstrated by her looking at herself in a mirror; since we've never seen Orlando nude before, there's no need for special effects. The only reason we've had to believe Orlando was male previously was writing and costuming.

#391 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Orlando looked like a girl to me from the very beginning.

#392 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Paula Liebermann, for purposes of exploring the roots of dominant culture, we need to look at the victors, alas. We don't see a lot of vestigial Anatolian Pythagorean thought forming an ideology of western culture.

I wasn't aware that the numbers of infertile women were as high as one-sixth, but that doesn't seem to have affected the division of labour by sex across cultures and time, in any meaningful way. First of all, you can't tell if a woman's infertile until you've already raised her as a girlchild, and probably marked her as a woman in your society's gendered organization of these things. There have been castes of sexually inactive women (nuns, priestesses, vestal virgins, etc.) who have been removed from the mainstream, but their roles tended to be highly specialised, gendered in an entirely different way, and also dictated by the male-dominated cultures in which they operated.

I had thought I'd made an adequate sweeping generalization disclaimer, but clearly I didn't, so let me try again: when we're discussing the development of societal systems, we have to make sweeping generalizations. This means not mentioning the exceptions, which are many, and interesting, and could fill entire books, but generally didn't serve to change much about the outcomes.

That the Romans had access to silphium, which may have been effective at bringing on menstruation (its close cousin, asafetida, which is not extict, has approximately a 50 percent success rate in preventing conception in rats, for whatever that is worth, and Queen Anne's Lace is used still, and it does block the production of progesterone, which is very cool).

BUT, silphium's properties are first referred to as late as the seventh century B.C.E. and most of the gendered division of labour in the relevant civilizations had already been long established by then.

I should have made it clear, and I didn't because I was writing sloppily and in sweeping generalization, as well as conflating too many different ideas, that when we're talking about emerging behavioural patterns, we're talking pre-history here, mists-of-time stuff. But then I got all sloppy and talked history. Mea culpa.

#393 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Xopher @ 391... Same behavior, different garb, then?

#394 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 05:45 PM:

clew @ 356

If you knit or crochet:
Afghans for Afghans www.afghansforafghans.org/
and
Dulaan project (for Mongolia) www.fireprojects.org/dulaan.htm

both intended to supply warm hats, gloves and blankets to people who don't have them.

#395 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 06:16 PM:

Xopher @ 391:
Yeah, me too.
What I can't remember now is whether Queen Elizabeth looked like a man the first time I saw the movie.

#396 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 06:23 PM:

Varia, 334: Thank you. (I wasn't too worried about getting lost in the shuffle; if anything, I figured that was the sign to shut up and listen. But your kind words are much appreciated.)

#397 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 06:26 PM:

abi @ 370

Hard not to think about it through this entire thread. There are days I feel a lot like Genly.

#398 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 06:27 PM:

I liked her portrayal of a psychotic Angel / Gabriel on "Constantine".

#399 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 08:30 PM:

abi @ 380

It would be hard to do well. And even things done well, like LOTR, jar with people's internal expectations

True, but I think you might be surprised at how much you could do with relatively low-tech solutions. I'd want to try out makeup effects, subtle ones that would change the shape of the face slightly, or make the hands and fingers look longer or stubbier. And you could play with the pitch and timbre of voices. The sticking point for viewers is probably going to be the first time they see a neutral-gender Gethenian, whom they will probably have assigned a gender unconsciously anyway, acquires a gender different from their expectations. You want that to jar them, but not so much that they drop out of suspension of disbelief.

Years ago there was a TV series made in Canada called "Earth: Final Conflict". The first half season was interesting, then they called in the script doctors and trashed it. Over and over for the next three seasons. Anyway, the aliens in the story were deliberately made up androgynous, and were mostly women playing male body language and bulked up with padding to change their body silhouettes. They also played with the voices. It was reasonably effective, especially since they weren't trying to make them genderless so much as ambiguously gendered. But it's worth looking at the show to see what they did in this context.

#400 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Serge @311;
That's a terrible sort of knowledge, isn't it? I can definitely say that most of the problems in my family don't stem from gender-typing or anything of the sort, that's just where a frustrated little girl who isn't allowed to DO anything FUN places a lot of her childhood angers. (Oh, and whoever up-thread said it was never little girls with the realistic guns--that was me, and I was totally pissed when my brothers stole and buried it.)
Our crap comes mostly from The Crazy that runs in the family.

#401 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 09:07 PM:

"The thing with global warming is we've got a history to know what "balanced" looks like, so there's a known measurable goal to shoot for."

I dispute that we know what 'balanced' looks like; we linearize around very recent history, and ignore the fact that we don't believe the system is in equilibrium. Since we can't politically plan for more than a couple hundred years' effects, if that, this is good enough for policy, but it has nothing to do with a Real True State. Our measurable goal is 'close enough to the last few hundred years that our ag-industrial system isn't completely destroyed'. *

Analogy to gender politics? I didn't take your discussion of a novel as a question of what I might be amused by, because this thread is about politics, not fiction. I took it as a thinly-disguised question about a Real True State, because you interlarded it with discussions of your Real True State, e.g. your innate desire to excel.

* Russia may believe they'd be better off with temps a few degrees higher; they may have enough coal to do it on their own. This worries me.

----

And, everyone who mentioned their favorite charities, thanks! I already like Heifer, especially for their gender-equity and ecological-sustainability work. While rummaging around, I also found good mention of Mercy Corps (employs locals to do relief work).

#402 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 09:12 PM:

J Austin... I don't think my parents ever withheld 'boy' toys from my sisters. They probably didn't have to because I never saw them show any interest in those toys, or use power tools, or even a hammer. By the way, did you ever get back at your brothers?

"Die, Aldebaran scum! Die, die, die!"

#403 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 09:36 PM:

this thread is about politics, not fiction.

Is it now? I thought it was about "Women", as in "What's wrong with women?" and the whole gender role, gender expectations thing.

I dispute that we know what 'balanced' looks like. ... good enough for policy, but it has nothing to do with a Real True State.

Oh good grief. One can always argue
"We know nothing with certainty!"

If you want to use that as a convenient out when you don't feel like answering a simple question, then just don't answer the question.

Acting as if my question doesn't "qualify" for epistomological reasons is a waste of your and my time, because neither one of us is buying it.

It's a relatively simple question: What if all cultural pressures on gender roles were removed? Would everything split evenly down gender lines 50-50? Would half of all firefighters be women? In every country and culture? Would half of all violent crimes be committed by women? For every crime? And so on.

I don't need the Real True State. I'm asking what you think. What are your informed opinions. What are your expectations. It's a conversation, you won't be graded, and you can't get the answer wrong.

#404 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 10:09 PM:

Greg London: Absolutely no disrespect, and I find what you're trying to do very interesting, but would you be willing to accept that maybe the reason you're not getting a simple answer to your simple question is that the question isn't as simple as you think it is?

I think people are answering you.

#405 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 10:32 PM:

Serge@402

Getting back at my brothers was a never ending war. They are six and eight years older than I, and though they were my mortal enemies, and suppressors of the freedom that I was certain I could have if they'd just fall off the planet, due to my Dad's job, they were sometimes the only other kids to play with, as well.
I can imagine how annoying, "Take your sister with you!" was.
I'm actually surprised none of us has ever had a broken bone--or neck--we played Star Wars by swinging from ropes between stacked pallets of bagged barite that were at least twenty feet high, if not higher, jumped onto ore trains headed out from the plant, and jousted using broken-off canes from the river and our bikes. Sheesh.

#406 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 10:48 PM:

J Austin @ 405... I take it your parents weren't told what you kids were doing for entertainment.

#407 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 11:04 PM:

Serge--
The boys were supposed to be taking care of me, so we were pretty much left to our own devices. As long as the foreman didn't drag the boys home because they drove a forklift through the wall of the warehouse, or something. No one dead, no one caught, no foul.
I used to be so jealous of the stories from before I was born--no one asked me if I wanted to build a bowling-ball catapult with my parents' input.
My mom's Crazy, but she tells the most awesome stories from overseas. I keep badgering her to write a memoir, but she's bound and determined no one would understand the humor or social attitudes of those strange moments in time now, and she's probably right.

#408 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 11:20 PM:

J Austin @ 407...

My own family was nowhere near that exciting.

What you say about your mom reminds me of when my wife and I were living in the Bay Area. We had gone to SF itself for a movie festival where Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing had premiered. While we were waiting in line outside the theater, we got into a chat with a nice little old lady from Great Britain. At some point, someone doubleparked nearby and neither my wife nor I thought that was very nice. The little old lady then made a comment about wishing she had a hammer to break every light on that car. Turns out that during the War, she had been a military instructor, involved in teaching gas warfare, if I remember correctly. Never be mean to little old ladies. You don't know what you might unleash.

Did you ever build that bowling-ball catapult?

#409 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 11:37 PM:

Serge--

No, dammit. Everything got considerably less exciting after I was about 6, and I don't remember a damn thing. The last place we lived was Abu Dhabi before my dad was transferred back to the states. I used to listen to my Mom's stories and imagine them so vividly that sometimes later I thought I'd actually been there for certain things. I'm still jealous of all the things they got to see and do, while still conscious of the fact that those are the highlights, and a lot of their lives were really dangerous (Nigeria, Libya) and not nearly that exciting all the time.
I think the Universe never let me build a bowling-ball catapult because It knows what would happen;)

#410 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 12:08 AM:

clew @ 401

I also found good mention of Mercy Corps (employs locals to do relief work).

I enthusiastically endorse Mercy Corps; they've been my primary charity for several years. They put a very large percentage (92% IIRC) of the intake to the end recipients. And the only thing wrong with them is that the founder and CEO died a couple of years ago, and can't be there to carry on.

Oh, and we gave Heifer donations as Hannukah gifts last year; they were a real hit.

#411 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 02:35 AM:

Greg and others:

Despite decades of denial, I have had to admit that there IS sexual dimorphism in our species, and that there are physiological differences between men and women, with a fair amount of slop-over. Women tend to be smaller and lighter, with less muscle mass, particularly when you compare upper bodies. As has been mentioned, men are usually stronger, women have more stamina.

I have my dad's hands - small, with comparatively short fingers. He commented after attending a surgeon's conference that most of the [men - this would have been late 50's] there had the same type of hands, and that most artists also have them as they give very precise control. Musicans tend to have long, thin fingers (like my mother, who played the piano and harp) as this gives the most striking leverage for most instruments.

Not predestination, but if you find a slight advantage in a given field, you may tend to gravitate there.

If culturally we could get into what our bodies most support, and what our minds most like, that would be the best of all possible words. Ha, worlds.


#412 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 02:51 AM:

Greg London @ #369

What you're proposing is a thought experiment, and my willingness to suspend disbelief is going to depend on how well you explain the logic you use in that thought experiment. I wouldn't expect a society where 50% of the firefighters are women unless something has happened to bring the average strength of women up to the average strength of men.

Look at it this way. If the average man can carry 100lbs easily and the average woman can carry 60lbs easily (I have no idea what the actual numbers and disparity between them is) but a firefighter needs to be able to carry 70lbs, there will be fewer female firefighters without any kind of cultural discrimination. It'll be a consequence of the fact that there are statistically fewer females qualified to be a firefighter. In other words, if 80% of men qualify to be a firefighter while only 60% of women do, and 10% of the qualified population wants to be a firefighter, then there will be 4 men for every three women firefighters, and this society would, with respect to firefighters, be ideal.

It's harder to work out ideal percentages for other things because not only is it nearly impossible to work out averages and statistics for other abilities, a lot of jobs require more than meeting minimum requirements. There's an element of competition with the other candidates, of synergy produced through combinations of skills or abilities to fill a niche in a team, etc. etc. So this is where you wave your magic wand and start guessing. What do we know about the differences between men and women? Strength, flexibility, other very physical things are easy to work out and give you what you need to figure out the physical professions. It's likely that since there are fewer employment opportunities for women in the very physical jobs, which tend to be blue collar, they'll make up for it by taking other blue collar jobs that don't require the same abilities. Consequently there will still be more female bank tellers, waiters, secretaries and so on.

The real fun in your world building will come with the white collar work where it's all social skills and mental/academic ability and strategies. Again, build up from the basics. The only thing I'm coming up with off the top of my head is that women will always have to take time off from work in order to have a child, unless surrogate motherhood comes into vogue (in which case you've either got machines doing the gestating, or an industry that only women can work in, sapping them as a resource from other places). Perhaps there is social pressure in the society for men to take time off with a new child as well? Or do the women simply burn vacation days to do it? Giving women maternity leave but not giving men paternity leave would be discriminatory and would break me right out of your story, so it's both or nothing.

Beyond that, what's inherent? Breast feeding? You get to pick, but pick carefully. If women are typically less promiscuous you won't have to work hard to make that believable since you've got biologists and cultural stereotypes backing you up. But what do the sexual practices of a gender equal society look like? If women aren't dependent on men for financial support at all anymore and either nobody is a stay at home parent or gender doesn't affect the choice of which one is, is there the same investment in monogamy? Is there even the same investment of lifelong commitment? I don't think so, and I've got my reasons, but I'd be willing to read a story that disagrees as long as there are reasons for that disagreement that don't ask me to swallow something as inherent that I don't buy.

And I can't really list what I won't buy. There's plenty of material in this thread about what stereotypes annoy women and don't work. (Hell, if it's a society where they've invented a comfortable bra you'll buy yourself a lot of room to experiment). I can warn you off the two major mistakes I see in SF that tries to do the same thing; lack of gender discrimination does not mean that everybody is going to be touchy feeling and big on communication as a culture, and while a dominatrix is empowered, she's not on equal standing with the people she dominates. Don't fetishize your equal women - freedom for women does not mean you've got a society full of randy tarts. Even if it does, I don't believe it in fiction.

And finally, yes, no discussion about gender. We talk about things we're aware of, notice, consider a problem or an issue. If it's a perfectly balanced society where nobody is discriminated against by gender, then gender isn't going to be a big societal topic of discussion. It's not taboo, it's just not something on the social radar. I mean, do we talk about whether people with freckles find it harder to be taken seriously in the workplace? Dude, you've, like, got spots on your face. In the kind of society you propose gender is just there, it's not something worth meta-discussion.

I think I've buried answers to your questions in there. If not, ask again and I'll try to do better tomorrow...er, later today.

#413 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 03:55 AM:

Greg London @ 343: "When it comes to the "skill" of communicating love, I am generally unable to do so directly. Instead, I spend a couple hours getting my hands dirty fixing the washing machine. I do something.

My wife, on the other hand, has sufficient emotional skill that she can make me feel loved without doing anything."

You seem to be saying that she expresses herself more directly, while you express your feelings via other, indirect and non-obvious methods? That is considerably clearer.

I would like to note a couple of things. First, saying "I love you," or giving hugs is doing something. The language you are using to explain the different ways you and your wife communicate tends to minimize your wife's actions, making it seem like she just sort of radiates "love" on a heretofore undiscovered electromagnetic wavelength, rather than being an actual active person. The construction of the male as active and the female as passive is not an innocent cultural trope.

Second, the idea that men cannot or should not express their feelings directly hardly occurs in a cultural vaccuum either. That men can only express their love by doing useful things for their loved ones or by providing for them materially is pretty widespread--most obviously in Japan, where working from dawn to dusk, never seeing your wife, was long considered the epitome of devotion. Now, doing preferring to do concrete things to express your love isn't inherently unhealthy--nor is the opposite. But it can become so, when it becomes a universal norm that everyone is expected to ascribe to, when men forget other ways of communicating, when something bad happens and there's just nothing to be done about it but commiserate. It's only bad insofar as it becomes the only option, to the exclusion of all others.

also @ 343: "Do men tend towards military careers because they're culturally pushed to that with camoflaged lanterns? Or are men more aggressive, statistically, than women?"

I think both, but which to what degree? It's impossible to tell. One thing we do know for sure is that there are plenty of men who feel like they are being pushed to be more aggressive than they want to be, and plenty of women who feel that they are being pushed to be less so. It's this actual, real-life, as-we-speak human suffering that bothers me, not our failure to live up to some ideal gender quota. Now, the very existence of people like this tends to indicate our current gender divide isn't ideal. But the question of what percentage of school teachers will ultimately be male (once we've eradicated inculturated gender differences) simply doesn't interest me. It's approaching the problem from the wrong angle. The problem isn't that the gender divide isn't 50/50. It's that it's wrong, in whatever direction. So the answer to your question:

@ 403: "What if all cultural pressures on gender roles were removed? Would everything split evenly down gender lines 50-50?"

...is that I think it would be closer to 50/50 than it is now. Other than that, no one knows, and pretending as if I did would make me uncomfortable. Projecting your internal assumptions onto others is one of the big problems with gender, and something that I try to avoid.

#414 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:27 AM:

J Austin @ 409... I think the Universe never let me build a bowling-ball catapult because It knows what would happen

You sound like the perfect candidate for a MythBusters fan. And, if you already are a fan, I'll bet your favorite episode was the one where they loaded a concrete mixer with hundreds of pounds of explosive to show what would happen to the truck and its hardened-concrete load.

#415 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:32 AM:

In some jobs, yes, most women won't be able to meet the physical requirements. But some will. If a system doesn't have the flexibility to take the latter into account, then it's a sucky system. (Of course, it may have been rigged that way, because we can't have girls around, can we? Cooties!)

#416 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Serge;
I do like Mythbusters, but I tend to look forward to their reconstructions of legendary war machines and rockets. Then I get irritated, and watch the ones on the History Channel instead. Archimedes' ship-shaker....awesome.
On the topic of physical strength, I had a manager who always hired one or two guys during peak season, to lift things for all us girls. (retail craft shop with mostly girls on the floor.) It was always some skinny nineteen-year-old we were sure would snap like a twig, and we usually ended up sending him off to do something else if it looked to be over fifty pounds. I have had old ladies demand a young man to carry trees out, though, and had to go get my manager (another one) to explain why he'd force us to do man's work.

#417 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 12:39 PM:

anaea@412:

Thanks for the considered reply. I think I'm going to start a textfile of notes and that post is going to be one of the chunks that gets pasted in there.

As for the story, it's fantasy and not on earth, so I think I can simply decree that there are no cultural pressures. The trick is to show that in a believable way. It's in a post industrial but pre-modern setting (steam power exists but is quite rare). So there aren't a lot of "white collar" jobs.

As far as not talking about gender, I'll have to take a longer look at that one. It's basically a "harsh" world. Physical strength is needed for certain things because machines don't exist to do it. So, men tend to end up doing that kind of work. But there isn't a cultural thing that says women aren't allowed, just minimum requirements mean men tend toward some areas and women others.

I think there will probably be a scene or two where a man or woman might assume the division is based on gender but the idea is that the cultural response is that gender doesn't matter, what matters is if you can do the job.

I think historically, women's rights got its first big boost after the industrial revolution, so assumptions about gender became one of ability. That's sort of the point in time where I've place my story. Just on a different world, so I can turn a couple things around.

lack of gender discrimination does not mean that everybody is going to be touchy feeling and big on communication as a culture, and while a dominatrix is empowered, she's not on equal standing with the people she dominates.

heh. No. The world I'm trying to write is not a touchy feely world. And I don't think there will be a sex scene in the book, so no dominatrixes.

Gods, I hope I can write something richer than that sort of one-dimensional crap.

#418 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 12:44 PM:

You seem to be saying that she expresses herself more directly, while you express your feelings via other, indirect and non-obvious methods? That is considerably clearer.

Yeah, well I also said "I can't really explain it more than that because I think I have a sort of blind spot around it" in one post, and something about me being "socially deaf and blind" in another. So, if it came out like a caveman "Ugh", well, I'm working on it.

#419 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Greg: 1) Shouldn't that be 'dominatrices'?*

2) Why does something with a dominatrix have to be one-dimensional crap? Dominatrices** are real people, you know.***

*Yes, I'm kidding.
**Mostly kidding.
***Not kidding at all about this part.

#420 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Thanks Xopher. Now I'm picturing matrices coming after me with riding crops. Yargh.

#421 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Why does something with a dominatrix have to be one-dimensional crap?

Doesn't have to be. I assumed anaea was referring to a particular subset of dominatrix stories where a women is given "power" in a sexual situation only because it happens to fulfill some man's fantasy. Sort of misses the mark for equality.

I didn't particularly care for the "professional prostitute" character or their whole culture on Firefly. Hooker with a Heart of Gold. Yeah, she was supposed to be more than a prostitute, but, really, in a universe ruled by an oppressive conqering empire, somehow their culture of sex is egaltarian? I couldn't buy it.

But, the story was good, so it didn't stop me from watching the stories.

#422 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 01:43 PM:

J Austin #416:

My experience was somewhat different. As the only female on the hardware store floor in the 1970s, I knew better than to ask for help. (Fortunately, we didn't sell trees.) It turned out that I was actually better at heaving around 4-packs of gallons of paint than most of the men, who tended (with a couple of exceptions) to be over 45. What I couldn't (well, wouldn't) do was anything involving high ladders, either being on them or moving them about. And I made better key copies than anybody--mine never got returned because they didn't work.

#423 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Well, joann, I'll have you know that I myself am over 45 (soon to be seven years past that) and I would have no problem heaving around 4-packs of gallons of paint. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I had to lift a 100-pound rock into a wheelbarrow, and succeeded without breaking anything in my body. Of course I'm in better shape than some of those kids J Austin had to deal with. Heheheh...

(By the way, J Austin, what irritated you about the Busters's attempts at catapults?)

#424 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Hey, while we're talking about gender stereoptypes that get right up one's nose, what about the Bumbling Incompetent Dad who appears in [British, at least] advertising? He does everything wrong, particularly with computers, while his wife (and, frequently, kids) always stand by and shake their heads indulgently.

On the one hand, it's a relief from the 50's image of the Incompetent Female who stands, her mouth in a Lucy O, while the consequences of her silliness fall all around her. On the other hand, it's pretty darned insulting, and frequently turns into an explanation of why the woman should be doing all the work around the house.

#425 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Abi, that bugs me too. Especially when it's paired with the always right, even when she's being irrational (which is often), wife. There's a sitcom called Everybody Loves Raymond that my mother and sister love, and I hate the characters on it so much I leave the room when I'm visiting and it's on.

Generally I wind up hanging out with my Dad because he left a couple seconds ahead of me for the same reasons. We usually make use of the time to do some good old fashioned LAN gaming.

#426 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 04:18 PM:

abi @ 424... You remind me of an episode of Father Knows Best that I caught a couple of years ago. It begins with the whole clan watching a sitcom where the main character is a father who's easily manipulated by his family. Everybody is quite amused by the show, except for the father who's about to go off on a fishing trip and who starts getting it in his head that everything that's going on (like his son falling sick just then) is an attempt to manipulate him into not going. Which it's not.

I don't remember that this was typical of the show.

Of course TV abounded with more examples of the Incomptent Female. Barbara Eden's Jinnie comes to mind. And Eva Gabor in Green Acres. (Boy, did she make a thick cup of coffee...)

I'm not sure what to make of Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha.

#427 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Serge, I've been known to startle men by picking up and carrying a 5-gallon bottle of water.
The usual reaction is 'Why didn't you ask one of the men?'
The usual answer is 'You all disappeared.'
I don't however, flip the bottle onto the dispenser. That's where I'd drop it.

#428 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 05:59 PM:

anaea @ 420

Thanks in turn for the matrices with whips. I've been reviewing linear algebra so I can start learning operator theory and my mind, which rarely behaves well when faced with a way to create a bizarre mashup, immediately presented me with an image of Sade coming after me with a whip and singing "Smooth Operator". This is going to take a while to purge from my brain. Maybe chocolate.

@ 425

I'm glad to hear there's someone else who dislikes that show. My wife and I watched five minutes of it once and were thoroughly revolted by the stereotypes it presented. And I've always liked Peter Boyle, too. If we happen to come upon the show because we've turned on the set to watch something that comes after it, we mute the sound and talk about something more pleasant, like famine or war.

Serge @ 426

Samantha was something very different from the other female sitcom characters. Think about her situation: she's passing for WASP, married to a gentile, but she can't give up the old religion or the culture she grew up in, nor her friends and relatives. And the show makes it clear that she may want to fit into her husband's world, and she may succeed at it well enough not to be exposed, but she can't change completely or lose respect for herself. Now remember when that show was made: just around the time that liberal writers and directors were starting to come out the foxholes they'd lived in during the Red Scares of the '50s and put on some covertly subversive stories that made the outrageous claim that Jews and Blacks and such were nearly as good as normal people.

Incidently, you should look up a DVD set of (I think the second season of) the show "Roswell" in which they do a terrific parody of "Bewitched" from an alien perspective.

#429 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 06:46 PM:

I can't stand Everybody Loves Raymond either. It always seemed full of annoying and whiny people, and I apply my Seinfeld rule to it: if I wouldn't want even one of the characters in my living room, I don't watch the show.

I think the stereotype of the inept man allows a man (should he take advantage of it) to get out of the work that is usually done by women, like cooking and cleaning, which are boring, repetitive, and neverending.

#430 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 06:59 PM:

Well, I frequently ask people to carry heavy things now because I don't like falling over. Before I got sick, I carried the same loads the guys did.

#431 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:04 PM:

P J Evans... I don't however, flip the bottle onto the dispenser. That's where I'd drop it.

Whenever I'm visiting my in-laws in SF, that's my job. And I still manage to splash some of the water on the floor. Darn contraption. I'm so glad with my own setup, with a waterline feeding directly into our fridge (which we bought in November, thanks to my wife's traditional royalties-paying publisher).

#432 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Speaking of Peter Boyle... I've heard that he was the Best Man at John Lennon's wedding with Yoko Ono, and that Lennon was the Best Man at his.

The Creature and the Beatle...

#433 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:16 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 428... Interesting analysis, about Samantha. I'd be curious to know what women think of it, and of the show itself. It always annoyed me that Darren never really let his frankly much smarter wife help her. At the same time, what pleasure would there be in Life for him if everything were handed to him. At the same time (bis), if he were the magic-wielder and she the one struggling as a normal person, how would we perceive her? As an unreasonable person?

#434 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:54 PM:

Well, I thought Darrin was a total jerk, even when the show was first on. Now, of course, he looks like a domestic tyrant, but even back then he seemed like a jackass. Of course, I was a child.

#435 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 08:55 PM:

@ 403: "What if all cultural pressures on gender roles were removed? Would everything split evenly down gender lines 50-50?"

Well, like everybody else said, we don't really know.

But it wouldn't surprise me if things turned out like this: Some things were split 50-50, some 51-49, some 60-40, and we had long threads in forums discussing wheher or not we had really gotten rid of all cultural pressures, or were some vestiges still left.

#436 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 09:50 PM:

Greg, (and anyone else) have you read Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy? It's quite relevant. You might want to look for it if you haven't read it.

#437 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 09:54 PM:

I've got to say I thought Darrin was a jerk too. I always identified a lot more with Samantha than with Darrin*. And that analysis was entirely from her perspective because I thought the show was and should be about her. He was a foil (not sharp enough to be saber).

* That analysis works for other oppressed groups than Jews or Blacks. She was a lot smarter than Darrin, and intelligent people, especially intellectuals, were seriously disliked and discriminated against in that era. Unlike our modern, enlightened culture.

#438 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 10:23 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 437... He was a foil (not sharp enough to be saber)...

...and was rattled plenty of times.

#439 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 10:35 PM:

To bring this back aroung to the gendering of toddlers, I was talking to the mom of one of my daughter's friends the other day (probably because this thread put it into my head) about the relative acceptability of girls playing with "boys' toys" and vice versa. Her son is two months younger than my daughter, and we were discussing what her husband would and wouldn't tolerate him playing with. I pointed out that we have this meme now of the incompetent dad-- young moms in our group complain about the actual incompetence of our partners-- but if we don't allow our sons to play at being daddies, why should we be surprised if they're incompetent?

She looked at me, blinked, and said, "Wow. Yeah."

#440 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 10:57 PM:

411, Carol, Greg, and others:

Other (small) differences between male groups and female groups:
Males*: slightly higher center of gravity. (An issue in stage combat, dancing, and martial arts.)
Females: slightly better power-to-weight ratio, probably due to a better bone:muscle fiber ratio at (on average) smaller sizes. (Most noticeable in gymnasts.)

*I haven't read the whole thread, but I'll assume that it has been mentioned that men have many times the level of testosterone than women, with resultant effects of increased average aggressiveness and sexual desire.

#441 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:04 PM:

Kimiko... I think I once read that men are stronger than women for short-term efforts like lifting big rocks, but that when it comes to long-term efforts, a woman will win. Good thing too, considering who has to carry a baby for nine months.

#442 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:06 PM:

Serge, to be quite honest, I couldn't say what I thought about their catapult. Mythbusters episodes don't really stick out in my mind after I've watched them. The *general* thing that annoys me isn't anyone's fault--it's due to the time constraints of the format. Much of their testing is cut out because it doesn't make good TV, and sometimes that makes them look sloppy--and I'm no kind of scientist or engineer--so if it looks sloppy to me...... I believe they've had to do a couple of episodes where they retested according to viewer complaints, due to that very thing.

#443 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:09 PM:

kouredios @ 439... So, your friend's hubby would object to a son even play-acting that he's participating in the nurturing of a child? I guess that, for some men, being a father means being a provider, not a nurturer. Kind of sad.

#444 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:13 PM:

J Austin @ 442... True. Still, they do some really neat stuff, like when they showed that, using Civil War technology, one could have built missiles.

(By the way, regarding your nom de blog, does 'J' stand for 'Jen'? I understand that there are lots of Jens pulllulating around ML.)

#445 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:21 PM:

Serge;
They certainly do neat stuff--and I do remember the Civil War missile. I guess I just want more background about each item and cutaway models and all, and History Channel is really good for that. Plus, I do like just the regular urban myths they do, like cooling a six-pack of beer by burying it and lighting the ground on fire to draw the heat out (didn't work) versus using a fire-extinguisher (worked beautifully.)
Oh, and my name is Julie, but the first time after years of lurking that I swallowed my terror and posted a comment, there was a Julie, a Jules, and a Julia already here.

#446 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:25 PM:

Serge--the coversation centered around the idea of him having a doll, which is something she's pretty sure her husband wouldn't be comfortable with. He does have a kitchen, but it's outside (so, more like a grill? *shrug*). When he's at my house, he likes to push the doll-stroller around the house--with or without an actual doll in it.

#447 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:36 PM:

Kouredios@446

Do you think it's just dolls? Or does it extend to stuffed animals? I just realized I've seen more little boys in the store with stuffed animals lately, and I'm wondering if that's becoming less girly, without being a straight-up doll.

#448 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:48 PM:

Greg, #421, wow, we agree on something? (I regarded Firefly as an disappointing mishmash of Gunsmoke (Miss Kitty originally was really a Madam), Star Trek, Babylon 5, Rawhide, the sort of westerns where the protagonist had been a Johnny Rebel and was wandering around trying to rebuild a life after the war and being on the losing side. Where's the show with the male sex worker who's legitimate [cuts out e.g. Midnight Cowboy.

abi #424
The bimboish male manipulatee is deliberate on TV... quoting myself [edited to clean up typoes] from mailing list,
There are deliberately sappy characters for psychological reasons -- Tony Cherubini,
an independent video producer who quit the big TV business for a lifestyle as a New England small sheep farmer, independent video producer for often corporate customers making promo materials, and teaching video at the
college level, told me that e.g. the character that Bill Cosby played of Dr Huxtable was deliberately engineered to be socially stupid/manipulated by his wife, to give the female viewership who did most of the buying of
products which were advertised during that show's commercial break, a feeling of empowerment through the sight of the male lead being -manipulated by- and in the power of the female lead.

( http://www.mwcc.edu/HTML/gmod/FacultyProfiles/FacultyProfiles.html has a profile of Tony. )


#449 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:52 PM:

J Austin @ 447: In this particular case? I think he's fine with stuffed animals. For some reason, it's generally less acceptable for a young boy to carry around a human baby than a fuzzy animal substitute. I have no idea why.

When/if I have a son of my own, I plan to follow his lead in these things just as I have my daughter. I do think, however, that it will be slightly harder for my husband to tolerate than our daughter's tomboyishness. That he encourages heartily. And this, I would guess, is due to the remnants of gender coding we've been discussing. I predict that we'll get to the place where it's okay for boys to like girls' things. It just seems to be more of an uphill battle, from what I've seen in the trenches.

In my daughter's first year, I spent a good amount of time on babycenter.com. I really enjoyed this particular blog there, of a mom of a son who, among other things, had a favorite pink shirt. It wasn't an issue for them at all. He's a particularly sweet kid.

#450 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 11:58 PM:

You get called away to deal with emergency cleaning after finding nesting biting parasites in the other room and this thread keeps chugging along.

Greg, #421.
I can not stand Inara from Firefly. The ultimate sexist fantasy of the legit classy whore. Makes me question just how much of a feminist the character's creator actually is.

#451 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 12:56 AM:

Greg London @421: but, really, in a universe ruled by an oppressive conqering empire, somehow their culture of sex is egaltarian? I couldn't buy it.

Why not? Real-world cultures are all sorts of mixtures. The Spartans, for example, were a slave-owning totalitarian military state, and more sexually egalitarian than any of the other Greek cultures of the time.

#452 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 01:00 AM:

Lizzy@436: Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

No. Don't think I've heard of that one. At the advice of this thread, I picked up Left Hand of Darkness, again, and started reading it, again, and having finished the first chapter, I have to say that an entire chapter of nothing but talking about political intrigue over a parade and dinner is boring me to tears. Again.

I do hope it shifts gears at some point.

I'll put "Women on the edge of time" on the reading list if you tell me it's not a political intrigue novel.

Bruce@428: Sade coming after me with a whip and singing "Smooth Operator"

I just... where did... oh, man, the train wreck you set off in my head... ouch.

Kimiko@440: men have many times the level of testosterone than women, with resultant effects of increased average aggressiveness and sexual desire.

I don't know what the specific numbers are. I do recall reading something about a woman undergoing a sex change operation to become a man. She wrote down her experiences as she went through the different stages. The thing that really stood out was her experience once she started taking testosterone. She wrote about a time she was on the subway, after starting testosterone, and she caught a glimpse of a woman's ankle, and had flurry of sexual images and thoughts seize her mind. I don't remember her name, or have a link, or anything.

The other bit I recall reading was about a man who had testicular cancer and had to have his testicles removed. And he said that before the surgery he had occaisional thoughts of wondering how he would do in combat, in a war, in a fight. Would he measure up? And he said that after the cancer, surgery, and recovery, that those thoughts simply never entered his mind.

I know some women wanted to point out that my drive to win was not necessarily a male drive, but I wonder how many women have thoughts about whether they would measure up in combat on a regular basis versus how many men.

Paula@448: Miss Kitty originally was really a Madam

Say it isn't so!

;)

Several@various posts: Regarding TV shows with male stooges and females always shaking their heads, Married with Children, I believe, probably hit the pinnacle of that situation. Everyone was basically an idiot, but Al and the son were always the butt of jokes from Peg and the daughter. There's a cartoon called Kimpossible, which I haven't watched, but what I gather from previews is a butt-kicking girl and a dweeby, nerdy guy sidekick who provides some technical assistance but otherwise is clueless. Family Guy has an imbecile father, and a mother always having to bail him out of trouble. Futurama seems to basically center around Fry, an idiot male from current times, and Leela a butt-kicking female starship pilot of the future who is always bailing Fry out of trouble.

#453 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 01:22 AM:

Avram@451:Why not? Real-world cultures are all sorts of mixtures.

Reality's got nothing to do with it. It is a matter of what purpose her character served in the storyline. She was an object of attraction for Mal, who showed his interest in her by scorning her choice to be a prostitute.

At which point, if she really is engaged in egaltarian prostitution, then Mal's just an ass. And what could come of that but for Mal to at some point have an "awakening" that, why yes, this is an empowering career choice? That would never fly, so the only other option is Mal is right.

If Mal is right and there is something inequal about her prostitituion, then what plot turn could happen other than have Mal "rescue" her from prostitution, a'la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, the total stereotypical Glamorfied Prostitution story of all time.

Which means as a story point, it isn't about "yes, this is egaltarian sexual choices", but "this may turn into a scene where Mal shows up like Richard Gere with the Limo and whisks Inara away in his limousine/starship."

#454 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 01:56 AM:

anaea @ 420: "Thanks Xopher. Now I'm picturing matrices coming after me with riding crops. Yargh."

Hey, at least they're only one-dimensional. Imagine three-, or four-dimensional matrices coming at you with cats o' nine tails!

Greg London @ 421: Yeah, Inara pisses me off too. If she's so empowerful and stuff, why does Mal hand her her ass every time they have an argument? Wouldn't she have learned a cutting retort or two in her training? Meh. Methinks Joss isn't quite as comfortable with sex work as he'd like to be. (To be fair, part of this might have to do with the terrible job the actress does.)

#455 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 01:58 AM:

Greg London @ #452

The other bit I recall reading was about a man who had testicular cancer and had to have his testicles removed. And he said that before the surgery he had occaisional thoughts of wondering how he would do in combat, in a war, in a fight. Would he measure up? And he said that after the cancer, surgery, and recovery, that those thoughts simply never entered his mind.

Just an anecdotal data point for you, one of my roomies ran across the same thing a couple days ago when she was following up the comment thread on the original article. We ultimately decided that it was a silly thing; of the three of us (2 females, 1 male) we agreed that I don't wonder how I'd measure up in combat because I know, the other fem wonders, and the sole male just has a good grasp on how fast he can run and doesn't consider the issue beyond that. Given that there's nothing odd about my testosterone levels, or those of either of my roomies, it's clearly not the only source of aggressive tendencies nor does it guarantee them. I'm not saying you were saying that, just repeating the line our conversation about the same anecdote followed.

#456 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 02:11 AM:

Kimiko @ 440

Females: slightly better power-to-weight ratio, probably due to a better bone:muscle fiber ratio at (on average) smaller sizes.

I didn't know that, but now that you've said it, it makes perfect sense. Does it imply that women should be better at long-distance bicycling, too? Obviously, men have an advantage at running because of the longer average leg and stride, but you'd think this would be eliminated for cycling.

#457 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 02:21 AM:

J Austin @ 445

I haven't seen Mythbusters myself, but I have a friend who loves it, and who may end up being a groupie for the show the way he reacts whenever he sees the cast in RL. What's odd about that is that his original profession was aerospace/pyrotechnic engineer; he worked on the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters. So you'd think he would be bothered by any sloppiness about his own area of expertise, but it seems not. Just shows that taste and understanding aren't necessarily related.

Re: your blog name, I thought you were trying to make us think of Jane Austin, and I thought that worked well.

#459 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:06 AM:

J Austin @ 445... my name is Julie, but the first time after years of lurking that I swallowed my terror and posted a comment, there was a Julie, a Jules, and a Julia already here

"...after years of terror..."

Are we that scary? Even with funny party hats on our heads?

#460 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:12 AM:

kouredios @ 449... it's generally less acceptable for a young boy to carry around a human baby than a fuzzy animal substitute

Maybe it's because taking care of animals, and raising them, was an honorable pursuit for men. Watch all those John Wayne movies. (But only if you have to - what a big phoney he was.)

#461 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:22 AM:

A few peripheral comments:

I got some of the "men are competitive and prone to violence" meme from the popular culture when I was a kid (though thankfully not from my family), but the version that was more viscerally disturbing was the realization in college that a lot of my female friends saw me on some level as a threat. I started wearing a bell around my neck that year so I could at least warn people that I was coming.

On the firefighters front, one of my cousins is a fire chief, and there was some grumbling about "ability to do the job" among his (then) men when he hired the first woman firefighter at the station. My cousin had to point out that going by the qualification test results, if he threw her out of the squad, he'd also have to throw out a lot of them because she was stronger and faster and had better endurance than they did. They shut up.

Re hardware stores and expectations of strength. I volunteered for years building tiger and leopard cages. One weekend when we were going to be cementing in poles for a new cage, I stopped at the lumber yard to pick up something like five bags of Portland cement. I got out to help load the car, because three trips is a lot faster than five, and the woman working the warehouse was amused to see me (a) wait for her to get a bag since she was closer, and (b) toss the second bag over one shoulder and follow her with it. She had apparently encountered a lot of guys who felt like they should carry the cement because they were big strong men™, and then practically rupture themselves when they tried to pick it up. I assumed that anyone working that job would be able to lift 94 pounds handily.

#462 ::: kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 09:03 AM:

There's a cartoon called Kim Possible, which I haven't watched, but what I gather from previews is a butt-kicking girl and a dweeby, nerdy guy sidekick who provides some technical assistance but otherwise is clueless.
Kim Possible is really, really, quite good, and quite subversive. There is a "oh no, we switched brains" episode which very handily underlines how sexist traditional adventure fiction* really is, when the clumsy, emotional sidekick who's always getting tied up by the bad guys ends up in the woman's body.

One of the things that makes the series really quite fun is that it shows Kim kicking butt and taking names in a sensible, confident way, while still juggling the usual teen angst. (It is probably nerd wish fulfillment also, in that the supporting males** are, well, nerds who do about as well in combat as you'd expect in real life. Including offering "helpful" suggestions to the villain regarding SPINNING TOPS OF DOOM. Oops. Sorry Kim.)

(Also, find the episode with the "Oh Boyz" for a delightful parody of boy bands.)

*From Flash Gordon to Indiana Jones, etc.
**She has two, not counting additional (semi-ineffectual) technical help from a pair of dweeby twin brothers, and a dad who does rocket science. Mom's a brain surgeon, but usually offers her maternal advice via speakerphone during surgery.

#463 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Superman returns had the obligatory scene where you-know-who saves Lois Lane (in a very spectacular manner that involves a a full planeload of people), but, near the end, it's Lois who saves Clark.

#464 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 10:32 AM:

Greg, Woman On the Edge of Time is not a political intrigue novel, but it is political in a larger sense. It's feminist science fiction, written in 1976, but still very timely. In it, a woman toggles -- you'll see how -- between a dystopian present and a somewhat utopian future where gender and gender roles are addressed in a creative and hopeful way.

#465 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Bruce Cohen SpeakerToManagers @ 456

Does it imply that women should be better at long-distance bicycling, too?

No. the operative issue on a bike is not power to weight, but power to aerodynamic drag. In general, bigger cyclists power rises faster than drag does.

For the few places that it's actually power/weight, (acceleration, hill climbing) then you have to include bicycle weight in the calculation. Once you add 15-20 lbs, the differences are likely pretty subtle.

Finally, I'll point out that old age and treachery tend to rule in cycling, and young and compact in gymnastics.

#466 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 11:22 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers)#457;
I thought it worked out well, too, but it was an accident. When I worked at the studio, there was a customer with the absolute coolest first name "Lady Jane" but then I changed my name when I married and I don't think I can do that to even a hypothetical kid. (I also thought Jane was actually nice-sounding for a boy, but that'd be a doubly-whammy.)
Serge--I'm actually only half-kidding about the terror thing, but I'd imagine that's part of the Crazy. The first time I posted here was the first time I posted anywhere, and I had the same reaction I do in a lot of first-time social situations--my heart pounded, my scalp got all prickly, and I wasn't sure I wasn't going to throw up, all the while cursing whoever hadn't yet invented "unsend." I felt the same way the first time I put a manuscript in the mail.
Party hats, too? Bleghhrp...I think I taste metal.......

#467 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Serge (#460): Watch all those John Wayne movies. (But only if you have to - what a big phoney he was.)

Yesterday, for Military Films All Over the Place weekend, the former UPN (I think it's called Ion now) showed a real peculiarity, Wayne and Janet Leigh in Jet Pilot (1957). She plays a "Russian" pilot (with a strong American accent) who seems to fall for her American counterpart Wayne, but spends a lot of time kicking male butt and ruthlessly spying -- sort of like a much cuter counterpart of Rosa Krebs (was that the name?) in the Bond film. There's even an ejector-seat joke, at a guy's expense. One scene with John and Janet each flying their own jet, close together, included so many double entendres -- e.g. "You start my engines" and "I like it on top" -- my husband commented, "Could they say that in 1957?" We were both cracking up.

Ass-kicking and treacle alternated right till the end (guess which won?), and neither star displayed much acting talent here, but another interesting feature was Janet's official "Soviet" gear: a form-fitting uniform and a Princess Leia hairdo! Almost made me think it was an alternate universe where Eddie Fisher married a different starlet, and the genetic hairstyle got passed down.

#468 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 07:11 PM:

J Austin @ 466... I wasn't sure I wasn't going to throw up, all the while cursing whoever hadn't yet invented "unsend."

Aren't you glad now that there is no "unsend" button? By the way, every time you bring up the Crazy, I hear Patsy Cline singing Crazy - or rather, Beverly d'Angelo doing Patsy Cline singing Crazy. Oh, and I said party hats, not tinfoil hats, so you shouldn't be tasting any metal. Heheheh...

#469 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Faren @ 467... You are sick. And you have succeeded in making me want to watch a John Wayne movie. By the way, it's been hard to avoid those these last few days, what with TCM celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday yesterday. As for why I dislike the Duke... I can't like someone who made his living playing tough guys, but chose not to serve during the war. (My understanding is that his health 'problems' had been exagerated. I may be wrong. If so, I'll have my crow without feathers.) The thing is that he took the tough-guy image seriously, based on his disgusted reaction when he found that Kirk Douglas liked... gasp... poetry. What a faux man Wayne was.

#470 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:05 PM:

Greg London at #453

There's also the alternative (which is where I suspect Joss was eventually going) that neither of them is entirely right or wrong, but that they see the situation very differently because of their very different backgrounds.

And that they eventually realize that they can't really be a couple because they're not really right for each other, despite the mutual attraction.

kimiko at #462

I also like "Kim Possible". I sometimes think of it as "Buffy minus most of the angst."

(One of William George Ferguson's posts over at alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer was where I first saw the comparison between Buffy and Kim.)

(Also, Ron maps not too badly into Xander.)


#471 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Maybe he was just overcompensating for being named "Marion."

#472 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:29 PM:

T.W. #450
I wonder how much of Firefly the TV network dictated or "suggested," how much the advertisement representatives influenced, etc.

BS Galatica the original had a female "socialator" [read, somewhere in the unnormed nonlinear incomplete and definitely not self-consistent... space containing the intersection of prostitute, hetaira [spelling], and social worker]. It was riffing Western in Space echoes-- Lorne Greene the lead character after all from Bonanza was on it, and there was a strong strain of what seemed like influence from Wagon Train, crossed with the whole line of descent of Evil Artificial Intelligences using a name for them clearly in a line of descent from Williamson's The Humanoids {Cyclan/Cylons/other terms that sound very much alike--can't be any sort of accident or non-deliberate coincidence}.

Gunsmoke, as I noted earlier, had Miss Kitty, whose portrayal evolved over time (as society got more hypocritical and uptight and verbally claiming to be "moral" and pedagogical about it). Blazing Saddles had what's her name, and what got censored in the TV showing was the audio part of the eatin' beans scenes, not the sex worker's entendres....

I'm sort of surprised to see the negative comments on the Inara character in here, I was irked but a lot of other people I know saw nothing untoward or irritating (and quite a number of people were very enthused about the show generally).

#473 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Paula Lieberman... Re Inara, have you or anybody else ever heard what Wheadon had in mind for her character, had the show gone on? I seriously doubt he was planning to have Mal rescue her from her sinful ways, but I don't know that.

#474 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 08:47 PM:

Serge @ 459

Are we that scary? Even with funny party hats on our heads?

Funny hat? This is my head!

#475 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 09:02 PM:

No, wait a minute.
This
is my head.

#476 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 09:35 PM:

The only John Wayne movie I like is Donovan's Reef and even there I have to turn my head away a few times.

#477 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Marilee... The only scene where I ever liked John Wayne - and that's one scene in all the movies he's made - was at the very end of a movie I didn't even like, The Searchers... He's spent years looking for the girl, he finally brings her home, and he can't find the strength to get into the house and join the family.

I always preferred Gregory Peck's characters, where it comes to men who didn't have to prove themselves, and who were not afraid to feel. Atticus Finch would be a prime example.

#478 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2007, 11:10 PM:

Greg London @453, I don't know if we were watching the same show. On the version of Firefly I watched, Mal was an ass. Being an ass was an important part of his character.

The tension in the Mal-Inara relationship, from Mal's side, is caused by the following facts: (1) Mal wants Inara. (2) Mal's pride won't let him share her with other men (or women, presumably). (3) Mal's respect for Inara won't let him ask her to leave her profession.

It's Mal's anger about these facts that causes him to occasionally strike out at Inara verbally, by talking nasty about her career choice.

Mal may well also have some actual bad feelings about prostitution apart from Inara. We know from the first episode that Mal used to be religious, so he may have been brought up with a more restrictive sexual code than is the norm in the Inner Worlds.

As far as how the situation was going to resolve, well, Joss love playing against storytelling cliches, and he hates happy relationships, so it's possible that Mal and Inara would just go on frustrating each other without a solution until she leaves the ship for good.

#479 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 01:11 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 472: "I'm sort of surprised to see the negative comments on the Inara character in here, I was irked but a lot of other people I know saw nothing untoward or irritating (and quite a number of people were very enthused about the show generally)."

Oh, I love the show. It's because I've rewatched it so many times that the flaws, such as Inara's blah-ness, bug me so much.

#480 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 01:58 AM:

On the version of Firefly I watched, Mal was an ass. Being an ass was an important part of his character.

I was using "ass" in reference to a particular meaning. i.e. as you point out (2) Mal's pride won't let him share her with other men

love is, as best as I can figure out, nothing more than accepting someone completely. If Mal loved Inara, he'd love her doing whatever she was doing. What we saw could more accurately be described as Mal was attracted to Inara, did not accept who she was, and tried to indirectly control her through his verbal abuse. It also means that Mal was too chickenshit to make his feelings known to her (standard silent tough guy stereotype). Mal actually would have won some points with me if he had said something like "I like you, and I want you to stop being a prostitute". At least he would have been honest.

#481 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:10 AM:

Joss ... hates happy relationships

Hm. Firefly/Serenity are my only exposure to his stories. (No, I haven't watched Buffy.) But if Mal/Inara are a latent writer tic, then that actually explains it more than any logical story/character explanation ever would.

#482 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:20 AM:

Hm, just checked wikipedia's article on Joss. I was looking to see if he had gone through a string of messy relationships or something that might explain the "no happy relationships" thing. No biographical info at all. Odd for wikipedia, the National Enquirer of encyclopedias to leave out all the juicy stuff.

#483 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:21 AM:

Avram @ 478: Agreed, but why is it that Inara could never come up with a decent retort to Mal's stream of insults? Wouldn't she, as a highly-educated member of a professional courtesan organization, be slightly more articulate about the morality of her work? But no, everytime Mal drops some "whore" comment, she sits there shocked, like she's thinking, "Oh crap! I never thought of that! Maybe I am a dirty, dirty whore!"

Mal's character, and his reaction to Inara, make perfect sense. But Inara is a caricature.

#484 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:21 AM:

Hm, just checked wikipedia's article on Joss. I was looking to see if he had gone through a string of messy relationships or something that might explain the "no happy relationships" thing. No biographical info at all. Odd for wikipedia, the National Enquirer of encyclopedias to leave out all the gossip

#485 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:43 AM:

Greg #484

Relatively writers seem to be able to make a happy healthy relationship between equals have much in the way of effective dramatic tension. Therefore, they instead write about dysfunctional relationships if doing something continuing, or write to the point where there is a Happily Ever After ending (or sometimes an unhappily ever after, or the character heads off to some new challenge... C. S. Friedmans's first novel from DAW had an Unhappily Ever After ending...

There's some line about great art having to come from unsettled times and bad relationships--I don't agree with it, consider the Dutch masters who were doing their work during a time when there was a burgeoning well-off middle class paying for the Dutch masters to paint them in scenes of happy sometimes-but-not-always mischevious domesticity. Their work's accounted Great Art, even though the topics tended to be burghers and their families.

#486 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 06:16 AM:

Paula Lieberman@472: You spelled "hetaira" correctly. You may know this, but it's Greek for (to bring Firefly back into it) "companion". (The female form of the noun; male is "hetairos".)

Greg London@482: The soundtrack for the Buffy musical episode has one track where Joss Whedon's wife sings. More than that, I can't say.

#487 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 07:59 AM:

Whedon doesn't hates happy relationships, based on what he's been doing with his X-men comic-book, at least where Kitty Pryde and Colossus are concerned.

#488 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 08:41 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 475... Tyger, Tyger, eh? Meanwhile, here's my head, as seen by my 5-year-old nephew. Or is it a funny hat?

#489 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Why is it that Everybody Loves Raymond is so incredibly depressing but Married with Children is not? The two shows seem as different as night and day to me.

#490 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 10:40 AM:

Serge, I'm almost amazed there's a movie you haven't seen! I can certainly understand the allergy to Wayne, but this film is so impossibly cheesy it's hard to resist at least a peek. Since it was made with the full approval of the US Air Force, the genre might be called "military camp". It's a Howard Hughes production, and I think the director was none other than Von Sternburg, though it's still trash all the way through. (Leigh's purple dress with the shiny gold top in the seduction scenes may be "glamor" at its very sickest.)

#491 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 10:56 AM:

Faren... I am ashamed to admit there are some lacunae in my knowledge of cinema. A movie starring John Wayne and produced by Howard Hughes? How could things possibly go wrong ? Very much, I guess, as I saw the duo's The Conqueror, with the Duke as Genghis Khan, and Susan Hayward as the daughter of the Emperor of China. And lines like this?

"She is woman, Jamuga... much woman. Should her perfidy be less than that of other women?"

#492 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 11:01 AM:

adamsj #489: I think it's because Married With Children knows that its characters are horrible, hateful people in a horrible, hateful situation, and uses that to its advantage, while Everybody Loves Raymond wants to be liked. Which is horrific.

#493 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Paula@485: Relatively (few?) writers seem to be able to make a happy healthy relationship between equals have much in the way of effective dramatic tension

Tis a pity, and seems to point to a bigger problem.

#494 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 11:58 AM:

David 486: And Russian for 'companion' is 'sputnik' (someone (-nik) with you ('s') on the path (put)).

#495 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Serge @ 488

Ah, that explains your allergy to kryptonite. Have you tried desensitizing shots?

As can see from my headshot I was written by that great actor-detective with the bird on his shoulder who ... wait, that's the wrong Blake. Sorry.

@ 491

I must say that I held a similar view of John Wayne, but I think he redeemed himself at least a little bit by appearing on television in a blue fur bunny suit. In that light, it's rather a shame he didn't live long enough to make a guest appearance on the Muppet Show.

#496 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 01:41 PM:

appearing on television in a blue fur bunny suit

say what?

#497 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 01:47 PM:

kouredios #449: For some reason, it's generally less acceptable for a young boy to carry around a human baby than a fuzzy animal substitute. I have no idea why.

I wonder if the gender of the human being carried around has anything to do with it. Would it be more acceptable to carry around a boy doll than a girl? Thing is (mind you, I've not wandered through the toy aisles in decades, except in pursuit of a Mindstorms kit) I can't recall any boy dolls, except for GI Joe and Ken. No boy babies. All the baby dolls were girls when I was the appropriate age. (Maybe there's an anatomical correctness issue?)

#498 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:04 PM:

My son's doll was male. But it's hard to tell; male just means "not dressed in pink", as far as I can tell. (It wears blue trousers, a white shirt, and a green waistcoat.) Since it's a cloth doll, the face is not very determinant.

He dubbed it Kiki (as in Kiki's Delivery Service...points for good taste!) within six months, and insists that Kiki is female. He's only recently (at age 6) acquired the trick of having male friends. Until a year ago it was all girls.

(Kiki has been supplanted by a panda bear he bought with his own pocket money. But she still has a place in his heart.)

I think it's almost as harmful for boys to see no boy dolls being cuddled as it is for them to have no experience in cuddling. It's like they're being told they have no permanent place in the nurturing dynamic.

(Note to self - my daughter's next humaniform doll should be identifiably male...)

#499 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:10 PM:

abi... my daughter's next humaniform doll should be identifiably male

Suggestions... My wife has a Wolverine bobblehead by her computer, amd an UnderDog statue. I think they both help with her writing processes.

#500 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:23 PM:

On the male doll issue, it of course varies from family to family. But I recall clearly that one of the moms in my private birth month forum had a problem when her sister gave her son a clearly male (via clothes, not anatomical correctness) Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas. The issue was that her husband had made it clear that his son would not have dolls, and the mother was angry with her sister for violating that mandate. On these, and similar issues (for example, circumscision, but I'm not sure I want to open that can of worms here) a lot of the young mothers I know defer to their husbands, as it's a "male" issue.

#501 ::: Suzanne M ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:30 PM:

When my younger brother was a toddler, my mother scoured the earth to find an anatomically correct boy doll for him. She found one. Its name was Billy, I think, but it's been a long time and I may be mistaken. That's the name it came with. He did play with it, I think, which is more than I can say about my own doll habits. Mostly my dolls tended to die horrible deaths. Not that he came out of it with any sort of nurturing tendencies. The desire to continue our species seems to have skipped over all the kids in my family.

At any rate, born between two brothers as I was, I preferred playing with Legos and miniature catapults and water pistols. My mother often despaired of turning me into a proper girl, whatever that is. She never did really manage it, I don't think, though I've mostly stopped wearing men's clothing and do now love makeup. I spent much of my childhood lamenting that I wasn't born a boy and railing against the injustices of being forced to put on fashion shows and learn to apply makeup (at age 9!) in Girl Scouts when my brother's Boy Scout troop got to spend a night on a submarine. (Sixteenish years later and I'm still bitter!)

#502 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Greg, could you maybe get a handle on the nature of your complaint? In Comment #421, you're complaining that you don't find Inara a realistic character in the context of the Alliance government. In #453 and #480 your complaints are all about Mal's reactions to her character. In particular, you're complaining that Mal doesn't live up to your standards of behavior and your definition of love.

Heresiarch @483, it's been a while since I've watched any Firefly, but I seem to recall Inara getting the best of Mal a few times.

#503 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 02:50 PM:

Suzanne... Mostly my dolls tended to die horrible deaths

Did you put them in your catapults after dousing them in gasoline?

#504 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 03:15 PM:

could you maybe get a handle on the nature of your complaint? In Comment #421, you're complaining that you don't find Inara a realistic character in the context of the Alliance government. In #453 and #480 your complaints are all about Mal's reactions to her character. In particular, you're complaining that Mal doesn't live up to your standards of behavior and your definition of love.

Uh, a handle? How do I criticize a character in a story but by what we know of their internal motivations and how they interact with the other characters in the stories?

Inara's internal specs are pretty vague. We know what she does for a living. We are told (not really shown) that her career choice is somehow empowering.

We know little about the prostitution culture that she belongs to. We do know that one episode shows that some prostitutes are kicked out of the culture. We don't know why they did this. In the episode, it seemed that the woman kicked out was actually more empowered and more independently minded than Inara. But this seeming contradictino was never addressed or resolved.

In the train robbery episode, we find that prostitutes who are members in good standing have some sort of "get out of jail free" card, which wasn't clearly explained. But we also find out that that same prostitute organization supports and endorses slavery. So, I'm having trouble seeing it as a wholly egaltarian culture thing going on here.

And Inara's interactions on the show, as far as showing us who she is and showing us what other people think of her, basically boil down to she has sex with clients for money, and what she says to Mal and what Mal thinks of her.

Mal seems to me to fall into the alignment of a Lawful Good character who suddenly finds that the Evil Guys now write the law. So, now he's like Chaotic Good. But the important thing is that he is Good. He stole the goods off the train, but when he realized they were medicine, he risked getting caught and risked his employer's retribution by taking the medicine back to the people who needed it. He fought the empire and lost. He defended the prostitutes for free. He almost always fights the good fight.

Except, with Inara he disapproves of her career.

Either the prostitution thing is a egaltarian career choice and it's a case where Mal is no longer Good, OR, it isn't egaltarian, and Mal's disapproval is Good.

If it's egaltarian and Mal is wrong, then fine, Mal has a place where he could develop and change his attitude. But that still leaves a number of questions about hte culture of prostitutino that do NOT seem egaltarian.

if it is not egaltarian and Mal is right, then either its a cardboard character or Mal ends up rescuing her from her career, a la Pretty Woman.

But I don't know if I can get a "handle" on my complaints, since all I have to go on is what little we got to see in the one season of episodes and the movie.

#505 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 03:20 PM:

My daughter is still in the "so many dolls she can barely find room to sleep in her bed" phase, so bobble heads and action figures aren't really an option. Not as dolls, for nurturing and role play, rather than other toys (she does a lot of Power Ranger play, with muscular male action figures).

As for male Cabbage Patch dolls, my younger brother had one when he was about three, and spent a lot of time "being a good Dad" to him.

#506 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Not anatomically correct, but do they still make Raggedy Andy dolls?

#507 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 04:57 PM:

Greg @504, I don't recall the word "empowering" ever being used on Firefly, and I'm pretty sure the Alliance was never described as "a wholly egalitarian culture" by any character whose opinion we were meant to take seriously.

Inara has sex for money. Mal hauls cargo for money. Jayne kills people for money. Simon heals clients for money. Wash pilots ships for money. Some of these jobs are illegal in our current society, and some are illegal in the Alliance, and not the same ones in both. That's one of the things science fiction is about -- showing how the world could be different.

Inara is a skilled practitioner who demands large fees from her clients, has the option to refuse to work for clients she doesn't like, and has the backing of a powerful union. That's power. It's not as much power as not needing to work at all, or commanding armies, or being above the law, but it's more power than Mal has. (Mal can refuse service, but he doesn't have a union behind him, and his services aren't rare enough or highly-valued enough to command large enough fees to even keep his ship in good repair.)

You seem to be evaluating the characters according to how you think they should plug into some kind of abstract moral pegboard, rather than looking at them as characters. As people.

And you keep trying to turn Mal's feelings about Inara into an objective stamp of approval or disapproval on the entire career of Companionship. Why? Mal isn't the ultimate arbiter of good and evil on the show, and his feelings about Inara's being a Companion are more about Inara than about Companions.

#508 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Heresiarch @483 everytime Mal drops some "whore" comment, she sits there shocked

Examples?

I just rewatched several relevant scenes (specifically in "Serenity", "The Train Job", "Shindig", and "Trash") and they very much do NOT fit your description. Inara doesn't "sit there shocked", she always has some sort of retort.

#509 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 06:04 PM:

(506): Yes, they still make Raggedy Andy dolls. I know you can buy them from Vermont Country Store; there's probably other places, too.

#510 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Re Randy Andy:

I didn't have one; would you call it a "baby" doll? Which I think was the original trigger for me to post.

#511 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Avram@507: I don't recall the word "empowering" ever being used on Firefly

No. Probably not. This was not an abstract study of Inara on Firefly, this was a rather long and winding conversation that got to talking about things to avoid trying to write a world of no gender discrimination. At which point, anaea at 412 said "I can warn you off the two major mistakes I see in SF that tries to do the same thing; lack of gender discrimination does not mean that everybody is going to be touchy feeling and big on communication as a culture, and while a dominatrix is empowered, she's not on equal standing with the people she dominates. Don't fetishize your equal women"

To which I reply and make my first mention of Inara.

Inara has sex for money. Mal hauls cargo for money. Jayne kills people for money.

Uh, that's one way to look at it. I don't buy it for a second, but that's one way to look at it.

The thing that I mentioned somewhere in this thread is the fact that Inara and her whore union have some sort of priviledge in the firefly society. This was clearly demonstrated as a "Get out of jail free" card during the train robbery episode, Mal's been captured and Inara comes in and says he's her manservant and the sherrif says something to the effect of "her papers check out" and they let Mal go.

So, while, Inara has sex for money, Mal hauls crap for money, Jayne kills for money, and Wash flies for money, and it's all equal and shite, in the details it turns out that whores with union cards are far more powerful than any of them. No one but the union sex worker has a "get out of jail free" card. And it's a bunch of horsepucky.

It's a Pretty Woman presentation of prostitution. It's a male fantasy version of prostitution.

The series as a whole was plenty good enough for me to ignore that little fetishization, but that's what it was.

#512 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 11:05 PM:

Greg @511, Inara doesn't have a "get out of jail free card", she has the status of a wealthy and respectable person. Mal isn't in jail, he's being held with a large group of people for questioning. Inara gets him out by vouching for him. Any well-off respectable person could have done it -- Book even says as much.

And there's a historical precedent for that model of prostitution. I'm sure Whedon based the Companions on the classical Greek hetaerae (the word even means "companions"), who were high-class prostitutes, educated, respectable, and sometimes very wealthy.

#513 ::: Suzanne M ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 12:17 AM:

Serge @ 503: Oh god, how I wish. Catapults I could do. Gasoline... not so much. There was an interesting dismemberment and defenestration incident that makes my mother cringe to this very day, though.

That's what they get for making a Ken doll with a screw-off head.

#514 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 02:09 AM:

Avram, I don't give a ratt's behind if it has some historical precedent. "Firefly" was being viewed by people in the twenty-first century, through their filters, their perks, and their biases.

Was Whedon trying to show how legalized prostitution with a strong union behind them would make women an empowered gender? Because that sure as hell isn't the sort of message 21st century viewers walked away with. Or was he fetishizing women as legal prostitutes? because that IS the sort of message some 21st century viewers would walk away with.

During the episode where Inara had a female client, the crew was all hanging around to see the client, and once they did, Jayne got worked up and said something to the effect of "I'll be in my room". With the implication that he was going to masterbate. So, was the lesbian scene historically accurate, or 21st century fetish?

Cause it seemed like a fetish and a cheap gimmick to me.

she has the status of a wealthy and respectable person. Mal isn't in jail, he's being held with a large group of people for questioning.

Mal was being held by the sheriff or some form of lawman. And before Inara showed up, the sheriff had figured out Mal wasn't who he said he was, and Mal was his prime suspect.

When Inara showed up, she gave her shpeel, and the sheriff turns to a deputy and says something to the effect of "does her paperwork pan out?" and the deputy says "yep". and they let their prime suspect go. So, her being a legal prostitute carries more weight than any other occupation. Either that, or it was horrible storytelling.

On 21st century earth, you wanna make a realistic prostitute character?, make them a scared, abused, poor, drug user, addict. That's what the job looks like in most of America.

There were a million jobs that he could have given Inara. And he picked a compltely unrealistic high society preistess/prostitute.

Uh, no. THere was a recent thread about the movie 300, and how Sparta was a warrior cult that followed barbaric practices. That doesn't mean a movie that idolizes that warrior cult is anything more than appealing to a cheap payoff.

#515 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 02:49 AM:

Greg @ 514: Was Whedon trying to show how legalized prostitution with a strong union behind them would make women an empowered gender?

Nah. Zoe is pretty empowered without being a Companion. River eventually becomes empowered. Kaylee is highly skilled in a career that genrally assumed to be male-specific, and that counts as a kind of empowerment. So it's pretty clear that Whedon thinks women can become empowered without becoming Companions.

There was some degree of modern fetish in the Inara-has-a-female-client scene. I'm sure Whedon thought he was being progressive by showing that Inara has an open mind about sex, but I'd have been much more impressed if he'd shown male homosexuality.

So, her being a legal prostitute carries more weight than any other occupation.

No, as the show makes clear, what she's got is wealth and status. Being a companion doesn't carry "more weight then any other occupation", but it does carry a good deal of weight. Simon could have done it as far as status goes, but the crew didn't trust Simon as much early in the series, and Inara was better at manipulating people.

There were a million jobs that he could have given Inara. And he picked a compltely unrealistic high society preistess/prostitute.

This is what I mean about getting a handle on your complaint. You seem to be flipping back and forth about whether you're complaining because you find Companions unrealistic (even though I've already told you they existed in the real world), or because they offend your sensibilities as a 21st century person. Which is it?

#516 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 03:17 AM:

This is what I mean about getting a handle on your complaint. You seem to be flipping back and forth about whether you're complaining because you find Companions unrealistic (even though I've already told you they existed in the real world),

Existed in one culture in ancient history doesn't quite pass muster for being "realistic". THere is "realistic" as in "it happened once thousands of years ago", and then there's realistic as in "happens in a lot of cultures, probably happen again, probably happen on most randomly generated fictional worlds."

mercenaries? happen a lot.
ship captains? a lot
mechanic? A lot.
Priest? A lot.
crazy psychic girl? Not so much
High priestess prostitute? Ah, no, not really.

or because they offend your sensibilities as a 21st century person. Which is it?

Look, if someone points to a female character in a comic book who has styrofoam tits and a broken back and whose superhero costume consists of pasties and a thong, the excuse that the character is based off a real woman who really looked like that doesn't quite pass muster either.

And since when do I have to pick one issue I have with a charcter or story and get a "handle" on that one thing?

There are like dozens of issues I have with, say, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I don't have to whiddle it down to one and say "this is what is wrong with the movie".

I have a number of issues with Inara and how she fits into Firefly. And you can ask me to pick one, but it won't happen. They are all related to Inara and Firefly.

#517 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 03:27 AM:

Guy walks into a grocery store... and buys nothing. Men apparently shop way differently than women. and it's hurting sales. story. I thought it was kind of funny.

#518 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 03:35 AM:

Hm, I think Inara's character should have been a Ms. Universe winner. And she goes around in Mal's ship, opening malls and doing product endorsements.

#519 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 04:16 AM:

joann @510
Raggedy Andy (Randy Andy would be...quite a different doll, at least to UK eyes) would be referred to as a "baby" by my kids (3 and 6). My son's rag doll, Kiki, appears at about the same age level as Andy.

Maybe I'll solicit a RA from one of the American relatives. For my daughter, who has only female and fuzzy cuddles.

#520 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 04:34 AM:

Suzanne M @ 513... Let me guess. You switched Ken and Barbie's heads and bodies. I dare not think what you had them do next.

#521 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 06:53 AM:

Greg London @ 514:
Avram, I don't give a ratt's behind if it has some historical precedent. "Firefly" was being viewed by people in the twenty-first century, through their filters, their perks, and their biases.

Are you saying that science fiction should only consider things which are "realistic" for 21st-Century viewers, or acceptable to the conventional morality of 21st-Century viewers?


and @ 516:
Existed in one culture in ancient history doesn't quite pass muster for being "realistic". THere is "realistic" as in "it happened once thousands of years ago", and then there's realistic as in "happens in a lot of cultures, probably happen again, probably happen on most randomly generated fictional worlds."

You're in danger of making a general complaint about most science fiction, which doesn't try to be center-of-the-statistical-distribution in every particular. I'd argue that's one of the points of science fiction: to play with things which are possible, but not necessarily likely from our current perspective. A future society in which everything and everyone is "realistic" or "average" by 21st Century standards -- or even recent Western standards -- is likely to be both boring and unrealistic.
(Consider the existence of, for example, test pilots or professional atheletes or computer programmers: are these professions that someone writing in the 18th Century would "realistically" predict the existence of? Why then should we expect everything in the 27th Century to be "realistic" or "average" by 21st Century standards?)

mercenaries? happen a lot.
ship captains? a lot
mechanic? A lot.

Well, no -- most cultures in history haven't had mechanisms advanced enough to need "mechanics" as a separate profession.

Priest? A lot.
crazy psychic girl? Not so much

Since I don't think there's any solid evidence for real psychic abilities, that would be "No, not at all." ;-)

High priestess prostitute? Ah, no, not really.

In addition to my argument above -- that simply because something is rare or unknown historically doesn't mean it should be avoided in SF -- you're also mis-describing Inara's profession. She's not a "high priestess" prostitute -- there's no religious component to her profession -- she's a courtesan, a high-class prostitute, of which there have been numerous examples in pretty much any advanced, wealthy society. Yes, courtesans, hetaera, geishas, etc. have been out on the far end of the historical distribution of wealth and prestige for prostitutes. But it's not like Mal or Book are realistic, average examples of their profession, either: most priests, for example, don't have mysterious quasi-military/intelligence connections, nor do they hang out with wandering semi-criminal groups.

As for changing social attitudes: up until one or two hundred years ago, actors were considered disreputable low-lifes -- entertaining and useful in their place, perhaps, but certainly not people that polite society would acknowledge or accord any privilege to. And now the most popular actors are practically aristocracy, and can even become political leaders.

#522 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 07:00 AM:

Suzanne M @501, Serge @ 503

Did you put them in your catapults after dousing them in gasoline?

Or maybe use a catapult to sacrifice them to the beer god?

#523 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 07:22 AM:

Greg London @ 496

No joke. Wayne did a guest appearance on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" sometime in the early '70s and he wore a pink fur bunny suit (I was wrong about the color in my original post, guess my subconscious couldn't believe he'd go that far from a masculine image). Looked more ridiculous than you can imagine. I would be very surprised if there weren't a clip of it floating around the web somewhere, but I haven't found one in about 20 minutes of googling.

#524 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 08:56 AM:

I don't think Inara herself is "high-status". On her own, she's an "entertainer" who has some high-status connections. What empowers her is that she is part of an organisation, which can take steps to deal with people who harm her, and which collectively has an enormous number of high-status connections.

Shall we now sing "Union Maid"?

What we have in Firefly is a trade union presented in away that doesn't offend delicate American sensibilities.

#525 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 09:37 AM:

Peter@521:

Please read the paragraph right after you stopped quoting. i.e. paragraph two.

having strippers swinging around brass poles every episode and arguing "well, it has historical significance" doesn't change the fact that "historical relevance" isn't a automatic out of being accused of fetishizing women.

As another example, see Trinity in her latex jumpsuit. Sure, when you're in the Matrix, you present your ideal version of yourself. And it just so happens that her ideal version wears skin tight rubber.

#526 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 09:40 AM:

Bruce@523:

John Wayne... Pink bunny suit...

I... just... don't... know... what... to... say...

#527 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 09:40 AM:

Bruce@523:

John Wayne... Pink bunny suit...

I... just... don't... know... what... to... say...

#528 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 10:01 AM:

On 21st century earth, you wanna make a realistic prostitute character?, make them a scared, abused, poor, drug user, addict.

You should go suggest that to this sex worker.

Lemme know if you want some help stitching your head back on afterwards.

#529 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 10:45 AM:

...which is to say, it isn't that the abuse victim is an unrealistic portrayal of modern prostitution, only that it's both disingenuous and condescending to suggest that it's the only possible one, or the only one of social relevance, especially in light of the potential for scientifictional world-building.

Lots and lots of people (feminists, even!) would love to see such a world come about, where prostitution is respectable and protected by a powerful trade union. Reducing the idea of it to "fetishization" feels ever so slightly like a disrespect to both the creative minds willing to imagine such a world and the people working very hard - against, it should be added, the attitude that prostitution is an inherently shameful act - to make it possible to come to pass.

#530 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 10:59 AM:

#524: Strong trade unions and 21st Century fetish are not mutually exclusive. As Dave suggests in #525, Joss could be doing both at the same time.

It's pretty clear that courtesan/prostitute types are not well regarded by themselves. (Witness the episode where Mal and Co. defend the whorehouse from the Evil Lawman.) It's also quite clear that Inara, by virtue of her strong trade organization, has status that Mal couldn't ever reach. Her presence on the ship allows them to go places they otherwise would never be allowed. The one person who suggests that she'll never work again finds himself ostracized, never able to request the services of a companion ever again.

Of course, while Joss does this, he also caters to contemporary fetishes. However, in the case of the female client she takes on, Inara doesn't view it as any big deal, we don't see anything, and Jayne is hardly representative of society. (I'll leave aside what it means to be "historically accurate" in a futuristic space western. I think anything the show does is accurate to its world by definition.)

As long as we're talking about Firefly, I will reiterate my long standing gripe about this show which I love: Joss never explains what caused the near genocide of Chinese people which might account for a society where Chinese culture is pervasive but actual Chinese people are not.
(Ng yrnfg jr qvqa'g nyy orpbzr erniref)

#531 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 11:03 AM:

No, you should take a look at this.

More than 90% of prostitutes suffered childhood sexual abuse, often incest
70% believed that being sexually abused as children influenced their decisions to become prostitutes
Two-thirds began working in prostitution before they turned 16
96% who began committing prostitution as juveniles were runaways.
75% attempted suicide
15% of all suicide victims are prostitutes

Or this

Currently one in three women in jails today were arrested for prostitution; 7 in 10 women imprisoned for felonies were initially arrested for prostitution

street prostitution is largely representative of the poor, single, and less educated. With very few skills, a limited education, and minimal, if any, work experience

Or this:

prevalence of substance use and addiction ranging from 0% to 84%, depending on the population being studied, with substance addiction relatively common among street prostitutes (50%)

A study of 130 street workers (primarily homeless) who engaged in prostitution or survival sex found that 80% had been physically assaulted.(

And my point is that Inara's character, while it may have some historical precedence, and while you may be able to find some sex workers who are well off and had the freedom to chose prostitiution and don't suffer from violence and crime, Inara's character and your anecdotal evidence doesn't match the current reality of prostitution overall. It glamorizes what is for most prostitutes an ugly reality.

#532 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 11:33 AM:

Often portraying something as it isn't is a way to comment on the thing as it is.

To use an example we're all familiar with, the original Star Trek series tried (in its very ham-handed and now-embarrassing way) to show a world in which race no longer mattered to anyone. To say that in 1966 it would have been more "realistic" to show race riots and systematic oppression may be true, but it also misses the point.

That said, I halfway agree with what Greg's saying anyway.

My point? Why, whatever makes you think I have one?

#533 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Greg, you seem to be making a heroic effort to miss my point.

Yes, I am aware of the sort of statistics you point to. It bears mentioning that there are also people who feel that the studies which yield them are themselves untrustworthy, for reasons I am unqualified to elaborate upon, except to say that collecting accurate data on sex workers is a hideously difficult task due to a number of factors.

My point, however, is that the insistence that all portrayal of prostitutes in any culture ever, real or imagined, ought to emphasize their victimhood is insulting. More insulting, I would say, than the portrayal of Companions not matching the "ugly reality" you mention. You may disagree; maybe this is too much of a hot-button issue for you to do anything but. However, I brought this up in part because there's an element of your discourse here that seems to be speaking on behalf of women and sex workers as a whole, and that's one of my hot buttons. Partly because I've seen a lot of that sort of thing around the Internets over the last year or so, and there are an awful lot of women in the sex trade who are fed the hell up with it. I think if you're doing them a disservice to disregard their voices in this, or to wave what they have to say away as "anecdotal."

Yes, we know what the lives of many (not all) sex workers in our culture are often like. You're taking Joss Whedon to task for suggesting that it might not have to be that way.

(And I think you're off the mark in the analysis of the role of the Companion wrt Mal and Inara's relationship; I think it's pretty clear that there's nothing inherently wrong with what Inara does for a living, and the fact that Mal has such a problem with it, no matter what his other Good qualities, is nothing more than an example of him acting like an ass.)

#534 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 12:17 PM:

JC said @ 530:
As long as we're talking about Firefly, I will reiterate my long standing gripe about this show which I love: Joss never explains what caused the near genocide of Chinese people which might account for a society where Chinese culture is pervasive but actual Chinese people are not.

That's an interesting point... Maybe they're mostly living somewhere else? Perhaps the Chinese are almost all back on Earth, or in other systems, and whatever wacky system[*] Firefly takes place in is where the non-Chinese colonization took place (but originating from a Chinese-dominated home system).

But I'm just guessing wildly; I don't remember if there were any hints about what Earth was like.

[*] Whenever they start talking about "moons" or space travel, I have to turn off the astronomer part of my brain, otherwise my eyes start to hurt from rolling so far back in my head...

#535 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Peter @534, there is no more Earth in Firefly. This is very strongly hinted at in the series, and made explicit in the movie.

#536 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 02:02 PM:

you seem to be making a heroic effort to miss my point.

No, I'm pretty sure I got your point.

the insistence that all portrayal of prostitutes in any culture ever, real or imagined, ought to emphasize their victimhood is insulting.

Yep, I pretty much got that that was your point.

I am aware of the sort of statistics you point to. It bears mentioning that there are also people who feel that the studies which yield them are themselves untrustworthy

there are an awful lot of women in the sex trade who are fed the hell up with it. I think if you're doing them a disservice to disregard their voices in this, or to wave what they have to say away as "anecdotal."

What do you want me to say, Dan?

You question the statistics that disagree with your viewpoint. Statistics I got from three different unrelated sites I found in google. I wasn't cherry picking them because they agreed with me, I picked them because they had quick numbers I could cut and paste.

Do you want me to take your anecdotal evidence as a more accurate representation, on the grounds that you say so? on the grounds that some woman you link to says otherwise and you'll kindly help reattach my head when she's done with me?

speaking on behalf of women and sex workers as a whole

Uh, no. that Inara doesn't fit that statistics isn't the same as saying she is realistic and here's a sex worker who proves it and she's mad at people like me.

that's one of my hot buttons

Your hot button doesn't make it any more true.


Yes, we know what the lives of many (not all) sex workers in our culture are often like.

Often? Statistically often? And what are their lives like? Exactly? Because apparently you know better than I.

You're taking Joss Whedon to task for suggesting that it might not have to be that way.

No, Joss isn't actually here, as far as I know. You're taking me to task because this is your hot button. I said I didn't like Inara as a character and that I thought her position outside the statistical norm wasn't justified in any way by Joss.

In a world ruled by a conquering, militaristic, empire, where the middle worlds are some sort of dystopia, where food is something to scavange, where everything is scarce, where the main character is trying to eek out an existance on the fringes where he can maintain some sense of freedom, where slavery is widespread and common place...

in that world, somehow the prostitutes got a union together and became powerful enough to bring politicians down????

It's hokey. And it points to the fact that Inara's character isn't a "what if prostitution was cool", it's a poorly thought out bolt-on, chosen for some other reason than story consistency.

In that sort of world, women would not be allowed that sort of power.

On a more character-issue level, Inara is presented as having quite a bit of wealth and prestige from her occupation.

Mal, basically, is a grease monkey, truck driver, who is decent with a gun.

If Mal can afford to buy a piece of crap bucket of bolts ship, and manage to pay for it by hauling cattle, scavenging food and selling it, and stealing medicine and selling that, then Inara sure as hell could buy her own damn ship and pay for it servicing prime ministers and ambassadors and other high falutin jerkoffs.

She is, as presented by Joss in the series, a level 8 priestess, and Mal is a level 3 trucker.

There is no logical reason for her to be there. It doesn't make any sense given the world that Joss created. Therefore, she's there for scenery, for effect, for someone for Mal to be attracted to. For some number of poorly thought out reasons.

If Mal is a truck driver, the kind of prostitute who'd be living in his sleeper cab wouldnt' be the kind of hooker who sleeps with prime ministers.

It is contrived writing.

#537 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 02:07 PM:

(oop, forgot to add one thing)

In a world ruled by a conquering, militaristic, empire, where the middle worlds are some sort of dystopia, where food is something to scavange, where everything is scarce, where the main character is trying to eek out an existance on the fringes where he can maintain some sense of freedom, where slavery is widespread and common place, where the daughter of a wealthy family is tortured and lobotomized and experimented on, to turn her into some sort of programmable killing machine that can be turned on with a subliminal TV image,


In that world, prostitutes would be more like the prostitutes in "Deadwood", beaten into submission, held against their will, kept poor so they can't leave, and killed when they're inconvenient.

#538 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 02:24 PM:

Greg finally says:

If Mal is a truck driver, the kind of prostitute who'd be living in his sleeper cab wouldn't be the kind of hooker who sleeps with prime ministers.

And I think I finally agree with him, modulo my not knowing the show.

#539 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 02:34 PM:

my not knowing the show

You haven't seen it? Despite my annoyance at Inara, it is rather good overall. I bought the DVD's for the show and the movie.

#540 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Greg, you're ignoring actual historical realities that contradict your argument. In classical Greece -- a conquering, militaristic empire -- there were prostitutes just like Inara, powerful wealthy women. And there were slaves. And there were people struggling to eke out a living. All at the same time. This is actual, real-world history. And there were slaves, even lower-class slave-prostitutes, at the same time.

You've got your own notion of what the Inner Worlds ought to be like that doesn't match what we see in the series. The Inner Worlds seem to have a thriving middle class, and wealthy aristocrats. They've also got nasty secret government agencies, just like the modern US does, but with some added hi-tech goodies.

And you have no idea of the actual costs involved in running the Serenity, or how much ships cost, or how much a ship's mechanic charges, or how Mal made his stake, or how much Inara charges. You don't actually have the information necessary to back up the assertion you're making about Inara buying her own ship.

And what's this about bringing politicians down? I've no idea what you're talking about.

#541 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 03:46 PM:

Avram, I know this woman, she looks and dresses just like this.

So when I use characters that look and dress just like that, it's simply a reflection of real people, and in no way reflects any alterior benefits I might get by putting such a character in my works.

If it happened in reality, then I can't be a sexist. If it happend in reality, then in no way can anyone criticize me for my artistic choices. If it happened in reality, even if it was two thousand years ago in an bronze age / iron age, agricultural society, and I'm writing about a hypertechnology universe with spaceships and firearms and tractors and plows, then I am above all criticism.

(sigh)

Whatever.


#542 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 04:20 PM:

JC @ #530
As long as we're talking about Firefly, I will reiterate my long standing gripe about this show which I love: Joss never explains what caused the near genocide of Chinese people which might account for a society where Chinese culture is pervasive but actual Chinese people are not.

That drove me nuts, too, until I decided that ALL of the characters, are, in fact, Chinese; they just happen to be portrayed by non-Chinese actors. Too bad Hollywood won't let him properly cast an all-Chinese TV show, but at least Joss isn't engaging in tacky, ham-fisted cultural appropriation.

#543 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Greg London @ 541:
If it happend in reality, then in no way can anyone criticize me for my artistic choices. If it happened in reality, even if it was two thousand years ago in an bronze age / iron age, agricultural society, and I'm writing about a hypertechnology universe with spaceships and firearms and tractors and plows, then I am above all criticism.

Because of course a society hundreds of years in the future will be almost exactly like ours in every way, except for the extra gadgets. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is wrong, any attempt to suggest that certain types of present-day suffering or oppression might be alleviated or changed for the better is immoral, because it doesn't reflect present-day reality. That seems to be what you're saying.

We're bringing up the issue of "it happened in a real society" because you claimed high-status prostitutes were totally unreal -- unlike, say, spaceship captains, which you don't seem to have a problem with (how many of those have there been in history?).

The hetaera, by the way, were part of urban Greek society. And urban Greek society was based in large part on trade, not agriculture (even in the 5th Century, Athens was importing most of its grain from places like Egypt and the Black Sea).

#544 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 05:05 PM:

The hetaera, by the way, were part of urban Greek society

Oh? Urban you say? Well, bless my soul, what was I thinking???

That makes it completely understandable to have a high class prostitute who hangs with prime ministers, hitching a ride in some truck driver's sleeper cab.

No, there's nothing wrong at all about Inara's character, and Joss Whedon is above any and all criticism. And rest assured that you need not keep reminding me of that.

No, really.

#545 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Oh, for goodness sakes, guys, if you can't keep it civil, maybe everyone should just take a break. Go visit the big room with the blue ceiling or something.

#546 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 05:19 PM:

mary dell,

That drove me nuts, too, until I decided that ALL of the characters, are, in fact, Chinese; they just happen to be portrayed by non-Chinese actors.

i was sure simon & river, at least, were chinese-but-played-by-the-wrong-actors. their last name is chinese-sounding (not going to bother to google whether "tam" is an actual chinese surname, but it could be a misspelling of "tan") & the actors at least have black hair. why the actors could not be chinese is very mysterious & disturbing for me to think about.

#547 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 06:24 PM:

First, Greg, no, you don't know anyone who looks and dresses just like that. There are no people who look just like that.

Second, the sentences "this is sexist" and "this is unrealistic" are not synonymous. If you want to argue that Firefly companions are sexist, OK, go ahead. I might even agree with you. But you keep talking about the entire idea of Companions being unrealistic, and then when people point out real-world historical examples of the same thing, you pretend you were saying something else.

#548 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 06:40 PM:

not going to bother to google whether "tam" is an actual chinese surname, but it could be a misspelling of "tan"

Tam is an alternate romanization of Tan, so it is legitimately Chinese. However, Tam is also a legitimate Anglo-Norman surname, a variant of Thames, as in the river.

#549 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Mary Dell & miriam beetle,

Well, that's an interesting idea... and a little Googling does indeed show that Tam is a Chinese name (perhaps Cantonese, since it seems to be associated with people from Hong Kong).

Avram @ 535:
Hmm... that sounds vaguely familiar from when I watched the movie, now that you mention it. Wonder why I forgot that...

#550 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Avram, we've already covered this territory. Your answer is way back at 516, where I said:

THere is "realistic" as in "it happened once thousands of years ago", and then there's realistic as in "happens in a lot of cultures, probably happen again, probably happen on most randomly generated fictional worlds."

So don't act as if I'm suddenly pretending I said something else. I did say something else about 50 posts ago.

I recall a news story about a guy who fell off of something like the 6th or 8th floor of a building. He landed on some kind of wrought iron fence. The fence pierced right through his abdomen, but missed his spine, and kidneys, and slowed his fall to the point that he ended up living. EMT's took him to the hospital and he recovered fully.

Just because that actually, really happened, doesn't mean it is a realistic turn of events for fiction.

#551 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 07:06 PM:

Avram @540

Another point is that just because Inara (probably) can buy her own spaceship doesn't mean that she WANTS to.

For one thing, the training that Inara has doesn't seem to have included how to run an interplanetary spaceship. Which means that she'd need to buy the spaceship and assemble the crew without necessarily really knowing what she's doing.

For another thing, buying a spaceship would feel more permanent than just signing on as a passenger. And while there may be ways that Inara could buy a spaceship and still stay within her Guild, buying the spaceship feels more like leaving while being a passenger is just ... traveling.

(And the explanation for Inara picking a Firefly class ship is probably simple: that's probably the sort of ship that goes to where Inara wants to travel. Which is, at least part of the time, outside of the inner Core.)

#552 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Serge #491: Is The Conqueror available on DVD?

#553 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 09:28 PM:

I thought that Inara was sort of a runaway - she should be back at the temple/whatever, in the center of society, but because of some secret thing she decided to take to the frontier. So fancy, greek-style hetairas and low-rent frontier-style whores both exist in the same universe, and when one of the imperial types makes it out to the frontier, she's seen as a shiny artifact of rich, polite society, and accorded the same respect she'd have back home...except by Mal, who hates the core society.

I found Inara's character reasonably believable, but that's because I sort of filled in her story for myself, based on historical cultures that I've read about. The show doesn't spend enough time giving us a picture of what the core society is like, so the contrast between "companion" and "whore" boils down to "Inara" vs. "prostitutes who aren't Inara." Similarly, all the fuss about "that's no shepherd" Book is a bit puzzling because we don't really know what the heck religion anyone is, starting with him. It's either sloppy worldbuilding, or careful worldbuilding that's not exposed enough...B5 it ain't (although I do love Firefly anyway).

#554 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 09:38 PM:

because of some secret thing she decided to take to the frontier

I thought she was secretly on the run from something. They hint that something's there, but never enough to know.

"that's no shepherd" Book

Yeah, more hints things aren't as they seem.

It's either sloppy worldbuilding, or careful worldbuilding that's not exposed enough

I think they were hooks put in so that Joss could develop them later, but then the series got cancelled and we never find out the details.

I don't know if he had the details figured out or simply planned ot work it out later. Doesn't matter at this point I suppose.

#555 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 10:40 PM:

Based on the twistiness of Buffy's plotting, I suspect that we'd learn a lot more if the series had gone on.

[[sigh]]

I wish Firefly was still on.

#556 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 11:18 PM:

Hrm, it looks like I accidentally left out a can of worms for the opening. I'm just going to drop two cents into the whole Inara/Mal/prostitution/realism/empowerment conversation.

The specific example of what I was referring to with the dominatrix line was actually the Mord Sith from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series (which has many problems, none of which are apparently big enough to cure my of the masochism that keeps me reading it). For those who aren't familiar, it's an epic fantasy series, and the Mord Sith are women who were taken from their homes as girls - chosen for their exceptional empathy and general saccharine goodness - and tortured until they break and become excellent torturers themselves. The hero of the series liberates them, destroys the system, and they then rather slavishly devote themselves to being his personal body guards. Oh, and the only homosexuality in the series (so far as I've gone) is a pair of lesbians from this group. Hot, no? Ick.

I have no problem with dominatrices, prostitutes, sluts, strippers, porn stars, or just about any other group of women similarly designated. I don't think anybody else ought to either - part of being able to make choices about your own life and body includes the right to display or sell it if you choose. The state of prostitution in this country today is rather repugnant, but that's inherent to the system in place here and now, not with the large idea of prostitution. In fact, if I'd lived in ancient Greece I would have probably signed up for hetairahood myself. The problem comes in when once you are "whore" "slut" "stripper" etc., you cannot be anything else, when it makes you a second class citizen, or when protections against abuse (physical and labor variety) don't apply to you.

So to take Trinity from the Matrix as an example, I never really saw her as objectified. (I wasn't looking either, but that's beside the point) I don't see a problem with her outfit while in the Matrix because I would probably show up looking good in skin tight black leather if I had that kind of control over my appearance too. The outfit never bothered me as being impractical or too revealing, and Trinity outside of the matrix is just as frumpy as everybody else in the real world. Of course, the whole film was more or less eye candy so everything was objectified to a certain extent (Lookit! Slow moving bullet with shockwaves! Now drool) but I'd probably put Trinity in the "believable as a representative of an egalitarian society" column.

I'm so very tempted to jump in on the debate about Inara, but it occurs to me that everything I would have to say boils down to "There's nothing definitive either way but I have faith that given more time, Joss would have made it clear that Mal was just being a jerk," which isn't exactly a strong point to work from. I always found Inara to be rather bland compared to everybody else on the show, but I also always blamed the actress more than anything else. I'll pay attention to that when I'm rewatching it next month with my sis. But Inara was definitely not what I was talking about with the dominatrix comment.

#557 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 03:44 AM:

Greg London: Look, if Inara futzes with your suspension of disbelief, well, we can't really argue with that. It's a matter of personal taste. And, as you say, a certain amount of her portrayal is inevitably going to be fanservice for us 21st Century folk (the outfits, for one. So pretty!).

But given that a) similar situations have occurred in past societies* and b) the story happens in the distant future, you aren't going to make much headway arguing for the utter implausibility of it. Sure, Occam might not approve, but then, Reavers, ya know? They aren't exactly hewing to the most statistically probable path here. Nor, I think, should they.

Maybe a drug-addicted prostitute would be more economically plausible, but it's been done. A lot. Why not try something new, plausibility be damned? I just don't see anything wrong with suggesting that prostitution could be a respected and equitable line of work--unless you think that it truly can't be. Do you? Me, I just wish they'd done a better job with it.

Otherwise, it's not even a particularly strong inversion: Inara is clearly the exception, not the rule, based on both how people react to her, and how the situation for other prostitutes is portrayed in "Heart of Gold." Inara is an elite, a product of a rarified aristocratic atmosphere (kind of like, say, a geisha) who has inexplicably taken to slumming around the outer system, and been caught in Mal's orbit. It's no less plausible than, f'rex, River's psychic powers.

*The geishas in Japan managed to survive economically well into the post-war period. It was only quite recently that they were forced to resort to governmental support to maintain themselves.

#558 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 04:21 AM:

Wow, I go out of town for a few days and Stuff Explodes! OTOH, at least that saves me from saying a lot of things that other people have already said as well or better.

abi, #18: Well, there's another 2 hours of time gone -- but man, was it ever worth it. Thanks for posting that link.

Matt, #38: Yes, exactly. And as long as there is no birth control, that also ensures an endless supply of desperate women who have few choices other than to become prostitutes. (Marion Zimmer Bradley addressed that dynamic in a story called "There Is Always An Alternative," which describes the founding of the group later known as the Renunciates (or Free Amazons) in Darkovan society.) We're currently seeing a very strong attempt to return us to that era with the whole "abstinence only" movement and the attempts to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions for "moral reasons".

Avram, #54: Hear, hear! cf. "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

anaea, #59 & #197: Your assertion that the cure for the problem of sexual violence is for all women to learn to defend themselves is a common argument in some circles. It's not a bad idea, in and of itself; the problem is that it only addresses half of the issue. Along with teaching women how to defend themselves, we need to teach men that violence against women is unacceptable behavior! This is a concept to which, right now, our society gives only lip-service; it's officially Frowned Upon, but when push comes to shove, it's rare for a man to suffer any real consequences because he was violent to a woman.

If the violence is rape, there will be no shortage of men and women both who are anxious to defend him and cast all the blame on the victim -- what was she doing there, how was she dressed, why did she go with him, did she lead him on, she should have expected it... you've heard all the excuses. If the violence is in the context of a relationship, the FIRST question that's always asked is, "Well, why did she put up with it?" And if it's random violence, she gets blamed because she wasn't (1) carrying a gun and (2) willing to kill HIM.

My question is, why don't we teach men -- and I mean seriously teach them, not the sort of wink-and-nudge that happens now -- to control their OWN behavior? Because no matter how many women "learn to defend themselves," the real problem is the pervasiveness of their NEED to -- and that's not going to change until we start fixing the men who think it's okay to do this, and the social attitudes (from both men and women) which reinforce it.

Sica, #68: Wow. I think Iceland just surpassed Canada as "where I want to go when the Christianist coup comes". What are the specifications about immigration there, IYDMMA?

Serge, #85: I wasn't there and don't want to pass judgment from incomplete data, but the way you phrased that anecdote creeped me out. You say that "your mission in life was to tease her" -- was she in agreement with that? And chuckling about giving her nightmares makes me edgy. "Teasing" is one of those words that has a high alarm potential for me.

P J, #100: Putting people on those figurative pedestals has two consequences: they're unable to do anything (constructive or otherwise), and the only exit is falling off.

Bingo! Not only that, but staying on the pedestal is a moving target; there are so many things which can cause her to fall off that some of them are mutually contradictory. And as soon as she does, then she has wilfully forfeited all right to protection, or even basic consideration, and becomes Fair Game.

Diatryma, #104: The reason that shortages of women don't lead to women having more power is that the woman doesn't own herself; the power advantage with a scarce commodity belongs to whoever owns the commodity. This is Economics 101, but because women aren't obviously like sheep or grain, few people realize it.

Carri, #108: A woman who inspires lust in a man has some hold of power over him. This hold of power may threaten the man's masculine identity, by inspiring feelings such as fear of rejection, fear of looking a fool, by feeling threatened or angered that the man can't control his own thoughts and desires. He wants her so badly, and she might not care about him at all.

[cynical] IOW, she makes him feel the way women are expected to deal with feeling about any man they want. [/cynical] Cynicism aside, that makes a great deal of sense. He experiences this feeling as a loss of power, and in some cases will go to considerable extremes to get it back.

Diatryma, #110: Woman: Stop looking at me! / Man: Stop making me look at you!

Ah yes, the classic abuser argument. "I don't have any control over my own behavior, you MADE me do it!" Dude, you can turn your head, turn around, even walk away. She's not holding a gun to your head to MAKE you look at her; she doesn't control your behavior. YOU do, so do it already!

PiscusFiche, #134: ...there are no words.

Dan, #138: Lots of men really don't [like women]; what they mean by "I like women" is "I like to f*ck women," which is not the same thing.

Exactly! And IME, a lot of these men combine this with the "pedestal" thing mentioned above; they don't like "women", they like "ladies" -- which again is not the same thing at all. And they're so proud of the way they treat "ladies"... but ghod help you if you don't appreciate it! (This is also one of the Phony Niceguy schticks, but it mostly manifests in older men.)

Jenny, #141: Yes indeed, it's much easier and more socially acceptable for a woman to take on "masculine" characteristics (pants, short hair, "guy stuff") than for a man to take on "feminine" ones (skirts, long hair, knitting or other "girly stuff"). As Mayakda notes in #157, this is a class-status issue. It's okay for the underclasses to ape the upperclass (although if they do so too successfully, they get nastily slapped down) -- but for an upperclass resident to voluntarily give up the symbols of that status is a HUGE social taboo.

Nicole, #163: At least in the circles I run with, "hottie" is definitely a unisex term which is applied to males as readily as to females. About the other sexualizing terms like "babe", sometimes it helps if you just start using them in unisex fashion yourself and see if people object. Someone who insists that "babe" can only be applied to women has just opened up a door thru which to examine their own sexual prejudices -- why do they feel that way?

Oh, and my usual response to "don't tell me to be politically correct" is something to the effect of, "I'm not. I'm asking you to be POLITE. Do you have a problem with basic courtesy?" But then, the whole conflation of politeness and "political correctness" is a huge hot button for me.

"Men do that" because women like your mother enable them to do it. However, your point about being careful where and how you vent marital frustration is extremely well-taken. The best way not to get into a fight you can't win is not to let it get started. :-)

RiceVermicelli, #217: It is my experience that when a male person offers me any extraordinary favor at no monetary cost, I am generally better off paying cash.

With the caveat that this can vary in a long-term relationship, absolutely. IME, it doesn't even have to be an extraordinary favor; the idea that women have only one currency with which to barter is deeply embedded in our society.

Paul, #240: The website you link to just told me, "We're not interested in having you as a customer." Why? Because they've set up a website which requires both Flash and Javascript. This is just bad business practice, and it's amazing how many companies do it. If I can't see what the company offers, I'm going to go to the competition, who doesn't make me jump thru that sort of hoop. [/grump]

Heresiarch, #243: One of the most amazingly pernicious and counterintuitive ideas I have ever encountered is the idea that if a man sees a woman naked, it is he that gains power over her. It is so clearly the opposite.

Given the existence of strip clubs, the porn industry, etc. (and the relative power levels of men vs. women in them), I'm not sure I can agree with this. Could you unpack it a bit further?

Russell, #246: BTW, I did read all of Whedon's piece, and since you bring it up, his assertion that "Women’s inferiority -- in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas" is a considerable exaggeration, even if "popular culture" is read in an extremely restrictive sense.

It's not nearly so much an exaggeration as you appear to think. However, it is very much one of those "fish don't see the water they swim in" things; a lot of people (both male and female) don't see it precisely because it's so pervasive that it reads as "normal". We don't express it the same way that the burqha-wearing societies do, but that doesn't mean it's not there. And once you do start seeing it, and seeing just how pervasive it is, it's discouraging (if you're male) and/or downright frightening (if you're female).

T.W., #271: Men get their undergarments design by those that wear them for comfort and function. Women get their undergarments designed by those that don't wear them for being looked at.

No shit. It's so nearly impossible for me to find a bra that's comfortable, practical, and NOT something you'd see in a porn magazine that when I do, I tend to buy a dozen of them at once and put half aside for when the first set wears out. And I'm just a 40C, not an unusual size by any means; I can't imagine what it's like for people who are unusually large, small, or oddly proportioned!

Diatryma, #274: A man getting a prestigious job gets it because he's good enough. A woman getting the same job gets it because the company wanted to look gender balanced.

I think part of what you wanted to say here is that a woman who gets that job will always be assumed to have gotten it because the company wanted to look gender-balanced -- even if she was actually hired for her competence. It's a real no-win situation.

Lizzy, #323: Because there are always more where we come from. Because trying to get everyone in a company larger than 3 people to take a unified position on something is like herding cats. Because it's a control issue, and getting Big Corporations to give up that control is like... getting the patriarchal society to give up their stereotypes about women (just to get back on topic).

abi, #424: Now I'm thinking about an old Andy Capp strip.
Panel 1: They've just had dinner. Andy says to Flo, "You watch the telly, I'll do the cleaning up."
Panel 2: Andy, in the kitchen, holds out a cup and deliberately lets it drop to smash on the floor.
Panel 3: Flo shrieks and runs into the kitchen. "My good china! From now on, if there's any cleaning up to be done around here, I'll do it!"
Panel 4: Andy, sauntering out of the kitchen, smirks at the reader, "You don't have to lift a finger if you can prove yer all thumbs."

Do I think many men do this kind of thing consciously, the way Andy did? No. Do I think a fair number of them do it without thinking about it, because on some level they know it works? Yes. My father was one of them. It was a great twofer -- he got to guilt-trip my mother about, "But I want to HELP you! Why won't you let me HELP you?" and still never had to lift a finger.

Kouredios, #439: Excellent point! And it can be expanded beyond gender roles as well. All the parents who hover over their kids (of either gender) and never let them actually do anything all for themselves (including dealing with the results if they mess up)... what kind of ADULTS are those kids going to turn out to be? And at #446 -- so call it an "action figure" instead. That's what boys' dolls are called these days.

Paula, #485: Ah yes, In Conquest Born. I adore that book, in part because it did go against the plot tic that sooner or later the woman has to give up her own life for the man. It also does an excellent job of NOT having a "good guys vs. bad guys" story -- although it starts out looking like a fairly stereotypical White Hats / Black Hats fight, Friedman then spends a lot of time showing you the good aspects of the Black Hat society and the bad aspects of the White Hat one. And IMO the ending is dead-on perfect for both of the characters.

(Friedman is going to be our GOH at ApolloCon in June. I really ought to re-read This Alien Shore and see if I can't get the filk out of it that I'm sure is in there, in time to sing it for her...)

#559 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 04:42 AM:

Lee @ 558... That teasing is something that's mutual, and which we indulge only because we like each other. I can't even remember who started it, but it might well have been her because she's always been grateful for what I did to her life: had I not moved back to the team she was with, the other team would not have hired another man to fill my position, and he and she would have never known each other, and they wouldn't have adopted a baby girl from China who, when she was told to be careful about other people, declared without coaxing that Uncle Serge is okay. And I should probably stay away from such subjects from now on because, no matter what I say, it'll come out wrong. Great.

#560 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 05:18 AM:

Lee @558
You say that "your mission in life was to tease her" -- was she in agreement with that? And chuckling about giving her nightmares makes me edgy. "Teasing" is one of those words that has a high alarm potential for me.

Lee,
Serge is about the least creepy person ever. I know him well enough to know that he'd only do this if it was acceptable to her, and that he second- and third-guessed himself over and over again until he knew that level of conversation was acceptable to her.

I've had colleagues with whom I've had extremely sarcastic, even openly insulting habits of discourse*. Yet sometimes those are the closest working relationships, requiring much more trust than politeness would.

There is a world of argument in here about whether we can safely play these games in such fraught times (I have, for instance, a deep aversion to sexist jokes, however innocent the intention.) But to bar friendly, mutually consensual teasing because some people use the same techniques for abuse is as restrictive as purdah. Men and women need to be able to build their friendships freely, or we'll never see each other as human.

-----
* Example:
B: This coffee is terrible.
Me: Tastes OK to me.
B: I guess I just have more refined taste than you.
Me: I guess so. That's why you hang out with me, while I hang out with you.

#561 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:49 AM:

Abi: I've had colleagues with whom I've had extremely sarcastic, even openly insulting habits of discourse*. Yet sometimes those are the closest working relationships, requiring much more trust than politeness would.

Politeness is what we use on strangers, to avoid giving offense because we're unsure how they'll respond (and uncertain whether they'll respond violently). Sarcasm and rudeness are modes of dialog almost exclusively reserved for friends and family, because we know we're safe with them.

Apparent paradox: we're polite to threats and rude to friends.

#562 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:50 AM:

a society where Chinese culture is pervasive but actual Chinese people are not.

There are a few; Wash and Mal meet one in "War Stories" - sort of jovial Mongol-warlord looking type. Gets sniped after about ten seconds of chat.

I just assumed that there are supposed to be predominantly Chinese worlds out there, but the episodes weren't set there because there everyone speaks Mandarin, and an entire subtitled episode would be a bit difficult to watch.

Dialogue in #560: I wish I'd said that, abi.
(You will, Oscar, you will.)

#563 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:16 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 561

I agree with that, with one proviso. When dealing with simple, daily activities, politeness is a good way to minimize the long-term accumulation of irritation from what you might call "lack of recognition of effort". For instance, we've been together almost 40 years, and we sometimes tease each other a lot, but when Eva passes me the salt at dinner, I say "thank you", and she does the same. Maybe a better example is when she makes a phone call that I won't be able to get to that day, or I pick up some watercolor paints that she needs on the way home from work, because she won't be able to get them until the next day. We say "thank you" in those cases to make clear that we don't take the thought and effort for granted, a problem we've both seen in far too many relationships. It's a problem that can start as a minor irritation and balloon over time into a full-fledged grudge.

I've heard people say that you don't need to express gratitude because your partner knows you feel it. Some people say the same thing about expressing love, and they're just as wrong about that. Humans are primates; we need the attention and reassurance of having someone groom us or make a fuss about our offering them a tasty fig.

#564 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:30 AM:

ajay @562:
I am inordinately proud of that one, mostly because I didn't even think before I said it.

Bruce @563:
I agree with your addition to Charlie's rule - we're a household of pleases and thank yous, including thanking the cook at the dinner table.

I have friends whose spouses can look at a newly painted room and say nothing but, "You missed a bit". I try not to be that way, because it leads to a lot of unhappiness. Lack of respect and appreciation can be pernicious.

I may have insulted my colleague, but I never showed him the least disrespect.

#565 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:33 AM:

Lee @ 558

Given the existence of strip clubs, the porn industry, etc. (and the relative power levels of men vs. women in them), I'm not sure I can agree with this

The relative powers of men and women in strip clubs are partly the result of the disparity in number, IMO. One or a small number of women on a stage, with a larger number of men in the audience results in somewhat of a symbolic re-enactment of gang rape. When in a one-on-one situation, such as when a man watches a woman perform for him alone there's less of that flavor of rape because there's less feedback from mutual encouragement by a group of men.

Not to say that sex workers in general enjoy parity in the power relationship with their customers under many conditions, but the power play that uses the threat of violence is less common with one man than with a group, and the power that the woman has is more effective on an individual man.

#566 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:35 AM:

561: Apparent paradox: we're polite to threats and rude to friends.

abi, having lived up north, will recognise the severe threat involved in calling someone "pal".

#567 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:39 AM:

ajay @566
abi, having lived up north, will recognise the severe threat involved in calling someone "pal".

Yes, but what's been intriguing me lately has been the de-gendering of the word "mate".

Five years ago, no one called me "mate". It was a bloke word. Three years ago, someone called me "mate" on a dark evening, when my hair was up. When I left my job in March, one of my (male) colleagues addressed me as "mate" at my leaving do.

Fascinating to watch. Irrelevant, but fascinating.

#569 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 09:03 AM:

abi @ 567

I'm not so sure it's irrelevant. A lot of words like 'guy', 'mate', usw are becoming unisex, or at least less strictly gender-specific. I think it's a healthy symptom of the slow disintegration of the social tradition that says that the (non-sexual, not-romantic) relationships between two members of the same gender and between two members of opposite gender must be fundamentally different. No news to most of us here in ML, but I expect some people out in the wide world are going to look up from their cards and be very surprised at who else is sitting in on the game.

#570 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 09:19 AM:

Lee #558: Given the existence of strip clubs, the porn industry, etc. (and the relative power levels of men vs. women in them), I'm not sure I can agree with this. Could you unpack it a bit further?

I am not a sex worker, nor have I ever been one, and I am also not a woman, but having known many sex workers of various kinds, having read anthropological surveys of sex workers of various kinds, having read first-person narratives, etc., my feeling is that often female strippers and porn stars do feel that they have power over men.

A good friend of mine who stripped her way out of utterly hellish circumstances still talks about it fondly. In the controlled environment of the strip club, the dancer can essentially do whatever she wants (as long as she's doing her job, of course), while the man has to move within some very constrained rules of conduct or get kicked the fuck outta there. And he has to pay through the nose to do so.

#571 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 09:23 AM:

Heresiarch@557: Why not try something new, plausibility be damned?

I said I didn't think Inara was realistic, or to use your word, plausible, you've been harping on me ever since that it was realistic, and now you say "so what if it wasn't plausible?"

Yeah, Joss made a dumb mistake with the reavers too. The whole story of the hidden planet that experiments turned people into reavers and the empire tried to hide the planet for ten years, rather than going in and simply vaporizing it with nukes and destroying the evidence, is just dumb.

The fleet of ships the empire had to chase down mal and River, apparently, was enough firepower for them to blast their way through the "impenetrable" reaver barricade. Well, why didn't they amass an even bigger fleet of ships ten years ago and nuke the planet from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

It was all completely unrealistic.

So was Inara.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the series. I own the DVD's and recommend them to everyone. It's just that I roll my eyes at certain parts.

But enjoying the series doesn't mean I can't point to something and say "that doesn't make any logical sense."

#572 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 09:43 AM:

And Rosebud was his sleigh.

Greg, could you ROT-13 spoilers in future?

#573 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 10:01 AM:

(hopelessly behind on this thread)

abi @ #560:
I've had colleagues with whom I've had extremely sarcastic, even openly insulting habits of discourse*. Yet sometimes those are the closest working relationships, requiring much more trust than politeness would.

Yes. My regular dance partner and I insult each other so constantly that people nervously ask if we're mad at each other.

B: I guess I just have more refined taste than you.
Me: I guess so. That's why you hang out with me, while I hang out with you.

And I will remember this to use on her sometime soon!

#574 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 10:38 AM:

abi, you're the voice of sweet reason (#545), as well as occasional teasin' on this thread.

Sometimes I wish the fervent one-on-one debaters could take their brawl into the dusty courtyard outside the saloon, and allow the rest of us to sip our beer and exchange opinions/mild bickering/comments in relative peace. Oh well....

#575 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 10:58 AM:

Serge & abi, #558-559: That's exactly the assurance I was asking for. That's also what I meant by saying I didn't want to judge based on incomplete data; the piece I was missing was, "he and she were on friendly terms and this was a mutually-agreeable mode of interaction." I've seen it NOT be in enough situations that I don't just assume it any more.

Serge, I'm sorry if my comment came across as critical. I was genuinely trying to ask for more information, which you have provided, and now I know it was okay.

#576 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 11:10 AM:

No problem, Lee.

#577 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 11:12 AM:

My wife: "My makeup is a mess."
Me: "You're right. Better fix it or else you'll scare the horses and the kids."

#578 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 12:44 PM:

abi@572

Greg London is a scoundrel. A committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars.

As for the spoilers, we'd been talking so long about Inara, I didn't think that someone might not have seen it. My bad.

#579 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Greg London @ 571: "I said I didn't think Inara was realistic, or to use your word, plausible, you've been harping on me ever since that it was realistic, and now you say "so what if it wasn't plausible?""

"Harping on you ever since" when, exactly? Please note that the next-to-last post I made on this thread was agreeing with you that Inara was really irritating.

I wasn't conceding that Inara is unrealistic. I was just saying that it even if she were, it would hardly matter. I was going for the weak argument, seeing that the strong form wasn't working. The point I was trying to make was since when is realism a stringent criterium in sf? Inara is, IMO, at least slightly towards the gritty end* of the sf realism spectrum. The "has ever existed in an actual human society" test alone takes out a good chunk of sf, but spares Inara.

*I was considering making a point about how many people are predicting a Vinge Singularity in the near future, and the futility of trying to determine "realism" beyond that point, when it hit me--maybe that's what happened to Earth That Was: the hard rapture occured, dissolving the Earth into computronium, and driving the low-tech luddites out into space to carry on merely-human culture.

#580 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Avram, #512

The hetairae were NOT "respectable"--they did not have the status that wives had, and could not be Athenian wives. In Athens their privileges were very limited--I can't think of the name of the one that the leader of Athens was involved in, at the moment (I can't think of his name, either). She got criticized as perceived as having too much influence on the running of Athens. If she had any offspring by him, they were completely out of the running as regards being legimate and as regards being in any form eligible for Athenian citizenship. Yeah, being a hetaira was better than being a slave, but there weren't any rights involved, and the legal protections were to laugh sarcastically at....

Basically, hetairae were somewhere between streetwalkers and call girls in status. They were accomplished culturally because they were the women that the men expected intellectual conversation from--they weren't going to get any from their wives and daughters whom they kept very deliberately intellectually ignorant and locked up in purdah. Intellectual conversation and skills in arts were accomplishments that hetairae had because it was required for their stock in trade--aha, hetairae=geisha. Trained, talented, accomplished, and legally cut out of the power structure as regards official power and position and inheritance, and despised by most legal female partners, who were locked in legal servitude but had some degree of legal rights particularly once they had produced male heirs....

I'm still waiting for the male sex worker, and the male-male sexual arrangement (as opposed to more female-female hot-hot-hot kisses and such on TV... Women liplocked to one another on awards shows and such has been happening live on TV for a while, but not men liplocked to one another intentionally and unhorrified by it (the homophobes got the hives from a Superbowl ad with an accidental male-male kiss and the critics exhibited massive aversion reactions to it, even the joke that is was. The same hypocritical assholes didn't excoriate Go Daddy and its offensive tripe advertising female bimbos in bikinis and male jerks happily slobbering at them...

#581 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:08 PM:

The point I was trying to make was since when is realism a stringent criterium in sf?

I don't think I ever said it was. That doesn't mean I suspend all disbelief anytime I pick up something labeled science fiction.

I saw Inara dressing up a rusty space Peterbilt with lace and velvet and rolled my eyes. And as more and more came out about her union operating in the militaristic empire with everything scarce, I rolled my eyes again.

#582 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:17 PM:

Greg: wasn't that part of the point? There were a number of occasions where someone asks her "What on earth is a high-class Companion like you doing on a piece of junk like this?" and she dodged the question. It's meant to be incongruous.

#583 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Greg 518:

Go take a swim in a rotting toxic waste pool....

#584 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Dave Bell #524

What empowers [Inara] is that she is part of an organisation, which can take steps to deal with people who harm her, and which collectively has an enormous number of high-status connections.

That reminds of Never on Sunday and the prostitutes going on strike, and shoving the beds out the windows.... (I remember very little else from that movie, other than the tune of the theme song and that the setting was Grecian or Italian seaport type area.)

#585 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Dave Bell #524

What empowers [Inara] is that she is part of an organisation, which can take steps to deal with people who harm her, and which collectively has an enormous number of high-status connections.

That reminds of Never on Sunday and the prostitutes going on strike, and shoving the beds out the windows.... (I remember very little else from that movie, other than the tune of the theme song and that the setting was Grecian or Italian seaport type area.)

#586 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Dave Bell #524

What empowers [Inara] is that she is part of an organisation, which can take steps to deal with people who harm her, and which collectively has an enormous number of high-status connections.

That reminds of Never on Sunday and the prostitutes going on strike, and shoving the beds out the windows.... (I remember very little else from that movie, other than the tune of the theme song and that the setting was Grecian or Italian seaport type area.)

#587 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Dave Bell #524

What empowers [Inara] is that she is part of an organisation, which can take steps to deal with people who harm her, and which collectively has an enormous number of high-status connections.

That reminds of Never on Sunday and the prostitutes going on strike, and shoving the beds out the windows.... (I remember very little else from that movie, other than the tune of the theme song and that the setting was Grecian or Italian seaport type area.)

#588 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Dave Bell #524

What empowers [Inara] is that she is part of an organisation, which can take steps to deal with people who harm her, and which collectively has an enormous number of high-status connections.

That reminds of Never on Sunday and the prostitutes going on strike, and shoving the beds out the windows.... (I remember very little else from that movie, other than the tune of the theme song and that the setting was Grecian or Italian seaport type area.)

#589 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Paula Lieberman #580: "I can't think of the name of the one that the leader of Athens was involved in, at the moment (I can't think of his name, either)"


Aspasia, and Pericles.

#590 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:32 PM:

I saw Inara dressing up a rusty space Peterbilt ...

I feel I ought to speak up for Serenity (the ship, that is), and point out that it (or she, to be traditional) is not a "Peterbuilt," or any other kind of truck. (And Mal is not a truck driver.[*])

Serenity is, of course, an owner-operated tramp freighter, a venerable SF cliché. I suspect real owner-operated (ocean-going) tramp freighters don't really exist any more in the 21st Century maritime world, where almost all freighters are corporate-owned. A somewhat better analog might be small 17th-19th Century merchant ships, especially smugglers.

[*] Truck drivers, for example, do not have their own posses, and are not able to pay the bills by hiring themselves and their nonexistent crews out to stage train robberies.

#591 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:35 PM:

... and of course the truck brand is spelled "Peterbilt", not "Peterbuilt"...

#592 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Serenity is, of course, an owner-operated tramp freighter, a venerable SF cliché.

Or an owner-operated privateer. Oh, if only I could write, I'd do a Firefly/O'Brian pastiche. Mal = Jno. Aubrey; Book = Dr. Maturin. Zoe's too pretty to be Tom Pullings and Jayne is too psycho to be Bonden, but I'm sure somebody talented could make it work...

#593 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 02:24 PM:

I suspect real owner-operated (ocean-going) tramp freighters don't really exist any more in the 21st Century maritime world, where almost all freighters are corporate-owned.

Note that the advent of containerized shipping completely upset the economics of shipping (not just for the ships, but also for the ports and for the industries that depend on shipping goods internationally).

#594 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 02:31 PM:

ajay @566: abi, having lived up north, will recognise the severe threat involved in calling someone "pal".

And women everywhere (at least in the U.S.) will understand what it means when a man they barely know calls them "honey" or "sweetheart". Especially if they're having an argument.

Not exactly a direct threat, but a definite attempt to put an uppity woman in her place.

#595 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Paula@583: Greg 518: Go take a swim in a rotting toxic waste pool....

Hey, folks can say that a high class prostitute is far more empowering than a Ms Universe winner. I think they're both just a little bit off as far as ever finding gender equality. Maybe if prostitution becomes split 50-50 among the genders and Ms. Universe becomes M. Universe, a contest open to both males and females. But otherwise, I'm not so sure.

Just my opinion.

And, sorry, but I'm all out of rotting, toxic waste...

#596 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 02:42 PM:

If I may...
("No, you may not.")

There is so much parsing of Serenity/Firefly's elements going on that the whole has fallen off to the side: it is about a Family in the act of creation, a dysfunctional and very imperfect one, grant you, but a Family nontheless. And that is what's important. I think.

#597 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 02:56 PM:

A somewhat better analog might be small 17th-19th Century merchant ships, especially smugglers.

Well, I used a truck driver because they actually exist today. But really, the Serenity is just another flavor of the Millenium Falcon, a small crew freighter.

rot13

Zny vf Una Fbyb.
Wnlar vf Purjonppn.
Jnfu vf P3CB. (pbzrqvp ryrzrag. frr qvab fxvg)
Mbr vf Yrvn.
Xnlyrr vf E2Q2 (gur bayl bar jub pna svk gur fuvc)
Evire vf n zbenyyl hanffvtarq Wrqv Xavtug, fur jnf genvarq gb or n fvgu, ohg...

Fvzba vf n zrqvpny qebvq.
Obbx vf... Obbx vf... Obbx vf...
uz.
Obbx vf n ersbezrq pybar jub rfpncrq gur fgbez gebbcre nezl.
bu, V qba'g xabj jung obbx vf.

#598 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 03:31 PM:

Greg @597 -- I'm pretty sure Whedon's on record as saying Mal was inspired by Han Solo, so yeah, the Serenity really is the Millennium Falcon for a new age.

River is Luke. Simon is Leia.

Book is old Ben Kenobi.

#599 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Lee @ #558

I pretty much agree with everything you said, except about the part where you rehashed what I'd said earlier. I disagreed with the idea that women are necessarily more physically vulnerable than men and claimed that citing such vulnerability victimizes women, and offends me in particular. I also specifically held abusers, rapists etc., responsible for their actions i.e. to quote myself in #197 "Abusers, like the boyfriend you mentioned, are responsible for their actions, not their victims, and I heartily wish all such abusers to get what's coming to them triple-fold."

I agree that there's a lot to read through in this thread, just wanted to keep the record straight.

#600 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Greg @578
Watch the friendly fire, wouldja? When have I said anything at all about being a scoundrel, or anything like that? I've said two things here which might be seen to be to your address (among others).


  1. Lighten up, because tempers are being frayed. Your knee-jerk reaction say good things about this thread's past...or its probable future. Remember that we're a community, please, and also that Teresa's had enough crap recently and isn't going to want to wade through more here.

  2. Don't leave spoilers in the clear. I know you did it in the heat of posting, which is why I dropped a brief reminder in. I see you took that, at least, in the spirit it was intended.

If we can't be civil, should we take a break? What are we going to prove, or establish, they way we're going now?

#601 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 04:44 PM:

(Going back all the way to the beginning...)

A Daily Kos diarist discusses the Whedon essay and the sexual net-harassment of a young champion athlete.

#602 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Hi all! Is this thread still going on? {{checks date on last post}} Yes it is! Oh good.

I need opinions.

Had an obnoxious person-to-person encounter on a train Monday night, and am trying to figure out whether it falls under "random jerk encounter" or "random male ego versus solo woman encounter." This seemed like a good place to poll the populace.

So, late at night on a cross-country Amtrak, the snack car shuts down for business but the seating space remains accessible (usually). I happen to know that's where one of the few places I can both plug in my laptop and work on it at a table, without dragging my cord across an aisle, is. (When they issued brand new cars with one power outlet per seat in coach, the California Zephyr was late to the party. Grr.) So I head down there and set up at the table in question.

The place is not entirely deserted. Three guys are sitting around at the other end of the car drinking Bud and conversing. They don't notice me show up at first. Then one of them does.

So he comes down the aisle, positions himself in my field of vision, and waves at me. From the look on his face and the way he waves, the vibe I get isn't so much "friendly gesture" as "lookit me, I'm clowning around!" Meanwhile, I'm focused on my computer, I've got headphones on, I'm referring to a book from time to time. I give him a single "yes, I see you" wave and return my attention to these things.

This scene repeats itself no less than three times. Every time he passes me in order to leave the car or return, he stops and does his little goofy waving dance until I acknowledge his presence.

The last time he does this, all three of them are on their way out. I hear him say, "Just trying to be friendly," in a half-defensive tone of voice. His friends kinda snicker.

He returns 10 minutes later and this time he makes it clear that he will not leave without a response. He starts the waving thing, and then he says, "Hi, my name is [X], what's yours?" He sits down across from me and sticks his hand into my face.

Now, me, I've made it clear (I think) that I'm not socializing, I'm *working.* I haven't been soliciting a chat session or anything. I also resent the social "contract" that says it's rude to refuse your name to anyone who asks. I don't want to shake his hand. I want him to take NO for an answer. This he has appeared incapable of doing, which further disinclines me to get on a first-name basis with him. So I take off the headphones, look him dead in the eye, and say, "I would like to be left alone. I thought by now that would be obvious. Good night." And I put the headphones back on. He gives me a look like I've kicked his puppy and retreats and leaves me alone for the rest of the trip.

Now, I'm not asking for anyone to tell me, "Yes, you were in your rights to be rude, he was a total jerk." What I'm hoping, with this long-winded anecdote, is to get opinions on this:

Is this just a run-of-the-mill jerk encounter, or is there a gendered aspect to it?

I can't honestly imagine him having so aggressively sought my attention if my husband were there. Nor could I imagine a woman doing it to me. I could imagine, however, this guy doing it to a table of two or three women. A certain amount of his acting up appeared to be for the benefit of the guys with him. Is this an example of the (stereotypical) male ego demanding that the apparently unattached woman pay him attention and be his appreciative audience? Or am I overthinking this? Maybe they were just under the impression that the only reason for me to come down to the lower level of the lounge car was because I was looking for company but too shy to say hello, and was only using my book and computer and headphones to cover my shyness? Would they have assumed that about a man, though?

When I think of all the times that random strangers have tried to engage me when I was very obviously not being engageable (headphones on, reading a book, working on computer), it's mostly been men. Usually it's men who appear older than me (I have the dubious blessing of looking younger than I am, so I get the "fatherly" routine a lot). I'm thinking of the time I took my writing assignment to a late-night bar, and the men seated nearby kept trying to use me as a foil for their witty remarks, and then they acted very offended when I finally told them to quit. That sort of thing.

The only exception I can think of is when I'm knitting in public, and then it's mainly either fellow knitters (who tend to be female) saying hello and wanting to know what I'm knitting, or older (mostly) women gushing that a younger woman would take up such an old-fashioned art. And it's not the same level of interruption; knitting is a lot more social than writing or reading, as most of us who've been at it a few years can talk and knit at the same time quite easily.

So... I guess I'm just trying to get a handle on a pattern I think I'm seeing here, and second-guessing my assumption that Monday night's annoying encounter fits into that pattern. Which pattern being: man, especially in company of other men, sees "available" woman as owing him attention and admiration, and acts like his rudeness was in fact a generosity she should have appreciated.

Which sidles into another pattern: the social pressure against turning down offers of help. Somehow, it's seen as the most offensive thing I can do to tell a person "I'm sorry, I know you want to help, but I'm afraid your efforts are in fact not helping. Thank you, but I need you to stop now." There seems to be no polite enough way to say it that doesn't incur wrath. It occurred to me to wonder whether men get less of the "you ungrateful twit I was only trying to help" treatment than women do, if maybe the "men are afraid of being rejected by women" dynamic exacerbates the issue?

Not trying to draw huge blinking stereotypes. Just looking for other people's experiences and opinions. Is this one of the subtler symptoms of sexism in society I'm seeing here, or is it even more subtle than that--have I just become conditioned to see every unpleasant encounter with a random male stranger as having sexist overtones?

It's not like I've ever gotten to experience these sorts of situations as a man. How would I compare?

Sorry in advance if this becomes a thread-jack. But look! Knitting!

#603 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 05:50 PM:

abi,
I read Greg (578) as him calling himself a scoundrel, a self-mocking mea culpa as it were.

#604 ::: Paula LIeberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Avram, #540

The 19th century had what, 20,000 prostitutes within the city of London? Most of them were not the feted fames rich extremely wealthy madams--a few were, most were in dire straits physically and financially and emotionally.

Madeleine Robins in her alternate Regency England novels that I can't think of the names of points out what the world of Regency and Victorian prostitution in England was really like, and her somewhat alternate universe one allowed a degree more freedom to "fallen women" who had been of Good Family and lost their virginity other than through acceptable marital contracts that did this world.

As for Aspasia, she is an example of someone who had climbed to a hihghly rarified but extremely vulnerable position--she had no rights as Athenian citizen or family member of a citizen and only had whatever power and influence she could exert by those who were charmed by her and sleeping with her.

Er, that didn't come out quite right. She basically became a protectorate of Pericles--she was something of a correspondance to today's Trophy Wife who is highly ornamental, talented, socially skilled, an excellent hostess, etc., and has a degree of vicarious life or participating via the male hosting her and who she is an ornament to.

She attracted a lot of attention, she was a famous hostess when women were not generally allowed rein to entertain unless they were courtesans, she was politically aware in a time that women were -barred- from politics... and how many other women have the names come down to modern times from ancient Greece for women who weren't listed mainly as the -dependent- of some man--defined in terms of wife of X or daughter or Y or mother of Z? Names of lots of leaders of Athens have survived, but not of women who participated in civic life as someone with opinions that had any effect.

#605 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 05:58 PM:

Nicole @ 602... Oh, one of those guys who think they are God's gift to women...

#606 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:03 PM:

Nicole:
Is this an example of the (stereotypical) male ego demanding that the apparently unattached woman pay him attention and be his appreciative audience?

Yes. He wouldn't have done it to a man, or a m/f couple.

Trust your instincts.

#607 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:03 PM:

John @603
You may be right. I'd read it as him thinking I had called him a scoundrel. Apart from the fact that that pushes all my Han Solo buttons (that's a good thing), it felt like pre-emptive return of fire.

Nicole @602:
I read it as attempted flirtation, and therefore based on him being male (and tipsy, and therefore tone-deaf to your bugger-off signals) and you being female (and not knitting, which clearly leaves men with nothing to say.*)

Flirtation, in this case, is nothing more than throwing the dice, over and over again, because if you do it long enough you get snake eyes.

At least he left you alone after you were blunt.

-----
* Well, very few of guys can talk about it intelligently, and it's not really possible to ignore it, so what to do?

#608 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Nicole, I'd say that was male jerk, thinking any solo female should be available. (Alcohol was surely involved in his lack-of-thought processes.)

But I'm female and don't react well to that sort of pickup attempt.

#609 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:12 PM:

(knitting)

I am reminded of our recent croquet outing. After a vigorous, cutthroat, and only semi-conclusive game we repaired to the parlor for tea and cakes. One of the women pulled out her knitting. Then another woman's husband pulled out his knitting. They spent the rest of the afternoon knitting and comparing yarn and stuff while her escort and his wife looked on in confusion (his) and amusement (hers).

I'm not suggesting he's typical - he surprised us all mostly because we're more accustomed to him pulling out a cross-stitch project.

#610 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:31 PM:

Nicole, #602

So... I guess I'm just trying to get a handle on a pattern I think I'm seeing here, and second-guessing my assumption that Monday night's annoying encounter fits into that pattern. Which pattern being: man, especially in company of other men, sees "available" woman as owing him attention and admiration, and acts like his rudeness was in fact a generosity she should have appreciated.

You are being entirely too generous to the gorf there. The gorf doesn't have any interest in what your feelings on the matter are, his interests and opinions and feelings are all that matter, that you should have any opinion about the matter and not wish to disturbed when he has deigned to decide to pay attention to you, is a an egregious offense in his view.

Which sidles into another pattern: the social pressure against turning down offers of help. Somehow, it's seen as the most offensive thing I can do to tell a person "I'm sorry, I know you want to help, but I'm afraid your efforts are in fact not helping. Thank you, but I need you to stop now." There seems to be no polite enough way to say it that doesn't incur wrath. It occurred to me to wonder whether men get less of the "you ungrateful twit I was only trying to help" treatment than women do, if maybe the "men are afraid of being rejected by women" dynamic exacerbates the issue?

Once again, it's the sort of thing where it's all about the person who is going to help out whether you want the help or not having their ego invested in control over other people, particularly women. It goes back to the stuff about the gift giver not caring if the person the gift is being given to considers the gift appropriate/wants it/likes it/is convenienced by it/is appreciative of it, it's all the ego of the giver and the person's perception of themselve with the other person being a foil to produce admiration and appreciation for the giver to bask in and feel good about....

Not trying to draw huge blinking stereotypes. Just looking for other people's experiences and opinions. Is this one of the subtler symptoms of sexism in society I'm seeing here, or is it even more subtle than that--have I just become conditioned to see every unpleasant encounter with a random male stranger as having sexist overtones?

No. Most males treat other males much less as appliances than they treat women.

The thinG about knitters is that there is an appreciation for the knitting and the person doing the knitting gets appreciation for initiative and the taste to be knitting. It's showing appreciation for the person who is knitting along with the knitting--that is, there is respect involved, which the gorf you were describing had NONE of. The knitter remarking on knitting is seeing the person knitting as a kindred soul, and also perceiving the situation in a frame which includes the sensation of "when I am knitting I don't like to be interrupted such that I lose track of my stitches and therefore I don't want to disrupt this other person's knitting, either..." There is a level of near-automatic consideration that the gorf doing harassing does not have... the gorf has no interest, no appreciation, not consideration, and NOTHING IN COMMON AS EXPERIENCE to RESPECT the person the gorf is harassing.

OH! EPIPHANY MOMENT!

The gorf is engaging in archetypical objectification. The knitter is trying to engage on a mutual respect, appreciation, and consideration basis.

#611 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Nicole @ 602

It looks like a friendly pickup line gone wrong. I've gotten it, my nephew has gotten it (from a woman), but in our cases it was in a coffee shop and the offending party was sober and alone. Drunken ego is the worst thing. The fact that he came back without his buddies makes me think they said "give it up, dude, she's not interested," and he didn't believe them until you politely spelled it out in no uncertain terms.

Drunken egos are the worst things. You were right to feel uncomfortable.

#612 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 06:59 PM:

I'd say that what Nicole encountered was certainly gendered -- a man who believed that he was entitled to the attention of a woman provided that he showed some minimal courtesy. A jerk, certainly, but a jerk operating on sexist as well as selfish assumptions.

#613 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Nicole, I'd definitely go with the gendered explanation, and say that he saw you as a woman-object, and not as a person who was doing something and wanted to be left alone.

#614 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Nicole, #602, I have the help-not-needed rather often. I'm partially paralyzed on the left and that means that I generally need to go through the right door where there's two. People coming in will hold the door that's on my left and with them standing there, it's almost impossible for me to get through without stumbling. I usually open the right door and just say "Thanks, but I need to use this door." I've only ever had one guy challenge me after I said that and when I explained, he was still upset, so I just left.

#615 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 07:43 PM:

In Britain, it's almost impossible to go through a door after someone without it being held open for one (after the preceding person has gone through, often). It's almost impossible - as a woman - to approach a door in the near presence of a man without it being held for one.

The office I used to work in used to have a couple of pairs of doorways, about a meter apart, like airlocks. My opinion of male colleagues was often formed by their reaction to my graciously walking through the first doors, which they held open for me, and then holding the second set open for them. If they'd look at me funny, I'd say, "Twenty-first century chivalry."

But I took pity on one colleague who said that if he'd ever failed to hold a door for a lady, his mother would have clipped him round the earhole. Early conditioning. It was a chivalrous act on my part, I figured, not to stress him out.

And I always thank people, of whatever gender, who hold doors.

#616 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2007, 10:54 PM:

abi@600: (sigh) You made a reference to the movie, "Citizen Kane", yes? 578 is a quote from the movie. At least, according to IMDB it is. Kane calls himself a scoundrel and says he'll donate a thousand dollars to... I assumed you would catch it, since you referenced the movie. It was intended as a joke.

I should stick with farming.

#617 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Hi, Nicole. Wazzup? Yep thread's still going.

re: your encounter.

The guy could have been trying to be a jerk from the beginning. i.e. Bugs Bunny sees Elmer Fudd working on a ship in the bottle, and at the point where Fudd has the mast held by long tweezers inside the bottle, Bugs says rather loudly, "What's up, doc."

Alternatively, he could have been rather cluelessly trying to ask you out. Somewhere in this thread, someone posted a link to a woman who posed as a man for some long period of time, long enough to try dating women. I read it. It's decent. At one point, she gets that for men, dating is about slugging through the 90% rejections to get to the 10% who say yes.

I don't know if your joker was doing that or not. If he was, he sounds somewhat young or inexperienced based on his behaviour as described by you.

But, I will confess that when I was dating, if I saw a woman I was interested in, sometimes I needed to hear the flat-out "no" to get the hint. And at some point I got that a no wasn't personal.

I guess it's sort of like submitting a manuscript. All the times you get a "no" on your story, you really can't extract enough information to make it mean anything about your story. Maybe they recently published a story like yours and dont want to dilute their own market. Maybe they aren't interested in that particular kind of story. The editors making teh selections are doing so, to some extent, on a personal level, not just a "is this a good story", but more a "do I like this story and do I think I can sell it in my publishing house". You can't really take a rejection and say "I suck".' And you can't get published unless you submit, and unless you can figure out a way to get through all the "no"s.

Hm. That analogy means that guys are the authors doing submissions and women are the editors who have to wade through a slush pile to find the occaisional gem.

Not exactly a perfect analogy, but it might be useful in some cases.

Unfortunately, it means that there isn't a way to universally announce "No unagented submissions" or whatever. Hm.

Maybe they were just under the impression that the only reason for me to come down to the lower level of the lounge car was because I was looking for company but too shy to say hello

Uh, no. If he was interested, that probably wasn't the thinking. Back in my single days, I might see a woman reading a book, find her attractive, find the book indicative of some semblance of a brain, and wedge my way in long enough to engage her, with the thought of it eventually possibly leading to asking her out.

She, on the other hand, might have zero interest in going on a date with me, and find my interuption of her book to be exceedingly annoying. Can't you see I'm reading? But, at least for me, a simple "no" would have me move on.

Hm. borrowing from the writer/editor analogy, you might want to come up with a "form rejection letter". Generally speaking, form rejections do not report being offended for receiving the submission, no matter how bad it was. And they avoid qualitative remarks on the submission. They might even encourage the writer on their journey or wish them well or some such thing.

Having gotten a few myself, I can see a similarity between them all.

The thing is that if you're going to receive submissions, you shouldn't have to fret about how to word each rejection.

My wife gave me a form rejection the first two times I asked her out. (long story) You might want to come up with your own. "No, thank you." might be sufficient. The thing is you said you wanted this guy to take "no" for an answer, but you didn't actually say that you said "no".

Not that I'm saying any of this is "right" or justified or morally acceptable or whatever. I think it's pretty clear that I think there are differences between men and women, and I might be completely snarking mad. But it might work for you and make your life a little easier. Or not.

as for the "fatherly" stuff going on, hm, I'll say that there's all sorts of possible things going on there. SOme of it gender role related, some of it who knows what. I do know that some men view other men as either an outside threat or internal competition. I don't know if it's universal, specific to men, or if women think the same of women, or if it just happens to be that I've run into a statistical anamoly that isn't representative of the whole male population. or what. But I have seen it. And in those cases, the men would generally not view women as a threat or competition and wouldn't have issue approaching a woman to help, mentor, contribute, but might have issue approaching a man. There are other possible gender type roles that might be going on too, knight in shining armor, father figure, I don't know. The longer I've been in this thread thinking about gender, the more I think the best way to sum it all up is "it's rather complicated".

#618 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 12:44 AM:

Greg London @ 597

Obbx vf... Obbx vf... Obbx vf..

Obbx vf Lbqn. Naq gurer'f ab jnl gb ghea gung fragrapr nebhaq vagb Lbqn-fcrnx.

#619 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:05 AM:

abi @ 615

Hmm ... holding the door for the person behind you is quite common here in Portland, and, at least in my experience, holding a door for a woman and then having her hold the next one for me is almost as common. I'd guess that there are some male surprise reactions to that, but I can't recall seeing one*. It's probable that the statistics on this are different outside the city; we've been described as a blue island in a sea of red**.

* Though I guess I'm not likely to see it.

** blue for liberal, or what passes for that here, and red for conservative, for those of you who aren't USians (or We-ans, as Theodore Bikel used to call us).

#620 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:10 AM:

Bruce@618

Obbx vf Lbqn.

Ubyl fuvg. zl zvaq pnzr hc jvgu n ohapu bs ernfbaf gung gung jbhyq or n creirefr vqrn. Ohg zl thg fnlf lbh anvyrq vg. Rvgure Lbqn, be cbffvoyl Bov Jna, fvapr Qnegu xvyyrq bov jna naq gur rzcver xvyyrq Obbx, ng yrnfg va gur zbivr.

V jbaqre vs ur jnf yvxr Evire fbzrubj naq jbhyq unir raqrq hc genvavat ure vs gur frevrf unq pbagvahrq.

It makes me sad that the series was killed and we'll never know.

#621 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 02:10 AM:

Greg London @ 581: "That doesn't mean I suspend all disbelief anytime I pick up something labeled science fiction."

You've gotta suspend some though, and it seems weird to me that influential and highly-paid courtesans break that suspension, while psychic assassin girls and black-ops preachers don't. So like I said, it's a matter of personal taste. Sound in vaccuum bugs the fuck out of me, and I can't really tell you why it bothers me more than light-sabers or YET ANOTHER humanoid alien.


Minor quibbles with this: "And as more and more came out about her union operating in the militaristic empire with everything scarce, I rolled my eyes again."

Scarcity in Firefly is clearly geographically dependent. What's scarce on the outer planets is pretty clearly not so scarce on inner planets like Ariel. (No doubt the inner, easier-to-terraform planets were settled first, and are several centuries of development ahead of the outer planets which are just now being settled--an Old World/New World kind of thing.) It's a lot easier to imagine an Inara-type operating in 18th-century Paris than in the colonial U.S., but the latter is where our story is set. I also wouldn't characterize the Alliance as a militaristic empire. They seem more like the mercantile British Empire to me; their military domination is merely an outgrowth of their superior technological and economic might, not the sustained focus of a warrior culture. [/minor quibbles]

#622 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 02:20 AM:

Greg London #620: It makes me sad that the series was killed and we'll never know.

Well, Joss Whedon has said he's not done with that world or those characters, so maybe we'll get another movie (doubtful, but wouldn't it be great?) or perhaps more comics (please please please, and please make them better than the one we've seen already).

I do wish that he would return to television and find a network that could support him, because he's really, really good at television (in case anyone here needed reminding).

#623 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:28 AM:

Greg @618
Ah, now you catch me out, to my great shame. I have never seen Citizen Kaine.

Thanks for the explanation. That makes more sense now.

#624 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:49 AM:

Greg & Bruce:
V guvax Obbx vf na nygreangr Nanxva Fxljnyxre, jub ghearq onpx sebz gur Qnex Fvqr bs gur sbepr.

Obgu Lbqn naq Bov-Jna unir orra tbbq thlf gurve jubyr yvirf*. Ohg Obbx fgevxrf zr nf n zna qbvat cranapr, xabjvat gung uvf cranapr jvyy arire pbzcrafngr sbe uvf fvaf, naq orvat - nf n erfhyg - vagrafryl njner bs gur inyhr bs haqrfreirq sbetvirarff.†

-----
* Yhpnf vf tbbq ng zlgu. Fva naq erqrzcgvba, abg fb zhpu.
† Guvf vf na nern jurer V'z tynq jr qvqa'g frr zber, orpnhfr sebz jung V pna frr, Jurqba qbrfa'g qb n tbbq wbo jevgvat eryvtvbhf punenpgref. Znlor vs ur tbrf ba ur'yy gnxr fbzr rkcreg nqivpr sebz n gurbybtvna, ohg V qernq gung ur'yy tb vg nybar naq pbzcyrgryl ybfr zl fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs.††
†† Gur jnl ur jevgrf eryvtvbhf punenpgref erzvaqf zr bs Synzornh'f nggrzcg gb vzcrefbangr n cevrfg va Gur Oyhr Pebff.

#625 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:57 AM:

abi @ 623... "I have never seen Citizen Kane."

Or North by Northwest, if I remember correctly. (It is my understanding that title is a quote from Hamlet. True?)

#626 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 07:45 AM:

HAMLET
I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

#627 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 08:24 AM:

and I think a "handsaw" in that context was another kind of bird. A crane of some kind.

#628 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 08:28 AM:

No, no, Hawks and Hanshaws are both types of rocket ships.

#629 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 08:58 AM:

That's the one, Dave. Thanks.

Hamlet and rockets, TexAnne? Interesting combination. Wait. The old Star Trek did that 40 years ago in episode The Conscience of the King.

#630 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:00 AM:

I think you mean rickshaw.

#631 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:02 AM:

Heinlein reference, Serge. Hazel says it in The Rolling Stones.

#632 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:05 AM:

Greg & Bruce & abi,

(Does this sort of thing really need to be ROT-13'd? Oh, well...)

Zny vf Una Fbyb.
Wnlar vf Purjonppn.

Jnvg n zvahgr ... gung'f vafhygvat gb Purjonppn!
Yrg'f fgneg ntnva:

Zny vf Una Fbyb.
Mbr vf Purjonppn (yblny fvqrxvpx sebz jnl onpx, frpbaq va pbzznaq bs gur fuvc, tbbq va n svtug, rgp.).
Xnlyrr vf nyfb Purjonppn (fuvc'f zrpunavp), cyhf n yvggyr ovg bs E2Q2.
Wnlar vf Ynaqb (gur bayl "tbbq thl" pncnoyr bs orgenlvat bhe urebrf)...

... rkprcg gung Ynaqb vf fhnir naq fzneg naq ryrtnag naq punezvat, naq Wnlar vf nalguvat ohg.
Fb:
Wnlar vf... Wnlar vf... BX, Wnlar vf Jbes.
Jnfu vf Qngn (pbzrqvp ryrzrag, gevrf gb znxr wbxrf, cvybgf gur fuvc).
Fvzba vf Qe. Pehfure.
Evire vf Jrfyrl Pehfure (shyy bs haerpbtavmrq cbgragvny naq nyy gung).
Naq Obbx vf Pbhafrybe Gebv.

Gurer, gung jbexf. (Jul ner lbh nyy ybbxvat ng zr yvxr gung?)

Ba n fyvtugyl zber frevbhf abgr, bar bs gur guvatf V engure yvxr nobhg Sversyl vf ubj Jurqba zvkrq gbtrgure gur Plavpny Lrg Urebvp Ebthr punenpgre bs Una Fbyb jvgu gur Fgnefuvc Perj punenpgre frg naq gura nqqrq fbzr fhv trarevf punenpgref. Va cnegvphyne, Wnlar vf abg n punenpgre sebz Fgne Jnef be Fgne Gerx.

#633 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:08 AM:

abi@624:

Lrnu, V pna frr ubj Obbx unf n qnex cnfg naq vf abj gelvat gb qb evtug.

ng 597 V fnvq

"Obbx vf n ersbezrq pybar jub rfpncrq gur fgbez gebbcre nezl."

V qba'g xabj vs ur unf wrqv cbjref yvxr Evire be abg. V qba'g guvax fb.
Ohg gura, gur obhagl uhagre xarj gung Obbx jnf ab furcneq, naq wrqv'f pna "frafr" bar nabgure, fb znlor vs Evire unq pbzcyrgrq ure genvavat, fur jbhyq unir ghearq bhg yvxr gung obhagl uhagre be Obbx.

Uz, ab. Gur tbireazrag ntrag va gur zbivr qvqa'g unir nal cflpuvp cbjref. Naq V guvax Obbx jnf zber yvxr gur tbireazrag ntrag va gur zbivr, obhagl uhagre va gur frevrf, guna ur vf yvxr Evire.

Bu, V xabj, Obbx vf n ersbezrq Oboon Srgg. Jnvg, Oboon Srgg jnf gur fba bs gur bevtvany crefba hfrq gb znxr gur pybarf sbe gur pybar nezl. Fb ur jnf n ersbezrq fgbez gebbcre.

Orggre fgbc orsber V fubeg zl oenva bhg.

#634 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:15 AM:

peter

:Evire vf Jrfyrl Pehfure (shyy bs haerpbtavmrq cbgragvny naq nyy gung).

Abj lbh vafhyg Evire. Jrfyrl jnf n jvzc. Evire pbhyq jvcr bhg n ebbz.


:Naq Obbx vf Pbhafrybe Gebv.

"V frafr ybir naq tengvghqr. Ybir naq tengvghqr."

Abj lbh vafhyg Obbx.

:Wnlar vf abg n punenpgre sebz Fgne Jnef be Fgne Gerx.

Wnlar'f n oevpx. Purjonppn vf n oevpx. Jubes vf n oevpx.
qvssrerag synibef bs gur fnzr gbhtu thl punenpgre.

#635 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:21 AM:

Bruce @ 618:
Obbx vf Lbqn. Naq gurer'f ab jnl gb ghea gung fragrapr nebhaq vagb
Lbqn-fcrnx.

"Lbqn, Obbx vf."

(See Goeff Pullum's Language Log post on Yoda's syntax, where he suggests that it's primarly "XSV" [complement-subject-verb]. Except when it isn't.)

#636 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:23 AM:

O Firefly Discussion Group,

Let's go in the clear - I think we're miles from spoilers. Just reread before you post, maybe ROT-13 specific points.

I think we're running on different analogies. I don't think the Force maps to psychic powers, but to political power. The power to make people do what you want them to do. The true Bene Gesserit aim of politics, for which psychic power is merely a means.

And I think Book comes from the dark side of that Force, which in this case means from the government*. A reformed storm trooper wouldn't be the same, because he wasn't powerful before. Nuremburg notwithstanding**, there is a difference between following orders and the corruption of the soul that comes from making evil decisions, over and over again.

But I think Peter is right, that Jayne (and indeed, many of the others) are not really good maps to characters that have gone before; that's why the show works so well. I use the crew as archetypes (they were my mnemonic, for instance, for a set of seven psychological classifications I needed to brute memorise for a testing exam last year†).
-----
* This, by the way, makes all of Firefly & Serenity a subset of The Empire Strikes Back, with the guys on the light side of the [political] force back-footed and the bad guys on the ascendant. Or maybe it's very, very early on in Star Wars.
** Godwin! I lose!
† No, don't ask, I've forgotten. Brute memorisation doesn't stick. And I gave my notes away to someone who was sure she would fail, though notes like that probably won't help her pass next time...

#637 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:31 AM:

abi @ 636... There was one episode of Firefly where the gang is about to be nailed by a warship, until Book says something in private to its commander. I always wondered if Book was supposed to be the embarassing son of some Important Family.

Jayne was a jerk, but... There's a scene in the movie where they're about to crash, but Jayne makes sure that everybody is safely strapped down before thinking of himself. In a way, he is like an oversized Wolverine: he is someone who needed a Family to socialize him, and that is exactly what he got.

#638 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Nicole @ 602: Let me put it this way...if a man I didn't know interacted (probably not the best word) with me the way that guy interacted with you, I would assume that he was gay and trying to pick me up.

If three extroverted men saw another man by himself, and wanted to make friends with him, the invitation would have had more of a tone of "come join our little club here" rather than "hey look at ME ME ME". The "just trying to be friendly" line is another giveaway. Men who are just trying to be friendly don't have to be so defensive about it in front of their male friends.

He was probably bracing himself for his buddies singing "and it's one, two, three strikes are out at the old ball game" as soon the three of them got to the next car.

#639 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:45 AM:

Serge,

I get a whiff of penitence from Book that no amount of dreadful relatives would explain. No innocent man could look so calmly on the surface flaws of the crew, nor see beneath them to the solid hearts. And only a man who has done wrong, and knows he is capable of doing wrong, has so much doubt in himself.

He reminds me of a quote one of my favourite books*:

Webster and Middleton, Tourneur and Ford. It was an obscure specialization, but the candlelit and treacherous universe in which they moved - of sin unpunished, of innocence destroyed - was one I found appealing. Even the titles of their plays were strangely seductive, trapdoors to something beautiful and wicked that trickled beneath the surface of morality: The Malcontent. The White Devil. The Broken Heart...The Jacobeans had a sure grasp of catastrophe. They understood not only evil, but the extravagance of tricks by which evil presents itself as good.

I think Book saw his society's equivalent of that world, and lived in it a long time, then turned his back on it.

------
* Why, yes, I am interested to see if anyone recognises it.

#640 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Greg @ 637:

Um, if it wasn't clear, I was mostly joking... (I mean, sure, Book is sort of a "counselor" character, but he isn't remotely like Counselor Troi. Though if you think about how various people wanted to kill River, and how almost everyone wanted to kill Wesley Crusher, ... OK, I'll stop.)


However: Chewbacca is a rock, not a brick. He's Han Solo's oldest friend, he's been with Han through thick and thin, he's loyal to a fault, he's capable of piloting the Falcon on his own and repairing things[*], and he has a stronger sense of morality than Han (though his loyalty to Han comes first).

Jayne is a brick, yes. He's also greedy, devious, treacherous, and (I think) fundamentally amoral, and appears to have no skills apart from being a bruiser and a mercenary. And he's not very bright.

Serge said @ 637:
Jayne was a jerk, but... There's a scene in the movie where they're about to crash, but Jayne makes sure that everybody is safely strapped down before thinking of himself. In a way, he is like an oversized Wolverine: he is someone who needed a Family to socialize him, and that is exactly what he got.

Maybe... one of the annoying things about Firefly's cancellation is that we'll never know if Jayne would really get reformed and civilized and become a Good Guy, or if he would betray everyone else[**] in the end. I had this sense from Whedon's writing that the former outcome wasn't guaranteed.

[*] C3PO, for example.
[**] V zrna, ur qvq gel gb va bar rcvfbqr.

#641 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 10:00 AM:

True, abi... This remidns me of a line from The Spy Who Came In from The Cold, where Smiley, with a sad wistful expression, says that sometimes he has to do some very wicked things. Book may have been someone like that who did some very ugly things for a Good Cause.

#642 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 10:01 AM:

abi @ 639:

I don't recognize the quote. But that sounds like something I'd very much be interested in reading, so if no one recognizes it, do please tell us what it is from...

#643 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 11:21 AM:

abi... We're still waiting to find out what that quote is from. (Humming sound, drumming of fingers...)

#644 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 11:28 AM:

So no guesses? Just curious.

It's from The Secret History, by Donna Tartt.

It's a book about a bunch of Classics students at a university who try to recreate a Bacchanal. Divine madness, all that. They succeed, but the consequences are...complex and dreadful. The quote is from the epilogue, and the speaker has really been through a lot to get to where he is.

It is extremely well written, and I love it dearly. I don't think Greg would, though. Too much musing, not enough action.

#645 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 11:38 AM:

abi: I loved that book, and the mention of it still provokes a sense memory; lying in bed on a wet and blustery night in the corner of my bedroom in Utrecht, coming down with a cold, and with a bowl of my mother's calvados-laced apple crumble to keep me going. There are hardly any other books I've read that evoke a particular moment like that for me.

What did you think of The Little Friend? I thought it was well-written, but far too languid and slow. But I know people that really enjoyed it, after having found The Secret History unbearably twee and precious.

#646 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 12:12 PM:

BruceTheSpeaker #619: holding the door for the person behind you is quite common here in Portland, and, at least in my experience, holding a door for a woman and then having her hold the next one for me is almost as common.

I do it all the time, usually saying "My turn!" If you *don't* do it, you end up, at best, bumping into each other. Simple common sense, really.

(I actually hate all the ladies first stuff because I'm a klutz. Much easier to follow someone as they break the trail, be it through actual brush or the metaphorical trackless wilderness of a restaurant lobby scrum. Since I'm usually shorter than everyone around me, I can't see where I'm going, whereas my taller companion can.)

#647 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:04 PM:

What gets me, in thinking about Jayne and Book, is how they become a "work unit"- we see them spotting each other lifting weights, and, in Arial, they are passing out weapons together. They seem to share certain unconscious routines.

And the clue to Jayne's character development, I believe, is where he comes from. He's not, apparently, an old Reb like Mal and Zoe, but, instead, pure bandit; up until he signs on to Serenity's crew, he has never been under any discipline except bullying. Having strategies other than showing up with more guys with bigger weapons work is a revelation to him. Having a social context where he doesn't have to constantly watch his back, and the chance to make one bad mistake without it being fatal, makes even a bonehead like him take notice.

#648 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:15 PM:

JESR... In the episode that flashed back to how Serenity's crew had come together, the selling point for Jayne to band with them is that he'd have a bunk that was all HIS.

#649 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:21 PM:

And only a man who has done wrong, and knows he is capable of doing wrong, has so much doubt in himself.

The part of me that could identify with Book would say swap "doubt" and replace with "remorse". Doubt means inaction and failing to choose. Book did not do that.

Book gave me the impression that he would never commit violence out of fear or anger, but that he could choose to commit violence. I believe he helped the crew rescue Mal/Wash from the mobster (a russian Jabba the Hutt?) at the space station.

But there was something about the time Book spoke with the commander of the Empirial Warship who then let Serenity go, that made me wonder just how much of Book's history Joss had worked out.

#650 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:21 PM:

And only a man who has done wrong, and knows he is capable of doing wrong, has so much doubt in himself.

The part of me that could identify with Book would say swap "doubt" and replace with "remorse". Doubt means inaction and failing to choose. Book did not do that.

Book gave me the impression that he would never commit violence out of fear or anger, but that he could choose to commit violence. I believe he helped the crew rescue Mal/Wash from the mobster (a russian Jabba the Hutt?) at the space station.

But there was something about the time Book spoke with the commander of the Empirial Warship who then let Serenity go, that made me wonder just how much of Book's history Joss had worked out.

#651 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:28 PM:

joann @ #646:
(I actually hate all the ladies first stuff because I'm a klutz. Much easier to follow someone as they break the trail, be it through actual brush or the metaphorical trackless wilderness of a restaurant lobby scrum. Since I'm usually shorter than everyone around me, I can't see where I'm going, whereas my taller companion can.)

Most people nowadays never bothered to learn the nuances. The fine print of "ladies first" calls for it to actually be gents first whenever there is a situation which might be discomposing to the lady. Having to force one's way through a scrum of any kind would be such a situation, as would taking the machete and clearing the brush should one happen to be in a wilderness. A gentleman also precedes a lady down a flight of stairs so as to be in place to catch her should she stumble and fall. On a practical level, this also avoids the problem of constantly stepping on the back of her gown as she goes down the stairs.

When you study historical dance, you get historical etiquette as a free add-on.

What fascinates me on a regular basis are the interlocking and sometimes conflicting gender and professional etiquette impulses in my workplace, where we have myself as a female employee interacting with a number of doctors, who would take precedence over me (go through doors first) by virtue of their profession. With male doctors who are either significantly older or from some foreign countries, you can practically see them freeze in etiquette-lock if they arrive at a door at the same time as I do. I suspect they may have fewer problems with female secretaries, whose hierarchical niche is much clearer than mine. (I haven't had the opportunity to observe the two m/m doctor/secretary pairs of which I'm aware.) I do notice it's much less of an issue with the department head, who is quite clear on his position in the pecking order and precedes everyone, male or female, through doors without any hesitation at all.

#652 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:38 PM:

abi @ 644:

Thanks! I've heard of that book, vaguely, but it hasn't been on any of my to-buy-and-read lists. Now it is.

#653 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Greg, #617: The thing is you said you wanted this guy to take "no" for an answer, but you didn't actually say that you said "no".

If you re-read Nicole's description of the encounter, you'll notice that until the guy came back and shoved his hand at her face, no words were exchanged at all. It's kind of hard to say "no" verbally to a question that hasn't been asked verbally.

In that kind of situation, I think my choice would have been to do the polite thing and briefly acknowledge him the first time, and after that completely ignore his clowning around and waving and trying to get my attention. There are three likely reactions to this:

1) He eventually gets the point, non-verbally, and goes away. Given that booze was involved, this is the least-likely outcome.

2) He increases his attempts to attract attention until he eventually does something to which the verbal "no, not interested, go away" is an appropriate response.

3) He becomes angry and calls me a stuck-up bitch for failing to give him my attention, which he sees as his due. And that's the risk, because some men will decide that you don't deserve them and go away once they get angry... but some will escalate to physical violence, up to and including rape, and this guy had two friends with him, who might or might not have reined him in.

#654 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 02:10 PM:

me: The thing is you said you wanted this guy to take "no" for an answer, but you didn't actually say that you said "no".

Lee: If you re-read Nicole's description of the encounter, you'll notice that until the guy came back and shoved his hand at her face, no words were exchanged at all.

Yeah, I know. But I was saying anything short of a "no" may be interpreted as a "maybe". I wasn't sure, but it sounded as if she considered her headphones, laptop, aggravated wave as a "no", and why wasnt this noob getting that she had communicated "no". for some folks, you ahve to say "no" in some form. You shouldn't feel bad about saying "no", which was why I suggested coming up with a form rejection, but if you tell a writer "Didn't like the intro", you'll probably get a resubmission with a rewritten intro. If you want them to move along, you need the "does not meet our requirements at this time".

#655 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Susan @ 651... On a practical level, this also avoids the problem of constantly stepping on the back of her gown as she goes down the stairs.

Something like this happened during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, when a stormtrooper stepped on Darth Vader's cape, thus sending the latter flying before he landed on his derrière.

#656 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 02:59 PM:

3) He becomes angry and calls me a stuck-up bitch for failing to give him my attention, which he sees as his due. And that's the risk, because some men will decide that you don't deserve them and go away once they get angry... but some will escalate to physical violence, up to and including rape, and this guy had two friends with him, who might or might not have reined him in.

Or might have joined him. That's the sort of calculation you have to make with rejecting a guy: will he get pissed and assault me? And if it's in a potential gang-rape situation: will his friends help me or gather round for the show? Or hold me down? Is there a fast way to escape? Anyone else around? Conductor coming by regularly? Stop coming up?

It's not like I spend a lot of time pondering the possibility of violence, and I'm generally up for being confrontational when guys act like jerks, but it's never something I can fail to consider - just one of those run-of-the-mill little rapid-fire calculations.

#657 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 03:43 PM:

Susan #656:

Quite. My all-too-standard response if bothered after giving them a "WhoTF are you?" expression (and the other one I can do, the *complete* lack of response as I look fixedly at a point about five feet over their shoulder, is considerably more unsettling and has caused unneeded door-to-door solicitors to run away cursing) is one of "Bugger off", "Do please get stuffed", or "You could be replaced by a nuisance". It's only later that it occurs to me that they might take offense in turn. Probably I should rethink the entire thing.

#658 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Jakob,

I read a good part of The Secret History in the beautiful Victorian stone house of a friend of mine, an professor of Old and Middle English, in the tiny Scottish town of Crail. Specifically, in his fascinating library (Teresa would die, on the threshold, of envy), sitting in the bay window, watching the North Sea at the foot of the garden. I had to stop reading when the delightful and intelligent guests arrived for the party that evening.

But I think I would have loved it anywhere, any time.

On the other hand, I could not get even halfway through The Little Friend. I tried five or six times. Ach, well.

#659 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 04:20 PM:

You people! I don't say enough how much I love you people. (Can I say "you people" in this context? How about "y'all"?)

It's an exceeding relief to hear all this confirmation that my instincts weren't completely off-kilter.

Why do I need confirmation? Why are we taught from the cradle to be nice, don't rock the boat, say "thank you" and then shut your mouth? Why do I automatically feel responsible for the "gorf's" (love that word) puppy-got-kicked expression? Why, when I described this encounter verbally for the first time to a male acquaintance, was the answer, "Ouch, that wasn't nice of you. I mean, he was rude, but that doesn't excuse you being rude"? Why is it incumbent on me to preserve the gorf's feelings when he has no regard for mine? Why was my acquaintance's suggestion that I say "I'm sorry, but I'm busy right now," as though I actually were sorry, as though whether I interacted with him depended on circumstances outside my control, as though I would want to talk to him later as soon as I wasn't busy? Why is politeness made up of so many lies?

[/end rant]

Gah. It may have been in the way I described the situation to said acquaintance.

Greg, to address something you said specifically--I always thought that the headphones and the obviously-busy-with-a-book-or-computer thing was a good enough "no unsolicited submissions" indicator... but given what you and others have said, it may, sadly, be too much to expect such a "hint" to be taken by a man 1) on the prowl, and 2) drunk. I think I like Lee's suggestions for improving the "hint"; if I totally ignore the dude, he has to at least recognize that there's reluctance on my part.

Lee, I did in fact start to get concerned about whether the gorf would try to avenge his bruised ego on me with violence. I started looking around the car for emergency thingies, but all I saw was an "emergency blower shut-off" which I assume would have stopped the air conditioner vents. Not something that would have successfully signaled for help. I started wondering whether the abandoned lower level of the lounge car was in fact a safe place for a gal alone with three drunk guys, one of which she'd just rejected, at 2:30 AM in the middle of Nebraska. Then I thought, I'd be damned if I let thoughts like that scare me away from a public space in which I was otherwise comfortable.

I finally decided that there were enough people hanging out in the upper level of the lounge car, and that the conductor passed through frequently enough, that a lot of yelling along the lines of "Get your hands off me!" would be a useful thing to do while fighting back.

Thankfully I never had to test that theory. The gorf himself never came back, and his two friends were more interested in sleeping on the seats at the other end of the car.

ODDLY ENOUGH... on the previous train trip I took, when I was set up in exactly the same place at almost the same time, a guy came up to me and said, "I don't know if you're busy, feel free to say no, but I was thinking if you weren't it would be nice to get to know a fellow passenger." And he wasn't even making a pass--he meant it. I put down my book and computer and proceeded to have the most fascinating conversation that lasted right up until the lounge attendant locked up the bar. What made the difference was, he actually cared whether he was intruding.

#660 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 04:23 PM:

joanne @657:
In Europe, my standard "bugger off" technique is to be friendly and pretend to be entirely unable to speak the language of discourse.

The ability to be credible* in Spanish is tremendously valuable in this respect. I look forward to having a plausible level of Dutch to add to the arsenal.

-----
* not good. just good enough to mess with a non-speaker's head.

#661 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 04:31 PM:

If you want them to move along, you need the "does not meet our requirements at this time".

OMG. Greg, you win the internet. That's hysterical.

#662 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 04:44 PM:

joann,

and the other one I can do, the *complete* lack of response as I look fixedly at a point about five feet over their shoulder, is considerably more unsettling and has caused unneeded door-to-door solicitors to run away cursing

there's a drawback to this one, too, though. i've been sexually assaulted by strangers on the street several times, & after each one, i thought "if i were to report this to police, i wouldn't be able to give a good description of the perp. since i was furiously looking away from him most of the time in order not to encourage him."

#663 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 05:01 PM:

But women are supposed to be there to pay attention to men no matter what! /tunnel vision wrt what women might actually want to be doing with their time and energy.

Yes, we are trained to accept that mindset to an amazing extent (if you feel that you have to be apologetic about asking for your space to be respected you're accepting it), and many men seem to be trained to expect women really do have nothing better to do than wait for a man to notice them and ask them to pay attention to them. I find it works well to look stern and annoyed, to convey the impression that I have been interrupted while working on Something Important. If expression and body language don't work, I say flat out that I'm working, unless it's so obvious I'm playing an online game or something that I can't bluff. It is not rude to say "I am busy and I wish to be left in peace," in non-placating* tones. The sooner women become comfortable with doing this, the sooner they get to be left alone in public places.

Yes, this one of the things men generally get to take for granted--being left in peace if that's what they want. A man reading or working on a computer in a public place is Busy and should not be disturbed, and people--men and women both--generally respect that. Womeen are not considered, by many, to have the same right to their own space. It sounds as if your friend, whether he realized it or not, was of that mind, just like the gorf on the train.

*You know, definite. Flat statements. No little raised inflection at the end of the statement, no smile to ease the sting, nothing. You do not have to apologize for having better things to do that keep him amused. Bad language is not required. Think classic librarian-shushing face or high school French teacher evil eye. For "I'm just trying to be friendly," the correct response is "Why don't you try being polite instead?" because it is rude to demand a stranger's attention when they are plainly ignoring you, unless you're trying to warn them about an emergency.

#664 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 05:37 PM:

It's not the very words we use that matter:
saying 'please' or 'prithee' 's not the issue.
The lives we lead together form a tissue
of acts and speech that some hear as patter.
If acts are not acknowledged, unions shatter,
smashed by lack of care that says 'I dis you'.
A simple 'Thanks', 'I love you', or 'I miss you'
is all you need; not world on a platter.
Be polite routinely and you'll see
that teasing or insults can oft be fun,
not tear relations up but keep them whole.
Keep politeness in your mind and you will be
much better as a friend in the long run;
and feed the love that livens up your soul.

#665 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:06 PM:

abi @

think Book saw his society's equivalent of that world, and lived in it a long time, then turned his back on it.

Although Book is much better written, and much the more interesting character, he reminds me a little of Phil Farmer's "Father Carmody", who was once a great criminal (and telekinetic), and now spends his time trying to make reparation (without pissing off his bishop too much).

#666 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Greg London @ 654

Well, true, but 'no' is sometimes not enough, for insufficiently vehement values of 'no'. Sometimes 'no' requires more authority, up to and including force. And that I think is precisely Nicole's dilemma: how much vehemence is this particular jerk going to require? And how to be fairly confident that it's not so vehement as to cause blowback?

The level of vehemence can have consequences beyond hurting the jerk's feelings. It's always possible, as Lee implied, that his friends would be willing to help 'teach the bitch some manners'.

#667 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Gorf was a term I first heard my freshman year in college from one William "Mouth" Roberts, who at the time was an MIT student. He later served to retirement in the Navy, got a doctorate in history, and became a professor specializing in Civil War naval history.

Anyway, definition of gorf--man who sniffs girls' bicycle seats.


===

There was furniture ad some years ago in this area, wherein the two old geezer furniture chain owners were trying to chat up tall Nordic blonde sitting on a sofa. She spoke in Swedish insulting them which they were interpreting as thinking she was interested in them... there was another ad in which a woman said, "I want the furniture, take the geezer away."

#668 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 06:56 PM:

but 'no' is sometimes not enough

But "headphones and laptop" doesn't even show up as a "no".

how much vehemence is this particular jerk going to require?

That's part of the reason for the "form rejection" phrase. You get used to saying it enough that you don't (1) second guess yourself or (2) feel the need to overcompensate by shouting or something.

And coming up with the phrase beforehand means you can come up with something fairly neutrally phrased. And I don't think it's "vehemence" that's needed, I think it's an unperterbedness. Not anger, or fear, or contempt, or whatever, but simple, flat, "no thank you", or "I'm busy" delivered with a matter-of-fact tone that is clear that it isn't negotiable, you really are busy, or really, no, thank you. Then, when all is said and done, you said exactly what you needed to say, and you can leave the event in the past, rather than second guess yourself, or rather than resent something because you didn't speak the truth.

Because one thing you don't want to happen is have nine different instances, nine different guys try to get your attention, and you try to hide rather than simply say "No thank you", and you end up resenting having to hide, and the tenth guy who tries to engage you gets whatever built up over the last 9 times.

Well, you don't have to hide. You can say something, it's just a matter of being clear with the person without blaming them for the last 9 people who did the exact same thing.

Really, it's sort of like being the publisher who slugs through the slush pile and reads the millionth Harry Potter slash fic that is unpublishable, and they snap and send that millionth submitter a totally personalized, flaming rejection letter.

The idea of all this is so that you can say what you need to say, so that hopefully you walk away from the interaction with as little baggage as possible.

#669 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 07:02 PM:

miriam #662: i thought "if i were to report this to police, i wouldn't be able to give a good description of the perp. since i was furiously looking away from him most of the time in order not to encourage him."

What I do in no way keeps me from actually seeing the person in question. It's a matter of focus--the so-called thousand-yard stare. The person is convinced I'm not looking at them, but that is not necessarily the case.

(Note that this is completely opposite to my spouse's "cloak of invisibility," which allows him to disappear completely from the view of servers and sales clerks while still being quite present to everyone else. If it's on full force, it can make the whole table vanish.)

#670 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 09:10 PM:

Nicole @659,

My first thought- and continuing thought, on reflection- is that the guy is a bully. I'd recently mentioned and re-read a very good web resource on dealing with bullies, and your story reminded me(1) of things I read there.

Or maybe I'm seeing bullies everywhere, because it's fresh in my mind...?

No. You were busy. You might have been working on an overdue project, or reviewing a patient's files, or ensuring that a legal plan was solid. You might have had a train of thought that oughtn't be stopped until it's written down. busy.

Sometime by about eight years old we're expected to avoid randomly bothering a busy person. And when interrupting a busy person one learns to check if it's important: "Hey, your papers fell" or "hey, last call for the kitchen." "Hey, look at me" doesn't fall into the important category, except for bullies.

i.e. what if you were busy sleeping? What kind of person would wake you up- interrupt you- just to say "Hey, look at me!"

---------
(1) I'm thinking of the type (via the first link) called an "attention seeker."

#671 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 10:03 PM:

I'm coming late to the conversation....

Greg London @ 484: Hm, just checked wikipedia's article on Joss. I was looking to see if he had gone through a string of messy relationships or something that might explain the "no happy relationships" thing.

In several of the DVD commentaries on episodes, Joss explains that he and the writers quickly figured out "Buffy happy, show bad. Buffy in pain, show good." The impression I got was that this was according to ratings and other viewer response--happy characters who stay happy don't make for a very dramatic show. Drama, it seems, equals pain in the minds of a great many people.*

*Which is unfortunate.

#672 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Lee #558

If society teaches men that violence against women is unacceptable behavior, then there's inequality right there. You can't have some equality, things are either equal or not. (And any attempt to teach that all violence is unacceptable behavior is going to require a new species of student.)

Stop looking at me / Stop making me look at you

With me, that would go "Stop looking at me." "What makes you think I was looking at you?" "I saw you." "Stop looking at me."

It seems clear to me who has the power in a strip club: which way does the money flow? Who can get whom thrown out?

#673 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 11:00 PM:

I think my lack of tolerance for gorfs overrides my safety calculations, sometimes.

Last month I was at a concert, in a local club. There was also a goth night to follow, so I was dressed elaborately -- brocade corset, skirt of PVC and tulle, lots of makeup.

I was sitting in the bar area with my date. I had earplugs in to lessen the impact of the dreadful opening bands.

At one point my date went to use the restroom. Some intoxicated gorf in an orange tie-dye shirt leaned over, draped his arm around my shoulders, and started to say something.

I couldn't hear what he was saying, because I had the earplugs in. Frankly, I didn't care.

I put my hands flat on his chest and shoved, and said, "Get your hands off me."

He looked very surprised. But he backed away. And his buddies drew him further away from me. I went back to watching the stage.

Now, there were security guys close to hand, and if things had escalated, I am sure they would have been right there. But I didn't think of that when I shoved.

What chaps me MOST is that, when my date got back from the restroom, one of the gorf's buddies apologized to HIM!

No patience at all for them.

#674 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2007, 11:55 PM:

Greg London @650: But there was something about the time Book spoke with the commander of the Empirial Warship who then let Serenity go, that made me wonder just how much of Book's history Joss had worked out.

I took that to indicate that Book's previous rank demanded respect, even if he was retired.

#675 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:37 AM:

abi @623: Ah, now you catch me out, to my great shame. I have never seen Citizen Kane.

I iz != ur LOLcats →
but I iz seeing Citizen Kane :P

Okay, that was fake; code notation, a typographic embellishment, 'iz', 'ur' (and an emoticon); what the kids write nowdays....

To be honest, I didn't catch Greg's reference either, but it did sound familiar... (yes, I was seeing Citizen Kane).

#676 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 01:00 AM:

Seth #672 - the answer to both your questions is "the bosses of the strip club". They tend to be male.

#677 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Mez #676: That's also true of just about any other job you could name.

#678 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Nicole, #659: Why, when I described this encounter verbally for the first time to a male acquaintance, was the answer, "Ouch, that wasn't nice of you. I mean, he was rude, but that doesn't excuse you being rude"?

I have two questions for your friend, if you feel like taking the time to ask him:

1) Why does he feel that what you said was rude? You didn't blow up, or call the guy names, or insult his intelligence; all you did was say, very clearly, what you wanted. If he thinks you should have said, "I'm sorry" when you weren't, why does he feel it incumbent on you to lie?

2) Why is it YOUR responsibility to take care of the fragile feelings of total strangers who are being rude to you? That seems very unbalanced to me.

OTOH, it's possible that he's thinking of "I'm sorry, I'm busy now" as a social formula along the lines of "How are you?" -- a rote ritual that doesn't always mean what it says. In that case, Greg's suggestion of coming up with a verbal version of "does not meet our needs at this time" is a good one. However, you may want to formulate one that doesn't use the "I'm sorry" tag; if you're using that formulation under circumstances where you resent doing so, it's likely to show in your tone, which rather defeats the idea of a neutral line. Remember that it's perfectly possible to say, "I'm sorry," in a voice positively dripping with venom, or with icicles hanging off the words! :-)

Greg, #668: Now that you've explained this a bit further, I agree with your premise. One caveat, though, and this is a perfect example of the way women get trapped into no-win situations socially: if she makes that response too soon, she runs a high risk of being verbally abused as a [generic attack based on physical appearance] bitch who must really think she's hot stuff, if she thought he was actually INTERESTED in her. And this can happen whether he really was or not; the whole thing is a face-saving lie. As Susan pointed out upthread, this is all part of the calculations a woman has to go thru very quickly and many more times a week than you (as a man) would ever expect.

Seth, #672: Nope, not buyin' that, because the present inequality is exactly what needs to be addressed. When the incidence of violence by women against men reaches as much as 25% of the incidence of violence by men against women, you may have a point. But your argument is the equivalent of saying that homelessness doesn't need to be addressed because it's as illegal for a rich man to sleep under a bridge as for a poor one. You don't get to claim "reverse discrimination" on this, because the facts don't back you up.

Which way does the money flow in a strip club? To the owner, who is almost invariably male.

#679 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:56 AM:

I think I can see where the drama=pain thing comes from. It's often expressed as "conflict" in those slightly artificial sets of rules for writing. Jo Walton prefers the term "jeopardy". So you have conflict, which leads to pain, and in modern TV it can take a long time for the conflict to be resolved.

Story arcs.

Kirk kisses Uhura, and once the episode ends, nobody refers to it again.

Angel kisses Buffy (what, you didn't see the racism applicability?), and you get a whole bunch of episodes out of it, even a spin-off series.

(OK, so soap operas have been soing such things since time immemorial (which, sometimes, seems to start in the TV world somewhere in the middle of last week).)

#680 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 05:23 AM:

Greg London @650: But there was something about the time Book spoke with the commander of the Empirial Warship who then let Serenity go, that made me wonder just how much of Book's history Joss had worked out.

I always imagined that Book had gone through a similar character arc to the government Operative in the Serenity movie.

#681 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 08:00 AM:

Nicole: Gendered, and unfortunately normal, as was your male friend's reaction.

It took me a long, long time to really grok that "nice" is a gendered quality. Guys are generally not taught that they have to be nice above all else. (Please note, I'm not saying that guys can't be nice, or are taught to be nasty bastards. It's a matter of emphasis.)

Kate Harding recently posted an account of another, similiar gendered encouter—basically, she's outside a bar for a smoke, sans boyfriend, and some gorf sees this as a signal to try to chat her up. She tells him that she doesn't really want to talk to him, and he goes away. Kicker is that she feels grateful that the gorf actually respected her wishes.

Grateful. Because so frequently they don't.

And guys say things like "just trying to be nice," or "you looked lonely," or "I was just making conversation" to reassure themselves that they're not jerks. They don't seem to stop and ask themselves (pace Greg London, and others who seem to have done so, and come up with reasons I find fascinating, if bizarre) "Why have a assumed that this woman might be interested in me?" "Would I thus impose were this a man?" "Why do I feel I should 'be nice' to this woman? Is she asking me to?"

They don't, for the most part, seem to think that random lone men will be delighted and flattered by their "niceness."

And we, as women, are taught (by whom? hard to say ... I have no clear memory of anyone sitting me down and saying "Jennie, you need to be nice to people who pester you and don't respect your personal space or privacy. It's very important.") that, until the behaviour crosses the line from imposition to assault, we are supposed to be "nice," "pleasant," and "polite."

Of course, if the behaviour should cross the line, dollars will get you some inexpensive sweet of choice (I'm not keen on most doughnuts) that someone will ask us why we led the poor innocent fellow on, and why we got ourselves into that situation in the first place.

I'm glad you stayed in the dinette car. I do the same thing—look around, assess the risks, and say "dammit, I have every right to be here."

It'd be nice if we didn't have to do the risk assessment every darned time, though.

#682 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 09:03 AM:

Lee@678: if she makes that response too soon, she runs a high risk of being verbally abused

if someone waves and smiles at you, I think it's probably reasonable to give a small wave back (or some form of acknowledgement), rather than to bring out the "does not meet our expectations at this time".

turning the cold sholder from the beginning, even non-verbally, is probably as problematic as saying "gway" off the bat.

The thing is I'd rather see people willing to engage directly, rather than go round-a-bout, trying to give non-verbal clues hoping that it's sufficietn so they don't have to engage.

That can only lead to resentment.

I was telling the story about this woman I was dating who raised her hand as if she was going to slap me. My response was completely flat "if that lands, we're through". Not anger, not fear. completely matter of fact. She stopped. and we managed to talk things out and it never happened again.

I think the less emotion, anger, resentment you bring into your "no", the far less likely it will escalate the situation into something ugly. So, the neutral form rejection and practice. And then you're probably less likely to be afraid to engage, because you're probably not going to be as afraid about how to say "no" if it comes to that. So, if they wave, you wave and go back to your business. If they wave again, you can say flatly, "I'm really busy" or whatever.

#683 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 09:20 AM:

Greg @682 said: The thing is I'd rather see people willing to engage directly, rather than go round-a-bout, trying to give non-verbal clues hoping that it's sufficietn so they don't have to engage."

In my experience, engaging directly with gorfs leads them to think it's OK to keep talking to me. Then, sometimes, they think it's OK to follow me to the next well-lit high-traffic public place I go to, if you see what I mean. I do not ever speak to strange men because if they don't get nonverbal cues, they're as likely as not to get offended at a verbal brushoff.

That being said, I've had some success with feigning wide-eyed interest in whatever drivel they're spouting, and saying "OMG! My boyfriend says exactly the same thing! Oh, look at the time, I promised I'd call him five minutes ago."

#684 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Greg:
if someone waves and smiles at you, I think it's probably reasonable to give a small wave back (or some form of acknowledgement), rather than to bring out the "does not meet our expectations at this time".

No. Because then they think you are encouraging them and will feel justified in trying to engage you and then feel justified in claiming you led them on and verbally abusing you when you refuse to engage further.

#685 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Greg:
But "headphones and laptop" doesn't even show up as a "no".

This nicely illustrates the gender gap in this conversation. Greg, headphones and a laptop means "busy" which means "not available for conversation." No further signal should be necessary for anyone over the age of ten. But men do not get this when it's a woman with the headphones and laptop, and you are exhibit A. You're blaming women for not responding in what you consider a proper way to men's rudeness, which is yet another version of blaming the victim. Why not address what MEN should do: stop being rude in the first place?

If someone starts off rude with me, I don't see any reason whatsoever to be even minimally polite other than normal concern about not getting attacked physically by a guy.

#686 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 10:56 AM:

Susan wrote -
This nicely illustrates the gender gap in this conversation. Greg, headphones and a laptop means "busy" which means "not available for conversation."

Except, well, it doesn't - or not necessarily. (at least in my experience).

Sometimes when I'm on the laptop and wearing headphones in public, I am Working Great Works, and do not want to be disturbed. Other (most, in fact) times, I am Fooling Around With Stupid Stuph, and listening to music - and there really is no way to tell which is which, except maybe the non-verbal "This guy is really intently focussed on his screen" guesstimate.

In the first case, I don't want to be disturbed. In the second, I'm just poking at stuff, and could care less if I'm poking at stuff, talking to some dude or dudette, reading something else, or whatever - I'm spending time between Thing I Had To Do (loading washing machine...) and Next Thing I Have To Do (changing laundry to dryers).

And I have been interrupted (when in either mode) - by women and men - while working on the computer - questions about the machine I'm working on, asking if there's wireless available, just making chat, other questions, etc. It's not just guys, and guys don't just disturb women.

#687 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Scott @ 686

Most of the people I've seen on trains with laptops and headphones are not being engaged in conversation by their neighbors. It's kind of rude, unless the person with the laptop and headphone makes the first conversational move.

#688 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Greg London @ 682

turning the cold sholder from the beginning, even non-verbally, is probably as problematic as saying "gway" off the bat.

But why is this problematic? Why is it problematic for me or any other woman (or any other person) to want to be left alone when I'm alone someplace? If I want the person to go away, why shouldn't I signal "gway"? And why wouldn't my utter lack of interest in what the gorf was doing serve as signal enough?

#689 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:13 PM:

There are ways to politely interrupt someone who seems to be working or otherwise occupied on a laptop. (I don't assume someone who's just playing a video game, answering email, or listening to music (or, for that matter, reading a book with no laptop in sight) will thank me for interrupting them either.)

The key element is acknowledging that you are interrupting them by prefacing your remarks with something like "excuse me". As in, "excuse me, can you tell me if the next stop is Bridgeport?" or "sorry to interrupt, but may I ask you a question about your computer?" And then, having established that you are a polite person who is apologetic about interrupting, you are entitled to expect a polite reply, even if it's nothing more than a brief "sorry, busy, no idea."

"Excuse me, I'm bored and want to chat with you to amuse myself" is right at the outer limits of politeness, since it's an indirect way of saying "my needs are more important than what you're doing", which is pretty brassy to a total stranger, but it ever so slightly beats just coming up to a stranger and trying to get them to stop what they're doing without any preamble or - as in the original example - doing a "goofy little waving dance" at them. In either case, the first thing established is "I am a rude person." Not a good starting point for an interaction.

Tolerance for this may vary. I'm disinclined to be patient and polite with people who aren't. Scott seems pretty tolerant, though I'm a bit startled that total strangers regularly come up to him in public places and start conversations. It doesn't happen to me all that often.

But I suspect Scott does not also have to make those quick little calculations about whether those strangers are likely to become verbally abusive or physically assault him if he isn't polite to them, or worry whether being polite to someone who's rude is the top of the slippery slope part way down which you are politely trying to lose them while they try to follow you home, since they've already established in their own head that being rude to you gets them good results.

I'm also wondering if sexual orientation factors into this - I bet a gay man has to do some of that calculating as well. So I'm politely curious as to Scott's orientation, if Scott is willing to say, and if Xopher is around, what his opinion might be on this. Or anyone else who wants to chime in; I don't have the foggiest idea as to the orientation of most of the posters here.

#690 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:28 PM:

What I'm noticing is that the men reacting to this situation are divided about whether Nicole's experience was based on her gender*. Every single woman who has commented feels that the guy would not have behaved in the same way if she had been male, and furthermore feels that he was being rude.

The situation may or may not have been gendered, but the reaction sure is**.

-----
* as well as whether she was being rude, or whether he was
** the variation in response argues that the entire situation is gender-dependent, and that some guys simply don't see how constrained and anxious women's lives really are. Lucky them.

#691 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Following myself up with something I meant to put in:

I think the subconscious chain of logic that I call "listening to my instincts" is something like this:

This guy is trying to interrupt me and has thus established that he has no respect for my boundaries. Guys who don't respect my boundaries also have a problem taking no for an answer.

At this point, the "Danger, Will Robinson!" sign lights up in my head, even without consciously knowing what triggered it.

I'm making a guess that most guys don't have the whole worry about whether a woman will listen if you say no, stop touching me, I don't want to have sex with you, and in any case they are on average more capable of making a no stick physically, so they don't have that instinct operating.

#692 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Geez, I just cannot get a complete train of thought into one post today. Sorry. Following on my last two posts:

So if someone approaches me politely ("excuse me"), what they are communicating is "I see your boundary there, and I respect it". That is an important piece of information to have: this person respects boundaries, and therefore it is safe and possibly pleasant to engage with them. It's not a perfect filter - anyone can learn to apply manners to mask personality defects or nasty intentions - but it's a start, and it gives you better odds than starting out with someone whose first action is to establish that he doesn't respect your boundaries or didn't even notice you had any.

This is all a long-winded way of analyzing why Nicole's reaction was completely different in her previous encounter:

on the previous train trip I took, when I was set up in exactly the same place at almost the same time, a guy came up to me and said, "I don't know if you're busy, feel free to say no, but I was thinking if you weren't it would be nice to get to know a fellow passenger." And he wasn't even making a pass--he meant it. I put down my book and computer and proceeded to have the most fascinating conversation that lasted right up until the lounge attendant locked up the bar. What made the difference was, he actually cared whether he was intruding.

This guy communicated that he saw and respected Nicole's boundaries ("I don't know if you're busy, feel free to say no") and not only didn't trigger her instincts (which seem well-tuned to me) but got a very different result than goofy-dance-guy. If that had happened to me and at the end of the conversation he'd gone on with "It's been great talking to you. Would you like to meet up for coffee sometime?" he could probably have gotten himself a date.

Men who chose to ignore or dismiss as irrelevant these instincts ("I was just trying to be nice") are proving one thing: they ignore and dismiss women's instincts. And why the heck would a woman want to date someone like that?

In a perfect world, of course, these instincts would be unnecessary and would wither away. Also, we would all have ponies. And flying cars.

#693 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:56 PM:

At the antipodes of the rude guy that Nicole met, there's the man who, after a 9-year gap, visits a woman they've known for a quarter of a century, and the man just stands paralyzed on her porch because he doesn't know how to best express his joy, until the woman initiates a hug.

#694 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 01:55 PM:

This continues to go into more interesting, useful, and epiphanous places than I could have imagined. For the ongoing awesomeness, thank you.

Lee @678 - OTOH, it's possible that he's thinking of "I'm sorry, I'm busy now" as a social formula along the lines of "How are you?" -- a rote ritual that doesn't always mean what it says.

That's it. The friend I'm thinking of is one of the nicest, least macho, most sensitive guys I know--but like all of us he only lives in his own head. He's mainly motivated by conflict avoidance. And there are some truths that, no matter how neutrally phrased, cannot be guaranteed conflict-free. This bugs the crap out of me but I accept it. I accept that saying certain "unfriendly" things may cause offense: "Please consider me in do-not-disturb mode." "While I appreciate your wanting to help, I need you to stop because it's not helping." What I do not accept is responsibility for that offense. Whereas my friend, I think, sees it as incumbent upon all of us to minimize conflict where possible and thus softpedal such unpleasant truths to avoid hurt feelings, and take the high road when confronted with rudeness. His motives lead him to different strategies than they would lead me. I think, that being the case, that it's a good thing that someone with those strategies is male.

jennie @681 - And we, as women, are taught (by whom? hard to say ... I have no clear memory of anyone sitting me down and saying "Jennie, you need to be nice to people who pester you and don't respect your personal space or privacy. It's very important.") that, until the behaviour crosses the line from imposition to assault, we are supposed to be "nice," "pleasant," and "polite."

Yes. And I can explicitly recall explicit lessons in this politeness. Being scolded for using the wrong tone of voice talking back to my dad regardless that I was in the act of freakin' throwing up at the time. Being told that the proper response to a compliment, even if it was the sort of compliment that made me feel uncomfortable, was "thank you." Ditto for attempts to help, regardless of whether the attempt was helpful or whether the attempt was actually an attempt to control. This sort of training has the effect of giving anyone and everyone a pass as long as their slimy comments or heavy-handed micromanagement was accompanied with "Just trying to be nice!" "Just trying to help!" "Just trying to be friendly!"

As for remaining in the lounge car, I've always had the attitude "why the hell shouldn't I be where I want when I please?" despite being told to avoid being alone after dark and all that. But I'm always running through the what-ifs, and I hate that I have to. That I should have to figure out whether my pocket knife or knitting needles would be of any help, or decide ahead of time what exact words I'll start yelling if I get attacked, that's a tragedy.

Susan @685 - This nicely illustrates the gender gap in this conversation. Greg, headphones and a laptop means "busy" which means "not available for conversation." No further signal should be necessary for anyone over the age of ten. But men do not get this when it's a woman with the headphones and laptop....

I think Greg's not so much advising women to take responsibility for men's not getting the signal, as he is asserting that men don't get the signal. Given that men don't get the signal, how best for a woman to communicate the message?

That said, I'm in favor of delivering the much-needed lesson rather than coddling the defect. Men who do not get that signal--or, rather, who don't realize that what they've been taught about respecting boundaries applies to women too--can learn, but they need to be taught.

So I guess I'm ultimately not as pessimistic as Greg seems to be. I go into an interaction expecting people to respect boundaries and notice the clues around them, male or female. Unfortunately, some people don't respect boundaries or notice clues. In which case, I prefer to act on the assumption that they can learn, rather than the assumption that they never will.

Acknowledge what is, but do not forswear what should be. Hope springs eternal.

Scott @686 - Sometimes when I'm on the laptop and wearing headphones in public, I am Working Great Works, and do not want to be disturbed. Other (most, in fact) times, I am Fooling Around With Stupid Stuph, and listening to music - and there really is no way to tell which is which, except maybe the non-verbal "This guy is really intently focussed on his screen" guesstimate. In the first case, I don't want to be disturbed. In the second, I'm just poking at stuff, and could care less if I'm poking at stuff, talking to some dude or dudette, reading something else, or whatever....

Hey, part of the time I was on that train, I was playing Insaniquarium. Feed fish, fight aliens! But ultimately, whether I'm "working" or "just poking" is irrelevant. If I'd rather play Spider Solitaire than talk to this guy, that's my choice. My boundaries.

In return, I don't expect others to interpret whether my headphones-and-laptopness is interruptable. I expect them to always to assume it's not. Therefore, if I'm feeling sociable and would welcome interaction, it's my responsibility to signal that by, say, leaving off the headphones off, looking up and smiling as people pass, exchanging greetings, etc.

abi @690 - The situation may or may not have been gendered, but the reaction sure is.

I've noticed that too.

Susan @691 - This guy is trying to interrupt me and has thus established that he has no respect for my boundaries. Guys who don't respect my boundaries also have a problem taking no for an answer.

Bingo bingo bingo!

For what it's worth, I think my friend's reaction of "you didn't have to be rude back" was based also on an assumption that the gorf's disrespect came from cluelessness about the signals (as Greg says) rather than pure unbridled ego or conscious attitudes about women. I can respect his wanting to distinguish between jerks and n00bs. But my vibe was closer to yours: He has no respect for me. This disinclines me to know him better, and disqualifies him from the Benefit-O-Doubt program.

And possibly puts me in danger if I don't shove back right now.

...

related anecdote not directly responding to anyone: Has anyone else noticed getting a lot less of this going on in wi-fi cafes, and even less when the cafe is in a college town? Social expectations are shifting. If I go alone to the Irish pub downtown, sit at the two-top next to the AC outlet, and plug in, I get harrassed by guys sitting at the bar. If I go alone to the Brewing Market and ditto, everyone, male and female, goes out of their way not to even appear like intruding. Different environments; different expectations.

This doesn't mean I think I ought to expect the guys at the bar to interrupt me. It suggests only that the "Me-on-computer Is Do Not Disturb" signal can be learned, and has been learned, and some environments have been more conducive to teaching it.

I think willingness to call people on their rudeness rather than just letting it slide in the name of getting along is an important factor in the learning curve. I think more people in college town cafes got slapped with "Look, I'm trying to study, go away" than did in the bar (where the Single Woman is seen as being on the prowl herself) or on the train (where socializing is the norm, although not perhaps at 2 AM), and it takes a certain amount of rudeness having repercussions before the communal expectations shift.

Just rambling now. Will stop for a while. Thanks all.

#695 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Susan @692 - Yes, exactly, and if I hadn't been busy crossposting with you I would have recognized that my previous post could be about three paragraphs shorter, because you've already gone and said it perfectly.

#696 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:11 PM:

But men do not get this when it's a woman with the headphones and laptop, and you are exhibit A. You're blaming women for not responding in what you consider a proper way to men's rudeness, which is yet another version of blaming the victim. Why not address what MEN should do: stop being rude in the first place?

You're looking at "other" as if it should be the same as "self". You're looking at something different than you as if it should have the same experience as you. You are viewing "man" as if they are identical to "woman", or, at the very least, you're looking at "that sort of man" as if they should be similar to "you".

This sort of goes back to my question about whether getting rid of discrimination means getting rid of differences. But, most certainly, if you look at man through the eyes of a woman, you'll probably come up with very different assessments of that man than if you looked at that man through the eyes of another man.

Say Bob had headphones on and a laptop, and say for some reason Charlie felt compelled to engage him (Dude, awesome movie/game/website on that laptop. Dude, awesome tatoo, where'd you get it? Look at mine! Whatever), and Bob did not want to talk, Bob would probably have no issue with saying flat out "I'm busy" and that would be the end of it. Bob could likewise respond with "Fuck off and die" and Charlie could either escalate or retreat. But the thing is, that for some versions of those men, neither Bob nor Charlie would have considered the other "rude". The exchange would occur, they would have parted, and both might have completely forgotten about it fifteen minutes later.

So, now, Charlie feels compelled to engage Alice. The reason is irrelevant, but maybe he's attracted to her. He engages, she gives a little wave and then ignores him. He waves again, and at this point say Alice blows the fuck up at Charlie. Goes all Mt. Vesuvius on him. From the guy's perspective, this response is completely not aligned with his wave.

Other women might view the exchange and identify with the woman and view Charlie through their experience, their point of view, which means, why the fuck didn't he get that she was busy and leave her alone? What an asshole. Why can't he stop being rude?

And you can try to portray it as the man expecting women to be submissive to their egos or whatever. That a man wouldn't do that to a man. But truth is, they probably would, it's just that they might not have the same experience of "rudeness" that you might.

So, back to my question, was that man rude because social constructs taught him that women should submit to him? If you remove all social gender roles, would he act like a woman? Or would women act more like men? Or would both act like something completely different?

And just for the record, I did say the guy waving at Nicole acted young. But even if he was more mature, I don't know that he wouldn't still try to engage Nicole, just in a more direct manner.

I walked up to a woman at the beach one time who was lying on a chair, getting some sun, and head buried in a book, and I struck up a conversation. We ended up dating for a few months. I don't think I was a gorf about it. If she had not responded, I might have left her be, but engaging with someone with "head in book" is not universally "rude".

It is rude if the person communicates "go away", but then it comes down to whether giving subtle clues because you don't want to directly engage is something that the other person will pick up.

And, GAWDS, yes, things are different for a woman because of the potential rape issue, but like I said, I wasn't talking about "morally wrong". You could have a man-woman interaction where rape was never going to happen, and then the question is simply whether or not it was "rude". ANd my point is just that the woman's view of the man's behaviour versus the same interaction but man-to-man would yield different judgements of whether it was "rude".

#697 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:15 PM:

I think Greg's not so much advising women to take responsibility for men's not getting the signal, as he is asserting that men don't get the signal. Given that men don't get the signal, how best for a woman to communicate the message?


Holy crap. Five rambling paragraphs boiled down into two kickass sentences. Would you be my posting proxy/translator from now on?

;)


#698 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Nicole #694: related anecdote not directly responding to anyone: Has anyone else noticed getting a lot less of this going on in wi-fi cafes, and even less when the cafe is in a college town? Social expectations are shifting. If I go alone to the Irish pub downtown, sit at the two-top next to the AC outlet, and plug in, I get harrassed by guys sitting at the bar. If I go alone to the Brewing Market and ditto, everyone, male and female, goes out of their way not to even appear like intruding. Different environments; different expectations.

Not that I'm anti-alcohol (by *no* means!) but the obvious difference to me is alcohol vs coffee.

Whatever the guys in the Irish pub know when they're sober is not what they think they know when they're lit and disinhibited.

There's also a set of connotations that says "Bar = play, coffeehouse = work".

Hmmm. Maybe I need to do an experiment. There are a couple of coffee places in town that also serve wine, liqueurs, and some mixed drinks. Maybe we should see what happens in there?

#699 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:21 PM:

the gorf's disrespect came from cluelessness about the signals

Yah know....

I think I'm tired of "I'm clueless!" as an excuse from anyone old enough to drink. It's lazy: I'm clueless, so you need to do extra work to accommodate my cluelessness because I'm too lazy to work on it myself. It's a variation on "I can't clean the house because I'm no good at it", as if women were born knowing how to use Pine-Sol. If the guy is clueless, he should go out and get a clue and not expect strangers to either accommodate his ignorance or take the responsibility for educating him. Observe. Think. Ask a female buddy. Ask his mom. Read this thread. It's his problem, not that of random women on a train. It's not like it requires a PhD in astrophysics. Guys do manage this, all the time - I know plenty of guys who don't pull this sort of crap. So it can't be impossible, and cluelessness as a "see how cute my idiocy is" selling point wears thin really, really fast. If I wanted a clueless person to educate, I'd have a baby.

#700 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Susan, #692: If that had happened to me and at the end of the conversation he'd gone on with "It's been great talking to you. Would you like to meet up for coffee sometime?" he could probably have gotten himself a date.

Bingo! The difference between a successful pickup and a complete rejection is respect for the woman's boundaries. (This works both ways; I used to be a pretty dab hand at picking up guys, back in my footloose-and-fancy-free days, and one of the things I learned quickly was how to approach and when to back off. Again, respect.)

And I'll bet you something else: if Goofy Dance Guy had been around to observe that other interaction -- either before or after getting smacked down himself -- it would never occur to him that the difference in Nicole's reaction was a direct response to the differences in approach. In fact, I'll bet he would be unable to perceive that there was a difference in approach. All he'd see was that this other guy got the candy, and he got the stick, and that's going to translate to either "women are arbitrary and irrational" or "women don't want nice guys." Because I'm absolutely sure that he thinks of himself as a nice guy, and can't understand why he keeps getting turned down.

#701 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Given that men don't get the signal, how best for a woman to communicate the message?

Let's see.

Guy is rude. (Hey, talk to me!)
Woman is polite. (waves and smiles politely)
Guy interprets this as a positive response. (she smiled!!! she waved at me!!!)
Guy is rude again, since it's working. (So whatcha doing?)
Woman is polite. (smiling politely, sorry, I'm busy)
Guy interprets this as a positive response. (she smiled!!! she obviously wants to talk to me!!)
Guy is rude again, since it's working.... So, what are you doing?

How to break this pattern? Since being polite and responsive results in them continuing to not get the signal (she said no but she didn't really mean no), being rude starts looking pretty good.

Greg:
And my point is just that the woman's view of the man's behaviour versus the same interaction but man-to-man would yield different judgements of whether it was "rude".

Consider this:

If a guy wants to interact with a woman, his best approach is to:

1. Use the manners she considers rude and possibly threatening, even if he thinks they're fine 'cause they work with his male buddies.

2. Use manners she considers polite and non-threatening.

Guess which approach works better? It doesn't matter whether he thinks #1 is rude or not. It's not going to WORK a lot of the time, so on a practical level, it's not very smart. Sure, you can overcome a bad start, but why dig yourself into a hole to begin with?

Your posts are looking a whole lot like the "but I was just trying to be nice" explanation. What I'm trying to point out is that that doesn't matter. The strategy is defective. And since the guy is the one who's trying to communicate (in the situation given), the burden is on him to adopt the proper strategy.

For what it's worth, the flip side of this would be the (possibly less strong nowadays?) social training of women to never ask a guy out on a date. I can vouch for the fact that sitting silently and telepathically projecting to a guy that you're attracted to him is a complete failure: he won't get the message. Subtle signals can get missed. Or misinterpreted. You've got to be a lot more obvious than with a woman, and you can be a lot less careful. Sitting around complaining that guys don't pick up subtle signals is unproductive. If you want to pick up the guy, you've got to do it in a way that works.

I'm kind of hoping that these sorts of gender-based social barriers are less of an issue for people younger than me, but I sometimes look around (The Rules) and wonder if we're actually going backwards.

#702 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:02 PM:

"I think Greg's not so much advising women to take responsibility for men's not getting the signal, as he is asserting that men don't get the signal. Given that men don't get the signal, how best for a woman to communicate the message?"

Note that this construction, enthusiastically adopted by Greg, does in fact make it women's responsibility whether men get or don't get the signal.

Then he complains about clear signals, e.g. the cold shoulder from the beginning.

#703 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:03 PM:

"I think Greg's not so much advising women to take responsibility for men's not getting the signal, as he is asserting that men don't get the signal. Given that men don't get the signal, how best for a woman to communicate the message?"

Note that this construction, enthusiastically adopted by Greg, does in fact make it women's responsibility whether men get or don't get the signal.

Then he complains about clear signals, e.g. the cold shoulder from the beginning.

#704 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:10 PM:

Greg:
You're looking at "other" as if it should be the same as "self". You're looking at something different than you as if it should have the same experience as you. You are viewing "man" as if they are identical to "woman", or, at the very least, you're looking at "that sort of man" as if they should be similar to "you".

Pot, kettle, black.

The difference is that in Nicole's situation, it's the guy who wants to engage, so the burden's on him to adapt, which means detecting and responding to her signals. He doesn't have to be similar to me unless he wants to successfully engage with me, 'cause random strangers who accost me in train cars do not impose any obligation on me to meet them halfway communications-wise.

#705 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Susan #701: Guy is rude. (Hey, talk to me!)
Woman is polite. (waves and smiles politely)
Guy interprets this as a positive response. (she smiled!!! she waved at me!!!)
Guy is rude again, since it's working. (So whatcha doing?)
Woman is polite. (smiling politely, sorry, I'm busy)
Guy interprets this as a positive response. (she smiled!!! she obviously wants to talk to me!!)
Guy is rude again, since it's working.... So, what are you doing?

And then, finally, woman is rude (FOAD, dammit!)
Guy double-standards: Hey, don't be RUDE!!!

Which is a good argument for rudeness all round. Alas, poor civility, we loved you well, but you just don't seem to cut it.

#706 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Greg,

I'd be interested in suggestions for the "form letter manuscript rejection" notion. What would you say in that situation, and when? How would you minimise the interruption to the train of thought?

I know you won't have the instinct, but consider as you answer that you're playing the part of someone who is always aware of the risk of physical or sexual assault.

So we're looking for a balance between probability of getting him to go away and risk of him being pissed off (combined with low probability/high impact risk that he's one of these guys who will act on that pissed-offedness).

I'd be interested to see your suggestion.

#707 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:42 PM:

joann @ #705:
I'd rather go with civility all around. Some guys manage it just fine. (And some women do not.) I'd rather give the carrots to the guys who went out and hunted up their own clues.

I feel like my last few posts look like lots of guy-bashing. To be clear, I'm not bashing men in general, just ones who are aggressively clueless, because I think a large amount of that cluelessness is deliberate and partly attributable to socially-accepted sexism. And I refuse to accept it, in part because I refuse to infantilize men by accepting that they're just too dumb to learn social skills.

#708 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:54 PM:

I see Greg's point here, though part of this may be that I'm younger. I think 80s girls were possibly taught to be more forward, though that may just be personal experience.

I'll often go hang out somewhere and read and write. In those cases I'm usually willing to meet and talk with someone. I'm reading or writing to pass the time until that happens/in case it doesn't happen.

If I make eye contact with a guy and smile and wave, for me that IS a positive signal. I'm just too shy to call him over.

If I realize I've accidentally given a positive signal, or some guy is actually interrupting me, I'll say "I'm busy" or "I've got to get back to this."

Basically for me, only after I have explicitly stated that I am busy is continued contact rude. A guy attempting to speak with me after I look at him and then look away isn't rude. Sometimes I'm looking away to keep from staring, or so he won't see me blushing.

Girls have different signals. Yes it's annoying when a guy doesn't get yours. And I'm not saying you have to react positively to guys who don't get yours. But I always try to say "sorry, I'm a bit busy." Sometimes anything less really CAN mean something different.

My positive signals are really subtle, but my negative signals are explicit. I don't think one is more right or wrong.

But for me, rudeness only begins in Susan at 701's item five: Woman is polite. (smiling politely, sorry, I'm busy)

If no one ever spoke to someone reading a book, I'd have to sit in coffee houses staring at people with a shirt on that says "hey, talk to me." Which would be creepy and probably wouldn't work.

I think this is why men get confused.

#709 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Bah, to clarify my last post.

When I wrote: But for me, rudeness only begins in Susan at 701's item five: Woman is polite. (smiling politely, sorry, I'm busy)

I wasn't meaning to imply the woman was being rude there, but that I personally would only consider it rude if the guy kept trying to talk to me after I said that. I don't consider the initial "hey, whatcha doin" rude, and I don't consider the woman saying "I'm busy" rude.

#710 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Susan @ 691

I'm making a guess that most guys don't have the whole worry about whether a woman will listen if you say no, stop touching me, I don't want to have sex with you, and in any case they are on average more capable of making a no stick physically, so they don't have that instinct operating.

This is undoubtedly true; it explains the gender difference in responses here, and explains a lot of bad inter-gender interactions. But isn't it strange that exactly this behavior is considered in many circumstances to be criminal? And yet you describe it as seeming for some men to be a simple choice with effectively no moral component.

Here's a spectrum of situations involving that same kind of thinking. I bet which ones you think are wrong, bad but acceptable, or perfectly OK is gender-specific.

"I have a gun and I don't like the way that other person is behaving, so I'll shoot." That's at least attempted murder and certainly assault with a deadly weapon.

"I"m bigger than that person behind the counter, so I'll just take the things I want and not pay for them." That's theft.

"My car is bigger and more powerful than that other person's, so I'll just cut in front." That's reckless driving but many people don't object publicly unless it causes an accident.

"I'm of higher status that this other person, so they have to talk to me even if they don't want to." That's rude and obnoxious behavior. Qestion: how will you enforce your will on that person if you don't get your way?

#711 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 04:57 PM:

Bruce @710:
I can't map it to your list. It doesn't compute for me; it's just missing something crucial. All your crimes are certainties, not possibilities.

What the women in this thread are talking about is is risk assessment. There is a risk (low probability, very high impact) that a guy will take what he is not given in this context. Rape, sexual assault, a whole range of horrors in there. There's also the very real awareness that the attempt to press charges against someone who does these things may very well fail, and will probably be a horrendous experience.

If we gamble our safety and lose, the man in question is thinking like the second entry - you don't give me what I want, so I will take it. There could be a sense of entitlement, maybe a hatred of women.

But we women don't know which of the men we talk to is that guy. 999 men out of 1,000 (or better) are decent, thoughtful men for whom no means no, and who have no feeling of entitlement to anything beyond our attention - if that. But the consequences of pissing off that thousandth man are enough to treat the whole lot of you carefully, to avoid the risk.

The situation is exacerbated by the whole "socialised to be nice" thing, also mentioned in the thread. That increases our barriers to being safe, and decreases the barriers to violence in the men we rebuff. Because, you see, we're seen to have broken the rules first, denying men their entitlement to our attention. So anything else that happens is (again, to the one monster in the crowd of decent humans, see risk assessment above) just desserts.

Unfair? Damned straight. 999 men, including every bloke currently in this discussion (by my read of you) are taking consequences for actions that they don't commit.

To which most women in this thread would say, welcome to the club. We have T-shirts.

PS - did I mention how fearful it makes us...a low level of anxiety all the time? Or how much we hate the restrictions it places on our lives? Or how monstrous it feels to have to teach our daughters to be afraid?

#712 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 06:44 PM:

abi @ 711

Yes, I understand. I expressed myself poorly when I asked those questions. I'm not asking you, I'm asking the men in this discussion to ask themselves and see if in their answers they can spot the effects of the conditioning they've had, conditioning that subverts their own best motives and interests and makes them tend to ignore their moral view of the world in some circumstances.

I get that the situation causes unnecessary stress in women's lives; the world is far less secure for you than it is for me. I try to understand it by remembering what driving through Saigon was like in 1967: one of my buddies was attacked the first couple of weeks we were there while driving down the street on a motorscooter. Someone came up along side him at about 30 mph and pushed him off the bike, causing a major road rash. This wasn't the worst thing that could happen, or that did happen, for that matter, but it kind of set the tone for the next year. Everytime I went outside the compound where I worked I'd have the uneasy feeling that there were people watching me who would do me harm at the least provocation, and that there was no way to spot those people before they did it.

#713 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 06:49 PM:

In one of the discussions of this sort of thing that I've read recently, many commenters agreed that "hypervigilant" is probably a better word than "fearful".

Especially because men and women have different associations with the word "fear"; many of the men in that discussion seemed to be interpreting "fearful" as "at this very moment I have reason to believe my life is in danger and I am therefore in an adrenalin-induced fight-or-flight condition", while most of the women seemed to be interpreting it as "I feel constantly and continually wary and perform some kind of threat assessment multiple times a day, even when I don't leave my own home."

#714 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Greg, #682: The thing is I'd rather see people willing to engage directly, rather than go round-a-bout, trying to give non-verbal clues hoping that it's sufficient so they don't have to engage.

TexAnne nails the problem with this in #683: a significant chance that the guy will take ANY acknowledgement as encouragement; see also the internal/external dialogue from Susan in #701.

And, also from #682: Turning the cold sholder from the beginning, even non-verbally, is probably as problematic as saying "gway" off the bat.
But down in #696: Say Bob had headphones on and a laptop, and say for some reason Charlie felt compelled to engage him... and Bob did not want to talk, Bob would probably have no issue with saying flat out "I'm busy" and that would be the end of it.

So, the exact same behavior is perfectly acceptable coming from a man but "problematic" if a woman does it. I'm not trying to pick on you here, but do you see that you've argued two completely contradictory viewpoints and are expecting women to comply with both of them simultaneously*? This is a nearly-canonical illustration of the problems we have to deal with.

Susan, #699: Hear, hear! Admitting to a fault (cluelessness) does not absolve you from working to correct it, barring medical issues.

I've had several friends who didn't pick up non-verbal cues well -- enough of them that I've learned how to adapt my own behavior when I'm around someone like that. However, this requires knowing them well enough to make that observation in the first place! Asking me to do it with J. Random Gorf on the train is asking for mind-reading. Also, it's worth noting that several of those friends, after some period of getting verbal explanations about why this or that upset me, learned how to recognize the cues on their own. It's not rocket science (except perhaps for people who have Asperger's or are high-functioning autistics).

clew, #702: Precisely.

Susan, #707: I'd rather give the carrots to the guys who went out and hunted up their own clues.

Yes! And if more women did that, there'd be a whole lot less cluelessness being made excuses for. So the problem is double-edged: (1) women need to teach other women not to reward cluelessness, and (2) men who are clueful need to teach other men about being clueful (because the clueless are exactly those who are least likely to hear it from a woman).

abi, #711: Unfair? Damned straight. 999 men, including every bloke currently in this discussion (by my read of you) are taking consequences for actions that they don't commit.

The flip side of this is men who talk about how paralyzed they are by the fear of a false rape or sexual harassment charge -- even though the incidence of both of these is much lower than the incidence of actual rape and sexual harassment. We're expected to live with their suspicions and not complain.

* This is the polite way of describing it. If you had been behaving rudely in the rest of the thread, the description would be "shifting the rules back and forth in such a way that the woman can only lose." The difference is, I don't think you're doing it on purpose.

#715 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 08:33 PM:

Susan If a guy wants to interact with a woman, his best approach is to:

1. Use the manners she considers rude and possibly threatening, even if he thinks they're fine 'cause they work with his male buddies.

Good lord. I wasn't giving "pick up" advice to a male, I was giving "why are boys so dirty" explanations to a woman. Pick up advice to a guy is best represented here. JAHOYFT.

Given that men don't get the signal, how best for a woman to communicate the message?"

clew: Note that this construction, enthusiastically adopted by Greg, does in fact make it women's responsibility whether men get or don't get the signal.

Uh, wow. The guy was broadcasting on 27 mhz in AM. Nicole was replying at 107 Mhz in FM. I'm telling you why he didn't hear her. Either you can change your frequency, he can change his, or you can agree to some new frequency. Since you really only have control over your frequency, it's probably easiest to change yours.

If you want to shout:
"But that makes ME responsible!"

Uh, yeah, if that's how you want to look at it,
then yeah, you're probably not being responsible.

You may, if you go back and read my posts, notice that nothing I said made any assertions of blame. They were just explanations in why the communication occurred, and what Nicole could do about it to help HER.

If assigning who is responsible is more important to you, then that gives a different conversation.

Greg: You're looking at "other" as if it should be the same as "self".

Susan: Pot, kettle, black. The difference is that in Nicole's situation, it's the guy who wants to engage, so the burden's on him to adapt,

Except that guy is not here. And even if he was, and I had a talkin with him and straightened him out, that's no guarantee that Nicole will never run into another noob again. If you want to wait for the world to change so that Nicole can do what she did and have it work, that's one approach. I'm a little more pragmatic.

So, Nicole failed to communicate what she was trying to communicate. That's what was brought to this thread. And I'm not saying she is to "blame" or he is to "blame". That's actually a complete waste of time and energy. (OK, it's HIS fault. Great. You win the internet. Now what?) From a purely "why didn't he get it?" point of view, I explained why, and suggested what she might do in the future if she wanted to communicate a similar message under a similar circumstance.

Your posts are looking a whole lot like the "but I was just trying to be nice" explanation.

Do you want to be able to say who is "nice" and who is "rude"? Or do you want Nicole to maybe be able to communicate her intent better next time? Because the first one doesn't actually get you anything but "right".

And, also from #682: Turning the cold sholder from the beginning, even non-verbally, is probably as problematic as saying "gway" off the bat.
But down in #696: Say Bob had headphones on and a laptop, and say for some reason Charlie felt compelled to engage him... and Bob did not want to talk, Bob would probably have no issue with saying flat out "I'm busy" and that would be the end of it.

So, the exact same behavior is perfectly acceptable coming from a man but "problematic" if a woman does it. I'm not trying to pick on you here, but do you see that you've argued two completely contradictory viewpoints and are expecting women to comply with both of them simultaneously*? This is a nearly-canonical illustration of the problems we have to deal with.

Uh, you've read too much into one and not enough into the other. Pursuer says "hi". Receiver says "hi". Pursuer fawns over tatoo, laptop, whatever. Person says "i'm busy".

I think there are plenty of guys who would take a "hi"->"Piss off" exchange as rude and possibly even grounds for a fight.

more like hi->hi->fawning ramble->I'm really busy

But if you react to the first "hi" as a male asserting his imperative to dominate the woman species and expects a woman to say "hi" back therefore you tell him to "piss off", and he sees it as rude, uh, no, that isn't a double standard.

It was just rude.

hi->hi
short query->short answer
long query->i'm really busy.

#716 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Thank you, Greg, for pointing out why so many women are so tired and frustrated all the time. It's never our damn fault, but it's always our freaking job to make these things work, because we take the consequences when they don't.

I'm not blaming you. Nor any other man, because it's ineffective, and as you say, the only person I can control is me. Full circle, my problem again.

I'm just so tired of being on my guard all the time, and doubly so of the thought of having to teach my daughter to live like this. Might as well go upstairs and bind her feet while I'm at it.

</rant>

I'm outta this thread. I don't think it's going to go anywhere further (or anywhere I want to be). It's just delving into a world that I spend enough energy on just getting through the day.

Anyone wants to discuss Serenity archetypes, The Secret History, or anything else with me, bring it into the Open Thread.

Seriously. I think this thread is psychic poison.

#717 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 09:05 PM:

Greg, #682, turning a cold shoulder from the start is not problematic. Maybe I already have a partner. Maybe I only like women. Maybe I don't date mundanes. Maybe he reminds me of someone I hate. it doesn't matter, I can give him the cold shoulder from the start.

Yesterday's Tom Toles editorial cartoon has a good take on the recent Supreme Court decision on discrimination suits.

#718 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Marilee @ 717

Ouch, that skewer! (and yeah, I bet they'd like to.)

#719 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 10:23 PM:

I think clew's #702 pretty much nails Greg to the wall.

Greg, you can say all you want that you're just providing dispassionate analysis, but in fact with each turn of the wheel you come off even more like you're explaining how, when men and women don't interact satisfactorily, women ought to fix it.

As you know, I think you're a decent guy, but in this instance I think you need to stop drilling a hole to the center of the earth, and instead go away and think about why Abi, for instance, is out of patience with you. Note that I'm not saying "hang around this thread while increasingly pissed-off and frustrated other commenters, primarily women, explain it to you." I mean go away and think about it. Post in other threads on other subjects. Stop doing what you're doing here. It isn't working. It's not contributing to anyone's general wisdom, least of all yours.

#720 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 11:47 PM:

Greg, #715: Since you really only have control over your frequency, it's probably easiest to change yours.

Oddly enough, this is precisely what we've been discussing -- changing the "default frequency" assigned to women from "must always be available to pay attention to a man" to "has the same right to be respected and left alone when busy that a man does".

To the women who have been getting frustrated in this exchange, I'll point out that it's fairly common, in family-counseling situations, for the counselor to recommend that if Person A wants to change a certain type of common interaction, they can really only accomplish this by changing their own reaction to it. And that the most common response to this is for the other party or parties involved to really ramp up the pressure for Person A to fall back into the old pattern.

I think that's at least part of what's going on here; we're changing the way we play, and the immediate response from some quarters is to say, "Well, you can't expect US to figure out that YOU'VE changed the rules! You need to go back to the old rules, whether you like them or not."

I agree with Susan. How are the men who do this sort of thing ever going to get the idea that they shouldn't if we don't try to teach them? Why should they change a behavior that gets them positive responses... unless it stops getting them positive responses?

#721 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 12:37 AM:

Um. I think I can sort this one out. I may be wrong, but bear with me.

First, I think Greg London can't figure out what's happening in the interaction Nicole described because at bottom he's one of those geek guys who actually likes women and interacts with them as though they were rational, autonomous beings. (Note: not all guys who do that are geeks, and not all geeks are like that; but I firmly believe that their incidence is higher in geek circles.) This leads him to mistakenly believe the primary interaction is between the woman who doesn't want to be bothered, and the man who's approaching her.

It isn't. For the guy who was harassing her, Nicole wasn't the most important audience. His buddies were.

Here's how it was explained to me years ago by a young woman whose father had spent a long time as a police officer in a suburban area: Young men behave differently when they're within line of sight of their friends. Say a group of them are hanging out in some large, lightly trafficked park, and one of them is committing some offense. If the police come by and chew him out in front of his friends, a guy who doesn't normally flout authority may sass them back with a wild disregard for consequences. If they take him into custody, he may struggle like a madman. He'll keep this up until he passes out of earshot or line of sight of his friends, at which point he'll practically go limp.

I know this from other contexts as well. It's related to my forum moderation rule that says you can maybe tolerate one troll for a while, but the minute you get two of them egging each other on, you have to ban both of them and delete all of their posts from that stretch of the thread. Trolls egging each other on are engaging in that same kind of small-group primate behavior. If you don't clear them out of the thread with fire and sword, you'll quickly accumulate more of them. They'll egg each other on to far worse behavior than any one of them would commit on his own.

My guess would be that the three young men on Nicole's train were bored, and saw her as an amusement. Which, of course, is wrong and wearying and wholly unjustified. If they were of the opinion that women are supposed to pay attention to them, they may also have taken her headphones, typing, and book as a rejection.

So, anyway. One of them tried to get her attention and was rebuffed. He tried a couple more times and was roundly ignored. His buddies were watching. As Seth Gordon said in #638, he was probably bracing himself for a round of "one, two, three strikes you're out" from his group. His incentives for getting a suitable reaction out of Nicole were increasing, and he was probaby getting a little angry at her (unjustly) for putting him in a difficult position.

I know some ways to deal with that. The first question is whether they read to you as conscious predators, or as doofy guys who might mindlessly egg each other on into bad behavior, but wouldn't just up and do it from scratch.

If they read as predators, you need to get the hell out of there. Try to pack up your stuff when they aren't paying attention, or when there's another person in the car, or when the train's about to come to a station and they can be fooled into thinking you're about to get off. Once you're ready to go, stand up with all your stuff already in hand and move fast. Go to where there are a lot of people.

If the guys just read as doofs, take off your headphones and include all three of them in the conversation. This gets the guy who initially approached you off the hook, since he's no longer performing for an audience of his buds. It also makes it much, much harder for any one of them to make a pass at you.

Next comes the part that works best if, like young Teresa, you read as someone from Mars: just converse with them. In my youth I wasn't altogether unattractive, but five minutes of my conversation was enough to convince just about any guy that I wasn't a suitable subject for his attentions. If you're talking to all three guys when disenchantment sets in, withdrawal isn't a failure for the one guy trying to chat you up. It's all three of them deciding that whatever kind of food you are, it can't be assimilated by their species.

It's not fair. They should have left you alone in the first place. You shouldn't have to think about them, and observe them, and review your strategic options, when you'd rather be doing something else.

Greg, this is one of the points where you go astray. You keep trying to fix the interaction by telling the women better ways to manage it. Women get damned tired of having to always manage interactions with men who aren't doing their share of management. We also get tired of being threatened with rape, death, or nasty name-calling sessions if we don't manage interactions just right.

I give suggestions for coping because sometimes you're simply going to get harassed that way. Trolls shouldn't come into good online venues, either; yet they do. In either case, you have to deal.

#722 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Teresa, this:

Next comes the part that works best if, like young Teresa, you read as someone from Mars: just converse with them. In my youth I wasn't altogether unattractive, but five minutes of my conversation was enough to convince just about any guy that I wasn't a suitable subject for his attentions.

says what I hadn't been able to, about my experience of these things. Thanks for putting it more economically than I ever could.

In exchange, my Grandma Jane's formulation for the rest of your post:

If you have one boy, you have a boy; if you have two boys, you have half a boy. If you have three boys, you're alone.

(She had eight boys, by the way).

#723 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 01:41 AM:

abi: Thank you, Greg, for pointing out why so many women are so tired and frustrated all the time. It's never our damn fault, but it's always our freaking job to make these things work, because we take the consequences when they don't.

(sigh)

abi, if the guy Nicole had been talking about came into this thread, I'd have told him to not be a drunken ass. And explained a number of things he apparently hasn't learned yet about social interactions. But he isn't here.

Full circle, my problem again.

I didn't say it was Nicole's problem or her fault.

I'm just so tired of being on my guard all the time, and doubly so of the thought of having to teach my daughter to live like this. Might as well go upstairs and bind her feet while I'm at it.

I don't know what "like this" means. The only thing specific I mentioned was "talking straight", which I'm pretty sure is a human problem, not a "woman" problem.

The only change in behaviour I suggested was Nicole say something like "I'm busy" when she's busy. I hope that doesn't qualify as foot binding. It wasn't directed at her because she's a woman, it was directed at her because she had a thought but didn't communicate it directly.

The guy needs to learn the same skill. He also needs to learn to not be a drunk ass in public.

And, no, body language or other indirect and nonverbal means do not qualify as straight talk.

They guy waving three times rather than having a conversation was nonverbal. putting headphones on and putting your head down is nonverbal.

This one specific thing about avoiding direct talk is something I've seen enough people of both genders do that I know it isn't gender specific.

I've caught myself trying indirect communication with my wife, and the time I usually catch myself is when we're having an argument and I realize I didn't say something straight out to her. I nudged and hinted and talked around something.

And telling Nicole to say "I'm busy" when she's busy isn't about making women responsible and letting men be jerks.

And I'm sorry I poisoned this thread for you. That wasn't my intent, and I blew it.

#724 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 01:53 AM:

Greg, this is one of the points where you go astray. You keep trying to fix the interaction by telling the women better ways to manage it.

There was a scene in HBO's "Rome" where Titus Pullo looks at his wife and says something like, "What's wrong?" (no reply) "Probably something I did."

I always kinda liked Titus.

#725 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 05:25 AM:

Patrick, Teresa et alia,
Thank you.

Greg,
Stop. Just...stop.

#726 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 06:37 AM:

Greg, thank you for illustrating my point so nicely about men who keep coming back for more and getting more and more rude because they are not listening to the polite responses. Right down to #724, in which you wallow in sexist stereotype by implicitly taking on the mantle of a man martyred by the nagging li'l woman. Not to mention your insistence on having the last word.

I could spell it out as another little dialogue, but I think everyone here but Greg gets it, and I'm disinclined to waste more time on yet another man who insists on not getting it.

Bored now! Buh-bye! C'mon abi, let's go.


#727 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 07:09 AM:

SATORI!

Greg, thank you for the lesson in how Wikipedia is doomed.

Having seen well informed people with advanced degrees* chased off of articles regarding their area of expertise** by what appeared to be a mob of uninformed high school kids***, I have to say that the current system isn't working.

I agree. It really is possible for one uninformed person to grind an entire phalanx of experts down to the point where he gets the last word, by simple brute force repetition of his points, however wrong or clueless.

Oh, wait...that wasn't what you were trying to do? My bad.

-----
* or a lifetime's experience
** in gendered experiences from the downside, and their impact on a life
*** or admittedly "socially deaf and blind" people

#728 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 08:44 AM:

Last comment, then I am gone and not coming back.

Greg, if you want to rebuild some of the respect you have earned in the past, don't reply on this thread. Don't try to have the last word. Don't try to recast the situation. Don't try to explain how we've got you all wrong.

This is not...about...you.

#729 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 08:50 AM:

Greg, have you ever taken a Meyers-Briggs personality type test? You aren't by chance an INTJ, are you?

This is why I ask: "INTJs are perfectionists, with a seemingly endless capacity for improving upon anything that takes their interest. What prevents them from becoming chronically bogged down in this pursuit of perfection is the pragmatism so characteristic of the type: INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion "Does it work?" to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms."

You are trying to give Nicole a fix for her problem. It is a very pragmatic and targeted fix. It isn't a total reworking of inter-gender socialization protocol. It seems to irritate you when people point out that it's not--reasonably enough, since that's not what you were asked for. It feels like you're suggesting an efficient little hack, and they're asking you to rewrite the source code, right?

What I think you aren't getting is that women already have a couple thousand of these hacks, all of which they have to run all the time, and it's frustrating. So it doesn't matter whether your hack will work, because the very fact that they need yet another hack, just to get through the day, is insane and infuriating. What they want, what they need, is an OS that actually works. From their point of view, the problem isn't that guys are bad at reading women's "sod-off" signals. The problem is that the entire system is fucked, from top to bottom.

A sensible and user-friendly social system is a reasonable request to make. It isn't, however, a reasonable request to make of some poor dude in a forum who is just trying to help you with this specific problem you asked about. Thus your suggestions being met with remarkable hostility, and your inability to figure out why.*

In some ways, it's an example of what you were talking about: the slow building of anger, incident after incident, year after year, finally exploding. Avoiding the irritation by keeping emotions out of play, would, as you suggest, be a good solution. But it's impossible to remain emotionally detached when your personal safety is in doubt. Then they hear from you that, yet again, it is they who have to change to accomodate men, well, boom.

Now, I'd like to think that there's an approach to this that will satisfy both desires: the specific, pragmatic I-need-this-man-to-go-away-right-now desire, and the general, idealistic we-need-a-better-system desire. I'm thinking of it as a combination dismissal/education. Maybe even something as simple as "Sorry to break this to you, but when a woman doesn't respond to your advances and seems to be ignoring you it really actually means she doesn't want to talk with you. Don't take it personally." Or maybe it needs to be more subtle. But I think there's a way to turn the gorfs and pseudo-gorfs away that also works towards the larger goal of exterminating gorfdom.

Yeah, it sucks that the burden of changing the system falls on the shoulders of the oppressed, but waiting for the elite to do it is a mug's game.

(For the record, I'm an INTJ.)

*Though, to be fair, your "Good lord."s and "Uh, wow."s and "Uh, yeah,"s aren't helping. I know it's obvious to you what you mean. It's not to us.

#730 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2007, 10:27 AM:

Also, there's never going to be a good, clear, simple way to get men to stop bothering you when they're of a mind to be bothersome, because then they'd have to stop bothering you when you used it, and that's not what they want.

I've at times had trouble explaining this constellation of issues to men who are white-hat-wearing lawful good. They would never continue to plague a woman who'd said "no" or "go away" or "this is making me uncomfortable." This leads them to believe that the main problem is ambiguous communication -- unless, of course, you're dealing with a professed villain.

They don't understand that discomfort and ambiguous communication are just what bothersome men like. Jokey, deniable suggestions of force and transgression are their stock in trade. This gets us flustered, and then we let ourselves be pushed and chivvied into weaker and more uncomfortable positions. We're vulnerable, and all sorts of interesting things might come of that; and in the meantime, the not-so-good guys enjoy the fact that we're vulnerable.

The question of whether or not you're respectable is a subtext in these interactions. The game goes like this: if you're a good girl, you'll be confused and upset by what they're saying. If you're not a good girl, you're fair game. I once heard Annie Sprinkle say that until prostitution is legalized, no woman will be free. This struck me as true at the time, but it took a long time for me to tease out the implications. One of them is that as long as there are women who are outside the protection of the social contract, all women are threatened with reassignment to that category.

When I was still young and naive enough to be flustered by this nonsense, I stumbled upon a general solution: say you don't completely understand what they're saying, and ask them to explain. This strips away their camouflage of ambiguous language. They stop smirking and knock off the BS.

The other purely verbal way the game ends is with a breach of the social fabric: we get genuinely upset or angry, or we turn out to have a protector who's got a credible growl. At that point they can retroactively deny the one-sided coercive aspects of the interaction: "I was just joking." "I was just making conversation." "I was just trying to be friendly." Alternately, they can deny the validity of your reaction: "You're an ugly, stuck-up bitch." It's the exact equivalent of the moment in a bullying interaction when the victim blows up, and the bullies back off, saying "What's your problem? Can't you take a joke?"

If you're a young woman dealing with young men, JESR's Grandmother Jane's formulation (722) is scarily accurate. It's not a situation. It's an environment. And you live with the knowledge that at any time, one of those interactions could spin out of control, and suddenly you'll be having a world-class bad day.

IMO, the best thing you can do is not help your tormenters pretend that the interaction is sociable and uncoercive. Unless you're unlucky enough to be dealing with a real baddie, the guys will be counting on your assistance in maintaining the fiction that the interaction is harmless and benevolent, because they're uncomfortable with clear statements about what they're doing.

Don't help them. Get calm. Stop smiling. Don't let yourself be rushed into replying before you can think. And if you're out in the open and there's no one else around, pick up a big rock.

#731 ::: Fiendish Writer