Monday, February 15, 2010

Women in Middle Management

Author BJ Gallagher, who has been a boss and worked for male and female bosses, has a list of tips she's titled, "How to Tell a Male Boss From a Female Boss." Among the helpful hints:

1· A male boss is aggressive; a female boss is pushy.
2.· A male boss is attentive to details; a female boss is picky.·
3. He knows how to follow through; she doesn't know when to quit.·
4. He's ambitious; she's driven.·
5. He loses his temper occasionally; she can't control her emotions.·
6. He isn't afraid to say what he thinks; she's mouthy.·
7. He's a man of action; she's impulsive.·
8. He controls his emotions; she's cold.·
9. He thinks before he acts; she can't make up her mind.·
10. He thinks before he speaks; she second-guesses herself.·
11. He tells it like it is; she's tactless.

The list might read like an e-mail forward that people laugh at, but considering the average American woman earns approximately 21 percent less than the average man, is there any truth to these perceptions?

"I can tell you that the exact same behavior is judged differently, depending on whether it's a male or a female doing the behavior. This is true at all levels in the organization," says Gallagher, author of "Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Other Women."

It's all about perceptions.

Vicky Oliver, author of "Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers and Other Office Idiots," says she sees the differences in how people perceive professional men and women. Oliver says leaders of both genders can show aggression and still be accepted by their employees. The problem arises for midlevel professionals.

"Yelling, berating underlings, slamming doors, throwing chairs and loud, truculent phone conversations with vendors on speakerphone that everyone can hear can sometimes be career-stallers," Oliver explains. "If a woman acts out, underlings will gossip about her, and eventually their whispers will be overheard by someone in top management. If a man in the middle behaves in the same way, sometimes underlings will strive to ally with him. They may perceive that he is powerful or protected. His behavior is still errant, but it's less likely to get him in trouble because he'll have more allies to defend him if push comes to shove."

Obviously, abrasive behavior isn't the entire problem. How people react to it is also an issue, and it carries over into other types of workplace behavior.

"Crying is the worst emotion to show at the office, and unfortunately, this is generally a female response," Oliver says. "Crying makes everyone around you feel like you're weak and out of control, and it will positively unnerve some men in the office who won't know how to react.

Crying seems to be mildly acceptable in certain circumstances (such as when a female employee is laid off); it's never acceptable as a response to a disagreement or office showdown."

Naturally, if people didn't let tears unnerve them, becoming emotional wouldn't be a problem. But the fact that we use "emotional" to describe tears -- but not screaming -- alludes to the problem, considering that they're both effects of an emotion.

Beware of the 'crazy' womanClinical social worker Irina Firstein has been a therapist for more than 20 years and has seen the problem firsthand.

"Unfortunately, it has been my experience that the workplace is more forgiving of a man than a woman," Firstein says. "A man being emotional usually means inability to control temper. A woman being emotional is being 'crazy.'"

In Firstein's opinion, the problem doesn't come only from men. She says women are more tolerant of a man's unfavorable behavior than a woman's. As a result, a strong woman is seen as competition by male and female colleagues alike, putting her in a tougher spot than her male counterparts.

Oliver suggests you try to understand the behavior. You don't have to like it, but you might be able to handle it with less bias.

"I feel that sometimes people react at the office in a similar way as they've been conditioned to in their personal lives," she says. Fits of rage could be the result of upbringing or a current household, not necessarily your performance. "If you happen to be on the receiving end of [someone's] outbursts, it's helpful to remind yourself that most over-the-top reactions are not about business ... it is personal, and it's about something in that person's life that has nothing whatsoever to do with you. The person is just venting steam."

Does that mean you have to accept what's happening? No. Learning how to deal with an angry boss is one thing; learning how to stand up for yourself is another.

Know when to speak up If you're a woman, you could find yourself in this situation more often than you'd like. Author Judy Hoffman still remembers a specific instance when she let intimidation get the best of her.

"I was the only woman on the executive team of our small chemical manufacturing company. At meetings, whenever I would voice my opinion, one male chauvinist -- the vice president of manufacturing -- would sit with his head in his hands, elbows on the table, looking down at the floor," Hoffman says. "It was very clear what he was saying: 'Why in the world would this woman be allowed to sit at the same table with us men, daring to give advice to the president of the company?'"

Hoffman hadn't received that kind of hostility while at the company for 16 years prior to his arrival, and she didn't confront him on the issue.

"To this day, I'm embarrassed that I did not deal with it better as I let it fluster me," she recalls.
"But it didn't make me stop speaking up when called for."

Even if Hoffman didn't address the VP, she didn't let him alter her behavior because she knew the problem was his and not hers. When you think about it, if an outspoken woman is going to be called mouthy and a quiet one will be labeled a pushover, what do you have to lose by being strong-willed?

Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow him on Twitter at

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On Female Genital Mutilation

Our daughters should not be cut
Female genital mutilation isn't just a problem in other countries. It's happening here, and we need to face it
By Lynn Harris


FGM in the USA Some girls came back from this past winter break with Christmas loot, ski tans, still more to say about "Twilight: New Moon." But others, women's health experts suspect, came back with deep, and literal, wounds to heal. According to human rights advocates and service providers, families in the U.S. who have immigrated from countries where female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced often take their daughters home, when school is out, to be cut.

Yes, FGM is practiced -- or at least planned -- on U.S. soil, on girls in immigrant families who were born and/or raised here. Perhaps even among people you know: Not long ago, a concerned mother posted on my Brooklyn-area parenting list-serv that she believed an eight-year-old friend of her daughter's had undergone some form of the procedure in her home country in the Middle East (and appeared to be markedly traumatized). Archana Pyati, an asylum attorney for Sanctuary for Families in New York, has encountered dozens of FGM cases just in the past six months.

"The majority of our African clients have been through it, and most often, they are fighting to protect their daughters," she says. (Older relatives with "seniority" often push for the procedure.) "It is our hope that by recognizing that FGM may be occurring under our noses we will become better able to respond to it, just as we would any other form of violence against children," she says.

Right now, though, that's not happening. While numerous countries, cities, and villages on other continents have made significant strides toward prohibiting and preventing the procedure -- and while it's been outlawed by U.S. federal law since 1996 and is also illegal in 17 states -- its practice by immigrant families here is, by all anecdotal reports, only increasing. Yet there remains practically no way to address it any way other than case by brutal, heartbreaking case.

"The silence hasn't been broken here," says Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now. "It's an issue that affects thousands of [U.S.] girls, some of whom were born here, and yet no one is really paying attention."

FGM refers to several different traditional rite-of-passage practices in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East that involve the cutting of female genitals -- from a ceremonial pinprick to "clitoridectomy" to removal of part or all of the external genitalia -- for non-medical reasons such as "to reduce woman's libido and help her resist ‘illicit' sexual acts." Health consequences include severe pain and bleeding, hemorrhaging, chronic infection, infertility, painful intercourse, post-traumatic stress, pregnancy complications possibly fatal to the baby, and death of the victim herself. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls, reflecting, as the World Health Organization puts it, a "deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and [constituting] an extreme form of discrimination against women." In her recent landmark speech on global reproductive health, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cited an estimated 70 million victims of FGM among the "intolerable" statistics of women's lives worldwide; the World Health Organization says it's as high as 150 million. In the U.S., according to Equality Now, 228,000 women and girls are estimated to have undergone or to be at risk for FGM -- a old number long said to be on the rise.

Yet only one case has been prosecuted in the United States, ever; the circumstances were so anomalous, however, that some advocates say it doesn't even really count. ("We always thought the first one would be a girl who bleeds to death, but that hasn't been the case," says Bien-Aime.) Most U.S.-based cases of FGM, or its threat, fly way under the radar -- especially when its victims travel out of the country. Reporting, even addressing it at all, is stymied by its deep cultural entrenchment and misplaced "sensitivity" by some outsiders. And, of course, the practice affects primarily girls of color, poor ones at that: pretty much as marginalized and bottom-rung as you get.

Consider New York, whose metropolitan area is considered to have the highest number of women and girls potentially affected by cutting. In the past, New York City's Administration for Children's Services has worked with Sauti Yetu Center for African Women in the Bronx to provide community forums and awareness trainings for ACS staff -- but no more. In fact, an ACS spokesperson said that "the issue of FGM has rarely if ever come across our work in New York City." Today, search for "female genital" at, and you get a bunch of stuff about STDs. New York state law bans FGM of minors, criminalizing both the person who performs the procedure as well as the parent or guardian who OKs it. The law also requires the state Office of Children and Family Services to establish "education, preventive and outreach" activities in communities where FGM is traditionally practiced. According to reports, however, not much of that has happened in a decade; officials confirmed that there is no particular program in place today. Versions of a bill that would require the state to report to the governor annually on its efforts to address FGM has passed the state assembly repeatedly since 1995 but has died a thousand deaths in the Senate. (Re-re-reintroduced in January 2009 by Assemblywoman Barbara Clark of Queens, the bill is currently cooling its heels in the Senate's Health subcommittee.) Likewise, according to Bien-Aime and others, little is happening at the federal level, where similar laws both criminalize the act and require outreach. (The Office of Women's Health did not return repeated calls and emails.)

Much of the work of intervention has therefore fallen to advocacy groups like Equality Now, along with community-based and service organizations such as Sauti Yetu and Sanctuary for Families (SFF). Sanctuary for Families does outreach through schools and community groups, trying to educate both girls and the adults they see -- teachers, guidance counselors -- about the risks and realities of FGM, offering (for one thing) in-school clinics that give girls the opportunity to raise the issue. "We ask if any students would like to meet with lawyers who can answer questions about immigration and then we raise the issue one-on-one if it seems relevant, based on their country of origin," explains Pyati. "We might learn that they're afraid, or that they have a classmate who is." Sanctuary asks guidance counselors to reassure students that any conversation they have with a Sanctuary lawyer will be confidential, and works to "make sure they know that FGM is a very serious form of violence," says Pyati.

While school officials are mandated reporters of child abuse, possible cases of FGM may give them -- and other adults in a position to suspect it -- pause. Is it a "cultural" practice that others somehow must respect? Is reporting it anti-Muslim? Will a child be summarily removed from her home -- from an otherwise loving family who bears no other threat of violence? Such concern are misplaced, says Pyati. For one thing, FGM is a social custom, not a religious practice. Also, reporting a suspicion of child abuse does not always or automatically result in separation of the family in question. That said, "It's a mistake to assume that FGM is a stand-alone event," she says. "FGM, a serious violation of human rights, is performed in a context of discrimination and violence against women. Where a girl's rights are so compromised that she has to undergo a painful procedure that is potentially life-threatening and carries life-long physical and psychological consequences, it can indicate that other forms of abuse may be ongoing." Physical and psychological abuse may be used to force a girl to submit to FGM; FGM may be a way of preparing a girl for a marriage against her will, to which she has no right to object. And once she is married, her family may force her to bear children, have sex and endure other gender-related violence.

Says Pyati: "We report child abuse. Why wouldn't we report a form of violence against a girl that will change her body for the rest of her life?"

The profound, centuries-old ingrainment of the practice -- some believe un-"circumcised" women are possessed by the devil, for example -- also makes it hard for large groups like Equality Now to form coalitions with local groups in immigrant communities. The people those groups represent "don't want to talk about it," Bien-Aime says. "They feel overwhelmed just by being here. They're struggling with finding jobs and sending their kids to school. They're like, ‘Are you crazy? That's at the bottom of the list. Why are you so obsessed with my daughter's genitals?'"

And at the level of law enforcement, advocates say, bans on the procedure stateside don't go nearly far enough. There are "circumcisers" who do the job in the U.S., hush-hush, a whole series in one afternoon, says Bien-Aime. But if we're not catching them, how are we to track those who perform the procedure on U.S. girls in to their home countries? Only Georgia and Nevada's anti-FGM laws include so-called "vacation provisions," which criminalize the removal of a child from the state to subject her to FGM. Advocates say such provisions must be universal.

Even then, prosecution, or at least protection, would still be dependent on someone speaking up, someone dropping a dime. In the UK, France, and Belgium, for example, women's groups who work with refugees will call partner grassroots groups in Senegal or Mali to let them know that one of their families is heading home with their daughter. The local African group will meet that family at the airport, follow them to their village, and warn them that their daughters had better stay "intact" or their papers will be compromised. "We are light years away from that," says Bien-Aime. "No one says it's easy or not sensitive but you have to start someplace. We need to raise awareness with campaigns like those we've seen for sexual harassment or domestic violence or anti-smoking," she continues, noting that many immigrant families arrive here after spending years in refugee camps, unaware that their own countries have taken steps to end the practice. "All the relevant providers need to be in touch and know what FGM is and how to protect the girls, and where we punish those who perpetuate it. The law is a deterrent. All you need is one case to start the process."

Bien-Aime recalls the case of a 15-year-girl in New York City, forcibly married to an older man, who called Equality Now to say she'd overheard that her 9-year-old and 9-month-old cousins were being sent back to Gambia to be cut. "I scrambled to find a social worker from Gambia to go into the house and talk to the family, but I couldn't," says Bien-Aime. The 15-year-old finally warned her cousin, who went to a school counselor, who sent someone to try to intervene. That worked -- mostly. "The 9-year-old was left behind for that summer vacation, but we have every reason to believe the 9-month-old was cut," Bien-Aime says. "She was a U.S.-born child. It happens. Her cousin was just lucky."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cat-Calling and Misogyny


When Catcalling Isn’t Just an Annoyance
by Latoya Peterson

A while back, I wrote about how catcalling affects women, specifically saying:
When a man feels like he has the “right” to force me to stop and speak to him, it is a whole other game entirely.

Complicating matters are the risks faced by women in our society. One in six women will become the victim of a sexual assault. Most people (men and women) do not recognize what is defined as sexual assault. According to Byron Hurt’s documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes reveals more statistics: Black women are 35% more likely to be assaulted than white women. Only 7% of black women report being assaulted.

I have been sexually assaulted. The majority of my female friends have as well, running the gamut from being groped and restrained to molest to being raped at 13 years of age.

What men think is a game has completely different stakes for women.

Essential Presence writes about the terrible aftermath to some of these situations. In a post entitled “Why Bother With Calling me a Bitch When You Can Just Shoot Me?” she notes:
There was a time when if you rebuffed a stranger’s advances, if you didn’t give him your phone number he would just call you a bitch and tell you that you aren’t shit. And as his friends laughed at his witty response they would all walk or drive off.

Now, young Black women have to choose between some bug-a-boo calling their cell phone or risk getting shot. 18-year-old Mildred Beaubrun and her friends were getting gas and something to drink at a gas station after a night out when they came across a vehicle of animals who wanted a phone number.

“Hey, baby, what’s your phone number?” they called out as the cars traveled west through Orlando.

Then the banter grew more aggressive. The men threw a T-shirt, then an AA battery, at the Nissan. One of the women threw a broken cell-phone charger back. At one point, the HHR swerved into the Nissan’s lane and tried to run the car off the road.

When the Nissan turned north on John Young Parkway, the HHR followed. Then, at Princeton Street, a shot rang out. Shrapnel flew as the bullet pierced the door and struck 18-year-old Beaubrun, who was sitting in the back seat.

Now, instead of preparing to graduate from high school next month, she’s lying unconscious in an Orlando hospital where doctors aren’t sure if she’ll live, and if she does whether she’ll walk again. Mildred’s two friends, who were in the car with her, are okay…physically anyway.

But I can’t help but wonder how they will react and feel when another man asks them for their phone number. I can imagine the fear of entering social settings for fear they will attract the attention of the opposite sex. At such a young age, already jaded by the opposite sex (if they hadn’t been already). Now, instead of the possibility of coming across a violent, dangerous lover they are made to fear all men. How sad to feel fear instead of that tingle or giddiness when a guy seems interested.

[This was not a jilted ex-boyfriend] but a random guy, strangers who thought they had the right to have whatever woman they wanted. In their eyes, after all, Mildred and her friends were nothing but property; they definitely weren’t people (of equal standing and deserving of respect) able to make their own decisions about something as minute as giving out the phone number to the cell phone they pay for.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Misogyny in Armed Forces

I knew it was bad, but I didn't know just how bad. Colonel Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army, grabbed the audience's attention at a panel called Women in the Military, hosted last month by Women Center Stage in New York City, when she said that one in three women in the military is sexually abused by her male colleagues. Ann wants to see huge signs displaying this statistic in every recruiting office, to let young women know what to expect if they sign up.

After 26 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves, Ann went on to serve in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps for fifteen years, receiving the State Department's Award for Heroism in 1997. She helped open the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2002 and then was Deputy Chief of Mission in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. But in 2003 she resigned from the Diplomatic Corps, saying, "I have served my country for almost thirty years in the some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world. However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration," referring to the invasion of Iraq. Since then, she has advocated tirelessly for peace.

She described first hand accounts from witnesses and seeing photographs that document an atrocious rape that ended in the murder of a female US soldier in Iraq, which the military had reported as a suicide. She pointed out that even in the handful of cases resulting in court martial and conviction, few perpetrators have served any prison time.

Two other young veterans, Kelly Dougherty and Jen Hogg, described life in the military for women today.

Sgt. Kelly Dougherty, now Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and former chair of its Board of Directors, told of a veteran who calmly described killing an Iraqi while she breast-fed her baby. To Kelly, this was just one example of the incredible disconnect veterans live with and of the brutalization that everyone in the armed forces is subjected to. She noted, however, that this is new for women, since for the first time in US history so many women are participating in combat situations.

Sgt. Jennifer Hogg of IVAW and Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) explained that women are automatically excluded from the infantry because they are considered unfit to do on-the-ground fighting. Jennifer granted that while some but not all women aren't suitable for infantry service, some men aren't capable either. She declared that categorically excluding women from the infantry is not only arbitrary but another of the many visible ways that women in the military are regarded as second-class citizens, ripe for abuse.

It's not just a matter of promotions. Women are given only the basic training that everyone receives; they do not get advanced infantry training. However in the everyday reality of the Iraq occupation, women are routinely thrust into situations that require infantry skills. They then find themselves in combat situations for which they are not prepared.

However, the greatest danger that military women in Iraq and Afghanistan face is from their male peers and officers. More women there are the victims of sexual assault than of injuries from hazardous military duties. Reuters reported as far back as 1995, "Ninety percent of women under 50 who have served in the US military and who responded to a survey report being victims of sexual harassment, and nearly one-third of the respondents of all ages say they have been raped."

Blatant sexism and misogyny are at the root of this high rate of violence against these women who just want to defend their country.

Some military training actually encourages violence thus adding greatly to the inherent violence of war. Jennifer described training while "jodies" were ringing in her ears -- the cadences that sing about a soldier's trashy girlfriend having sex with a civilian who is not as good a man as he. She first heard these chants while serving as a mechanic in the New York Army National Guard from 2000-2005. The "jodies" were crafted to engender men's rage: at women, at non-military men and at "the other."

According to Jennifer, some men join the army for honor but also to belong to a group that permits them to express their aggression. She questions whether such motivations are any different than those of the young men who join gangs. So, she asked, why would we be surprised when these super-aggressive men behave brutally toward Iraqi civilians or towards women?
She says most of their male counterparts view women in the military as either "dykes," "whores," or "bitches." These women must cope with these grotesque distortions on a daily basis.

Kelly, who served as a medic and in a military police unit, says that misogyny is rampant and seldom countered from above. She described how bitter that is when a woman knows that the first duty of an officer is to care for those in her or his command. She is convinced that officers' failure to protect the women serving under them has contributed fundamentally to the serious breakdown of good military operations in Iraq. Betrayal by one's own chain of command is devastating to women, and ultimately, everyone suffers.

Kelly and Jennifer both also noted the lack of female solidarity, declaring that women simply cannot bond in that culture. (I had to remind myself that the men in this culture cannot bond with their peers to resist certain kinds of abuses either.) In August of 2006 at Camp Casey I heard such first hand accounts from returning male veterans. One watched a peer shooting Iraqi children from their vehicle, much as some boys will shoot animals. Though horrified, he says that in this environment, he was neither able to stop that marine nor could he come to the defense of a comrade who tried to stop him.

So it is not surprising that in this environment, women seldom come to one another's defense. Women who report abuse are often punished instead of helped, creating even greater fear among their peers.

Neither Jennifer nor Kelly thinks that having more women officers at higher ranks would change anything. They say the "divide to conquer" system, which begins by conquering U.S. recruits' moral values, permeates the military.

Jennifer brought up another issue; as a lesbian, she knew discrimination had started when the "don't ask, don't tell" provisions were read to her before she signed up.

Already in the Army National Guard, she was activated for duty on September 11th.

Surrounded by soldiers hugging and kissing loved ones before being deployed, Jennifer's partner was unable to support her in the same way. By then, having already been exposed to the "jodies," Jennifer became increasingly aware of the system's brutality and the many injustices it perpetrates.

In every area women are not treated as equals, not respected. "The shoes for women are of poorer quality and women's uniforms fit tightly to emphasize her body," Jennifer told us.

Since mechanics and welders are deployed as infantry, from which women are excluded, Jennifer was not deployed as a mechanic even though she was qualified. She ultimately left the service, unable to reconcile her conscience with the treatment of minorities, the injustices, and the invasion. She now works in the GI peace movement.

Like many young people from blue-collar communities, Jennifer turned to the military for
opportunities. She trained as a mechanic, a field that few women enter or consider a likely occupation for such a small, beautiful young woman.

Ann pointed out that many recruits join for the education they can get. "Almost no one joins the military because they want to kill people," she commented. Both Kelly, who went to college, and Jennifer, who learned a trade, received their educations as a result of military service.

Traditionally, the U.S. military has been good to its veterans, providing not only education but health care and good retirement. However my friends at Camp Casey decried the "economic draft" that exists today: working class young people with little future sign up disproportionately.

Ann suggests that if there were another kind of national service, many of these young people would never enlist. If the United States offered free post secondary education to qualified persons like other developed nations do, the number of young people who enlist would be greatly reduced.

All three women are proud of their military service. Though appalled at the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, they still feel very connected to the military. Kelly expressed sadness and disappointment that people who see her wearing her military jacket remark that is must belong to her boyfriend or husband. She served at great risk to her own life in Hungary, Croatia and Iraq and is now using her skills to stop the abuse of her service by the very people who should respect its integrity.

I would not have understood the pride these women feel about their service before I went to Camp Casey.

As my friend, Patrice Schexnayder of Texas Impact, an interfaith group working for justice, said:

"The military at its best is not about weapons that destroy buildings and the life within, photographed by satellite or spy plane, and totally bloodless, all in the name of aggression. It is about staying awake and on guard, while others sleep."

Kelly and Jennifer were key organizers of the Winter Soldier event in March. Their skillful negotiation made the session on gender in the military possible in spite of initial resistance by some of their male colleagues. They spoke of it as a beginning, an opening of the door. I think it is a major victory.

The three women veterans of this panel are true Warriors, horrified at the way the U.S. uses their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but nonetheless willing to serve to protect us.

It was a privilege to hear these women tell their stories.

Contemporary Sexual Harassment

Culture affects how teen girls see harassment

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2008) − Teenage girls of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds still experience sexism and sexual harassment – but cultural factors may control whether they perceive sexism as an environmental problem or as evidence of their own shortcomings.

A study of 600 girls between the ages of 12 and 18, from California and Georgia, included young women who identified as Latina (49 percent), White (23 percent ), African-American (9 percent), Asian American (7.5 percent) and multi-ethnic or other (7.5 percent) was conducted by researchers Christia Brown, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, and Campbell Leaper, professor, Department of Psychology, University of California Santa Cruz. Participants were asked about experiences with sexual harassment and any discouraging comments they received in traditionally male-dominated areas such as math, science, computers and sports.

Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers.

The researchers found that girls have different levels of understanding of sexism and sexual harassment, which may affect reporting data. Older girls and those from a lower socioeconomic background reported more sexism than did their peers. Latin and Asian American girls reported less sexual harassment than did girls of other ethnic groups. Girls who had been exposed to feminist ideas, either through the media or an adult such as a mother or teacher, were more likely to identify and report sexist behavior than were girls who had no information about feminism. Girls who reported feeling pressure from their parents to conform to gender stereotypes were also more likely to perceive sexism. Girls who felt atypical for their gender and/or were unhappy with stereotypical gender roles were most likely to report sexism and harassment.

Brown and Leaper note that it is important for girls to be able to identify sexism and sexual harassment as environmental factors, lest they attribute negative experiences to their own faults and suffer erosion of self-esteem. Frequent sexual harassment may lead girls to expect and accept demeaning behaviors in heterosexual romantic relationships, and sexist remarks.
The full study appears in the May/June issue of Child Development, Vol. 79, Issue 3, under the title "Perceived Experiences with Sexism Among Adolescent Girls." From a UK computer or with a UK Libraries login, the publication may be accessed at

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Amanda Marcotte, This Christmas You Can Buy Her Affection

I've been happy this year to read a couple of blog posts written by men just slamming the ever-living shit out of the popular holiday commercial message, "All women are whores, just set the price." Otherwise known as ads pushing luxury goods like diamonds and cars with a fairly unmistakeable message.

These ads go far beyond just saying, "Hey, it's fun to spoil someone you love on occasion," and straight into making rather fucked up insinuations about how marriage and heterosexual relationships are transactional--her love and sex for your baubles. That women give love because they love and have sex because they desire doesn't enter the equation. There was one ad awhile back that was pretty close to explicit on this--a guy runs through the streets declaring he loves a woman. She's angry with him for his romantic and inexpensive gesture. He presents a diamond. Now she likes him again. Women's affections are a commodity, says the ad, not a normal human expression.

But I've seen a series of blog posts that take on these ads not just because they insult women, but because they insult men as well, another important point that needs to be made. Jamie at

Masculinity and Its Discontents: For some reason this one really gets to me. Scene: woman kicking back on the couch, watching the tube, as her young-architect/artist skinny, t-shirted, sandy-haired studmuffin puts the finishing touches on her pedicure, blowing gently on her toes.

He: How's it look, sweetie?
She: It looks great!
He: I dunno, I think maybe they could use one more coat.
Cut to smarmy announcer: because you're not that guy, go buy jewelry at Bob's.

You're not that guy, you're not caring, you're not patient, you're not creative, you're not gentle, y ou're not even good looking (to your woman). It makes me want to scream BE THAT GUY, MEN, once in a while, just be that guy. Stop buying the most overpriced, overvalued, falsely inflated, harvested-by-near-slave-labor stones in the history of humankind and DO something for your woman, talk to your woman, listen to your woman, pamper your woman as you'd like her to pamper her man. Don't buy her, do the damn labor! (and then maybe buy her something nice afterwards, sure. And ladies, it's your turn, buy your man some bling, show him you own him! Yes, I have a double standard, yes yes yes I do! I wanna be owned!)

Then MarkH blogs about this deeply fucked up diamond ad.

A special diamond to purchase sexual fidelity! Awesome. If any real demographic research went into this marketing, instead of just guesswork, then we have alarming evidence of the paranoid mindset of a lot of men. Between this and the ads that imply that you, the customer, are so hard up for sex from your own wife that you're desperate enough to pony up thousands of dollars, I'm forced to conclude that the marketers are just exploiting paranoia, because otherwise I'm forced to conclude that a far greater percentage of Americans live life on constant sexual intrigue than really seems possible.

Copyranter is also insulted:*
If my future wife bangs the entire roster of the Manchester United football squad a week after I give her a HOF diamond, do I get 100 times my money back?

You know, if you could sell it with a guarantee like that, there could be a lot of potential for non-monogamous couples to make some money for themselves.

Also, how many women out there are dumb enough to find it delightful to get a ring that says "Monogamy" on it? Like, is it fun to get a bauble that implies that you need to have your fidelity secured with expensive and glittery things?

Copyranter also found this one:

PZ derides these ads for making men look stupid.
I can tell you exactly what would happen if I spent a month's salary or more on jewelry (or worse, a year's income on a car). My wife would look aghast, and waver between calling the hospital for an immediate psychiatric consult and kicking me in the groin. I would spend that much on inessential frippery? Without consulting her? There sure wouldn't be any sexual arousal, unless these commercial makers easily confuse that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach at the thought of budget-busting debt with "sexy."

I'm certainly not averse to the concept of getting enthusiastic about giving or receiving gifts. I'm a sucker for it. But when the main selling point of a gift is, "I am so expensive that it puts the recipient into an informal debt to you to be repaid with sex, monogamy, etc.", then it's not about the fun anymore and starts to get creepy.

*His entire blog is a hoot, by the way. There was exactly 0% chance that this ad could have gone the other way and shown the dolls doing it cowgirl style and then moving onto cunnilingus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Announcement to Govt 180 Sections

There's been a slight change of plan. I will need to administer the assessment test during the exam period. The assessment test will be the same one you took at the beginning of the semester and will be 33 questions long. Students will receive extra credit for anything over a 70%.

Ric Caric

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Racism and the Right

White Backlash and the Right
Submitted by David Neiwert on December 4, 2007 - 7:08pm.

Recently the New York Times carried a report on the "noose incidents" that have been occurring with rising frequency around the country, inspired seemingly by the protests over the "Jena 6" case.

The report came complete with a graphic showing where the incidents have occurred. Remarkably, it isn't just happening in the South: the incidents are also being reported in places like Minneapolis; Cicero, Ill.; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Newark; Baltimore; and New London, Conn.

Equally striking was the analysis from Mark Potok, the SPLC's Intelligence Project director, who wrote:

These incidents are worrying, but even more so is the social reality they reflect. The level of hate crimes in the United States is astoundingly high — more than 190,000 incidents per year, according to a 2005 Department of Justice study.

And the number of hate groups, according to the annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has shot up 40 percent in recent years, from 602 groups in 2000 to 844 in 2006.

It seems that the September rally in Jena — much as it was seen by many civil rights activists as the beginning of a new social movement — signaled not a renewed march toward racial and social justice, but a surprisingly broad and deep white backlash against the gains of black America.

Indeed, as Digby observes, "The racist beast is clamoring to be set free." The old once again is new: there's a "new racism" that pretends to be daring new thinking, dashing the molds of political correctness, but really is just the same old shit recycled. And it's not even relegated strictly to the right: Witness, for the most recent example, William Saletan's sally into the rancid fields of eugenics.

That this is happening is acutely clear for African Americans, historically the chief victims of racist hate in America, as the noose episodes suggest. But it's also becoming true on a broader scale as well, with a rising tide of openly espoused ethnic bigotry manifesting itself in myriad ways, particularly on the immigration front, where Latinos are increasingly targeted by rhetoric emanating from the very highest levels of Republican leadership that manifests itself in a tide of hate crimes; and in the "war on terror," which has provided for an opening for a variety of right-wing figures to spew hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric, with similarly predictable consequences.

One kind of hate feeds another; one open expression of bigotry without significant consequence only provides permission for many more to follow, and the inherent violence of such talk inevitably gives permission for people to act it out. Thus this shifting social tide has, just as predictably, brought the broader result of a significant increase in bias crimes of all kinds across the country.

And the breadth of the tide also tells us that this is not really about blacks or Latinos or Muslims specifically, but is about the people who fear and despise them: white people. It's about defending white privilege.

And there has been one primary driver for this gravitational shift: generically, the conservative movement, and specifically, its wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party.

You can hear the push to defend "white culture" from nearly every sector of the right, from Bill O'Reilly:

But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right.

To Patrick Buchanan:

I think America may exist, but I'll tell you this: I do believe we're going to lose the American Southwest. I think it is almost inevitable. If we do not put a fence on that border ... you're going to have 100 million Hispanics in the country, most of them new immigrants from Mexico, which believes that belongs to them. What's going to happen to us, Sean, in my judgment, is what is happening right now: We are Balkanizing. We are dividing and separating from one another politically, morally -- on issues like abortion or Terri Schiavo -- racially and ethnically, when you get Jena and then you get Don Imus, and all of these things ripping us apart. All the things that used to pull us together and hold us together no longer do.

To Michael Savage:
But basically, if you're talking about a day like today, Martin Luther King Junior Day, and you're gonna understand what civil rights has become, the con it's become in this country. It's a whole industry; it's a racket. It's a racket that is used to exploit primarily heterosexual, Christian, white males' birthright and steal from them what is their birthright and give it to people who didn't qualify for it.

This is nothing new, of course. The defense of white privilege has been a cornerstone of the GOP's electoral appeal ever since the its ardent adoption of the Southern Strategy, dating back to Goldwater and Nixon and continiuing through the Reagan and Bush years. Even Republican strategists acknowledge this to be the case.

Joseph Aistrup, in his book The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South -- a text written primarily to influence GOP politicos -- observes the following:

When a GOP presidential candidate’s campaign strategy emphasizes racially conservative appeals, he identifies not only himself but his party as the one that protects white interests. The identification of the GOP, instead of the Southern Democrats, as the protector of white interests, combined with the large infusion of blacks into the Southern Democratic parties, opens the door for Southern whites to abandon their historic ties to the Democrats.
It's critical to understand, however, that the Southern Strategy wasn't geared simply toward winning votes in the South -- it also is aimed at white suburbs and rural areas where the defense of white society remains a significant cultural issue. Its reach ran well beyond the South.

One way of seeing this clearly is by examining the history of "sundown towns". As James Loewen details (excruciatingly) in his study Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, there are literally thousands of towns across America -- relatively few of them in the South -- who for much of the 20th century forbade minorities, blacks especially, from living within their communities. Many of them placed signs at the town limits warning "Whites Only After Dark" or "Nigger, Don't Let the Sun Set on You Here" -- that all nonwhites were to be out of town by sundown. In many cases, especially suburbs, no signs were visible, but all-white covenants provided the same effect.

Most of the "sundown towns" and "sundown suburbs" that Loewen documents were in the Northeast, the Midwest and West -- the same places where we're seeing "noose incidents," as well as attempts to pass laws aimed at driving out Latinos.

These same "sundown towns" have, unsurprisingly, a history of following racial election appeals, including broad support for George Wallace in 1968, and Republican presidential candidates in the ensuing years, all of whom made use of the Southern Strategy's core appeal to white racial interests. As Loewen notes:

As a result of such leadership, Republicans have carried most sundown towns since 1968, sometimes achieving startling unaninimity. ... So the "southern strategy" turned out to be a "southern and sundown town strategy," especially in sundown suburbs. Macomb County, for example, the next county north of Detroit, voted overwhelmingly for Wallace in the 1972 Democratic primary. Wooed by Nixon, many of these voters then became "Reagan Democrats" and now are plain Republicans. The biggest single reason, according to housing attorney Alexander Polikoff, was anxiety about "blacks trapped in ghettos trying to penetrate white neighborhoods." [pp.372-373]

Take a look at where the nooses are appearing, where the anti-Latino and anti-Muslim hate crimes are occurring. If you look through the incidents, it's clear that many of them are occurring in precincts that, historically, were all-white by design.

It's part of the continuing defense of that status quo in those communities that engenders so much of the nation's current racial divide -- with bias crimes, as always the on-the-ground manifestation.

I know that Democrats have been tempted to try to tap into this tide to their short-term electoral advantage; witness Rahm Emanuel and Co.'s attempts to advance an immigration plan that's absurdly enforcement-heavy and reform-light.Before they take that step, they need to stop and think about the consequences. Not just the electoral calculus, considering what it would cost Democrats in terms of the votes of blacks, Latinos, and Muslims who are flocking to them now because of the GOP's increasingly inchoate bigotry, but the real-life results. They need to think about those nooses, and where they come from, and simply do what is right.