Monday Assorted Links

1. Recent study concludes “There’s No Safe Amount of Alcohol”. The New York Times reports that “the truth is much less newsy and much more measured”. I’ll have a drink to that.

“The population level average of daily drinks is 1.9 for women and 3.2 for men, according to the study.”

That’s worrisome.

2. Women, consider this line of work if you want to be paid the same as men. Great catch phrase, “Equal by nature.”

3A. Why Columbia keeps producing talented cyclists.

3B. Christopher Blevins. One of the U.S.’s most promising cyclists who despite being a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, digs the humanities, and is down with slam poetry. The philosophy of his junior team. . . “Never forget the fun.”

3C. Kate Courtney. The U.S.’s and now world’s best mountain biker. A Stanford student. We can just call these two “brains on bikes”. Dig this vid of Courtney’s recent World Championship victory. Start at around 1 hour, 46 minutes.

4. Eliud Kipchoge. The GOAT. . . greatest of all time, threw down in Berlin yesterday. Despite those 78 seconds, I stand by my prediction that I will not live long enough to see anyone trim an additional 100 seconds.

5. How much should you spend remodeling a house for maximum profit?

 

Where (a lot of) Feminists Go Wrong

Where I knowingly commit the unforgivable act of “mansplaining“.

Where do many feminists, like Eldest Daughter (ED), who I love dearly even when she repeatedly makes fun of me, go wrong? They think women’s equality rests on assertive demonstrations of personal attributes most often associated with males. This is understandable because traditional notions of femininity are extremely limiting, the problem though is the masculine characteristics Millennial feminists want to appropriate—such as physical and sexual aggression and promiscuity, profane/vulgar behavior, and insatiability more generally—aren’t socially redeeming. Of course they’re free to emulate the worst of male behavior, but we’re worse off for it.

My daughters and their friends celebrated the 2011 film Bridesmaids as groundbreaking and watched it until they could cite the dialogue. In essence they were saying, “Because Animal House has nothing on us, men have nothing on us.” Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars of out 4, and opined that Bridesmaids “seems to be a more or less deliberate attempt to cross the Chick Flick with the Raunch Comedy. It definitely proves that women are the equal of men in vulgarity, sexual frankness, lust, vulnerability, overdrinking and insecurity. . . .”

Before ED fires off an exasperated, impassioned reply to this post, let me tell you what she’s thinking right now. This is a rare skill of mine, knowing what the members of my family are going to say before they say it. It may be a uniquely male skill some describe as “arrogance”, but I like to think of it as foresight. ED would say, “Debauchery aside father, the fact that you’re writing about Bridesmaids and Animal House together means we’re breaking down the historic, sexist notion that women aren’t as funny as men! So what if vulgarity helps create long overdue opportunities for women in the comedy world! The end justifies the means!” And of course she’d attach a funny gif for good measure because that’s how she rolls.

Wikipedia lists gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity as traditionally feminine traits.

Given these traditional feminine traits, better that young men be more feminine, than young women more masculine. Ideally, overtime, these more socially redeeming traits would come to be seen as gender neutral. Better that all of us be more gentle, empathetic, and sensitive.

This “We can be hella masculine” approach to gender equity is painfully evident on television shows like Comedy Central’s Broad City (BC). When it comes to sleeping around, swearing, and doing drugs, the two female stars are up to any male duo’s challenge. Again, ED would say, “No surprise, but you’re missing the point again father! There’s one more show on television starring two female comedians than there was three years ago!” Always with the exclamation marks.

ED’s frustration has now reached a breaking point, so she’s stopped reading, meaning I can write even more freely about one of her favorite television shows. I admit, despite BC’s vacuous foundation, it is among the most funny shows on television—subjectively based upon how many times I laugh aloud during an episode. Also worth noting, my critique of it as a cultural artifact that allegedly symbolizes New Feminism extends well beyond my negative view of its “we’re every bit as masculine as you” dead-end.

In actuality, because I said she wasn’t, ED is still reading. Here’s what she’s thinking now. “How did I end up with the most Puritan of fathers in the whole U S of A?!” But dearest ED, my critique isn’t based on morality. Abbie’s and Ilana’s embrace of mindless masculinity almost always translates into victimless crimes. So what if they get high or have random sex. The problem with the show is its nihilism, meaning it never raises interesting questions or addresses big ideas about how we should live. Put differently, it leaves no mark on my intellect or soul. ED, “Isn’t it enough just to be laugh out loud funny?! That’s no small feat!” Yes it is if all they’re motivated by is what they can charge advertisers for commercial breaks.

Wikipedia on BC:

The Wall Street Journal referred to the show as “Sneak Attack Feminism.” Critic Megan Angelo quotes Abbi Jacobson, main star of Comedy Central’s Broad City; “If you watch one of our episodes, there’s not a big message, but if you watch all of them, I think, they’re empowering to women.”

By which Jacobson means, “Good news my young feminist sistas, now you can act a male fool too.”

As this insightful analysis from Lili Loofbourow (LL) suggests (thanks ED), television is improving because of women’s increasingly influential contributions. LL convincingly argues that more and more female writers and producers are infusing shows with distinctive, intelligent sensibilities, thus demonstrating the limits of “we’re as masculine” programming.

One example of improved programming is the incredibly creative and hilarious comedy Portlandia which contrasts nicely with BC. Portlandia’s setting and cast are every bit as urban, diverse, and edgy as BC’s, but a typical two or three-minute skit on Portlandia pokes more fun at our modern selves and raises more interesting questions about the limits of materialism, the superficiality of popular trends, and the idiosyncrasies of modern life than several twenty-two minute episodes of BC.

Wrapping up, want to laugh, watch BC; want to think and laugh, watch Portlandia. Either way raise children—female, male, something in between—to be equally gentle, empathetic, and sensitive.

Postscript—Broad City interviews Sleater-Kinney.

Calling Bullshit on the “Ban Bossy” Campaign

Here’s their website and starting point.

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.

Sheryl Sandberg and company report that “Between elementary and high school, girls’ self–esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’.” I need Sheryl or Beyonce or Jane Lynch to explain to me how they measure self-esteem. Until I understand their methodology, I’m calling bullshit on their statistic and their campaign.

I’m committed to gender equality, but fired up about the “Ban Bossy” campaign because the young women I teach are flat out running circles around their male classmates. I’ve written about it before. Others have documented the same thing. Sixty percent of bachelors degrees go to women. Not only are there more female college students than male, they also tend to be more purposeful in their studies, they’re studying abroad at greater rates, and they’re enrolling in graduate schools in greater numbers.

In many of my classes, the gap is glaring. In a class of 30 students, 17 or 18 will be female and 12 or 13 male. Typically, six of the top eight students who are most engaged, most hard working, and most successful, are female. Class after class, semester after semester, year after year. There are purposeful, hard working, outstanding male students; they’re just outnumbered by their female counterparts. Despite young women’s alleged lack of self esteem, some universities are relaxing admission criteria for men.

Arne Duncan no doubt enjoyed making the vid with Beyonce and company. His line, “We have to convince them that it’s okay to be ambitious”. Arne, put down the basketball and spend some time on a college campus. Then you’ll understand why we have to convince young men it’s okay to be as ambitious as young women.

Ultimately, I don’t believe Sheryl Sandberg. If she proves me wrong, self esteem isn’t as integral to academic achievement as commonly thought.

Apart from the higher education realities the campaign strangely ignores, there’s something perverse about “if only girls were treated more like boys” thinking. In the last decade or so, “leadership” has been redefined to include “soft skills” like questioning, listening, and team building. Many boys struggle with those things because, to put it most simply, they’re bossy. It makes no sense to emulate a flawed male ideal. Instead parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, anyone that works with children should be cultivating 21st Century leadership skills. That just happen to be gender neutral.

I should start a campaign to ban thinking about gender attributes as a zero-sum game. Ban “boys versus girls thinking” or something like that. A movement to help all young people fulfill their potential for the betterment of society. I should gather some of my celeb friends to make a YouTube vid. And leverage social media. And call in some favors with my friends in the national media.

If only I had more ambition.

* some of the above is adapted from the previous post I linked to, this self plagiarizing is also known as Rick Reillying one’s self

Three Changes

Life in the U.S. will be considerably different in twenty years as result of three changes that few people think about much at all. While we watch “reality television,” obsess about celebrities, follow sports as if which team wins really matters in the grand scheme of things, and shop til’ we drop, these changes will remake the United States in profound, yet unknowable ways.

1) Young women are running circles around young men in secondary schools and in colleges and universities. I’ve written about the implications of this before.

2) The world’s economic power is shifting to the east.

3) The earth is warming much more rapidly than anticipated.

What specific, symbolic, yet tangible changes might wake people up to these fundamental shifts? This example is far too subtle, but still worth noting. With respect to the first change, last year, for the first time ever, women earned more Ph.Ds than men. Another more dramatic example I anticipate happening sometime in the next twenty years, the first female President of the United States.

The second change isn’t as worrisome to me as to citizens whose identities are primarily national in orientation. I reject the zero sum assumptions of the global economic race metaphor. I celebrate the fact that hundreds of million impoverished, rural Chinese and east-Indians, fellow human beings, are experiencing markedly improved qualities of life.

Number three is the most vexing because reducing C02 emissions will require international cooperation on a level never before demonstrated by the world’s governments.

Like waking from a collective slumber, twenty years from now many will wonder when and how women became so much more influential than men, when and how three billion Chinese and east-Indians became so much more influential than 400-500 million Americans, and when and how we made such a mess of the natural world.

No Sense of Urgency

Friday, June 10th, 11:30a.m. Sitting up high in the stands in the Olympia High gymnasium. Awards assembly. Surrounded by fellow parents of seniors. Make contact with fourteen on the other side of the gym and hold my iPad up and taunt her with it which she and her friends find entertaining. This early adopting stuff is kinda fun, but it would be awfully embarrassing if an administrator confiscated it.

But I digress. 11:50a.m. and we’ve gone from 165 students with a 3.5 gpa to 80 with something higher to the top 20 gpaers.

Nineteen young women.

Why aren’t parents, educators, ordinary citizens of all types more concerned with the growing gender gap in academic achievement?

Where’s the urgency?

Dear Conservative Christians

Dear Conservative Christians,

I remember watching the African-American community in Southern California explode in applause when O.J. was acquitted. I went from angry to inquisitive almost immediately. It was clear I didn’t understand their day-to-day experience in South Central Los Angeles. Overtime, I learned they weren’t celebrating anyone’s death, instead they were celebrating the high profile defeat of what they perceived to be an oppressive police department.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you too because I just don’t get why you believe McCain-Palin are the obvious choice for real Christians in real America.

Where to begin? Let’s start with McCain’s mid-summer visit with Rick Warren at his SoCal church. Recall that when Warren asked McCain who is rich, McCain said anyone who makes $5m/year. Later he said he was joking, but his point was clear, why label anyone as rich, let’s just celebrate whatever degree of wealth anyone is able to acquire. You cheered lustily.

What if Warren had asked different follow up questions such as if we use the New Testament as a guide, didn’t Jesus time after time identify with the poor and downtrodden? And didn’t he challenge the wealthy over and over to rearrange their priorities and identify with the poor themselves?

Disappointingly to me, Obama-Biden have ignored the poor in this campaign, focusing exclusively on the middle class. That hasn’t stopped McCain-Palin from charging Obama-Biden with class warfare. Do you, like me, wonder what chance do the poor have for entering into the public’s consciousness when Obama-Biden are busy responding to attacks that they’re siding with the middle class at the expense of the upper class?

I know there is a prosperity doctrine that’s alive and well, but I have to confess I don’t know how you believe in biblical infallibility and inerrancy and sidestep Jesus’s words and actions concerning the poor. When reading the New Testament, what do you do when you get to the Sermon on the Mount? 

Your ticket of choice continues to criticize Obama and Biden for being socialists for even suggesting raising taxes on those who make over $250k/year. Why try to slander others as socialist when the early Christians seemed awfully socialist themselves?

For example, take Paul from the book of Acts, Chapter Four, verses 32-35. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”

How do you interpret that? Help me understand why socialist is being used by your candidates as a pejorative when at least some early Christians were acting like socialists.

And I’m confused about gender. In many of your churches, based on your literal, infallible, and inerrant interpretation of the bible, women can’t serve in leadership positions. And men are the distinct heads of your households. How you can hold those views and simultaneously be so excited for a woman to potentially serve as our nation’s Chief Executive?

And why don’t your candidates of choice ever challenge the wealthy to pay all of their existing taxes? According to the Wall Street Journal (thanks to Robert Franks), a new study using I.R.S. data shows that wealthy taxpayers probably hide more of their income than lower- and middle-income taxpayers. The study on wealthy tax cheats, reported by Janet Novack at Forbes, concludes that taxpayers with income of $500,000 to $1 million a year understated their adjusted gross income 21% in 2001. That compares with an 8% underreporting rate for those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and even lower rates for those earning less.

Why is increasing the top tax rate 3-4% considered class warfare, but when the super wealthy hire really good tax attorneys to help them shelter income from their private businesses, holding companies, S-corporations, partnerships, and rental income, it’s not?

Sincerely,

A Confused Christian Brother