Tagged: blinded me with science

The reality of gender discrimination – in science

In my post on the gender pay gap and school performance – and the apparent disconnect between the two – I pondered thus:

Maybe it’s as callous as this:  boys doing less well at school is a problem because it highlights, as Beppie shows, just how bad the gender gap in employment is.  It shows categorically that men continuing to sit at the top table more and get paid the big bucks more is not down to superior performance nor training.

Well, I’m not alone in that thought.  In an article on sexual discrimination in science, an anonymous author (and I have no quibbles with hir anonymity, because saying this kind of thing can randomly coincide with a downturn in one’s career) tells us:

In total, 127 faculty members were asked to rank the candidate in terms of competence, starting salary they would offer, willingness to mentor the candidate, and likeability. The only difference in the applications was the name of the student – 63 were from “John” and 64 were from “Jennifer”.

The results were stark. Jennifer was ranked less competent than John and was offered a median starting salary almost $4,000 lower than John. In addition, the faculty was less willing to mentor Jennifer, but, strangely, found her to be more likeable. All this from a piece of paper.

And when considering why these kind of results get rejected, our author considers:

Despite the fact that hard data is difficult to argue with, many scientists managed it. My own explanation for this reaction is that on a subconscious level, data like this support the implication that men in science didn’t necessarily get there on merit alone, but also because their female competitors were being discriminated against. That must be quite threatening and hence provoked a defensive response.

Again I emphasise that we’re not saying you’re lazy, menfolk.  Just that, well … you could afford to be lazier than we could (assuming the Guardian article’s author is a woman.)  You didn’t have to be as exceptional to get where you are.

That’s what privilege is all about.

TV’s magical powers magically screw up your kids

I can’t believe it’s not actual science!  From Stuff:

It came after New Zealand research carried out by Otago University researchers, which found links between watching too much TV in childhood and developing problems later in life, including poor concentration, shorter attention span, smoking, high cholesterol and obesity.

Links!  My god!  Television sets must contain magical FuckUpYourLife rays which invade children’s minds and set them on paths to utter dysfunction!

Or … there could be something about the socioeconomic status of families where kids watch more TV.  Certainly the ability of those families to have a stay-at-home parent so you don’t have two fulltime workers trying to juggle jobs and chores and children.  Probably something about the education levels of the parents involved, their interest in reading, their high-falutin’ awareness of cognitive development, all that kind of stuff.

None of which, apparently, was controlled for in this very scary headline-making research. Nope, just one conclusion designed pretty much entirely to make poor uneducated families feel like automatic failures and terrify the comfortable middle classes that once again They Are Ruining Their Children’s Lives (next week: studies show reading too much to your child makes them illiterate!!!!)

In fact, the only vaguely-logical sounding “explanation” for the “links” between TV and BADSTUFF! is this:

But he said that after about two hours of sitting still, negative effects on health kicked in, which included increased long-term risks of obesity and heart problems.

What it’s important to note here is that, of course, two hours sitting still in front of those modern horrors, THE TELEVISION or THE COMPUTER, is completely physiologically distinct from the good old-fashioned sitting around we all used to do when reading, attending school, attending sports matches, listening to the wireless, etc. etc.  It’s magical brain-destroying sitting.

Fat pregnant people: automatically doing it rong

I’m going to give the award for Most Contemptible Headline on this story to the Herald, with:

Extremely obese mothers “a scary problem” – expert

with an honorable mention for Stuff’s

Greater risk for obese mums-to-be

I know there are plenty of people out there who are going to say I’m just defensive ’cause I’m fat, or Everyone Knows* being fat is basically a death sentence which is unjustifiably not being carried out this very second.

I merely ask those people to look at statements like:

the survey showed 38 per cent [of “extremely morbidly obese” women] had their labour induced, compared with 21 per cent in the general population, and more than half (52 per cent) had a caesarean delivery, compared with 32 per cent of other pregnant women.

And consider that

a)  “Extremely morbidly obese” is apparently determined by a BMI of over 50 – and BMI is bullshit;

b) There is a growing awareness of the fact that lots of the time, women don’t get the hugest amount of choice in having their labour induced, or caesarean deliveries.  Are you honestly going to sit there and tell me that none of this group of 370 women was told, by their supposed medical adviser, that “you should induce because you’re at risk because you’re fat” or “we need to do a C-section because your baby is too fat“?**

Well, you probably are.

But the fact remains that only one of the stories linked above – the Herald one – stated that labour “had” to be induced, and the pregnant people “needed” C-sections.  The fact that language isn’t matched in the Stuff story?  Yeah, colour me suspicious.

c)  Anyway, any article which says “Anecdotally, however, the problem of extremely obese mothers was growing” is probably not one I want to base healthcare decisions on.

It’s sad, you know.  Professor Lesley McCowan of the University of Auckland has gotten all the way to the top in academia without figuring out that the plural of anecdote is not data.  And correlation isn’t causation.

I’m not saying we should stop all research into pregnancy complications or maternal health.  But taking 370 women, based on a stupid, unscientific “measurement”, and then basically saying “see!  Their fatness kills their babies!” without saying “and we controlled for socio-economic status, and we controlled for race, and we controlled for illnesses or medications which might cause weight gain, and we controlled for potential health issues caused by years of socially-encouraged disordered eating” …

It basically makes you a judgemental wank who should stop pretending to do science.

I’m always open to the idea that the media have, as usually happens, completely misrepresented an otherwise balanced, well-designed study.  But when you’re dealing with fat issues?  Odds are against it.

If you yourself feel like a nice cold shower of scepticism when it comes to medical professionals and the plus-size, take some time to read the heartwarming stories at First Do No Harm.  If you find incandescent rage heartwarming.


*To paraphrase a Tamora Pierce novel of my adolescence, “I must meet this scholar Everyone.  He seems to be wrong about a lot of things.”

**For more related, outraging reading, the “Birth” tag at Hoyden About Town should see you right.

Women react predictably to mainstream social cues: must mean we evolved to be bitches


The results were depressingly predictable.

“Participants displayed a strong negative reaction to the attractive female when she was dressed provocatively,” said study author Dr Aanchal Sharma.

This research provides support for the innate roots of female conflict.

How?  Same as all evolutionary psychology bullshit: take a bunch of people from the same environment and look at their behaviour then wave your hands like an Underpants Gnome and declare this proves said behaviour is innate, ingrained, evolutionary, so shut up and suck on your inequality because we’ve just provided the perfect excuse not to address it.

I mean, it couldn’t have anything to do with socialisation or dominant memes about That Bitch Who Steals Your Girlfriend or Men Can’t Control Themselves So Blame Other Women For Their Cheating (yes, in dominant-social-paradigm land we’re all hetero, too).  And if “mate-guarding” exists it has to go back to our monkey phase and can’t at all be linked to messages about how being single is the worst thing ever, much less financial dependence necessitating finding a male partner or the concept of compulsory heterosexuality or anything.

Wait, wait, there I go again, just ascribing natural phenomena to insidious magical messages created by some vast conspiracy against women.  I’m going to go relax with some nice popular music

Down Under Feminists’ Carnival XL: bigger, better, more punnage

Welcome to the 40th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.  I am your stunning hostess, Queen of Thorns, “QoT” to my friends and “single-handed destroyer of progressive NZ politics” to my trolls.

I’m entirely enamoured of the fact that 40 in Roman numerals is XL, so I’m putting our plus-size Antipodean bloggers up first:

New study shows correlation between fatness and selling one’s soul to Satan

Definatalie writes about re-learning her love of cycling.  sleepydumpling at Fat Heffalump talks about Why I Don’t Diet and Fixing the Relationship with Food.  Bri at Fat Lot of Good sees that fat-shaming is now getting aimed at four-year-olds to the extent some are developing a fear of food.

sleepydumpling is on a crusade, people.  A crusade for all super-fatties, deathfats, people who just cannot find clothes in their size for love nor money.  Warning: utter fuckwittery in the comments.  Remember, fatshion is activism.  And no, fat acceptance will not in fact kill you.

There’s been discussion lately about the role of the fatosphere on people’s perceptions and lives.  Dr Samantha Thomas has done a for-real ivory-tower-shaking academic paper on how the fatosphere proactively challenges fat stigma, and sleepydumpling covers the same topic in Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Shame.  Sonya at Lipmag was one of the interviewees for Dr Thomas’ paper.

The body plays a huge (BOOM BOOM!) role in a lot of feminist discussion, and things always get good and heated around one fact in particular: pregnancy and how you are probably Doing It Rong right this minute.

You read a book while pregnant?  You’re gonna DIE!!!

Feminethicist posts a quick note about double standards around scars – especially stretch marks.  Aussie MP Andrew Laming fights the good fight for homebirths.  Bluebec confronts the notion that any particular way of having babies is “unnatural”.

Pregnancy isn’t always wanted or continued, of course, and that’s why apparently I have to keep explaining that the “right to life” movement are a bunch of wanks with the intellectual honesty of a guppy.

And of course once Junior makes it out into the world it’s all downhill for progressive parents, who simply cannot win.  Ever.

Buy this Mozart CD or your baby will sprout wings!

Blue milk continues to post on her presentation on feminist parenting.  Part 4 covers “what is feminist parenting?” and Part 5 looks at the difficulties with being a feminist parent.  She also talks about the idea that some parents are too sexy to breastfeed – and provides a challenge with a follow-up post on glamorous images of breastfeeding.  Another post discusses pro-feminist fathers.

Breastfeeding also shows up as a really nifty shorthand for “crazy woman” in the Game of Thrones series, as discussed at Hoyden About Town.

Bee of a Certain Age talks about learning to love after having her children.

Our kids just aren’t getting a break:  Lessons to be Learned covers the Toddlers and Tiaras phenomenon and blue milk looks at high fashion’s role in sexualising girls.  Feminethicist has been having some fun challenging the heteronormativity when people play joke-matchmaker with babies.

Unsurprisingly, I did not take kindly to Family First’s insinuations that some families are just “obviously” worse than others.

For further reading, Mindy at Hoyden About Town has reviewed The 21st Century Motherhood Movement.

Where does a lot of this crap come from? Our wonderful media, of course.

This just in: reading mainstream media could be the reason you’re really angry all the time

Feminethicist is just thrilled by a camera app that makes your romantic partner look tolerable again. I have a slight issue with bra companies’ media releases being treated as scientific fact, with a sprinkling of obesity panic on top.

Rachel at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman takes on the latest theories of Bettina Arndt and the treatment of women who are famous for being pretty and throwing together a good outfit.

LudditeJourno, posting at The Hand Mirror, covers Michael bloody Lhaws’ preference for referring to poor brown people as “feral” and coleytangerina at The Lady Garden gets freaked out by news of a “cougar attack” … then a tad depressed.

Emma at Lip asks where the strong women are in literature.  Kate Barker discusses anti-feminist imagery.  Cara at Life is a feminist issue talks about our media ban on reporting suicide, and whether that’s really looking all that effective.

MJ at Kiwiana (inked) tells Stuff where they can shove their scare quotes when reporting on domestic violence.

Time for something a bit more positive:

Retrospective:  awesome women being awesome

Penguin Unearthed talks about Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir as part of her Travelling Feminist posts – here’s another on Norway.  The Hoydens share the news that Sensei Keiko Fukuda has become the only woman ever granted the 10th degree black belt in judo.  Double Antandre talks about Nancy Wake.

Another big issue of the past month has been identity, especially given Google’s being douchebags about what’s considered a “real” name (all the more aggravating because it’s based on needing “real” demographics to sell to shitbox marketers).

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine

Chally talks about the kinds of history that go into building identity.  blue milk passes on information on the My Name is Me project created in response to Google+ being douches.  Giovanni talks about Google+, identity and cyberpunk.

Where does a lot of identity come from?  Our “race”, social construct that it is, and religion, and culture, and all other kinds of pretty touchy issues.

Nothing witty to put here

Mindmadeup asks if Australia is a racist nation.  Chally confronts racism at the bus stop.  stargazer discusses how the “default is male” concept extends to commentary about Muslims.  stargazer also posted about the start of Ramadan.

Chally challenges the notion that feminism and religion are mutually exclusive.  Bluebec talks about gender exclusion in the Freemasons.  Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear covers freedom from religion.

Queen Emily at Questioning Transphobia asks “When am I trans?” and when trans people are “real”.

Love and Marriage

In happier news, Rachel is getting hitched!  Of course, planning a wedding doesn’t get any easier when you’re a feminist so she’s provided a handy Guide to Feminist Wedding Planning.  News With Nipples covers some tragi-comic anti-marriage-equality protests.  Hayley at Equal Love Equal Rights posts on marriage equality.

Mr Wainscotting is pleased to announce the launch of Legalise Love, a group looking to get some actual marriage equality happening in NZ.  Idiot/Savant has been taking an interest in our MPs’ views on the subject:  here he is on Hone Harawira and David Parker (and it’s not good news).

As Chally notes, though, we shouldn’t devalue single women.

Then there’s some perennial issues for feminist bloggers:


stargazer helped produce a session on poverty at the Human Rights Commission’s diversity forum and also blogged her speech from the forum on needing an action plan on human rights.  Maia at The Hand Mirror dissects a “game” where privileged people get to pretend to be poor for a while and probably learn some Important Moral Lesson.

Deborah Russell discusses welfare in the Dominion Post.

Rape culture / violence

Blue milk on some truly grotesque rape-as-comic-device bullshit.  Deborah discusses the ridiculous “guidance” given to women around “keeping themselves safe”.

The Naked Philologist deals in two parts with the subject of teaching problematic material – Can you teach Chrétien without talking about rape? and You might be able to teach Chrétien without talking about rape, but I shan’t.

LudditeJourno posts about the Wellington Sexual Abuse Network and preventing sexual violence.  Idiot/Savant notes that domestic violence still gets excused if you’re rich and powerful enough.


A guest poster at Hoyden About Town talks about being a “border gimp”.  Joanna at The View From Down Here talks about building community.

Pay gap

Deborah talks about the gender pay gap and another Deborah’s predictable privileged attitude towards it.  Idiot/Savant covers the Greens’ and CTU’s calling of National’s bluff: if people can just ask labour inspectors to check there’s pay parity in their workplace, maybe we should just start doing that all the time.

And finally, a little collection of random items to fill out your reading.

We can’t stop here, this is bat country!

Blue milk on potentially-problematic vulva-themed art.  Geek Feminism on social media protest action.  Bluebec on trusting people to make their own decisions.  Maia at The Hand Mirror on the cost of being a woman in public.  Chally’s thoughts on being “born this way”.  A guest post on Geek Feminism about encouraging women’s participation in geekiness.  Blogger at the Cast Iron Balcony on how to help the Sylvia Creek anti-logging protesters.  Bluebec on polyamory and doing it right. Feminaust posts on listening to sex workers.

That’s all she wrote

Thanks to our lovely submitters, especially Chally and Rebecca who made my job a heck of a lot easier!

The 41st edition of the DUFC will be hosted at A Touch of The Crazy.  As we still seem to be having issues with blogcarnival, send your submissions directly to stef_thomp [at] hotmail [dot] com.  We’re four years in and going strong but we need your help to keep it awesome!

The list of DUFC contributors is woefully out of date, but feel free to peruse it in the meantime while I get some well-earned coffee.

Hey, where’d the goalposts go?

Oh that’s right, they got moved again.

If you’re trying to bring your blood pressure to a healthy level, a US study suggests that how much you weigh is more important than how fit you are.

Of course it does.  I guess too many fatties were starting to click to the fact that even being salad-eating jogging fanatics won’t magically turn you into Heidi Klum.

Let’s just rattle off the bingo squares, shall we?

Using BMI as a measure of “obesity” (or, well, anything)?  Check.

Dancing around the correlation/causation line and pretending ice cream increases homicidality?  Check.

Paying no attention to the “but how can you BE obese if you’re a fitness bunny? HAS COSMO LIED TO ME ALL THESE YEARS?” paradox behind the curtain?  Check.

Ignoring the likelihood that a heck of a lot of fatties are being put on blood pressure meds they don’t in fact need?  Check.

Happily avoiding the question of exactly how one makes oneself “lean” in any kind of predictable, healthy, sustainable way? Check.*

And, of course, the fundamental gripe I have with all fucking ZOMG HEALTH IMPERATIVE stories?

I’m pretty sure there’s no level of blood pressure that will make me live forever.


*For your more intersectional bingo, test conducted which assumes sustained walking is a universal measure of fitness?  Check.

Fat hate ain’t just American

Via Fatshionista, a highly-recommended article on America’s Fat Hatred.  Here’s the bit, also quoted at Fatshionista, which leaped out at me:

In a study published in the 2005 issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law,Abigail Saguy and Brian Riley found that many overweight people decide not to get help for medical conditions that are more treatable and more risky than obesity because they don’t want to deal with their doctor’s harassment about their weight. (For instance, a study from the University of North Carolina found that obese women are less likely to receive cervical exams than their thinner counterparts, in part because they worry about being embarrassed or belittled by the doctor because of their weight.)

And of course, when those women drop dead of preventable cancer, it all gets ascribed to “ZOMG obesity epidemic fatties are UNHEALTHY why didn’t they put down the baby-flavoured donuts” and the cycle keeps going, dumbasses.

The reason this jumped out at me is that it’s only been in the last year (i.e. two six-monthly appointments) that I’ve started to just not like going to the doctor.

It was great when I was at uni.  The doctors were generally so head-over-heels with getting to deal with a patient who didn’t smoke, used two forms of contraception and knew exactly when her last smear had been that the dreaded BMI calculation often didn’t even make an appearance.

These last two?  Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah, different story.

Continue reading

Ada Lovelace Day

It is one of the curses of being on the bold new frontier of global time (i.e. bang up next to the International Date Line) that I never find out about these things until they’re almost over!

March 24th is Ada Lovelace Day, intended to encourage blogging about women in technology, increase the visibility of women in technology, all that good stuff.

It’s named for Ada Lovelace, possibly the world’s first computer programmer (for all she was girl-shaped and even computers themselves were pretty pie-in-the-sky).

I don’t have a post prepped, unfortunately, so I just want to say that events like ALD are brilliant.

A few years back I managed to take some Gender Studies papers at uni as a way of getting enough points to complete my degree.  One of these was on feminist science studies, an area I’d never even heard about until the first day of class.

The very first lecture was basically a “Who’s Who” of women in science and technology.  And when the lecturer went around the group, asking people to name prominent women scientists they knew of, we came up with Marie Curie and Beatrice Hill Tinsley (go Kiwi!).  And that was it.  Clearly having anticipated this, we then spent an hour going through a potted history of women who made amazing discoveries and formulated brilliant theories … who we had never heard about.

Women like Hypatia, whose death is sometimes used as a marker of the end of the Hellenistic Age.

Women like Hildegard of Bingen, who was nothing short of brilliant in a crapload of different fields.

Women like Caroline Herschel, a great astronomer and one of the first paid female scientists in England.

If nothing else, I can only recommend checking out Wikipedia’s handy List of pre-21st Century Women Scientists.  If its size alone doesn’t surprise you, given how much we focus on the great men of science and technology, just check out what some of these people have managed to achieve despite the distinct disadvantage of being born female.

Quote for truth

I want this excerpt from Amanda Marcotte’s post on some particularly predictable evolutionary psychology “research” printed on the front page of every science textbook on the planet:

You know, I won’t even disagree that men who have more wealth and show it off more probably have more sexual partners.  You could prove that over and over and over again.  You can do it in cross-cultural studies.  But you haven’t done a damn thing to prove that it’s instinctual instead of socially induced behavior, no matter how many times you do it, or how many cultures you bring in.  Because no matter what you do, you’re just comparing apples to apples, or in this case, patriarchies to patriarchies.  Unless you can include non-existent cultures that have complete liberation for women and complete economic equality, all you’re proving is that in cultures where one sex is at an economic disadvantage to the other, the sex with the economic advantage can leverage it on the dating market. That’s it.  You’ve proven that women don’t make as much money on average as men, which any feminist or government statistician could have told you.

Fuck yes.