Archive for May 14th, 2009

Toward the whole Ender-Neo-masculinity thing

May 14, 2009

My super-geeky cousin Roya is threatening to flip her shit has probably flipped her shit twice and is threatening to flip it a third time if I don’t acknowledge her attempt to claim the 10-point Ender/Neo Prize.

One week ago TODAY I threw down the digitized guantlet, offering 10 points to anyone who could explain why Ender and Neo both represent “kwisatz haderach-like fusion[s] of masculine and feminine.”

Here’s Roya’s entry:

Well, they are both isolated, messianic figures who fight an enemy through a computer-generated program. Their very names describe the actions that allow them to pass from one part of their life to the next, so in that sense they are transformative figures that represent our attempt to find freedom from the tyranny that is in all of our lives. Do I earn the 10 points, or have I missed the point?

The prize remains unclaimed. Roya: We were looking for a psychoanalytic explanation, not an existentialist one. I’m very pleased at the attempt, however. 10 points to you for taking my bait. Let it never be said I don’t reward a loyal Fistling.

I’m raising the prize to 15 points. The question will now be stated as follows:

  • In what way can we adapt Evelyn Fox Keller’s gender-oriented take on object relations theory to explain the drive toward a new masculine ideal, as modeled in Ender’s Game, The Matrix and Frank Herbert’s Dune?

Hint?: There may or may not be a spoon that takes a gendered pronoun in Spanish.

Now, I may or may not have drank so much coffee this morning that I am making the kitchen table shake, so I may or may not go take a walk.


Feminist critique of Slate’s Double X

May 14, 2009

American Prospect’s Ann Friedman has an interesting critique of Slate’s Double X, a new “women-centric” web site launched this week.

The proliferation of woman-centric sites raises the sorts of questions that keep a feminist editor up at night. If Slate saw a demand for more content about women, why didn’t it start publishing more articles for and by women on its main site? The decision to devote micro-sites to groups that aren’t white men — The Root for black readers, Double X for women readers — implies that Slate recognizes the need for more coverage that caters to women and people of color. But it doesn’t want that coverage mucking up its main product.

I’ll be reading Double X out of professional curiosity if nothing else, but Friedman says that’s not the point.

Thanks to the feminist movement and evolving notions of gender, Double X may indeed get its fair share of male readers. (Jezebel boasts a nearly 50 percent male readership.) Even if men are interested and clicking, the problem with branding certain types of articles “for women” is that it still advances a false gender divide. We can all agree that men parent, too. Men andwomen care about fashion and follow Hollywood gossip. Yet when these articles are primarily housed under a logo that refers to female chromosomes, it perpetuates the false idea that women are interested in Forever 21 and Facebook but not torture hearings or health-care reform.

Here are a few of the Double X pieces I’ve looked at:

I’m sure for anyone versed in feminist history Friedman’s critique is an obvious one, which means there’s an obvious rebuttal, and a counter-rebuttal, and so on. Anyone care to enlighten me what a 3.5 Wave feminist would have to say about all this?


Update: Double X responds.

How sociology perpetuates the vaccine-autism rift

May 14, 2009

In my anti-Jenny McCarthy screed, I pounced on her harsh language as evidence of how misguided she was. In comments, James said he was put off by the way Slate and my own post framed the issue.

Now Matt Nisbet reminds me why an isolated group — such as the pro-vaccine movement, or the anti-vaccine movement — will move toward extreme rhetoric:

Analyzing data from a national panel survey conducted between 2002 and 2005, graduate student Andrew Binder and his collaborators find that after controlling for demographics and news use, like-minded discussion pushed respondents’ position on stem cell research to the extreme ends of the distribution, either towards strong support or strong opposition.

Remember the insanity heard at some of the McCain-Palin rallies? Same kind of deal.

To explain how conflicts can escalate even from mild rhetoric, look to Sci Am Mind, where we learn that in a behavioral economics context (games played for money), “we retaliate against selfishness more than we reward generosity—even when the slights are only illusory.”

One group of dictators started with $100 and gave a portion to the second player; the other group of dictators started with no money but took part of $100 from their partner. Later, when participants rated the dictators’ generosity, they judged the taking group inordinately more harshly than the giving group. […] Furthermore, takers do not realize how greedy they appear to those on the receiving end.

These skewed judgments led to increasing selfishness with each interaction: when participants switched roles, the new dictators responded to seemingly greedy splits with less generosity themselves, the pattern continuing with each subsequent role reversal.

I imagine the same applies to rhetorical selfishness and generosity, where the currency being thrown around is self-respect.

All the more reason to bring everyone to the same table, as James noted in pointing out the work of one Roger Bernier, CDC scientist. 

Roger Bernier, 61, an epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), witnessed first hand the deep lack of trust between some citizens and government at a 2001 congressional hearing on vaccinations and the controversy surrounding vaccines and autism. A citizen’s comment–“Your CDC research is dead on arrival”–served as a wake up call to Bernier. […] Bernier’s solution was to attempt to build trust by bringing together citizens and government officials with diverse views to work jointly on developing and analyzing public health policy choices. In 2003 Bernier worked with the Keystone Center in Keystone Colorado to convene a diverse group of citizens and professionals to design a new public engagement model called the Vaccine Policy Analysis CollaborativE (VPACE).

So where is the Keystone approach in the Jenny McCarthy meltdown? I might have to — gasp! — make a phone call or two. I know, I know. Calm down. It’s still a blog.