Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Norm blog run by Norm Geras has a profile up of me here.

Stereotypes in the News

It seems that the media is focusing this week on dominant women in the news. First, I read that women are now the queens of their castles and men are just agreeing to whatever their spouse wants:

Men might throw their weight around at the office, but at home, women are the bosses.

A study, which was just released, finds that wives have more power than their husbands in making decisions and dominating discussions....

Wives were more demanding — asking for changes in the relationship or in their partner — and were more likely to get their way than the husbands. This held regardless of who had chosen the issue.

The women were not just talking more than their husbands.

"It wasn't just that the women were bringing up issues that weren't being responded to, but that the men were actually going along with what they said,” Vogel explained. “[Women] were communicating more powerful messages, and men were responding to those messages by agreeing or giving in.”

Then, a reader emailed me this article from today's Sydney Morning Herald on the desperate need for female leaders:

If ever there was a time in history that cried out for women's leadership, that time is now. Terrorism, random acts of violence, famine, poverty and corporate greed are all signs that our world is slowly decaying. The historian Arnold Toynbee once suggested that societies that see an early decline are those where the people who have the power no longer know how to use it effectively, yet they won't share it with those who might help.

And who is in power around the globe? With few exceptions, men. They are at the helm of the majority of businesses, financial institutions, governments and institutions of higher learning.

Is this to say women make better leaders than men? No, they make different leaders. From corporations to governing bodies, there are simply not enough women's voices at the table to help solve the world's most pressing problems.

Ironically, through a combination of nature and nurture, women have honed the quintessential skills necessary for leadership in this day and age. The traditional masculine style of "command and control" leadership is dead. When a boss says "jump" the response is no longer "how high?" The response is "why?"....

If you doubt women have what it takes, consider this. Any woman who ever had to get three different children to three different events on a Saturday, do the grocery shopping, pick up the laundry, visit an elderly parent, go back and pick up the children and prepare dinner for guests - all on the same day - knows how to be strategic and tactical. Women know how to influence without authority because they've spent their lives having to do so.

So, basically, what I hear the first article saying is that the stereotype that women nag and demand that spouses change is alive and well and husbands give in to keep the peace. This is interpreted in the article as "power."

In the second article, women are all fuzzy and nurturing and the only way they have "honed their experience" as leaders is to have had experience with children, shopping and cooking dinner. Women do not command any authority, so they have to influence without it--rather than learn how to command authority, the writer of this article seems to think that women don't need it--they can lead "from a core that focuses on values, not power. They build interdependent teams, praise rather than punish, and gain loyalty by focusing on the human being, not the human doing. This is what generation X and the Millennials want and this is precisely what women leaders give them."

If these articles were trying to make a case against female leadership, they could not have done a better job--the stereotypes of women as demanding nags who are described as "queens" at home without any authority in the public sphere are hardly a ringing endorsement for female leadership. Can you really lead simply by praising people and focusing on "values" rather than merit? It sounds like a recipe for disaster, kind of like some of our worse public schools systems. Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on women gaining authority, working to change the public perception of women in authority, and learning to use power in appropriate ways if it is necessary. Women are effective leaders, but it will be harder for a woman to get elected if the media portrays women in such a stereotypical light. It feeds people's worst fears of what a female leader would be like--the queen bee they know at home or the boss at work who leads like she is running a character education class rather than the boardroom or the country.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Different Dr. Helen

I was skimming through my new copy of Monitor on Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association and noticed that their division 48, The Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence was soliciting new members. I decided to take look at their website to see what kind of ideas they had and wasn't surprised to see that leftist idealism was not only being peddled to members but professors in universities around the country were also turning in samples of syllabi as examples of how to teach students of psychology and other disciplines.

Most notable was one syllabus by Dr. Helen Fox from the University of Michigan who is teaching a course on "Nonviolence in Action," a course that is described as "Fulfils the Advanced Writing in the Disciplines (AWD) Requirement." It is not clear that this is a required course, I assume there are others to choose from, however, after reading over the syllabus, it seems to me that students are being indoctrinated into a left-leaning mode of thought as well as being asked to support the professor's pet anti-war organizations. Here are the course goals:

Course Goals
• to understand some of the philosophies that motivate nonviolent action,
including tenets of five major religions
• to learn how nonviolent social movements have worked in countries around
the world
• to learn and practice some of the methods and strategies of nonviolent action
• to learn to respond to arguments that justify war and aggression
• to practice nonviolent action in the community, teach peace, and/or contribute
to a nonviolent social movement

Apparently, students are also being asked to become some type of "activist" in the professor's pet political organizations:

Community Action
In small groups, you will decide on nonviolent action projects you want to pursue in the community. This might involve a specific project with the UM student organization Anti-War Action, internships with the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace or other peace groups, peace education of children or teens in schools or religious institutions, training and practice in nonviolent dialogue or conflict resolution, or other appropriate ways of learning and practicing nonviolent action.

Here is the grading system:

Your grade or RC evaluation will be based on the quality and depth of your writing, your attendance and involvement in class, and your contributions to your community project.

So, if one decides to join a community project promoting peace by joining the local Ann Arbor pro-life group, does that count? What if a student doesn't believe that the ideals promoted by the professor are accurate and believes that sometimes military action is warranted, can they still take the class? If a student writes a paper supporting military action as opposed to non-action, is that acceptable? Should the American Psychological Assocation be supporting professors at public universities who are soliciting student volunteers for their pet political projects? Is this fair to students who are dependent on the professor for a grade?

A recent Zogby poll showed that a majority of Americans think political bias among college professors is a serious problem--and after taking a look at some of the syllabi promoted by the American Psychological Association's division 48, I can see why.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Touching at Work: The Good Old Girl Network

It seems there is a double standard in the workplace--if Katie Couric slaps her male staff for (horrors!) using a word she doesn't like, it's just cute but if the genders were reversed--watch out. Just touching a woman or even making a comment is often seen as sexual harassment that can get you placed in sensitivity training, on probation or fired, while massaging men at work doesn't raise an eyebrow--not even from the men who aren't looking for a free back rub. Craig at Buffalog blog posts on his experience:

There's a manager where I work, a woman, who demonstrates an unnatural need to give back massages to the men in the department (most of whom are younger than she). We work in an open-office and so the, um, attention, is quite public. Now, I assure you that, in this particular case, the attention is not welcome, but men being men, even in 21st century America, no one will go to H.R. about it. Imagine if the sexual tables were turned.

Yes, just imagine--the women would be up in arms. But when the tables are turned, it seems that the nurturing sex is as unsympathetic toward men in the workplace as men were toward women years ago. MSNBC has an article entitled, "Male Sexual Harassment is not a Joke" that describes the case of Thomas:

Thomas, who works in academia but didn’t want his full name used, found himself in an office made up of mainly women who would routinely share and copy each other emailed jokes and emails about men. A few, he adds, “made fun of men’s unique anatomy, if you know what I mean.” The behavior, he says, made him feel isolated. When he finally addressed the matter with the women in the office, “the women were stunned, generally with a ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ kind of attitude. And they kept doing it.”

I am not a big believer in charging co-workers and others with sexual harassment over trivial matters. Perhaps Katie Couric really didn't mean to slap the male writer and maybe the women in the example above with Thomas the academic didn't think that what they said was done in a malicious manner. But their conduct shows that they have no respect for their male colleagues and employees--surely, if the tables were turned, they would support a woman taking action against this type of behavior. Are the good old girls so sexist that they expect men to sit quietly and take whatever behavior they wish to dish out? If so, then equality in the workplace has nothing to do with equality between the sexes and everything to do with women seeing themselves as the new nobility.


Snapped in the New York Times

The show "Snapped," the Oxygen show about women who murder was in the New York Times the other day (thanks to the reader who sent the link):

Were you to spend a day at home in the exclusive company of your remote control, you might come to the conclusion that “Snapped” was the most consistently rerun show on television. A true-crime series set to begin its sixth season on the Oxygen network in the fall, “Snapped” appears every Sunday night and for hours and hours each weekday. Should you happen upon it on a random Wednesday morning, you might feasibly reorganize a closet, do some yoga in your living room, make a brisket and still never be forced to change the channel to find something new to watch.

“Snapped,” which made its debut three years ago, is about women who murder. It remains among Oxygen’s highest-rated shows, having had an instrumental role in recasting women’s television away from its celebrations of victimhood to its new fetish for female aberrance. (“Snapped” is rivaled in popularity on Oxygen only by “The Bad Girls Club,” a reality show whose title precludes the need for any explanation.)

I can vouch for the endless reruns of this show. I was an expert on for the first season and a half and get at least someone every week saying that they have seen me on one of the shows within the last week. I don't get the Oxygen channel on my cable network but apparently the show runs all day long. If you get the Oxygen network, you can check out the show times here.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Good grief--what have I started? And is that really Dr. Bliss in the photograph?

The New Forgotten Man

George Will had a review of The Forgotten Man in his column yesterday (Hat tip: Tomcal):

Republicans had long practiced limited interest-group politics on behalf of business with tariffs, gifts of land to railroads and other corporate welfare. Roosevelt, however, made interest-group politics systematic and routine. New Deal policies were calculated to create many constituencies -- labor, retirees, farmers, union members -- to be dependent on government.

Before the 1930s, the adjective "liberal" denoted policies of individualism and individual rights; since Roosevelt, it has primarily pertained to the politics of group interests. So writes Shlaes, a columnist for Bloomberg News, in " The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression." She says Roosevelt's wager was that, by furiously using legislation and regulations to multiply federally favored groups, and by rhetorically pitting those favored by government against the unfavored, he could create a permanent majority coalition.

In the process, says Shlaes, Roosevelt refined his definition of the "forgotten man." This man had been thought of as a general personality, compatible with the assumption that Americans were all in it together. "Now, by defining his forgotten man as the specific groups he would help, the president was in effect forgetting the rest -- creating a new forgotten man. The country was splitting into those who were Roosevelt's favorites and everyone else."

Not much has changed since the New Deal; special interest politics still rule and dependence on the government continues to increase. Today's forgotten man is now any group who is not politically correct enough to warrant any government goodies.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Vacation, Summer Reading and The Forgotten Man

Well, I got back from my beach vacation in Florida last night after driving for over 13 hours--including a stop through McDonough, Georgia where we found this unusual Chik-fil-A diner. I spent most of the time at the beach sitting under an umbrella with lots of sunscreen catching up on some reading material that I had put aside to take. I started out with some lighter reading with my very first issue of Garden & Gun that I ordered after hearing about the name and reading up on it in The New York Times. The magazine is very asthetically pleasing, with glossy photos and interesting articles such as "Hemingway's Cuba" and "Southern Swell" about women who surf. My only criticism is that there are too many advertisements for my taste but I suppose that is par for the course these days in any magazine.

The book that I spent most of my time reading is the one that I am holding in the picture below, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes, a journalist and economics reporter. If you have an interest in understanding more about the New Deal than what you hear about in the media, Shlaes provides a terrific reinterpretation of the Great Depression. "She shows how both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt failed to understand the prosperity of the 1920's and heaped massive burdens on the country that more than offset the benefit of the New Deal programs. The real question of the Depression, she argues, in not whether Roosevelt ended it with World War II but why the Depression lasted so long." Did government intervention play a part in making it last longer? Our current entitlement mentality and expectations that the government will provide is based, I think, in large part on the New Deal. The book gave me more perspective and understanding of how this change in mentality took place in our country and how important it is to be aware of the flaws of government intervention into every problem. I think our current desire to embrace universal healthcare is another mistake waiting to happen, but that is a whole other issue. This book is definitely more than just beach reading, it is a detailed and fascinating study of an important part of our nation's history.