Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Cheers and Jeers

We'll start with the jeers - a pregnant woman was fired from a plastic surgery office "...after being told to suck in her belly so she wouldn't scare away patients." The plaintiff, Erin Griggle, "was told to keep 'sucking her belly in' by Dr. Brian Vasser she didn't scare away patients who came to the office to look better." Yes, folks, according to this doctor, all you have to do to hide a pregnancy from prying eyes is inhale deeply. Apparently we humans are still so uncomfortable with our own biology that after a mere 200,000 years, we are still absolutely terrified by the sight of a pregnant woman. Terrified. And here I though that being pregnant had become trendy. Via Feministing.

Jeers to Italy for ordering stiletto heels as a mandatory part of the uniform for its female police officers. Via Jezebel.

Cheers to the US Senate for finding a way to "extend federal hate-crime protection to people victimized because of their sexuality," but jeers to Bush for making them have to sneak such reasonable legislation in with an unrelated military bill.

Finally, can you do a cheers and jeers post without paying homage to Stephen Colbert's Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger? I can't. And this one is on a SI hot debate topic - breast feeding. So, without further ado - I give you Wag of the Finger - Breasts.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Can super-bras detect cancer?

Is this a cruel, cruel hoax? Because, yes, I would like to have a magic bra that could help me monitor my health. According to the Hong Kong Productivity Council, this super bra does, in fact, exist. The claim is that a group of British scientists from the University of Bolton have invented "...a new smart bra that can detect breast cancer tumours (sic) at an early stage." Really? If the HKPC is to be believed, "the smart bra uses a microwave antennae device which is built into the bra structure. While wearing it, data about the breast is being collected by the embedded microchips which then produce a computer-generated image of the breast."

Ummm... microwaved breast images?

Does it come in black?

UPDATE: ABC News, at least, is taking this research seriously. According to this article, "...
the device incorporates a series of microwave antennae to detect temperature changes in the breast that point to early stage breast cancer." There is a caveat, however. As breast surgeon Anne Rosenberg explains:
Thermography has been around for 20 years, but has not been sensitive or specific enough to replace traditional imaging, such as mammography... This technique of using the microwave antennae to pick up and record temperature changes in the breast, with an alarm if the threshold is exceeded, would need to be validated in a clinical trial to determine whether it is sensitive or specific with regard to identifying cancers … since not all of these temperature changes will be due to a cancer.
Other experts express concerns that such a bra would increase stress in women when the bra sounded false alarms. At the same time, the device would fuel a false sense of security if the alarm did not sound, "since most cancers are less than one centimeter" in diameter and would be difficult to detect via temperature changes caused by increased blood flow. As this research is quite well funded, perhaps the "smart bra" will get smart enough within our lifetimes to be of some use. Yet, in the meantime, don't wait for a quick fix - we all need to be doing our self-exams, visiting our doctors, and living healthy life styles to reduce our risks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday Innocent Reader IV

Alicia Rebensdorf of AlterNet dares to ask the question - can fembots be feminists?
China bans all sexy ads - oh, and also "'Vulgar' adverts for things like breast enhancements and female underwear..." Apparently, men's underpants aren't vulgar. Or perhaps the underpants themselves are male or female?
Our Episcopal Churches have caved to international homophobia and agreed to no longer appoint openly gay bishops or bless same-sex couples.
At fashion week in Milan, billboards featuring photographs of a naked anorexic woman are used to promote awareness of the disease and call for responsible behavior from the fashion industry in regards to representations of beauty - oh, and the billboard is also meant to advertise for clothing. Is this responsibility in advertising or an exploitive stunt? UPDATE: One of the billboards can be seen here.
World famous primatologist Jane Goodall speaks out about the destruction caused by crops grown for biofuels in sensitive environments.
Jake Young of Pure Pedantry considers the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of different sex education programs.
Italy considers whether it is best to fine the clients of prostitutes on the spot, if caught, or to "serve legal papers in clients' homes in order to shame them."
The New York Times says to consider your weight when you were 20 when determining how much you should weigh to maintain your health. Now if I could be speed-walking to class every day instead of commuting to work... oh, and living off caffeine and pizza.
Europeans try to fend-off evolution denialists - and here I thought the States had the copyright on cooks and cranks. Watch out, European ladies, if your legislators are anything like ours they'll be trying to deny your right to birth control pills next.
Oh, and while I won't even pretend that it has anything to do with feminism, news that birds see the earth's magnetic field... visually... with their eyes... well, I'm fascinated.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

But Mom, reading is for girls!

Well, according to NPR, books are for girls, anyway. "Surveys consistently find that women read more books than men, especially fiction," asserts Eric Weiner, the article's author. Which surveys have uncovered this truth, exactly, he does not say - but he does go on to give us this disturbing statistic:
Americans—of either gender—are reading fewer books today than in the past. A poll released last month by The Associated Press and Ipsos, a market-research firm, found that the typical American read only four books last year, and one in four adults read no books at all... Among avid readers surveyed by the AP, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.
Although the above quotation asserts that women are out-reading men in almost all categories and certainly reading more in terms of sheer volume, the rest of the article focuses on speculations that perhaps we sensitive women enjoy fiction more than men do because we are more empathetic than men. I find the research of Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain and the scientist cited to support this empathy and fiction are for girls theory, to be a little suspect, however, as she restates the debunked myth that adult women talk more than men do.

However, I am left wondering - are we Americans really reading so little? Do men really read much less than we do? What books have you all been reading recently? Are there any recommendations for those of us who are in danger of not meeting the yearly average for an avid female reader?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Go vote...

...for your favorite female scientist! And say 'hello' to ScienceWoman, one of the newest members on the Science Blogs team, while you are at it. While you are there, you might want to browse around - ScienceWoman is interested in many of the same topics we are... like science and women (oh, and breastfeeding).

Thanks to MarkH for introducing us to this awesome new blog, and for his continued discussion of the OTA. Also, if you haven't signed Maus's petition yet, you can sign here.

UPDATE: If you are having trouble thinking of any scientists that have not already made the list, reading through the list of this year's "Genius Grant" recipients might introduce you to some contemporary women in science doing unusual and interesting work. I certainly enjoyed reading through it, although it disturbed me that the youngest fellow is only three years older than I am. I better get working!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Women leaders, where art thou?

Apparently, not only do we not want a nurturer as President, we also do not want a nurturer in the boardroom. Well, at least we are up on other countries as far as going beyond the token woman.

I Can Tackle, Too! Oh, Wait. I'm Not Allowed.

Aha! I knew there had to be feminists out there who wrote about our good FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) buddy Sepp Blatter after his horrific suggestion back in 2004. I just now happily stumbled across this post which fits nicely into my next tirade on the state of women sports.

I briefly alluded to this topic in my last comment on the Skirts Flying post. Charlottesville, VA has a fabulous soccer league for kids and adults. I respect the city for all they do to promote this sport. However, I am not without one wee complaint. I always found it quite infuriating that the women's matches were always assigned to the worst fields in town, were given only one field referee, and generally that referee was a little high school boy who clearly did not want to be out on that pitch.

So, that wee complaint leads into my aforementioned tirade. Can *ANY*one explain to me why there are different rules for women's sports versus men's? For instance, this applies to: softball vs. baseball (I mean how pitiful is that...we don't even get the same name), lacrosse, hockey, tennis, gymnastics. At least I no longer have to include 6-on-6 basketball anymore, although I would like to point out that it was in existence in my home state of Oklahoma until 1995. Perhaps that experience foreshadowed my future life as a feminist because I railed against that injustice even back then by refusing to play that game.

I go back to the post I referred to above. I am not saying that I have an issue with making a distinction between men's and women's sports as far as the competition aspect of it goes. I generally have no desire to play against a man. I am fully aware of my strength limitations in comparison. I'm 5'2-1/2". I am quite sure that I would be flattened if I played lacrosse against a guy. However, why on earth change the rules for women playing against women? I never got into lacrosse because checking is not allowed. If I had any skating skills whatsoever I still would not want to play ice hockey because checking is not allowed. I did, however, play rugby because I got to tackle people. Such fun! Seriously.

It causes me endless amounts of ire to see that women are still treated as delicate little flowers who should not be encouraged to participate in physical contact sports. In fact, not only should they not be encouraged, we should not even allow those type of rules to exist so women don't have access to physical contact sports at all. Now *there* is a bloody brilliant idea!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Apples ... no, wait... guns for teachers!

Look, I want to keep women and children safe. Yet, I'm pretty sure that putting more guns in schools is not the way to do it. One teacher, at least, disagrees. I'll be on the look-out for the memo announcing the next teacher in-service at the shooting range.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Milo-fication of the Military is Dangerous for Women

The Iraqi PM has asked that Blackwater USA and its hired soldiers leave the country immediately. Iraqi officials cite 20 civilian deaths at the hands of the company's employees during last Sunday's incident alone, no clear guidelines as to how or by whom the people who committed these acts of violence might be held accountable, and a history of Blackwater related incidents NOT being prosecuted - it seems like the Iraqi government has made a reasonable request in asking for Blackwater's departure. The US response - we'll investigate. Well, I'm sure that puts everyone's minds at ease.

The problem is that contractors are often used specifically because the are outside of the chain of command. Far from the US courts that would usually try the crimes of US citizens and corporations, granted immunity from the laws of the country in which they operate by CPA Order 17 with the words"Contractors shall be immune from Iraqi legal process with respect to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of a Contract or any sub-contract
thereto", and outside the military chain of command - mercenaries seem like a quick fix for a government that wants no questions asked and no messy moral dilemmas. Privatization of all aspects of occupation is such a good strategy, in fact, that we have 180,000 private contractors in Iraqi right now. Like Catch-22's Milo, these contractors are paid to do the cooking and the laundry - and some of the shooting too.

Ours should not be a country that hires private companies to do our fighting for us so that we can dispense with the moral high ground. War is terrible and violent and bring violence against the innocent. War fought by mercenaries that act outside the confines of conventions and oversight bring more violence against the innocent. Wars bring violence against women. Wars fought by men acting free from the threat of trial or accountability bring more. The United States should not have a class of unregulated soldiers.

So, what should we do now? The government must honor Iraqis' request that they remove Blackwater USA from their country. We have already been unreasonably slow in doing so - and according to State Department Tom Casey, Blackwater personnel will continue to work and carry guns in Iraq while a commission investigates what changes in policy should be made. A real investigation into this incident, and of past incidents, must be conducted. Clear oversight of and accountability must be instated for all US personnel in Iraq. If we are to continue to say that we are there to provide security for Iraqi citizens, we must do everything in our power to ensure them that they need not fear us. Refusing to let them try or citizens while providing no clear chain of command or accountability for our own forces seems a poor assurance of our good intentions.

Come One, Come All! Let's Take on Congress!

In keeping with an earlier post, "People keep bossing me around", I am now stepping up to boss around the avid Second Innocence crowd. I have been tweaking this project since I first read MarkH's blog post about The Office of Technology Assessment. If you missed it, here it is and a follow up post is here.

I think my project is now ready for its unveiling.

Please direct yourself to the Care2 petition website to sign the following petition.

Once you have signed it, please direct as many of your friends to sign the petition, and direct them to do the same. We can start a movement. If it looks like this will take off, I can increase the signature goal. At the moment, I have it set at 5,000.

Go to it!

Innocent Wednesday Reader III

Things to look at:
2 weird cases of police getting out of hand - a University of Florida student gets the stun gun for becoming disruptive during a question and answer session with Sen. Kerry - from the photo it looks like the police outnumbered the student 5 to 1. Also, remember that little old lady that got knocked down and then arrested for sassing a police officer when he wanted her to do more yard work? Well, she is now having to defend herself in court.
Crazies are once again mis-representing science in an attempt to defend their homophobia.
The Episcopal Church is facing a show-down about gay bishops.
Saudi women are fighting a ban on female drivers.
Maryland upholds a ban on gay marriage.
CNN partakes in some not-so-sly editorializing in a piece that evokes Mrs. Robinson and talks of older women "seducing" younger men; all while supposedly reporting statistics that show a rise in acceptance of relationships where the woman is older than the man.
The woman who forced into marriage to a cousin when she only 14 has to clarify that, while she did not use the word rape, she was still forced to have sex by her husband and her community. Sure sounds like rape to me.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breast pumping and The Office

Catching up on my T.V. time has left me with a question – is public breastfeeding a feminist issue? There is a deleted scene from the 3rd season of The Office that attempts to establish a new character as being likable when she snaps “no one wants to see your udder” at a woman using a breast pump in the office common space. A television character expressing revulsion or disdain at the sight of a woman using a breast pump is a rather common gag in recent comedies – both Fox’s The Loop and NBC’s Friends had similar “funny” quips as characters express disgust at the sight of women using breast pumps. Yet, while I can understand surprise or even curiosity at the sight of a breastfeeding mother or a woman using a breast pump, the fact that revulsion at such a basic act of motherhood seems to be our societal norm strikes me as, well, a bit misogynistic. On the other hand, our society has sexualized breasts so much that the sight of a mother nursing in public might be shocking to many people. While public breastfeeding is legal in the States, we do have laws defining the revealing one’s breasts in public as indecent exposure, so it is not surprising that people see public nursing as flirting uncomfortably with a cultural taboo. So, should we be campaigning to make nursing in public more acceptable? Should restaurants that ask mothers not to nurse in public be boycotted? Or is it acceptable to ask that women seek the privacy of a restroom before nursing or using a breast pump?
UPDATE: Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one who has noticed some sexism in our nation's attitudes towards breasts and breastfeeding. Yet, I had no idea that this was such a well publicized heated debate right now. Apparently, this debate is being held not only here at SI, but across the nation at nurse-ins being staged in protest of an Applebee's restaurant insisting that a woman either cover her nursing baby with a blanket or leave the establishment.

Friday, September 14, 2007

People keep bossing me around

I was looking forward to enjoying a few lazy hours of guilt-free snark when I came across this post from MarkH at Denialism Blog, that task master. According to Mark, “It isn't really enough to merely react constantly to anti-scientific behavior which seems to permeate the media, the interwebs, and policy discussions on Capitol Hill these days.” No? But I do so enjoy partaking in a bit of righteous indignation and media mocking. Apparently, though, there once existed
an office on the Hill, named the Office of Technology Assessment, which worked for the legislative branch and provided non-partisan scientific reports relevant to policy discussions. It was a critical office; one that through thorough and complete analysis of the scientific literature gave politicians common facts from which to decide policy debates.
Hummm… that does sound like a good idea. Naturally, the OTA, being wise and good, was axed by a Republican congress. Politicians now make important policy decisions without non-partisan expert opinions. Instead, any fool with a chart can stand up and talk about *science* - just look at the infamous Brownback presentation on frozen embryos (really, go watch – this is one of those classics that only gets funnier with multiple viewings - via Brad DeLong). While presentations like Brownback’s are highly entertaining, reliance on these types of emotional appeals from non-experts who lack any data make for bad policy decisions and we are all suffering the consequences. So, we really should do something to bring back the OTA. MarkH gives a link with senators' emails. I now feel like I should motivate my science buddies to write letters - or to at least sign one that I draft. I have the sinking feeling that, if I keep letting people manipulate my desire to enact positive social change, it might start interfering with my TV time.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ratings should not drive news coverage

I am worried that this is the direction our own media is taking as of late as news shows increasingly aim to entertain viewers rather than to accurately inform them. Competition for ratings can lead to bad reporting and sensationalism, or even fake reports. This is what happened last month in India, and it lead to the assault of a woman framed for a crime that she did not commit.

According to the BBC, a television show that purportedly conducts 'sting operations' and airs them faked a sting involving a teacher, making it appear that she had been forcing students into prostitution. After the story aired, parents assaulted the teacher before she was arrested. She spent 10 days in jail. As there is no evidence that she is guilty, the woman has now been released and the journalist who made the report has been arrested. It will be interesting to see what happens to him and to the channel that aired the report.

Hummm... perhaps, when it comes to certain institutions and services designed to serve and protect the public, unchecked free market forces don't best serve the public best interest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Innocent Wednesday Reader

The hipsters are coming to dinner tonight and I need to clean up the apartment a bit before going to work, so I'll be brief:
The journal Sex Rolls discusses the correlation between media portrayals of violence against women and attitudes towards women.
The Guardian reports on a new study that finds that the pill protects against cancer.
NPR tries to explain to people that immigrants really are trying to learn English.
Life Science explores the important questions like - do bras sufficiently support breasts?
It has been a mere 24 hours since someone last told me that violence against women is no longer a serious issue in our society (as though it could be a not-so-serious issue) and I come across this disturbing story in CNN. UPDATE: The woman held against her will and tortured was African American and an ex-girlfriend of one of her attackers. He had a history of domestic abuse, having been charged with domestic battery and assault after attacking her in July.
Oh, and wearing high heals makes your bones grow in crazy ways.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quick hit: Persistence of Myths

I know I'm a bit late with this story, but I feel like it is interesting in light of our recent conversation about how we should go about debating with people who's opinions we actually hope to sway...
Let's say you are confronted with a commonly believed myth and you have sound evidence that disproves the myth. You think you've won, don't you? All you have to do is counter the false belief with your factual evidence and the myth will dissipate, right?
Well, the bad news is that it isn't that easy. The Washington Post reports that people will misremember myth debunking facts, truly believing 30 minutes later that the evidence they just read was in support of the belief they already held. *Sigh*
Via denialism blog and Newscat.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Input, por favor

I suppose this is a bit unorthodox and I assure you that I will do my own research on this topic. However, I need immediate assistance from my liberal haven. I have been asked by an undisclosed source as to my opinion on NOW and whether or not they represent most American women...or are they even trying to do so. I'm at a loss on this one. So, while I am doing my own research, what are other's thoughts on the current status of NOW?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Real Reporting and Other Myths

Since I've been keeping the SI blog, I've been surprised at just how much space is taken up in the main-stream media by poorly researched articles that essentially just promote gender stereotypes. The Reuters Science page, for example, routinely runs articles like this week's Men Chase Beauty, Women Money when Picking a Mate - an article that once again cites evolutionary causes for perceived gender differences but only gives evidence gathered from a survey of 46 people from the same community: German speed-daters. Reuters does not link to the actual research, of course, making them less likely to be held accountable for the tripe they publish. If they were to link to the actual research, they would risk readers complaining that the Reuters science writers either misrepresented the findings, or that the study is a shabby as it looks from their summary and that they should not be reporting on pseudoscience as though it were legitimate. So, established publications, which are supposed to be better than blogs because they are held accountable when they print mistakes or fail to do their research, are instead taking the easy road - who will complain about misrepresented facts if the facts can't be checked? How can the legitimacy of a source be challenged if there are no sources? Convenient, no? Now all publications can fearlessly publish whatever they want - without fear of recourse.

That is why I am so impressed with the tactics used by Jessica over at Feministing when she came across an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled "Stripper poles: New Feminism?" The article cites "post feminists" who "argue that the pole is empowering," without interviewing or citing any such women. The author then the laments that:

There was a time when feminism was about women being smart and assertive, and building inner strength.

Somewhere along the line, though, it morphed into slut culture. Girls tell themselves they're in charge. But they're still just strutting it for the boys.

Great reporting, that. Terms left undefined, sweeping generalizations, no sources, and invented conclusions. So Jessica says we write the paper. Not only about the blatant misogyny, but about the crappy reporting too. That is what readers need to be doing - holding supposedly reputable publications accountable not just for their mistakes (although we should be doing that as well), but also for their laziness. I love editorials, don't get me wrong, but I miss real news and I'm ready to do something to get it back.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

So many candidates... little time. The primaries will be early for 2008, Iowa's is scheduled for January 14th as of right now - so who should we support? Planned Parenthood is tracking nominee's public comments about women's reproductive rights, but so far I remain undecided. Anyone have a good case for one candidate over another? I'm a little starved for informed political debate right now - I currently travel in circles where comments like "Hillary looks like a 1950's housewife" and "Obama is cute, so people will vote for him" pass as informed political commentary - and I'm spending most of my time with scientists and doctors.

There's no place like home, there's no place like home...

Crap. I'm still in Georgia.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Laziness is Sam Bee's Fault

So, I meant to write about women, sexism, and humor. I was going to posit that we don't give young girls much positive attention for being funny, since humor is often seen as insolence. I was also intending to remark that many men seem to be intimidated by funny women. Fortunately, though, Emily Wilson of Alternet and Paul Farhi of the Washington Post have already written articles that are almost as eloquent and insightful as I was planning mine would be. Farhi, for example, points out that most comedy clubs have a strict one-woman-per-night quota and quotes Eddie Brill of the David Letterman show as saying "...society doesn't like to see a woman in power, and standing on a stage [telling jokes] is a powerful position... a lot of men are afraid to laugh at a woman. It sometimes can turn insecure men into even more insecure people."

So, since those two have managed the insight part to my satisfaction, it frees me up to watch Samantha Bee segments of the Daily Show and laugh and laugh. I will try to embed one of my favorites here, so that you can laugh too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Separate and Equal Education for Girls?

Or perhaps just separate and more well-mannered? This article in the AJC about the resurgence of gender-specific classes left me feeling uneasy. I don't know anything about the "recent research into brain differences between genders" that allegedly reports that girls and boys learn more when they are grouped in single-sex classes (and the AJC doesn't link to this research, making its value immediately suspect), but the arguments in favor of single-sex education listed left me feeling like segregating students is a bad idea. According to the article, dividing the children makes it possible to let male students"... shout answers to questions, get up from their desks during class and, yes, stand on chairs when needed," - to act confident and uninhibited. A parent in with a child in an all-girls class, on the other hand, is pleased to report that his daughter is "...becoming a young lady," - presumably keeping quiet unless called on and not standing on chairs if she needs a boost.

To me, this sounds bad - shouldn't we be teaching our girls and boys alike to be confident, and also that there are certain times when it is best to curb their first impulses? To me, these segregated classes sound like a practice in institutionalizing gender stereotypes - negative ones on both sides.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I Think I'm Missing A Few Zeroes

So, who among is not vested in the notion of equal pay for women? Ah, that is as I thought. Now, as I am wont to do, I will take this topic into the sporting realm. Equal pay for women's sports. This is quite the hot topic after Wimbledon finally decide to get on board with the equal pay for women concept (daring as it is).

One aspect of the debate is the labor theory of value. Andy Murray, are you serious? Did you just go on record and say that "the guys have the potential to play a 5 1/2-hour match"? Granted, he has backtracked since then even if Tommy Hass has yet to see the light. However, I can only infer from the initial simplistic statement that Murray originally felt that women don't have the potential to play a 5 1/2 hour match. Could that be because the powers that be in the sporting community tend to alter the rules for the women's side of the sport to, I can only assume, pander to our more delicate side? This particular aspect of the debate can be seen all around the web. In fact, even the Christians have taken up the cause. Apparently Jesus weighed in on this topic and He was already against us way back then. That doesn't bode well, now does it?

The other aspect of the debate is that women deserve equal pay, period. It's all well and good for those who say that women sports shouldn't get equal pay unless they do the same amount of work...all well and good, but wrong. Fine, so the debate revolves around tennis where women are forced to play fewer sets. However, the same argument does not hold weight for golf (I'll put in here that yes, the fairways are shorter for women, but they play just as long as men), soccer (if women get paid to play soccer at all), or basketball. I find it striking that the equal pay debate focuses upon tennis so that the equal work ploy seems valid. It's when you look at all the aspects where women don't get paid the same for the same amount of work that those same voices grow remarkably silent.

Here is my last link...I enjoyed the side by side debate.