When is it ok to legalize murder?

One of the differences between the Obama/Biden campaign and the Romney/Ryan campaign came out during the VP debates. Biden said he was a faithful Catholic and believed his church’s teaching on abortion (in the true spirit of faith as “believing what you know ain’t so”), but he wasn’t willing to impose his religious beliefs on others (and rightly so). Ryan, on the other hand, was adamant that abortion was murder and should be immediately outlawed, except in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. And that’s a very interesting set of exceptions.

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Counterfeminism

One of the things that really puzzles me is the number of women who are opposed to feminism. And not just reluctant, either. I’m talking hackles-raised, eyes-blazing hostility against the very people who are fighting to win them equal rights. It boggles my mind.

But, as the saying goes, a boggled mind is of no use to anyone, so I want to understand this counter-intuitive phenomenon. One of the possibilities that occurs to me is that there are actually two different forms of feminism, each pursuing radically different goals. Call them feminism and counterfeminism. The feminist is working to establish women as autonomous and respected individuals who are equal in status, opportunity, and financial compensation, as compared to their male counterparts. The feminist assumption is that the ideal condition for women is equality. But that’s not necessarily an assumption shared by all, not even by all women.

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New study shows measurable bias against women in science

Inside Higher Ed. has an article about a new study that betrays the existence of a not-so-subtle bias against females in the sciences. The study involved sending hypothetical student resumes to scientists to evaluate as potential new hires. Qualifications were identical except that half the resumes listed a female name, and the other half listed a male name. The results were anything but equal.

For instance, the scientists were asked to rate the students’ competence on a 5-point scale. Male faculty rated the male student 4.01 and the female student 3.33. Female scientists rated the male student 4.10 and the female student 3.32. On salary, the gaps were also notable. The average salary suggested by male scientists for the male student was $30,520; for the female student, it was $27,111. Female scientists recommended, on average, a salary of $29,333 for the male student and $25,000 for the female student.

I wonder what Christina Hoff Sommers will say?

Feminism in outer space

I have a long-ish commute, and I drive an “affordable” car. Apparently, though,  it has a really good radio, because I think I was picking up a talk show from another planet. The guest and hosts were discussing feminism in the context of the guest’s new book about “God’s 10 Gifts for Women,” and the description of feminism was like nothing I’ve seen on this Earth. Did I mention it was a Christian radio station?

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Reducing men’s participation to the level of women’s interest

Thanks to some links by Jay, I’ve found some of the original writings of Christina Hoff Sommers, and while it’s interesting reading, it does tend to raise some questions in my mind. For example, just clicking around the AEI website, I came across one of her articles entitled “The Gender-Equity Hammer Comes Out.” She’s making the argument that it will be harmful to apply Title IX standards to academic science because, well, look what it’s done to sports.

Although Title IX has contributed to the progress of women’s athletics, it has done serious harm to men’s sports. Over the years, judges, federal officials, and college administrators have interpreted it to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60 percent female, then 60 percent of the athletes should be female–even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college. But many athletic directors have been unable to attract the same proportions of women as men. So, to avoid government harassment, loss of funding, and lawsuits, educational institutions have eliminated men’s teams–in effect, reducing men’s participation to the level of women’s interest. That kind of regulatory calibration–call it reductio ad feminem–would wreak havoc in fields that drive the economy such as math, physics and computer science.

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Family values?

Years ago I used to be very interested in Mormonism, though that was when I was an evangelical Christian and my main interest was in converting them. But I learned quite a lot about them and even attended a Mormon church for a while (incognito, as it were).

One thing I learned was that, according to Mormon theology, every human soul born on earth was originally procreated in heaven by God the Father having sex with one of His many wives, who then gave birth to a “spirit child,” which in turn had to be born into a physical body in order to progress into eventual godhood. Considering that the current birth rate is something like 200,000 per day, that’s a whole heaping helping of heavenly humping!

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Heroes that actually deserve the name

There are relatively few people in this world today who impress me enough for me to call them heroes. But they exist. Belatedly, imperfectly, incompletely, I would like to thank them for inspiring me and encouraging me to expect more and better things.

Here, in no particular order, are some of them. Please help me fill in the names I will inevitably overlook.

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Sexual panhandling

I haven’t actually been to any major atheist/skeptical/freethought conventions, but I’ve been to a few technical conferences, and I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to travel to new parts of the country and do a little sightseeing on the side. One thing I’ve found, though, is that sometimes when you step outside of the hotel or convention center, the panhandlers are waiting for you on the sidewalk, trying to bum some cash off of you. And then again, sometimes they aren’t. It depends on the venue.

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A modest baseline

I’ve been staying out of the current debate over sexism/feminism because frankly it’s a bigger issue than I have time to address. It’s a big deal, though, so here’s at least a couple cents worth: I’d like to propose a modest baseline for inter-gender interactions, and I’d like to aim it particularly at guys.

The baseline is this: before interacting with a casual female acquaintance, I want you to imagine someone you find sexually unattractive. I think, for example, a lot of you might not be attracted to, say, the comic book guy from the Simpsons. Whatever attention you wish to pay to your casual female acquaintance, imagine yourself receiving the same kind of attention from the comic book guy, with exactly the same feelings and motivations. Would it bug you? Would it be unwelcome? If so, assume that you do not have a right to behave that way towards your female acquaintance. You may eventually earn the right, but don’t just assume you have it, or that you can quickly earn it with the right “techniques,” any more than the comic book guy could with you.

That’s a modest and inadequate baseline, but I hope it might have some use as an exercise in promoting a bit of understanding and sympathy. And above all restraint.