Hell If I Know, Facebook, or Care

Dear Facebook:

You’re behaving ridiculously. Stop it.

Stop asking me whether I know someone outside of Facebook when I accept a friend request. I am never going to answer that question. And damned well stop asking everyone else as well unless and until you make it absolutely obvious that you’re going to use that information to punish people if their new friends say, “No.” [Read more...]

Black and White

I was going to write something nice and reasonable answering a set of those stupid questions that keep coming up about those scary, scary anti-harassment policies, but then I ran into the very last “both sides” skeptic that I could handle right now. So I wrote this instead.

This is not about “divisiveness”. If the movement has to be torn in two to cut out the people who think women have no right to not be harassed, where is the value in sticking together?

And where the hell were you when D.J. was being “divisive” by suggesting the people working to get harassment policies in place were driving women away from TAM? Where was your skepticism when he pinned the decrease in the percentage of female attendees on week-old blog posts?

If you’re already angry at some people, fine, but try to figure out some priorities here.

Then I got this. [Read more...]

Why Should I Pay for Your Health Insurance?

A friend of mine from high school asked on Facebook a few days ago, “Why should I pay for your health insurance?” Because we have a certain amount of history together, I’m going to answer that question seriously instead of hiding or unfriending this person, which would be my normal inclination with anyone who has managed to reach our age without figuring this out.

So why should you pay for my health insurance? Lots of reasons.

Maybe because I pay for yours and your family’s, and I do it willingly. More than that, I insist on it. Who do you think has been churning the economic engine while you’ve had your career in the military? Who do you think has raised a stink when your benefits haven’t been funded, your institutions have been allowed to rot, your fellow service members’ coverages haven’t kept up with the dangers of the modern military age? I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t anyone leaning “kinda libertarian on this one.”

Pat yourself on the back all you want for the planning or whatever that got you into a position where you don’t think you need to worry about paying for your own health care. But remember, I was there. I know just how much planning didn’t go into those choices. You lucked into this one, and you’re going to have to count on luck to keep what you’ve been promised.

To your fellow “Why should I” libertarians, you’re a slogan at best. There’s nothing special about you or the military that will keep them from cutting your benefits so they can keep more of “their” taxes. The only thing putting you one major illness away from bankruptcy, just like the vast majority of the rest of us, is that there are people out there who answer, “Why should I,” with, “Because to do anything else would be indecent.”

If that isn’t enough for you, maybe you should pay for my health care because you already do. You pay more taxes because my insurance is untaxed. You pay more for products because my salary and benefits have to be enough to cover my costs. You pay the unemployed because I or others like me work enough hours to pay for everything, which keeps jobs from opening up. (It’s cheaper, after all, to pay overtime than to pay health benefits for another employee.) You pay for disability if the incentive structure of my private insurance is set up to prevent short-term problems over the life of my one-year contract instead of over my much longer lifetime.

Only right now, you’re paying way too much for my health care. You’re paying for the most inefficient health care and insurance industry in the world. Free market health care maximizes profit, not efficiency.

Or maybe you should pay because you want to protect your own health. Can you come up with a better breeding ground for epidemics than crowded emergency rooms full of infants, seniors, people with open wounds, and the immune-compromised? Can you come up with a better way to push people to those emergency rooms with serious illness than to make them unable to afford a trip to their doctor early in their disease? And how long were those people wandering around, ill and contagious but unable to afford care, before they were forced to seek treatment?

Or maybe you should pay because you think the U.S. should be a land of innovation and enterprise again. Because you understand that large companies are mostly buying small companies these days in order to add products and services, not innovating on their own, having slashed their research and development budgets and staffs over the last couple of decades. (If you don’t know that, I’m sure you have enough friends in R&D to find out what’s happened to their departments.) Small companies are currently driving innovation, if they haven’t throughout our history, but small companies pay more for health insurance and have the smallest of margins. People smart enough to change the world are smart enough to know what they risk by starting a company to pursue their ideas.

Or maybe, just maybe, you should understand that caring for one another, creating a better world for all, is what humans do. You should know that the point of this incredibly long adolescence of ours is socialization, becoming fit to take our places among the larger complex group, understanding both the advantages and responsbilities that this gives us. You should understand that claiming only the advantages while sniffing at the responsibilities is claiming the perpetual status of adolescent, which is why the grown-ups around you look so disappointed or angry when you say these things.

In other words, for as far as you’ve come and as much as you’ve accomplished, maybe it’s time to finish growing up.

With Friends Like These

Times Higher Education has just posted a rather amusing defense of evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa. If you managed to miss the poorly analyzed Psychology Today blog post he wrote that put him in a defensive position, I recommend you catch up here before reading the letter.

All set now? Good.

We believe the recent criticisms of Satoshi Kanazawa’s work cannot be justified (“Damage limitation: evolutionary psychologists turn on controversial peer”, 2 June). Contrary to the assertion that Kanazawa does poor work, he has published 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals in the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, biology and medicine. These are listed on his London School of Economics web page and many of them have been published in top high-impact journals.

I’ll let someone from Retraction Watch weigh in on how well peer review guarantees that poor work is never published.

Kanazawa’s publications are listed here. I note that whatever “top high-impact journals” Kanazawa has published in, he’s also published in Intelligence, which still (unironically) prints papers treating IQ testing as a valid measure for cross-cultural intelligence comparisons. Someone for whom impact factor is a big deal will have to do the research on whether the letter writers are correct, but I would love to see the results.

Why? Because there are a number of fairly staid topics and treatments among Kanazawa’s publications. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d seen that kind of work used to put someone’s name in the “right” places while the iffy political pieces went elsewhere. In fact, Pharyngula had a post up yesterday documenting that kind of behavior in a geologist. If anyone matches articles to impact factor, please let me know.

The critics assert that many of these papers are “bad science” and have been published only as a result of a faulty peer-review process. This cannot be accepted. The editors of journals send the papers submitted to them to reviewers with expertise in the fields in question and publish only those that are deemed to be sound. Thus, all of Kanazawa’s papers have been judged as sound by competent reviewers. Others may disagree, and in the case of innovative papers of the kind Kanazawa writes, frequently do. Time eventually tells whether the authors or their detractors are right.

This is just silly. Bad science gets through peer review, even when one’s peers don’t have the same political bent you do. On the day this letter appeared, Times Higher Education also ran an article about a mathematics journal withdrawing a paper written by a proponent of intelligent design that claimed to disprove the second law of thermodynamics. The editor apologized for even considering it, but the article had passed peer review.

The critics complain that when Kanazawa has a paper rejected by one journal, he sends it to another and publishes it there. Who among the academy’s members has not done that? Reviewers frequently misjudge a paper and editors accept their recommendations. The author then sends it elsewhere and it is accepted. If there were anything wrong with this practice, then, as the first online comment under “Damage limitation” puts it: “A few Nobel prizes will have to be returned.”

The detractors assert that Kanazawa rarely responds to brickbats. On the contrary, we believe that while he sometimes does not respond immediately, he frequently deals with criticisms in his subsequent work.

Actually, the objection was not that Kanazawa submitted papers after they were rejected. The section in question:

The peer review process is not perfect and appears to have failed when dealing with Kanazawa’s poor quality work. Those of us who have reviewed his papers have had experiences where we have rejected papers of his for certain journals on scientific grounds, only to see the papers appear virtually unaltered in print in other journals, despite the detailed critiques of the papers given to Kanazawa by the reviewers and editors of the journals that rejected his papers.

Thus, not only is Kanazawa’s work an example of poor science on theoretical and methodological grounds in our view, but we also believe it violates the central purpose of scientific discourse, because he rarely engages with his scientific critics. He rarely considers the criticisms of his work that have been published as well as those given to him during the peer review process: to our knowledge he has published counter-responses on only two occasions to critiques of his work (separate responses to two critiques of a paper published in 2001; and a response to one critique of a paper published in 2002). Since then, he has not published a full length response in the academic literature to any of the numerous critiques which have been published against his work, nor has he published corrections to the papers for which doubt has been cast on the conclusions.

There are legitimate discussions to be had on the role of peer-review feedback in shaping the final published product. However, having that discussion and recasting a complaint about Kanazawa’s resistance to incorporating feedback are two very different things. Also, given what the criticism of Kanazawa actually was (that he doesn’t interact with feedback prior to publication) it seems a little odd to note that he incorporates feedback into later work. If the criticism is important enough to be dealt with, wouldn’t he produce stronger papers by dealing with it up front?

But back to the letter. There are a few short paragraphs providing information about two times Kanazawa later responded to criticism, followed by this closing:

Finally, we believe that the proper place to make criticisms of academic papers is in the journals in which they were published, not in letters to the press where they cannot be adequately answered.

This–this!–is what makes this letter so entertaining. Even forgetting that Kanazawa brought himself and his work into the general public eye by writing a blog post about his “findings,” this is the richest vein of irony I’ve mined in some time. You see, while the idea that scientific ideas and their validity should be hashed out in journals is relatively common among scientists, it’s pretty rare among the signatories to this letter.

With the exception of Lynn, who cowrote the book with Vanhanen, that’s just one example per signatory for those who were easy to find in a very quick Google search. If there is one thing this group is not, that would be in favor of keeping science discussions contained in journals. The fact that they want everything contained and compartmentalized in this case makes a far stronger argument than anything in Kanazawa’s CV that, at least in this field or subfield, there may be some serious problems with peer review.

But it was terribly sweet of them to write a letter and make it obvious.

The Coupling Rant

I love my fandom, and my fandom drives me insane.

By “my fandom,” I mean the people who interact with science fiction and fantasy in a critical capacity with an eye to getting things right. They want the science to not be silly (or at least not any sillier than it has to be for the purposes of the story). They want magic systems to make sense, granted the fact of magic in the first place. They want events to unfold in ways that flow from the world and the characters.

More importantly, what sets apart “my fandom” is that they want the people to be right. They want populations to reflect the diversity of a realistic world. They want characters to reflect the personalities and experiences of the people who read science fiction and fantasy–and those who would read if they could find themselves in the stories.

All that is an excellent thing. It does, however, come with its own set of problems and biases. The biggest problem I tend to find in a group that values getting things right is a tendency to confuse things they don’t like with things that are wrong, and by wrong I don’t just mean factually inaccurate.

(Note: One of these days I’ll stick my hand in the blender that is the tendency of my fandom to apply the simplistic label of “fail” to large-scale, multiple-issue, multiple-party disagreements. Today isn’t that day, mostly because the topic deserves careful, nuanced analysis and I’m grumpy.)

The most recent thing driving me insane has to do with Doctor Who. More specifically, it has to do with people’s reactions to Steven Moffat taking over showrunning from Russell T. Davies. Even more specifically, it has to do with the fact that the relationship between Amy and Rory doesn’t appeal to a lot of people.

Frankly, it doesn’t entirely appeal to me either. As pretty as Rory is, I really like being in a grown-up relationship. I don’t want to be that young and unsure of what I want and what I’m being offered. I don’t want to treat anyone the way Amy does or the way Rory does or even the way the Doctor does. Not. for. me.

On the other hand, you’re never going to hear me say, “Have you ever seen Coupling? The problem is that Steven Moffat can’t write a strong woman who isn’t a bitch.” I don’t remember who said it in that version, but the sentiment is fairly common.

Here’s the thing about Coupling. It was developed when Friends became a big international hit. The biggest difference, aside from the size of the apartments involved and the presence of a pub instead of a coffee shop, is that the characters in Friends were dealing with their various lives at the same time they were hooking up and breaking up with each other: jobs, families, old school friends, etc. and on. Any gender and sexual politics happened in the course of one grand soap opera. Mostly, they didn’t happen.

Coupling, as the name signifies, was about sex. It was also about gender roles in relationships. As in Friends, there were three men and three women, but here they came in paired types. Sally and Patrick were the shallow, looks-obsessed traditionalists who ran their relationships by the rules. When they dated each other, some of those rules meshed and some clashed. Jane and Jeff were bound by no rules. They were impulsive, and you never knew what would come out of their mouths.

Then there were Susan and Steve, the proxies for the audience. Each was horrified by how Sally and Patrick treated their partners. Each was a little envious of Jane and Jeff in their freedoms, but neither wanted to deal with the consequences Jane and Jeff faced. They were pretty well perfect for each other, but they still had to figure out how to make things work. They started with nudity, ended with birth, and ran a lot of odd places in the middle.

Coupling was hilarious because of this awkwardness, this tension between the old rules that mostly tell people they can’t do what they want with respect to sex and the new rules that require us to negotiate everything without any training in how it’s done. Every new freedom came with the embarrassing need to, ahem, you know, talk about it. Every new opportunity came with a need to have an opinion, even if everyone, all your life, has been telling you what the one right opinion is…and it isn’t yours.

Susan got cranky about this sometimes. Exasperated. Yep. So did Steve. One of the funniest speeches in the show involves him getting fed up enough to not care about the consequences of explaining the appeal of lesbian porn. It is every bit as bitchy as anything any of the women in the show say to each other in the entire run.

But Susan is the bitch and Moffat can’t write any better. Because someone doesn’t like what being strong without being perfect in the middle of these pressures looks like. Because her journey and Steve’s are uncomfortable to see, particularly if we’ve managed our own with just a little bit more grace. Or maybe because we haven’t. I don’t know.

I do know that wanting things to be right is a very good thing, but I’m never going to understand the kind of thinking that takes my opinions and preferences and decides that anything that doesn’t match them is wrong.

The Good Bad Girl

I’ve been watching the DC comics reboot commentary without much personal stake. It bothers me that the universe is losing Oracle in a redesign touted as promoting diversity, but at a slight remove. I’m not part of the audience for these comics. Watching a bunch of white guys of a certain age decide that they knew how to increase their appeal to everyone else was painful but predictable.

Then, while following a link from Bug Girl, I saw this.


The wonderful thing about Harley’s original design is that it’s inviting, welcoming even. If you saw her on the street, you wouldn’t expect her to suddenly draw out a gun and steal all your money. The general public would be won over with her megawatt grin until her mallet knocked them unconscious. If you put the new Harley in a city, people would start asking if Marilyn Manson was shooting a new music video, pedestrians would avoid her all together and the police would be called. She’s more intimidating and easily more suspicious than the original.

Uh-uh. You don’t mess with my Harley Quinn.

Yes, my Harley Quinn, for two reasons: No comic book character stays static, and Harley’s been part of several reimaginings. At least one has had a very different Harley origin story, which includes a female Joker. A few show us an older, grown up Harley. I’m not talking about those.

More importantly, Harley is mine because she’s a beloved part of my id. You see, Harley is such a pretty little anti-feminist’s nightmare.

No, really. What is Harley before she meets the Joker? We know what kind of practice and injury and self-denial goes into being a gymnast. More work and self-denial puts her in a profession that is all about helping others, thanklessly. And all of it done coming out of a family where the men are allowed to fail but Harley is supposed to remain a “good girl.”

Then comes the Joker. Our little Harley falls in love, exactly as she’s been told good girls do. And there is hell to pay.

Harley adopts Mr. J’s ends as her own–and gets in his way helping him, when she isn’t showing him up. After all, she doesn’t have to be crazy to do what she does. It all makes sense in her world. She idolizes Mr. J, creating a fictionalized, idealized Joker in her own mind that he can never live up to. She maddeningly maintains her cheer when things are going wrong for him. She is so perfectly devoted to him that he has to kill her to get rid of her–or try, at any rate, since she insists on staying alive.

For all her mayhem, Harley remains the quintessential good girl, and I love that this only makes her all the more terrifying and formidable. Harley is the bit of me that looks out from under her eyelashes and says, “Yes, I can be exactly what you want me to be. I can follow those rules and present the front that you require. You’re going to hate it.”

That isn’t this Harley. I don’t know what this Harley is. Maybe she’ll give us something else we need in the place of that chaotic, amoral creature we’re told we should aspire to be. But if we lose our good girl in the process of remaking the bad, then we’ve lost too much.

Living in the Dark

It’s no secret that my childhood was no sunny idyll. If you’ve managed to miss it, you can catch up some here and here and here. It’s not much fun, though.

I’ve spent much of the last week swapping stories that aren’t going to make it onto the blog with a friend. It isn’t something I usually want to do, but this is someone whose experience was close enough to mine that it really is a way of telling each other we aren’t alone–now. We made it. We may be broken, but at least somebody out there understands why and how and how far we’ve come.

That makes the timing of this WSJ article bemoaning the darkness of modern young adult literature all the more infuriating.

Now, whether you care if adolescents spend their time immersed in ugliness probably depends on your philosophical outlook. Reading about homicide doesn’t turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won’t make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child’s happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

If you think it matters what is inside a young person’s mind, surely it is of consequence what he reads. This is an old dialectic—purity vs. despoliation, virtue vs. smut—but for families with teenagers, it is also everlastingly new. Adolescence is brief; it comes to each of us only once, so whether the debate has raged for eons doesn’t, on a personal level, really signify.

Victorian romantic nonsense. Childhood wasn’t a happy, sheltered period then for more than a handful of privileged kiddies, and it still isn’t. Despite what a view from the WSJ might want you to believe, kids deal with an amazing amount of crap: unhappy parents, parental substance abuse, poverty, neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, unreasonable and/or unreachable expectations, anxiety, depression, bullying. And that’s just counting the kids who aren’t somehow “weird.” Few of us makes it out unscathed, and none of us make it out completely ignorant.

Jackie Morse Kessler (one of the scary dark authors mentioned in the article) does a good job of translating adolescence into numbers in her response:

According to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults, “12% to 24% of young people have self-injured” and “about 6%-8% of adolescents and young adults report current, chronic self-injury.” According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, “about 1 in 10 young people will self-harm at one point.”

One in 10. So in a classroom of 30 teens, 3 of them either are or will self-injure.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million females and 1 million males suffer from anorexia or bulimia, and another 15 million suffer from binge eating disorder.

I was one of those 10 million females.

CyberMentors indicates that “as many as 70% of all young people have experienced some form of bullying” and “1 million kids are bullied every week.”

Let me repeat that: One million kids, every week, are bullied. This is not okay.

Nor is it okay to deny that these kids and these stories exist in order to maintain your sunshiny, simplistic, privileged view of what their childhood should have been like (particularly when all you really need to do is ask someone to help you find the cheery books of your own adolescence). That just makes you one more abuser, even if you wrap your denial in concern:

Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.

Well, now, you see, this is the sort of thing that actually gets studied. In fact, Dr. Madelyn Gould has made a career of studying the almost purely young adult phenomenon of suicide clusters. And what she has to say is somewhat different:

But the most significant and critical red flag that predicts adolescent suicide risk, according to Gould and other researchers, is the presence of an underlying mental health problem. In teens, that’s most commonly depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse.

“Even in the context of someone else’s suicide, without that underlying vulnerability, they’re not going to go on to attempt suicide or die by suicide,” Gould says.

Are there reasons to take care when creating a book like this? Of course there are, but that isn’t the argument being made in the WSJ. That argument is that things like this should remain hidden, that they shouldn’t intrude on a parent who wants a happy book for their little angel (who is, of course, absolutely not hiding anything scary from said parent).

They were hidden when I was younger. What I had then was “oh-em-gee, growing up is so weird and embarrassing” books by people like Judy Blume (which would have been wonderful had my main problem been embarrassment, and which I’m happy to know exist for those kids) and a handful of read-this-and-be-defined-by-the-issue books. I read adult books to find what I needed–books where broken people did things despite being broken. Luckily for me, my parents had a large and good library of this kind of book. Most kids I knew in situations like mine had to go without.

Now, though, many of those books are classified as young adult. More books like this are being written for young adults and put places where they can find them easily. And, having had the good fortune to talk to a number of young adult authors and editors, I can assure that these people are taking extreme care with their material and their audiences. While it may not be the case in book reviewing, people who make books for young adults don’t get very far by not knowing their audience or by treating them with disrespect.

So instead of concern trolling and wishing for a return to a nonexistent better past, maybe the WSJ reviewer (whose name, I admit, I haven’t bothered to look up for this post) should read a few more of those books. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll help her develop a better understanding of the needs of those kids. And who knows, maybe even a touch of empathy.

Juniper Rants

Juniper Shoemaker is a very busy woman. She’s working on her biomedical PhD while filling in the gaps that an B.A. in English will leave in one’s science education. Plus she’s got her own set of personal challenges she’s meeting at the same time. I admire that woman beyond words.

And oh, the words. She doesn’t have a lot of time to blog, but when she does, or even when she leaves a comment somewhere, she is always worth reading. Her latest blog post is no exception.

Juniper is tired. Yes, I know. She’s a grad student, but even here, she’s remarkable. You see, it isn’t so much the lab hours or the academic load that’s leaving her exhausted. Juniper’s tired because she’s continually dealing with people who can’t or won’t think outside their own circumstances, even when their own experience gives them the tools to do just that.

I’m tired of white feminists who don’t give a damn about bigotry against black people even as they’re castigating “the black community”, which doesn’t fucking exist, for not giving a damn about bigotry against gays and lesbians. No, wait. It’s more specific than that. I’m tired of white feminists who refuse to condemn bigotry against black people with the same compassion and attentiveness with which they condemn bigotry, namely sexism, against white women. In order to get taken seriously, I must confine myself to discussions of explicit statements of bigotry against black people, but you don’t have to do the same when it comes to bigotry against white women? You get to talk about “context”, “tone” and “implication”, but I don’t? You’re capable of developing a nuanced understanding of manifestations of sexism against white women, but you still think that my anger and hurt and frustration are only legitimate if they’re in response to cartoonishly overt manifestations of racism against blacks?

And this:

I’m tired of the idea that you have to be indifferent to an issue in order to skeptically evaluate it. By the way, why does this rule never seem to apply to skeptics who crow fervently about their opposition to “political correctness”– whatever the hell that is– and who eagerly accept every sensationalist claim ever made by someone styling himself as an evolutionary psychologist? Why does this rule only seem to apply to “liberal” skeptics, skeptics who are angry about sexism against women and skeptics who are angry about racism against brown people? Anyway, this idea is poppycock. It is entirely possible to fairly and skeptically evaluate an argument while simultaneously harboring intense feelings about the issue in question. There is even a neurological, not a sociological, hypothesis that the brain’s ability to generate emotions is inextricable from its ability to logically evaluate the world. Moreover, you are fucking insulting me by asking me to be indifferent towards questions such as “Are blacks really dumber than whites?” By ignoring my efforts to treat all questions as worthy of investigation and support intellectual and academic freedom in favor of condemning me for so much as one quiver of my mouth, you are being hypocritical, you are being irrational, you are being breathtakingly cruel, and you are insulting me to the very bone.

This. Because the idea that those in the majority don’t have any stake in these questions is ridiculous. Because thinking so is a marker of an idea that hasn’t been even superficially examined, much less had real critical analysis turned on it. Because the people who talk like this ignore the analysis presented to them in favor of whining that their territory is being invaded and their freedoms threatened. Because the position that the burden of proof lies with the social minority to show that cultural context is behind the poor treatment they receive is just an appeal to tradition, and one generally made from an extremely limited viewpoint.

Because no one should feel “surrounded by an abject lack of introspection,” invisible, worthless, alone, particularly not Juniper.

Shut Up Already

I’m a fairly quiet person. I don’t talk a lot.

It isn’t because my brain is empty. It certainly isn’t because sitting back and listening gets you an audience in return. Like any woman, I get ignored and talked over all the time. In fact, I have a three-strikes rule. Interrupt or talk over me three times, and you don’t get to hear what I have to say.

And when I say, “Your loss,” I mean it. That’s because I don’t bother to talk, or write, unless I have something to add. It may not be original. It may not even be right. But it had better supply something that’s missing in the current conversation, or I won’t bother.

You don’t see anything on this blog about the revolution in Egypt. Why? The only thing I had to add was the observation that “Second Amendment remedies” yahoos could learn a thing or two about what was actually required for a revolution. That fit in a Tweet, and it was all I really had to say.

Until now. Because today it was announced that a U.S. reporter was sexually assaulted covering the revolution. And everybody appears to have felt a need to say something about it, even though the vast majority of people have…not just nothing intelligent to say about rape, but a lot of actively stupid, hurtful shit to spew. It’s bad enough that it took a very tiny number of hours for Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon to have enough material to write “What not to say about Lara Logan“. Some examples:

Perhaps Wilson was going for some postmodern commentary on the media’s obsession with attractive reporters. She did cite in her post how Mofo Politics commented, when Logan was detained in Egypt earlier this month, that “I would totally rape her,” and she noted the New York Post’s chronicling of Logan’s robust sex life. That’s the kindest explanation for a hideously twisted bit of commentary on an assault victim, one that repulsively mingles the woman’s attractiveness and sexual history with a violent crime, and ends with the brutally off-key observation that “nobody’s invincible.”

Wilson wasn’t the only person out there to be wildly tone-deaf in response, either. When the news broke, Nir Rosen, a fellow at the New York University Center for Law and Security, promptly whined to Twitter, “It’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she’ll get,” adding, “She’s so bad that I ran out of sympathy for her.” He soon backpedaled, deleting the posts and tweeting, “I apologize and take it back. joking with friends got out of line when i didnt want to back down. forgot twitter is not exactly private.” Apparently he still hasn’t remembered that sexual assault isn’t great joking around material.

What in any of that needed to be said? What in all the crap at Reddit on the topic (At least it wasn’t penetrative rape. She could have dressed differently. The men there are just like that. Hey, look, fap material.) would ever need to be said?

Yeah, whee, I get it. This is the internet. Barriers to communication have never been lower. Everybody can produce content.

So what?

You don’t need to have an opinion about everything. You don’t need to show off your ignorance. You don’t need to flaunt your antisocial tendencies. You don’t need to put your id and your words on display where other people have to see them. You don’t need to make this kind of stupid mess.

Yay for the option to get out there and get heard, but there’s a reason it doesn’t come with any requirements for frequency or word count. The option to sit down and shut up is every bit as important.

Do us both a favor and exercise that sometimes, will you? I do.

The Physics Male: A High School Ethnography

This is my first piece of writing that garnered a real response. The first draft of this, written when I was a junior in high school, was passed around, ripped apart, crumpled up, thrown in the trash, retrieved, flattened out, and taped to the chalkboard. I’m posting it here because a number of high school friends have asked whether it still exists.

In order to understand this, you need to know three things: (1) the west wing of my high school housed the arts and sports, (2) my physics club ran the concessions for the high school as a fund raiser, and (3) you don’t mess with angry, articulate high school girls. A number of us contributed to this, although the final writing should be mostly my own.

And yes, the guys all read it. Thoroughly.

The Physics Male

The physics male is a strange and hitherto unexplored species. As so little in known about his habits, habitat, and distinguishing characteristics, this has been written to enlighten on the subject of this occasionally interesting creature.

Characteristics
Physics males are most easily distinguished by their condescending attitude toward members of the opposite sex. This is displayed by patronizing behavior exhibited to the same. They are chauvinistic and seem to feel that females are neither smart enough nor strong enough to be of any use. For this lack of understanding, these physics males must be pitied.

They are also characterized by their low mentalities. This is not to say that they are unintelligent–not most of them. But, while few physics males are actually tenth graders, the predominant attitude is one of sophomoric glee.

It is easy to recognize a physics male on the basis of vocabulary alone. It consists mostly of long technical words, which when looked up, do not mean anything similar to what their context suggested, and sexual innuendo with little or no redeeming social value.

Although physics males vary greatly in plumage, fashion tends toward “conservative nerd” (with one or two exceptions). This nerd look covers much territory: anything from suit and tie to the more traditional “plain bad taste”.

Habitat
Physics males are generally to be found in the east wing of the building. As a matter of fact, aside from one semi-notable exception, most refuse even to be “caught dead” in the west wing. These specimens tend to congregate in an area called “the shop” between periods. Many remain far into their next class. (How this is explained to their other pedagogues has yet to be discovered.)

There are two trains of thought concerning this all-important “shop”. The first theory is that this area is a ritualistic “testing ground” for the young physics male. In this area, they exercise their ever-maturing attitude problems in seclusion until they have become full-fledged.

Still, others hold to the belief that this “shop” is actually nest. Here the still immature physics males find a sort of haven from the “tough world out there”. Most experts agree that it is a nesting response that draws them to this area. This nesting response is believed to be triggered by the realization that if such behavior as mentioned in the section on characteristics persists, these males will have a tough time finding someone with whom to build nests of their own.

Care and Feeding
There are only tow main points to be remembered when caring for a physics male. The first is to be sure not to upset his delicate ego. These are quite fragile and bruise easily. Such a bruising can cause the over-excitable physics male to go into strange convulsions (more widely known as temper tantrums). The second is to not overtax the physics male mind. This requires great care, as is most simple to do and can result in a bruising of the aforesaid ego.

Feeding is one of the rare things at which a physics male is quite adept. Given a few quarters and a rather simple pop/candy machine, the average physics male can procure a “highly nutritious” meal. This will consist mainly of the fifth food group–junk, represented most often by Choco Mints, and either Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper.

Play Habits
According to experts on the subject, much of the play in which physics males take part is actually behavior necessary to their well-being. This theory is validated by the regularity with which the physics males repeat so many seemingly purposeless activities. Included in these are three main “sports”.

The first of these appears to be the favorite. It involves making lewd remarks to or about any female within sight. The goal of this seems to be to surpass one’s fellows in reaching new heights of rudeness.

The second ply is not far behind the first in popularity. It is the ritualistic “money counting” which is discussed in more depth further on.

The third activity most closely resembles the play of normal human children. This is the constant tinkering with so-called “toys”. These are, in reality, sometimes complicated and occasionally expensive physics equipment. The theory concerning this particular aspect of physics male play is that this tinkering is an attempt to replace some vital but missing part of the physics male’s childhood.

Work Habits
I have searched diligently for any information on this topic. Aside from much talk on the part of the physics males, none has been found. As far as can be determined, physics males do not work in the presence of others. Although it may be that their religion imposes such strict secrecy, it is highly unlikely. Therefore, it seems safe to assume that physics males do not work.

Mating Habits
Here, too, there is little available data. Although the subject is one the physics males themselves discuss at great length (see below), there appears to be little or no practical application. As this situation is so comparable to that of physics male work habits, it is surely not necessary to point out the rather obvious conclusion.

(Physics males live in fervent hope of sharing a physics female–or, for that matter, a chemistry female, choir female, phy. ed. female, etc. However, they take either no, ineffective, or inappropriate action. To ease their frustration at this pursuit, they often resort to creating fantastic stories regarding their amorous adventures. These stories, of course, fool no one but other physics males.)

Common Fallacies
Physics males put a lot of stock in many untruths. Most of these concern females and/or sex. One of the most widespread is the belief that money equals power equals sex appeal. For example, they believe that the one most closely related to the money has the most power. This is shown by the attempts of those with no legitimate connection to the money-counting ritual to “suck up” to the head physics male. One notable example has been quite “successful” (by his own standards) with this method. He feels himself the second in command. One would merely have to look at this person to know that in this case, power is not equal to sex appeal.

Another common fallacy among physics males concerns the way they view themselves. Some feel that they are God, while others, more humble, feel instead that they are merely His gift to the Earth or more specifically, all the females on it.

Perhaps the most common fallacies held by these specimens are reflected in their attitudes toward women. Most feel that women were put on this early only to serve them, that they are inherently less smart, and that they truly wish to be pampered and insulted by turns. T
his is one of the few groups (as a group) that still clings to these beliefs. Whether this is because they feel to threatened to acknowledge the presence of an equal–potentially greater–life form, or because they are too busy tinkering to notice the same, or both is a subject which requires further study.

(Any conclusions to be drawn from this study are left to the individual reader.)