FtB Mothers Day Anthology: Mothers and Mom.

Mothers Day has utterly confounded me as far back as I can remember. During my childhood years, spent unhappily suffocating in lily-white, middle-class, conservative suburbia, I was continually struck by the jarring disparities between mothers I met in public, at school, at friends’ homes and, especially, those that dominated TV screens and supermarket magazines in the 1970s and ’80s, and the woman I knew as “Mom.” For better and for worse, Mom shared next to nothing with mothers. The contrast was so striking in fact, it occurred to me on more than one occasion that I might be born from another species altogether.

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Conservatives still ruining everything: Turkey edition.

[CONTENT NOTE: graphic descriptions of violence against women including murder.]

[via The Guardian*/Beril Eski and agencies]

A rally to mark International Women’s day in Istanbul where protesters demanded government commitment to the European accord on violence against women. Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty ImagesA rally to mark International Women’s day in Istanbul where protesters demanded government commitment to the European accord on violence against women. Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty Images

__________

Protests as Turkey pulls out of treaty to protect women

 

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Erasure: Women in STEM and Your Liberal Media.

One of these things is not like the other:

Two news feed headlines. 1- New York Times: "Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to 2 Scientists for Work on Genome Editing" and 2- Washington Post: "Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to two women who developed CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing tool"The difference is equally apparent in the summary blurbs from NYT and WaPo:

From this morning’s New York Times email briefing:

Two scientists, one from France and one from the U.S., were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They discovered a tool that allows researchers to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with high precision.

From The Washington Post breaking news alert:

University of California at Berkeley biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French scientist, were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for their work developing CRISPR, which is contributing to new cancer therapies and helping to cure inherited diseases.

Listen up, motherfucking New York Times. Feminism does not mean erasing gender. Just like equality in the broader sense does not mean erasing human diversity. Erasure is not a neutral act in a world where women are systematically denied opportunities to advance their careers, particularly in STEM, and face institutional bias (and worse) as they try.

It would be different if people of all genders enjoyed full equality across the board. But until that happy day comes when women (and minorities!) in roles and professions historically and visibly dominated by (white! cis! able-bodied! het!) men are equally commonplace and visible, their representation in these contexts is vitally important for everyone to see.

And yes, for those keeping score at home, this is reason number 6,858,945 I hate The New York Times. But not to worry! I ain’t goin’ soft on ya! I still hate The Washington Post, too! Both of them get it right a lot of the time, which only makes this all the more infuriating because it proves they are perfectly capable of doing so. And getting it right sometimes hardly exonerates them for all the times they get it very, very wrong.

‘Twas Ever Thus: U.S. Women 100 Years Post-Suffrage.

Uh-oh! Must be a day that ends in Y! The New York Times is pissing me right off.*

Today’s email briefing starts with a splashy paean to the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. The 19th Amendment, which granted (some) women voting rights, was enacted on this date one hundred years ago.

The email piece naturally links to recent Times articles on women’s suffrage and related topics. As usual, their failure to connect the blazing red dots of our history – history they themselves reported – does a criminal disservice to readers. And as usual, what they don’t deliver is at least as damaging as the disinformation they do.

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Multicellularity, male privilege and also I need $10 million.

I watched the vid of my colleagues here at FtB, Matt Herron of Fierce Roller and PZ Myers of Tentacly Overlord infamy, discussing some very cool science-y stuff about the evolution of multicellularity. One of the most interesting takeaways for me is that it had long been thought that evolving multicellularity would be an exceedingly rare and difficult jump to make. But it has been discovered, only in the last five to ten years, that this is actually relatively easy and common:

Matt (@3:51): I think there’s been sort of a natural assumption that it has to be difficult. And maybe it is difficult to evolve a complex multicellular organism, with lots and lots of cell types and tissues and maybe even organs, because that hasn’t happened very many times. But Rick Grossberg has a paper where he argues basically what we’ve found, which is that at least the initial steps towards a multicellular lifestyle really aren’t that difficult. It’s happened lots of times that we know of, at least a couple of dozen times, and probably more because in a lot of cases these things don’t leave any fossil record. It is surprising, compared to what people thought five or ten years ago, that multicellularity evolves so easily, but now we’ve seen it in several of these experiments. And in a lot of cases it happens within just a few hundred generations.

OMG cool, right?

Then they touch on the intersection of philosophy and biology, and specifically the question of what exactly constitutes an individual organism, as opposed to, say, a colony of creatures that appear to function as one. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets my beanie spinning. I am reminded of my unfortunate encounter with a species known as Physalia physalis, a.k.a. the “floating terror,” a.k.a. the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war, which I would henceforth (and forevermore) refer to as a “sea squirrel.” Despite its similarity in appearance to the common jellyfish—an individual multicellular organism that will also sting the everloving shit out of you if given a chance—it turns out that the Sea Squirrel™ is actually something very different:

[T]he Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which, unlike jellyfish, is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. These polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like a so-called individual animal.

Mind: blown.

These weird little fuckers are carnivorous, wielding their wickedly venomous tentacles to paralyze prey (e.g. small fish), and to inflict upon barefoot beachwalkers excruciating pain even after they are long dead (the sea squirrels, not the beachwalkers).

Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting cephalopod angle here. Blanket octopuses are immune to sea squirrel venom, which is an amazing enough trick to evolve. But these cephalopods go waaaaaay beyond that: they rip the venomous tentacles right off of those critters (hopefully while mocking them mercilessly), and then they carry the tentacles around with them to wield as weapons for defensive (and possibly offensive) purposes. Now that is some serious next level shit, blanket octopuses! I mean, can you just picture that? Because I sure can!

Octopus Wielding Sea Squirrel™ Tentacles Against Douchefish.
©Iris Vander Pluym
8′ x 11′
(oil on canvas)
$10,000,000.00

But! I digress. As beanie-spinning as all of this clearly is (as evidenced by the foregoing blather), it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post.

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Why I despise religious leaders, conservative Democrats and The New York Times, Reason No. 918,287,499.

[CONTENT NOTE: abortion rights.]

If I had known it was a link to the Times, I never would have clicked on it. But in my defense, I was reading a decent if lightweight article about Rep. Maxine Waters [h/t Alyssa] elsewhere, when I happened upon this passage:

Waters’ forthright condemnation of right-wing media came as a relief—and a rallying point—for Democrats sick of mainstream articles urging them to abandon abortion advocacy, or talk less about trans rights, or stop speaking out against sexism and racism. Critics have argued that these moves are necessary to broaden the party’s appeal and win back white working-class voters who swung from Barack Obama to Trump, and are credited with winning the election.

What fuckery is this? I wondered. How and why would “mainstream articles” possibly justify such demonstrably counterproductive nonsense?

So I clicked on “abortion advocacy.” And down the NYT rabbit hole I went.

Fuck.

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And it’s not even my birthday!

[CONTENT NOTE: misogyny including slurs, racism, violence against logic, incoherence, banality, Nazis, sex toys.]

I had almost forgotten about this, what with all my squirrel monitoring duties and sofa painting and suchlike. But buried in my inbox was a gift from the WordPress gods in the form of two consecutive auto-moderated comments, written in response to a post I wrote back in July about the harms of benevolent sexism, and purporting to offer “an opposing viewpoint.”

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