Gender & Sexuality

Are You Pink- or Blue-Brained?

(Flickr/TZA)
Think that single-sex education is a sensible idea, since boys and girls learn so differently? Think again. In Slate recently, neuroscientist Lise Eliot , who researches child brain development, and social psychology professor Rebecca Bigler explained their recently published peer-reviewed article in Science , which examines an “overwhelming body of research on the topic.” They had three main findings: “Decades of research on academic outcomes from around the world has failed to demonstrate an advantage to single-sex schooling, in spite of popular belief to the contrary.” “Thousands of studies comparing brain and behavioral function between adult men and women have found small to insignificant differences, and even smaller differences between boys and girls.” “Single-sex schooling facilitates social stereotypes and prejudice in children.” If facts, not ideology, have any hope of carrying the day, this article should be essential reading in the Mars/Venus-at-school debates. Part of the...

Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice?

(Flickr/ClinicEscort)
Last week, I asked: So what if I hadn’t been born? In response, Rachael Larimore at Slate kindly took up my offer to discuss, as she puts it, “the lightest of topics”: abortion . You will not be surprised to learn that we differ on some core points. First, she believes that embryos are human beings. Here she writes: … this photo of a 10-week-old embryo clearly shows limbs and eyes and organs and a brain. It might look like an imagined Roswell-esque alien, but if it’s not human, I don’t know what is. Rachael, I disagree. I see an embryo, the size of a pinkie, that couldn’t survive even in the most intensive NICU. It doesn’t have a working brain, internal organs, or lungs that could function under any circumstances. It’s a mush of rapidly dividing cells with enormous potential to be a human, if nothing intervenes, like a miscarriage or a D&C. But to me, that uninhabited scrunch of cells is no more human than an acorn is an oak tree. And so I don’t agree that “it’s barbaric to kill 1...

Speaking of Cultures Unfriendly to Homos ...

.... Uganda is reintroducing the bill that would impose the death penalty for being gay. The Open Society Institute (OSI) hosted a photography exhibit last spring called "Being Gay in Uganda" that showed Tadej Žnidarčič's powerful portraits, in which each individual is shown from the back. I had walked into OSI in New York for another purpose entirely when I saw what looked like the backs of some very cute women. (There were men too, but, well, I didn't notice them at first.) When I walked over to look more closely, my heart dropped through the floor. The short interviews—in which these people told of essentially being hunted and hated in their daily lives—nearly made me cry. It's heartbreaking to think that, just by standing still or walking, these people are visible targets. And they're targets, specifically, of religiously incited hatred. In January 2010, The New York Times reported on how three American evangelicals spoke against gay people at a conference attended by thousands—...

No Homos Need Apply

Am I hopelessly cynical, or what? According to the online outlet Newser, a Georgia Baptist college, Shorter University (Motto: "Transforming Lives Through CHRIST"), has some specific expectations for its employees: The conservative Christian university is demanding that its 200 employees sign a "Personal Lifestyle Statement" rejecting homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex, the New York Daily News reports. Those who don't sign the pledge face losing their jobs. "I think that anybody that adheres to a lifestyle outside of what the biblical mandate is would not be allowed to continue here," the school's president says. Drinking alcohol in front of students or in public is equally verboten. Being active members of a local church is mandatory. I found this story amusing, thinking: Well, what can you expect of an institution that's dedicated to a particularly doctrinaire religious teaching? Then I read this story in the GA Voice, a Georgia LGBT news outlet, which was contacted by a...

Can We Talk About Sexual Harassment?

(Patsy Lynch/Rex Features via AP Images) Herman Cain addresses charges of sexual harassment at the National Press Club yesterday. We’ve just inched past the 20-year anniversary of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, which electrified the country and educated employers and employees alike about the newly enshrined civil-rights violation called “sexual harassment.” Now Politico brings us another iteration of the did-he-or-didn’t-he game—this time, about Herman Cain. Here’s what already bothers me about this conversation: It’s all about electoral politics. Will this hurt him with his constituency ? How will Cain play this ? How will it be played by Fox & Friends? Do Iowa primary voters care? Unlike that round 20 years ago, this is not going to be a discussion about sexual harassment. Call me a crank, but I think sexual harassment matters. Let’s recall the origin of the tort. [Insert unforgivably professorial harumph here.] The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on...

Girls, girls, girls!

Over at New York magazine, Emily Nussbaum has written the perfect introduction to the new, fiery, sardonic, savvy generation of feminists who are making change online and in the streets. Nussbaum checks in with both the feminist blogosphere and the controversial “SlutWalks,” a series of anti-rape marches that have caught imaginative fire. The title has been hotly debated—but as young feminist leader Jessica Valenti has noted, it sure has gotten the attention that organizers wanted. Nussbaum writes: SlutWalk launched in April, sparked by the outrage of Canadian activists after a cop told female students to “avoid dressing like sluts” in order not to be victimized. The idea was to take the sting out of the insult with a Spartacus-like display of solidarity, to put blame back on the attackers. Since April, there have been marches all over the world, including in Mexico, Germany, and South Africa, but this Manhattan march feels fired up with local frustration, the climax of a year of...

Women and Wal-Mart

Do you remember the big Wal-Mart class-action case alleging that the behemoth retailer systematically discriminated against women, which the Supreme Court tossed out ? (Technically, the SC said the case was too big and the plaintiffs too disparate to be bundled together and tried in a single lawsuit because they all had different situations and complaints). The Court made this flat declaration at the early stage called “motion for summary judgment”—before the plaintiffs had a chance to present the evidence that they had a common complaint. Brad Seligman , the longtime employment lawyer who has been crusading against workplace discrimination for decades, has filed the first of what he says will be a series of regional lawsuits raising the same issues for smaller groups of plaintiffs. Seligman took his winnings in earlier anti-discrimination lawsuits to start the nonprofit Impact Fund, precisely to fund these kinds of cases. Keep your eye on these.

More on the Abortion Debates: What if Your Mother Had Aborted You?

Yesterday I posted "So what if I hadn't been born?" In reply, noted reproductive rights thinker Frances Kissling sent along her own very moving essay along these lines, published a few years ago in RH Reality Check: " What if your mother had aborted you? A daughter's perspective. " As she says, I feel a need to turn that question around and to ask instead: What if your mother's life would have been significantly happier and healthier if she had not had you? If you as a fetus had the capacity to make decisions, would you have given your life for your mother's life, health and happiness? My mother, Florence, the last of seven children in a harsh Polish immigrant family, left home at 17 and came to New York City. She got pregnant, chased the soldier who impregnated her and ended up with me. As you might imagine, she was an interesting and difficult person. Frankly, she never should have had children. She had her good qualities, but mothering wasn't one of them. And she had a miserable...

Help! I Married a Jock!

(Flickr/Varsity)
Somehow I married a jock, which puts me in a mixed marriage. I was the English major who scorned the sports crowd; to our clique, jocks were way down there, below, oh, caterpillars. (We didn’t particularly care about what they thought about us.) My wife has made it clear that the jocks felt much the same way about us dorky creative types; when she hears about my college antics, she groans, I can’t believe you were one of those people! Exactly how I feel. In so many ways, we are a very unlikely pair. As in any mixed marriage, my jock and I try our best to accept the other’s incomprehensible culture—and turn to others for understanding. My longtime best friend and I together buy season tickets to performances from the local troupe, the Actors' Shakespeare Project ; we're perfect companions as we analyze and assess performances in detail, analyzing whether this Lear or that stage set compares well with the other one we saw a decade ago. On game nights (which, to my shock, is every night...

Moment of Conception

How a radical anti-abortion movement matured

O n April 17, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a national ban on an abortion procedure known as intact dilation and extraction. Anti-abortion groups, which successfully branded it “partial-birth abortion,” had spent 15 years and more than a quarter-billion dollars getting Congress to pass the ban in 2003. The Court’s 2007 ruling was the movement’s greatest legal victory in decades, a significant step toward overturning Roe v. Wade . But not all abortion opponents were celebrating. Among the unenthused was Brian Rohrbough, president of Colorado Right to Life. Rohrbough belongs to an absolutist wing of the movement that believes in “personhood”—the idea that fetuses are people from the moment of conception. After losing his son in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Rohrbough concluded that the legalized “killing of innocent children in the womb” had set America on a path of moral decline that allowed such violence to occur. For Rohrbough, the ban on partial-birth abortion was...

Gals to the Back of the Bus

Jezebel reports that, in Brooklyn, there’s a public bus line where women have to sit in the back of the bus. Men sit in front. Really. Apparently, God made the rule.

So What if I Hadn't Been Born?

When I blogged over at Slate’s XX Factor (now Double X), I grew fond of Rachael Larimore, with whom I agreed to disagree with on almost everything. I am not being sarcastic. Recently, I heard a rabbi talk about the importance of discussing major issues not to convert others—not to win—but to “improve the quality of our disagreements.” I love this concept as a way to improve our public discourse on core political subjects, which are often religious wars in another guise. And so I am going to continue my tradition of disagreeing with Rachael, who recently posted an item titled Pro-Choicers Hate the "What if I Hadn't Been Born" Question. Here's Why. Rachael was responding to Amanda Marcotte’s post about precisely that question . Rachael says that pro-choice arguments rely on the idea that … women should be allowed to abort their unplanned pregnancies because unwanted children grow up poor, neglected, abused or some combination thereof. It can’t allow for the possibility that some “...

Whistleblowers

Somehow I missed the movie The Whistleblower , an action film about a woman in the UN peacekeeping forces who tries to hold her male colleagues and superiors accountable for sexual coercion and abuse of girls, boys, and adults they are supposed to be protecting. (The movie is on my list now.) Women’s E-News reports that a UN screening of the film last week involved a testy exchange between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the filmmakers, and others who say that the problem continues—and that the way that the UN deals with it is worse than inadequate. Buried in the report is an incredibly disturbing allegation: Movie director [Larysa] Kondracki also noted that top officials in U.N. headquarters should be scrutinized just as carefully as peacekeepers for their moral and legal conduct. "This is not just about peacekeepers on the ground. We have videos of high-level diplomats walking around U.N. headquarters with people they purchased," she said during the forum. If that's true, what hope...

FBI Updates Definition of Rape

In the wake of a fierce and sustained campaign by feminist groups, the FBI is incrementally moving toward an updated definition of rape. The old one, written in 1929, leaves out a lot of what most of us consider to be rape. Here's how Erica Goode in The New York Times wrote up the controversy: The definition of rape used by the F.B.I. — “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” — was written more than 80 years ago. The yearly report on violent crime, which uses data provided voluntarily by the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, is widely cited as an indicator of national crime trends. But that definition, critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting. This week, an FBI subcommittee...

Pink October

In case you missed it: Last Sunday The New York Times had a thoughtful examination of the pros and cons of the pinking of America —the Susan G. Komen foundation's marketing of breast cancer awareness and its work raising funds for breast cancer research. NPR took a look at the anti-pink backlash. So I thought it might be a good time to remind everyone of my favorite piece of all time on the pinkness, though, is Barbara Ehrenreich's " Welcome to Cancerland ," which she has since updated with the sharp-tongued "The Pink-Ribbon Breast Cancer Cult. "

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