Women in the Man Cave

I was at the gym the other day and there are a number of TV’s there and as is often the case ESPN Sports Center was on.  I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the male and female anchors.  The females standing in there skirts or dresses, never below knee length, always wearing heels.  In fact one anchor, Nicole Briscoe, was recently complimented with “respect for being pregnant while also wearing heels”.  Alternatively, the men were well dressed and looking comfortable.  It is of course a massive double standard and sports isn’t the only place where such a double standard exists, but I couldn’t help but thinking even if we have a standard of beauty that we say we want to appear on TV such a standard is not evenly applied to men.   Men aren’t forced to wear tight fitting clothes, clothes that actually might be restrictive or uncomfortable.  When you look at the the bios of all the ESPN staff, anchors, reporters and columnists, you can see through these many pages a trend in the women all being fairly attractive and reasonably young unless they are a very famous former player.  What’s clear is that when you look at the men there is no similar standard.  While they all may be required to be smartly dressed the standard deviation in age, height, and, in my estimation, attractiveness is far greater.  Women must fit a narrow mold, while men are allowed to represent the diversity of body shapes, facial features, ages, and levels of balding.

maxresdefault
Yes those heels probably are uncomfortable. Pregnant or not.

More disturbingly than this is the level of vitriol that often women face who are involved with sports writing and sports reporting.  I recently posted this video on Facebook but I thought it was important enough to post on my blog as well, because I think it’s important that we be vigilant about counteractive the horrible comments these women received.  This video was hard to watch, and that’s what tells me that it might be worth it for a lot of people to watch it.  The comments these women received reminded me a lot of the type of comments that Anita Sarkeesian has received by trying to introduce a more balanced female perspective into the video game world.  It seems to me that sports are still seen as a male domain, and intruding on that domain has costs to women who try to do so.  If you aren’t pretty to look at, you shouldn’t be there.  And if you try to be more than just a pretty face, like have a mind, then you are going to be sorry.  This seems to be the overall message.  Just anecdotally I tried to look at a couple of the female profiles on twitter to see I could see additional evidence, and what I found is that horrible comments, like the ones in the video happen but are rare.  However, what you also see are plenty of comments objectifying the reporter/anchor.  Comments about how hot she is, or her legs, and as you can imagine worse at times.

I try to focus on the progress that has been made and try to remain hopeful.  Double standards are getting less in the music and entertainment industry.  Sports for women are gaining more popularity and more air time.  I try to remind myself that 20 years ago, seeing a female at all reporting or as an anchor on a sports show was unheard of unless it was a sport which actually involved women.  There seems to be these last bastions of maleness in our culture which is being fought against with all the misogynistic vitriol they can muster.  Some might argue that it is the internet that allows these people to express such horrible words in a largely anonymous fashion, and maybe that’s true to a certain extent, but it also exposes such behavior as well.  I have a hard time believing that such attitudes are a function of the internet, but rather just a larger forum of expression for attitudes that already existed.  This video reminds us that even if we aren’t saying the words to someone’s face they still have the same impact, and I also hope that this video reminds men to pay attention.  These men had an extremely hard time saying these things to the women, and it is likely that they aren’t the type of men who say such things, but they can be part of the solution which is to call out such despicable and hurtful behavior.  Not to be chivalrous or to gain favor with an attractive sports personality on, but simply because it is the right thing to do.  Do it equitably, to all women who are trying to make a living doing something they enjoy, whether it is on social media or a night out with the boys.  And maybe you won’t change any minds, but to be apathetic to such attitudes towards women is the same as compliance in my opinion.  And even if it is only words, we all know what a short road from words to cari_champion_espn_by_lowerrider-d8ry2f0actions there is.  I’m not saying twitter attacks are always the best way to combat these attitudes, but I encourage men to take up the mantle of fighting these attitudes in a manner that seems most effective to them.  At the same time maybe we can also change the standards by which women are placed into these roles.  So it’s not just about what they wear and how pretty they are, but by their passion and knowledge for sports (or whatever subject they are passionate about).  Perhaps if we only want a woman on TV for her pretty face and tight clothing, is it any wonder that so many men only see them as being valuable for such superficial qualities?

Advertisements

Tuition Free

One of Bernie Sanders big talking points during his Primary campaign run is free college tuition and public colleges and institutions.  Something so grand is easy to get behind and while I in principle support equality in access to education I think it’s worth looking at a little more carefully in terms of costs and benefits.

A couple of years ago The Atlantic published an article that showed that the cost to giving free public higher education in the U.S. would cost $62.6 billion dollars.  Now this is tuition alone, it may not include some student fees, and does not include room and board which can also be a big expense for parents.  Nobody could argue though that life would get a lot easier for families or those students only having to pay living costs.  So where should this money come from.  We could, as a society, just decide to pay for it.  It would be roughly $630 a year for the average taxpayer (approx. 100 million taxpayers in the U.S.), which means the average person’s taxes would increase to a little over $50 a month.  While I could certainly afford something like that, I don’t think everyone could, nor would such a tax increase go over well.

Now Bernie Sanders has a plan to get that $75 billion through a Wall Street speculation tax.  There seems to be some disagreement as to whether this is a good or bad thing, but even if he was able to cut college tuition costs by half this might be a good thing.  Of course the tuition costs are only one of the things he wants to change.  He wants to stop the government from profiting off of student loans, and he also wants to allow students to be able to refinance their loans at lower interest rates.  Overall I would say that he wants to make some sensible changes.  Educating your people is an investment, one that pays off, and you don’t need to profit off their loans as well.

Thomas Jefferson believed that an educated public was one of the most important parts of having a successful democracy and he is quite right.  So there is some big support for making college accessible to everyone.  My biggest concern though is that free tuition doesn’t necessarily support this aim, and so much larger shift needs to happen.

  1. With free tuition my hope is that universities will shift away from the expectation of simply producing job ready individuals. My hope is that we can allow many more students who simply want to go through and learn more about philosophy, the humanities, ethics, and how science works. More of that liberal arts centered education which has shown to be very beneficial in the market place even if it doesn’t directly seem to qualify one for a particular job.  With public higher education not being run under a business model anymore, then perhaps we can shift away from students being seen as products that have to yield immediate results or a directly translatable degree to a job.  My university actually has a degree in Professional Golf Management.  Yes I still can’t believe this is a thing.  I’m not saying that such people don’t need to be educated, but the fact that you need to create a specific degree to do that job seems surprising.
  2. As a professor it is clear to me there are many students who don’t want to be there. I don’t see free tuition as the thing that sparks students into working hard to learn and become better people.  Now may be classes could become more fun when everything isn’t so outcome based as it must be in order to meet certain performance indicators for funding, but in order for college to be of the most use to us as society several other things need to happen.  The first is K-12 reform in also getting away from a business model through those compulsory years.  By promoting critical thinking better, students may be able to handle college better.  I feel a lot of problems I see with students today are a result of being raised in a school system that focuses on rote memorization of facts and testing, over critical thinking skills.  A system in which getting the grade is more important than how you get there.  We also need to promote the value of education in general.  Perhaps it’s a bit of a chicken and egg since running schools like a business tends to put people in the mindset that knowledge is only valuable when it is directly applicable to a job, but we all need to be better in promoting how a broader knowledge base has benefits beyond just our job, since being in a democracy and being part of a pluralistic society requires us to be multidimensional in the knowledge we are proficient in.

    We also need to stop promoting college education as the be all and end all of being valuable in society.  In many countries with free tuition students much choose a track at the age of 16 as to whether they want to go to college or take a vocational track and learn a trade.  And while I don’t want to shut students off so early to the possibility of going to college, trade skills are of such an important value to society that it makes me sad here that we still are under this paradigm that everybody should go to college to be valuable in a society.

  1. I do think free tuition a higher education institutions is not necessarily a right. I do think it is a privilege.  A privilege that I think our country can afford.  And I think free tuition allows university to maintain higher levels of academic rigor.  Currently universities don’t want you to fail people, pushes you to graduate students to keep numbers higher, to make it look like your program or universities has a high graduation rate, all because it brings in more students and brings in more funding.  So I think free or lower cost tuitions gives more institutions freedom to keep standards high and thus those that do graduate are of a higher quality.

Of course there are even more secondary positive impacts.  More informed voters should lead to more responsible politicians, and less government waste.  The last episode of Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight was an excellent example how making the decision to eliminate lead from homes would actually be a benefit instead of a cost in the long run.  We need voters who not only understand issues but understand economics well enough to realize good investments from bad.  Then there is also the stimulation to the economy as many more graduates who would no longer be burdened by massive student loan debt would be able to spend more.

People complain about the idea of free tuition, often because they say they don’t want to pay for someone else’s education.  But you already pay a lot more for people’s ignorance.  You pay a lot more because our generation of college graduates are deeply in debt and can’t spend money.  You pay a lot when our best and brightest can’t go to college and only our richest can.  You pay a lot more when someone remains in poverty instead of being able to get out of it through a college degree.

Minimum wage vs. College Tuition costs

Whether you feel like tuition should be free or not, the problem remains.  Students are in massive debt.  College tuition prices have increased faster than wages, and we are no longer able to give an equal opportunity to students who want to get college degrees.  Something has to change.

Eternity

Our story today is set in heaven.  It is a glorious place.  The light of God shines everywhere and God is at the center of it all, and sort of everywhere just soaking it all in as countless souls experiences the joy and happiness of being in His presence.  And as it says in Revelation “There is a constant chanting of angels that are heralding Holy, Holy, Holy over the throne of God.  The Mercy Seat in heaven where God sits is surrounded by angels full of glory and power that profess and bless the holy name of God continuously.

Bill sits among the multitude of souls reveling in God’s glory.  It’s unclear how much time has actually passed but things have started to feel a little bit different for Bill.  He hears a voice.

“Psst…hey!”

Bill breaks out his reverie and looks over to the source of the voice and sees a vague form there. “Are you talking to me?”

“Yeah…well you’re the only one that can seem to hear me, but then again with all the singing maybe it’s just heard to hear. Ha!”

Bill watches as the strange figure starts to look more and more human shaped.

“Yeah we’re just souls, but since you seem to look the way I feel, I sense we are both transforming it something more resembling our old selves.  I’m Hank.  It’s nice to meet you.  I’d shake your hand, but…uh…well we’re not of the body and all that.”

Bill nods dumbfounded.  Nobody had ever talked to him since he walked through the gates and from that point on it’s just been constant singing.

“Listen,” says Hank, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can take this anymore.”

“What do you mean?” Bill responded, still slightly shocked that the conversation is happening.

“Do you have any idea how long we’ve been up here?”

“No”

“Well I do. 14, 325 years!”

“Really?  I thought there was no time in heaven.  How do you even know that?”

“First of all,” said Hank “There’s definitely time passing here, you just can’t measure it by watching the Earth go around the Sun once a year.  And the reason I know how long we’ve been here, is that I happened to ask a passing angel last week.  Difficult buggers to get a hold of really.  It’s like trying to find an employee in a Wal-Mart to find out where they keep the slivered almonds.  It’s a big place Heaven, with not a lot of those angels about.  I mean the ones that are singing are obvious, but you know I figured its best not to interrupt.  Anyway the angel tells me what year it is on Earth.  I’m impressed we even made it as a species for that long.”

“Hmmm…well that’s interesting, but what do you want with me?” Bill asked, wondering if he shouldn’t be getting back to his bathing in the joy of God’s light.

“Well mainly you were the first person that seemed to hear me.  And quite frankly, I was bored!”

“Bored?  This is heaven!”

Are you trying to tell me all this joy and happiness hasn’t lost its edge a bit?  I mean this feeling of joy and happiness in the glory of God and all that has been going on for a pretty long time…I mean I don’t even remember why I’m happy anymore.  I mean don’t get me wrong, God’s great and all, but to feel really good, you need to remember what it was like to feel bad.  It’s been a long time, I was lucky to remember my own name.”

“I’m…Bill but the way…I think, and yes you may be on to something.  I have noticed lately that there isn’t quite as much bliss as there was before.  Although I can’t say exactly when it all changed.  I just assumed this was how I always felt and that I hadn’t remembered properly how happy I’d been feeling.”

“Bill, that is exactly what went though my mind.  But you know what knocked me out of my reverie?”

“No. What?”

“As I’m just enjoying the scene of Jesus sitting next to his Father on the throne, I notice Jesus take a sip of something from a golden chalice, and it hits me like a tsunami.  I had completely forgot the sensation of just how refreshing a drink can be when you’re thirsty.”

“So?”

“So?!  Listen I am not saying God isn’t amazing, but so are a lot of other things.  I mean when was the last time you saw field full of flowers, a waterfall, or just a great movie?  Or that great feeling you get after a good cry.  I would kill to see Forrest Gump, or Beaches right now.”

“But you get to feel great all the time here.  You don’t need to cry.” Bill looked at Hank with a matter of fact expression on his face.

“I mean sure you can say that about anything, but where’s the flavor?  Joy and happiness is not built on one thing alone, they are built on a myriad of experience of the course of time.  I mean when was the last time you woke up from a kick ass great night of sleep?”

Bill’s expression now changed to one of incredulity “God’s light is everywhere.  You don’t need to sleep?”

“Exactly, it’s always light.  Do you think that’s normal?”

“Isn’t it?”

“Think about it Bill.  It took me a long time to remember too.  Don’t you remember something called night?  You know stars?  The moon?  Sleep?”

“It rings a bell.  But sleeping is for when you’re tired.  I’m not tired and haven’t been since I got here.”

“And you think that’s normal?  What about that good kind of tired you got from a good workout or jog?  What about that good kind of tired you got from a satisfying day of work?”

Bill, looked down for a moment, a look of deep concentration on his face. “No I don’t.  I think I sold office supplies.”

“That’s not the point!”  Hank became more animate and grabbed Bill by the shoulders only to find nothing to grab on to and then backed away with a look of disappointment.  “Listen, the point is I am sure there was something that brought you joy.  Look I love God, you love God, that’s how we got here, and I think that’s fabulous.  But there’s got to be more to it than this.”

Bill still looked apprehensive, “I don’t know.  God’s light is pretty great.”

“Of course it is.  If you had asked me 5,000 years ago if I would get tired of this, I would have said you were crazy.  No one is more surprised than I am to find myself in this position of being a bit dissatisfied.  Now if you ask me could I take all of this for another 1,000 or 2,000 years, I would say sure, but eternity?  Really?  That same angel that I asked about the year to, you know what I asked him next?  How much longer do we have?  You know how he responded?  He just laughed.  That’s messed up.  I mean don’t you remember getting up here and all the excitement of it?  I was thinking, I can’t wait to see my family.  And you know I realized, I haven’t missed them once. And I don’t know how long you’ve been here, but I also started to remember how excited I would be to get here to meet Him and all the question I was going to ask him.  I mean think about it Bill, weren’t you all excited to meet God, and ask Him a bunch of questions?”

Bill nodded.

“Yeah, me too.  But have you got to ask Him one question?”

Bill shook his head.

“Me neither, and I love asking questions.  But I got here and it was just like praise, singing, glorious light, and I forgot everything!”

“So, what, do you want to ask Him a question?”

“Yeah I want to ask him a question.  Like, ‘Can I go back and do some more good works on Earth?’, because I’m sure there are still problems.”

“Yeah…come to think of it, I feel a bit idle.”  Bill started to feel like maybe he was coming out of a dream. “So do you think we should go up and talk to Him?”

Jesus-at-the-right-hand-of-the-fatherBoth Bill and Hank looked towards the throne.  A throng of angels and beasts singing praise.  God and Jesus were just smiling magnanimously at everybody. Hank turns to Bill, “I don’t man, it doesn’t look like a scene to have a conversation in.”

“Yeah.  So what do you want to do?”

“Let’s just get out of here Bill.  We’ll talk to somebody at the front gate and see what our options are.

“Sounds good Hank.  But where is the front gate?”

“Hmmm….I don’t know.  It’s been like 14,000 years I don’t remember which direction we came from?  Do you?”

“No.  So what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know…let’s just start walking and try to find it.  I mean the one thing we do have, is time.”

————————————————————————————————-

Thank you for reading.  Thought I’d try my hand at a little satire.  Whatever your thought are about heaven, eternity is still a really, really, really, long time. 🙂

Feeding Yourself to the Lions

Recently I read a blog by a transgender woman who wrote her post as an open letter to conservative blogger Matt Walsh, making some well-reasoned arguments against some fairly narrow minded views expressed by him in his blog towards transgender people being mentally ill and against the teachings of Christ.  I hit like on her post and went on my merry way.  I was surprised to find that in seeing my “like” she checked out my blog and left a comment on one of the posts where I discussed religion and atheism and left a polite comment, but made sure that the first comment she left was how she wished I could know God the way she did.  I checked out her blog and it made me rather sad, because it seems a lot of what she writes is the typical self-debasement so typical in evangelical communities and she basically justifies her own struggles and flaws being born a woman in a man’s body as a punishment for original sin, and that God is really loving and has done so much but she is the one at fault. She is the failure.  She is imperfect.  Victoria over at Victoria Neuronotes wrote about this topic recently.

Believe me, I’m not criticizing this woman, because I can’t even fathom the difficulties that someone like her must face in a world that has so little tolerance beyond the black and white world they see.  I imagine given such difficult struggles trying to find something that will give you the strength to fight, the strength to make some sense out of it all is strong.  What I don’t understand is how one reaches for a religion or continues to follow a religion that is the very same one that has prevented her from growing up to be free to be who she is.  It is the same question that I have for many African-Americans who are Christian and don’t seem to have be bothered by the fact that this very religion was the one that was used to justify them as slaves, as being inferior, segregating them from whites, preventing them from marrying someone who was white and the history of white Christians using their religion to oppress African-Americans continue to this day.

Look, I know the “No True Scotsman” argument is coming and we all know that’s a fallacy, so let’s put that aside.  We all know there are loving verses in the Bible and disturbingly evil verses is well and everybody cherry picks the one’s they want to prove they are the true Christian.  I’m not making an argument against God either, because I can see oppressed groups rallying around a spiritually uplifting philosophy.  But why the very one that oppressed them?  Why not choose Buddhism, or Hinduism, or one of many other choices out there?

I mentioned in a comment on a blog post from Sirius Bizinus recently that it seems we should question the validity of a system of beliefs that produces people from extremely kind, compassionate, and generous to derisive, judgmental, and unfeeling as a questionable system.  That perhaps goodness has it’s source elsewhere than, at the very least, the religion that has essentially made your life a living hell.  For me the psychology of such things is hard for me to grasp.  Is it because they want to turn something that was bad to them into something positive?  Is it a way to directly challenge those who oppress them with the same tool they use to do the oppression?  Like an atheist arguing with a Christian by quoting bible verses to show how their attitudes are not very Christ-like, But even so does that mean that one must actually be a member of that religion to challenge it effectively?  That doesn’t seem like it should be the case, but maybe it is.

What are your thoughts?

True Grit

I was listening to an interesting podcast about grit, based on the research by Angela Duckworth.  If you prefer to read a shorter article about her work you can do that here, or listen to a short TED talk she gave about it you can do that here.  I’ve talked before about the value of perseverance and why it is beneficial in my series about what I think makes a good human.  In that series I tried to also perhaps point out where these strengths could have negative results.  How we can perhaps go too far, or how their might be darker side to it.  The podcast brought this idea into the forefront of my thoughts again because they talked about how grit might actually be drawback if we continue to try at something that we are not likely to achieve we waste our energy.  We can become obsessive, and not know when to give up.  This is more commonly known as stubbornness.  What was really interesting to me was what they said in the final few seconds of the podcast which was that grit and stubbornness are really just the same thing, given different names based on the outcome achieved.  If one is successful they had grit, if one was not, they were stubborn.

Sadly,  failure is often dependent on effort too!

This then gave rise to a couple of additional thoughts.  One was to wonder what other qualities fall under a similar category, where they are one in the same just depending on the outcome? The second thought I had was a bit of sadness about how easily our strengths can become our weaknesses.  But then I thought, perhaps this idea we have about strengths vs. weaknesses is really an incorrect way to look at ourselves.  Because we can certainly say that a world in which no person had any grit would be a much different one and one that I believe would be much sadder and without flavor.  So we absolutely need these qualities and the consequence of such virtues is simply that we will not always succeed.  And so we find ourselves, once again, on the topic of risk.

This one is pretty true. However someone with a natural extra helping of strength, skill, intelligence often has more potential. Damn you Neil Degrasse Tyson!

When we see that star athlete, or master carpenter at work, or a genius who has invented some technological marvel, it can be easy to be an awe, and focus on a talent that must lie within giving them an almost divine like quality in their ability.  We see the end result and we don’t think about the years of practice. We often see the person who made it to the Olympics or the professional league, but not all the ones who failed to make it.  We don’t see the less than impressive or faulty works the carpenter built before he mastered his techniques.  We don’t see all the failed ideas and failed attempts associated with the process of creation and invention. History remembers the genius of Newton’s discovery in regards to gravitation, calculus, and his laws of motion.  Few except those who really study his life know how obsessed he was in the field of alchemy, which was of course a big waste of time.  Few know how much time he wasted searching for hidden patterns in scripture.  Also, as the podcast points out that many people don’t enjoy the periods of grim determination and practice it takes to perfect their craft, whatever it may be, at least not in the typical definition of fun.  It’s clear that idea that we may master something or have success can drive us forward through the less than savory hours and hours of effort it takes to achieve one’s goals, but in the end we don’t know whether our goals will be achieved.  So grit also means that we are taking a risk, because we could spend all that time and energy, and still fail in the end.

Unless quitting gives you more time to pursue something else that you are far better at and thus a higher chance of success!

Of course the easy answer is to say, focus on the journey, nobody is perfect.  I’d like to believe I am that type of person as I often tout the value of perseverance when I think about the effort it took to get a PhD which seemed less about my intelligence and more about grit.  At the same time, had I failed in the end, how much would I still be touting all that grit and determination?  It seems harder to celebrate the process that got you there without getting positive results.  I do feel that is what we must always try to do, because if did always focus on the end result we’re likely to be in a constant state of depression!  And perhaps the only real weakness is an inability to learn from our mistakes.  In the end that’s all we can really do, because there is value in the process, and most things that we think are our weaknesses might actually be our strengths with the wrong shade of intensity and it is only in reflecting on our behaviors and the outcomes can we gain the knowledge about how to use those strengths more wisely in the future.  Even then we will still be taking risks, but perhaps with a higher probability of success.  The final problem being that we are also terrible at assessing probabilities.  Of course if we always did things based on the odds, we also might never try anything, and yet it can be easily argued that much of our progress as a species is the story of overcoming low probabilities of success through grit and determination.

In the end, it seems to be a truth (perhaps even one with a capital T) that we are always bound to make mistakes and have failures.  The good news is that if making mistakes happens to everyone then there really is nothing wrong with us as long as we continue to strive to be more than we are, and strive to make this a world where everybody has that same opportunity.

My son, my one

Dhyan_faceOnly now do I know what purity is,
Free from the dilution of life,
And yet I’ve never seen anyone so full of life either,
With you I am at a mountain lake,
Where “civilization” is not in its vocabulary,
With you I am at an amusement park,
Teeming with joy, fun and smiles,
Lost in a moment, in a day that we hope never ends

I dreamed last night I was crying,
From a love that made each cell in my body,
Vibrate to the point I was changing phase,
And the liquid poured out of me,
Just as your sweet little kisses poured over me,
Your smile and laughter bathed me,
Like particles of light in the morning sun,
Dancing on my skin to a timeless symphony.

You remind me that I am mammal,
Not animal in the way that people usually mean it,
Not primitive or violently struggling to survive,
But natural, wild, inseparable from this world,
Your head nestles under the curve of my neck,
I can feel the warmth of your blood, pulsating,
Flowing with mine, in tune with the beat of Earth’s heart,
The ebb and flow of life enveloping us both.

There is a closeness that no force can destroy,
It may stretch, it may tear, it may hurt,
It persists even through the veil of death,
No matter the physical distance I know,
There will be moments where we look for each other,
And in those moments we will find each other
For I am responsible for you, and though you don’t know it,
You are responsible for me too.

The world is wonderful to you right now,
I know it’s not going stay that way,
The pain in life percolates through the bliss,
But that does not mean that bliss disappears,
Above those clouds there is always the sun, the stars,
The weather changes, but that does not,
I promise to never fail in reminding you of this,
For it’s because of you, I will always know beauty.

Evangelical Extremism Strikes Again – Two New Bills Have Passed in Mississippi

More madness out of Mississippi.

Victoria NeuroNotes

The governor is expected to sign them. This is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

I told my friend, Carmen, that I want to cry, but I’m too angry right now. I’ve witnessed, and personally experienced, the significant harm caused when religion and government become bedfellows. As many of you may already know:

View original post 1,056 more words