May all your Christmases be stereotypes

Why Santa’s reindeer must be female.

Santa Claus may be white or not, according to taste, prejudice or marketing strategy. But here’s bad news for Megyn Kelly. The exploited reindeer that have drawn Santa’s sleigh through the busy Christmas night are necessarily reinhind, that is if they have proper antlers.
From an unnamed correspondent of Victor Mair at Language Log:

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female deer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December.

Female reindeer retain their antlers until after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa’s reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl.

We should have known … ONLY women would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost!

Small-town heartland values

Maryville, MO, in the middle of farm country about 50 miles north of St. Joseph, is acting out a collective schweinerei that deserves national attention. With the apparent approval of their community leaders, this upstanding bunch of curdled Babbitts have served up all the teenage girls in town as sexual toys, like a box of candy, to louts who entertain the good people playing football. Young men who amuse themselves raping girls can expect no more than a hiccup on the path to greener pastures in college, happy lives, and the warm embrace of their neighbors. If the girls (or their parents and families) have some other idea, they are liable to vigilante vengeance. Community values, and like that; the nail that sticks up gets driven away and its house burned to the ground.

Nice place, Maryville. Nice folks, with solid values: if we didn’t have a winning football team, we might have a whole generation of young men with bad character!  Shirley Jackson, would that thou werst living at this hour.

Normal Barbies

An artist makes a normal Barbie.

A footnote to Lowry Heussler´s post on anorexic fashion models. The Daily Mail of all places has a little gallery of images from an experiment by graphic artist Nikolay Lamm. He made a Barbie with the observed average proportions of 19-year old (presumably American) girls:

To me - and I have no reason to think my tastes in the matter are outliers - the normal Barbie is considerably more attractive. Would you, straight male reader, prefer the anorexic official Barbie, with her stringy arms and thighs, giraffe neck, and reproductively dangerous pelvis?

That doesn´t matter, unlike the possible effect on the younger girls who play with Barbies.

Lamm asks a very good question:

People argue that a toy can’t do any harm.
However, if we criticise skinny models, we should at least be open to the possibility that Barbie may negatively influence young girls as well.
Furthermore, a realistically proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good in the pictures I produced.
So, if there’s even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average sized woman in America. What’s stopping Mattel from making one?

Poverty, Meet Cash Transfers

In my guise as The Nonprofiteer, I suggest that the solution to poverty might be money.

dorothea lange depression era photographs 13

Alert the media.  No, really.

Untier of Knots?

A prediction that Pope Francis will move on clerical celibacy.

Wonkette points to Pope Francis breaking a tradition by washing the feet of two young women prisoners in the nice Maundy Thursday rite he shares (in a bowdlerised dry form) with Queen Elizabeth II. Wonkette doesn’t draw any conclusions, but I think it’s another straw in the wind.

Line up the other data points.

  • The young Jorge Bergoglio had an major adolescent crush on a girl, Amalia Damonte, now 76. Later as a seminarian he fell for another girl seen at a dance. He seems to have sublimated desire on the positive route of troubadour idealisation rather than the more typical fearful misogyny.
  • He is close to the Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches that sprung from them. He had a formative friendship with a saintly Ukrainian Catholic priest, Stefan Czmil, and speaks Ukrainian. These traditions - including those in communion with Rome - allow married parish clergy, but not bishops. (The term “Uniate” is no longer PC: you learn something every day from Wikipedia.)
  • His statement as cardinal on clerical celibacy was a defence of the current Catholic line, couched in notably lukewarm and conditional language:

    For the moment, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures. What happens is that the scandals have an immediate impact. Tradition has weight and validity

    Francis clearly doesn’t find the idea of priestly sex icky.

  • He is a Jesuit, skilled in threading doctrinal and practical needles, and a devotee of a rather sweet cult of Mary Untier of Knots. The founding image is a second-rate piece of German baroque:
    But the idea is from the estimable and first rate anti-Gnostic Church Father St Irenaeus of Lyons, whose theodicy is still the best Christian product on the market. It’s a comparatively sunny and optimistic approach to human dilemmas, and suggests a Yankee can-do spirit in the new Pope.

I’ll bet that this papacy will see movement on clerical celibacy, perhaps involving supervision of married priests by Eastern Catholic bishops, or an expanded married diaconate. The Virgin Mary has her deknotting work cut out though.

[Easter morning update]
The new Pope’s Easter homily is another straw in the wind. H/t and text from TPM. It’s impeccably orthodox and conventional doctrinally. But choosing to emphasise that according to Luke the first witnesses to the Resurrection were women?

A Sobering View of Valentine’s Day

It being Valentine’s Day today, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to think about healthy and unhealthy relationships. In that vein, I give a brief overview below the fold of some recent developments in European domestic violence perpetrator rehabilitation.

Continue reading “A Sobering View of Valentine’s Day”

Shooting the Messenger: Brent Musburger

Apparently Brent Musburger is in all kinds of hot water because of comments he made during last night’s BCS championship game.  When I read that it involved remarks about the Crimson Tide quarterback’s girlfriend, I really braced for something awful.

The subject was not Alabama’s 42-14 victory, but comments made during the game by the ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger regarding the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A J McCarron. In the first quarter, ESPN showed McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, who was sitting near his parents. Musburger called the 23-year-old Webb, a former Miss Alabama, a “lovely lady” and “beautiful,” and said to his broadcast partner, Kirk Herbstreit, a former quarterback at Ohio State, “You quarterbacks get all the good-looking women.”

“A J’s doing some things right,” Herbstreit replied. Musburger, 73, then said, “If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with Pop.”

That’s it?  He says that a former Miss Alabama is a beautiful woman, that quarterbacks always get the girl, and that that is an incentive to be a football player?  I could understand an outcry if, say, the girlfriend was a Rhodes Scholar or a theoretical physicist or even a law student.  But she’s a former Miss Friggin’ Alabama.

That’s part of the culture of college football and of beauty pageants.  Jocks get the girl.  The pretty ones are Miss Whatever. Guys do what they can to date Miss Whatever.

And because of that, you might well say, “That’s right.  It’s the culture.  And that culture sucks and is demeaning to women and emphasizes idiotic masculine tropes.”  Fair enough.  I basically agree: I think pageants are dumb, and I am coming around to Mike O’Hare’s view that football is, too.

But it seems a little silly to me to blame Musburger for this.  Yes, I know: he’s reinforcing the culture yadda yadda yadda.  But don’t attack the messenger for a bigger — and really, a more important, and more controversial, and more radical point.  People aren’t attacking Musburger for going “over the line,” even if they say they are.  They are taking on college football.  They are taking a massive entertainment and financial juggernaut.  And they should.  But go after the big boys, so to speak.  Musburger is well-paid for what he does and obviously can take care of himself.  But he’s a cog in this stuff.  ESPN has apologized for Musburger’s comments and has said that he “went too far”, but why in the world was Webb on the screen to begin with?  ESPN like all networks is avoiding its own complicity in what is going on here.

Should we boycott Discover Cards for sponsoring the game?  Or FedEx for sponsoring the stadium?  Or all the other sponsors, and the NCAA itself?  Maybe we should.  But then focus on them.  Getting outraged at Musburger seems to me to be sort of cheap and safe way to avoid really making the critique that ought to be made.

UPDATE:  I don’t know why the comments have been disabled for this post, but am trying to fix it.

UPDATE UPDATE: Comments now back on.  Fire away.



It’s not a ‘women’s issue’

Ann-Marie Slaughter is on the cover of the Atlantic with an important essay about work and family. along with a stupid picture of a baby in a briefcase (which some art director stuck her with) and a stupid title/headline (which she did not write).   She starts out with a personal anecdote, which I regret as an overused  rhetorical trick, but ends up talking about the important stuff, which is bigger than her family’s work/child-rearing conflicts and bigger than the cultural habits and expectations that are especially tough on women. I’m not going to summarize it; you need to read it all.

The piece has stirred up a rousing discussion on a listserv I frequent along with thoughtful and on-target commentary, for example (and only for example; I have not trolled the web to get everything) here and here.  But I did look at the first Google page of hits and found ten articles by women, which makes twelve, and two fairly flip paragraphs by one man.  One would think the conflict between work and family is a problem women have, sort of like race being something black people have, or  work mainly in women’s inboxes .  Slaughter actually gets this right, but even among my liberal listserv colleagues, the women have had a lot more to say than the men, including the few men who weighed in (on the listserv, but not as far as I can tell in public) to take ownership of the issue.  This state of affairs is wrongheaded on the facts (men and their kids also pay heavy dues trying to be good at work and at home) but more fundamentally wrong because we’re all in this together. Men have daughters and wives and depend on the value created (or not) by women at work, not to mention retiring on the taxes to be paid by all of today’s children.

The stupidity of the title is its implication that ‘everything’ is a reasonable thing to aspire to.  Of course you can’t have everything, because there are 24 hours - not 25 or 240 -  in each day of your three score and ten, and because if you’re a world-class shot putter you will not be a winning jockey for fundamental and intractable properties of muscle energy per unit of mass. A lot of the power of the article is its irrefutable certification that the family-job problem is not solved by money or caused by poverty or stupidity or ignorance: the Moravcsik-Slaughter household has all the IQ points, social capital, advantages of birth and status, and money they could possibly use. They have as much of everything as can be hoped for; the problem is  that they can’t apportion their shopping basket optimally because of constraints that actually don’t have to bind us.

What Slaughter is about is that we could all have a lot more of two big important things if we organized life better, and her lessons are emphatically not that the way to go about that is women-centric.  It’s complicated, because there is indeed misogyny all over the place and a lot of the bad habits and rules are especially hostile to women, so it would be wrong for men to just hijack the issue. The feminism issue here is twofold: indeed, women in particular deserve a better deal, but also, and partly for that reason, women have some useful stuff to teach everyone if we will just pay attention.

My main takeaway from the article is the enormous social cost of the macho workplace, created and managed by insecure men to assure their status by hazing routines and a sort of potlatch of self-abuse, and the positional arms race culture.  How much more value (net of fringes etc. and pay) is actually created by one Stakhanovite working seventy-hour weeks and a wreck for thirty of them, than two people with a life and hobbies working thirty-five each?   How many crises asking for work on Sunday are really crises?  When it snows in DC, “non-essential” workers are asked to stay home.  Raise hands, all those who are happy to signal their dispensability by sledding with the kids.  Slaughter has a lot of good ideas in the way of changes in specific rules (like a nudge that extends the tenure clock for anyone who has a child rather than allowing people to have the extension if they ask for it).  Is really good day care, the kind the French and Italians lay on and try to recruit all kids into, for employers? for women who want to work?  for kids?  or, as they think, for all of society including men and women alumni of the École Maternelles? The pervasive expectation that it’s good to be an attentive and engaged dad, but obviously parenting is mainly mom’s to assure, makes stuff like this come down on women more, or seem to, but a great deal of the myth built into top-level, competitive, workplace life (yeah, and blue-collar just-trying-to-make-the-rent life) is equal-opportunity, and sex-independent costly, jive.

I’m not a spokesperson for men, not proud to be a man (I didn’t choose to), but still, I’m ashamed that the people standing up and saying what is true about this stuff are still almost all women.  It’s going to be a lot of work, and maybe cost us some net stuff and house square feetage, to fix this, and it’s both stupid and unfair to expect half the team to do all the lifting.