August 31, 2004
Bloggers As Star Trek Conventioneers
Remind me not to have any liquid in my mouth when I read anything written by Norbizness. We're talking about the latest women blogger's debate at Feministe when Norbizness made this crack about bloggers - "the cool kids' table in the blogosphere actually resembling an obsessive-compulsive gaggle of Star Trek conventioneers."
I'm going to speak as a panelist at the World Science Fiction Convention starting on Thursday, and I will never get that image out of my mind. As a matter of fact, I probably won't be posting much at all from Thursday through Tuesday, since I'll be in Boston most of the time. I know there are going to be gaggles of Trekkers and Trekker-types there.
The image really fits well. Bloggers as pimply college guys wearing "Republicans for Voldemort" pins, having heated debates about the chemical makeup of dilithium crystals, and wondering why Deana Troy never answers their fan mail. Getting all googly when they get a little attention from Patrick Stewart (who promptly forgets them), and bragging about it amongst themselves for aeons. Heh.
I Hate Being Right
I wrote this in June:
Well, gee, here it is nearly three months later and once again we're in the midst of another "where are the women bloggers" debate. Just call me Nostradamus.
I think it actually started about a week ago at Alas, A Blog. Barry at least listened and understood why some feminists thought that it would have been better for a female feminist blogger to take the spot he was asked to take on Air America Radio's The Majority Report in a discussion with another blogger about the wage gap. While there was a little heat, that was a good discussion that didn't devolve into nasty flaming. It also ended with a very good talk about the role of feminist men in the feminist movement. A comment that one of Barry's commenters named "Funnie" wrote on my blog during that discussion sticks out in my mind now, for reasons that will be clear in a minute. Here's what she wrote:
A couple of days ago, Matt Stoller, a progressive blogger and pro-feminist man, picked up the "woman blogger" live wire and it's still sparking. There were two things he wrote that offended some women bloggers who have stumbled upon the latest incarnation of this debate. I quote them below. Bold is my emphasis.
1. "The flame war pissing contest that motivates so many communities is another example of boys raising their hands in class and just generally being more aggressive. So Respectful of Otters gets ignored by the 'big boys', even though it's great. There's also the fact that it deals with uteruses and other stuff that boys don't have and don't think of, like career/family conflicts."
2. [This one was in his response to one of my comments.] "More to the point, feminism doesn't belong to women, and until you realize that we're in this together, the more marginalized you will continue to be."
I wasn't aware that feminist women needed feminist men's approval, otherwise we'd continue to be marginalized. Since "boys" don't have or don't think of career/family conflicts, they should avoid divorce-bed conversions where they suddenly want custody of the kids. It reminds me of what Funnie had written; in effect, that feminist men expect to be praised for being aware of sexism as if they're doing all of us a great big favor. We, as feminist women, should be grateful that they notice sexism and talk about it. That's not feminism, guys. That's ego.
I started out in the conversation with what I thought was a cordial and respectful tone. I'm trying to maintain that sense of decorum but it's very difficult now. I'm angry. How can a woman blogger point out - rightly - that women bloggers are for the most part rendered invisible? How can she point out that this conversation repeats with no solution approximately every three months and that it's been going on longer than I've been in the blogosphere - a year and a half. Why is it that when a woman blogger is polite, but direct and open about it as I have been - she's ridiculed, patronized, told she is intolerant, and then dismissed? And then the guys wonder why some women bloggers don't dive into heated debates with them without qualifying their statements with vapid openings like "it's only my opinion" or "I may be wrong"? Who wants to put up with that kind of treatment?
I don't think the question should be "where are the women bloggers?" I think it should be "why don't I, a male blogger, link to more commentary made by women bloggers?" Place the responsibility where it belongs.
Here are links to more bloggers discussing the issue:
After Thinking About It, I've Decided Not To Drop It, by Mouse Words.
On Women Bloggers, by Utopian Hell.
The African-American Blog Thing, by Antigone at XX. (It's satire. See if you get it.)
Male Feminists II, by Wicked Muse.
Look At The Time, by Feministe.
Did You Check Under The Seat Cushions, Pt. II, by Pinko Feminist Hellcat.
Two related posts of mine about feminist men and their role and place in feminism:
Here is my original post about the women blogger's thing, The Invisible Woman Blogger. It's also linked in my opening quote.
I don't really have much more to say on the subject. I'll see y'all again about it in three months.
August 30, 2004
Steal From The Poor And Give To The Rich
Remember that old Monty Python skit about Melvin Moore (or whatever his name was) who ended up stealing from the poor and giving to the rich? He had a think for lupins. Well, it's been clear for a long time that Bush is pulling an unfunny Python skit on the American public, but now we have the Census Bureau report to prove it. The poor are poorer and the rich are richer, and things won't be improving for the poor or the middle class as long as Bush and his minion control our government. Echidne has an excellent post on the subject. I can't give it justice. Just go over there and read it.
World's Worst Parent Competition
Why are all three of the nominees mothers? Where were the dads while these moms were doing their bad parent thing? Can't dads be bad parents too?
I like reading Sadly, No!'s "Worlds Worst Mom" series because it's so funny, but I have noticed that mom's rise to the top of the heap when it comes to criticizing bad parenting. If it isn't a "friendly parent" provision or "alienation" that takes custody away from her, it's water-cooler banter about how awful she is. It isn't that moms are with the kids more often so their parenting methods would stand out. It's that dads don't suffer that kind of scrutiny.
I have a story that has all of World O' Crap's mom's beat. Can you nominate a dad who was murdered by his 10 year old son?
Mom accused dad of sexually molesting their two boys. The allegations were never proven. Dad's lawyer says these were "false allegations" (what a surprise.) All of this took place during a very ugly divorce.
10 year old son is very angry with dad. During a visitation pick-up, 10 year old gets gun from mom's house, sits in the back seat of the car, and shoots dad who is sitting in the driver's seat. He then gets out of the car and shoots at it some more.
You're average 10 year old doesn't go around shooting his parents. Something was very wrong there, and I don't think it was "false allegations."
August 27, 2004
Still More Regulations of Women's Behavior
I recently posted a link to a story about a mom who was jailed for smoking near her children. Here is another example of the trend of punishing mom's behavior by removing custody of her children from her.
It seems that the trend to punish divorced moms who "badmouth" dad by taking custody away from them is on the rise. This trend began with the introduction of Dr. Richard Gardner's junk science Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) into the courtroom. Mothers who tried to protect their children from abusive fathers were viewed as "alienating" the children from dad. The "cure" for this junk "disorder" was to remove the children from mom's care, give custody to dad, force mom into "therapy" with a PAS-supportive psychologist, and not allow her any access to the kids until she learned to "cooperate." That mean ignoring the abuse and not "badmouthing" dad to the kids.
PAS has never been accepted as a legitimate medical syndrome by the American Medical Association. It is not in the DSM-IV, the "Bible" of psychological disorders. It is junk science. Without a valid diagnosis, doctors cannot recommend treatment, but that hasn't stopped PAS proponents from punishing moms who "brainwash" the kids against dad. Due to valid criticisms of Gardner's bogus theory that kept it from passing muster in many court cases, PAS proponents such as Douglas Darnall have moved on to a more generalized version of "parental alienation" that sees just about every form of behavior by mom that dad, his lawyer, and any court-appointed psychologist does not approve of as "alienation" on her part - and she must be punished. Another recent trend that is on the rise is "friendly" parent theory, which holds that parents need to "get along" for the sake of the children. If one parent, most often mom, balks at seeing her established parental authority and primary caregiving role stepped on by dad, she is viewed as "unfriendly" and "uncooperative." She risks losing custody. In abuse cases, this is even more horrendous.
Fathers are not placed under such scrutiny. When mom is emotional and reactive to a cold, vindictive, controlling, manipulative ex-spouse/ex-boyfriend who is a master at disguising his true nature in court, her behavior is the one placed under the microscope, not his. Even if there are restraining orders against him or there have been other documented problems, he stands a good chance of getting custody due to "alienation" and "friendly parent" theory.
These are very harmful trends that are on the rise. They are affecting countless custodial mothers across the country.
Single/Divorced Parents and Children's Academic Achievement
Elizabeth Marquardt is skeptical that children raised by single moms do just as well in school as children from intact homes. She's also skeptical that they are as well behaved as children in intact homes. Here's what she wrote, at the Family Scholars Blog:
Elizabeth, I can back it up. It's true that most children from single and divorced homes (read: living with mom) do just as well as children from intact homes. The children who do not do as well and who have behavior problems are the ones being raised by a single father. It is motherlessness, not "fatherlessness," that leads to problems. Research has already determined that the two factors that have the most influence on a child's educational achievements are the educational level of the mother and household economic well-being, married or not.
The following myths/facts are from my page, Myths and Facts About Fatherlessness, from my web site.
DEBUNKING FATHERLESSNESS: ACADEMIC DIFFICULTIES/LOW S.A.T. SCORES
Myth -- "1% increase in the rate of fatherlessness SAT scores declined 3 points..." (per The False Child Abuse Industry by John Knight for Fathering Magazine)
Fact: "Culminating a decade of steady improvement, US high school students who took the SAT this year posted the highest math scores since 1969, according to scores released yesterday."
"Nationally, the SAT scores released yesterday continue a roughly 10-year trend. Scores declined throughout the 1970s and early 1980's, but they stabilized in the mid-1980's and have risen steadily since then. Many attribute the initial drop to the fact that a far larger and more diverse group began to take the test."
[SAT math scores best since 1969 Figures reflect steady US climb; Mass. students keep up the pace; The Boston Globe; By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff, 8/30/2000]
Myth -- Divorce causes academic and behavioral problems in children.
Fact: "Andrew Cherlin and his colleagues studied random samples of over 11,000 children in Great Britain and over 2,200 children in the U.S., using information gathered on parents' and teachers' repor ts of behavioral problems and the children's reading and math scores. They statistically controlled for the children's social class, race, the children's early behavioral and t est scores, and factors such as physical, mental, and emotional handicaps as assessed by physicians.
After controlling for those factors, boys of divorced parents scored as high as boys from intact couples on the behavioral and academic tests. For girls , there was a small residual effect, apparently caused by the divorce itself, on their parents' and teachers' ratings of their behavioral problems.
This work implies that most of the problems we see in children of divorced parents are due to long-standing psychological problems of the parents, the stresses of poverty and racism, disabilities the children themselves suffer, and so on."
[Mahony, Rhona, Divorce, Nontraditional Families, and Its Consequences for Children
citing to Cherlin, et al., Science, 1991, June 7, 252 (5011), pp.1386-89]
Myth -- High father involvement post-divorce increases children's academic performance.
Fact: "Children of divorced homes with high grade point averages have mothers with a lower level of depression, a higher educational level, less conflict with their ex-spouse, and less intense levels of conflict between mother and child than those children with lower grade point averages."
[McCombs, A., & Forehand, R. (1989). Adolescent school performance following parental divorce: Are there family factors which can enhance success? Adolescence, 24, 871-880.]
Myth-- Adolescents from single father households do better academically than those from single mother households.
Fact: There is little established long-term difference, except that adolescents from single father households are judged by teachers to be less well behaved and to show less effort in class. They also score slightly less than their single-mother counterparts on standardized tests, both verbal and math, and are perceived to be less academically qualified for college. Children raised by single fathers attain on average six months less education.
[Downey, D. B., Ainsworth-Darnell, J. W., & Dufur, M. J. (1998). Sex of parent and children's well-being in single-parent households. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(4), 878-893]
The following Fluff/Facts are from Wade's World: The Myths, The Fluff, and the Facts, available at The Liz Library:
Fluff-- Children with an involved father have more varied social experiences and are more intellectually advanced than those who only have regular contact with their mother.
[Wade Horn's "Father Facts" quoting Henry B. Biller in Fathers and Families, Paternal Factors in Child Development, Auburnhouse, Westport, CT 1993]: "Children with an involved father are exposed to more varied social experiences and are more intellectually advanced than those who only have regular contact with their mother. Infants with two involved parents can cope better with being alone with strangers and also seem to attend more effectively to novel and complex stimuli. Well-fathered children have a greater breadth of positive social experiences than those exclusively reared by their mothers."]
Fact: "Lessing, Zagorin, and Nelson (1970) found children in father-absent households had lower IQ, verbal, and performance scores than children in father-present households [but] Hunt and Hunt (1977) found race and class were factors in related variables such as aspirations, with lower income children having lower aspirations. According to Mott (1994), girls are more likely to be helped with poor school performance if the father is not in the home... Assessing intellectual functioning in relation to family structure is difficult at best... Although children of divorce experience disruption of academic performance in the aftermath, within two years most children return to their normal patterns of performance. Boys experience greater disruption and girls experience greater recovery of their academic performance... [G]irls' experience challenges to their emotional stability, but their school success is somewhat enhanced by father absence."
[National Center on Fathers and Families, Father Presence Matters: A Review of the Literature, Toward an Ecological Framework of Fathering and Child Outcomes, by Deborah J. Johnson http://fatherfamilylink.gse.upenn.edu/org/ncoff/litrev/fpmlr.htm; Lessing, E. E., Zagorin, S. W., & Nelson, D. (1970). WISC subtest and IQ score correlates of father absence. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 117, 181-195.; Hunt, J. G., & Hunt, L. L. (1977). Race, daughters and father loss: Does absence make the girl grow stronger? Social Problems, 25(1), 90-102.; Mott, F. L. (1994). Sons, daughters and fathers' absence: Differentials in father-leaving probabilities and in-home environments. Journal of Family Issues, 15(1), 97-128.]
Offensive -- "White" children do better in school when their fathers are involved.
"A study using a nationally representative sample of over 6,300 teenagers found that for the white children in the sample, father involvement is associated with better quantitative and verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and overall academic achievement. Source: Goldstein, Harris S. "Fathers' Absence and Cognitive Development of 12-17 Year Olds." Psychological Reports 51 (1982): 843-848.
Fact: Apparently, above, the presence of minority fathers is not so beneficial. The finding could have been written up in quite an interesting alternate way. This old study notwithstanding, the far and away most powerful predictors of child educational attainment have been established by the research; they are the mother's education and household economic well-being (married or not.)
Fluff -- Children in intact families do better in school when their fathers are involved.
"A study using a national probability sample of 1,250 fathers showed that children whose fathers share meals, spend leisure time with them, or help them with reading or homework do significantly better academically than those children whose fathers do not. Source: Cooksey, Elizabeth C. and Michelle M. Fondell. "Spending Time with His Kids: Effects of Family Structure on Fathers' and Children's Lives." Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (August 1996): 693-707.
Fact: Mothers' education is a primary predictor of child well-being. Moreover, there is some indication that fathers' involvement follows children's successes (fathers become more interested under such circumstances), as much as influencing such successes.
Russell Sage Foundation, c/o CUP Services, P.O. Box 6525, Ithaca, NY 14851 http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp/news/fall97/5fall97.html
Misrepresentation -- Girls do better at math when their fathers are involved (and also are more feminine).
" '...for girls, studies link a sense of competence in daughters - especially in mathematics and a sense of femininity - to a close, warm relationship between father and daughter.' Source: Radin, N. and G. Russell. "Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes.' Fatherhood and Family Policy. Eds. M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi. Hillside Lawrence Erlbaum, 1983: 191-218."]
Comment: Higher femininity in girls has been correlated with lower interest and achievement in mathematics and the hard sciences.
Fact: "[G]irls' ...[academic] success is somewhat enhanced by father absence."
Mott, F. L. (1994). Sons, daughters and fathers' absence: Differentials in father-leaving probabilities and in-home environments. Journal of Family Issues, 15(1), 97-128, quoted in National Center on Fathers and Families, Father Presence Matters: A Review of the Literature, Toward an Ecological Framework of Fathering and Child Outcomes, by Deborah J. Johnson
Fact: The greatest predictors of child academic success are (1) the educational level of a child's mother and (2) the socioeconomic level of the home. (There also is a genetic component influencing native brain power and disposition in families in which fathers stay married to mothers, mothers have higher education, and there is a higher overall socioeconomic level.) When research isolates out the "father factor," the findings are that "adolescents from single father households are judged by teachers to be less well behaved and to show less effort in class. They also score slightly less than their single-mother counterparts on standardized tests, both verbal and math, and are perceived to be less academically qualified for college. Children raised by single fathers attain on average six months less education."
See Downey, D. B., Ainsworth-Darnell, J. W., & Dufur, M. J. (1998). Sex of parent and children’s well-being in single-parent households. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(4), 878-893
Fluff -- Children from two-parent families do better in school, are less prone to depression and are more successful in relationships than children from one parent families.
[Wade Horn's "Father Facts." "Children with fathers at home tend to do better in school, are less prone to depression and are more successful in relationships. Children from one-parent families achieve less and get into trouble more than children from two-parent families. Source: One-Parent Families and Their Children: The School's Most Significant Minority. The Consortium for the Study of School Needs of Children from One-Parent Families. National Association of Elementary School Principals and the Institute for Development of Educational Activities, a division of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation. Arlington, VA. 1980."
Fact: Children from two-parent homes indeed appear to do better in some ways, especially ways that are influenced by socio-economic status, but serious design errors and methodological problems render many studies (such as the outdated study Horn quotes, above) that ostensibly show harm from father absence inconclusive, e.g. they shortchange the impact of family-related variables (socio-economic status, number of children, cause of parental absence, etc.) This notwithstanding, no study has found fathers' apparent contributions in two-parent households to carry over to nonresidential father involvement -- other than his economic contributions.
Blechman, E. A. (1982). Are children with one parent at psychological risk? A methodological review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 44, 179-195.
Fact: "Meta-analysis supports the notion that the impact of father absence appears to be mediated by family conflict; father absence in itself may not affect children's well-being. The family conflict perspective was strongly confirmed by the data. This perspective holds that children in intact families with high levels of conflict should have the same well-being problems as children of divorce, and the data supported this hypothesis."
Amato, P. R., & Keith, B. (1991). Parental divorce and the well-being of children: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 26-46.
Fact: "Critical to understanding child outcomes of divorce is viewing divorce as a process (Hetherington, Cox & Cox, 1978; Wallerstein, 1987) and not an isolated event in the life of the child. The process of divorce likely encompasses declining marital relations, a family context to which the child is exposed for an extended time. In the aftermath of the divorce the child's stressful familial experience may be culminated. Few studies have ascertained what children may have witnessed prior to the divorce, nor have they controlled for these factors when attempting to predict child outcomes from fathers' presence or absence. Predivorce conflict may have greater explanatory power in predicting child outcomes than changes in father residence and contact (Lamb, 1987)."
Hetherington, E. M., Cox, M., & Cox, R. (1978). The aftermath of divorce. In J. J. H. Stevens & M. Matthews (Eds.), Mother-child, father-child relations. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children; Wallerstein, J. S. (1987). Children of divorce: Report of a ten-year follow-up of early latency-age children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 199-211; Lamb, M. (1987). Introduction: The emergent American father. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.) The father's role: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp.3-26). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Also see the research at http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/017.htm
Talk About Ignoring The Elephant In The Living Room...
You've gotta be kidding me... How much more blind can you be?
Friday Cat Blogging, Part II
I split my Friday Cat Blogging post in two because this part was too unwieldly in the other post.
Mulder finally figured out that if she sleeps on the bed she won't fall of of it. She stopped sleeping on the shelf. It sure was funny watching her fall off of it every fifteen minutes. Stubborn cat. I figure that since I had washed the sheets and blankets, the smell of the other cats is off of the bed linens so now she'll take over my bed. There's nothing like waking up in the middle of the night with the dead weight of a fifteen pound cat sitting on your chest. Talk about night terrors.
Here's Lucky, giving me another wide-eyed "whatchoowantnow?" look.
Friday Cat Blogging
I found a really great cat that I would get if I didn't mind a lot of work. A Savannah is a cross between my favorite big cat, the African Serval, and a domestic cat. You end up with a chow hound with big ears. Here's a picture, to the right.
Savannahs require a lot of extra care. They need raw chicken twice daily on top of their normal cat food. Plus, you can't get any new cats once you get a Savannah. They eat small animals, including other cats they have not been raised with. Maybe after my son goes off to college and we move in the middle of a large forest, I can get one. It'll be raised with our current cats so there'll be no danger of our critters becoming a midnight snack. Can't get cats after the Savannah, though. It'll definitely have to be an indoor cat, or outside with a leash. Gee, wouldn't it be a hoot for me to be responsible for mountain lion sightings. Heh. I get the impression that these cats are being bred so that their temperaments are more suitable for becoming your favorite lap fungus, so maybe the two chickens and keeping them away from strange cats in your home aren't necessarily the case for all of them now.
August 26, 2004
White Guys and Privilege
Over at Alas, A Blog, one of the commenters named "Funnie" has discussed male privilege and how that affects men who call themselves "feminist." A big "gotcha" for a feminist man is for him to be aware of when he benefits from societal views of gender roles that inhibit or harm women and others not privileged by gender, race, and class. It's an awareness that pro-feminist men must tackle every day. It's a criticism I've heard before, and it's one that I happen to agree with.
XY Online is an excellent resource for articles and commentary written by pro-feminist men. This article by Chris Crass, Tools for White Guys who are Working for Social Change and Other People Socialized in a Society Based On Domination, places a spotlight on what white, middle-class men can do to become aware of how they benefit from dominant societal views of gender, race, and class - and what they can do to help mend society. As they say, awareness is the first step.
Crass outlined, for men, "practical strategies for minimising everyday domination."
I'm aware that one criticism of this article is that it doesn't go nearly far enough. It doesn't have enough pointers regarding being aware of how white, middle-class men benefit from societal attitudes, such as their opinions would be accorded more value, they get to define the debate, and all sorts of other little things they may take for granted that women overall cannot. A woman has to work twice as hard as a man.
The article mainly about men being aware of other men and wanting to dominate in meetings rather than listen or ask what is needed. There may also be criticism that it focuses too much on awareness and not enough on actually taking action that would relieve men of the benefits of their status. Letting go of the benefits of privilege is not something a lot of people would willingly give up.