Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ah, so, sorry for missing. As I've mentioned before, I don't know who exactly who has been reading this (other than some of you--I've been thrilled to discover that so much of my audience is composed of intelligent and well-read people who I like). However, I do appreciate you all, a lot--so thank you for reading, and I shall try to be more faithful.

It's been an excruciatingly busy few days with two standout awesome events. One of them isn't bloggable, and the other was the undergraduate philosophy conference.

I've never experienced that kind of intellectual community; it's such a more egalitarian format than the classroom. It was small and simple, 20 or 30 people in a room*--just talking and listening about really interesting ideas.

I went for extra credit, expecting something sub-par, but it wasn't. Sure, some of the papers were really basic; some of them didn't say anything interesting. For the most part, though, it was fantastic. There was an understanding, this thing that sets it apart from terrible campfire or internet philosophy: we are going to read the old books. We are going to know if someone has had this idea before, and had it better. We are going to build on and challenge this tradition.

*A really awesome room, which can't have hurt. Kudos to whoever designed the new library.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Lately, I've been thinking about a lot of things that I'd traditionally consider a waste of time. In honor of this: my first fashion post. Not cultural critique of fashion, just fashion. With no commentary. At all.

We'll call it an exercise in restraint.



Corset: I love the green, but for this particular outfit, I think greys--maybe with one that matches the hat color.





Hair: something like this, but with a bit more pulled back--and maybe in a more interesting color, or more than one more interesting color:


Jewelery: maybe these? I'd also keep the pocketwatch, but in silver.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dear body,

I propose a truce. You will not hurt all the time, and I will try very, very hard not to hate you. I will not get angry about how squishy you are, I will not daydream about impaling you on things, I will be excruciatingly careful with you, and I'll try to give you all the healthy delicious food, exercise, and painkillers that you need.

Sound good? Think it over. We can talk about it in the morning.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I'd like to make three things clear. First, I'm not deeply attached to this, it's just an idea I've been kicking around; please, discuss. Feel free to prove me wrong. Second, I'm generally--and still--an advocate of a very man-friendly reading of feminism, which is not clear from the content of this post. Lastly, I like men. A lot. Even if this theory happens to be right. Ok, now we can start.

I have a theory that since men held so much material power in sexual relationships for such a long time--the ownership of all property, children, and spouse, and a greater right of divorce, among other things--women have, for a long time, been more or less forced to do the work of emotional and interpersonal regulation for both parties.

There's a pattern often found in abusive relationships. Anybody who grew up with a severely physically abusive parent will recognize it; constant threat of violence changes the way you see the world. Your behavior and emotions are absolutely dominated by the goal of keeping yourself (and perhaps also the people you love) safe--which you do by trying to keep your abuser happy, at basically any cost. There is not possibility for give and take in this sort of relationship, no honest communication or mutual recognition of needs. The child is basically not allowed to have needs, particularly not emotional ones.

This is exactly the sort of power over others that has traditionally been afforded to men within marriage, generally without negative physical, legal, or social consequences. Despite the fact that, even in the most brutal times, there were probably lots of men who were decent enough not to engage in this sort of terrorism, I think the fact of it's possibility probably had a large impact on women's functioning over time.

And so we arrive at the (usually essentialist) argument that women just care a lot more about relationships and emotions than men seem to. I think this is definitely the current state of affairs, and that if we're interested in any form of gender equality it can't and shouldn't be ignored.

Here's some evidence:

When addressing ethical challenges women are more likely to place a high value on taking care of people's emotions and creating collaborative solutions to problems--instead of focusing primarily on principles, as men are more likely to. Regardless of technically having access to all fields, women still choose their work by very predictable criteria--on average, we're far more likely than men to be motivated into our career path by wanting to help people. We also want a lot more emotional feedback from our professors then men do.

Perhaps most tellingly, we perform far better--especially in technical fields--when placed in classrooms with no men, whereas men perform the same or worse in single gender classrooms.* Usually people explain this in terms of men showing off for women, and women "showing off" their suitability as mates by not being intellectually intimidating.

I think it useful to contextualize this differently. What is a woman doing when she chooses not to be intellectually intimidating, other than looking after the emotional welfare of her potential colleagues and partners? And why is it that, rather than recognizing that by looking after people's emotions she is performing a valuable service (maybe the reason some studies show that men perform better with women in the room?) which needs to be done by somebody in order for everybody to function well, we simply try to "empower" her out of it?

This is a problem I see with basically every kind of "women's work." Liberating some women from housework doesn't change the fact that housework definitely needs to be done--and that this problem is often "solved" by hiring someone of a lower economic status to do this thankless job instead. Encouraging women not to be completely bound to parenting doesn't change the fact that parenting is a spectacularly important project, which deserves to be done well. The wage gap (for the same hours working outside the home) between mothers and non-mothers is far larger these days than the wage gap between men and women; chew on that.

When you look at the lives of great intellectual men, they are often littered by complicated, even ugly relationships with bright or even brilliant women who never accomplished anything particularly visible themselves. Maybe, there was work going on there too--work of a different kind, work that we ought to recognize. Maybe it will never be possible for women to reach their full technical and intellectual potential until men start to reach their full emotional and relational potential--until men start carrying their weight in doing the work of relationships, along with all the other marginalized kinds of work traditionally left to women.

*Not better or worse as compared to one's classmates, but on national standardized tests like the GRE subject tests.