Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I am off to be with family for a few days so I wanted to take an opportunity to wish you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Feminism in Academia: Part II

I have had a few examples of the effect of feminism in two assignments I received from students at the end of the semester. One of my students, a 40ish divorced single mom recently turned in a case study assignment. I had given her the basic case of a fifty-something year old male executive recovering from a heart attack and she embellished the case. I am fine with students embellishing the cases because it makes the assignments more interesting for me to read, however this student added some feminist flavored elements to the case. The man was cheating on his wife with a mistress which caused him stress and led to his heart attack. The man didn’t listen to his wife when she told him to eat better and exercise which led to his heart attack. Once the man ended his affair and started listening to his wife all was well in his world. This is from a student who also “accidentally” included one of the male faculty in my department on a email containing “stupid man tricks”. That male faculty member mentioned the email in a faculty meeting and my chair shrugged it off. Compare this behavior with my chair's reaction when I said something that offended a female student.

Another non-traditional (late 20s and married) female student did a journal article review on a study that examined the time use of women in relation to their health. Her assignment included the following paragraph (in italics):

The article stated that a woman’s typical occupational roles usually include work, child care, and home management. A man’s typically includes work and leisure pursuits. This hardly seems appropriate to me. It may not be received well by all, but I think it would be beneficial to initiate a type of “couples training.” The husband or significant other should be informed of the occupational tasks of his spouse/significant other. Then he should be educated on how this is affecting her health and well-being. The woman should also be educated on stress and time management techniques. I think many women (myself included) should be reminded that it’s Ok and usually necessary to ask for help. I think it would be beneficial for the couple to discuss alternatives so as to alleviate the stress on the woman. Tasks should be shared between both in a partnership. In addition, the women in this study must find a way to incorporate leisure pursuits into their life.

The article did indeed say that a woman’s typical occupational roles usually include work, child care, and home management and a man’s typically include work and leisure pursuits. :

“Women’s time use is different than men’s. Women, especially mothers, spend more time in household work, child care, and helping other family members, whereas men spend more time in paid work and in leisure occupations (Bird & Fremont, 1991; Statistics Sweden, 2003). This gender difference is reflected in the patterns of daily occupations. Because a higher proportion of woman’s occupations attend to others’ needs, they are more frequently interrupted from what they are doing (Hirdman, 1999). The impact of these ingredients of woman’s daily occupations on their well-being was shown in a study of working, cohabitant mothers (Erlandsson & Eklund, 2003a). A lack of control and frequent experiences of hassles in daily occupations were found to be risk factors for experiencing lower quality of life and lower self-rated health.”
(Erlandsson & Eklund, 2006, p.28)

It makes it sound like men just go to work and then pursue leisure interests and women work themselves into lower quality of life and self-rated health what with all the house work etc. they do, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, my student was taken in by a case of the authors twisting references to back up their position, and then she rolled with it. Let’s take a look at the references:

The Bird and Fremont reference was a time use study that examined how men and women in the United States spent their time in 1981. According to this study, out of a seven day week, women spend 18.41 hours in paid work, 16.91 hours in housework, and 4.33 hours in childcare for a total of 39.65 hours of work. Men spend 35.47 hours in paid work, 4.36 hours in housework, and 1.74 hours in childcare for a total of 41.57 hours of work. So, men actually spent more time working, 1.92 hours more per week. One would also assume that the work of many men also serves others and may include frequent interruptions of tasks as well.

Okay, maybe men have a lot more time spent in leisure. According to Bird and Fremont, women spend 27.09 hours in leisure and men spend 28.25 hours in leisure per week for a difference of 1.14 hours. So, men get 1.14 hours more leisure a week. Um, okay, so men spend more time working and doing leisure activities than women. What are the women doing during that time? According to Bird and Fremont, they are spending more time than men in two activities on average: sleeping and self care (grooming etc).

What about the Statistics Sweden reference? Well I couldn’t retrieve that exact reference but I found the same data in another source that also included time use by gender for other European countries too. Time use statistics from the Swedish government regarding Swedish women and men aged 20 to 74, revealed the following patterns expressed in hours and minutes per 24 hour day.

Free Time: men- 5:24/ women- 5:03
Meals, personal care: men- 2:11/ women- 2:28
Sleep: men- 8:01/ women- 8:11
Travel: men- 1:30/ women- 1:23
Domestic Work: men- 2:29/ women- 3:42
Gainful Work: men- 4:25/ women- 3:12

Again, men spend 8:25 in work tasks (travel, domestic work, gainful work) and women spend 8:07. Men spend 15:36 in self care/leisure tasks (free time, eating meals, personal care, sleep) and women 15:42.

Neither reference makes the case that women are spending more time working than men, or than men have significantly more leisure time than women because of all the work women do around the house. In fact these references make the case that the work load seems to be pretty evenly distributed between men and women in a home. Of course that doesn’t fit the feminist mantra that “a woman’s work is never done”. It is pretty easy to imagine that women reading that peer reviewed journal article would get the same misconception my student did, that women have lower perceived health because men don’t help with domestic tasks. And don’t even get me started on the idea that a correlation or association between two factors (say time use and perceived health) means that one factor causes or even has direct influence on the other factor…

Feminism in Academia: Part I

I was recently solicited to participate in a survey about graduate teaching in the health sciences for someone’s dissertation. I always try to participate in studies when invited because I know what it is like to try and recruit subjects when everyone says no. So, I agreed to participate in the survey which contained numerous questions about attitudes and actions that a graduate faculty may engage in. The questions asked that I categorize the behaviors' appropriateness and requirement for disciplinary intervention into the following categories:

1 = Appropriate behavior, should be encouraged
2 = Discretionary behavior, neither particularly appropriate nor inappropriate
3 = Mildly inappropriate behavior, generally to be ignored
4 = Inappropriate behavior, to be handled informally by colleagues or administrators suggesting change or improvement
5 = Very inappropriate behavior, requiring formal administrative intervention

One of the survey items was:

The instructor does not include pertinent scholarly contributions of women and minorities in the content of the course.

Okay, well first, faculty leave pertinent scholarly contributions out all the time because there is usually not enough time to include all pertinent scholarly contributions. Secondly, why is it only women and minorities included in the question? Why is the researcher not interested in if the instructor does not include pertinent scholarly contributions of men and non-minorities in the content of the course?

Christmas Spirit

Ah, Christmas spirit is in the air. In the past I was always one of those people who finished Christmas gift shopping by Thanksgiving, because I hate the crowds. This does not work well since I have been teaching, because it gets really busy at that time of year. Since I began teaching I usually wait until the semester is over to do most of my shopping. So, yesterday evening I did some shopping.

I was at a store that has tables with merchandise on them to tempt you to buy more stuff all along the line to the check out . There I was waiting in line, looking at the merchandise on one of the the tables with about 1-2 feet between me and the man in front of me. The first person in the front of the line got called forward to the next available cashier, and the people behind him stepped forward, including the man in front of me. I noticed the movement, but before I could step forward a woman and a teenage girl stepped in front of me in line. Christmas spirit, nothing like it.

Reminds me of similar experiences in Christmases past. One time I was at a movie theater waiting in line in the ladies room when the line moved and woman in front of me stepped forward. After about 1 second passed the girl behind me shoved me forward. I guess I didn't move fast enough for her.

I have also had issues while browsing merchandise in stores. A few years ago I was in the Bath and Body Works store at a mall looking at the gift sets. There were many options to choose from, and as is the case for me with restaurant menus, when there are too many choices and I don't have a certain thing in mind, I can be slow to decide. The gift set display is about 8 feet wide and I stood in front of it for about 5 minutes trying to make my choices. Well, an older lady walks up and stands next to me. She was a very dignified looking older lady, petite, and wearing a blazer and pearls. After another minute or so I guess she grew weary of my indecision and took a sidestep toward me and put her shoulder into my side and shoved me over with enough force to move me over and nearly knock me off balance. I kid you not.

Another time I was looking through the leather jackets on a circular rack when a woman who had to be at least 6 feet tall came up next to me and spun the rack with enough force to pull the jacket I was holding and looking at out of my hands. She then grabbed the jacket I was holding. I looked at her with my mouth hanging open in surprise and she just raised her eyebrows at me as if to say "you got a problem with me?".

I must look like a "pushover" lol.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Does attractiveness influence justice under the law?

In a previous post about the elder abuse committed by several young women Ame left this comment:

Learner- do you know if there are any stats on how attractiveness affects one's ability to receive favorable treatment rather than to receive what is due??

I recall reading about studies that reported attractive women tend to be rated higher on work performance evaluations (attractiveness did not matter for men as much in this area), make more money (more so for women than men), and hold more influence over both men and women (but interestingly, less attractive men hold more influence over other men), but I didn't recall reading anything about the effect of attractiveness on treatment under the law. So, I looked to see what I could find.

According to a study from a Dr. Sandie Taylor at Bath Spa University, "attractive suspects" were more likely to be acquitted than "unattractive suspects".

"The researchers at Bath Spa University came to their conclusions after asking 96 volunteers to read a transcript of a fictitious mugging case. Half of the participants were given a picture of an attractive suspect, the others one of a supposedly ugly defendant. The script was the same in either case. The volunteer 'jurors' were then asked to decide whether the suspect was innocent or guilty. In the latter case they also had to decide on a sentence. Analysis of the results revealed that attractive suspects were more likely to be acquitted, despite there being no extra evidence in their favour. "

This article also referred to some previous research done by Dr Taylor that found the gender of the juror can also influence their perceptions of the defendant.

"Women jurors treat female suspects more harshly, especially when they think they might have used their looks to their advantage. Men, on the other hand, tend to give attractive women the benefit of the doubt. The phenomenon, known as the 'halo effect', is thought to extend far beyond the courtroom, with looks affecting an individual's exam marks, job prospects and even ability to make friends."

I also found the following about attractiveness and the justice system via this document about the effect of physical attractiveness in the workplace:

"A physically attractive person charged with the same crime as a less attractive person is more likely to be found not guilty of that crime."
  • Efran, M.G. (1974). The effect of physical appearance on the judgment of guilt, interpersonal attraction, and severity of recommended punishment in simulated jury task. Journal of Research in Personality, 8, 45-54.
"In court cases in which the crime is sex-related, physically unattractive defendants are considered to be more dangerous than better-looking offenders. This effect is often independent of the actual grooming or attire of the defendant."
  • Esses, V.M., & Webster, C.D. (1988). Physical attractiveness, dangerousness, and the
    Canadian criminal code. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 1017-1031.
  • Sigall, H. & Ostrove, N. (1975). Beautiful but dangerous; effects of offender
    attractiveness and nature of crime on juridic judgment. Journal of Personality
    and Social Psychology, 31, 410-414.
"Physically attractive individuals found guilty of a particular crime are more likely to receive more lenient sentences than less attractive defendants."
  • DeSantis, A., & Kayson, W.A. (1997). Defendants’ characteristics of attractiveness,
    race, and sex and sentencing decisions. Psychological Reports, 81, 679-683.

So, it would appear that attractiveness does influence "justice".

Friday, December 12, 2008

More Snow...

It seems that it is going to be a heavy winter for snow. This is what I woke up to this morning.


When someone wounds you, what needs to happen for you to forgive them? Forgiveness hasn't been a big struggle for me in the past, maybe because I am very aware of God's mercy toward me. Recently, I have come to realize that I seem to need to understand where a person is coming from and why they did what they did to let the offense go and forgive. Perhaps in some way that allows me to rationalize the offense and in that understanding to forgive. That sort of reasoning has worked pretty well for me.

But, what do you do when someone wounds you and you cannot understand why they would do what they did, because it is irrational? This is where I find myself. I don't think I recognized my struggle with recovering from this wound as unforgiveness. When I think about what happened I feel sad and hurt and confused, but I feel no anger. Actually, I have felt very little anger over what happened. So, I thought I had forgiven.

But, one of the pastors at my church tells me that to forgive someone you need to recognize the wound and not minimize it. You need to say, "Yes, he hurt me, he wounded me. What he did was wrong and he sinned against me. He owes me." Only then can you decide to give that offense to God and let the wound heal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sexual Harassment?

Recently I had dinner with some friends I worked with more than five years ago. As often occurs when visiting with old friends, we spent some time reminiscing. In the course of the evening one of my co-workers reminded me of something that happened back then that I had forgotten about.

First, let me give you a little context. You see, sometimes I am kind of clumsy. If there is something to trip over, slip on, or fall from, I find it. In fact, a few weeks ago when I was in a rush to get to class I was quickly pulling my office door closed behind me when I dropped my USB drive. Naturally, I bent over to pick it up, and while I was bending, the door swung forward and met my bottom with enough force to knock me off balance (not hard to do). I managed to catch myself before I fell, and entertain my coworkers walking down the hall at the same time. I'm good like that.

Anyway, back when I worked with these old friends I had another "near miss". One day I was walking through the clinic I worked in with my head down reading a chart. One of my male co-workers came running around a corner and I didn't see him coming, so I collided with him and kind of bounced off of his chest. The chart went flying and somehow our legs got tangled up and I tripped over his feet and began to fall. So, he reached out and caught me in an odd position that kind of resembled a sort of sideways "dip" from a ballroom dance and then set me back on my feet. As he caught me, one of his hands happened to land partially on one of my breasts. As soon as I was upright again he apologized for grabbing me so hard there and said that he just was trying to keep me from falling. I told him I really appreciated him preventing my fall and that it was okay because I knew he didn't grab me there on purpose. He then wiggled his eyebrows at me and said humorously "are you sure it wasn't on purpose?". I said, "you've been planning that for weeks, haven't you?" and he, I, and our co-workers who gathered to watch "the spectacle", all laughed.

The next day I went into work and one of my female co-workers, who did not like the male co-worker who caught me, asked me if I was alright after my near fall. I told her I was fine, just little embarrassed, and I had a fantastic bruise on my breast/side where he caught me. She said "I saw him grab you, I think he did that on purpose. He shouldn't be running in here." I said "I was glad he caught me. It was my fault, I wasn't looking where I was going. You know him, he wouldn't do that on purpose. Plus, it happened so fast there is no way he could have purposefully caught me in such a way to grab me there anyway." She said "you should take pictures of the bruise for evidence." I asked "evidence of what?" and she replied "sexual harassment". I just walked away from her.

Recalling this caused me to wonder how often accusations of sexual harassment are made for the wrong reasons. I do not mean to say that it is acceptable for either men or women to truly harass others in a sexually inappropriate manner in the workplace. I think real sexual harassment can happen, but that false accusations serve to minimize the genuine incidences.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas is Coming....

Time to bake!

Saturday evening I was supposed to go to a Christmas decorating party at a friend's house, so I made some mini cheesecakes. They have Oreo cookie crusts and I mixed Oreo bits into some of the cheesecakes. Some also got topped with toffee and chocolate bits right out of the oven. I topped the rest with cherry or raspberry filling. Unfortunately the party was cancelled due to bad road conditions. So, I gave the cheesecakes to my Dad and Mom when I went to visit Sunday.
Out of the oven

Help, I'm falling!

Ready to serve

Sunday evening I made banana chocolate chunk and pumpkin mini-muffins for my co-workers for Christmas.

A sea of mini-muffins

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now, this makes me angry...

Did anyone else see this news story about the teenage girls who abused elderly persons with Alzheimer's and dementia in a nursing home in Minnesota? I cannot even begin to express how furious this makes me.
  • Because they abused people who were defenseless and unable to voice their objections because of their mental deficits.
  • Because they say they did it for "fun".
  • Because they are being charged with a "gross misdemeanor" and will likely not serve any jail time for physically and sexually abusing the nursing home residents.

Also, I think this has particularly angered me because my Mom has been in a nursing home for the past two weeks for physical therapy so she can regain her strength enough to come home after having a bad infection. My mom does not have dementia or Alzheimer's though she does have some mild to moderate mental deficits from a massive brain hemorrhage a few years ago. If someone did to my mother what those girls did, I think I would be hard pressed to not resort to violence.

What is wrong with those girls? What they did is not just immoral, it is amoral and antisocial behavior. How does a person come to a place where they think it is okay to do what they did? A serious part of humanity is missing in these girls. It makes me sick.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bad Boys

Why is it that some women are attracted to "bad boys"? What exactly is a "bad boy" anyway? Do some men look like "bad boys" who are in fact are good men? Are some men who don't look like "bad boys" exactly that?

I don't know the answers to those questions but I recently saw a movie that really made me think about the concept of the "bad boy". When I was in North Carolina last weekend visiting friends one of my dearest girlfriends wanted to go see the movie Twilight. Because I felt bad for making her miss the premiere showing with other friends of hers (I was arriving in town at that time), I offered to go with her to see it later on in the weekend. All I really knew about the movie was: 1. it was based on a series of books extremely popular with women which my friend loved, and 2. there was a male vampire in it (though my friend assured me it wouldn't be a horror movie...I don't like those).

To put it bluntly, the movie was pretty bad. I've seen worse (The Invasion with Nicole Kidman comes to mind), but Twilight came close to the bottom of the list because it was just so ridiculous. What about the movie was so bad? Where do I start? First of all the production reminded me of a bad television movie on the Lifetime Network. The action sequences were extremely fake looking (maybe the extremely well done action sequences in movies like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have raised my expectations). The story is set in High School (High School!)...and grown women are slobering over the lead male character. I don't get what all the fuss is over. He looked like he had lipstick and eyeliner on! Throughout the movie the women in the theater (there were maybe two men in there...poor souls) oohed and aahed, and laughed on cue and all the while I kept thinking I was missing something....because it wasn't anything worth oohing and aahing over, let alone laughing over.

The lead male character is a vampire by the name of Edward Cullen. Every time I heard that name it reminded me of the character Tom Cullen (M-O-O-N spells Tom Cullen) from Stephen King's The Stand. Edward Cullen is supposed to be "impossibly beautiful" with pale skin that glistens and sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight (I kid you not). In one particularly corny scene he carries the female lead, Bella, up to the top of a mountain where the sun is shining, so she can see what he "really looks like". He steps into the sun, throws his head back, closes his eyes, unbuttons his shirt and pulls it open to expose his chest in some kind of a cheesy underwear model pose. We see his skin glittering and sparkling in the sun, kinda like mine did when I accidently bought some lotion with glitter in it from the clearance rack. Seriously.

Even worse than all the corny-cheesiness was the basic premise underlying the relationship between the male lead, Edward Cullen (M-O-O-N spells vampire) and the female lead Bella. You see, Edward, the vampire, is extremely drawn to Bella...her smell is like "heroin" to him and he longs to suck her blood. But, Edward is a "good" vampire who only feeds on animal blood so he wants to resist this draw he feels for Bella. But, in the end, of course, he just can't stay away from her. You'd think Bella would be afraid of this guy who wants to suck her blood, but no, she trusts him. Even weirder than that, she wants him to suck her blood...she wants to be with him forever...isn't that romantic ? Um, what?!?