6. Sexes and Power

Nov-09-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The Hanna Rosin piece has occasioned much debate, and her core thesis, that women are displacing men in domestic and commercial power positions, is worth exploring. Other kinds of power, sexual power or lack thereof, are explored in two fascinating memoirs. And a one page scan of the Kama Sutra, 1944 edition, offers a hilarious spin on academic power and sexuality.

* Hanna Rosin: Are Men An Endangered Species? The Observer

In the late 1970s, he leased the [male/female sperm separation] method to clinics around the United States, calling it the first scientifically proved method for choosing the sex of a child.

Feminists of the era did not take kindly to Ericsson and his sperminator. “You have to be concerned about the future of all women,” said Roberta Steinbacher, a nun turned social psychologist, in a 1984 People profile of Ericsson. Given the “universal preference for sons”, she foresaw a dystopia of mass-produced boys that would lock women into second-class status while men continued to dominate positions of control and influence. “I think women have to ask themselves, ‘Where does this stop?’ “ she said. “A lot of us wouldn’t be here right now if these practices had been in effect years ago.”

Ericsson laughed when I read him these quotes from his old antagonist. Seldom has it been so easy to prove a dire prediction wrong. In the 1990s, when Ericsson looked into the numbers for the two dozen or so clinics that use his process, he discovered, to his surprise, that couples were requesting more girls than boys. The gap has persisted, even though Ericsson advertises the method as more effective for producing boys. In some clinics, he has said, the ratio of preference is now as high as two to one.

Polling data on Americans’ sex preference in offspring is sparse and does not show a clear preference for girls. But the picture from the doctor’s office unambiguously does. A newer method for sperm selection, called MicroSort, is currently awaiting clinical approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The girl requests for that method run at about 75%. The women who call Ericsson’s clinic these days come right out and say: “I want a girl”; they no longer beat around the bush. “These mothers look at their lives and think their daughters will have a bright future their mother and grandmother didn’t have, brighter than their sons, even,” says Ericsson, “so why wouldn’t you choose a girl?” He sighs and marks the passing of an era. “Did male dominance exist? Of course it existed. But it seems to be gone now. And the era of the first-born son is totally gone.”

* The World of a Professional Naked Girl Molly Cabapple VICE

…“Marilyn Monroe could turn it on and off,” Z told me. “You can’t.”

Turning it on and off was something I thought about when I was lying naked in a warehouse in the Bronx, surrounded by hard-boiled eggs. The man photographing me adamantly denied having an egg fetish. After the shoot was over, he’d offer them to me to bring home and eat. I was broke enough to say yes.

I was 20. I’d been working as a naked model for two years. Back in the early aughts, there was a flourishing semi-legit business for girls like me, based off Craigslist and OneModelPlace. Girls too short, fat or plain to be legit models, unwilling to give the “fuck you” to convention it takes to be in legit porn, would pose for amateur photographers. We called them GWCs, or Guys with Cameras. They paid 100 bucks an hour. 

We showed up in their hotel rooms. We posed on their beds. We told each other who was a good guy and who was a sociopath, knowing full well that if a GWC raped us, the police would do nil. A girl I knew was working as a bondage model. The photographer threatened to kill her. She wept. He let her go. When she went to the police, they shrugged her off. The photographer later murdered a model. 

Surrounded by eggs and soft boxes, I was doing my best to escape the trajectory of art school-retail-professional failure that, as a broke student at a bad school, I was marked out for. I wanted to make money fast, shove it into my business and then get out of here. I was young, which meant I had nothing to interest people with besides my looks. While those held out, I wanted to use them to get other, more versatile trading tokens.

* “I Was A Sex Surrogate” Salon

That job was one of the great honours of my life. I felt self-conscious being naked, at times, but it was a nakedness we shared, and since the focus was always placed back on them and their bodies, it didn’t last long. I wasn’t myself with them so much as I was “everywoman” – they could tell me things they’d shared with no other woman and not be shamed: I was their bridge between a hopeful new beginning sexually and the women in their lives with whom they’d be returning to renewed.

* The First Page of my 1944 Copy of the Kama Sutra via reddit

4. Sex, and Gender

Oct-05-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The latest fascinating charts from OK Cupid, the online dating site. A powerful rap by Lauren Zinga, that was the first I’d heard of her… but I’m catching up. She’s amazing. And a look at the impossible demands that are made of (successful) women. Reactions welcomed, as always.

* 10 Charts About Sex  OkTrends

…It is our goal today to create graphics of similar concision and power, but about  …sex.

All the data below, even the most personal stuff, has been gleaned from real user activity on OkCupid. Some of it our users have told us outright by answering match questions; some of it we’ve had to learn from observation. Other than the unifying theme, sex, there’s no big point or thesis to this post: just comparisons, correlations, and quirky trends.

* Girl: Exploded  Lauren Zuniga

Oriah says: This woman breaks my heart open with her poetry & lifts my spirit with her honesty and wisdom. I warn you, it’s four minutes about some truths not often spoken, and some of it’s not easy- or as she says, “It can get a little messy.”

* Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – The Atlantic (Thanks, Mark)

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

As the evening wore on, I ran into a colleague who held a senior position in the White House. She has two sons exactly my sons’ ages, but she had chosen to move them from California to D.C. when she got her job, which meant her husband commuted back to California regularly. I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me. Then I said, “When this is over, I’m going to write an op-ed titled ‘Women Can’t Have It All.’”

5. Gender

Sep-14-2012 | Comments (1)

Bird’s Eye: What’s the story on gender? As many stories as you like. But here are three fascinating factlets to add to your mix: kids inventing a gender-neutral pronoun, the changing m/f ratio in Bachelors, Masters, and Post-grad degrees, and the contrast in colours between the Truck Crayon Set and the Princess Crayon Set. No, you do not win a prize for guessing which had more versions of pink.

* Kids invent and use a gender neutral pronoun in Baltimore Grammar Girl

The grammar news is that Dr. Elaine Stotko, from the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, and her student, Margaret Troyer, have discovered that school children in Baltimore are using the slang word yo as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Dr. Stotko was teaching a master’s class at Johns Hopkins, and it came out during a discussion that several of the high school and middle school English teachers had noticed their students using yo as a pronoun. Often the students would be talking to another student, would point at the third person they were referring to, and would say something like “Yo threw a thumbtack at me.” This made teachers think they were using yo to mean “he or she” instead of yo as you would normally hear in phrases like “Yo momma.”
To test the theory, Stotko and Troyer showed kids a cartoon with a goofy-looking person, but the kids couldn’t tell whether the person was male or female. Then they asked the kids to write a slang caption for the cartoon. Some of the kids wrote, “Yo crazy,” instead of “He or she crazy,” or “They crazy.” Follow-up research showed that kids definitely intended yo to mean “he or she.” They used yo as a pronoun.
…In the past I’ve advocated strongly for using they as a gender-neutral singular pronoun when you can’t rewrite the sentence to make the whole thing plural, and I still believe that’s the best solution, but I also think the emergence of yo to fill this role in slangs fascinating.

…What’s also interesting about the kids’ language is that people — mostly academics — have been trying to introduce a gender-neutral singular pronoun into the English language for about 200 years, with very little success. And then a group of kids in Baltimore just make one up and start using it.

* Gender Ratio of Recent US Graduates   Andrew Sullivan  The Daily Beast

* Gendered crayons  Cory Doctorow Boing Boing

Here’s a set of gendered crayons … I found the “Truck Crayon Set” and “Princess Crayon Set” in the gift-shop at the Rochester, NY Hyatt yesterday… One thing that surprised me about parenting was how gendered EVERYTHING is: gendered diapers, bottles, wipes — even kid toothpaste comes in princess or butch action-dude versions.

5. Good News

Jul-13-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Some things to cheer you up. Google is doing good, in a move that will hopefully inspire others to do likewise. We have another round of faith-and hope-restoring photographs. Then a most peculiar website, about which I will say only that the whole thing is worth exploring. And at last! The one authentic Warner Brothers cartoon in which Coyote does catch Road Runner. (Complete with a great post modern twist, too!)

* Google Announces Global Campaign To Legalize Gay Marriage

Google has announced a global campaign in support of equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

The Internet giant announced its Legalize Love campaign at the Global LGBT Workplace Summit 2012, which took place in London.

The campaign launches Saturday, July 7 in Poland and Singapore. Organizers plan to expand the campaign to every country where Google has an office, focusing on countries where anti-gay sentiment runs high.

“We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office,” Google’s Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe is quoted by dot429.com as saying at the summit. “It is obviously a very ambitious piece of work.”

* A Human Thing  Zuza Fun

More heartwarming photographs

* The Kindness Of The People Of Norilsk Knows No Boundaries.

Angels and Saints: The people of Norilsk are saints not yet canonized. Long hours of work in nickel mines bring them a modest paycheck, much of which is donated to charity. If you ever decide to visit the city of Norilsk, there is no need to bring food or money. A Norilsk smelter operator would give his last potato to a hungry traveler.

Peace and Tolerance: Not a single criminal can be found here. Those who do arrive with a checkered past are so amazed by the kindness and beauty of Norilsk’s inhabitants that they themselves are set straight. Not a single act of crime has been committed within the last one hundred years.

Nature: So clean, blue and transparent is the air above Norilsk that when standing on tippy toes Sarah Palin can be seen just above the horizon. The virgin fields surrounding Norilsk are awash in flora and fauna. More bio-diversity is entrenched here than in the Amazon basin. Vast seas of green are visible in every direction. Smells of a million flower species saturate the air in a chorus of aromatherapy. Local mosquitos are so happy they drink the sap of daisies rather than blood.

* Coyote Catches Road Runner - YouTube

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