Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies for 1.31

There was a smörgÃ¥sbord of great links to pick from this morning. I hope you’ll find the ones I picked out enjoyable.

  • Over at Science Based Medicine, Mark Crislip has written an excellent article on the importance of Alternative Aviation. Part that nearly made me snort coffee out my nose: “Current airplane design is based upon a white male Western European model of what powered flight should look like. Long metal tubes with wings are a phallic design that insults the sensibilities of women, who have an alternative, more natural, emotional, way of understanding airplane design.”
  • On Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte points out that wearing red makes you a harlot. Crap, I am an uber-harlot today as almost everything I’m wearing is red. That way the blood won’t show so much later when I sacrifice a goat.
  • Our favorite astronomer has excellent news: the Montel Williams Show is no more! Wonder where old scary claws Sylvia Browne will show up next. I think a perfect storm of awful would be Sylvia on Rachel Ray’s show.
  • Feminism is out of style. Journalist comes to this conclusion because her daughter and niece don’t know who Gloria Steinem is. Logic rules. ETA: Flygrrl has pointed out it’s actually about how to bring feminism back into style and get rid of old stereotypes.  And tell your relatives who Steinem is.
  • Man nearly kills himself with baking soda. Remember kids, just because it’s “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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23 Comments

  1. Well, *sigh*, guess I'm a harlot too. My entire wardrobe consists of black, gray, or some shade of red.

    The 'Feminism is out of Style' article was actually very good… I think it speaks to the fact that a certain image is being marketed to young girls that convinces them of a world that doesn't exist. They're being told that wearing Bratz-style clothing is empowering and that the feminist movement has done its' job and is some relic of an era past. The article goes on to talk about how the fight isn't nearly over and certainly doesn't make it sound like a good or irrelevant thing that the author's daughter and niece don't know who Steinem is.

  2. flygrrl, thanks for correcting me! This is what I get for relying on supposedly-reliable reviews of the article and then just skimming the article itself. Bad, bad skeptic.

    I threw an ETA up there so I won't mislead anyone further.

  3. I absolutely LOVED the Alternative Aviation link! I know several doctors who may well injure themselves laughing after I email the link to them.

    I was, however, disappointed that the author totally missed astral projection as one of the alternative means of flight. That was big during my teen years.

  4. I hardly ever wear red, so I guess that means I'm entirely pure, innocent, and virginal. … Right.

    I remember reading about the "Feminism out of style" piece at Feministing, and they gave the same impression that it was a dumb conclusion to make. Which, as a simple blanket statement, it is. But I think it's also true that feminism isn't getting very much respect on a mainstream level, and a lot of young women think the movement is over and done with. Don't know what it would take to open their eyes.

  5. Does anyone else find it sadly ironic that in the end of the baking soda story, the man is sent off with a prescription for ulcer medicine, knowing that his problem wasn't that he didn't know what to do about the ulcer, but that he couldn't afford it? So you think now he's going to magically be able to afford proper medication? Methinks it'll just be back to the baking soda.

  6. I agree that there is still a lot of work to do. The gender wage gap is a particularly big problem in southwestern PA (where I hail from). SWPA some of the lowest female earners by county (some counties as lower than 67 cents on the dollar – lower than the state average). However, there are great organizations like The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (www.wgfswpa.org) that are working towards changing that. Perhaps I’m being overly optimisitic though?

    And don't forget MOMSrising. Speaking of the wage gap, according to their research there is a bigger gap in wages between women with children and those without than there is between men and women as a whole. I didn't used to care about this stuff *at all* as a feminist (and thought only mindless dopes procreated). Then I had a kid. Hello, reality!

  7. Regarding the Steinem article, need it much matter if people don't know who historic figures are/were?

    Whether people know who was influential in the the past or not needn't have much correlation with their current views on what might need changing now..

    Someone could just as easily know very well who a figure was and think "Oh, that's someone who did stuff years ago – ancient history – no need to worry about *that*".

    I was also pretty disappointed by reference at the end of the article to sisterhood, which seemed effectively to be showing displeasure that people might not vote for candidates based on unthinking group-membership lines, but may be looking at other things (whether they trust them, whether they like them, what their policies are, whether they think the candidate has the best chance of being elected, etc.)

  8. PH,

    I've got two responses… first, I'm of two minds as to whether it matters if people know who historic figures are. I guess it depends. For instance, most people in the art/design world think it's critical for students to know and understand influential artists and art movements. Maybe not an exact analogy, but I think there's some value to the "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it" line of thinking.

    Second, I agree with your second point/opinion. I've always had a hard time with the whole "sisterhood" thinking about feminism. I think when we can effectively see female politicians, scientists, entertainers, whatever, as PEOPLE and judge them objectively on their merits, Feminism will finally have achieved something.

  9. Well, in art/design, the whole style side of things makes a descriptive system for styles invaluable, and it'd be hard to learn that without picking up some kind of chronology of influences.

    Overall, knowing more feminist history seems unlikely to do any harm, as long as it's history, not hagiography.

    (In a UK context, if I had a pound for every time I've heard someone talking about the Suffragettes as if they were the only reason UK women got the vote, (when if fact there were many forces at work, and it seems at least debatable whether the Suffragettes helped much, if at all) I could have a damn good evening out.)

    However, if someone doesn't see something now as being an issue, the fact that it was a big issue even a generation ago may just not be too important to them.

  10. Infophile, I thought the same thing! Can't afford ulcer medication? Well, here's a prescription for it.

    David, it's still easier for the blood stains to blend in when they're wet. Helps me look innocuous while I'm walking home from the goat sacrifice.

    I think I'm too logical to figure out how to make feminism appeal to other young women. As has been said, there's obviously more work to be done and therefore I don't see how I could *not* be a feminist.

  11. I’d be disturbed if younger folks felt that racism had been “solved” and was no longer an issue and couldn’t name any important civil rights leaders.

    Indeed. However, I guess many people might have a list that didn't get beyond Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and possibly Malcom X, and Rosa Parks is included more as a name people would know than a leader-as-such, being a symbolic figure who was in the right place/time to be promoted as a proxy for countless others.

    Even then, knowing who people were who were associated with past successes doesn't necessarily shed much light on as-yet-unsolved problems.

    Also, in the case of feminism, some issues things are probably less clear-cut than they were in civil rights – civil rights seemed to be effectively solely about equality, whereas feminism can involve more complex issues.

    It's far easier to say "People of all colours should be able to use the same bus seats!" than "Abortion should be available on demand!", since in the latter case, there are valid arguments about what should and shouldn't be allowed that are more complicated than being about equality, where different viewpoints can have at least vaguely comparable numbers of men and women in favour of them.

    Leaving abortion to one side, once past the basic equality stuff (right to vote, at-least-supposedly equal pay, etc), it's tricky to have issues large enough to create heroes – even successes are likely to be incremental, and the more a change seems to be part of a general slow drift, or to affect some other subgroup, the less likely its promoters are to be much recognised even if they actually worked hard to achieve something significant for a subgroup of women.

  12. I have red shoes. (Though not today.) Does that mean my feet whore themselves out to foot fetishists when I’m not looking?

    Jen: I find it a bit odd that Feministing would take issue if the article is presented as descriptive (i.e., feminism doesn’t get the respect it deserves) rather than proscriptive (i.e., feminism is lame). After all, the thesis of Jessica’s book is that feminism is marginalised in pop culture. (Granted, that piece could have been written by one of Jessica’s co-bloggers. I don’t read Feministing anymore precisely because I didn’t like most of the new bloggers there nearly as much as I liked Jessica herself — thankfully, this hasn’t been a problem with Skepchick’s expansion!)

  13. But I think it’s also true that feminism isn’t getting very much respect on a mainstream level, and a lot of young women think the movement is over and done with. Don’t know what it would take to open their eyes.

    Well we’ll be having an interview with Jessica from Feministing very soon, and if you want, I can invite her to follow up with a guest post about this question.

  14. What I noticed about the article is the fact that the author completely fails to find where Third Wave Feminists ARE making strides. Just because his relatives don’t know who Steinem is doesn’t mean that all women in that generation are ignorant as well. Feminist writers Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards have written a number of books about Third-Wavers; and the writers over at Bitch Magazine seem to have an audience as well.

    I agree that there is still a lot of work to do. The gender wage gap is a particularly big problem in southwestern PA (where I hail from). SWPA some of the lowest female earners by county (some counties as lower than 67 cents on the dollar – lower than the state average). However, there are great organizations like The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (www.wgfswpa.org) that are working towards changing that. Perhaps I’m being overly optimisitic though?

    On a side note: I’m ready for the writers over at the TV show “House” to snag that baking soda story. We’ll already know the big twist at the end!

  15. “…almost everything I’m wearing is red. That way the blood won’t show so much later when I sacrifice a goat.”

    Uh oh… sorry about those BROWN dried-blood stains on your nice red outfit! Next time, try it skyclad, much easier to wash! ;-)

  16. Thanks for wiping out my analogy, PH. :)

    I don’t remember if the age of the girls in question was mentioned in the article… I wouldn’t expect an 11-year-old to know who Steinem is, but it seems like one of those cultural literacy things at some point. Yes, a lot of people see some of these historical figures and people as sort of a short hand, but you have to start somewhere to gain a more complex understanding of history.

    And I think that was the author’s whole point; that younger people don’t see feminism as that big an issue, when it really still is. Of course, as that other thread taught us, the word feminism is very disputed territory… but I think few would contend that we’ve got it all figured out. I’d be disturbed if younger folks felt that racism had been “solved” and was no longer an issue and couldn’t name any important civil rights leaders.

  17. I have to admit, the last entry in this list doesn’t sit well with me. The article and situation is about someone using whatever means works when they can’t afford ‘proper’ medical care. Nowhere does it indicate anything about him using a ‘natural alternative’.

    The thing is, what he did likely helped his symptoms, and that in itself is what much of US medicine is focused on. It’s not about finding the problem; it’s about making people stop complaining.

    I lived most of my life in the US, and have lived in Australia for the last 4 years. While most people here have complaints about the health care system, I don’t know of many who would trade it for the (non-)system the US has. And someone like this would have had the care he SHOULD have gotten, had he not committed the crime of being poor.

    So, I guess, I find that entry a bit disrespectful. The man deserves better, both from society, and from people reading his story.

  18. Mistwolf, I agree that the US health care system is appalling (I'm Canadian, so imagine that), but your statement that medicine focuses on treating symptoms to make people stop complaining is garbage – not to put too fine a point on it. Doctors ask you what you're symptoms are, yes, but then they give you something that treats the *cause* of those symptoms. In other words, doctors get rid of the problem that's making you feel like ass in the first place, as opposed to "treating symptoms" which makes it sound like they're just giving out band aids.

    I take issue with anyone who implies that doctors are "only treating symptoms" in the same breath as implying that alternative medicine is doing just a well for the patient because it does the same thing. If doctors just "treated the symptoms" of people, say with cancer, I'd think the death rate of many infectious diseases and cancers would be much higher.

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