Why I’d rather be on skates and bleeding than barefoot and pregnant

I apologize that this post has nothing to do with skepchick-ism. In fact, it has to do with someone who believed in astrology and probably wasn’t very bright at all. I just found out a week late that Ann “Banana Nose” Calvello has died, and frankly I’m a little bummed. Here’s the obit.Free Image Hosting at

Ann was the queen of banked track roller derby. She was fierce and sneaky on the track and sweet and kind off (so I hear — I never met her). Her influence is immense in the current derby resurgence — I skated last summer with the newly forming Boston league, and the tough take-no-prisoners attitudes of the girls could’ve come directly from Calvello.

Last night on NPR, I heard an interview with the appropriately named Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard professor of government who has just published a book called “Manliness,” setting forth the assertion that men and women are not equal. When I first heard him speak, I thought I’d be in agreement with him — after all, men and women are different and as such they have different strengths and weaknesses. However, as Harvey continued to lay out his theories, he ended up just sounding like a complete and utter jackass. Here, have a look at this interview in the New York Times, and keep in mind this very important point: I’m pretty sure he is NOT joking. I haven’t read the book yet, so there is a chance that Mansfield is merely a poor public speaker (which does not bode well for his own “manliness” factor) and failed to accurately get his point across, but I (and several callers, and the host, and a dissenting expert, apparently) got the impression that he wasn’t just saying that men are different from women — they are superior. He wasn’t merely suggesting that men dislike housework more than women, he was insisting that a true man should not need to do any housework at all if he has a loving wifey. And he appears to believe that strong women who may enjoy and excel at extremely physical pursuits are not only an anomoly but somehow shouldn’t be accepted in our society.

From Publishers Weekly, quoted on

Similar murky questions and non-sequitur lines of logic continue throughout: “Man has fearsome powers of wisdom and fire over beasts. All beasts fear fire, which perhaps represents the Promethean gift of technology.” This clunky chain of supposition is followed by a brief foray into The Jungle Book. But Mansfield’s theories on gender equality are likely to create the most conversation: “women are the weaker sex,” “women’s bodies are made to attract and to please men” and “now that women are equal, they should be able to accept being told that they aren’t, quite” all appear on the same page. Mansfield set out to write a provocative book, but ended up penning a juvenile screed.

The author on wheelsI thought it was tough defending Larry Summers’ remarks made last year. Mansfield hitches himself to Summers, using what began as a genuine open inquiry to leap to completely baseless conclusions. This article from the Harvard Crimson also takes a brief look at the two instances.

Anyway, I’m left wondering if Mansfield has ever been on a set of skates. Would that be manly? It wouldn’t have to be quads (pictured), if he’s afraid those would be too girly. He could wear rollerblades and spandex. I imagine he wouldn’t bother with the kneepads, elbow pads, helmet, or wrist guards. Those are for wimps. Anyway, we could meet on the street hockey court at Harvard’s Smith Field to really investigate the validity of his theories. I’ll call ahead to Mass General and ask them to send a few manly paramedics to stand by with ultra-manly pints of blood, Type B for “badass.”

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Interesting post Rebecca. I heard an NPR story yesterday from Frank Deford extolling the praises of Ms. Calvello.

    As to the comments/opinions of the Harvard professor that you mention, seems to me that he doesn't have much connection to the "real world". Guess I have to agree with your "jackass" description of his espoused opinions. For someone with a supposed "learned" background to claim that men are "superior" to women is just plain ridiculous. I guess the fact that I've always done the laundry in our household makes me quite less a "real man" in his philosophy. Oh well, I supose I'll just have to deal with that ;-)

  2. It so sad when a controversal opinion just turns out to be crapola. I always get excited when someone publishes a book that could easily be career destroying, simply because they are saying something that the majority of academia does not want to even consider. Unfortunately… it does not appear that there is much of anything in this book that could even partially be considered as a worthwhile contribution to political correctness busting.

    I still should read the book though. I don't like to make judgements, as idiotic as this individual thesis sounds, until I have read the actual material.

    Never been too much into the roller derby. A little to "indie-cool" for me. Anything that has a cool urban indie scene kind of makes me throw up a little in my mouth. I have respect for those that do it. It definitely looks difficult.

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