Monthly Archives: October 2012

Point proven

I love this post by the Ferrett.  He uses a clever analogy to try to explain to men what it’s like for women to be harrassed by men.  He imagines sitting in a coffee shop, trying to work, and having women repeatedly buying him cups of coffee in an effort to convert him to Christianity.  The story makes the important point that although the gesture of buying him coffee may seem friendly on the surface, it is unsolicited and done with the believe that the coffee is fair payment for his time and attention.

What’s really amazing is some of the responses from men in the comments.  Here’s a sample:

So…how do you propose people get to know each other? What’s a man supposed to do
if he doesn’t know you but digs you?

disagree. now you’re saying that too many acts of kindness are annoying which i
do not think is true. ulterior motives yes, i can say are annoying but to
generalize and group ‘acts of kindness’ as annoying when you have too many of
them is snobbish in my opinion. flip it around and have bullies teasing you all
of the time, THAT is annoying. be grateful that god has given you a gift which
many people appreciate and are willing to put themselves out there for.

What I learned from this article

– Apparently women don’t like being hit on, ever apparently – Men secretly like being harassed (as a man I never knew that) – If you’re completely nice to a girl and buy her a drink that’s “harassment” because other guys have bought her a drink before – Men are idiots and need obvious things womansplained to them – Having to deal with phony problem is only a problem women ever have to deal with, so men can only understand it by means of a strange analogy

Firstly, I agree buying something for someone or being fake “nice” to them is a terrible way to hit on someone. It never works, and it is very annoying. Those who don’t have any moral scruples with such a thing easily take advantage of it, as you described, by getting as much “free” coffee as possible. If that’s all you wrote about, I would stop right here and agree with you. But you made a wider point about how hitting on women is wrong. It makes them annoyed, angry, and uncomfortable. This flies in the face of human nature, biology, and evolution. If men don’t hit on women, where would relationships be formed? It is perfectly acceptable and expected that if you are in a public place, people may petition you with interest. This is not harassment. This is normal human activity.

Isn’t it amazing how often it happens that someone tries to make a point by writing a thoughtful post, and this is immediately followed by a hoard of commenters vehemently disagreeing in a manner that completely proves the original point?

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Bagel heads

Bagel heads is a new trend among hipsters in Japan.  It’s a form of temporary body modification which involves creating a swelling on the forehead by injecting saline solution.  A bagel shape is then created by pressing down in the centre of the swelling to form a depression.  What I find even more interesting than the practice is the disgusted outrage expressed by these Youtube commenters.

Childfree is a thing

This article by Jessica Valenti in the Atlantic on choosing not to have children is a must-read, whether or not you think you might want to have children.  She discusses something I’ve thought for a long time – that having children, an experience which society tells us is deeply fulfilling, and if you’re a woman, the very purpose of your being, often turns out to be disappointing, boring, frustrating and something many parents deeply regret.  I feel goddamn lucky that I realised I don’t want to have children before I actually had any.

This page was created by a group of researchers investigating the choice to remain childfree in three deeply pro-natalist countries: South Africa, India and Poland.  The message that being childfree is a viable, valid choice cannot be proclaimed too loudly to our rapidly expanding population.

33 and unmarried, seems I’m a left-over woman

Leta Hong Fincher, an American doing her Ph.D. at China’s Tsinghua University, has written a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the All-China Women’s Federation.  If you, like me, have never heard of this organisation, you might be interested to know that according to Wikipedia:

“The All-China Women’s Federation is an organization of women established in China in March 1949.  It became known as such in 1957 and had previously been called the All-China Democratic Women’s Foundation.  It was constructed as a mass organization supported by the Communist Party of China, and based on Marxist theory.  The basic functions of the federation are to represent and safeguard the rights and interests of women and promote equality between men and women.

In late 1995 the Women’s Federation began to refer to itself as a non-governmental organization (NGO).  It is now commonly referred to as the largest women’s NGO in the People’s Republic of China and has become one of the major vehicles for the development of feminism in mainland China.

Awesome, right?  Well, until you read this:

In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu ) as unmarried women over the age of 27 and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon.  Since then, the Women’s Federation Web site has run articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single.

This is the kind of stigmatising they’re talking about:

Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult.  These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness.  The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.

What?!?  Did I not get the memo, or do these people have a completely different understanding of the concept of the “development of feminism” than the rest of us?  Read a little bit further and it all becomes clear.  Someone in China realised that the social policies of the last era has caused a “sex-ratio imbalance” which “causes a threat to social stability” and decided that the solution is to shall-we-say “encourage” women to marry at a younger age.  And this encouragement is to take the form of shaming single women who choose to pursue an education rather than a husband.

I’m imagining that the reasoning went something like this:  “So, the structural sexism endemic to our society, which manifests itself in the systematic genocide of baby girls, has led to millions of single young men roaming the country, unable to find a mate.  Mmm.  This situation sounds pretty dangerous.  What if these men, uneducated, frustrated, start fighting each other?  Worse, what if they start fighting the government?  We must do something about this!  Look at all these women filling up the universities, selfishly thinking only of themselves!  If only we can get them to marry the poor single men..  I know!  Let’s shame them into doing it!”

It is fascinating to see a deeply sexist society trying to get women to solve a problem caused by mysogyny, and do so using mysogyny.  I wonder if it even ever occurred to anyone to solve the problem by trying to increase the value placed on baby girls, which might just stop people from killing them in the first place.  Interestingly, research seems to show that the gender imbalance in Chinese society decreases at higher levels of income and education, so they should probably be doing exactly the opposite of what they’re trying to do here.

Those are some big photos

The last time (well, the only time really) I visited Versailles I had only a little compact “point and shoot” film camera (I was a student, dammit, I couldn’t afford anything else and that little camera was my baby).  I’m sure many other visitors have felt the same frustration I experienced at not being able to capture the grandeur of the place in one shot.  The angles of the place are just too difficult, when you get close enough to get some of the detail you are too close to capture the majesty.  You end up taking lots of small unconnected photo’s that just don’t do justice to the place.

Apparently, someone with fancy expensive cameras and photoshops has fixed that problem for all of us.  Jean-Francois Rauzier is creating magical photographic panoramas, 66 feet wide and with a resolution 10,000 times that of a normal photograph.  He says he wanted to engage viewers for hours.  So if you have a couple of hours to spare, head over there.  My favourite is the one of the City Hall Stairs.