Saturday Morning Links

I suppose I should mention that the 49th Skeptics’ Circle, whose format is that of an index of a scientific journal, is up. Note to future carnival hosts: usually I take less than two days to plug a carnival I participate in, especially when my work is featured on the said carnival.

Speaking of being two days late, on Thursday Lindsay posted a really good exposé of the Discovery Channel’s sexism. Discovery’s merchandise is branded as for boys or for girls; boys get forensic labs and speed detectors, while girls get pottery wheels and knit kits.

Yesterday, Amanda followed up on that. While Lindsay only brought the sexist merchandise to her readers’ attention, Amanda went further and explained how it is a self-fulfilled prophecy, noting a link between this stereotyping and Abbas’s post about culture and innumeracy.

Amanda also writes about Feminists for Life‘s dishonesty, installment #1950823. FFL’s rhetoric of adoption as a positive thing because many couples want children but can’t have neglects to mention the fact that there exist plenty of children to adopt now, too. The problem is that these children are overwhelmingly nonwhite, while the couples are mostly white (Amanda cites American statistics, but most unwanted children are in developing countries, especially China, where parents abandaon infant girls because the state wouldn’t let them selectively abort them). One of the motivating forces behind the American anti-choice movement is the chronic shortage of healthy white babies to adopt.

Shelley interviews Irene Pepperberg, a high-profile researcher of parrot intelligence and cognition who is right now in financial woes similar to those GrrlScientist was in before things got even worse earlier this year. Pepperberg has done extensive case studies on African Grays, especially one average specimen named Alex, who she’s taught extensive English vocabulary (but whose command of grammar makes Katie’s look top notch…).

Jim finds a nifty flash clip of Monty Python’s Galaxy Song. The instrumental part features two stars dancing until one passes through the other, which I find a lot less tacky than the sequence from The Meaning of Life, where a flat square grid folds to the shape of a woman who then becomes pregnant and gives birth to a huge flash of light.

Jim also writes a great analysis of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels from a rationalist perspective. Like many detective books, the Sherlock Holmes series epitomizes rationality; without an acute sense of rational deduction and a devotion to learning new facts, Holmes can’t function. Make sure to check out the comment thread, which is unusually productive. I don’t want to sound like a 110-year old person ranting, “Back in my day…” but in the 20th century, the detective/crime genre went from singularly rational Sherlock Holmes to annoyingly irrational Harry Potter, who instead of learning has a convenient nerdy sidekick who he treats like shit except when he needs her knowledge.

Gordo finds a story about the EU abusing Turkey. I’ve always thought that the EU’s insistence on holding Turkey to increasingly stringent standards is a good way to make sure it becomes fully liberal democratic by the time of accession, but this is just ridiculous and suggests that the thing it really needs to do to accede is undergo mass conversion to Christianity.

Turkey has offered to open a major seaport and an airport to longtime foe Cyprus to try to keep its European Union entry talks on track, Turkish and E.U. officials said Thursday. The European Union called the step positive but insufficient.

Turkey’s refusal to open its ports to E.U. member Cyprus has emerged as a deal-breaker in its negotiations to join the European Union.

Ann writes about her experiences with being an exceptionally tall woman. Like many people with culturally abnormal physical characteristics, she gets asked silly questions like “Are you a model?” or “Do you play basketball?”. The best quote I know about this is from Allison Janney: “Years ago, one casting agent told me that the only roles I could play were lesbians and aliens” (she settled for playing a White House Press Secretary who’s constantly made fun of for being taller than everyone else on the senior staff). More interestingly, Ann remarks that,

Although overall, my height is admittedly a huge asset when dealing with men. I really came to appreciate this a few months ago, when some guy catcalled me on the street, then followed me in to a taqueria. He stood between me and the counter, asking, “How tall are you, baby? You got a boyfriend? I bet you don’t. Damn, you look sexy, you’re doing something right… etc.” Usually it’s pretty easy for me to tell harassers like this (whether their comments be sexual, height-related, or both) to shut the fuck up. But this guy was tall. Maybe even slightly taller than me. And it became quickly apparent just how much of my self-confidence in those situations is derived from my extraordinary height. I’m used to stepping into the personal space of whatever twerp is hitting on me (or on one of my friends), looking down my nose, and shutting him down. It’s not that my gangly frame poses any sort of physical threat– it’s just emasculating to be looked down on by some girl over whom you’re attempting to assert your sexual power. It works.


3 Responses to Saturday Morning Links

  1. Axel says:

    The EU is not abusing Turkey. The recognition of Cyprus always was one of the critical issues concerning Turkey’s potential EU membership, especially the full implementations of the 2005 customs union agreement with Cyprus.

    Now the Turkish government offered to open ONE seaport and ONE airport to Greek Cypriot trade instead of opening ALL ports to all EU members, including Cyprus. Cyprus is concerned about any move which might look like a recognition of northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey. Ankara is likewise unwilling to officially recognize Cyprus.

    IMHO, the Turkish offer is nothing more than a tactical manoeuvre because the 25 EU member states will meet at the beginning of next week. Punishing Turkey (partially freezing membership negotiations) for its stance on the issue of Cyprus was to be one of the issues on the agenda for that meeting. At the end of November the Finnish-brokered talks between Turkey and Cyprus collapsed, now Turkey has succeeded in widening the divisions between the EU partners by making its nebulous offer.

  2. KH says:

    … boys get forensic labs & speed detectors, while girls get pottery wheels & knit kits.

    No. Girls also get the forensic kit & speed detector. The complaint is narrower. Buyers can view gift lists sorted by several criteria – age, newness of product, best sellers – not just gender. If they select the gender-specific lists, they can then sort items by several criteria, one of them being sales. The complaint is that the top 4 or 5 sellers on the (8 to 12 yr old) boys’ list are science-related, while the corresponding items on the (8 to 12 yr old) girls’ aren’t.

    The forensics lab is the best-selling item on the boys’ list, but only the 9th best-selling item for girls. Likewise, the speed detector is #3 for boys, #15 for girls.

    It’s unlikely that Discovery would go bankrupt if it stopped letting buyers take gender into account when searching for & buying children’s gifts, but the search features of its website contribute only slightly to sexism in science. There must be less trivial ways to address the problem.

  3. Bushbaptist says:

    Tall women! Try visiting south western Russia. The women there are over 6′ tall on average. The men are about 6′ 7″. Ann would feel completely at home.

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