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Original Intent
Posted by Ogged on 04.18.14

Looking at this list of facts about Clarence Thomas, I tried to squint and believe that he's so pissed at America that he's determined to make sure it lives with its shitty constitution. I couldn't quite manage it, but it would be nice to think so.

In the CT thread, the old "people with loathsome political views can be nice in person!" discussion has come up, and it's true that the proper response to this is "duh; that doesn't make their views less loathsome," but I have to admit that it does always throw me a bit, because I suppose I imagine someone's politics flowing from who they are, so discontinuity between the valence of the man and his opinions takes a moment to process. I think my error here is thinking that someone's manners offer more of a view to who they are than their politics, when, in fact, who you choose to ally yourself with reveals a lot more about you than whether you've learned not to act like a jerk.

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No True Scotswoman
Posted by LizardBreath on 04.18.14

This blog post from the Times about the emotional trauma a mother suffers when her daughter wants to wear flannel shirts was linked all over Facebook last week, but I still have thoughts about it. This isn't a timely blog.

First, we have a lot of conversations about the innateness of gender differences here, where I flail my arms like Kermit the Frog insisting that given the ubiquity of cultural pressure to conform to prescribed gender roles, there's no way to tell what's innate, and someone generally responds by describing children they know who are being raised in a perfectly gender-egalitarian manner who nonetheless have adopted prescribed gender roles they've never been exposed to. Mostly, I think that people who think they're raising their kids in a perfectly gender-egalitarian manner are more like the woman who wrote the linked post than not: happy with some flexibility, but powerfully aware of and projecting to their kids that whatever they see as real gender deviance (flannel shirts? not being excited about motherhood at the age of five?) is disturbing. A parent who, like this one, thinks she's not into 'girlie-girl' princess culture but perceives it as inevitable is going to communicate that inevitability to their daughters, and for most of them it's going to stick.

(Anecdotally, and I may have made this point in prior discussions but if I worried about repeating myself I'd never say anything, I clearly have strong feelings about gender-egalitarianism, the cultural fluidity and non-innateness of gender roles, and so on. I am literally the most extreme parent I knew in real life on those issues. And I live in Manhattan (admittedly, not in the cool bits, but still east coast urban). Being the most extreme parent I know in terms of not imposing gender roles on my kids, meant that Sally had two Disney princess ballgowns (Belle and Cinderella) as a preschooler (I didn't buy them, but I didn't forbid having them in the house or object to them), wore dresses probably as often as pants at that age, I handsewed dresses for Barbie, and organized at least one rainbow-unicorn themed birthday party. If there's a social milieu where feminist mothers are uniformly watchfully trying to eliminate any cultural influence of stereotypical femininity but the kids are somehow overcoming it to express their true princessy selves, it's not around here.)

Second, the blogpost and some back-and-forth in the comment thread about whether the kid described is really trans* crystalized something that's been making me vaguely uncomfortable about modern trans* politics, the parts that are about gender identities that are more complicated than MTF of FTM, and I think I've finally figured out that what's been worrying me isn't so much the literal trans* politics themselves, but how they can be used by people arguing for the innateness of rigid gender norms. A standard move in arguments about gender norms is "Women are naturally like X." "I'm a woman, and I'm not, and neither are these other women I know." "All right, normal women are like X. Obviously there are going to be some women like you who aren't normal." Reifying various sorts of non-gender-binary based identities as identities is a good thing insofar as it makes the people who identify that way happy, and that makes it worth it. But it does make the no-true-Scotswoman move I just identified easier: the linked blogpost makes it clear that ordinary girls like princesses and have to be propagandized to want to do anything active; 'spunky' girls might want to dress up as cute pirates; but a girl like the one described who wants to dress like her male friends and wants to be a pilot rather than a mama is plausibly not a girl at all. The cultural availability of non-binary gender identities can be used to shrink the space of what's acceptably 'normal' inside male and female gender roles.

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Guest Post - Arbitration
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 04.18.14

Nathan W sends in: Have I mentioned before how much I think arbitration needs to die in a fire?

Heebie's take:
1. I can't possibly see how this holds up in court.
2. Nathan sent this in before you saw it, but I sat on the link.

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A Proposal
Posted by Ogged on 04.17.14

Rather than having national tests, with all their attendant annoyances and ills, let's have the instructors of intro-level college courses fill out a simple questionnaire about each freshman student: totally is/is/kinda isn't/totally isn't prepared for college, along whatever the relevant metrics are for the class. Then a parent can look up a high school and see where and whether the graduates were deemed prepared, and where and whether not. This seems to me to offer much more helpful and granular (shoot me) info for parents, to be potentially liberating for high schools which can pursue their notion of a good education, and better for students, who can just learn stuff without worrying about whatever test some government committee has come up with.

(Maybe you want to test kids before the end of high school. Sure, go ahead. But do this, too.)

What say you?

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Posted by Ogged on 04.17.14

I put this video on for my kid, and the tricks are awesome, yes, but mostly I noticed that Scotland sure is beautiful. It seems that honeymoon destinations are like names, in that people think and think and think and then do what everyone else is doing, and first it was New Zealand, and then Scotland, but I missed both those boats. We spent our honeymoon in separate twin beds in an assisted living facility, visiting the wife's elderly grandparents. No regrets, but you bet I want a cookie.

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It Seems To Me
Posted by Ogged on 04.17.14

Elvis is over. When I was growing up, a kid could still get called "Elvis" for having styled hair or trying to act cool, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't happen today. The young writers of the internet don't make Elvis references, sincere jokey retro ironic, or otherwise. He's just not a thing anymore. This sounds like those "freshman today haven't heard of..." lists, but this isn't some crap that only high school social studies teachers care about, like Hiroshima, but a real cultural touchstone. Let us take a moment.

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NY Etiquette
Posted by LizardBreath on 04.17.14

Cartoons explaining fine points of NY functioning. This sort of thing is done badly all the time, but these are pretty much perfect, to the point where I am legitimately unsure if they're funny, because I'm never sure what about getting around here isn't obvious. The only one that threw me was the stricture against taking vertical videos -- I'm not really sure what the problem with that is. (From Benquo at the other place.)

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Evaporating middle
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 04.16.14

The disappearing center in American Politics.

Isn't this mostly the death of the Southern Democrat? The charts could be consistent with two different phenomena:
1. We used to have more votes on issues that didn't divide along partisan lines
2. We used to have more rogue congressfolk, and now they all fall in line (but they went rogue individually, not all on the same issue)

They're implying in the article that it's #2 - congressfolk used to be free thinkers, and now they're locked in, but I think it's probably #1 - for Southern Democrats and groups like that, issues didn't fall cleanly along party lines.

Plus gerrymandering. Plus Republicans ever-accelerating extremism.

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An Invitation of Collective Nouns
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 04.16.14

I'm sure we've done this kind of thing before, but some of these made me laugh.

A suffering of hipsters
A quibble of critics
A racket of DJs
A khaki of IT guys
A pretense of operagoers

An argument of Unfogged commenters? That's not quite right.

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