Hilarious (Terrifying)

February 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Zoe, Silvia and I had a lovely dinner party with our mothers and somehow this video came up in our conversation:

I wish I could truthfully say, “Golly, things sure have changed!” since this video is riddled with sexism, misinformation and overall corniness. However, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of horribly dramatized and insulting health videos which make me wonder how far our health education system has actually progressed… but that’s a topic for a whole other post. For now, just have a good laugh at Molly and her period do’s and don’ts.

Did You Know? Sexism and the Atomic Bomb.

February 10, 2009 § 4 Comments

Sexism, as many of you know, doesn’t just hurt women. It destroys and hinders all kinds of great discoveries – personal, political, and everything in between.

Take this example from a great New Yorker article that ran December ’08:

After Little Boy and Fat Man (our country’s first atomic bombs) were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, our government worked really hard to keep the inner workings and dimensions of those weapons a secret.

Researchers who believed that such information should be made public, such as 61-year-old John Coster-Mullen, worked tirelessly for years trying to discover and publish all of the measurements and mechanics of these early nuclear weapons. 

John Coster-Mullen was not a scientist. In fact, he didn’t have a college degree at all. He worked as a commercial photographer for a part of his life and later on he took up work as a truck driver. But through the careful analysis of public records, national archives, old pictures, and museum recreations of the bomb, he managed to create one of the most comprehensive and accurate reports in existence about nuclear technology. 

One of Coster-Mullen’s biggest breakthroughs came when he considered what the scientific community referred to as the “sex” of the bombs. New Yorker journalist David Samuels writes: 

In the standard historical accounts, the way that the bomb’s gun mechanism worked was by shooting a cylindrical “male” uranium projectile into a concave, stationary uranium target. This act of atomic coitus created a mass sufficient to produce a critical reaction. But no matter how many times Coster-Mullen did the math, the numbers never quite worked out…The source of error, Coster-Mullen realized, was an assumption that every (male) researcher who studied the subject had made about the relation between projectile and target. These scholars had apparently been unable to conceive of an arrangement other than a “missionary position” bomb…But Coster-Mullen realized that a female-superior arrangement – in which a hollow projectile slammed down on top of a stationary cylinder of highly enriched uranium – yielded the correct size and mass. 

In short, an “uneducated” truck driver solved a HUGE scientific mystery because he could see past all of the sexist and heteronormative bullshit that is, unfortunately, so entrenched in scientific thinking. 

So props to you, John Coster-Mullen, for using your street smarts and feminist ideals to beat out all those lab coats who were trying to figure out the exact same mystery.

Another cool thing about Coster-Mullen: Born John Mullen, he changed his name to Coster-Mullen after marrying his wife, Mary Coster. Rock on. 


Some Thoughts on the Stimulus Package

February 8, 2009 § 5 Comments

Hello! 

For my FIRST EVER POST ON WOMEN’S GLIB (wooohoooo), I wanted to get some information up about Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package and what it will do for us ladyfolk. I snooped around some blogs and newspapers, and here’s what I’ve come up with. Feel free to add anything you’ve noticed about the plan in a comment! 

Joan Entmacher, VP of family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, says that the package will work on “Expanding health for them [women], child care, unemployment insurance, direct help in higher food stamps and energy assistance.” Additionally, the package “protects a lot of jobs for women in education, early education and social work services.” 

This all sounds pretty sweet, but I do have to wonder about the job protection detailed by Entmacher. Education and social work? Those sound like ‘typical woman’ jobs to me. I am all for protecting positions in these fields, but what about women with jobs closely tied to the manufacturing industries, agriculture, etc? Lindsay Beyerstein from the Washington Independent says that the stimulus is “expected to create or sustain significant numbers of jobs in female-dominated sectors of the economy, like teaching, nursing, and social work.” Again, that sounds really awesome, but what about women who already have a hard time in the work-force because they belong to male-dominated labor sectors? Will they be overlooked because they’re pursuing careers that aren’t considered feminine? 

My suspicions are somewhat confirmed by Linda Hirshman from the New York Times, who stated in an article that ran this past December that a package primarily aimed at building automatically excludes women because women make up such a small part of construction labor forces (9%, to be exact). To make the plan more woman-friendly, she suggested that it also include money for human capital jobs (social workers, educators, librarians, etc.), because these are the kinds of jobs that women are more likely to hold. Hirshman ends the article by saying that “maybe it would be a better world if more women became engineers and construction workers, but programs encouraging women to pursue engineering have existed for decades without having much success.”

For some reason, this seemingly pragmatic sentiment makes me really nervous and uncomfortable. I just don’t like the idea that we should give up on eradicating the idea that women, if they are working, must be doing something that is directly nurturing. And maybe all of the construction work proposed by Obama’s plan could help break down some of the barriers that women face in the manual labor industries!

In short, I’m glad that Hirshman got her wish and that Obama’s plan will protect woman-heavy industries, but I am worried about the women in the male-dominated sectors. And I’m worried about how this might all reinforce the idea that if a woman is ballsy enough to leave the home, she must be doing some sort of caretaking.

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