Got Daughters? Got Sports? Get Bikini …

January 20, 2004 at 8:47 pm | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

Until 1968, women were required to prove their female sex by walking naked before a panel of male judges in order to compete in the Olympics, [Laura Robinson] reported. [More…] Another great CBC Sounds Like Canada find: Laura Robinson speaking about her recent book, Black Tights: Women, Sport and Sexuality. Lisa Bavington, a champion body-builder, quotes the following passage from Robinson’s book:

During the buildup to the Sydney Olympics, several women’s teams posed in the nude to raise some of the significant amounts of money need to compete internationally today. First it was the Australian soccer team when its members put together a calendar with full-frontal nudity. Then it was New Zealand’s eight in rowing.
Not to be left out in the cold, the members of the Canadian women’s Nordic ski team soon decided to produce their own nude calendar. The Nordic ski team may be go-getters when it comes to raising funds, but only when they sell a version of womanhood that in no way threatens traditional patriarchal values, and only when the money goes to them and their sport. Unfortunately, there are only so many sponsorship dollars, and as long as women athletes continue to promote themselves according to the narrow definition of how women are supposed to look and act, many others will lose out.
When I spoke to Jamie Fortier, in the fall of 2000, she had the following to say: “I’m a very strong anti-feminist. I think a lot of them have gone too far. I’m looking out for myself and I’m thinking for myself. We definitely were not told to do this calendar. We decided for ourselves.”
There’s a tremendous irony in Fortier’s remarks, of course, Women’s Nordic skiing was added to the Olympics only in 1964, and even then, it was only because women fought for its inclusion. It wasn’t until 1984 that women were allowed to ski any farther than 10 kilometers. Fortier calls herself “a very strong anti-feminist,” but without feminism, not only would she not have an Olympic event to compete in, she wouldn’t have the vote, the right to own property or hold public office, or the freedom to work at the job of her choice and be properly paid for it. She wouldn’t be able to go to university, and she would have to quit her job-if she’d been lucky enough in the first place-when she got married. In fact, it was because of feminists in 1929 that women legally became people in Canada, so I had to wonder what exactly did Fortier not like about the legacy she’d been left.
[More…]

Bavington adds her thoughts, too: What exactly is it about feminism that evokes so many women to openly dismiss any association with being identified with the cause? I only managed to hear a fragment of the interview with Laura Robinson on CBC, but what struck me was her historical knowledge. She pinpointed precise years and events when things changed for women in terms of spectacle: the 14-year old gymnast (was it Nadia from Romania?) in the early 70s, whose successes and feats changed the body type of the ideal gymnast from “woman” to “girl,” the move, from that point on, for Olympic photographers to focus on “crotch shots,” and the regulations regarding dress (or lack thereof): did you know that women volleyball players are allowed a maximum of 7 cm (about 2.75″) of lycra covering their hips, while the men have to have a minimum of 20 cm covering theirs? Or that the women have to ask for official permission to put on a sweatshirt?

The Corporation as Psychopath

January 13, 2004 at 1:02 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

Sometimes there’s nothing quite like radio, especially CBC: Sounds like Canada

This morning I heard an amazing clip from a recent documentary film called The Corporation. It’s based on a book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (check this link, great article), by Joel Bakan, a law professor at UBC, and was produced by Mark Achbar, whose other credits include Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media and Two Brides and a Scalpel: Diary of a Lesbian Marriage.

Ottawa Indymedia also has an article, with additional links to related sites. And there’s a trailer.

The film questions the sanity of an institution that has been given the legal status of a person, but one with no concern for human values. Considering the power that the institution holds, and its psychopathic personality, the documentary uses case studies to explore the impacts that the corporation has on our environment, our children, our media, and even our genes.

The excerpt I heard on this morning’s radio broadcast came from a Wall Street trader who commented that seemingly every trader’s first thought, when 9/11 happened, was fixed on what the price of gold would do (go up, naturally) and how or whether he or she was invested in gold. He added that during the first Gulf War, the price of oil went way up, and that the current invasion of Iraq was again seen as a business opportunity by traders. He and his colleagues hoped that Saddam would do something really terrible, that he would torch the oilfields completely, because that would just drive the price up even more…

The following goes some way toward describing the film’s approach:

To understand why the movie has made such an impression on audiences in this country, and stands to make an even bigger impression abroad, you have to understand exactly what this film-making mod squad has accomplished.

Through interviews, archival research and a cheeky use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the psychiatric biz’s Bible), the film-makers not only explore the strange history of the corporation and its legal rights as a “person” — a very bizarre result of the Emancipation in the United States — but they go so far as diagnosing this man-made entity as a “psychopath.”

Chapter by chapter, they explore a simplified definition of antisocial personality disorder (the term ‘psychopath’ doesn’t actually exist as an illness in the DSM) and apply it directly to their research findings.

When they discover corporations are indifferent to the consequences of their actions, they check off another trait. And so it goes, until they check off every symptom of generalized antisocial psychosis — from indifference, to manipulative behaviour, to the inability to distinguish lies from truth. [More…]

Not exactly uplifting, but then again, it’s also a fact that Peter Pan can’t really fly.

Shoe fetish?

January 12, 2004 at 8:12 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments


My husband just sent me this link, Talibanism in Technology, an article by Deepa Kandaswamy for Dataquest: The Business of Infotech aka “India’s No. 1 IT publication.” The article lists Seven reasons why women in technology remain invisible and was published on Feb. 26, 2003 — almost a year ago! — but he just came across it on artima.com. As an ex-academic, I can say that some of the same barriers exist in that field as in technology. “Beer busts” weren’t the issue, but late-afternoon faculty meetings at 5:30 that typically lasted till 8 were, as was the expectation that “tenure track” faculty be prepared to “gypsy” across the country here there and everywhere. These things sure as heck didn’t help women who were trying to hold a family together…

What’s in Kandaswamy’s article, Talibanism in Technology? Lots of terrific stuff, including historical bits, like the fact that Florence Nightingale invented the circle graph, that Vanitha Rangaraju is the only Indian woman to win an Oscar for her technical work for the movie Shrek, and that Catherine Green invented the cotton gin (even though what’s-his-face holds the patent). But especially useful is that Kandaswamy explains a particularly nasty Catch-22, too: namely, that a “normally” successful woman will be ignored, while an exceptionally successful woman will be celebrated as the titillating, if “abnormal,” bitch:

A woman who swims with sharks has a better chance of being published than a man who does the same thing. Why? Because she is considered a maverick. Mass media coverage of Prof Brooks’ three former female students who specialized in robotics can be explained as robotics is still considered a maverick field for technical women. Despite the social myth that women in technology are abnormal, why don’t they get the limelight? This is because only ‘displayable’ aggressiveness results in limelight. For women in technology, externally, one mightn’t seem aggressive; internally, they have to be because of the job, which doesn’t make good copy.

Isn’t this a recipe for insanity — or at the least pharmaceuticals? It means that if you want to have a “normal” life (whatever that is, anyway), you can kiss “success” goodbye, and if you want success, you can prepare yourself for getting kicked over the edge — or being ready to kick.

Where’re my shoes?

Why some of us dislike Plato

January 11, 2004 at 7:57 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Why some of us dislike Plato

Mark on Wood’s Lot excerpts a great essay by Isaiah Berlin on Pluralism. Berlin begins by explaining what differentiates him from a relativist. While there might be a plurality of values that men and women can seek, their number is not infinite, however. And because their number is finite, one woman can understand another woman, regardless of her different values: this is what constitutes our humanity. Berlin then defines the enemy of pluralism:

The enemy of pluralism is monism — the ancient belief that there is a single harmony of truths into which everything, if it is genuine, in the end must fit. The consequence of this belief (which is something different from, but akin to, what Karl Popper called essentialism — to him the root of all evil) is that those who know should command those who do not. Those who know the answers to some of the great problems of mankind must be obeyed, for they alone know how society should be organized, how individual lives should be lived, how culture should be developed. This is the old Platonic belief in the philosopher-kings, who were entitled to give orders to others. There have always been thinkers who hold that if only scientists, or scientifically trained persons, could be put in charge of things, the world would be vastly improved. To this I have to say that no better excuse, or even reason, has ever been propounded for unlimited despotism on the part of an elite which robs the majority of its essential liberties. [More…

On the topic of Wood’s Lot, I’ve had some interesting experiences with how the web works (or doesn’t) vis-a-vis his blog (or rather, the relationship between my ISP and his, or his server). A while ago, I wrote here that I couldn’t get to his blog at all — and I still can’t: I read the Isaiah Berlin entry at the library. I emailed a couple of other bloggers who link to Mark, but didn’t get very far in terms of help — it was getting on close to the holidays and people started travelling. I tried emailing Mark, but my messages bounced right back into my mailbox as undeliverable. I finally got my husband interested enough to try to help, and he initially thought that Mark’s server had to be down. But it wasn’t, since others could — and can — access it (while we still can’t). When we did a tracert and a ping, they timed out somewhere in Ontario with Hydrotelecom. Then we called our ISP (Pacific Coast Net or PCnet, not to be confused with Politically Correct Net, although this is the Left Coast, or so I’m told). They couldn’t get to Mark’s blog, either, nor to his server at Carleton University in Ontario. We got them involved on Friday, and this being the weekend, not much has happened, but I’m hoping that they’ll get back on the case tomorrow. What astonishes me — a non-techie — is this notion that the web apparently can develop a hole or a break, and unless you’re really avid, you might never know it or get it fixed: you’ll just get the message, “can’t connect to server” or something like that, and accept it. But it shouldn’t happen; in this case it’s happening because there’s some machine in Ontario that “drops the packet” when it comes with a PCnet address… It’s not Carleton, it’s not PCnet itself, it’s some third party machine in Ontario that just decides, “Aeh, don’t like PCnet, fukc ’em,” and dumps the request. Does it for hits to Mark’s blog, does it for hits to the Carleton server, does it for email based on the Carleton server if they originate from PCnet. Isn’t that weird? Is it just my technopeasant mentality that lets me think this is weird, or is this weird? Well, I’m glad I went to the library today (Emma had to pick up a hold), because that Isaiah Berlin essay is a bright spark of sanity in an increasingly monist world. While I’m at it, Dave Pollard has some terrific recent entries: his Writing Our New Story of Jan. 4 is really inspiring, as is his commentary on Malcolm Gladwell and Learned Helplessness of Jan. 8. (Sorry, but someone explain to me how to do a “trackback” — I notice it has a different handle, but where would I put it here? Too complicated by half….) And Jeneane Sessum at Allied has been on a roll for days now, too. In particular her Jan. 10 entry on Ron Suskind’s book, and her commentary of Jan. 4 on Bush’s proposed relaxation of immigration laws, the excerpts on writing by Robert Louis Stevenson (also on Jan. 4), the damning pointer to the USA Today article on blogging (also Jan. 4), and the entries on Augusten Burroughs (also Jan. 4 — hey, what were you taking that day??), and the entry on whacko Florida, and and and… really, the whole blog is just terrific: check it out now!
PS update: oops, my mistake, those entries aren’t all from Jan. 4, which is the date the permalink gives (archives week, maybe?). The articles are spread out over a couple of days — just cruise over the page and you’ll see them! As for me, not much happening here. I’m way behind in correspondence, and I’ve got 3 days full of school planning meetings coming up (yes, yes, we homeschool, but the kids take courses through South Island Distance Education School, and I’m on the Parent Advisory Council — isn’t that a hoot?). My dishwasher broke — at age 14 months, its timing so perfect on the heels of the typical one-year warranty’s expiration that one would think it was planned, but I have an extended warranty contract, haha! — and I’m mired in dishes until the repairguy deigns to show up. (The dishwasher, incidentally, is a water- and energy-efficient Bosch — so much for German quality, eh? — I put my money where my mouth is and spent $$$ more on getting water saving appliances, including a front-loading washing machine, but I’m not terribly impressed by the quality so far…) But, I have to gloat about no longer living in the deep freeze East: it’s just lovely here in Victoria…. Our highs are currently around 10C or 50F, we had lots of sunshine today, the distant mountains visible to the south and east looked spectacular in their new blankets of snow, and spring bulbs are starting to pop up: I saw snowdrops blooming today, and narcissi are pushing through. The grass, unlike in summer when it’s brown from heat and drought, is a deep rich emerald colour that’s a balm for the eyes…. UPDATE: someone got their needle and thread out and mended the web — on the weekend, no less (must’ve been a woman!). I can now again link to Wood’s Lot, saints and sinners be praised!

Killer Dress Codes

January 9, 2004 at 9:29 pm | In yulelogStories | 5 Comments

I hope Victoria’s Tirdad Shirvani doesn’t object to my blogging his Jan. 7 letter to a local newspaper, The Victoria News, but as it’s a great letter, its dissemination to a few more individuals seems like a good idea. While you could find it online if you followed all the links to “letters” etc., I’ll spare you the bother:

The Persian Club would like to send its deepest condolences to the people of Iran and all of those who have lost loved ones in the tragic Bam earthquake.
Over 40,000 people have lost their lives while the tens of thousands injured in this earthquake remain without adequate food and shelter.
We blame the Islamic Republic government of Iran for the extent of the death and destruction.
An earthquake of similar magnitude a week earlier in California killed only two people. If the Mullahs had not grossly embezzled and mismanaged the economy to a point where people who have scarcely enough to eat could afford proper shelter, they would not die by the thousands at the slightest tremor.
If the Theocracy of the Ayatollahs had spent the amount of time, energy, and money in the last 25 years on enforcing building codes that it has on enforcing the strict dress code for Islamic women, so many would not have died.
If the government and its public servants were not so corrupt, if they had not accepted bribes to wave the very few building codes there are, this would not have happened. This, however, is still nothing compared to the catastrophe that is waiting to happen when a similar quake hits Tehran.

Rigid ideology exacts its toll in every situation; are “we” in “the west” immune? If we get started, earthquakes might be the least of our worries.

Eyes on the skies

January 8, 2004 at 11:06 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

The Register‘s Andrew Orlowski posted this story today: Flight Sim enquiry raises terror alert. It’s about a mother trying to buy her 10-year old a Microsoft Flight Simulator at a Massachusetts Staples store. The ever-on-guard-against-terror American patriot who waited on the woman called the cops after she left, and they, searching for terrorists, in turn paid her an unexpected nighttime visit.

What’s of key interest to me here is that the woman, Julie Olearcek (incidentally a USAF Reserve pilot) homeschools her son. This incident grew, in other words, from the typical homeschooling impetus to let one’s child follow his or her passion: a flight simulator would be a great place from which to launch a homeschooler’s maths and physics and engineering curriculum, not to mention history of flight and science and technology, just the thing for an interested kid. But look what it got the parent under today’s Bush Administration: suspicion of terrorism and a police raid.

Ms. Olearcek tries, in the wake of this incident, to be the incarnation of apple pie itself, for she insists that vigilance is a good thing, and she probably would appreciate my commentary even less than the intervention of Staples’s staff in sending a State Trooper to her house. She is quoted extensively in the Greenfield Recorder by reporter Virginia Ray, and you can hear the acquiescence to conformism in her arguments, the belief in joining willingly and obediently in the communal task which the Administration has assigned to Americans:

“We all have to be aware,” she said, not really even wanting to speak of the incident on the record, but wanting to keep the record straight. “It’s not just the people in uniform who have to be looking after this country. So when people see something out the ordinary, they pay attention. Maybe by the way we worded the question – who knows? – it triggered the individual [at Staples who reported her]. Still, if they had done their homework (at Staples) they would see I home school my children and am a frequent customer and have a teacher’s ID on file.” [More…]

By the end of her remarks, a healthy disbelief shines through: I’m a regular customer, I applied for Staples’ homeschoolers’ discount, they have my local homeschoolers association membership card (the teacher’s ID) on file…! Disbelief, healthy or just stunned, might not be enough anymore to turn things around, though.

Finally, I find myself speculating further. I wonder to what extent this family — this child, specifically — had never been mapped onto any official data bases. If the child had been identified in a data base (a school’s, say), would the police have acted differently? Will schools become places of official data collection and filtering in a much bigger way, and might homeschoolers — who are usually not within that net or catchment — find themselves more frequently in tight spots, scrutinised for “terrorist activity”…?

And might schools themselves not become sources of information for police? It’s for your own good of course, protection from terror and all that. But you really have to wonder where terror starts and where it ends.

So the lesson, as any bright kid (homeschooled or not) can see, is: keep your head down, don’t step out of line, and toe the line. There goes innovation, there goes play…

Tasty

January 7, 2004 at 11:03 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

This just in from the Toronto Star: Feds rule out ban on abattoir waste in cattle feed:

Federal officials have ruled out a ban on feeding slaughterhouse waste to cattle even though some government scientists say such a ban is the only way to be sure of stopping mad cow disease.

The reasoning — once you read down to the end — isn’t that “the science” doesn’t support a ban (as the ever-weaselly chief veterinarian for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Brian Evans, claims), but that the bureaucrats don’t think they can enforce it. In other words, Mr. Evans accepts as a given that the skunky crooked Canuck industrial farmer, as well (presumably) as the little guy, is going to skirt the law and feed cattle whatever is on hand.

Did you know that some farmers wean calves on blood?

What in heaven’s name are we doing here?

Let me get this straight: we have some really bad practices, and because the government says that it can’t regulate these practices, we’ll let them continue?

I have a headache.

Probably BSE.

And I think we need some new blood at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency….

10 C / 50 F

January 7, 2004 at 10:41 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on 10 C / 50 F

Yes, it’s warmer again, the snow is a slushy memory, the grass is green again, no more hats, no more scarves, but really dirty wet dogs instead. One thing in favour of icy snowy cold is its dryness: low on the ground dogs don’t hoover up mud and city dirt, they stay clean in cold climates. When it’s warm and wet, they become dirt magnets again….

Chirac’s Rubik Cube

January 7, 2004 at 10:30 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Chirac’s Rubik Cube

The International Herald Tribune carried an article by Diana Pinto today that I thought was one of the smartest commentaries I’ve yet read on the French ban of religious dress and symbolism (aka “the head scarf ban”): The long, bloody path that led to French securalism: Head scarves and history. Pinto writes that

a militantly secular and neutral French republic is perceived by most citizens as the only possible response to a long and tormented French political past, rife with religious tragedy, a story in which Islam is simply the latest arrival. [emphasis added]
Most religions have, at some point, come into conflict — and even war — with the French state, and been cast out of the French body politic. The state has turned them into privileged interlocutors only after “whacking them into shape,” so to speak, in the interests of social and political order.

Pinto sketches a brief history of the beatings that the other major religions have had to take in France — in the name of upholding the freedoms of the citizen — and continues:

Given this turbulent past, it is easy to understand why so many French people rally around a secular republic as the only guarantor of national peace. They are all too aware that their nation is a boat with a complex religious balance, one that could easily be upset with the arrival of a particularly boisterous “passenger,” modern Islam.
In its contemporary demands, Islam has proven problematic for the French state, not because many consider it to be an “outsider,” non-European religion but because integrating it within the republic with in the spirit of today’s pluralist and multicultural outlook could awaken the jealousy of the other “domesticated” religions, which were never given such a choice.
The result would be to threaten the entire French republican edifice.(…)
Islam’s demands, especially for those in the camp of la

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