Friday, August 28, 2015

On The Duggar Ideology: Multiply At Any Cost. A Re-Posting

(From last May.  You might also wish to read this post about the coverage of the case.  It equates the Duggars' sect with Christianity in general.)

Many have written about the recently revealed child molestation accusations against Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the Quiverfull parents of nineteen children whose lives are depicted in a now (temporarily?) withdrawn reality show 19 Kids and Counting.

The basic ideology of the Quiverfull movement is well summarized by the description of Kathryn Joyce's book* about the Christian patriarchy cult:

Kathryn Joyce's fascinating introduction to the world of the patriarchy movement and Quiverfull families examines the twenty-first-century women and men who proclaim self-sacrifice and submission as model virtues of womanhood—and as modes of warfare on behalf of Christ. Here, women live within stringently enforced doctrines of wifely submission and male headship, and live by the Quiverfull philosophy of letting God give them as many children as possible so as to win the religion and culture wars through demographic means.
Hence the attempt to maximize family size, even if that might lead to the impossibility of adequately feeding, caring for, or supervising all those children.  They are arrows in the war against the infidels, and the manufacture of the maximum number of such arrows requires the women's submission and compliance.

This is the proper background for interpreting what happened after Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar found that their fourteen-year-old son had fondled the breasts and genitals of minor girls, many of them apparently his own sisters, while they were supposedly asleep.  The son was sent to therapy or perhaps just away for a while, a police officer (later sentenced for child pornography) gave him a stern speech and the girls who were fondled presumably forgave him.

The Duggars apologized for those events:
Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God.   We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

Let me see what's included there:  God's forgiveness?  Check.  What the family gained from the events?  Check.  Josh's "bad mistakes?  Sort of check.

What the daughters went through?

Crickets...

And that's the fundamental problem with the Quiverfull ideology and those right-wing Christian beliefs which suggest that victims of abuse should bear responsibility for it happening, that God may have allowed it because of something the victim did or failed to do.

I stress this ideology, because it is what all the choices** of Duggars are based on and it is ultimately what their reality show is disseminating as a good conservative way of life.
-----

*I strongly recommend that book, by the way.  Kathryn's work is always painstaking and objective.
**Read that.  It's funny.  Then send me money.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mail-Order Husbands?


You know about the women who are called mail-order brides, right?  From the point of view of, say, American men who seek such a wife  the market is for foreign women who seem to be viewed as more biddable, more willing to cook and clean, more willing to accept male leadership in the marriage and more exotic than homegrown women.   Some of the MRA sites, for instance,  advocate that men should order their wives from abroad so as to guarantee that feminism hasn't corrupted them yet.*

But the market for mail-order brides is only one way to look at what's happening.  That's because the market tries to match women to men, on the basis of various characteristics, and so the market could equally well be called one for mail-order husbands.  After all, the women who advertise their availability for marriage are looking for a mail-order husband.

Why, then, the focus on brides in this market?  Is it because the men participating are wealthier and more powerful?  Or is it because of our cultural conditioning?  Think of "wife-swapping," for instance.  When wives are swapped, so are the husbands, but somehow the cultural clutter makes that harder to notice.

Reversals of this kind can be incredibly useful.  When we think of "mail-order husbands" we then start asking what the women in that marketplace want to buy.  What kind of a husband?  For what reason?

And then, almost unavoidably, we start asking whether the desires of the women and men in this market actually match, whether participating in this market is equally unconstrained for both sides, or whether at least some women might be in the market because of the direst economic necessity.
----
*I don't intend to paint all men as MRAs or all men who have married foreign women as thinking in the above terms  What that paragraph reflects is a common meme among the so-called manosphere, however, and it's useful to spell it out. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Food Stamps As Democratic Bribes To Buy Votes. A Re-Posting.


(Originally from last February.  Not much has changed about the situation, though of course Scott Walker,  the governor of Wisconsin, wants to test food stamp recipients for illegal drug use.  This article explains why it's nuts.  But note that  if Democrats are supposed to use food stamps as bribes to buy votes, then at least some Republicans use food stamps to buy votes, too:  Those votes which want to punish the poor for getting government subsidies.  As the linked article notes, if getting government subsidies is the logical reason for drug tests, then we should test all mortgage applicants who plan to deduct their mortgage interest payments from their taxable income, because those deductions mean that other taxpayers are subsidizing the mortgage holders by having to pay more taxes.)

Fox News' Stuart Varney explains how the president buys votes with food stamps

You should watch the video at the link (I couldn't get it to embed).

In it Varney explains how the US cannot afford food stamps or any things from a long list of government "handouts" (which, by the way, includes health care for the poor and social security payments for the elderly). Then he explains that these "handouts" are paid by the tax payers, thus suggesting that those getting them never were or are taxpayers themselves.  Think about that division of people into two groups.  One gets all the undeserved benefits, one pays for all of them.  That the retired, for example, paid towards social security all their working lives is irrelevant.

And "we" cannot afford all these handouts!  "We" must take out loans to pay for them.  For Varney that "we" does not include the people on the "handouts."

I liked listening to Varney, because he is so good at triggering the anger and fear of the conservatives.  Someone is getting something for nothing and I am not! 

The logic is also fun to watch.  First Varney argues that the recession is over so why aren't people coming off food stamps (and "we" cannot afford those food stamps as "we" don't have the money but in fact we (as the government) should have the money if the recession is over).  But then he argues that two-thirds of Americans don't think the recession is over!

Gotcha, he mutters.  But of course there's the possibility that this recovery from the recession is another one of those weird ones where all the gains go for a small group of people on the top of the income distribution.  Varney tries to stuff to contradictory arguments down our throats:  Either there's no need for so many food stamp recipients anymore or there is, but Obama is to blame in both cases.

If you step a little back from these thoughts you could well ask why "we" cannot afford social security or Medicaid or food stamps but can afford a military system three or four times as expensive as the next largest military force on this earth.

Or you could ask why the government can afford to give "handouts" to corporations but not to individuals.

But then you would get depressed.

Instead, let's ask if giving a lot of food stamps indeed makes people vote for Democrats.  That's a silly sentence.  To answer that we would need to control for the incomes of the potential voters and what the two parties actually propose to do for the affluent and the less affluent and so on.

Still, it's unlikely that food stamps work as money to be paid for Democratic votes.  That's because a) the highest percentages of people on food stamps tend to be found in Republican-voting states and b) because the poor are much less likely to vote than the more affluent.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Motherhood Tuesday 4: Mother-Blaming Studies And Mothers in Politics


This popularization about a study concerning breast-feeding was hilariously bad.  I had fun writing about it, in a dark-humor sense.  This older post looks at how alcoholism is covered when it applies to women with children.  This post talks about obesity and children and whatever the mothers might be doing wrong, and this post takes apart one study on how bad mothers cause fat children.  And this tells us why mother's depression matters:  It might lead to shorter children.

I could have added many more such studies to this final Motherhood Tuesday report.

That's because researchers are really keen to study such questions as whether working/obese/etc mothers cause childhood obesity but don't seem at all interested in any potential relationship between working/obese/etc fathers and childhood obesity.  Indeed, if you study almost any field of research into children's development mothers are much, much more likely to be studied than fathers.

That is changing slowly.  I'm not sure if I should cheer for the arrival of new father-blaming studies.  It would be better if parenting research was popularized more carefully and if the biases didn't show as much as they do now.

To round off this series, I recommend this New Statesman article about being a mother or not being a mother in UK politics.  It tells us that childless female politicians are often asked about why they don't have children (or taken to task for it) and that female politicians with children are doubted as not being able to fully engage in politics.  The same is not true about childless male politicians and male politicians with children.

At the same time, the UK political institutions are still run on the assumption that there's a wife somewhere in the background, taking care of the politicians' children.

As the link article notes, children are an asset to male politicians but problematic (whether in their absence or in their presence) for female politicians.  This is a direct result of traditional gender roles expectations (mothers are to take care of children) and the (most likely subconscious) belief that women are really supposed to be mothers and only mothers.

Even this is changing, though perhaps slowly.  I write about it to make it change faster!




Monday, August 24, 2015

Research Monday 4: The Not-Yet-Published Research Problem


This is something I often fume about, the pre-publicity of papers not yet published or not yet available.

Why is this custom bad?  Because no potential critic can read the paper!  So those promoting it have all the aces up their sleeves.  How can you even ask another expert to comment when the paper is not yet available?

Suppose that the paper is then never published at all (yes, this has happened)!  Or suppose that it's published but has serious methodological problems.  Will there be a second wave of debates about it?

You can guess the answer to that question.  Once again, amateur readers will be left with the impression that the original advertising wanted to give.

The most recent example of this I came across can be found in this post.  And no, I never got an answer from the author.

The worst experience I've had about unavailable research papers is described in this 2006 post.  It's written a bit euphemistically but you can read between the lines.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Night Music: Gracias a La Vida



By Violeta Parra:



And by Mercedes Sosa:



It's fun to compare different artists' takes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Monopoly. The Game. A Re-Posting

(From last March)

Yesterday (i.e. March 19th) was the eightieth anniversary of the game called Monopoly.  There's an interesting subtext to the history of the game.  Or a sub-game, if you wish:

Legend has it that Charles Darrow, an unemployed salesman, invented the game in his kitchen in 1930. But the roots of Monopoly actually date back a few more decades, to a game called the Landlord's Game created by Elizabeth Magie in 1903.
The Landlord's Game was meant to be educational, illustrating economist Henry George's belief -- inspired by the Gilded Age -- that property ownership by individuals is inherently unfair. Magie's game was an underground success, leading to a number of offshoots, including the one that Darrow tweaked. Parker Brothers bought her patent for $500 in 1935, closing the loop.

The New York Times recently published an article about Elizabeth Magie and her Landlord's Game as the possible basic source for Monopoly.  I recommend reading the whole piece, because it's a fairly representative case study of the "disappearing women"  phenomenon:

Magie’s game featured a path that allowed players to circle the board, in contrast to the linear-path design used by many games at the time. In one corner were the Poor House and the Public Park, and across the board was the Jail. Another corner contained an image of the globe and a homage to Henry George: “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” Also included on the board were three words that have endured for more than a century after Lizzie scrawled them there: “Go to Jail.”
...
It was a version of this game that Charles Darrow was taught by a friend, played and eventually sold to Parker Brothers. The version of that game had the core of Magie’s game, but also modifications added by the Quakers to make the game easier to play. In addition to properties named after Atlantic City streets, fixed prices were added to the board. In its efforts to seize total control of Monopoly and other related games, the company struck a deal with Magie to purchase her Landlord’s Game patent and two more of her game ideas not long after it made its deal with Darrow.
Magie never really benefited financially from her game, whereas Darrow became very rich indeed.  The reasons why history ended up that way can be many, but Magie's gender certainly would not have helped.

There's something about the way we (as humans) write history which downplays or erases the contributions of individuals which don't fit the subconscious patterns we have in our minds,* and women working in science or literature have frequently found their work  ignored or reinterpreted for that reason.  Sometimes the erasure is conscious, but often it is not.

What fascinates me is that often the unconscious or conscious rewriting seems to take place a short time after** the events, not immediately, as if it's the slightly more distant observers who have erased, say, any women from stories of inventions or scientific discoveries or assigned them to the more "natural" helper roles.   That could be because the effect of the unconscious patterns becomes more powerful when the actual individuals are no longer known.

------
*The case of Rosalind Franklin is a well-known example of this.

For an example outside gender, consider the case of Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as an example.  The early recognition went mostly to Hillary, perhaps because Norgay was seen as someone just doing his job whereas Hillary was the white adventurer.

**Time is a relative concept here, and I refer to such things as the evaluation of literary merit of various writers a generation after their work, rather than hundred years later.