What I’m Reading, March 26, 2014

You play ball like a GIRL!

Via pordl.com

Playing “Too Womany” and the Problem of Masculinity in Sport, Joanna L. Grossman and Deborah L. Brake, Verdict, September 17, 2013

Title IX indeed has changed the face of education. It has been invoked to protect students against sexual harassment by teachers and peers, to ensure fair treatment of pregnant and parenting students, to remove obstacles to women’s education in non-traditional fields like science and math, and to curtail the use of single-sex education that was rooted in stereotype. But Title IX is most known for its impact on athletics, even though that was probably the furthest thing from the legislators’ mind when they enacted it. (The legislative history suggests little more than some chuckling over the prospect of co-ed football and co-ed locker rooms.)


There is no question that sports have changed women. Female sports participation has proven positive effects that are related to academic achievement; job success; positive self-esteem; reduced incidence of self-destructive behaviors like smoking, drugs, sex at a young age, and teen pregnancy; and physical and mental health benefits. By and large, sports have been empowering and have even changed, in fundamental ways, what it means to be a woman.

But have women changed sports? Why is it that despite the widespread participation of women and girls in sports, a team of ten-year-old boys would be told by their male coach (as recently happened to one of our sons) that the reason they lost their soccer game is because they “played too womany”? And why is it that this remark strikes so few people as offensive? Has women’s participation in sports changed the norms of femininity for women, but not the norms of masculinity for men?

[Ed. note: We generally hear “you throw like a girl” as an insult, based on women’s perceived categorical inferiority at sports.

Throw like a girl

Via fugly.com

Well, do you know who else “throws like a girl”? Continue reading


Panem et Circenses, American-Style

By WolfgangRieger [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsOver the past day or two, I have rather cynically shook my head at people taking to Facebook, Twitter, etc. to decry the proles’ shallow fixation on the latest Justin Bieber news—something about eggs and drag racing—to the apparent exclusion of more important concerns.

I generally figure that people’s preference for bread and circuses is a persistent feature of society, and has been since we first started having societies—and with them, issues of societal importance for people to ignore. Then I saw this headline, and decided it’s worth being at least a bit annoyed: “Watch a congresswoman discussing the NSA get interrupted for ‘breaking news’ on Justin Bieber’s arrest.”

The extremely cynical and conspiracy-minded among us might think that this was a deliberate distraction, orchestrated by the network or even by a government that only pretends to be just marginally competent. I, on the other hand, am thinking this was more likely to have been a combination of unfortunate timing and a hasty programming decision.

Would they have interrupted a report on, say, one of the Kardashians to report on Bieber? Who the hell knows? The fact is that Bieber seems more like news than the NSA to whomever runs these shows, and that’s more likely to be because they think more people will tune in for Bieber. In that sense, I guess I join those who bemoan the hoi polloi’s fixation on seemingly trivial entertainment news (more on the idea of triviality below.) Continue reading


The NSA Isn’t Going to Stop Anytime Soon, Because Congress Won’t Stop It

Congress could amend or repeal the PATRIOT Act any time it wants (even overriding a veto if it had the will), thus curtailing the NSA’s domestic spying abilities. They just won’t do it.

The Republicans in Congress won’t do it because (a) the program gives them too many talking points to use against the White House right now, and opposing Obama is more important to them than governing; (b) they figure they’ll get the White House back eventually, so they want to keep those powers in place; and (c) so far, no one seems to have seriously asked them why it was okay for Bush to have these powers but not Obama (remember, we’ve known about the NSA’s spying, in one form or another, since at least 2006), and taking actual action might prompt those questions.

Congressional Democrats won’t do it because if the White House stops spying on us, and then there’s another terrorist attack, the entire country will eat them alive for not doing enough to protect us.

We want the government to protect us from “terrorism” at all costs, unless we are the ones actually paying those costs. We are trapped in a catch-22 of our own making.


How to Fight the Surveillance State by Cooperating With It

This is not the first time we have encountered the government’s desire to compile data on all of us, although people seem to have forgotten about the omniously-titled Total Information Awareness program. Once it started under Bush, it never really went away. Cue that Lord Acton quote about “absolute power,” ya-ta ya-ta ya-ta.

Way back in the early days of TIA, i.e. 2002, my friend Todd conceived of a patriotic means of helping the government keep tabs on all of us law-abiding folk. See, sifting through peta-, exa-, or even yottabytes of data takes a substantial investment of resources, and is likely to yield quite a few false leads. Besides that, they might miss a few emails in the process. In order to ensure that the government knows we are on the level, Todd proposed this:

I recently sent the following e-mail to President BushVice President Cheney, and Attorney General Ashcroft to inform them of my plan to do my part as a patriotic American in these fearful times: Continue reading


This Whole Surveillance State Thing Is a BFD, But It Is Not News (UPDATED)

Things could be much, much creepier. Also, why would a top secret surveillance program need a logo?

Things could be much, much creepier. Also, why would a top secret surveillance program need a logo?

Last week, the Guardian, a British newspaper that devotes much of its space to reporting on bikini bodies [see update below], broke the story of the NSA’s surveillance program known as PRISM, in a series of articles that I suspect most people did not read. I certainly agree that this is a big deal, but some of the urgency behind the backlash against this program puzzles me. Is anyone honestly surprised by this? Do people not remember the past eleven years? Where has this level of outrage been up to now?

Of course, I think I know the answer to that last question, and it is similar to the newfound outrage people had over the TSA’s groping practices: now the “war on terror” is affecting us (and by “us” I mean affluent white people, mostly.)

Daniel Ellsberg, of the Pentagon Papers fame, is warning about the “United Stasi of America,” as if that is something that could happen tomorrow if we don’t do………something, I’m not sure what. The story has also given Glenn Greenwald, a writer I used to respect greatly, more opportunities at self-aggrandizement.

The simple fact is that most legislators have unclean hands in all of this, save a few. The revelation of this program’s existence gives us an opportunity to have a national dialogue about how much surveillance we are willing to accept in the name of “national security,” but I have my doubts that we’ll actually get to that discussion amid all the hysteria. Everything the White House has done was arguably authorized by the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act, so the first thing Congress could do would be to repeal, or at least limit, that law. <crickets>

Here are a few relevant quotes from an update on the surveillance program offered by the Guardian, with my commentary:

Continue reading