What I’m Reading, February 20, 2015

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Harvard Business Review, August 22, 2013

There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.

Stop Blowhard Syndrome, Christina Xu, That’s What Xu Said, February 9, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 19, 2015

Blame the Muslims: how government and media stoke the fires of Islamophobia, Lindsey German, The Age of Blasphemy, February 12, 2015

Why are the approaches to different groups of terrorists so different? Part of the reason is racism: Muslims are portrayed as fanatics and extremists, caught in a clash of civilisations where the good guys are representatives of western civilisation while the bad guys are identified with backwardness, superstition and barbarity.

This dichotomy conveniently ignores western lack of civilisation, whether through two world wars and a holocaust or through the creation of empires which ruled over whole peoples – many of them the same who are being demonised here. It also ignores the record of Muslim culture historically.

There is one overwhelming reason why this happens however: the wars themselves. There is a refusal to link terrorism with the wars which have taken place over a decade and a half, and a refusal to see that one of their outcomes is a rise in Islamophobia.

There is a hideous symmetry in this: as the wars involving Britain and the US have become more mired in failure, so civil liberties have come under greater attack and the rise in Islamophobia has become more pronounced.

“The bills! The bills!”: A Japanese woman’s experience giving birth in the United States, Fran Wrigley, Rocket News 24, February 13, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 18, 2015

Conservatives Smear Slain ISIS Hostage Kayla Mueller Because She Cared About Palestinians Too, Zaid Jilani, AlterNet, February 11, 2015

26 year-old Kayla Mueller accomplished much before her death while in ISIS custody. She traveled the world, working for various international nonprofits. By all accounts, she was a big-hearted humanitarian and represented the best of America’s values abroad.

But all of that is unimportant to a group of Islamophobic conservatives who took issue with Mueller’s advocacy for the Palestinian cause – which included joining protests against the Israeli occupation.

SF/F Saturday: The Years of Rice and Salt, Adam Lee, Daylight Atheism, November 15, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 17, 2015

New Study on Gender and Hot Sauce Has Exceptional Conclusion, Maggie Lange, New York Magazine, February 3, 2015

Just as you hoped, a new study from Penn State researchers titled “Gender differences in the influence of personality traits on spicy food liking and intake” has important information about the ways in which men and women are entirely different sorts of creatures, and how one group might be genuinely badass taste adventurers and one group might not be.

In the study, the researchers conclude that women are more likely to seek sensation from spicy food, while men are more likely to see other extrinsic rewards like praise and admiration.

To put it another way, no one eats Guatemalan insanity peppers because they taste good.


Stop what you’re doing, and GO READ THE BUZZFEED EXPOSE OF A VOICE FOR MEN’S PAUL ELAM. (SPOILER: He’s even worse than you think), David Futrelle, We Hunted the Manmoth, February 6, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 16, 2015

The Tragedy of the American Military, James Fallows, The Atlantic, January/February 2015

This has become the way we assume the American military will be discussed by politicians and in the press: Overblown, limitless praise, absent the caveats or public skepticism we would apply to other American institutions, especially ones that run on taxpayer money. A somber moment to reflect on sacrifice. Then everyone except the few people in uniform getting on with their workaday concerns.


This reverent but disengaged attitude toward the military—we love the troops, but we’d rather not think about them—has become so familiar that we assume it is the American norm. But it is not. When Dwight D. Eisenhower, as a five-star general and the supreme commander, led what may have in fact been the finest fighting force in the history of the world, he did not describe it in that puffed-up way. On the eve of the D-Day invasion, he warned his troops, “Your task will not be an easy one,” because “your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped, and battle-hardened.” As president, Eisenhower’s most famous statement about the military was his warning in his farewell address of what could happen if its political influence grew unchecked.

At the end of World War II, nearly 10 percent of the entire U.S. population was on active military duty—which meant most able-bodied men of a certain age (plus the small number of women allowed to serve). Through the decade after World War II, when so many American families had at least one member in uniform, political and journalistic references were admiring but not awestruck. Most Americans were familiar enough with the military to respect it while being sharply aware of its shortcomings, as they were with the school system, their religion, and other important and fallible institutions.

Now the American military is exotic territory to most of the American public. As a comparison: A handful of Americans live on farms, but there are many more of them than serve in all branches of the military. (Well over 4 million people live on the country’s 2.1 million farms. The U.S. military has about 1.4 million people on active duty and another 850,000 in the reserves.) The other 310 million–plus Americans “honor” their stalwart farmers, but generally don’t know them. So too with the military. Many more young Americans will study abroad this year than will enlist in the military—nearly 300,000 students overseas, versus well under 200,000 new recruits. As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.

The Surprising Thing People Who Resist Authority Have in Common, Krystnell Storr, Science.Mic, January 14, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 13, 2015

The Angry Black Dude Post No. 1, The Difference Between Cockroaches and Butterflies, January 27, 2015

I don’t like being the Angry Black Dude. I really don’t. There are enough of them (and with good reason). Being an ABD is social suicide: Anyone (white or non-white) with rudimentary knowledge of past and present and a conscience knows you have the right to be angry, yet your indignation still annoys them. Then there are the folks who either do or do not know (more like refuse to acknowledge) the history of race relations and have no conscience whatsoever, and your righteous anger undoubtedly pisses them off. ABDs, like feminists, cannot win. It’s a lose-lose situation, socially speaking.

I remember once I was outside of a bar in the Lower East Side around the time of the Ferguson protests. I became drunkenly acquainted with a group of people (Millennial non-whites) who started talking about what was going on in Missouri, and one of them said something like, “But c’mon, dude, not all cops are bad.” Which instinctively roused the ABD within me from dormancy. I was tactful, though: I implied (calmly) that the protesting — or rioting, depending on your viewpoint — was in response to a larger, endemic malady. These are the rhetorical hoops an ABD must go through so that he can be listened to and not simply heard.

My significant other has been asked lately (by Millennial non-whites), “Why a black guy? You’re such a pretty girl so why him?” Which of course makes me feel like shit. I’m reminded of Iago’s warning to Brabanito: “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.”

What Does Feminist Porn Look Like? Russell O’Connor, Everyday Feminism, September 7, 2013

Most porn has a predominantly male perspective. The directors are usually men, and most porn is made for men. As a result, the camera often embodies the “male gaze“: It looks where a man (a stereotypical straight man, that is) would look.

As a result, women are presented exclusively as objects of desire and never as subjects of pleasure.

This is why men are so strangely absent from much straight porn, except as disembodied penises.

This can easily appear, as J. Bryan Lowder once said on Slate, as a strange form of reverse objectification.

But, as Lowder notes, there’s a simple reason for this: Most porn made for men is shot in such a way as to allow the male viewer to project himself into the scene. The woman is thus presented as available to any man who wishes to use her.

A penis needs to be present, but the man to whom it is attached had better not be too present, lest he threaten to become the focus and the male viewer be threatened with homo-eroticism.

Only the woman is to be seen, and she is there for the pleasure of the male viewer. [Emphasis in original.]


What I’m Reading, February 12, 2015

Believing that life is fair might make you a terrible person, Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, February 3, 2015

If you’ve been following the news recently, you know that human beings are terrible and everything is appalling. Yet the sheer range of ways we find to sabotage our efforts to make the world a better place continues to astonish. Did you know, for example, that last week’s commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz may have marginally increased the prevalence of antisemitism in the modern world, despite being partly intended as a warning against its consequences? Or that reading about the eye-popping state of economic inequality could make you less likely to support politicians who want to do something about it?

These are among numerous unsettling implications of the “just-world hypothesis”, a psychological bias explored in a new essay by Nicholas Hune-Brown at Hazlitt. The world, obviously, is a manifestly unjust place: people are always meeting fates they didn’t deserve, or not receiving rewards they did deserve for hard work or virtuous behaviour. Yet several decades of research have established that our need to believe otherwise runs deep. Faced with evidence of injustice, we’ll certainly try to alleviate it if we can – but, if we feel powerless to make things right, we’ll do the next best thing, psychologically speaking: we’ll convince ourselves that the world isn’t so unjust after all.

Hence the finding, in a 2009 study, that Holocaust memorials can increase antisemitism. Confronted with an atrocity they otherwise can’t explain, people become slightly more likely, on average, to believe that the victims must have brought it on themselves.

Lunging towards lunacy. What has happened to conservatism? Rudolph Bush, Dallas Morning News, February 3, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 11, 2015

Food, Freedom, and Why I Stopped Using the Phrase, “Clean Eating”, Jennifer McGrail, The Path Less Taken, February 2, 2015

This is the food philosophy that I want to pass on to my kids:

I want them to see me eat food that nourishes me… in body, mind, and spirit. I want them to see me eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I want them to recognize that food is a fuel, yes, but that it’s also fun and interesting and to be enjoyed. I want them to understand that the way an individual eats should be a fluid, changing thing, and that sometimes needs are best met with a yummy salad, and sometimes with a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie.

I want them to know that the act and art of eating is also highly personal, and not something that should be controlled or micromanaged by another person, even if that person is a well-meaning parent. I watch again and again as parents create food struggles, force their kids to clean their plate, make rules like “no dessert unless they eat x number of bites of broccoli first”, or refuse to buy certain foods because they’re not “healthy” enough. I can’t imagine it’s a super good thing for your relationship with your child, but it’s also a pretty surefire way to guarantee they’ll have an unhealthy relationship with food in the future.

Food isn’t supposed to be a battle! It’s not supposed to be about control, or stress, or pressure, or categorizing things into “good foods” and “bad foods.”

Orthorexia: When healthy eating becomes an obsession, Sarah Elizabeth Richards, CNN, October 12, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 10, 2015

Progressives Have Hope; Just Don’t Ask Jonathan Chait About It. Lisa Factora-Borchers, Truthout, January 30, 2015

Enlisting a philosophical argument that peaked in the ’90s, Jonathan Chait brought it back to 2015 with an article in New York magazine published earlier this week with a lukewarm punch: The PC movement is leading to the downfall of the liberal social agenda in the United States. In one of the most “This isn’t about me at all or personal whatsoever” personal essays in recent memory, a White, liberal, middle-age, cisgender male journalist declares the rise of tone-policing and trigger warnings as bad for democracy and just plain bad for the United States.

It’d be easy to dismiss Chait’s oddly outdated, half-thunk think piece, which conveniently blames women of color for complicating the social liberal landscape with their demand to be treated as equal stakeholders. But to overlook Chait’s self-appointed superiority complex as the work of one anachronistic guy would be to ignore the growing litany of complaints emerging from straight White men – claiming their own marginality.


By skewering “PC” culture to make his case, Chait stumbles into an argument usually reserved by the right: The powerless are threatening the powerful.

I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet, Paul Miller, The Verge, May 1, 2013 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 9, 2015

Godless Parents Are Doing a Better Job, Tracy Moore, Jezebel, February 3, 2015

In an op-ed at the Los Angeles Times by sociologist Phil Zuckerman, you can read about a swath of studies that support what everyone who is “between churches” has known forever: Not believing in God isn’t synonymous with being amoral. If anything, it can give you a greater clarity about right and wrong, because you’re more likely to base it on empathy and decency than a guaranteed spot upstairs come Judgment Day.

In the 1950s, only 4 percent of Americans indicated they’d grown up in a secular household; today, 23 percent say they have no religious affiliation, Zuckerman writes, citing Pew research. They’re called “Nones,” or, you know, heathens, and that number is even higher (30 percent) among the 18- to 29-year-old set. So with more people than ever eschewing a reflexive belief in God, it seems as good a time as any to ask how that’s working out for us.

5 Bizarre Realities of Being a Man Who Was Raped by a Woman, Anonymous, Amanda Mannen, Cracked, January 30, 2015 Continue reading