Friday, June 06, 2003

My Thoughts on the Decline and Fall of Men in Academia

You're right Niki, men still have the big positions, even in Women's colleges male faculty tend to have the edge on Seniority. But the lack of male students scares me. Intelligent, well educated women are absolutely necessary for societies in this world to flourish, but if its at the expense of educating men, I'm not sure what we've accomplished. Now, as much as it ever did, the world needs men to have advanced degrees, to have brains which function beyond calculating their golf game and contemplating how they can make more money. More importantly, women need men who are intelligent enough to appreciate their capabilities as human beings. We don't live in a vaccuum.

I've been hearing about the resurgence of male chauvinism in American Popular Culture. Is it just a coincidence that male college attendence is in decline? I don't think so.

One question: When you said most of the students in Iran were women, I immediately wondered what all the men were doing instead of going to school. Do you know where they are?

Post War Iraq, an American View
We've mentioned Salam Pax so many times in this blog, its nice to have some variety. I found this blog via Instapundit, I readily admit it, but Chief Wiggles is a fascinating read. Chief Wiggles is a citizen soldier who's really thinking about his role in Iraq. Here's a taste of the life he leads:

I returned last night from the cages quite late around 1100pm. I was totally beat, wiped out, totally exhausted from the day's activities. Going out to the cage takes a lot out of me, seeing the depressing state the men are in. We had a nice talk though, informing them that we had decided to write a letter to President Bush to see if we could force a decision out of someone. It is as if we are punishing them for doing exactly what we told them to do. They had read our leaflets, asking them to lay down their arms, to surrender and that we would take care of them. They did as we asked them, then we threw them in to prison, where they have been for the past 72 days.
The Army finally came up with a laundry service here, so we don't have to do it by hand. The army has contracted with a local company to provide the service. I turned mine in a week ago, and then it came up lost or missing. But after a few days, it did finally show up, which was quite a relief. I will try the service again just to confirm that the first loss was just a fluke. That is one thing I won't miss doing, my own laundry by hand in a bucket.

Today we thought would be a good day to play Good Luck Fairies again. I felt the urge, felt the wings sprouting and I thought it would be fun. So we started out by coming up with a large box of apples, ok we stole them, no we procured them, along with a few small bags of ice and took it out to the prisoners, the high-ranking officers. It is worth doing just to see the looks on their face. Of course this is all part of our strategy to win their hearts and minds. We were also able to locate a few bags of pita bread to go with the other stuff.

Good job, Mr. Wiggles, I wish you could do more.

Gardening. Its not a pastime. Its a lifestyle.

Some women like to work out so they can improve their looks and fit into a bikini. I work out so i can be a better gardener. I guess you could say I enjoy gardening, but its not enjoyment so much as necessity. I don't think I could live with a yard the size mine is, and not feel obligated to dig in it. Some of my neighbors have acres of nothing but mowable land. This is a waste of natural resources. I sometimes dream of going in and spraying Roundup when no one's looking. Grass is good if you like kicking the soccer ball around, but if you don't do anything with your yard, you should be forcibly moved to an apartment. People who don't live outside don't deserve yards. People who can't tell a cardinal from a bluejay don't deserve to live outside of city limits. People who think thick, weedfree neon colored grass is a sign of a well kept lawn should be shot. You want a lawn like that, buy astro turf. Quit killing birds. Better yet, back your house up on a golf course. I hope the Canada Geese nest on your Adirondack chairs.

Okay, back to gardening. This year Mom's not doing chemo, so its a garden that's all about taking chances. We've got five varieties of tomatoes, and we're only doing one comparative study of soil additives and their effect on plant productivity. We're going to use new seed potatoes this year, unlike last year when we just threw what was left in the basement into the ground (surprisingly productive!). We're even trying corn again, because we put up a really good mesh fence and we're going to try to keep it from getting knocked down instead of ignoring it until we walk in on deer having a garden party at our expense.

This is a garden not only full of possibility, but also full of old friends. That clover from 93? You're seeing it again, this time as a buffer around the fence. We found some peas from 1998 under the back staircase: Who wants to take bets on germination rates? The potatoes in the basement? Yes, the great grandchildren of some catalog store purple taters from '99 are back in the ground, and we're going to see if they can hold their own against the brand new varieties. The dangling reflective ribbons draped over everything should keep the birds off... until they stop keeping the birds off, and that could be in August, or perhaps next week. I come from a state of bets and debts people, step right up, double or nothing!

I'm hoping Bill B. Sees this.. he seems to lose big, and I'm not unwilling to help him out with that.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Mother Superior's Sites to Visit When Your Brain is Functioning

I would like to mention once again how awesome Thomas Nephew's Newsrack is. Its a great site with oogobs of information that's pleasantly left of center. A big plus: He footnotes. Constantly.

If you don't like politics, and prefer the philosophical, go to Andy's blog, Under the Sun. He's got lots of interesting thoughtful quotes that sometimes make my brain hurt.

Please ignore the post below.. I flubbed and I don't know how to get rid of it.

Mother Superior's Sites to Visit When Your Brain is Functioning

I would like to mention once again how awesome Thomas Nephew's Newsrack is. Its a great site with oogobs of information that's pleasantly left of center. A big plus: He footnotes. Constantly.

If you don't like politics, and prefer the philosophical, go to Andy's blog, posted by Iris @ 10:07 PM   0 comments

If you see the One-who-cannot-be-described-in-a-pronoun, Sister Andrea, I'm still waiting for that pony I asked for back in fourth grade.

Thank you so much for that interesting post, Niki! I too will post something thoughtful tomorrow or tonight. In the mean time, Hugh Jackman has been spotted wearing leather pants and long hair extensions. The story on the hair is that he's going to be in a period Dracula movie, but I think he must be posing for the cover of a bodice ripper to make some extra change. I'm going to have to start checking the 'book' aisle of my local Meijers store to see if my hunch is correct.

Interesting discussions, both of you. (For fascinating thoughts on women's education in Iran, I direct you to Azar Nafizi's fabulous new book Reading Lolita in Tehran.)

I don't have time to put in my own five cents (inflation!) right now. I am departing to celebrate the little-known but quite important Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The holiday marks the giving of the Torah (Jewish Bible) to the Jewish people. As the Torah is one of the greatest signs of the love between G-d and the children of Israel, the holiday marking its presentation is quite a mystical occasion. Some Jews choose to stay up all night on the first night waiting for the sky to open and miracles to happen, rather in the vein of that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In fact, I will be staying up all night tonight among forty other people at my best friend's house, although no miracles have occurred in my prior attempts at the vigil. We will study the sacred texts of Torah and Talmud, and at around four am, we will all lose focus and start playing silly board games. As soon as it is late enough to recite morning prayers (maybe 5:30 or 6? I don't have the exact time), we will pray together, and when the service is complete at 7 or 8, we will flop gratefully on our respective beds and sections of floor.

Some Christians I was talking to were quite surprised that there is no fast associated with this vigil; rather, we drink Mountain Dew and eat potato chips and cheesecake through the night. This may be why I never managed to see visions. Fasting usually helps.

In any case, I'll be back to blog again by Sunday. If I see G-d, I'll let you know.

My dear Sisters,

If men are increasingly bypassing higher education and feeling intimidated by an increasingly female environment, what does this mean for our future as academic women ? What does it mean for academia? I wish it meant anything, but if one looks at academia today, while more female are graduating, it is still the men that sit in academic positions of power in most fields.

A hundred years ago, women usually had to choose between higher education and marriage or often gave up applying their knowledge after marriage. In a sense, getting higher education meant for many sacrificing your role as a wife and mother - thus in some ways being deficient or not fully developed. Thankfully that has changed, it is now accepted that education is part fo self development as well as essential to procuring a job. But what if.......the majority of men cease going into higher education ? Will women be the main breadwinners ? Or will male skilled and/or un-skilled workers earn more than educated women ? And who my dears, will we marry ? Who will we expound our intellectual ramblings with, who will be the prisoners of our incessant commentary on the world ? Who will have the patience to debate and listen to us ?

When I went to Iran last year,my father gave some lectures at the university of Isfahan. Turns out, 70% of all students in higher education in Iran are female (listen to this George W). It was amazing to sit in the back of a lecture hall and see my father lecture to a sea of headscarves, a few black haired young men bobbing up and down among them. When I studied Ethnology in Denmark, the class consisted of 28 women and 3 men. But did this mean that these were feminized spaces....I don't think so.

This debate made me remember something I read recently. Exploring the literature on dress and the body ( for a short piece I am writing for an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery), I bumped into the book Clothes Make the Man: Female Crossdressing in Medieval Europe (Valerie R. Hotchkiss, 1996). This has an interesting perspective on women moving in and finding their place in an otherwise male dominated space :
'Medieval Europe had its own indigenous transvestite saints: a small group of historical women who, perhaps influenced by the lives of female monks, concealed their sex and entered male communities. Hildegund von Schonau(died 1188) lived most of her life as a man;she traveled abroad, served as a papal messenger, and even lived in a monastery as a monk. Angela of Bohemia, the sister of Premysl Ottokar I (1198-1230) was said to have escaped from her bridal chamber by disguising herself as a man. She traveled in this guise until she arrived in Jerusalem where she became a nun. Other women, such as Christina of Markyate (ca. 1096-1160) and Juana de la Cruz (1481-1534), dressed as men in order to flee enforced marriages and later led holy lives as women......' 'The defeminisation of holy women is a natural consequence of the widely held view of woman as an afterthought of the creator and the cause of human kinds's explulsion from paradise....'

What do you know about this, Sister Andrea ?

The problem lies not with the fact that more women are on campus and in teaching positions, but in the fact that men find this intimidating. And equally, as I have experienced, some women in higher education strut with pride at even having entered and played the field of such a male dominated sphere. These scare even me. This reveals how little has actually changed in the understanding of gender roles and the sexes in all of our minds......We may no longer have to disguise our identity as women or neccesarily give up our dreams of house, dog, car and 1.5 children (if we have such)...and yet??????????

So long sisters.....St. Scarlett

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Higher Education Is For the Girls!

There is a rising trend in education: More women are getting it, more men are passing it up. Is this a problem? Colleges think so, to such a point they are changing their brochures to include more pictures of men, pumping money into sports, and creating a male affirmative action.

Are men feeling less welcome on campus? They were viewed with equal parts curiousity and suspicion on my campus, and I wonder if the same is becoming true on coed campuses. Ladies, weigh in.

Hmmm, thankyou for that pleasant thought St. Scarlett.

I recently found out in a conversation with Sister Andrea, that some people who have found our site find us unique, in that we do not divulge our innermost secrets and petty grievances on our blog. I wondered what the devil these people had been reading , that they might be subjected to something like this on a daily basis:

It is raining today, dark and stormily. I have not had sex in a month. My delicate hold on reality is slipping. The Silence, the HORROR!!!!
I wrote this outburst in gest, until I started reading some of those online journals... *blink blink blink* Where's that bottle of Zoloft..

My Dear Sister Iris...

I thank you humbly for your coming sooth my currently troubled soul.

I admit, that your discussions of recent publications with rather unbelievable plots ( such as alien abductions of ugly librarians....). The only librarian I know will be abducted by a prince on a white horse one of these days......and that is not unlikely at all.

I myself have had other things on my mind...apart form my recent reinstallment in anchorhood (is that the correct term?) For example, visitng the Slovak Embassy here in London, I was relieved to know, that I did not need to obtain an HIV test to settle in Slovakia for a year.This was in effect, what their website proclaimed. However, being an EU citizen, it was not required. Apparently, we EU citizens are immune to HIV infection...this is new to me.....

Must run, Sister St. Scarlett

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Bwahahahaha! Now that was funny.. no excuse for To Ride Pegasus.. *snicker*

Sister Niki, expect something in the mail.. two weeks from now? I think that's how long it takes. A hard working anchoress like you needs a little pick me up once in a while. :)

Ooooooooh, an argument...

I never claimed that Mercedes Lackey's late novels weren't drivel. Nor that every novel Piers Anthony ever wrote wasn't drivel either.

I continue to read Lackey (in bookstores, these days, so I don't have to buy the new ones) in the (forlorn) hopes that someday she'll put some effort into her new novel and come up with another book or three of the caliber of the Last Herald Mage trilogy or By the Sword. Not that either of these were, shall we say, deep, but they're just so sweet!

I do not continue to read Anthony. The only one of his books I opened in the last four years was the last Mode book, because I remembered liking the suicidally depressed heroine when I was fifteen years old and angsty. I was quite irritated to realize that while I'd grown up in the interim, she hadn't..! In general, Anthony's is a universe of bad puns, half-naked (or entirely naked?) brainless women, and exceedingly shallow pretensions towards thought.

McCaffrey, on the other hand, hardly even provided me the entertainment of a good skewering. I didn't actually skewer her work in the last post. I think I shall do so now. My roommate left an early novel of hers in the bathroom one day a few months ago, and being bored and ready to procrastinate, I chose to read it.

Restoree is perhaps the stupidest book I have ever read in my twenty-two years on the planet Terra. Our heroine Sara is a fairly ugly spinster-librarian who is magically spirited away to an alien planet far away. Somewhere in the course of the spiriting, Sara gets a new beautiful face, and of course, she and the alien man who she finds herself tending fall wildly in love. There is no explanation for why the alien species appears completely humanoid and cross-fertile with homo sapiens. The plot is ... well, there are some evil non-humanoid aliens who are just evil and doing Bad Things hardly to be explained... and there are some political messes on the planet involving Sara's alien lover... and there are bunches of alien characters with very stereotypical alien names... and Sara is just dumb. She can wander around and be beautiful and say "Oh, I'm not ugly any more! Wow! And you're a handsome alien man and you're sleeping with me! Wow!"

Wait, late-breaking news... SFBookcase claims McCaffrey wrote the work "as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in science-fiction novels in the 50s and early 60s". I feel relieved now... but that doesn't excuse To Ride Pegasus.


Ouch! I feel skewered by Andrea's sharp analysis, most of which is unfortunately true, but wait, I can defend myself! Pierce may have written some drivel but I can think of another author Andrea likes who devolved the same way... Mercedes Lackey, anyone? No one can deny that her later Valdemar books were.. not. good. *shudders*

Generic plot summary of later series which will remain unnamed: Good lord(er, Goddess) I've been orphaned by horrible circumstances, and cast out of my surroundings by evil people out to ruin trade and multiculturalism! Wait, here's a handsome dude who not only saves me, but takes me to a band of eco-sensistive good-doers who are uninhibited both socially and sexually. And a gay mage thrown in there for good measure. I can now learn the true meaning of manhood and engage in free love. Life is good. Did I mention the talking animals?

So Pierce wrote crap. She also wrote the DarkAngel trilogy, which is just lovely, so there! :-p

As for boy/girl issues in Science fiction.. I think you're dismissive out of context. I was limiting my comments to fantasy for the sake of of the KISS principle. Could you at least admit that while strong male heroes present qualities that both men and women desire, heroines's characteristics are in most cases closely tied with their physical appearance, and therefore less universal? We don't remember what Hercules wore in his TV series (Very little), but who can't remember Xena's outfit of choice? (I dare you to say you can't bring it to mind at this very moment). Some men admire Xena perhaps, but do they want to be Xena?

I find it interesting that you chose Piers Anthony over McCaffrey. At least McCaffrey's female characters aren't personified by their underwear. Anthony is boy fantasy if there ever was such a thing. He wrote with the infantile teen male in mind. But girls enjoy reading him. Even Piers Anthony can be universally appreciated. Why must McCaffrey, no better a writer than Anthony, but not much worse, be demoted to 'girl' fare? If I ever write a book, I think I'll initialize my first name like J. K. Rowling, so people don't dismiss my work out of hand..

As for Salam, I knew he was the genuine article weeks ago. *Assumes haughty expression* Interesting that Maas was so.. clueless

Monday, June 02, 2003

So the amazing blogger from Baghdad Salam Pax is real. Not only did the Guardian track him down and get him to write articles for them twice a month, but Slate's Peter Maass apparently employed Salam as an interpreter without even knowing it.

Meredith Ann Pierce... I think I once read a Clan of the Cavebear knockoff she wrote. There was nothing original about it, just more reindeer and more sex. That's it - The Girl Who Loved Reindeer. Actually, I think there might have been a little magic in it, to separate it slightly from the Auel pseudo-anthropology method.

That's interesting about the girl books/boy books stuff. There are definitely boy-books in SF, although girls certainly sneak them occasionally. (Not I... unfeminine as I may be, I still need some dose of plot other than evil aliens with explosions in my books.) Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan series is about as open to both genders as any books I've ever seen, possibly because Bujold grew up as the kind of girl/woman who read boy SF.

Girl SF is very frequently the kind of SF that has magic in it. Come on, McCaffrey's dragons are dragons, not alien species. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series has a pseudo-feudal culture with definite and decided magic, and gender is a frequently considered question. (Hey, I'd take the oath of a Free Amazon with no trouble at all. Except the part about defending myself in a world without distance weapons. I don't have the coordination to manage swordplay, or even knife-two-inches-shorter-than-a-sword-play.)

So, is gender separation in books a good thing or a bad thing? I'm inclined to think it's indifferent, as long as people with tastes that don't fit into the common mold are permitted to read the books they want. (Hopefully not McCaffrey. No offense, Iris, but I can't imagine why anyone reads McCaffrey. Her books don't even have the mockery value of a Piers Anthony.)

Meanwhile, Lore and Dave of the beloved comedy website Brunching Shuttlecocks have hung up their sunglasses and black sweaters and moved on to other things. Let us ring a knell in their honor.

Another productive weekend at work.. I withdrew dozens of slightly tattered, unreplaceable momentos of my youth, because its library policy not to keep books that look used. *sigh* Many books that are very good are out of print now, and therefore once you withdraw, the library will never see that book again.

I weep for the loss of brilliant books, though I admit some of the things we're removing are real stinkers that were perhaps very cool in 1983, but time has shown that they are really third rate. I'm really not so unhappy that book about the puppy who leaves his mother to go live in an orphanage with fifty unnaturally good tempered boys is leaving the collection. Hopefully quite a few tattered but popular books will be replaced with shiny new copies which kids prefer reading. Because a moving collection is not about my nostaligia, its about what little Johnny will actually sit through.

Interestingly enough I worked with my Boss on desk Sunday. When I first saw her walk through the door I nearly had a seizure, because I had a box of illicit candy stuffed in a drawer (No food!) and my water bottle placed at my feet (No drink!), and several books I was planning to read (No reading!) right in front of me. I was all set to break three cardinal rules on that breezy Sunny day when NO ONE in their right mind was going to be at the library. So I snuck the water bottle back to my cubicle when she wasn't looking, and tried to stuff my face with candy to get rid of the evidence.

I was right about no one in their right mind being there. Just the regular crazies showed up, and some overwhelmed, under-imaginative parents. And the Boss.. was incredibly laid back, to the point that she was petulent, PETULENT, about having to work desk on Sunday. Not that I blame her, but it was kind of funny to see her grimacing comically half the time and the other half counting off the minutes until six. I even offered her a candy, but by that time I had eaten them all so she just got one little Mike & Ike. I was rather sad about this, because I don't like M&I much, and it would have been cool to get brownie points for giving the boss candy I didn't want anyway.

Oh, before I go, remember to Read Meredith Ann Pierce. Great youth fantasy author. More girl oriented though, just to warn you. Funny thing about fantasy, girls can read just about any of it, but boys are socially limited to the, you know, boy stuff. There's an alwful lot of mush in some of those 'boy acceptable' books too, so its not just that. The world will be a better place when young men can read stories centered around strong woman characters and not feel immasculated, or get weird looks from librarians and checkout clerks.

"McCaffrey.. gettin' this for your girlfriend?"

"Uh, yeah , that's it.."