Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekend Edition: The Why Do We Have to Make Life So Unfair Edition

I've got a bunch of links about the various way we make life unfair.

Note: I updated this post a few hours after I posted it. We've instituted a new bedtime routine with Petunia that involves snuggling for three songs and then sitting next to her bed while she goes to sleep and reading on my Kindle. Tonight, I caught up on links in tweets I favorited, and found some additional links relevant to the topics in this post, so I added them.

First up, Jordan Weissmann had an interesting blog post at the Atlantic about the characteristics that correlate with successful entrepreneurship, and whether these characteristics might be tolerated more by society when they are exhibited by white men.

Perhaps women and minorities are underrepresented as entrepreneurs because when we exhibit traits like rule breaking we're more heavily sanctioned for it... but I suspect plain old fashioned bias has something to do with it, too, and this post by Lisa Suennen about what the lack of a handshake means is a good example of the bias that persists, even in people who don't necessarily think of themselves as biased.

Another way we might be creating an environment that leads to under-representation of people of color and people from less wealthy backgrounds in top positions is by short changing their educational opportunities. Bad Mom, Good Mom has another one of her excellent posts looking behind the test scores that I really wish all education reformers would read and really think about.

This post from Simply Statistics is quite suggestive on the role of poverty in educational problems. Just think how many other problems we might find solved if we ever truly tackled poverty in this country.

And then, of course, there is just the tiring accumulation of bullshit. I agree with Allison Wright: I want to live in a world with less of it.

Some of the bullshit that accumulates is the way characters who are not white men are portrayed in films, and they way they are just not there. You may have heard of the Bechdel test for films, but I really like the Mako Mori test the Tumblr user Chaila proposes. I found her post via this post, which I think was tweeted out by William Gibson. I sent both of these to Mr. Snarky to help him understand why I wanted to see Pacific Rim but refused to see Elysium. I'd heard that in Pacific Rim the world-saving was inclusive. Elysium, on the other hand, is a bit like a film implementation of the white savior mythology.

Roxane Gay makes a similar argument at Salon about how we set the bar for diversity on TV too low.

I am not a big consumer of either TV or movies. Maybe that is because I rarely feel like they expand my horizons, whereas I can easily find books that do so.

Finally, Lindy West has a really good post up about fat shaming and thin shaming and just the policing of women's bodies in general. She is responding to a problematic post by a thin woman who feels shamed, and acknowledges that slogans like "real women have curves" are misguided and hurtful, but does a good job of explaining where they come from. And she says this, which I think is a good rule to live by in general:

"When people act out against their own marginalization (even in unhealthy, hurtful, misguided ways), I try as hard as I can to react with empathy and not defensiveness."

In case you aren't familiar with fat shaming as a problem, this post from Ragen Chastain gives a suitably horrifying example.

So, that's a lot of frustrating things. Let's end on a bittersweet but uplifting note, with a post from Jay Lake, a Sci-Fi writer who has cancer, giving us his special dying person wisdom.

" I have been thinking a lot about what life means to me, and what I see it meaning to people who seem to enjoy their own life the most. I come down to two basic concepts.

Be kind, and don’t miss your opportunities."

It is good advice. I think I'll try to take it.


  1. Anonymous6:36 AM

    Great links!

    Though I do think the point of the Bechdel test is that it is an insanely low bar to pass. It's ridiculous that, unless Pacific Rim is entirely populated by robots with the exception of the protagonist, that they couldn't find one other female character with a speaking role that the main character could talk to just once about something other than a man. So yay strong female protagonist. But passing either test isn't saying much. Failing one test is saying a lot.

    1. Oh, Pacific Rim could definitely have done better. There were other female characters, but they were pretty minor.

  2. Anonymous9:11 PM

    My feeling on Pacific Rim is that it's a good movie and I think it would be ridiculous to boycott it because it's not also a good feminist movie, but that it's not also a good feminist movie. I do think it would be challenging to have a good feminist movie that couldn't pass the Bechdel test, which is why people use it... to call out how ridiculous it is that a movie would ever fail it.

    I don't like the idea of the Mako Mori test because I think the development of Mako's arc is too problematic to make her a namesake for the idea of it. The movie did a lot of things right with Mako, but also a lot of things wrong. I think the ending completely botched her arc. That's a separate discussion, though, and this post would get long and full of spoilers.



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