The 95th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in America

On this day in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting U.S. citizens from being denied the right to vote based on sex, and thereby guaranteeing women’s suffrage in the country. It was authored by leading suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and first introduced in Congress in 1878 by California Senator Aaron A. Sargent.

Although the American women’s rights movement began with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York, it truly began to take off after the U.S. Civil War, when activists advocated for universal suffrage to be included in the Reconstruction amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments).As part of this “New Departure” strategy, groups like the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Stanton and Anthony, pursued legal cases arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment (which granted universal citizenship) and Fifteenth Amendment (which granted the vote irrespective of race) together served to guarantee voting rights to women. Continue reading

Today’s Google Doodle Honors Emmy Noether

Google’s iconic doodles have a great track record of highlighting important but often obscure figures in science, social justice, and other human endeavors. Today’s colorful doodle casts a well-needed spotlight on Emmy Noether, an influential German mathematician who made groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.

Some of the greatest minds of the time, including Albert Einstein himself, owed a debt of gratitude to her pioneering work. As the Washington Post notes:

“In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians”, penned [Einstein], “Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.”

After a lifetime of being discouraged and disallowed, underpaid and unpaid, doubted and ousted, Emmy Noether had reached the pinnacle of peer respect among her fellow giants of mathematical science.

“In the realm of algebra, in which the most gifted mathematicians have been busy for centuries”, Einstein continued in his letter, “she discovered methods which have proved of enormous importance in the development of the present-day younger generation of mathematicians”.

Read more about her delightful doodle, as well as the accomplishments it highlights, here.

Are Men Attracted to Psychologically Vulnerable Women?

According to one study mentioned in Gizmodothe answer may be yes.

The researchers, from Texas-Austin University, studied 88 factors that made women appear more “exploitable” in the eyes of both men and women. Then, the researchers showed pictures of women that illustrated these characteristics to a sample of men, and asked them to rate how desirable they found them.

The results show that, across the board, men find women with some psychological vulnerability far more attractive than the average. Comparatively, physical vulnerabilities—such as being short—don’t make any difference.

Sadly, that initial attraction doesn’t necessarily convert into long and loving relationships: when the same men were asked whether they would be interested in pursing a long-term relationships with psychologically vulnerable women, the answers were overwhelmingly negative

I don’t place much stock into the conclusion of a single study, especially one with such a small sample size. But it’s just an inference, and I definitely think that more research should be done.

Indeed, this is still something worth keeping in mind, because based on my own anecdotal experiences, there does seem to be some measure of truth to this observation. I’ve known many men to be drawn to women that could be considered vulnerable – be they younger, petite, emotionally underdeveloped, financially dependent upon them, and so on.

Traditionally, in most societies, strong-willed or “feisty” women were seen as undesirable (think Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew), while obedience and dutifulness were traits to be admired. To this day, many men (and women as well) may regard an assertive female as crazy or “bitchy.” Times are changing of course, but these attitudes continue to linger.

Conversely, some women play the “low-ball” strategy, in which they make the most of this seemingly lopsided power-dynamic by appealing to the man’s patriarchal role as protector and provider (after all, when you claim power over something or someone, you’re also claiming responsibility).

Controversially, there may be some evolutionary component to this, given that a mate who is easier to control is more likely to produce more children for you (indeed, the more patriarchal a society is, the higher their birthrates, generally-speaking). I’m not quite sure what to think. Thoughts?

On Sex and Status

Women who are sexually active and assertive, even when it is of their choosing, are regarded either as sluts or as sex-crazed degenerates, if not both. Notice that in popular culture, women who pursue sexuality are usually portrayed as femme fatales, villains, psychos, or otherwise unusual cases.

So for women, having “too much sex” or being sexual in any way is a bad thing. They’re taught to value virginity and sexual prudence above all else, whether they like it or not (mind you, there’s nothing wrong if a woman genuinely likes such things, just if they’re forced).

Men (who, mind you, don’t have it anywhere near as hard as women in this regard) nonetheless suffer the opposite problem: patriarchy makes it so that a man’s status is partly contingent upon whether he asserts his heterosexuality. A man who is queer, feminine, or gay is often ostracized for lacking “manliness” just because they’re not attracted to females.

In any case, men who fail either at getting a partner or having some sort of sexual relationship are looked down upon. I experienced this attitude during my single-hood, and I’ve seen other men struggle with an inferiority complex due to their lack of success with women (similarly, some men with girlfriends develop a superiority complex over their male peers who are single).

In short, patriarchy punishes women for being sexual (even if they are responsible, independent, and perfectly happy about it) and punishes men for not being (hetero)sexual enough (which may partly account for chauvinistic and sexually abusive behavior). I think feminists are right to assert that patriarchal attitudes are detrimental to both sexes. What do you all think?

Now, it’s been argued that there is an evolutionary aspect to these attitudes: men who fail to propagate their genes are, for obvious reasons, deemed failures as far as biology is concerned; similarly, women who give competing men the opportunity to spread their genes are looked down upon for their promiscuity for similar reasons. I’m not not sure how much stock to put into these explanations, but they’re something to consider.

Women and STEM

From Ms. Magazine:

Researcher Pascal Huguet of Aix-Marseille University in France found in 2009 that middle school girls did less well on a math test when told that boys generally did better in math than girls. Without the negative information, they score nearly as well as men. In fact, by middle school, the cause is already lost for many girls. Stereotype threat–that confidence-killing burden of anxiety–has already set in.

Yet girls and boys in elementary, middle and high school take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers, and girls perform at least as well as boys. More good news comes from the Girl Scouts Foundation. Its recent studyfinds that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM and 82 percent see themselves as smart enough to have a career in STEM.

But even as college-educated women have increased their share of the overall work force, they hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering.

Women with a STEM degree are less likely than male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; a 2011 report from the Commerce Department finds that women hold less than 25 percent of [STEM jobs].

This is important for women’s financial futures as well as the country’s technology: Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs.

Fortunately, there is a window of opportunity. A team led by psychologist Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington discovered that although girls in the early grades see math largely as a male preserve, they haven’t yet made the connection that “because I am a girl, math is not for me.” So there is a short period of time during which girls are relatively open to the idea that they can enjoy and do well at math.

We need to do all we can to help math-and-science girls believe in themselves. We also need to help them believe that STEM careers are not for lonely male “nerds.” Engineering and science are typically collaborative efforts; the image of the socially awkward loner is a far cry from reality.

Also, we know that women often look for jobs that have a social impact; where they can do good while they do well financially.  STEM offers plenty of that. Scientific teams drastically reduced childhood leukemia, are saving the Everglades, preserving sea turtles in the Caribbean, reducing AIDS in Africa. This is too often not what girls think when they hear the words “math and science.”

We need to adjust that picture.

Treating Female Hysteria – With Sex Toys

It’s hard to imagine, much less remember, that there was a time when pleasuring women was considered a necessary medical practice for relieving a slew of mental issues collectively known as hysteria (which included fainting, anxiety, insomnia, and “trouble-making”).

Little did men at the time know (if they even cared) that much of this behavior was due to the angst of being treated as inferior. Indeed, the majority of women deemed “hysterical” were often times guilty of nothing more than agitating for political rights or asserting their sexual and social independence.

While we’ve come a long way, it’s still not unusual to see assertive women be referred to as “bitches,” or for women indulging in sexual freedom to be rendered “sluts.” Hysteria may mostly be out the door, but there are plenty of other demeaning prognoses out there.

Terrorism That’s Personal

Just a warning, the images of this link are very graphic, displaying the horror of terrorism on a human level, rather than the usual political one. As the intro states:

We typically think of terrorism as a political act.

But sometimes it’s very personal. It wasn’t a government or a guerrilla insurgency that threw acid on this woman’s face in Pakistan. It was a young man whom she had rejected for marriage. As the United States ponders what to do in Afghanistan — and for that matter, in Pakistan — it is wise to understand both the political and the personal, that the very ignorance and illiteracy and misogyny that create the climate for these acid attacks can and does bleed over into the political realm. Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times op-ed columnist who traveled to Pakistan last year to write about acid attacks, put it this way in an essay at the time: “I’ve been investigating such acid attacks, which are commonly used to terrorize and subjugate women and girls in a swath of Asia from Afghanistan through Cambodia (men are almost never attacked with acid). Because women usually don’t matter in this part of the world, their attackers are rarely prosecuted and acid sales are usually not controlled. It’s a kind of terrorism that becomes accepted as part of the background noise in the region. …

This the horror millions of women must live in fear of every day.

Equality and Power in Relationships

Every human relationship – platonic, romantic, and familial – encompasses two competing desires: for an equal partnership but also for power and control. This conflicting dynamic is unavoidable, as they are each reflective of a wider human tendency.

As social creatures, we innately want – and need – to work with one another amiably in order to be healthy, stay alive, and continue the species. Both our neurological and hormonal systems attest to this, as they facilitate and encourage intimacy, cooperation, and empathy.

At the same time, however, we have something other organisms don’t: an ego. Our higher cognitive ability grants us a sense of identity, purpose, and individuality that, while wonderful, can conflict with our collective and cooperative inclinations.

Thus every interaction we have with one another, particularly the most intimate, necessarily entails a struggle between these driving forces. We want to be in control of our relationships (and everything else for that matter), but we also desire the sort of equality and fairness that makes such partnerships thrive. And since the same goes for everyone else we deal with, we’re faced with a very complicated layer of internal and external clashes.

Again, we see this on both the macro and micro level: not just between individuals, but between societies, cultures, and the species as a whole. Human nature is variable and difficult to pin down, but it’s clear that we’ve always had a contradictory tendency to work wonderfully together (hence all the progress we’ve made in so many different human endeavors) but to also be utterly incapable of harmony and tolerance (hence why we still struggle with inequality, war, and other social ills).

Many other factors account for these failures of course, but the point is that we seem destined to fight with ourselves in trying to find a delicate balance between these two potent drivers. However, we have come a long way in this regard though: relationships, especially among younger generations, increasingly emphasize egalitarian values. War and civil strife are historically low, despite their continued horror. On the whole, we’ve gone father than ever in keeping our desire for power in check, significant lapses notwithstanding (remember, progress is never linear or absolute).

I think being cognizant of this dynamic is an obvious first step to promoting a cooperative and equal relationship with our fellow humans. But it will never be enough; it’ll take constant practice and a lot of trial and error to keep the equilibrium.

Besides, every relationship needs an element of both: we need those individual egos as much as we need parity. Compromise is the foundation of every relationship: when you love someone, you submit yourself to their needs, promising to do whatever you can to help them. But at the same time, no healthy relationship should consist of one-sided compliance. As much as we want to be there with one another, we also want someone with a mind of their own, and having entails dealing with differences in personality, desires, and the like.

This isn’t the case for everyone of course – a lot of people want full control, while a lot of others don’t seem to mind being obedient to their partners. But I think the trend is increasingly in favor of partnerships that offer the best of both worlds. Being able to live in harmony with one another without giving up your personal aspirations makes for a thriving relationship. There will always be a give and take to some degree, but that’s a necessary part of any close social interaction.

What are your thoughts?

An excellent documentary and campaign worth looking into.

Advocacy Against Victimization | AAV

Pardon me for living under a rock, but in the midst of clearing out my DVR, I finally sat down and watched Miss Representation, a documentary that chronicles the media’s objectification of women and how it has systematically served to hold women back in terms of industry, politics, and leadership.

While I am not blind to offensive advertising, I must say this documentary gave me a much deeper understanding of how the media, in large part, objectifies women-which is indeed victimization. With a plethora of sexualized advertisements, movies and television shows, it’s no wonder that, by and large, my generation is more concerned about the next episode of “The Real Housewives of…” instead of the Planned Parenthood debacle.

I signed the pledge to spread the word about the media’s gross bias toward women and produce content of my own to combat this epidemic. I implore you to watch the…

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