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revise...conclusion. I'll get started on that as soon as I get back from my yoga class tonight. But first, a couple of links:

Twinning is up, and it's due to a number of factors, including maternal age and assisted reproductive technology (ART). But, scarily, you may be more likely to have twins if you eat meat and dairy products, due to the hormones given to livestock:

By comparing the twinning rate of vegan women, who consume no animal products, with that of women who do eat animal products, Gary Steinman, MD, PhD, an attending physician at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, found that the women who consume animal products, specifically dairy, are five times more likely to have twins. The study is published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, available May 20.

Via the Union of Concerned Scientists newsletter.

Also, check out Ema's story of how very well New York City is fighting avian flu.

Speaking of Ema, I'll be interested to her her take on the new birth control bonanza(!), including "a yearlong oral contraceptive and a simpler version of a contraceptive implant" (one rod instead of six).

Quote of the day

"I love it when I'm around the country club, and I hear people talking about the debilitating effects of a welfare society," he said later. "At the same time, they leave their kids a lifetime and beyond of food stamps. Instead of having a welfare officer, they have a trust officer. And instead of food stamps, they have stocks and bonds."

--Warren Buffett

Addendum: This is a very informative analysis of philanthropy. It makes me think I should probably be reading Phil more often.


First, some old stuff I should have blogged weeks ago: the posts at Crooked Timber and 11D about Unequal Childhoods, a monograph by sociologist Annette Lareau. The book description from Amazon, for expediency:

Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families with plenty of time but little economic security. Lareau shows how middle-class parents, whether black or white, engage in a process of "concerted cultivation" designed to draw out children's talents and skills, while working-class and poor families rely on "the accomplishment of natural growth," in which a child's development unfolds spontaneously--as long as basic comfort, food, and shelter are provided. Each of these approaches to childrearing brings its own benefits and its own drawbacks. In identifying and analyzing differences between the two, Lareau demonstrates the power, and limits, of social class in shaping the lives of America's children.

Admittedly, I haven't read the book, and I'm sure Lareau probably accounts for this, but I don't recall reading in the threads at 11D or Crooked Timber any consideration of families in which one parent is middle class and the other is working class (obviously the class position of the family would be one or the other -- or neither. I'm talking about the class backgrounds of the parents). Presumably, assuming each parent is equally involved in childrearing, the child would get some of both "concerted cultivation" and "accomplishment of natural growth."

Alex Reid has some interesting thoughts about not getting podcasting. He gets it, of course; the thing is, he just isn't all that impressed, heh.

How Tyler Cowen cooks blackened fish.

The only pictures that were taken of me at CCCC.

I command it! Read this review of the new collection of Elizabeth Bishop's previously unpublished poetry, Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box. And listen to this interview/slide show with Alice Quinn, the editor of the collection. Seriously, I do command it.

While you're at the New Yorker's site, read Relatively Deprived, a critique of how the poverty rate is calculated.

Feminism and New Norms

I'm sitting in on a class this semester, and the professor often uses examples of public rhetoric in recent history to illustrate theoretical points. In one class, we were talking about norms. Specifically, the most far-reaching and important consequence of the eighteenth-century European bourgeois public sphere analyzed by Habermas is that it set forth a new norm: might-is-right differences in status and power didn't matter in political discussion; instead, the best argument prevails. As problematic as it is that this new norm emerged in settings that did not always welcome women or people of color, it nevertheless is a powerful new norm, especially when appropriated by said groups.

The discussion then turned to norms in general. The professor claimed that the women's movement, while an absolutely invaluable and much needed stride forward in the overall path to social justice, failed to provide a new norm to address the problem of division of labor in the home, especially an equitable arrangement for how to raise children.

Okay, I know there's a lot to be said for getting rid of norms altogether. For many people, they're oppressive, they're restrictive, and they institutionalize disapproval of perfectly valid choices (or courses of action taken when there was no choice; i.e., many women have no "choice" whether to work outside the home or not). But this professor helped me to see norms in a different way. They're templates, common forms for how to live, he said. Norms make things less complicated, which can be a good thing. They can be useful, eliminating a great deal of the struggle of having to figure so much out at the individual level and then justify the choices made to the community at large.

Right now, for example, I'm reading Feminism, Breasts, and Breast-feeding by Pam Carter here and there on the stationary bike/stairmaster. This set of questions Carter poses helps to show the confusion that comes with the absence of a solid norm:

[N]o feminist practice has evolved around infant feeding. A number of questions can be raised: is bottle feeding in some way equivalent to medical intervention in childbirth? should it therefore be avoided? does breast-feeding offer greater possibilities of control by women? or is bottle feeding equivalent to contraception in allowing women greater control over their bodies and their lives? should feminist support pro breast-feeding policy in order to strive to recapture the time when infant feeding was within the control of lay women? should they try to recreate the kind of conditions where all women breast-feed? or does a safe and (relatively) healthy alternative offer women more control and autonomy? are middle class women being good girls in breastfeeding their babies realizing that 'doctor knows best' providing a good example to the working class? should feminists campaign for private space for lactating women or should they challenge the dominance of public space by male sexuality and refuse privacy? (p. 19-20)

What do the rest of you think? A new norm seems reasonable, at least to try as a thought experiment. Would a new norm reduce the number of mommy wars, alluded to by Linda Fishman, Laura at 11D, Dooce and over 1000 commenters there, and most recently in the New York Times? Or would it not make any difference, because a new norm may still judge implicitly some people's decision to deviate from the norm? Does feminism already point to new norms for the division of labor at home, but they're just not articulated in a way that's clear to the general population? If so, what are the new norms? As I see them, they are:

  • Destigmatize stay-at-home fathers. I've probably said here before that the SAHDs I know always seem to feel compelled to explain, even apologize for, their work. Their families don't approve of the fact that they aren't bringing money into the household, etc.
  • Destigmatize young mothers (also single mothers). Provide more support for young women who want to have children before starting a career. This would come in the form of social support and free daycare for student parents in high school and college so that they can continue to pursue their studies.
  • Provide on-site daycare at work and school.

Other than that, I guess there are only individual systems in which domestic partners split up the chores in a way that approximates 50/50. But that's not as easy as it looks when there are pervasive older norms lurking in the background. Plus, these new norms I've listed only tell social institutions what to do, not individual people. A solid new feminist norm, assuming we're going to try to think of one here, should (I use a heteronormative model here tactically) tell everyone what to do: the woman, the man, and the corporation, school, society, etc. I'd be interested to know others' thoughts about this; I believe I've written myself into a corner here.

Noted and Recommended

  • A follow-up to my post about the MLA forum on political literacy: Patricia Roberts-Miller has posted the paper she presented at that session. My summary didn't do her presentation justice, especially the "political Calvinism" idea she set forth. Highly recommended read.
  • Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend taking a look at Donald Lazere's (another presenter in that forum) textbook Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy. You can download and read chapter 1 (PDF) for free.
  • Finally, via Michael Bowen with a tip from Yvette Perry, a paper (PDF) on race and blogging titled "Black Bloggers and the Blogosphere" by Antoinette Pole of Brown University. I recommend both the paper and Bowen's post about it.

Friedan, Blogging, and Aleatory Research

The Feminine Mystique is one of those (many) books I've never read but intend to someday. After Friedan's passing, I read Rad Geek's tribute and noticed that he had links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, so I promptly read them and was, well, impressed is an understatement. It's remarkable how relevant Friedan's work still is. For example, you might remember chapter 4 of my dissertation, in which I discuss themes that are commonly brought up in the where are the women (political bloggers threads. One recurring theme is the claim that "women aren't interested in politics." If you'll allow me a bit of aleatory research, check out what Friedan has to say about this argument in chapter 2 of The Feminine Mystique, my emphasis:

I sat one night at a meeting of magazine writers, mostly men, who work for all kinds of magazines, including women's magazines. The main speaker was a leader of the desegregation battle. Before he spoke, another man outlined the needs of the large women's magazine he edited:

Our readers are housewives, full time. They're not interested in the broad public issues of the day. They are not interested in national or international affairs. They are only interested in the family and the home. They aren't interested in politics, unless it's related to an immediate need in the home, like the price of coffee. Humor? Has to be gentle, they don't get satire. Travel? We have almost completely dropped it. Education? That's a problem. Their own education level is going up. They've generally all had a high school education and many, college. They're tremendously interested in education for their children--fourth-grade arithmetic. You just can't write about ideas or broad issues of the day for women. That's why we're publishing 90 per cent service vice now and 10 per cent general interest.

[. . .]

By the time I started writing for women's magazines, in the fifties, it was simply taken for granted by editors, and accepted as an immutable fact of life by writers, that women were not interested in politics, life outside the United States, national issues, art, science, ideas, adventure, education, or even their own communities, except where they could be sold through their emotions as wives and mothers.

Politics, for women, became Mamie's clothes and the Nixons' home life. Out of conscience, a sense of duty, the Ladies' Home Journal might run a series like "Political Pilgrim's Progress," showing women trying to improve their children's schools and playgrounds. But even approaching politics through mother love did not really interest women, it was thought in the trade. Everyone knew those readership percentages. An editor of Redbook ingeniously tried to bring the bomb down to the feminine level by showing the emotions of a wife whose husband sailed into a contaminated area.

"Women can't take an idea, an issue, pure," men who edited the mass women's magazines agreed. "It had to be translated in terms they can understand as women." This was so well understood by those who wrote for women's magazines that a natural childbirth expert submitted an article to a leading woman's magazine called "How to Have a Baby in a Atom Bomb Shelter." "The article was not well written," an editor told me, "or we might have bought it." According to the mystique, women, in their mysterious femininity, might be interested in the concrete biological details of having a baby in a bomb shelter, but never in the abstract idea of the bomb's power to destroy the human race.

Such a belief, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In 1960, a perceptive social psychologist showed me some sad statistics which seemed to prove unmistakably that American women under thirty-five are not interested in politics. "They may have the vote, but they don't dream about running for office," he told me. "If you write a political piece, they won't read it. You have to translate it into issues they can understand--romance, pregnancy, nursing, home furnishings, clothes. Run an article on the economy, or the race question, civil rights, and you'd think that women had never heard of them."

This quotation'll be going into the revision of chapter 4 somewhere, that's for sure, if only as a footnote. For now, back to chapter 5.

Go and Read

I figured it was time for a link roundup. Forgive the "Norm MacDonald imitating Larry King's bits" quality of the post:

Margo, Darling on hair. Margo just got her hair cut really short, and she reflects on it eloquently. It reminds me of college, when my hair was Mia Farrow short.

Not really an article to read, but check out the cover of In These Times. I'm going to have to go to Whole Foods to see if they have a copy. If not, the local co-op, where I should be shopping instead anyway.

Some evangelical Christians are also environmentalists. Find out about coalition-building ideas for the two groups. I say "two groups," but I know that the label "environmentalist" encompasses lots of different kinds of people.

Also at Campus Progress, a former pageant winner does a feminist analysis of pageantry.

The Little Professor has a smart take on plagiarism; see also the comments on the cross-post at The Valve.

Public Health, Diabetes, Exercise

Has anyone else been reading those scary stories about diabetes in the Times (it's a series)? If not, do so now. The gist of the stories is that diabetes has become a serious threat to public health, especially among the poor and predominately Latino and African American. This brings up a lot of issues related to public policy, the economy, government funding for health care, and race-based medicine, and it serves as a cautionary tale about diet and exercise for everyone, especially for those of us who have a family history of diabetes. I've already decided that the next first-year or advanced composition course I teach is going to have a public health theme.*

On a related note, a few weeks ago I read that if you run or walk eleven miles a week, you won't gain any visceral fat. That's the kind I always gain, so I'm implementing this advice: I've been doing one mile on the treadmill three days a week, two miles the other four days. I didn't run at all yesterday, so today I did three miles.

* Edited to add that I've been thinking more about this as the day has progressed. I'm seeing this course as having five units:

  1. Complications related to obesity
  2. HIV/AIDS and safer sex campaigns
  3. Anti-smoking campaigns and smoking ban legislation
  4. Infectious disease (in this case, I'm thinking about using bird flu as a case)
  5. Environmentalism and public health (I'm thinking along the lines of environmental racism)

Any other suggestions, like for assigned reading? A good friend of mine has already recommended assigning Super Size Me.

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