Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Olympics are here

The Grauniad has a good summary of why many Vancouverites are anti-Olympics.

The Olympics are yet another painful example of a public-private partnership gone awry. Taxpayers have been surreptitiously soaked by private developers who’ve created a real-deal budget-buster for the city. Were it not for an emergency infusion of taxpayer money to cover cost overruns, the Olympic Village would be half built. The closer we get to the Olympics, the more people agree with [Am] Johal that “The Olympics are a corporate franchise that you buy with public money.”

Olympics protesters aren’t anti-sport, and they’re not against patriotism, they merely recognize that once a neat idea like the Olympics becomes an opportunity for corporate executives to make a lot of money, everything else that matters to regular people, like the arts, community, human rights, homelessness, privacy, free speech, etc., becomes a low priority for the people in power.

No Vague Malaise

Since I haven’t been so good at creating content for this blog, I’ve made a commitment to post one photo per day to the reincarnation of A Great Sausage. No Vague Malaise is a Tumblr blog that gets its name from a sign that was posted in the parking lot of the Grimsby Public Art Gallery in Grimsby, Ontario:

Photo courtesy of Haunted Snowfort.

Clothing affects performance on math tests

I stumbled across an interesting article recently, entitled “The Swimsuit Becomes You: Sex Differences in Self-Objectification, Restrained Eating, and Math Performance” by Fredrickson et al. (1998). In the article, the experimenters describe how they attempted to measure the effects of clothing on self-objectification, or the tendency for an individual to appropriate the perceived opinions of others regarding their appearance. They randomly divided their participants into two groups, one of which would try on a swimsuit, and one of which would try on a sweater, and while each individual regarded themselves in a full-length mirror, they were asked to complete several questionnaires and do some other tasks. Not surprisingly, they found that the female cohorts who tried on the swimsuits experienced increased shame about their bodies, and those participants with high body shame scores tended to eat less when presented with an “unlimited” amount of food (i.e. they could eat as much as they wanted of what was presented). Men tended to experience significantly less body shame, and they showed much less restraint when eating than did the women.

More interesting, however, is their finding that wearing a swimsuit affected women’s scores on standardized math tests. Each participant did a fifteen-minute math test while wearing either the sweater or the swimsuit, and after the test scores were adjusted for each participant’s score on prior tests of math (i.e. the SAT or ACT), the overall tendency was for the women who were wearing the swimsuit to do much worse on the math test than the women wearing the sweater. This effect was not seen in the male group; in fact, the males who were wearing the swimsuit did slightly better than their counterparts in sweaters.

While I’m hardly qualified to judge the soundness of the methodology or the statistical analysis in this paper, I find this result fascinating in the context of, for instance, Leonard Sax’ and others’ arguments for sex segregated education, where the knee-jerk tendency is for people to attribute gender differences in scores on tests of cognitive abilities to some kind of biological or genetic factor. Clearly, the ability of a standardized test to capture some “absolute” measure of intelligence is not so cut and dried when the clothing that the test-taker is wearing can have such a remarkable effect. This seems especially relevant in the context of the increased sexualization of young girls, where the pressure to wear certain outfits might affect more than just socialization practices.

The National Post on women’s studies

About a week ago the National Post published an article about how many women’s studies programs in Canada are changing their names, and then followed it up with an editorial claiming that a “goodbye and good riddance” to women’s studies would be, regrettably, premature. The original article includes this gem:

Even the punctuation has deeper meaning: “The apostrophe can imply that the discipline belongs to women rather than has women as its object of study,” says Simon Fraser University’s recent proposal to change the name. “The program at SFSU chose to identify women as our object of study, not as the owners of the field.”

I call this quote a gem because it demonstrates the painfully deficient level of journalism that fills the pages of the Post. They attribute this statement about the punctuation to SFU, even though the statement itself refers to SFSU, a somewhat far-removed analogue located in San Francisco. Perhaps the Post is stricken by that same lack of copy editors, proofreaders and fact checkers that plagues most print media these days, but it took me all of ten seconds to google the quote and determine its correct source, which is presumably what Kathryn Blaze Carlson was paid to do in the first place. Their inability to distinguish Simon Fraser University from San Francisco State University belies the quality of reporting that informed their editorial, which is chock-full of easily falsifiable claims and unattributed scare quotes:

feminist legal scholars convinced the Supreme Court to permit preferential treatment for “traditionally disadvantaged groups”

Women’s Studies scholars have argued all heterosexual sex is oppression because its “penetrative nature” amounts to “occupation.”

They have…even put forward the notion that the only differences between males and females are “relatively insignificant, external features.”

Interestingly, but not particularly surprisingly, this last unattributed quote regarding the differences between men and women comes from a letter James C. Dobson wrote in response to the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing. Dr. Dobson is founder of the evangelical non-profit organization Focus on the Family, which is unequivocally anti-abortion, anti-evolution, anti-homosexuality, anti-pornography, anti-feminism, anti-Palestine, and all those other antis that American conservative Christians seem to be about. Focus on the Family supported the McCain-Palin ticket, but only after Palin was brought on board; they funded ads equating the United States under Obama and the Democrats to Nazi Germany; and they spent two and a half million dollars to run a pro-life television ad during the upcoming Superbowl. In the letter, Dr. Dobson refers to the Beijing conference as the “most radical, atheistic and anti-family crusade in the history of the world”; he claims that China serves human fetuses in restaurants; and he claims that the conference’s mandate is to “do away with family, impose 50/50 quotas on all activities, eliminate motherhood, and institute polymorphous perversity.” See here for the actual mandate, which includes such radical ideas such as ensuring women access to health care, education, political representation, and employment.

Not only does the Post use this man, of all people, as an authority on women’s studies, but they couch his quote as if it originated from an actual women’s studies scholar. If ever there was an example of embarrassingly, shockingly piss-poor journalism, this is it. Get a grip, National Post.

[h/t Echidne]