Monday, February 22, 2016

You Go, Girl, But Only So Far

A recent Chicago Tribune commentary by Barbara Risman, a professor of sociology, argued that young women aren't committing to Hillary Clinton because feminism has been a success, and so they haven't encountered the kinds of hurdles their mothers and grandmothers did. The problems they will encounter, she says, are more likely to happen as they leave school and encounter the double work day and the glass ceiling. Until now, all they've heard is "you go, girl!".

Here are a few other news stories that ran at just about the same time as Risman's essay.

From the Washington Post, the remarkably different answers men and women give when asked who’s the smartest in the class. Researchers studying large college biology courses found that men in the classes routinely rated male students as the best, despite objective criteria to the contrary. Women were more even-handed, though still slightly biased toward men.

Women selling products on eBay were paid 20 percent less than men for the same product. New products, still in the package! Auctions with a noticeably female user name got only 89 bids while those with a male name got 100, which would probably account for the lower price paid. Taking it further, the researchers did a second experiment:

[they asked] 116 volunteers to report how much they would pay for an Amazon gift card valued at $100 and sold by either "Brad" or "Alison."

Half of the participants were told the card was being sold by Brad, and the other half were told it was being sold by Alison. Based on the name of the seller alone, the volunteers valued the card sold by Brad at $87.42 and the one sold by Alison at $83.34, on average.

Men and women were just as likely to assign a lower value to Alison's card than Brad's card.
Oh, and the Archbishop of St. Louis wrote a letter to all of his parishes telling them they should examine their Catholic consciences to see whether they should continue to allow the Girl Scouts to use church property for meetings or even buy the girls' cookies. Girl Scouts USA, the letter says, promotes "role models in conflict with Catholic values, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan." Wow, way to catch up on thinkers from 30 or 40 years ago, Mr. Archbishop. I assumed it would be all about contraception, and maybe the Girl Scouts' recent acceptance of transgender girls, but that wasn't what was mentioned in the printed version of this story from the St Louis Dispatch (which I can't read because it's covered in pop-up surveys). No, the groups that were called out as being in conflict were Amnesty International, the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, and Oxfam.

You go, girls, as long as you don't want to be seen as equal, get paid equally, or control your own body and destiny.


Professor Risman's main reason for writing her commentary wasn't to say young women face no discrimination. Instead, she spends most of the piece describing the ways boys and young men face increasing pressure to be part of toxic masculinity. I agree with her on that. 

I just don't appreciate the tendency to rank oppressions, and her article plays into that trap.

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