Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Links

  • Biology has a role in constructing gender? That's crazy talk! Leading off, a flawed but generally good essay on the social construction of sex at Pacific Standard by Alice Dreger. Excerpt:
    It makes me crazy that some of my feminist friends try so hard to stop their kids from being gender-typical. I have one such friend who has a fairy-princess daughter, and my friend keeps trying to keep her daughter butch, as if she owes this to Susan B. Anthony. I asked my friend, “If your son wanted to wear a pretty pink dress, would you let him?” She turned red and said, “Yes.” I answered, “Then why isn’t it gender-based oppression to deny your daughter a pretty pink dress?”

    ... People who think gender identities, gender roles, and sexual orientations are all socially constructed are the most naive biological determinists I’ve ever seen. They think all human brains are completely without structure when it comes to these things; we all have empty slates in our skulls at birth. No, we don’t! Really!
    She gets into some schizophrenic moments — "The expectation that men will be strong, insensitive, and hornier than women could also be described as a social construction" is more descriptive than "expectation" — but overall a great deal clearer and rational than most of the horrible feminist bilge that contains the words "men are taught to...".
  • Feminists askeered of Christine Hoff Sommers: Pretty much guaranteed that calls for a safe space would result when reform feminist Christine Hoff Sommers showed up at Georgetown to deliver a talk on the state of modern feminism, with ensuing "trigger warnings" and demands for a "safe space":

    Sommers attracts this sort of hysterical overreaction everywhere she goes, as for instance, her Oberlin appearance, which drew out this treacly and self-absorbed letter to the editor, titled (I am not making this up) "In Response to Sommers’ Talk: A Love Letter to Ourselves". Sommers' crime mainly consists of walloping the 1-in-5 rape victims myth, which apparently qualifies as being a rape "denialist" or "apologist", depending on the moment, i.e. a heretic. But what I did not realize is that the specific language has a hidden function, whether or not intended by the original writers: that of censorship.
    If you don't know how the game is played, the new magic word is "unsafe," because if you claim someone is making you feel "unsafe," that sets in motion Title IX protections. That is, if you want to censor someone, just claim not that you disagree with them or find them disgusting, but that they make you feel "unsafe;" then administrators are under legal peril if they do not act swiftly to restore your sense of chill.
    Which of course makes total sense: the point of these insane, childish restrictions is to suppress dissenting views, and if possible, call them names.
  • Becauze "zero tolerance" has worked so well elsewhere: Speaking of paranoia and overreach, Stanford will ban students found guilty of sexual assault as the default punishment. I can't possibly imagine how that would cause anyone problems.
  • When the police are brutalizing neocons, we know things will change: A terrific piece at the National Review on the "John Doe" investigations in Wisconsin that were going on while Gov. Scott Walker worked to limit collective bargaining power (not even entirely!) for public employee unions.
    “I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.”

    They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off.

    The neighbors started to come outside, curious at the commotion, and all the while the police searched her house, making a mess, and — according to Cindy — leaving her “dead mother’s belongings strewn across the basement floor in a most disrespectful way.”
    Individuals given this "dangerous, heavily armed drug kingpin" treatment — i.e. the sort of thing that happens every day in black neighborhoods — all were Republican supporters of Wisconsin's Act 10, the bill that eventually reigned in collective bargaining for employee benefits. "Don't call your lawyer. Don't tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends." Generally social conservatives are pleased to dismiss police abuse in places like Ferguson, MO or North Charleston, SC as either justifiable or atypical, when it is anything but. When the victims are conservatives, perhaps this will give impetus to restraints on police activity and law enforcement more generally from those corners.
  • Republicans vote to axe the death penalty in Nebraska: Utterly astonishing, but a good sign.
  • Women in STEM, Dueling Studies Dep't: Another great essay by Scott Alexander, talking about two utterly divergent studies on sexism and women in STEM. The takeaway seems to be that the two best-known recent studies on the subject, Williams & Ceci 2015 (PDF) and Moss-Racusin et al. 2012, which used similar methodologies but found utterly divergent results. Williams & Ceci have long been a proponent of the idea that sexism largely doesn't exist as a bias in academic STEM fields, as for example their New York Times essay last year, "Academic Science Isn’t Sexist". Neither strikes me as compelling to partisans of the other side (see, for instance, this piece at Slate attacking the W&C study).
  • Progressive Policies + San Francisco Real Estate = Gentrification: I wrote a little bit about this here whilst taking a jab at Model View Culture's apparent ignorance about the consequences of renting, but Coyote Blog has a great post up about how progressive policies drive real estate prices to the moon in that city while making rental units all but impossible to find. This is basically a function of three simultaneous and converging thrusts:

    1. Vertical caps (building upward).
    2. Population density caps (a function of #1, in part).
    3. Rent caps (rent control). This now, lately, extends to Airbnb and other short-term rentals.

    Rent control appears to be only somewhat in force there, as it is in Los Angeles, because how else are older, more established tenants getting evicted as per Model View Culture? According to this page, it appears rent control only operates if the property was built before 1979. (Am I weird to wonder if some landlords might hope their units get knocked down in an earthquake?)

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