I was nervous about the debate. I almost didn’t watch it. In the end, of course, I’m glad I did: I was surprised and impressed by Kerry’s clarity. Bushie was his usual incoherent, rambling self. Depressingly, while the polls overwhelmingly indicate that people feel Kerry trounced Bush in the debate, the numbers show that Bush is still quite likely to win. God, I never thought I’d look fondly on the two-term presidential limit law. Thank goodness for that, if it comes down to this…
I’ve been working pretty hard recently, and it feels good. One diversion I have is the massive pile of magazines that accumulated over the summer while I was gone. I’m chipping away at it; about two-thirds remain:
So every morning or so I’ll grab a new magazine and read it. It’s put me way behind in my “real” reading schedule, but it’s been fun. And besides I get to read depressing articles about super cute kids like this one:
It’s birthday season again: three birthday occasions this week alone. I haven’t been this busy feting since early spring… of course, there are other reasons for that, I guess. It’s amazing how quickly you can get back into the swing of things when you try.
The concerts continue, too: The Pixies at the Greek and then Richard Shindell and Robbie Schaefer at the Freight. Richard did a cover of the great Paul Simon tune “America”. This is like the fourth time this year that an artist I really like has covered Paul Simon. It makes me feel proud :).
A random thought occurred to me the other day. Some facts: 1. There is a gender difference in pay. 2. There is a height difference in pay; taller people get paid, on average, $800 more per inch per year. 3. Women are, on average, five inches shorter than men.
1+2+3 = Some of the gender difference in pay (erm, about $4000/yr, which is nearly 15% of the $28,000 national average income) may be attributable simply to height differences. That’s not to say, of course, that heightism is any less deplorable than sexism. It’s also not to say that sexism is not a problem in America. In fact, many studies have shown that, all other things equal, women are less likely to be promoted than men. Here are some good links to check out: link 1 | link 2
Okay, rather than exploring that topic further, I’m going to allow myself to go on a mini-rant about -isms in America. It’s human nature to deny or ignore a problem until it becomes your problem. A very white college friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, famously declared one night that “racism isn’t a problem in American anymore”. I admit that I wanted to throttle his cracker ass :).
Aside: I remember quite clearly being called a “camel jockey” and other derogatory terms by some geographically-challenged classmates in early elementary school — and people of my ethnicity haven’t even been subject to WWII detainment camps, lynchings, deportations, guilt-by-association, “separate-but-equal-but-not-really” opportunities, ridiculous immigration laws (well, maybe), near-slavery working on trans-continental railroads, or godawful actual slavery. These insults were just a result of people afraid of my different appearance. Imagine combining that with an actual superiority complex gained by your country’s history of screwing over of any number of minorities…
Anyway, so racism is alive and well, as illustrated by this ingenious study that I’ve mentioned before.
We perform a field experiment to measure racial discrimination in the labor market. We respond with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perception of race, each resume is randomly assigned either a very African American sounding name or a very White sounding name. The results show significant discrimination against African-American names: White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews.
So here’s my worry: if people are in denial about racism (yeah, I’m only giving one anecdotal example, but who’s going to admit that he’s racist in a poll?), which is still so obviously woven into the fabric of societal interaction in this country that over a quarter of Alabama citizens still oppose interracial marriage, what about more subversive prejudices?
That is, racism is terrible, but at least there is the intuitive argument that differences really are only skin deep. This is something, I think, that people can mull over and come to terms with. Religionism is harder to argue against, and is quite pervasive, as this article illustrates:
A Gallup poll in 1999 asked American voters the following question: “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be an X would you vote for that person?” X took on the following values: Catholic, Jew, Baptist, Mormon, black, homosexual, woman, atheist. Six out of the eight categories secured better than 90 percent approval. But only 59 percent would vote for a homosexual, and just 49 percent would vote for an atheist. Bear in mind that there are 29 million Americans who describe themselves as nonreligious, secular, atheist, or agnostic.
Convincing someone that morality is not determined by religion (even though, of course, Scandinavia is totally secular and apparently moral as well, and absolutely loved by most Americans) requires a much more subtle argument than one against racism.
Even worse is sexism. We grow up joking about and experiencing differences in the sexes: in physical characteristics, in thought and in desire. Biologically and socially, we feel a natural difference (at least when it comes to attempting to reproduce :). Of course, from there it’s just a short step to (incorrectly) assuming that there are differences in other abilities as well. The fact that we know and feel that men and women are different in several ways — ways in which they really are incontrovertibly different — makes us much more susceptible to sexism via extrapolation. To show an equivalent difference requires a lot of bogus science and propaganda for racism and church- (or whatever-) induced fear for religionism. That’s why sexism is so subversive and scary (and widespread): in our society, it’s practically built into us.
And if you think it’s bad in this country, it’s far, far worse in many other parts of the world. And not even just in repressive regimes — my time in International House made it clear that guys from all over the world, from Italy to India, hold some absolutely ridiculous, indefensible views about women. And so openly, too, that I get the feeling that these views are perfectly acceptable in their hometowns.
I have no point in all of this, as usual. It’s just frightening how sneaky prejudices can be. My feeling about sexism is that by its nature, it’s not something that’s just going to go away; it needs to be actively challenged.
My one optimistic thought is that America has historically tended towards greater equality and personal freedom (insane current Presidents aside); it’s already quite good in that respect, and in the future it’s just going to get better.
[Update: Jon Stewart interview on Fresh Air]