Archive for the 'Ludicrous Language' category

Repost: Hard Science for Hard Men - Language and Meaning

One more vintage TSZ for the day, to kick off your weekend in style. First published on 8/24/2005, Hard Science For Hard Men - Language and Meaning was another post written in response to a commenter.  In this case the commenter complained about my choice of Marie Curie rather than, say,  Barbara McClintock in a blog post. I found the comment hilarious. But you know, the kind of hilarious that is really sad. I think it's useful for scientists to re-examine their use of the terms "hard science" and "soft skills" especially now when President Obama has so frequently been attacked by the right as "soft". Read on.

 

One of my commenters recently asked whether Barbara McClintock's science was not "hard" enough for me - was this why I had chosen to discuss Marie Curie instead?  (As if there are only the two to chose from, and no other women scientists in the world.  And as if there is a "correct" choice that needed to be made by me.) 

So interesting, this particular usage of the word "hard".  One hears this often in science and engineering circles - physics is a "hard" science; engineers today need "soft" skills as well as the traditional "hard" skills.  All this hard and soft talk makes a girl wonder...

Well, I can do no better at the moment than quote from myself and Cynthia Burack's article, "Telling Stories About Engineering:  Group Dynamics and Resistance to Diversity" in NWSA Journal, vol. 16, no. 1, Spring 2004, pp. 79-95. Here's some of what we had to say about this ubiquitous hard-obssession  in science and engineering land.

On the surface, hard refers to that which has mathematical content or involves the use of hands-on skill with technological equipment.  Soft refers to what is devoid [of these].  [But]...These uses of the modifiers hard and soft have no obvious connection to the skills they denote in engineering.  There is no strong intuitive connection between mathematics and "hardness" that those outside the science and engineering professions would make and that would affirm the usage as reflecting a common sense parallel.  However, connections between masculinity, virility, male sexuality, and hardness are culturally engrained, have unconscious emotional resonance, and are widely and immediately understood.  Likewise, the connection of softness with femininity...Neither are hard and soft understood as equivalent terms...hardness and softness are hierarchically ordered, with what is hard commanding greater respect and recognition than the soft.  It is no accident of language that enemy groups frequently express ridicule by describing each other as soft...The unspoken charge is of effeminacy - the de-sexing and degrading of men through metaphorical impotence.   

When my interrogator accused me of finding McClintock's science insufficiently hard, he used that term in a manner that has widely understood, shared - but implicit - cultural meaning.  Did I not think McClintock was man enough for me?  Was her science too effeminate, too flaccid?  Sigh.  Zuska thinks there are many, many wonderful things to be said about Barbara McClintock's fascinating work, but "hard" is not one of the words she would use.  But then, Zuska has never worried about whether she could get it up. 

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So Sad

I've been reading the comment thread on this post over at Whizbang! and I grow so sad. Poor Boron! Subjected to a witch hunt, tried and sentenced by an angry mob, when he didn't commit legitimate rape or even real harassment, which God knows is a horrible thing IF you have ever seen it, trust me. I mean, people have a right to their hurt feelings, but that doesn't give them a right to violate Boron's privacy, because if the topic of sex is in any way under discussion - say, in relation to a bit of science  journalism - why then it is perfectly normal to describe at length how you like to get down and dirty with your partner, especially over coffee. There is no evidence! Of anything! No harassment to be seen! Boron is a victim! People are being silenced! The mob is scaring people from speaking the truth! Boron is just a poor lad with Asperger's from a foreign country where they do sex talk different and no one has asked him his side of the story about this lapse of good judgment! People are too emotional and over-reacting, probably because they were harassed, and so they see it everywhere and when you think about it, what is real rape anyway, especially in a marriage, or some strange foreign culture? A court of law would give a proper hearing to all sides.  If only some journalist would investigate the true story. Why, oh why are you mean, cruel, horrible people making such a great and wonderful man suffer consequences for his actions? Can't you just let him do whatever he wants and let him be the judge as to whether he thinks it was harassment and he should apologize or not? What do you people want? It's like you think you have the right to define things and take actions. That is not how it works. Shut up and keep pulling the levers for the Great and Powerful Oz. Come back and show love for this great and good man. Don't be so crazy. Don't make us kill you delete your comments.

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Defining the Discourse and Words We Use: Who Gets To?

So, this is not the way I imagined breaking my writer's block. Or my refraining-from-writing-as-an-act-of-mourning. Or my mourning-induced aphasia. Or whatever is this is. I'm gonna just cross my fingers and hope I don't snap during the writing of this and say something that worsens everyone's depression (except mine) and destroys the universe (because of my omnipotent evil feminazi womanish powers)  which in any case should be ignored (really, the whole post should be ignored, on account of its having been written by a screeching harridan whining about no big deal).  Here we go.

First, I ask thee, gentle Zuskateers, to read Let Me Fix That For You, Nature at Red Ink. (Thanks, @rocza for that link via the twitters.)  Then please read I'm sorry...but you brought this on yourself honey by my dear friend Drugmonkey.

In the first post, Henry Gee's original letter is a discourse-controlling tour-de-force, and Red Ink does a marvelous job of deconstructing his blatherings. One just sits in one's chair, jaw agape at the hilariously depressingly superb job that is this pulling of the truth out of truthiness's ass. It both entertains and instructs. One gets a delightful dose of schadenfreude in the reading of it, whilst simultaneous schooled by the unmasking of rhetorical tricks Gee deploys .

Next up is Drugmonkey's blog piece, offering a detailed analysis of  Gee's nonpologetic discourse. Wait for it... comment #4 tells us how he is doing itt rong, and in an inflammatory manner, and how the rong is ineffective to boot. Trifecta of discourse control!

Commenter #4's knickers got bunched over all the rong because (a) Drugmonkey used an analogy - ineffective! and (b) Drugmonkey picked a bad analogy - inflammatory!  Drugmonkey might as well be talking to a brick wall. Or worse, trying to talk to someone on the other side of the brick wall but all his shouting for attention makes them climb up the wall and shove some bricks onto his head to shut him up.

I'm sorry. I know that was confusing and possibly inflammatory. The person atop the wall could have poured boiling oil on his head. Or shot him with flaming arrows.

Now, as Drugmonkey did, we pause here for a trigger warning regarding abuse, should you read further.

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A Blurb For Venker's "How To Choose A Husband"

We lived in a strictly gendered world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out of gender norms. Everything stopped working. We weren't prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the hedonistic cities. The government collapsed. Women took over, controlling their own fertility and stockpiling their own money. We still don't know why the power went out of gender norms. But we're hopeful that Suzanne Venker will come and lead the way.

With apologies to the showrunners of Revolution, which I love.

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Taking the Mansplaining Out of Mansplaining, Again!

So I'm listening to NPR the other day and some dude is chatting with a correspondent about words of the year - one of those fun end of the year type segments - and they're all like, oh, fiscal cliff is soooo gonna win, but hey, let's chat up some of the other woulda coulda shoulda beena word of the year entries. And one of the ones the dude mentions is...mansplaining.* Even tho, like, mansplaining as a word of the year is so last year. Remember when the NYT saw fit to tell us what mansplaining really meant? and how it actually had nothing to do with mansplaining, but was just a fancy new word for boor?

Well now, in this year's incarnation of mansplaining mansplaining as a would-be word of the year, we are told that it is basically just about dudes who like to explain stuff.  That sounds pretty harmless, doesn't it! And sort of funny!  Like your crazy old uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving dinner and can't stop nattering on about "when I was a young boy, we used to bla bla bla". But alas. Mansplaining is about men who like to explain to women things that the women already understand and/or are experts on, or to offer a totally wrong correction of a woman's correct explanation, or even to bloviate on a subject about which the man knows nothing, but about which he feels confident he can educate the little women, because she's a woman.

And again, alas! even Lily Rothman in the Cultural History of Mansplaining will only go so far as to say that is is "often" done "by a man to a woman" and bizarrely says that "the idea wasn't political in origin."  Wasn't political in origin?  WTF? Who's been mansplaining its history to her?  Has she even read the Rebecca Solnit essay she references? Well, little ladies, I guess there's nothing political at all about the dudes telling you what you know. Until a politician tells you what's gonna be.  Then it's offishully about politics!

Sweet baby Jesus in the manger with his little golden diaper!  The. Personal. Is. Political.

Yrs truly,

Shrill old ugly hairy-legged Second Wave feminazi harridan

P.S. No, I can't find the link to the NPR piece.

 

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Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing

[View the story "Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing, You Wouldn't Understand" on Storify]

Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

Storified by · Sun, Sep 09 2012 20:00:14

At 10:34 am on 9 Sept 2012, @Scicurious tweeted (really sorry, I can't figure out how to embed this tweet):

"Open letter to commercials targeting women: So true. I express my own uniqueness through feminine care products."

(The bolding is mine.)
You must go read that article NOW!
@GertyZ tweeted the same article and also replied to @Scicurious
Haha! But true. MT"@GertyZ: Open Letters: Open Letter 2 the People in Charge of Commercials Targeting Women. http://zite.to/PORwow via @Zite"TSZuska
@scicurious doesn't everyone? BRING ON THE MINIVANGerty-Z
And we were all off and running!
@scicurious but the poor guys who keep getting rejected from the yogurt aisle? So sad!biochem belle
@scicurious enjoy it now. Someday, menopause. Then: no uniqueness, no femininity. Unless you eat yogurt.TSZuska
@scicurious Although those yogurt-eaters always look awfully young. I thing all that's left post-menopause is bone loss & hot flash meds.TSZuska
@TSZuska And wrinkle cream! LOTS of expensive wrinkle cream.sci curious
@scicurious Indian commercials include vaginal tightening creams, vaginal fairness & well, regular fairness creams. http://youtu.be/vPayFrCOiZMManasi Jiwrajka
Well now, that's something to look into! I am certain I have not been nearly worried enough about my vaginal fairness.
@TSZuska @scicurious @kateclancy perhaps you've missed news that Poise has developed a whole line of menopause-related products #innovative?Lisa Hinchliffe
Depressingly, there will come the day when we all need something like a Poise pad, or worse. #oldagesucks But I am seriously not going to worry about "feeling confident" in my bladder leakage years with panty fresheners and feminine wash. There will be no equivalent of an Air Wick Stick-Up on the bottom of my pantaloons.

Let's change the subject.

@TSZuska I really pity all the guys who, according to the commercials, don't eat yogurt. That stuff is great!sci curious
@biochembelle @scicurious I'm starting a Men Can Eat My Yogurt support group. There's an entry requirement for each straight man.TSZuska
@TSZuska @biochembelle Is it like a hazing process for men who want to eat yogurt? Like they have to eat plain?sci curious
@scicurious @TSZuska Or require them to distinguish regular vs Greek, nonfat vs full fat by blind taste test?biochem belle
@biochembelle @scicurious Well I was thinking of making them prove they'd eaten something else, but that's good, too.TSZuska
@scicurious @TSZuska Though the dude from Burn Notice is apparently the only man who isn't stripped of his masculinity by eating yogurt.Kate Clancy
@KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska and John Stamos. He's in a yogurt commercial. Greek yogurt. Manly yogurt. :DRadium Yttrium
@KateClancy @scicurious Always an exception here & there. Most men don't have the biological necessities to digest yogurt. #EvolutionTSZuska
@TSZuska @KateClancy @scicurious I've heard that they've got ways of shutting all of that down, though.Emily Willingham
@ejwillingham @KateClancy @scicurious If legitimately forced to eat yogurt, no gaseous bloating will result. It's a known scientific fact.TSZuska
@DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska You mean greek yogurt is MANLY?! I've been eating MANLY yogurt! HORRORZ.sci curious
@DrRubidium @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska but John stamos isn't eating the yoghurt, it's just who appears when women eat yoghurtNatC
You are safe, @Scicurious.  Still appropriately feminine!
@SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska I do remember him eating some, but he was also feeding a woman, which is just creepyRadium Yttrium
@DrRubidium @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska clearly I'm not paying sufficient attention to ads aimed at me. Whoops!NatC
AARGH! RT @scicurious: @DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska You mean greek yogurt is MANLY?! I've been eating MANLY yogurt! HORRORZ.NatC
Or......not.  That manly yogurt may have some biological effects on gendered behavior.
@scicurious @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska yes, I eat it and then start random street fights :DRadium Yttrium
@DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @TSZuska @scicurious I eat it before roller derby bouts for MOAR TESTOSTERONE.Kate Clancy
And now, a semi-serious tweet...
@TSZuska @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 wrote a post about it. If memory is correct, the adverts we want don't do well in focus groupsScientistMother
@ScientistMother @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 i have been in focus groups. Ppl r anxious 2 get out & get their $$; herd mentality...TSZuska
@ScientistMother @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 one or 2 strong voices, everyone follows them. Drink coffee, get done, get cash.TSZuska
This, among other reasons, is why we have such crap-ass commercials.  This, and the undying belief that patriarchy sells. Because #evolution!
@TSZuska @biochembelle @scicurious perhaps @Mom101 could provide more info. She's pretty awesome about getting change in advertisingScientistMother
@scicurious @ScientistMother @TSZuska @biochembelle Oddly, that's the first McS essay where I've ever felt, "Seen it."Liz Gumbinner
@Mom101 @scicurious @TSZuska @biochembelle seen it bc others have said it before?ScientistMother
Sigh. Sometimes I get the feeling it's all been said before, a thousand million times.  Still, we have to say it again and again, and laugh a little along the way. 

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When They Read The News, What Are They Telling Us?

I'm feeling my Olympic groove this evening, when here comes a commercial break blurb for the local newscast. They're promising me all sorts of wonderfully lurid stuff if I tune in later. Here's one exciting pitch:

This man's wife and baby were held up at gun point!...Details later...

There is a very, very quick shot of a man, and then we see the woman with her baby telling us "He had a gun and he told me 'don't make me do this, you have a baby with you'."

Here's my question:  Why "this man's wife and baby" and not "this woman and her baby"? In reporting crime against women, must we do it so as to make clear who owns them, in favor of that the crime was against them?  When we say "this man's wife and baby were held up at gunpoint" we are implying that the crime, although committed on the woman and baby, was against the man.

There's no excuse for locution like this.  News writers/readers, women are their own agents. You don't need to identify their closest male in order to report news on them.

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No Modesty Left At All

People keep saying the dead-tree format is over and done with but you can still learn so much from reading the newspaper.  Take for example this (for once) sensible editorial I chanced upon yesterday in the radical left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you are "poor", ask yourself:  WWJD?  Be prepared to shape up in a hurry because He'd tell you something like this:

Our Lord Jesus: Are you a tween working 60 hours a week sticking things on pots while rats gnaw at you, just so you can get your dad out of debtor's prison?  No?  What you are is lounging about in your air-conditioned paradise with your cable tv, maybe even going to the public library and using the computer to get on the Internet there, and you're whinging away because you're "hungry".  If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?  Riddle me that one, Batman!  Your school (though I wouldn't let my kids go there) is free (for now, till we institute the voucher system) and your government pays for "much" of the tab of state and community colleges (if by "much" we include "ever decreasing amounts").  Why are you so dumb?  You can be as "poor" as you want and we won't even put you in debtor's prison!

 

You see, being poor used to be about really suffering in a hideous manner unto death. If the impoverished people are fat, have cars, and aren't in jail, the system is working pretty good for them.  But give the "poor" a little and they still aren't satisfied.  It's not enough to be a wage slave in a rat-free environment.**  They want equal opportunities, too!  But the whole point of success is to give your children unusually good opportunities. But no, the "poor" want to make it about the size of the gap, claiming that if the rich get richer, the poor should too.  That's just crazy talk!

Myself, I say it's time we solved this "poverty" problem, such as it is, once and for all.  Modesty will not serve; let us be bold in our proposals.  What few poor we do have should be fed an all organic, no hormones or antibiotics diet for three months to cleanse their systems, then humanely slaughtered on-site in old style, non-industrial abattoirs. We should not limit ourselves to just the more obvious, meatier cuts but strive for a whole human, nose to foot approach.  Many parts of the poor will pair well with a good pinot noir, and there is nothing like poor heart - tender, amazing, not funky like liver, and poor trotters make great tacos.  Even if it weren't respectful to the poor to practice nose-to-foot eating, the ecological benefits alone make it a wise choice for the environmentally conscious eater -- feeding multiple mouths with one whole animal and all its edible parts is much more efficient and less tolling on our environment than processing multiple animals to feed only a few mouths, which is what we do when limiting ourselves to eating only a single part.  You know, like chicken nuggets.  Which I hear, make the "poor" so fat, but also our wallets, so what are you going to do.

 

**Well, I did hear today about a transport authority worker stuck in a booth all day who has to dodge rats running around his feet so, technically, I guess we haven't quite achieved "wage slave in a rat-free environment" yet.  So close!

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Getting "In God We Trust" Back Into This Country

It's December 29th, and I'm taking a little time out of the mad holiday rush to sit down, relax, and write out some Christmas cards.  I know what you're thinking: Zuska, isn't this just a tad early to start working on the 2012 mailing list?  You are correct. However, it's a dandy time for cranking out the 2011 cards.  Hopes are high that they will actually reach a mailbox, maybe even in 2011.  For lo these several years I've not managed to send out anything more than a card to Z-mom, but I feel a Christmas miracle coming on. Surely a month of incessant Christmas carols everywhere I go will have inspired me.

Last year while digging around in a cupboard I came across a box of Christmas cards with envelopes already addressed and stamped.  A few signatures and a personal note or two were all that was lacking.  I thought briefly about converting these abandoned cards to a 2010 mailing. But the amount of extra postage each envelope needed would tell the whole embarrassing story.  Fortunately my township recycles paper.

I was inspired to mull over my ongoing Christmas card mailing list failures-to-launch while listening to All Things Considered; Iowan Man and Potential Mitt Romney Supporter plaintively inquired the following:

  "Yeah, I was wondering what you're planning on doing to get 'In God We Trust' back into this country again because our kids can't even celebrate Christmas in this country for fear of offending someone else," said the potential supporter. "Y'know, when we came here, we were founded on 'In God We Trust' and I'd like to see that back in this country again." [emphasis mine]

Could that be it?  Iowan Man may be on to something here.  I thought I was lazy and perhaps somewhat concerned about all the paper wastage. But I am fairly sure now that this is the problem:  I can't celebrate Christmas by sending out cards for fear of offending someone else.  It just has to be that.

In solidarity with Iowan Man, I offer below The Lament of the White Christian During  Xmas Election Season.

We can't even celebrate Christmas in this country for fear of offending someone else. Sure, you can buy Hanukkah cards - some of your best friends are Jewish! - but it's just a pity card because you can't send them a real Christmas card. They probably know it and wish their second-class holiday was the real one, and that makes you feel soooo awkward. Just because your holiday is Number 1 is no reason for other people to make you feel bad.

Then you have your atheist friends (hah! as if). You can't even say Merry Christmas because they will call out the ACLU and sue you, even if you X-out Jesus and say Merry Xmas.  What are you left with? Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays and Sparkle Season and other euphemisms that are just pushing "In God We Trust" right out of this country and making our kids afraid.

The worst of all is the Muslims, of which I don't personally know any, but they just get enraged when they hear anything about Christmas.  They are going to take over this country and mark my words, we are going to have to celebrate Christmas in secret, because they will kill us if they find out.  They have already gotten a Muslim elected president and pretty soon no Christian will be safe anywhere.

We need to get "In God We Trust" back in this country so that when the end times come, we'll be Raptured.  So, what I want to know, Mr./Ms. Presidential Candidate, can you promise me that if I vote for you, your first priority will be to install the authoritarian white christian theocracy I'm pining for?  Merry Christmas, In God We Trust.

 

 

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Taking Another Look at the Cheerleader Thing - Literally

Call me Zuska. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on t.v., I thought I would surf the web a little and see the bloggy part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever those apologists for the oppressor get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically puking on peoples' shoes - then, I account it high time to get to the blogosphere as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the posts and comment threads. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all hairy-legged feminazis in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the blogosphere with me.

 

I went off all whiny and screechy about SciCheer in this post.  But hey, if it’s inspiring, can it be wrong?

Yes, you idiot.  If the young girls are “inspired” by the cheerleaders now, why not move on to pole dancers?  That takes some serious upper body strength! And you can earn money pole dancing to pay for your college tuition!  Work nights and weekends, it won’t interfere with classes!  Let us be inspired by the heartwarming tales of pole dancers, in costume, encouraging the wee ones to go into science. They could talk about physiology! And physics! It would be awesome.

I understand that it is fashionable to claim that things like cheerleading and showing off one’s fabulous tits in tight clothing are empowerful for the young girls today.  This is a steaming crock of bullshit. When they are yelling "show yer tits!" this week in Nawlins and tossing beads at the compliant minxes, they are are not thinking "how empowered these young women are today!  so in control of their own sexuality!"  They are thinking "fuck yeah, I got that bitch to show me her tits for some plastic beads!" And don't go spitting that sex positive bla bla at me.  I love me some sex as much as the next person.  What I don't love is seeing women's sexuality debased and exploited, and I especially don't love seeing it done in the spurious name of recruiting young girls into science.

The vast majority of men, when pondering cheerleaders, think of one thing:  fucking. There’s a chain of “gentlemen’s clubs” in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that goes by the name of Cheerleaders.  Let’s compare.  SciCheer or Cheerleader's Club?  You make the call!

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