Making It About Gender

Dec 19 2014 @ 12:18pm
by Michelle Dean

The news about humanity is never very good when it comes from Reddit, is it? Today’s contribution comes via an editorial at WIRED. Its authors, Elena Glassman, Neha Narula and Jean Yang, are scientists at MIT. They described the gendered horror show that was their Reddit AMA:

Within an hour, the thread had rocketed to the Reddit front page, with hundreds of thousands of pageviews and more than 4,700 comments. But to our surprise, the most common questions were about why our gender was relevant at all. Some people wondered why we did not simply present ourselves as “computer scientists.” Others questioned if calling attention to gender perpetuated sexism. Yet others felt that we were taking advantage of the fact that we were women to get more attention for our AMA.

The interactions in the AMA itself showed that gender does still matter. Many of the comments and questions illustrated how women are often treated in male-dominated STEM fields. Commenters interacted with us in a way they would not have interacted with men, asking us about our bra sizes, how often we “copy male classmates’ answers,” and even demanding we show our contributions “or GTFO [Get The **** Out]”. One redditor helpfully called out the double standard, saying, “Don’t worry guys – when the male dog groomer did his AMA (where he specifically identified as male), there were also dozens of comments asking why his sex mattered. Oh no, wait, there weren’t.”

“Oh, it’s just Reddit,” you might be saying to yourself. As a seasoned 4chan conspiracy theorist myself –at this point I think “4chan prank” whenever some weird story begins to break, at first even wondering if the whole Sony leak could be a 4chan hoax, if they could have made up the whole document stash – I understand the impulse to brush this sort of thing off as trolling. It is that, and undoubtedly some of these comments come from the sort of pure unmitigated jerkery commonly found in the underbelly of the internet.

But it’s also something else. Because their comments aren’t all that far from ones I have heard myself, said with utter sincerity. Men don’t respond very well, still, to the notion that gender might be relevant. They might be a little meaner about it in anonymous spaces online, but you can see the problem everywhere.

One of the slim, ephemeral benefits of being publicly identifiable as a feminist is that I don’t tend to be in male-dominated or even male-only spaces very often. There is one giant exception to that. Years ago, I spent some time in a journalism school. An admissions fluke had me in a class that was overwhelmingly male. There was one other woman, but she dropped out early.

I knew I was in for it when in a very early class, one of the other students starting waxing philosophic about fact-checking and John D’Agata. And towards the end of this digression, he referred to the magazine The Believer. And then he referred to its editor as “Ben Marcus’s wife.” Full stop.

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A Legal Threat To Legalization

Dec 19 2014 @ 12:03pm
by Dish Staff

Marijuana Colorado

Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado for legalizing marijuana:

Two of Colorado’s neighboring states, arguing that the legalization of marijuana for Coloradans is causing crime problems across state borders, asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to allow them to file a lawsuit directly before the Justices. If the suit goes forward, Nebraska and Oklahoma’s filing said, the Court should rule that the commercial part of the Colorado scheme is unconstitutional and could no longer be enforced.

Josh Harkinson explains the states’ grievances:

Evidence has been mounting that Colorado can’t contain all of its weed. In June, USA Today highlighted the flow of its marijuana into small towns across Nebraska. Since 2011, the paper reported, felony drug arrests in Chappell, Nebraska, a town just seven miles north of the Colorado border, have jumped 400 percent.

Colorado has vowed to defend its laws:

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The View From Your Window

Dec 19 2014 @ 11:55am

VFYW candidate - Lake Zurich, IL, 7-51 AM

Lake Zurich, Illinois, 7.51 am

Howard Roark and the Hacker’s Veto

Dec 19 2014 @ 11:35am
by Will Wilkinson

The hacking of Sony and the studio’s subsequent decision to halt the release of The Interview is incredibly weird and it’s left me pretty well stumped. First of all, I’m not 100% positive North Korea is the culprit. I’m not aware of dispositive evidence (maybe the government has it) and it’s more than a little surprising that the North Koreans could do anything so competently. I guess they could pay somebody to do it. In any event, the idea that the North Korean dictator gets to decide what Americans are allowed to watch is outrageous. What leaves me baffled and vexed is what to do about it.

Jonathan Chait wants to the feds to step in and backstop the studios:

The federal government should take financial responsibility. Either Washington should guarantee Sony’s financial liability in the event of an attack, or it should directly reimburse the studio’s projected losses so it can release the movie online for free. The latter solution has the attractive benefit of ensuring a far wider audience for the film than it would otherwise have attracted.

I don’t think this is a bad idea at all, but it’s not clear to me that it gets us far toward solving the problem of the hacker’s veto. What if the Guardians of Peace threaten to blow up Amazon or Netflix server farms, or Comcast HQ, and once again the studio, or the distributors, with perfectly understandable myopic capitalist prudence, capitulate? I mean, when several theaters resolved to show Team America: World Police in the place of The Interview, Paramount said “Nope, shut it down” – a move, in the words of Peter Suderman, that “can really only be described as next-level cowardly bullshit.”

It would seem to me that, in the end, the only real answer is spine. It’s hard not to agree with George Clooney:

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by Dish Staff

Obama Pardons

Maya Rhodan passes along news of Obama’s “Christmas clemency”:

Obama granted 12 pardons to people convicted of various crimes from 1964 to 1997: possession of an unregistered distillery, counterfeiting, and conspiracy to transport a stolen car. Obama also commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners serving lengthy sentences for drug crimes. None claim to be innocent, but they argued that they’ve served their time. In many cases, the crimes would not have received the same punishment if they were committed today. …

Matt Ford highlights Obama’s reluctance to exercise his pardoning power:

Presidential pardons have declined since World War II, excluding cases of mass amnesty like Jimmy Carter and the Vietnam draft-dodgers, but Obama’s sparing use still stands out: Until Wednesday, one in seven of his pardons had beenissued for Thanksgiving turkeys.

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Torturing Her Way To The Top

Dec 19 2014 @ 10:52am
by Dish Staff

Matthew Cole reports on a key torture apologist at the CIA who “repeatedly told her superiors and others – including members of Congress – that the ‘torture’ was working and producing useful intelligence, when it was not”:

The expert was not identified by name in the unclassified 528-page summary of the [torture] report, but U.S. officials who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity confirmed that her name was redacted at least three dozen times in an effort to avoid publicly identifying her. In fact, much of the four-month battle between Senate Democrats and the CIA about redactions centered on protecting the identity of the woman, an analyst and later “deputy chief” of the unit devoted to catching or killing Osama bin Laden, according to U.S. officials familiar with the negotiations.

Jane Mayer comments:

Her story runs through the entire report.

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by Dish Staff


Roberto Ferdman deflates some of the hype surrounding Cuban cigars, which Americans will soon be able to buy more easily:

Each year, Cigar Aficionado, the leading industry magazine, publishes a list of the top 25 cigars in the world. Last year, the number one cigar was the Montecristo no. 2, which is made in Cuba. But only two of the remaining 24 also came from the country. By contrast, 11 were from the Dominican Republic, and 10 were made in Nicaragua. The magazine has yet to reveal its top pick for 2014, but among the remaining 24 the vast majority are once again from countries other than Cuba. And a similar pattern can be seen in virtually every year that the publication has issued its rankings. “The playing field has been leveled,” said David Savona, executive editor of Cigar Aficionado.

Alison Griswold suspects that the storied tobacco derives its reputation from scarcity as much as from anything else:

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Masculine Energy

Dec 19 2014 @ 9:41am
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

I can’t stop thinking about Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart’s essay identifying with macho or misogynistic male authors and protagonists:

I’d always understood I was a she, and I never wanted to be otherwise. And yet somehow I was convinced that the disparaging things my male heroes said about women didn’t apply to me, not because they were untrue about females generally, but because I must not be the sort of female they were talking about. Being a strange kid helped—I had the overdeveloped intellect and underdeveloped social skills that precocious children of all genders seem to share. Since I was comfortable with being different, the masculine aspects of my personality were one more oddity among many. These oddities allowed me to nod comfortably along with sections of a novel where the author paused a moment to explain that women were like such-and-so, and then got back to the important parts, which had men in them. …

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Cast Away

Dec 19 2014 @ 9:02am
by Dish Staff


Chris Mooney flags a troubling new study finding that the world’s oceans now contain more than five trillion pieces of plastic, weighing more than 250,000 tons:

With a global population of about 7.2 billion, that’s nearly 700 pieces per person.

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Exonerated, But Executed

Dec 19 2014 @ 8:14am
by Michelle Dean

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of yesterday’s Cuba and Sony-centric news, one of America’s ghosts shimmered into view in the background. It was the spirit of a black fourteen-year-old named George Stinney. He was executed in 1944 for the murder of two young white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina. The only evidence of his guilt was a confession he said he’d been coerced into making. There was no physical evidence, but he became the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century anyway.

On a motion from the family, a judge just recently vacated his conviction:

Judge Carmen T. Mullen of Circuit Court did not rule that the conviction of Mr. Stinney for the murder of two white girls in the town of Alcolu was wrong on the merits. She did find, however, that the prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard the constitutional rights of Mr. Stinney, who was black, from the time he was taken into custody until his death by electrocution.

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