Saturday, June 28, 2008

What about Tiffany Wright's step dad?

Evil mum jailed after leaving daughter to starve while feeding her pet dogs - The Daily Record

"A mum who left her three-year-old daughter to starve to death in her bedroom was jailed for 12 years yesterday."

The article that I have linked to is is one of the more sensational among those available and includes some of the icky details. I read articles about the mistreatment of children, because they baffle me. How can people do this? As a mom, I realize that good parenting isn't easy, but how hard is it to feed a child? Or give it up for adoption?

And what about the step dad? While the mom got 12 years for manslaughter, the step dad only got five years for child cruelty. Why is he not equally responsible? It's progress that parents are not allowed to treat their children any way that they wish, but we have a long ways to go until fathers are recognized as a parent who is a peer to mothers.

Mr. Philosopher Mom is a stay at home dad and he still gets funny looks at the park. The moms don't talk to him and he gets especially dirty looks when Lentil is having tantrum.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sarkozy irks female MPs with gift

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Sarkozy irks female MPs with gift

The French president includes a grey silk tie in a present to all the country's MPs, prompting calls of sexism.

On the one hand, Nicolas Sarkozy named an unusually number of women to his cabinet. On the other hand, he sent all the Members of Parliament in France a black case and gray silk tie. What's a gal to do with a tie? Some wore the tie around their necks, others wore it as a headband, while yet others brandished it as a symbol of chauvinism in politics. So many options, so little time.

If you put a positive spin on it, all the MPs were treated exactly the same, and are all able to do an equally good job. If you put a negative spin on it, it was pretty inconsiderate to not find a suitable gift for the recipient.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ugandan MPs seek jigger arrests

'We are going to arrest people with jiggers for failing to take care of their bodies as per the Public Health Act,' MP Aggrey Bagiire said.

It seems like there are lots of strange stories in the news today.

People are going to be arrested for a jigger flea (Tunga penetrans) infestation?! It's an appalling lack of empathy to treat people who are suffering from an infestation this way. Clearly, they're need in medical attention and not detention. This ranks right up there with the comment attributed to Marie Antoinette-- "Let the eat cake."

People with jigger infestations can have 80-90 or more of these bugs in their skin. Victims, especially small children, often cannot walk or move around, because it's too painful. The only treatment is debriding, usually without anesthetic.

Photo by wokka on Flickr




Photo by Sean FitzGibbon on Aussies Across Africa

Replication of Milgram's obedience study

Professor Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University recently conducted a partial replication of Milgram's famous experiment on obedience to authority. This story is fascinating for many reasons.

One, he got the experiment approved by the the IRB at his university.

Two, his results were similar Milgram's. Burger wrote the following on his web site.

I recently conducted a partial replication of Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience studies that allowed for useful comparisons with the original investigations while protecting the well-being of participants. We found obedience rates in 2006 only slightly lower than what Milgram found 45 years earlier. Contrary to expectation, participants who saw a confederate refuse the experimenter’s instructions obeyed as often as those who saw no model. Men and women did not differ in their rate of obedience, but we found some evidence that individual differences in empathic concern and desire for control affected participants’ responses.

The research was featured in the January 3, 2007 broadcast of ABC News’ Primetime. You can see a short summary of that broadcast at

You can purchase a copy of the broadcast at

A paper describing the study is in press at American Psychologist. You can read a pre-copyedited version of the paper here: (Replicating Milgram)"

Stanley Milgram was a fascinating fellow himself and had a talent for designing insightful experiments. He was also the first to come up concepts such as six degrees of separation and the familiar stranger.

What are these maternity doctors and nurses chanting? | Ask Metafilter

What are these maternity doctors and nurses chanting? | Ask Metafilter

[Link is NSFW: graphic childbirth.] What is the maternity staff chanting in this video? They seem to have a few different songs, one for when the woman is pushing and another for once the baby is born. ...

This thread on Ask Metafilter links to a video of a woman giving birth in Japan. A baby being born is a baby being born, but compared to my experience there are a lot of cultural differences in the conduct of the medical staff. The nurses were holding the woman's hand and chanting a song/mantra of encouragement. (The explanation is in the Metafilter thread.)

At one point the father has a particularly stricken look on his face, a kind of OMG-what-am-I-doing-here look. Just before the women all giggle at him. Poor guy. I'm sure it's a pretty common experience for fathers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania - International Herald Tribune

Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania - International Herald Tribune

Under the Kanun code of conduct, women can become sworn virgins who take on men's roles in society. They are literally trading their sexuality for social power. It's amazing that this cultural arrangement exists and how effective it is-- every one treats sworn virgins as if they were men, even other women are shy with them.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Woman Bouncer in India

The BBC's Geeta Pandey reports from Chandigarh, Punjab, on a woman bouncer, a rare breed in India

Despite facing much initial resistance, patrons of the exclusive night club, Score, seem to like having Amandeep Kaur at the door.

UN classifies rape as a war tactic

BBC NEWS | Americas | UN classifies rape a 'war tactic'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said violence against women had reached "unspeakable proportions" in some societies recovering from conflict.

Susan Brownmiller wrote about rape being more about power than sex in 1975 in "Against Our Will". Sexual assault (of both genders) as a war tactic or war crime has long been understood by feminist scholars.

Part of the reason that rape is an effective war tactic is the decreased status of women who have been raped, especially in societies where women are chattel. There are reports of rape victims in Congo who are rejected by their families. These practices in turn lead a further weakening of the society.

Maybe rape as a war tactic would decrease if victims were viewed as the same as those who have suffered a violent crime.

Monday, June 9, 2008

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Cattle farms lure Australia women

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Cattle farms lure Australia women: "Ranch owners are facing acute recruitment problems because so many young men are being lured into the booming mining industry."

An increasing number of farm hands in the Australian outback are women (a.k.a. jillaroos). The manager of the world's largest cattle station had these compliments to share:

"The hormones are not playing up with them and they're more gentle and steady with cattle and look after your machinery and motorbikes and stuff and generally are much better than fellas.

"And I'm not knocking the fellas, they do a great job too. The world's changing, the women are getting tougher than blokes, mate, hey?"