A Philosopher's Blog

Openly Gamer

Posted in Pathfinder, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on November 29, 2013
Dados do sistema d20

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I started my gaming lifestyle when my mother got me the basic D&D boxed set over three decades ago. Since I was already solidly classified as a nerd by the other kids, I made no attempt to conceal my gaming ways. I also did track, cross country and debate—which actually resulted in more mockery than my gaming. When I went to college, I continued my openly gamer lifestyle, although I also continued my running ways.

In graduate school, I took my gamer lifestyle to a new level—I began writing professionally and my name appeared in print as solid evidence of my gaming lifestyle. While some people leave gaming behind after college, I stuck with it and still have a regular game, usually Pathfinder or Call of Cthulhu, each week. I also have my own tiny publishing operation and obviously still am open about my gaming ways.

Thanks to the popularity of video games, fantasy and science fiction, gaming now has less stigma than it did in the past. However, I know numerous gamers who are careful to conceal their gaming lifestyle from others. For example, one person tells people that he is playing poker or watching sports when he is, in fact, rolling D20s and pushing around miniatures. He also forbids any photos of him engaged in gaming. Another person is careful to conceal his gamer status from his professional colleagues out of concerns that it will negatively impact his career. Others are less secretive and do not deny being gamers—if directly asked. They do, however, do not usually talk about their gaming around non-gamers and tend to have anecdotes of bad experiences arising from people finding out about the gaming.

Jokingly, I tend to refer to people who actively keep their gaming secret as being in the dungeon. Folks who voluntarily tell people they are gamers come out of the dungeon and those who are involuntarily exposed are outed as gamers.

In my own case, being openly gamer has been a no brainer. First, I was obviously a nerd as a kid and there would have been no point in trying to deny that I gamed—no one would believe that I didn’t have a bag of strange dice. Second, I studied philosophy and became a professional philosopher—in comparison being a gamer is rather down-to-earth and normal. For those who are curious, I am also openly philosophical. Third, because I am socially competent and in good shape, I do not have any fear of the consequences of people finding out I am a gamer.

I also have moral reasons as to why I am openly gamer. The first is my moral principle that if I believe that a way of life needs to be hidden from “normal” people, then it would follow that I should not be engaged in that way of life. Naturally, there are exceptions. For example, if I were in a brutally repressive state, then I could have excellent reasons to conceal a way of life that those in power might oppose. As a less extreme example, some gamers do believe that they will suffer negative consequences if people find out about their gaming ways. For example, someone who knows her boss thinks gaming is for Satanists would have a good reason to stay in the dungeon.

The second is my moral commitment to honesty. Being a gamer is part of what I am, just as is being a runner and being a philosopher. To actively conceal and deny what I am would be to lie by omission and to create in the minds of others a false conception of the person I am. While I do recognize that people can have good reasons to create such false conceptions, that is something that should be avoided when possible—assuming, of course, that deceit is wrong.

I do know some gamers who hide their gaming when they start dating someone—I recall many occasions when one of my fellows went on a date or met someone and others, on learning this, said “you didn’t tell her you are a gamer did you?!” The assumption is, of course, that being a gamer would be a deal-breaker. While I do not advocate being an in-their-face gamer (just as I do not advocate being an in-their-face runner), honesty is the best policy—if the dating leads to a relationship, she will eventually find out and dishonesty tends to be more of a deal breaker than gaming.

Naturally, some gamers have made the reasonable point that they want to win over a person before revealing that they are gamers. After all, a person might have a prejudice against gamers that is based on ignorance. Such a person might unfairly reject a gamer out of hand, but come to accept it once they get to know an actual gamer.  After all, gamers are people, too.

 

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Is Ladies’ Night Sexist?

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on April 6, 2011
Ladies' Night (song)

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A segment on Den Hollander, a lawyer who become moderately famous for his crusade against ladies’s night drink pricing, appeared recently on the Colbert Report. This mocking segment got me thinking about this topic and the philosophical issues involved with the matter.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of ladies’ night, this is a practice followed by many bars and nightclubs that involves free (or reduced prices on) drinks and admission for women. The objective is, of course, to lure in women with the special pricing and use the women to lure in men (who will be paying full price).

On the face of it, the claim that ladies’ night is sexist seems laughable. After all, it is simply a marketing device used to increase business and hardly a device of cruel oppression. To claim that this practice would be on par with claiming that deals limited to children (such as reduced movie prices) or the elderly (such as reduced admission prices to some parks) are cases of ageism. Since such a claim would be absurd, it would follow that the attack on ladies’ night is absurd as well.

It could also be argued that ladies night is not sexist on the basis that men are not actually being harmed by the practice. After all, while men do have to pay more than women on ladies’ night, men typically go to ladies’ night to meet women who have been knocking back the free (or cheap) drinks. As such, far from oppressing men, ladies’ night is actually advantageous to men in two ways: 1) there will be more women present and 2) their judgment will probably be impaired by alcohol.

However, it is certainly possible to argue that ladies night is sexist. After all, what the customer is being charged is based on the customer’s sex and this not does seem to provide a relevant difference that would justify a difference in pricing. As such, this would seem to be a clear case of sexism.

In regards to the analogy to special pricing for seniors and children, there are various replies that could be made. The first is that the analogy breaks down because everyone gets to be a kid (and hence can have access to the children’s specials) and everyone has a shot at being a senior (and hence can get access to those specials). In the case of sex based pricing, men do not get to become women without expensive medical procedures, and hence men will not have access to that pricing. The second is that many of the discounts are situations that involve relevant differences. For example, children’s meals are often less because they are smaller than adult portions. As such, the analogy seems to fail.

It can also be argued that age based specials are, in fact, cases of ageism. After all, in those cases in which there are no relevant differences (such as portion size), then a difference in treatment would seem to be ageist in nature. Likewise for ladies’ night.

Another approach to arguing that ladies night is sexist is to consider whether or not the following would be a case of racism. Imagine, if you will, a night club that offers (in addition to ladies’ night) a whites’ night. On white night, whites get free admission and free drinks , while non-whites have to pay the normal prices. No one is excluded based on race, it is just that whites get special pricing for that night. I am inclined to believe that whites’ night would be regarded as a sexist event. However, it seems no more racist than ladies’ night is sexist.

It might, of course, be argued that whites’ night would be racist and ladies night would not be sexist because there is an established history of racism against non-whites and there is not an established history of sexism against men.

While this is a point worth considering, accepting this sort of reasoning would seem to involve accepting that without an established history of sexism or racism against people of type X, then an action cannot be sexist or racist against people of type X. This would mean, obviously enough, that racism and sexism could never occur. After all, there could be no racist or sexist acts prior to racism and sexism and there could be no racism and sexism prior to racist acts.

It might be replied that ladies’ night is not really sexism or at least not a big deal because it is such a small thing. After all, allowing women to have free drinks while men must pay hardly seems like a big deal. It is not like men are being denied the right to vote or being denied access to scholarships that are only for women. There is no systematic or wide scale oppression; just a difference in drink prices.

That reply does have some appeal. After all, it actually is a little thing and people generally find it laughable that anyone would be concerned about something so silly. However, the fact that something is a little thing does not mean that it is not sexist.

In light of the above arguments, it seems reasonable to believe that ladies’ night is actually sexist. As compensation for years of cruel oppression, I only ask that the ladies buy me a drink now and then.

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Craziness & Hotness

Posted in Aesthetics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on February 8, 2011
Controversial Newsweek cover, November 23, 200...

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Newsweek recently published and article on crazy chick flicks. While the article is an interesting read, what struck me the most was the remark by Sean Kearney that ““I can’t think of a crazy girl who isn’t hot.” I think this one quote stood out the most because it is the sort of thing I have heard over the years, leading me to formulate the Crazy Hotness Principle. According to this principle, hotness and craziness are linked properties such that crazy girls are hot and hot girls are crazy.

Obviously enough, this principle is total bull spit. After all, there are plenty of non-hot girls who are, as a friend of mine might put it, crazy as sh@t house rats. There are also some unconfirmed sitings of hot girls who are not crazy. However, the idea that there is a link between hotness and craziness is interesting and seems worth exploring.

One plausible explanation is that people are more inclined to tolerate crazy behavior from hot girls. If someone who is not hot starts acting crazy, people are not inclined to put up with that at all. Hence, non-hot people either learn to restrain their crazy tendencies or are excluded. On this view, it is not the hotness that makes them crazy. Rather, the hotness enables them to get away with crazy behavior that would otherwise not be tolerated.

Based on my own observations, this does have some plausibility. After all, one standard “guy thing” when they hear that a woman has some major issue is to ask “but is she hot?” Also, I have (like most people) observed friends and associates putting up with hot woman far longer than they have tolerated the less hot.

Another possibility is that the hotness actually does contribute to their craziness. Feminists have argued for years that girls and woman damage themselves psychologically by buying into the beauty myths and otherwise conforming themselves to the way men supposedly want them to be. So, perhaps the process of becoming hot actually does damage their sanity.

A third possibility is that men find crazy behavior attractive (at least initially) and this leads some men to perceive the crazy chicks as being desirable. Of course, this seems to be limited to certain sorts of behavior (usually relating to sexuality or passion) rather than just general madness.

There are no doubt other possibilities.

Of course, it is well worth considering that the alleged causal links between hotness and craziness (whichever direction they go) are based on perception rather than fact.

First, people tend to pay attention to hot chicks more than not hot chicks. As such, people (mainly men) would tend to notice crazy hot chicks more than crazy non-hot chicks. As such, it could be a biased sample that leads to this view.

Second, it could also be a case of sour grapes. I have most often heard guys who are not dating hot chicks refer to the hot chicks who are dating other men as crazy. It would obviously not be unreasonable to consider that they are simply attributing flaws to the women that they themselves do not date (or marry).

Third, I have heard it said that men are intimidated by assertive, attractive women and hence label them as crazy out of fear or some other sort of disorder. That does seem possible.

Fourth, it is also worth considering that everyone is actually crazy to some degree. Thus, hot chicks would be crazy, too.  I think this has the highest plausibility.

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Directions

Posted in Miscellaneous by Michael LaBossiere on October 27, 2010

While watching CNN this morning, two of the TV personalities were chatting about the stereotype that men, unlike woman, prefer not to ask for directions when driving.

What struck me about this exchange was the fact that men chatting about women in a comparable way (patronizing and critical) would be blasted as sexism. I suppose that women stereotyping men is funny, men stereotyping women is sexism.

What I found most interesting, however, is that the claims about men and women in regards to driving are based on the fact that the average man tags on an extra 276 miles a year due to being lost while women add on 256 miles. Assuming the data is accurate and the margin of error is minimal, this means that men only drive an average of 20 more miles than women due to being lost. While this is a difference, it is hardly a significant difference.

It is also claimed that 26% of men wait at least 30 minutes before asking for directions and 12% will never ask directions. 74% of women will ask for directions. 37% of women and 30% of men claim they will do so as soon as they  realize they are lost.

Interestingly, Jacky Brown of Sheilas’ Wheels said “Our research not only reveals that men aren’t quite as confident behind the wheel as they make out when it comes to navigation but also that women are in control when it comes to modern motoring.”

Brown’s claim does not seem to be supported by the data. After all, the fact that women drive 20 less miles due to being lost hardly shows that men are not as confident as they claim nor that women are in control. At most it shows that women drive marginally less lost miles (about 93% of what men do). Given the marginal difference, it would seem unreasonable to read much, if anything, into such data. After all, such a slight difference could easily be the result of how the data was collected and such factors as the sample size.

A final point worth considering is that while the news about the story often includes commentary comparing men to women in a way that is unfavorable to men it is still the case that men only drive 20 more lost miles even with our reluctance to get directions. This, some might say, shows that men are better navigators. Of course, it would obviously be sexist to even suggest such a thing.

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Topless Women

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on August 27, 2010
model Loretta Blake Hoffman topless nude with ...
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CNN posted an iReport about national topless day. While there are some limits on when men can go topless, there are many more imposed on women. For example, I can legally run most places without wearing a shirt. A woman runner doing the same thing would risk being arrested for indecent exposure. This leads to the obvious matter of what justifies the difference in treatment.

Some people would point to religious reasons and claim that God does not want people seeing breasts in public. Of course, this cannot be true. Since God is supposed to be all powerful, it would be easy enough for him to prevent women from showing their breasts. He could simply impose selective blindness or make it so that breasts create a blurring effect when gazed upon by those who should not see them. So, it seems that God is not too worried about breasts.

Laying aside the religious foundation, it could be argued that the female breast is obscene and so awful that it should not be shown. However, this seems to be clearly false. While there are no doubt some vile breasts, I am confident that almost all men will agree that they are quite pleased to see breasts. In fact, people spend lots of money buying photos and videos of women with exposed breasts. So, it cannot be that people should be protected from the ugly horror of breasts.

It could be argued, to borrow from Islam, that men are so wicked, depraved and lacking in control that women would put themselves at great risk by exposing their breasts. Of course, this same argument has been used to argue against women showing any skin at all and yet violence against women does not seem to increase in proportion to an increase in the amount of skin displayed.  In fact, places where women are forced to cover the most seem to have the most serious problems with violence against women.

It might be argued that breasts are a private part, like the genitals, and hence should not be exposed in public. Of course, this merely pushes the question back (or lower) to the matter of why these parts should be covered up.

Perhaps a practical argument could be given. Since men are so interested in breasts, having women going around topless would create a potentially hazardous distraction. For example, men might crash their vehicles while staring at women’s breasts. Men might also make errors at work when their brains are focusing on the nipples and not, for example, the numbers.

Of course, the same sort of arguments were given in the past against woman showing skin, but people obviously adjusted to the changes. True, men stare at women, but they did so even when women were covered from ankle to neck in dresses.

One might also argue that going topless would lead to immoral behavior. After all, it might be contended, a woman could start by exposing her breasts and then on the slippery slope to wickedness.  This argument, of course, is nothing new. The same concerns were raised about ladies showing an ankle at the beach.

The argument might have some bite to it, though. After all, people can point to the various over-sexed reality shows, pornography, and bad sexual behavior as evidence that wicked behavior has increased as more skin has been exposed.

A

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Of course, a look at history shows that people have been rather consistently wicked through the centuries. Also, there is the question of whether such behavior is, in fact, immoral.

As a final argument, it could be argued that women would be presenting themselves as sexual objects by showing their breasts in public. This, as the feminists would argue, would be a bad thing. Of course, this would depend on why the women were taking this action. If they did so to be sexual objects for the lustful eyes of men, then perhaps this would be wrong. However, if women did so primarily for the same reasons men do (because it is cooler, to get a better tan, or to show off) then it would seem to be no more wrong for women to do so then it would be for men.

While I do think that many men would act like idiots if women were allowed to go topless in the same situations as men, this is failing on the part of those men and this should not be I also suspect that if this became the norm, men would return to our usually levels of idiotic behavior and an exposed breast would be no more extreme than an exposed ankle or leg was back in the day.

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The End of Men III

Posted in Business, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 30, 2010
The Feminine Mystique
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This blog concludes my discussion of Rosin’s essay “The End of Men.”
Rosin continues by noting that the shift is not just a matter of women dominating 13 of the 15 fastest growing job fields. As she points out, women are starting to dominate the realms of middle management and the professional fields.  Women still lag behind men in engineering and the sciences.
Rosin explains this by indicating that women are better educated, brighter, more conscientious and more stable than men.  These claims are, of course, factual claims. Women are currently dominating higher education, which gives them a clear advantage over men. It might also be true that women are better than men in these areas. If so, this would help explain the current plight of men and the excellent situation of women.
However, it is well worth considering this current situation in the light of the past. When men where dominant, it was often argued by feminists that this dominance was unjust and not a “natural dominance” based on on superior abilities. Crudely put, it was often argued that the patriarchy was unfairly excluding women and using various unfair means to keep men in dominant positions. Of course, men tended to argue that they held their dominant positions because of being superior in relevant ways. In short, the situation seems to have been exactly reversed: now that woman are dominate or expanding, this is explained (mostly by women) in terms of the superiority of women. It will be interesting to see if a movement comparable to feminism will arise in any significant way to argue against this alleged superiority. In any case, one would imagine that such critics will point to affirmative action programs and other means that have provided special support to women in education, sports, and business. As such, it seems that a case could be assembled that women have taken advantage of a system that works quite well in their favor-just as men did before them.
Rosin next presents a common lament: while woman are dominating higher education and moving ahead of men economically, these is still a male bastion that remains: the top of the job pyramid. It is interesting that female dominance in an area is often lauded as a good thing, while male dominance is still cast as a problem that remains to be fixed (presumably by female dominance).
Rosin concludes by considering the changing nature of leadership-or at least the changing perception of leadership. Tied into this is, naturally enough, the nature (or alleged nature) of each sex. Interestingly enough, female leadership is cast in terms that are stereotypically female: empathy, sensitivity, communication and so on. The difference is, of course, that these stereotypical traits are now presented as those that leaders should have. The traditional male qualities and leadership styles are, not surprisingly, generally cast as being negative in character. For example, much has been made of the role of men in the economic collapse.
Rosin does not, of course, explore these matters in depth. However, there are many important issues here that are well worth considering. One is whether men and women do, in fact, have distinct qualities. For example, are women actually more empathetic and better at communication? A second is whether such sex based qualities are better or worse in terms of leadership and job success. Right now, women seem to be doing better than men. But, the cause of this needs to be analyzed more. While some are tempted to attribute this to the qualities of women, it is wise to consider the feminist arguments of the past: greater success need not be the result of better qualities-it might be due to other factors, such as unfair advantages or external circumstances. Looking back, some thinkers wrote with great confidence about the superiority of men over women and saw no injustice in this. However, these views were later subject to criticism. Now, it seems to the turn for women-they get to write with confidence about the superiority of women and see no injustice in the disparity.
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The End of Men II

Posted in Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on June 29, 2010
Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina
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This blog continues my discussion of Rosin’s article “The End of Men.”

Rosin’s next step is to consider the nature of the current, “postindustrial” economy. She argues that this economy favors women. The basis for her case is that the male’s advantages in size and strength do not provide an edge in this new economy, rather social skills (such as communication) and the ability to “sit still and focus” are the dominant skills. While women do not have a monopoly on these traits, she does consider that these attributes might be held predominantly by women.

Interestingly enough, her view rests on the classic stereotypes: men are strong and woman are social. Of course, when women were regarded as the weaker sex because of this difference, feminists argued that these were unjust stereotypes. However, now that these traits are advantageous, they are lauded. One might infer that the rule is that stereotyping is acceptable, provided that it stereotypes men as being at a disadvantage and women as being superior. Naturally, the reverse of this is still to be regarded as unacceptable.

Those who are rather against stereotyping might point out that this approach is still stereotyping and be critical of such an approach. Also, those who were concerned about how women fared poorly in the past economies should now be concerned about the situation faced by men. If the plight of women in the past was a bad thing, then the comparable plight of men today should also be a bad thing. However, there seems to be an unfortunate tendency to laud the “fall of men” and there seems to be, at best, modest concern for the plight of men.

In fact, as Rosin points out, there is a tendency to blame men for the current woes. She cites Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti’s expressed desire to put an end to the  “age of testosterone.” While this probably involves the usual political rhetoric, comparable attacks on women would no doubt be seen as sexist and hateful. However, consistency requires that what is hateful for one sex should also be hateful when applied to the other.

Following the standard approach, Rosin notes that although women have made significant advances and dominate higher education, they still fall behind men in wages. However, she is quick to point out that this is changing and that the  “modern economy is becoming a place where women hold the cards.”

While Rosin might be right, it is also possible that her prediction is mistaken. While the male dominated aspects of the economy have slumped badly, it is risky to make predictions from this situation. After all, the economy might very well shift again during the course of the recovery. As such, the plight of men might not be as dire as she predicts. That said, the general trends do seem to favor women over men.

To be specific, the current prediction is that there are 15 jobs that are likely to experience the most growth. As Rosin notes, only two (janitor and computer engineer) are currently male dominated. The other 13 jobs are dominated by women and, ironically, consist of traditional female jobs such as nursing, child care and food preparation. As Rosin notes, while women have expanded into jobs traditionally held by men, the reverse has generally not occurred-at least not yet. Some, such as Jessica Grose, have claimed that men seem to be stuck in their roles and are largely unable to adapt to the changes.

Rosin and Grose seem to be fairly accurate in this point: while women face cultural obstacles when entering fields traditionally dominated by men, men seem to face even greater obstacles. One difference is that the obstacles men face seem to be internal. That is, men are not being excluded by external forces but by their own decisions not to enter such fields. For example, there have been significant attempts to recruit men into the field of nursing, but men seem to be largely reluctant to enter that field.

If this analysis is correct, then men largely have themselves to blame for this aspect of the situation. If men could adapt as women did and enter non-traditional roles, then this would counter (to some degree) the new gender gap. Making such a conceptual switch would require redefining what it is to be a man, much as women went through a conceptual change when they began entering male dominated fields.

Men might be able to do this and, in fact, might be forced to do so by the realities of the new economy. While it might be unmanly to work in childcare, it might be seen as less unmanly than being unemployed.

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The End of Men I

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 28, 2010

Hanna Rosin recently wrote a provocative article entitled “The End of Men” for the Atlantic. Being a philosopher and a man, I thought it would be interesting to critique the essay. Hence, the following critique.

Rosin begins her article discussing Ronald Ericsson, the biologist who developed a means to increase the likelihood that a specific sex could be selected by parents when using artificial means of reproduction.

Not surprisingly, some feminists were rather concerned about this method. As Rosin notes, Roberta Steinbacher expressed worries that this method would be used to ensure male dominance. However, this did not turn out to be the case. The data is that parents now select girls to boys at a 2 to 1 ratio. A newer method, called MicroSort, apparently is used to select girls 75% of the time, at least in clinical trials (which might conceivably influence the results).

Interesting enough, the feminists who were so concerned when they thought Ericsson’s methods would be used to perpetuate male dominance seem to be rather silent. Perhaps this is because they are less worried about such methods in general. Or perhaps it is because the current situation favors females over males. However, speculation about motives is not my primary concern here. Rather, it seems more important to consider if the earlier feminist arguments against using the methods to produce more males can be used today to argue against these methods being used to produce more females. If so and if the arguments from then are strong, then they could be pressed into service today. In any case, it does seem reasonable to be concerned when one sex seems to be getting a leg up over the other. Of even greater concern is the future social implications if the ratio of women to men changes significantly. While this might be beneficial in some ways, there could also be negative consequences that should be considered.

That said, the available selection methods do not work in “natural” reproduction-the ratio of males to females remains the same. Since most reproduction is “natural”, the impact on the population as a whole should be fairly minimal. However, the preferences for females is an interesting change. As Rosin points out, sons have been generally preferred over daughters throughout history.

However, as the title of her essay suggests, this has changed. As she points out, the world is less male dominated now and the preference for sons has diminished. In fact, she claims that the situation is now reversed: there is a preference now for daughters over sons.

Like other thinkers before her, she then turns to considering factors that might be contributing to this change. One option she considers is that women have an advantage in the current economic system.

As I have discussed in earlier blogs of my own, one reason for the change is that the economic meltdown damaged male-dominated industries more heavily than those dominated by women. This, of course, does not entail that women will thus continue to do better than men. After all, these industries might recover and thus swing things back towards the way they were. However, Rosin contends that this shift is not merely a a matter of a temporary economic disaster. Rather, she contends that there is a real and lasting change in the economy and one that is very much in favor of women. This is, of course, an empirical matter and will be settled by the passage of time.

In any case, Rosin is correct to point out that women have become the majority in higher education. For example, for every two men who earn a B.A. or B.S. there are three women. This, obviously enough, will translate into greater employment and economic opportunities for women. After all, education is generally key to getting a job and also a significant factor in the salary of jobs.

As I have pointed out in previous blogs and my book, it is interesting that the feminists who were concerned when men dominated education seem to be rather silent now that men are the minority. Of course, as I have argued before, the same arguments that feminists used in the past in this context can be dusted off and modified a bit to argue that we are in a situation of unjust inequality.

Interestingly, when Rosin was being interviewed on the Colbert Report, Colbert asked her if the affirmative action programs for women would be discontinued. I think this is an excellent question. After all, if women are dominated education and so on, there hardly seems to be any need to maintain programs that were intended (in theory)to bring about equality. After all, they have done that and, in fact, have helped swing the inequality the other way.

While it might be argued that the programs are still needed to keep things from sliding back, that would seem to be more of an excuse to keep a system that favors women in place. While closing these programs would probably result in some shift back towards men, women seem to have taken a commanding enough lead to make such programs unnecessary. In fact, there seems to now be a need for programs for men. If an argument is needed, it is easy enough to go back to when men dominated education and dig up the arguments the feminists used to argue for these very successful programs for women.

Sugar-Mamas

Posted in Relationships/Dating by Michael LaBossiere on May 17, 2010
Turret lathe operator machining parts for tran...
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Traditionally, there has been no stigma attached to a man marrying a woman who has less education and income. In fact, that is the way how it generally has been throughout history and women generally strove to “marry up.” The reverse, however, has not been true. A man whose wife makes more than him tends to bear a mark of shame for this failing as a man. After all, the sugar is supposed to be a daddy and not a mama.

However, things are changing. As of 2007, 22% of married women made more than their husbands. While this means that 78% of husbands make more, this is a significant change from 1970. Then, only 4% of women reported that they made more than their husbands. The trend seems to be continuing.

On the positive side, this can be taken as showing that society is becoming more equal in terms of gender. That is, women have more opportunities and better salaries than in the past. Given how expensive living is these days, this can be good for the husband.

On the negative side, part of the trend of women making more than their husbands can be attributed to the fact that the economic mess has hit traditional male jobs harder. As such, the wife might be making more because the husband is making less. However, even with this factored in, the trend can be seen more of the result of gain by women as opposed to a loss by men.

One reason why women are making more is that women are better educated than in the past. In fact, at the level of two and four year degrees, women are now the majority. This means that there are more marriages in which the wife is both better educated and better paid than her husband.

While women being better educated and better paid are good things, this does lead to concerns when it comes to relationships. While times have changed, attitudes tend to lag a bit behind. Women still seem to prefer to marry men whose education and income at least match their own. Male pride, of course, still moves men to prefer to be the breadwinner. As such, women are likely to find it more difficult to find a husband whose income and education match (or exceed) her own. If a woman marries a man with a lower education and income, then the likelihood of marital problems will increase. After all, there is the matter of male pride and the fact that money is often a source of conflict in marriages. While a disparity in education does not entail a disparity in intelligence, it can also be a source of problems.

For educated men who have high incomes, this situation might be a good thing. After all, they will be the smaller supply in a higher demand situation. It could also be a good thing for men who are willing to accept being the lower earner. After all, having a higher income partner means a better economic situation. As such, men who are able to adapt to the changing social conditions will be better off than those who cannot (or will not).

If the trend continues, we might see the rise of the sugar-mamas. This would certainly be an interesting reversal of roles, but perhaps not a very enlightened one.

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Male Studies

Posted in Politics, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on April 18, 2010
Female symbol. Created by Gustavb.

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When Women Studies emerged on college campuses it was argued that they were needed as a response to the lack of proper coverage of women in male dominated academic disciplines.

Recently, there has been an attempt to create an academic field of Male Studies. Given that existing academic disciplines provide considerable coverage of men it might be wondered why such studies are needed.

The best known proponent of Male Studies, Lionel Tiger (yes, that is his name),  claims that there is a need for Male Studies and this arises “from the notion that male and female organisms really are different” and there is an “enormous relation between . . . a person’s biology and their behavior.”

Since Men’s Studies already exists, it might also be wondered why there is a need for Male Studies. Tiger asserts that Men’s Studies focuses too much on the social construction of gender rather than on the biological aspects of what it is to be male.

While it is tempting to dismiss both Men’s Studies and Male Studies as mere political responses to Women’s Studies, the fields do seem to have at least some legitimacy as academic fields. After all, what it is to be a man and what impact being male has on men are interesting subjects and seem to be well worth considering.

However, there are at least two reasonable objections against both Men’s Studies and Male Studies.

First, there is the obvious fact that the subject matter of both fields already falls within existing academic disciplines. For example, the study of male biology clearly falls under the general field of biology. As such, there seems to be little compelling need to have a special discipline dedicated to what might be considered a rather limited focus.

Second, there is the practical concern regarding resources. At this time, many colleges and universities are suffering from serious budgetary problems. For example, my own department has lost a significant chunk  its budget. Fortunately, three people retired this year, thus allowing the budget cuts to be absorbed by not hiring replacements. Down the road at Florida State, they are also facing severe budget problems resulting in the firing (or not re-hiring) faculty and staff. Given this financial crisis, it seems to make little sense to expend limited resources on this field. Rather, it makes more sense to use the dwindling resources to preserve the core aspects of education.

Naturally enough, schools that have the budgetary surplus for Men’s Studies and Male Studies are not subject to this concern. Also, there might well be funding support available for these programs that is not available for retaining faculty in established disciplines like philosophy, biology, and physics. If so, then these programs might actually prove useful, if only to help retain (in another area) faculty and staff who would otherwise be out of work.

While I do believe that the subject matter itself is important and interesting, it seems that it would be rather adequately handled under existing disciplines. I think the same about Women’s Studies as well. This should not be taken as endorsing eliminating adequate and fair coverage of women in academic fields. Far from it-I think that women should receive due attention within the existing fields. The problem was (and is) not a lack of a special field for women (or men), but rather a tendency to overlook, ignore or marginalize women in academic fields. Given that men are now a minority in higher education (at least at the two year and bachelor levels) it might well be time to be concerned that men might someday start suffering from being overlooked or marginalized in academics. This, of course, should not be allowed to occur.

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