« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

November 24, 2008

Summers vs. Bublick

While reading Lawrence Summers’ essay on women in the sciences, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone with such a high standing could justify writing something so ignorant and so controversial. His point is clearly not taken well by many in society; why, may I ask, would he write this piece at risk of losing credibility and standing? After all, both men and women attend his prestigious University seeking a degree in the hard sciences.

After reading Bublick’s, article, however, the answer to this question became clearer. Bublick writes from an objective standpoint, arguing that Summers does not back up his argument with scientific fact. His evidence is based solely on his experiences. His vision of women’s standing in the hard sciences is skewed by his social hierarchy and access to power. As far as losing credibility and standing, he is unconcerned due to his lack of knowing that his argument is wrong.

On another note, Summers touches on women’s lack of tenures compared to men. He gives several reasons as to why he believes this occurs, one in which he disputes that women are primary caregivers and prefer not to work 80-hour weeks. Bublick responds to said argument by stating, “The problem with viewing women as mothers first and workers second is that it stereotypes them right out of significant jobs.? Because of this stereotype, women have less opportunity in the work force.

Summers does stereotype by referring to all women. While I do not agree with Summers, I also disagree with Bublick. I feel, and would hope, that each individual woman would do as she pleases, not based on stereotypes, but on her own desire. Many women would prefer to be primary caregivers, while others prefer to work. While it is not reasonable to think that all women act according to their own desires, I would hope that one day they will feel free to do so.

Blog 10

My initial reaction to Summers’ speech was that it’s pretty despicable for a university official, especially the president of such a well-respected university, to say that women aren’t cut out for certain fields. It seems right on par with claims like African-Americans are better at athletics because of the history of slavery, or Irish people are drunks, or Jews are greedy. There is no basis for that kind of reasoning, and it’s using false data to justify biological untruths. Like Fausto-Sterling points out, even studies that have been done to find a genetic link to sex-based knowledge have come back inconclusive. The results can be interpreted however the studier wants to read them, and those conclusions aren’t questioned when presented to the public. All data is moot if anyone bothers to challenge it, but when a prominent person in the research/ educational community makes a statement it seems concrete. I’m glad there was a public backlash and people were smart enough to know his perceptions are unfounded. Summers, in his apology speech, claimed that what he said was taken out of context and fueled by the media, but reading his speech in full proves that the implication was present throughout. Whether certain knowledges and abilities are predestined by genetics or not is up for the scientific community to debate, but I think there are more social influences that should be paid attention to. For instance, growing up I got an Easy Bake Oven and my brother got a Creepy Crawler set. Basically, we were both adding powder to water and cooking it with a light bulb, but I, the girl, was “baking’ and my brother, the boy, was doing “scientific experiments.? Girls and boys are raised to believe they have different inherent skills. I think that should be given equal importance and not studied in tandem with genetic ties to intelligence.

blog 10

Dear Lawrence Summers,
I am writing you in response to your speech that you had dealing with the issue of women and their lack of education when it comes to the science fields. You feel like women don’t have what it takes to be in these fields of work, but I feel like if the men on the hierarchy giving out these jobs gave the women applying a chance then they would succeed beyond measure. You did not use any resources for your speech and in a way you contradicted yourself by saying I really don’t mean this. I know that you are the president of the prestigious Harvard University and was most likely trying not to insult the women that attend or may have heard this speech but if you would have used some kind of evidence it may have been a bit more believable than outrageous. In a reading I am doing in my gender studies class it says that girls are pushed toward the science fields at a young age (Fausto-Sterling). You seemed to be a bit unsure about what you really want to say, I know that your main goal is to present the case that men are more intelligent than women but if this was true and there was some kind of evidence to guide it then it may not have been such a controversy around the argument. In another reading it states that “boys and girls learning together in the same classroom did not receive the same instruction,? (Fausto-Sterling). This to me means that the boys in the class get more instruction for the simple fact the girls are already assumed to know the work, so they get less help. I don’t know what your angle is and if you still believe your speech to be true but I don’t believe it to be true, and if it was true then , it’s no longer true. With Bush’s No Child Left Behind in action then I think that this should not be a debate but an open door of helping everyone achieve equal standards. Please take this into consideration.
Thank you
Violet Rose

Sorry this is late, I went to the Unity Dinner at Coffman and I thought it would be over a long time ago. Sorry.

Blog 10

I find it very easy to see why Mr. Summers would want to find a reason why there are very few women in science. It's a very natural thing to do for humans, and he was really just stating the plain hard facts. I do believe however that he could have gone about doing this in a different way. He could have, for instance, looked further into the so called 'definite' evidence that he thinks is proving why there are fewer women in science-based careers. The whole 'men and women's brains work differently' deal can't be proven for instance, no matter how you look at it, so it would have been nice if before he used any evidence to support a statement like his if he had examined all the evidence thoroughly, made sure it was provable, and then made sure that that evidence related directly to the topic at hand. Fausto-Sterling mentioned about the same thing, saying that summers can't rely on the tests that he was looking at, because there is a lot of subjectivity in those kinds of tests. Furthermore, he should have made sure to look at all aspects of the situation instead of blocking some details out, something he seemed to tend to do. For instance, Bublick mentioned how women have been very influential in science, a fact that summers seemed to ignore. There is not a single fact or statistic that can prove that women are worse at science or solving difficult and complex problems then men. The only real thing that is holding women back is oppression against them and the fact that it is kind of ingrained into our brains that women do no hold science-based jobs. Women are not in engineering, that is a mans job, and so women don't go for being in that kind of job. Therefore, the only way to remedy the situation is to make it okay for women to be in science, and then start possibly looking at why there may or may not be fewer women in science then men, because right now there is absolutely nothing that can prove that women are worse at thinking then men and that, other than a lack of women applying to be in a science-based career, there isn't anything that can specifically say why there are more men than women in scientific careers.


Dear Mr Lawrence Summers,
First of all, I think that we need to address your opinions on the intelligence of women. Men and women are in fact, different, but i think that you adressed this issue in a completely unprofessional way. Because you hold such a high position, you need to understand the way others perceive your opinions. Many may agree, and hopefully more will disagree. Women do have the potential to succeed in the areas of math and science, but you need to understand that women learn in different ways than men. Standardized tests are created by white men, so the questions are best answered by white men. Where are the women?
Next, we need to analyze the evidence you used in your speech. You used evidence of scientific methods such as statistics, but we need to remember the objective. Using evidence like women hate hard work, biological rationale (primary caregiver to children), and that women lack attributes. Each piece of proof you used may be true for some women, but not for many. Using these stereotypes is similar to assuming, and you know what happens when you assume. Even so, this should not in any way be used as evidence.
Fausto-Sterling brings perspective to these issues. She states that it really depends on what kind of evidence you use to back up your argument. Of course, you wouldn't include evidence that contradicts your overall argument, yet you still need to acknowledge each side of the argument.
i hope that you have done a little more research, and are now able to offer a little more intelligent resonse.

BLOG 10!

Mr. Summers,
I would not be surprised if women were going around throwing rocks at you. You made some very sexist statements about women, even though you tried to make them sound less harsh then the words themselves were. I expected you to be more open-minded since you yourself set an example for our society. Saying that men are more capable of succeeding in scientific fields than women and basing it on facts (such as your daughters playing with trucks and playing with them as dolls) is not very intelligent. Wouldn’t you agree? We could all draw conclusions such as that to make our hypothesis true. As Fausto-Sterling writes in ?A Quesiton of Genius? about “hypothesis testing? we only use the data that will proof our hypothesis, so the results don’t really matter. Bublick tells us that her boys took stuffed dogs and put them is strollers and of course she could make different conclusions from it.
I clearly don’t think that men are smarter than girls in sciences, but you should have taken in consideration that society influences how much a woman can achieve in sciences. She is assigned many roles, such as being a mother, cleaning and being inside the house. Bublick was one of the only few female in her math class, but she dropped the course even though she have could succeeded. The society has established that women are only good being housewives but you go and worse the problems even more. Because you and I know that in our society there is a greater value placed on sciences than the other fields, so if women are not good at sciences than they are not smart, or as smart as men.

blog 10

After reading Lawrence Summer’s position on women in the sciences, it is hard to understand why there continues to be a bias against women in jobs that require some actual intelligence to excel in. I agree with Bublick on the idea of the desire to pursue a career in the science or math fields, not me personally, but my best friend from Kindergarten has always had the drive and determination to become a research scientist. She loves science and math, it’s as simple as that. Now is Summer saying that because she is a woman, she can’t have a career that she might strive to have? I would bet that half the men out that pursuing the same career as she don’t have half the drive and determination that she has, yet the men would have a better chance of getting the job.

blog 10

Although Summer uses logic to justify the absence of women in the sciences, the way in which he goes about doing so is particularly disturbing to me. His tone in the article gives off the general idea that he does not think that anything he is saying will be offensive to women. To say that women do not “want? to put in 80 hours a week is not a fact, but merely his own opinion based off of the number of women in the field. He also adds to his theory about how women want to take care of their family or have children, and they are not fit or willing to do the amount of work a man can. It has been primarily a woman’s responsibility to be the caretaker of the family, especially when it comes to the children. This idea created a stereotype that all women should be stay at home moms. Women who want or have a serious desire to be in the field will strive to be there, it does not matter what kind of stereotypes society bears on them. When he claims he made an effort to think in “a very serious way? it shows how narrow minded he really is. Bublick is disturbed by this claim because he is one of the youngest men to become a professor at Harvard, which would make it more likely for him to have an open minded view of things. Instead he just comes up with examples that are not diverse in ways of thinking with his colleagues who think in the same way he does. I would like to know if Summers has ever just questioned the idea that although men have proved on standardized tests to be better at math and science than women, that there are still a good number of woman who are far more intelligent in that category as a good number of men. It is possible that women have different intellectual strengths. Even if there are not an equal amount of men and women in this field right now, a person in his position would be the perfect candidate to encourage women to become a larger part of it. For him to try to express the reasoning of which women are less fit to be in the Science and Engineering field is crazy because he is not a woman, and therefore cannot express exactly why women are not more prominent in the field. He also never considers where the world would be without the number of women (although it is smaller than the number of males) who contribute to scientific and engineering advances. As Bublick states, “Even in physics, where women’s participation is still relatively small, the world would be less in the absence of their contributions. It is unfortunate that the President of Harvard has not used his position to nurture their potential.?

blog ten

Mr Summers,
I am writing in response to your speech, which addressed the issue of the lack of women in science. After reading the speech and your apology, I do believe you realize what you said was wrong and disrespectful towards women. There are several ideas that you brought up in your speech that I would like to discuss in more detail with you.
Although you were speaking “unofficially? when you said the following, I believe your words should be taken seriously. First, when you discuss the idea that women do not want jobs that require 80 work weeks because women are more concerned with being mothers than working full time. The fact that you said this is absolutely appalling to me. Not only do I disagree with this statement, but Ellen Bublick also disagrees. Her argument uses the Supreme Court as evidence that the stereotypical gender roles are “endemic to the discrimination against women.? She also states that “the problem with viewing women as mothers first and workers second is that it sterotypes them right out of significant jobs? such as the ones you speak of in science and engineering.
You also cited intrinsic aptitude as a reason for the lack of women in science and engineering. Bublick also counters your speech by noting that research has shown that women are not merely “little men.? Women have the ability to learn just as well as men. Although our bodies and mindsets are different, the ability to learn is the same for both sexes in my eyes. If the ability is there, success will follow. However, the success for women may be in another field outside of engineering and science. Women choose to work in other fields- they do not choose to because aren’t smart enough to be an engineer.
“Unofficially speaking? as a female engineering student, I do have the aptitude to become an engineer. I do have the ability to succeed in a male dominated field. I am personally insulted by your speech, and I believe you got what you deserved.

Blog Ten

I feel that the opinions expressed by Summers regarding the lack of women holding top positions in the sciences at Harvard were based on dangerous and oversimplified assumptions that are pervasive in our society. When he asserted that women would hold these positions if they were in fact the best candidates, he was ignoring the limitations that women have in the process of getting to be the best candidate. Women aren’t always encouraged to work towards such careers and because of that the path to get there is substantially more treacherous. Also, women are forced to balance their career development with their responsibility towards family, which is not equally demanded of men. When he said that women do not want careers they are forced to think about eighty hours a week, he was indirectly citing this familial responsibility and reinforcing it. By considering the fact that women are often forced to choose between their careers and families to be inevitable and nonnegotiable, he is merely making it harder for women to be able to be committed to both kinds of work. Bublick put it well when she said, “The very fact that a workforce is still male-dominated, at a time when so many fields have integrated, may send women an accurate signal about the climate they should expect? (532). Women are not encouraged or enabled to fill these top positions in the sciences at Harvard, so why should they try to?

blog # 10

Mr. Summers,
I think it important to note my shock and disappointment when learning of the remarks you made when addressing the absence of women in the hard sciences. I would have thought that a person in such high position at such a prestigious institution such as Harvard would at least have the sense to censor oneself when talking about such a delicate topic such as this if only to protect the integrity of the institution. Not only that, but I had hoped that such a highly educated person would realize the flaws behind such logic as women’s brains lack the attributes needed to obtain the higher level positions in the hard sciences. As Bublick points out, you have at your disposal the best research and researchers in the nation and yet instead of using them as a source for your rationale, you use your own firsthand observations of your young daughter’s behavior. Does it not occur to you that, as Bublick points out, your conclusions about your daughters behavior may differ from the conclusions anyone else may draw from the same observations? It is not so much your views that upset me, although the belief that women are biologically wired to be good at liberal arts while men are biologically wired to be good at math and sciences does irritate me, but that you put such an obviously small amount of effort into figuring out an explanation to a problem or issue that I feel deserves much more attention.
Here is a concrete example of how men and women are treated differently in the work force and the president of the most strived for institution of learning in the nation attempts to explain it away with logic that resonates with a tone from the past. If anything this is a clear indicator that equality has not been reached, no matter how much we all hope to believe that it has been.

10. on the dot

To Summer,
On your statement you had made, gave me a big veiw how our socitey had made a very impact in a woman's life.
First, you had stated that women would not like to work 80 hours pre/week and instead wants to stay home with their kids, but to me I think you didn't think about those women who don't have kids, are single, and what if the husband don't work. I believe there are women out there who would want a to work full time also. Back in the days they used to say that, boys are always smarter than girls, but as of now and days it has changed. Women are smart in certain ways and also boys. Is not because boys are better in math and science fields that's why there are more boys going into that field. Grils are also, but there are always this dout about girls going into those field. As of what Fausto- Sterling say, girls at a young age had been introduce to things that are more nice clam things. While boys are introduce to things that are more harshy. Boys like to do things with their hands and girls like to do things that are for thinking. To think about it, girls changes too and some girls may like to do a lot of hands on and less thinking. Boys can also do the same too, where he may like to do more thinking than having to work with hands on things. I would like, for you Mr. Summer to look into things that are deeper and not just look at the top led. Rethink about women. They too have achievements too.

Blog ten

I cannot take a position that goes against or in favor of the arguments Summers made in his speech. Realistically, there is not enough concrete evidence that women’s brains work much differently than men’s, if they are different at all. As Fausto-Sterling points out, there is way too much subjectivity in the types of tests that would determine such a thing. An almost infinite number of factors influence the results of the studies that attempt to show differences between men and women. There are differences in race, class, background, sexuality, location, education, attitude, etc., all of which enter into academic abilities and functionality of the brain. So, I cannot say that Summers was right to give the reasons he did for there being a lack of women in high positions, but I cannot say that he was all wrong in his reasoning, either.

I can, however, say that he did not go about presenting his opinions in a very professional manner. As was made obvious by his word choice, he knew he was addressing a very controversial topic that many people would disagree with him on, and perhaps he should not have discussed it at all without substantial evidence to back it up. He used lots of flimsy evidence to display a difference between males and females, like the example of his daughters using trucks as dolls. This proves nothing and does not necessarily show an innate difference between boys and girls. Still, the fact that his daughters did this without being taught gives us something to think about. All individuals are different, but we do have to pay attention to trends that correlate with gender. So, while Summers did not bring any new knowledge to the table, he did raise some interesting points that should be considered.

Blog Ten

We can rag on Lawrence Summers for claiming that women make inferior engineers all we want, but his acknowledgment of the lack of women engineers is not off-base at all. Indeed, according to the Extraordinary Women Engineers Society website:
* Less than two percent of high school graduates will earn engineering degrees
* Colleges and universities are having difficulty recruiting women engineering students
* Just 20 percent of undergraduate engineering students are women
* The number of women engineers in the professional workforce amounts to less than ten percent

Clearly you cannot blame Lawrence Summers for attempting to hypothesize why women don't become engineers; though his message may be hurtful, it's the simple fact that women aren't choosing to become engineers that's the problem.

This is not to say that women cannot become engineers or scientists; indeed as Bublick states in her commentary on the Summer's conference, women have helped make many strides in expanding our knowledge of science and medical developments and I'm not going to deny that women aren't just as good at solving complex problems as men.

Nevertheless, I feel that both the Bublick and Fausto-Sterling pieces miss the mark in that they focus on the idea that because women are just as capable at engineering as men that it means there should be more efforts to allow women to be engineers because by stating that we should "allow" more women to be engineers undermines the fact that there is a deficit of women actually applying to be engineers according to the EWE Society. Quite simply, I feel that it's not a problem of womens' smarts, but a problem of numbers.

The idea that there is some vast conspiracy is preventing women from becoming scientist and engineers also seems to undermine the fact that schools do not care what your gender is when you choose what you major in; it's the person who makes the actual choice. In other words, it ridiculous to call the lack of women engineers a problem if it can't be back by actual reason which is simply this: until more women apply themselves to be in the scientific field, it will continue to be predominantly male.

Blog 10

Mr. Summers,

The NBER conference speech that you recited was not only very demeaning and hurtful to women; it was complied on stereotypical and cultural biases with no facts, evidence, or quotes to back up your statements. Just because you “THINK? women do not want to work 80 days does not automatically mean that you are correct. Many women work hard. This is apparent with all of the women design college students who are in their studio for 80 + hours every single week. Women can work just as long and hard as men. After all once women are done working at their 40 hour a week job they come home and “work? with the family, cleaning, and stress.
I also want to reiterate the fact that you are a Harvard President and have no statistics to back up ANY of your sexist claims. Bublick makes a wonderful point that even if you tried to back up your claims that women lack the brain power, you would not logically and firmly be able to prove your point. Bublick explains the fact that “until we have made more progress toward eliminating social barriers to women’s entry into these fields, we can have no idea how much, if any of the gap biology explains?. The gap Bublick refers to is the difference of women vs. men’s brains in science. Also, Fausto-Sterling stresses the ridiculousness and biased factors of standardized tests and statistics that explain that men are smarter and math and science more than women. I find it very difficult to believe that women are not as smart as men solely due to the fact that in most colleges women outnumber men (and not only in creative, communication fields). First, I would appreciate if you do not stereotype women into a category of dumb, lazy, childbearing, unimportant beings. Secondly, I think it is important as well to consider every individual no matter the race, class, gender they belong to.

November 23, 2008

It's a matter of opinion

Bublick agrees that Summers claims to have “made an effort to think in a very serious way? about women’s representation in science, yet even in the way he says he “made an effort? sounds like he has little interest in the area of women’s rights/equality/diversity. He doesn’t present any credible research. Much of what he says is unclear; he agrees that it’s unclear, but I guess that’s his point.

Like we discussed in class, anyone who writes credible articles and whatnot proves their position by picking and choosing sources that will back up their argument. If a person is able to argue something, there is going to be a source or two that can back up either side. So if Summers had provided us with reliable information, it would only have given critics more reason to argue against him. Therefore, I understand why Summers decided to give us his “best guess,? as opposed to a thoroughly-researched stance. “Everybody’s got an opinion; I don’t think anybody actually has a clue as to what the answer is (Summers).? However, if Summers had laid out the facts from a strictly objective, well-informed point-of-view, there would be less to critique.

Although Summers seems to believe he is simply laying out some areas that should be “looked at,? there are some underlying assumptions that he has with regards to men’s and women’s roles. He poses the question, “who wants to do high-powered intense work?? Clearly suggesting that men do and women (or at least mothers) don’t. Bublick responds to Summers by writing that Summers “assumes both that high-powered work requires 80-hour weeks, and that women, especially mothers, lack interest in this schedule.? I completely agree with Bublick on this one. I could argue that high-powered work may well be running a daycare 40 hours/week. Are men up for that?

Wake up, Mr. Summers!

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers:

I have comments in light of your remarks regarding women in science and engineering. I am amazed with the education and the resources afforded you in your position that you can take such a condescending and ill researched attitude towards an important topic as equity and equality for women in the fields science and engineering. You should be at the forefront of opening doors for women, helping to change attitudes by example, not contributing to the limitations of a patriarchal system not only within Harvard but also in society.

Even in your claim that you “made an effort to think in a very serious way? (Bublick) about this ever relevant subject of equal opportunities for women in all aspects of life including education and the workforce, you miss the opportunity to open the doors to fairness for everyone.

I find you fall short of broad thinking just in the fact of the narrow viewpoint you share in your examples for instance of about life on a kibbutz in Israel. You are far off the mark not to take in consideration that both men and women learn their male and female gendered roles as a “whole? person which includes societal, social, familial, and religious pressures, expectations, and limitations. These roles are not performed within a vacuum but are ever present within all aspects of a person’s life.

It is up to universities and the staff within them to broader their own thinking to make fairness and equality available for all students.

Please come down from your ivory tower; open your eyes to your ability to open doors for both women and men.

Blog 10

After reading the informal discussion and the transcript on women and their place in society in the workforce, I have to say that many of the things you said I disagreed with and were very blunt and not well thought of before you said them. It makes me take a step back and think about this when a man like you, who was the president of Harvard, could make such unthoughtful and untrue suggestions. As Bublick claims in her article, men and women are very different. Your theory of "different availability of aptitude" is just a way of saying that women are not cut out for the same positions or are not as intelligent in certain areas as men are. You claim that women are not as cut out for science and math as men are, this is a hurtful and insulting to women in general. One flaw I see is that you really only use your own opinion and views to make your statement and do not use any resources to support your claim. You say women don't want to work 80 hour work weeks, and that will interfere with the other things women have to do. You also say that men do want to commit to that long of work week while women do not. You don't take into mind that there are many brilliant women in those fields and many many women who are good in math and science. The lack of respect that is shown towards women in this country plays a role of how women get jobs and how they are looked at. You cannot make blunt statements without any proof and without any respect.


Larence Summers' speech concerning the relative lack of women in the higher rankings of hard sciences falls short by not employing some of the principles of hard science. Instead of using hard evidence from well set-up experiments, he uses anecdotal evidence and the results of studies manipulated by statistics. One such example is his claim that men have an inherent proclivity and adeptness for the sciences that women don't have. To support this, he uses observations he made with his own daughters and the assumption that this piece of conventional wisdom holds true. naturally, most would agree that the story of his daughters proves nothing for the situation he is addressing, but the conventional notion that women don't have the intrinsic capacity for being adept at the sciences deserves a closer look, something any scientifically minded person would do.

One such person is Anne Fausto-Sterling, who's 'a question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter Than Women' looks specifically at studies which attempt to quantify and compare the intellegence of men and women. In it, she adresses ow the method of satistics can cause certain conclusions to be drawn that aren't necessarily true. For example, while in a given case study, assuming it actually consists of a proper sample size and the test itself were objective, if one found that boys scored higher than girls on the math portion, one might quickly conclude that boys are better at math than girls. But looking at the result in a different light, if one was given the result of an individual's test, it would be impossible to tell if one was looking at the result of a boy or girl. It is impossible to differentiate the difference in scores based off of the inherent variablity within both men and women, and whatever difference *might* exist between men and women as a group. not to mention, as Fausto-Sterling does, that that very test cannot be objective anyway. For example, looking at the social conditions of the members of such a test group, Anne found that boys were often encouraged in science and math by their parents, while it was less likely that girls would be. Perhaps Summers' should look at and consider such circumstances, if only for a few minutes, instead of using statistics to validate conventional wisdom.

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Blog Ten

Lawrence Summers’ response and justification of diversity (of women) in the science and engineering workforce was, to say the least, flawed. In his speech, Summers argues that women hate hard work and women should be more focused on being the primary caregiver for children rather than their occupation. It is upsetting to me to know that this mindset is still being encouraged, especially by a representative of one of the most respected universities of the United States, in late 2005. He does not specifically come out and say that women belong in the house, but it is somewhat written between the lines of what he says. He also suggests that women lack the attributes, some of which were drive and brain power, to hold such a high powered job in the science field.

A major issue that was very apparent was his use of statistics. As laid out by Fausto-Sterling in “A Question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter than Women?? the use of statistics to prove the point that men’s brains are much better at understanding math and science than women’s brains is unreliable. As I have learned in statistics classes, the use of statistics can be twisted to support almost anything that one may want to prove. She also talks a lot about the flaws in the experimental set up of many of the famous studies done on this very topic. Sometimes, the subjects being tested do not take the test seriously, giving very flawed results. Fausto-Sterling also brings up the point that many children are taught and treated differently in the classroom depending on their gender. If there is a difference in brain power between genders, one could attribute it to the difference in teaching, not the difference between the brains of different genders. We came to the conclusion in discussion on Friday that test results are very subjective and are a product of one’s socioeconomic class (or the +5 system) more than anything. I am not sure if this is true, but my question is why this issue is really that important. Yes, learning different learning styles could be very beneficial for teachers and students. I believe that the preferred learning style depends more on the specific person rather than the gender identity that they follow. I think it would be more beneficial to test the individual rather than generalize between two different genders.

Week Ten Blog

Mr. Summers,
I must say, I am quite disappointed regarding your statement on the lack of women in the scientific field. I do understand why you believe women would not have time to further their educations in the math and science fields; however, that is not an excuse nor is it the root of the problem. Women do not have the same opportunities men do to learn about math and science. Fausto-Sterling supports this with her claim that, “boys and girls learning together in the same classroom did not receive the same instruction,? (Fausto-Sterling 57-58). Even if a woman was gifted in these areas the older she became, the more discouragement there was. For example, Bublick was very gifted in math but after her second semester in college she dropped it because she felt inferior. Everyone else in the class, aside from one woman and Bublick, were male and majors in math, science, and engineering. Although you make a great argument, you did not support his case well with resources or stating the other sides’ point of view. As a former president of Harvard University, I would like to think you’d recognize that correlation doesn’t imply causation, however, you failed to do so with your use of statistical evidence. You failed to mention the barriers against women today and rather blame it all on their inability to work eighty-hour weeks due to biological clocks. Next time you state an argument, please do us all a favor and research properly, noting every aspect of the issue.

Mr. summers

It astounds me that a man as well educated and of high social status as Lawrence Summers could make such demeaning remarks towards women. The statements he made almost seem ignorant for a president of such a prestigious institution. The fact that Mr. Summers’ statement on how a woman would never want to work an eighty hour week is biased and stereotypical. He is assuming that a woman would rather stay at home with her family than work that many hours. This assumption is a very stereotypical one. He also adds that men are smarter and better than women in math and science fields. While statistically this point may be right, it does not mean that men are more capable and able than women. There is not a certain distinction between men’s and women’s brains that makes one sex better than the other at one particular action. Furthermore, the data collected to “prove? this statistic is flawed. In many aptitude tests and various surveys, the actual collection of the data and tabulation is not always correct. The statistics rely on the assumption that the data collected is truthful and accurate. Anne Fausto-Sterling’s article “A Question of Genius? supports this fact that data collection can be sometimes skewed. Anne Fausto-Sterling also adds that aptitude tests and IQ tests are not a valid way to measure the difference between men and women because researchers look for the data to support their original hypothesis and can ignore other statistics. The fact that Mr. Summers had a multitude of sources and research at his fingertips but still didn’t find out more on the topic is disappointing.

Week Ten Blog

In response to Lawrence Summers, I would like to address his use of math and numbers to quantify difference found between men and women. He notes the "findings" that put men above women in standardized testing. He also references some “quick math? that he does in his head says that men’s IQ’s in these areas are several standard deviations above women when it comes to assessing people fit for tenured positions. Fausto-Sterling critically examines the way that people use statistics as a way to naturalize difference as if it is hard fact and unbiased or objective information. In fact, she argues (as do I) that often these kinds of statistical analyses are far from objective and always have a goal: to prove a hypothesis. If one wants to create data to fit a proposed hypothesis, one can skew information, leaving out certain variables or targeting a certain population that produces the desired results. Because people believe that numbers are uncontested truths, statistical data is often absorbed into our cultural understandings, perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing oppressive ideologies. This is also done when analyzing standardized testing. Most often these tests are created for one kind of person and does not reflect the various learning styles that kids adhere to or the different backgrounds/ personal experiences youth have. These tests then promote a +5 individual over others. Although I don’t necessarily think that Summers was trying to be oppressive (he may have just wanted to cover the university’s ass for a while), his examples only reinscribe patriarchal privilege that can be seen through educational and economic disparity.

blog 10 yo

Blog 10

Lawrence Summer’s speech was demeaning and unfounded towards women. But he is a product of his environment as much as anyone else is. The difference is that Summers is the president of Harvard, and, just like uncle Ben says: with great power comes great responsibility.
Summers’ choice to give a speech regarding women in the sciences shows that he understands at least some of the responsibility of holding the post of president at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, if not the world. If he rejected the offer, he would be ridiculed. But it was a conference that was supposed to be off the record, so he didn’t have to actually put a lot of work in to his research and argument. So he talked about what he knew. What his culture and daily life has taught him. Summers’ everyday life is within a patriarchal system that is positively designed for men of his race and class status. While I am not condoning his words or feelings, I am situating them from his standpoint.
Summers’ standpoint as president, though, he thoroughly does operate fully under. He has leading scholars in every field creating data that would, as we have seen in Fausto-Sterling’s articles on gender inequality, counter his ideologies, and make him do his homework before giving a speech on such a hot topic. He quite obviously did not attempt to use the work of Harvard scholars. As president, Summers should understand that his opinion is valued more because of his position, and attempt to have a slightly informed one.

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers,
As the president of a prestigious institution such as Harvard, I would have expected a much more intellectual and fair approach when discussing the issue of how women are represented in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions around the country. I know you sought to retract your evidently sexist statements but nonetheless, your thoughts still remained and the opinion you possessed is clearly something that needs to be addressed so that others will not also think that women are poorly represented in higher institutions by actions of their own free will. It was unfair that you said that women don’t want time consuming jobs because they are more preoccupied with being mothers.
This statement is much too broad and not true for all women. In fact some one is extremely ambitious in the work force and seeks to have full time jobs. You seem to have overlooked all the other individuals and families who are outside of the norm such as stay at home dads or single women or childless couples. The author Bublick, who counteracted your speech, gave evidence to further support how you made an unfair and narrow minded view of women. She pointed out that the stereotype of women just as stay at home moms rather than a capable working force is actually a detriment to why people think women are not developed for the work force. People need to understand that thinking of women as nothing other than mothers is a concept of the past. She basically said this view of women is at the core of why women are discriminated in the work force and higher institutions.
And another thing Mr. Summers that you stated which seemed completely preposterous is that women do not want to work their way into the workforce enough to be seen. How are you to know how much a women or even a man for that matter desires to be successful in their work or academic community? Bublick also counters your argument by looking to Kimberlee Shauman at UC-Davis, who said that desire to achieve doesn’t ensure their position within the community. Even though you may believe that desire correlates along with success, this is not true because a person can want something more than anything in the world and not be able to achieve it. So maybe next before you take such a sexist approach you will seek to understand modern society better and try to get to know that women are not incapable nor laid back about their work or academic careers.

Blog 10..letter to Mr. Summers

Dear Mr. Summers,
It concerns me of the way you think women in the working world, especially coming from you being the President of Harvard University, I would think you would be more intelligent with expressing your views.You mention women are not interested working the “tough? eighty-hour week due to our biological clocks ticking in our bodies, not taking to account the fact that society plays a big role in this and try to place women over men as far as education and in the working field. Ellen Bublick points out, “his failure to see that job structure and interest are a function of social variables, and from the reinforcing effect that Summers’ women-can’t-do discourse will have toward deepening the already strong rivers of bias against women in science? So , since society empowers men over women, you forgot the see how it may influence a woman’s career. It is also said that in the classroom, boys are better than girls in math by teachers spending more time teaching math to boys, women are already a little behind and are said to not be as good at math and sciences than a man. However, this is not true because there are many successful women who have careers in science and math today. Another thing you mentioned was that it should be obvious because if women were the right candidates for the job then they would get the positions which is another way of how you forget to realize that society already has these assumptions against women that initially make it hard for them to get these positions. I do not think you were conscious of how ignorant you sounded on this subject but just for future references, please think about what you say before you speak because it can come off as very offensive to women.

blog 10


First things first, the actual problem. You start out addressing the issue of representation of women in tenured positions in the sciences and engineering as just that, a problem. Recognizing this as a problem is important, and given that you described the topic of your talk as “diversifying?, it seemed natural that the agenda was going to be focused on what can be done to help solve this problem. However, this was not the focus of the discussion. Instead, the talk seemed focused on justifying the current way that things are. The example of the three “hypothesises? (and no, I don't think you were using the word 'hypotheis' correctly) comes to mind, where you presented three different potential causes of underrepresented women in the these fields. It wasn't until very late in your talk that you even addressed issues relating to what can be done to better the situation. Even then the talk digressed into relating to child care, a connection that makes no sense from a gender equality position.

Ignoring the notion that the talk didn't really address the problem, and instead focused heavily on “hypothesises? about why we are in the current situation, there are still countless issues that need to be considered about the logical progression of your arguemnts. Your first hypothesis relies on the assumption that women more proportionally don't want to commit to a workload (for example) of 80 hours weeks, and that men are more likely agree to such a task. Disproportional unmarried women and women without children seems to make sense, but it ignores the general sexists notions that women are primary child givers. It's an underlying problem, and relying on it as an assumption isn't going to help things. The second “hypothesis? relies on the assumption that overall IQ and mathematical/scientific ability can be quantified in the same way the height can. This is a very heavy concern of Fausto-Sterling. The long and the short, those statistics don't support enough of a difference to be scientific, and the ways in which they're tested are not something that we can call objective. There is too much in question to rely on them in this way.

We can't make accurate gains toward equality by making logical mistakes like basing our assumptions inequality in the first place, and we can't take statistics about very complicated matters (such as intelligence that many will attribute simply cannot be quantified) and start basing judgments about the “way things are? with offering serious scrutiny.

Blog 10

Dear President Lawrence Summers,
I wanted to take a few moments to express my concern with the talk you gave a few years back on the lack of women in professional science and engineering positions. First, I wanted to address your usage of statistics and standardized tests. You discuss how there are inherent differences in male and female intelligence and that certain attributes directly “correlate with being an aeronautical engineer at MIT or being a chemist at Berkeley?. However, isn’t it the first rule of statistics that statistical associations do not imply direct correlation or causation? Being an economist, I would have thought that you would have known better than to make such assumptions.
In relation to this, you imply that standardized tests in 12th graders show that men receive higher scores in math and science, and it is these people that possess certain attributes that lead them to afore mentioned positions at MIT or Berkeley. First of all, this assumption requires that all standardized tests are objective and a perfect indicator of academic performance. We know this is not true. All kids do not learn in the same way, nor are they taught in the same way. Socio-economic factors like race and class also may prevent kids from being able to take standardized tests or have the time and encouragement from their families to study properly for them. We are also neglecting that “boys and girls learning together in the same classroom do not receive the same instruction? (Fausto-Sterling 58). Traditionally, women have been pushed into fields such as nursing and teaching to fulfill women’s “primary? role as caretaker. Because of this social implication, many girls now internalize that they are not good at math, and therefore should not pursue further classes or professions in math. They also tend to receive more negative feedback from teachers and other adults than boys do (Fausto-Sterling 56). In order for things like statistics and standardized tests to really be an accurate measure of your question as to why women are lacking in science and engineering fields, the socially implicated gender bias that manipulates the data and the methods to obtain such data needs to be acknowledged and removed. As long as people like you and others in positions of white, male power are relying on statistics and tests to tell you why men and women are “different? and continue to set up gendered hierarchies, you can expect that your arrogant views will discourage more women from wanting to join you in higher positions of academia at places like Harvard. With people like you in power, however, I don’t blame them.
Emily Endert (Student, University of MN)

Blog 10

Blog 10

Mr. Summers,

As the former Secretary of Treasury for the United States of America and as the former President of Harvard University, I am stunned in your one-way view on women in the sciences. Not only is your evidence is flawed; your logic contradicts yourself and the world that surrounds us.

You mention women are not interested working the “tough? and “excoriating? eighty-hour week due to our biological clocks ticking in our bodies. Surprisingly, you left out one important aspect to a person’s influence—society. Good thing Ellen Bublick mentions this, she points out, “his failure to see that job structure and interest are a function of social variables, and from the reinforcing effect that Summers’ women-can’t-do discourse will have toward deepening the already strong rivers of bias against women in science? (Bublick 530). So Mr. Summers, since society plays such a role in an individual’s life, you forgot the see how it may influence a woman’s career. According to Anne Fausto-Sterling, she found, “boys and girls learning together in the same classroom did not receive the same instruction,? when it came to math and reading (Fausto-Sterling 57-8). Since teachers are reinforcing this “cultural? aspect that boys are better than girls in math by spending more time teaching math to boys, women don’t even have the opportunity to achieve tenure and high careers in the sciences. How could it be when biological when there have already been many successful women in the sciences? I guess it’s because they’re “little men.?

Another flaw of your many flaws is that you mention women are not as variable as men. Thus, you say women are not as intelligent as men in your sneaky manner. What is the definition of variability? What measures it? Oh yes, flawed statistical methods that were created by men and manipulated by men. As an economist Mr. Summers, you should know this, right? I mean, someone as educated as you should understand that. Also, what measures intelligence? Test scores? A rich daddy who got his too stupid of son into Harvard by donating a million dollar research grant? Oh yes, I’m sure because once again, Fausto-Sterling points out, “it is impossible to define intelligence? (Fausto-Sterling 20).

Mr. Summers, I hope you reevaluate where you stand in this society, as we are progressing. I’m sure our new Secretary of State would not approve of your ways since you are our “top economist.?

-Angry Student.

Letter to President Summers

Dear Mr. Summers,
I was very disappointed with you after reading your remarks at the NBER Conference. You had come to conclusions about gender that are based on 'facts' that are themselves gendered. I wonder how much long deliberation and serious thought that you actually gave to the issue of women's under-representation in the fields of science and mathematics. For myself, after reading your arguments and the critique of Ann Fausto-Sterling, I tend to agree more with Ms. Sterling. She claims that the testing of intelligence is not so straightforward as you agree but you still used the results from a gendered and biased test in your conclusions. "these tests are not a very good measure and are not highly predictive with the respect to people's ability... and that's absolutely right." Immediately after you discredited this data to be an inaccurate measure of the actual population you still use it's characteristics to make statements that are supposed to reflect the population. In Fausto-Sterling's paper 'A Question of Genius", she shows that not all studies on sexual differences and their statistical support are valid. Many have flaws in the data collection or the handling and grouping of that data. She stresses the fact that many of the study conclusions are false when given the raw data that the researchers collected. "All the papers reviewed by Maccoby and Jacklin used what is called 'hypothesis testing' to the study of sex differences. Using this approach, a researcher hypothesizes the existence, for instance, of a difference in verbal ability between boys and girls." after this the tests are given, data presented and conclusions are made on that data. Sterling says in her article that this kind of testing is not always accurate because the researchers will almost always see the same results that they were looking for when they wrote their hypothesis. Given all of the articles that have been published about the IQ test and its gendered status I am surprised that your arguments included it and many other gendered tests in your conclusions about women and mathematics. I hope since these comments you have made an honest search for more viewpoints on this subject because your own observations are not sufficiently accurate to make conclusions upon.

Week Ten Blog

My problem with this speech began in the first paragraph where summers is speaking about the issue of women's representation in tenured positions and he states, "but because it's the only one of these problems that I've made an effort to think in a very serious way about." He basically discredits himself by saying this is the only area he's taken any measure to research and take seriously. Bublick also questions his credibility based on the fact that he uses his daughters as an example, a trip, and conversations with other men in positions similar to his. He is the president of Harvard and his research should be a little more in depth than just what he has experienced. He should be speaking to women who are qualified for those higher positions but aren't actually in those positions as to why they weren't able or don't want to work in those positions.

Summers makes the arguement that women don't want these positions because they are 80 hour per week jobs. He says they aren't able to because of family issues etc. But he also talks about how the university does not provide child care. No daycare is going to provide 80 hours of child care every week. So yes the woman could probably afford it, but it still wouldn't work. So unless her husband is willing to stay home and take care of the kids she really can't take that job. One person listening to the speech brings up the point that white men aren't the leaders in science and mathematics but immigrants are. Summers responds by saying, "fact is that people want control of their lifestyles, people want flexibility, they don't want to do it." That is true, and if the men don't even want to do it, why would the woman who has more responsibilities at home? We read other articles that stated women work many more hours than men if you include the work done at home. So basically the only way a woman can work these jobs is if she's single or her husband is willing to stay home and watch the children, and that isn't common.

Another aspect of Summers speech was that men are better than women in the math and science fields. I think he's correct in saying that, but not because women aren't able, but because they haven't been taught in the same respect men have. Bublick talks about a music teacher named Shinichi Suzuki who stated, "talent is not inborn but nurtured." A father isn't likely to take his daughter with him to go fix a car, but those types of questions are used on the ACT or SAT. In that situation a man would be more likely to answer correctly. But had the woman been taught from a young age about similar things, she would also know. Bublick also talks about a math class she took in college and there was only one other woman besides herself. Had there been more women she would have been less intimidated and stayed. I believe the more women that are in the field, the more there are likely to follow.

Week Ten Blog

Two problems, out of the many, I saw with Lawrence Summers' position on women in the sciences and also the tenure issue were lack of research and effort and constant contradiction. Even though Summers was "speaking unofficially," he still has to be accountable for the things he says and keep in mind his position in academia and society in general. To many people he is, or at least was, highly respected and thought of as very intelligent, so therefore his opinions and remarks are usually taken into great consideration and treated as important. To me he ruined this respect, at least on the subject, by failing to use all the knowledge at hand, instead using examples that can't be backed up by previous research, and by constantly contradicting his own remarks and refusing to actually take a side or completely support anything he said. It is one thing to try to make your negative comments less harsh, but its another when you go back and forth so much that you aren't actually saying anything or even making a point. It would be like someone asking if you liked the food and instead of giving a yes or a no you responded with, "Well I wasn't the best, but I thought it was good and I'm sure that the cook did his/her best, but better luck next time." People weren’t asking him to speak about this subject so that they could listen to their own thoughts out loud. They wanted a researched analysis, a solution, or at least an educated, researched hypothesis at best.
Aside from Summers' contradictory style, I mentioned his lack of research, which I think Bublick does a great job criticizing. Bublick criticizes Summers' use of the example of his daughters and his truck observation. “Can a woman fail to receive her Ph.D. in physics - because Summers' two-year-old daughters once played with trucks in a way that made them seem like dolls - ?? She even comes back with a great counter-example about her sons making trains into dolls and escorting stuffed dogs around in strollers. How can one even begin to use logic like little girls appearing to use trucks instead as dolls as having any effect or relationship for that matter with having the ability or right to become tenured in fields of math and science, especially when it could only be the case of two little girls out of the many in the world given trucks to play with? To me this just gives Harvard a bad name, thinking about the kinds of things Lawrence Summers was capable or saying and using and then the things he chose to say.
These were just two problems that Summers could have easily avoided, making his arguments and opinions that much more valid, no matter what they actually were. This doesn’t even mention the other claims he makes about women’s intrinsic aptitude, desire to achieve, or their priorities involving the decision between their motherly duties and their work outside the home, not even considering the fact that for a lot of women this decision doesn’t even apply and for others there is a balance that can be made.

Week Ten Blog

Lawrence H. Summers’ “Remarks at NBER conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce? was a reading the struck me as astonishing that a person of such high ranking could be even “allowed? to say any of the statements and comments that he did. His response is flawed in many aspects and is very poorly stated in the first place because he speaks in such an informal way. Although he explains at the beginning of his “speech? (if it can even be counted as a speech) that he will be speaking unofficially that gives him no right to disregard his status and position as a Harvard President nor does it give him the right to take a standpoint and argue it without having any substantial facts, research or examples. I find it very hard to believe that he took the time to think about this issue “in a very serious way? (LHS). Even at the beginning of his speech he already puts down women and the issue as a whole by stating that he will be discussing “the issue of women’s representation in tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions, not because that’s necessarily the most important problem or the most interesting problem, but because it’s the only one of these problems that I’ve made an effort to think in a very serious way about? (LWS). This to me gives no point to his speech at all because he basically states that it’s not important but he is too lazy to talk about anything else. This is the biggest flaw to his whole speech because why would anyone want to even continue listening or reading about what he has to say if it’s all going to be worthless.

Summers assumption that women inevitably lack aptitude in science is one of the many problems in his speech. I don’t really even understand how he can be arguing this in the first place when there is no evidence or support of this statement and probably never will be. There is no real way to test men and women and see who is really smarter out of the two or even measure somehow if women do really lack abilities in the sciences. Even Bublick would agree with this flawed argument. She had commented at the beginning of her response that there have been studies that show “that women may not simply be little men? and that we are different. She also has other evidence later on in her response responding to the point Summers makes about how women lack talent in science and math. In her opinion having a gift or ability to do something such as math and science in this case, comes from practice and being educated in that area. She provides an example for her response by stating that “the founder of the most successful method of music education for young children, Shinichi Suzuki, based his educational philosophy on the principle that ‘talent is not inborn but nurtured’? (Bublick).

I feel that because of the way Summers decided to go about his speech and the evidence and points he was trying to get across were so poorly stated, it negatively backfired on him. As Bublick had stated in her response, problems stem from Summers speech in the fact that he reinforces the “women-can’t-do discourse? which will have a negative effect in “deepening the already strong rivers of bias against women in science? (Bublick).

Week Ten Blog

I believe that Lawrence Summers has an extremely skewed point of view, according to Summers, more males enter math and science fields because they are genetically better in those fields than girls. Summers never takes into account that there are many different kinds of intelligence and that there is no concrete facts that support his theory. Fausto – Sterling also used statistics in her article from many well known scientist, psychologist and doctors. Many of their findings did show that males excel in math and science compared to girls. One of the only things that I took away from my math classes was that correlation does not equal causation. There are so many factors that can contribute to their outcomes; also stats can be influenced in one direction over the other. With these false facts people are starting to believe that males are inherently better than females. According to Fausto- Sterling, girls at young ages are encouraged to go towards the social science areas. Instead of math books and science set they are given crayons by parents. Boys are more supported in the math and science fields compared to girls; girls do not have the chance to excel because of the factors holding them back. Summers bases his argument on absurd stats and leaves out so many factors. I am not great at math, but looking at his comments about standard deviation and norms its mind boggling how wrong they are, and how he came to his conclusions is upsetting. He also had the audacity to say that women require more than men, that women would want flexibility to care for their children or they lack the judgment in comparison to their male colleagues. There is no proof what so ever to support his theories. Summers and Fausto-Sterling also bring up the issue of test scores, males tend to have higher scores than females, according to Fausto-Sterling those who come up with these stats take raw data and shape it into the desired out come. Most people do not realize that correlation does not equal causation and that stats do not tell the whole story.

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers,

I was extremely disappointed when I read your speech addressing the lack of women in scientific fields. As an Institute of Technology female student, I understand that there are not as many women in science as men, but that is not what upset me about your speech. I feel that your attempt to explain this was flawed and insulting to women. Your argument depended largely on your own opinion and interpretation, and as the President of Harvard, your words carry a heavy weight with them.

Part of the problem with your reasoning, as I said, is that it is based on your own individual interpretation, and you did not use reliable resources to make your case. As one of the criticisms of your speech by Bublick points out, your individual interpretation of your daughters coddling their trucks is not grounds for you to determine why women are not receiving tenured positions. Someone else’s interpretation could have been different, and it was an individual circumstance – unfortunately not enough to form grounds for cold, hard fact.

Fausto-Sterling also addresses the problem with facts and interpretation. Stats and information surrounding genders can be easily manipulated to form the basis for one argument or another, and these arguments, including yours, fail to take into account the social situations of the people these stats surround. For example, Fausto-Sterling reports that girls and boys have the same math levels until about seventh grade. I do not believe that girls suddenly are unable to understand after seventh grade, considering I’m taking calc. four my freshman year in college. Instead, I believe that encouragement and support at home and at school play a large role in this drop off.

You could easily argue that that is also just my opinion, but the fact is that there are considerable barriers against women still existing today, and you missed an opportunity to address them. Instead, you brushed them off and said it was because we didn’t want jobs that we think about for eighty hours a week. Maybe that’s because we’re too busy thinking about your stupid remarks.

I don’t think that you need to apologize for the lack of women in the scientific fields. I simply wish that you could have provided a more enlightening explanation, instead of one that was based off of patriarchy and your own false opinions.

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers,

I am writing to you on behalf of your speech at the NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce. While I agree that the biological order of men and women have an impact on how we as individuals think and perceive different material, I disagree with your standpoint that men are "smarter" in the mathematical and scientific fields.

As stated in Ellen M. Bublick's "Summers' Personal As Political: Reasoning Without Effort From Stereotypes," "the problems stem from Summers' unfounded assumption that women inevitably lack aptitude in science, from his failure to see that job structure and interest are a function of a social variables, and from the reinforing effect that Summers' women-can't-do discourse will have toward deepening the already strong rivers of bias against women in science, " you believe that women do not "bring as much to the table" as men do when it comes to science, but yet you need to realize that 'job structure and interest are a function of social variables' dealing with the interaction of men and women (529). To continue with your opinion of women lacking in science and math, do you believe that women choose to not take these courses because men 'overrule' these areas? Bublick also questioned, "if women in their twenties drop out of math and science courses, does it prove that they could not have made it had they further pursued these courses?" (531). Did you ever consider that math and sciences courses may not be needed for women depending on what occupation they choose to pursue? Why should they need to take these courses if they are not needed? Bublick also explains that in school math was her favorite subject, she received AP credit for her achievements in it, and in a semester of college, she filled her only elective with a math course because she enjoyed it so much (531). In my opinion, not as women have the desire to go into course that involve mathematics, engineering and sciences. Men have more of a desire for mechanics and occupations related to it, so they are required to take more math and science courses. This does not mean that women do not enjoy these courses, but they may not apply to their occupation. For the women that want to pursue a job involving sciences and mathematics, they may be part of the few females in their classes, but this does not mean that they do not deserve to be there.

All in all, it comes down to choice. Depending on what the individual wants to pursue as their occupation, this will determine what courses they need to take. Just because men tend to have more of an interest with occupations in sciences and mathematics, does not mean that women are not able to accomplish these courses. As society has proven, for example, many women are pursuing careers in the medical field, so where does that leave women with the sciences and mathematics? It sure seems to me that they are putting in their effort and proving that they can be just as good as men can in the work force.

Thank you for your time.

Blog 10

President Summers,
As a powerful and intelligent man, you hold great influence over this nation, you have the nation's ear. That's especially why I found your statement regarding the lack of women in science so upsetting. Though your words were well intentioned and as you felt, well founded, they were interpreted as a clear sexist message. You say its not anyone's fault that women appear in so few numbers in the sciences at Harvard, but your words today will not encourage any women to apply to such an enviroment where they feel as if their work may be discounted to do the fact you do not believe its in their natural inclination. Women are not as present in the sciences, not due to any biological condition, they aren't there because the majority of their male collegues may parrot the beliefs you expressed in your address. By expressing these thoughts, you've further made the laboratory and math hall a formidable place for a women, a place they do not feel welcome or wanted. As pointed out by Bublick, you had every resource available to create a strong case for your arguement using research and data, yet you chose to quote your own personal experience to explain a problem that affects hundreds of people. Experience is static, its interpreted and felt in an unfathomable number of different ways. Though you hold a high academic title, your experience is not superior or elite to any other. As for your observation with your daughters, perhaps you should look to the 'soft' sciences to explain children's behavior and psychology, obviously something you have no understanding of. Children mimic behavior of adults around them, since your daughters most likely spend a great deal of time with their mother, naturally they will mimic behaviors they see her complete. If your daughters cannot make the connection between the toy truck and the role of a real truck, how can they produce the 'manly' behaviors with it. Children do what they know, they know how their mother cares for them. Your speech only made you look foolish.
Steffanie Bezruki
a concerned female university student with a science major

Blog Ten

Reading Summers’ article I realized and understand why he would believe that women would not have the time to go further into their education in the science and math. However, it is only one of the possible reasons of why women tend not to finish or go further into their education under these subjects as Bublick has pointed out. She argues that it could also be the motivation to go into these subjects and to go further. She had pointed out how education could also play in the part of school swaying the subject of science and math towards the boys and not really the girls. Sterling also points that parents also did the same thing; “among the precocious students the boys owned more books and equipment related to math and science, while some of the girls’ parents were so uninterested in their daughters’ precocity that they didn’t even plan to send them to college.?
So what do these things tells us. It tells us that the reason for there being so little of women representatives in the math and science area is because of motivation. It is not because they do not want to work an eighty hour shift as Summers believe it to be and it is not because women are not as great in math and science as the boys are. Also it is not only because they are mothers. Summers had based his belief or his guesses, as he calls them, on unreliable statistics. It did not fully explain why there were not a lot of women in the science and math studies. It only tells us the difference of men and women. If Summers had actually done surveys and research on why women did not complete or did not go into math he could have had a better reason as to why many women did not study science and math. For an example he could give a list of reasons that women may not have taken these subjects as their major. If his research show that the most reason to why women did not take science and math as a major was because of his guesses then he would be right. However, because many women are offended it means otherwise. So if Summers only had done research and had actually looked for the truth instead of guessing then he could do what he said he wanted to do and that was to promote more women into the area of science and math. He would have found a solution with that research. He would have realized that motivation was one of the reason why women may not have gone into science and math majors.

Week Ten

To begin with the most basic and wide reaching of the problems with Lawrence Summer's speech, one can point out, as does Fausto-Sterling in her book Myths of Gender, that we do not possess a reliable way of quantifying intelligence. Indeed, many have argued that quantifying intelligence at all is not practical, and even that it is not possible. Summers is not actually specific in saying that he is questioning women's intelligence, but his theory of "different availability of aptitude" is specific enough, especially when he cites different methods of testing that show women to lack the ability to perform in high-end careers. We have known for many decades that tests of intelligence overwhelmingly measure socioeconomic status rather than intelligence. In addition to that bit of knowledge, we know that the math gap between boys and girls has been steadily closing for decades as well. Summers completely ignores the fact that scientific knowledge and studies are also political. "Objective" knowledge is an illusion that he gladly falls victim to; his lack of will to examine the way in which knowledge is also a product of culture, history, geographic location, and capitalism (and thus patriarchy) is a particularly repulsive trait to see in an "educated" man.

Going back to Summer's first "hypothesis" (I put the word in quotes because a hypothesis is supposed to be an educated guess, not the ramblings of a man oblivious to his own priviledges) that women do not want "80 hour a week jobs," is highly problematic. On the most basic of levels, why are we asking anyone to work 80 hours a week? In France, it is illegal to work over 30 hours a week. This should say something about the backwardness of our own country's expectations of its workers. If academia were really a place that had a goal of making itself accessable and respectful of everyone's potential to produce knowledge, we wouldn't be making it so inaccessable for most people. Why does Summers have so much trouble realizing that white men have more time, more money, and less responsability typically than other demographics? That stated, it should be fairly obvious why positions of higher worth and status are dripping with an excess of rich white men. He fails to question why the meanings of marriage, children, and work are so dramatically different for men and women. Why have men consistently failed to take responsability for their own children? Or their own house? Going along the lines of women not wanting "80 hour a week jobs," he fails to address the fact that the average woman already works an extra month of 24 hour days a year than an average man does.

Finally, Summer's dismissal of the real discrimination women face every day in every realm of life truly reveals the blind and carefree state of the man at the top of the social food chain. His insistence on finding answers in biological predispositions harkens back to the time of phrenology, 19th century studies of the size people's skulls, and so forth. Personally, I don't care how "nice" a person he seems to be. Lawrence Summers is a dangerous man. The white male president of Harvard is someone people look up to, reference in their own arguments, and take advice from - may even form policies based on his "expert" opinion.

blog entry 10 for chole005

What I really wondered about while reading what Lawrence Summers and his ideas about gender roles and how they dictate a man or woman's place in society was this: why are these studies done in the first place? At best, if no concrete evidence is found that links a person's sex to their intelligence, it is a waste of time and resources to do so. At worst, as was expressed by Bublick and Fausto-Sterling, even the slightest correlation can be grossly misused by someone who is hell-bent on finding proof of their sexist convictions. This 'evidence' can and has been used to pigeon hole men and women, specifically boys and girls into roles that don't best suit their abilities.

Both Bublick and Fausto-Sterling give extensive examples of some of the flaws in Summers' argument, but in the interest of making an objective argument, and explain counter examples as well as the errors in many of the assumptions he makes. However, I was disappointed that they did not address the effects that this way of thinking actually have on society (perhaps they did in other works) and why making vast generalizations about segments of society can be harmful. After all, it seems to me that this concern is what motivates them to pour their efforts into making a counterpoint to Summers' statements.


Dear Summers:
I have read both the transcript of your informal talk on women in the workforce, and the resulting apology you entered. I recognize the errors you made, and I believe that you genuinely recognize them, too. Still, as a white, female college student, I would like to point out which of your statements jumped off the page for me, and why.

First of all, you cited variabilities in intrinsic aptitude as a reason for women’s lack of stance in the science and engineering workforce. Interestingly, as Ellen Bublick suggested in her response to your speech, research has shown that women are not simply “little men?; we are very different. However, variabilities in success according to cultural codes (i.e. rank within a university) does not warrant a claim that women’s (lack of) natural aptitude is to blame. In confessing your belief on this subject, you have perpetuated the “women-can’t-do? discourse that I have personally tried very hard throughout my life to diminish. I’m frustrated that someone with your stature made such a damaging claim, seeing as your words represent the body of instruction at Harvard.

Secondly, you cited women’s lack of achievement desire as a reason for our seemingly insignificant presence within the academic community. Bublick counters your argument with the work of Kimberlee Shauman at UC-Davis, saying that desire to achieve doesn’t necessarily inform one’s position within the community. This means that one’s stance in academia is not directly caused by one’s desire to achieve, like you implied. Your statement really drives home the idea that objectivity doesn’t exist, even when it claims to exist.

I’m frustrated by your statements, but also thankful. Your statements galvanized all sorts of passionate discussion in my gender studies class, and I think we’re all the better for it.

Keep it real,

November 22, 2008

Week Ten

In Response to Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers' January of 2005 speech at NBER's conference on diversity was troubling to say the least. He begins by stating that he is "speaking unofficially," but perhaps what Mr. Summers forgot was that "speaking unofficially" does not mean speaking as if you are NOT the president of Harvard. That being said, Mr. Summers' remarks seem far from presidential. Even within his first paragraph, Summers has already made comments that impair his argument and are frankly, unnecessary. He states that the lack of women in tenure positions is neither the "most important problem or the most interesting problem." He goes on to say, but even though it is not an important or interesting problem, he is willing to take it into "serious" consideration, because after all he is just that nice of a guy...looking out for the little guy (or in this case woman.)
Summers also states that there is underrepresentation everywhere. He then uses the examples of Catholics in investment banking, white guys playing in the NBA, or even Jews in farming. It seems that the president of Harvard, lord of all the country's great minds and academics, would have had a colleague or fellow scholar nearby to say, "dude, those are the worst examples you could pick." I guess with all those departments and research at his fingertips, Summers just wanted to do something crazy for once. And this lack of research is a problem that Summers has multiple times in his speech. In Bublick's response, she too criticizes Summers use of his own daughters as examples. (Examples that are backed by no academic research.) She states, "Can a woman fail to receive her Ph.D. in physics...because Summers' two-year-old daughters once played with trucks in a way that made them seem like dolls...?" Bublick picks apart Summers' daughter example by making the point that her sons did this and anecdotes like this can be interpreted many ways, especially with no research or studies behind them.
In the end it is appalling what Summers says, even if what he means is not appalling, what he says sure is. Summers spoke, not as the president of Harvard, not as someone who has been in academia long enough to know that providing evidence to a claim is important, and certainly not someone who has "made an effort to think in a very serious way."

November 21, 2008

Blog Ten Assignment Instructions

Blog Ten

This week, we read former Harvard University President, Lawrence Summer’s, position on women in the sciences. On Monday, you were apt to point out on your own where his logic for justifying the absence of women in the hard sciences was flawed. Since then, you read two very different criticisms of the assumptions present in Summer’s reasoning- one that clearly takes Summers to task on the insubstantiality of his immediate claims and the other that problematizes the reliance we, as a culture, have on supposed “natural? data. Using examples from Bublick or Fausto-Sterling, write your own response to Summers. You have the freedom to countenance his claims or deny them, but either way, you will want to make sure to reference at least one of the two readings.

November 20, 2008

Blog Nine

Mr. President:
I would like to start by thanking you for taking an interest in what I feel is a very important issue plaguing society today. As you may know, there is a common misconception that mothers of low socioeconomic standing, that is below the poverty line, who cannot provide the typical home environment for their children are “bad? mothers. They are punished by the system for aspects of their lives that are out of their control and often this very system worsens these aspects. For example, in Annette Appell’s piece “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their children? in many cases it seems that it is the institution “DCFS? which works to help such children but only makes the situations worse. They set impossible goals for the mothers, which, if they work towards fulfilling actually make them worse mothers because they do not have time to see their children. The many goals set for the women often contradict each other, for if she is busy attempting to complete one of them she doesn’t have the time or resources to complete the others and then the system deems that she is still a “bad? mother.
I believe a new system needs to be implemented to help these women for life is not as some believe it; it is not always possible to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps?. The system claims to be trying to protect the fetus, help the fetus, yet once the baby emerges from the womb there are no programs set in place to ensure the child has a “good? life. There needs to be a program that actually succeeds in improving the quality of these children and their mother’s lives by helping the mother and child stay together while also helping them rise above the poverty line. Expectations of what can be expected from the mother need to be realistic and the system needs to help the mother instead of criminalizing her. A whole new way of thinking about the situation is needed with caseworkers who are not stretched so thin that they don’t have time to care about the people they are working with. Our current system has never worked, currently isn’t working, and if left unchanged will never begin to work. What we must remember as our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for mother and child with the utmost importance being placed on keeping them together.

Note to instructor: Just a reminder of our email correspondence okay-ing this being late.

November 17, 2008

Blog Nine

Dear President Elect Barack Obama,
First and foremost, congratulations on your recent victory as President. It is common knowledge that our country is having economical issues. I would like to focus this letter in particular, on single mothers below the poverty line. It is important for us all to realize that these mothers do not get this way because they are “lazy? and choose to be this way. Children put many limits on jobs in reguards to hours, travel, education, and transportation. While it may seem like a simple task, in most cases it is not as easy as walking out the door and finding a respectable job. Many of these mothers do not live in nice neighborhoods and therefore, do not have the means and education to leave that area and get hired at a nice working facility.
Because it is so difficult for these mothers to get decent jobs, I propose we make childcare costs and things like bus passes more affordable for working mothers after they’re backgrounds have been checked. According to Newman, “the working poor are the least likely of all income groups to receive assistance with childcare costs? (Newman 275). If these mothers could receive more assistance with things like childcare and transportation they would have better chances to get jobs because their children would be taken care of more often and things would be more affordable. Hopefully this plan will help keep those below the poverty line on the uprising.

Blog 9: i got into this a little too much...

Mr. President,

I would like to start off this letter by congratulating you on your election victory, and let you know that my thoughts are with you during this time when you will be expected to reverse so many of the problems we have acquired over the past eight years and beyond. As you begin to establish ideas for new policies and readjustments within our social systems, I encourage you to think about issues affecting mothers across this country. In particular, working class mothers. While in the past these women have faced much oppression in the forms of (to list a few) economic disparity, unfair divisions of labor which force them to both work in and out of the house without recognition, decreased access to educational opportunities, unaffordable health care and child care for their families, and an unjustifiable sexist and racist stigmatization of “lazy and bad motherhood? enacted by welfare reform and other public policy disasters, I demand that you bring these issues to the forefront of your decision making to enable real, positive change.

If we are to go forward in this society that places so much weight on the reproductive capabilities of women, we must also recognize the unfair demands that our culture places on women trying to raise children. Public programs and social systems must be put in place that provide women with the appropriate support to allow them the best opportunities to create and maintain healthy, safe families. Whether “normative? families or not, women should get the same amount of assistance and encouragement to do so.

In response to something you said in a recent speech, I too agree that men need to be encouraged to be better fathers. Thank you for being one of the only male politicians that has said so. It is the responsibility of the entire community to care for children and families. Women cannot do it all alone, and they have been trying to for far too long. The support of the government becomes vital to the success of families. Enacting social programs that make financial stresses like childcare, healthcare, housing, transportation and education less damaging is just a start. In addition, we need to re-imagine the ways we think of “good? mothers. Traditional, nuclear families should not be the only model of success. We must uplift single mothers, poor mothers, mothers of color, abused mothers, disabled mothers and young mothers to stop the cyclical nature of oppression.

For the sake of women and families everywhere, please consider these thoughts as you make important decisions throughout the next four years.

Thank you and good luck,

Corrie Halladay


Dear Mr President, Barack Obama,

Thanks for cunsulting me in your decision to better the economic structure of America today. As we all know, the economy is struggling, and is keeping the rich richer, and the poor poorer. I suggest that we focus more on the poor classes and find a better strategy for those in need.
The working poor receive low wages and seem to get trapped by the system. Mothers and fathers have children who are put into the system, whose children may end up in the system and beyond. In a reading we read as a class called 'On Fixing Bad Mothers and Saving Their Children' Annette Appell argues our nations idea of a 'good' mother. She discusses four very unfair situations of mothers losing their children to the government and being unable to get them back due to unreal expectations from the court. A way to solve this unfair treatment is to examine all mothers fairly and the same. Also, to hold the same expectations for fathers as we do for mothers. The court also needs to do further examination on each mother instead of a simple overview of their background. Many of these children aren't benefitting from being away from their families. It may seem like the lesser of two evils, but we need to do something.
On the issue of helping the poor in need, we need to have a better way of getting money to those who need it and supply jobs for those who need them. This goes along with the fact that we need a better examination of their situation and their needs. As a nation, we need to stop pushing their problems under the rug and confront these issues head on.
Contrary to what many think, just because people are on welfare and need money doesn't automatically mean that they are lazy or are only spending their money on drugs. Many of these people are doing everything that they can to make it, but the system keeps them down.
Everyone deserves the same rights and benefits. We need to help.


Dear President Obama,
Allow me to congratulate you on your victory. It seems to me like you will do a lot to improve the image of the poor and especially the poor single mothers. The stereotypes that poor equals lazy must end. Also people need to realize that as much as America is a country full of opportunities it’s not always easy to get access to these opportunities. There is the opportunity for the poor single mother to go to school, get educated and live a better life, but who will take care of her child? I think it has become harder and harder to reach the American dream, where you can climb the socioeconomic ladder. Not everyone has that opportunity. In the article What We Can Do For the Working Poor by Arlie Hochschild, it says that if you don’t have network and you are a poor single mother it will be more difficult to get the job. Hochschild explicitly says that the lack of transportation to better jobs, the lack of childcare and lack of networking will keep someone at the bottom of the social economic ladder.
What I am asking of you President Obama is to cooperate with the private sector and both help these single mothers get out of that poverty line. Things that could be done are: cutting out some taxes of the big businesses if they hire less privileged people. I think the only solution is to stimulate the private sector to include the not so privileged in their circle. There must be a government-funded program to provide daycare for the children of the working poor mothers, and also educate the young mothers on how to avoid having their kids been taking away as Emily’s kids are taken in “Fixing Bad Mothers and Saving their Children.? I think the key to helping single mothers is by educating them (to get better jobs and to avoid having put their kids on foster care) but at the same time providing them with the assistance needed. Also we must give these mother chances, just because Emily in Fixing the “Bad? Mothers and Saving their Children was mistaken once doesn’t mean she needs to always be watched. Because not every parent is a perfect parent, but the government doesn’t watch and wait for them to make a mistake.

Blog Nine Response

Reminder--Absent Friday- Responding to other blog entries.

I read through these and I agree with many of them. The main things I saw is that when we are looking at mothers in our society we can't just look at what they do and judge them without knowing the background and all of the information. It is true that many mothers may not do their responsibilities and may need help, but some are misunderstood. Many do not have the resources they need in order to provide correctly for their family, like employment. It doesn't mean they are lazy but that they may not have what they need in order to succeed like others do. If mothers are trying to change they shouldn't punish them with taking their kids away from them, it could make things worse. Of course there are the situations where kids need to be removed from the situation because they cannot live there with the conditions or they are in danger. Labeling someone as a "bad mother" is not fair when everyone doesn't know the circumstances. In the end, what we need is more training and discussion to educate the young for the future so we don't run into so many unemployment problems, and so our society can prosper and live healthily.

blog nine yo

Dear President-Elect Obama,

First of all, thank you so much for your interest in my opinion. I appreciate the time you are taking to become personally informed by the students of our nation. The class I am taking is not specifically on the issues surrounding class and poverty, but we have read some articles that address these problems, and yes, they are problems. These are systemic problems that do not stem from laziness or lack of motivation on the part of those in poverty, contrary to many popular opinions. The most influential thing for many people in my class was simply to read some personal narratives as given in “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their Children.? As president, you have a very powerful role to play in directing our nation’s attention. By essentially telling people’s stories and bringing the public’s attention to people in poverty you can raise awareness and disarm many detrimental opinions held by people in power. You did it in your ad campaigns and I believe you can do it again to benefit this cause.
I understand the hard part about introducing any kind of social change toward power entropy is the reaction people could have regarding socialism. This can be avoided if you discuss issues within a real-life, positive context; tell the stories of people who benefited greatly from federal aid projects.
While many of these federal aid projects have drawbacks, more funding and more personnel would solve many. The key to these projects though, is personal involvement by individuals who care about these issues. And the first way to make people care, is to involve them just by making them aware.

sorry my response is late. had to buy a third bike, you know.

Dear President Elect Obama

Dear President Elect Obama,

In response to your request to examine economic strategies and policies that would benefit the working poor, especially those mothers that fit that classification, I have thought long and hard about all options available and what issues need to be dealt with in order to make progress in this situation. One of the first problems that should be addressed, and possibly the most important to look at in order to move forward in this area, is to convince the people in general that people who are poor are not also lazy. For many it is common sense to them that to be poor means you must be lazy and just don't work. They ignore the conditions that these working poor live in, what they have to live with day after day, how difficult it is for them to find a good job since most employers are unwilling to hire them. Your first task should be to work to convince the general public that the working poor are not lazy. They are not drug addicts or idiots or and of the other generalizations that many associate with them. You must get the people to understand that the working poor are just normal people like you and like me who have lived through unfortunate circumstances that have possibly prevented them from having the money to go to college which would prevent them from getting a better job. These people may simply have been born into a poor family and then found it extremely difficult to work him/herself out of the 'poor' status. These poor people also most likely do not have adequate money for transportation, for enough good food, or even for proper living quarters or clothes which could also hinder his/her chances to get a good job and therefore earn enough money to not be considered poor anymore. So first, convince the general public that the working poor are good people like you and me who are just living in unfortunate circumstances.

Even more so, you must convince the general public that the group of women who are working poor can still be good mothers despite her financial situation. These mothers love their children just as much as a mother who is middle class with a substantial income. They, like all the working poor, just are living in unfortunate circumstances that they are trying their best to get out of. These mothers may even work harder than others so that they can try and provide a better future for their children. An idea, perhaps, to help alleviate the idea that these working poor mothers are not good mothers is to examine the way in which the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is run. Since this is the organization that decides if a mother is good or not, and since this is the organization that decides that a mother is a bad mother wrongly a lot and imposes almost impossible qualifications for these good, proclaimed bad, mothers to regain possession of her children, examining the way in which this organization works and then improving it could be a big step towards getting rid of the idea that poor mothers are bad mothers or at least alleviate the stress that these so called 'bad' mothers have to deal with once 'caught' for supposedly mistreating their children.

Another good step to make would be to give tax breaks employers if they employ poor people. This will help get more poor people out working better jobs, therefore helping them earn enough money to get out of their poor status, and will encourage many of the employers to hire poor people who they may have originally shunned and set aside while hiring supposedly much more qualified candidates (ie. middle class workers).

These first steps will put you on the right track for further improvements relating to the working poor and how society runs where poor people are concerned and I hope I was able to assist you adequately on this issue. Good luck!

~Ariel Orcutt

Blog 9

Dear President Elect Barack Obama,
Upon your upcoming inauguration, I think the issues surrounding working poor mothers need to be fully addressed. To start this process, we need to break down the stereotypes about working poor mothers, and acknowledge the interlocking factors of race, class, education and location that all contribute to working poor mothers’ status. One such stereotype claims that poor mothers are unprepared to be “good? mothers, because many receive government aid. While most people receive government aid on a daily basis through means such as the postal service, social security, college loans and public education, it is considered “bad? and “irresponsible? for poor mothers to need government aid for food stamps, health care, stable housing, child care etc. Because the things poor mothers need aid for are traditionally responsibilities carried out by the mother, their lack of ability to complete these tasks on their own makes them “bad? mothers.
Instead, we need to allow better access to things like affordable, reliable childcare, for “the working poor are the least likely of all income groups to receive assistance with childcare costs? (Newman 275). Access to affordable, accessible health care is also essential, for often employers of working poor mothers do not offer health care benefits, and these mothers are not necessarily eligible for Medicaid (Newman 276). Within health care, we need to offer working poor women a variety of services including gynecological/pre-natal care, access to informative birth control options, and substance abuse treatment options (in some cases, pregnant women with substance abuse problems were charged with abusing their child, but they were rejected from treatment opportunities (Pollitt 287)). Overall however, we need to redefine the discourses surrounding the poor, taking into consideration all the factors that lead to poverty, and remove the stigmas that continue to keep people stuck underneath and within poverty.

Blog Nine!

Dear President Elect Mr. Obama,
Congratulations on your recent win, I am writing to you so that I can give you my advice on what to do about helping and aiding the working poor, especially working mothers. As you well know there is a stigma around poor people that they are lazy or were dumb for allowing themselves and their families to fall under the poverty line. I think you need to teach the rest of America that poor or economically strained are not lazy and that the pile up of hardships in life just become to strong and sometimes being without much money is something they cannot avoid. I mean how can society expect a single mother of two or three kids to be able to pay for all the expenses in life and not need some assistance.
Many women work so hard by taking up to three jobs at a time to support their families and even then it is seemingly impossible to make ends meet. It is not her fault the father is not in the picture and the stress of constantly working with no help makes life a tough struggle for anyone. And then society already makes it so hard for people such as single moms so that when they make one mistake people try to take away the only thing important to them: their kids.
According to an article called “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers,? court systems take away children from their mothers when their parent appears to be doing a bad job of raising them. We the author goes on to allude that how can courts remove children from mothers when systems have created such high standards, but yet do not supply single mothers with the means (i.e. money, support, childcare, etc) so that they can meet criteria for an acceptable home.
Now this story varies across the board, but essentially it is all the same. People need help and they should not be looked down upon by others because it is not always the “other? people over there who finically struggle.

Let's Be Fair

First of all, I think the supermom image needs to be removed because people are beginning to believe that the supermom is the ideal mom that every mom should be. Those who do not meet the supermom standards are considered to be “bad? mothers. Hochschild (8) found that more mothers than fathers questioned their parenting abilities. It’s hard to say where that stems from, but I’m willing to bet that part of it comes from the supermom ideals. I think men and women (regardless of race/class) need to start sharing more equal responsibilities within the household. Then, mothers wouldn’t be examined so closely when it comes to deciding whether or not she’s a “good? mother. There needs to be more images of the working dad or “the new man,? and work vs. parenting advice books should not be restricted to women (Hochshild, 26.) This is not to say that men should take over the working mom’s role entirely, but that mothers and fathers should be on equal grounds.

Case workers need to have better training, and DCFS needs to be better organized. A small minority of children taken away from their mothers were actually physically harmed or neglected. Their mothers love them, and often provide much better care for them than the state (Appell, 356). The focus needs to be placed solely on the needs of the children. That’s where much of the problem lies. Client service plans need to be realistic and with the intent to reunite the family, rather than punish the mother for her “bad? mothering (Appell, 230).

Well-functioning mothers should not be seen strictly as being personally competent, but rather socially competent (Hochschild, 23). Successful mothers have many resources available to them. There needs to be more jobs made available for mothers, along with better pay. 46% of working women earn below $10,000 a year (Hochshild, 25). Any job is a good job for those in poverty, but people can’t get a good job unless they’re educated, but people can’t get educated unless they have a decent job to pay for the education. There needs to be a better system in place that will allow this cycle to break.

Week Nine Blog

President Obama,
According to Arlie Hochschild author of What We Can do for the Working Poor, today in the United States there are millions of people living well below the poverty line. The majority of these people are single mothers, of minorities, who work full time jobs, but can never make ends meet. Hochschild has noted that people living well below the poverty line face extreme obstacles that limit them from ever climbing the socioeconomic ladder. Even with a life time of hard and constant work will these families ever rise above the poverty line. The kinds of jobs they face are minimum wage working in fast food or factories. They live in the slums where these kinds of jobs are based. They don’t have the means to go out of their environment to look for higher paying jobs. It takes time and money to travel to an environment with better paying jobs. Most of the working poor do not have the connections for better jobs, houses, or majority of opportunities. The jobs that they take have no health care plans so families have to live without. Families also have little access to affordable childcare which limits how much a parent can or cannot work. These families are ill equipped for having the “American dream? and without the basic necessities are looked down upon. Many mothers who do not have the resources are considered “bad mothers? for not providing or being gone all the time. These mothers are doing the best they can with what little society gives them, they are wrongly labeled and are working harder than most mothers for less. They are not bad they just have too many obstacles that our society has created to live a normal life.
I recommend getting rid of the obstacles would improve the conditions of the working poor. It’s easier said than done plus I don’t think it would fix the problem because I feel like we are too deep into an economic recession to do much good. I would propose programs that first of all improve government housing. I think building or restoring housing in neighbors with little opportunities can help. Bringing better jobs into these communities is nessarcy. Starting grass root jobs and programs in the communities will encourage the residents to get involved in their communities. I believe that providing free transportation to surrounding towns will also help get people to better paying jobs. I also believe that providing a better health care system is very important I think your(Obamas) health care plan is going to provide for even the poorest of poor. Providing government funded daycare programs in communities will also help parent’s be able to work more. Getting teenagers involved in community programs or internships/apprenticeship will also get these kids the connections that they lack. Programs like EITC that create subsidies for parents helps cut taxes or the NYAP that helps students get their foot in the door should be widespread and utilized. Using the money from the conservatives trillion dollar ridicules war can be given to help these families with the basic necessities. Or using money from big guns to provide better paying jobs is another great idea to stimulate the economy and help the working families.

Week Nine

President Obama,

I have no doubt that you know more than anyone what your election means to the nation, not just to democrats or African Americans, but rather to the nation. You campaigned along side the first “serious? female candidate for president and in a race where every party ran on the belief that our nation needed change. But in a nation where equality has been placed with upright importance, where writing inclusive legislation and destroying the barriers between success and race/gender/sexuality have been placed on a list of accomplishments, not dreams, it seems foolish that poverty and class have found their place on the backburner, when in reality, poverty is no backburner problem. Poverty is a daily problem that is found in millions of hungry stomachs and a million more non-existent dinner tables from urban Miami to rural North Dakota.
Although poverty may be more American (and certainly more common) than apple pie, too many incorrect ideas are associated with poverty. It is too commonly thought that the poor are lazy, that with a little effort poverty could be shed like old skin. But poverty is a multi-faceted cycle that cares little about “effort?. In What We Can Do for the Working Poor, Katherine Newman uses “Wage Subsidies and Tax Breaks,? “Unions,? “Child Care and Health Care? and many more as subtitles to discuss specific areas that need to be improved/changed in order to make any kind of difference in poverty.
Creating a single policy or strategy to help the poor will not end poverty, but it help. The truth is that poverty is affected by too many factors to be “cured? by one policy. Newman notes that, “[The working poor] have not claimed a very large piece of the policy stage…[Scholars] have done little? (287). Poverty is not caused by laziness or the unwillingness to become a “productive? citizens, but it is next to impossible to escape in system in which one thing is connected to another. (For example, no wage or low wage = cheap food or no food = poor health but no wage or low wage = no or little health insurance) Future policies need to keep this in mind, that in trying to fix a system with limbs that branch into everything, care needs to be taken but change needs to happen.

November 16, 2008

Blog Assignment Nine

Dear President Elect Obama,
In order to make a change in the number of working mothers living in poverty we must first begin to understand and realize why they are there in the first place. When most people think of people in poverty here in the United States, they think of words like "lazy," "alcoholics," "drug addicts," "uneducated," etc. Certainly, in some cases these words apply, but in most, especially in the case of working mothers it the exact opposite. We think that it is an individual problem and that if they would work harder, get a job, or would have made better choices these people wouldn't be in the situations they are now. This isn't always true. For many women living in poverty it was an inescapable future. For many children growing up in a poor family it would have been near impossible to escape poverty when they got older. Schools in their neighborhoods were probably not the best, and they may have had no money for supplies, transportation, lunches, etc. Also, maybe they had no choice but to quit school and get a job to help support the family, or have no choice of college because of lack of money to pay for it.

Once these women, or people in general, get into this situation it is even harder to get out. Since these mothers don't have much money they end up living in areas that put them at a greater disadvantage of ever getting out of poverty. It might not have very many job opportunities, and the ones it has will be low paying with little to no diversity. They have no money for transportation to a better area. Also, if these mothers have children that aren't school age they have to worry about things like child care. They can't stay home with their children because they have to work to survive, they can't bring their kids to work with them, and they don't have extra money to pay for child care. There may not be adequate schools for their children to goto when they grow up or the nearest school could be miles away with no form of transportation to get there. These mothers aren't lazy, they are probably working harder than the housewives living on cloud nine with enough money to buy whatever they want and enough time to take care of their children. Instead, these mothers in poverty are working at least one, a lot of times two, jobs, taking care of their kids, cleaning the house, cooking, etc, and with any "spare time" probably looking for a better job or a way out of this life.

The way to help these working mothers living in poverty isn't to treat them as the bottom of society, label them with words like "lazy" or "alcoholic," or take their kids away like in "On Fixing 'Bad' Mothers." The government and private companies need to set up programs and ways to help them fix their own lives, get them back on their feet, and give them a head start on a new life. These programs could be things like setting up a community of single working mothers in poverty that would help them with affordable, adequate housing and in a location where there was quality education, employment opportunities, health and child care, and transportation. This would decrease the number of people in poverty in the future. Also, programs like the ones mentioned in "What We Can Do For The Working Poor," would prevent these and other children from becoming poor and provide choices they wouldn't normally have. These are programs that involve work opportunites in schools. For kids that won't be able to afford higher education, this provides them with better job choices, a higher guarantee of getting a job in the future, and a better chance at a job that will pay enough to live outside of the poverty line.

Society needs to realize that poverty doesn't always mean lazy, avoidable, bad choices, or a choice at all, but that sometimes poverty is unavoidable and that we need to help give people the lucky break and support they deserve.

blog 9

The first step to creating a system that provides greater benefits for poor, working mothers is debunking the myth that these women are unmotivated and unreliable. These women cannot land better jobs simply because they are lazy. A number of limiting factors play into the positions they can hold, like transporation, networking, their access to education, and the types of businesses established in their neighborhoods. Welfare recipiants are less likely to be hired due to this stigma. Also, abandon the unobtainable American dream of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. In the Industrial Area, this dream was once a reality, but as our economy becomes more and more service based, pulling yourself up from nothing becomes harder and harder as education becomes more important than sheer opportunity, which was all one needed one hundred years ago. People living in lower socioeconomic locations consequently receive poor public educations, therefore sending them to low grade secondary institutions and later to low grade workplaces. Next, lose the social work system that mothers fear and adopt a system in favor of the mothers. This system will offer more education in child-rearing and prenatal care, also offer more counseling to mothers and children. Like in the Fixing Bad mothers article, classes could have been offered to the teen mother where she worked with her child or counseling to Sarah and her children that had survived a highly abusive home. Instead of foster homes, invest the money in "home supervisors", workers who assist the mother in the home to better the lives of children and fix her mistakes. Put the money their instead of crooked foster homes reimbursments.

After expunging the nation of these former stigmas and failed systems, form a cooperative employment system involving the government aid institutions, private business, and public education. Allow the high schools to offer adult life skills and job training and ESL at night for community members to attend, each district has a high school or school facility making this opportunity equal in each neighborhood. From this program, let the 'graduates' use instructors as job references and encourage businesses to draw from applicants through the program, it will be to their advantage as the reliablity and skills of the candidates will be garunteed from the program and the job can be filled as quickly as possible. Also, make bus passes readily available for employees or offer benefits to other employees that carpool. Next, give private business tax breaks for employing welfare recipiants. Make it worth their while to employ these people.

Week Nine Blog

Dear President,

I would like to address a major problem we have here in the United States: poor working single mothers. Many people have categorized them as lazy or drug abusing people, when in reality that is not true in most cases. Many times it makes more sense for a single mother to stay on welfare and be able to stay home to take care of her children versus going to work and not making enough money to provide good child care. According to the essay, "What We Can Do for the Working Poor," many people work full-time jobs but still are below the poverty line. Does this seem right? They work just as much as everyone else but still can barely afford to live.

So if a person can work a full-time job and still not be making enough money, what else can they do? Yes they can work two jobs, but then they're neglecting their families in a way. This could lead a single mother to leave a child at home alone when they're not old enough to be home alone. I believe minimum wage levels should be established instead of a set minimum wage. They would be determined by the person's cost of living needs to provide enough for them to survive. The government would have to make a law saying companies would have to hire equal amounts of people from each level of need.

Also in areas densly populated by poor citizens, schools can be provided with programs to educate students about job skills and figuring out ways to pay for college. Job skills could range from how to do a good interview to how to count change back. These programs probably wouldn't be about becoming a doctor because in these areas people to teach that wouldn't be very common. But for those who do want to aspire to that they can be taught how to make it to college and how to pay for it.

Family planning centers should also be implicated and advertized for to encourage their use. In the essay, "On Fixing 'Bad' Mothers and Saving Their Children," Annette Appell tells us about Emily, a teen mother. She has five children, all of which are taken away at some point. Had she been educated about birth control and known that it is availble at no cost perhaps this whole situation never would have happened. The best way to help a single mother is for her to never be a single mother. There are situations where the father just leaves or it isn't the mother's fault, but in many cases it is an accidental pregnancy. If they can't afford an abortion how can they afford to raise a child? They try, but it doesn't always work out. I think prevention is always the best place to start, but when it does happen we have established programs such as food stamps and welfare.

More can be done to help the poor families of the United States, and especially the single mothers. Just because they are in these situations does not make them bad mothers. I think the government could save some money by not being so critical of some mothers. Perhaps she made a mistake five years ago, but we have to give her a chance to redeem herself. If she can prove she is competent and able to care for that child, she should be allowed to keep the child.

Blog Nine

Dear President-Elect Obama,

It's time for you to show that you mean to bring change to society. No longer must the social "norms" placed upon us be the only way from now on. In a country, where less than 20 of the CEOs of the 500 companies that make up the Fortune 500 and less than 15 that are headed by women, it's time to make a change.

No longer should the ability to pay deter someone from attending an institute of Higher Education. Though there are programs such as Federal Loans and Pell Grants for those who afford to pay for College studies, it's still hard for many attendees to keep up with constant tuition hikes, which serve to decrease the money-making value of a degree, while at the same time making it still necessary to obtain a college degree in order to perform higher positions in society. For women with children, this can become even harder.

However, obtaining a college degree is not enough for some. Once individuals of minority background enter the workforce, they often find that they are paid less than a person who is of the stereotypical white male class. For these individuals, the hard work that may have gone into obtaining a degree may have been further lessened. Furthermore, the amount of time allotted for time off in this country is often much less than is needed to raise a child. Maternity leave is hit or miss. Many companies do not offer paid maternity leave, which can force some women to reenter the workforce well before they may be ready, leaving the child to the care of others at expense to themselves.

For those mother who can't make this transition while still caring for their child, there may be consequences related to how these women are raising their children. Poorer mothers may be unable to obtain care for their children, so they may be forced to leave children home by themselves. In the eyes of society, this can constitute neglect and the child could be taken away, regardless of the mother's abilities as a parent.

What needs to be put in place is paid maternity leave laws that are generous enough to allow women to remain above what is needed to care for their children. Groups such as Moms Rising are already advocating for such laws to be put in place. However, until then, these mothers have to sacrifice either the care of their children or their job and livelihood just to stay afloat, and this is just plain wrong.

Week Nine Blog

Single mothers that live below the poverty line are often a target in pointing out that they are “bad mothers?. However, this is a big typical stereotype that shouldn’t be there in the first place. How does a person or the government judge whether a mother is a bad mother just by her status/class? And what defines a bad mother? Just because she may not have that much money does not mean that she is not providing the essentials that her child might need. Further, in the article “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their Children? it argues that the mother may love and care for her child deeply but may not have the resources to take care of the child, but does that mean that the child must be taken away? It seems that there are many factors that go into making these mothers seem like “bad mothers? but if we help to reduce even some of these issues we can help these mothers gain greater access to the means necessary for social survival.

One big issue is whether these women are working to get enough money to take care of themselves and their child. A mother must be stable on her own to even take on a child. We must make sure that these women are working and are using the money in the right sense, not wasting it on alcohol or other unnecessary expenses. To do so there should be some sort of child care opportunities so that these mothers will not have to be as stressed to take care of their child before taking care of themselves. This way the mother will have time to look for job opportunities so that she may get back on her feet. We need to make sure that jobs are easier for single mothers especially to find and they will not be discriminated against because of their status.

Secondly, the whole system of DCFS needs to be reconstructed somehow. “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their Children? had expressed that often times mothers are trying to get back on their feet and be the mother that they have always wanted to be, but it’s partially the systems fault in keeping these “bad mother’s? in the same bad lifestyle. The system needs to have a new outlook on trying to save not only the children but also the mothers. When dealing with a mother/child pair one person should be looking after them, getting to know them and helping them throughout the process, observing and seeing the positive changes. If there are no positive changes then the worker needs to perhaps help more or change the way in which help is being provided or the areas in which help is necessary. In the example stories in “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their Children? it seemed that help was not often wanted because it would just make things worse for the family and it was also a struggle for the mother’s to prove that they were indeed changing for the better. If even these areas were improved, many families would be happier and on their way towards a better lifestyle and future.

Overall, yes there are many areas in which improvement on single women below the poverty line can be changed. However, these changes don’t just happen overnight. By helping to create better child care and job opportunities, as well as improving the system of DCFS by making help be a desire for single mothers, these steps can dramatically affect the lives of these mothers and their children.


If you're looking to help out the working class, and in particular, working class mothers, the first and most important thing to do is to not be afraid to enact any sort of legislation. many stereotypes exist about people in this situation: that they're lazy, irresponsible or jsut looking for a hand-out to continue to merely get by in their situation. These are simply not true of the majority. Many people who live below the poverty line are there not through continued personal choices, but because there is no escape from the situation.

Specifically then, you're going to have to attack some of the points which perpetuate the situation. Chapter nine of Kathrine newman's book "inner city" entitled "what we can do for the working poor" addresses several such points. among these include reducing crime, getting businesses more involved in community action, bettering public education, and increasing social supports for those who are earnestly looking for living wages but cannot find them. i'm sure, however, that these were already fairly obvious to you. one motif that may not be so obvious, however, was that of physical location. living in a poor area not only usually means dealing with poorer public schools (education being a key higher incomes) but also a general lack of jobs, particularly well paying ones, and connections. Even if one ahd the proper skills to receive a particular job, the lack of transportation may inhibit that person to get it. Additionally, a lack of connections may inhibit that person from even knowing the job existed in the first place. my suggestions to remedy this, would be first to expand public transportation not only to ensure that people are able to get to jobs within their metro area, but also because it would keep in line your environmental policies. As for the connections problem, i would suggest requiring employers to notify the public of job openings for a certain amount of time prior to beginning the hiring process. this would give all of those looking for jobs ample time to prepare interviews, ect. not just those who heard about it first.

Blog Nine

President Elect Obama,

First I think it’s important to address the stereotype that the poor are “lazy?. This stereotype only does one thing; it stops any progress from being made in helping the working poor better themselves. So first we must admit that there are real systems holding back the working poor, and specifically working poor mothers. By doing this we are able to look past stereotypes and actually start helping people.

Once we get past that first step we can start to look at what actions we should be taking. The availability of resources is extremely important. The working poor need to have access to things like transportation, birth control and child care. Many working mothers work full time jobs and they have trouble affording child care for their children. When child care is so expensive other things get cut out of the budget. And when there isn’t enough money for the necessities families suffer.

According to Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung in “The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home? there are many factors that work together to keep the poor, poor. Race, class and location all play a role as systems that keep the poor where they are. This reminds me of the birdcage metaphor. All of the different bars work together to keep the poor in their cage. We must create ways for the bars to be removed and dismantled.

Dear President Elect Obama

Dear President Elect Obama,
First of all I would like to say Congratulations on your victorious win in this year's presidential election and that I am very proud that you won and get to make history in our African American culture. Secondly, I am honored that you are asking for my help in coming up with a solution on how to help working mothers improve their social situations. The first thing that can help us would be to clear the ignorance behind who the working mothers are and that may make up the "working poor". The world needs to know that these are not only women of color, but also many other women of all different races including white women. This will show the world how big the problem is and probably will make them more concerned.
Hoschild and Machung consider race, class, and location the largest contributors to poverty in the working poor class. If we are gonna go with this idea, the best way to do this would be to provide transportation or easy and affordable access to transportation for mothers who may work far because that was the only job they could find to keep supporting their family at the time. This transportation would be for those mothers who cant't afford to buy a car or put gas in a car that they already have. Also one thing that will help alot would be to provide more public funding to childcare because today these years seems like another baby boom year. Alot of women have children, young and old, and if they cant afford a babysitter they can't work.
I hope this helps and is a big start to a solution for working mothers, because mothers are real important people in the world and should be taken care of at any cost.

Dear President Elect

Dear President Elect Obama,

I am excited and relieved that you have turned to me to help you come up with a solution of how to help working mothers improve their social situation. Much like other problems that plague something as large as a nation, the problem of how to stimulate working mothers and others below the poverty line to rise into the ever growing ‘middle class’, is a problem that must be addressed by a multitude of answers and not just one. Certainly, child care is a large factor in the problem. Working families below the poverty line cannot afford to send their children to care centers. Providing poor families with child care is the first step in allowing families to support themselves, by lumping child care into overall educational goals, the US can strive to become more like France and Italy and allow future generations to compete with the global market. Another solution that was proposed in “What We Can Do for the Working Poor? by Hochschild is to provide transportation to and from work to the working poor. “Bridges to Work is now up and running in five cities and showing, at this preliminary stage, some positive outcomes.? The truth is there is a overwhelming amount of jobs available in the suburbs of large cities but not enough workers to fill them. By providing transportation to people that can fill those jobs, the government will be helping families ‘help themselves’. One of the most powerful opportunities to help the poor is by increasing the EITC. By allowing the poor to take home more of their wages, the EITC is one of the few in-place programs that actually work and have an impact on American lives. “the cheapest, least bureaucratic method of raising working people above the poverty line is to continue expanding the EITC, even for heads of households without children. No one hwo works full-time should live below the poverty line.? Thank you for listening to my reccommendations.

Link from PBS - Working poor


Woman make 69 to 80 percent of men's salaries

Women make 69 to 80 percent of men's salaries
By: Angie Favot
Posted: 4/30/07
Brigitte Bechtold is angry women get paid less then their male counterparts.

"It indicates that we live in a society that values women less than it does men," the sociology, anthropology and social work professor said. "It is largely the result of pay discrimination by gender on the part of employers."

Males are earning more than women in the workplace, according to a study recently released by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

According to AAUW, women earn only 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn one year after college graduation. Ten years after graduation, women fall further behind, earning only 69 percent of what the men earn.

The study followed men and women who have obtained a college degree recently and uses longitudinal data from the U.S. Department of Education's Baccalaureate and Beyond databases.

Bechtold said the data is from men and women who graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1993-94 and 1999-2000 with follow-up questions in subsequent years.

Sociology, anthropology and social work associate professor Angela Haddad said she also is unhappy about the pay gap.

"It's pretty clear that discrimination is behind the pay gap," she said. "I think that employers need to be made more aware of some of the inequities they create when negotiating pay with their employees."

Bechtold said a legitimate portion of the pay gap is a result of women taking time off to raise children.

The pay gap affects the economy because on average, it provides working women with 25 percent less pay than working men, Bechtold said.

"Since women buy different types of things than men, producers take into account who is likely to buy their products and make available a different mix of goods in the economy than they otherwise would," she said. "Second, women have to work 100 hours for every 75 hours worked by men, on average, to be able to attain the same standard of living and have the same buying power as do men."

Haddad believes stricter laws calling for equality and pay are the best solution to this ongoing problem.

"I am optimistic over time that we will take more positive steps toward equality," she said. "It helps when people are made aware of this inequality."

Bechtold said pay discrimination is illegal and the obvious solution is for the government to strictly enforce the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act.

"Increased penalties for discrimination will help end this employer practice," she said.

On a local level, Bechtold said CMU should create a career counseling service that educates future employees on how to negotiate their wages.

"Education can play a role in teaching employers and potential employees that discrimination in pay is unacceptable," she said.
© Copyright 2008 Central Michigan Life

Dear President Obama

TO: President Barack Obama:

FROM: Carole MacLean

RE: Suggestions for economic strategies and policies

DATE: November 16, 2008

Thank you for the recent request to aid you in your persistent effort to support policies for economic change that will impact the working people of this nation, in particular, working poor women. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to assist in this timely and all-important work.

As you are aware, generally women make 69 to 80 percent of men’s salaries in the United States. I believe this indicates that we live in a society that values women less than it does men. It is largely the result of pay discrimination by gender on the part of employers, but it is also caused by a societal bias that is out of place in today’s society. Historically, even poor mothers who have entered the workforce after years of being mired in the welfare system are unable to find jobs that pay enough to take care of their families and even while working live below the poverty line. From an article entitled “What We Can Do For The Working Poor,? these women want what is best for their families and children and are not offered the opportunities to improve the living situations for themselves and their children. Children and mothers suffer because of the lack of health insurance for their families.

I believe the keys for equality and equity of all types can be derived from more and better opportunities to education and good paying jobs. Programs within New York City and Chicago, that linked school and work directly we found to be quite successful. In Chicago’s worst middle schools, ground-breaking strides were made to where students were guaranteed summer job placements if they were devoted to a new curriculum including an extra period every day of a foreign language. Students admitted to this program were separated from the rest of the school in special classes that stayed together throughout the day. “As a result, close bonds developed between kids who had the job guarantees and the expectations for solid performance in common.? Classroom attendance, matriculation to the next grade improved as well as better scores in math, English, and social studies. I believe opportunities that are offered like for young people promoting education and job experience are the first steps to empowering the working poor to be successful and to see ways that their lives can change.

I look forward to working you to make this a better nation for all.

Blog 9

First of all I would like to start out with stating the fact that the amount of money one has, has nothing to do with their ability to mother a child. Being a good mother has nothing to do with the material items you can give to your children and everything to do with the amount of love and care you provide for them. A good mother makes sure their child gets an education, supports their child’s interests, and makes sure that they are cared for and in good health. In a poor working single mothers case some of these things may be harder to provide. Without a good job it is harder to provide things like healthcare, which is essential to survival. In the article “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their Children?, it says that once someone like a teacher, doctor or even neighbor identifies someone as a bad mother that they can notify the child abuse hotline. Then the hotline assigns an investigator to the case to determine whether the woman is a bad mother. It is talked about how it is often assumed that poor women are lazy. This is the first assumption we need to get rid of. The first problem that these women have is that the father is not financially supportive. It is much more difficult for a single mother to find a job in which she can support her children. When you cannot afford childcare how are you supposed to find a job in which you can still care for your children? In the Fixing “Bad? Mothers article, it seemed to be clear that all of the mothers loved their children. Often times the real mothers, even if they are poor working mothers, are better care than the foster homes the children are sent to. For single mothers living below the poverty line, the government should provide a few things. They should provide healthcare for the mother and their children. They should help with childcare so that the mother can go out and get a better job, and they should also make sure that the child has access to education. If these poor single mothers had a little help in those departments, the could destroy their stereotype of being lazy because they would have greater access to improving their lives and their children. Although some women are better equipped to be moms than others, many single mothers that have good jobs and made adequate money to support their children, fail to give them the love and care that they need. Women have a right to their children, and if they are not physically or emotionally abusive, they deserve a second chance to prove that they deserve their children. Help with healthcare, childcare and education would help these mothers get back on their feet.

The movement of the working class poor

President Elect, Barack Obama:

It is a common stereotype that the poor are lazy, that they do not work, and that they exploit the social services provided to them by our nation. Furthermore, women of the working class poor receive greater criticism still. They exist is such a class that they are deemed as bad mothers, as they are not able to provide for their children as well as women belonging to the middle and upper classes. While many and most of the working class poor use social services as a means of survival because they are truly in need, the small portion of the working class poor that do exploit such services have caused negative viewpoints of them by the general population. In order to break down such paradigms, radical social change is needed in our society. Please allow me to elaborate.

In their work “The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home,? Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung consider race, class, and location the largest contributors to the cycle of poverty in the working class poor. In order to break the cycle, movement must occur, and programs may be added so as to initiate the movement.

Based on Hochschild’s and Machung’s work, I propose we consider the following. First, we must provide access to work for the poor. Due to urban sprawl, the working class poor may need to travel further for work without the means to do so. Therefore, we must improve the efficiency of public transportation so as to increase employment within the working class poor.

Public funding for child care must also increase. Parents of the working class poor have few options for their small children when it comes to child care and thus have limited opportunity to work. An increase in child care for the working class poor will provide movement within the demographic, as parents will have an increase in labor and wages.

Though these steps are small and few, coupled with other social programs, the status of the working class poor will be on the upswing.

blog nine

In order for mothers to provide stable, comfortable, and safe homes for their children, they must have improvement and stability in their own lives. Impoverished mothers are often single and of a minority race. Since being a single working mother is harder than any other social “title,? it is easy for them to come upon “hard times.? Since the mother has to go to work, she must provide childcare, since childcare costs money (often times a lot of it) the mother must make enough money to take care of herself and her child(ren). It is a vicious cycle that impoverished single mothers must face. Single mothers are often judged on whether they are good enough or not. Who decides if a mother or a home is good enough? And how is it decided? “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers? confronts the issue of how children are often taken away from their mothers and homes because neither is seen as fit to have a child. Poor education, transportation, jobs, neighborhoods, and childcare are all factors that everyone must face; some just overcome their obstacles with more ease than others. In “What We Can Do for the Working Poor? the issue of abortion is brought up. In order to decrease the number of teen pregnancies and young mothers better contraception, non-judgmental education, and more available/lower cost healthcare. If mothers cannot afford an abortion or contraception, how can they afford to have a child? Impoverished mothers do not choose the life they lead, sometimes they are just not aware of their options.

Blog Nine

One of the biggest things that would help struggling, working mothers to be able to succeed is to provide quality child care. Providing mothers with such a service, that is very much hard to find and pay for, would help them have the time to find and maintain a job. Also, the government may even consider using programs laid out in “What We can do for the Working Poor?. Although these programs were geared towards providing assistance to people still in school, I think they can be extended to help working mothers. Such programs would provide the connections and assistance mothers need. Many times, a person just lacks the “right? connections and therefore struggles finding a decent job that allows for promotions.
In general, I think the public system needs to be modified to try to prevent people from abusing such help that is truly needed by others. I think there should be some type of “check-up system? that monitors the person’s spending. When money is being spent on unnecessary things such as shopping at an expensive store or receiving unnecessary services, such as getting one’s nails done, their government aid should be reconsidered. It is such people that reinforce the stereotype that all people that receive government aid are “lazy? and just don’t want to work.
To me, it is very frustrating to see people abuse government aid, especially when there are people that truly need the assistance. It is sad to see that those that really need the help receive very little or are unable to obtain the help due to over-exhaustion of the system.
I was at the grocery store and a woman was using food stamps to pay for her groceries. The thing that bothered me was that she had her nails done and was wearing expensive name brand clothes and accessories. I understand that people like to do things for themselves to make them feel better about themselves but if you are struggling enough to receive aid, is getting your nails done necessary? If one is struggling, I believe that there are ways to cut down spending on such unnecessary items/services before turning to government aid.

Blog 9

In order for working mothers living in poverty to make progress in their lives, the first thing that has to change is the way they are viewed by society. When most of us think of people who live in poverty, we think that there must be a reason they are living this way and that it is their fault. If they would just work a little harder, all of their problems would be solved. However, this is not the case. Poverty puts mothers in cycle they cannot easily escape. Since they don’t have money, they can’t afford to live in an area with diverse employment opportunities or they cannot afford transportation to these areas. They cannot leave their children at home while they work, but they can’t afford childcare, either. We view them as lazy, but these mothers probably work harder than those who have demanding, high paying jobs.

The way to help impoverished mothers is not to remove their mother status by taking away their children, but to provide them with opportunities to improve their lives. In “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers,? children are removed from their mothers with little to no choice on either end, and are often never returned. Mothers can never seem to do enough to be “good enough? to take care of their own children. This is a universal problem that is not always the mother’s fault, but is a result of the lack of opportunity. Maybe we could set up communities for such people to live in where education, transportation, childcare, and employment are taken care of for awhile to give mothers a jumpstart on improving their living conditions. Also, linking lower paying jobs with higher paying ones would help employees advance in the workforce.

To decrease the number of poor mothers in the future, we could consider increasing availability of abortion facilities and birth control, so that women do not have to have children if they cannot afford one. Also, in “What We Can Do For The Working Poor,? many examples are given of programs that linked schools with employers, giving students who worked hard in school a guaranteed income. Some of these programs were shown to increase effort in schools, increase happiness of students and teachers, and even decrease the number of teen pregnancies. We need to remember that people do not choose to live in poverty- sometimes, it is unavoidable and inescapable.

blog 9

Barack Obama,

The first point that needs to be made is that it problems the work poor are having are problems that are not their fault. It is not laziness, nor lack of motivation that prevents the climbing of the social economic ladder. The problem is that the working poor aren't capable of reaching the second rung, because the first is simply too low. Areas with high populations of poor people do not have the same opportunities that a higher class neighborhood has. Working for minimum wage (as our in class exercise showed) isn't livable on it's own, and even with government aid, the amount of money made would not allow for a move to a different neighborhood. The simple truth is, the working poor are stuck where they are because the opportunities to get out are not obtainable.

That being said, there are ways to help this situation. Two options that directly relate to the neighborhoods are as follows: move the jobs to the neighborhoods, and move the people to the jobs. The former, as mentioned in “What We Can Do for the Working Poor? is not very practical, as it would be too many people to move while the latter is obtainable through tax breaks for companies that move into these neighborhoods. Once these better jobs exist in a reasonable location, the rungs become reachable, and people will naturally start climbing the social-economic ladder. This would also brings in private business into these areas. A better relationship between these businesses and the local schools can (as experiments have clearly determined) drastically help education in the area. As is well know, climbing that ladder relies heavily on education. This is a further empowerment to climb.

This is a place to start. Memos regarding more affordable health care should be expected tomorrow.

Brian Berzins

Blog 9

Dear Barack Obama,

Unfortunately, the United States of America has many issues that need to be dealt with once your presidency begins. One of the issues I would like to bring to attention is the lack of health care and job opportunities of single, working mothers. Now, I understand that many individuals choose to seek no help or work to bring themselves above the poverty line. However, there are many women who are in dire need to provide a better life for themselves and also their children. In society, many individuals claim that these women who are below the poverty line are "bad" mothers because they have gotten themselves into alcohol, drugs, or many pregnancies and births that they can simply not afford. What if these mothers actually want help? Is anyone willing to provide services that can cure/help their addictions or help them receive child care? In Annette Appell's article "On Fixing 'Bad' Mothers and Saving Their Children," she states that, "these 'bad' mothers become, and often remain, bad mothers because they have made bad choices, or, due to their poverty or other circumstances, did not have real choices" (356). What if these mothers did have real choices? What if they could seek the help that is needed to become a strong, healthy, working mother that can support her children? In this article, Appell also explains the stories of four "bad" mothers who struggled to try and get their children back in their lives. Some of these women chose drugs and alcohol, while others were abused or very young to begin a family. DCFS took these children away from their mothers, even if the mothers began to prove that they were capable of raising their children in good circumstances. Race and class were two big issues in these cases as well. Most of the women were black, didn't have very much education, and were of the working-poor. All of these children were craving to be back with their mothers. Even though the mothers had some issues of their own, they never abused or treated their children badly. They were "good" mothers, but since they did "bad" things, their children were taken away from them, and if they wanted to get them back, they had a long list of things to do in order to get them back. I believe that if these women were offered education, an opportunity to seek help in finding a job to support their children properly, and health care, these "bad" habits could have been prevented in the first place. These mothers were obviously doing something right if their children longed to be back in their arms. A little guidance and support can never hurt anyone, and I think this is just what they needed. DCFS wasn't helping them in any way, shape or form. They were making it even harder for the mothers to try and get their children back. Instead, DCFS was making all of these situations even worse and wasn't helping anyone. All in all, I believe that mothers who are considered to stand below the poverty line should be offered health care, education, and an opportunity to find a decent job to support their children. Just because they were considered "bad" mothers does not mean that they have to stay in that category. America is about helping one another and creating equality, so why can't we put these things into action?

Dear Mr. President Elect,

As the son of a single, working class mother, I'm sure you are familiar with many of the policies currently in place that disadvantage such women and their families. Because two thirds of all mothers work outside of the home and 67% of those women have full-time jobs ( The Second Shift), I think a new department, the Department of Family Resources, should be created.

With so many women working outside of the home, in single and two parent households, it is imperative that parents have better access to affordable childcare. Children, often referred to as our greatest national resource, need proper child care and the best way to ensure that each and every child gets it is for the government to provide it. By providing government subsidized childcare for everyone, not just working class families, it ensures that the childcare system will be appropriately funded. This is not Head Start, which is a good program but it is not funded properly or available to everyone. Also, such programs will create many jobs and every child will be given the opportunity for pre-K care and education.

Also, you've got a good start on health care. Be assuring that everyone be ensured you taking a monumental first step. However, your proposal does not ensure that everyone will actually have heath care, just that they are required by law to get it. Many people below the poverty line, some of which who have never had access to health care, still may not seek it under your plan and may receive penalization. What the working class, and everyone else, need is universal health care. Bring in Hillary. Her proposal for universal health care during the primary campaign was a little more comprehensive than your own, ensuring that everyone not only is required to have health care but actually gets it.

There are many more things you can do to help families situationed below the poverty line, but the first step is to make them the focus. Don't let the plight of these people be ignored until after they have “failed? as parents or citizens. Issues that affect working class families are increasingly affecting members of the middle class due to our current economic downturn. We need to provide these resources to all families. Only then will the stigma surrounding social programs that benefit the “lazy? and the “ignorant? disappear. Thank you, Anna Wakefield

Barack Obama
Poor working families suffer a lot. They have tried really hard to support their family on low wages. It is even more difficult on single parents, especially mothers. Children are born from their mother and so the mother feels responsibility to care for her child because she is a mother. However, in an essay titled “On Fixing “Bad? Mothers and Saving Their Children,? the mothers are stripped of this job to care for their children and to provide them the love they need. The writer, Annette R. Appell, had written four stories of mothers who suffer from the corrupted child welfare system.
In this child welfare system mothers and children are ripped apart because of a couple little things that the mothers do to themselves. The child welfare system never analyzed what the mother does for her children. If the mother still cares for her children and love them the way a mother is suppose to then let them be together, but also help them receive a better life together. It the mother is a drug addict then all that is needed is therapy. If the mother cannot support her children then all she needs is help to support her children. Yet the child welfare system has made these things so complicated and so wrong. They did not try to fix it, instead they ruin it. They did not truly take in what the children thinks or feel. They act out in their own impulse.
Their impulse has ruined some children. Look what happened to Janice, the drug using mother, children. While she was cleaning herself up and trying to get a better life her children were terrorized by their foster family and raped by gang members. How can the system take a child saying that they could care for the child better than the mother and let these things happen? They are hypocrites then. They are no better than an abusive mother, which in all these stories had none. They all loved their children and only had minor problems that could be easily fixed. How can this system be any good if they cannot even do what they say they can do?
So systems to help poor working family needs to be closely looked at and improved. How can society help these families if the system is weak? How can families survive if the system is worse than the life of the families? More funding for these systems may help and better workers for these systems could improve, maybe a college education is needed in this area. So it is not the people themselves that need improvement to improve their lives it is the system that needs improvements.

Blog 9

I would say to Barack that finding a solution to this problem is first on my list. The solution to the problem (that working mothers are trapped below the poverty line in an endless cycle of abuse perpetuated by the social system) lies in improving the health of the system. In "On Fixing 'Bad' Mothers and Saving Their Children��?, Annette Appell discusses how mothers break down, and then how the system, full of its own breakdowns, assumes control and decides that it's healthy enough to save the day.

This is not what actually happens. The system is not healthy enough to guide working women and their families toward their own health.

The article doesn't address the true issue. DCFS-like systems need to exist, but they need to operate like a well-oiled machine in order to stabilize families. This requires funding. I believe the crux of the breakdown in the social work system is a lack of funding and a lack of employees through which to distribute the work. The article mentions again and again the times when a social worker didn't call a woman being supported through DCFS, and yet it doesn't address why. I believe that social workers are stretched too thin, not adequately compensated, and working within a broken-down, ignored, notoriously faulty system. It's seemingly hopeless.

Unless, Obama, you create more jobs within this system and appropriate adequate funds for each and every one of the employees and organizers. How can we possibly improve the health of the working poor and their families if we are sick and tired ourselves? We can't count on social work interns to save the day with their wide eyes and naivety. We need our social work veterans to feel supported in their role and to have fuel to continue. The answer is funding.

blog 9 for chole005

In On Fixing 'Bad' Mothers Annette Appell tells the stories of several disadvantaged mothers who lose custody of their children for one reason or another, and get lost within a system that fails both them and their children. What struck me about each of these stories is that these agencies claim to be representing the best interests of the children, but what the children actually say they want (which is usually to stay with their mothers) is either not considered as a valid opinion or is one of the last things considered. In all situations, the focus is on the acts of the mother, even if this behavior is not endangering the children.

I think what would be most helpful in fixing child services is making the desires of the children, even if they are very young, the most important thing in deciding their fate. With all of these mothers, if the state were to offer these mothers the help they needed, there is no reason they couldn't have kept their children or had they children back within a reasonable time. Also, there needs to be some kind of peer review of social workers. In Annette Appell's article, I couldn't help but think that some of the social workers were motivated to make decisions more based on their own opinions and feelings towards their clients than any protocol. This isn't fair to the children, or the mothers, and needs to be addressed.


President Elect Obama,
Every day millions of people struggle to survive in America. Whether they are in the streets, in shelters, or even an apartment, people have to choose which necessities they should incorporate into their budget. Whether it is the food, clothing, shelter, or healthcare, the people of America deserve more- they shouldn’t have to choose. Many of those who suffer are mothers and children.
To change the current situation, I feel that it is important to change the stereotype of those receiving government aid. Often characterized as “lazy,? women below the poverty line are not struggling because they do not have a job; mothers are suffering because even with a full time job, the wages are so low, poverty is inevitable (Newman). In order to help mothers, we need to change the stereotype. Inform the citizens of America that those receive aid deserve it.
At this point, women are struggling to raise their children. When they go to receive aid, they are often classified as being “bad mothers.? Mothers who can not provide for their children. The government has no right to take away these women’s children because they are unable to care for them. Rather, the government should be giving means to support the mother and the child (Appell). The government should provide what the mother cannot afford. Anything from housing, food, even daycare. For if the mother can have her child at a daycare, she will have a better chance at finding a better paying job and making it on her own. When she can do this she will be a “good? mother again.

9 the blog

To President Barack Obama

Many people out there think, that poor people are lazy and that they can not do anything with out the help of government aid. But truly that is just a myth, which goes around. Poor (color) people have lack to education, transportation, and working. They don’t have the connection to all those, like upper and middle class people do. Especially poor mothers, who don’t have those connections and have to go through, working three jobs to support her kids and herself,. So if people out there see that, she does not do a good job supporting her family and think that she’s a bad mother, the child welfare system comes into play. Child welfare system supposedly is to help the family but, seems to look like; they are just making it harder for the mother. Kids are taken away from their bad mothers and the mothers are giving task to do to either get their kids back. If they don’t meet the task as it was asked, then her kids are being place in foster care. Many things go around about mothers who don’t meet these tasks that are set.
If they don’t do it properly their kids are taken a way. We need to have an understanding of what’s happing to people who are stuck in survival mode. This is a systemic problem that has to be deal with and not leave it alone. Every one needs a helping hand to get up from this individual problem. Is not because they’re lazy or just because they are not doing the exact task of being a good mother does not mean that they are “bad? or “stupid.? From my point of view, I think that if we were to see someone in that position, we need to step up and they too should also. Guide them to education that will link them through a good job. I know it may not be a good argument but just to put my thought out there. I know others will argue about my point, but that is just the way I feel.

Blog Nine

Blog 9

President-Elect Obama,

First, I am so glad you are president of the United States. You have saved me the trouble of living in the safety hole I dug up just in case John McCain and Sarah Palin became our leaders.

I appreciate your concerns on poverty. Since you know the struggles of single mothers, we must help poverty stricken single mothers. First, we must reconstruct the identity of a poor mother. We cannot view their financial problems as an individual problem. We cannot view them as lazy women. We must realize privilege has a direct relationship sex, class, and race in this country (Johnson) and the key to understand poverty is we need to look at as a systematic problem (Newman). If we can change how our society views poverty stricken mothers, not as enemies, but rather as victims of our society, we can begin producing real concrete solutions to support poverty stricken mothers.

Currently our society does not support poor working mothers well enough. If government agencies such as the DCFS are going to take children away because the mother is “neglecting? the child, then the government must give the means to support the mother as well as the child (Appell). We have to give the mother and child both quality health care and food. We must also give them affordable housing. The housing should be good and in a safe neighborhood in order for the child to be safe. We must also allow the mother a stipend so she can find quality childcare so she can work. If the mother does not have a job, the government must find her a job with hours she can work while she can be involved in her child’s life. The government and her workplace must work together (Newman) to provide her the means to take care of her child.

I hope these suggestions work President-elect. Lead the country well.

November 15, 2008

Week Nine

Many of the things we can do for the working poor involve legislation. Because it is much cheaper for society to pay for communal needs than individuals, enacting things like universal health care and subsidized early childhood education and higher education increases families' disposible income, which provides more funds for saving and both keeps more people in the work force and allows access to higher paying jobs. Things that especially benefit single mothers and people are subsidized food, housing, health care, child care, and transportation (mothers are responsible for transporting their children and selves to work, school, and activities). In "No Shame In My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City," Katherine Newman discusses various examples of creative initiatives that are location specific that target the working poor and help them build connections that open the doors to higher paying work, such as "Bridges to Work" that transports people from areas with few job opportunities to more wealthy areas. Systemitizing the movment of young people from school to work through programs in which teacher monitor students academic performance and set them up with jobs or in which students alternate between school and the work shop are also valuable in insuring the future of our young people and have extra positive side effect such as decreased teen pregnancy.

Blog Nine

Congratulations on winning the election. In regards to the economic troubles of the working poor, particularly poor working mothers, there is lots of work to be done. Part of the biggest problem is that poverty is a cycle that is difficult to get out of. People often times make the assumptions that this is because the poor are lazy and poor mothers are inadequate, while this is often not the case. Many of these mothers get caught by asking for help from the government (Appell). We should not reward them by taking away their children when they are trying to change. It is unfair to label a woman as a bad mother because she does not have the economic means to provide for her children what a good mother could.

A particularly useful book, “The Second Shift,? demonstrates how hard women usually work for their families. If opportunities are given for these women to earn money and care for their families, they will do it. A lot of the trouble is that there are no opportunities or opportunities with a definite ceiling in poor areas. Simply providing these people with money is not going to work, and it perpetuates the stereotype they are lazy. Instead, more work should be done to provide better education and employment opportunities in these areas. One possibility is taking the model of “education-to-work? school from Japan (What We Can Do for the Working Poor), which trains students to be good employees and hold a job. However, this should be a means to accessing more opportunities, not an end.

A big problem, in my opinion, is that our American system needs people to do the grunt work, and we are unwilling to provide opportunities for our grunt workers because we know that other positions are more desirable. But it is unfair for us to make these positions un-livable. When people cannot provide basic needs to their families, we cannot expect them to be good parents. More needs to be done to raise the standards of living in these impoverished areas in the United States, and we need to allow these people access to other options, should they choose to work towards them.

November 14, 2008

Blog 9

Dear President Elect Obama,

There are numerous things that can be done to help mothers rise above the poverty line. The reason that these numerous ideas and changes have not taken great effect is due to the assumption that the poor are lazy, crazy, do not even try to work hard to get simple food stamps. This, as I’m sure you’re aware of, is a huge stereotype that needs to be erased. In the book Nickel and Dimed Barbara Ehrenreich worked first hand with working class women below the poverty line. These women worked two to three jobs, while being pregnant just so they could survive. I and I am sure the majority of Americans would not ignore these women but help them if they just understood the world they live in. Therefore, I think it is first important to erase the stereotype and encourage the media to express the hard work and desperation of those in poverty. It is obvious that more funding, such as food stamps, WIC, healthcare, transportation, education, and safety need to be implemented to help – but we can only do so much with the budget we have. Therefore, we should not only look into government aid but also look into the private sector. According to “What We Can do for the Working Poor? the implementation of these private sectors into schools, and low wage companies allows those in poverty to move up into a job that pays more. A main point also is that businesses need to allow workers to move up, and it is also important for those in higher paying jobs to encourage and be references for those of lower pay to increase their job status. Not only do the workers move up the chain they are also very happy and actually can enjoy life instead of working 15 hour days without motivation (other than being able to survive).

Blog Nine Assignment Instructions

President Elect, Barack Obama, has recently learned that you are a scholar in a class that examines the intersection of gender, race, and class. He has sent a personal email request to you to help him think through economic strategies and policies that would benefit the working poor, and particularly, working poor mothers. Using your readings, including “On Fixing ‘Bad’ Mothers and Saving Their Children,? “What We Can do for the Working Poor,? and selections from The Second Shift, propose a solution that would help mothers who live below the poverty line gain greater access to the means necessary for social survival. You might want to start by demystifying the idea that the poor are “lazy? or that poor women are especially ill-equipped to be good mothers/productive citizens. You might even want to draw upon our earlier readings on power to suggest radical social change en masse. The format is up to you, but make sure that you cite at least one reading when constructing your response to him.

November 10, 2008

blog 8

I am going to focus on the Kessler piece on intersex babies.
The medical industry makes intersex children seem like they don’t belong and they need a side to relate to. “They cannot be both and it’s not acceptable to be both, its out of the norm?, this is what the doctor will tell the parents. The way that the doctor kind makes the woman choose a gender for the baby is a way to show that baby is not normal. If the ay as thought of as normal then the doctor making these suggestions would have been thought of as crazy, but an intersex baby is out of the norm. The baby must have an identity and the baby must belong to one side or the other and not both, this just shows how gender can affect everyday life. There was a discussion on should the parents actually choose sides or should the parent wait to see how the child will act at 3 or 4, closer to female or male. This sounds like a better idea but is it really a better idea to wait till the child gets older or should the child grow into whatever the parents choose? Would it make a difference because of course the parents are going to treat the child different depending on what gender it is and that can socially change the child’s though process whether it was given a Barbie by mommy or a Tonka truck. The mind set around gender becomes way clearer when someone has a intersex child. Either to pick a side for the child to relate or not to relate to or you are a bad parents for allowing your child to have to deal with the humiliation and confusion with being intersex.

November 3, 2008


I will focus this blog on the Kessler piece considering intersexed infants. First of all medical establishments differ widely in how they “treat? intersexed infants. If the infants are born in a urban city with a variety of different medical professionals available the infant will have a whole team of professionals that treat their “intersexed disorder?. Whereas, if the infant was born in a rural area they may just be left they way they are because they do not have the “medical technology or knowledge? to place the infant into one specific gender role.

Kessler explains that “Doctors make decisions about gender on the basis of shared cultural values that are unstated, perhaps even unconscious, and therefore considered objective rather than subjective.? Therefore, the intersexed infant is given its gender based on two major (and arguably the only factors). First, that the infant is compared with a male view in mind only focusing on the micropenis. And secondly, the infant is given its gender based on the cultural “Normal? body. This normal body for a male is a penis that is not so called micro and a clitoris that is not enlarged and can be a part constructed solely to take and pleasure the male penis.

This cultural “normal? male and female body is extremely important in our culture. Parents often push doctors into making a fast choice so they can explain to everyone what sex or “normal gender role? their new baby is occupying. Therefore, even though modern medicine is wonderful and needed the intersexed infants born in the rural less medically advanced town that are left intersexed may be better off than the ones “treated? by a whole comrade of medical professionals.

Blog eight

The Kessler article has to do with gender and the stress society puts on fitting in today. When a child is born with unknown genitalia, the medical doctors seem to pressure the parents to chose a sex for the baby. This is done so that the baby can then grow up either male or female and live a “normal? life. They don’t want to child to grow up different or unique to this society, they want them to fit in the norms in order to live their life like they are supposed to, like everyone else does. But the question here is that why is this pressure so strong for parents to decide what sex their child should be without knowing anything about what they will turn out like or what the child’s preference might be later on in life. The children should be able to live their life the way they feel is right and decide that for themselves. Our society doesn’t help with the fact that if people aren’t so called “normal? they are not welcome or treated well. By deciding so soon, it could create even more problems if the child is living their life one way, when they feel the total opposite. Physical appearance isn’t something we as a society should dwell on, let alone live by. By waiting and allowing the child to decide when they know could get our society to eventually accept intersexed people.

Blog 8

Both Koedt in The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, and Rich in Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence address that women's sexuality and the ways in which they are allowed to think about their sexuality are defined by patriarchy and heterosexuality. They both call for an adjustment of the system where women and their rights and desires can be acknowledged.

Koedt does this by addressing the physical act of sex and how it is the clitoris, not the vagina that is the "center of sexual sensitivity". Because men orgasm through friction with the vagina, a myth has been perpetuated that women should also orgasm through the vagina, and that there is something wrong with those that don’t. The fact that women orgasm through the clitoris, and therefore do not require a penis for sexual satisfaction disrupts the patriarchal values that govern the act of sex (“real sex? means vaginal penetration by the penis, men’s desires are the most important, women are defined by how they benefit men, etc.). The “expendable penis? means women can benefit from either male or female lovers, which Koedt argues makes heterosexuality an option, not an absolute. Therefore, she says sexuality must be redefined so that guidelines are established for “mutual sexual enjoyment?.

Rich also addresses the problems with heterosexuality as an absolute. Heterosexuality needs to be recognized as a political institution, not a preference or an innate part of a person. The “lesbian continuum? acknowledges not only sexual relationships between women, but the experiences throughout their lives that women have with each other. Because of this, and specific oppressions women face, lesbianism cannot be equated as the female version of male homosexuality. The “lesbian continuum? can be used to adjust the institution of heterosexuality (not necessarily overthrow it) so that we can recognize that heterosexuality is not the only option, and allow choice in relationships and sexual desire.


Kessler’s article makes a strong argument on how the medical establishment “fixes? or “treats? intersexed infants also produces the knowledge of what a “normal? body should be. Doctors are the first ones to recognize that the infant is not “normal?, based on their penis. They determine the sex based on the size of the penis. A penis being to small means that the infant will be “fixed? into a girl, and the same is done with the size of the clitoris. There clearly are many things wrong with not determining the sex on the chromosomes, but rather on the some part of the body looks like, because the child could grow up in the wrong body. The doctors seem more concerned about fitting the infant into a category, where there only exist two sexes, rather than being concerned about the health complications that intersexed infant could face. I have sympathy for the parents, because they are told by the society that their child is not “normal?. And basing it on the fact that parents seem to always accept the children for who they are, and always think that they their kids are the best, telling them otherwise must not feel good. I can’t imagine that some of them have to go as far as saying that they have twins (when the intersexed infant is born), and then saying later on that one of them is dead (after choosing their sex). The doctors are the ones who tell the parents to pick a sex. They encourage the idea of only two sexes. They do not leave space for a third sex in the “absence of maleness, you have femaleness.? With the modern technology the doctors have the power to change someone’s sex, thus not leaving room for the third sex. If the doctors could not perform such surgeries, the intersexed, they wouldn’t have another choice other than accepting the “ambiguous sex.? Clearly the doctors influence what our society calls “normal? and they help sustain the two-sexed system.

Blog Week Eight

I think that the Koedt piece “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm? and the Dworkin piece “Pornography? support each other very well. In my opinion, both authors discuss the fact that men demean women when it comes to sex and sexuality. They also both talk about how women exist to serve men sexually.
In the Koedt piece, what seems to bother me the most is the fact that men seemed to find a problem with women that do not experience orgasm from sexual intercourse. They even go to the extremity of sending them to psychological treatment. Men do not have the same genitalia as women, which should make it impossible for them to try to diagnose a problem in females. A female knows her own body best, and therefore she is the only one who knows how it works. There was even an explanation given that said “women were envious of men?. In sexuality it seems that everything is based around the male. A woman’s sexuality cannot be compared to a males because their bodies are entirely different structures that experience different things.
In the Dworkin piece, women’s sexuality is also based around the male. The women in pornography are considered “whores? and are sexual servants to men. It is not right that women must be considered whores because without women, men could not have sex. However, in pornography the woman is “used? and often times in violent and derogatory ways. The woman is also seen as dirty. Now that porn has become so demanded in the United States, the ideals expressed in it become what men expect out of woman. Seeing this pornography gives them the idea that it is right to treat women this way.
In conclusion, both articles express how men use women for their own sexual satisfaction. And in the Koedt piece, when a women wasn’t sexually satisfied, they considered that something was wrong with her, not with their own performance. In the Dworkin piece women’s sexual satisfaction is not considered either because her body is used only for male satisfaction and entertainment. Women are looked at as objects when it comes to sexuality, and that is an epidemic that I think both authors agree needs to change.

Week Eight Blog

When looking at both Koedt's essay, "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" and Dworkin's essay, "Pornography" you may notice that both essays centralize on women's bodies basically existing because of the fact that they must please men. It says in "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" that "Women have thus been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men..." (Koedt 176). Similarly to this quote in the "Pornography" piece, Dworkin states "In the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore? (Dworkin 185). Koedt continues to go into detail about this idea that the vagina is a source of please when really women receice their sexual pleasure through clitoral stimulation. This myth is then continued because of the fact that men depend on this part of the woman for their sexual needs and desires. Koedt then continues by explaining that men won't really care if they dont know that they are not pleasing the woman sexually becuase as long as they are getting something out of thats all that matters, right? This seems similar to Dworkin's essay because she centers on the fact of pornography and that women exist to serve men. She describes men as the primary character and women to be sort of a secondary character, meaning that mens needs and wants come first.

It was good to read both articles together because while each of the authors seems to take a different route in pointing out that women's bodies are a significant aspect in pleasing a man, it is interesting to look into each of these different ways. They compliment each other's articles more than contrast them which helps in trying to look at the key aspects of both pieces.

Koedt and Dworkin

Koedt and Dworkin share similarities in that they both view sexuality as being a patriarchal concept.

Koedt argues that the clitoris is equivalent to the penis (meaning orgasms occur via the clitoris), and since men dominate women, the female’s penis (clitoris) is ignored so as not to threat men’s masculinity. Women are thought to have psychological problems if they do not experience orgasms via the vagina, which is to say that women are supposed to be pleased with whatever works for the man (missionary position). Men define sexual normalcy. Some women fake vaginal orgasms as a way to “catch? a man, which emphasizes the idea that women are expected to win men over by impressing them sexually. Koedt also argues that foreplay is strictly for the man’s pleasure. And she says that we’re living in a society that is unwilling to change the roles of men and women.

Dworkin argues that pornography involves the lowest of whores. The problem with pornography is that real women are objectified in order to maintain these depictions. There’s a sexual framework of male domination in which whores exist. Dworkin goes on to argue that all women are in fact whores due to the real women used in pornography. “The debasing of women is held to be the real pleasure of sex.? There’s this idea that women love to be exploited.

Both Koedt and Dworkin seem to believe that women’s sexual needs are placed on the backburner in order for men’s needs to be met. Men define (whether consciously or not) sexuality as a whole; they determine what it means to be sexual and what stigmas are attached to men and women’s roles in sexuality. Lastly, change in this patriarchal sexual system does not seem to be in the stars for us anytime in the near future.

Blog Week Eights

The birth of an intersexed child brings into question many factors that are not just biological for both family members and the medical practitioners. “Indeed, biological factors are often preempted in their deliberation by such cultural factors as the “correct’ length of the penis and capacity of the vagina.? Medical procedures seem to be considered first before consultation with parents, announcement of the gender of the child at birth, and consideration of counseling during the child’s teen years.

The medical field is influenced by cultural expectations of what a female or male should look like and be within the current limitations of our society’s expectations. Without considering all the factors, diagnosistic mistakes can be made. These medical procedures are Consideration of one sex or the other (male or female) are made the primary consideration of what sex the child should become. These two sexes are the only “natural? options that physicians see are acceptable. They are acceptable because this is what western society thinks is acceptable and normal. In other words, western medicine only considers there are two sexes make determinations for a person’s entire life using these cultural factors.

Since the medical field accepts the “binary? system of either one or the other, there is also an acceptance of how a body “should? be or “should? look. The child and parents have a life choice made for them within the guidelines of a society that limits it views of either male or female and nothing in between. Then this person is expected to live the life of either a male or female. This child is the one who needs to live life as this body and all the emotional and physiological impact.

Week Eight Blog

In Kessler’s essay she talks about the fact that the medical community determines the gender of an intersexed child by the size of the penis, rather than by the chromosomes. This clearly shows that our society is obsessed with making sure everyone is normal and able to be put into a box. However, no one can say what the child will grow up to be. So the doctors should not change the baby, they should just let it be and grow up into whatever its supposed to be. If they did that then we would eventually start to accept the fact that intersexed children are born all the time and they deserve the right to choose who they want to be.

We as a society get all of our information about being normal physically from the medical society. Basically whatever they tell us we believe. So when they are making decisions about the gender of a baby they are using their authority to continue the norms in our society. However, if there are so many children being born this way who’s to say it’s not normal? The medical society would never look into intersexed children being normal because there isn’t a place to put them in our society. Its boy or its girl and that’s it.

Blog Eight

The Kessler text was a very interesting way of looking at gender and really begins to go hand in hand with the medical idea of nurture over nature. The piece simply illustrated our society’s stress on a binary gendered system. When children are born with ambiguous genitalia, medical doctors immediately put pressure on the parents to choose a gender for the infant because it is for the best interests for the child. This decision needs to be made quickly so immediately the parents can begin to raise the child as the specific gender. I suppose it is believed widely be the medical world that one can MAKE a child be whatever gender they want them to be. It is an interesting hypothesis however; I do not think it works well for the child in all cases. But it is the fact that parents are pressured into making that decision for the best interests of the child where I would have to disagree. This so called “best interest? has to do with whether or not the child will fit in to our society and be ‘normal’. However, many probably would not know if the child was not normal until they looked at the genitalia. And it is the genitalia of a typical male, genitalia that is capable of having heterosexual sex that becomes the rubric of whether or not the intersexed infant is a male or female child. And sometimes that forced decision that harms the child more than help them. No one encourages the child to be who they are, an intersexed person, but that is because we live in a society that does not encourage that, or accepts in at all. So these intersexed children are forced to either be squeezed into a category they are not, or be oppressed by society. This is because we define a “normal? body by genitalia capable of heterosexual sex, nothing else is acceptable.

Blog Eight

The two pieces I selected, "Pornograpy" by Andrea Dworkin and "Toward a Feminist Theory of the State" by Catherine MacKinnon share many similarities. Both view pornography as a way of objectifying women. They also agree that it is men who have created the industry and maintained it in order to show male's sexual dominance over women. The womens' sexuality is used and abused in order to satisfy the male audience. They tend to regard this kind of sexuality as men's way of debasing women.

However, the two author's views also differ in some aspects. For example, the idea of sexuality in and of itself. Dworkin claims that porngraphy attempts to make sexuality seem dirty; pornographer exploit the idea in order to sell tapes. Nevertheless, Dworkin doesn't seem to think that sexuality is inheritantly bad in and of itself, but rather has been corrupted by "male patriarchal dominance."

Contrarily, Catherine MacKinnon believes that all sexuality involving a man and a woman constitutes male dominance, no matter what the circumstances. She even believe that sexual relationships between gay men is an example of male dominance. She calls the women of these sexual relationships abused and compares them to victims of the Holocaust (real classy way to make one's case).

So, while MacKinnon goes more indepth with how sexuality itself is harmful, Dworkin merely seems to be against the exploitation of sexuality via pornography or other forms of sexual abuse.

Blog 8

Koedt and Dworkin both address how patriarchy is extended into sex and sexuality. As Koedt argues, the physical act of sex serves no pleasurable function for a woman. It is meant for procreation, of course, but when it is recreational, it only serves to satisfy a man. Coital sex, as she argues, does not provide an orgasm for women, because it does not stimulate the clitoris. A “myth? is created by society though, that a woman does, or should have an orgasm. If she does not, she is frigid. It is the belief that there isn’t anything wrong with the design of coital sex, so there must be something wrong with the woman. Society blames the woman because it threatens an act that serves men.
Dworkin argues that the sole function of pornography is to degrade women. It supports a dualism, like Koedt contends, which steps on a woman at the expense of male desire/domination. Pornography makes sexual women whores. Not only are they whores, but they are brutalized and submissive to their male counterparts. Like Koedt, Dworkin asserts that a woman’s sexual needs are inconsequential, but takes it a step further by saying a woman who is sexual at all is made a harlot. Pornography makes tangible the cultural dualistic values of society, and she argues that it should be put to a stop altogether. What both women do not address is that women can enjoy both sex and pornography, so long as they are set up in a way for a woman to enjoy. The pieces are both somewhat dated though, so the sexuality of women today versus the time the articles were written is quite different. I feel that women today are granted much more sexual freedom and judged less than they were 30 years ago, so some of the arguments would not be valid in modern discourse.

Blog Eight

The Kessler text provided a lot of insite into just how far the 'rules' of society, the way people think everything should work, the dualisms that have been imbedded into our culture, have decided how we deal with certain situations. Doctors, when dealing with intersexed infants and aren't quite sure which sex to name the infant, look at penis size. They feed directly into the whole 'everything has to work this way' way of thinking by saying oh, well, if the baby has a reproductive organ of this size, its a micropenis and this should be a boy though he may be teased later on because his penis is smaller than 'normal' size. However, if the baby has a reproductive organ smaller than that it should be a girl, because it couldn't possibly function as a boy even if the now-named girl doesn't have a vagina or anything. These doctors automatically end up saying boys have to look like this, girls have to look like this, end of story. They are pretty much saying a 'normal' body has to work a certain way, act a certain way, look a certain way and it all comes down pretty much to whether or not the proclaimed boy or girl will be able to perform well enough sexually. Like, an intersexed child with reproductive organs that are smaller than a 'micropenis' can't be boys because as they grow up they won't be able to have sex with women, or at least easily have sex with women. Saying this totally feeds into the 'everyone must only have heterosexual sex' idea. The way that doctors deal with inersexed infants does not help people think outside of the box, think outside of the dualisms that we have grown up with, but instead shoves them further and further into our beings so that it is even more difficult to get rid of such ideas if we don't like them. Deciding that not being one sex or another at birth is not okay puts those dualisms into play immediately at the start of the child's life. They think they are describing what a 'normal' body is because if something is not 'normal' people don't know how to deal with it. By deciding at birth what sex a child is by looking at his/her reproductive organs these doctors have started laying down specific quidelines as to what a normal girl is, what a normal guy is, and very obviously saying that girls and guys have to look a certain way instead of just accepting the child the way he/she is and helping society lean more towards the society that Sterling thought we should have with five or more sexes that describe a lot better the way that our world actually is instead of just the two that don't necessarily easily include a small section of our society.

November 2, 2008

Intersexed Infants: a Taboo Predicament

Kessler argues that medical professionals fail to consider the well-beings of inter-sexed children when deciding which sex the child will be. Rather, they decide based on the size of the penis and whether or not it would develop to be a standard and desirable size. This is extremely degrading to not only the child but also gender in general. It sends a message that smaller penises are less masculine, when masculinity is still highly regarded in today’s society. Someone brought up a good point in discussion during lecture: penises have one main purpose which is to reproduce. If all size penises are able to do so, what difference does it make what size it is? It is just that smaller penises are frowned upon by society; men are most typically embarrassed when their penis is not “up to par.?

Parents are at a disadvantage when having to make decisions concerning their inter-sexed infants. The majority of parents have nothing but the best interests of their child in mind, wanting their child to have the easiest and most fulfilling life possible. Yet they are not at fault for doing as medical professionals advise. Most parents probably do not expect to have an inter-sexed child; therefore, when the situation does come about, parents have no knowledge of how to handle the predicament. Of course they would act on medical professionals’ advice; doctors have more experience with the situation as well as more knowledge of it.

week Eight Blog

Even with progressive ideas of today, the medical communities as well as many people outside that community have strict ideas as well as standards of how to treat cases of intersex infants. Today the majority of people have the idea that an infant who is born as intersex baby should be made into either a boy or girl, immediately. Doctors encourage the confused parents to pick the sex of their child sooner rather than later. Beside the chromosomal factors of the infant doctors use “cultural factors as the “correct? sixe of the penis and the capacity of the vagina? (The medical Construction of Gender: Case management of intersexed infants, 155) The medical community believes that female and male are the only “natural options? for the child, with the advancement in technology and progress of surgery creating the child into one of two genders is the only option. Parents are encouraged not to refer to the child as boy or girl, but baby. Some doctors go as far as telling the parents to tell loved ones they have had twins, a male and female. When the gender of the intersex infant is determined, they are encouraged to tell the loved ones that one of the children has died. Many doctors lead the parents to choose a gender based on if the child has a better chance as passing as a girl or boy. They also encourage the parents to treat that child as that gender stronger than parents with a non intersexed child. Not only do the children go through surgery they go through a life time of hormone treatments and go the process of understanding that they were intersex infants. There are many stages in surgery to “reassign? the gender and in many cases the gender the doctors turn the child into is wrong. There have been many cases in which an intersex child has grown up as one gender do to operations, yet have felt the opposite gender. Another big factor in this situation is the psychological toll it takes on the child. They are basically created into something that they have no say in and have to learn to be a person that they may or may not be able to be. The medical community defines the sex of children; they create norms and literally turn infants into either boy or girls. They believe that males could not live with micro penises or girls with large clitoris, because that goes against society. They believe that there are only two sexes and there is no room for ambiguity. The medical community does not take into account the well being of the child but instead performs surgery to correct the child to make the boy or girl. They never leave a child to grow up as an intersexed individual and pick a sex even if it might be the wrong sex which the child grows up and has no control over their lives.

Week Eight Blog

Adrienne Rich’s piece both addresses and challenges the ideas about heterosexuality and patriarchy posed by Catharine Mackinnon. On the one hand, Mackinnon strongly believes that sexual objectification that women face “the way fish live in water?, which is a product of patriarchal oppression, is dealt with by their attempt to “meet the male standard, and measure their self-worth by the degree to which they succeed? (356). While Rich acknowledges the patriarchal pressures put on women in the form of assumed or “compulsory? heterosexuality, she argues that, in fact, women have formed bonds with other women throughout time and space. Those bonds have less to do with male supremacy or the need for women to cope with patriarchal oppression, than they do a special female experience, one that Rick calls the “Lesbian Existence? or the “Lesbian Continuum.?

She argues that this continuum has existed across cultures, and although heternormativity tries to erase the history of this, it is impossible to overlook. When Rich says that “woman-identification is a source of energy, a potential springhead of female power? I think she negates Mackinnon’s idea that women feel the need to succeed in relation to men in order to have self-worth (Rich, 323). Rich illuminates another system of relations that exists alongside patriarchy and in some ways has challenged it.

Furthermore, I think that Rich challenges Mackinnon to think about desire and the erotic outside of a heteronormative framework. While Rick notes that this framing has been imposed on us, she highlights the way that collective power as women can enable change and “determine the meaning and place of sexuality in their lives? (325).

Week Eight

In the articles we read this week I had similar feelings for both Koedt's and Dworkin's pieces. I felt reading both essays that they were written in the belief that the gender binary existed, and possibly that even a sexuality binary existed. Koedt’s piece led me to these feelings because the essay was based on the belief that women have sex with men. (excluding a small paragraph at the very end of the article) Koedt doesn’t detail other important aspects in sexual activity (that are also important to orgasms) such as, mental stimulation and masturbation. Koedt’s essay is based only on the fact that women have and want to have sex with men. She over looks bisexuals, homosexuals, pansexuals, etc. Likewise, in Dworkin’s piece she does the same thing. Dworkin looks at pornography as something that only men view and a tool that men use to oppress women. Dworkin never discusses porn made for women by women (although this may not have existed at the time) or porn viewed by homosexuals. Dworkin’s essay leaves out a wide variety of porn and an even wider variety of people. This being said, these articles support each other. Koedt’s view of the vaginal orgasms being a myth works strongly to support Dworkin’s view on pornography. Both articles view women as being sexual oppressed. Perhaps a lot of the flaws in the articles are because of the dates of these articles, but either way these two binary based articles compliment each other quite nicely.


Modern medicine's treatment of intersexed babies is itself a discourse on what a normal body is. Generally speaking when a child is born and not clearly defined as either male or female, the baby is often altered, if at all possible, to conform to 'standard' male/female perceptions. one of the main checks in this is the size of the penis/clitoris. if it is large enough, the infant may be passed off as a male; if it is deemed too small, the child is passed off as a female, and the genitalia may be further reduced in size.

Using this a number of things can be inferred about what medicine is telling society about a normal body. The first is that one must be either a full male or a full female. It is unacceptable to be intersexed, else there would be no need to alter intersexed infants. Second, that doctors will reduce the size of what is determined to be a clitoris (that is, a phallus too small to be considered a penis) enforces the dualism between men and women. some variety is allowed in the size of penises, but all clitorides must be small and of about the same size. Finally, this same practices tells us that the maleness of an individual is determined in no small part by the size of the phallus. To have a small penis makes one less of a man, and as a corollary, to have an enlarged clitoris makes one less of a woman.


Andrea Dworkin explains in 'Pornography' that women are seen as objects used only to please men. The word pornography comes from greeks words: porne and graphos. Porne means least regarded and least protected of all women. Graphos means writing, etching, or drawing. She is trying to say that pornography means the lowest regarded women and the art of using them. Thus meaning, the use of sex. Anne Koedt explains in 'The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm' that sex is only to please men, and women that do not climax during 'regular' vaginal sex are seen as inadequate and not normal. She argues that a woman only climaxes from clitoral stimulation.

Each author agrees that men are still seen as superior during sex, and this again follows the system of patriarchy. Although, the authors are arguing different points. Dworkin talks about the disrespectful display of women in porn, while Koedt elaborates on the fact that sex is seen only to pleasure men. Men know what pleases women, yet they still choose to do what pleases themselves. Thus, women are defined in terms of a man's pleasure. This is where Koedt and Dworkin are very similar.

Each author brings up in depth arguments, yet each differ. Dworkin takes it to a level beyond rational thinking, where as Koedt reevaluates attention and interworkings of sex.

blog eight

In Suzanne J. Kessler’s article, “The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants,? Kessler writes how intersexed infants are determined a gender and whether or not that gender should be determined at birth or determined at an “appropriate? age. This is a very sensitive situation which deals with a person’s whole future life. If the parents decide at birth which sex the child should be, how do they choose the correct one? What if they choose the wrong one? And if the parents wait to find out which gender the child adapts, what age is deemed appropriate? The sex of the child is determined by their genitals, and the proper size/length of the vagina/penis. If a child is born with a “micro-penis?, a penis that is too small, it is considered insufficient for heterosexual intercourse and is reduced to a clitoris and announced a female. Most commonly though a child is born with either ovaries or testes but the genitals are not recognizable. In the instance of raising an intersexed child, 18 months is seen as an appropriate age to observe and determine the gender of a child. The child should be raised as one set gender so as not make and confusion with the gender identity. At puberty hormones should be administered according to the child’s sex and age-appropriate information of the child’s condition should be given to them. It is not normal to have several/different/multiple genitals, so it should be determined that those should be removed or changed. All of these factors contribute to society’s view of a “normal? body.

Week Eight Blog

The medical community "treats" intersexed infants and encourages "norms" that already exist within our society. The first norm that is largely displayed within gender construction is the size of the penis. The article states, "male is defined as having a 'good-sized' penis, more infants will be assigned to the female gender than to the male." When a baby is born with an underdeveloped phallus they see if it will grow when treated with testosterone. If it does grow the problem is resolved, but later there may be problems at puberty where the penis wouldn't develop to an "appropriate" size. Having a small penis would affect his "manliness." Many of the children born with this problem are assigned to be female because a small penis isn't acceptable.

The article also discusses how infants who are born with XX chromosomes but developed a "perfect" penis should keep the male genitals because if they kept the female organs they would become tomboys. This implies that a girl acting like a boy in any way is wrong in our society. It also says that the the perfect penis is more important than what the chromosomes say.

Another aspect of "norms" addressed in this article is "good penis equals male; absence of good penis equals female." In the medical world there is a lack of size and shape requirements for the female genitals, "other than that the vagina be able to receive a penis." Basically they're saying the lack of a perfect penis makes the child a female, or the not perfect choice.

The article also addresses how parents react to the situation and the ambiguity of the child's gender. It's a complicated situation for them because they can't tell people the gender of their baby, and when a child is born people ask about the name and sex all the time. The physicians suggest to not fully answer people's questions and leave them a little frustrated with not knowing rather then telling the truth about not knowing the baby's gender. The doctors also try to make the situation seem not extreme by avoiding words like hermaphrodite or abnormal, but they try to perform the surgeries and create the sex of the child as quickly as they can. All of this suggests that ambiguity of gender isn't at al acceptable and a child either needs to be male or female.


Clearly, Dworkin and Mackinnon's pieces lend themselves to support one another's arguement regarding sex, pornography, and the degradation of women by sexual means. While Dworkin's article is rather short, she makes her point with little verbiage: Pornography legitimizes the sexual dominance of men over women and portrays them as dirty whores. These accessible displays of pornography send the message that humiliating women through sexual practices is the norm and that women are nothing more than whores. Mackinnon elaborates, further explaining these convictions beyond, but including pornography. Mackinnon sees a sexual hierarchy occurring in society, one that enforces male dominance. This hierarchy definately exists in the market of erotica, the most popular pornography is undoubtably those that display men exercising power over women through forceful and humiliating means. Dominance is "sexy" and "erotic", as women we are told to want this sexual power to be exercised on us by these images and men feel doing such is normal. Its understood treating women like whores is what they want. Agreeing with Dworkin, Mackinnon out right deems pornography a tool used to objectify women. Both authors concur that porn produces rape because porn grants men consent to treat women like dirty whores. Pornography is the discourse of this sexual hierarchy, a legitimate product of our rape society, a visual demonstration of the inequality existing between men and women. While in the public eye, men's attitude may have changed toward women in the workplace and etc to appear that society has become more gender neutralized, but sexism still occurs on the most intimate level of male and female relations. Anytime men feel naturally superior to women it is patriarchy, whether its in the bedroom or at the office. Whether or not the woman objects, the man is showing power, informing her that passivity is the norm. As so beautifully put by Mackinnon, "equality is not sexy."

Week Eight Blog!

Kessler’s arguments about how intersexed infants are treated in the medical field are thought-provoking because she and others sought to prove that doctors were not adequately treating infants who seemed to have abnormal genitals. I was rather appalled to learn that more often than not when a baby has abnormal genitals and they are treated, they are usually changed into a female. I thought it was so unfair and shocking that even if the baby was originally a boy, they were forced to become a female without their knowledge. I mean how can a doctor do something so cruel and not think of what it would be like for that “female? to grow up probably having issues and always not feeling right in their own body.
The polls that Kessler did on a bunch of college students about corrective genital surgery done on infants shows that many if not most of the people would never want corrective surgery done without even if their genitals were deemed abnormal. In some respects I can see a positive to altering a girl who has a large clitoris to be smaller, and that is not that horrible in my opinion because at least the girl never loses her birth given gender. However, I just cannot agree with making a male into a female just because he was born with a small penis. It’s not like a boy cannot function in society with a small penis, and it is truly going to be a mental burden for any male to try and live as a female when they weren’t born that way. I just think that doctors try to fix people's bodies so that they fit some kind of a norm, and doctors appear to make changes to a person without regard to how it will affect their patient in the long run of their life.

Blog eight

Our ideas about what a “normal? body is are largely influenced by professionals in the medical field. The Kessler text explores doctors’ and parents’ reactions to infants that are born with an ambiguous sex. Babies that are born as not clearly being male or female present many problems in the eyes of our society. What kind of name do you give the baby? How do you tell people the gender? How do you raise a child that does not fit into either of our gender categories? Modern technology gives parents the answer to these questions by making genital reconstruction possible. The doctors discuss the situation with the parents and if they desire such treatment for their child, the infant is examined by medical professionals to see which sex it is more like. From there, depending on the condition of the genitalia, the phallus can either be reduced to a “normal? sized clitoris for a female or enlarged for a male. The gonads can be altered to fit the outward appearance of the genitalia. Sometimes, the chromosomes don't match up to the appearance of the sex, which creates problems in deciding what the new gender should be. Doctors consider the appearance of normal genitals to be integral to raising the child, as abnormal genitalia will prolong the negative response the parents have towards the child. It is thought that parents “need to go home and do their job as child rearers with it very clear whether it’s a boy or a girl.? This statement in itself makes it apparent that our culture sees no in between. We are either male or female and any deviance from this is undesirable, even if it is natural. The fact that we have technology to produce “normal? gender appearance in infants and that doctors feel that this will be beneficial to the lives of the parents and the child show that the medical field has a strong influence on how we view bodies. If intersexed infants could be accepted for what they are and not altered to fit into one of our constructed categories, they could eventually become viewed as normal. However, currently, it is very hard for parents to accept a child with an unknown gender. The child will probably be rejected throughout its life if it has no clear sex, so the parents are forced to make a decision for the sake of the child's happiness, even if it is possible that it could turn out to be the wrong decision.

Blog Eight

In Suanne Kessler’s piece called “The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants?, the way in which the medical establishment decides whether an infant is male or female is laid out. She also describes how the doctors “fix? intersexed infants and how they treat the parents of these intersexed infants.
A big deciding factor in whether an infant is male or female is based upon the size of the penis. If the penis is not large enough, measurements decided by the medical establishment, the infant is female. As stated in the article, “in the absence of maleness you have femaleness?. This statement only encourages the patriarchal society that we live in. It is stating that males are the dominant individuals in our society and if you are not “good enough? to be male, you are female.
The big question arises when an infant does not fall into either the male or the female category. The medical establishment feels compelled to change any ambiguous genitalia so that the child will fit into the normal categories of sex, male or female. If the infant’s penis is not large enough to be considered normal, the infant is transformed into a female. The doctors in the article also expressed the importance of quickly changing the infant so that they can be introduced into society as a “normal? human being. It was brought up that if the genitalia of a boy is changed at a later point the individual will have memories of castration. Also in the article, the doctors interview said that whichever way the infant is changed will most likely not matter because the way in which the individual is raised is the decided factor in the gender association and performance of the intersexed individual. Kessler points out that most medical professionals are not trained well enough to handle these situations appropriately, especially when dealing with the parents. The parents are told to dodge question of whether the baby was a boy or a girl until all procedures are done.
I was very disturbed by the story of the parents that had an intersexed baby and told everyone that they had twins, one boy and one girl. When the sex was determined and fixed, the parents told everyone that the other twin had died. I can’t imagine having to do this but this only proves the pressure of our society on everyone to fit into the two categories of sex. It shows the great lengths that some will go to, to cover up such an event.

Week Eight Blog

The issue of intersexed babies is a sensitive one and also creates knowledge on how the medical establishment wants and expects us to recognize a body as normal. First of all, it is almost impossible for a parent or a doctor to know for sure that they are making the right decision in determining the sex of an intersexed infant, but at the same time it is also almost impossible to not make a decision. Even though it seems more reasonable and scientifically correct to determine the sex of someone solely on their chromosomes, this article made me realize that you can't always do that because of the way our society categorized and judges people. Doctors say that if the penis is a certain size or smaller it should be named a girl. This is because if it is too small, a "micro penis," it will not properly function in the act of heterosexual sex. This shows us that in order for a male's body to be considered normal; it must have a certain sized penis. The same goes for females. If their clitoris is determined to be too big it will be unattractive and abnormal in their future.

As you can see, in determining the sex of intersexed infants, the body is the sole basis of the decision. This shows us that society judges your sex based on your body and nothing else. If you don't look or have "normal" parts of a certain sex you must not be that sex and in turn you must be the opposite. This also reinforces the idea that there are and always will be only two sexes, male and female. Considering that they will sacrifice a girl having an enlarged clitoris instead of a boy having an unsatisfying penis says that we still base things off the needs of men, but at the same time it is still taking into consideration the desires and feelings of women. Yes, it may be “wrong? and not the most successful to base the sex off the body; it is pretty much the only thing that they have to base it off until the infant is much, much older. I think it would be more harmful for a child to not be named a sex over being named the wrong sex. In our society today everything needs to be named, labeled, and put in a category, even if its one that may change years later.


Kessler’s piece addresses the issue of intersexed children at birth and how doctors deal with the situation. Rather than defining the gender of a child with abnormal genitals by their chromosomes, they base their decision on the body. If the child doesn’t have a penis, it’s a woman. If the child has a penis but it is too small to perform heterosexual sex later in life, the child is said to have a “mirco penis? which they often reconstruct into a clitoris and make the child into a woman. I feel that it is extremely wrong to classify someone based on their genitals and the ability of the penis to make a woman happy.
I also find it very interesting that they believe that this method works and that if all of the appropriate steps are followed the child will develop into the gender they are assigned, and “will not question her or his assignment and request reassignment at a later age? no matter their chromosomal gender. Really? I do not agree with this, especially when they also say that the child must be kept informed about their gender and their body. I would imagine the child would somewhat question their gender, and if they feel strongly enough, I believe they would change their gender.
By telling parents what they should do about their child’s gender, I feel that doctors are misusing their power and authority. People respect doctors and value their opinion, but I really feel the decision should ultimately be up the child when the time is right. Choosing your child’s gender for them before the age of 18 months as recommended, can ultimately make life worse for the child. Its not going to help socialize them, when they do not know whether they are really a boy or really a girl.
This article really reinforces that gender is a construction of society. Every decision for the child is based on what is “normal? in society and what people will accept. Thus, this reinforces the idea that there are only two genders, and only one way for sexuality, and that is the way of the penis and the vagina. Intersexed individuals must be fixed to fit into the norms of society because there is no room anywhere else for them.

Blog #8

In Koedt’s essay “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm? and Dworkin’s essay “Pornography? both authors argue that in our patriarchal society, women are seen or portrayed as objects meant to accommodate men’s sexual desires. Dworkin uses the way women are portrayed in pornography to demonstrate her point while Koedt points to the inconsistencies surrounding society’s ideas of the vaginal orgasm as well as explaining why men allow the myth to continually be perpetuated.
Men maintain the myth of the vaginal orgasm because it benefits them sexually. Penetration of the vagina is needed for the man’s sexual pleasure. Even if the man is aware that it is not causing the female to properly climax, he probably won’t really care, or choose to please the women over getting pleasure himself. Women are then made to feel abnormal because they aren’t climaxing from coitus and that they are at fault. Koedt sums it up by saying that women are “simply afraid to establish their right to equal enjoyment, seeing the sexual act as being primarily for the man’s benefit,? (180).
This theory works with Dworkin’s ideas of pornography as portraying all women as whores because both ideas place men as the “main character? and cast women as “secondary characters?. Dworkin argues that pornography always shows women as a “graphic depiction of the lowest whores? (183). She relies on the ancient Greek meaning of the word pornography which states that “porne? means “the cheapest..least protected of all women, including slaves,? (183) to back up this point. She views all porn as objectification of women.
If a woman is just an object, her pleasure is not important. The two essays work together to validate the point that women are viewed as objects designed to pleasure men. This works in society because pornography makes women into objects and its is not important for a simple object for orgasm, so long as the main character, the man, is happy.

Blog #8

In Koedt’s essay “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm? and Dworkin’s essay “Pornography? both authors argue that in our patriarchal society, women are seen or portrayed as objects meant to accommodate men’s sexual desires. Dworkin uses the way women are portrayed in pornography to demonstrate her point while Koedt points to the inconsistencies surrounding society’s ideas of the vaginal orgasm as well as explaining why men allow the myth to continually be perpetuated.
Men maintain the myth of the vaginal orgasm because it benefits them sexually. Penetration of the vagina is needed for the man’s sexual pleasure. Even if the man is aware that it is not causing the female to properly climax, he probably won’t really care, or choose to please the women over getting pleasure himself. Women are then made to feel abnormal because they aren’t climaxing from coitus and that they are at fault. Koedt sums it up by saying that women are “simply afraid to establish their right to equal enjoyment, seeing the sexual act as being primarily for the man’s benefit,? (180).
This theory works with Dworkin’s ideas of pornography as portraying all women as whores because both ideas place men as the “main character? and cast women as “secondary characters?. Dworkin argues that pornography always shows women as a “graphic depiction of the lowest whores? (183). She relies on the ancient Greek meaning of the word pornography which states that “porne? means “the cheapest..least protected of all women, including slaves,? (183) to back up this point. She views all porn as objectification of women.
If a woman is just an object, her pleasure is not important. The two essays work together to validate the point that women are viewed as objects designed to pleasure men. This works in society because pornography makes women into objects and its is not important for a simple object for orgasm, so long as the main character, the man, is happy.

Blog #8

In Koedt’s essay “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm? and Dworkin’s essay “Pornography? both authors argue that in our patriarchal society, women are seen or portrayed as objects meant to accommodate men’s sexual desires. Dworkin uses the way women are portrayed in pornography to demonstrate her point while Koedt points to the inconsistencies surrounding society’s ideas of the vaginal orgasm as well as explaining why men allow the myth to continually be perpetuated.
Men maintain the myth of the vaginal orgasm because it benefits them sexually. Penetration of the vagina is needed for the man’s sexual pleasure. Even if the man is aware that it is not causing the female to properly climax, he probably won’t really care, or choose to please the women over getting pleasure himself. Women are then made to feel abnormal because they aren’t climaxing from coitus and that they are at fault. Koedt sums it up by saying that women are “simply afraid to establish their right to equal enjoyment, seeing the sexual act as being primarily for the man’s benefit,? (180).
This theory works with Dworkin’s ideas of pornography as portraying all women as whores because both ideas place men as the “main character? and cast women as “secondary characters?. Dworkin argues that pornography always shows women as a “graphic depiction of the lowest whores? (183). She relies on the ancient Greek meaning of the word pornography which states that “porne? means “the cheapest..least protected of all women, including slaves,? (183) to back up this point. She views all porn as objectification of women.
If a woman is just an object, her pleasure is not important. The two essays work together to validate the point that women are viewed as objects designed to pleasure men. This works in society because pornography makes women into objects and its is not important for a simple object for orgasm, so long as the main character, the man, is happy.

Blog #8

In Koedt’s essay “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm? and Dworkin’s essay “Pornography? both authors argue that in our patriarchal society, women are seen or portrayed as objects meant to accommodate men’s sexual desires. Dworkin uses the way women are portrayed in pornography to demonstrate her point while Koedt points to the inconsistencies surrounding society’s ideas of the vaginal orgasm as well as explaining why men allow the myth to continually be perpetuated.
Men maintain the myth of the vaginal orgasm because it benefits them sexually. Penetration of the vagina is needed for the man’s sexual pleasure. Even if the man is aware that it is not causing the female to properly climax, he probably won’t really care, or choose to please the women over getting pleasure himself. Women are then made to feel abnormal because they aren’t climaxing from coitus and that they are at fault. Koedt sums it up by saying that women are “simply afraid to establish their right to equal enjoyment, seeing the sexual act as being primarily for the man’s benefit,? (180).
This theory works with Dworkin’s ideas of pornography as portraying all women as whores because both ideas place men as the “main character? and cast women as “secondary characters?. Dworkin argues that pornography always shows women as a “graphic depiction of the lowest whores? (183). She relies on the ancient Greek meaning of the word pornography which states that “porne? means “the cheapest..least protected of all women, including slaves,? (183) to back up this point. She views all porn as objectification of women.
If a woman is just an object, her pleasure is not important. The two essays work together to validate the point that women are viewed as objects designed to pleasure men. This works in society because pornography makes women into objects and its is not important for a simple object for orgasm, so long as the main character, the man, is happy.

In Dworkin's essay about pornography and its effects upon sexuality and society, she claims that pornography is 'objective and real and central to the male sexual system'. The male system is one that is a patriarchal oppression of women as nothing more than objects to fulfill men's sexual desires. She also goes on to say that 'in the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore. The whore is porne, the lowest whore, the whore who belongs to all male citizens: the slut, the cunt.' Dworkin believes that pornography is just one way for men to debase women and make them into mere objects, it is a self perpetuating system because watching pornography makes the depictions of women and sex 'real' and those expectations fuel the further objectification of women. MacKinnon supports this view of a perpetuating system in her essay about 'sexualities'. 'Women cope with objectification through trying to meet the male standard and measure their self worth by the degree to which they succeed.' MacKinnon relates objectification to hierarchy in her essay as well, 'what is sexual is what gives a man an erection...Hierarchy, a constant creation of person/thing, top/bottom, dominate/subordination relations, does.' The two essays support one another in their appraisal of some of the causes of objectification.

Week 8 Blog

Two of the articles we read this week really focused in on women being defined in terms of men’s sexual pleasure. Both articles by Koedt and Dworkin did this. Koedt focused in on the “myth of the vaginal orgasm? – basically, how the idea that women can have vaginal orgasms has been perpetuated by men. Women, she states, cannot have vaginal orgasms. Their spot for stimulation is actually the clitoris, but as this spot is not a pleasure point for men, who receive their pleasure from penetration, it is ignored. Women are made to feel bad and even go through therapy or surgery to fix their “inadequacies? sexually. Dworkin, on the other hand, briefly discusses pornography and women’s connection to it. Her belief is that women are looked upon as “low whores.?

Both these articles work well with each other, since women are basically just for men’s pleasure. Dworkin takes it even further than Koedt though. Not only are women for men’s pleasure, but they are also dirty and low. She says, “…pornography embodies and exploits this idea [that female sexuality is dirty]; pornography sells and promotes it.? So both are just arguing that women are the objects of men’s sexual wants. This all, of course, goes back to Plumwood’s dualism system. Women only exist for the pleasure of men.

The two articles do not really contradict each other, or argue against each other. As stated earlier, Dworkin simply furthers Koedt’s original argument, although in a mental state not so much physical. Koedt deals with the physical issues of female sexuality. Dworkin deals with it mentally and emotionally.

blog 8 yo

What I am interested in, is how Koedt and Dworkin use existing structures of knowledge to support their argument. In both articles, the authors use what “society? considers as strong soures of knowledge to support their claims. Koedt’s article The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, and Dworkin’s essay Pornography, use external structures of knowledge, in Koedt’s case, the medical industry as a source of knowledge, and in Dworkin’s, Greek root words. In both cases the source of knowledge is a constructed one. The way we think of doctors and medical technicians is as all-knowing entities that can impart to us the inner-workings of the world. And the Golden Age of Greece we think of today as the source of rational and natural philosophy. We think of Plato and Aristotle, and other masters of logical thought, and though they were brilliant in their time, we have to take in to account the social confines that produced them, and the structures within which their ideas operate.
While Koedt’s article is about pushing against the constructions that the medical industry has created around gender, her argument is still using the same tools that she is refuting. She is using medical study citations, and physical “facts? about the body, as posed by doctors. She refutes Freud by saying he focused too much on his assumptions on the inferiority of women to men, rather than her anatomy. She then goes on to list the physiological “functions? of the vagina. While the studies she cites may seem factual to us today, Freud’s findings were thought to be factual as well. She uses the same kind of arguments that she is refuting.
Dworkin’s entire first paragraph is about the Greek roots of the word pornography. She gives a very graphic and literal meaning of the word within the context of ancient Greek society, and her thesis then is “Contemporary pornography strictly and literally conforms to the word’s root meaning.? This is hard, because most of me agrees completely with her. However, she is using the ancient Greeks and their construction of knowledge only because today we regard the Greek philosophers as symbols of intellectuals. It is problematic because the solution she is asking for is social reeducation about systems of patriarchy, yet she is basing her argument within a culture and lingo that is firmly patriarchal. She, like Koedt, is using the same arguments she is refuting. She is not trying to redefine pornography in terms we might use today, or see it as a mutable, and possibly positive source of change.


We can look at the Koedt article “Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm? as a more concrete example of the effects of Rich's described heteronormativity. Rich points out that while there is a 'preference' or 'choice' which draws women toward me, this 'preference' is viewed to be the norm; indicating that other 'choices' need justification. This need of justification is a good example of problems with the current heterosexual normative, but this is still a mental effect. Koedt brings out an example, the movement of the clitoris, that is very physical. The idea that heteronormativity has effected not just a mental aspect, but has also caused individuals to go so far as to alter their body. While I don't think this is a more serious effect, it is much more concrete (less abstract) then the alteration of mentality, and provides a very strong objective example of how heteronormativity shapes our being.

Lesbianism, as portrayed by Rich, is a way under which women experience affiliations outside of the heteronormative structure. Koedt's article also furthers this statement by elaborating on how the heteronormative concept of sex (i.e. penis penetrating the vagina) is not the most pleasurable for women. This helps challenge the idea that the current norms are there for a reason. Both articles take care to elaborate on how why the current norm has no foundational basis that isn't skewed to favor males.

As a quick summary, Koedt's article provides very power examples of Rich's more generally abstract definitions of heteronormativity. Koedt's piece greatly aids Rich's argument against this normative structure.

Week Eight Blog

In both Koedt’s The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm and Dworkin’s Pornography one thing is clear. In our society, women are valued as sexual objects, existing solely for the pleasure of men. Koedt says, “…men have chosen to define women only in terms of how they benefit men’s lives? (181). When you consider the way Dworkin defines the origins of the word pornography, it is clear that Koedt’s observation has been true since the early development of Western society. If the perpetuation of male dominance is evident in the depiction of women as gross spectacles, it is not hard to see why such myths of female sexuality have also been perpetuated in order to secure such dominance.

Both articles also say something else that is particularly significant. Neither author leaves room for an opposing view. Koedt presents an argument that shows the construction of social and medical myths about female sexuality. In doing so she cites men as he main transgressors. However, she fails to recognize sexual pleasure that females may receive from coitus and completely devalues the importance of the male sex organ. In Dworkin’s argument she gives us a short history of pornography and cites the extreme debasement of the women who originally held the role of porniea. She does not, however, truly explore the possibility that the circumstance may have changed due to the progression of pornography. She does note that the industry has grown extremely large. I think it is important to note the way porn stars now have a certain degree of celebrity. They have award ceremonies and some individuals, like Jenna Jameson or Carmen Electra, are household names. It is possible that the value society place on modern day porneia is greater than it has been in the past, so the message pornography is sending may have changed. Both articles took somewhat limited stances on there interpretation of sexual relationships and depictions of women.

blog 8

What I found very interesting is Kessler’s text about, “The medical construction of gender: case management of intersexed infants? she talks about how medical doctors are treating infants as a… I want to say it’s like a child’s clothed whom the parents decides to put on her/him and so soon she/he will grow out of them, to decide whatever they feel like wearing. They are babies now, who don’t know yet what clothes to choose. So later on when they get older the society kind of decides for them if they want to dress like boy or girl. They have to choose one of the two to be. I don’t mean like they have to choose to be like the boy or the girl but it’s like the bathroom part where they have to decide which one to go in.

Kessler talks about how doctors have to decide a gender for infants who have ambiguous genitalia, because this society, where you have to choose weather is a boy or a girl. It very bad I want to say that the infants are being force by this society to choose what they are. Sometimes I wish that there are no such things to choose from and you can be whatever you feel like being without any hatred. Doing this medical surgery on infants as for the boys, it also talks about in the long run, where there are sizes the penis has to be and that if it’s small is consume that their something else. That’s one part that really disturbed me a lot because now they decides the sex for the infant already, now there are certain sizes too.. What’s going on now?

I feel the toughness of this article though, because I feel that in away it’s good to have a infant to do surgery if they have this ambiguous genitalia and so the parents and the doctor have to decides if it’s a boy or a girl but the other half of me, feels that it’s bad because what if they turn out not to like their body the way it is and so they have to change it the way they like it to feel good about themselves. Now as they are older they decide what body they are comfortable in. Now they have with to go through this society where they are being judge all over.

chole005 Blog Eight Assignment

What stood out to me most in the article by Suzanne J. Kessler titled “The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants? is that being born with extra or ‘ambiguous’ genitalia (i.e. those that were neither completely male nor completely female) was treated like a disease or a deformity. When the medical establishment reacts to this infant, they are doing so in a society that considers male and female to be the two sexes, with no grey areas in between.

Kessler talks about how many medical workers are ill-trained on how to deal with such a situation, though within this male/female binary context, I don’t feel that this is really possible. Not only do doctors and nurses and those who assist with the birth need to change their idea of the sexual binary being the norm, society itself has to accept the fact that intersexuality is not a disease, and can’t truly be ‘cured’ by hormones or surgery.

Although the medical establishment is partly to blame on how we deal with intersexed infants, they are trying to cater to society and ultimately make the lives of the child and parents easier in the long run. If they were not to do this, the parents, if they were desirous of a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ child, would go to a doctor that would.

One thing that upset me about this article is that the way Kessler describes how our bodies are sexed, which I would summarize as:

Penis = male (of ‘proper’ size)
Lack of penis=not male

Anyone with any medical training should know just how untrue this is. Things will not get better until the medical community as a whole accepts the idea of intersexuality, and society is able to accept a human being that identifies as such.

Week Eight

Mackinnon states that, "all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water." This relates to Dworkin writing about women as pornography and as whores. They both argue that sexuality is a political institution created by men which erocticises hierarchy. Being a woman means going about one's daily life in a permanent state of objectifying pornography and with the constant threat of physical violence on one's person. Dworkin writes: "In the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore. The whore is porne, the lowest whore, the whore who belongs to all male citizens. Having her is having pornography. Seeing her.... is seeing pornography..... Using her is using pornography. Wanting her means wanting pornography. Being her means being pornography." Dworkin clearly views pornography as violent anti-female propaganda. This parallels the conclusion reached by Mackinnon that all coitus is essentially rape; that there cannot exist in a patriarchal world relationships between men and women that are equal, unpatriarchal, or in some way violent and harmful. Both site part of the reproduction of patriarchy in male created images of women that erase the realities of women's live and histories and that portray them as subhuman. Although Dworkin does not heavily delve into what these things mean for relationships between men and women, Mackinnon goes so far as to suggest that women may have to choose between freedom and sex and association with men.

November 1, 2008

Blog 8

Blog 8

Susan Kessler’s piece on how society treats intersexual infants makes me extremely angry. Not only do they force these infants into a “sex,? they “have certain assumptions about gender and that they impose those assumptions via their medical decisions on the patients they treat.? They reinforce the ways in which oppression works within our society and the “norms? of a female and male body.

What set me off the most was the notion of the “size? of the penis. Kellser writes, “it is very detrimental to the morale of the young boy to have a micropenis.? This shows not only does the body depend upon gender, but men determine gender. Since they consider how large the penis is, or how large the clitoris to determine the sex of the child, they emphasize the importance of the male sex. The norms of the body are based off the male sex. It does not matter if the intersexual child has proper working ovaries that can make babies, but rather if the “penis? will not give the child any grief.

Another problem with the how the medical establishment talks about how they treat intersexual infants. They “say that they ‘reconstruct’ the genitals rather than ‘construct’ them.? Also since the “gender in an infant is ‘reannounced’ rather than ‘reassigned’ suggests that the first announcement was a mistake.? This suggests that the medical field determines the “norms? of the body. They also suggest that ambiguity is not “normal? and without these “normal? body must be “reconstructed.? They enforce there are only two sexes, two genders, and only one sexuality. It does not allow any room, or space for intersexuals, and they must conform to this way of life.

Blog 8

In Kessler's piece, she describes how medical establishments come up with different ways of classifying an individual with ambiguous genitals. In this case, the body is used to determine gender and sexual development. The medical field suggests that parents raise children with ambiguous genitalia based on how big the 'penis' is being developed. If the so-called 'penis' is not of a certain size, it's referred to as a 'micro-penis.' Of course, individuals and doctors believe that a micro-penis would not be good for their son's development of becoming a man with masculine traits; therefore, the child's genitals are surgically made into a clitoris, classifying the baby or child as a girl. They want the child to be able to engage in heterosexual sex as an adult and want the child to feel confident about their genitalia. Doctors also encourage parents to not name the child until they are certain of what the sex is. In this case, they might suggest that the parents wait to perform surgery to officially determine the child's sex until the child starts to develop. Then, they base what the child's sex should be off of what he/she starts to look like, what activities he/she likes to do, and how the child acts. In the end, parents and doctors hope that the choice they made for the child's sex is appropriate. In certain cases, parents feel ashamed later in life because they believe they've chosen the wrong sex for their child. Parents wish they would've left the surgery to determine the child's sex until later in life when the individual is grown. Waiting for a long period of time could also increase the risk and difficulty of surgery since the genitalia will be more developed. All in all, one's sex is related to its gender and leads to an individual's desires. An example would be a woman with a vagina is identified as a woman with femininity and she desires men.