Thus Spake Zuska
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Thus Spake Zuska Has Moved!

Thus Spake Zuska has moved to a new site!

Zuska is now blogging at

Thanks to the folks at Seed Media Group and for inviting Zuska to join the family!

And apologies for the long delay in announcing this...I started this post on August 7 but some family emergencies intervened.  At the new blog, I'll pick up some loose threads from this site, including a follow-up on the post about Rollins President Lewis Duncan's remarks, and a response to a comment by a young woman on one of the Screen Goddess IT Calendar posts.  Hope to see you over at the new site!

If you've subscribed to Thus Spake Zuska via RSS, you can continue to do so via's RSS feed.


12:15:48 PM    comment [] trackback []

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Rollins President Duncan to Women: It Comes Down to Morals vs. Pragmatism


More on the Karpova-Toadygawa story.  This may be the best part of all.  Because you see, Zuskateers, it isn't just Toadygawa who's had his true colors exposed.  Consider this quote from the Boston Globe:     

If the accusations are deemed true, [MIT president] Hockfield will face the task of standing up to one of MIT's greatest luminaries, someone who brings in tens of millions of dollars of research funding.  "This may come down to a question of pragmatism vs. moral leadership for the president," said Lewis M. Duncan, president of Rollins College in Florida and former dean of engineering at Dartmouth College.

There you have it.  Out in print.  If you bring in enough research money, presidents and deans of engineering will let you get away with the most egregious forms of sex discrimination because, after all, it's pragmatic.  Even if it is ILLEGAL.  Go ahead and hang the women out to dry.  Or let them hang themselves; laundry is women's work, isn't it? 


To sum up:  he's rich, you're a bitch.


I know you are all busy with research and preparation for the onslaught of fall semester and arrival of first-year students and resumption of heavy teaching schedules.  So you don't have time to compose witty, angry letters to morons who suggest that illegality is pragmatic and therefore we should just toss our morals out the window because after all, it's just women, and we all know their tiny brains can't handle the math anyway.  I am not, of course, saying that that is what President Duncan himself was saying or implying.  I was just letting my imagination run wild there.  


Nevertheless, you might wish to send a witty, angry letter or email to President Duncan informing him of the danger that statements like his pose for people whose imaginations might run wild and then just stay there instead of coming back to reality.  So I have composed that letter for you.  Feel free to copy and modify as you wish.  You could mail it to him at 

Lewis Duncan, Office of the President, 1000 Holt Avenue-2711, Winter Park, FL  32789

Or you could fax it to him at


You could phone the office and verbally express your sentiments


Or, much faster and easier, you could email him at


So, here's the letter:

Month day, year

RE:  your comments in 7/28/06 Boston Globe article regarding Karpova/Tonegawa/MIT

Office of the President, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Avenue-2711, Winter Park, FL  32789

Dear President Duncan:

As you know, the NIH is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research.   That means taxpayer dollars pay for research like that conducted at Dr. Susumu Tonegawa’s Picower Institute.  In addition, NIH funds center grants, worth millions and millions of dollars over 5 and 10 year periods; the Picower institute has nine such grants totaling a possible $45 million, with Dr. Tonegawa as principal investigator.  As a taxpayer, I am concerned as to whether or not federal funds are being used in an educational setting that discriminates against women - which, of course, is illegal (Title IX).  I think that's enough money for the public to want some accountability.  In addition, the guidelines for Silvio O. Conte Centers for Neuroscience Research, such as the Picower Institute, state:     

[Centers] should provide opportunities for young investigators who have the potential for independent research careers to become skilled in the experimental strategies, approaches, and techniques of modern neuroscience research.  In addition, there should be close coordination between the Center and relevant predoctoral and/or postdoctoral research training programs of the participating institutions.  Special attention should also be given to the recruitment and training of minority students.

As a taxpayer, I am paying individuals like Dr. Tonegawa not only to do research, but to mentor and train young scientists.  Graduate students and postdoctoral students in other laboratories who could benefit from the resources and work in centers like the Picower should and must have access to those resources.  To deny them access is to violate the terms of the federal funding such centers accepted.  To deny them because they are women or minorities is to violate Federal law.  I hope this is not the case at MIT or elsewhere.  I am thinking of asking my senator to look into this.

You were quoted in the Boston Globe as follows, "This may come down to a question of pragmatism vs. moral leadership for the president [of MIT]." I hope this does not suggest that you believe situations where federal funding guidelines may have been violated, or federal laws broken, should be overlooked merely because an individual has been effective in obtaining federal funding.  That certainly is not the leadership I would expect of a university president.  It is definitely not the kind of leadership I'd expect from a president who was previously a dean of engineering.  Such a president should surely have firsthand experience and knowledge of the hardships women face in science and engineering careers in academia.  An unawareness and/or lack of sensitivity to these issues is a serious deficit in personal leadership.  But an inability to steward an institution through a situation that could potentially result in a federal lawsuit is a serious liability for the institution that would hire such a person.  

Sincerely yours,

A Concerned Taxpayer 

12:57:37 PM    comment [] trackback []

Touching Concern of Tonegawa for Karpova's Welfare

Chemchick wanted to know if I had seen this news item and indeed I did remark upon this in a previous post.  I bring it up now because there is an update to report.  I refer, of course, to the disgracefully shabby treatment of Alla Karpova by Dr.Toadygawa, I mean Tonegawa (cat must have walked across the keyboard there) at MIT.  Please note, text in square brackets [ ] is inserted by me to paraphrase or clarify a quoted excerpt.  I don't wish to imply that the Chronicle of Higher Education (or the Boston Globe, below), from which I am quoting, have cats running across their keyboards.    

MIT Scientist Told Postdoc "Unpleasant Competition Will Be Unavoidable"

...[Dr. Toadygawa] was seeking to dissuade—yes, dissuade—[Dr. Karpova] from accepting a job at MIT because their research interests coincided and he is said to have regarded her as a rival.

The [BostonGlobe, which broke the story two weeks ago, cites one message in which the young researcher, Alla Karpova, urged the senior scientist, Susumu [Toadygawa], to give her a chance, even pledging to stay away from research areas he considered his own. Mr. [Toadygawa] has denied trying to interfere in the job offer, but the Globe quotes him as saying in one message to [Ms.] Karpova that "unpleasant competition will be unavoidable." 

The Boston Globe article has more details of the whole sorry affair.  Here are the opening paragraphs of their story; you can read the full transcript of the emails on their site:

Forty minutes after MIT's biology department voted to offer a job to a young neuroscientist, Nobel laureate Susumu [Toadygawa] sent the woman an e-mail warning that her arrival at the university would create serious problems because she would be competing directly with him.

"I am sorry . . . I do not feel comfortable at all to have you here as a junior faculty colleague," [Toadygawa] wrote to Alla Karpova , a postdoctoral fellow in her late 20s, who subsequently turned down MIT's offer and took a job in a Virginia lab.

In e-mails obtained by the Globe, [Toadygawa] strongly counseled Karpova not to accept the job, suggesting that professors trying to recruit her were misleading her into thinking that MIT could provide her a supportive atmosphere.

Well, by all means, let Mr. Toadygawa's comfort be the most important thing in the universe and a central consideration in every hiring decision ever made at MIT.  I would relish the opportunity to someday barf on Toadygawa's shoes.  Zuskateers in the Boston area, if you have a chance...

Here's the really touching part:

[Toadygawa] sent a second e-mail on May 13, saying his McGovern colleagues were enthusiastic about Karpova because she could help them compete with his already successful work at the Picower and were not paying enough attention to her personal welfare.

Why, it brings a tear to the eye.  So it wasn't just about trying to crush the career of a young, highly intelligent female in order to keep her from encroaching on even a teeny tiny piece of Toadygawa's fiefdom.  He was concerned for her personal welfare!  And his nefarious McGovern colleagues were just recruiting her willy-nilly without a care in the world for what was best for her.  When anyone could see that NOT hiring her at MIT was really the best thing for her personal welfare, because of MIT's well-known hostility to females.  From people like...Toadygawa.

10:56:46 AM    comment [] trackback []

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The JEOR Hits Just Keep On Coming

It's all hits, all the time, at the Journal of Exceedingly Obvious Results:

'Engagement' and the Underprepared. Practices that immerse students in learning help minority and academically at-risk students more than others, 2 studies find. [Inside Higher Ed]

If you read the article you will learn that the number and proportion of underrepresented minority students and academically underprepared students of all races in college grows, educators and policy makers have lacked hard evidence that "engagement" practices work for those students, too.

Because before we thought only white kids had the capacity to be helped.  The "others" were just beyond hope, you know.  In one study, a significant finding is that

"historically underserved students benefit more from engaging in [educationally effective practices] than white students in terms of earning higher grades and persisting to the second year of college."

The other study found that

 virtually across the board, using a set of "principles for good practices in undergraduate education" has "a significant positive impact on the cognitive development, learning orientations, and educational aspirations of students" in their first year in college...[The report authors] found a "compensatory effect" for students who enter college academically underprepared. "Thus, although the focus of attention has typically been on the general impact of good practices for all students, our findings suggest that good practices may be particularly important for those students who enter postsecondary education with the least educational capital," the authors write.

So, to summarize:  if you treat minority students in a welcoming manner and as if they actually belong at the university and you try to get them involved in the classes you are teaching, they will actually perform better than if you don't do those things, and they may even actually do better than the white kids.  This is so bizarre that no one could ever have predicted it, which is why we have researchers to find these things out.

One commenter suggested that the academically underprepared had, perhaps, just been previously academically under-engaged by poor teaching; another suggested that perhaps their home or social environment had been responsible for "teaching" them not to ask questions or get involved.  But I think they are just wrong.  These students were dumb, but the nice university people gave them remedial attention and helped them get smarter.  Of course, we can't afford to do this kind of stuff at all our universities, which is why these students should go to community colleges, where they are better trained and staffed to take on these sorts of tasks, and not to places like Harvard, where they will just be discouraged by their failure to compete with the smart white kids and will drop out of college.  Of course, then they will be available to wash our cars and clean our houses, so all is not lost.  I think this is what Roger Clegg and his Center call "Equal Opportunity".     

3:57:39 PM    comment [] trackback []

More From the Journal of Exceedingly Obvious Results

This just in from JEOR, as reported in the Chronicle's news blog:

Researchers at Harvard University say private high schools give their students an advantage over those who attend public schools.

I am shocked, shocked to find that an advantage is going on at private schools! 

Who would have thought that our excellent system for adequately funding our public schools through the lottery of property taxes, and the generally large student-to-teacher ratios in public schools, would not be competitive with private institutions and their smaller student-to-teacher ratios?  Wouldn't you think that property values in southwestern PA would buy you just as good a public education as you could get at, say Phillips Exeter?  Or that a class size of 30 offers just as much opportunity for your child to get excellent individual attention from the teacher as, say, a class size of 10 at the local Roman Catholic high school? I would have too.  That's why we need JEOR to keep us informed. 

So what I say is, stop wasting your breath lobbying your senators and representatives to do a better job of funding a topnotch public education for every child.  Just grab your kid and scurry on over to the nearest private school as fast as you can.  And if you can't afford it or there aren't any in your county, well, that's just too bad, isn't it?  That will teach you to be born into the not-adequately-privileged class. 

There are some who say money isn't the answer.  I remember one Republican who once told me that he thought textbooks weren't necessary to truly teach a child well, that he could teach a child math without a textbook.  I asked him if he would prefer for his child to go to a school with teachers like him but absolutely no textbooks.  He got a sour look and refused to answer me.  Yeah, I thought so, is what I said.  Why is it that money is not the answer only for the poor kids?   


2:34:14 PM    comment [] trackback []

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Research Shows Money an Issue For College Access!!!!!

A report from the Chronicle of Higher Education daily update today highlighted some recent research on access to higher education. 

The impact of financial inequalities -- such as the role of family income -- is almost entirely neglected by popular theories guiding research on college access, says Edward P. St. John, a professor of education at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Is it just me, or does it seem obvious that not all of us have the net worth of a Dubya Shrub?  And that variations in net worth would have an impact on college access?  Like, if your net worth was approximately one-third of what Bill Gates had, your kids could probably go to just about any college they wanted, as long as they weren't total idiots.  Whereas, if my net worth consisted of my company house in southwestern PA,


my eight-year-old car, $2000 in my checking account and $15,000 in retirement savings, and net household yearly income is $40,000, my kids just might possibly have a little less choice in higher education than yours.    

The article goes on:

He says that a central problem overlooked in theories on access "is the implicit assumption that financial aid is adequate to enable students to enroll in college and as a consequence, concerns about finances do not inhibit preparation or enrollment." But evidence suggests that even with financial aid, the costs of college matter a great deal to students and their families, he writes. Regardless of that, researchers have tended to examine issues related to college access and academic success through blurry theoretical lenses, he says.

I would like to rub shoulders with some of the folks who are walking around spouting the "financial aid is adequate to enable students to enroll in college and...concerns about finances do not inhibit preparation or enrollment".  Then I will invite them to come visit southwestern Pennsylvania with me.  Money - class - is as big an issue for diversity in science and engineering as race and sex.   

The Chronicle says that Mr. St. John's article,

"Contending With Financial Inequality: Rethinking the Contributions of Qualitative Research to the Policy Discourse on College Access," is available free for a limited time through Sage Publications. It is part of a special issue devoted to the topic of financial aid and access to college. 

10:53:07 PM    comment [] trackback []

The TRUE Sexy IT Goddess

Sharon and Sonja and all you other poor benighted souls who think fancy whore calendars are a positive step forward for women in IT...allow me to introduce you to what a truly sexy woman in IT is like.  Allow me to suggest, for your consideration, Ellen Spertus,  2001's Sexiest Geek Alive!  Here's Ellen's take on a very important question:

  • you really want to be called a geek?

I'll admit I'm more comfortable with the term "nerd".  I think there's a coastal difference in connotations.  On the East Coast (where I went to school), nerd was positive and geek was negative.  On the West Coast (where I now live), the reverse seems to be the case.  I would be interested to know at what point in the country the shift takes place. 

Does anyone know if this important research question has been answered?  Where does the shift take place?

Ellen is beautiful and intelligent and geeky and funny, too.  This joke made me laugh out loud, which probably just shows how geeky (nerdy? since I'm in Philly?) I am.  

  • You probably tell a lot of nerdy jokes, right?

Yes.  For example, why do programmers confuse Christmas with Halloween?  Because 31 OCT = 25 DEC.

Ellen is, I believe, a contributor to the most fabulous volume "She's Such a Geek!  Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Geeky Things", in which I also (ahem) have an essay.  You may get your eager paws on a copy this November.  Advance copies can be ordered at Amazon already.  But I like Barnes and Noble better.   

10:19:42 PM    comment [] trackback []

Let Them Eat Cake: Beef vs. Cheese

Well, Sonja has come back with a devastating response to my critique of the Screen Goddess IT Calendar:

tsk tsk tsk facts inaccuate again I'm not Sonja - American Beauty:-))) a review of the goddess web site or any media will reveal that fact. I have enjoyed other blogs due to intellectual objective debate however when it degrades to personal irrational 'insults' no real value to add. bye

I guess that shows me.  Now that Sonja has laid bare the flaws in my logic, who am I to argue further that fancy whore calendars don't advance the cause of women in IT?

Sharon has actually been injured by my critique:

My apologies for the terrible typos in my last comment - it is unfortunately an output of sitting up late into the evening reading opinions of contributors such as yourself.

I recommend less screen time and maybe some aspirin, but remember, I am not a physician.

I have to say - if I were judging only by their comments, I would not guess that Sharon and Sonja worked in IT.  But then, I have not spent many hours up late reading the goddess IT web site to discover more about their fascinating personalities.  

Here's something interesting to consider.  Over at Inky Circus, you can read their take on the whole IT Screen Goddess hoo-ha.  There you will find this interesting link to the Vancouver Fire Department's Flame Calendar.  There's a photo of a beefy lad with a long, long, long hose between his legs.  Yes.  

What's the difference between the Flame Calendar and the IT Screen Goddess calendar?  

  • Beefy lad with long hose = Very, very macho man = Very competent firefighter
  • Nekkid lady with rose petals = Male erection = Yeah baby, I'll give IT to you all night long

And that asymmetry, my children, is patriarchy in action.  And that's why posing for fancy whore calendars is not and will never be a positive step for women in science and engineering, at least until the revolution comes.       

9:54:22 PM    comment [] trackback []

Friday, July 28, 2006

Feedback From the IT Screen Goddess Gals

Sharon of the Screen Goddess IT Calendar has written to me to say

I'm glad to see all the research yo haev done - here's my 20 cents worth- Defying steroetypes in only part of the work. best wishes Sharon ( AKA Dr NO - It Goddess Calendar Grandmother)

Sharon, I must sorrowfully disagree; this is not 20 cents worth.  You have misspelled "you", "have", stereotype", and "is" in only two sentences.  Also, I believe "IT" is capitalized.  I might be willing to assign the value of one penny to your comment.

At My IT Goddess Rant, Sharon quotes Hedy Lamarr thus:  "Any woman can look glamorous - all she needs to do is stand still and look stupid."   I leave it to the reader to further evaluate Sharon's thoughtful participation in the Screen Goddess IT Calendar project and her insightful blog. 

I will only mention this about using Hedy Lamarr as your "inspiration" for participating in this sorry project.  Yes, Hedy Lamarr was a beauty of the silver screen who invented "frequency hopping", the idea underlying spread-spectrum communications technology.  And what did the nice lads at the National Inventors Council say when she wanted to keep working there, after she'd turned over her patent to the government?  No, Hedy, this is boys' work; you'll do much more good for the war effort if you flash your tits to sell war bonds.  It is true, she helped sell a great deal of war bonds by trading on her celebrity status, which was based in large part on her scandalous nude scenes in the film Ecstasy.  How many people do you suppose remember Hedy Lamarr today for her invention of frequency hopping?  How much good did she do to advance the cause of women in science?  Admittedly that wasn't her expressed goal - she just wanted to keep mucking around at the inventor's council because she liked doing that sort of stuff.  Which, her being a screen goddess, didn't make sense to anyone.     

In a separate comment, Sonja, she of the "American Beauty" pose, is distressed to find the fundamentals of science have not been followed in my post.  I am not conducting a science experiment here, I am writing a blog about engineering, science, and gender.  Nevertheless, that is no reason to do away with facts, logic, and reasoning, as Sonja points out.  So, here we go.

The comments here I am sad to say ARE misinformed.

Sonja has not identified which, if any, of my comments are misinformed.  I said calendars like these are not aimed at young girls, but rather at adolescent boys and pervy men who want to drool over the stereotypical objects of male fantasies.  I said that the folks who made the IT screen goddesses calendar think dressing up women like fancy whores will attract young girls to IT careers.  I said they thought that the inappropriate objects of male lust in the movies were good role models for young girls. 

Sonja says,

The facts are that to be a commercial success the calendar has to be visible, attractive, and popular - or it will raise neither awareness nor the money to invest in projects to encourage women into technology...Movies and media are constantly focussing [sic] on actresses and models who are attractive and scantily dressed, and magazines for teenage girls devote pages to makeup and attracting boys...[they] are seen as...people to admire...if that is what people want, [isn't] it better that the role models they see are limited to actresses and models...[rather than] a frumpy geek who can't get a boyfriend...We chose the screen goddesses theme...we believe...we ought to be admired hence the analagy [sic]...  

I don't see any obvious contradiction between what Sonja says and what I said.  The major difference is that Sonja thinks this is A-OK and I think it is a hideous mockery of women's aspirations and achievements.

Sonja thinks she is saying to the world, "Look, I'm smart AND sexy!"

I think she is saying to the world, "Look!  No matter how smart I ever am, you can count on me not to threaten the stereotypical understanding of the female role in society, which is to be constantly available sexually to any male who wants me, to be constantly concerned with my appearance and whether or not I am attractive to males, in the way that society defines as attractive, according to current standards of beauty on display by anorexic models and Hollywood actresses whose airbrushed images are plastered all over the media.  You may now jerk off while gazing at my hot body.  Feel free to disregard my intellectual accomplishments, except insofar as it makes you feel superior and powerful to imagine yourself sexually dominating someone like me and seeing me reduced to what I really am, a cunt, no matter what I say about my fancy IT career.  This should help you in treating other women the same way, no matter who they are or what they've accomplished as well. Proceeds from the cost of this calendar go to encouraging young girls to consider careers in IT.  Happy jerk-off!"

Why is Sonja so confused?  She thinks there are only two choices:  Nerdonna or Whore.  As I make completely clear in my essay " 'Suzy the Computer' vs. 'Dr. Sexy':  What's a Geek Girl to Do When She Wants to Get Laid?" forthcoming later this year in "She's Such a Geek!" (Seal Press), this is a completely false dichotomy.  If you want to get a good idea of what a Dr. Sexy calendar might look like, go look at Sexy Science Version 1.0.  There's no reason a calendar like that couldn't be published.  Also no reason that money to encourage young girls to go into IT couldn't be raised in some other way that does not trade on the flesh of women.

Or why not dress up like famous women scientists?  There are plenty of great portraits of nifty women scientists and engineers.  I know, I know - nobody wants to jerk off to women scientists.  And it's not as much of a turn-on for you, is it Sonja?  Because face it, you don't really find yourself, as an IT practitioner, to be very sexy, now do you?  Just Sonja the IT goddess - not sexy enough. If you want to pose like a Playboy pinup, fine, go ahead.  Just don't pretend you are doing it for a sanctified cause.  Because it makes me want to puke on your fancy whore shoes.          

4:35:40 PM    comment [] trackback []

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Geek Gorgeous vs. Sexy Science

Two blogs I recently discovered that I really like:. 

Joolya writes Naked Under My Lab Coat.  Thanks to Dr. Shellie for that link!  Here's a nifty post. 

Via Joolya I found Sexy Science Version 1.0, which brings you "the hottest science currently going on today and the hottest scientists behind that work".  This is a so much more sensible way to break down stereotypes about scientific and technological competence rendering one nerdy and ugly than the ill-begotten Geek Gorgeous calendar. 

The Geek Gorgeous calendar does not represent a positive development for women in technology.  Calendar photos show women provocatively dressed and posed, draped in technological objects.  The calendar's producer, a female software engineer, asks "What is so wrong about intelligent women showing the world that they can be just as sexy and comfortable with their bodies as the bimbos, but hold careers where they are valued for nothing more than their brain power?"  Zuska answers:

  • "Bimbos" are not the standard we should be trying to measure up to
  • Who, exactly, is the audience for this calendar?  Other tech women?  Young girls?  Or adolescent boys? 

Despite her insistence that the calendar does not objectify women, March's model is posed nearly identically to the cover girl on Playboy's "College Girls Spring 2003 edition".  The calendar's producer believes "Geek Gorgeous" shows women proud of who they are.  But presenting technically competent women as sexy bimbos in the manner of familiar male fantasies does not "take the power away from men to view women as one-dimensional sex objects".  It encourages everyone to view technologically competent women as just one more variation on the male sex object.

What's different about the Sexy Science site?  It does not strip the scientists from their context, strip their bodies of their normal everyday clothing, and sexualize the tools of their trade.  You won't find airbrushed boobs bound in ethernet cable here.  Also, you won't find the scientists referred to as "models".  You'll find chemists and engineers (actually pretty heavy on the organic chemists, so either there's a prejudice for chemistry there or all the really cute folks are in chemistry) and detailed descriptions of their work and then pretty normal-looking real-life photos of people, in their labs or at their desks or with their students.  At Sexy Science, the science is as sexy as the scientists.  Which is a whole lot sexier than College Girls Spring 2003 + some blah blah about IT that no one will read because the only people who will buy this calendar are adolescent boys and pervy guys who want to jerk off while looking at it.  

A similarly misbegotten calendar has been produced down under by another IT industry worker who also thinks that advertising IT women as fancy whores, I mean screen goddesses, is the way to recruit the nation's young girls into the IT workforce.  Yo, what is it with IT and the calendars?  Lots of controversy around this one, and an attempted denial of service attack on its website.  The Australian Computer Society had the good sense to withdraw its sponsorship from this calendar when it found out what the photos were going to be like.  Yes, "goddess" Sonia, I so think posing like the inappropriate object of Kevin Spacey's lust in "American Beauty" is a good way to encourage adolescent girls to consider careers in IT.  

Since there are so many more men than women in IT, why not make a Chippendales calendar of IT men?  Wouldn't that be a more sensible way to show adolescent girls that IT is a sexy, glamorous career option and that they ought to check it out?  They will be wanting to meet all those hunky guys in the IT workforce so they'll be clamoring to be let into the IT classrooms.  I just can't imagine giving a young girl a Playboy pinup calendar and having her say "yeah, I wanna go work with HER!"  Unless...could this be the stealth lesbian recruitment campaign?  

Does a Chippendales calendar for a 12-year-old girl seem somehow less wholesome than Geek Gorgeous or Screen Goddess IT?  Do you think the lesbian recruitment idea is ridiculous?  

If you find that ridiculous, may I just point out how frickin' poisonous this whole calendar business really is?  That, while we are trying desperately to break down gender stereotypes that keep girls out of the science, engineering, and IT workforce, producing a calendar that ENSHRINES stereotypes about female beauty standards and being the object of the male gaze is oh-so-counterproductive.  Duh.  Zuska recommends that if you find either of these calendars in anybody's office, you should puke on their shoes.                    

7:14:57 PM    comment [] trackback []

Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position - Workshop

Grad students, postdocs, this was in my email inbox.  Run, do not walk, to file your application!

Dear Female Graduate Students and Postdocs,

Will you be actively searching for a faculty position in the near future?  You may be interested in applying for this upcoming Rice ADVANCE workshop on "Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position", October 22-24 2006 - hosted by the School of Engineering and School of Natural Sciences at Rice.  We are expecting young women from institutions across the nation to apply.  Participants will be selected after applications are reviewed by the Rice ADVANCE Leadership Team and faculty in the Department you designate.  Travel costs will be paid for those selected to attend the workshop. 

More details and the online application can be accessed at this website.  The workshop flyer can be downloaded from the website homepage.  Please note that the application deadline is August 15, 2006.   

Rebecca Richards-Kortun, PhD, Workshop Co-Director

Professor and Chair of Bioengineering, Rice University 

2:22:15 PM    comment [] trackback []

Monday, July 24, 2006

At the Ministry of Science and Culture

Last night I had one of those dreams where everything seems familiar but strange, where time seems scrambled and you don't know if it's the past, present, or some dystopian future.  I was in my car, and Culture Club was on my car radio, with pretty Boy George singing "Karma Chameleon".  I'm a man who doesn't know how to sell a contradiction...But then it seemed like one of those weird rap remixes because I thought I could hear a man in the background saying over and over something like "Do it, do it, do it to Julia!  Do it to Julia!"  There was a newspaper on the passenger seat and the headline said something like "Party Denies Rat-Caging Allegations". 

Anyway, I'm in my car, driving...somewhere...the Ministry of Science and Culture?  I was on my way to a press conference, I'm sure of that.  Then, you know how it is in dreams, the scene changes, and there I am at the Ministry.  A Mr. Meyerburger steps to the podium and begins fielding questions.  This is what I heard.

Q.  Sixty prominent scientists issued a report saying there is a well-established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Party appointees, and that these actions have consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being.  What is the Party doing to address this?  

A. This malreport is a partisan attack, the work of conspiracy theorists.  The Party has been proactive in challenging the work of scientists that appeared flawed to the Party.   

Q.  Why does the Party continue to deny the existence of global warming? 

A.  The Party does not question the existence of climate changeThe reality of climate change does not imply a unique Party responseRegulations and incentives have ungood implications.  The Party believes climate change is an issue that must be addressed by the world.* 

At this point in the dream I couldn't tell if I was really dreaming or if I was awake.  I tried to wake myself up from the dream but I couldn't.  It was just like this movie I recently watched, Waking Life.  Anyway, the questioning went on.

Q.  Is the FDA pressuring scientists to alter their work for nonscientific reasons and provide misleading information to the public?

A.  Information presented to the public by the FDA is FDA approved.  FDA wants all its scientists to present FDA approved information when speaking to the public.  The Union of Concerned Scientists is a known leftist organization.       

Q.  What are we to make of this web site on the failure to approve Plan B for over-the-counter use despite what the data showed, and what its own advisory committees recommended?

A.  The recommendations of FDA advisory committees are advisory in nature.*  FDA has put together a doubleplusgood website to answer all your questions about Plan B, currently classified as ungood by the FDA for over-the-counter use following sexcrime. 

Q.  Is there a larger pattern of the Party suppressing scientific information that clashes with political or religious views the Party favors?

A.  The Party believes that science is about the search for knowledge and we should teach the debate and we can never have enough information about the world around us and we must keep gathering data and asking questions, even about the very definition of science itself. 

Q.  But isn't it true that federally-funded pregnancy resource centers, often affiliated with antiabortion religious groups, are incorrectly telling women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, infertility, and deep psychological trauma, meanwhile denying them vital health information

A.  This is a routine attack by shrill harpy leftist commie latte-sipping east-coast kneejerk baby-killing liberals that is nothing new.  The Party agrees with* pregnancy counselors who tell women abortion, which results from sexcrime, will increase their risk of breast cancer and infertility

Q.  Is the Party allowing religious belief rather than science to influence its decision whether to make a cervical cancer vaccine available to poor girls?

A.  You can't catch the virus, you have to go out and get it with sexcrime.  Poor girls can prevent it by having the best public health method, and that's not having sexcrimeMaking cancer vaccines readily available might actually encourage sexcrime.  Then they will want abortions, which will increase their risk of breast cancer and infertility.  Not that we mind if poor girls are infertile.  They breed like flies. 

Q.  The Party's recent appointee to the No Child Left Out of Math Classes Task Force has devoted her career to proving that men are innately better at math than women.  Doesn't this send exactly the wrong message for the Task Force?

A.  The Party believes no child should be left out of math classes.  The Party believes that male and female children should be given the kinds of math instruction that are appropriate to them, just as we do for white and nonwhite children, and rich and non-rich children. 

Q.  Doesn't all this signal not only the Party's general disdain for science, but hostility to women, their health issues, and career aspirations?

A.  The Party venerates Womanhood most highly.  The Party wishes to protect Woman by keeping Her safe from sexcrime, from the ugliness of a cruel and competitive business world, and from our vile enemies overseas.  Sacred Woman, at home, nurturing our young - it makes the Party want to weep with joy.  No further questions. 


Text in dark blue is directly quoted from news articles or documents on web sites that are linked to within the question or answer containing the text.  In some cases the link text itself is a direct quote from the linked source; these links are followed by an asterisk, "*".  Thanks, of course, to George Orwell's"1984" and to the Newspeak language he created.  A dictionary of Newspeak can be found here.   

5:31:33 PM    comment [] trackback []

How to Start a Racial Diary

Skookumchick over at Rants of a Feminist Engineer is keeping a racial diary as part of a project:

A friend of mine asked me to be on a panel she was organizing at an interesting sounding conference, to be held in September. She and a postdoc wrote an abstract which proposed that 4 people - including two white people, one of whom is me - would keep a "racial diary" for a month and then use it to talk about unearned privilege and prejudice, particularly all the little things that we White people tend to overlook.

What a nifty idea for a conference panel!  What a nifty idea in general.  If you are a white person who would like to start keeping your own racial diary as a means of becoming a more sensitive person and better colleague, but you aren't quite sure how to begin, you could start by reading Peggy McIntosh's classic White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Backpack and then just writing down your thoughts and reactions to the article. 

In the article, McIntosh offers a list of unearned white privileges.  It's a pretty dandy list.  Here are just a few:

  1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. 
  2. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  3. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  4. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  5. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing, or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
  6. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.  
  7. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones. 

That last one is a real zinger, isn't it?  Think of the luxury of all that time and energy I don't have to spend worrying whether people are reacting to me in a certain way based upon my race.  Whiteness is like having an Airport EZ Pass for everything in life. 

2:59:15 PM    comment [] trackback []

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