Wednesday, July 09, 2014

links here and there

Someone at Slate makes use of the Christianese slogan "true love waits" but applies it to academia on account of the frequency with which professors have romantic and sexual relationships with grad students.  Never thought I'd see a non-arch invocation of "true love waits" ever show up at Slate.

Over at the Atlantic Sara Boxer asks "Why are all the cartoon mothers dead?"  You haven't watched enough cartoons, that's why?  Mothers aren't always dead in Miyazaki films, for instance.  Ponyo, Kikki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and in non-humanoid form Princess Mononoke all have mothers who are alive.  Mothers are certainly present in Legend of Korra. Just because Disney and associated spin-offs in the United States have a couple of clich├ęs doesn't mean the medium is being well-represented in Boxer's piece.  The inevitability with which the word "patriarchy" comes along had me wondering if this was a polemic against mainstream America animated feature films which, okay, fine, it's something to be concerned about but as a representation of the art form as a whole ...  no and Boxer must undoubtedly know this.

After all, she mentions Brave.  But with that Pixar film the central conflict is between a mother and a daughter over what form of femininity is ideal and acceptable and the dad is the one who has obviously found all sorts of things to love about both his wife and daughter.  While Brave has been read as a mother/daughter adventure that happens when the boys aren't around it can also be read as a story in which a husband and father is befuddled by his wife and daughter refusing to accept that femininity can manifest in a countless ways.  The idea of framing discussions of gender in terms of class warfare, whether via feminism or the "manosphere" is baffling and more than just a teensy bit annoying. 

Then again, as Hanna Rosin noted a while back, the patriarchy as feminists have often defined it hardly seems to exist anymore.  She made a more particular point, that the patriarchy isn't much of a variable for affluent white women in urban centers who can actually make careers for themselves in liberal arts compared to the rest of the nation, let alone the world. That men with the most patriarchal views about marriage and gender are most likely to be abusers, particularly when they have paired "up" is forensically beyond question.   There's still a harmful patriarchy out there for plenty of women, after all, but it's not necessarily going to hugely impact the women who are most likely to write about it in certain strands of social media, or so Rosin seemed to be proposing.

Regardless of how enlightened a person may seem or be in one sphere it's possible to be endarkened in another.  We live in the age of the internet, an age which is no less prone than earlier epochs to want all or nothing.  Our heroes must be pure heroes and our villains must be pure villains.  Things that introduce ambiguity or ambivalence, and things that reveal that heroes can also be monsters, these things are less easily digested on the internet some of the time. 

courtesy of Jim West's blog, a link to a piece discussing John Howard Yoder and sexual violence
I have heard of other notable theologians having sexual foibles, e.g., the womanizing and sadomasochistic practices of Paul Tillich, the apparent live-in-mistress of Karl Barth, and the sexual failures of Martin Luther King. Yet, of course, Yoder’s behavior is not on the same level with these other men, for it is more coercive than the others – though I don’t think the reported behavior of the others –if accurate– is anything to gloss over either.

For those who didn't catch the allusion to Yoder in David Fitch's recent blog post about airing dirty laundry, you've got a starting point for further reading.

No matter how enlightened we may think we are the heart is still deceitful above all things, and who can understand it?  Even Daniel Kahneman can say that after decades of studying cognitive biases he's no less susceptible to them now than he was before.  You can reduce the rate at which heuristics and cognitive biases mess you up but they never go away, so part and parcel they are to "System 1".  Let the reader understand. :)

apropos of nothing ... here's something from old Ribbon Farm that WtH has linked to in the past.
Since income being generated at an individual level is not a reliable indicator that work being performed, I prefer a different distinction: schlep work versus sexy work. If there is schlepping involved, it is more likely to be real work. If there are sexy elements involved, it is more likely to be conspicuous production pretending to be work.

It's an interesting read, particularly for the proposal that the sexy work is going to be tougher to "save" in the job market than the schlep work.  The boring tedious scut work is what we may want to hand off to machines but there are things computers are positively terrible at which humans can do without even realizing they're thinking about it.  A computer can slaughter us at sheer linear number crunching but when the time comes to figure out how to pack X number of objects into the backseat of a station wagon humans have a spatial/visual capacity to reason that computers have not yet beaten ... and since computers don't go on vacations it's going to be left to you, dear reader, to figure out how to pack all the stuff you need into the station wagon to go on a camping trip. 

What won't go away are the boring jobs bereft of glamor or prestige that involve things that people can't just hand off to others or to machines.  Maybe we could take the case of high prestige jobs that are defined as 'creative'.  Ribbon Farm wouldn't pick this particular job but a pastor could be considered such a job.  The actual measurable productivity and creative content generated by a pastor could be considered zero but the vocation certainly has prestige even if that didn't come about by association with a deity.  On the other hand, the janitor is someone whose work has no prestige or clout but which is incontestably more necessary for a sustainably hygienic living space.  Not that being a pastor is exactly a bad thing by any means but we won't run out of a need for janitors.  Ribbon Farm's author of the above-linked post would likely point out that the janitor has a low prestige job doing what needs to be done while the pastor has a high prestige job that doesn't necessarily even indicate the pastor is using his/her own words.  Let's put it this way, a pastor can plagiarize from the works of others but no janitor can do the equivalent of plagiarizing when it comes to cleaning toilets and sinks.  Those toilets and sinks are either clean or they aren't!

postscript, 7-12-2014
apropos of nothing ...

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