Today’s Found on Facebook – the princess effect

June 28, 2016

Lots of articles about it now but I’ll use the Time one I saw first:

A new study from Brigham Young University found that engaging with Disney princess culture could make young children more susceptible to gender stereotypes.

The small study, by family-life professor Sarah M. Coyne, looked at how much 198 preschoolers interacted with Disney princesses—through movies, toys and merchandise—and then assessed their behavior through reports from parents and teachers and a task in which the children were asked to rank their favorite toys among stereotypical “girl” options such as dolls, stereotypical “boy” options such as tool sets and gender-neutral options such as puzzles.

Now, from The Mic, people are pissed over the stereotypical portrayal of Maui in the new Disney movie Moana:

While Disney’s upcoming animated film Moana — in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voices the boisterous Polynesian demigod Maui, who helps guide the young protagonist Moana to completing her coming-of-age quest — has been heralded for its diversity, it’s also now come under fire for what some people feel is a racist depiction of Polynesians.

Critics said Maui’s larger physique is misrepresentative to real Polynesian culture, and instead reinforces harmful stereotypes of Polynesians being obese.

Point being, it’s not just the ladies, ladies and gents. Think of Gaston. Think of Arial’s dad. Giant men, intended to be thought of as heroic and brave, if not the actual heroes of the films. Think of Belle’s dad. Think of Jasmine’s dad. Short, squat, prone to flights of fancy and silly behaviour. Adored by their only daughters, but hard to imagine they were ever sensible enough to get the bills paid or run a country.

Back to the princess study –

The researches found that 96% of girls and 87% of boys had viewed Disney princess media, and more than 61% of girls played with princess toys at least once a week, compared to 4% of boys. For both boys and girls, engagement with Disney princesses was associated with more female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later.

A New York Times blogger goes into more detail. Part of the concern is the future effect of princess mentality affecting girls in what could be considered negative ways, versus boys benefiting from a push toward traits and abilities long thought to be best suited to women. It’s useful for a boy to know how to care for a baby or cook meals or clean house, as it were.

The overall takeaway from this study has more to do with encouraging parents and guardians to be less passive about what kids are interested in. If a girl likes Belle, perhaps emphasize the intelligence and love of learning she has and the bravery and family love she shows. She’s not just a pretty face with a pretty dress on.

Which reminds me of this picture:

hotdog princess

Maybe the family is a fan of Adventure Time?


Quotable Friendly Atheist

September 18, 2014

At least, Muhammad Syed, quoted on Friendly Atheist:

There will never be reform or improvement if you are unwilling to even hear out ideas that are threatening to your beliefs. The complete lack of introspection, self-criticism, and demands for improvement paved the way for my disillusionment with the Muslim community many years ago and remains a main reason why I believe the Muslim community lacks the will to adapt to the modern world.

I borrow the paragraph from Hemant Mehta’s post regarding Yale and their invitation to have author and human rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak this week. The Muslim Students Association and the Yale Humanists were critical of her speaking engagement and wrote a letter to the Buckley Program, which had set things up. In it they requested she limit her speech to direct life experiences and avoid talking smack about Islam — something she feels she has the right and obligation to do given her direct life experiences with it.

Muhammad Syed, the co-founder and Executive Director of Ex-Muslims of North America, penned an open letter to Yale Humanists and the MSA about this, which Hemant Mehta included in its entirety. It’s worth a read.

Change is good. Change is natural. Change is hard. Criticism is often just a lot of people bitching about the shit they don’t like. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is meant to encourage change for the better. I don’t know where on the spectrum Ali would fit; I’ve read nothing she’s written on this topic or anything else for that matter.

I suppose for those who are getting criticized, the type of criticism might not matter; it’ll still feel like the whole world is against them. No doubt this feeling of “backed into a corner” just adds to the digging of heels and overall stubbornness. And then this choice to remain unchanging is easily justified simply by pointing out how generally fucked up the criticizing cultures are. “You’re one to talk..” as it were. Or, paraphrase the bible if you prefer – don’t point to the sliver in my eye while you have a stick in yours. But which side is doing the pointing? Each side would say the other.

Nobody’s perfect.

Take the NFL…

Quotable comment: help the poor (somehow) with Jesus

August 1, 2014

This comment was left on a post recently but it has nothing to do with the post itself so instead of replying with a comment there, I made a new post to share my thoughts on it.

Help the poor ,live as we do.that is what the bible and jesus preached d to us is a book about poverty help not rich ,money help

Ignore the seasoning in terms of spelling and punctuation and try to focus on the meat of the comment.

Help the poor…

How exactly?

It’s already clear that prayers to Jesus or his mother or various saints or other gods aren’t helping the poor not be poor. People pray every day. Does God think those prayers are insincere and therefore not worth answering? Is he somehow incapable of fixing the problem? Does he not want to fix the problem? Or, and this is my favourite scenario, there isn’t any superior being anywhere to hear them? Scratch prayer.

…money help.

Part one of this aphorism holds true: give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Throw some money at the poor today and they might buy coffee or beer or pay a bill or something, but that isn’t getting to the root of the problem. The problem isn’t just “they have no money”.

What’s going on in their city, province, state, country in terms of the government and aid for low/no income families? What’s available for them? How many roadblocks are there for getting health care and enough food and education for themselves and their children? How many chances are they given to get further ahead?

Now the other part of the aphorism: teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life. How much help are they able to get? What facilities exist for assistance and getting them out of a bad situation? How much support is really there? How much compassion from their employers, their landlords or their governments? True, some money problems are a direct result of bad choices made by the people themselves (you really think a carton of smokes and another tattoo is a good use of that pay cheque?) but how can people really learn how to manage their money if they never had much to begin with? How will kids learn how to save and invest in the future if the parents can’t?

Something that might help a little: churches and the governments that support them should stop fighting birth control and abortions. Life may be precious but think about the lives of the people here right now and how they’re doing. If they’re doing well, having a child (or another child) won’t be as huge a financial strain as it will be for a low income family. Make birth control as cheap as possible if it can’t be free. Put the choices in the hands of the families, not businessmen and lobbyists. I hope it doesn’t come across as if I don’t think poor people should get to be parents. That’s not the argument I’m making here. What kind of support system is in place for these families, though? If the support isn’t there to accommodate the added monetary weight for each new kid born, these families will inevitably fall.

…Jesus preached to us…

Yes, this story is credited to him:

Jesus did not extol poverty as some great virtue. In fact, only one time did He tell someone—the rich young ruler—to sell his possessions and give to the poor. I think it was because that man was possessed by his possessions. Because when Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21), the Bible says that he went away sorrowful. It was a test to see whether God was more important to him than his things.

But recall that no writer of the bible knew the man in life. All they had were anecdotes of varying degrees of validity about a man who may never have lived at all.

A few western examples of life on a low income:

McDonalds and their goofy budget suggestions.

Employees at McDonald’s and Walmart support living wages and it’s not going to be quick fight to get it.

Woman gets jailed and fired because she can’t afford child care and let her kid spend the day at a park.

Bottom line, don’t quote Jesus as the solution and simply stop there. Yes, even atheists will admit that there are bits in the bible that are still relevant today but he’s more like an advice columnist from a bygone era, Miss Manners for the 1st century.

Apologies to the Beatles, but the poverty issue really is bigger than Jesus.

Arab ambassador gets wedding punk’d

February 12, 2010

Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything more sensible for a headline. But he did get a bit of a surprise when the beautiful woman he thought was under all that fabric turned out to be someone entirely different – a fact only discovered after the necessary papers were signed.

After the marriage contract was signed, the ambassador attempted to kiss his bride-to-be. It was only then that he discovered her facial hair and eyes.

The ambassador told an Islamic Sharia court in the United Arab Emirates he was tricked into the marriage as the woman’s mother had shown his own mother pictures of her sister instead of his bride-to-be.

He sued for the contract to be annulled and also demanded the woman pay him 500,000 dirhams (£85,000) for clothes, jewelry and other gifts he had bought for her.

The court annulled the contract but rejected the ambassador’s demand for compensation.

Hopefully none of the women involved are brutally killed over this. I also wonder if the ugly woman was in on the gag, or if it was all set up by the desperate mother of the bride.

Went to see Metropolis last night…

February 6, 2010

…and when I say “went” I mean I sat in the refurbished Roxy theater in downtown Saskatoon to watch the film as twenty members of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra played the 1927 score for it. That was a very neat experience. The film was also a neat experience, as I’d never seen the whole thing before.

Michael Organ offers up a nice site about the film and its history and I’ll quote from that later.

The plot is simple enough. It takes place in a future world where a class division of labour has been taken to the extreme. Fredersen, the leader of the city, is a heartless man, feared by almost all who know him. His son, Freder, is happy and fun-loving and largely ignorant of the proletariat workforce toiling deep below the gardens and towers of the beautiful city who maintain all the machines that power the place. One day, his fun is interrupted by a strange woman with a passel of poorly dressed and dismal looking kids. He’s instantly love-struck by Maria and takes what she says to heart – that all men are brothers.

His desire to speak with her leads him to follow her into the depths below Metropolis and he arrives just in time to witness a terrible mechanical accident. He’s traumatized by the experience and scurries up to the highest tower to tell his father all about it. His father’s annoyed by the fact that he’s getting the news from his son rather than his aides, but Fredersen’s too worried about the possibility of revolt to really care what his son is going through.

Freder heads back down into the machines and trades clothes with a worker. After he finds a plan or map of some kind in the guy’s things, he gets invited to join the other men at a secret location where, lo and behold, Maria is there waiting to offer the solace of hope and dreams.

Meanwhile, Fredersen wanders over to the local mad scientist’s abode for reasons I didn’t really get. Maybe he was looking for suggestions on how to deal with the potential worker problem. Anyway, the scientist is excited about his own invention, a mechanical man, and proudly shows it off. I don’t know if they both loved the same woman, or what, but Rotwang figured he’d somehow make the machine take on the appearance of the dead woman, Freder’s mom. Fredersen gets a better idea – capture Maria and send the mechanical man back down to replace her and screw up whatever the workers are planning.

And that was where the show got interesting.

The Maria machine gets the workers into a tizzy and they’re driven so crazy with the desire to make the parable a reality that they wreck the machines. This causes the undercity to flood while all their kids are still down there, forgotten during the frenzy of payback. Fredersen later realizes that his own son is trapped down there, too. Freder and the real Maria get out with the kids, but by this time the workers have revolted against the machine Maria, thinking they were led astray by a witch. There’s some worry of mistaken identity, but it is the Maria machine that winds up on the pyre laughing as “she” burns, revealing the soulless metal core beneath that dumbfounds everyone.

The main point of the movie was to push the need for cooperation and a more fair society. Head and hands need a heart, Maria keeps saying. She tells the workers a parable related to the biblical tale of the tower of Babel but it’s told in such a way as to reflect and foreshadow the world she’s living in. Dreamers wished to build the highest tower possible but had no idea how to do it, so they hired thousands of men. The work was hard and what was a dream became a curse for the workers so the workers revolted and the tower fell to pieces. It was impossible for them to understand the big dream because of how things were organized. At the end of the film, the real Maria encourages Freder to become the intermediary between his father and the working class, the heart between the head and hands as it were.

In an interview for Focus on Film in 1975, Fritz Lang had this to say about the film’s message:

after I finished the film I personally didn’t much care for it, though I loved it while I was making it. When I looked at it after it was completed I said to myself, you can’t change the social climate of a country with a message like “The heart must be the go-between of the head (capital) and the hands (labour).” I was convinced that you cannot solve social problems by such a message. Many years later, in the Fifites [sic], an industrialist wrote in The Washington Post that he had seen the film and that he very much agreed with that statement about the heart as the go-between. But that didn’t change my mind about the picture.

It’s still a sentiment that plays out today in film and fiction and life – that industry and technology are just as heartless as they ever were and the world would be better off if more people cared about the people.

In the later years of my life I have made it a point to speak with a lot of young people in order to try to understand their point of view. They all hate the establishment and when I asked them what they dislike so intensely about our computerised society they said: “It has no heart.” So now I wonder if Mrs. von Harbou was not right all the time when she wrote that line in Metropolis a half century ago. Personally I still think the idea is too idealistic. How can a man who has everything really understand a man who has very little?

It’s a good question and the answer seems to always be, “Throw some money around.” But raising money for a cause doesn’t solve the problems that caused the need for fund raising in the first place. Rules are made that penalize the needy but don’t seem to apply to or affect anyone else. People are written off and given up on just on the basis of where they live, or whatever. The rich get more because they’ve grown accustomed to expecting more, even if it means less for everyone else. It’s a messed up world we’ve made for ourselves, but if changes can be made, who’s really prepared to make them? Who’s really fit to make them? Businessmen? Celebrities? Politicians? The Everyman? Who really decides what’s most important?

District 9 hits too close to home for South Africans

September 5, 2009

It recently opened to film goers in the country it’s based around.

District 9 is really a piece of social commentary. It portrays modern post-apartheid South Africa, with all the modern trappings of normal suburban life for a select few, living side-by-side with a Mad Max world of poverty, inhabited by teeming millions of poorer folk, immigrants, and yes, extraterrestrial aliens who look rather like prawns.

The manner in which South African society treats these newcomers – in this movie, yes, but something also echoed in horrific xenophobic riots in May 2008 that killed more than 100 – shows that the much vaunted “Rainbow Nation” is still very much an ideal.

When I went to the movie, I had only a vague understanding of the apartheid movement and Nelson Mandela and Soweto and all that stuff. I still only have a limited awareness of what sort of history the country of South Africa has. Although Neill Bloomkamp claims that any resemblance to actual events and behaviours in that country are purely incidental, there’s still the fact that a person’s going to write what he knows, and he knows his homeland.

I’d label the movie successful solely on the fact that people are debating it. Whether the complaints involve overt racism (Nigerian witch doctors) or evil corporations or whatever stereotype is the current demon of the day – people are watching the movie and some are coming out of it with their brains on fire and eager to spread it around.

Barbadosfreepress has a good post and the comments are also worth reading at Slashfilm if you feel like reading that many. Alyssa Rosenberg offers up a different take on the picture, focusing on the minor romance between the civil servant and his wife, a storyline that didn’t get much play but did help drive Wikus’ ambitions throughout the show.

Personally, I wish the ending hadn’t been filled with so much gratuitous violence. I actually had to turn away from all the hospital scene gore earlier in the picture but watching people explode like bags of jelly all over the cameras got pretty boring after five minutes, and it seemed like those scenes went on for twenty. I get that there needed to be some kind of confrontation though, and Wikus did have the ability to use alien weapons…

My questions throughout centered around why the prawns weren’t better organized. And where were the anthropologists? Biologists? Xenozoologists? In twenty odd years they had no experts in the field of prawn studies? Nobody who gave a damn about their living conditions? I think the show also showed a reluctance in humanity to preserve a species when there doesn’t seem to be any useful reason for doing so. There’s a million prawns so it’s okay to burn their eggs and treat them like cannon fodder? Never mind that they’re sentient creatures. Why try and understand them? They’re into my trash and they’re eating my catfood…

Yes, it’s a good movie if weeks later you still think about it and wonder…

What would blue eyes have to do with being a good girl!?

September 4, 2009

It’s called The Curse of the Good Girl. When given the opportunity to discuss what they thought were traits of “good” girls, middle year students came out with a range of ideals ranging from obvious answers like good grades, confidence, honesty, and good listening skills. Stranger measurements of goodness: eye colour, money, and physical appearance.

Writes Rachel Simmons about this conflicted concept of goodness:

The Good Girl walked a treacherous line, balancing mixed messages about how far she should go and how strong she should be: she was to be enthusiastic while being quiet; smart with no opinions on things; intelligent but a follower; popular but quiet. She would be something, but not too much.

This ambition for some perfect goodness makes it hard to encourage girls to be themselves. The most improbable fear of being disliked for their ideas and hobbies means these girls are often pretending they have other interests or desires in the vague hope of fitting in with other girls that are likely doing the exact same crazy dance.

I know I used to do that. I always thought of myself as a bit of a chameleon or something. By myself I’d be into doing all kinds of strange things (only children make up weird imaginative games) but around others there was always that unspoken assumption that I had to be like everyone else. Like the same music, drool over the same actors, enjoy the same TV shows. So nobody knew that I liked jukebox hits and the Smurfs and Fraggle Rock. Then again, I got teased enough for other reasons. Why mock Fats Domino, too…

The Curse of the Good Girl erodes girls’ ability to know, say, and manage a complete range of feelings. It urges girls to be perfect, giving them a troubled relationship to integrity and failure. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting the expression of their needs. It demands modesty, depriving girls of permission to commit to their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quieting voices and weakening handshakes. It reaches across all areas of girls’ lives: in their interactions with boys and other girls, at school, at home, and in extracurricular life. The Curse of the Good Girl cuts to the core of authentic selfhood, demanding that girls curb the strongest feelings and desires that form the patchwork of a person.

Tied into this is the perception of what makes a girl bad: dyed hair, artistic, pride, a need to be the center of attention and slutty behaviour, among other traits. Odd that being artistic would make the list. I wonder why. Pride I can see, but sometimes it’s not a bad thing to be proud of one’s achievements. That’s where real self-confidence and self-esteem build themselves. Pride when you’ve done nothing worth being proud of is the problem, but maybe some people find it hard to tell the difference. And a lot of “bad” comes from style of dress – the assumption that someone dressing punk is going to be a rotten kind of person not worth getting to know. Sure some are thieves and criminals but preppy looking kids can be shoplifters and commit break ins and everything else too. There’s way too much judgment on looks and so many wrong assumptions based upon them. Look too weird and you risk being an outcast, no matter how well or poorly you behave, how nice or polite or smart you are.

Then there’s the danger to emotional well being. Being constantly bombarded by the idea that only certain behaviours can be good behaviours, only certain actions or thoughts or deeds or feelings are right and proper, can stunt emotional growth.

Placed at odds with their most important feelings, many do not develop the skills to speak their minds when they need to, or the skin to endure the claims of someone else. Lacking a full emotional vocabulary or the permission to use it, some girls turn inward, ruminating self-destructively. Others become explosive, able to articulate little more than anger and frustration. The psychological muscles a girl uses to manage difficult feelings begin to atrophy. Emotional intelligence is compromised, stunting healthy self-expression: the more Good girls try to be, the more they must discredit themselves. These toxic lessons in relationship and conflict management follow many girls into adulthood.

To be absolutely kind and selfless is impossible, making Good a finish line girls never get to cross. As a result, girls who aspire to Goodness are ruthlessly hard on themselves. When the standards for selfhood are beyond reach, self-acceptance is futile. Girls become their own worst enemies. The terms of being an acceptable girl are rigged: Good Girls are doomed to fail.

Not to say being good and nice aren’t things to strive for, but be a lot more balanced in the pursuit of it. More focus on inner honesty, for example – like saying no when you really want to say no. No more saying yes to things and then feeling annoyed on the inside for caving.

Part of the trouble, though, is the perception others have about speaking one’s mind, getting angry, being persuasive or sticking to one’s proverbial guns. There’s still a social stigma toward girls when it comes to some behaviours. In a guy nobody would think a second thought. In a girl it all looks too aggressive. Too mean. Too bitchy. And it’s not just guys who think that way. Girls often deride those behaviours for the same reason and it’s not helping girls be true to their feelings and desires when they constantly fear criticism from all sides. The flip side, which Simmons also wrote a book about, is how the drive for outward niceness can also lead to aggressive behind-the-back bitchery. Girls who haven’t learned to be honest face to face resort to horrible behaviours against both friends and enemies.

I don’t know what the solution would be, but Rachel Simmons founded something called the Girls Leadership Institute where girls can learn better interpersonal skills and learn to feel comfortable with the idea of leadership and assertiveness in general. Her book, on which the orginal article is based, goes more into what that’s all about. It sounds like worthwhile reading.