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Martha Nussbaum and Me

I’ve been super busy and I didn’t mention that our commencement speaker is Martha Nussbaum, who is Ernst Freund Distinguished Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.

I actually wrote about Dr. Nussbaum back in January, when she published a book about the dangers and abuses of the Internet. She has some keen insights about the hazards of Internet anonymity, especially when it lets people attack others viciously and irresponsibly.

We’ve got our senior barbecue on Thursday, along with our “Class of 2011 Final Lecture,” which should be both informative and inspirational. And there are several other events. Then graduation. I’m still excited, happy, and sad about it, all at the same time.

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Studying Naked

Sophie Germain (1776-1831), a great French mathematician.

No, not me. Sophie Germain. I took a study break last night and was reading about her.

Unfortunately, I got absorbed in my reading and the next thing I knew, it was 2:30am. I’ve been sleepy all day. I know that I’m too young to be “too old for this,” but today I sure felt like it.

Sophie Germain (1776-1831) was a French mathematician who overcame sexual discrimination to achieve great things. She first got interested in mathematics by reading the books in her father’s library. But her parents disapproved of her interest because it wasn’t considered suitable for a young woman. So she started sneaking the books up to her bedroom at night and reading by candlelight.

When her parents found out — well, I guess it was a different era. And maybe her parents were a little crazy. They took away her clothes and kept her bedroom ice cold, but even being naked and freezing couldn’t stop her from studying mathematics. So they gave up trying to stop her.

French society hadn’t given up, of course. The university wouldn’t admit her as a student because she was a woman. To get her education, she eavesdropped at the doors of lecture halls and borrowed lecture notes from male students.

She started writing mathematical articles, using the pen name of Antoine LeBlanc to hide the fact that she was a woman. Eventually, she wrote to the greatest mathematician of the age, Carl Friedrich Gauss. When Gauss discovered her true identity, he became her dedicated supporter. He wrote that she had “the most noble courage, extraordinary talent, and superior genius.”

Urged by Gauss, in 1831 the University of Gottingen decided to award Germain a doctorate for her work in mathematics. That was an almost unheard-of honor for a woman in a sexist society. Sadly, Germain died before she could receive the award. But her example of courage and determination can still inspire us today. Even when we’re so tired that we feel like we’re “too old for this.” 🙂

(Blog post #195!)


Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Sex on the Brain

Sex is more about the brain than about anything else. Photo: Glamour.

Warning: This blog post talks about sex. It’s no more explicit than you would see in a magazine like Glamour, but if you think it would offend you, please don’t read it.

In various blog posts (and in a few drunken monologues on weekends), I’ve already admitted that:

And possibly most embarrassing of all:

  • I read Glamour, Vogue, Teen Vogue, and other magazines that are bad for my self-esteem.

But those magazines aren’t always right. Glamour has an article titled “Six Secrets About His Man Parts” that is completely misleading about what turns guys on.

I can’t read guys’ minds and I’m not the world’s foremost expert, but I think that I understand them pretty well.

The mistake that guys make about themselves — but which is more surprising in a magazine for women — is to think that sex is mainly just physical. It’s not. (The article was written by a guy, so no surprise there.)

Even for guys, sex is mostly mental. It’s his brain that you need to target, not his penis. I’m not saying “hands off,” of course: at the right time, that closes the deal. But there’s much more to it than simply making a grab for his joystick, at least if you want the situation to go well.

A lot goes in in a guy’s brain* when it comes to sex. His “old brain” (the primitive parts of the brain) just wants to find a fertile female, impregnate her, and then go find another one to do it again. But his “old brain” is pretty stupid and doesn’t know or care if you’re using contraception. It just pushes him to engage in biologically programmed behaviors that, in pre-technological settings, maximize the number of his children in the next generation.

Speaking of which, here’s a theological view of the subject. God makes Adam and then says, “I’ve got good news and bad news.” Adam says, “Give me the good news first.” God says, “I gave you a brain and a penis.” Adam says, “What’s the bad news?” And God says, “I didn’t give you enough blood to run both of them at the same time.”

However, a human male is much more than just programmed behaviors. He’s aware of himself as a person. He needs to feel powerful: it’s one of those guy things. He needs to respect himself and feel that he is important in his social hierarchy. He needs to feel that he is desired and desirable. He’s an intelligent being and he thinks (who knew? 🙂 ).

He has also had unique experiences in his life that he associates with sexual excitement. Those sometimes have nothing to do with sex itself, but they excite him just as if they had everything to do with it. They can be objects, words, ideas, or situations that are like “on buttons” in his brain. Guys are often very shy about revealing those things, but if you can guess what the buttons are, go ahead and push them.

So the real way to interest and excite a guy is to remember that sex takes place on many levels: mental, emotional, instinctive, and physical — but mostly it takes place in his brain.

Excite his emotions, make him feel powerful, push his mental “on buttons” if you know what they are. And of course don’t forget to flip the switch on his old brain: Show him something sexy or new to stimulate him visually. Hit him with a fragrance. Do all the other stuff that everyone knows about. If a guy is repressed, even biting him (not there, and not hard enough to draw blood) can help. It stimulates him physically by causing pain, but it also surprises him and breaks up his conscious control. That frees his ability to act on his desires.

I didn’t intend to get quite so explicit, but all of that is true. It won’t be a big surprise to some people, but maybe it will be helpful to others.

(Blog post #194!)

______________________

* Of course, here I’m talking about straight guys.


Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Praying to be Straight? Why?

Dr. Drew discusses a religious program to "cure" gays with the program director and a gay couple.

I was walking past a TV this afternoon when a talk show topic caught my attention: “Gay to Straight with Prayer?”

The show was “Dr. Drew” on the HLN news channel. I’ve never watched the show beyond the few seconds I saw today, but I know who Dr. Drew is. He’s a psychiatrist who graduated from medical school at the University of Southern California. Before that, he graduated from Amherst College, so he’s local to Shadley and he’s smart enough to get into Amherst. In other words, he’s no random homophobic nut.

From what I could tell, his guests included a fundamentalist Christian minister who wants to “cure” gays, a gay man who he supposedly cured, and a gay minister. I didn’t watch long enough to follow the discussion, but the viewpoints are easy to predict.

The fundamentalist minister probably cited the Bible’s Book of Leviticus to say that gays will burn in Hell. The ex-gay(?) man probably told about how he’s now married to a wonderful woman. And the gay minister pointed out that Leviticus prohibited many other things besides homosexuality, such as shaving and wearing clothes made from two kinds of cloth.

I Wasn’t Quite Right

I just watched some of the show on the Web so that I could grab the picture for this blog. My earlier guess about the fundamentalist minister wasn’t quite fair. He seemed much nicer than I expected, though he’s obviously still wrong about gays needing to be “cured.” The two men on the right side of the picture are a gay couple who met at the minister’s cure-the-gays program. They’re both still gay and are very happy.

People Should Be Happy

Now, I’m probably going to get in trouble with friends for saying this, but I think people can sometimes change their sexual orientation. Not always, but sometimes. Gays can become straight. Straights can also become gay, though I’ve never heard anyone bring up that option.

What makes it so radioactive to discuss changing sexual orientation is that it gets mixed up with a lot of other issues that really have nothing to do with it. It amounts to guilt by association.

Most people who talk about gays changing their sexual orientation are either nutty homophobes or self-hating gays. They believe that gay relationships are wrong, disgusting, an abomination, and all that hateful bigotry. So people think that it’s the only context in which gays might ever want to be straight or vice-versa.

As a future physician, I have what I consider a common-sense attitude: People should be happy. Helping them be happy and healthy will be my goal.

Two Options

If a patient of mine was gay and unhappy about it, we would have two options.

The first option is better. We would try to correct any mistaken beliefs or emotional biases that cause the unhappiness. Since being gay is a perfectly healthy form of human sexual expression, it’s better not to try to change that unless absolutely necessary. I would very strongly advocate the first option.

The second option is more difficult and risks reinforcing negative beliefs. If we’ve tried the first option but the patient just can’t be happy and gay, we could try to change that. Sexual orientation (gay or straight) has multiple causes, both biological and psychological. Some people’s sexual orientation is pretty much set in stone, and the second option won’t work for them. Other people’s orientation is more flexible. If they really want to change, and are absolutely determined to do it, then they can. I’m not saying it’s right or that I’d recommend it, but it’s an option. It shouldn’t be dismissed just because some of the people who push it are hateful homophobes.

Happiness is More Important Than Stereotypes

I reiterate: People should be happy — preferably by accepting and loving themselves as they are.

But if for some reason they can’t do it, we shouldn’t let ideology or stereotypes stand in the way of helping them be the people they want to be and having the lives they want to have.


Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Stupid Pickup Lines

We went clubbing tonight but have an early-morning start so I’m in early.

No time to write much but I heard two amazingly stupid pickup lines tonight.

Hey, I’m not criticizing. Sometimes stupid works. If a guy is willing to make a fool of himself and risk almost certain rejection, it shows that he’s motivated.

Pickup line #1 was addressed to my friend Kris, not to me. If I posted a pic of us from tonight you would understand. When we’re out, she gets most of the attention. I’m okay with that. We aren’t usually interested in the same kinds of guys, so there’s no conflict.

Anyway, here’s the line: “You are two babes’ worth of sexy.”

Yeah, I told you it was stupid. The guy was okay though. And obviously motivated.

Pickup line #2 was a guy making a joke about how good he was in bed. At least, I think he was making a joke.

He said, “I know that I’m good in bed.” When I asked him how he knew, he said, “Because I’m always satisfied.” And then he grinned. And I laughed, it was kind of funny.

That guy wasn’t awful, either, but not worth canceling tomorrow morning’s plans.

Don’t Put a Ring on It

One of the featured WordPress blogs today is titled “Get a Ring on It: How to Get Your Significant Other to Propose.”

Apparently, the way to get a guy (or woman, if you’re in a progressive state) to propose marriage isn’t any of the things you’d normally expect.

It’s not good food. It’s not interesting conversation. It’s not affection and support. And no, it’s not that, either, although I’m sure that can’t hurt.

So what’s the way to get your significant other to propose? Take him or her to Europe.

From my viewpoint, there are three things wrong with that advice.

First, I do want to get married someday, but not right now. If I could snag the marriage proposal now and keep it in a safe deposit box for a few years, that would be ideal.

Second, I’ve already been to Europe so much that I’d like to go someplace else. Would that work as well, marriage proposal-wise? I was thinking maybe of a nice Caribbean beach with swimming in the day and dancing at night. Or go see ancient temples in India or Thailand or China. I’ve never been to those places. If we really wanted to live dangerously, we could drive up the road to Smith, but I couldn’t guarantee our safety. You know those wild Smithies. 🙂

Third, I don’t have a serious “significant other” right now. I’ve got friends, but nobody I see as a partner for life. (Penn Badgley, if you ever read this, I’m easy to find.)

The days are over when we have to hurry up and get married as soon as possible. If somebody else wants to do it, then I’ll be happy to serve as a bridesmaid and drink champagne at the wedding. But for me, for now, it’s school and studies.


Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

I’m Not Fat, I’m Curvy

If Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively is considered too fat, what hope is there for the rest of us? Photo: SkinnyVsCurvy.com.

If you’re a woman, you just can’t win when it comes to your weight.

Either you’re too fat, or you’re too thin. For a few blessed moments, you might be in the sweet spot where you’re “just right,” but then people start watching to see when you’re going to gain a pound or two.

According to the gossip site SkinnyVsCurvy.com:

Blake Lively allegedly refuses to wear anything but a size zero, causing the Gossip Girl costume department to cut the tags from larger-sized samples.

Blake Lively?!!! Even she is insecure about how she looks?

Seriously, I would — well, I wouldn’t really kill anyone, but I would speak very harshly to someone if it meant I could look as good as Blake does.

If Jessica and Shenae are healthy, who says they’re too thin? Photo: SkinnyVsCurvy.com.

At the other end of the unfairness spectrum are 90210’s Jessica Stroup and Shenae Grimes, who are supposedly too thin. SkinnyVsCurvy.com reports:

“I’ve never seen Jessica or Shenae eat,” another show source tells Us. So shocking is the situation that their 90210 male costars are contemplating an intervention.

Now, Jessica and Shenae are quite thin: they really are a size zero. If they’re doing it because they feel good, and they’re healthy, then people should stop bothering them about it.

But if they’re doing it because they feel pressured to be too thin, then they are victims of the insane, male-defined standards of beauty that dominate our society.

So what do we do about it?

I admit that I’m as guilty as anyone of falling for stereotypes of what I’m supposed to look like. I read Vogue and Teen Vogue and Glamour and all the others that promote obsessive thinness. And I’m probably not going to stop reading them. But I try to keep those images in perspective.

We should stop letting others define who and what we are. They mostly define what we are, not who, because they’re treating us as things instead of as people. Nice, pretty things that brighten up a room, on which fashions drape perfectly, and which make good trophy girlfriends.

We should be true to ourselves and our own version of happiness. If we are thin and we like it, then we’ll be that. If we’re curvy and we like it, then we’ll be that.

Everyone else should go find their own version of happiness. We’ll be happy with ours.


Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.