Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Stereotype threat - preconceptions hold people (women) back in maths tests

The British Psychological Society has an article comparing the performance of women and men in a maths test - which they performed either under their own nam, or under an alias. It turns out that women who performed under an alias did better than those who used their own name.

Research finds the threat comes in two flavours. Women can fear their poor performance will be used to bolster the "women are weak at maths" gender stereotype (known as "group-reputation threat"). Or they can fear that their poor performance will be taken as proof that they conform to the stereotype ("self-reputation threat"). Both can undermine women's ability to fulfil their true potential.
Apart from the odd jargon, the article could point to a way of restoring confidence.

Overall, men outperformed women on the maths task. But women who took the test under someone else's name, be it male or female, performed better than women who performed under their own name, and they did just as well as the men. The effect was stronger for women who cared more about maths. 
The research was done on undergraduates - I wonder if it is replicated in younger people.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Green shoots - feminism on the up

Gallery of pictures from student feminists in today's Guardian.

Well worth a look.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Tesco withdraws "for boys" label on chemistry sets

A commenter on the Guardian article about it has a good flow chart to help retailers decide on gendered toys.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Legend of Good Women.

We caught part of this Radio 3 programme: A Legend of Good Women.

An interesting, wide-ranging selection of words and music.

I quote:
Since ancient times poets, artists and composers have celebrated the ideal woman. Chaucer's famous poem, from which this programme takes its title, undermined and satirised this process: does abandonment, assault and suffering make for a "good" woman and what place do the murderous Medea and Philomela have in the parade of virtuous femininity?

Producer's Note
What makes a good woman? Chaucer’s long poem, A Legend of Good Women, from which this edition takes its title, unfolds a catalogue of famous women from myth, legend and history assembled for their virtue and is told at the behest of Alcestis the Greek princess who died in place of her husband.
Ariadne, Cleopatra, Iphigenia and Philomela, amongst many others, jostle to tell their tales of suffering, suicide and abandonment. Ariadne left on an island by Theseus whom she rescued from the labyrinth and Minotaur; Philomela raped and mutilated by her brother in law; Iphigenia sacrificed by her father to speed the warships to Troy and the seductive and powerful Cleopatra undone by the loss of Anthony: it is misery that seems to bind them in a sisterhood of despair.
These powerful stories have been the source of inspiration for writers and composers and retold in poetry, music and opera until the air into which a nightingale (the bird into which Philomela is transformed at the end of her story) sings is clogged with resonance and the idea of goodness tipped towards victimhood.
Is Medea, most famous perhaps for infanticide, truly good; or Philomela who served the flesh of her nephews to her abuser? There’s a complicated knot of ideas entangling womanhood, and the Porphyria of Robert Browning’s startling poetic monologue, with tresses of seduction, pain and powerlessness.
In these stories if being hurt means being good what happens if the story is remade by the women at the centre of them as it is here in Carol Ann Duffy’s recasting of Penelope who is, most definitely, not waiting for Odysseus’ “too late” tread on the stair?
But it is Demeter with whom we are left. A mother whose love and powerful longing for her dead daughter seems to sing her back to life.
Natalie Steed

I must make time to listen properly during the week.  I did hope they were not seriously proposing Browning's Porphyria in Porphyria's Lover as a role model!  But these myths are still powerful tropes, I think.

Then we watched Serena Williams playing her tank-like tennis. No Porphyria, she.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Is rape worse than other violent crime? (Radio 4)

Yesterday morning I caught part of this debate from the Jaipur Literary Festival, while in the car. There were some very interesting comments made and the debate was carried out in such a way that everyone had their say with no one shouting, interrupting or insulting anyone.
Michael Sandell - BBC Radio 4's public philosopher chaired the debate/ asked questions etc.

The Public Philosopher: Is rape worse than other violent crime? and other questions.
Of course this is in the context of some of the violent sexual assaults that have recently happened in India, but applies anywhere, I think.

Among the points of view I heard, were the following - I emphasise that I have summarised these and have not yet listened to the whole programme:

Rape should not be considered as more debilitating than having your hand cut off. I am more than my vagina. I need my hands to do many more things in life.

Unfortunately at present in India rape involves shame for the entire family - this attitude needs changing.

From a man - rape of a woman or a man is degrading because it involves physical penetration of the body.

Older women and younger women

Interesting conversation between Sally Greemgross and Laurie Penny on today's Woman's Hour.
Also this publication .

Note to self - come back to this.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

If your comments have disappeared . . .

. . .it's because I did a spam sweep, and pressed the wrong button at the wrong time.

I've altered the settings for comments because there was so much crappy spam getting through. Hope things go smoothly from now on.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

How to protest against violence on women

There's been a lot of talk about protests against the pandemic of violence against women in the last few days, what with February 14th being celebrated worldwide as V-Day, and Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues) calling for a billion women (and those who love them) to rise up in the streets and dance to demand an end to sexual violence and all forms of repression of and violence against women. (On the same day, South African lawyer,  model and campaigner for empowerment of women, Reeva Steenkamp was murdered, apparently by her athlete boyfriend.)

At the same time there have been more direct, forceful (and arguably more effective) protests all over the world, notably in Egypt (where women, some wielding knives or acting as bodyguards, organised demonstrations to end the epidemic of street harassment and sexual assault that sadly accompanied the Arab Spring-inspired revolution of the last couple of years), India (where women's protests against the government and police's unwillingness to put an end to the rape culture in the country often turned violent themselves) and Ireland (where the needless death of a young woman brought the campaign to legalise abortion once more to the fore, and the institutional violence against thousands of women in church-run "refuges" has caused public outcry).

Journalist Laurie Penny has reported on some of these protests (e.g. in this Guardian article comparing them positively to Ensler's campaign), and characterises them with the opening line, "I'm sick of being ashamed." Other voices (including Fatihah, here, and many others on Twitter) have lambasted the Billion Rising dance as a "public dance-off", as a "feel-good exercise", as "playing into the vilification of women's anger by being nice", and as "steeped in privilege". Foxvertebrae added, "Protesting violence against women in a way that makes men and the government still feel comfortable is not a protest."

If any women I knew had been interested in taking part in the dance-off, I'd have liked to go along to support them, but I do appreciate that it would have been more useful and probably more effective if it had involved knives.