Archive for May, 2010

Potpourri: the oil spill edition

May 27, 2010

1. Gulf Oil Spill: Who’s in Charge? per The Washington Post

On his blog, Joel Achenbach delves into the question of who’s in charge of plugging the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP or the government? His answer is that the entire operation is really complicated, with the government responding to the initial emergency, BP having the equipment needed to access the sunken rig, and the two trying to collaberate because it’s now the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history:

Federal authorities have been on scene from the very beginning — since the first hours of this disaster when it began as a search and rescue mission. Second, the National Incident Commander, Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, and the Federal On Scene Coordinator, Rear Adm. Mary Landry, are directing efforts and are accountable for this response. Third, at the Unified Area Command, we are working to ensure that BP, the responsible party, is meeting its obligations, pursuing all possible contingencies, and bringing the right resources to respond to this spill.

Achenbach’s response:

I think I understand. BP is the ballerina and the U.S. government is the Stage Mother.

It’s a mess. Read the updates, and you’ll see that no one really can give a definitive answer. I think they’re more focused on plugging the leak, which is fine with me. They are currently showing some progress.

2. Risk and Climate Change, per The Washington Post

Ezra Klein points out that ignoring the risks until something catastrophic happens is not good policy — and it shows how problematic our dependence on oil is:

The last few years have also been an ongoing seminar in the many ways that we ignore risks that we don’t like to think about, and the role that our evasions play in making the eventual catastrophes worse than they needed to be.

He hits the nail on the head when he says we ignore things we don’t want to think about, because why bother with worst-case scenarios or the fact that technological failure — or more likely human error — can lead to death. Eleven people died because of this explosion, 29 in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, and these could have been preventable had companies not pushed the envelope and risked safety in favor of profits.

3. MMS was troubled long before oil spill, per CNN

Big scandals have a domino effect, and this oil spill is no different — it is bringing to light how the Minerals Management Service, which is supposed to oversee offshore oil drilling, has accepted gifts from companies they are supposed to be monitoring and let the oil companies decide how they’d score on inspections:

In one case, an inspector in the MMS office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, conducted inspections of four offshore platforms while negotiating a job with the company, the report said.

Others let oil and gas company workers fill out their inspection forms in pencil, with the inspectors writing over those entries in ink before turning them in.

The report also alleged employees at the same office received tickets to 2005 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl football game from an offshore production company.

There are also some sex and drug abuse scandals going on, but isn’t it great to know that government regulators are taking their job so seriously? Perhaps it’s not just that these companies have no concern for the safety of their employees or the planet, but that some MMS employees who are supposed to double-check this also don’t make it a priority. I mean, are free tickets to a baseball game worth this oil spill and the lives it took?

Opening doors for people should be about manners, not gender

May 25, 2010

Dealing in heterosexual relationships can be tough for a feminist — one contention is the idea of chivalry.

On one hand, you don’t want some guy who “forgets his wallet,” expects you to pay for everything, has no manners, and/or assumes dinner is a path to … um, “dessert.” On the other hand, you don’t want a guy insisting on opening doors, paying for everything, and basically smothering you with “chivalry” in a way that leaves you with no agency and/or a sense that you can’t do anything for yourself.

The Sexist had a series of comments posted yesterday about chivalry, and one of them highlighted the often radical (and to me, misguided) theory that chivalry is always a means for men to control women and a man opening a door for a woman is always a bad thing.

At first, the commenter (EmilyBites) seems like someone I would totally agree with:

The biggest fail is doods who says ‘Brilliant, chivalry is dead! Now I’ll go and punch all of those uppity whores in the face because you can hit women now!’

Way to uncover that not-so-latent misogyny.

Totally on the same page with her — when women say they don’t like chivalry, they don’t like the idea that it belittles women and gives men the power in every situation — men must open doors, pay for things, take out your chair, etc. because it not only gives them control of a situation, but it illustrates that you can’t do those things on your own because you’re a woman.

Plus, if you’re happy chivalry is dead and you’re a man, then you really only did those things because society told you to, not because you wanted to be polite.

But then her comment takes a turn for the worse:

This is why a man going way out of his way to open doors for me is insulting and irritating, and we will most likely get into a crazy door standoff. Infantilising and othering me is not a sign of politeness; you are trying to control me. Men who get offended ‘on behalf’ of the woman insulted in their presence are erasing the woman as a person in her own right, as though she is merely a device for communication between real humans, aka men. Why can’t the chivalrous men see this?

The part about the chivalry argument that always gets to me is the idea that a man opening a door for you is always about control. For me, it’s about equality and fairness. I don’t care if a man opens the door for me because I see it as a polite thing to do, but I do care if the man refuses to let me open the door for him.

I can’t stand when a man balks at the idea that I would ever hold the door for him. I hold the door for parents with strollers, old people, anyone who is right behind me — if we start looking at door-opening and the like as an act of politeness rather than as a gendered act, there’s no need to feel like it’s “insulting and irritating.”

Because, if women start doing all the door-holding, then yes, there is a power shift, but it still leaves things unbalanced and unfair. The aim of feminism shouldn’t be to shift all the power and control from men to women, but rather to balance and equalize it.

Environmental degradation shouldn’t be a credit card system

May 25, 2010

There’s been talk about the government trying to raise the liability cap, which puts a ceiling on how much the companies have to pay for money lost in, say, an oil spill — the main talking point is that if the ceiling is too high, then only huge oil companies like BP will be able to afford the liability/risk of oil drilling.

Mother  Jones reporter Kate Sheppard, however, made an excellent point about why that’s not a bad thing:

The idea that a company should be able to drill and potentially cause problems that it can’t afford to fix should register as patently ridiculous.

This goes for all realms of activity that involve the environment — you shouldn’t be able to degrade, pollute, and destroy the environment if you can’t afford to clean it up or deal with the consequences. For some reason, this idea of responsibility and liability has often been lost on the environment.

The most powerful evidence of this is the more than 1,300 Superfund sites across the U.S. Superfund sites are toxic waste sites — the worst in the country. It wasn’t until an open-ended canal (Love Canal) that was filled with barrels and barrels of toxic waste seriously began having a detrimental effect on the people who lived above it that the government started dealing with the issue of toxic waste sites.

And even then, the problem of liability was at the forefront. The company responsible for the toxic waste had become part of a larger company, and even so, they had sold the property to the local board of education for $1, and they made sure to wash their hands of any responsibility:

Included in the deed was a “warning” about the chemical wastes buried on the property and a disclaimer absolving Hooker of any future liability.

It’s easy to pollute the environment — it’s a lot more difficult to then clean up that pollution or fix the damage. Or, in the case of mountaintop removal mining, it’s easy to say you’ll clean up the damage when no one is really making sure you keep your word. In many cases, a requirement of a mining permit is to either restore the land to its approximate original state or some other beneficial use.

The Clean Water Act says the government is permitted to ask mining companies “to restore affected lands to usefulness for forestry, agriculture, recreation, or other beneficial purposes,” while the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act states that the government can require that “the acquired land, after restoration, reclamation, abatement, control, or prevention of the adverse effects of past coal mining practices, will serve recreation and historic purposes, conservation and reclamation purposes or provide open space benefits.”

A recent study by Appalachian Voices points out mining companies take advantage of these loopholes so they don’t have to return the sites to their original state — by saying they will convert them to another beneficial and economic purpose, they rid themselves of a more expensive liability. But, the study points out that 90 percent of nonactive mountaintop removal sites haven’t been “converted to economic uses.”

A lack of regulation is a common theme today in many areas — the financial industry getting bailed out after taking risks that it couldn’t afford to pay for if (and later when) they went downhill is the most prominent example. But a lack of liability in the environmental realm has been present for years, as pollution has spewed into the air, into waterways, and even into our bodies.

Considering all we’ve learned from pollution and environmental disasters, it seems like a no-brainer to say, “You can’t be in this business if you can’t afford to clean up your mess.” Why we still let people get away with it is beyond me, especially when those effects trickle down to humans — a lot of people claim environmentalists care more about fish and birds than people, but things like oil spills, mountaintop removal mining, and toxic waste affect people just as much.

We don’t want people driving around without at least minimum insurance because if something bad happens, they need to be able to cover some of the cost. Insurance costs make it difficult for low-income people to afford cars, but I don’t think I’d want minimum insurance coverage to get weaker or even become optional for the sake of allowing more people to drive — driving is dangerous, and the costs need to be factored into the equation.

The same goes for companies who deal in pollution or other activities that involve direct environmental degradation — if you could cause an oil spill that uncontrollably spews thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean every day but you couldn’t foot the bill, then you shouldn’t be “on the road,” so to speak. There shouldn’t be a credit card system for environmental degradation in which you destroy now, pay later, and/or rack up a bunch of debt that you’ll never be able to pay back.

‘Bike to Work Day’ also highlights bike-commuting problems

May 21, 2010

Today is Bike to Work Day (although by this time most people are probably home from work) — it’s a great idea, and I love that this year it’s predicted more people than ever will be participating. But for me, it’s a friendly reminder that my commute is so long and complicated that I can’t currently bike to work.

I live in Maryland and work in Virginia, a symptom of originally working in D.C., not being able to afford city living and living in the suburbs, and then getting a new job in Virginia. I live a little more than 20 miles away from my office, if I take the major highway to get there. Just driving that route takes an hour — Google Maps tells me biking would take at least two and a half hours and would be an extra four miles because I’d need to take a bike trail instead of the highway.

Commuting is a problem that many Americans face, especially when they work out in the suburbs. Sure, they can spare one day to try to ride their bikes to work, but some probably can’t even handle one day because their jobs are so far from their homes. In 2005, one survey said the average commuter had a 16-mile trip one way to work.

It’s tough for many people to embrace Bike to Work Day — or to embrace a lifestyle of bike commuting — because many cities and communities simply aren’t bikeable. As Ezra Klein said today when discussing going car-free, it’s all about the infrastructure — if a city doesn’t have an infrastructure that is conducive to people walking, biking, and using public transportation, then people’s only option is to drive.

So, although I love the idea of Bike to Work Day and hope lots of people took part, it simultaneously raises awareness about what we need to do structurally to make biking feasible. Increasing bus routes and bike racks on those buses so people can bus with their bike if they are too tired to ride, adding bike lanes and trails, and simply building cities and renovating cities so they are less car-centric are all good starts.

Why does Massey deny responsibility while BP accepts it?

May 21, 2010

The explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia and the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig have many similarities, but one common difference: BP has finally taken responsibility for the oil rig disaster, while Massey Energy (owner/operator of Upper Big Branch) has yet to take responsibility for the coal mine disaster. Why? BP as an oil company is easy to target and boycott; Massey Energy is much less defined and more difficult to boycott.

BP is a brand, and people choose where they want to pump their gas. BP, Exxon, Sunoco, Shell, Texaco, Speedway, etc. People can make the conscious choice to avoid BP, so marketing matters — hence the reason they changed their acronym meaning from “British Petroleum” to “Beyond Petroleum” in 2000. Consumers can easily choose to boycott BP in the wake of the oil rig explosion and instead go to one of several other gas stations to fill up.

This is why they needed to retract their earlier defensiveness and refusal to admit wrongdoing in the oil rig explosion — all eyes were on BP, their reputation in jeopardy, and consumers wanting answers and an apology instead of avoidance and denial. To fix its image, BP had to step to the plate and take responsibility.

Massey Energy, on the other hand, doesn’t have this same need. As one of the top coal producers in the country, it doesn’t have a brand like BP. In fact, outside of Appalachia, people likely don’t attribute their energy use or energy bills to Massey, but to utility companies — American Electric Power, Pepco, etc.

So, unlike the BP disaster, Massey doesn’t feel as threatened to worry about its image because the consumers don’t directly get their energy from Massey. Massey is the sixth-largest coal producer in the United States, and though it only accounts for 3.4 percent of the total amount of coal produced in the U.S., it wields a lot of power without being beholden directly to the people who consume the coal they produce to power houses, buildings, and cities.

This is why Massey CEO Don Blankenship can sit in front of Congress and blame the government for the mining disaster without flinching, even though there are countless accounts from workers, safety inspecters, and the numerous safety violations against Massey that paint a picture of the coal mine as dangerous, unsafe, and irresponsibly managed.

What does Blankenship have to lose? He’s in a market in which his company is the most powerful in the Appalachian region, and his employees are scared to death to talk to reporters openly about the working conditions of the coal mines. Reuters got a lot of interesting information — for instance about 18-20 hour work days and other lax safety standards — but that information was from retired workers. No one wants to risk losing his or her decent-paying job (difficult to find in the poor areas of West Virginia), especially in the current shaky economy.

Coal is a different beast than oil — you put oil directly in your car or other fossil-fueled vehicle and as an individual have consumer power to directly choose what company that oil comes from. Not so with coal — you don’t toss coal into a stove, purchasing the coal directly from the company who mined it. You use lightswitches, you plug your appliances into electrical outlets, and you send an electricity bill to a company who more directly deals with the coal.

This is why Massey can more easily argue that his hands are clean, despite countless evidence and testimony against him. Unfair? Definitely. But I think Blakenship’s attempts to do damage control aren’t going to win very many people over — Congress and government officials seemed utterly unimpressed and baffled that he even tried to make some of the arguments he made. I hope that even though Massey is currently on the offensive, eventually it too will have to cave to public demand and pressure to take responsibility for its actions and actually become more concerned with safety than profits.

At the least, it will take shareholder action, job creation in West Virginia (even though Massey is non-Union, people flock to the jobs because they pay well), and a public outcry via letters and calls to government officials to keep the attention on Massey so it doesn’t simply wait for this disaster to blow over so it can go back to counting money and working people to the bone, regardless of their well-being.

‘Marriage Refs’ think woman is wrong to keep last name. Huh?

May 21, 2010

It makes me want to pull my hair out that it is 2010 and so many people still do not understand why or believe a woman should keep her maiden name after marriage. Case in point: the NBC show The Marriage Ref.

On The Marriage Ref, three celebrities judge arguments within marriage, trying to influence host/comedian Tom Poppa on how he will “rule.” Sometimes it’s a husband who has his motorcycle in the garage, or a wife who constantly makes green bean casserole that looks like sludge and the husband never eats.

This week, one of the arguments was between a husband and wife about the wife changing her last name. The wife wanted to keep her maiden name — at least for five years — and the husband wanted her to use his last name in nonprofessional settings.

I thought this was a done deal — the panel consisted of Demi Moore, Jim Brewer, and Kelly Ripa — Moore and Ripa both seem like powerful, independent women who would totally be on the woman’s side. Instead, they both chose the husband because — and I quote — “he’s allowing her to keep her name professionally,” said Kelly Ripa.

First of all, since when are we back living in the times when husbands give permission to wives if they want to do something? Sure it might be a poor word choice, but it says it all, as if it’s a compromise that she uses her maiden name professionally.

But compromise is about sacrifice — she gives up her maiden name, and what does he give up? Absolutely nothing. The entire argument is about controlling her actions and her name, and it’s seen as a compromise that she is permitted to keep her lifelong name part of the time. The husband is seen as a saint for allowing her this luxury, so the entire audience booed when Poppa tried to give the argument to the wife.

Seemingly, although everyone thought it was admirable that the husband was going to “allow” her to use her name professionally, the audience turned when Poppa suggested she be able to always use her maiden name. He eventually changed his answer, which really pissed me off. He gave all these great reasons, that she was her own person — then he flip-flops, essentially saying she isn’t her own person, she’s actually still his person.

Moore and Ripa both admitted they go by Mrs. Kutcher and Mrs. Consuelos, respectively, outside of the spotlight, because they “are proud of who [they] are as married people,” adding that the wife would “be doing [her] man a real props” by taking his last name.

Huh? How about doing yourself real props by keeping your identity because it’s what you are comfortable with, and marrying someone who prefers you be comfortable with yourself to being uncomfortable as someone else? Why is it OK for the professional world to know her with her maiden name, but outside that world friends and family need to know she has his name?

I’m not arguing that all women should not change their last names after marriage — I’m not going to change my last name, but it’s each woman’s personal choice and every woman has different reasons. The point is that every woman should have the opportunity and choice to do so, yet this woman on The Marriage Ref was completely and unnecessarily criticized, and told she was wrong, for wanting to keep her own name and identity for the time being.

Additional commentary on ’15 Ways to Predict Divorce’

May 20, 2010

This Daily Beast blog on “15 Ways to Predict Divorce” had some … interesting things to say on how to predict divorce (read Anna North’s two cents at Jezebel for a full and insightful analysis), but I have some additional observations about some of the circumstances author Anneli Rufus said were predictions of divorce.

Example 1: If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently.

Rufus attributes this excessive arguing to money woes — that’s one possibility. The first thing that actually popped into my mind was that couples who are more argumentative are more likely to get a divorce because both parties speak their minds and aren’t going to be submissive to one another. I think it’s probably weird that was my first thought.

I mean, it’s obvious if you don’t have financial woes you’ll have one less thing to fight about, but arguing less about finances might mean you argue less about a lot of things — maybe you deal with problems in a manner other than arguing, which is probably a lot more healthier and calmer than just ripping each other’s heads off. Not to mention less stressful.

Example 2: If your parents were divorced, you’re at least 40 percent more likely to get divorced than if they weren’t. If your parents married others after divorcing, you’re 91 percent more likely to get divorced.

Rufus cites Divorce Magazine’s  (yes, there is a magazine about divorce) publisher, who says that witnessing parental divorce reinforces our ambivalence about marriage. I think more than that, though, it’s not that we are ambivalent but it’s just the norm — it’s not as taboo.

My parents are divorced, and it’s not that I don’t take commitment or marriage as an institution seriously — it’s just that I’m not morally opposed to divorce because I can understand that two people grow apart over time. I can’t imagine my parents actually being married, and knowing they are both happy without each other gives me some piece of mind that divorce isn’t going necessarily ruin a person’s life.

Also, the publisher — who says,  “In most people’s minds, it’s easier to get a new car than fix the one you’ve got,” — makes it seem like people who get divorced give up. I disagree, because it implies that every marriage with problems is fixable. Sometimes a broken marriage is beyond repair — children of divorced parents don’t think spouses are “disposable,” but I think we’re realistic about the fact that people can change and grow apart.

Example 3: If you’re an evangelical Christian adult who has been married, there’s a 26 percent likelihood that you’ve been divorced—compared to a 28 percent chance for Catholics and a 38 percent chance for non-Christians.

The divorce rate tends to be higher for non-Christians because there isn’t any religious ideology that holds them back from divorcing. Other studies have shown that cohabitating couples are more likely to get divorced, but one theory behind that was that the same people who don’t believe in divorce (likely for religious reasons) probably don’t believe in living together before marriage (for religious reasons).

Example 4:  If both you and your partner have had previous marriages, you’re 90 percent more likely to get divorced than if this had been the first marriage for both of you.

This interested me because it does seem like round two would be more successful — but it isn’t entirely surprising. Getting divorced the first time is difficult — I’d imagine the second time around it would be easier. You’re less likely to put up with someone’s BS because the threat of divorce doesn’t scare you — you’ve been through it already. It’s like getting your first tattoo — once you know how it feels and what the pain is like, getting another one isn’t as big a deal.

Meat/veg-eaters need to compromise for sake of environment

May 20, 2010

When people ask if I’m a vegetarian, I always feel like they are disappointed in my answer: I’m mostly a vegetarian. They immediately look underwhelmed: I’m basically telling them that I don’t have enough willpower to fully commit, and they think I’m some poser who doesn’t take animal rights or the environment seriously.

But I’m not the only one who sees being mostly vegetarian (aka flexitarian) as a positive, worthwhile endeavor — Graham Hill, founder of treehugger.com, gave this TEDTalk about vegetarianism which is fantastic. I encourage everyone to watch it — it’s only four minutes long, and it outlines his “weekday veg” diet. He doesn’t eat meat Monday through Friday, leaving the weekends open for meat if he chooses.

It doesn’t mean he will eat meat on the weekend, but he doesn’t have to feel guilty for falling off the bandwagon or relapsing into meat. It differs from flexitarianism (which aims to decrease meat consumption generally) by creating a guideline that is easy to remember: as Hill puts it, he won’t eat “anything with a face” Monday through Friday, so you simply check the day of the week and that will tell you if meat is an option. More than a diet, it is a lifestyle change.

Hill says it best when he discusses the downside to meat:

I knew that eating a mere hamburger a day can increase my risk of dying by a third. Cruelty, I knew that the 10 billion animals we raise each year for meat, are raised in factory farm conditions that we, hypocritically, wouldn’t even consider for our own cats, dogs and other pets.

Environmentally, meat, amazingly, causes more emissions than all of transportation combined, cars, trains, planes, buses, boats, all of it. And beef production uses 100 times the water that most vegetables do.

Meat production is terrible. Animals are wedged into cages next to each other, chickens have their beaks shaved down so they can’t peck at each other because they are in such close quarters, and you can imagine the sanitary conditions (or rather, lack thereof) at a place where animals are smashed together into cages.

Combine the disgusting treatment of the animals with the amount of water used in the meat production process and the pollution it creates, not to mention the pollution from the animals themselves and the factories, plus the grain used to feed all the animals, and there is a lot of environmental degradation going on.

But asking people to just stop eating meat isn’t as simple as it sounds — vegetarians and vegans can be elitist and judgmental of people who can’t stick to a strict meatless or animal-product-less diet, and meateaters can be elitist and judgmental of people who don’t eat meat or animal products.

Neither side wants to budge — meateaters don’t want to sacrifice eating meat forever, and vegetarians inherently feel like they are making a deal with the devil if they condone eating meat. “Weekday veg” is a compromise between the two, but both sides need to accept that compromise and some additional “best practice” rules, like trying to eat free-range and grass-fed animal products.

People who cut meat out of their diet during the week are cutting 71.4 percent of their meat intake out. Eating meat only three times a week cuts down your meat intake by 57 percent. These numbers are huge, and they could really make an impact if they became the norm. People often use the excuse, “I couldn’t give up meat,” as a reason not to be vegetarian and then they move on, but why not embrace a diet that lets you do both?

Yes, environmentalists can keep pushing vegetarianism and veganism, but the all-or-nothing approach isn’t realistic in my book. Like Hill says, people get nervous about giving up meat. Think of the health care reform debate — the late Sen. Ted Kennedy always said his biggest regret was turning down then-Pres. Nixon’s proposal for universal healthcare, because Kennedy wanted more than a compromise — he wanted all his demands to be met.

Vegetarianism — more so veganism — is the best option for the sake of the environment and the humanity of the animals who are mistreated in ways, like Hill said, most people wouldn’t allow if those animals were domestic pets like dogs or cats. I’m not going to argue that — but he’s right to say that the binary scares people, and it leads people to shy away from eating less meat, because people say eating less isn’t enough, you must eat none.

Some of the commenters accused Hill of being self-serving — I’m not exactly sure how cutting your meat intake by almost three-fourths and relishing in the fact that it’s healthier and better for the environment is completely selfish. Maybe he’s patting himself on the back, but I don’t really care or see why it matters — if his idea means dramatically less environmental degradation and fewer animals being treated horribly, then he can pat himself on the back 24/7 for all I care.

Are young newlyweds jumping into gender roles in marriage?

May 18, 2010

Last night on the MTV documentary series True Life, the topic was newlyweds who hadn’t lived together before marriage. Young people, marriage, relationships, sex — some of my favorite topics, yet the episode raised a lot of red flags.  

What irked me was that in these marriages, both the women seemed pretty subservient at the start. One of the women was particularly eager to do laundry, cleaning, and cooking all day while her husband was at work — just exactly how much laundry needs to be done every day when only two people live in a house is beyond me, but she wanted to be a homemaker.

Her desire to be a homemaker wasn’t the startling thing, but rather the dynamic of her role as a homemaker. When she felt stir-crazy, she had to basically ask her husband for permission to take on a part-time job in addition to her household duties. His first reaction wasn’t something like, “Oh, you feel claustrophobic and unfulfilled in this house?” but instead it was about how much the cooking and cleaning would suffer if she had a job.

On a later date he agreed to fold some towels for her, which is nice, but the initial reaction spoke to how he viewed their relationship — his first reaction wasn’t to take her feelings as a person into account, but rather to analyze how her productivity would decrease. With the other couple, the wife moved away from her family to be with her husband, and she also spent her days cooking and staying at home, waiting for her husband to arrive home from work. She eventually got a full-time job.

It seems like the common theme was that even though both these women had this romantic notion of marriage as seemingly living their lives around their husbands, the reality of it was not fulfilling. It makes me wonder how young women view marriage, and how many still think these gender roles of women at home and men at work are either the best option or the only option.

I don’t know how their views of non-cohabitation fed into their views of gender roles within a marriage, or how their relationship dynamic might have changed since getting married. Often, views on non-cohabitation are aligned with religious beliefs, which can reinforce gender roles.

I do know that although the initial desire of both women to stay at home and wait around for their husbands to come home was disconcerning, the fact that both grew tired of that life and began partaking in their own endeavors leaves me feeling optimistic. At least these two women looked critically at their lives and started to focus on their own happiness and fulfillment, instead of staying at home and being bored, unhappy, and restless.

Of course, the part that leaves me somewhat pessimistic is what is going through the husbands’ heads — do they fully understand why their wives find no fulfillment in cleaning up after them and waiting for them to come home every night? Do they think it’s simply a phase, do they think it’s ridiculous, do they fully support it? If these experiences are going to lead to more general changes concerning stereotypical gender roles, men need to be a part of and understand the change, too.

I’ll take ‘Potpourri’ for $1200, Alex

May 13, 2010

I’ve been collecting some links during the past few days, concerning sexual assault and drinking, the oil spill in the Gulf, an anti-abortion group greenwashing their anti-birth-control agenda, and the douche who made fun of Roger Ebert’s cancer and his half-assed weird apology.

1. The Morning After: Horny Dude IM Edition, per The Sexist at Washington City Paper

Some people like to argue that if young women just didn’t drink so much and go to parties, then they wouldn’t get sexually assaulted and raped in the first place. So why the double standard? Maybe guys should follow the same logic:

If we are so concerned though about young men getting drunk at a party, sleeping with another drunk woman, and later being falsely accused of rape (through misunderstanding, I suppose), then why do we direct all of our “advice” only at women? Why not recommend young men take the same advice that we give young women? Don’t get drunk, don’t go to parties/clubs, don’t engage in any sexual behavior at parties, and whatever you do, don’t go home with a girl or invite her to your room.

2. Louisiana Fisherman Say Media, Not Oil, Killing Their Business, per Grist

I’ve heard about 7,336,288 stories about how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is ruining the lives of fisherman in the area because it’s killing marine life and making it impossible for fisherman to do their jobs. Although it is having an impact, some fisherman are saying the media is blowing the entire thing way out of proportion, which is hurting business:

But Dave Ballay, Wilson’s friend and Venice Marina’s former owner, does not blame the mammoth and growing oil slick in the nearby Gulf of Mexico.  Instead, people here blame the media, which day after day, for over two weeks, has detailed the doom and gloom facing the coast and its beleaguered residents.

“Ninety-five percent of the state of Louisiana’s waters are still fishable,” Ballay said with a bemused but angered tone.

3. BP releases video of oil leaking from underwater rig

It’s only 30 seconds, put you can see the oil and steam pouring out from the oil rig. Times this by 43,200, and that’s the damage the leak does on a daily basis — constantly spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. There is also another leak, but this is the larger of the two.

4. I Don’t Like Roger Ebert, per Mediaite

Last week, Caleb Howe decided to mock Roger Ebert via Twitter because they disagreed about whether some students should have been sent home because they were wearing American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo. As any mature person would do when political views differ, Howe decided to make fun of Ebert’s cancer, the fact he is missing his lower jaw because of the cancer, and talk about how his death is fast approaching.

Four days later, Howe “apologized” for saying those things, although the apology is difficult to follow and really doesn’t admit he did anything wrong until the last sentence. He spends most of it excusing himself for his behavior, blaming his Twitter addiction, booze, and mostly that he wanted the attention. But at the end, he realizes that Twitter is virtual but the people using it are real, so he is “suddenly very sorry” for everything.

It’s nice that he apologized, but the fact he premeditated an attack on someone leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So does his excuse, “vodka cometh,” as if being drunk doesn’t mean he is responsible for his actions. Note to Caleb Howe: even while intoxicated, you are still responsible for your actions — being drunk is not an excuse or a get-out-of-personal-responsiblity-free card.

5. Birth Control Opponents Greenwash Their Message, per Grist

Anti-abortion group American Life League is trying to ride the coattails of the green movement in order to get people to stop using birth control. This new greenwashing approach involves birth control pills getting into the waterways after we urinate, then going into the water system, and then the chemicals being ingested by fish and causing health problems.

This is true. But of course skewed:

But what the “Pill Kills” [campaign] site doesn’t make immediately clear is that the American Life League opposes all contraception of any kind (other than the good ol’ rhythm method). If the group gave a rat’s ass about the environment, it would acknowledge that unplanned pregnancies and resultant unplanned births ultimately lead to umpteen times more environmental degradation than the Pill.