Msnowe's Blog

Even if the Science is True…

Posted in Desire, New York Times, sexism by m.snowe on January 27, 2009

…msnowe thinks there’s so much wrong with This.

Back in college, the poster boy for the young republicans club came out with an editorial piece in the college newspaper. In it, he argued that if we allowed same sex couples to marry and receive benefits because their love for each other was as legit as a straight couple’s, then what about the case of a man he knew, who fell deeply in love with his goat? Why could that man-goat couple not be afforded the same martial privileges, he argued? This article was accompanied by a rather crude cartoon, and to this day, msnowe wonders if the college newspaper editors gave this story space for the sheer fact of it’s hate-talk and the impending debate. Obviously, considering it was a liberal college, there was an uproar, followed by marches, gay-rights t-shirts worn on coordinated days and pro-gay gatherings, etc. The outcry was large, and although it didn’t change the view of those few people who were ignorant enough to write such stories, it caused the campus community to be more aware and mindful and proactive. In a sense, the story was good because it backfired on the GOP blowhard and got more people angry and less people agreeing or complacent with the viewpoints of the piece.

So what does this have to do with msnowe’s opinion of the Female Desire piece in the New York Times last week? Well, the outcry against the story above exemplifies what should happen when a group is subjected to such absolutely asinine, ignorant comparisons and conjecture. Instead, the NYT’s piece has been one of the most widely read stories of the week, and people seem to be gobbling it up without analyzing what the journalist is saying about “female” desire. Let’s first understand this: regardless of whether or not the science is unfounded or completely correct, the presentation of this piece is in poor taste at best, and ignorant and sexist at its worst. There’s no excuse for the way that the writer of this piece, Daniel Bergner, ignorantly uses latent sexism to describe his findings. [msnowe would like to note that just because a man wrote this piece, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done perfectly well by one.] But Bergner, consciously or not, enforces the “elusive, undefinable” notion of a “female desire” that allows both men and women to become misinformed, puzzled, and mystified by something that is just as raw and attainable as the “male” kind. It may not be comparing female sex with sex with goats–but there are a few paragraphs devoted to monkeys and rapists.

Msnowe wants to deal with multiple topics, but let’s look at Bergner’s story in its essentials first.
As a scientific piece, the scientists themselves are important, but in general it should be the research that takes center stage, especially as the article is targeted to try and define “Female Desire” (or so it falsely advertises).

Here are some snippets that mSnowe found particularly disturbing, that Bergner wrote to describe some of the

*female* scientists/sexologists:

“While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively.”

A compact 51-year-old woman in a shirtdress, Meana explained the gender imbalance onstage in a way that complemented Chivers’s thinking.”

“One morning in the fall, Chivers hunched over her laptop in her sparsely decorated office.

Let’s see, shall we? Bergner has gone to describe the physical attributes and dress of the *lady* scientists, descriptions he decidedly left off when writing about the male sexologists. Somehow, their dress is connected with this study? Or is he just trying to picture them naked? What does this have to do with the task at hand? Perhaps someone should tell him that, OMG, women can totally excel in math and the sciences, and should be treated as equals?

The later part of the article focuses on the varied results of the multiple studies, some of the highlights being:

1. Women are aroused by rape/ravishing situations

2. Women are narcissistically desirous

3. Women are also aroused by all the clips presented on a screen, no matter what their apparent sexual orientation (of monkeys, hetero- and homosexual sex, etc.) as opposed to men, who are only aroused by the sex they prefer (straight guys get aroused watching lesbian sex and hetero sex; gay men are aroused when watching homosexual sex). This leads to the conclusion that women do not have a desirous gaze, the way a “male gaze” occurs (see Sontag photo criticism: the male gaze)

Okay, so this is a lot, but let’s tackle it. First, an important distinction is made in the very beginning of the piece, and then summarily thrown out the journalistic window: “female” desire and female arousal have the capability to be diametrically separate from each other–they are not the same thing. But Bergner seems to forget this, and uses research solely on arousal for at least 3/4 of the piece to try and discover “female” desire. And it’s really annoying that the NYTs had a piece two years ago that already made clear how shoddy the connection between the desire and arousal was, and made definite inroads into the idea that perhaps, maybe just perhaps, there was overlap between the sexes in terms of defining desire–that it was a concept that should not necessarily be broken out by sex. This is all part of the mysterious human psyche–not a choice between lavatories at the mall.

Meana, one of the scientists in this current piece even proclaims: “the variability within genders may be greater than the differences between genders.”

And the whole “women are narcissistic” argument? According to one scientist, female desire is essentially a “wanting to be desired”–a self-fulfillment from an external source, or something. To be fair to Bergner, the scientist introduces the term “narcissistic.” But msnowe finds that term jarring, especially when applied only to her sex. Of course we want to be wanted–and that would probably be a universal assumption, unless, perhaps, you’re a date rapist (or maybe not even). Does the woman always have to see herself as “the object?” Have we suddenly gone back to the Middle Ages, and the notions of courtly love?

And don’t get msnowe started about this line of Bergner’s:

“Had Freud’s question gone unanswered for nearly a century not because science had taken so long to address it but because it is unanswerable?

One can only assume “Freud’s question” has something to do with penis envy. Well, by all accounts, the studies prove it false. Also, how typical is it for some to throw up their hands in defeat when trying to solve an issue that is a) different from the determinations of the past (i.e. they FINALLY start studying female sex drive) or b) it might be more intricate of a topic than they’d like to delve into. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time a male started to try to find out the mysteries of woman’s pleasure, and then just settled on discovering (or reaching the climax of) their own instead(or first, shall we say). Msnowe can tell you from experience–although she’d love the societal power that unfairly comes with that southern piece of outer equipment all you guys have, she really doesn’t envy it physically.

Part two: Should desire be seen as gendered? And the “male” gaze–is that all there is? (to come…)

Dear John Letters… (in which M.Snowe fakes it but good)

Posted in Equal Pay Act, equality, John McCain, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tires, sexism by m.snowe on April 25, 2008

1 Writer’s Block Plaza
NY, NY
USA, Blogosphere, Universe, etc.


Senator John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2235
Fax: 202-228-2862


Dear Senator:

First, please excuse my intrusion. Since I am not a member of your Arizonian constituency, feel free to disregard my humble correspondence. However, since you are running as the Republican candidate for president, it might be conceivable that you would read and absorb my letter. In hopes of the later, I will continue with my praise of your most recent Senate actions.

This past week, the Senate was called to vote on a bill approved by the House and originally written by those whom you lovingly consider “your friends on the other side of the aisle.” Before I address this bill, I’d like to point out that you should be a bit more careful, Mr. Seniorator. What I mean is, you use the address “my friends” in many different contexts, not all entirely amiable. Now, as a staunch supporter, I know that when you call Democrats “friends” you mean something different than when you call campaign contributors at your rallies “friends” (wink wink). But that’s another story.

Back to the Bill. It was the Equal Pay Bill, also know as the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the name taken from the Supreme Court case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. The bill was written–as I’m sure your copious hours of research into the bill informed you–as a correction to the Supreme Court’s ruling that a worker should be limited to 180 days upon first instance of discriminatory pay practice by an employer based on sex, race, age, etc. Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear, and her lawyers claimed that every time she received a pay check that was less than her male equals’ salaries, it constituted discrimination. But you, dear Senator, and the Supreme Court (or at least those legal eagles: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, & Thomas: the conservative bench clusterfuck, as I fondly call them) decided that if this woman had a gripe with her pay scale, she should have complained within 180 of being hired by Goodyear. If she was so conscientious about receiving equal pay, why didn’t she snoop around the records of her fellow employees while she was still on her initial six-month probationary period upon hiring–you know, back when she was new, didn’t have a rapport with her colleagues, and didn’t know how much they made, and was barred from asking as a matter of company policy? If she got canned then and there for snooping, it wouldn’t have blown up into an expensive and unfruitful extended legal battle now! Think of the time everyone could have saved and all the tires that could’ve been made with the money instead used to pay the lawyers! If she just married up and stopped futzing around with rubber and tires, we’d all be able to stick an extra wheel on or cars, and have as many rubber stamps as we wanted (which would SO come in handy once you’re president!).

So again, I must applaud your decision not to vote on this bill, and instead campaign for contribution monies in some of the poorest sections of the country, like New Orleans; because let’s face it, the best way to stop poverty, and specifically poverty among women and children, is going to their home town and asking for money for your campaign–not to sit in your leather senate seat and try to legislate away their problems! They need to carry a McCain FOR PRESIDENT banner to really combat their lower wages and discriminatory victimization. Like osmosis, our grand old party ideas of free market economies and free enterprise will seep into their ears, and allow the New Orleans people to wipe off their toxic-mold encrusted sneakers and participate in the utopia of true laissez faire! Huzzah!

I melted at your words when interviewed about the bill. You said: “I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems.” *Give me a moment while I collect myself, and re-congeal from the puddle of Republican glee I was just transported into by your eloquence.*

Okay. So the lawsuits, the legal battles, all this unnecessary stuff–you hit the nail right on the democrat’s head. We don’t want all these lawsuits! And this legislation would open it up, allowing women to sue whenever they actually find discrimination–not just those 180 days. They have long careers, so that would be absolute chaos! Of course, it might make people file suit without direct evidence in the first 180 days, just to cover their legal bases, so to speak…but I don’t think that’s likely. Who ever heard of courts being flooded with unwarranted law suits instead of well-researched, justifiable ones?

Besides, the heart of this issue, as you so rightly but your finger on, is not that women are receiving lower pay for equal work, it’s that they don’t know what they’re doing (especially in comparison to men). In full disclosure, I’m a woman, and I can confirm that I don’t know what I’m doing, even now, sitting here drafting this letter to you in praise for your work. I’d need more clues than a naked scavenger hunt to really understand your policy. But the other message that you told the press that made me liquefy was this one (in regard to the salary disparity between men and women):

“They [women] need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else,…And it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them….It’s a vicious cycle that’s affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least,”

*note: a single, translucent tear of pristine republican emotion runs down my cheek every time I read this, fomenting my soul with GOP solidarity. *

You see, you silly discriminatory-practices-lawsuit women, like Madame Ledbetter (her name is even criminal!)–you have it all wrong! Senator, you know where the problem needs to be nipped in the bud: Education. Women aren’t getting paid less because they’re women, it’s because they’re stupid, and can’t perform tasks! All that sentimental stuff: yikes. It’s surprising enough that women can even manage to form lawsuits, with all the hormones and familial concerns.

You said you saw the disparity in wages, and want to rectify it. Well, Senator, do I have an initiative for you! I say, you put women back in their traditional spot: the home, and more specifically, the kitchen. They seem to like taking care of their families, as you suggested in the quote above. Just eradicate hiring women in the US! Ah, but I know you’re saying to yourself, “well, that’s a good idea, but how would I do it?” Don’t worry John (I feel we’re on an intimate, first name basis now) I wouldn’t leave you hanging. Remember after the liberalism of the 1920’s, followed by the depression, and then WWII, everybody got reallllllly conservative, and Rosie the Riveter put away her hammer and instead constructed school lunch boxes in poodle skirts and stuff? Well, all we need to do to get back to the glory days of Dad Knows Best is to start a war, in tandem with a depression of sorts. You see, the first baby boom occurred because Americans needed to do some good old fashioned boning after all those years of depressing war. And the babies were born more frequently after the Great Depression, because people felt they could now afford to have them. So, think about it. All you need is an altercation, or war of some sort against a foreign power and ideology…and then maybe a recession, followed by an upturn. And BOOM! Women are in the kitchen where they so rightly fit. Less women and lawsuits to deal with at work! Everybody wins! Now if we could only find a long, drawn out war, and an unstable economy…..

Best wishes to your campaign!

Your Ever-Ardent Political Fan and Future Bathroom Tryst,

M. Snowe

More Stereotypical Manuscript

Posted in Copyediting, grammar, homophobia, sexism by m.snowe on April 11, 2008

Here are some more submitted stereotypes in copyediting language/rules:

The Gay Recluse writes:
More on the gay front than sexist, but! How about “homo panic”: failure to use any adverbs ever for fear of being labeled a queen. (He offered pathetically.)

Not pathetic at all! In fact, combing a few copyediting books/websites, it’s clear that the makers of these rules (and general grammar rules) were homophobic:

“Querying” : This word is an obvious allusion to Queer–and of course, the textbook warns all future copyeditors:
“Do not query often…Queries should never be sarcastic, snide or argumentative.”

“Homophones”: (Words pronounced identically or quite similarly but spelled differently) “Be able to spot and eliminate troublesome pairs”

And that’s not all. Grammar seems to be quite conservative.

Hence, the definition of copulative verbs:
“verbs that express a state of being, rather than an action.”

Interestingly, the verb “copulate” means: to engage in sexual intercourse. The grammarians have decided that to have sex is a state of being, not an action. Or perhaps they have a special regard for Sting and his Tantric practices?