Feeling uncomfortable because race or racism is mentioned in your presence just doesn’t compare to the economic, psychological, and spiritual consequences of structured racial inequality. Surely this means that we need to find better, more productive ways of talking about race, not fewer.
Clippings and half-formed thoughts on nature, conservation, technology, history, architecture, & other nerdery. Lovingly selected for you by Hannah Waters. Follow me on twitter @hannahjwaters and read my blog Culturing Science.
“Earlier generations of educated women,” she writes, “worked largely in schools, or volunteered in the community, because little else was on offer.” They were the social and political activists. Now paid employment has largely displaced volunteering in the community. Moreover, many ambitious women no longer become teachers, except at the college level, because the pay and prestige are greater in other professions. Wolf quotes from an interview with sociologist and political scientist Theda Skocpol: “Women were the ones who stood up for welfare, and made the case for the public good, for everyone. Now it’s all so narrow.”
Obviously, we can’t and shouldn’t return to a time when women were expected to tend to the needs and welfare of the community gratis because they had no other options and no one else would do it. But we do need to modify the cult of overwork, in child rearing as well as in careers, to make room for highly educated women and their husbands to be more active citizens. In particular, I wish upper-middle-class women were stronger advocates for the rights of less privileged women, both in their own country and abroad.
The subtext of Reiner’s piece, though, is more complicated than contemporary relationships stink. It’s a comparison of then and now, an elegy for the supposed age of human feeling that flourished before Facebook killed romance. And that is where it grates the most. Because when Reiner talks about kids needing to rediscover “emotional vulnerability,” he is really referring to women. College guys have always played the field, sloughed off attachment, spread their seed; what’s changed in the past 50 years or so is that women have begun to treat relationships with the same casualness as their male peers. So what is the solution to the (possibly imaginary) epidemic of affective irresponsibility? Should we retreat from our moment of declining domestic violence rates and female breadwinners? Should we aspire to the open, painful vulnerability of the prefeminism years, where women couldn’t afford to take their dating lives lightly, because their entire futures hung in the balance?
The truth is that these groups [like TED] aren’t trying to make feminism popular; they’re trying to make it theirs. Attempts to “revive” a movement that’s alive and well is about wresting and keeping control away from the activists who made it what it is. This is especially true now, when the move to redefine and rebrand feminism coincides so closely with the increased power and influence of online activists and insurgent younger feminists, specifically women of color.
In the end, what I found so worrisome about TEDWomen was that I was seeing firsthand what happens when “feminism” isn’t defined by feminists. Instead of the messy, nuanced reality, we got a carefully curated package of what powerful people think feminism should be—or, at least, which feminism would be most appealing. Because while comedian Maysoon Zayid talking about her life with cerebral palsy and Dr. Paula Johnson explaining bias in medical diagnoses are absolutely feminist, they are also deliberately feel-good and controversy-free. It’s feminism without the fight.
Also: “Now, being pro-choice is not the sole qualification for feminists—but you can’t be a feminist without supporting abortion rights. (Sorry, I said it.)”
No one wants to get diagnosed with cancer. You only benefit from a cancer diagnosis if that cancer is destined to kill you and the diagnosis allows you to treat in a way that prevents you from getting sick and dying. And that’s where things get complicated, because treatment for cancer makes most people feel pretty lousy. It disrupts their lives in a major way. Even a relatively early stage breast cancer can cost you your hair, part or even all of your breast or breasts, and months of treatments that make you feel tired and sick. These treatments are totally worth it if it means that you avoid dying from the cancer. But if they’re aimed at curing a cancer that was never going to become deadly, then what early diagnosis has actually done is made a healthy person sick. I think it’s safe to say that no one wants that.
"[E]veryone’s an environmentalist — and yet the environment appears to be in worse shape than ever. The problems of the seventies are back with a vengeance, often transposed into new landscapes, and new ones have joined them. Species we hardly knew existed are dying off en masse; oceans are acidifying in what sounds like the plot of a second-rate horror movie; numerous fisheries have collapsed or are on the brink; freshwater supplies are scarce in regions home to half the world’s population; agricultural land is exhausted of nutrients; forests are being leveled at staggering rates; and, of course, climate change looms over all.
These aren’t issues that can be fixed by slapping a filter on a smokestack. They’re certainly not about hugging trees or hating people. To put it bluntly, we’re confronted with the fact that human activity has transformed the entire planet in ways that are now threatening the way we inhabit it — some of us far more than others. And it’s not particularly helpful to talk in generalities: the idea that The Environment is some entity that can be fixed with A Solution is part of the problem.
The category “environmental problems” contains multitudes, and their solutions don’t always line up: water shortages in Phoenix are a different matter than air pollution in Los Angeles, disappearing wetlands in Louisiana, or growing accumulations of atmospheric carbon. So instead of laying out some kind of template for a sustainable future, I argue that there’s no way to get there without tackling environmentalism’s old stumbling blocks: consumption and jobs. And the way to do that is through a universal basic income.
So why does chemistry’s role in accidents get highlighted, and whose fault is it that people are so scared of chemicals?
Simple - mine. It’s my fault, and my grandfather’s. We are responsible for chemophobia. Why? Well, grandfather’s sodium demo certainly fuelled my enthusiasm for chemistry. But it didn’t spark it - that happened somewhere else. And sparking an interest is what he should have done and what I should be doing.
Pouring fuel onto the flames of enthusiasm is easy, especially with chemistry. The theatre is easy, too - the bangs, the flames, the explosions, the pops, the whizzes, the smoke and the rockets are fabulously entertaining. I love it, and I love the whoops and cries and applause from the audience.
But at the end of the day, what did the audience remember? Just those bangs - and not a jot of chemistry. Explosive, flaming chemistry demos do nothing to show what chemistry can build and everything to highlight what it can destroy. And in the process, they blow out any flickering interest in chemistry and replace it with fear.