Thursday, April 29, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: Bad research, transgender discrimination, racism, and PowerPoint strategy!

You ask why we're so obsessed with correlation not equaling causation?  Because real researchers whose work impacts real policies are still convinced that it does.  Business Week is reporting that watching R-rated movies causes early drinking.  The researchers surveyed kids on how often they were allowed to watch R-rated movies, and then followed them to see when they (if) they started drinking.  They found that kids who were more frequently allowed to watch R-rated movies were more likely to start drinking early.  Their conclusion?  "We think seeing the adult content actually changes their personality."  Note, that's a quote from the actual researcher, not just a journalist misinterpreting the findings.  Interestingly, they note that R-rated movies have also been tied to "early smoking, sex at a young age, and violent behavior," but it doesn't occur to them that some third factor, such as parental involvement or peer group, could be driving all those relationships.

Elsewhere, some actual decent research, thank god.  Blog Her has a post on new research finding that those who report a "colorblind" ideology are less likely to be bothered by racist images.  The researcher, Brendesha Tynes, showed participants images that depicted racist stereotypes, and asked them to respond as though seeing the images on a friend's facebook page.  Those who considered themselves "colorblind" were less likely to express disapproval of the images and more likely to offer positive or supportive comments.  Additionally, white students were less likely to be bothered by the images.  Tynes believes her research provides evidence that "colorblindness" masks racial differences, and may prevent people from having meaningful conversations about race.

A transgendered veteran who chained herself to the White House fence to protest Don't Ask Don't Tell has reported deplorable treatment at the hands of federal law enforcement.  Autumn Sandeen reports she was called an "impersonator," "shim," and "it," and was accused of lying about her gender, despite being honest the entire time, and imprisoned in a male cell block, putting her safety at risk.  [I am linking to Pandagon because it has the best coverage of this incident. It is a blog run by Amanda Marcotte, who has previously exhibited exceedingly poor judgment.]

Did you hear about this racist email where the author unfortunately pontificates that, among other things, "I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent"?  We absolutely do not rule out that the sender of that email is, specifically, less informed than a common houseplant.  Perhaps predictably, the comments on Above the Law are just as racist.  Until this commenter sums up the terribleness nicely:
Sexism: You assume a male author.
Racism: You, like the author of the e-mail, never once consider the equally likely possibility that African-Americans are genetically more intelligent than European-Americans.
Ignorance: You, like the author of the e-mail, conflate the social construct of race (i.e., African-Americans) with genetic race, which actually has no resemblance whatsoever to the popularly understood idea of race. For example, the popular definition of race would hold that African-Americans are more likely to have sickle cell anemia. However, a genetic and evolutionary understanding will quickly tell you that only those people whose ancestors were from southern Africa (and a few other areas where malaria was an evolutionary pressure) developed such a predisposition. People from modern day Nigeria, for example, do not display this predisposition to sickle cell.
This is the reason these "questions" have never been answered: they are stupid f'ing questions that could only be proposed by someone who has no understanding of genetics whatsoever. Instead, they are proposed by people who already believe African-Americans are dumb, and who are looking for an excuse to justify their already held racism.

So I know you know by now that Sandra Bullock is filing for divorce, and adopting a baby boy!  I like NYMag's take on it, which notes Bullock has taken control of her own narrative, and proven herself to be a savvy PR person:
Bullock is to be commended, not only for, you know, having a child, but flipping the script. By changing her story from one of misfortune — America's Oscar-winning sweetheart gets her heart stomped on! — to one of pluck — American's Oscar-winning sweetheart gets her heart stomped on, gathers her strength, and finds a way to love, a baby, anew — she has saved herself many, many years of looking really sad on tabloid covers, given the future biopic about her life a great twist, and demonstrated to the American public that she is the woman she seems to be in the movies. Also not bad, the implicit "eff you" to the paparazzi, who, despite hounding her every move these last months, failed to notice an additional small person.
This "banana soft serve" from Choosing Raw looks amazing.  And so easy!  I like to read Choosing Raw and dream about wanting to eat vegetables all the time, imagine I would actually have the patience to chop them all, and pretend they wouldn't just spoil in my fridge.

Apparently PowerPoint is ruining the military.  This scares me.  Are we really determining our national defense strategy based on bullet points? (I know I missed a good "bullet" pun opportunity there).  In other military news, Navy subs are finally going to be open to women!  The Christian Science Monitor deserves kudos for originally advocating for this shift, and now following the story through.

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