The Deep History of Peoples – Women as well as Men

The 26 August Science magazine is on fire.

A definitive study shows the Wuhan market as the center of the first COVID-19 cases of the pandemic, refuting the lab leak hypothesis. That’s important, but this post is not about that, not least because I don’t want to get caught in that poisonous argument.

No, I want to talk about the cover stories.

This image inspired by Bronze Age art depicts people of diverse cultures spreading their genes between West Asia and Southeast Europe. From left to right: Mycenaean, Minoan, Hittite, Armenian, and Urartian. A total of 1317 ancient genomes spanning 10,000 years were analyzed to reveal the manifold connections between these regions that are invisible in modern DNA.

Three big Research Articles, with dozens of authors across the geographical area covered. A news story, and a Perspective. News stories and Perspectives are summaries for the general public and scientists who are not specialists in the field.

Read More

The White Guy’s Playbook For Discounting Women

This article is a superb example of how women are excluded from, well, anything important. I’ve seen a number of similar examples lately. The actions are so similar that I’ve wondered if there’s a playbook that white guys are sharing around.

1. Start with an impossible goal. Dwight Eisenhower sent Dick Nixon on a 68-day around-the-world tour. The author recognizes that this would be impossible for any president and vice president today, but it’s too bad that Kamala Harris can’t get an education like this.

2. Minimize what she is doing. Here’s the minimization:

Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a first-term senator from California before entering the White House, hasn’t been given the sort of immersive experiences or sustained, high-profile tasks that would deepen and broaden her expertise in ways Americans could see and appreciate. 

Here’s the experience, in the same paragraph, with required and evidenceless minimization. The author does this with a straight face.

But over the last 18 months, her on-the-job training in governing has largely involved intractable issues like migration and voting rights where she has not shown demonstrable growth in leadership, and hit-or-miss trips overseas like the troubled foray in Central America a year ago and the more successful delegation to meet with the United Arab Emirates’ new president, leading a team that included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Read More

Tom Nichols Calls Out Masculinist Identitarian Politics

Tom Nichols and I see the world differently, but he’s managed to produce an insightful Twitter thread, which I summarize below. Of course, he probably won’t agree with what I’m going to say about it.

Read More

White Guys In Science – E. O. Wilson

And one more

I first gave E. O. Wilson some extended thought when his book Consilience came out in 1999. When I was younger, I was intrigued by grand syntheses, which is what Consilience attempts to be. I don’t think I read it, though, just the summaries. The idea was, as I recall, that at some blessed time in the future all the sciences (all forms of knowledge?) would come together in one synthesis. If that’s wrong, don’t bother to explain to me what it really said. I don’t care.

My second thought was that of course something like this could be published only by a “grand old man.” Someone who had made his name in some part of science and then had gone on to pontificate about other things. Tiresome, but not the first time.

I follow a number of biologists on Twitter, including experts on insects and ants, Wilson’s favorite. They were inspired by him and are now trying to assess his legacy. Consilience wasn’t Wilson’s only attempt at a grand synthesis; he had earlier written on sociobiology, and that was where he got into trouble.

Read More

White Guys In Science – Eric Lander

White guy scientists are in the news again. With E. O. Wilson’s death, his legacy is being reviewed, and some of it is not nice. President Biden’s science adviser, Eric Lander, has had to to apologize to his staff for bullying and other bad behavior toward them.

None of this is a surprise.

When Eric Lander was nominated in 2021, Peter Aldhous at BuzzFeed News collected a number of incidents showing Lander to not work well with women.

Read More

The Fall Of The White Male Novelist

Publishers have a lot of power. Written material shapes thinking and conversations. When they choose a book or article, they are using physical and mental space that might have gone elsewhere.

For many, many years in the English-speaking countries, that space has gone to white cis men, excluding other voices. Compounding the exclusion has been misogyny in many of those men’s writing.

I gave up reading fiction a long time ago. It was all men’s viewpoints. When Henry Miller’s Tropics became legal in the US, I read them. An older male colleague asked me what I thought. I don’t recall my exact response, but it was along the lines of  it being a viewpoint I didn’t recognize. And Norman Mailer and John Cheever and John Updike and Philip Roth and too many others.

Read More

A Woman In Portland

What are the rules of engagement for a mob of highly-equipped men, with layers of protective clothing, against a woman wearing no clothes?

That was the situation in Portland on July 18. The woman was as unidentifiable as the men, wearing only a mask and a knit cap. She appeared, danced, and then sat to expose her vulva to the men. Photo showing nudity after the fold.

Read More

Masks, Condoms, And Treaties

Some time back, I started a Twitter thread which I called “Adventures in Masculinity.” I wanted to bring attention to examples of masculine gendering where it was not needed to explain or talk about something but might go unnoticed. The thread is up to 86 entries now, with the last two example tweets having been deleted by their authors. I guess I need to do screenshots.

The Trump administration is masculinist and patriarchal in all things, with misogyny, racism, and xenophobia thrown in. It’s hard not to notice the photos of white men in suits sitting around tables or chatting with each other. I have tried to avoid such obvious things in my thread.

Recently, I’m seeing a throughline that may not be obvious that starts at macho self-presentation and links to the administration’s dislike of arms control treaties.

Read More