Friday, May 31, 2013

The Natural History of the Battle-Axe

From the start, I'm not talking about the hand-held Medieval weapon, but rather a forceful, domineering, and aggressive woman.  Obviously, this notoriously sexist and possibly ageist expression has certain stereotypes with it.  Typically, the female battle-axe is somewhat older, stockier, formidable, and more opinionated woman than average.  It's not likely that a supermodel or a sorority pledge or an instructor or assistant professor will be so described.  St. Therese of Lisieux a battle-axe?  Nope.  Too young, too humble, and too passive.  Catherine of Siena, yes!

Naturally, prohibitionist Carry Nation seemed to have launched the stereotype of the battle-axe.  But Hilary Clinton, Anne Coulter, and Nancy Pelosi keep the term current even though it is in recession.  Maybe that's due to increased sensitivity regarding sexist and ageist language?  Still, people do get off the p.c. straight-and-narrow despite the eagle eyes and sharp ears of the Language Morals Police.

If the term is used to describe a member of the military, presumably she should be at least a Major or Colonel; and never called that to her face!  Lieutenants and Ensigns lack gravitas.   If in the other ranks, she would have to be a senior NCO.

Among women academics, there are plenty enough battle-axes.  Some achieve this status along with becoming full professors.  Professordom has its factions; and the ruthless, crusty ones manage to get to the top in some departments.

No one, I mean no one, would ever call a coach a battle-axe to her face or even in print.

I'm intrigued with how women manage to attain this status.  Does their Battle-axe application come with their AARP membership?  Does it have to be notarized and filed at the courthouse?  Lacking any knowledge of it at all, can one back into or stumble into battle-axehood?  These are sobering thoughts.  Or do they take classes, such as Basic Battle-axing?  Are those classes approved by regional accrediting associations?

Clearly, this seems to be a place for there to be governmental participation and possible regulation.  Especially if it can augment the revenue flow into governmental agencies and employ more bureaucrats.  Will we see more taxation of battle-axes due to representation?  Would not a battle-axe tax be a form of luxury tax, or maybe a sin tax?

Could I apply for a job as Battle-axe Inspector someday?  And would that come under the Department of Defense, or the Department of Health and Human Services?

Maybe I should also find out how people manage to become cougars!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Public Displays of Affection in Turkey and the U.S.

There's an interesting reaction that occurred in Turkey lately regarding the regulation of public displays of affection.  Recently, in Ankara, a couple was admonished by subway authorities for kissing while riding the subway.  Earlier in the week, the same officials asked patrons to "act in accordance with moral rules."  Said moral rules were not enumerated. 

The result: about 100 people staged a subway kiss-in; some holding signs advertising "Free Kisses."  Apparently, there is a conflict between those who prefer Turkey to be more Islamic, and those who prefer a some secular country, in accord with the pattern set by Kemal Ataturk.  This even extends to kissing.
But is this a singular phenomenon to Turkey?  Apparently not. 

India, the land of the Kama Sutra, definitely has discouraged this sort of kissing activity in Bollywood productions. 

In Massachuetts, you may not kiss in front of a church.  That kind of crimps the sweet conclusion of a church wedding.

In Florida, a man may not kiss his wife on her breasts.  Nothing about girlfriends' or mistresses'.   

And, for some reason, Colorado and Hartford, CT has laws which forbids married couples from kissing on Sunday.    They should spend their time doing Connecticut-approved activities.

The maximum kiss allowed in Iowa is no longer than five minutes.  Better use a kitchen timer or stop watch, just to be safe.  I wonder how many people in Des Moines are arrested for protracted osculation offenses.  Are those corn-fed lads and lasses less skilled in kissing.  Oh well, one less reason to be a Hawkeye,

You can't kiss while riding on a train in Wisconsin.  Better wait until you're in the less legally inhibited states such as Illinois or Minnesota.

Strangely enough, one European country also forbids kissing on trains: France.  There is no limitation on public kissing otherwise.  A particularly romantic place to kiss is under an archway in the Place des Vosges in Paris during a rainstorm!*

I am pleased to say that a couple may kiss for as long as they want to on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar in New Orleans.  Kissing on the Desire Street streetcar is no longer possible since that line has long been out of service.  Blanche DuBois must depend on the kindness of strangers elsewhere.

*A sweet memory of a trip.


Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Pick Up French Girls

Nicolas Gueguen of the Université de Bretagne-Sud and his colleagues recently did a study which tested the attractant power of young musicians, as compared to sports-inclined fellows.  How much drawing power does a guy have if he is carrying a guitar case, as opposed to a sports bag?

In doing this, they had a very attractive young man (so determined by the ratings by a panel of young women) approach at random 300 unfamiliar young women aged between 18 and 22 years, without regard to appearance, and proposition them thusly:

"Hello. My name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, and I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later and we can have a drink together someplace."

In general, the French girls gave him their number 14% of the time if he was holding nothing. If he was holding the sports bag, though, gave him their number just 9% of the time.  It looks like presenting yourself as an athlete might be a handicap.

If he was holding the guitar case, he was significantly more likely to get their number: 31% of the time. Not bad at all considering he was approaching random strangers in the street.  There is strong evidence that the mystical, romantic image of the musician had a pretty powerful effect.

The researchers gave no mention of whether the young man did with all the telephone numbers.  I hope he was a gentleman enough to follow through on the 54 ladies who gave him their numbers.  I know that, if I had given my cell number to someone, I would feel deeply wounded if he did not call.

In my opinion, the requirements of an experiment do not trump the norms of politeness and decency in courtship behavior.  If the ladies expected a possible pleasant session with an attractive guy, or romance, or tryst, they were misled.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blonde Jokes Notwithstanding . . . .

There's a generic class of jokes that are based on the premise that members of a particular class or racial or ethnic group, or Southernness are less intelligent than the rest of the population.  Thus, there's the
a.  Redneck joke
b. Polish joke
c.  Aggie joke (and its variants)
d.  Racial jokes
e.  Irish jokes
and so on.

We have to include the blonde joke among these.  According to the script, blondes are particularly dense.  No, make that stupid.

However, both a Google search and a search into Psychological Abstracts failed to indicate that there was any significant correlation between blondeness and lower intelligence.  In other words, hair color bears no relationship to intelligence!

Why the existence of the stereotype?  A possible reason is that adult, natural blondes constitute about 2% of the world's population; and they are largely from central Europe and Scandinavian countries.  Thus, because of the comparative rarity of the phenotype in the population, there is a tendency that when one encounters a dumb blonde, her obtuseness might be attributed to her hair color.  A dumb brunette is just viewed as dumb, without any spurious causality being tied to her hair color.

Actually, this also happens with another hair group: redheads are stereotyped as being hot-tempered.  And there is some localized prejudice against 'gingers,' like they are called in the UK.  Possibly this is related to red hair being more common in the Celtic Fringe, and is an expression of anti-Scottish or anti-Irish prejudice.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Media Support for Voyeurism and Exhibitionism

Voyeurism is the practice of observing someone else nude or engaging in intimate behaviors without that person's awareness of what is going on.  The common stereotype is that of the Peeping Tom, for better or worse.

Exhibitionism is the intentional public display of body parts that are normally concealed.

Both of these are officially categorized as paraphilias by the American Psychiatric Association when there is sexual intent involved.

Lately, the media has become increasingly an enabler of these sorts of practices, whether the person being viewed is complicit in the process or not.  (Does anyone believe that many or most of those "wardrobe malfunctions" were purely accidental?)  As a matter of fact, there's a purely instrumental reason why there's been a proliferation  of these types of literal exposés: they're translated into increased magazine sales and increased publicity for the person in question.  For example, there's been a recent proliferation of personalities who have won clothing that makes it evident that they went commando, yet managed to expose very little.  There's a mindset in Hollywood that perceives that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

However, there are some occasions when a person does have a legitimate malfunction.  When that occurs, the polite thing to do is to pretend nothing happened, nothing was seen!  Common decency and good manners should call for that.

There's a semantic issue involved.  The routine media coverage of these showings indicates strongly that the social climate towards these activities has shifted, making certain of these more normative.  And, should not there be a redefinition of the psychiatric term as it is ordinarily used?  Or maybe there should be some kind of additional qualifications as to when these terms should be used?

How about attention whore syndrome as a diagnostic category?  Well, the present-day histrionic personality disorder could effectively cover it.  But the deliberate publicity-seekers might warrant such a distinction!

To use a concrete example: If someone were cheekily to appear in public at South Beach while wearing a thong, should that be considered exhibitionism? Would the beach visitors who visit that shore to enjoy the local fauna be regarded as voyeurs? This is a long way from Daumier's keyhole peeker above. The thong-wearer presumably intends this sort of exposure, and the local custom permits this kind of display and its viewing.

Okay, I'm well aware that a woman who might appear in public wearing a thong would be arrested in many inhibited localities, like Boston or Minneapolis, for instance. There, the local mores view that sort of display in a negative light. But, since some places have different rules of dress, should there be geographical criteria to the definiton of these paraphilias?

And, in the case of Mardi Gras in the French Quarter, temporal criteria possibly.

nd time plays a part, too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Social Awkwardness of Wearing Tee Shirts

Women and girls have that occasional unfortunate experience of being seen wearing edgy clothing by an unintended audience.  Consider the level of discomfort that goes with being seen wearing a bikini or going braless and then encountering your clergyman, your professor, or (horrors of horrors!) your prissy aunt!  It makes you want to cover yourself with your arms due to newly-discovered modesty!  Fortunately, this awkward moment goes through by both through a combination of forebearance on the part of your unexpected viewer and your own sense that this too shall pass; but not soon enough!

Tee shirts are a different case: both men and women can experience those awkward moments of being seen in a tee shirt with some edgy comment.

This one is probably not the best one to wear when you visit your psychiatrist, or see the lady who helps you select bras:

Could this one draw sexual harassment from creeps and losers; or is it simply taken as a statement of opposition to war?

Does this sting the fragile sensibilities of New Yorkers, or do they take it as an ironical comment on "I ♥ NY" and "I only like you as a friend"?

It is probably not a good idea to wear this one to a meeting of the Diversity Committee:

A surprising number of people don't get this one:

Pro Tip:  Don't wear this to your school homecoming!  Especially if you attended a girls' school.

You might have a very generous gardener neighbor, or a neurological condition:

You convince people that you have a real 'tude!

 Bilbo might appreciate this one:

Talk about sharing too much information!  Well, maybe some mothers might appreciate this kind of heads-up.

Even more so!  Most people are quite okay with the sexual behavior of unmarried adults; but prefer it not to be brought to the surface.  Unless they are celebrities, of course!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Tall Poppy Syndrome

There's a potentially morale-corroding impulse that absorbs some people: the tendency to denigrate and wish ill of people who have had real accomplishments or who happen to be in the public eye for valid or otherwise reasons.  This is the Tall Poppy Syndrome. 
It's a product of envy; and it is often accompanied by schadenfreude when the tall poppy finally gets his comeuppance.  This seems to be what drives magazines that specialize in the dating and marital woes of prominent persons.  And often times a heavy dose of fiction is applied in these recounts.
According to various accounts, including the lazy girl's information source: Wikipedia, this is a broad cultural trend in Australia.  It may be positively linked to a preference for the underdog, or negatively by resentment of people with accomplishments. 
Obviously, politicians are often a target for this.  And, depending on the slant of the media source, they may subject to this social undercutting.
What are the costs of cutting down tall poppies?  Well, if this kind of atmosphere is chronically present, it may discourage the shy, the somewhat motivated, and the neophyte from continually trying.  Or they may emphasize their goal-directed activities primarily in the private sphere.   Do we want to live in a society in which only the incredibly thick-skinned and histrionic people jockey for prominence?  Think Lady Gaga, Dr. Phil, and Donald Trump.  These would be the tall poppies with steel stems!
I will be on a trip for a little over a week; so I will not be posting in the meantime.  I hope you have happy days, and look forward to reading your blogs when I return.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Boudreaux and Michelle

Boudreaux and Michelle Devereaux went to the same Parish Church.  Michelle, she go every Sunday and teach de Sunday School.  Boudreaux went on Christmas and Easter and once in a while, he went on one of the other Sundays.  On one of those Sundays, Boudreaux was in the pew right behind Michelle and he notice what a fine looking woman she is.

While dey were taking up the collection, Boudreaux lean forward an' say, "Hey, Michelle, how about you and me go out to supper next Friday?"

"Mais oui, Boudreaux, dat would be nice," say Michelle.

Well, Boudreaux couldn't believe his luck. All week long he polish up his old Ford, and on Friday he picked Michelle up and take her to the finest restaurant in the Parish. She de most beautifulest woman dere, an' Boudreaux's chest feel all swoll up wid havin' her walk in holding his arm.

When they sit down, Boudreaux look over at Michelle and said, "Hey, Michelle, would you like a cocktail before dinner?"

"Oh, no, Boudreaux," say Michelle. "What would I tell my Sunday School class?"

Well, Boudreaux was set back a bit, so he don't say much until after dinner. Then he reach in his pocket and pull out a pack of cigarettes. "Hey, Michelle," say Boudreaux, "Would you like a smoke?"

"Oh, no, Boudreaux," said Michelle. "What would I tell my Sunday School class?"

Well, Boudreaux was feeling pretty low after dat, so he just got in his Ford and was driving Michelle home when dey pass the Motel.  He'd struck out twice already, so he figure he had nothing to lose.  "Hey, Michelle," say Boudreaux, "how would you like to stop at dat dere motel with me?"

"Oui, Boudreaux, dat would be nice," say Michelle. Well, Boudreaux couldn't believe his luck. He did a U-turn right then and there across the median and everyting, and drove back to the motel and check in wit Michelle.

The next morning Boudreaux, he get up first. He look at Michelle lying dere in de bed, her hair all spread out on her pillow. She look all innocent an' young.

"What have I done? What have I done?" thought Boudreaux. He shake Michelle and she wake up. "Michelle, ma cher. I got to ask you one thing," say Boudreaux. "What are you going to tell your Sunday School class?"

Michelle say, "The same thing I always tell dem. You don't have to smoke and drink to have a good time!"

Saturday, May 4, 2013

No Bong Hits 4 Jesus

In 2007, in Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court held that school administrators could suppress students' speech at a school event if they perceived that it promoted illegal drug use.  Somehow, that strange abridgement of free speech was worthy of a song:

No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life
Though the days are long and no end in sight
Straight through the times you need to take flight
No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life.

Make me, oh make me, Lord one righteous doubee
Give me a hit to make me carefree
Free from the grumpy SCOTUS below
I’ve got the weed, Lord, and it's better than snow.

No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life
Though the days are long and no end in sight
Straight through the times you need to take flight
No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life.

Take all the bros and their righteous tokes
And all of the sistahs who married good blokes
Thank my dumbass kin for all that moonshine
It kicks like a mule, but you feel fine.

No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life
Though the days are long and no end in sight
Straight through the times you need to take flight
No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life.

Yeah, no bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life
Though the days are long and no end in sight
Straight through the times you need to take flight
No bong hits 4 Jesus through the hard times of life.

(Sung to the tune of Dropkick Me, Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life

Next week is International Clitoris Week.  I thought I'd touch on the subject.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

To Thong or Not To Thong

Let's talk about thongs.
Among my great insights regarding these items is that they immediately open to confusion: is the user referring to a type of undergarment, or a very casual type of footwear?  Maybe we should use separate, unequivocal terminology: backless underpants and shower shoes.  This caused some confusion a few years ago when newspaper fashion mavens tut-tutted about some girls' athletic team visiting the White House and some were wearing thongs!  Sorry, newsies, no immodesty or lésé majesté intended!
This is compounded by the common misprounciation of the word tong.  A tong can either be the word for a grasping tool used by barbecuers, or a Chinese secret society.  Therefore, using a thong to turn your meat on the grill is not advised, using tongs is!  And a thong war is not likely to break out in Chinatown, unless it's in a strip club!
Another observation of the Rick Romero variety is that thongs are a delight when worn by an attractive person of the opposite sex, not yourself.  You see, there's the strap thingy to deal with!  And thongs have a way of riding up in a way that is particularly evident if the person is wearing lowrider jeans -- the dreaded or aspired to whale tail!
[I was going to tell one whale of a tail of whale tales, or is it the other way around?]
Anyway, thongs can serve a cultural function.  They can serve as something to focus on when you want to deal with anxiety:  Imagine you're a novice lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court.  You can deal with performance anxiety by imagining the nine Supremes all wearing thongs!  Oops, there goes your lunch!
Or imagine our Presidential candidates speaking while wearing thongs.
They can be used to differentiate your vehicle in parking lots, or for major celebrations:
Thongs can even provide an excuse for increasing the role of government.  Under the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act, it is possible to conceive of the government adopting regulations governing the sale of these articles of fashion, licensing who may sell them, and restricting who may or who may not wear them.  
But, would this provide another point of political contention, as if we don't have enough, already.  I can see Conservatives eschewing thongs as a protest against government encroachment, and Liberals adopting, enduring, and openly hinting that they're wearing a thong, just to indicate that they're cool with the government regulating their underwear!  The Rev. Billy Bob Driscoll observed that thongs are a Deity's punishment on people who are liberals!