Tag Archives: human rights

“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” -Fran Lebowitz


Women’s tongues are like lambs’ tails – they are never still. –English

The North Sea will sooner be found wanting in water than a woman at a loss for words. –Jutlandic

The woman with active hands and feet, marry her, but the woman with overactive mouth, leave well alone. –Maori

When both husband and wife wear pants it is not difficult to tell them apart – he is the one who is listening. –American

Nothing is so unnatural as a talkative man or a quiet woman. –Scottish

Where there are women and geese, there’s noise. –Japanese.

The tongue is the sword of a woman and she never lets it become rusty. -Chinese

Women clearly talk more than men, right? The stereotype is so strong across so many cultures and places so clearly this is one stereotype based in fact. Right?


Well, let us look at the evidence.

Researchers reviewed sixty-three studies that looked at how much American men and women talked when put together in various situations. Out of sixty-three studies, women spoke more than men in exactly two.

In New Zealand, a researcher compared the talking time of experts and interviewers on television. In situations where the time was meant to be split into thirds, men took over half of the time. Every time.

Another researcher analyzed the talking time of men and women in 100 open forums. Women dominated those discussions…7% of the time. When the participants were equally divided along gender lines, men still managed to take two-thirds of the speaking time.

I had a meeting with a [female] sales manager and three of my [male] directors once…it took about two hours. She only spoke once and one of my fellow directors cut across her and said ‘What Anne is trying to say, Roger, is…’ and I think that about sums it up. He knew better than Anne what she was trying to say, and she never got anything said.

Let’s look at some other professional situations, shall we?

Years ago, while producing the hit TV series “The Shield,” Glen Mazzara noticed that two young female writers were quiet during story meetings. He pulled them aside and encouraged them to speak up more.

Watch what happens when we do, they replied.

Almost every time they started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought.

A Yale psychologist tracked the speaking time of new senators and those with more tenure and leadership. She found that tenured male senators spoke much more than their junior colleagues, but female senators’ speaking time did not significantly increase with time or power.

After discovering this gender inconsistency, the psychologist asked professionals to judge the competence of executives based on how often they shared their opinion. Male executives who spoke up received 10% higher competency ratings. Meanwhile, female executives who shared their opinions openly received 14% lower competency ratings from both men and women.

Another analysis showed that women who make their companies significant revenue and contribute good ideas do not receive better performance reviews and are not seen in a better light by their bosses. Men, however, are.

A researcher at UT had various males and females suggest a proven idea for streamlining their team’s inventory. He found that the women who suggested the new idea were viewed as less loyal by their leaders and those leaders were less likely to take the suggestion. Even when the leaders were told that one member of their team was given unique, helpful information, the women were ignored.

Women do not talk more. They know that talking more will do them harm, both professionally and socially. All those pictures up top saying that women outpace men by thousands of words per day? False. The erroneous numbers seem to have started with someone trying to sell a book. The real numbers?

But in the end, the sexes came out just about even in the daily averages: women at 16,215 words and men at 15,669. In terms of statistical significance, Pennebaker says, “It’s not even remotely close to different.”

So, our daily averages are about the same, but in mixed and professional situations, men dominate time and again. There is abundant research that this starts early–we’re talking elementary school early. From the classroom to the boardroom, women are not heard in public. Being listened to in public is a confirmation of importance and social status. So what does this say about where society places women? What does it say about how women view themselves?

To be fair, many of those pictures up top seemed to be referencing couples, not executives. So:

Another study compared the relative amount of talk of spouses. Men dominated the conversations between couples with traditional gender roles and expectations, but when the women were associated with a feminist organization they tended to talk more than their husbands. So feminist women were more likely to challenge traditional gender roles in interaction.

It seems possible that both these factors – expert status and feminist philosophy – have the effect of developing women’s social confidence. This explanation also fits with the fact that women tend to talk more with close friends and family, when women are in the majority, and also when they are explicitly invited to talk (in an interview, for example).

So, women are starting to realize that they are worthy of a voice, both in their relationships and in public. We still only expect people to listen to us if they are close to us or if we are an expert on the topic, but it’s progress. But that is how we see ourselves, how do the men see the women?

When a teacher worked at giving equal talking time to both boys and girls, he felt he was giving the girls 90% of his attention and his male pupils agreed. They complained angrily about it, in fact. Got that? An attempt at equality is seen as overwhelming favor and bitterly resented.

The same thing happens at seminars and debates, too. At a workshop where 32 women and 5 men were in attendance, analysis showed that the 5 men spoke over 50% of the time. They said what they wanted to say and set the tone for what was to be said and how. The researcher noted that there was no hostility, but the pressure the men exerted on the conversation was accepted without comment or question.

When women are given equal time to talk, it is believed that women were given more than their fair share. After all, what is fair in a patriarchal society? Dale Spencer says this:

The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.

How do we fix this extreme disparity? I’ll talk about that in my next post.


“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” -Gandhi

I’m sitting in my room with my headphones on. The low murmur of CNN is still detectable. There was another shooting today. My husband needs to know. I already want to forget.

I watched with him during some of the calmer moments–SWAT teams walking around a residential neighborhood, that sort of thing. The anchor and her guests were stating the obvious things about American police tactics that they always talk about during times of action, but no information. Then they talked of Paris and radicals, terrorism and bombs. They prefaced everything with acknowledgements of their ignorance, but that did not stop their mouths.

As they spoke, the never-ending scroll of information caught my eye: United States decides to start bombing after some debate; Britain to start bombing soon; Germany gearing up to start bombing; France asking for more bombs…

I am not a pacifist though I imagine I could become one before my life ends. Why do we keep doing the same thing and expecting different results?

I think of America’s Civil War and World War II and decide those were wars that needed to be fought, but I say that with the distinct advantage of hindsight. Would I have thought the same thing if I had been around at the time? Would I call them justified if they had ended differently?

How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?
-Howard Zinn

We do this thing where we spend millions and billions on war, then we leave. Maybe the fighting is done, maybe it isn’t, but we leave. We leave these people that we have terrorized with ruined homes and ruined lives and expect them to fix what we have broken. We may send a tiny fraction of the money we spent destroying them to rebuild, but never enough. We leave the ones we claim to have “saved” in squalor, usually worse than where they began, and are surprised when they grow to hate us.

We contribute to the cycle of violence with every act of violence we commit, regardless of our intentions. So, how do we stop? Can we stop? Evolution is a game of getting to the top and it was a bloody rise for humans. Societal evolution has been just as bloody, but even worse, for we have been violent whilst having a conscious.

My children’s first acts of violence came long before they could speak. I regularly played games in which I and my friends imagined ourselves in situations of heinous hardship. Our entertainment is not just laced with violence–violence is often the point. Our games are purposely ‘us versus them’. Do these casual examples of violence serve as outlets or provocations of our worst traits?

Fear is such a basic instinct. It is easy to lash out in pain, easier than to spread happiness. The dichotomy of good versus evil is uncomplicated compared to the complex reasons why people deliberately cause harm. Are we doomed to rinse and repeat the bloodshed until we are no more?

Imperialism is not our answer, but neither is willful ignorance and inaction. This is not a day on which I feel optimistic about the human race.

“The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” -Anne Frank


Two weeks into school and my daughter has already had another layer of innocence scrubbed away. I worry she has donned a layer of protection in its place. Vulnerability leads to some of the greatest gifts of human existence, but it is not always rewarded thusly.

Boots (as I call her here) did not talk much the first couple years of her life. Friends and strangers alike commented on her silent, searching gaze. Everyone has always agreed that my daughter has a way of taking it all in, picking it apart, and examining the puzzle pieces of life. Now a precocious second grader, she continues to discern.

As parents, my husband and I have sought to avoid the grievances we endured as children. We have sought to teach our son and daughter how to think rather than what to think. We do not seek to indoctrinate. Daily life, as well as specific events, have led to several conversations about religion in our household, oftentimes regarding atheism. Sometimes Boots was around, and as always, she listened. She has asked what other people believe, what we think. Honesty and her own freedom of thought have always been paramount.

One day she will form a more informed worldview, but for now a lack of belief is all she knows. There has never been a reason for her to believe in a deity and she does not. Belief in the tooth fairy is still up in the air, though she’s leaning toward disbelief there too. When Santa came up with her classmates, she stood firmly among the non-believers. When church and God came up, she freely admitted her disbelief. This time she stood alone. When it came up again one of her closest friends told her that she would grow up to be a “bad guy” and that she would tell the whole school that Boots didn’t believe. How quickly a young mind can be narrowed…

My seven-year old daughter was shamed, insulted, and threatened with ostracization until she felt the need to lie. She feigned a belief in God to appease her friend. When she told us what had happened, her father and I told her that it was not a lie she should have to tell, but that we understood and respected her choice. In the past we have warned her about the potential reactions of others. How could she really comprehend what we meant? Why shouldn’t she trust her friend and peer? Why would one difference of thought jeopardize a friendship?
There’s no reason, no good reason at least.

We have encouraged her to be brave enough to be herself. Now she knows why being true to yourself requires courage.

Boots was bothered by her friend’s reaction, but in the end not all that upset. Her dishonesty ended the accost for the time being. This is not her fight. This is not ground she needs to stand on. Nonetheless, the social battles go on.

I can’t help but wonder how she will react to similar conversations in the future. Will she remember? Will she be able to trust and confide as freely as she did mere days ago? Has she built the founding layer of a wall to hide behind?

My daughter is being molded and layered by the words, emotions, and opinions of those around her. There are so many voices. There are so many hands.

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” -Winston Churchill

global connections

Who are you? What makes you, you?

Depending on who you consult, the answer varies.
Are you:
what you eat?
what you wear?
what you know?
what you say?
your thoughts?
your actions?
the face you show the world?
what other people think you are?
what you think you are?
what you love?
who you love?

All are interesting hypotheses, all imbued with shades of truth. Yet they all oversimplify the matter. An individual is an amalgam of hard wiring and experience, a singular synthesis of humanity.

For the first time in history, Churchill and those like him aren’t the only ones with the power to write their own autobiographies. Philosophers throughout time have reiterated again and again that history is a fable written by the victors because their words were the only ones recorded. This fundamental idea that history is only ‘based on a true story’ rings slightly less true in an age when so much of the world can log onto an interconnected internet and share their story and point of view via a thousand different social media platforms. Regardless of the platform one uses, if you can log on, you can connect.

There are problems with our current system. Corporations are footing the bill for content and that means advertising is in charge of the vast majority of those platforms. But crowdfunding, freemium services, and user-supported media are slowly eating away at the need for every website to ‘sell out’ just to keep the lights on. In the United States, net neutrality is in jeopardy even though the people have spoken and 99% support neutrality. The reason for the overwhelming support is clear – no one wants their voice tamped down by the powers that be.

Internet access is considered so important in today’s society that the United Nations declared it a human right, but the number of people still without a platform to tell their stories is surprisingly high. More than 60% of the world’s population does not have any access to the internet. The graphic below shows the percentage of citizens that are internet users in each country.


internet users percentage
Source: International Telecommunication Union

Was the United Nations right, should internet access be a human rights issue? I do not even hesitate to answer yes. It is easy to dismiss the importance of something overrun with angry comment sections and pictures of cats, but the internet is much more than that. It is a bastion of knowledge, a refuge for the lonely, an unending source of entertainment. It is a global market, the local coffeehouse to all who enter. It does not replace the hangouts we haunted before Google came around, but it does do something they can’t – it sends our lives, our stories, our truths to all we seek to share them with and then saves it all for posterity.

I won’t deny that there are some creepy angles to the way our information is used by the websites we entrust it to. The rules and regulations of our virtual lives must be constantly revisited and updated. Still, saving our present for the future to see may be the greatest gift this generation gives to humanity.

Think for a moment about a historical figure, anyone. Go on, I’ll wait.
Got it? Good.
Now consider what you have recalled. What did they look like? What were their personality traits?
Do you feel like you have a good handle on who they were?
If you’ve researched this historical figure before perhaps you can tell me what they are famous for; perhaps even what they ate and wore, who and what they loved. But unless they wrote down their own histories as Churchill planned, it’s near impossible to imagine what someone from the past was really like.

Anyone who has looked through photographs from the 1800s has probably thought that the people in the pictures lived very serious, stately lives. Even the kids look solemn:

Just taking a glance makes it easy to think of these children as much different than ourselves as kids. But these children are not stern robots of the past. They laughed, ran, played, and cried just like the rest of us. The way we study history too often leads us to view its figures as one-dimensional caricatures. But what happens when we catch a candid glimpse?

Not so hard to imagine them as living, breathing, emotive human beings now is it?

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell

The victors are not the only ones with voices anymore, but we still don’t have a complete compendium of human experience. Everyone has a right to be heard, to offer their history as they understand it. In order to stop seeing other human beings as more than merely ‘other’, we must see their smiles and their tears. We must hear their stories. Mark Twain posited that history does not repeat, it rhymes. If the poetic verses of the future are to be written in tones of equality, we must give everyone a pen.

The internet may contain a distressing amount of cruelty, but it has an impressive aggregate of individuals spreading compassion with every virtual interaction. The world wide web does not have to be a zero-sum game. It can change the world for the better, teaching us more about ourselves and introducing us to everyone else, if only we use it that way.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” -SCJ Ginsburg

I’m pissed. I’m not calm. I’m not relaxed. My arguments are reasoned, my points are true, but I am incensed and I’m not going to keep that out of this. Sarcasm ahead.

Hobby Lobby won. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that private business owners can refuse to cover any contraception if doing so would bother their religious conscience. Justice Alito wrote that the decision “protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies”.

Seriously? So now ‘religious liberty’ means employees are subject to the religious whims of their boss? What about the employees’ liberty? No? Nothing? All right then, let’s look at the consequences.

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t do blood transfusions. Why? Because Religion! That’s all you need to know! I grew up as a JW and I can assure you, many of them are business owners. They do their best to only hire other Witnesses, but that doesn’t always work out. (Hey, wait! That makes me think. If JWs decide that hiring non-Witnesses is against their faith, do they still have to offer Equal Opportunity Employment? Hmm…) So, does a JW business owner have to cover blood transfusions? For now.

Scientologists aren’t supposed to take anti-depressants. Why? Because Religion! That’s all you need to know! I sure hope none of them own any businesses seeing as 1 in 10 Americans are on anti-depressants.

Certain sects of Jews, Muslims, and Hindus refuse any and all products made with any part of a pig. Why? Because Religion! That’s all you need to know! Don’t think that has an effect on health care? Think again. Ever take a pill coated with gelatin? Ever get an IV in the hospital? Ever go under anaesthesia? Yes? Then I hope you aren’t their employee! You may well have trampled on their ‘religious liberty’!

Christian Scientists (Irony Alert) don’t take vaccines, their children are not vaccinated. Why? Because Religion! That’s all you need to know! Come to think of it, their faith doesn’t just prohibit vaccines. They don’t believe in any medicine whatsoever, prayer is the only prescription they take. I assume any CS business owners can go ahead and drop health coverage altogether, right? Wait, what’s that Justice Alito?

“Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.”

I see, I see. So if only birth control “supported different interests” then ‘religious liberty’ wouldn’t matter quite so much. Wait a second…

Over half of American women say that they use birth control for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. Like what you ask?
-preventing migraines
-treating acne
-treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
-treating Endometriosis
-treating Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Many forms of birth control offer a decreased chance of:
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
-Ovarian cancer
-Ovarian cysts
-Endometrial cancer
-Benign breast tumors and cysts
-Ectopic pregnancy

I guess none of that counts though.

I keep hearing that Hobby Lobby just didn’t want to cover the forms that could cause an abortion. What’s wrong with that? Other than the fact that your employer’s stance on abortion shouldn’t effect your life in any way? Science and federal law say they don’t cause abortion. Not at all. Not even a little.

“A pregnancy exists once a fertilized embryo has implanted in the uterus. Prior to that implantation, we do not have a viable pregnancy.” That’s according to Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Federal law agrees with her.

So no – Plan B, Ella, and IUDs do not cause abortions. And if you want to say that life begins at conception, then there is an argument to be made that God has killed more babies than all abortions combined – as many as 50% of all pregnancies end before women even know they’re pregnant.

It doesn’t actually matter how the birth control prevents pregnancy since SCOTUS broadened the ruling to state that any of the twenty types of birth control listed in the Affordable Care Act can be denied, not just the four kinds Hobby Lobby had a problem with. Can we stop pretending now?

SCOTUS has set a precedent that makes it possible to argue that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and any other person that can slap a ‘Church’ sign on their door and ‘sincerely believe’ can come between employees and doctors. It’s dangerous and it could happen based on this decision, but I don’t think it will. If Sandra Fluke taught us anything, it’s that sexual health care is only controversial when it’s for women. After all, Hobby Lobby still covers Viagra and vasectomies.

Hey, remember when I wondered if Jehovah’s Witnesses would be able to legally discriminate against non-Witnesses when hiring? Well, that’s not happening, JWs like to try to stay out of the news. But it seems that a group of religious leaders have already thought of a way this ruling could help them discriminate against potential employees. You see, they don’t want to hire any LGBT individuals. That took all of a day. Onto the minefield we tread.

The five Catholic men that voted in favor of Hobby Lobby have told the women of America that their health is subject to someone else’s feelings. Why? Because Religion. That’s all you need to know. And besides, it doesn’t affect them.