The True Reason Why Men are More Successful in Academia

August 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Posted in Gender | 6 Comments
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Why Men are more Successful in Academia

inspired by @corinnamilborn and @antjeschrupp

Pregnant men – I approve!

April 2, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Gender | 3 Comments
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Although nothing more than an unlikely rarity – applicable only transgender men who have kept their reproductive organs and who are with a partner who cannot conceive – I very much approve of the story of Thomas Beatie (quoted from THE SUN – I don’t think it’s a shock, but I guess that’s what the straight world needs to label it in order to avoid questioning their own petty preconceptions):

Transsexual Thomas, 34, shocked the world when a picture was released showing his bearded face and growing belly.

The Hawaiian ex-lesbian kept his female reproductive organs and is nearly six months pregnant.

In clips from the show, which will be aired tomorrow, Thomas says: “I’m a person and I have the right to have my own biological child.” |…]
According to the clips from the show, Nancy tells how a hysterectomy left her unable to conceive.

Thomas said: “If Nancy could get pregnant, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

When he switched gender, Thomas had his breasts removed and began taking testosterone in a bid to grow facial hair.

But after keeping his female reproductive organs, Thomas fell pregnant through artificial insemination.

He expects to deliver a girl around July 3.

In an interview with an American magazine, he wrote: “Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.”

Thomas Beatie

I only wish the mainstream would more often accept the assigned gender of transgender folk – here, Thomas is probably only granted the label ‘man’ because of the exotism that goes with the idea of a pregnant man.

Women don’t whistle

December 3, 2007 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Gender | Leave a comment
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A funny thing happened to me in the office today: I was whistling the tune of an African (christmas?) song*) which we are singing in my choir at the moment. It was a quarter to nine and the secretary from the adjacent department came in to “to check who it was” as she thought it couldn’t be me: “Women don’t whistle, normally.”

*) A song that is strangely popular in German speaking countries: Listen to this impression of the song by some unknown German choir – very Germanic still, isn’t it?

Off to the Autorinnenforum – and my ghost keeps writing

June 7, 2007 at 11:09 am | Posted in Gender, Literature, Women | 5 Comments
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Tomorrow in the very early morning I am going to get on a train to Zürich-Flughafen
and from there take a plane to Berlin to visit some friends and the attend the Autorinnenforum, the actual reason of going to Berlin. It’s going to be a six-day-event and I suppose that can only mean that the majority of those who are going to attend do NOT have day jobs to tend to (unlike me). The list of participants is out now, the names of nine women at the bottom appear out of alphabetical order, including mine – I take this as an indicator that my name was on indeed on the waiting list, and 9 sounds to me like a relatively high number of people who decided they couldn’t make it (probably those with days jobs).

I am both excited to go and a little concerned: after all, I am going to attend a meeting where the main criterion of selection is going to be sex (not even gender). But that’s not the top-most criterion of my social selection. In a random group of people, I might begin by introducing myself to the females, but at the end of the day I would probably have had more significant exchanges with men than with women. Who’s to blame – me or the women (or the men, maybe?) The good thing is, however, the older you get, the less you will be confronted with random groups, which raises the ratio of interesting women tremendously.

As a teenager, I found the process of social gender formation extremely painful – I observed how the girls in my age group slowly transformed into little women, but the result was nothing but appalling to me. They talked nonsense most of the time and began to bounce their boobs, shake their hair and show their bellies. They also began to develop a typical co-dependent female identity – dependent upon the approval and attention of the boys (of course I wasn’t able to describe it with such terms back then). It was next to impossible to have a decent conversation with them – and at a slightly later stage of being a teenager, I found out that decent conversations with guys were well possible.

Of course there were exceptions from the rule – I know that the women that I care about today made similar experiences back then, and also that until today their guest lists are often dominated by men. The question has also to be raised whether we – as former guy-girls (Kumpelmädels) – aren’t probably sometimes a bit biased toward other women. At the place where I (still, but not for very much longer) work, I initiated a women’s circle a while ago – that’s nothing that was to be expected from me, but there was an apparent need for networking among the women. And I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed the meetings – of course this wasn’t a random selection of women either, with all of them having a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Most of these women are ten or more years older than me, and that also made things easier, I guess, as undoubtedly these women know a lot and have an incredible amount of experience to share.

So if the women I am going to encounter at the women writers forum are all going to be like them, I will be fine. I also don’t think that I must expect a significant amount of mainstream, I-stopped-developing-my-identity-when-I-snared-myself-a-husband females (they still exist – I just had an irritating encounter with one of our former secretaries who is my age and does nothing but push her pram about town ever since she married and had her first child a year ago – it was hard to talk to her before, now it has become next to impossible). But I am a little afraid of an encounter with women who are keen on all that talk about the superior emotional intelligence of women, generally with women who think that a room full of women is per se better than anything else, and I am also a little of afraid of a particular type of literature that is considered feminine, which often doesn’t have a plot but offers lengthy examinations of altering emotions. So I admit that I am a bit afraid of écriture féminine. Or actually: not of écriture féminine, but of lame attempts at écriture féminine, and of people who think that a text, by virtue of being enigmatic and being written by a female, must be of superior quality. I hope there isn’t going to be much of that.

Other than that: Although I am away, the posts will keep coming. I couldn’t sleep last light and cranked out quite a few which are timed to be published over the next few days.


May 24, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Gender | Leave a comment
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Just a quick one: I went on an excursion to vaude, manufacturer of mountain sports equipment and clothing who won I don’t know how many prizes for family friendly work conditions. Roughly a dozen of people were on the excursion, and it left us drooling about what they offer.

Anybody can work part-time, even in the management, with a ratio of up to 70% of part-time employees in some departments. Work-hours are flexible, they have both teleworkers and job sharers, and they also have a day care centre for kids from half a year to ten years, costing no more than 180€ (half a day) to 208 € (a full day) a month, including food. And the food’s organic, btw.

Employees may use the company’s vehicles, having to pay no more than the gas they use themselves. They can take out all the equipment on loan AND the company regulalry organizes courses and events in skiing, climbing, hiking, surviving in the wilderness which start Friday noon (meaning employees get half a day off if they take part in a course).

The company is located in a village that is part of Tettnang, a municipality in the Allgäu, and a year ago, the public swimming-pool was almost closed town. A local initiative approached the company for help – they trained some of their staff as life guards and are now running the pool for half the amount of the original costs and it is even open longer than before. The have also introduced courses in work organization, helping employees to work more effectively in order to reduce extra hours, have special reward and incentive systems (financial reward for employees who make recommendations that affect the whole company; small financial rewards for small recommendations within the departments which go into the department’s kitty).

Improvement? The majority of their employees are female, and almost all of them return to work from maternity leave – some of them return to work in their home offices only a month after having given birth. They can decide whether they want to work 5 hours on two days or two hours on five days a week. Over the past five years the birth rates among employees have almost quadrupled, from 5 to 18 children born a year, in a company with 300 employees. Needless to mention they also have special pension funds to support their employees.

It was all pretty amazing and I am still drooling… I was close to asking them for a job although I really want to move back into the city:-)

The Intersex Condition

April 13, 2007 at 10:03 am | Posted in Gender, Literature, sex | Leave a comment
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I finally continued reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel Middlesex. I had been a bit disappointed by it, because I had expected something more outspokenly political, something to advocate the case of intersexuality. It takes the novel forever to get to that topic though, with the story beginning with the protagonist’s grandparents, Greek brother and sister declaring themselves husband and wife on their journey to America in the 1920s, then covering the story of father and mother, both cousins, and finally arriving at what I had hoped to be the key topic way after half of the novel. I had finally decided to skip everything I wasn’t interested in – the passages told from the perspective of the grown-up character who had decided to live as a male were the ones that interested me most.

Of course one could also argue that it was laudable of Eugenides to _not_ dwell on the intersex issue too much, in order not to sensationalize the topic. And he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction anyway, so who am I too complain.

Lying down with the flu I took to the novel again, this time reading everything I had skipped previously (I have tons of student assignments to correct, but when I am ill reading these just seems to be so much more strenuous), finally arriving at the chapters that cover Calliope’s teenage years when here condition, 5-alpha-reductase-deficiency, was finally discovered. To put the effects of this condition in a nutshell: The protagonist is genetically male (XY), but with no developed male genitalia in utero, due to this very deficiency. The individual begins to virilize only during puberty, the testicles, hitherto hidden within the body, begin to descend and a penis (up to this point only a slightly larger clitoris) begins to grow. What doesn’t grow are breasts, and no menstruation sets in, as there are no ovaries or uterus. The fact of the individual being taken for female at birth mostly have to do with the absence of a proper penis or testicles.

What happens most of the time, if patriarchy (which only accepts full penises) and cosmetic surgery (the proof that man can change whatever he wishes) have their way, is that these individuals are then medically feminised: through surgery and hormones. The mere thought of it makes me angry and what the novel was good at was showing how and why a teenager can easily be coerced into NOT disagreeing with patriarchy’s and surgery’s wish – how is a thirteen or fourteen year old who hitherto thought of herself as a female, supposed to decide anyway? How many people do only find out after puberty that they are interested in the same sex? Once the penis has been removed, of course, it’s gone, and the personality and psyche irrevocably damaged – the main point of the operation seems to be to set parents and society at ease to whom the thought of ambiguous genitalia is plainly unbearable.

The same destiny seemed to be awaiting Calliope – but Eugenides regained my favour just in time by allowing Calliope to escape surgery. YES! Maybe for his research, I wondered, he had also stumbled upon this case reported by a Dr. Reddy in Hyderabad, India, which describes a case of surgical and hormonal “correction” in a case of 5-alpha-reductase-deficiency, using exactly the same irritating lines of argument that Eugenides’ Dr. Luce used to describe Calliope:

A diagnosis of 5 alpha reductase deficiency syndrome was made after detail workup. Patient was counselled and in view that the patient was brought up as a female, decision of orchidectomy was done on 18.6.02. Postoperatively patient was fine and discharged on day 5 on ethinyloestradiol and asked to follow up on OPD basis. Cliteroplasty and urethral reconstruction was advised after a period of 1 year. The geneticist is responsible for verifying the karyotype and discussing with the family the autosomal dominant sex-linked nature of 5-ARD, which includes the recurrence risk of 1:8 for each subsequent pregnancy (50% of XY foetuses) and the potential for prenatal diagnosis.

Orchidectomy = removal of the testicles (Orchid = testicle). Oh, this makes me sooooo angry! For as long as mankind exists, such phenomena have occurred and even made their way into mythology as Hermaphroditus. But give mankind cosmetic surgery, and they’ll erase whatever might put them off ease!

👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿

I do IUD

February 27, 2007 at 9:21 am | Posted in Gender, Health, Women | 5 Comments
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Just a brief note: I’ve got a new friend now, Mirena. Who needs enemies if you have friends like these. What a painful encounter. I was as white as a sheet when I walked home, happy to live at a 5 minutes distance from my gynaecologist. Have taken painkillers now, as my uterus, quite understandably, is trying to eject the intruder. Hope that won’t work, because it cost me € 380. The thing itself and the instruments used to insert it probably had the diameter of a pen. Imagine the pain of giving birth in comparison! Or, as a friend of a friend once said: Imagine popping something the size of a water melon through your nostril. Shudder…

A gender politics critique: According to the sources on the web, they give you an anaesthetic to numb the pain beforehand, an injection into the uterus. I didn’t get one, because my doctor said that wouldn’t be necessary. How is he supposed to know being a man? I suppose women are much more pain tolerant. They go through this kind of pain once a month. But does that mean that there is no need to avoid as much of pain as possible? Blimey!

I’m a busy bee (during carnival)

February 11, 2007 at 11:09 am | Posted in Gender, Popular Culture | 3 Comments
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And now for something completely mundane: Carnival in Cologne is coming up and I’ve been working on my costume this weekend. I am going to be a busy bee this season. I made a two-piece costume consisting of a skirt and a top made of yellow-black man-made fur. In order not to be confused with a tiger, I am going to stuff the top with paper, which will make me look more like a bumble bee, probably. I am going to wear 1975 (approx.) Nina Ricci sunglasse to fake the insect eyes, but I still need to get a a hair ring with two golden globes on a wire. I know exactly what I want, which is why it will be difficult to get 😉

Wieverfasteleer It would be perfect with wings, but I don’t really want to buy any, so I might go without. In that case, I might just attach a memo on the back of my costume, saying “Genetically Modified Queen Bee. No Sting, no Wings. International Patent”, which would also be good to add at least a slight political note to my costume. Also in honour of Bakhtin’s notion of Carnival, which is supposed to defy the regular social order – it’s the only time that subversion is de rigeur (and hence not a subversion, as we know).

This costume shall also keep me warm on the 15th of February, Weiberfastnacht, my favourite day in Carnival, where the celebrations begins at 11.11. in the morning. Weiberfastnacht means Women’s Carnival (rather: hag’s carnival), and the women take charge of the city of Cologne at that hour. Who ever wears a tie is going to lose it – it’s tradition to cut off the tie of anybody who dares to wear one that day (the mayor is more or less obliged to wear one, in order not to spoil the fun). Symbolic castration – Bakhtin would have liked that. [Image Source]

Kölner Dreigestirn 2005This is the “Kölner Dreigestirn” (Triple Star of Cologne) of 2005: Jungfrau, Prinz, Bauer (Virgin, Prince, Farmer) [Image Source]. There is also a Kinderdreigestirn (Children’s Triple Star) where the Virgin is not impersonated by a boy, but by a girl. Either one thought of such effemination as being too traumatic for a boy (or possibly harmful for his sexual orientation) or they didn’t dare to exclude girls from the honorary offices that are available – a practice that grown-up women are already used to. With the exception of Weiberfastnacht, carnival, and particularly what’s happening in the carnival clubs (Karnevalsgesellschaften) is a strictly male business.

There are only males on the board of each club – interesting fact on the side: The booard of a carnival club is called “Elferrat”, “Board of Eleven”, and during a session, you’ll mostly find 11 men on the stage (see picture below, source). But the origin of ELF is the French Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité – a slogan which the Western German countries under Napoleon, in spite of the occupation, had come to appreciate.


There is only one all-female club, Colombina Colonia, founded in 1999, which – according to my own, unauthoritative perception – did partake in the big parade on Monday (Rosenmontagszug) for the first time in 2006. Oh, and of course there is also a gay carnival club, the Rosa Funken (Pink Sparks – Funke being a typical name of uniform-wearing carnival clubs), Cologne being the gay capital of Germany.

Last year I had a mild form of pood poisoning that sort of spoiled the fun. Hope I’ll last longer this year!

Slavoj Žižek’s wives

February 10, 2007 at 10:41 am | Posted in Entertainment, Gender | 42 Comments
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Renata SaleclAnd there goes another post triggered by my recent quest to explore the public persona of Slavoj Žižek. I’ll stay comfortably on the surface of things, like a tabloid, to leave the rest to your own imagination. I can’t come up with a coherent story about Žižek’s wives, I couldn’t even find out whether he was married two or three times. What difference would it make anyway? According to Wikipedia, he married the second time in 2004, according to Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker, he was already divorced twice in 2003.

The top right image shows his first or second wife Renata Salecl, Professor at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Law Institute of Criminology, Centennial Professor at the department of law at the London School of Economics and a visiting scholar to various institutions (Duke University, Berliner Wissenschaftskolleg, New School for Social Research, to name a few). She has written and co-edited a number of publications, alone and with Žižek, and she is very attractive.

In 2004, Žižek, the psycoanalytic philosopher, married a woman by the name of Analia Hounie (sorry, couldn’t keep the emphasis to myself), who is also very attractive, yet in a different way (see pictures). She is a (then) 26-year old model from Argentina, and according to some “the daughter of a major Lacanian thinker and a very serious scholar herself” [I-Cite].

Ruflan via K-Punk writes about her as “Zizek’s new adquisition: the intellectual model”:

Someone was wondering if she’s a genius or something like that. Well, she is. And she is not.
She is: she’s a literature student and she married Zizek. (eeek) anyway, when the old man dies he’ll leave her a really important book collection.
She is not: i’m actually a literature student and the thing is i got to be sitting with her in the same class room several times. Legally blonde.

Zizek WeddingSee how a story is beginning to form in your head? No further comment from my side… I do, however, not want to withhold the wedding photograph from you, also courtesy I-Cite, with which she raised the question:

“Is tabloid coverage good for materialist, psychoanalytic, philosophy?”

Read the comments on I-Cite’s blog, they are entertaining.

(EDIT: Word on the street has it Žižek has already divorced Houni and hooked up with a blonde Harvard student – 2009-05-16)

Wii and Vodka

February 3, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Posted in Entertainment, Food, Gender | Leave a comment

XellentI’m nursing a slight hangover today, as an indirect result of an encounter with Xellent, a new Swiss made Vodka, very strong, very pure, “the weed of vodka” as somebody suggested yesterday. I would never have bought it though, not only because is is pretty expensive, but because it is such an obvious example of test-tube design. The marketing manager probably said “We want a product that looks hip and expensive, has a new-fangled name and a Swiss look”. And that’s the result – a bulky red bottle with a white print. I dislike the name in particular, essentially hollow, and I generally resent all cheap linguistic tricks (hyphens, truncated words, phonetic play, etc.), in particular in food. BUT: The vodka itself is really nice (and I doubt that it was this vodka that gave me the headache, but the cheap Eristoff we had later).

Oh, and I also played Wii for the first time last night and defeated my boyfriend twice in bowling. Am too tired to give a lengthy report on Wii, but if an opportunity crops up for you to try it you should jump at the occasion. The bowling stint was followed by a round of poker (in real life, not in enhanced reality;-), me and three guys playing, and I won 😀 I think I’ve meanwhile mastered the art of playing as though there was testosterone running in my veins but without giving myself up to self-destructive bragging and bluffing all too often. Women are not only the safer drivers, I suppose it would also be easier for them to make a living of playing poker. Men would too often be tempted to bet all their assets to win – and lose them all.

Race, Class, Culture & the Big Brother House

January 19, 2007 at 10:15 am | Posted in Entertainment, Gender, Popular Culture, Race, Television, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
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Read Lenina’s post Shilpa vs. Jade: Indian upper-class vs. White working-class and watch the video below. It might stop or flicker when you play it the first time, but once it’s been fully loaded the quality is quite good of that one. I suppose it was uploaded by one one of the Channel 4 employees, as it shows the credits sequence for a suspiciously long time and freezes on the logo in the end.*

Why though did “they” choose to subtitle Shilpa’s, but not Jade’s words? Apparently because Jade’s accent – distinctively working class – was considered typically native. Being a non-native (or non-Brit – that might be the more crucial distinction at work here) I have a much harder time understanding Jade than Shilpa (and I’m quite fond of the Indian accent).

Lenina read the incident as a class issue, the British public predominantly has to read it as a race issue (and display signs of guilt and horror to appease the Commonwealth audience – to whom the show and its continued airing is probably a clear case of colonialist behaviour and discourse).

One could simultaneously look at it as an example of typical problems that may arise in crosscultural communication. As Jade claimed herself, she wasn’t able to read Shilpa or figure out whether she was “genuine” and hence assumed, based on her previous perception of such behaviour (in upper class people), that she wasn’t. Shilpa (even Jade had unknowingly provided her with the code to deconstruct the attack) in turn was hurt because she mainly took in the reproachful comment that she wasn’t genuine and that she played games, but clearly couldn’t see why Jade’s inability to read her disconcerted Jade so much. According to Shilpa, she simply “played the game (= BB) by the rules”. In the same way, Jade wasn’t able to see why what she perceived of as “being direct and honest” was not appreciated, but taken as vile (uneducated) behaviour and interpreted it as an upper class reflex. It couldn’t occur to her that being working class (and behaving like it) was probably not a centre of positive identity construction in some cultures (like the Indian), and looked down upon for other reasons than wanting to deride the uneducated. Etc, etc. Watch the video and see for yourself 😉

Bye the way, eviction night is on tonight on Celebrity Big Brother!

*) Back in the Web 1.0 days, start-ups had to take successful content like comedy show videos off the web because they couldn’t afford the bandwith. These days, they just upload them to youtube. How youtube can afford this is beyond me – but we also do not know yet whether the Web 2.0 bubble is going to burst or not. I think it will, but not quite as dramatically as the last one.

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