I recall going to a lecture by Naomi Wolf at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra when she burst onto the scene as the author of The Beauty Myth which seemed to promise some new beginning after the sixties’ and seventies’ ‘second wave’ feminism.
The obsession with women’s beauty and body image was certainly a good thing to be talking about – then as now. But I remember reading the book and liking it but being very disappointed in the ‘explanation’ for what was going on, which, as I recall was a ‘male backlash’ explanation. Men occupying the various Commanding Heights of Our Culture were threatened by feminism and from this sprang their attraction to beauty aesthetics which infantalised women, and associated beauty with androgynous physical qualities of female pre-pubescence. It wasn’t very well explained how so few men foisted this on so many women, but there you go.
This is all from memory so may be somewhat shaky. Feel free to correct me below.
However I wondered why the images which posited anorectic norms were just as strong, (my guess would be stronger!) in women’s fashion mags than they were in magazines for the male gaze. And what’s the ideological significance of this for gender issues in our culture? I don’t want to promote the idea that one gender is more to blame than the other. We’re all part of the culture. But it did seem to me that the female gaze – on other females – was a big part of the story – and since it was inconvenient for Wolf and lots of other feminists of the time to acknowledge it, it received short shrift.
Anyway, when I saw this article on the media coverage of Kate M’s ‘Mummy Tummy’, I thought it was a good exhibit for my argument. Here’s an assertion which I’ve not researched. There are very few men gazing at Kate holding her baby thinking critically about her still somewhat swollen tum. But it does seem to be a subject of interest to plenty of women. I doubt you’d see much on Kate’s inability to unswell her tummy within 12 hours of giving birth in any men’s mag, but I’m thinking that the coverage on this topic is receiving coverage in women’s mags (though of course also in general reading newspapers what with their readership being fifty odd per cent women - I’m guessing mostly tabloids).
Am I right? If I am I wonder why the facts are as I’ve described and what their significance is?
I didn’t know this – until my son told me. From this website.
Sometimes it is necessary for doctors to get access to the heart either for diagnosis or treatment. The simplest way to do this might seem to be to hack open the chest and have a look at the organ itself. Obviously this has massive risks and while even today opening the chest is risky, in the 1930s it would have been almost certainly fatal. Werner Forssman studied corpses and decided it would be possible to pass a thin tube, or catheter, along blood vessels and directly into the heart. Needing to discover whether this would be possible in still living humans he decided an experiment would be in order. He cut open his arm and threaded the tube up and into his heart. A small slip could have torn a major vessel and led to his death but he still needed to prove he had reached the heart. So, with the tube dangling from his arm, he walked from the operating room to an x-ray machine, and took the pictures which showed he had been successful. For this bit of scientific derring-do he shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1956.
Naturally two thirds of the current Troppo garage – both the Merc sports and “Rooter” – will be made available over some mutually convenient weekend to any Troppodillian who is able to earn a Nobel Prize in similar fashion.
Do Stimulant Medications Improve Educational and Behavioral
Outcomes for Children with ADHD?
by Janet Currie, Mark Stabile, Lauren E. Jones
We examine the effects of a policy change in the province of Quebec, Canada which greatly expanded insurance coverage for prescription
medications. We show that the change was associated with a sharp increase in the use of Ritalin, a medication commonly prescribed for
ADHD, relative to the rest of Canada. We ask whether this increase in medication use was associated with improvements in emotional
functioning and short- and long-run academic outcomes among children with ADHD. We find evidence of increases in emotional problems among girls, and reductions in educational attainment among boys. Our results are silent on the effects on optimal use of medication for ADHD, but suggest that expanding medication use can have negative consequences given the average way these drugs are used in the community.
It’s after midnight and the other members of the household are either asleep or pursuing their own consolations in the silence of their own rooms. So, much as I might desire the consolation of recorded orchestral music played at concert hall volume, it just wouldn’t be fitting so I shall have to settle for the consolation of writing eloquent prose. Well it pleases me to think it eloquent and, right now at the time of writing, mine is the only opinion that matters.
Part I: Andante Moderato
On Monday (27th May) I finally, after several weeks of procrastination, contacted Centrelink to organise and advance on my DSP so that later in the week I could take a stroll down to the local music store and buy myself an electric piano. Even my maximum available advance wasn’t going to get me a concert grand and there’s no room in the house for such a monster piece of furniture so an electric piano would just have to do. And so begins the story of how an apparently simple consumeristic self-indulgence and the desire to resume a pianistic career that was cut short a little under 5 decades ago unleashed an emotional tsunami that led to a depressive crisis. I have to tell you, this one totally blindsided me; usually I know a bit in advance when I’ve got one coming because I know what stressors to watch out for.
ASIDE from war, corruption is probably the biggest obstacle to economic and social development in poor countries. But it’s best we see ourselves as being on a continuum with them, rather than as having solved the problem. Even if no law was broken, Wall Street financiers imposed vast costs on us all by corrupting the financial system – while they walked away with billions.
The way I see it, all social and economic institutions are an ecology of private and public goods – of private and public motives. If I’m right, our penchant for ideological trench warfare between those arguing for the primacy of the private over the public or vice versa is a sideshow. What matters is making the ecology of public and private as healthy as possible.
Let me explain.
In a market, people pursue their own interests. That’s the point of markets. But that self-seeking is according to rules. In addition to pervasive social norms, there’s also the law. But whereas traders are self-interested (mostly within the rules) those enforcing the rules – such as police and judges – represent collective interests and must reflect that in their work, rather than their self-interest. Market failure arises where such public standards cannot be delivered – so traders must waste their time and resources checking to ensure they’re not being cheated and fighting for their share.
And this same ecology of public and private goods, of competitive and public spirited endeavour, is just as crucial in the market for knowledge. Continue reading
Economists love tradeoffs. Indeed, their basic model of the world breaks down where such tradeoffs don’t occur. Lucky for them since the world really is full of tradeoffs. If you want more carrots, you’ll have to do with fewer of something else. Here they’re substitutes. But, to use an ugly word which first became faddish in the 1980s, where there are synergies between things that you’re after, you’re in a wonderful world.
Economists love arguing that there is a tradeoff between equity (or perhaps equality of income) and efficiency. Of course there are such tradeoffs. If you tax work at high enough rates, especially of more productive people who are likely to be earning more, if you buy yourself sufficient equity between their own take-home pay and those who are less productive, you may also buy yourself less work from your most productive people – a classic equity/efficiency tradeoff.
But of course the world is full of synergies between efficiency and equity.
If you discovered that you had cancer would you (a) find a doctor who is an expert in treating your disease and follow their advice, or (b) attempt to devise your own treatment by reading about cancer on the internet?
According to some sources, Apple founder Steve Jobs may have shortened his life by relying too heavily on (b). Martina Cartwright at Psychology Today writes, "When Mr. Jobs was first diagnosed in 2003, he chose to pursue alternative therapies, including acupuncture, herbal, diet and fruit juice therapy and spiritual consultations. Many of these therapies he found on the Internet."
In the Weekend Australian Cassandra Wilkinson cites Jobs as an example of the "countless tragic cases of people delaying or denying medical treatment in favour of quackery. Jobs is only a high-profile example of a growing problem." Andrew Bolt concurs: "’alternative medicines’ are not just a danger to our health but an insult to our reason."
Also in the Australian, Brendan O’Neill complains that climate change sceptics can’t get a fair hearing because activists attack their motives rather than engaging with their arguments. This "stinks of intellectual cowardice", says O’Neil. "Instead of taking sceptics up on what they say in public, campaigners dig for dirt behind the scenes."
O’Neill wants a free public debate where "all of us can hear ideas, assess their worth and accept or reject them." What he doesn’t want is activists wasting everybody’s time by uncovering which climate change sceptics are being bankrolled by oil companies.
The Anglophone countries often cluster together on various measures of national greatness or depravity – such as household savings (we haven’t been doing much of it – until recently). But it’s quite dramatic how much worse we’re doing on obesity than anyone else.
And boy do those Americans have a track record in obesity.
Figures from this OECD Study.
Herewith my op ed from the Herald and Age today.
What is the good life and are we living it?
Assessing and measuring wellbeing has vexed us since ancient times. But a funny thing happened on the modern world’s way to the answer. The metric that economists used to dampen down the business cycle – Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – received such prominence that it ‘went viral’ as we say these days. It became the default measure of national progress.
But there’s lots wrong with GDP as a measure of economic wellbeing let alone more general wellbeing. Measuring gross activity, it ignores the growth and depreciation of assets – such as buildings, equipment, natural resources like farmland and mineral deposits, biodiversity and clean air. And that’s not to mention the greatest asset of all – our knowhow.
Moreover GDP is measured by money changing hands. So converting bread, mince and salad into a hamburger increases GDP in McDonalds but not at home. More starkly, an evening of passion and pleasure only adds to wellbeing as measured by GDP if it happens in a bordello! More broadly still, GDP takes no account of the distribution of income or of our physical or social wellbeing.
But considering how different all these phenomena are, how can we possibly measure their sum impact on national wellbeing in a single number? Because it would ‘dumb down’ complex issues, economics Nobel Laureate Amatya Sen initially refused to participate in the construction of a single index of human development to help guide development in poorer countries. But he relented because he appreciated that, however unsatisfactory a single wellbeing index might be, it was better than the alternative. Given the thirst for simple answers, the alternative is even more dumbing down as would occur if GDP yet again filled the vacuum. Continue reading