Paying dues

The PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada) has taken it upon themselves to recruit a new group of people to the unionized world: post-doctoral fellows. A call to all has gone out to sign a letter to President and Vice-Chancellor Amit Chakma to show your support for 35 “workers” at the University of Western Ontario.

Let’s read the letter shall we:

“I am writing to support Postdoctoral Associates at the University of Western Ontario and urge you to negotiate a fair contract with these workers as soon as possible.

Postdoctoral Associates at UWO have some of the worst working conditions on campus.

These highly-educated scholars do cutting edge research for UWO and have been trying for two years to negotiate a first collective agreement with the university.

Now, after 24 months at the bargaining table, postdocs are being told that they deserve to earn not even $1 an hour above the minimum wage in Ontario. It is shameful that the university is offering a guaranteed salary of only $25,000 per year for a 44-hour work week. That’s only $10.93 an hour, just 68 cents above the minimum wage – and $21.57 an hour less than UWO pays its Teaching Assistants, who are graduate students!

I am appalled to hear that UWO wants to deny postdocs the basic rights and working conditions that are enjoyed by all other full-time employees of the university. The Postdoctoral Associates are asking for a decent benefits plan, reasonable rules to govern overtime pay and an adequate number of sick days.

Faculty, administrative staff and tradespeople at UWO have access to a full extended health care plan, including prescription drug, dental and vision care benefits; overtime after 37.5 or 40 hours in a week; family-related leave; and up to 15 weeks of sick leave.

Postdoctoral Associates are asking only for working conditions on par with other employees on campus. After spending more than a decade earning at least three academic degrees, these workers deserve fair treatment and reasonable compensation.

I urge you to negotiate a fair contract for Postdoctoral Associates at UWO.” 

AHHHH!! AHHH!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagghhughguhugh-flurble!

Neat. Not only is the union being disingenuous, but they are misleading the public to think that there is an issue here. For the layman, a postdoc is a recent graduate of a PhD program who is working towards an academic career. Post doc positions usually last one to two years and is then followed by a professorship running a research program and teaching or other bigger and better things. To be clear, this is not a permanent position.

Post docs are like Higgs Boson particles. No one's quite sure what they are, we know they're there because of the work they do, and when you do get a hold of one, they're gone before you're able to study them.

First, postdocs are salary workers, with open hours. To calculate this as an hourly wage is not accurate – post-docs show up when they want, go home when they want, and work as hard as they would like. If they want to work a 80 hour work week (as one of our friends was prone to doing) they are welcome to. If they want to go see a movie in the middle of the day (as another had a propensity for), go for it! Furthermore, to compare this salary to the TA hourly wage is apples to oranges. Teaching assistants are a part time job and are there to supplement the grad student income (in Flora’s department, grad students make $15-17k a year), while taking a load off the professor. Representing the information as “less than TAs make” implies that the TAs are making 3x as much as post-docs, which is not the case at all.

The wage referred to in this letter is the university’s minimum standard to allow post docs to live more comfortably than they did as grad students. Please note, however, that it is not the money the university is paying, but rather, the guaranteed minimum for post-docs negotiating a contract with the principle investigator (PI, the professor who runs the lab) they’re working under. This monetary value is also variable by department – although the university standard may be a certain number, many departments choose to exceed this in order to attract students to the program. Most important to note is that this salary is paid, not be the university, but the post doc’s supervisor. This money comes out of the PI’s operating budget, the majority of which is federal and provincial research grants. The university is only creating the minimum code, and any department, institution or PI are welcome to create their own standards which exceed that minimum.

Also not forthcoming in this letter is the fact that the majority of postdocs receive grants and funding from other sources, which again, exceed the university’s minimum. These funding sources are not guaranteed, of course, as they are competitive. The student must apply to different organizations and win this funding, based on their research accolades and academic merit. However, these awards are common and pay reasonably well. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s post-doctoral fellowship award is a $40k/annum stipend for two years. The Big Three federal funding bodies (CIHR/NSERC/SSHRC) offer prestigious awards ranging from $50-70k/annum. All other post doc awards that I’m aware of remain in the $35-80k/annum range. All of these awards are non-taxable. For those of you playing along at home, by the union’s arbitrary calculations, that’s $15-35/hour for a 44 hour work week. Fortunate graduate students with independent funding get $7. Fuck off.

From Piled Higher and Deeper

Of course, it’s not just about the money. Post docs are fellowships. This means that they are independent to the University but still hold the title of student. Like other professions (Medical, engineering, etc.) a graduate does not receive full accreditation to practice their discipline until they can prove their competence in practical application. Engineering, for example, requires a person to work for four years under a qualified engineer before they can stamp drawings. For the four years, the individual enters a fellowship with the Engineering firm where they receive nominal pay and training on all aspects of their discipline. Science is the same way. During this time, the post doc learns new techniques they can apply to their own future research program, gains practical independent research experience, and buffs their publications and awards record. It is nearly impossible to begin your own research program without one, and recent university cutbacks have lead many talented academics to do multiple post-docs to pad their CV sufficiently to receive an academic position.

Pictured: Flora, Circa 2016

Entering a contract with a Union as a post doc could be detrimental to their careers. Science in Canada is struggling as it is, with the Conservative government clawing back funding in all sectors of research, making money availability tighter than ever. PIs with well established research programs, doing ground breaking research are losing major funding sources. 30 years ago, the top 25% of funding applications were funded – now 10% is the norm. Not only would demanding more money out of the pockets of PIs result in them being unable to hire post-docs, but it hurts the post-docs themselves. If you are unhappy with your university’s minimum standard, it is your job to make yourself an attractive applicant for funding. Coddling post-docs and saying there, there, you can have $40k a year too without needing to work hard utterly defeats the point of the post doc (padding your CV), and shoots them in the foot for when they do gain an academic position. If you do not know how to obtain funding as a post doc, life only gets harder as a professor. Funding is based on your hard work and initiative, as it should be. The university’s minimum salary is there to prevent PIs from forcing post docs into slavery. I would be shocked if a significant number of post docs ever received such a salary, as even the “bad” funding sources seem to give $40k/annum.

Let’s also be clear that if the postdoc wanted more money, they could work in the private sector rather than for the university. Research is a tough world – everyone in academia knows this. Graduate students are drilled over and over again – funding is hard to get. Research is hard to do. It does not pay well, you will have no outside life. Most prominent researchers who talk to students actively discourage them from pursing science, unless they really, really love doing it. Grad students are prepared for the ups and downs of their academic future. These people are there because they want to be there and money is not and should not be a factor.

From Dent Cartoons

“The university does not want to give them benefits or a reasonable number of sick days.”

As I said above, the hours are open ended for these fellows. They can come and go as they please as long as after the 1-2 years they demonstrate progress in their area of research. As mentioned earlier we know postdocs that show up when they feel like it, and others who work nearly 20 hours a day. Both enjoy their position and both demonstrate exceptional research when asked to do so. Again, it’s also important to remember that this is merely the minimum standard. Most PIs are not unreasonable and freely give stress leave, sick leave, maternity leave, etc, regardless of these minimum standards. Happy students means a productive lab.

“Postdocs have the worst working conditions on campus – their hourly wages are lower than student teaching assistants, housekeepers and clerks”

The working conditions are the same as every one else. They work in labs, libraries, coffee shops, and even their own homes. So, maybe they are dirty people but that does not mean the university should go clean up the bedrooms of all the PhD students on campus. Flora is presently working long hours on her thesis and is getting paid to do so – if she cared about an hourly wage, she could work 2 hours per day and be paid handsomely, or she could (as she is doing) work hard and get it done. It’s also important to reiterate that this wage is dependant on merit and is standardized by the university in the same way minimum wage is controlled by the government. If these fellows want more money, it is only a few funding applications way.

“After spending more than a decade earning at least three academic degrees, these workers deserve fair treatment and reasonable compensation.”

Most PhDs don’t also have a Masters. The majority transfer to the PhD program from an MSc. Either way, a PhD does not require an MSc (merely an honours Bachelor’s degree or enrolment in a Masters) so certainly these individuals do not hold at least three. They hold at least two. Indeed, this concluding statement only seeks to further reinforce that this is a poorly informed letter, reactionary, and based on gross misrepresentation of academia, either intentionally or unintentionally. Unionizing post docs will only serve to damage their career in the long term by reducing the number of post doc positions available, and fails the primary objective of post doctoral training – preparing them for the real world.

Advertisements

Prayer in Manitoba Schools: Here to learn, except when you’re not

The Free Press (why do I read the paper?) is reporting that numerous schools in Manitoba still have students recite the Lord’s Prayer. This makes me especially sad as many of the schools listed are ones that myself or my brother have attended. I have no recollection of this, to be honest, with the exception of at J.A. Cuddy in Sanford. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t always been the case, but I’m sincerely confused because I attended Oak Bluff for a few years, and don’t ever remember doing it. Perhaps it blended so seamlessly into my expectations that I never thought it notable enough to remember.

In any case, everyone knows the entertainment in news stories comes from the comments. There are plenty of people spewing venom at this devious, atheist lawyer who is asking the schools to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are a few main themes for this objection:

Kids today are worse than they used to be! This is because they took prayer out of schools! Umm, I’m pretty sure the point of this article is that prayer is still in schools even though it’s not supposed to be. Most likely, you have a nostalgia bias, and remember things better than they were, and any real decline in good behaviour at school is due to other factors.
This country was built on Christian values! WTF, really? First of all, the argument from tradition is one of the worst fallacies. Second of all, this country has committed numerous atrocities based on those same Christian values. Xenophobia, racism and superiority lead to residential schools, Japanese internment camps, anti-Semitism, lack of women’s rights, etc. If those are the sort of values you think we should value and that Christianity promotes, you freaking suck, and Christianity sucks harder.
If you don’t like it, you should go to a country that doesn’t believe in God. Um no, first of all, a country cannot believe in God, only its people can. Furthermore, this particular country enforces the freedom of religious belief, INCLUDING atheism, agnosticism, and all other religions. There are very specific rules for how religion can enter public schools, and it is not allowed to be on school time. If you would prefer a country that does enforce such things, as pointed out by another commenter, I hear Iran is really nice for religious fundamentalism this type of year.
The Lord’s Prayer says nice things that all children should hear, regardless of their religion. First of all, no it doesn’t say anything that is worth saying. Talking about heaven on earth and being forgiven are explicitly Christian sentiments which are not universal. As for the bits about not doing or suffering from evil, isn’t that a given? Why do we need to teach our children, using religious doctrine, not to do evil? Do we need them to pray to an invisible man when someone has done wrong to them, or should we be encouraging them to actually do something about it?
“Who is Chris Tait? Who is he to dictate to others that they can’t pray in school? So schools are [sic] suppose to drop the Lord’s Prayer because some atheist lawyer says so?” No, schools are not supposed to use the Lord’s Prayer because our CHARTER says so. It is the law, the lawyer is reminding them of it!
“Heaven forbid, no pun intended, that the kids of today start their day being thankful, by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s not have them learn about empathy either. However, if a dissident from an obscure tribe wanted part of their ritual ackowledged or believes read that would be ok, right.” Honestly, I don’t read any part of being thankful in there. I hear praise to God, which is quite different than, golly gee whiz, I’m sure thankful I am a Canadian kid who has rights and laws protecting me like freedom of speech and education! Furthermore, the law is quite clear, it doesn’t matter who you are, you are not allowed to promote religion in school. True, we do teach kids about Native history (grade 6, I think) but I also distinctly remember learning about the Reformation during European History in grade 7. It’s okay to learn about such things for the purposes of knowledge. Just because we made bannock in grade 5 doesn’t mean that the school division is promoting being a Voyageur! There is a difference between knowledge and promotion.
If we don’t allow God in our schools, where will he be when things go wrong? We do not need God to deal with our problems. We deal with problems. If someone is about to be raped, are you going to stand there and let God intervene, or are you going to call the cops?
A Christian agenda teaches love and forgiveness! No, a Christian agenda is a Christian agenda, and as such you cannot teach it in public schools. What is so difficult about this? Can someone seriously argue with me that you cannot teach someone what love is without talking about God? That it is impossible to forgive someone for a wrong without them pleading their case before a man in the sky first? Seriously?
Why don’t people deal with more important issues? This is irrelevant! While it may be true that there are serious issues that require attention, that doesn’t negate the fact that the law is being broken. Should we ignore drunk drivers because there’s a serial rapist? Should all the police in the city work in the North End, because it has some major crime issues, and ignore the rest? Just because X is not as popular as Y doesn’t mean it deserves to be ignored. A similar issue is happening in research. A lot of women get breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need money for Parkinson’s Disease or Huntington’s.
This is an atheist deception! What? How? What? Saying atheists are deceiving you, and then listing a bunch of bad things that happen (including in schools that have 100% compliance with the prayer!) is not an argument, it’s a non sequitir.
Children in schools have to hear pro-choice, pro-homosexuality and pro-evoution lectures! This is infringing on our religious freedoms just as much!! No, the charter guarantees that everyone will be treated equally and fairly. Imposing your religious beliefs on everyone is very different than being provided with information that disagrees with your bigoted religious beliefs. The Charter does not protect your right to be an asshole.

Sorry, WFP commenters. If fallacies and false equivalences are all you’ve got for me, I remain unconvinced. Kids go to school to learn information and to learn how to think critically. They spend all day saying, here kids, figure this out! Then they say, okay, now shut off your minds, and talk out loud to a man in the sky. It’s not learning, it’s brainwashing. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s your kid, that’s your own choice, but if you want to brainwash for Jesus, there are plenty of schools that are more than willing to oblige you.

Biology and medicine – the scapegoats of our time?

You know, the blogosphere is all a-twitter (see what I did there?) with the story about asking Miss America contestants whether they think evolution should be taught in schools. I won’t go into it, since my feelings can basically be summed up here. Frankly, I’m not shocked in the slightest. However, it did get me thinking. Why, why, why does good science, especially that in the fields of biology and medicine, get turned into the enemy by the general public? And more importantly, why those specific fields? Sure, you could say that the opposition to the majority of biology comes from evolutionary theory, and its conflict with Biblical (or Qu’ranic or… Toraic?) literalism.

Not pictured: evidence

I would argue that there is something deeper than that. After all, Big Pharma conspiracies abound. If someone suffers at hands of a nurse, doctor or pharmacist who was not on the ball that day, we discuss the failure of the entire medical system, not that single individual. We say MEDICINE failed them. When a terminally ill friend or family member receives no cure, develops cancer after stem cell treatment, or dies on the organ transplant list, people don’t discuss the nuances of translating basic research to clinical settings, or perhaps the misguided research of a dogmatic investigator. People say SCIENCE failed them. When the best efforts are made to save someone’s life and we fail them, people actively question the basis of “conventional” medicine, regardless of their knowledge, rather than attempting to educate themselves on it. When biology challenges long-held superstition, the expert becomes the unreliable witness, not the untrained observer. They don’t even doubt the competence of the individual they’ve dealt with – they challenge the very core of the science. One could argue that well, in these cases lives are at stake. People become emotional and are looking for a monolith to assign blame to.

You have failed us all, science!

No dice. Engineering is equally responsible for the lives of millions. Personally, I’m not particularly knowledgable in physics and engineering. I understand the core concepts, but all the formulas make my brain hurt. I acknowledge that it’s not a strong point for me, and so, like most Western individuals, I defer my opinion to the scientific consensus at this time in those areas. I don’t know precisely how the combustion engine in my car works, but I don’t need to as long as we have people we pay to know about it. I trust (with a reasonable amount of skepticism) that the people who build and design automobiles know pretty much what they’re talking about. So do most people who have equivalent levels of ambivalence to the topic. And yet, when someone’s car abandons them at the side of the road in the middle of a blizzard, we don’t blame ENGINEERING for endangering their life. We might blame the driver for abusing the vehicle, or the mechanic for giving it poor maintenance, or maybe the car’s manufacturer for producing a lemon, but never do you see people questioning the effectiveness of the combustion engine! No one seriously advocates going back to using horses for transportation because we have a rich cultural tradition of using them!

My horse is significantly prettier than my car, though. p<0.001

Similarly, when bridges with motor traffic on them collapsed in Minneapolis and Montreal, no one attacked the idea that concrete could be used to make bridges. No one asked who paid off Big Eng to design shoddy bridges to line their pocket books. No one questioned Western Bridge Design and suggested we return to traditional wooden bridges, which have been safely used in China for millennia. And yet, both of these situations are ones where people distinctly neglected proper construction and maintenance to make a profit. The majority of engineers are not in the public sector – both of the bridge collapses I mentioned happened in part because the engineering firms who were overseeing the projects cheaped out. And yet, no one talks about Big Eng just being out there to make a profit. They (reasonably) blamed the people who were responsible for the poor construction and shoddy maintenance.

This distinction, to me, seems totally arbitrary. When a promising new pharmaceutical has unexpected side effects leading to a recall (thalidomide leaps to mind, but there are better recent examples, like the narcotic painkiller Darvocet), the wolves leap at the throats of the pharmaceutical company who made it, the doctors who prescribed it based on trials demonstrating efficacy and safety, and anyone who defends the biology, pharmacology, biochemistry and physiology that supported the drug before the side effects were known. The response is, rather than “How can we modify this potentially useful medicine to make it safe?” is “MEDICINE HATES BABIES!” as if that were the very foundation of the science.

Maybe it’s because I’m so immersed in biology and medicine that I see the way it is prone to systematic denialism. Tell me, people from other professions, do you get this level of crazy conspiracy theory about your work? Am I wrong?

Cheer Routine vs. Feminism: A Facebook Debate

Morning Sports Fans,

Recently I posted this video on my Facebook account garnering some interesting conversation I did not expect.

Because Facebook has become difficult as of late, I would like to have the debate continue here. The following is a transscript of the debate. Please ignore the formatting, wordpress is a pain in the rear to work with sometimes! Take comfort in knowing that the formatting is bugging me.

Speaker 1

Harmless? Read the comments:

“…good riddance!”

“…devouring her (and presumably filling her holes)”

“Raptor hell…more like Raped’er”

“…What happens in the suit, stays in the suit”

No connection between the idea of consumption of women as sex material and this? The comments speak for themselves.

Jusarious

Rule of thumb, never read comments. Truely it was unexpected and rather funny. And because I made a pun with a sexual undertone does not make my comment offhand.

Laugh, it was funny.

Speaker 1

Busy morning. I was actually trying to get back on here and add that this isn’t just about you.

I’m interested in pointing out the full context of what this is indicative of. Of course I’m not suggesting that watching this is going to make people go out and do something (at least not directly). As with all media it is both a product of, and a cause of attitudes.When you understand the full social context and how this translates into oppression of women, it’s no longer funny. I don’t mean a bunch of men in a board room conspiring and twisting their mustaches, I mean attitudes and beliefs that play out into larger effects… like the economy. Our intent may not be malicious, but it needn’t be. It doesn’t make a lick of difference why when you’re at the butt end of it.The fact is that if we are passive in our dealings with understanding gender, then without any malicious intent, we can (and are) continuing to support a system that oppresses women.

Jusarious

I am lost. How is this particular event opressing

Jusarious

Start writing on a blackberry and finish on my iPhone.*….Oppressing women?

Speaker 1

It’s the depiction of women and a sexual commodity to be objectified and then consumed. The typical response to it, is indicative of that being the perception, conscious or subconscious though it may be.

Objectification:
http://evebitfirst.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/a-little-gir/

Speaker 2

Speaker 1 – are you a major in women’s studies?? being a woman, I am still giggling about the video and think it’s very funny/hilarious and don’t know what your issue is…..????

Speaker 2

and btw…how do you know that the raptor is a male raptor and not a female raptor????

Speaker 1

Speaker 2 – “are you a major in women’s studies??”No I’m not. I’m self studied I guess you could say? I’ve listened to women, explored the rationale, and gathered and analysed my own data (to use scientific terms). To use an analogy, sometime trees don’t look like trees at first until you start to see the forest.”how do you know that the raptor is a male raptor and not a female raptor??”Does it matter? This is men’s sports, with female cheerleaders (for men), with an aggressive animal mascot. In this kind of context, if it were supposed to be a female it would be pink, with a pink skirt, and jewelry and probably get grabbed in the ass by another male mascot as another attempt at “humour”. Let’s be real here. In our culture, if it’s not overtly feminine or not indicated, the default is male. Men are the default human, women are “other”. There’s basketball, and then there’s women’s basketball. That’s not to say that everything like this is laced with intent, but the result is the result and needs to be addressed.Unfortunately as a feminist, you end up pointing out things that are very not obvious at first glance. Like a drop that becomes part of the waterfall. It’s hard when these things are screaming in your face and that when you point it out, people will think you just don’t have sense of humour.

Speaker 1

I happen to have a fantastic sense of humour :) I just don’t share it on Facebook very often. I have too much passion for ideas and understanding most of the time. May the humour gods have mercy on my soul ;-P

Speaker 3

My initial impression of the stunt is that it was somewhat humorous, and I think that it would have been equally funny if a male fan had been consumed.Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’d say that they used a cheerleader probably because they were available, and I assume that she was in on it. The way cheerleading is handled (and the legitimacy of the cheerleading sport) strikes me as a better target for a discussion of objectification of women than this stunt.It seems to me that the comments are fairly indicative of a misogynist attitude, true. But that doesn’t necessarily speak to the tone of the stunt itself, just the callibre of some viewers. I agree that reading comments on YouTube videos is apoplexy-inducing, and I generally recommend against it. :)

Speaker 1

This blog post eloquently describes the gut wrenching awkwardness of trying to speak out about these issues… and I don’t have it near as bad because of these handy little extremities hanging between my legs. They afford me so much privilege. I don’t have to be the victim.http://www.fugitivus.net/2009/06/24/a-woman-walks-into-a-rape-uh-bar/

Jusarious

Can’t look at blogs at work. Care to sum it up?

Speaker 1

I really recommend reading it at home then. It really hits home.

What I was referring to is only the first part of the post, where she describes in detail how there is no way of dealing with it (including ignoring it) that doesn’t leave her holding the bag in the end… either suffering silently, or looking like a humourless you-know-what.

Jusarious

I find it interesting how this video has sparked debate. Showing it to my female colleagues has garnered laughter rather than contempt.I prefer to support women’s rights rather than comment due to the very nature of the subject. That being said it is important that men discuss this topic.Cheerleaders. The very idea is open to interpretation. My thoughts are women are strong enough to make the right choice for them and cheer leading is over analyzed as a sexuality construct when it may very well be a tribute to athleticism.

Speaker 1

Speaker 3 – Yes, that is all certainly possible. Again, I’m not necessarily just concerned with the intent of those who did it. I’m interested in the effect it has and how it’s perceived.Here’s an example:
Let’s say you have someone who, for whatever reason, is ignorant of the racial connotations of black people, cotton and watermelons. They dress a black person up in watermelon suit and parade them around, advertising “Cottonelle”.Obviously, people would be very upset. Should our response be “well, we didn’t intend that so it’s not a big deal. It was just a joke so why don’t you just get over it? Just have a laugh, it’s funny (to me)”We believe that the response is threatening to our sense of being “good people”, so we react this way. We’ve learned to characterize people who decry racism, sexism, oppression as sentimental and whinny. We have latched onto the idea of oppressive corporate-style language sanitation (which can be excessive since it’s about negating liability) and characterized entire movements by it, which is horribly misleading.For women this is a double whammy because they’re already viewed as hysterical.
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Women_have_hysterectomy_from_the_word_hysteria_men_have_orchidectomy_from_the_word_orchid_How_do_these_different_terminologies_reflect_how_diseases_of_men_and_women_are_viewed
Hence one of the biggest obstacles to understanding of feminist issues.It isn’t about wanting to punish everyone who steps out of the “PC” line and label them as “sexist”. Nor is it to forcibly sanitizing the universe. It’s for people to understand the subtle messages embedded in so many seemingly innocuous things (with or without intent behind it) and begin to analyze the world around them.

Speaker 1

‎”Showing it to my female colleagues has garnered laughter rather than contempt.”Many black people “knew their place” too.Jusarious, have you ever considered what happens to a woman in a workplace when they don’t laugh when presented with sexism?Oh, and by the way. If you presented it to them in the context of this discussion, you’ve just shown them their place too.. Don’t worry though. They’ll probably be too intimidated to say anything…

Speaker 3

‎”Obviously, people would be very upset. Should our response be ‘well, we didn’t intend that so it’s not a big deal. It was just a joke so why don’t you just get over it? Just have a laugh, it’s funny (to me)'”.Oh, I agree, certainly it shouldn’t. I’m not convinced that the stunt really does qualify as sexism, but I’m fine with discussing its implications, and the obviously sexist way in which many people have responded to it.

Speaker 2

Just a quick comment Speaker 1….I am one of Jusarious’ co-workers and am a Woman. I take great offence to your comment that I would be too intimidated to say anything if I found something to be totally sexist and out of line. I also take offence with your comment that something would happen if I didn’t laugh when presented with sexism. I am sick and tired of MEN telling ME what is and isn’t sexist and how I should react to things such as the video of the goofy raptor devouring the cheerleader. Oh and btw…you made a SEXIST comment when you said that it was presumed that the raptor was male because the outfit/costume didn’t have pink on it, wasn’t wearing jewellery and a pink skirt….wow! who’s being sexist here.

Speaker 1

Pretending sexism doesn’t exist, isn’t un-sexist. Sorry

Speaker 1

I’m also not “telling you to be offended”. Absolutely no one should. However, you also don’t speak for every woman, any more than I do.
I realize that I didn’t necessarily choose the best jump-off point for hoping to be understood. I seem to have a propensity for uphill battles. In a way though, it’s the less obvious stuff that is more insidious and begs to be drawn out (at least in my mind). I saw this RIGHT after reading a story about yet another aboriginal woman to fall victim to foul play here in Manitoba. Our attitudes towards gender are in almost everything we do and relates to why men rape. This is why I no longer find it funny.
Anyway, I apologize if what I said seemed to imply that you or any woman might be deficient in some way in speaking out against sexism. My thoughts go towards many women who I’ve listened to who tell me that they feel pressure in their daily lives to laugh, when they are actually hurt for fear of judgment and ostricization. Obviously they don’t speak for you…

Speaker 3

This is a hard subject to discuss, obviously, because everyone has such strong feelings. I think that it’s fair to say that nobody’s trying to force anyone to do or feel any particular way, and that we’re all just trying to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities and the ability to be comfortable and safe in our society.

Speaker 1

I think we can argue until we’re blue in the face about whether or not this or that particular thing is sexist or not. This is a pitfall. If you argue logistics like this in the context of a romantic or other close relationship, you are destined to miss the point.If something carries a message that has the EFFECT of making another person feel encumbered in their person (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), then the only way to resolve it (regardless of whether their fears or perceptions of the originators intent are confirmed) is to acknowledge their feelings and work to resolve the issue. Logistical debates about whether or not your loved one should feel the way they do, is a great way to fast track to the lawyer’s office. The same principle applies to social issues.Of course you may have concerns that someone is accusing you of “being a sexist” rather than maybe having inadvertently said something that hurt them. OK. Fine. This is valid, but it doesn’t begin and end there. This is where you have to keep going and visit the rest of the issue, acknowledge each other’s concerns and change something going forward… or it just stays buried under the rug.There appears to be a great fear among men that women are out to get them and flip the power imbalance the other way, or at least to stifle our manhood. In years of delving into feminist literature, I’ve seen nothing to indicate anything of the sort.I have to reiterate that I’m not speaking for all women, but I do have a pretty good understanding of what tends to have this kind of effect in a world where 99% of the time, there IS a message between the lines (intended or not). In the broader scheme of things, this video is far from the worst I’ve seen. It’s also far from meaningless.

Flora

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I agree with Speaker 3’s initial post, that I’m all for springboarding to a discussion of professional cheerleaders and sexism. But I’m just not seeing it in this video, really. And I’m all for attacking subtle stereotypes, especially gender roles in the media. I just don’t see the sexist undertones here, just some goofy fun with the available participants.
Jusarious
I want to be clear that I do not mirror your thoughts on this type of narrative. The “eating” of the cheerleader was obviously part of the show, albeit unexpected part of the show, with all parties informed and consenting. Should the Raptor eat a fan it would incite law suites for obvious reasons.

Cheerleading, while based on the show of female bodies in the past, has evolved to be a powerful and dramatic athletic event. Both males and females compete in teams against each other and for the attention of the fans.

Uniforms have changed to accent the body while providing the mobility and grace expected of such an athlete. Tagging along behind the scenes is a huge production crew ranging from choreographers to costume designers.

To make a long story short, to wage war on this type of display (Cheerleading) without understanding the people behind the program is disingenuous at best.

I think your efforts would be better placed in the islamic countries (or any country for that matter) currently prohibiting women from being seen, heard and smelled.

To put to rest the comment section portion of this discussion, I suggest avoiding it at all costs. Ignorings trolls is the best way to defeat them. Should you see a person face to face being a Troll then you should correct them, assuming it’s safe to do so. But feeding the trolls your comments only makes them grow stronger, and gives you a nose bleed.

Flora

I don’t think that simply because someone is offended by something validates their opinion or puts any onus on the offender to deal with it. Many parents are offended by sex education or “endorsement” of homosexuality in schools, but such offence requires no response apart from telling them to teach their children to be bigots on their own time. Islamic men might find my way of dressing and manner of speaking utterly depraved and offensive, but I owe them no apologies or acknowledgement. This is, of course, not a perfect analogy, but imagine if someone told you that your insistence that women share space with men was offensive to their Islamic beliefs. Would you acknowledge their concerns as valid, and avoid offending them in the future, as you suggest we should?That being said, I don’t agree with Jusarious on a lot of aspects of feminism (leading to many a heated debate), but this is not one of them. If you read into anything too much you can interpret in any light that you wish – perhaps this video is actually an implicit endorsement of creationism, as they portray dinosaur and human being sharing God’s creation together in the eternal struggle after the Fall (symbolized by the dinosaur eating the human). But that would just be silly.

Speaker 1

I guess I’m looking at several facts:
The fact that the person who originally posted it added the “…good riddance” quip.

I know not to expect much from youtube commenters, but the comments are almost exclusively about sexual exploitation (rape).

Flora I understand what you’re trying to say, but you’re still essentially arguing from intent. The most important fact I see here is that, just like the watermelon/cotton thing is “loaded”, so is the fact that she’s a woman in a role of sexual consumption/objectification (aka cheerleader) in a society that perpetually dehumanizes women. What I’m saying is going to sound like hyperbole, but it’s not because what I’m saying is any more hyperbolic than it would be if I was speaking about against the watermelon/cotton thing.

The ONLY difference is that cultural perception of women being oppressed has not hit the same critical mass that racial oppression has. THAT’S IT. Perception. To step outside of common perception about race used to bring out the same reactions (and in some places still does) that you are displaying right here, right now.

I’ll say it plainly. Sexism is more publically accepted than racism. Spend some time listening to “water cooler talk” in the office and you will probably see what I mean, especially if you work with older generations.

Jusarious, cheerleading being a great profession aside, mind warping, hate filled religious cults also to many good things. That argument doesn’t deal with the issues at hand.

Flora, you make a fair point in your last comment. However I’m not proposing that we roll over and grant every demand that people bring up. I’m talking about the nature of the discourse, not the logistics of public policy. As with an arguement in a personal relationship, a very important skill is being able to acknowledge and validate someone’s emotions without fearing that doing is the same as capitulating. The point is to get to the discourse rather than pouring efforts into dismissing feelings and ideas in self-defense. Feminist arguments 99% of the time are about characterizing and dismissing, and maintaining the status quo at all costs. It’s complicated because there are so many emotions. Do feminists ever falter in this too? Of course they do! Is that a reason to say “HA! See! They lose, I win!!”, or do we still try to get to the bottom of the real issues?

Dialectic, not Debate.

I read a quote on my drive this morning. “To understand someone, first you must love them.” I’m trying to absorb that myself as I think I miss it sometimes. I think everyone here is essentially a good person and I’m not looking to triumph or gloat. I just think I have an understanding that is very important. We can agree to disagree is we must, and I guess that is OK. If I have been making anyone feel attacked, I apologize and am willing to listen to YOUR feelings if you want to message me or whatever.

P.S. I realize I also have a (bad?) habit of drawing larger issues into a pointed discussion and I’m probably doing that again, but I tend to see things big picture, so it’s hard not to… not necessarily speaking specifically about people here with every point.

Speaker 1

So I don’t mean to imply that you, Flora are being dismissive. I feel that you are actually trying to engage the discussion. I also shouldn’t say that you are arguing from intent, but that I’m perceiving that that’s possibly how you’re thinking about it. I don’t know for sure.

Speaker 1

OK, I’ve had some time to wrestle with my thoughts on this, and here’s what I think. I think that if you took this same exact scenario and dropped it into a world that had never known sexism, then there would be nothing inherently sexist about it. It would simply be some silly fun (and it certainly is for some people now).

As it stands I still think that it contains negative meaning due to the context it exists in. However, I don’t think it was a very effective jump-off point for saying what I had to say, since it’s not an example that resonates well with my points, or with the audience.

I forget my own advice; that pounding out facts and logistics isn’t what helps people to see your point, and usually just entrenches people even more. Also, whether or not any of you agree with me on this particular point or not, doesn’t necessarily reflect on whether or not we share many of the ultimate values behind it, and I want to recognize that. I hope I have not alienated people too much with this and that we can still have productive dialectic on this and other topics. Thanks.

As you can see this is a touchy subject. You can clearly identify which speakers are women and which are men. A little hint, most of the speakers of men!

Please feel free to add to the conversation in the comments. I would be happy to debate anyone on this subject. If you are one of the people above I labeled as a speaker feel free to identify yourself and I will edit this post to include proper names.

Thrills, Chills, and Big Pharma Shills

“Big Pharma shill” has been bandied around so much that it has really started to lose all meaning. Your family doctor is a dealer, the hospital doctors promote drug dependency, scientists have blinders on to all but positive data about drugs, and anyone who says otherwise is brain washed. However, sometimes, there are actual shills for “Big Pharma.” Take, for instance, Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D. He recently wrote a Clinical Practice article for the New England Journal of Medicine, detailing what’s currently known about the etiology, diagnosis, progression and treatment of mild cognitive impairment, and makes recommendations for clinicians seeing someone with mild cognitive impairment in their practice. He’s a director for the Mayo Clinic’s research centre on Alzheimer’s. He’s also a (cue ominous music) Big Pharma Shill.

Dr. Petersen reports receiving consulting fees from Elan Pharmaceuticals and GE Healthcare, receiving royalties from Oxford University Press, and serving as chair of data monitoring committees for Pfizer and Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy.

With odious credits like working for both GE and a pharmaceutical company, being paid to write books, and playing watchdog for Pfizer, surely the recommendations were to drug them up, use expensive equipment to poke and prod patients, and admit them to a care facility immediately to start billing the insurance company!

…Or not. (Emphasis added)

Depression should be ruled out. Referral for neuropsychological testing may be appropriate, particularly if the concern is the degree of impairment relative to the cognitive changes of aging…  An MRI scan is suggested to rule out other conditions that might explain her memory loss (e.g., vascular disease, tumor, or hydrocephalus); the results might also show changes (e.g., hippocampal atrophy) suggesting that she is at increased risk for rapid progression to Alzheimer’s disease, although more data would be needed to justify the use of MRI for this purpose.

…  At this time, I would not routinely recommend tests to predict the risk of progression (e.g., 18FDG-PET or measurement of biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid) but would encourage the patient to consider participation in research evaluating these tools. I would explain that at present there are no FDA-approved medications for this condition; I would also review the negative results of medication trials thus far and explain the costs and potential side effects of pharmacotherapy. I would recommend engagement in aerobic exercise, involvement in intellectually stimulating activities and participation in social activities, given that these might be beneficial and pose little risk, although more data are needed to inform their efficacy in reducing the risk of progression to the dementia stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s true! The “Big Pharma shill” is saying, you know what, don’t waste your time and money on fancy tests because we’re not sure they’ll work. He’s explaining to his patient that medication is not a good option due to all the failed trials out there, and explaining why the drugs would be expensive and harmful. What should his patient do instead? Exercise her body, and exercise her brain.

Why? The evidence is unclear on all current therapies for halting Alzheimer’s progression, the cause of mild cognitive impairment is probably multi-factoral, and until we know why it happens, we can’t stop it from happening.The drugs available to treat it are cost-prohibitive and detrimental to the patient’s quality of life in other ways. Many people who develop mild cognitive impairment will not progress to dementia, and our tests are just not good enough to distinguish between the stable individuals and the ones who need intervention. There is some demonstrated benefit to physical and intellectual stimulation, and there’s no downside to it.

When it comes right down to it, he’s saying it because the evidence is unclear, and this is how a good doctor and scientist deals with muddy evidence, no matter who is paying his salary.