Saturday, September 15, 2007

College Won't Recognize Fraternity Because it Excludes Women

This sounds like an Onion story, but it is true. The appeals court was shocked, shocked! to discover that fraternities excluded women. Oh, no, politically incorrect! The College of Staten Island are the monkeys in this case, but the same thing could happen many places.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Glamour on Faludi

Susan Faludi has a new book, The Terror Dream, arguing that 9/11 elevated manly men at the expense of strong and accomplished women. This is an interesting thesis, which makes me want to have a look at the book.

I heard about the book because a student gave me the review of it from Glamour. The review is one page, half of which it taken up with pictures of actresses with wedding dresses and babies.

What was striking to me was which piece of Faludi's argument the magazine chose to focus on. Their summary of her argument is this:
The 2001 attacks, she claims, made American feel vulnerable and created a longing for the good old days of 'manly men. As a result ...
Female heroes were ignored ...
Women vanished from TV talk shows ...
Grieving widows became the feminine ideal ...
June Cleaver replaced Carrie Bradshaw ...
The national 'bump watch' began.

The core argument, even as summarized by the magazine itself, seems to focus on the exclusion of strong and powerful women from public discourse. The element that Glamour focused on, though, is "Did 9/11 make us marriage- and baby-obsessed." Most of the evidence that the magazine cites is based on fictional characters in televisions shows, and to a lesser extent on the celebrities who portray them.

Now, Glamour does not pretend to be a serious policy journal, and I will not criticize them for having a simple review. I am glad they note serious issues at all, amidst their primary concern with, as they clearly state, glamor. I think the Glamour review is symptomatic of a powerful tendency in pop culture to turn all discussions of real politics into discussions of pop culture itself.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Get Warren Jeffs the Right Way

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints is a scary cult, and Warren Jeffs is about as scary a cult leader as you will find. He rules over their compound in Colorado City, Arizona, with an iron hand. The FLDS control every institution in town, and drive out anyone who doesn't conform to their views, such as no short sleeves in public, or Jeffs' order that all dogs in town be killed. Like most polygynous sects, the old men drive many of the young men out of town, so the old men can have all the women.

Most people were willing to tolerate the FLDS's polygamy with adult women. What has really turned the public and the law against them are the forced marriages of young girls. Warren Jeffs' trial begins today for ordering a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin against her will. People who have fled the group say that forced marriages for young girls are common.

What's wrong with this trial is the charge. Jeffs is charged with being an accomplice to rape for ordering an underage girl to marry, and presumably have sex with, a man who was a legal adult. This charge stretches rape law beyond the plausible. The prosecutors might lose, and Jeffs would slip away. Worse, they might win. If counseling people to marry, or return to a marriage, which presumably would include sex, could be legally construed as assisting rape, then anyone offering marital advice could be liable for prosecution. Unlikely, to be sure, but liable.

It is very hard to prosecute cult leaders. They tell adults to do crazy things, but it is the other people who actually do them. Unlike, say, a gang leader, they do not threaten to beat up their subordinates, or their families, or take all their money, or other dangers that secular law can recognize. The promises and threats that a cult leader can wield are beyond the law -- and should be. If Jeffs really did commit a crime, such as raping a four-year-old boy as one man has charged, by all means throw the book at him. But don't twist the law to get him just any way.

What is more effective against cults is ridicule. Jeffs was arrested in Las Vegas in a red Escalade, with wigs, sunglasses, 15 cell phones, and more than $50,000 in cash. Not exactly the actions of God's Annointed. Definitely fails the WWJD test.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy Russian "Conception Day"

Russia, like most developed countries, is facing a demographic crisis of not nearly enough babies to replace their current population. The governor of Ulyanovsk, Sergei Morozov, had a bright idea to do something about it: give everyone the day off, so they can go home and conceive. Under the wonderful euphemism "Family Contact Day," today has been set aside for making babies who would be born 9 months from now, June 12 -- Russia Day. To promote the "Give Birth to a Patriot on Russia Day" campaign, the Ulyanovsk government has set up exhibits and even a traveling "agit-train" full of helpful gynecologists and psychologists, a reminder of the old Bolshevik agit-trains.

I wish them well, and hope everyone in Ulyanosk has patriotic fun today. Happy Conception Day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Married, High-Earning People Apologize More

The Pearl noticed that more people were buying pearls to apologize. (Male people, mostly likely, Mrs. G. notes.) So they commissioned Zogby International to conduct a poll, asking people if they would apologize in three different cases: when they were to blame, when they were partly to blame, and when they were not to blame. In each case, married people were twice as likely to apologize to their spouses than unmarrieds were to their girl- and boyfriends.

Even more interesting, your likelihood of apologizing directly correlates with how much you make. Among people who made more than $100,000 per year, 92% said they would apologize if they were in the wrong, versus only 52% of those earning under $25,000, with proportionate results for the paygrades in between. When those same people thought they were blameless, the high earners would still apologize 22% of the time, versus 13% of the lowest earners.

The report of the poll leaves many blanks - especially whether there are sex differences in apologizing, and whether there is a difference between apologizing to your spouse and apologizing in a business or social situation. Still, a fascinating, and unusually strong correlation.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sex Scandals Among the Powerful Are Worse

Michael Currie Schaffer makes a good point in The New Republic about the current wave of Republican vs. Democratic sex scandals. The Republican senators having sex with prostitutes or picking up guys in the men's room are sleazy. They deserve their humiliation, though, mostly because they are hypocrites. The Democratic mayors and governors who have extramarital affairs with other powerful people -- political aides, tv reporters, union officials -- are more dangerous because these affairs are more likely to lead to secret deals, payoffs, and conflicts of interest.

When two powerful people are married to one another, the public has some notice of the potential for conflicts of interest, and can keep an eye on them. In the case of elected officials, there are often legal safeguards against doing public business with the spouses of government officials. When the affairs are secret, though, the damage to the public can be hidden, too.

Extramarital affairs are sleazy any way you cut it. When both parties are power players, though, the sleaze is made worse by the corruption that is likely to follow.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Largest Congregation Led By a Woman?

The Religious Research Association, a fine organization of denominational datawonks (of which I am a member), had an interesting exchange recently trying to find the largest mainline congregation headed by a woman pastor. The results (so far):

Rev. Jo Gayle Hudson, Cathedral of Hope, in Dallas, has an attendance of 1500+ and membership of 4500+. This is now a United Church of Christ congregation, but began as a Metropolitan Community Church. Indeed, it was probably the leading MCC congregation. This also explains how there is a UCC – that is, Congregationalist – congregation with the very un-Congregationalist name of "Cathedral." The MCC, a homosexual-oriented Pentecostal denomination, is not mainline, but the UCC is.

The next largest woman-led UCC congregation (the largest with a direct Congregationalist history) is Community Church UCC, Vero Beach, FL, led by Rev. Casey Garrett Baggott. It has a worship attendance of 1612 and membership of 2080.

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The Rev. Deanna M Wildermuth is Senior Pastor of Sharon Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, ND with a reported baptized membership of 4,781 and average attendance of 907.

In the Presbyterian Church (USA), my denomination, the largest church with a senior solo pastor is First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest, IL. This church had 1,762 members and an average worship attendance of 478. In addition, First Presbyterian Church in Boulder,CO, with 2,204 in membership and 1,614 in attendance, has a female co-pastor.

A Southern Baptist added that, though the SBC is not mainline and is nearly universally opposed to calling women as senior pastors, First Baptist in Decatur, Georgia recently called Julie Pennington-Russell as senior pastor. Last year the church reported 2,671 members with 483 in average worship attendance.

What of the Episcopalians, America's ruling class denomination of old? I find it amusing that the Episcopal entry in this parlor game did not count membership size, but used a different scale: