In the U.S., we tend to organize politically according to identities. For example, we have a Gay Liberation Movement, a Women’s Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement, to name three big ones. All of these are personal characteristics made political.
The cartoon below, by Miriam Dobson, does a great job of showing one of the downsides of fighting for progressive social change in this way. For one, it can make people who carry multiple marginalized identities (for example, gay black men) feel unwelcome. And, two, it makes it seem like people without the identity can’t be part of the movement.
One solution is to think about oppressions in terms of intersectionality: we are all a mix of identities that resonate with each other in complicated ways. This is a rich idea, but one lesson that it has taught us is that the strategy of divide-and-conquer has been an effective way to keep multiple groups marginalized.
Instead of emphasizing identities, we could identify issues. And if our issue is oppression, we can join-to-resist. As the graphic explains: “oppression of one affects us all.”
Repeatedly at SocImages, we’ve offered data showing that the middleclassisshrinking. The rich are getting richer, while a rising percentage of Americans are having trouble making ends meet. One measure of this is the number of households that include both adults and their adult children. About 12% of 25 to 44-year-olds lived with their parents in 1960, that dropped to 9% by 1980 and, in 2010, topped out at 17%. Almost one-in-five adults were living with their parents at the turn of this decade.
There are two scenarios, here, however. One indicates the decreasing financial well-being of the elderly: parents move in with their children because they can’t afford to live alone, perhaps after retirement. The other indicates the decreasing financial well-being of young and mid-life adults: children are moving in with their parents because they can’t get a good start to life.
It turns out that the first scenario is actually on the decrease, while the latter is on the increase. The rise in co-residence is a consequence of the failure of our economy to integrate young people into jobs that pay a living wage. Literally, a growing number of Americans — both young people and those in mid-life — can’t afford to leave the nest. And, no, this didn’t start with the recession, it started in the ’80s.
We’ve done a decent job trying to ensure that the elderly don’t live in poverty, it’s time to start working on making sure the rest of America doesn’t either.
My Christmas present to my mom one year was time off from childcare. For several days while I was back home, I took over all of her usual duties regarding her grandkids; as she tries to support two daughters who are divorced with kids and struggling to get by, taking care of grandkids had expanded to take up most of her non-working life. She was incredibly excited to have the free time to finally go to the dentist and do other basic errands for herself.
The data come from a national sample of 1,008 grandparents over age 45. A caution: the survey was conducted online, though they say the sample was weighted to be representative of the full population, not just the online population.
On average, grandparents have 4 grandkids:
Thirteen percent of the sample reported caring for their grandchildren on a regular basis. Of those, a third watch the grandkids at least 5 days per week, while over 40% babysit less often, and 15% are raising their grandchildren:
Most grandparents reported that one of the reasons they watch their grandchildren is because they enjoy it, but their answers also make clear that grandparents are playing a key role in filling the gap in care during periods when parents are at work but kids aren’t in school:
Grandparents also serve as a form of economic safety net. It’s not surprising that grandparents buy stuff for their grandkids; we often depict grandparents as spoiling their grandkids with lots of toys and luxuries. But grandparents also provide more direct support. Of this sample, 62% had provided financial assistance in the past 5 years, and of those, 43% said they are providing more help than they used to because of the economic crisis. These graphs show the amount and type over the past 5 years:
And the money isn’t just going for toys and fun stuff. Clothing, general financial help, and educational expenses are the most common types of assistance, though the biggest average levels of giving are for investments, followed by educational expenses and helping buy a home:
A third (34%) said they continue to provide financial assistance even though they think it’s going to cause problems for their own financial futures.
Far fewer people are expressing concern about the catchy song in which a husband and father outlines with complete confidence his ability to infer when “good girls” “want it.” The same guy who, when discussing the lyrics to his song, tells an interviewer:
Even very good girls have a little bad side. You just have to know how to pull it out of them.
The guy who boasts that he based his hit song on the time-honored masculine performance of hollering at bitches:
We started acting like we were two old men on a porch hollering at girls like, ‘Hey, where you going, girl? Come over here!’ That’s why, in the video, we’re doing all these old men dances. It was great.
That does sound pretty great, Robin.
Overall, the 2013 VMA debacle provides a painfully accurate example of the sexual double standard we have for women and men. A woman who performs sexuality (for whatever reason) is to be castigated, while a man who engages in the exact same performance (and who has unabashedly doubled down on his support for the rape myth that no means yes) hardly raises an eyebrow.
Brett Wheeler is a part-time psychology professor who is pursuing a PhD in positive psychology. His research interests include human sexuality, humor, and how these variables contribute to well-being.
The sexualization of girls and the infantilization of adult women are two sides of the same coin. They both tell us that we should find youth, inexperience, and naivete sexy in women, but not in men. This reinforces a power and status difference between men and women, where vulnerability, weakness, and dependency and their opposites are gendered traits: desirable in one sex but not the other.
Now, thanks to @BonneZ, I know that this has something interesting to do with Mickey Mouse.
The original Mouse, Stephen Jay Gould has observed, was a kind of nasty character. But, as he has evolved into the “cute and inoffensive host to a magic kingdom,” he has appeared increasingly childlike. This six figures below indicate Mickey’s evolution over time:
Childlike features, Gould argues, inspire a need to nurture: “When we see a living creature with babyish features,” he writes, “we feel an automatic surge of disarming tenderness.” Allison Guy observes that we see a similar trend in recent toy makeovers – larger eyes, bigger heads, fatter stumpier limbs — but we see this primarily in toys aimed at infants and girls, not boys:
Guy interprets this trend as the “result of a cultural imperative for women to embody both the cute and the sexual.” So, women don “cute” clothes with colorful patterns associated with children and wear “flippy skirts” and “baby doll” t-shirts. They wear eyeliner to give the illusion of the large eyes of childhood, foundation to hide the marks of aging on the face, and pink on their cheeks to mimic the blush of youth. They are taught these imperatives from an early age.
What does it mean that feminine beauty is conflated with youthfulness, but masculine beauty is not – that we want women to be both cute and sexual? It means that we feel comfortable with women who seem helpless and require taking care of, perhaps we even encourage or demand these traits from women. Perhaps these childlike characteristics are most comforting in women who are, in fact, the least needy; I submit that we are more accepting of powerful women when they perform girlish beauty. When they don’t, they are often perceived as threatening or unlikable.
So, yes, the sexualization of girls is interesting — and no doubt it’s no good for girls and likely contributes to older men’s sexual interest in young women — but it’s not just about sexualizing kids early. It’s about infantilizing adult women, too, as a way to remind women of their prescribed social position relative to men.
The other day I was surprised that a group of reporters failed to call out what seemed to be an obvious exaggeration by Republican Congresspeople in a press conference. Did the reporters not realize that a 25% unemployment rate among college graduates in 2013 is implausible, were they not paying attention, or do they just assume they’re being fed lies all the time so they don’t bother?
Last semester I launched an aggressive campaign to teach the undergraduate students in my class the size of the US population. If you don’t know that – and some large portion of them didn’t – how can you interpret statements such as, “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.” In this case the source followed up with, “Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men.” But, is that a lot? It’s a lot more in the United States than it would be in China. (Unless you go with, “any rape is too many,” in which case why use a number at all?)
Anyway, just the US population isn’t enough. I decided to start a list of current demographic facts you need to know just to get through the day without being grossly misled or misinformed – or, in the case of journalists or teachers or social scientists, not to allow your audience to be grossly misled or misinformed. Not trivia that makes a point or statistics that are shocking, but the non-sensational information you need to know to make sense of those things when other people use them. And it’s really a ballpark requirement; when I tested the undergraduates, I gave them credit if they were within 20% of the US population – that’s anywhere between 250 million and 380 million!
I only got as far as 22 facts, but they should probably be somewhere in any top-100. And the silent reporters the other day made me realize I can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. I’m open to suggestions for others (or other lists if they’re out there).
Robb S. sent along a great set of images from Vulture. Using case studies of individual leading men in Hollywood, they show that the love interests cast in their films don’t age alongside them over the course of their careers. Not convinced? Here’s nine examples and one exception. For fun, try to guess which leading man bucks the trend? I’ll embed it last.
We got another reminder last week that despite complaints about federal government programs that give money to the poor, when it comes to taxes, the government is much more generous to the wealthy. The news came from a report from the Congressional Budget Office on tax expenditures.
These are the ways that the government uses the tax system to give money to people. Some expenditures are tax credits, which can take the form of cash payments. Others are tax breaks — taxing people less than the going rate. For example, if I am in the 35% tax bracket, but the government charges me only 15% on the $100,000 I made playing the stock market, the government is giving me $20,000 it could otherwise have had me pay in taxes. That’s an expense. The preferential rate for my luck in the market costs the government $20,000.
The justification for these expenditures is that they are a way the government can encourage people to do something that it wants them to do. With tax breaks, the government is basically paying people by not charging them full tax fare — encouraging them to buy a house or give to charity or get health insurance at their work. Similarly with the tax credits that go mostly to the poor. We want people to hold a job and to care for their kids. The child tax credit gives people more money to care for their children. The Earned Income Tax Credit pays them for working, even at jobs that pay very little. By the same logic, the government is paying me to invest my money in companies — or put another way, to play the stock market.
This government largesse, however, benefits some people more than others:
About half of all tax expenditures go to the top quintile (top 20% of income earners). The bottom 80% of earners divide the other half. And within that richest quintile, the top 1% receive 15% of all tax expenditures (this distribution of tax breaks roughly parallels the distribution of income). Were you really expecting Sherwood Forest?
Here is a breakdown of the costs of these different tax expenditures:
The Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits mostly the poor, costs less than $40B. The tab for the low tax on investment income (capital gains and dividends) is more than twice that, and nearly all of that goes to the top quintile. More than two-thirds goes to the richest 1%.
Dylan Matthews at the Washington PostWonkBlog regraphed the numbers to show the total amounts overall plus the amounts in each category for each income group:
The point? People complain about government payments to the poor, but tax breaks are also payments, though less obviously so, to the rich. And those tax breaks cost the government a lot more money.