Tag Archives: nation: Canada

Defending Privilege: Backlash Against Women’s Rights

Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, the Senate hearing on rape and harassment in the military, and the controversy at Occidental College.

Toban B. sent us two pairs of photographs showing feminist activism and backlash (images found here) at the University of Western Ontario.  These posters, and their defacement, nicely demonstrate how resistance to oppression is met with counter-resistance.  Until inequality is challenged, things often seem to be just fine; when groups stand up and demand equality, we suddenly see how fiercely people will defend their privilege.

Images after the jump (includes language about sexual violence):

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

International Data on Cosmetic Surgery

The  International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has released new data on the incidence of invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures.  The U.S. leads in sheer numbers of procedures but, accounting for population, we fall into 4th place.  South Korea leads for the number of procedures per person, followed by Greece and Italy.

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By far the most common kinds of surgical cosmetic procedures are lipoplasty and breast augmentation.  Along with fat, breasts seem to be a particular concern: breast lifts and breast reductions for both men and women are also in the top ten.  Abdominoplasty, nose jobs, eyelid surgeries, and facelifts are as well.

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The incidence of these surgeries is strongly related to everything from the gender binary to global power dynamics.  In 2008 we reported that male breast reductions were the most common cosmetic surgery for 13-19 year olds (boys and girls combined). You would be shocked at what counts as excess breast tissue and how little the before and after photos look.  Boys and men getting breast reductions, alongside women getting augmentations, is obviously about our desire for men and women to be different, not naturally-occurring difference.  See The Story of My Man-Boobs for more.

Likewise, we’ve posted about surgeries that create an epithelial fold, a fold of skin in the eyelid more common in people with White than Asian ethnic backgrounds.  This surgery is a trend among Asians and Asian-Americans, as colonization has left us with an association between Whiteness, attractiveness, and power.

The Economist summarizes some other trends:

Breast augmentation, the second biggest surgical procedure, is most commonly performed in America and Brazil. Buttock implants are also a Brazilian specialty, as is vaginal rejuvenation. Asia is keen on nose jobs: China, Japan and South Korea are among the top five nations for rhinoplasty.

More on where and how many procedures are being performed, but nothing on why, at the ISAPS report.

Image at The Economist; via Global Sociology.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Price of Opportunity

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Back in June, Mitt Romney said:

I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone… get[s] as much education as they can afford

After all, Mitt got as much education as he (his parents, really) could afford, so he thought it best if everyone had that same opportunity.

Opportunity – How much is that in American money?

Yesterday, Planet Money  posted this graph showing the costs and benefits of a college education in several countries.

The title of the post summarizes the interpretation of the college-educated folks at Planet Money:

“College Costs More In America, But The Payoff Is Bigger”

But what if you look at the data from the other side?  Here’s the half-empty-glass title:

“College in the US Costs a Lot, and If You Can’t Afford It, You’re Really Screwed”

…or words to that effect.

What the chart seems to show is inequality — specifically, the inequality between the college educated and everyone else.  In advanced economies, like the those of the countries in the chart, education is important. But some of those countries, like the Scandinavian countries, have reduced the income sacrificed by non-college people relative to the college educated. Other countries favor a more unequal distribution of income.

To look a little closer, I looked at the relationship between the payoff of a BA degree for men and a country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality.  I used the ten countries in the Planet Money chart and added another ten OECD countries.

The correlation is 0.44.  The US is the clear outlier.  In the land of opportunity, if you’re a male, either you pay the considerable price of going to college, or you pay the price for not going to college.

With this inequality come the kinds of social consequences that Charles Murray elaborates in his latest book about non-educated Whites — disability, divorce, demoralization, death.

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Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University.  You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

Reducing Poverty: Where There’s a Will…

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

The poverty rate in the US in the mid-2000s was about 17%.  In Sweden, the poverty rate was 5.3%; in Germany, 11%.   That was the rate after adding in government transfers.  In Germany, the poverty rate before those transfers was 33.6%, ten points higher than that in the US.  Sweden’s pre-transfer poverty rate was about the same as ours.

Jared Bernstein has this chart showing pre-transfer and post-transfer rates for the OECD countries (click to enlarge):

Three  points:

1.  Governments have the power to reduce poverty, and reduce it a lot.  European governments do far more towards this goal than does the US government.

2.  It’s unlikely that America’s poor people are twice as lazy or unskilled or dissolute as their European counterparts.  Individual factors may explain differences between individuals, but these explanations have little relevance for the problem of overall poverty.  The focus on individual qualities also has little use as a basis for policy.  European countries have fewer people living in poverty, but not because those countries exhort the poor to lead more virtuous lives and punish them for their improvident ways.  European countries have lower poverty rates because the governments provide money and services to those who need them.

3.  The amount of welfare governments provide does not appear to have a dampening effect on the overall economy.

Vacation in International Perspective

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

As I speculated years ago (here and here), it may be hard for Americans to imagine a world where the law guarantees them at least 20 paid vacation days per year.  But such a world exists.  It’s called Europe.*

Americans are the lucky ones.  As Mitt Romney has warned us “European-style benefits” would   “poison the very spirit of America.”  Niall Ferguson, who weighs in frequently on history and economics, contrasts America’s “Protestant work ethic” with what you find in Europe – an “atheist sloth ethic.”

The graph is a bit misleading. It shows only what the law requires of employers.  Americans do get vacations.  But here in America, how much vacation you get, or whether you get any at all, and whether it’s paid – that all depends on what you can negotiate with your employer.

Since American vacations depend on what the boss will grant, some people get more paid vacation, some get less, and some get none.  So it might be useful to ask which sectors of our economy are beehives of the work ethic and which are sloughs of sloth.  (Ferguson’s employer, for example, Harvard University, probably gives him three months off in the summer, plus a week or two or more in the winter between semesters, plus spring break, and maybe a few other days.  I wonder how he would react if Harvard did away with these sloth-inducing policies.)

The Wall Street Journal recently (here) published a graph of BLS data on access to paid vacations; they break it up by industry near the bottom.

Those people who are cleaning your hotel room and serving your meals while you’re on vacation — only about one in four can get any paid vacation days.  And at the other end, which economic sector is most indulgent of sloth among its workforce?  Wall Street.  Four out of five there get paid vacation.

How much paid vacation do we get?  That depends on sector, but it also depends on length of service.  As the Journal says,

Europeans also get more time off: usually a bare minimum of four weeks off a year. Most Americans have to stay in a job for 20 years to get that much, according to BLS data.

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* The graph is from five years ago, but I doubt things have changed much. The US still has no federal or state laws requiring any paid vacation days.

Colorblind Currency?: Canada’s New $100

An emerging controversy in Canada is a good example of just how difficult it is to be racially-neutral when the context is racially-charged.  The country recently redesigned its money.  On the back of the $100 dollar bill celebrating medical innovation they sketched an Asian-appearing woman looking into a microscope.  In a focus group in Quebec, people complained that the bill reproduced the stereotype that Asians pursue careers in science and medicine.  The Vancouver Sun reports:

“Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel… “Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown.”

A few even said the yellow-brown colour of the $100 banknote reinforced the perception the woman was Asian, and “racialized” the note.

The Canadian government responded that they had never intended the woman to appear “ethnic” and ordered the image re-sketched so it would be more racially “neutral.”  

They were then accused of being prejudiced again. Mu-Qing Huang, a Chinese-Canadian interviewed for the story, objected to the deletion of the figure’s Asian features:

If Canada is truly multicultural and thinks that all cultural groups are equal, then any visible minority should be good enough to represent a country, including (someone with) Asian features.

This is a tricky problem.  By including racial or ethnic minorities on their bills, Canada risks reproducing a stereotype.  Including all “neutral” figures can be seen as exclusionary because neutral looks suspiciously like White people in a country dominated by White people.  The third option is to deliberately break stereotypes by putting, say, an Asian woman running the hurdles and a Black woman looking through a microscope, but this can seem overly contrived (as many attempts at diversity do).

The truth is that all of Canada’s options can be read in racially-charged ways.  This isn’t because people are unfairly reading into the sketches, it’s because life in Canada is, in fact, racially-charged.  When race matters, it matters, all claims to colorblindness aside.

Thanks to Craig G., Tom Megginson, Jesse, Helen, and Alex, an MLIS from McGill, for the submission!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

What Does Climate Change Look Like? #465

In subarctic climates — ones in which the mean annual temperature is below 32° — the soil is frozen all year round.  It’s damn cold, but a nice base on which to build.  Until climate change starts melting the permafrost, of course.

These two now crooked buildings can be found in Dawson City, Canada.  Carleton University geographers have shown that the average temperatures have been increasing, melting the permafrost, and destabilizing the town:

This image reminds me that I am only barely beginning to understand climate change and its consequences.  How we will pay for climate change, and who will do so, is something I suspect I’ll learn much more about in the coming years.

Via Boing Boing.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Comparison of Health Care Spending

U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently traveled to Britain, Israel, and Poland, presumably to shore up his foreign policy credentials. Among a number of other statements that got a lot of attention, Romney praised Israel’s health care system, comparing it positively to the U.S. He stressed the cost differences, pointing out that Israel spends significantly less of its GDP on health care. This drew media attention because Israel has universal coverage provided by the state, and the glowing statements seemed a little odd in light of the Republicans’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the demonizing of the program as socialism.

But all that aside, how much do Americans spend on health care? Well…a lot. Elizabeth McM. sent us a link to a story at The Atlantic comparing U.S. medical spending to a number of other nations:

What are we spending it on? Hospital care is the single largest expense, followed by the cost of doctor/clinic visits. Another 10% is prescription drugs. The remainder falls into a variety of categories:

With overall spending distributed among so many different sectors of the health care sector, reducing costs requires more than just increased efficiency by hospitals or lowered drug costs — it requires changes and savings throughout the system.