Archive: 2012

Cross-posted at Reports from the Economic Front.

Here is a short (less than 4 minute) video that illustrates the fact that 53% of our tax dollars, conservatively estimated, go to finance our military.

And here is a link to a recent study by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier on the employment effects of military spending versus alternative domestic spending priorities, in particular investments in clean energy, health care, and education.

The authors first examine the employment effects of spending $1 billion on the military versus spending the same amount on clean energy, health care, education or tax cuts.  The chart below shows their results.


Moreover, even though jobs in the military provide the highest levels of compensation, the authors still find that “investments in clean energy, health care and education create a much larger number of jobs across all pay ranges, including mid-range jobs (paying between $32,000 and $64,000) and high paying jobs (paying over $64,000).”

Let’s see if these facts come up in the next Congressional budget debate.

Shamus Khan brought my attention to an interesting image posted at La Course vers la Maison-Blanche, a French-language blog about U.S. politics. The image (in English) shows where U.S. troops are stationed around the world, at bases that vary widely in size and permanence.

Not surprisingly, with the U.S. engaged in two wars (until the official announced end of U.S. involvement in Iraq at the end of 2011), during the 2000s the percent of all U.S. troops stationed in other countries has been at its highest levels since the end of the Vietnam War (though we also see an uptick in 1990, corresponding with the Gulf War against Iraq, and then a significant reduction during the ’90s):

Total number of troops stationed in other countries:

So where are these troops? Scattered on every continent except Antarctica, with concentrations in Europe, South Korea and Japan, and the Middle East,though the map in Iraq would presumably look different now):

Enlargeable image available here, with detailed descriptions of the U.S. military presence in various countries.

Twenty-three of you (a record I think) have sent in this clip of a little girl in a toy store critiquing the way the store is divided into pink princesses for girls and superheros for boys.  It’s heartwarming and inspiring to see a child offer a critical analysis of the world she lives in, something that most commentators have observed.

What I, and some of you, noticed was that her own analysis and that of the adult taking the video (presumably her Dad) differ.  And, believe it or not, her analysis is more correct than his.

Rightfully identifying what sociologists call “androcentrism,” she notes that girls like both girl and boy toys, but boys only like boy toys.  She says:

…because girls want superheros and the boys want superheros and the girls want pink stuff and the girls… and the boys want… and the boys don’t want pink stuff… (gently shaking her head back and forth)

Her Dad corrects her, saying “Boys, well, boys want both…”

But her Dad is wrong.  Boys in the U.S. are taught from a very early age to avoid everything associated with girls.  Being called a “girl” is, in itself, an insult to boys.  And the slurs “sissy” and “fag” are reserved for men who act feminine.  So, no, boys (who have learned the rules of how to be a boy) generally reject anything girly.  (Indeed, this was one of the themes of Jimmy Kimmel “bad present” prank played by parents on their kids.)

The girl’s Dad, however, articulates a symmetrical analysis. The idea is that there are gender stereotypes — ones that apply to boys and ones that apply to girls — and that both are inaccurate, unfair, and constraining.  His mistake is in missing the asymmetrical value placed on masculinity and femininity.  Boys and girls are simply not positioned equally in relationship to stereotypes of femininity and masculinity.

I have to admit, it’s pretty neat that she has picked up on this nuance so early. I wish most adults had her insight… and her passion:

Thanks to James, Julie G., Carly M., Brooklin N., BogganStoryTeller, Denise, Allie H., Yvonne R., Mark L., Karim S., Ann K., Lenny M., Isabeau P.-S., Daniel K., Marsha, Jay L., Shayna A.-S., Josh W., Kimberly L., Melissa, Colleen W., Simon G., and Brad for sending in the link!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Cross-posted at Ms.

A few years back we published this fantastic ad for Legos as an example of gender-neutral advertising. It appeared in 1981; during my childhood, I’m happy to say.

The ad offers nice context for the new effort by Lego to capture The Girl Market.  Their new line of Legos, Lego Friends, has gotten a lot of attention already. In the circles I run in, it’s being roundly criticized for reproducing stereotypes of girls and women: domesticity, vanity, materialism, and an obsession with everything being pastel.  Kits include a house, cafe, animal hospital, tree house, beauty salon, and an inventor’s lab.  Choice examples:


The new line also includes a new Lego figurine that is taller, thinner, and more feminine, with boobs.  There is no innovation here; it is the exact same makeover that we’ve seen in recent years with Dora the ExplorerStrawberry Shortcake, Holly HobbieLisa Frank, Trolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, and Candy Land (or visit our Pinterest collection of Sexy Toy Make-Overs).

Examples of the old “mini-fig” and the new “mini-doll” available at The Mary Sue.

The company is framing their new line for girls with “science.” Executives are going to great lengths to explain that the line is based on research, using anthropologists who spent time with girls in their homes. The frame gives the company an excuse for reproducing the same old gender stereotypes that we see throughout our culture.  They can shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what are we to do? This is what girls want.”  In this way they are trying to make it clear that they shouldn’t be held accountable for the messages their products send.

But it’s no accident that girls feel alienated from Lego.

According to Business Week, Lego has spent most of the last decade focusing their products on boys.  They have deliberately designed products that they expect will appeal to boys and included boys almost exclusively in their marketing material. Today Legos are shelved in the boy aisle is most toy stores.

So, basically, what Lego has done over the last few decades is take a truly wonderful gender-neutral toy, infuse it with boyness, and tell every kid who’ll listen that the toy is not-for-girls.  Now, stuck with only 50% of the kid market, they’re going after girls by overcompensating.  And, to top it all off, they’re shaking their heads and doing “science” to try to figure out girls, as if they’re some strange variant of human that regular humans just can’t get their head around.

In fact, girls don’t feel like the toy is for them because Lego has done everything in its power to ensure that they will not.

The market research manager sums up Legos’ impression of what girls want this way: “The greatest concern for girls really was beauty.”  How ironic, because the true beauty of Lego is its ability to inspire creativity, not enable conformity.  They somehow knew that back in 1981.

(An ad that deserves being looked at over and over.)

Thanks to Anjan G., Sangyoub P., Rachel W., Dolores R., Erin B., Christie W., and Paul K. for suggesting that we write about this!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

As reported at Jezebel, 2011 “was either lacking severely in girlchievements or a banner year for lady pandas.”

Summarizing BBC’s “Faces of the Year,” Erin Gloria Ryan writes:

…the rest of the list will leave people who were hoping for a progressive set of female movers and shakers disappointed. Sure, it includes Michele Bachmann… and Dilma Rousseff, the first female President of Brazil. But the list also includes Charlene Wittstock, a woman famous for almost not marrying a prince, a very wealthy Spanish duchess who married a younger man, and Pippa Middleton, a woman famous for being related to a woman who married a prince. We’ve also got two sexual assault victims on the list— Eman al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman who was dragged away from reporters while trying to tell them she’d been raped by Gaddafi forces, and Nafissatou Diallo, the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in his $12 zillion per night hotel room. And then there’s the US Marine who successfully asked Justin Timberlake to go to a dance with her.

All in all, more than half… are rape victims, princesses and thereabouts, or bears.

And as SocImages reader @ThatJohn pointed out after comparing the BBC’s lists, men are noteworthy for doing things, women for having (often violent) things done to them.

Who would you nominate as a woman of the year?

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

On January 1st, the minimum wage increased in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. These eight states all have laws which require them to automatically increase their respective minimum wages by the rate of inflation. Nevada also indexes its minimum wage but its increase takes place in July.

The state of Washington has the highest state minimum hourly wage at $9.04.  Oregon has the second highest at $8.80.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage which remains at $7.25 per hour.  A full-time worker making the federal minimum wage earns just $15,000 a year.

There are those who argue against state laws requiring an inflation adjustment to the minimum wage.  Their most common argument is that such government mandated increases are a threat to business profitability and the health of our capitalist, free-market economy.  This is an interesting argument.  At one time, the conventional wisdom was that capitalism was a means to an end, the end being a better standard of living.  Now it appears that capitalism has become the end itself, and to sustain a healthy capitalism workers will have to make sacrifices.     

Actually, those arguing against increasing the minimum wage are really arguing for the necessity of a declining real wage.  The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. This is true even in states that currently index their minimum wage.  The reason is that indexing began after years of real wage decline. For example, Oregon’s January 2012 increase to $8.80 from $8.50 still leaves the real inflation-adjusted Oregon minimum wage below what it was in 1976.  In 2011 dollars, Oregon’s 1976 minimum wage was $9.09.

The federal government does not automatically index the federal minimum wage and the chart below highlights the extent of the decline in its real value. The blue line shows the actual or nominal dollar value of the federal minimum wage; increases are the result of a vote by Congress.  The red line shows the real value of the minimum wage in 2010 dollars.  In real terms the federal minimum wage remains considerably below its value in the 1970s.


A second common argument against inflation adjusted increases in the minimum wage is that it is just a training wage for young teens and therefore not important to family survival.  This argument misses the mark for several reasons, the most important being that, as the chart below shows, 80% of minimum wage workers in the eight states with mandated increases are over the age of 20, and more than 75% work more than 20 hours per week (just over half work full-time). In fact, according to an Economic Policy Institute study of national data, families with a minimum-wage worker rely on their earnings for nearly half the family income.