Paula F. sent in a link to’s list of the top 100 ‘mom blogs’ of 2011.  Mom blogs have become wildly popular in recent years as a way to document and comment on the experience of motherhood, and this particular list illustrates some interesting things about social privilege.  Paula was struck by the lack of racial diversity among the selected blogs and noted how women of color are vastly underrepresented.   For example, only 7 of the blogs are written by African-American moms, and 4 of those refer to the mother’s race in the title (although the same is not true for any of the blogs written by white women).

A quick review of the blogs reveals some other interesting issues related to social privilege and motherhood.  In addition to the lack of racial diversity, the blogs included in the list show very little variation in terms of class, sexuality, age, and marital status.   (The blogs were chosen by a panel of “experts” that took into consideration nominations from Babble readers, so it’s unclear how representative they are of mom blogs in general.)

While there is the more obvious privilege of the “digital divide,” or the disparate access that people have to technology and the internet, there is also privilege in having the spare time to devote to intensive writing/blogging and the connections necessarily to draw sponsorship and advertising.  Moreover, while some of the selected blogs do offer narratives that deviate from traditional ideas about mothering and motherhood (for example, several blogs discuss mental health issues, the struggles of parenting, and forming blended families), they nonetheless reproduce a narrow image of who mothers are, what they look like, and what they do.


Christie Barcelos is a doctoral student, a mom, and a blogger, but not really a mom blogger.

Amy H. sent in a link to a Pew Research  Center report on age and economic well-being in the U.S. The results indicate that over time, the economic situation has generally improved for older individuals in the U.S. Those over age 65 are much less likely to be poor today than they were a few decades ago, for instance:

Why the dramatic reduction beginning in the late 1960s? One important factor is the role of public policy. In 1965, the U.S. passed legislation establishing Medicare, which greatly increased access to medical care for the elderly regardless of income. Medical costs had previously been a major drain on savings; a significant illness could quickly eliminate a lifetime’s savings. Medicare reduced the risk posed by medical expenses and the percent of income spent on health care among the elderly.

Today, retirement-age Americans have significantly higher net worth than those under age 35, and the gap has widened since the 1980s. The younger age group actually lost ground, with a lower median net worth in 2009 than in 1984:

Of course, we expect individuals to become better off economically over time as they settle into jobs, save for retirement, perhaps pay off a home so that housing expenses go down. But the improving economic well-being of older Americans isn’t just a natural outcome of the lifecourse; it reflects changing public policies that have over time increasingly allowed the elderly to access medical care and other services without impoverishing themselves in the process.

If you’re looking for basic global demographic information, World Health Rankings provides a great overview, using World Health Organization, World Bank, UNESCO, and other data. The website allows you to select a country, then provides a detailed breakdown of many demographic details, such as population pyramids (you can select different years in the past, or look at predictions for the future), leading causes of death, etc. Here’s the 2010 population pyramid for the U.S.:

You can also easily access all the age pyramids here. The 2020 projections for Brazil show the changing demographics due to the dramatic decrease in the fertility rate, which Lisa posted about this weekend:

There’s an interactive map of the top 15 causes of death in the U.S., allowing you to look at variations by county. Here’s the map of deaths due to heart disease, with Clark County, Nevada, highlighted:

You can also look at life expectancy for different nations for every decade between 1960 and 20101, a “real-time” clock that tracks global deaths (you can look at how many have died in the last year or month, or you can click “now” and reset the clock and watch as the clock estimate how many people die of various causes of death worldwide), and maps showing the prevalence of various causes of death around the world. Lots of neat representations of rather depressing information.

Also, as I wrote this post I realized that now every time I see a population pyramid of the U.S., Community‘s song “Baby Boomer Santa” is going to play through my head.

In honor of Prune Breakfast Month, we’re re-running this post on the prune.

What’s a prune?

Answer One, the social construction: Prunes are dried fruit you serve to old people who need help with their bowel movements (though, hilariously, it wasn’t always that way).  This is epitomized by the Sunsweet slogan, “The Natural Way to Go” and illustrated in the following eclectic combination of cultural items:

Not exactly an appetizing advertising campaign, eh?  (Though my grandpa, and all three uncles, would totally wear that hat.)

Answer Two, the purely descriptive answer: Prunes are dried plums. Which, of course, they are.  Lovely, gorgeous, beautiful plums:

Mariani, not stupid, recently changed the name of their product from “prunes” to “dried plums,” instantly transforming their product from one for the constipated elderly to one for connoisseurs of exotic dried fruits.

From prunes:

To dried plums:

Words matter, is all.

(Images borrowed from herehere, here, here, here, and here.)

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Cross-posted at Caroline Heldman’s Blog.

In early 2009, I had dinner with a prominent, conservative political operative. He calmly (and accurately) predicted that the 2010 mid-term election would see the largest Republican gains in half a century. He then leaned in and half-whispered, “but you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until 2012 .” I pressed him on specifics, but he would only allude to a campaign that would rewrite the political rules. With the revelation that a centralized, state-by-state voter suppression campaign is underway, I now know what he was alluding to.

The New Voter Restriction Laws

In 2011, a sudden wave of state-level voter restrictions in Republican-controlled states has swept the nation, just in time for the 2012 election, with 19 new laws and two executive actions on the books. Some of these laws reduced or eliminated early voting, while others did away with weekend voting and same-day registration. All 50 states require voters to prove their identification at the polls, but 17 states have pending or approved law mandating government-sponsored IDs in order to vote, despite the fact that approximately 11% of citizens don’t have such IDs (for various reasons). For some Americans, even those with ample resources, getting an ID can be quite a challenge (even for nuns!).

The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that 5 million eligible voters face disenfranchisement from these new voter ID laws.


Voter ID laws disproportionately affect Black AmericansLatino/a voters, U.S. citizens who were born in other countrieselderly peoplepeople with disabilitiestransgendered people, and students — all of whom are less likely to have the required ID for different reasons. A 2006 Brennan Center study finds that 25% of Black , 16% percent of Latino/s, and 18% percent of elderly Americans lack the necessary ID. Some on the left have accurately likened these new laws to Jim Crow Era poll taxes because the expense involved in obtaining an ID place a disproportionate burden on many groups that have been historically disenfranchised.

What do all of these groups have in common? With the exception of elderly Americans who have shifted Republican in recent years (although they still comprise the most active voting group for Democrats), the Americans who will be disproportionately affected by voter ID laws all vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

There is little doubt, then, that voter ID efforts will affect the upcoming presidential election. The states that have restricted voting rights also have 185 Electoral College votes, two-thirds of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Out of the twelve battleground states in the upcoming election, five have already restricted voting rights and two others are considering new limitations.

Who’s Behind the New Laws?

The corporate organization behind the new spate of voter ID laws is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which claims to be a “nonpartisan public-private partnership” between legislators, the private sector, and the general public to promote “principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.” (How is requiring government-issued ID to vote a promotion of “limited government” and “individual liberty”?) In actuality, ALEC is a hyper-conservative Republican organization that receives 98% of its funding from corporate entities, such as Exxon Mobil, Atria (formerly Phillip Morris tobacco), AT&T, Coca-Cola, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

And ALEC is more than just a corporate lobbying organization. They work directly with legislators (who are ALEC members) to craft model legislation that is then introduced in statehouses across the country without acknowledging that corporations drafted the bill. ALEC drafted model ID voter legislation, and every single new voter ID law was passed with ALEC member involvement. ALEC’s policy agenda for 2011 included bills to deregulate polluting industries, privatize education, eliminate unions, and voting restrictions.

David and Charles Koch, two brothers who have quietly promoted their radical, free-market agenda with $100 million in contributions to conservative causes, including bankrolling Scott Walker’s election and subsequent recent assault on public unions in Wisconsin, have long ties to ALEC. Koch Industries has been one of a select group of members on ALEC’s governing board for nearly two decades, and from what little financial information is available, the Koch contribution to ALEC likely exceeds $1 million. The lead lobbyist for Koch Industries formerly chaired ALEC. Koch brother involvement in voter ID laws should be of particular interest for the Occupy Movement considering that David Koch’s project, Citizens for a Sound Economy, spearheaded the effort to repeal Glass-Steagall that enabled banking institutions to gamble in securities and tank the economy in 2008.

The purpose of new voter ID laws is to demobilize certain portions of electorate who are more likely to vote for Democrats, a goal laid out by ALEC founder, Paul Weyrich many decades ago who stated that “I don’t want everybody to vote… Our leverage in the elections goes up as the voting populus goes down.”

In short, this is a corporate-sponsored attack on democracy, spearheaded by Republicans intent on disenfranchising certain groups in the electorate in order to gain political control.

But Don’t We Need to Enhance Voting Security?

No. The voter ID movement is based on a bald-faced lie that voter impersonation is an issue. It’s not. As the DNC humorously notes, a person is 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to engage in voter impersonation, and 3,600 times more likely to report a UFO.

This voting fraud figure is based on a Bush Administration investigation into the matter that involved only 70 prosecutions nationwide, some of which were honest mistakes.

The Real Problem: Voter Turnout

We don’t have a voter impersonation fraud problem in the U.S., but we do have a voter turnout problem. Turnout in presidential years has declined since 1960, and pitifully hovers below 60% of the eligible electorate. We should be undertaking Herculean efforts to increase voter turnout, not erecting barriers to voting based on trumped-up problems to serve partisan ends. Yet, despite the data, untold resources are being spent to “correct” a problem that simply doesn’t exist. These new laws will cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually to implement, not including the cost of certain litigation. When a situation like this arises in politics, it means there are other motives at play.

We don’t need new barriers to voting, we need a state-by-state response with the concrete goals of getting people ready to vote, registering new voters, and overturning these laws.

For the last week of December, we’re re-posting some of our favorite posts from 2011.


It seems obvious that basic cognitive perceptions shouldn’t vary by society.  That is, that our eyes should see, and our brains should process, essentially the same no matter what we call ourselves, what language we speak, or what holidays we observe.  It turns out, however, that even basic cognitions vary across the world.

Most Americans, for example, perceive the two lines in this optical illusion to be of different lengths, with line a shorter than line b.  In fact, they are the same length.

But, as argued by Joseph Henrich and colleagues in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, our susceptibility to this illusion varies by culture.  On average, line a needs to be another fifth longer than line b before the average American undergraduate evaluates the lines to be equal in length.  Most other societies that have been tested on this illusion, however, require substantially less manipulation.  The figure below compares how individuals in different societies perform on this test.  The measures are tricky, and you can read more about them here; what you need to know for now is that the societies on the right are more susceptible to the illusion and the societies on the left less.

Observing that individuals in more developed societies (e.g., Evanston, Illinois) tend to be more vulnerable to the illusion — indeed, that in some societies, such as the San foragers of the Kalahari, it doesn’t qualify as an illusion at all — Henrich and his co-authors argue that exposure to “modern environments” may be the culprit:

…visual exposure during ontogeny to factors such as the “carpentered corners” of modern environments may favor certain optical calibrations and visual habits that create and perpetuate this illusion.  That is, the visual system ontogenetically adapts to the presence of recurrent features in the local visual environment.

Even basic cognition, that is, varies across cultures.

As Henrich et al. argue, this calls into question all of the truisms of psychology based, primarily, on experimental research with Western subjects.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Fraulion sent in this screenshot from the homepage.  In case you needed help buying gifts, dads like history and politics, moms like to smell nice and look shiny, girlfriends and wives like chick flicks and cute stuff, boyfriends and husbands like classic rock and knowing what time it is, grandpas like to watch documentaries (probably about “the war”), and grandmas just want to look at pictures of their grandchildren.

Last but not least, Rob W. sent in another gift guide that suggests that women want a masculine-looking watch and men want a wine aerator (I don’t know what that is, but wine is woman-y right?).  So… counter-stereotypical push back against the gender machine?  Or a typo?  I’m going with typo.  Funny typo.

More after the jump:


Cross-posted at Ms.

Maybelline’s brand of lip gloss, “baby lips,” is a straightforward example of the infantilization of adult women:

We should be worried about the infantilization of women for two reasons:

First, it’s directly related to the sexualization of young girls.  The two phenomena, when considered together, clearly point to the convergence of female children and adult sexuality.  As I wrote in a previous post:

…on the one hand, women are portrayed as little girls, as coyly innocent, as lacking in power and maturity. On the other hand, child-likeness is sexy, and girls are portrayed as Lolitas whose innocence is questionable.

Second, the need for women to look like babies to be beautiful (and the requirement for women to be beautiful), turns aging into a trauma for women.  Susan Sontag, in her (truly beautiful) essay The Double Standard of Aging, put it this way:

The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man… A man does not grieve when he loses the smooth, unlined, hairless skin of a boy. For he has only exchanged one form of attractiveness for another…

There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat.

A very lucrative defeat for Maybelline, if we buy into it.

More of the quote at a previous post.  And, for more on the infantilization of women, see our posts on baby teethlady spankingGleethis collection of examples, a vintage example, and the Halloween edition. Link via BagNewsNotes.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.