I have posted before about the ways those who handle the dead may try to humanize themselves so as to avoid the stigmas often associated with their jobs. Individuals who have jobs that require them to touch or be around dead bodies often find they are negatively stereotyped as creepy, gross, or as taking advantage of families in times of pain. They engage in various strategies to try to resist those stereotypes, including redefining the job and attempting to present it as something valuable and respectable (a “funeral director,” after all, sounds much nicer and more professional that “undertaker” or “mortician”).

In my previous post I discussed the Men of Mortuaries calendar, which presented shirtless male funeral directors in hunky poses. Now we have an example of women doing something similar. Christie W. sent in a link to the Funeral Divas website, which clearly tries to present women working in the funeral industry in a positive light:

From the site’s homepage:

A Funeral Diva is a strong, confident and successful woman who works in the funeral industry. She is not ashamed of her career! She is proud to serve hurting families!

So here, women who work in the funeral industry are hip, fun, successful career women — not creepy people who like being around dead bodies, and not individuals who profit from families’ grief.

Of course, in addition to presenting female funeral directors positively, the site also attempts to support women working in a field that has been male-dominated since preparing and burying our dead moved from an informal family activity to a formal business. However, women’s presence in this industry is growing. In 2008, the New York Times reported that women made up 35% of mortuary school students in 1995, while in 2007 60% were female; at some schools women make up nearly 75% of the student body. Interestingly, the article focuses on how the funeral industry has changed to include more concern for handling grieving individuals and, thus, the increased need for “the caring factor” — which presumably makes women seem like a better fit for the job, as they are assumed to be for other types of jobs that require lots of nurturing and emotional work.

Despite this, an article in the Christian Science Monitor discusses the barriers women in the industry continue to face. This year, New York’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit against one mortuary school, the Simmons Institute of Funeral Services, and its CEO, alleging repeated sexual harassment of female student and discrimination against pregnant women, a violation of Title IX.

So women in the funeral industry have to contend with the general negative stigma associated with their job, as well as the usual issues faced by women entering a previously male-dominated field. Funeral Divas is an interesting attempt to address both of these sets of problems at once.

Dmitriy T.M. sent in a link to the website If It Were My Home. The site allows you to select two nations and then explains how your life would compare if you lived in each one in terms of rates of HIV/AIDS, employment, energy consumption, infant mortality, class inequality, and other factors (based on CIA data). As an example, Dmitriy chose to compare the U.S. and Ukraine, “the 2 greatest countries in the world, as determined by the poll conducted in my head”:

You can then choose one of the items for more details; I selected life expectancy:

The site is set up with the U.S. as one of the default comparisons, but at the top there’s a button that lets you select a non-U.S. comparison. (Note: Reader Parodie says it appears to detect whatever country you’re accessing the site from and set that as one of the default comparisons.) It’s a fun site that you can spend quite a bit of time playing around with.

UPDATE: Just a caution–a couple of readers seem to have found situations where the math doesn’t add up in the comparisons of some countries. And other readers noted that this does an enormous amount of averaging, which definitely hides the differences in quality of life in various countries, which are so extreme in some nations that “averages” might be nearly meaningless.

I recently came across the guideline that was used to calculate how much money was to be paid out to the victims of the attacks on September 11. This was a fund that was set up by the US government partly because of the scale and the unprecedented nature of the September 11th attacks and partly to diminish the amount of lawsuits that the airlines would receive.

According to the New York Times article it goes as follows:

1. Economic loss.
2. Set amounts for pain and suffering: $250,000, plus $100,000 for each surviving spouse and child.
3. Subtract any life insurance paid.

Along with the rubric, The Times also included a chart that showed the amount of payouts that took place as of 2007:

Putting a price on a life is already a difficult concept to parse through. So I am not taken back that the people in charge actually found a price for each of the victims (some compensation had to be made for those individuals who now found themselves without the sole or part-earner in the household).

What I am taken back by is the stratification of how the payouts were dispersed. Who is to say a person makes no income is worth less than a person who makes 4 million and up? Who is to say females are worth less than males? Who is to say that food workers are worth less than individuals who work in finance?

I get the aspect that a person who was a blue collar worker or someone of no income will get less of a payout than a white collar worker or someone who was making $4 million based on the first guideline “economic loss”. But even that argument doesn’t hold much weight as that the food worker might be the next JK Rowling or that person of no income could be the next Bill Gates. Why would it not account for ability not yet realized? We are a meritocratic republic aren’t we?!

Even in a national tragedy like the attacks on September 11 we can’t seem to follow through on the belief that we are a classless society. These payouts are, unfortunately, the reality of the extreme stratification that we hide when we, as a society, claim that we are classless.



Thelittlepecan let us know that the World Health Organization has out a new report about global alcohol consumption, as well as the consequences of that consumption. Overall consumption varies significantly, with the highest levels in Russia and much of Europe and the lowest in northern Africa through Asia (the consumption figures exclude tourists):

There are also clear differences in the most-consumed type of alcoholic drinks:

The report also looks at what proportion of all male deaths are related to alcohol consumption, broken down by region, age, and sex. Globally, alcohol-related problems are the leading cause of death for males aged 15-59. For the regions, AFR = Africa, AMR = Americas, EMR = Eastern Mediterranean, EUR = Europe, SEAR = South East Asia, and WPR = Western Pacific:

Clearly the Americas and Europe stand out, though this is  likely because those regions have lower death rates from many sources that are still prevalent in many parts of the world and, thus, alcohol-related ones show up more prominently.

Differences in blood-alcohol limits for drivers:

If you’re interested in more details, you can also get profiles of individual countries in each region at the WHO website.

Sometimes we save up submissions on a particular topic so we can show several examples at once. And today, ladies and gents, I thought I’d present a few items that, to greater or lesser extent, glamorize brutality toward women or use images of dead women as props. Yes, I know — happy day!

On the less graphic end of the scale, way back in June 2010, Rei sent in these two trailers for the A&E show The Glades, where women exist just as props who manage to remain sexy, despite the deadness:

And some time ago Stefan Mesch, who writes for Die Zeit, let us know about the promotional website for Bret Easton Ellis’s new novel, Imperial Bedrooms. The website includes an interactive game where you’re a casting director and interact with a young woman who wants a part. From the homepage:

So theoretically, you have a choice — you can “exploit your position” or “do the right thing,” which presumably means not degrading or using a woman just because you can. But as Stefan explains, the options in the game are actually quite limited:

The game gives you options to talk to (and “encourage”) her, but they all lead to abuse, sexual harassment…The game rewards you for harassing the girl, and you’re supposed to drive up your personal score of “evil” by making her submit as much as possible.

Here are your first set of options:

I selected “encourage her.” The game then plays out a few seconds of dialogue and then leads to a second decision point, where I have these choices:

At least the first time I had one option to be a decent human being, other than not hiring her at all. I suppose that, in theory, giving someone booze might be a nice thing to do, but I think in this situation, probably nothing good can come of it. I selected that option; the director encourages her to drink when she doesn’t want to, and to drink more than she wants to. And then…

The “make her strip” option isn’t quite as bad as it might seem; when I chose it, she takes off her cardigan, but nothing else. At that point I felt like I’d pretty much gotten the point of the game, and wasn’t particularly interested in exploring how much of an asshole I could theoretically be, so I quit.

But both of those pale in comparison to our finale, readers. Dmitriy T.M. and Hope H. told us to check out Kanye West’s video for “Monster,” in which, among other things, Kanye casually rearranges the lifeless bodies of two women in bed with him:

Images of dead-looking women’s bodies appear throughout the video (which also features Jay Z and Nicki Minaj). I’m putting the rest of the images after the jump, as they might be particularly upsetting to some readers:

Jose Marichal at Thick Culture put up another great example of what he calls “engaged public space,” or the quiet but political use of public spaces to inform and incite.  Writes Marichal:

This tally of military suicides is outside the studio of Brooklyn artist Sebastian Errasuriz. Its power comes from its simplicity.

See also our post on political (versus historical) roadside markers.

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.

Dmitriy T.M. sent in a video where Hans Rosling illustrates changes in wealth and life expectancy in 200 countries over the past 200 years, all in four minutes. Pretty neat!

Cross-posted at Ms. and Jezebel.

Bug lovers will recall that the female praying mantis cannibalizes the head of her sexual partner upon mating. Wrote Leland Ossian Howard in Science (1886):

Placing them in the same jar, the male, in alarm, endeavoured to escape. In a few minutes the female succeeded in grasping him. She first bit off his front tarsus, and consumed the tibia and femur.  Next she gnawed out his left eye… it seems to be only by accident that a male ever escapes alive from the embraces of his partner.

The idea that the female mantis is a femme fatale has resonated in U.S. culture, a culture that loves to recount how human women kill the spirits of their male mates; a culture that, as Twisty Faster puts it, “…will unfairly characterize females as villains whenever possible.”

Well, it turns out that our perfect icon of the man-killer was partly an artifact of bad research design.  Faster, who blogs at I Blame the Patriarchy, reports that the study that established that female mantises decapitate their mates used starving females.  A new study has documented an entirely different mating ritual:

Out of thirty matings, we didn’t record one instance of cannibalism, and instead we saw an elaborate courtship display, with both sexes performing a ritual dance, stroking each other with their antennae before finally mating. It really was a lovely display.

Well, except:

There is one species…. the Mantis religiosa, in which it is necessary that the head be removed for the mating to take effect properly.  [In general, though, s]exual cannibalism occurs most often if the female is hungry. But eating the head does causes the body to ejaculate faster.

One species, okay, but there are over 2,000 species of praying mantis.  (You learn something every day.)  In any case, everyone loves a good bad-woman story and I suppose that one was just too good to pass up.

I have to admit, though, they are still bad motherf—ers.  This mantis boxed my cat into a corner:

Also in projecting human relations onto animals: winners and losers of flatworm sex.

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.