Now, let's be clear, I'm not hiding anything in my wallet that I don't want Joe to see. I do not have identification papers for the secret superhero that I become, "Phat Tire: He's so mean he'd roll over Beethoven!" It's nothing like that.my wallet just has wallet stuff in it, but the thing is, it's mine and it's only mine.
So, wallets are a big deal to me.
Yesterday I was in the line up behind a man with both an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy. He walked with a walker, his speech was slow but clear, and he was chatting with the clerk. When I joined the line, no one else had been standing there, they sped up the purchasing process. He got out his wallet and pulled out some bills and then opened the small change pocket in his wallet to get out some coin. It was at this point that the clerk leaned over and began to reach into that same small pocket to help him get the change out more quickly. I saw his face.
I saw his face.
He didn't like it.
I got it.
I'd hate it.
A wallet is private space.
I said to him, "You just need to tell her." He shook his head, clearly embarrassed at being caught being angry at someone being nice. "No," he said to me, "it's alright."
"Okay," I said, "it's none of my business, but me, I'd speak up."
You understand that the clerk stopped what she was doing and was listening to us. She turned to him and said, "Speak up about what, tell me what?" His face went red. He was trapped.
And I felt the immediate asshat. I had no right to jump in and try to help.I was doing exactly what she was doing, except she was reaching into his private wallet, I was reaching into his private thoughts. That need to grab the handles of my wheelchair, that intrusion that I don't like to the point of hating it - well there I was, the handles on the back of his disability gave me a permission that wasn't real.
"I don't like it when you reach into my wallet. I can get the change myself." He said it without looking at her and with a few angry glances towards me. As big as I am I felt very small.
"OH! OH! OH!" she said, "I was just trying to help."
"I know, but I don't like it."
"Why didn't you say something before?"
"It's hard for me," he said, "I know that people are just being nice."
It will surprise you but I kept my mouth shut and my opinion on that did not cross my lips.
"You should tell people what you want and what you don't want," she said, "because now I feel bad."
He was now getting upset. He didn't want to upset her or for her to feel bad.
I did this. I created this mess.
They came to resolution. She wouldn't help him any more with the change and he would tell her when or if he needed help.
He left and I approached the counter. She thanked me for my intervention.
That's an important distinction.
In my post the other day, I wrote that there would be 1600 rows in the edging, and Katie (who is surely a hopeful person, full of optimism) wrote and said “Surely that’s a typo.” Vickiebee even said “Maybe it’s 1600 stitches?”
No, my petals, not a typo, and not stitches – though maybe not as bad as you’re thinking. I am cleverly drawing pictures here, so as not to take detailed pictures of the blankie that would give it all away to Alex and Meg. (Plus it’s really scrunched up on a circular.) This is a pretty classic way of approaching this, if you’re thinking of Shetland Island shawls, which, like most normal people, I always am.
First, I cast on provisionally, and I knit the centre. (That’s a lie. First I knit a swatch, wash it, and block it. That tells me how many stitches to cast on, and how long to carry on for if I want it to be roughly square.)
When the centre is finished, I pick up stitches all the way around, and unpick the provisional cast-on, pick those up too, and now I’m equipped to work in the round. (Here, you will note, I make that sound like cake. It’s totally not – in the classic sense, this picking up business is pretty easy. The Shetland Shawls are garter base lace, and so the ratio for picking up is 1 stitch for each ridge. I threw that simplicity and ease on the fire and tossed on a litre of gasoline, by knitting the centre in stockinette based lace. To pick up all the way around I took my gauge, and did the math. The number of stitches widthwise (let’s say it’s 20 to 10cm.) divided by the number of rows per 10cm. (Let’s call that 25.) Then it’s just a matter of representing that as a fraction (stay with me, I know that’s a math word) putting stitches over rows. 20/25. Then I reduce that fraction (cast your mind back to middle school, you’ll be fine) and it’s 4/5. (See that?) That means I have to pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows. In practice, that’s pick up 4, skip one, pick up 4, skip one…. You dig? Usually I practice this on the swatch, then do it on the blankie, marking the corners as I go.
Then I choose my stitch patterns (or invent them, in many cases) write them up as charts, centre them along the sides, and start knitting. I increase one stitch either side of the marked corner stitches ever other row – so I’m increasing by 8 stitches every other round.
This makes fetching mitred corners, and means the blankie gets bigger all the way around, every round. When it’s big enough (who really knows when that is) I choose or invent an edging (in this particular case, it’s a bit of both) and begin to apply the edging. I cast on (provisionally, again) however many stitches are in the edge (in this case, it will be about 20) and then start working back and forth making a long skinny edging. Every time I work a right side row, I knit the last stitch of the edge together with a stitch from the body of the blanket.
That means that every two rows, one stitch gets consumed. When I’m all done, the final row of the edging is grafted to the provisional cast on of the edging, and I’m done.
So, back to the point up at the top? 1600 rows? I was wrong. I’ve currently got 898 stitches on the needle (or will, when I’m done with this little garter band) and with 2 rows to consume each one? (Plus extras to get round the corners, but let’s not quibble.)
1796 rows to go, with an average of 20 stitches in each row, that’s 35 920 stitches left to knit.
And that, my brave friends, is not a typo. I counted. May the force be with me. The edging begins in 4 and a half rounds.
I was in the middle of giving a talk at a local book store in Tel Aviv when this gorgeous woman passed by the shop window. Several of the people in attendance pointed her out and encouraged me to leave the book signing for a second to ask her for a photograph!
In all this, I had to go see my doctor, nothing serious, just routine. I didn't feel like going down to meet with him, I just wanted to curl up around a cup of tea and a book that would take me far away. But, I'd waited for this appointment and I wasn't going to miss it.
Coming south on Yonge there is a patch of construction that has pedestrians walk a few feet along the street and then step back up on the curb. They have made an attempt at a ramp for wheelchair users, but it's to show willing rather than to be useful. No way I can get back up to the sidewalk on that 'ramp.' So I scoot along to the intersection and then dart back on the sidewalk. This is where I turn to go to the doctor's office so, I head that way.
There is a woman standing, just off to the side and back near the building. She is small. She is scared. She clearly has mental health struggles. Seeing me frightens her. She points and me and begins to shoo me away. "Get way, you, get away, you, get away, you don't belong here, you, you don't belong here," her voice, and the agitation with which she speaks tell me that whatever's going on with her is much more significant than what's going on with me.
I know that.
Being honest here. I didn't care. I had to fight down annoyance. I had to fight down my own feelings of worthlessness and the anger that comes with that feeling. I wanted to choose words to slam back at her. They were there in my mind.
I resented that I had to be the understanding one. I WANTED UNDERSTANDING.
I resented that I had to be the giving one. I WANTED TO RECEIVE, NOT GIVE.
I resented that I had to be the one making space. I WANTED SPACE TO SCREAM.
I rolled by. I said nothing. I let her wave her finger at me. I let her tell me I didn't belong in her world. I let it happen. When I was far enough way, I heard her voice change, I turned. She was pointing at someone else. I saw their face. How hard it was.
I knew mine had been hard too.
But I didn't, like the man behind me, tell her to shut up.
I don't know if that's much of a victory, but to me, it felt like one.
This ring box with teeth destroys any garlic unfortunate enough to stray near its maw. But what if you just want it chopped, not pulverised?
The Garlic Twister (£10, NexTrend) is a multipurpose mincing tool, fitted with cross-cutting teeth. Grinds garlic and other foods to paste.Continue reading...
Originally posted at Inequality by (Interior) Design.
One of my favorite sociologists is Bill Watterson. He’s not read in most sociology classrooms, but he has a sociological eye and a great talent for laying bare the structure of the world around us and the ways that we as individuals must navigate that structure—some with fewer obstacles than others. Unlike most sociologists, Watterson does this without inventing new jargon (or much new jargon), or relying on overly dense theoretical claims. He doesn’t call our attention to demographic trends (often) or seek to find and explain low p values.
Rather, Watterson presents the world from the perspective of a young boy who is both tremendously influenced by–and desires to have a tremendous influence on–the world around him. The boy’s name is Calvin, and I put a picture of him (often in the company of his stuffed tiger, Hobbes) on almost every syllabus I write. Watterson is the artist behind the iconic comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes,” and he firmly believed in his art form. I’m convinced that if you can’t find a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon to put on your syllabus for a sociology course, there’s a good chance you’re not teaching sociology.
The questions and perspectives of children are significant to sociologists because children offer us an amazing presentation of how much is learned, and how we come to take what we’ve learned for granted. In many ways, this is at the heart of the ethnographic project: to uncover both what is taken for granted and why this might matter. Using the charm and wit of a megalomaniacal young boy, Watterson challenges us on issues of gender inequality, sexual socialization, religious identity and ideology, racism, classism, ageism, deviance, the logic of capitalism, globalization, education, academic inquiry, philosophy, postmodernism, family forms and functions, the social construction of childhood, environmentalism, and more.
Watterson depicts the world from Calvin’s perspective. He manages to illustrate both how odd this perspective appears to others around him (his parents, teachers, peers, even Hobbes) as well as the tenacity with which Calvin clings to his unique view of the world despite the fact that it often fails to accord with reality. Indeed, Calvin ritualistically comes into conflict with his social obligations as a child (school, chores, social etiquette, and norms of deference and respect, etc.) and the diverse roles he plays as a social actor (both real and imaginary). Calvin is a wonderful example of the human capacity to play with social “roles” and within the social institutions that frame and structure our lives.
Quite simply, Calvin often simply refuses to play the social roles assigned to him, or, somewhat more mildly, he refuses to play those roles in precisely the way they were designed to be played. And in that way, Calvin helps to illustrate just how social our behavior is. Social behavior is based on a series of structured negotiations with the world around us. This doesn’t have to mean that we can act however we please—Calvin is continually bumping into social sanctions for his antics. But neither does it mean that we only act in ways that were structurally predetermined. The world around us is a collective project, one in which we have a stake. We play a role in both social reproduction and change.
Understanding the ways in which our experiences, identities, opportunities, and more are structured by the world around us is a central feature of sociological learning. Calvin is one way I ask students to consider these ideas. Kai Erikson put it this way in an essay on sociological writing:
Most sociologists think of their discipline as an approach as well as a subject matter, a perspective as well as a body of knowledge. What distinguishes us from other observers of the human scene is the manner in which we look out at the world—the way our eyes are focused, the way our minds are tuned, the way our intellectual reflexes are set. Sociologists peer out at the same landscapes as historians or poets or philosophers, but we select different details out of those scenes to attend closely, and we sort those details in different ways. So it is not only what sociologists see but the way they look that gives the field its special distinction. (here)
Calvin is a great example of the significance of “breaching” social norms. Breaches tell us something important about what we take for granted, and if your sociological imagination is well-oiled, you can often learn something about the “how” and the “why” as well. A great deal of the social organization goes into the production of our experiences, identities, and opportunities is subtly disguised by these “whys” (or what are sometimes called “accounts”). Calvin’s incessant questioning of authority and social norms illuminates the social forces that guide our accounts surrounding a great deal of social life–subtly, but unmistakably, asking us to consider what we taken for granted, how we manage to do so, as well as why. This is a feature of some of the best sociological work—a feature that is dramatized in childhood.
In Erikson’s treatise on sociological writing, he concludes with a wonderful description of an interaction between Mark Twain and a “wily old riverboat pilot.” Researching life on the Mississippi, Twain noticed that the riverboat pilot deftly swerves and changes course down the river, dodging unseen objects below the water’s surface in an attempt to move smoothly down the river. Twain asks the pilot what he’s noticing on the water’s surface to make these decisions and adjustments. The riverboat pilot is unable to explain, offering a sort of “I know it when I see it” explanation (interviewers know this explanation well). The pilot’s eyes had become so skilled in this navigation that he didn’t need to concern himself with how he knew what he knew. But both he and Twain were confident that he knew it. Over the course of their interactions, Twain gradually comes to learn more about what exactly the riverboat pilot is able to see and how he uses it to move through the water unhindered. This, explains Erikson, is the project of good sociology—“to combine the eyes of a river pilot with the voice of Mark Twain.”
Through Calvin, Watterson accomplishes just this. Calvin offers us a glimpse of wonderful array of sociological ideas and perspectives in an accessible way. Watterson has a way of seamlessly calling our attention to the taken for granted throughout social life and his images and ideas are a great introduction to sociological thinking. I like to think that Calvin’s life, perspectives, antics, and waywardness help students call the systems of social inequality and the world around them into question, learning to see sociologically. Calvin is a great tool to help students recognize that they can question the unquestionable, to learn to problematize issues that might lack the formal status of “problems” in the first place. Watterson used Calvin to help all of us learn to see the ordinary as extraordinary–a worthy task for any sociology course.Tristan Bridges, PhD is a professor at The College at Brockport, SUNY. He is the co-editor of Exploring Masculinities: Identity, Inequality, Inequality, and Change with C.J. Pascoe and studies gender and sexual identity and inequality. You can follow him on Twitter here. Tristan also blogs regularly at Inequality by (Interior) Design.
My friend Debbi has a great expression. When a task is daunting and spread out in front of you, and you’re getting that slightly crampy feeling in the pit of your stomach, she’ll look right at it and say “Don’t panic early.”
I find this a really lovely way of saying “don’t panic”, which I’ve always found dismissive and always makes me want to say something like “I’ll panic if I bloody well want to” or “WHAT IS YOUR OTHER PLAN.” When Debbi says “don’t panic early” I feel like she’s respecting my right to panic, isn’t taking anything from me, but wants to be sure that my timing is right, and I don’t waste any energy while we’re still in a phase that could have some solutions other than panicking.
On Friday, I took a look at the blanket, and I took a look at the date, and I took a look at Megan and something happened.
I panicked. Now, there is still some time to finish, I know that. I’ve got a few weeks I think, before there could be a baby, but I’m still on the last border pattern and after that there is another border pattern and then there is all the edging and… I felt sure that panicking was the right thing to do. I set about getting really hysterical about the whole thing, and then I channelled my inner Debbi, decided it wasn’t time, and set about knitting. That was my weekend. I’m happy to say it mostly panned out. I’m six rows from being finished that border, and then there’s just the second border and then there’s the edging and….
It was time to panic. I felt sure of it that time. I went on a search for my inner Debbi, couldn’t find her and called the actual Debbi instead. (Sometimes only the real thing works.) Debbi listened carefully while I explained what needed doing, and she looked carefully at the picture of Meg, and then she said something very real, and very accurate.
That’s what she said. Panic. She also said things like “*%#%&^ how many rows are in that edging? 1600? IS IT SIXTEEN HUNDRED?” and she said things like “IT IS BIG ENOUGH DON’T MAKE IT BIGGER DO THE EDGING” and she also said “holy (*&%$#^, you need to panic. Do it now.”
“It’s not too early?” I asked her, hopefully… wondering if maybe Debbi had just come unglued for a minute and didn’t have her wits about her. It happens to the best of us, especially in the face of laceweight baby blankets, they’re pretty discombobulating. “Debbi, isn’t it too early to panic?”
Debbi thought about it, and then very calmly, she said:
“No. I think you’re late.”
I’m going to get right on it.
No question she was excited, and no question that it meant a lot to her. No question. The young man stated that, "They deserve everything that everyone else does too."
Naturally, everyone is quite ga-ga about this event.
The comments are interesting.
They are all about him.
Not about her.
She was the backdrop to the story.
She was the canvas upon which a scene was painted.
She was the mechanism used to tell a story about a boy and a stereotype.
In none of the stories, that I read, was she interviewed.
This is World Down Syndrome Day and I don't, and won't, spend it bashing 'good intentions' of 'kind hearted' boys. But I will state that, as we move forward, I want to see stories of people with Down Syndrome who are more than the means of furthering stereotypes. Good heavens, why does she need him to ask her to the prom, isn't it slightly possible that she might have a date already? I want to hear the voices of people with Down Syndrome, they are amazing voices and need only the microphone.
A spot on centre stage.
And a world that will look and listen and learn.
That's what I want on World Down Syndrome Day.
By David Bellos (Guest Contributor)
To write Les Misérables, Victor Hugo stood at his desk on the top floor of Hauteville House with a view of a harbour, the raging sea and, on the far horizon, the shadow of the coast of France. You could not possibly guess that from the text of the novel. For months on end Hugo buried himself in the claustrophobic hovels, prisons, convents, sewers, streets and sights of Paris, and not once did he let slip through an image, a reference, a metaphor or an aside that every time he looked up from his inky scrawl he set his eyes on broad vistas of the opposite kind. Such tight control of the pen and the mind is almost inhuman. So I was relieved to discover that when the creative effort was over and Hugo could relax, he let his long-suppressed maritime environment burst through. He wrote promptly to his old comrade, the publisher Hetzel, to announce that he’d finished but not quite completed his great work.
I [still] have to do a proper inspection of my monster from head to toe. What I’m going to launch on the high seas is my Leviathan: it has seven masts, five funnels, paddle wheels a hundred feet across, and the lifeboats over the sides are the size of liners; it won’t be able to dock anywhere and will have to ride out every storm on the high seas. There can’t be a single nail missing!
Now, in the Book of Job (41.1) leviathan is the untranslated Hebrew name of a sea-monster (though in the Louis Segond bible in French, it is given as “crocodile”). But Hugo, whose characters never quote from the holy book throughout Les Misérables, did not have that sea serpent in mind. As he trumpets his great achievement to Hetzel he’s thinking of something bigger: the largest naval vessel ever constructed and only recently launched, the SS Leviathan. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel to steam from London to Australia without putting in to any port to refuel or take on supplies, the Leviathan had a mere six masts and paddle-wheels only fifty-six feet in diameter. Renamed the Great Eastern, it plied the Atlantic, laid undersea cables and spent its retirement as a floating music hall before being broken up in 1889. So Hugo was right. Les Misérables has sailed much further for far longer than Brunel’s ship ever did.
The book has had a bit of help from the sixty-five or more film adaptations and from a pop-opera version—but these entertainments don’t themselves explain why in Japan, Turkey, Egypt and Iran as well as in Paris, London and Los Angeles, Les Misérables gets recycled again and again. In The Novel of the Century I’ve told the story of how Hugo’s masterwork came into existence, but I also show how delicate, complex and tightly woven it is. Hugo’s social ideas and human sympathies remain powerful motives for reading and rereading his novel, but the reason why the characters and situations he created in Les Misérables stay in our minds and will no doubt reappear on our screens is that there isn’t a single nail missing from the five parts, forty-eight books and 365 chapters of the vessel that Hugo launched on April 4, 1862.
Book description: The book is officially published on Tuesday 3/21, and will be available on the same date as an audiobook read by the author and as a Kindle.
David Bellos teaches French and Comparative Literature at Princeton, where he also directs the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. He won the Prix Goncourt de la Biographie for his life of Georges Perec and has also written biographies of Jacques Tati and of Romain Gary. His introduction to translation studies, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? has itself been translated into many languages.
The other day I visited 87-year-old Shula in her home outside Tel Aviv. When we were finished shooting I told her that I felt she had a very powerful presence. I was surprised and deeply moved by her response.
She told me, “I’m not that strong but I’m trying to be. I was widowed three years ago and ever since then I found that I could do a lot of things that I’ve never done before. Make decisions that I’ve never thought of before. I suppose I had it before but I didn’t use it. I was very much the wife behind the scenes and the entertainer and I ran the house and of course the children. We had four children in the house, now they are all grown up and gone. The strength it just came, it just came.”
Tanu and Mak interacted almost immediately and had some good bouts of playful wrestling and porpoising about in their habitat. Tanu then interacted with Kunik in a similar fashion. Rialto, the youngest and most timid pup, remained on a haulout, where he was joined by Kunik and Mak, and then Tanu, who sniffed the pups before she returned to the water to swim and groom. As time passed, the pups became more comfortable and began grooming and spending more and more time in the water.
The pups will meet the other adult sea otters, Elfin and Katmai, in time. For now, here’s a throwback to when little Rialto met his two new friends Kunik and Mak!
When the girls arrived on the weekend we asked them if they'd like to be part of the Saint Patrick's Day Parade that would be happening on Sunday. There wasn't even a breath of hesitation. "YES!!" And then the talk was immediately of costumes and we added into the plans a trip to the dollar store to find stuff for everyone to wear.
As we browsed around their excitement began to grow. They love parades. Because my home agency, Vita Community Living Services, participates in both the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Pride Parade, they've been in a lot of parades. This would be Ruby's second time in the Pat's Parade and Sadie's first, they are more Pride girls. I watched them going through the dollar store stuff and weighing out what they'd like to wear in the parade with pleasure but also with a tightening knot in my stomach.
Putting myself on display, for people to take pictures of, for people to really see, is difficult. The inherent permission that you give people to look right at you, to take pictures of you, when you participate in a parade is something that I'm wildly uncomfortable with.
I have wrestled shame to the ground several times in my life. But, shame is a worthy opponent and always manages to get up again. The voices of shame appear in my mind: they are going to laugh at you, they are going to be disgusted by you, they are going to mock you, they are going to hurt you, hurt you, hurt you. As the parade grows closer, the voices get louder, meaner, more controlling. They take over my appetite, they take over my ability to think clearly, they take away my ability to hear others and be fully with people.
Now as we are walking towards the parade gathering area to join with others in Vita, they are screaming in my ears. But, Ruby and Sadie are bouncing with excitement. At one point, Sadie, so excited by being in the parade shouts to Joe and I, "I LOVE THIS!" At another point, Ruby runs over and gives us each a hug. They are happy.
They are happy to be there.
They are happy to meet all the staff and members of Vita.
They are happy to be part of the group.
Then, when the parade starts, they are dancing! They do jigs and twirl each other around. And I notice, that I've been so involved with the 'hellos' to everyone at Vita and watching the kids get ready to hit the parade route, that I hadn't noticed. The voices had given up.
I was here.
I would march.
I would publicly be fat, publicly be disabled, I would be purposefully on display.
But shame had been silenced, and, as always happens when shame is silenced, a little voice, the one belonging to pride speaks up.
"I have a right to be here."
"I am a prideful fat and disabled man."
Where you grow up is consequential. It plays a critical role in shaping who you are likely to become. Where you live affects your future earnings, how much education you’re likely to receive, how long you live, and much more.
Sociologists who study this are interested in the concentrated accumulations of specific types and qualities of capital (economic, cultural, social) found in abundance in certain locations, less in more, and virtually absent in some. And, as inequalities intersect with one another, marginalization tends to pile up. For instance, those areas of the U.S. that are disproportionately Black and Latino are also areas struggling economically (see Dustin A. Cable’s racial dot map of the U.S.). Similarly, those areas of the country with the least upward mobility are also areas with some of the highest proportions of households of people of color. And, perhaps not shockingly (although it should be), schools in these areas receive fewer resources and have lower outcomes for students.
How much education you receive is, in part, a result of where you grow up. Think about it: you’re be more likely to end up with at least a bachelor’s degree if you grow up in an area where almost everyone is at least college educated. It’s not a requirement, but it’s more likely. And, if you do and go on to live in a similar community and have children, your kids will benefit from you carrying on that cycle as well. Of course, this system of advantages works in reverse for communities with lower levels of educational attainment.
Recently, a geography professor, Kyle Walker, mapped educational attainment in the U.S. Inspired by Cable’s map of racial segregation, Walker visualizes educational inequality in the U.S. from a bird’s eye view. And when we compare Walker’s map of educational attainment to Cable’s map of racial segregation, you can see how inequalities tend to accumulate.
Below, I’ve displayed paired images of a selection of U.S. cities using both maps. In each image, the top map illustrates educational attainment and the bottom visualizes race.
- On Walker’s map of educational attainment (top images in each pair), the colors indicate: less than high school, high school, some college, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degree.
- On Cable’s map of racial segregation (bottom images in each pair), the colors indicate: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Other Race/Native American/Multi-Racial.
So, one way of comparing the images below is to look at how the blue areas compare on each map of the same region.
Below, you can see San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose, California in the same frame using Walker’s map of educational attainment (top) over Cable’s racial dot map (bottom).See how people are segregated by educational attainment (top image) and race (bottom image) in Chicago, Illinois:
Los Angeles, California:
New York City:
Compare regions of the U.S. examining Walker’s map with Cable’s racial dot map, you can see how racial and educational inequality intersect. While I only visualized cities above for comparison on both maps, if you examine Walker’s map of educational attainment, two broad trends with respect to segregation by educational attainment are easily visible:
- Urban/rural divide–people with bachelors and graduate degrees tend to be clustered in cities and metropolitan areas.
- Racial and economic inequalities–within metropolitan areas, you can see educational achievement segregation that both reflects and reinforces racial and economic segregation within the area (this is what you see above).
And, as research has shown, the levels of parents’ educational attainment within an area impacts the educational performances of the children living in that area as well. That’s how social reproduction happens. Sociologists are interested in how inequalities are passed on to subsequent generations. And it is sometimes hard to notice in your daily life because, as you can see above, we’re segregated from one another (by race, education, class, and more). And this segregation is one way interlocking inequalities persist.Tristan Bridges, PhD is a professor at The College at Brockport, SUNY. He is the co-editor of Exploring Masculinities: Identity, Inequality, Inequality, and Change with C.J. Pascoe and studies gender and sexual identity and inequality. You can follow him on Twitter here. Tristan also blogs regularly at Inequality by (Interior) Design.
by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (Regular Contributor)
Travelers to distant lands have always known that risk is an inevitable part of the adventure. And from ancient times they invented ways to mitigate that risk. Medieval English guilds established funds to provide for their members in the event of accident when they were abroad. Fifteenth-century pilgrims would ensure themselves against captivity. For a certain payment, the insurer would agree to ransom the traveler should he be captured by pirates or Arabs.
As travel expanded, individual traveler’s insurance took on the form of a bet on their own survival – a broker would take a specific amount and agree to pay it back with substantial interest if the traveler returned. The risks of travel were so high that it was usually assumed impossible to purchase insurance that would pay out to someone else if the traveler did not come home.
By the end of the seventeenth century in England, something closer to a modern
insurance system was developing. After the great fire in London in 1680, fire insurance became available. The Royal Exchange, incorporated in 1720, started to offer life insurance. Lloyd’s coffee house was a place where seafaring captains could share shipping news and negotiate private contracts to cover the risk of shipwreck or violent conflict encountered on their trade routes. Maritime insurance expanded. Captains were able to insure their own lives along with the life of their ships.
But insurance still bore a close resemblance to gambling. In a coffee house or a bank, people could buy “insurance” against almost anything, including the adultery of a spouse or treachery of a friend. Many insurers were simply speculators and gamblers. Insurance underwriters would issue policies on the outcome of battles or sensational trials or the sequence of the king’s mistresses. In almost every country except England, life insurance was viewed simply as a wager, and was illegal.
It was not easy, either, to determine the premiums for life insurance in eighteenth-century England. Mortality statistics were available but often disputed. Life expectancy was highly variable but generally low. With an increasing number of ships travelling the globe, though, and reliable records of shipwrecks, it was possible to make risk estimates for ordinary travelers going to different parts of the world. Insuring one’s life on a trip to France or Spain was much cheaper than for a voyage to the Bahamas. If you wanted to be insured on a trip to North Carolina it was even more expensive.
The uneasy association of life insurance, gambling, and travel can be seen in early accounts of cheating and fraud. Newspapers caricatured women obsessed with gaming or winning the lottery, who busied themselves with mathematical calculations that would enhance their chances. Insurance fraud perpetuated by traveling women seems to have been particularly feared. Life insurance was not simply for the patient wife left behind while her husband traveled the globe. The images of gambling women were echoed in stories of women who traveled to distant lands, made calculated marriages, bought expensive life insurance policies on their husbands, then moved to another location to repeat the scenario after their husbands had died.
In order for insurance to really take hold as an institution, it was necessary for it to start being regarded by middle-class wage earners as an expenditure that was both virtuous and the personally responsible thing to do. It also had to be understood not as a gamble but as a prudent, risk-averse choice. By the nineteenth century, churches and banks both worked to persuade citizens of their responsibilities to their families. Even mathematicians, who contributed to the development of actuarial tables, were enlisted to sing the virtues of insurance. In his treatise on probability, Pierre Laplace described insurance as “advantageous to morals, in favoring the gentlest tendencies of nature.”
For further reading: Lorraine Daston, Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (1988); John Francis, Annals, Anecdotes, and Legends: A Chronicle of Life Assurance (1853).
Elizabeth C. Goldsmith writes on the history of autobiography, women’s writing, letter correspondences, and travel narrative. Her most recent book is a biography of the sisters Hortense and Marie Mancini, The Kings’ Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna and her sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin. She is Professor Emerita of French Literature at Boston University.
It was very productive. I am trying to be glad of that and not to feel guilty when tomorrow and yesterday prove not to be nearly as productive. Still, I'm going out birding in Texas last week of March, and I'll probably have some evenings free to get some writing done, finish the latest kid's book worth of edits, maybe work on a novella that's been lurking for nearly a year, or even doodle on my iPad. I am feeling that itchy art brain of "MUST DO ART!" but it's slamming into the wall of having to finish the latest hamster book's worth of illustrations. Still, only a few more weeks of hamsters, and then I can draw any weird thing I want!
Really looking forward to that bit. I am very proud of the Hamster books, but they're a serious mental investment. It's worth it, and I'll do as many as they buy, but I want to draw other things for a bit and remember who I am when I'm not a respectable children's book author...
Joe and I were both interested in the movie for several reasons one of which, of course, had been the 'gay controversy' over a moment in the film. We had steadfastly refused to read reviews for fear of learning what the moment was. We did know that it was a moment that had caused a lot of commentary. From people saying it was so brief as to be meaningless, to people saying that Disney was trying to use demonic forces to turn kids gay. We knew the movie had been banned in a couple of countries, because of that moment, and that Russia was so frightened of those few seconds that they'd determined only adults could see it.
But mostly we'd heard dismissals about the moment. The 'it's no big deal' and 'it's 2017 for heavens sake' (a statement that makes no sense at all) came the commentary from 'our side of the aisle.' Whatever it was, this moment, we went in excited to see what all the fuss was about. And then, forgot entirely all about it. The film is lush and beautiful and visually startling even. The music was fun and there were hilarious moments. The girls, who are as fun to watch as the movie itself, were enchanted.
Then, it happened.
And it was just a couple of seconds.
Played for fun.
Presented in humour.
But warmly, very, very, warmly.
It was like a kick in the gut. A moment in a film will not change the world, it might challenge the world, but it won't change it. But a moment in a film can change an individual's experience of the world. It came when I didn't expect it. It came when I was no longer waiting for it. It came like a sucker punch.
I am a 64 year old gay man, who grew up in a world very different than the one I am living in now. I will always be more than my history but my history forms the core of how I see myself in relationship to the world. The years of fear. The years of shadow living. The years of swelling anger. Those years matter. Those years affect my world view.
I don't trust that what is now will be tomorrow.
An election ...
a change in economics ...
an outrageous act by an individual that carries group blame ...
... can change how I exist in this world now.
But ... so can ...
Intentional acts of warmth and welcome.
It was just a fleeting moment. In a Disney movie. About love happening in unexpected places with unexpected people. And true to that theme, a moment happened.
Shedd Aquarium writes:
Following the unexpected lake effect snow showers earlier this week, totaling in five to 10 inches, Shedd Aquarium’s five sea otters – Yaku, Kiana, Mari, Luna and Ellie – celebrated a Chicago snow day this week as animal care experts brought fresh snow into the Regenstein Sea Otter Habitat. In typical “otter-ly” adorable fashion, the Californian and Alaskan sea otters were spotted running, jumping, sliding and rolling in the snow.
Add to the list of new books to read Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, by Cordelia Fine. Feeding my interest in the issue of sexual dimorphism in humans — which we work so hard to teach to children — the book is described like this:
Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men’s and women’s brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men’s brains aren’t wired for empathy and women’s brains aren’t made to fix cars.
Good reviews here and here report that Fine tackles an often-cited study of newborn infants’ sex difference in preferences for staring at things, by Jennifer Connellan and colleagues in 2000. They reported:
…we have demonstrated that at 1 day old, human neonates demonstrate sexual dimorphism in both social and mechanical perception. Male infants show a stronger interest in mechanical objects, while female infants show a stronger interest in the face.
And this led to the conclusion: “The results of this research clearly demonstrate that sex differences are in part biological in origin.” They reached this conclusion by alternately placing Connellan herself or a dangling mobile in front of tiny babies, and timing how long they stared. There is a very nice summary of problems with the study here, which seriously undermine its conclusion.
However, even if the methods were good, this is a powerful example of how a tendency toward difference between males and females is turned into a categorical opposition between the sexes — as in, the “real differences between boys and girls.”
To illustrate this, here’s a graphic look at the results in the article, which were reported in this table:
They didn’t report the whole distribution of boys’ and girls’ gaze-times, but it’s obvious that there is a huge overlap in the distributions, despite a difference in the means. In the mobile-gaze-time, for example, the difference in averages is 9.7 seconds, while the standard deviations are more than 20 seconds. If I turn to my handy normal curve spreadsheet template, and fit it with these numbers, you can see what the pattern might look like (I truncate these at 0 seconds and 70 seconds, as they did in the study):
All I’m trying to say is that the sexes aren’t opposites, even if they have some differences that precede socialization.
If you could show me that the 1-day-olds who stare at the mobiles for 52 seconds are more likely to be engineers when they grow up than the ones who stare at them for 41 seconds (regardless of their gender) then I would be impressed. But absent that, if you just want to use such amorphous differences at birth to explain actual segregation among real adults, then I would not be impressed.
Originally posted in September, 2010.
Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He writes the blog Family Inequality and is the author of The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
Interview with Imogen Robertson
How did you come across this story? What inspired you to write about it?
I knew I wanted a change from the Crowther and Westerman Eighteenth Century crime series I write, and while I was thinking what I might do I came across my Grandmother’s old photo albums. She was born in the 1890s and travelled alone across Europe in the years before the first World War. When she travelled, she carried a sketchbook and looking at her watercolours I began to think about a young, quite inexperienced middle-class girl travelling to Paris to study art and what she might face there and so Maud, my protagonist, was born. Around the same time I stumbled across an article about the floods in Paris of early 1910 when the Seine seemed to revenge itself on the modernity of the city, travelling up the new métro tunnels and sewers to devastate areas far from the river banks. The ground beneath the feet of the Parisians became unstable. I couldn’t resist that setting for a novel of intrigue and betrayal.
What were your main sources for your research? How did you organize everything? (That is, got any tips for fellow writers?)
I started with a lot of reading, browsing through the newspapers for eyewitness accounts and telling details, looking for the things I didn’t know I didn’t know! I found all sorts of leads, odds and ends which became important for the novel, a Parisian charity for impoverished English and American women appealing for funds for example. Libraries can’t tell you everything though. I was lucky enough to spend time with an artist trained in the same way Maud would have been, and listening to her talk about art as well as just being in her studio was a huge help. I also got to handle some very lovely diamonds! And of course I went to Paris. I met an American writer who lives there, David Downie, and he and his wife took me on a wonderful tour of secret corners perfect for the novel which I would never have found on my own. In terms of organisation, I write up my research longhand – seems to sink in better that way – and gather bundles of images on the computer. It’s never as well organised as I would like though.
What were the biggest challenges you faced either in the research, the writing, or structuring the plot?
I always struggle to leave the research alone and get writing! Hanging around in libraries or with artists and diamond dealers is too much fun. One thing I’ve learnt though is that every novel has its own unique set of problems and there is no way to avoid bumping up against them. Sometimes it’s the crucial detail you need isn’t there in the research, sometimes it’s that a character changes on the page and suddenly your plot doesn’t work any more. It drives me mad, but I think if I found it easy now – research, writing or structure, I’d worry I wasn’t working hard enough.
Every writer has to leave something on the cutting floor. What’s on yours?
Ah, well in this case it was quite dramatic, I left about a third of the novel behind! I had a modern parallel narrative on the go in my first to third drafts, a young woman discovering the story of Maud and the mysteries of her time in Paris. I loved her, but the push and pull of moving between times was simply not working in this novel. After talking it over with my editor, I realised I had to keep the whole story in the Belle Époque, and cut about thirty thousand words. It was a frightening afternoon, but after that the rewriting was a pleasure and the story of Maud and her struggles had the room it needed to deepen and grow.
Tag you’re it! What historical fiction author do you most admire? Why? Now forward these questions to him/her and we’ll share their answers next week!
I’m tagging M J Carter who is the author of the Blake and Avery adventure stories as well as being a distinguished historian. Her writing is vivid and pacy, her understanding of her characters subtle and acute and her fast-paced plotting makes for a really engaging and satisfying read.
Imogen Robertson was born in Darlington and studied German and Russian at Caius College, Cambridge. After some years directing TV, film and radio she became a full time writer on winning the Telegraph’s ‘First thousand words of a novel’ competition in 2007. Since then she has written five novels in the Westerman and Crowther crime series which is set in the late 18th century, beginning with ‘Instruments of Darkness’ in 2009. The latest volume in the series, ‘Theft of Life’, is set in London against the background of the transatlantic slave trade. She has also written ‘The Paris Winter’ – a novel of betrayal and revenge set in the late Belle Époque. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger three times and is currently Chair of the Historical Writers’ Association.
Missed our previous Five for Friday? Read last week’s interview with Ed O’Loughlin. Want to binge read our interviews with fantastic authors? Check out our interviews with Sophia Tobin, Georgia Hunter, Anna Mazola, Essie Fox, Ami McKay, and Eva Stachniak.
a) be used to people with disabilities using elevators because, um, chairs can't do stairs
b) they'd have grown used to the idea that there was a higher likelihood of seeing someone who needed elevators on elevators
but you'd be wrong.
Apparently we are always a surprise.
So, I wait. There are two basic reactions, the 'vampire' and the 'werewolf.' Here's how they work. Those who upon the opening of the door see me and fling themselves back into the elevator bathing themselves in the light of the small room - they've had the 'you are a vampire' reaction. Those who upon the opening of the door see me begin to dash around in the elevator, out of the elevator, back in the elevator, bounce from one side to the other - they've had the 'you are a werewolf' reaction.
Funny, once or twice years ago, tiresome now. I'm just wanting to get on the freaking elevator.
There is one elevator that I use a lot where I've developed a bit of a strategy. It's a small elevator that opens into a darkish space. I wait off to the side but when the door opens, I am in place. I just immediately speak, before they react. "Go there," I say firmly but without anger or upset, and point to the spot where they need to go. They do, always, kind of grateful because their nasty shock upon seeing a person in a wheelchair at an elevator, has taken away their ability to reason through how to use space. Then when they are in place, I pull in to the elevator and then they can pass by me and head out the door.
Yesterday when I did this, the woman who got off the elevator and went to where I pointed, waited as I pulled in and she said with a smile in her voice, "it's kind of like dance moves."
I said that it was.
I didn't add because it would have made sense to none but me, "The Monster Mash."
Well, nothing of interest is happening except that I am pacing the floor waiting for someone to tell me Dogskull Patch will never be mine. And I have six more weeks of this! Arrghhbleghhhh....!
Wintersowing technique worked great for everything but peppers and tomatoes. Those died in our recent cold snap. Fortunately I have back ups!
Dogs continue to dog. Cats continue to cat. Kevin continues to Kevin. I continue to me. That's all.