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Showing posts from September 25, 2011

The Failure of Marriage -- Writer's Poke #324

If you knew before you began that your statistical chance of failure was 40%, would you still dive in? Considering the fact that the divorce rate in the United States has been around 40% for years now, isn’t it surprising that the institution of marriage hasn’t gone extinct? And at least in the United States, couples continue to subscribe to the fantasy that marriage is about commitment and love. Ideally, maybe, but when the going gets tough, the weak get divorces. Maybe it would be more appropriate for commitment and love to come with expiration dates, because quite frankly, who can say with any sense of certainty that the person you commit to loving this week is the same person you can remain committed to and love for the next 65 years?

Marriage is the ultimate leap of faith in a society than no longer believes. So why do the majority of couples continue to tie the knot? Simple: knots can always be cut later. Well, except in Vatican City and the Philippines, two places in the worl…

The World Before 1973 -- Writer's Poke #323

In 1973, Bobby Riggs challenged the top-rated women’s tennis player to a match, and he easily defeated her: 6-2, 6-1. To add insult to injury, the match occurred on Mother’s Day.

Today, who remembers that match or Riggs’ opponent, Margaret Court? But people still remember the match Riggs had the following September. If Riggs could so handily defeat the #1 female player in the world, surely he could defeat Billie Jean King.

Riggs was 55, and King was 29, but his defeat of Court, 30, proved that age was no obstacle to “male superiority.” King had won back-to-back Wimbledon titles, and while Riggs had won Wimbledon himself, his victory occurred in 1939.

Unlike Riggs’ match with Court, the Riggs-King match would follow standard tennis rules – three sets to win. And King was understandably worried. If she lost the match, she felt like “it would set us back 50 years.” In other words, King wasn’t just playing an exhibition match; she was playing as a representative of the entire female gend…

Why Talk about It? -- Writer's Poke #322

So women don’t actually talk more than men. Chew on that idea for a minute. According to a generally-accepted stereotype, women do talk more than men, but according to Deborah Tannen, women actually engage more in “rapport talk,” whereas men prefer “report talk.” And in the end, women do not talk more than men.

Tannen observes that men are more apt to talk in public. I find this to be an intriguing notion, and it makes me wonder if that is why female public speakers appear more “masculine.” I always assumed, for example, that Hillary Rodham Clinton gets the “masculine” label because she is a strong woman, but perhaps she is a strong woman because she speaks in the public (e.g. male) sphere. Note, too, that a woman like Clinton is not engaging in the “rapport” style of communication, either, which may explain why critics view her as “cold” or “frigid,” terms not as often used to describe men, to be sure.

What are words for? Seems like such an easy question, but “to communicate” is n…

All Boy -- Writer's Poke #321

If gender is socially constructed, then our definition of what it means to be “all boy” is obviously made up. You and I and everyone in society have developed an unspoken definition, and every boy learns what it means to be a boy. Or at least boys do their best to pretend that they know.

Why can’t a boy have a purse? I remember asking my mom for a purse when I was in grade school, and I was old enough to “know better.” My mom told me as much, but then she took me purse shopping. I certainly didn’t want a feminine purse. What I was looking for was something “masculine” in appearance. I figured carrying a purse was little different than lugging around a backpack, and I found a small all-black purse that had a number of compartments – useful for carrying around pens and candy and gum and army men and so on. As soon as mom bought it, however, I knew that I could never use it, and it ended up being forgotten in the back of mom’s closet.

Why can’t a boy’s bicycle have a basket? My cousin’…