Sexist men?

Salon's Rebecca Traister has a great takedown of some new research that shows, astoundingly, that men objectify women in bikinis!.  The horror.  Traister:

Researchers performed brain scans on 21 heterosexual men and found that
such sexy images light up the part of their brains associated with
tools or other things that "you manipulate with your hands" (like,
boobs!). Lead researcher Susan Fiske of Princeton University said
"it's as if they immediately thought to act on theses bodies" and
observed, "They're reacting to these women as if they're not fully

The study doesn't suggest that men philosophically determine all
scantily clad women to be "things," treat bikini-wearing women like
objects or are incapable of seeing women as both sexual and
animate. It simply found that a barely there get-up meant to display
the female body tends to trigger in men a simplistic sexual response…

Another of the study's the-sky-is-blue findings is that of the array of
images shown to the men — including shots of fully clothed men and
women — they most remembered the photos of the half-naked women. Also
unsurprising, although interesting nonetheless, is that men who were
deemed to be "hostile sexists" based on their answers to a
questionnaire showed no activity in the region of the brain associated
with "social cognition" when viewing snapshots of the beach-ready
women. In other words: Men with loads of anger toward the opposite sex
"are not thinking about [the women's] minds," said Fiske. Sadly, much
of the media coverage I've seen has generalized that finding to suggest
that it was generally true for the male subjects.

There's been lots of really interesting research on the brain and sex and differences in response between men and women (see Bonk by Mary Roach), but this particular research, seems to tell us little other than the authors' political agenda. 

Angry White Men

My Congressman, David Price of NC's 4th District, has been holding a series of Town Hall meetings this week, so I thought it would be interesting to head to the meeting in Cary last night.  It was fascinating as both a Political Scientist and amateur sociologist.  My observations:

  • As you might gather from the title of this post, if there was any overall theme, it was lots of middle-aged and older angry white men.  The typical questioner of Rep Price was a white guy much more interested in a libertarian rant against government than asking any questions.  I was surprised nobody asked about the gold standard.
  • A little learning is a dangerous thing.  What was so fascinating and disturbing was the number of people who had just picked up on GOP talking points from Rush, Sean Hannity, etc., but had actually no idea what they were talking about.  "This stimulus is just the first step to the government taking over our health care!"  As any intelligent reader of this blog knows, we need way more government involvement in health care, but the stimulus bill's funding of comparative efficacy research is not exactly that (see this one of Ezra Klein's many great posts on the matter).  If I had asked Price a question it would have been, "how can you keep listening to these morons and be so civil about it?"
  • Cary is not the most diverse community around, but it was pretty amazing to see a room of roughly 400 people and probably no more than 5% non-White.  It was also interesting that while
  • Though the questions actually were mostly from angry men, the audience was probably 30-40% men, but no more than 20% of the people in line to ask questions were women.  Just thought the willingness (or desire) to ask a question in this environment showed an interesting gender difference.  

I had brought a magazine in case I got bored, but it was really interesting just listening to all this and seeing how Price responded.  Some of the questioners were really quite obnoxious and I was surprised at the amounts of both boos and cheers I heard from the audience.  All around great political fun.


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