Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Eggs, the gift that keeps on giving

According to the Stem Cell Guidelines Issued by a board of scientists and ethicists, women should no longer be paid for their eggs. However, according to the board there is nothing wrong with making a gift of one's eggs, and they can reuse them indefinitely! Katie previously posted on the issue of women being paid for eggs and the corresponding problems, which is partly what led the board to this decision. However, I can still sell my eggs for about $6000 a pop (up to 6 times safely according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine). They like to recruit us hyper-educated types. Kieran's post today has a sample of his forthcoming book and the issues involved in selling/donating one's organs or blood, which is obliquely related so I mention it. Commodification of, harvesting of, gifts of...body parts, it's all so fascinating. What do you fertility researchers make of this?

Update: Link to Katie's previous post now works.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Race and Genomics

On the resourceful Sociologists for Women in Society listserv, Barrie Thorne pointed to the Race and Genomics discussion being addressed on the Social Science Research Council site. They are responses to an article written March 15, 2005 by Dr. Armand Leroi about "race" being a genetic/scientific reality. Two responses are from Troy Duster, ASA President, and Ann Morning, also a sociologist.

This is a must read for social scientists researching/teaching with "race" in mind. It would be a fantastic teaching tool as well.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Grad Students at Yale and Columbia Strike

UIUC, after many years of organizing, unionized and got a contract in the last couple of years, a topic on which I blogged. From discussions in the comments of this post, it looks like soc grads at Wisconsin could take some of these complaints to their union, which led the grad employee union movement by organizing in 1969. Unions have grievance procedures which would strongly encourage that many working grievances be addressed if the department is really of no help.

Our fellow grads at Yale and Columbia are striking to be recognized as a union. You can Take Action: Freedom of Association is a Human Right! and send a letter to the administrations of these fine institutions of higher learning in support of graduate employee's right to be recognized.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Desperation: Attempts for Attention

Here's (Democratic Underground Forums - College Conservatives raffle off an assault rifle) a discussion undergrads are having on this issue. I didn't realize The Observer was in such need for funds. They know how to get attention.

I love the picture of Marx on the upper left side of the forum. This conservative journal has accused a sociologist of being a Marxist. So funny, as if that is an insult, even though it wasn't correct.

UPDATE: I walked by the protest/raffle. It was a great mix of protesters. While I was walking by, the guy with the microphone said he didn't think the feminists with posters (men too) were really feminists, if they know the argument already. The chanting got louder. I'm sure there were more protesters than those from an explicitly feminist persuasion, but I didn't have time to read all the posters as I had to meet a student. I saw one of my former students, too.

UPDATE 2: The argument that increased gun-ownership reduces crime is a fallacy as Brayden points out on Pub Sociology. Kieran also points to Tim Lambert's discussions on this issue, who has contributed to the methodological shredding of the research supporting this thesis.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gun Raffle

I received this email today, which I am going to post here:

Hello, Quoting the president of the RSO the Orange and Blue observer, "If more women carried firearms, there would be fewer cases of rape."On Thursday, April 14, the Orange and Blue Observer will be raffling off 3 semi-automatic handguns to display their constitutional right to bear arms as well as their contention with the Illinois laws prohibiting citizens from carrying concealed weapons. Shocking though it may seem, their actions are completely legal, and the only recourse we as students have is to protest their actions, acknowledging them to be extreme distortions of the concepts of safety and self-defense. Two weeks ago, when the OBO raffled off an AK-47, we were able to rally together students within 2 hours to protest. ..Please help us increase our numbers and strengthen the protest against deadly weapons --without safety training-- on our campus.

Quoting both the Daily Illini and the Orange and Blue Observer, here's the other side of the story:"If more women carried firearms, there would be fewer cases of rape"'"God made man and woman," Observer Editor Leo Buchignani said. "Smith and Wesson made them equal. For the first time in history, handguns neutralize the male strength advantage over women. I don't understand why all feminists don't arm themselves." The Observer held the "Defense of the 2nd Amendment" to protest Illinois' gun laws, some of the strictest in the nation. These laws cause hundreds of preventable rapes, murders and robberies. Gun laws hurt vulnerable groups like inner city communities, minorities and women the most because they are most in danger from predators. The Observer feels gun law is a moral issue and protests the immoral Illinois gun law regime." (End of Email)

First, I would like to applaud the students who are protesting for getting that together so quickly. I am happy to know that people are mobilizing against this. Maybe I am just naive, but I can't believe this is occurring on a college campus. Is it necessary for any college student to have an AK-47? I am also shocked that this group is using feminism as its basis for why people should be able to carry concealed weapons. The answer to violence against women IS NOT to give everyone guns without training or permits. How about the obvious other answer: work to restructure society in a way that violence against women is reported and the perpetrators are prosecuted. If violence against women wasn't tolerated (or in some ways sanctioned) by society, maybe it would occur less. The Observer believes that carrying guns is a moral issue, and that Illinois has an immoral gun law. WHOSE MORALS? Who defines moral rights? We do live in a violent society, however, I do not believe the answer to this is more violence. I know the gun debate will probably never end, this is just another chapter. I am actually too flustered right now to get together the sociological argument against this (if someone wants to help with this, please comment). I just want to be on the record stating that this is the most disturbing thing that I've encountered on this campus since I arrived two years ago....

PS - I know I'll get nasty comments on this post, so bring them on.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Some of America's Richest Say 'No, Thanks' to Bush Tax Cuts

Some of America's Richest Say 'No, Thanks' to Bush Tax Cuts

Film: Voices in War Time


Friday, April 08, 2005

Q: What's an example of Institutional Racism?

Sports writer Greg Couch from the Chicago Sun Times went where no one wanted to go this season, to the "Chief" controversy in Where's the Chief? Illinois must decide. He even consulted a sociologist apparently.

His article outlines the bureaucratic process of how institutional racism works, tabling, debating, "honoring" justifications, and ultimately no change. Meanwhile the number of American Indian students on campus are few. Some of them have made their positions clear that they do not support the "Chief." But what the controversy does, is makes them politicized before they even get here. University education is challenging enough not to have to be a spokesperson for a movement against racism. Charlene Teters, the graduate student who energized the movement, was motivated in part through her position as a mother and wanting her children to understand and be proud of their heritage. Here we are 15 years later with a movement, but no institutional change within the university.

So my question: If you know many American Indians do not feel "honored" by a mascot, and in fact feel your "reverence" is a covert racism given your refusal to listen to what they want (no more "Chief"), why would you continue to support it if you are genuinely interested in offering honor and reverence? Wouldn't honor and reverence be better expressed, for example, through scholarships for American Indians - living people - rather than standing at half-time to "honor" an empty symbol of school spirit?

Ideas for other mascots have been the "Prairie Fire," "Orange Crush" (the name of the super-student-fan-block), and I'm sure there are others I haven't heard.

UPDATE: Here is a link to a post on a sociologist's rather new blog, Smidgen of Truth (added to the blogroll), on loving sports and hating racist mascots. I concur. It's baseball season and the Cubs need a closer!!!!

Shaky Political Coalitions: Christians and Conservatives*

After the last election cycle, conservatism took on a whole new religious meaning. We think less of simply the "right" but more so of the "religious right." With instances like the Schiavo case, pharmacists refusing to give birth control for moral reasons, missionary zeal to spread "freedom" and "democracy," it has seemed at times like this theocratic impulse might make some deep and lasting impressions on the current American democratic formation.

Just when disbelief is about to become the normal emotion when reading the news, those pesky Christians start making some noise for another cause. No, not on reproductive politics or another war. This time it's about poverty and justice.

Eric Schlosser's op-ed
A Side Order of Human Rights discusses the boycott of Taco Bell and the groups involved:
At first Taco Bell tried to ignore the protests and to deny responsibility for the behavior of its suppliers. "We don't believe it's our place to get involved in another company's labor dispute," Jonathan Blum, the Yum Brands executive, said in an interview with The New Yorker. Asked about the possible link between slavery in Florida and Taco Bell's food, Mr. Blum replied, "It's heinous, but I don't think it has anything to do with us." The company's attitude gradually changed as the boycott gained support not only from students, but also from the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the National Council of Churches, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and former President Jimmy Carter, among others. (Disclosure: I supported the boycott, too, and spoke out on behalf of the coalition.)

With coalition members conducting hunger strikes and staging demonstrations in front of Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, Calif., it seemed increasingly unwise for the nation's leading purveyor of Mexican food to be publicly linked with the exploitation of poor Mexicans. And the coalition's wage demand was by no means outrageous. It was asking for a pay raise of one penny for every pound of tomatoes picked - the first major wage increase in Immokalee since the late 1970's.

As part of the agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers last month, Taco Bell vowed to help "improve working and pay conditions for farm workers in the Florida tomato fields." It promised to give the penny per pound increase to its Florida suppliers, so that migrant wages could be raised by that amount. It invited the coalition to monitor the new labor policies. And it said it would reward those suppliers that treat farm workers well. The penny-per-pound supplement will nearly double the wages of migrants picking tomatoes for Taco Bell. And though there is some debate about the final cost to Yum Brands, the figure will most likely be a few hundred thousand dollars a year - not a huge sum for a fast food company with annual sales of about $9 billion worldwide.

Servitude and exploitation continuing on in the U.S. taken on by none other than the students, the christians, and the few politicians. Dorothy Day would be pleased, I think. So the radical Christians are still out there working for economic justice. OK.

Then there are the disenchanted conservatives tiring of their patience for the continued infringment of religion into the government and personal lives.
Common Dreams
WASHINGTON -- The controversy over Terri Schiavo has raised concerns among many Americans about the moral agenda of the Republican Party and the political power of conservative Christians, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.

In the survey, most Americans disapprove of the efforts by President Bush and Congress to draw federal courts into the dispute over treatment of the brain-damaged Florida woman. She died last week.

Some old stereotypes about the two parties have been reversed:

* By 55%-40%, respondents say Republicans, traditionally the party of limited government, are “trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans” on moral values.
* By 53%-40%, they say Democrats, who sharply expanded government since the Depression, aren't trying to interfere on moral issues.

The debate over Schiavo has spotlighted the central role “values” issues — abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage and the right to live or die — now play in politics.

Mark Rozell, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia who studies religion and politics, says the case has created a “clear backlash.”

“It's one thing to look at religious conservatives as part of a broad coalition that makes up the Republican Party,” he says. “It's entirely another if people think that religious conservatives are calling the shots in the Bush administration for what was a deeply personal situation.”

What's happening here? Are the less conservative christians, who have always been around doing their activism for issues like poverty, not so excited with the way the "religious right" is using christianity politically? Are less religious conservatives disenchanted with the federal government's long fingers reaching into our most private affairs? This was an unhappy marriage from the start. Let the backlash ensue; this is what my dreams are made of.

*The idea from this post came from a discussion with a professor (who wanted no credit, although this has been an argument of hers I think for quite some time) and another graduate student.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and Reproductive Politics

Blagojevich took a stand against health care discrimination. Great! I can still get birth control without a pharmacist refusing to fill my doctor's prescription.* We aren't a theocratic "handmaid's" nightmare, yet!

* However, my not having babies is the cause of much of my family's displeasure (mostly cousins who pepper me with baby questions, attempts at guilt trips, biological clock talk, etc, to the point where I just say I'm not having kids p-e-r-i-o-d. I won't say how young I am (you might not take me seriously anymore;-), but I'm fairly young with plenty of time to be child-free.) This isn't even the Catholic side of the family.** They are pretty reasonable and stay out of my business.
UPDATE**As a footnote to my footnote, I should point out that when I was married (really young) in the Catholic church I signed some paper (knowing full well I wouldn't do one of these and maybe I wouldn't do either) saying I would have kids and that I'd raise them Catholic. I thought for sure, if there is a hell, I'm going. Catholic Guilt! Maybe I'll see you there; we'll chat.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Go Illini!

With 36 hours to go, I need to give a shout out to the team: GO ILLINI!! (And woohoo to my old student cheerleader who has been on TV 8 million times!)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Opportunities Lost

Has anyone else noticed that – amidst all the recent media discussion of the Schiavo case – barely anyone has brought up the issue of euthanasia? Had a quick and painless death through euthanasia been available, her doctors and husband would have had an option beyond those, I would argue inhumane, options at their disposal, i.e., allowing her to live in a ‘vegetative’ state and suffering a slow and painful death. Why hasn’t this case resurrected this particular debate in the mainstream media? The answer is probably pretty obvious, but I still think it’s worth politicizing 'obvious' problems.

I also noticed that another aspect of this case was poorly problematized in the media coverage, namely the events that lead to her condition. How many of you know that the low potassium levels Terri suffered -- which caused her heart to stop and ultimately culminated in her brain damage – were likely caused by her long struggle with bulimia? Wouldn’t this have been a wonderful opportunity to educate the public about the possible consequences of starving your body (I’m not horribly cruel, so I’ll avoid making explicit the obvious irony here)? How many people watch these news stories? And how many of those suffer from eating disorders? And, of these, how many would have sought treatment after seeing image after horrifying image of Terri visually juxtaposed to images of her before this all happened? Obviously, the media (bosses, or whatever) wanted to portray her as an innocent victim. Which, I think she was – at the very least a ‘victim’ of our cultural obsession with weight. And sure, I buy the argument that eating disorders are often about the ‘need to have control’ as they like to say. But, in our society this increasing need to have control (which can be argued is a result of living in an alienating, highly individualist and competitive society such as ours) happens to manifest itself in practices that result in body disfigurement … which brings us back to the cultural obsession with weight, which is drilled into our brains every time we do any TV or web surfing …