Welcome to the Shapely Prose Archive!

Doesn’t that headline sound nicer than this?

But yeah, it basically means the same thing.

If you’re looking for more information on Kate, you’ll find it at kateharding.info. Otherwise, please enjoy exploring the archives using the drop-down menus at right.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s been a part of this community for the last three years. So much.

Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Has Earned My Vote

For context, read the preface.

1) She is the most qualified candidate, period, just in terms of her résumé.

Even leaving off everything up to the early ’90s, she’s had a front-row seat for two successful Presidential campaigns, and mounted a very strong campaign for the Democratic nomination. She lived in the White House for 8 years, and traveled around the world with the president. Where other First Ladies have mostly chosen politically inoffensive charity work to occupy their time, she made developing a universal health care plan her pet project. (It did not go well, mostly because the country wasn’t even ready to talk about that. We can talk about it as easily as we do now because she brought it to the national stage 20 years ago.) When she ran for senator, a lot of people argued she’d gotten above her station, since they believed the non-office of FLOTUS was mostly a matter of “serving tea to ambassadors.” She was elected anyway, and served as senator of a state with a diverse population of nearly 20 million people, including a city of 8 million. Then, when she ran for president in 2008, the “serving tea” line came around again, regarding her lack of substantive foreign policy experience. So you know what Hillary Clinton did? Hillary Clinton got the man who was her rival mere moments before to make her Secretary of Fucking State.

2) Please append “and she did it while enduring vicious, relentless, often ludicrous attacks from the right” to basically every accomplishment I mention here. She’s been vetted beyond belief. There really was a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and she survived it. She’s still surviving it. She doesn’t fall down. She doesn’t even wobble.

3) She’s nakedly ambitious. This is a frequent criticism of her, as though it’s a quality some other candidates for President of the United States lack. Personally, I love it. I love seeing what it looks like when a woman refuses to be told what she cannot do, again and again, at higher and higher levels.

4) She has a brilliant mind. Even her opponents acknowledge this.

5) I believe she sincerely cares about women, children, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, queer people. I believe she cares, in a bone-deep way, about improving lives. I can’t prove this, obviously—I’ve never even met her. But I believe it, and I think that’s one of the biggest differences between me and a lot of people who agree with me politically on a zillion points, but can’t stand her.

If you believe she’s a slick narcissist/sociopath who cares about nothing but gaining power for its own sake, of course you’re not going to vote for her. If you believe her real interests lie only with the 1%, or that she’s by nature a warmonger, of course you should oppose her. I don’t believe those things. And you’d think that would be too obvious to mention, but a lot of folks seem to think I just don’t know much about her, or haven’t given the “evidence” for their animosity toward her enough thought.

I know. I have. And still, I reject the idea that she’s secretly Cruella de Vil. I find her both genuinely likable and as sincere as any politician—which is to say, not entirely by a long shot, but close enough on the things that matter most to me. Perhaps history will show that I was hopelessly naïve. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I know as much about her as a stranger can. This is my conclusion.

6) She is not her husband. To be fair, I voted for him once, and though I was two months shy of my 18th birthday the first time he ran for president, I would have voted for him then. But today, if Bernie were running against a Bill Clinton who hadn’t already served two terms, I would probably vote for Bernie.

Some will say this proves that that if you made Hillary a man, I wouldn’t vote for her. Sound the reverse sexism klaxon and declare a winner! (Hint: It’s not the woman.) I would refer those so inclined back to my opening remarks about developing a deep understanding of sexism before you can discuss this election knowledgeably.

If you made Hillary a man, she would not be Bill Clinton. She would still be an entirely different person from him (albeit one who lacks personal experience of sexism and the embodied experience of being a woman, which are among the many things I do find worth considering). Failing to recognize that a husband and wife are two separate people, and that it’s accordingly possible to admire one more than the other, is a really basic, 101-level sexist foul. (Yes, even when they ran on a “two-for-one” platform more than 20 years ago, when she was not the candidate.)

7) Related: She has never been president before. Again, you’d think this was too obvious to mention, but I swear, people act like they’re confused about it. She was not president in the ’90s. “The Clintons” were not president. William Jefferson Clinton was. Hillary did not sign bills into law. She did not hold executive power. She did not fuck Monica Lewinsky. As you’ve gathered by now, I think she would make an excellent president, so I would love to see her do that, instead of watching people simultaneously claim the FLOTUS years produced no accomplishments she can call her own and that she’s already had her turn at the wheel.

8) She does her homework like Hermione Granger on an Adderall bender. What this means is that even if I don’t always agree with her decisions (which I surely will not), I trust that they’ll be thoroughly considered by a sharp mind. It’s something a lot of people, including me, appreciate about President Obama. I look forward to eight more years of the same baseline level of assurance that my president is not A) dumber than me or B) prone to going off half-cocked. We’re all still smarting from the W years.

9) She’s the best candidate on women’s issues. Disagree with me if you like (quietly, to yourself, or anywhere that’s not in my Twitter mentions), but here are some reasons why I believe this.

For starters, if you look at both Clinton and Sanders’s “women’s issues” pages, you’ll see they both promise to do very similar things as president, but Clinton’s also includes a section on what she’s already done. She’s bulletproof on choice, was first to say that she’ll move to repeal the Hyde amendment, and has been the only candidate to bring up abortion or the recent political and physical attacks on Planned Parenthood during a debate. She’s worked domestically and globally to end sexual violence against women and has made one promise regarding campus sexual assault prevention at home that I find really noteworthy: to “increase… education programs that cover issues like consent and bystander intervention, not only in college, but also in secondary school.” It’s the secondary school thing that matters, because a review of 140 sexual assault prevention programs found only two actually worked, and both were aimed at junior high and high school students, not college students. This tells me she’s up to date on best practices, and ready to make policy accordingly.

During her confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, Clinton said,

Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to help millions of oppressed people around the world. And of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women’s rights in every country on every continent.

And then, after she was confirmed, the Obama administration created an Office on Global Women’s Issues (reporting to Clinton) and… well, pop over to the Center for American Progress and read about everything that happened for women while she was Secretary of State.

She wants to close the pay gap, invest in child care, and raise the minimum wage. She recognizes the economic damage that bad parental and family leave policies create, and there’s no doubt in my mind she’ll prioritize exposing and resisting the many ways that mothers—and plenty of other people, but let’s be real, mostly mothers—get fucked in the workplace. (I’m not a mother, so I think maybe, possibly, I’m allowed to say that without being accused of talking out my vagina.) I’m going to move on to the next point now, but believe me, I could say a lot more on this one.

10) I cannot imagine anyone who has a better handle on global and domestic affairs than she does. In some ways, this is just reiterating number 1, but it’s not only about a list of accomplishments—it’s about the breadth of knowledge she’s accumulated in that time. Think of all the things she simply won’t need explained to her. That frees up time to get things done—and to learn about new things, and delve into old things with a degree of depth and nuance not available to someone who first needs to be brought up to speed.

11) She has a history of admitting mistakes and, where possible, correcting them. Her vote on the war in Iraq. Gay marriage. Her support of her husband’s disastrous 1994 crime bill. Republicans (and not a few on the left) call this flip-flopping, as though we should prefer someone who reaches the age of 68 without ever changing her mind. Everyone makes mistakes—sometimes grave ones—and that goes double for politicians. What I care about is whether you can recognize that, chip away at your own biases, update your thinking, and do better every day. I think she can and she does.

12) At this writing, the Five Thirty-Eight “Endorsement Primary”—measuring support from congressional representatives, senators, and governors—has Clinton with 466 points, Bernie Sanders with 2, and no Republican candidate with more than 65. The negative take is that that proves she’s “Establishment” as all get-out. The positive take is that the people she’s going to have to work with to make anything happen as president like her a hell of a lot more than anybody else who’s running.

13) I believe she can wipe the floor with any of the Republican candidates in the general election. Obviously, that’s not something anyone can predict with absolute certainty, but I think there’s a great deal of evidence to that effect, from her résumé to her debate skills to her long history of fending off Republican attacks with a fly swatter and a heavy sigh. A lot of Americans truly hate her, beyond all reason. I recognize this. I still think it’s a safe bet she can win easily.

14) Contrary to Rush Limbaugh’s prediction, I love watching her age in public. We so rarely get to see any woman do that.

15) Because her mother was born before American women could vote, and Hillary was born before they could get their own credit, serve on juries, or access reliable birth control. Before they could file a report about sexual harassment in the workplace or rape in the marital bed. When Hillary was born, there had been zero female graduates of Yale Law, only one elected female senator, zero female Secretaries of State, and, ahem, zero female U.S. presidents. And check out the career path she took anyway.

16) Because fuck everyone who ever said she couldn’t or shouldn’t.

17) Because she’s a woman.

Preface to a Blog Post Titled “Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Has Earned My Vote”

Shapely Prose is dead; long live Shapely Prose! This place felt righter than any to drop a couple of passionate pro-Hillary blog posts, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who knew me in 2008. Unlike 2008, I will not be dealing with comments, and I will not write a zillion more blog posts after this, telling myself each time that it’s the definitive one. I’m back for two posts only, and then the closed sign goes back up. 

First, please note how I said “my vote,” not yours, in the title. I’ve been asked repeatedly to lay out the reasons why I support her in one place, so that’s what I’m about to do. This is not “Why You, Person I May or May Not Know, Should Vote for Hillary or Eternally Lose My Good Will.” It is simply a long (but by no means exhaustive) list of reasons why I, Kate Harding, would gladly cast a vote for her in the primaries, except I live in a caucus state now and am going to be in England on Super Tuesday. 😫😫😫

I’m trying to resist the temptation to add a lot of disclaimers, because frankly, I’m tired of that being the expectation. In a post titled “Why I’m Supporting Hillary with Joy and without Apologies,” Joan Walsh covers the whole “there are reasonable reasons not to support her” and “of course you don’t have to vote for a woman to be a feminist” thing. So did Katha Pollitt, in a post titled Why I’m Ready—and Excited—for Hillary.” So did the New York Times in their endorsement of her. If you really don’t know the answer to questions about whether Hillary supporters are actually coming for Bernie supporters’ feminist cards, or whether women who have been voting and watching Hillary Clinton in public life for decades are aware that she voted for the Iraq war in 2002, supported Goldwater when she was 16, has engaged on different levels with a great many nasty rich people, et fucking cetera, the answers you seek are but a Google away.

I’m not going to declare that I’m not apologizing, or I’m not ashamed, because it pisses me off that so many liberals and progressives have decided that should be the default position for anyone who likes one of the most accomplished and admired women in the world. In history. I reject that framework entirely.

Today, ostensibly left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald—author of a much-shared article declaring aggressive, Clinton-hating “Bernie Bros” non-existent, based on the truly puzzling data point that they don’t flood the Twitter mentions of white male Sanders supporters—tweeted a link to a 2008 post by my friend Rebecca Traister.

It’s a great post, and you should read it. Hell, if you get a chance to read anything by Rebecca, I highly recommend it. The entire book she wrote about women and the 2008 election, for instance, is terrific.

But Greenwald—who “believed [in 2002] that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to,” that Greenwald—in tweeting out the Traister link, was not trying to demonstrate that virulent sexism among progressives has existed at least since 2008. He was trying to demonstrate that there’s a narrative that’s been around since at least 2008. A narrative feminists push in every primary that has a serious woman candidate, so, you know, the last two.

Ostensibly left-wing journalist Matt Taibbi explained:

“Yes, it’s as though sexism on the left were still a thing,” said Traister. And me, and every female activist who’s ever been shouted down by a bunch of guys who are not even the slightest bit sexist but just really need to tell certain objectively ignorant, whiny, overreacting, time-wasting women to get on board or GTFO.

Rebecca and I and a lot of other women complained about it coming from Obama supporters in 2008 because it did. For a lot of us, the Bernie Bros are Obama Bros redux: (mostly) young (mostly) men who are aggressive in their hatred of Clinton and their need to ejaculate that hatred in the direction of any woman who publicly supports her. What amuses me, as someone going through the same shit for the second time, is that even the arguments are practically identical. Clinton’s a monster for all the usual reasons, but her opponent is a true progressive who is going to do a million glorious things the “establishment candidate” never could.

The main difference this time is that her opponent has a legitimate claim to being slightly more progressive. Last time, she was running against her political twin (save for one vote that happened before he was a senator), who just happened to be far savvier about using progressive rhetoric. (I mean, we all understand this now, right?) If I have to get screamed at again that she’s “business as usual” while her opponent is poised to spearhead a revolution, at least this time the candidates are 7% different on the issues.

Anyway, If you’re still with me, now I’m going to completely blow your mind: Sexism on the left wasn’t born in 2008. It’s even older than that. Just like racism on the left! Racism and sexism on the left are both really, really fucking old!

I tell you all of this for two reasons:

1) Because it’s the immediate context in which my brain is forming the words before you right now, hence ongoing subtext of “grrrrrrrrrrrr” in a post that’s meant to be positive.

2) Because if you don’t get that sexism exists on the left and everywhere else—I mean, really, really get it—you can’t make a fully informed argument for or against either of the two Democratic candidates running right now.

Saying “gender doesn’t factor into my decision at all” or “gender doesn’t matter to me,” is, in fact, sexist. Gender matters to you because you are a citizen of a society where gender matters a great deal in ways large and small, spoken and unspoken. You are a citizen of a society that openly scorns ambitious women, women with power, women who act decisively, women who dare to get older, women who don’t fucking care if you like it. You are a citizen of a society that has never had a woman president, that until 2008 had never seen a woman win a single primary, and that is not an accident. Gender matters.

No, it’s not the only thing that matters, and I fucking resent that I feel obliged to say that because OBVIOUSLY it’s not the only thing that matters, and the constant demands that we spell that out are, yes, also inherently sexist. The message is, “Since you brought up gender, please immediately clarify that you are not some crazy bitch whose political positions are a centimeter deep.” See, if you assume that feminist commentators are just as likely as any other commentators to be thoughtful, reasonable, and capable, you won’t need that reassurance. Conversely, if you’re automatically suspicious that feminist commentators are overreacting, or perhaps fabricating offenses for some sort of never-specified personal gain, it’s possible you’re not as progressive as you think.

And it’s impossible for me (or anyone) to talk about why I support Hillary outside of this context: that sexism is real, pervasive, insidious. That gender matters, whether we like it or not. 🚨YOU CAN ACKNOWLEDGE THIS FACT AND STILL NOT PREFER OR EVEN LIKE HILLARY CLINTON.🚨 But if you insist that it’s possible to divorce gender from the dynamics of this primary season, or 2008’s, or really any in American history—psst, when it’s all white guys running, race and gender are factors—you are denying reality. End of.

Next up, the list of reasons why Hillary Clinton has earned the vote I can’t actually give her this time, because caucuses are stupid.

Call for Participants: Size Acceptance Survey

Posting this on behalf of Michaela — if you have any questions, please contact her. — Kate

Hi, my name is Michaela A. Null, and I am a doctoral student in Sociology at
Purdue University. I am doing a study about the embodiment of size-accepting fat
women, with attention to the ways in which gender, race, sexual orientation, and
body size intersect.

I am currently looking for individuals who are interested in volunteering to
participate in my study. If you are interested in volunteering to participate in
an interview, I ask that take an electronic informational survey, which will
take approximately 5 minutes. Please go here and complete the
informational survey. After all survey data has been collected, participants
will be selected for interviews, which will be conducted in-person, by phone, or
via internet chat, and will last between an hour and an hour and a half.

Participation is voluntary and participants must be at least 18 years old.

This project has been approved by my university’s Institutional Review Board,
which protects human subjects of research. I will provide confidentiality to all
volunteers and participants will be referred to by a pseudonym in all research

If you have any questions regarding this study, you can contact me at
mnull@purdue.edu. For more information on me, you can access my university
profile here
. You can also contact Professor Eugene Jackson, Assistant Professor of Sociology
at Purdue University, at jacksone@purdue.edu.


Michaela A. Null, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, Purdue University

Guest Blogger Elysia: Evo Psych and Icky Girls

Friend of Shapely Prose Elysia (who writes the blog Born That Way) is an evolutionary biologist, and she had some choice words for the latest dude to use evolutionary psychology as an explanation for why he believes seriously douchey things about women. Please give Elysia a warm welcome. — Kate

My friend Sweet Machine brought a recent post by Amanda Hess to my attention.  In her essay, Ms. Hess discusses a blog entry on the Scientific American Mind website, written by one Dr. Jesse Bering. Once you’ve read her post, come back here to see me talk about how good (and bad) science can be totally skewed by reporters.  Even scientists.  Just so we start on the same page: Dr. Bering discussed the concept of menstruation as shameful or dirty.  He presented some good evidence for the social context of menstruation as having a huge impact on the way women experience/remember first menses (although he also seemed to be saying that Western feminism was wrong in concluding the same thing).

Dr. Bering is described as an evolutionary psychologist – a title which always makes me uneasy, because as “just” an evolutionary biologist (actually, I’m a population and evolutionary geneticist), I have seen very little thus far from the field of evo psych that actually gets the evolution part right.  (I’m always willing to give it a try, though, in hopes that someone will prove me wrong about the field.)  Let’s start out with the premise: a male researcher is curious about women’s first menses, and the psychological context and consquences thereof.  Fair enough.  What else does Dr. Bering have to say?

“Without a doubt, the best studies on the subject of menarche are those that have attempted to reconcile individual differences in age of female pubertal onset with various evolutionarily relevant variables in girls’ social environments.”

The best studies?  Not my field, so I can’t judge, although “without a doubt” with respect to a set of studies on a very general topic being the “best” of anything is a standard not often met in science. However – evolutionarily relevant is my field.  So the question becomes: has evolution, of either culture or biology, shaped human psychological response to first menstruation?  There follows in Dr. Bering’s essay a series of anecdotes and studies grounded in 20th-century data.  From a strictly biological viewpoint, this is hardly even the blink of an eye, and evolution simply cannot have occurred and been detected.  Let me repeat: citing only data from the last 100 years, approximately five generations, is insufficient to demonstrate that biological evolution has occurred.

“[G]irls growing up in homes where the biological father is absent but the stepfather is present tend to mature faster than those living under the same roof as their biological fathers (their bodies are essentially competing with their mothers for the attention of this genetically unrelated male …)”

I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying and discussing mammalian reproduction during my graduate work and professional life.  My response to the quoted passage: Wait, what?  The last time I talked about this type of interaction was during a lab meeting, in the context of mouse mating behavior.  Female mice experience an acceleration in sexual development because they are being influenced by an adult male’s presence, via hormones he produces – they’re not competing with their mothers for matings, but experiencing a side effect of cohabiting with non-parental males.  (Read more here and here.)  My evolutionary just-so story, err, hypothetical explanation for this observation is that some male mouse had a different body chemistry that could induce sexual maturation in any female nearby, which would mean he’d have more babies than other males because he’d be, you know, there when the females matured.  His sons might have that same capability, and if this provided enough of an advantage relative to other males (and survives a number of other conditions, including pressure by female biology working against it), you could end up with males generally affecting female sexual development – regardless of any relationship between the male and nearby females.  Please note that a juvenile female mouse’s mom does not appear in this model.  The implication of your phrasing – “their bodies are essentially competing with their mothers” – does hint at the lack of volition in this situation (the idea that girls’ bodies are simply reacting to a biological stimulus) but sets up a mother-daughter rivalry where none exists.  Mom has nothing to do with this, except having gotten remarried.  Not to mention, there’s no accounting in your summary for siblings, stepsiblings, the role of stress…it’s a fascinating observation, but there’s a lot of careful dissection of the situation that has to be done before it’s appropriate to flag this as mother-daughter competition.  (If such detail exists in the professional scientific literature, please, someone let me know!)

“reminds me of that shower scene in Steven King’s Carrie (you know the one).”

Excuse me, sir, your preconceptions are showing.  (Really?  A horror flick?  Really? Let me guess – you also consider menstrual blood to be dirty.  This and other word choice throughout the essay is consistent with that position – is that what you meant to convey?)

“[The Head Teacher] suggested that ‘nobody would want to talk about it’ and that there would be ‘hell to pay’ from his many ‘conservative parents’ if he put his name to the research.”

Sooo…because some parents might have been unhappy, this means that the girls themselves were necessarily ashamed?  Because that’s sort of how that reads.  The research study was challenging because of – oh wait! – a larger societal attitude that might or might not have accurately reflected the girls’ own feelings.

“Such anecdotes would appear to pose some serious problems for traditional feminist theories, which tend to argue that Western negative attitudes toward everything from menstruation to vaginas at large are simply the result of cultural constructions.”

When you follow this sentence by a paragraph of examples of how women in different cultures experience different responses to the onset of menstruation, it…doesn’t sit well with a lot of readers.  Especially when you go on to say:

“According to most Western females, however, nothing could be more nightmarish than the prospect of “leaking” in public, and so perhaps it’s not too surprising that so many teenagers say that, in retrospect, their preparation for womanhood amounted to little more than a how-to guide for hiding their menstrual blood from all other eyes.”

As a layperson in psychology and sociology, I can only say that this doesn’t surprise me, given how much Western culture seems to prize cleanliness in…everything, to the point where it seems to be backfiring.  (Hygiene hypothesis, anyone?)  Seriously, it seems like a viable alternative hypothesis is just that cleanliness is so highly valued that any and all sexuality gets shoved into the shadows.  How often do we talk about men remembering the first time they ejaculated?  Popular humor about boys suddenly doing their own laundry seems on its face to be consistent with the same “cleanliness above all” hypothesis.  I’d love to know if anyone has studied the influence of Puritans and other Protestant groups that largely shaped early American culture, the evidence of which we still see today, and how their feelings about cleanliness and purity have contributed to this. (Sweet Machine, editor/human extraordinaire, suggests the work of Mary Douglas for further information.)

In fact, Dr. Bering, you allude to something like this when you discuss Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s work.

Oh, and I’m not the local expert on this, but I hear there’s this thing out there – this idea that men have, for many years, tried to control female sexuality.  Wouldn’t propagandizing menstruation be a convenient way to do that?

” When the researchers asked 157 white, middle-class ninth-grade girls what advice and information they would give to younger girls about menarche, […] one lone teenage girl of this entire group of 157 participants—ever linked menstruation to reproduction …”

Do you really think that this shows “clearly that, in the minds of these newly fertile adolescents, reproductive biology—that is to say, the actual purpose of periods—was a complete afterthought in their thinking”?  Or could it be that those girls were trying to pass on practical information to their peers, since they were asked what advice they would give?  Trust me, my public school sex ed made it abundantly clear that menstruation was part of reproductive biology.  But that’s not much comfort when you’re not ready to reproduce, and it’s not helpful in understanding the logistics of being a pubescent girl.

“I’m sure many of my straight male friends are indeed praising Allah for the invention of Kotex.”

If you have a daughter or a wife or girlfriend or sister – please understand that she may hear you say things like this and not want to discuss menstruation with you.

” … here comes my British accent—bloody companies and their concern with the bottom dollar.”

Your (public) Facebook page tells me that you hail from Ohio.  That doesn’t rule out a British accent, but I am rather curious.  Also, in making puns of the word “bloody,” you are actually engaging in a joke based on slang, not accent.  To perpetuate a quote I rather like, words mean things (link goes to an OT explanation).   And distorting those meanings as you do here gives me pause; were I grading this, I would become suspicious that you were attempting to sound smart so I wouldn’t notice any problems with your work.

“In fact, I’ve often wondered if the tremendous reservation that most parents have in communicating with their children about sex has the ironic consequence of making their children more curious about it—a curiosity that translates into earlier and more frequent sexual activity.”

Trust me, you’re not the first.  In fact, I’m willing to wager that the vast majority of people at or past their teens in Western society have pursued various “illicit” exploits because their parents forbade them or refused to talk about them.  (Also, have you ever studied Prohibition?)

“And that makes me wonder if there weren’t (and aren’t) perhaps some natural selection pressures at work here, forces favoring parental modesty over candor in the sex education of children.”

Seriously?  Your hypothesis is that modest parents will have higher fitness (i.e., in the long run, will have a reproductive advantage) than immodest parents (and the word “modest” is so subjective that I feel this is already a difficult hypothesis to argue).  That means that the children of modest parents must in turn be modest parents to their own children, or you simply have a fluctuation with a period of a generation, right?  My very own parents decried their parents’ modesty and had fairly frank discussions with me, as appropriate.  And while there’s such a thing as temporally-varying selection..this doesn’t seem to be such a case.  (By way of explanation: temporally-varying selection.  Put simply, sometimes the force that makes a particular feature favorable can itself change over time.  Say you have dandelions in your yard – the features of a dandelion plant that grows well in rainy March that let the plant have more babies may not do a lick of good for that plant’s offspring when dry July comes around.  Here, well, you can imagine that modesty might be bad if we were facing certain kinds of famine, as it would mean fewer babies and a higher chance that they’d survive, but it’s unlikely that every single generation – or every few generations – we’d alternate between stark feast and famine.  Even if it were true, biological evolution in humans takes thousands of years, so it would be extremely hard for me to come up with a plausible mathematical model in which relatively recent social mores affect biological fitness.)

No offense, but this is a poor reflection of the basic components of evolutionary biology.  No, strike that – I hope to offend you enough to get you to stop and think, because as an evolutionary biologist and instructor, I am left to deal with the aftermath of students who come in to my classroom with serious biases about a field they’ve only ever seen misrepresented.   Partly because essays like yours get into the lay media.  It’s especially infuriating to see sloppy or inaccurate science used to justify positions from the mildly offensive to the abhorrent.  Please don’t let the entire field of evolutionary psychology devolve into a mere shadow of the science it could be – I’d rather it be “based on” rather than “inspired by” evolution.

Yes, it’s important to realize that cultural constructs influence the way biological events are experienced and recalled.  It’s important to link biological and cultural evolution, and to remember that we humans are animals.  And as a male ape, you are well within your rights to wonder how female apes differ from you; just please remember while you call elderly women apes that you are one, yourself.  More importantly, it’s great for you as a human man to want to understand the human woman’s experience, and I encourage you to reframe your language to make it clear that you understand that distinction. Because your personal discomfort with my menstruation – or my feminism – does not a sound scientific discussion make, and dismissing my humanity when you examine my biology ill befits a doctor of psychology.

For the record: I make no claim to perfect impartiality here – this is just me, a professionally trained scientist and a self-identified feminist talking about why a particular piece of popular science writing raised my personal and professional hackles.  Like any good scientist, when I’m working, I try to minimize the impact of my own bias on my research, but you know what?  I’m human, and biased, and the best I can do is own those biases and be honest about them with friends, students, and colleagues.

5 Ways of Looking at “Sarah Palin Feminism”

Here is me telling you about a thing I wrote elsewhere! For Jezebel, specifically. A sample:

So, can’t I just agree to disagree with Sarah Palin – or at least to ignore her use of the term and continue to go about my business? Well, evidently not, or I wouldn’t be writing this. The problem is, words mean things. I could start calling myself a red meat conservative, or campaign for those of us who are against the death penalty to “reclaim” the term “pro-life,” but at some point, the relationship between your beliefs and your choice of words either passes the sniff test or it doesn’t. And someone who actively seeks to restrict women’s freedom calling herself a feminist is, not to put too fine a point on it, a liar. There’s a difference between a big tent and no boundaries whatsoever; if Palin’s “entitled to be accepted” as a feminist just because she says she’s one, then the word is completely meaningless — as opposed to merely vague and controversial. And I might just start calling myself a “right-winger” because I’m right-handed, or a “fundamentalist” because I believe everyone deserves a solid primary education, or a “birther” because I once hosted a baby shower.

New Stuff

Those of you who hate change, brace yourselves.

In addition to the new template, I’ve got news. Over the last few months, three of my longtime co-bloggers have moved on (well, Sweet Machine wasn’t necessarily taking a permanent vacation, but realistically… yeah), and Snarky’s Machine and I have been trying to keep things going in some form that sort of resembles the old SP. But both of us are busy and tired and cranky about moderating, which you’ve probably noticed on account of how we’re always talking about being busy and tired and cranky about moderating. Snarky’s also started up a fantastic pop culture blog, I Fry Mine in Butter, and wants to spend more time on her office supplies blog, Does This Pen Write, in addition to her paid writing projects. In the meantime, we’ve both either been feeling guilty about not writing here or cranky about moderating when we do write.

So Snarky’s bowing out, and “kateharding.net” will finally be an accurate url for this blog once again. It’s just me now. And I don’t even know what it will become yet. I know it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll update more than a couple of times a week for the forseeable future, so you should put Shapely Prose in your reader if you want to keep up with new posts. (You should put Jezebel and Broadsheet in there, too, because I’ll still be doing one-offs for them as well.) Big thanks to everybody who’s stuck around this long and everybody who continues to. When I figure out what I want to do with SP (if there’s to be any overarching vision at all — most likely it will be the same old stuff, but probably with more personal blogging), you’ll be the first to know. While you wait, you can feel free to explore the 1200+  posts in the archives. Rock on, Shapelings.