Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

[Return to MetaPerspective]

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Feminism, post-election

Feminism, post-election - Los Angeles Times:
For a second-wave feminist like myself, this election year has been a roller-coaster ride: exciting, and sick-making, and yet again exciting. We have seen an eminently qualified woman contend for a presidential nomination and fail, at least in part because she was demonized as a dragon lady; then we have seen a shamefully unqualified woman handed a vice presidential nomination, at least in part because she was a walking advertisement for Mrs. America. Taken together, such unforeseen events have been remarkable, especially insofar as they remind us of where we are, as a culture, in the centuries-long struggle to normalize equality for women.

In this piece in the Los Angeles Times feminist and writer Vivian Gornick laments that "The second wave of American feminism is now in a period of quietude, even of setback." She looks at the treatment of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin during the recent election as "evidence that high-level sexism persists in the United States."

Along the way Gornick traces the history of the modern women's movement, which began with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Woman" in 1792. Gornick says that about every 50 years since that time the women's movement has raised its head, always with the same underlying message: "The conviction that men by nature take their brains seriously, and women by nature do not, is based not on an inborn reality but on a cultural belief that has served our deepest insecurities."

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Summary

A Boy's Life
This long article in The Atlantic treats the difficult subject of transgender children: children, some as young as 3 or 4, who want to be the gender opposite from their physiology. Should parents treat their young children as members of the other gender, or should they seek treatment to help their children adjust to the gender that matches their biological sex? The existence of such transgender children raises the age-old questions of nature vs. nurture: Are transgender children born that way or made that way? Is gender a biological given or a social construction?

Writer Hanna Rosin has done extensive research into this complex topic and does a good job of presenting both sides of the issue. Her presentation of the stories of several children, and their parents, who have experienced transgenderism gives her article an air of poignant reality.

Think You're Multitasking? Think Again
Don't believe the multitasking hype, scientists say. New research shows that we humans aren't as good as we think we are at doing several things at once. But it also highlights a human skill that gave us an evolutionary edge.

Multitasking Teens May Be Muddling Their Brains
Doing several things at once can feel so productive. But scientists say switching rapidly between tasks can actually slow us down.

Even though modern technology allows people to perform more tasks at the same time, juggling tasks can make our brains lose connections to important information. Which means, in the end, it takes longer because we have to remind our brains what we were working on.

The Ties That Bind
In this New York Times blog Allison Arieff considers what kind of legacy our dependence on technology will leave for our children.

First Person Plural
In this article in The Atlantic Paul Bloom looks at the definition of happy:
Many researchers now believe, to varying degrees, that each of us is a community of competing selves, with the happiness of one often causing the misery of another. This theory might explain certain puzzles of everyday life, such as why addictions and compulsions are so hard to shake off, and why we insist on spending so much of our lives in worlds­—like TV shows and novels and virtual-reality experiences—that don’t actually exist. And it provides a useful framework for thinking about the increasingly popular position that people would be better off if governments and businesses helped them inhibit certain gut feelings and emotional reactions.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Between Us Girls: Sarah Palin - The New Face of Feminism?

Between Us Girls: Sarah Palin - The New Face of Feminism?:

The girls over at Between Us Girls give us a summary of the meaning of feminism and reach a conclusion that's important for all women to consider this election year:
Make no mistake, Sarah Palin is not the new face of feminism. She is simply a woman whose ambition surpasses her abilities and whose presence on the national political scene threatens to set the feminist movement back a hundred years. Ladies, we can do better than this - don't doubt it. While we all want to see a woman in the White House, we want the right woman. At first glance, Sarah Palin seemed like the answer to many a woman's dreams, but she is nothing more than a shiny penny. The glimmering, mirror-like surface attracts our attention, but upon closer inspection we find that what lies below the surface is far less valuable than we might have anticipated or hoped.

My daughter recently made a similar point on her blog.

It's important to keep in mind that not all women are feminists and that feminists advocate equal rights for women. Don't let anyone tell you that electing Sarah Palin as Vice-President of the United States, and thus putting her a heartbeat away from the U. S. Presidency, is a step forward for women. With her vindictiveness and arrogance, she could plunge women back into the nineteenth century. Women deserve better. The United States deserves better.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 30, 2008

Girls’ Gains Have Not Cost Boys, Report Says

Girls’ Gains Have Not Cost Boys, Report Says - New York Times


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has issued a report that corresponds to research by the American Council on Education and other groups detailing that while girls have been graduating from high school and college at higher rate than boys, there is no "boy's crisis," writes Tamar Lewin of the New York Times. The more significant disparities in educational achievement, the report says, are between different races, ethnicities, and income levels. The AAUW's report is a follow-up to their widely discussed 1992 report that described how boys in the classroom were educated at the expense of girls, and is also a response to the notion put out recently by conservative commentators that boys are in turn being shortchanged. "Many people remain uncomfortable with the educational and professional advances of girls and women, especially when they threaten to outdistance their male peers," the report states, but "The most compelling evidence against the existence of a boys' crisis is that men continue to outearn women in the workplace."

Source: Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gender Perspectives on Reading

From National Public Radio (NPR) comes this article about why women read more than men do.

“Surveys consistently find that women read more books than men, especially fiction. Explanations abound, from the biological differences between the male and female brains, to the way that boys and girls are introduced to reading at a young age.”

Americans of both genders are reading a lot less than they used to. The article reports on a recent poll released by the Associated Press (AP) that found that last year the average American read only four books and that one in four adults read no books at all. The poll further found that the average American woman read nine books last year, whereas the average American man read four. “Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.”

The gender gap is greatest for fiction, with men accounting for only 20% of fiction sales, according to surveys conducted in the United States, Canada, and Britain. Book group participants are predominantly women, and, according to the article, most literary blogs are produced by women.

The article discusses several theories that attempt to explain the fiction gap. Cognitive psychologists say that women are more empathetic than men, a trait that makes fiction more appealing to women. Another possible explanation, offered by Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, is that girls are able to sit still for a long time at a younger age than boys; girls therefore are more suited to the sedentary activity of reading. Yet another theory focuses on “mirror neurons,” brain cells that are activated both when we initiate actions and when we watch actions being performed by other people; the presence of these mirror neurons may explain why we feel pain when we see someone else in pain. Although research on mirror neurons is still quite new, preliminary findings suggest that women have more of these cells than men do and that mirror neurons are the biological basis for empathy, a capacity necessary for the appreciation of fiction.

Finally, according to the article, young people read much less than do older people, a fact that has publishers and booksellers wondering what will happen as the population ages.

© 2007 by Mary Daniels Brown

Labels: , ,