Monday, January 18, 2016

America: land of the absurd

     It pains me to say that the National Science Foundation (NSF), an organization for which I normally have profound respect, recently granted $125,000 to Dr. Monica Biemat, a social psychologist with the University of Kansas, to study stereotyping, sexism, and racism perpetrated by the everyday injudicious use of certain adjectives by folks like you and me.

     This was not about all those blatantly offensive and inflammatory adjectives we’ve come to associate with bigots and supremacists and religious zealots and all those other groups knee-deep in hatred.

     No, this is about adjectives that are far more subtle and thus, at least in Dr. Biemat’s view, more insidious.

     Devilish adjectives like “good.”

     This is word-for-word from the grant proposal:  “The proposed research predicts that stereotypes activate different standards of judgements for members of different groups . . . . For example, in a masculine work domain where women are stereotyped as less competent, ‘good’ for a woman may mean something objectively less good than ‘good’ for a man.”

     In Volume 45 of Advances in Experimental Social Psychology,  Dr. Biemat wrote, “Because of shifting standards, a female chief of staff may be described as highly competent, a hit from a female softball player may generate more enthusiasm than the same hit from a male, and a black student may achieve more praise than a white student for an identical transcript.”
     She also suggested men should think twice about using words such as “aggressive” when describing a woman.

     For this kind of revelatory research, the good Dr. Biemat was granted $125,000.  She told the Washington Free Beacon she will apply for additional funding for her extended project in 2016.

     Perhaps to study the evil use of adjectives such as “nice,” or “tall,” or “clever.”

     Since this is America in the 2000s, she’ll probably get the money.  After all, back in 2006, the NSF granted her $505,000 in taxpayer funding, not for a trip to the moon, but for a trip to Warsaw to interact with something called the European Social Cognitive Network (ESCON), whose avowed goals are as nebulous as their name.

     I’d like to apply for a modest NSF grant, say ten million dollars, to create mandatory corneal implants that would give every implantee a view of everybody else on the planet as the same inoffensive shade of beige and always of an ideal age to be determined by Congress, say 31 years, perhaps.  Further, my research would aim to clothe everyone from birth to death in mandatory attire that will absolutely conceal gender and sexual persuasion. 

     Thus simultaneously wiping out every last vestige of sexism, ageism, homophobia, misogyny, misandry, and racism forever, and we could retire all those hateful words.

     Then maybe we could stop psychoanalyzing the use of innocent adjectives and go back to spending taxpayer funds on curing diseases, eliminating hunger and despair, and insuring ever more luxurious lifestyles for our leaders.  (I, for one, think it’s high time we provide a larger customized jet or two for transporting our President and the Chief’s family, friends, campaign supporters, publicists, speech writers, spin doctors, selected media celebrities, servants—Michelle has some 20 personal attendants at six-figure salaries—and pets to bi-monthly vacation spots.)

P.S.   This from a recent New Yorker magazine:  “Social scientists find that leaving a dysfunctional urban neighborhood can transform a family’s prospects.” 
     Could this mean that if a family were to move from the drug- and blood-filled streets of Baltimore to, say, sleepy Mount Airy, North Carolina, their prospects for living a healthier, happier life might improve?
     Wow.  What a revelation.  I mean, who would have ever thought?

1 comment:

  1. Staff counts for other First Ladies
    Laura Bush: Between 24 and 26 by end of President George W. Bush's term in 2009, according to Anita McBride, Mrs. Bush's chief of staff.

    Lady Bird Johnson, whose signature issue was beautifying roadways, had a staff of 30, said Stacy A. Cordery, a history professor at Montmouth [sic] College in Illinois who studies first ladies.

    Betty Ford had almost the same number.