Category Archives: Sex

Chart of the day II: A dramatic turnaround

From Gallup:


Women better at math in progressive societies

Just how well young women acquire skills in mathematics depends directly on the degree of sexism in the culture in which she is raised, according to a major analysis from researchers in New York and London.

From Queen Mary University of London:

Research co-authored by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has found that the ‘maths gender gap’ – the relative underperformance of girls at maths – is much wider in societies with poor rates of gender equality.

Published in the journal American Economic Review, the research [$9.50 to access — esnl] shows that the performance gap between girls and boys is far less pronounced in societies that hold progressive and egalitarian views about the role of women.

The researchers analysed the relationship between maths scores of 11,527 15-year-olds living in nine different countries and the Gender Gap Index (GGI)  in their country of ancestry. The GGI measures economic and political opportunities, education, and well-being for women.

Almudena Sevilla, co-author and Professor of Labour Economics at Queen Mary University of London explains: “These boys and girls grew up and live in the same country, but their parents came from elsewhere. So, differences in how well girls perform compared to boys – given that they are in the same environment and exposed to the same institutions – is likely to be the result of parents (or their social network) transmitting values about gender equality to their kids.”

The researchers found that the more gender equality in the country of ancestry, the higher the maths scores of girls relative to boys living in the same country. The findings were significant and robust even when the researchers controlled for other individual factors that may affect youths’ maths performance.  In particular, the results show that an increase of 0.05 points (or one standard deviation) in the GGI is associated with an increase in the performance of girls in maths, relative to boys, of 7.47 points – equivalent to about one and a half months of schooling.

Natalia Nollenberger, co-author and Researcher associated with the IE University added: “Use Turkey as an example of a country that has a poor rate of gender equality (0.58). Girls of Turkish ancestry underperform boys of Turkish ancestry by an average of 13.8 points. Our data show that if Turkey had a higher rate of gender equality closer to the average country of ancestry in our sample (0.69), then the maths gender gap between boys and girls of Turkish ancestry would disappear.”

Previous evidence had already found a correlation between societal factors and the maths gender gap, but could not establish a firm cause.

“Most importantly”, explains Nuria Rodriguez-Planas, co-author and Associate Professor of Economics at City University of New York, Queens College: “this earlier work was unable to establish whether the performance gap is due to girls expecting lower returns from maths in terms of the labour market and the education system, or whether it’s due to a message that maths is essentially not for girls. The former is about institutions, while the latter is about values. Our research looks specifically at values like gender equality and we’ve found that yes, values and views about women really do matter in this context.”

The researchers described the results as a contribution to a policy problem of “first order importance” as it highlights the relevance of gender social norms on girls’ educational outcomes. They argue that policies which attempt to change cultural values about women’s role in society “may prove decisive in reducing the maths gender gap”, which is accepted as a contributing factor in the gender pay gap.

Charts of the day: The underemployed of Europe

BLOG EU Undermployed

From Eurostat:

Among the population aged 15 to 74 in the European Union (EU), 220 million were employed, 23 million were unemployed and 136 million were economically inactive in 2015.

Around 8 in every 10 persons employed in the EU were working full time and 2 in 10 part-time. Among these 44.7 million persons in the EU working part-time in 2015, 10.0 million were under-employed, meaning they wished to work more hours and were available to do so. This corresponds to more than a fifth (22.4%) of all part-time workers and 4.6 % of total employment in the EU in 2015. Two-thirds of these underemployed part-time workers were women (66%).

Alongside the economically active population (employed and unemployed), 11.4 million economically inactive persons aged 15-74 in the EU had in 2015 a certain attachment to the labour market and could be considered as a potential additional labour force, equivalent to 4.7% of the EU labour force. Among them, around 9.3 million were available to work but not seeking, such as discouraged job seekers, and almost 2.2 million seeking work but not immediately available, for example students seeking a job to start after graduation. The majority of this potential additional labour force in the EU in 2015 was also women (56.7%).

Largest shares of underemployed part-time workers in Greece, Cyprus and Spain

In 2015, the proportion of underemployed part-time workers among total part-time workers varied significantly across the EU Member States. A majority of part-time workers aged 15 to 74 wished to work more hours while being available to do so in Greece (71.8%), Cyprus (68.0%) and Spain (54.2%), closely followed by Portugal (46.4%). At the opposite end of the scale, Denmark (9.5%), the Czech Republic (9.6%), Estonia (12.0%), Luxembourg (13.2%), the Netherlands (13.4%) and Germany (14.0%) registered the smallest shares of underemployed part-time workers. At EU level, 22.4% of persons working part-time were underemployed in 2015.

It should be noted that underemployed part-time workers were predominantly women in every EU Member State except Romania.

Headline of the day II: More cinematic sexism

From the Independent:

Iron Man 3’s female villain got axed over fears of poor toy sales, director claims

‘We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female’

Texas GOP embraces an Inquisition platform

The party that brought us Ted Cruz — the sphincter-mouthed solon who  resembles a spastic colon on the brink of a shit-spewing explosion —  has just adopted a platform Torquemada would gladly embrace.

Among the provisions reported by the Houston Press:

The Republicans say that “homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.” Therefore, it wants to take away their right to marriage by overturning the U.S. Supreme Court case that granted it nationwide, and wants to make sure that anyone in Texas who seeks to discriminate against gay people won’t face any consequences. The platform also seeks to ensure there are no restrictions on “counseling and therapy” to designed to “change” someone’s sexual orientation.

As for transgender people, you guessed it: Texas Republicans want to police bathrooms by preventing transgender people from using the restroom that best fits their gender identity, which is generally affirmed by a court of law. Republican leadership is so committed to this goal, in fact, that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said he would be willing to flush more than $3 billion in federal education funding down the toilet just so he could ignore President Barack Obama’s directive to school districts not to discriminate against transgender students by denying them access to the right bathroom.

Support for discrimination doesn’t end with the LGBTQ community. In order to defeat terrorism, the Republican Party would like to support the “reasonable use of profiling,” though “reasonable” is never defined. It would also like to call on all government agencies to sever ties with “all radical Islamic organizations, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations.”

Inspirational: Movie house air mirrors viewer moods

Our language is filled with metaphors for breathing: Conspiracy ion the Latin means literally “breathing together,” just as inspiration means breathing in.

In recent years we’ve learned that plants communicate by airborne signals, most notably when an injury to one plant triggers defensive reactions in other nearby plants a process some scientists are hoping to thwart through genetic engineering.

And then there’s this 2007 report from the University of California, Berkeley:

Just a few whiffs of a chemical found in male sweat is enough to raise levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with alertness or stress, in heterosexual women, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

The study, reported this week in The Journal of Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that humans, like rats, moths and butterflies, secrete a scent that affects the physiology of the opposite sex.

“This is the first time anyone has demonstrated that a change in women’s hormonal levels is induced by sniffing an identified compound of male sweat,” as opposed to applying a chemical to the upper lip, said study leader Claire Wyart, a post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.

And a 2015 report from Indiana University:

A new study from Indiana University provides evidence in mice that males may play a positive role in the development of offspring’s brains starting before pregnancy.

The research, reported June 30 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, [$29.25 for access — esnl] found that female mice exposed to male pheromones gave birth to infants with greater mental ability.

“This is the first study to show that pheromone exposure exerts an influence across generations in mammals,” said Sachiko Koyama, an associate research scientist at the IU Bloomington Medical Sciences Program and visiting scientist at the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the study.

“We found that male pheromones seem to influence the nutritional environment following birth, resulting in changes to the brain that could extend to future generations,” she added.

And now we’ve got all that out of the way, consider the implications for whta you’ve read when you peruse this report from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry:

Tapped Cinema air: Thomas Kluepfel installs a tube into the ventilation system of a movie theatre in the Mainz Cinestar to through which the exhaust air is directed into a mass spectrometer. This analysed the air during numerous screenings in 30-second intervals. Especially suspense and funny movies leave a unique chemical signature in the air. © MPI for Chemistry

Tapped Cinema air: Thomas Kluepfel installs a tube into the ventilation system of a movie theatre in the Mainz Cinestar to through which the exhaust air is directed into a mass spectrometer. This analysed the air during numerous screenings in 30-second intervals. Especially suspense and funny movies leave a unique chemical signature in the air. © MPI for Chemistry

It is now possible to determine whether a movie scene is full of suspense, funny or somewhat boring, using chemistry. The Mainz researchers investigated how the composition of the air changed when an audience watched movies from different genres such as comedies like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “Buddy”, or fantasy movies like “The Hobbit” and the science-fiction thriller “The Hunger Games”. The researchers determined how the audience reacted to individual movies on a scene-by-scene basis. Using their analyses, they were also able to reconstruct which scenes were playing at the time. The chemical patterns are best defined during suspense or funny scenes.

“The chemical signature of ‘The Hunger Games’ was very clear; even when we repeated the measurements with different audiences,” says Jonathan Williams, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. “The carbon dioxide and isoprene levels in the air always increased significantly as the heroine began fighting for her life,” the atmospheric chemist continues. Williams and his team are more usually involved in the measurement of gases from the Amazon rainforest. Isoprene is one of more than 800 chemical compounds typically exhaled by healthy persons in tiny amounts in addition to carbon dioxide. However, it is not yet known what physiological processes are causing the formation of the molecules.

One explanation for the increasing carbon dioxide and isoprene levels, according to the Mainz researchers, is the fact that moviegoers tense up, become restless and breathe faster when watching scenes of suspense. Funny sequences consistently resulted in different molecular traces in the air than moments of excitement or suspense. “We can clearly differentiate the mass spectra,” says Williams.

There’s lots more after the jump. . . Continue reading

Misogyny at the top plagues French ministries

Sexism in the French cabinet?

Yep, and lots of it.

From Deutche Welle:

“Aside from her great breasts, how is she?”

“Your skirt is too long, you need to shorten it.”

“Are you wearing a G-string?”

These misogynistic remarks were listed in the open letter, published Sunday in the weekly “Journal du Dimanche,” as examples of sexual harassment faced by women in French political circles.

Now, 17 leading French female politicians have taken a public stand against it.

“Enough is enough. Impunity is over. We will no longer keep quiet,” the former ministers from across the political spectrum wrote.

Among the signatories was current Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, former Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot and former Housing Minister Cecile Duflot.