The Woman Issue (and internet nonsense)

What a great special issue of the New York Times Magazine today. The centerpiece is an article about global women's rights issues by Nicholas Kristof and and Sheryl WuDunn. I enjoyed this passage:
Bill Gates recalls once being invited to speak in Saudi Arabia and finding himself facing a segregated audience. Four-fifths of the listeners were men, on the left. The remaining one-fifth were women, all covered in black cloaks and veils, on the right. A partition separated the two groups. Toward the end, in the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience noted that Saudi Arabia aimed to be one of the Top 10 countries in the world in technology by 2010 and asked if that was realistic. “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country,” Gates said, “you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.” The small group on the right erupted in wild cheering.
I love the fact that the women "got it" and cheered.

The article inspires me to want to read a new book by these authors, and also look into the ways to give they suggest. But it also reminds me of a bizarre internet conversation I had a while back. At a certain very popular philosophy blog, Nicholas Kristof had come under attack for being concerned about animal rights (imagine that!). A commenter offered a general assessment of Kristof (and how could I forget this phrase): that he's a man with a "deeply, deeply trivial mind."

Wondering how the commenter could see himself as being in a position to judge this tireless defender of human rights so harshly, I looked him up and discovered ... what, that he is some moral saint, way beyond the likes of Kristof? No, I found out he was the author of a book about philosophy and video games. I'm still shaking my head.

It seems that blogs are full of this kind of thing--bluster and blather. Alright, it's of little importance (compared to the travesties described in the article), but it's been on my mind lately.

The Kristof/WuDunn article is great, and so are the other articles on women's rights in the magazine.


ben nelson said...

You're right about blogs of course. (SIWOTI.)

Also, I'm as annoyed as the next person that my local Chapters has entire rows taken up by such goofballery as "South Park and Philosophy" when it could be taken up by actual philosophy.

...that having been said, I can't help but notice in the right-hand column you have praise for your book from the editor of "Metallica and Philosophy"...

Jean Kazez said...

I'm not sure what SIWOTI means. I would have understood SWEIN. (So what else is new?)

Re: Irwin's endorsement. I'm proud to have it, and also proud to have an essay in one of the upcoming books in his series (Twilight and Philosophy).

The only thing that worries me is that there are an awful lot of those kinds of books filling the philosophy sections of bookstores. Obviously, stores that cater to the public need to sell accessible stuff, but there are other ways to write accessibly besides by linking philosophy topics to popular culture.

ben nelson said...

The acronym comes from xkcd, for the last line in this cartoon: http://xkcd.com/386/

I love the idea of making these subjects accessible and relevant in any way possible so I'm probably a hypocrite. I just hope we don't lose the magic.

amos said...

I recall the Kristof incident. However, Kristof wasn't just attacked by the philosopher whom you mention. He was also criticized in an intellectually snobbish way by the blogger of what you call a very popular philosopher blog. Maybe providing a link to the debate would be enlightening. It's up to you.

Jean Kazez said...

Cartoon really made me laugh...

I would like to think it's possible to write in a way that's both philosophical careful and interesting and readable. There are a few excellent philosophers who pull that off, and they're my heroes.

Jean Kazez said...

Nah, no link. I don't mean to be personally attacking anyone. I'm just shaking my head because of various incidents (some more recent). You have to very careful not to take bravado at blogs as any indication that people know what they're talking about or have thought things through. I'm obviously naive...because this actually shocks me!

amos said...

The comments about Kristof were somewhat "undergraduate" (to use a term from a previous post) or "sophomoric" (to use the word my father generally employed to describe my statements in my teenage years). They showed the kind of shallow intellectual superiority that generally is found
in adolescents with little life experience and a lot of book knowledge, who don't grasp how much thinking goes into so many daily activities, for example, writing a newspaper column or, say, selling insurance.

Faust said...

Great cartoon!

On the subject of "losing the magic." The magic does not rise or fall on the basis of what books one sees on the shelves of Barnes and Noble.

Alex Chernavsky said...

"Deeply trivial mind" might be an overstatement, but it's not entirely off the mark. Mary Martin (who writes the "Animal Person" blog) has a good post about Kristof and his lack of insight into animal issues:


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