May 2008 Archives

Reading French, First Day of Class

May 29, 2008

I am going to learn how to read French. Fluently. In seven weeks. Really. And I do not like the University of Minnesota's web site.

Tonight, five of us whipped through grammar basics in the first session — two classes per week on the UMN East Bank campus, extending through early July. The point of the class is to learn how to read French in the arts and sciences. My particular interests are both literary and academic: in literature, I would like to know what Tolstoy's and Dostoyevsky's characters are saying, and perhaps to read Camus in the original; in academics, I am particularly interested in religious studies / sociology, which is a fertile and often un-translated field of study in the French language.

Eco-Justice Through Efficiency Subsidization

May 27, 2008

Cap and Caulk: How Smart Climate Policy Can Cut Our Energy Costs: excellent research and reporting on subsidizing energy saving renovations and appliances for those who cannot afford to do so on their own. It is heartening to see the relationship to justice and equity issues brought in, once again going to show how intertwined our efforts can and should be in moving toward a sustainable culture and moving toward a more just culture. Truly, you cannot have one without the other.

Bahá'í Notions of Social Change

May 19, 2008

I now return to the second theme, the social theme, that I mentioned in a recent post responding to WorldChanging's Neighborliness, Innovation and Sustainability. In that previous posting, I hinted at link between Alex Steffen's emerging viewpoint on social change and the paradigm promoted by the Bahá'í teachings, and I'd like to start exploring that paradigm.

Sexism - opinion vs. fact

May 5, 2008

While discussing sexism with my wife, there have been a number of times where I've said "I just don't see it" — meaning either that I literally have never seen the behavior in question, or that I didn't see the interpretation being given. To the first meaning there is a clear rebuttal: its easy to miss something that doesn't affect you (that is, affect me, the guy in the room). With respect to the second, one aspect is that I both don't give enough credit to most people to be deliberately coming up with many of the examples of sexism I've heard about, and I generally assume innocence of motive.

Well, Shakesville's Feminism 101: "Sexism is a matter of opinion" does an excellent job in pointing out the flaws in this naïve analysis, including the use of an excellent Matrix-metaphor. The whole thing is worth reading, but one particular paragraph stuck with me, partially because it applies equally well with the issue of racism:

Let me quickly stipulate and clarify that one can unintentionally express sexism. That innocent intent, or ignorance of the history of how women have been marginalized, does not, however, in any way change the quality of what was being expressed. Something can still be expressed sexism even if the speaker's intent was not to oppress women. And particularly if it does fit neatly into a historical pattern, it necessarily conjures that pattern of sexism, intentionally or not.

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