Antagonistic Selection and Invading Armies

We don't naturally look like this
We don’t naturally look like this

Evolution is a fabulous principle, but it can only do so much. It has yet to give us titanium bones or x-ray vision, nor has it solved the problem of death. It even gives us creatures like praying mantises, who eat their mates.

Genetically speaking, men and women are actually quite similar, at least compared to, say, trees. There’s a great deal of overlap between male and female instincts–we both get hungry, we both fall in love, we both think the Ghostbusters remake was an abomination.

While evolution would like* to code for perfect men and perfect women, since we are the same species and ever male has a mom and every female has a dad, genetics ultimately can’t code for perfect men and perfect women. *yes I am anthropomorphizing

Remember, there are only two chromosomes which code for sexual development, the so called XX (female) and XY (male). Both men and women have at least one X, but no women have a Y.

It doesn’t work out that men are, like, expressing half female genes and half male genes, since the Y chromosome blocks the expression of some of the female genes. However, men still have those genes.

Sexual antagonism or “sexual conflict” occurs when a genetic trait that makes one sex better at reproducing makes the opposite sex worse at reproducing:

Interlocus sexual conflict is the interaction of a set of antagonistic alleles at one or more loci in males and females.[6] An example is conflict over mating rates. Males frequently have a higher optimal mating rate than females because in most animal species, they invest fewer resources in offspring than their female counterparts. Therefore, males have numerous adaptations to induce females to mate with them. Another well-documented example of inter-locus sexual conflict is the seminal fluid of Drosophila melanogaster, which up-regulates females’ egg-laying rate and reduces her desire to re-mate with another male (serving the male’s interests), but also shortens the female’s lifespan reducing her fitness.

From, A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture
From: A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture

In humans, for example, women benefit from being thin and short, while men benefit from being tall and bulky. But a short, thin woman is more likely to have a short, thin, son, which is not beneficial, and a tall, bulky man is likely to have a tall, bulky daughter–also not beneficial.

Whatever instincts we see in one gender, we likely see–in some form–in at least some members of the opposite gender. So If there is–as some folks around these parts allege–an instinct which makes women submissive to invading armies, then it likely affects some men, too.

For the few men who do survive an invasion, not protesting as your wife is gang raped might keep you alive to later reproduce, too

Hence the recent rise of cuckoldry fetishes.

Re: Chauncey Tinker on Dysgenics

By request, I am responding to Chauncey Tinker’s posts on dysgenics:

Dysgenics and Welfare and Dysgenics and Solutions.

To summarize, our current generous welfare system is making it increasingly difficult for hard working members of society to afford to have children. Lazy and incapable people meanwhile are continuing to have children without restriction, courtesy of those hard working people. Its more than likely that average intelligence is falling as a result of these pressures.

Ever since someone proposed the idea of eguenic (ie, good) breeding, people have been concerned by the possibility of dysgenic (bad) breeding. If traits are heritable (as, indeed, they are,) then you can breed for more of that trait or less of that trait. Anyone who has ever raised livestock or puppies knows as much–the past 10,000 years of animal husbandry have been devoted to producing superior stock, long before anyone knew anything about “genes.”

Historically–that is, before 1900–the world was harsh and survival far from guaranteed. Infant and childhood mortality were high, women often died in childbirth, famines were frequent, land (in Europe) was scarce, and warfare + polygamy probably prevented the majority of men from ever reproducing. In those days, at least in Western Europe, the upper classes tended to have more (surviving) children than the lower classes, leading to a gradual replacement of the lower classes.

The situation today is, obviously, radically different. Diseases–genetic or pathogenic–kill far fewer people. We can cure Bubonic Plague with penicillin, have wiped out Smallpox, and can perform heart surgery on newborns whose hearts were improperly formed. Welfare prevents people from starving in the streets and the post-WWII prosperity led to an unprecedented percent of men marrying and raising families. (The percent of women who married and raised families probably didn’t change that much.)

All of these pleasant events raise concerns that, long-term, prosperity could result in the survival of people whose immune systems are weak, carry rare but debilitating genetic mutations, or are just plain dumb.

So how is Western fertility? Are the dumb outbreeding the smart, or should we be grateful that the  “gender studies” sorts are selecting themselves out of the population? And with negative fertility rates + unprecedented levels of immigration, how smart are our immigrants (and their children?)

Data on these questions is not the easiest to find. Jayman has data on African American fertility (dysgenic,) but white American fertility may be currently eugenic (after several decades of dysgenics.) Jayman also notes a peculiar gender difference in these trends: female fertility is strongly dysgenic, while male is eugenic (for both whites and blacks). Given that historically, about 80% of women reproduced vs. only 40% of males, I think it likely that this pattern has always been true: women only want to marry intelligent, high-performing males, while males are okay with marrying dumb women. (Note: the female ability to detect intelligence may be broken by modern society.)

Counter-Currents has a review of Lynn’s Dysgenics with some less hopeful statistics, like an estimation that Greece lost 5 IQ points during the Baby Boom, which would account for their current economic woes. (Overall, I think the Baby Boom had some definite negative effects on the gene pool that are now working their way out.)

Richwine estimates the IQ of our immigrant Hispanic-American population at 89.2, with a slight increase for second and third-generation kids raised here. Since the average American IQ is 98 and Hispanics are our fastest-growing ethnic group, this is strongly dysgenic. (The rest of our immigrants, from countries like China, are likely to be higher-IQ than Americans.) However, since Hispanic labor is typically used to avoid African American (reported 85 average IQ) labor, the replacement of African Americans with Mexicans is locally eugenic–hence the demand for Hispanic labor.

Without better data, none of this conclusively proves whether fertility in the West is currently eugenic or dysgenic, but I can propose three main factors that should be watched for their potentially negative effects:

  1. Immigration (obviously.)
  2. Welfare–I suspect the greater black reliance on welfare may be diving black dysgenics, but some other factor like crime could actually be at play.
  3. Anti-child culture.

I’m going to focus on the last one because it’s the only one that hasn’t already been explained in great detail elsewhere.

For American women, childbearing is low-class and isolating.

For all our fancy talk about maternity leave, supporting working moms, etc., America is not a child-friendly place. Society frowns on loud, rambunctious children running around in public, and don’t get me started on how public schools deal with boys. Just try to find something entertaining for both kids and grown-ups that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg for larger families–admission to the local zoo for my family costs over $50 and requires over an hour, round trip, of driving. (And it isn’t even a very good zoo.) Now try to find an activity your childless friends would also like to do with you.

Young women are constantly told that getting pregnant will ruin their lives (most vocally by their own parents,) and that if they want to stay home and raise children, they are social parasites. (Yes, literally.) We see child-rearing, like tomato picking, as a task best performed by low-wage immigrant daycare workers.

I am reminded here of a mom’s essay I read about the difference in attitudes toward children in the US and Israel, the only Western nation with a positive native fertility rate. Israel, as she put it, is a place where children are valued and “kids can be kids.” I’ve never been to Israel, so I’ll just have to trust her:

How Israelis love kids, anyone’s kids. The country is a free-for-all for the youngest set, something I truly appreciated only once I started bringing my own children there. When I was a teenager visiting Israel from the States, I noticed how people there just don’t allow a child to cry. One pout, one sob, and out comes candy, trinkets and eager smiles to turn a kid around. That would never happen back home—a stranger give a child candy?!—but in Israel, in a nation that still harbors a post-Holocaust mentality, there is no reason that a Jewish child should ever cry again, if someone can help it.

Incidentally, if you qualify under Israeli health care law, you can get a free, state-funded abortion. Abortion doesn’t appear to have destroyed Israel’s fertility.

Since male fertility is (probably) already eugenic, then the obvious place to focus is female fertility: make your country a place where children are actively valued and intelligent women are encouraged instead of insulted for wanting them, and–hopefully–things can improve.

Why do women love cupcakes?


One of my kids enjoys watching YouTube cooking videos, and they’re nearly 100% women making cakes.

Women’s magazines focus exclusively on 4 topics: men, fashion, diets, and cupcakes. You might think that diets and cupcakes are incompatible, but women’s magazines believe otherwise:

Picture 5 Picture 6 Picture 8

Just in case it’s not clear, that is not a watermellon. It is cake, cleverly disguised as a watermellon.

(YouTube has videos that show you how to make much better cake watermellons–for starters, you want red velvet cake for the middle, not just frosting…)

Picture 10 Picture 11Magazines specifically aimed at “people who want to make cakes” are also overwhelmingly feminine. Whether we’re talking wedding cakes or chocolate cravings, apple pastries or donuts, sweets and women just seem to go together.

If men’s magazines ever feature food, I bet they’re steak and BBQ. (*Image searches*)

Picture 19 Picture 18 Picture 14 Picture 16






The meat-related articles do appear to be a little more gender-neutral than the cupcake-related articles–probably because men don’t tend to decorate their steaks with tiny baseball bats cut out of steak the way women like to decorate their cakes with tiny flowers made out of frosting.

It’s almost as if women have some kind of overwhelming craving for fats and sugars that men don’t really share.

I was talking with a friend recently about their workplace, where, “All of the women are on diets, but none of them can stay on their diets because they are all constantly eating at their workstations.” Further inquiries revealed that yes, they are eating sweets and pastries, not cashews and carrots, and that there is some kind of “office culture” of all of the women eating pastries together.

The irony here is pretty obvious.

Even many (most?) specialty “diet” foods are designed to still taste sweet. “Fat-free” yogurt is marketed as a health food even though it has as much sugar in it as a bowl of ice cream. Women are so attracted to the taste of sweet sodas, they drink disgusting Diet Coke. Dieting websites advise us that cake topped with fruit is “healthy.”

When men diet, they think “eat nothing but protein until ketosis kicks in” sounds like a great idea. When women diet, they want fat-free icecream.

I don’t think it is just “women lack willpower.” (Or at least, not willpower in the sense of something people have much control over.) Rather, I think that men and women actually have substantially different food cravings.

So do children, for that matter.

Throughout most of human history, from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, the vast majority of women have specialized in obtaining (gathering, tending, harvesting,) plants. (The only exceptions are societies where people don’t eat plants, like the Inuit and the Masai, and our modern society, where most of us aren’t involved in food production.) By contrast, men have specialized in hunting, raising, and butchering animals–not because they were trying to hog the protein or had some sexist ideas about food production, but because animals tend to be bigger and heavier than women can easily lift. Dragging home and butchering large game requires significant strength.

I am inventing a “Just So” story, of course. But it seems sensible enough that each gender evolved a tendency to crave the particular kinds of foods it was most adept at obtaining.

Exercise wears down muscles; protein is necessary to build them back up. Protein fuels active lifestyles, and active lifestyles, in turn, require protein. Our male ancestors’ most important activities were most likely heavy labor (eg, building huts, hauling firewood, butchering game,) and defending the tribe. Our female ancestors’ most important activities were giving birth and nursing children (we would not exist had they not, after all.) For these activities, women want to be fat. It’s not good enough to put on weight after you get pregnant, when the growing fetus is already dependent on its mother for nutrients. Far better for a woman to be plump before she gets pregnant (and to stay that way long after.)

Of course, this is “fat” by historical standards, not modern American standards.

I suspect, therefore, that women are naturally inclined to eat as much as possible of sweet foods in order to put on weight in preparation for pregnancy and lactation–only today, the average woman has 2 pregnancies instead of 12, and so instead of turning that extra weight into children and milk, it just builds up.

Obviously we are talking about a relatively small effect on food preferences, both because our ancestors could not afford to be too picky about what they ate, and because the genetic difference between men and women is slight–not like the difference between humans and lizards, say.

Interestingly, gender expression in humans appears to basically be female by default. If, by random chance, you are born with only one X chromosome, (instead of the normal XX or XY,) you can still survive. Sure, you’ll be short, you probably won’t menstruate, and you’ll likely have a variety of other issues, but you’ll be alive. By contrast, if you received only a Y chromosome from your parents and no accompanying X, you wouldn’t be here reading this post. You can’t survive with just a Y. Too many necessary proteins are encoded on the X.

Gender differences show up even in fetuses, but don’t become a huge deal until puberty, when the production of androgens and estrogens really cranks up.

Take muscle development: muscle development relies on the production of androgens (eg, testosterone.) Grownups produce more androgens than small children, and men produce more than women. Children can exercise and certainly children who do daily farm chores are stronger than children who sit on their butts watching TV all day, but children can’t do intense strength-training because they just don’t produce enough androgens to build big muscles. Women, likewise, produce fewer androgens, and so cannot build muscles at the same rate as men, though obviously they are stronger than children.

At puberty, boys begin producing the androgens that allow them to build muscles and become significantly stronger than girls.

Sans androgens, even XY people develop as female. (See Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, in which people with XY chromosomes cannot absorb the androgens their bodies create, and so develop as female.) Children produce some androgens (obviously,) but not nearly as many as adults. Pre-pubescent boys, therefore, are more “feminine,” biologically, than post-pubescent men; puberty induces maleness.

All children seem pretty much obsessed with sweets, far more than adults. If allowed, they will happily eat cake until they vomit.

Even though food seems like a realm where evolution would heavily influence our tastes, it’s pretty obvious that culture has a huge effect. I doubt Jews have a natural aversion to pork or Hindus to beef. Whether you think chicken hearts are tasty or vomitous is almost entirely dependent on whether or not they are a common food in your culture.

But small children are blissfully less attuned to culture than grownups. Like little id machines, they spit out strained peas and throw them on the floor. They do not care about our notion that “vegetables are good for you.” This from someone who’ll eat bird poop if you let them.

The child’s affection for sweets, therefore, I suspect is completely natural and instinctual. Before the invention of refined sugars and modern food distribution systems, it probably kept them alive and healthy. Remember that the whole reason grownups try to eat more vegetables is that vegetables are low in calories. Grownups have larger stomachs and so can eat more than children, allowing them to extract adequate calories from low-calorie foods, but small children do not and cannot. In developing countries, children still have trouble getting enough calories despite abundant food in areas where that food is low-calorie plants, which they just cannot physically eat enough of. Children, therefore, are obsessed with high-calorie foods.

At puberty, this instinct changes for boys–orienting them more toward protein sources, which they are going to have to expend a lot of energy trying to haul back to their families for the rest of their lives, but stays basically unchanged in females.

ETA: I have found two more sources/items of relevance:

Calorie information effects on consumers’ food choices: Sources of observed gender heterogeneity, by Heiman and Lowengart:

When it comes to what we eat, men and women behave differently: Men consume more beef, eggs, and poultry; while women eat more fruits and vegetables and consume less fat than do men. … The gender differences in preferences for healthier foods begin in childhood. Previous literature has found that girls choose healthier food and are fonder of fruits and vegetables than are boys. Boys rated beef, processed meat, and eggs as more desirable than did girls. …

Sensory (taste) differences between the genders are the second most widely ventured explanation for the differences in food choices, although it is not clear that such genetic differences actually exist. While the popular media argue that females prefer sweetness and dislike bitterness, while males may enjoy bitterness, academic literature on this matter is less conclusive. The bitter taste receptor, gene TAS2R38, has been associated with the ability to taste PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil),
one source of genetic variation in PROP and PTC taste. Individuals who experience bitterness strongly are assumed to also experience sweetness strongly relative to those who experience PROP as only slightly bitter. While previous studies found that inherited taste-blindness to bitter compounds such as PROP may be a risk factor for obesity, this literature has been hotly disputed.

The distribution of perceived bitterness of PROP differs among women and men, as does the correlation between genetic taste measures and acceptance of sweetness. A higher percentage of women are PROP and PTC tasters, sensing bitterness above threshold. It has been suggested that women are more likely to be supertasters, or those who taste with far greater intensity than average.

(I have removed the in-line citations for ease of reading; please refer to the original if you want them.)



Well, I don’t remember where this graph came from, but it looks like my intuitions were pretty good. males and females both have very low levels of testosterone during childhood, and duing puberty their levels become radically different.

Thoughts on Frost’s The Adaptive Value of “Aw Shucks”

Peter Frost recently posted on female shyness among men–more specifically, on the observation that adolescent white females appear to become very shy among groups of males and suffer depression, but adolescent black females don’t.

Frost theorizes that women are instinctually deferential to men, especially when they are economically dependent on them, and that whites show more of this deference than blacks because traditional white marriage patterns–monogamy–have brought women into more contact with men while making them more economically dependent on them than traditional African marriage patterns–polygyny–and therefore white women have evolved to have more shyness.

This explanation is decent, but feels incomplete.

Did anyone bother to ask the girls why they felt shy around the boys? Probably someone has, but that information wasn’t included in the post. But I can share my own experiences.

For starters, I’ve never felt–and this may just be me–particularly shyer around males than around females, nor do I recall ever talking less in highschool due to class composition. Rather, the amount I talked had entirely to do with how much I liked the subject matter vs. how tired I was. However, in non-school settings, I am less likely to talk when conversations are dominated by men, simply because men tend to talk about things I find boring, like cars, sports, or finance. (I suspect I have an unusually high tolerance for finance/economic discussions for a female, but there are limits to what even I can stand, and the other two topics drive me to tears of boredom. Sports, as far as I am concerned, are the Kardashians of men.) I am sure the same is true in reverse–when groups of women get together, they talk about stuff that men find horribly dull.

Even in classroom conversations that are ostensibly led by the teacher, male students may make responses that just aren’t interesting to the female students, leading to the females getting bored or having little to say in response.

So, do black adolescent girls and boys have more conversation topics in common than whites?

Second, related to Frost’s observations, men tend to be more aggressive while talking than women. They are louder, they interrupt more, they put less effort into assuaging people’s feelings, etc. I am sure women do things men find annoying, like ramble on forever without getting to the point or talking about their feelings in these weirdly associative ways. Regardless, I suspect that women/adolescents (at least white ones) often find the male style overwhelming, and their response is to retreat.

When feminists say they need “safe spaces” away from men to discuss their feminism things, they aren’t entirely inaccurate. It’s just that society used to have these “safe spaces” for women back before the feminists themselves destroyed them! Even now, it is easy to join a Mommy Meetup group or find an all-female Bible study club. But, oh wait, these are regressive! What we need are all-female lawyers, or doctors, or mathematicians…

*Ahem* back on subject, if testosterone => aggression, it would be interesting to see if the difference in black vs white females is simply a result of different testosterone levels (though of course that is just kicking the ball back a bit, because we then must ask what causes different testosterone levels.)

I suspect that Frost is on the right track looking at polygyny vs. monogamy, but I think his mechanism (increased time around/dependence on men => increase shyness) is incomplete. He’s missed something from his own work: polygynous males have higher testosterone than monogamous ones (even within their own society.) (See: The Contradictions of Polygyny and Polygyny Makes Men Bigger, Tougher, and Meaner.) Even if women in polygynous societies were expected to behave exactly like women from monogamous societies, I’d expect some “spillover” effect from the higher testosterone in their men–that is, everyone in society ought to have higher testosterone levels than they would otherwise.

Additionally, let us consider that polygyny is not practiced the same everywhere. In the Middle East, sexual access to women is tightly controlled–to the point where women may be killed for extra-marital sexual activity. In this case, the women are effectively monogamous, while the men are not. By contrast, in the societies Frost describes from Sub-Saharan Africa, it sounds like both men and women have a great many sexual partners during adolescence and early adulthood (which explains the high STD rates.)

If polygamy increases male aggression and testosterone levels because them men have to invest more energy into finding mates, then it stands to reason that women who have lots of mates are also investing lots of energy into finding them, and so would also have increased levels of aggression and testosterone.

Speaking again from personal experience, I observed that my own desire to talk to men basically cratered after I got married (and then had kids.) Suddenly something about it seemed vaguely tawdry. Of course, this leaves me in a bit of a pickle, because there aren’t that many moms who want to discuss HBD or related topics. (Thankfully I have the internet, because talking to words on a screen is a very different dynamic.) Of course, if I were back on the dating market again (god forbid!) I’d have to talk to lots of men again.

So I think the equation here shouldn’t be +time with men => +shyness, -time with men => -shyness, but +pursuit of partners => +aggression, -pursuit of partners => -aggression.

None of this gets into the “depression” issue. What’s up with that?

Personally, while I felt plenty of annoying things during highschool, the only ones triggered by boys were of the wanting to fall in love variety and the feeling sad if someone didn’t like me variety. I did feel some distress over wanting the adults to treat me like an adult, but that has nothing to do with boys. But this may just be me being odd.

We know that whites, women, and the subset of white women suffer from depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness at higher rates than blacks, men, and pretty much everyone else. I speculate that anxiety, shyness, disgust, and possibly even depression are part of a suite of traits that help women women avoid male aggression, perform otherwise dull tasks like writing English papers or washing dishes, keep out of trouble, and stay interested in their husbands and only their husbands.

In a society where monogamy is enforced, people (or their parents) may even preferrentially chose partners who seem unlikely to stray–that is, women (or men) who display little interest in actively pursuing the opposite sex. So just as women in polygamous societies may be under selective pressure to become more aggressive, women in monogamous societies may be under selective pressure to have less interest in talking to men.

Eventually, you get Japan.

Amusingly, the studies Frost quotes view white female shyness as a bad thing to be corrected, and black female non-shyness as a good thing that mysteriously exists despite adverse conditions. But what are the effects of white female shyness? Do white women go to prison, become pregnant out of wedlock, or get killed by their partners at higher rates than black women? Do they get worse grades, graduate from school at lower rates, or end up in worse professions?

Or maybe shy girls are perfectly fine the way they are and don’t need fixing.


Cathedral Round Up #3

stanford cover

From Stanford Magazine’s feature article, A Hard Look at How We See Race:

“Jennifer Eberhardt’s research shows subconscious connections in people’s minds between black faces and crime, and how those links may pervert justice. Law enforcement officers across the country are taking note.

The first time Jennifer Eberhardt presented her research at a law enforcement conference, she braced for a cold shoulder. How much would streetwise cops care what a social psychology professor had to say about the hidden reaches of racial bias?

Instead, she heard gasps, the loudest after she described an experiment that showed how quickly people link black faces with crime or danger at a subconscious level. In the experiment, students looking at a screen were exposed to a subliminal flurry of black or white faces. The subjects were then asked to identify blurry images as they came into focus frame by frame.

The makeup of the facial prompts had little effect on how quickly people recognized mundane items like staplers or books. But with images of weapons, the difference was stark—subjects who had unknowingly seen black faces needed far fewer frames to identify a gun or a knife than those who had been shown white faces. For a profession dealing in split-second decisions, the implications were powerful. … “

This is actually quite interesting research, but it does not investigate why people might have become hyper-vigilant about danger around black people to start with. Given that crime victimization surveys consistently show that blacks actually commit crimes at rates similar to their rates of incarceration, Professor Eberhardt is capturing, at best, a miniscule effect. The effect of black people actually committing real crimes explains the vast, vast majority of black incarceration, and any research on the subject that doesn’t take this into account is ignorant at best.

Keep in mind:


The police disproportionately shoot whites and Hispanics, not blacks, and even when they do shoot at blacks, they are mysteriously less likely to kill them. Police officers are actually less likely to use force against black suspects because they fear backlash:

Pistol-whipped detective says he didn’t shoot attacker because of headlines (article NOT from a university):

“A Birmingham, Alabama, police detective who was pistol-whipped unconscious said Friday that he hesitated to use force because he didn’t want to be accused of needlessly killing an unarmed man. …

“”We don’t want to be in the media,” he said. “It’s hard times right now for us.” …

“Adding insult to injury: several bystanders, instead of helping, took pictures of the bloodied officer as he was facedown on the concrete and posted the images on social media, where the officer was mocked. …

“”Pistol whipped his ass to sleep,” one user wrote, employing the hashtag #FckDaPolice. Another mockingly offered the officer milk and cookies for his “nap time.””

And it’s not just anecdote–here’s a study: Cops hesitate more, err less when shooting black suspects.

• Officers were less likely to erroneously shoot unarmed black suspects than they were unarmed whites — 25 times less likely, in fact
• And officers hesitated significantly longer before shooting armed suspects who were black, compared to armed subjects who were white or Hispanic

“In sum,” writes Dr. Lois James, a research assistant professor with the university’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology who headed the study, “this research found that participants displayed significant bias favoring Black suspects” in their shooting decisions.

Stanford Magazine closes with Ghosts of Mascots Past: Respect should transcend nostalgia:

“… I, too, am a Stanford Indian. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a proud Stanford alumna. But nothing about the caricature on that shirt represents me, my family, my community, or the hundreds of other Native students and alumni of the university.

Whenever the Stanford Indian resurfaces, I’m reminded that the Native members of the Stanford community still aren’t viewed as equals. …

Adrienne Keene, ’07, is a postdoctoral fellow in Native American studies at Brown University. She writes about Native representations on her blog, Native Appropriations.

If Indians don’t like being used as mascots, politeness dictates not using them as mascots.

However, the idea that you aren’t viewed as an equal at a university that is at least 50% non-white is really quite a stretch; the idea that the mascot has anything to do with it makes about as much sense as saying that the Irish aren’t viewed as equals at Notre Dame.


If anything, I’d think that attending a place like Stanford is rather akin to having the world handed to you on a big silver platter, and so maybe it looks bad to complain too much that your platter isn’t shiny enough or it wasn’t handed over with sufficient deference.

Next up, Harvard:


The text says, “From the Ground Up: Doing Business at the base of the pyramid

Let’s take a moment to look at these two covers. Stanford recently had a “Protest” cover, showing Stanford students shutting down a highway in support of Black Lives Matter; today’s cover is even starker.

Harvard’s cover also features black people, but more subtly, and these are black people who actually live in Africa, rather than America. The overall feeling I get when reading official (non-student run) Harvard publications is one of internationalism–here are pictures of our Ugandan law students, here’s what up with our European investments, here a story about a professor in China–while Stanford’s publications feels decidedly mired in common American problems.

This is not to say that Harvard students aren’t protesting in favor of Black Lives Matter–they definitely are. But the university’s official publications chose not to highlight this the way Stanford’s do. Harvard’s vision of itself is global; Standford’s is national.

Anyway, back to the article, a discussion of how difficult it is to be economically successful in Africa, because even though food grows perfectly well there, people haven’t figured out how to get it all to market before it rots. A country like Nigeria, therefore, is reduced to importing tomato paste while millions of tomatoes rot in the countryside. So some Harvard guys are trying to teach Nigerians how to efficiently preserve their tomatoes so they can actually get them to market before they rot. (Wouldn’t the most efficient solution be sun-dried tomatoes? I know plenty of African fishermen sun-dry their catches because it’s an easy and free way to preserve food in their environment.)

Unfortunately the whole process is impeded by Fulani tribesmen who like to herd their cattle through the tomato fields.

Open borders rule!

Then we get to the meat of the article:

Imagine a simple triangle diagram of the planet’s population. A fortunate couple of billion upper-income people—in the United States and Canada, much of Europe, Japan, Australia, and prospering urban centers in parts of Asia and Latin America—occupy the apex. The invisible hand of market capitalism supplies this prominent minority with bountiful goods and services. But that leaves a lot of people out. At the very bottom of the pyramid, a billion or more humans live in poverty (on less than $1.25 per person per day), often depending on government programs and charitable aid to subsist.

” … In a conversation, he compared the lives of these people, the base of the pyramid, with those at the top. Because they likely do not own property, and lack rent or tax receipts, they are not bankable, so they turn to exploitative money lenders for credit to stock a shop or start a small business. For medical care, they choose among local healers, vendors of patent nostrums, or queues at public clinics (where it may take a bribe to advance in line). Their labor, often interrupted by those queues or long bus trips to remit cash to a rural family, may be seasonal, itinerant, and legally unprotected. Functioning markets, he noted, imply a level playing field between consumers and producers, but most of these people aren’t getting a remotely fair deal. It is as if the broad base of the pyramid were an alternate universe where familiar rules don’t apply.

“Rangan quickly credited the late corporate strategist C.K. Prahalad, D.B.A. ’75, of the University of Michigan, for saying (most prominently in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, published in 2004) that the same rules ought to apply.”

As I have said over and over, societies are built by the people in them. At this point, invoking the Invisible Hand is tantamount to invoking Voodoo or the influence of Mercury retrograde in Taurus.

Countries where the people have high levels of trust, low levels of aggression, and low time-discounting end up with efficient, complex markets where they can do business with strangers without fear of being cheated or killed. In nice countries, like Japan, Finland, and even the US, the people depending on government aid and charitable programs to subsist do not have to bribe their way into medical care because people in those countries believe that bribery and line-jumping are immoral.

Nice countries are places where everyone agrees to cooperate in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Shitty ones are places where everyone is looking for a chance to defect–say, by running their cattle through a neighbor’s tomato fields.

“Philanthropic and development agencies tend not to scale or sustain themselves, he found, and public entities often fail to assure efficacy and efficiency. In contrast, “Through the ages, one actor has proven consistently able” to satisfy these criteria: competitive private industries.

“… Rangan applied his scholarly perspective to suggest inverting the telescope through which companies view prospective lower-income markets. “Typical marketing sells the organization to the customer,” he and research associate Arthur McCaffrey wrote a decade ago. (Need a car? We at GM/Mercedes/Toyota make good ones.) Within the base of the pyramid—devoid as it is of cash, roads, and gas stations—there are no such customers. But enormous demand exists for carts to ease the burden of hauling loads along muddy paths or cheap pumps to irrigate fields. Here, the proper paradigm is to “sell the customer to the organization.”

Long-term, I think making the opportunities to become successful available to people is actually a good strategy. The article is too long to continue quoting, but you can read it there if you’re interested in the opportunities/difficulties of investing in developing markets.

In Shedding Light through Social Science, Harvard’s President Faust, rated by Forbes as the 33rd most powerful woman in the world, descendant of Puritans, IVY league grads, Senators, and thoroughbred horse breeders, talks about the opportunities for Harvard to use its computing power to comb through Big Data in pursuit of the Great Informationing (my term, not hers):

“The nature of censorship in China, to give just one example, can be explored by monitoring the types of communication suppressed by the government, a project that relies on sifting through millions of social media posts.

“At the same time, real-world experiments can inform economic, political, and social theory. Are people more likely to save for retirement with the help of targeted brain stimulation? Can gender bias in hiring, promotions, and work assignments be overcome by evaluating candidates jointly rather than individually? How do malnutrition and sleep deprivation among low-income individuals influence economic outcomes? Faculty supported by cross-school research programs such as the Behavioral Insights Group and the Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative are answering these and other questions by undertaking discipline-spanning research that can shape everything from the decisions we make at the grocery store to the votes we cast in the ballot box.”

Personally, I think trying to electrocute people into having lower time preference is really scraping the bottom of the idea barrel; you might as well just throw in the towel and say that some people just aren’t very good at delaying gratification and there’s not much you can do about it. Faust continues:

“This is a time of remarkable promise for the social sciences. Yet short-sighted federal funding cuts are threatening our ability to answer questions that have the potential to inform and shape all of our lives. The last 51 of the United States’ recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics were supported by the research divisions of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, which may soon face a more than 50 percent reduction from current federal funding. If we hope to address complex and consequential issues such as climate change, global pandemics, and inequality and human rights, we cannot ignore unique insights into the human and behavioral that the social sciences alone can provide.”

Harvard has more money than god and could send a mission to Mars if it felt like, but more taxpayer dollars to investigate whether or not we can alter people’s brains to get them to save money is critical.

Harvard then turns to women’s issues, with a spotlight portrait of history Professor Catherine Brekus:

Catherine Brekus ’85 specializes in hearing the voices of America’s early female religious leaders, nearly lost to history …

” “I did not like studying history in high school,” the Warren professor of the history of religion at Harvard Divinity School confesses, smiling. “I was always good at it…but the idea is that you memorize a lot of facts, mostly about political history, and what happened when.” When she taught the subject to high-school students for two years, Brekus noticed that textbooks “have this narrative of political events…and then you have this little human-interest thing in a box. That was where the women would appear. My goal as a historian,” she adds, “is to get women out of those boxes and into the main texts.””

And she’s going to fix this by studying the lives of women whom no one cares about?

If you want more women in the history books, do (or encourage them to do) something worth recording in a history book.

In A Case for Women:

“When Nitin Nohria became Harvard Business School (HBS) dean in mid 2010, he detailed five priorities, ranging from innovation in education and internationalization to inclusion. In setting out the latter goal, he said in a recent conversation, he aimed not at numerical diversity, but at a broader objective: that every HBS student and teacher be enabled to thrive within the community.”

If you can’t “thrive” at HBS without the faculty making special sure to pander to your needs, you do not belong in business. The idea that women are special little wilting flowers who have to be coddled at every turn because they can’t take care of themselves, even at the highest levels of intelligence and achievement, is absolutely repulsive.

““I have launched an initiative that will focus…on the challenges facing women at the school,” Nohria wrote. He created an institutional home for the work—a senior associate deanship for culture and community—and appointed Wilson professor of business administration Robin J. Ely to the post: a logical choice, given her research on race and gender relations in organizations. …

“Just as M.B.A. cases have become increasingly global in the past decade, he aims for at least 20 percent to “feature a female” leader within the next three years. (And because HBS sells cases to schools worldwide, that shift will radiate far beyond Allston.) …

Ely recently recalled the concerns that prompted Nohria’s initial interest, including persistent underrepresentation of women among M.B.A. students earning highest academic honors.”

In other words, Nohria is making pity-jobs for women because they can’t hack it at HBS. Next time you look at the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, remember that college is now a make-work program for unemployable women.

Continuing the theme, “Not Holding out for a Hero” features an interview with the Asian Man now drawing Wonder Woman.

In Empathy and Imagination, author Ceridwen Dovey (now there’ a British name for you!) talks about how guilty she feels over apartheid in her childhood home of South Africa, a place she doesn’t actually bother to live in anymore, now that her political activist parents’ goal of racial harmony and integration have been achieved.

“Motherhood also played a role [in the writing of her new novel]: “It made me more grateful for the time I have to write,” she adds—and ultimately more creative, especially while finishing Only the Animals in 2013. The nature of pregnancy, nursing, and caring for a newborn intensified her kinship with “the whole family of mammals.”

“… Like Coetzee, Sax, an author and academic best known for his writings on animal-human relations, has influenced Dovey, who also admits to feeling “bewildered to the point of inaction in terms of the ethical responsibilities we have toward animals and the obligations we owe them as the dominant species on earth. We treat animals in the most appalling ways right now.” …

““I am very aware that we are all creatures who suffer together, and that existence is hard for us all,” Dovey reflects. “There is something, also, about the bond we have with animals, the care and connection that we don’t appreciate or see the magic in as much as we should.””

As Staffan points out, vegetarianism and Englishness (in this case, perhaps Welshness) are extremely correlated:

Map of self-reported English ancestry
Map of self-reported English ancestry (green)
Map showing the per capita distribution of vegetarian restaurants
Map of per capita distribution of vegetarian restaurants (green)
Graph of the correlation between vegetarianism and English ancestry
Graph of the correlation between vegetarianism and English ancestry

The English and their near kin are probably unique in the world in their ability to consistently extend their circle of concern not only to non-tribally related humans, but even to animals–even other whites do not share this trait:

Graph showing the much lower correlation between
Graph showing the much lower correlation between “whites” and vegetarianism

Since the English are included in whites, removing them from the graph would result in an even lower correlation.

Off-topic, here is a quick excerpt from an interesting letter to the editor:

“In those distant days, every Harvard and Radcliffe first- and second-year student was required to complete one full Gen Ed course in each of three broad areas: only 18 (not 574) two-semester courses qualified for “Humanities,” “Social Science,” or “Natural Science” credit, plus a two-semester Gen Ed A writing course required of virtually all entering freshmen.”

Hopefully I can get back to this in more depth later, but I suspect the massive increase in the sheer amount of media (books, movies, TV shows, etc.,) available to everyone over the past hundred years, while in many ways quite wonderful, has contributed to an intellectual fracturing where we no longer have a common set of ideas and metaphors at our disposal with which to communicate with others.

I was going to do Princeton and Yale, but Harvard gave me so much material that I’m just going to save them for next month.

Higher-ups argue about the Marine Study on Women in Combat

Just in case you’ve been following this, here are a few articles I’ve run into on the subject.

Congressman calls for Navy secretary to resign as Marines’ women-in-combat feud escalates

“Congressman Duncan Hunter, left, a California Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran, is calling for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to resign after Mabus criticized the Marine Corps’ gender integration research. …

“The military is on the cusp of historic change, with a mandate to open all combat roles to women by January. Each of the services has until Oct. 1 to request any exemptions to that policy.

Mabus has made his intentions clear, saying he won’t allow either the Navy or the Marine Corps to keep any specialties closed to women. …

Days later, Mabus went a step further, telling NPR that the Marine Corps’ study was flawed. He reiterated his position again this week during a speaking engagement in Ohio. …

“Mabus also has suggested the study’s results were predetermined.

“It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking ‘this is not a good idea,’ and ‘women will never be able to do this,’ ” Mabus told NPR in an interview broadcast on Sept. 11. “When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome.””

In response, Sergent Major Justin LeHew probably stated:

“Ok, been silent long enough on this. I have been a part of this process from the beginning and I am just going to put it out there. The Secretary of the Navy is way off base on this and to say the things he is saying is is flat out counter to the interests of national security and is unfair to the women who participated in this study.We selected our best women for this test unit, selected our most mature female leaders as well. The men (me included) were the most progressive and open minded that you could get. The commander of this unit was a seasoned and successful infantryman. The XO of this unit was as good as they get, so good the USMC made her the CO of the Officer candidate school.

This was as stacked as a unit could get with the best Marines to give it a 100 percent success rate as we possibly could. End result? The best women in the GCEITF as a group in regard to infantry operations were equal or below in most all cases to the lowest 5 percent of men as a group in this test study.
I just selected the SgtMaj of the unit to head up our senior enlisted academy at Camp Lejeune, NC. No one went in to this with the mentality that we did not want this to succeed. No Marine, regardless of gender would do that. With our limited manpower we cannot afford to not train eveyone to the best of their abilities.

They are slower on all accounts in almost every technical and tactical aspect and physically weaker in every aspect across the range of military operations. SECNAV has stated that he has made his mind up even before the release of these results and that the USMC test unit will not change his mind on anything.

Listen up folks. Your senior leadership of this country does not want to see America overwhelmingly succeed on the battlefield, it wants to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to pursue whatever they want regardless of the outcome on national security. The infantry is not Ranger School. That is just a school like any other school and is not a feeder specifically to the infantry.

Anyone can go to that school that meets the prereqs, just like airborne school. Kudos to the two women who graduated. They are badasses in their own right. In regards to the infantry… There is no trophy for second place. You perform or die.

Make no mistake. In this realm, you want your fastest, most fit, most physical and most lethal person you can possibly put on the battlefield to overwhelm the enemy’s ability to counter what you are throwing at them and in every test case, that person has turned out to be a man.

There is nothing gender biased about this, it is what it is. You will never see a female Quarterback in the NFL, there will never be a female center on any NHL team and you will never see a female batting in the number 4 spot for the New York Yankees. It is what it is. As a country we preach equality.

But to place these mandates on the military before this country has even considered making females register, just like males, for the selective service is in all aspects out of touch with reality. Equality and equal opportunity start before you raise your right hand and swear and oath to this country.

Yes, we are an all volunteer force at the moment. Should this country however need to mobilize rapidly again to face the threats of the world like our grandfathers did, it will once again look to the military age males of this country to fill the ranks because last I checked, we did not require women to register for the selective service.

Until that happens, we should not even be wasting our time even thinking about opening up the infantry to women.

To my female Marine friends out there, I love you to death, you are the best of the best and you have my continued admiration for what you do and to the Marines of the GCEITF….you are tops in my book for taking up the challenge…regardless what the SECNAV says about you not being the best that we could have put in that unit because you were….on all accounts.”


This was posted on FB communities for the Marines and Infantry, rather than an “official” source like a news article, so I can’t claim 100% certainty that someone didn’t just make it up. However, if you want the full United States Marine Corps Assessment of Women in Service Assignments, this looks about as legit as it gets. Since it’s all images, I’m not going to quote, but one of the things it does note is that the vast, vast majority of jobs in the military are already open to women; only a few of the very front-line, combat jobs are under discussion.

These are jobs where raw strength matters a lot, and the average person–male or female–probably isn’t cut out for such work, but females are far less likely than males to qualify.


My own opinion is that, in an ideal world, we would allow everyone into all jobs and just determine whether they are qualified or not via a test. But if many of the women who’ve been through boot camp and training and are genuinely trying still can’t do the job, how many qualified women are we even talking about? I’ve seen people trying to argue that nowadays weightlifting is getting more popular with women, so more women will be strong enough to qualify, but what these folks miss is that the men who qualify are already doing strength training; it’s not like anyone can just naturally lift 200 pounds. Mere strength training is not enough; these women would have to do far more strength training than the male recruits. We are running up, here, against human limits. Yes, there are some women who are both qualified for the job and actually have an interest in it, but how many? And when we find these few women, will the military actually gain strength from them, or will the logistics of integrating them into otherwise all-male units outweigh the benefits? I hate to be crass, but we women menstruate; supply chains would need to take this into account.

Frankly, if the draft returns, the last place I’d like to be is combat (and I guarantee you don’t want me there, either.)

Some Notable Nigerians

It’s easy to roll your eyes at people demanding that we teach the history of Africa and other non-Western locales. But I support such a move, so long as the history is honest.

Of course it wouldn’t be honest; we are a society of liars.

Here is Madam Efunroye Tinubu (c. 1810 – 1887) :

From the Wikipedia
From the Wikipedia

Madam Tinubu was a wealthy and powerful chieftess of the Egba clan (Youruba people, Nigeria.) She made her money through the slave trade, and resisted the British Colonial Government because it was interfering with he ability to make money by selling humans into bondage.

Tinubu Square in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, is named in her honor.

Cosmic Yoruba has some interesting things to say about the next chieftess of the Egba, Efunsetan Aniwura:

“…she was a WSW [note: woman who has sex with women] who never married, never had any children and was referred to as lakiriboto [a woman with no vaginal opening] …

“Efunsetan Aniwura rose to become a very powerful and wealthy trader in the 19th century, she is one of the few Yoruba women that has withstood the test of history. Oral tradition states that she had three large farms, and that no less than 100 slaves worked in each at a time. Apparently she owned over 2,000 slaves in her lifetime.

“Like other Yoruba women traders, Efunsetan travelled across the land trading with all sorts of people. Her speciality was in arms and ammunition, she would lend these to warriors when they were going on military expeditions and it seems she also went to war a few times herself.”

Cosmic Yoruba notes that “oral tradition” is often dodgy, and we can’t believe everything we hear. She rejects various stories about Efunestan going crazy and terrorizing her slaves, on the grounds that they don’t make much sense, and further speculates:

“I wonder if this is a classic example of history erasing a woman’s achievements. I will never get tired of pointing out how our current ideas on how our female ancestors lived are very different from the reality. We believe that they all married, lived “under” their husbands, never divorced, spent their lives in the kitchen while the men went out to work, never enjoyed sex, were all straight and so on. Powerful women like Efunsetan, who may have never married or had children and may have even been queer will have their stories snipped and trimmed, molded to become a warning for other women…so as to discourage them from craving power perhaps.”

Cosmic Yoruba has done a lot more research about traditional Nigerian life than I have, so I am inclined to trust her. Besides, her accounts line up with most other accounts I have read.

Cosmic Yoruba ends with songs praising Efunestan:

“The woman, who instils fear in others,
the fearsome one, who slaughters slaves to celebrate Id-el-Kabir.
Efunsetan is one force, Ibadan is another.
The valiant that challenges the Almighty God,
if the most high does not answer her on time,
Efunsetan leaves the earth to go and meet him in Heaven…”


Have you heard the story that Africa was a developed, thriving place full of wealthy economies and fabulous cities, until evil Europeans showed up, enslaved a bunch of people and colonized the rest?

Cities did exist in Sub-Saharan Africa, but they were few and far between. They were in the sorts of places you would expect them to, like the intersections of major trade routes or major ports. There were a few major trade items, like gold, ivory, and human beings. There were empires with wealthy individuals.

But the overall level of economic development throughout the sub-continent was very low. Those who claim that Europeans are responsible for the current levels of African development need to explain why African development was so low before the Europeans got there.

Edited to add: hey, look, we have a new graph! It is far superior to the old one, though it covers a different time range, so well still have to use both:

I really hope I can find a better graph
I really hope I can find a better graph
with special thanks to commentator "With the thoughts you’d be thinkin" and Wikimedia Commons
with special thanks to commentator “With the thoughts you’d be thinkin” and Wikimedia Commons

Back in the year one, most of the world was engaged in hunter-gathering, small-scale agriculture, or herding. The GDP of most of the world reflects this. Africa at least has gold to export, unlike the steppe. Africa is still less developed than Western Europe (and this is including northern Africa, which is quite different from Sub-Saharan Africa.)

By 1300-1400, various estimates put British per cap GDP around $1,000, with the average for Western Europe as a whole a little lower, but still more than the current per capita GDP of many modern Sub-Saharan countries. And it’s more than SSA had in 1400, well before European colonialism began. If anything, Africa’s GDP only took off after colonialsim; there is no sign that colonialism caused economic collapse.

According to Peter Frost, “In sub-Saharan Africa, high polygyny rates are associated with ‘female farming’ societies, and such societies began to spread outward from a point of origin near the Niger’s headwaters some 6,000 to 7,000 years ago (Murdock, 1959, pp. 44, 64-68).”

In The African Outlier, Frost quotes Draper, 1989 (PDF):  “Much of rural African subsistence is based on the work of women in their gardens; men make only modest contributions. Typically, rights in land are held by men by virtue of their membership in kinship or village units. A man who wishes to add another wife is under few constraints (provided his kinship group has the land and bridewealth), since women, in effect, pay their own way. They produce food, and they rear children. In rural areas, when a man marries an additional wife, he is awarded additional fields for this woman and her children (Bryson 1981). The importance of male labor to support such households is reduced. In former times, before colonially imposed peace, the male role in defense was important. But since central governments have been present, men who remain in rural villages spend their time in leisure, in management of household labor, or in local political affairs…”

And in The Beginnings of Black Slavery and The Beginnings of Black Slavery II, Frost argues that, “… It looks like black slaves began to enter the Middle East in growing numbers some time before 0 AD, the result being a slow but steady increase in the region’s black population throughout the early Christian era and into the Islamic era.”

He goes on to argue that polygamy basically drove the slave trade. Do the math; if one man has 5 wives, then four men have no wives. What do you do with your extra men? Attack the next village over, capture their women and sell all of their extra men into slavery.

There are other possible explanations, but I happen to find Frost’s convincing.

The idea that things were going swimmingly until Europeans showed up and started enslaving everyone is pure a-historical baloney. In fact, did you catch this little bit above: “Madam Tinubu … resisted the British Colonial Government because it was interfering with he ability to make money by selling humans into bondage.”

According to the Wikipedia page on Colonial Nigeria, “British influence began with prohibition of slave trade to British subjects in 1807. The resulting collapse of African slave trade led to the decline and eventual collapse of the Edo Empire. ”

So Nigerian heroes were actively resisting British influence in Nigeria because the British were trying to stop them from enslaving people, and the slave trade is supposed to be the fault of the colonizers?


Let’s teach history.



Well, I don’t hate women, but I don’t really understand them, either.

Take handbags. What is the deal with them?

I finally asked a woman why women carry handbags. She replied that she does it because she’s anxious and hauling a ton of stuff everywhere she goes makes he feel more confident.

When I want to haul a ton of stuff with me, I use a backpack. It is much more efficient and economical, and I haven’t had to buy a new one since highschool. Most of the time, though, I don’t really feel compelled to bring 20 pounds of stuff with me wherever I go, much less buy new containers for it all the time.

(It’s not that I dislike shopping so much as I dislike spending money.)

Since the internet thinks I am female, I get handbag ads:

Picture 6

I… I think that’s an add for porn. The handbag company must have gotten confused.

But what other things do women shop for? How about this helpful ad:

Picture 8

Words I normally associate with my pantry: rice, beans, spices, organization.

Words I definitely do not associate with my pantry: crazy, sexy.

Who the hell wants crazy things in their pantry? Maybe some of the “personal care” items are sexy (Boob-shaped soap? Toilet paper with penises printed on it? Vibrating tooth brush?) but what is a crazy one? And how is a “crazy” item ever a “must-have”?

Yes, I know, advertisements are lies. But they wouldn’t be making these particular lies if the lies didn’t at least occasionally work. Which means that someone out there saw “crazy sexy must have” and thought “YES I MUST HAVE THE CRAZY SEXY!”

I also get adds for clothing rental services. Like, you can rent a dress for a week and then send it back and get a new dress. If you don’t have enough dresses. Or pants. Or other clothes.

Do you know what every single woman in this entire country has enough of?


The mall overflows with clothes.

Women write articles about how they were so super depressed when [bad thing happened] that they didn’t buy any clothes for months. Months!

In the past three years, I think I’ve bought socks. And that was because I was headed to a wedding and at the last minute couldn’t find one of my regular socks.

Now, weddings. That’s another biggie. I hear they are a big deal with women. Like, first you have to hang out around this guy for a long time, with no knowledge of whether he wants to keep hanging out with your or is going to dump you tomorrow, and then suddenly bam, he gets down on one knee like a knight of old and gives you a rock. A sparkly rock! And like a magpie, you jump up and down and squeal with joy because you are so goddamn surprised that anyone would actually give you a rock, even though it’s actually just a boring old clear one and your favorite color is purple. Sure, it sparkles nicely, but tourmaline is way awesomer:

Tourmaline crystals
Tourmaline crystals


This actually a piece of amethyst, not tourmaline, but it is purple and so still interesting
This actually a piece of amethyst, not tourmaline, but it is purple and so still interesting

So, even though I can get a lovely chunk of tourmaline for 50 or 60 dollars, I’m supposed to demand that my boyfriend spend three month’s salary on one of the clear rocks or else he doesn’t love me. Three month’s salary that could have been spent on books, mind you.

Then come all of the parties. Bridal showers with chicken cloacas where people give me underwear as though I didn’t already own underwear and laugh and giggle about the prospect of my fiance seeing me in my underwear as though he hadn’t a hundred times already. A bachelorette party where… actually I don’t know what happens there. I’ve never been to one. A bachelor party where my fiance celebrates what a downer it is to be yoked sexually to me for the rest of his life by getting drunk and watching strippers, or whatever it is that people actually do at those things.

Then we spend about the cost of a new car or a tiny house or two on a big party for all of our friends. (Parties are nice, I suppose.) Of course I will spend a thousand dollars on a white gown, as though anyone in the audience could possibly be fooled into thinking I’m actually a virgin despite having lived with the guy for the past two years, and then I will never wear the damn thing again for the rest of my life. (For that much money, the dress ought to be a computer.)

And then, thank god, it’s over. I’m exhausted, you’re exhausted, and after a vacation if we can get off work, we’ll go back to living exactly like we did before.

Yes, I understand the point of marriage. I even understand the point of the wedding ceremony. What I don’t understand is why women want to spend so much money on so much useless stuff.

And don’t get me started on the diet ads… I hate diet ads.

The Utility of Anxiety

Disclaimer time: I am not a doctor. I am not a psychologist/psychiatrist. If you have a mental illness/disorder/concerns, take them up with a trained professional who knows what they’re talking about. For the love of god, DO NOT make medical/mental health decisions based on my speculative babbling about what might have been useful to our ancestors.

Carrying on…

Americans are an anxious people.

According to the Kim Foundation (I don’t actually know who they are, but they are the first hit that comes up when you Google “Percent Americans with anxiety,”) about 18% of us have some form of anxiety disorder, such as, “panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias.”

An additional 10% of us have mood disorders, eg, “major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.”

(The Anxiety and Depression Association of America gives the same stat, citing the National Institute of Mental Health as their source.) The NIMH made some lovely graphs:


NCS-R_AnxietyDisorders-Chart2-360_147928_2 NCS-R_AnxietyDisorders-Chart1-360_147927_2

Also from the NIMH:


There’s a lot of interesting data in this graph. For simplicity’s sake, from here on out, when I say, “Women,” I am referring primarily to “white women,” but remember that no group is entirely lacking in crazy.

Also, the graphs for mood disorders:

NCS-R_MoodDisorders-Chart2-360_148105_1 NCS-R_MoodDisorders-Chart1-360_148104_1

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute, those numbers don’t add up!”

They don’t have to add up. You can get diagnosed with two things at once. Or five. It just depends on how often you go pester the shrinks.

It’s no secret that women are kind of crazy, but I still find the numbers a little shocking. According to the Huffington Post, 25% of women are on psychiatric drugs of some sort. The article also claims that, “One in four women is on antidepressants,” so I guess 100% of women taking psychiatric drugs are on anti-depressants, or the math got fucked up somewhere.

Why do 22-25% of women feel so bad that they need psychiatric medication just to deal with their lives? (Not to mention 15% of men.)

Some quick possibilities:

1. Shrinks are handing out pills like crazy, whether patients are actually mentally ill or not, because who wouldn’t like to be happier and better-adjusted?

2. Something about modern life makes people (especially white women) very anxious.

3. Highly anxious people are a side effect of low infant mortality + the baby boom expanding the class of parents.

4. Anxiety/depression are actually adaptive, and so we are supposed to feel this way.

5. Some combination of all of the above.

Personally, I lean toward #5.

Now, a quick aside: I don’t really like feelings. Oh, sure, I’m okay with the good ones. Happiness, love, joy, enthusiasm, sure, I like those. But the rest of the feelings I could generally do without. I especially dislike other people’s emotions. “I am having a sad,” translates all too quickly into, “I am yelling at you.” So, as I stated at the beginning, if you think you need help handling your emotions, or the people around you think you do, please consider getting help. You don’t have to live in pain.

That said, I think anxiety is supposed to serve some purpose that modern conditions have gotten out of whack.

I have already posted about how depression, in small quantities, may help keep us out of trouble and sleep through the long European winters. In general, there are a lot of traits where I think a little bit may be beneficial, even though a lot is damaging.

So what purpose could anxiety serve?

According to WebMD, the most common causes of anxiety include:

  • Stress at work
  • Stress from school
  • Stress in a personal relationship such as marriage
  • Financial stress
  • Stress from an emotional trauma such as the death of a loved one
  • Stress from a serious medical illness
  • Side effect of drugs, legal or otherwise
  • Medical symptom, eg, low oxygen

The last three I consider perfectly rational biological responses–it’s very understandable that someone who can’t breathe feels anxious. But other than coffee, I doubt these are seriously affecting the overall anxiety rates.

That leaves us with “stress,” (which is basically a synonym for “anxiety”) from pretty much every part of life. Almost 20% of women cannot cope with work/school/relationships/finances without medication. It is tempting, therefore, to think that our entire modern lifestyle, from large, dense cities to two-income households could not exist without medicating women into not freaking out.

But why would they freak out in the first place?

Biochemically, “stress” is the feeling of your body responding to threatening or potentially threatening situations via your “fight or flight” response. In nature, fight or flight is very useful: it prepares you to run for your life or fight to the death. According to Wikipedia, Fight or Flight works like this:

The reaction begins in the amygdala, which triggers a neural response in the hypothalamus. The initial reaction is followed by activation of the pituitary gland and secretion of the hormone ACTH. The adrenal gland is activated almost simultaneously and releases the neurotransmitter epinephrine. The release of chemical messengers results in the production of the hormone cortisol, which increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and suppresses the immune system. The initial response and subsequent reactions are triggered in an effort to create a boost of energy. This boost of energy is activated by epinephrine binding to liver cells and the subsequent production of glucose. Additionally, the circulation of cortisol functions to turn fatty acids into available energy, which prepares muscles throughout the body for response. Catecholamine hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine) or noradrenaline (norepinephrine), facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action.

Oh, look, it’s our old friend, the amygdala! (See also here, here and here.)

According to Neuropolitics,

The basolateral amygdala has been linked to conditioned fear and disgust learning, while the central amygdala has been linked to conditioned fear learning. … liberals had elevated amydalar responses to the viewing of a political commercial about nuclear war.

Hart et al. (2000) selected an equal number of blacks and whites, repeatedly showing them pictures of white and black faces while performing fMRI. They noted: “across all subjects, we observed significantly greater…BOLD signal in the amygdala to outgroup vs ingroup faces, but only during later stimulus presentations. …

Further, Phelps found that activation in the left amygdala and right amygdala (all the way to the insular cortex) were correlated with a negative bias towards black faces on the Implicit Association Test.”

Last time I took an implicit association test, it told me that I prefer fat people over skinny and blacks over whites. I don’t know why everyone else fails these things.

the only region that was activated in both the Implicit Association and Startle Eyeblink tests was the left-superior amygdala. … Phelps noted: “the region in the amygdala most strongly correlated with negative evaluation [of black faces] was the left-superior amygdala”.

Richeson et al. (2003) performed an fMRI investigation of the impact of interracial contact on executive function, and uncovered a critical findings with regards to racial prejudice: it is inhibited by right hemispheric neural networks such as the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate. Richeson’s findings of a right-hemispheric network that inhibits racial prejudice shows the push-pull mechanism of the amygdala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, especially on the right side.

… Cunningham used two different exposure periods: an subconscious exposure of 30 milliseconds; and, a conscious exposure of 525 milliseconds. During the subconscious exposure, which was not long enough for most of the subjects to even be aware of the black and white face photos, Cunningham found the right amygdala to be activated in the black minus white condition, … Longer presentations of racial stimuli favor activation in the left amygdala, at least according to Phelps.

But with the 525 millisecond presentation, the amygdala’s racial responsiveness was inhibited, meaning it didn’t take very long for another area in the brain to assume control. And that region was located predominately in the right hemisphere, confirming the work of Richeson. Cunningham noted: “the regions Richeson et al. identified as underlying the control of prejudice were nearly identical to the regions identified in this study as being associated with modulation of automatic evaluations”.

Here is where I get speculative:

When we meet another human, we automatically assess whether they are a threat or not. If we know them well or they look like someone we know (and like), they go into the “not a threat” category. If they don’t look familiar, they go into the “might be a threat” box, and your body begins preparing to run/fight for your life.

Your brain makes this assessment subconsciously and begins preparing your fight or flight response before your conscious networks have even kicked in. Your conscious networks appear to be trying to override your unconscious ones–perhaps by just rationally evaluating potential threat, or perhaps by yelling at your amygdala to stop being so racist.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this mental push-pull between the amygdala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex created more stress. 

Men seem to cope better than women with stress and aggression. They have a naturally higher aggression “set point” due to being descended from the men who killed all the other men. Aggression has historically been a winning strategy for men, but not women. Aggressive women, historically, were more likely to kill their own children or, if pregnant, get their children killed by someone else. Being the smallest, weakest person around makes aggression a losing strategy.

Personal anecdote time: In my younger, dumber days, I was a lot more aggressive than I am now. Not so much in real life, because men are bigger than me and I’m not dumb. But in the relative safety of the internet, certainly. Then I got pregnant. Suddenly, I couldn’t stand aggression. I remember watching a YouTube video of police aggression. My heart started racing. My palms were sweating. I was reacting as though the aggression were in the same room with me, not a recording on a little screen of something that happened hundreds of miles away. After that, I stopped watching TV News and stopped fighting with random strangers on the internet. I couldn’t take them anymore.

Aggression is useful for finding mates, because it gets people out of the house and helps them talk to each other. Sometimes it also results in punching.

Pregnant women have no need for aggression. They have already found a mate, and now they need to keep him. (Mates are very useful for bringing you food during that healing period after birth.) Further, pregnant women need to protect their fetuses (and later, babies.) The mother needs aggression only to save her own life or her child’s life.

School, work, corporations, and daily city life all involve being constantly around hundreds if not thousands of unrelated people. And as you probably already know, trust and diversity are negatively correlated. (Or just read the book.)

Corporations are stressful because they’re full of aggressive men, who interrupt more, take credit for other people’s accomplishments, are noisy, and use their physical size to intimidate each other. Women respond to this in a variety of ways you’re already familiar with, including the consumption of large quantities of Xanax to keep them from freaking out and having a meltdown every time a strange man gets into an elevator with them.

You know what? This… isn’t helping.

Neither are these:

Carmen Tarleton, white woman whose ex husband doused her with lye and beat her with a baseball bat
Carmen Tarleton, white woman whose ex husband doused her with lye and beat her with a baseball bat
Carmen Tarleton's ex husband, who will not be executed.
Carmen Tarleton’s ex husband, who will not be executed.
Still from Rhianna's music video about torturing a white woman for money
Still from Rhianna’s “empowering” music video about torturing a white woman

Anxiety exists because it helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations, but modern life basically requires spending high amounts of time in anxiety-inducing situations. Some people eventually learn not to freak out and suppress their instincts, but for many people, repeated stimulus exposure only makes things worse.


But aside from preparing people to flee or fight,  I suspect that anxiety serves another purpose: it forces women to do whatever it takes to remain part of the group, the tribe, because the tribe is survival, and outside the tribe is nothing but the howling wind and empty, barren waste. Female survival and evolutionary success has not historically depended on dominating the tribe, but on not getting kicked out.

Anxiety does not manifest itself as a rational response. Someone else does something wrong, you tell them not to, and afterward, you feel anxious. Objectively, you are in the right. The other person did something wrong. But your emotions tell a different story. Your emotions say that you are wrong. This is because you are not at peace with your tribe, with your friend or family member.

Or let us suppose that you say something innocently, even helpfully to another person, and they take it the wrong way and become angry and yell at you. Afterwards, do you feel mad at them? Or do you just feel unhappy that they are feeling so unhappy?

Okay, maybe not you, my faithful reader. You probably aren’t female.

Anxiety is one of those things that I suspect is good in moderation. A bit of concern for safety makes people pay attention as they go about their business. Double-checking that the locks are locked and the stove is off before going to bed could save your life. Being willing to put aside hurt feelings and make amends with others makes life more pleasant, and is probably crucial to living in large communities. Taken in excess, any of these behaviors becomes debilitating–the person develops agoraphobia, OCD, or pathological unwillingness to stick up for themselves.

A small amount of anxiety may also be useful in getting people to pay attention to little details. It’s making sure that all of the is are dotted and ts are crossed that makes sure airplanes stay in the air, after all.

Peter Frost has laid out a series of posts on guilt, and by contrast, shame. Now, here I must make a confession: I lack an intuitive sense of the distinction he is drawing between guilt and shame, or perhaps just lack sufficient exposure to “shame cultures” to really get it. Regardless, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to suspect that “guilt” and “anxiety” may be deeply linked.

Frost proposes that, “Pervasive feelings of guilt are part of a behavioral package that enabled Northwest Europeans to adapt to complex social environments where kinship is less important and where rules of correct behavior must be obeyed with a minimum of surveillance.” 

While most commentator posit the European guilt complex arose in response to specific events, eg, the Holocaust, Frost traces it back to a much earlier time, citing, for example, Aelfric of Eynsham, an English abbot born in 955:

He who cannot because of shame confess his faults to one man, then it must shame him before the heaven-dwellers and the earth-dwellers and the hell-dwellers, and the shame for him will be endless. (Bedingfield, 2002, p. 80)

And The Song of Beowulf:

That was sorrow to the good man’s soul, greatest of griefs to the heart. The wise man thought that, breaking established law, he had bitterly angered God, the Lord everlasting. His breast was troubled within by dark thoughts, as was not his wont.

(Personally, I’ve always thought Grendel was a metaphor for plague, and Beowulf plunging into the lake represents a human sacrifice by drowning/throwing the sacrificed victim into the lake to appease the gods, but I am really not an Anglo Saxon culture expert.)

Frost pushes back the potential beginnings of guilt culture even further, to the semi-sedentary Scandinavian/Baltic hunter-gatherer/fishing communities of 8,500 years ago. He suggests that in this environment, guilt made people cooperate, Prisoner’s Dilemma-style, and community sanctions against defectors ensured that they stayed a low enough percent of the population that they couldn’t take advantage of the folks who felt a lot of guilt. Quoting Frost:

What is to stop some individuals from exploiting the guilt proneness of others while feeling no guilt themselves? This free-rider dilemma may have been resolved in part by identifying such individuals and ostracizing them. It may also be that these semi-sedentary communities were conducive to evolution of altruistic behavior, as described by Maynard Smith’s haystack model (Wikipedia, 2013). According to this model, guilt-prone individuals are at a disadvantage within any one community and will thus become fewer and fewer with each generation. If, however, a community has a high proportion of guilt-prone individuals, it will have an advantage over other communities and thus expand in numbers at their expense. And if these communities disperse and regroup on a regular basis, the overall proportion of guilt-prone individuals will increase over time. …

There is an obvious issue that arises if a guilt-ridden society suddenly obtains a large number of individuals who don’t buy into the whole guilt complex.

… it was the hunter-fisher-gatherers of the North Sea and the Baltic who led the way to behavioral modernity, i.e., individualism, reduced emphasis on kinship, and the market as the main organizing principle of social and economic life. Their mode of subsistence was not wiped out by agriculture, unless one sees fishing as a kind of farming. They not only survived, but also went on to create what we now call the Western World. Not bad for a bunch of losers.

The guilt complex is obviously deep in Christianity. My researches so far have not revealed a similar guilt complex in other religions, though to be fair, Hinduism is vast and well beyond my understanding. IMO, some Christians take this guilt to an unhealthy level:

Self-flagellation, from the Wikipedia
Self-flagellation, from the Wikipedia

The Wikipedia further claims:

Some members of strict monastic orders, and some members of the Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, practice mild self-flagellation using an instrument called a “discipline”, a cattail whip usually made of knotted cords, which is flung over the shoulders repeatedly during private prayer. Pope John Paul II took the discipline regularly.

The Wikipedia page on Flagellantism, a Medieval Religious movement, deserves reading in its own right, but I will try to quote a representative bit here:

The 11th-century zealot Dominicus Loricatus repeated the entire Psalter twenty times in one week, accompanying each psalm with a hundred lash-strokes to his back. … The movement did not have a central doctrine or overall leaders, but a popular passion for the movement occurred all over Europe in separate outbreaks. … The prime cause of the Perugia episode is unclear, but it followed an outbreak of an epidemic and chroniclers report how the mania spread throughout almost all the people of the city. Thousands of citizens gathered in great processions, singing and with crosses and banners, they marched throughout the city whipping themselves. … The movement spread across Northern Italy, up to 10,000 strong groups processing in Modena, Bologna, Reggio and Parma …

The German and Low Countries movement … established their camps in fields near towns and held their rituals twice a day. The ritual began with the reading of a letter, claimed to have been delivered by an angel and justifying the Flagellants’ activities. Next the followers would fall to their knees and scourge themselves, gesturing with their free hands to indicate their sin and striking themselves rhythmically to songs, known as Geisslerlieder, until blood flowed. Sometimes the blood was soaked up in rags and treated as a holy relic. … some towns began to notice that sometimes Flagellants brought plague to towns where it had not yet surfaced. Therefore later they were denied entry. They responded with increased physical penance.

The anchorites were early hermits/monks who were literally walled into tiny rooms they never left for the rest of their lives:

The original Tiny House
Medieval illustration of anchorite cell

Maybe if Xanax had existed in Medieval Europe, people would have been less prone to walling themselves up in churches.

Note that self-flagellation and anchoritism are not rational responses to life in Medieval Europe–not only do they not solve problems like the Black Death, they may have exacerbated them. They are extreme emotional responses to overwhelming feelings of guilt and anxiety.

Properly balanced, guilt and anxiety can prompt people to treat each other fairly and be attentive in their work. Unbalanced, the individual (or society,) becomes unhinged. They start demanding that their own societies be destroyed because they they must have done something wrong to have more advanced tech than other societies, or groveling for forgiveness for things they didn’t even do:

white woman begs forgiveness

White woman begs forgiveness for slavery

Anxiety and guilt have their good sides. Society probably couldn’t exist without them. But they have to be in balance.

Is Humor Some Sort of Man Thing?

As I mentioned before, I’ve never even heard this claim before that “men are funnier than women,” much less any ev psych claims on the subject, so I decided to investigate.

According to Cracked, approximately everyone thinks men are funnier than women, but for totally dumb reasons like evolution turning men into dicks who then act in evolutionarily approved ways rather than socially approved ways. Or because elementary school teachers laugh at the antics of little boys and punish little girls for acting up, which I suppose is the sort of thing you might believe if you’ve never encountered elementary school, children, or parents in your life and are completely incapable of understanding basic statistics.

It’s at times like this that a little voice pops up in the back of my head and says, “Math is hard. Let’s go shopping!” and I say, “Yes, disembodied Barbie, yes! Let’s give in to the corporate programming! Maybe we will get dumb shoes!” Then I go back to acting like a normal human.

According to The Independent, men don’t find women funny or don’t like it when women are funny or something like that. Why? ‘Cuz, like, masculine egos, domination, funny women intimidate men or come off as mannish or something.

Moving on to to Psychology Today, “humor researchers have long noted gender differences in the use and appreciation of humor. While women want to settle down with a guy who can crack a good joke, men, to a large degree, want a partner who laughs at their antics.”

Wait, “humor researchers”? This is a thing? That people get paid for?

Can I get that job?

Back on subject, this seems like a reasonable arrangement: if one side likes telling jokes, and one side likes hearing them, then everyone is happy, yes? (Except, of course, for women who want a career in stand-up comedy. Although Lucile Ball seems to have done quite well as a professional comedian.)

To be fair, “good sense of humor” is something I have heard that women put in their dating profiles a lot. I’m not exactly sure why; if I were making a dating profile, it’d probably say something like, “Must be willing to check the math on my calculations of rates of genetic spread over time,” or, “Must be capable of intelligently debating the role of the anterior cingula in disgust and facial recognition.”

Probably the guys over at Chateau Heartiste and the other PUA blogs have some intelligent answer to this mystery; any of you guys want to weigh in?

Let’s assume that everyone is telling the truth, and that women like funny men, and men like women who laugh at their jokes. On the male side, this leads to the obvious conclusion that “humor” is not just “masculine,” but a form of masculine aggression or alphaness, similar to being 6’4″, making over 100k a year, or doing Xtreme sports. We might even classify “humor” as a subset of “aggressively gregarious,” which obviously works very well at attracting women. (Suggesting that starting off your date with a series of knock-knock jokes is not what women want, but actually the ability to generally converse in an aggressive conversation style that lets you successfully deflect embarrassment from yourself while showing how much better than others you are, eg, the responses listed in “How to Blow Past Girls Dropping the “Creep” Bomb.”)

Aggressive behavior is actually valuable for women (they have to live in society, too,) but it is not generally their core competency. In particular, while men strut through life trying to dominate each other at every pass (they even randomly bash into each other while walking down the sidewalk just to assert dominance,) women tend to pepper their conversations with signals of non-aggression.

This all gets back to the different historical rates–and mechanisms–of male/female reproductive success. In a world where 40% of males reproduced, vs. 80% of women, male success has been ensured largely by being dominant over other males in order to control access to women. Female success has not been due to being dominant over other women, but due to their skills at social organization. Women are sensitive to aggression because, simply put, they are easier to kill than men, and no one wants to be killed.

At any rate, laughter is a form of punctuation, especially for women. This is part of why people note laughter in their online communications, LOL. Smiley faces are also common in female text, and general non-aggression signaling (“Sorry for writing so much, LOL! I’m just a chatterbox! :)” writes a woman who just wrote four whole sentences on a topic.)

To be honest, this quality can make women really annoying to talk to. They have emotions and get offended easily, and there’s a whole industry devoted to milking women’s offendedness for all its worth. Additionally, even when politics aren’t concerned, women tend to take critique really personally and get frustrated easily. When men get frustrated, they get aggressive. Frustrated women cry.

Laughter is a good technique for diffusing potentially awkward or frustrating situations. Laughing makes people happy and disguises aggression–so if you can make a girl laugh, she probably 1. enjoys your conversation, and 2. perceives you as less aggressive.

But what about men not valuing humor in women? Well, men don’t generally want dominance displays from women; they want to know that women like them. Women’s dating advice websites don’t generally cover how to make playful banter, suggesting that playful banter just isn’t that important a skill for women. (Though conversation skills help with making friends.)

Very tellingly, apparently women who crack jokes appear to be preferred as one-night stands, while less-joke prone women have an advantage on the long-term market. This introduces a chicken and egg problem: do men actually prefer jokers for one night stands, or do jokers prefer one-night stands? In general, the one-night-stand environment tends to select for masculine women (and men) with more aggressive traits (suitable to encountering and pursuing many partners,) whereas the long-term environment tends to favor more feminine traits, like staying devoted to one partner and not sleeping around.

Civilization, of course, is built on these feminine traits (among many).