All That Lovely Power

Over little toys and little boys:

A kindergarten teacher in Bainbridge Island, Washington, actively denies her male students the opportunity to play with Lego blocks in order to encourage her female students to play with them. Karen Keller bars the boys in her class from playing with the colourful blocks, even going so far as to lie to them about their opportunity to play. “I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” Keller told the Bainbridge Island Review.

Because “unstructured play time” must be structured to conform with “promoting gender equity.”

Lego and “social justice.” We’ve been here before, you know

Always Winter, Never Christmas

Determined to be unhappy about something, the Guardian’s Michele Hanson turns her drab, sad face to the subject of superhero dolls:  

They’re bendy and athletic, rather than stiff, pointy and girly. The teenage version of superheroines. 

Not pointy. Not girly. Um, that’s good, right?

They have physical powers rather than sex appeal.

Again, I’m not quite seeing the problem here.

I suppose it’s a step in the right direction.

Heavens. Things are going suspiciously well today. Perhaps a but is coming.

But why do the new dollies have to look so odd? Why the super-long anorexia-style legs and the thigh-gap? The weeny torsos with no room for innards? The giant or robot-style heads, the big (mainly) blue eyes and formidable eyelashes? 

Um, because they’re small plastic dolls based on a cartoon about comic book characters – you know, toys, designed to amuse children? And not, therefore, geared to the preferences of a self-described “single older woman” who writes for the Guardian. And I suspect the “thigh-gap” that so offends Ms Hanson has quite a lot to do with making a small, poseable doll with legs that can actually move.

They still give me the creeps. Dolls always have.

And… well, that’s it, really. So, class. Today we’ve learned that Ms Hanson isn’t a fan of dolls with big eyelashes and insufficiently discernible internal organs. At this point, readers may detect a hint of frustration, the sense that our grievance-seeking columnist has tried very hard to find fault with an unremarkable product – some damning evidence of sexism, perhaps – and then fallen on her arse. Indeed, just days earlier, the dolls in question were hailed by the Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, as “challenging sexism in the toy industry,” in part because said toys were “designed by women following creative input from girls.”

Thwarted in her fault finding, Ms Hanson concludes by sharing a childhood memory, the point of which is somewhat unclear:

I had a pram full of animals when I was little, but my auntie insisted that I have a dolly, because I was a girl, and she gave me a cloth one, with moulded cloth face and shiny, pretend hair. But I scribbled all over its blank, spooky face, pulled its hair out, and my mother had to hide it from auntie in the wardrobe. Forever.

So there’s that.

Readers may recall Ms Hanson from this earlier display of factual rigour and socialist bonhomie.

Not So

New York Times, December 8, 1985:  

For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few… On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

In 1985, the New York Times claimed a weekday circulation of just over one million copies. Specifically, 1,013,211 on March 31. In 2015, when most Americans have computers in their pockets (and even use them at the beach and on trains), print sales of the New York Times have fallen to around half that figure, and the paper is chiefly read via the kind of devices once dismissed as implausible. Rather than “whiling away the hours reading the sports or business section,” the majority of readers are now “flybys,” their stays lasting for an average of four minutes, generally to read something linked via email and social media. And browsing one article isn’t quite the same thing as reading a newspaper.  

Via Kevin D Williamson

Elsewhere (167)

Eugene Volokh on the now-official “microaggression” of criticising leftist assumptions:  

I’m happy to say that I’m just going to keep on microaggressing. I like to think that I’m generally polite, so I won’t express these views rudely. And I try not to inject my own irrelevant opinions into classes I teach, so there are many situations in which I won’t bring up these views simply because it’s not my job to express my views in those contexts. But the document that I quote isn’t about keeping classes on-topic or preventing personal insults — it’s about suppressing particular viewpoints. And what’s tenure for, if not to resist these attempts to stop the expression of unpopular views?

If, for example, you don’t regard a person’s melanin level as both a fascinating detail of their being and an inexhaustible license to invoke victimhood and deference, then you’re probably committing a microaggression. And the publicly-funded University of California thinks you may be “sending denigrating messages” and “creating a hostile learning environment” because you aren’t awed and enthralled by how brown a person is.

Charles C W Cooke finds a modern echo of an old George Orwell quote: 

“We don’t want to hear about these bourgeois writers like Shakespeare,” says [Californian school teacher, Dana] Disbiber. “Worry not, teaching him helps the progressive cause,” replies [New Republic columnist, Elizabeth Stoker] Bruenig… When politics is everything and everything is politics, nothing escapes the commissar’s judgment. It is one thing to analyse art for its political content — critically necessary even – but it is quite another to subjugate one’s view of that art to one’s politics.

Of course Orwell, like Shakespeare, is - to use Disbiber’s parlance - a dead white male, and worse, a critic of piously narrow attitudes like those of Dana Disbiber. We must therefore regard both authors as insufficiently progressive and entirely devoid of relevance.  

And in other thrilling academic news

Utah Valley University, with an enrolment of about 34,000 students, is trying out a staircase with lanes. Lane one is for walkers, two for runners and three for texters.

Feel free to share your own links and snippets below. It’s what these posts are for. 

Brand Loyalty

The modern world is a strange and wondrous place:

A neighbour came home from work around 1 am and found a man staggering around the parking lot covered in blood. When police interviewed the man about what had happened, the man told them he and his roommate had got into a heated debate over whether the iPhone or the new Samsung smartphone is better.

Such was the passion on the subject,

The roommates’ argument escalated and they ended up stabbing each other with broken beer bottles. One of the men smashed a bottle over the back of the other man’s head.

Both men are expected to make a full recovery. However,  

Police did not respond when our photographer asked which phone is better.

Feel free to glass each other in the comments. 

Ideally, However, No-one Actually Wins

Here’s an essential purchase for the coming festivities. 

We may live in a materialistic world, but Aussie educator Andrea Thompson has created a fun way to help the next generation understand the importance of social responsibility in a new family board game. Fair Go is a unique board game where the winner is determined by who has the best reputation for philanthropy and social justice. 

From what I can make out – and it’s not always easy to follow - it’s a kind of “social justice” Monopoly, in which rolling a double six doesn’t get you an extra turn and you don’t get any money when you pass ‘Go’. The game is advertised, proudly, with the following endorsement by an unspecified grandma: “Great holiday fun – nobody finishes before the others.” And yes, there’s a thrilling video of Fair Go being played, albeit in a somewhat unexcited manner, by two right-thinking persons who, I’m sure, are feeling good about themselves. 

Andrea observed how hard it was to find a family game which could be adapted for different ability levels and where winning depended on making good choices, so she decided to create her own. She hopes that players learn how to win in a fun way “without hurting their friends.” 

As Tim Blair says, “Because so many board games end in terrible violence.”