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Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

It happens all the time: strange and indecipherable abbreviations for variables in statistical packages. Trying to create a label for a complex construct that is only 4 or 5 characters can be a challenge, no doubt. It can also provide those of us who download these data sets with plenty of amusement. Take for instance this variable name: BTCH. I’ll bet you can guess what I thought when I first read that.  So I checked the code book. Apparently BTCH is the abbreviation for… btch. Helpful, right?

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(from the kitchen)

Mr. Errata: Do I use this whole can of frosting?

Alotta Errata: (laughing) Yes.

Mr. Errata:  What do I spread it with?

Alotta Errata: A knife… or a spatula…

Mr. Errata: There’s no special frosting tool?

Alotta Errata: mmmm… no.

Mr. Errata:  Well I don’t know, I’ve never frosted a cake before

Alotta Errata: (incredulous) You’ve  never frosted a cake?

Mr. Errata: I’m a man!

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Ode to STATA

I’m currently going through the process of learning STATA. I’ve been told that I’ll come to love it with time and practice, but for now I find that many missteps to be frustrating (and not very environmentally friendly when it comes to printing out the results of the lab)

In order to air my frustrations more eloquently, I wrote this haiku:

My lab results in

wasted paper wasted time

STATA loves me not.

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After a long week of too much working, too much cleaning, and too much thinking, Mr. Errata and I decided that it was high time we sit down and relax for a bit. There were some episodes of Last Comic Standing that we’d been saving, and I could always use a little humor in my life. The episodes were older, the semi-finals I believe. As the host welcomes the crowd he asked “Are you ready for some funny sh-” catches himself “show?”  he laughs a bit and looks at the audience “You know what I wanted to say”

Yes, we do. But sorry, Bill. Shit is not allowed on Network TV. Neither are the F word or the N word or any words that “in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities” The FCC is watching out for our well being you know. They wouldn’t want any of us to be offended by words that might remind us that we have bodily functions or lusty urges, and they certainly wouldn’t want women to feel degraded or marginalized. Oh wait. I take that back.

It is perfectly OK to call a woman a bitch on network TV. I don’t know why it never occurred to me until tonight, perhaps it was the comic who, despite most likely being warned not to, used shit in their set quickly followed by bitch. Only the word shit was muted. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to go cry to the FCC. My panties are not all in a bunch – that would make me a bitch.  In all seriousness though, while I feel the FCC has become more of a problem than a solution, this double standard of the English language still perplexes me.  Why is it that there are no real male equivalents for a word like bitch? If you call a man a bitch, it emasculates them, which is quite possibly the worst thing you could do to a man. In fact, emasculating a man by using a word such as pussy causes such damage, that the producers of a PBS documentary on psychological trauma suffered by US Soldiers chose to allow its use while bleeping out the f-word within the same sentence.

You may be wondering about the word “pussy.” Ugly as the expression is, we felt it was absolutely necessary to convey the way a soldier seeking help was made to feel—accused of being unmanly or weak. If we had bleeped both words, the viewer would have had no idea of the emotional impact of what the soldier was called. But I can share with you the news that, yes, a complaint has been filed with the FCC for use of the P-word.

When you call a woman a bitch it could be because she’s more aggressive than society would like, or perhaps because she has a sour disposition, or really is just plain mean.  What about a man who is too aggressive? Is there such a thing? And I am not speaking in sexual terms. The man who is aggressive in the workplace is called passionate, a go-getter, a leader. Not so for women. What about a man who is just plain mean? I suppose we could call him a jerk, or an ass, or even a bastard- but really, do those words have the same bite as bitch?  Bastard might come close, but somehow I don’t think it is quite the same.

Let’s look at the FCC guidelines again.

The FCC has defined broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.

Well there you have it. Bitch doesn’t depict a sexual act or an excretory organ or activity.  Well no wonder it is allowed. And that totally explains why the n-word isn’t allowed, because we all know that the n-word  has everything to do with sexual acts and excretory organs.  Oh wait, I’m wrong again. The n-word has to do with decades of enslavement, disenfranchisement, and overall oppression that still goes on today. So while it doesn’t fit into the tidy little paragraph above, the n-word is banned for significant reasons.  If we applied the the reasoning behind banning the n-word to the word bitch, do you think that bitch might find itself banned as well?  If someone is your bitch, aren’t they subordinate? oppressed? Is it, like the n-word, a derogatory word based on nothing but a biology- a basic physical attribute? Is it not treated in a similar way when used between friends? For instance, a woman who introduces other women as “her bitches” is speaking of her friends. A man who introduces a group of women as “his bitches” is probably making a buck off of them. Similarly, a black person who refers to someone as “my n-word” is saying that they are peers, while if a white person said the same of a black person, it would not be viewed the same.

I don’t think banning the words is the solution. Making them go away does not wipe their existence from our minds and our lips.  Banning bitch will not suddenly make people think differently about women, just as the taboo of the N-word has not stopped racism from happening.   I’m not sure what the solution is, or if there is one to be had.  All I do know is that there is a double standard built into our very language,  the building blocks of our thoughts.  What kind of society can we build with these malformed bricks? My guess is a very unbalanced one- but if I criticize, well that just makes me a bitch.

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