Blog Archives

Teen sues school that wouldn’t let him go to prom in a dress

When Kevin Logan went to his high school prom in 2006, he was hoping it would be a night to remember. What he’ll remember, though, will be standing outside in the parking lot while his classmates danced inside.

As Logan walked up to the prom, clad in a pink prom dress, West Side High School Principal Diana Rouse blocked the doorway and refused to let him inside….

Logan claims Rouse ordered him to leave and called security. Humiliated, Logan claims, he walked to the parking lot to take pictures with his friends while everyone else danced inside. As they snapped photos, word spread inside that Logan was not being allowed into the prom. According to the suit, students and teachers came outside to voice their support, with some asking Rouse to change her mind. She refused

Mallory Simpson’s excellent article on CourtTVNews has more details, including the encouraging news that a woman student was allowed into the prom dressed in a tux.  It also illustrates the routine humiliations that people in high school for people face if they fall outside societal gender norms:

During the first week of Logan’s senior year in high school in Gary, Ind., he was taken to Rouse’s office by security guards, where he was questioned about the purse he was wearing.  But, he was sent back to class without being disciplined, according to the suit.

How generous: they merely dragged him to the principal’s office, but didn’t actually discipline him, for expressing his gender identity.


PS: A May 2006 article from the Advocate gives some additional background.


Comments (2)


Insults, “mate retention behavior”, and gender violence

Continuing the theme for the day, I was looking at a couple of abstracts from Christian Jarret’s excellent BPS Research Digest:

  • Why do some men insult their partners? concludes “men who habitually insult their wives or girlfriends do so, somewhat paradoxically, as part of a broader strategy to prevent them from leaving for someone else – what evolutionary psychologists call ‘mate retention'”
  • Does your boyfriend let you out of his sight? suggests that “certain male behaviours tended to be associated with the use of violence against women.” The ones they discussed in the summary are pretty much what you’d expect: “men who were violent toward their partners also tended to use emotional manipulation (e.g. threatening to hurt themselves if their partner left them), to monopolise their partner’s time (e.g. not letting her go out without them), and/or to punish their partner’s infidelity (e.g. by becoming angry when she flirted with anyone else).” By contrast, ‘mate retention behaviors’ such as telling your partner “I love you” and spending lots of money on her* is associated with a lack of violence.

[The mate retention inventory (.doc file) makes interesting reading … too bad there’s nothing in the digest summary about the assocations of “56. Wore my partner’s clothes in front of others”. I’d really like to check out the full paper … alas, at $29.00 for the online copy, it can wait until I get to a library. But I digress.]

Of course, whether or not it’s linked to physical violence, as a mate retention behavior, insulting the other person clearly has the goal and effect of tearing down their self-esteem. So do quite a few others others on the list, such as ’17. Told other men terrible things about my partner so that they wouldn’t like her’ and the first batch of the ones listed above. By contrast things like ’58. Complimented my partner on her appearance’ and the second batch (“I love you/will spend money on you”) show appreciation and are more likely to be done in a way that builds self-esteem. My guess would be that there would be a general correlation between self-esteem-destroying mechanisms and violence … it’d be interesting to see the data. I wonder if the authors would make an anonymized version of their data available?

Anyhow. Two thought-provoking pieces of research, and an interesting synergy. Other thoughts welcome.


* although presumably these results largely generalize in a gender- and orientation-independent way!

social sciences

Comments (13)


Carnival against sexual violence 36 — and What Men Can Do

16 daysToday’s the last of the 16 days of activism against gender violence and so I wanted to highlight December’s Carnival against sexual violence, hosted by abyss2hope. Categories include legal, media watch, personal stories, raising awareness, research, and my fave solutions, which has a link off to shakesville’s excellent What Men Can Do.

A few especially worth highlighting (all previously from Kevin‘s list on A Call to Men):

1. Acknowledge and understand how sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women.

2. Examine and challenge our individual sexism and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive.

3. Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to end violence against women.

4. Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against men’s violence, we are supporting it.

Well said. Actually, they’re all worth highlighting; and worth reading in context, so please do.

Thoughts on these recommendations, the rest of the article, other articles in the Carnival, related topics?


Comments Off on Carnival against sexual violence 36 — and What Men Can Do


I’ve got fans! Kind of.

In  a comment in the Power vectors thread, Vanita said:

You were useless (I met with you several times at Microsoft) and it looks like you still are. I am glad to hear you are gone – it made no sense for Microsoft to pay you a hefty salary given the “work” you were doing. All this high level bullshit…

I let the comment through because it’s a great illustration of the kinds of attitude and environment that’s disappointingly common at Microsoft these days, unwilling to take the time to understand new ideas and so threatened by anything “high level” that might actually lead to a change in the system, that the response is to hide behind the cloak of anonymity to spread around virulent negative abuse in completely inappropriate situations.  Yeah, that’ll help.

Imagine working in an environment where this kind of behavior is widely tolerated.  When I was at Microsoft, I got reactions similar to this from maybe 5-10% of the people, and so on large mailing lists or with the 200+ people who attended a mashup the odds were extremely high that somebody would jump in with some garbage like this — with superficially more polite phrasing if their names were associated with it, but still the same mix of knee-jerk uncomprehending rejection and personal attack.

And bear in mind the impact this has not just on the person receiving the abuse (me), but all those witnessing it.  No wonder so many people at Microsoft are unhappy and frustrated.

social sciences

Comments (5)


Two articles on Obama and one on Hillary from the Atlantic

There were a couple of interesting articles about this year’s presidential election in this month’s Atlantic.

Andrew Sullivan suggests in Goodbye to all that that Obama’s real significance is that “unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.” Putting aside for the moment the question of why Atlantic isn’t embarrassed to be paying and promoting Sullivan, it’s an article well worth reading for many reasons.

In the first section think Sullivan does an excellent job describing several dimensions of divisiveness and the general sense by the vast majority that we’re ready to get beyond that — I remember dignitarian Robert Fuller saying a similar thing after his All Rise book tour over a year ago and so it’s nice to see that it’s now getting accepted even by the testosterone crowd.

For me it started to go off the rails for a bunch of reasons at the paragraph starting with “of the viable national candidates…” Who is Sullivan to be judging who’s “viable”? What affect does his restriction to “Obama and possibly McCain” have on the rest of the discussion? At this stage, how could anybody possibly view McCain as a transformational candidate of healing? And so on. By the time we get to “What does he offer? First and foremost: his face.” — laid out at the top of a page, no less, to highlight its importance — it’s unusually revealing: of Sullivan’s blinders, and of how deeply cultural norms frame our discourse. Too bad there wasn’t discussion of the very challenging intersectional issues related to race and orientation; I would have thought progress here is key to getting beyond our divides, and Sullivan apparently not only doesn’t see it that way, but doesn’t think it’s worth mentioning.  Revealing indeed.

Hey, I said it was worth reading, I didn’t say I thought it was a good article.

Marc Ambinder’s subscriber’s-only Teacher and Apprentice by contrast is a great piece, fully living up to its billing as a “story of nasty surprises, dueling war rooms, and the Drudge Report.” I thought the author did a great job of presenting both perspectives, putting the question of media coverage squarely on the table, and highlighting the challenge Obama faces trying to go the (relatively) high road. How to defend onesself against unfair accusations and framing, how to call out your opponents spin and sometimes outright lies, without looking like you’re “going negative” yourself? How to get real discussion of this in a situation where most media is either co-opted, colluding, racist, or hostile?

The idea of Drudge and the Clintons, together again for the first time, is well worth calling out in the subhead. Do the Clintons really believe this kind of alliance is good either for the causes they believe in, or the party they claim to care so much about? And it’s a nice tie between the articles by illustrating Obama’s transformational bridge-building possibilities: these enemies and ideologically-opposed men and women who have fought so bitterly in the past have indeed joined forces in response to him. Yay! Let’s all hold hands, sing folk songs, and go negative — just like Matt used to do to you!

And at the meta-level, it’s really disappointing to see Sullivan’s (intellectually shoddy, blatantly racist, from a conservative standpoint) piece being freely-available, while Ambinder’s (well-thought-out, noticeably more conscious, from a neutral-to-progressive standpoint) article is locked behind subscriber’s-only walls. Oh well. At least it’s an unusually stark example of how restricting IP invariably leads to a situation where views and people favoring the entrenched power base get preferential treatments to dissenting views.


Comments Off on Two articles on Obama and one on Hillary from the Atlantic


So it’s not just me …

In an interesting study recently published in the Journal of Applies Psychology and summarized in British Pscyhological Society’s Research Digest:

Male and female employees who said they had witnessed either the sexual harassment of female staff, or uncivil, rude or condescending behaviour towards them, tended to report lower psychological well-being and job satisfaction. In turn, lower psychological well-being was associated with greater burn out and increased thoughts about quitting.


Crucially, while these negative effects were not large, they were associated purely with observing the mistreatment of others, not with being a victim of mistreatment oneself – the researchers took account of that (for participants of both sexes) in their statistical analysis.

It’s especially interesting to see “uncivil behavior” called out. There have been several times in the last few years where for one reason or another I’ve spent a chunk of time in environments where this kind of behavior towards women is normalized, and it certainly does have those effects on me — and many others I talk to.

One of the clearest examples was at Microsoft with the Litebulb distribution list (DL), where the attack-based and disrespectful norms of discourse combine with the 99% male participation and lack of understanding of “soft” (i.e., feminine-identified) disciplines such as marketing, communication theory, and diversity to create an enviroment that’s extremely hostile to women. Since it was (and probably still is) the largest innovation-focused DL at Microsoft, and filled with intelligent and analytical people, it was a key potential channel for culture change — and a fertile recruiting ground for my Ad Astra work — so from time to time I participated; and I could really notice the difference in my state of mind just being surrounded by that attitude. Quite a few people, of all genders, who had stopped participating there told me that they felt noticeably less irritable at work as a result; and with several colleagues, I could see real differences in their behaviors more generally that appeared to correlate with how much time they were spending on the DL. Of course this is all anecdotal, but very consistent with the results from this study — and elsewhere. As Bob Sutton points out:

This research is so important because — consistent with prior research on bullying — it provides further evidence that allowing assholes to run rampant in an organization doesn’t just hurt the victims, it hurts everyone.

While the study specifically looked at gender issues, this dynamic is likely to generalize to a large extent to other diversity- or power-based dimensions. It’s also interesting to think about how this might apply to other contexts, such as social networks — so for example the Kathy Sierra episode, and more generally the lack of civility of large factions of both the progressive and neocon blogospheres.

I’m a big believer in the importance of civil discourse for many reasons; looks like I just added another to my list.

social sciences

Comments (1)