Time for a Gender War Truce?

Cathy Young wrote a column for the Detroit News a few weeks ago on her impressions of forums held by opponents in the gender war — the American Association of University Women panel, “Beyond the Gender Wars,” and the Independent Women’s Forum’s, “The XY Files: The Truth Is Out There … About the Differences Between Boys and Girls.” As she deftly put it in her column (It?s time for a truce in gender wars), “Perhaps the clearest fact to emerge from the two panels is that both feminist and conservative ideologies offer a blinkered view of reality.”

One of the things Young is very good at is highlighting the hypocrisy of feminists who tend to think some social phenomenon is disastrous until the discussion turns toward men at which point all bets are off. Young writes, for example,

The leitmotif of the symposium was that instead of pitting girls against boys in a victimhood contest, we should make the schools better for everyone. Sounds good, but isn?t it a bit disingenuous to trumpet girls? victimization and then shout, “Let?s not play victim!” when boys? problems are mentioned? As some IWF speakers noted, the AAUW played a key role in starting the “gender wars” it now decries.

The AAUW angrily denies this. One of its panelists, Barrie Thorne, a women?s studies professor at the University of California, Berkeley, declared that gender equity is not a zero-sum game in which one sex wins at the other?s expense — which is true. But the protestations that girls? advocates never tried to deny or minimize boys? problems are less credible.

The 1992 AAUW report, “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” called for programs to boost girls? achievement in math and science while warning against targeted efforts to remedy boys? deficits in reading and writing. At the symposium, some speakers downplayed the fact that women now get 55 percent of college degrees by suggesting that women need college to earn as much as male high school graduates (which may have been true 20 years ago but certainly not for the current generation).

Young, on the other hand, also sees the dangers in turning around and framing such issues entirely in terms of boys’ needs. Rather, she takes the rather obvious, commonsense view that educational programs should be geared to helping children succeed regardless of sex. Of course that proposal is too sensible to be taken seriously by the radical feminists or their conservative anti-feminist counterparts, except when they are forced into that position as the AAUW has been thanks to new educational research on boys’ poor educational performance.


It?s time for a truce in gender wars. Cathy Young, The Detroit News, September 28, 2000.

Updated Tax Information on Animal Rights Groups

Guidestar, a web portal for information about charitable organizations, recently updated their site with recent tax return information for several animal rights organizations:

Chimpanzees and HIV

One of the constant drumbeats from animal rights activists is that animal models of HIV have given surprisingly little information. This is incorrect on many levels — in fact HIV tests themselves are nothing more than sophisticated animal tests. Now comes news from the Journal of Infectious Diseases that three chimpanzees infected with HIV in the 1980s are finally progressing to full-blown AIDS-like symptoms, giving researchers a prime chance to get a better handle on how and why HIV progresses to AIDS in human beings.

Most chimpanzees infected with the disease don’t progress to disease symptoms. There are several theories as to why this is the case, one of which is that the chimpanzee’s immune system evolved to simply ignore HIV-like diseases. Since chimpanzee immune systems don’t attack the disease, HIV is unable to latch on to the T-cells it needs.

If this is the case, the three chimpanzees progressing to AIDS may have deficient immune systems or may have contracted a form of HIV that their immune system does elicit a response to. Either way researchers hope comparing the chimpanzees that develop AIDS to their brethren that don’t will provide a better understanding of how the disease runs its course and perhaps offer clues to how the disease operates and can be counteracted in human beings.


Chimps may hold important piece of HIV puzzle. Amy Norton, Reuters, September 20, 2000.

The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2000; 182.

Rail Empires: Iron Dragon Coming to the PC

I was excited to learn that Eden Studios is bringning Mayfair’s board game, Rail Empire: Iron Dragon to the computer. Then I downloaded the demo and my excitement vanished pretty quickly.

I’ve never played the board game version, but it’s got quite a following and a fascinating premise: build a railroad across a fantasy continent complete with dwarves, trolls, dragons, gold, gems, etc. Railroads are cool and building one across a Tolkein-esque landscape sounds like fun.

The problem is that the computer game is a straightahead conversion of the board game, down to the onscreen shuffling and drawing of event cards, etc. Boring. Maybe that would have been interesting 6 years ago, but today what’s the point? After all the reason cards and other abstractions are used in board games is precisely because they are not computer games. There are limits to the amount of information that can be cramemd into a board game as well as the sort of interactions that can occur and still have the game be fun.

The upshot being that what might be a lot of fun playing with a bunch of friends over a table usually stinks big time when adapated as is for the computer. I was hoping for more of a fantasy version of Railroad Tycoon. If all Mayfair wanted was a straightforward translation of the game on the computer, there are already a number of programs out there that do a good job of letting people play board and wargames over the Internet to which could have easily adapted the Iron Dragon ruleset.

IOC Says Internet Not Ready for Prime Time

Apparently before the Olympic games began, the International Olympic Committee forecasted that 35 million people would visit the official Olympics web site. According to the BBC, only about 15 million people did. The BBC reported that “They [IOC Marketing spokespersons] said the figures showed that the Internet still had a long way to go before it could rival television as a mainstream broadcasting medium.”

This is a backward way of putting it. If I want my site to get half a million visits a month and it tops out at 350,000 visits a month, typically I look to things that I could have done differently: was the content not up to par? Were there other marketing methods I could have used to reach my target market?

The IOC, however, turns around and says “sheesh — the Internet turns out to be just a bunch of hype” (and I don’t mean to pick on the IOC because I think this is not an uncommon attitude). One of the things that would be interesting would be to find out the Olympics-oriented hits that major news and sports web sites received.

Personally I checked out the results of many events online, but only went to the IOC site once, before the games. I suspect many sports fans rather than visiting the official site got their Olympics update along with other sports news from CNN, ESPN, the BBC, or other news oriented web sites, since the IOC site really didn’t add anything to the experience beyond what you could get in a straight sports news site (in fact in this case, sports news outlets typically had added value thanks to the commentary and analysis which I didn’t see a lot of at the IOC site).