Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quiz Apr21

Our last quiz, before Tuesday's exam.

1. What does Russell say was "nice" about young girls when he was young? Who does he say was more commonly nice in 1931?

2. What's the chief characterstic of nice people? What are some of the nice things they do?

3. What was killing niceness in Russell's day?

4. What is sin?

5. What was the result of conventional attitudes (in Russell's day) towards sex?

6. What belief did Russell say was dying out in 1936?

BONUS: What we do has its origin in what?

Post yours, please.
  • Are young people nice, in Russell's sense, nowadays? Is niceness widely practiced and/or esteemed?
  • What does it mean to you, to be nice? Are you?
  • Russell clearly holds "niceness" in contempt. Are there any other honorific terms of character and disposition in our time that you consider contemptible?
  • Same question as last time, in light of the newly-proffered definition offered in today's reading: should secularists drop "sin"? 
  • How would you characterize the present state of sex education and sexuality in our culture, and among young people? Have we tilted too far in compensation for the general ignorance, superstition, and "sinfulness" that pervaded the subject in Russell's day? Are we supplying too much information, and inappropriately sexualizing children through popular culture, advertizing, and social media?
  • What would Russell think of "sexting" and the pressure some young women and girls feel to indulge boys' sexual interest? What do you think of it? (See below*)
  • COMMENT: "If women are to have sexual freedom, fathers must fade out..." 170
  • "At present [1936], wives, just as much as prostitutes, live by the sale of their sexual charms." 172 This is no longer the case, right?
  • What do you think of Russell's views on domestic nudity? 176
  • Should adults respond to children's questions with "complete openness on sexual subjects"? 177
  • Will marriage ever "cease to have any raison d'etre?" 178
* Sext and the Single Girl

Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
By Peggy Orenstein

There’s a moment midway through Peggy Orenstein’s latest book that seems to sum up what it’s like to be a teenage girl right now. An economics major taking a gender studies class is getting dressed in her college dorm room for a night out, cheerfully discussing sexual stereotyping in advertising with Orenstein — while at the same time grabbing a miniskirt and a bottle of vodka, the better to achieve her evening goal: to “get really drunk and make out with someone.” “You look hot,” her friend tells her — and the student, apparently registering the oddness of the scene, turns to Orenstein. “In my gender class I’m all, ‘That damned patriarchy,’ ” she says. “But . . . what’s the point of a night if you aren’t getting attention from guys?” Her ambition, she explains, “is to be just slutty enough, where you’re not a prude but you’re not a whore. . . . Finding that balance is every college girl’s dream, you know what I mean?”

Exactly how that got to be anyone’s dream is the subject of “Girls and Sex,” a thought-provoking if occasionally hand-wringing investigation by Orenstein, who in previous books has put classroom sexism, princess obsessions and other phenomena under her microscope. Be warned: Orenstein, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the mother of a preteen girl, begins her reporting worried by what she’s heard about “hookup culture” — and ends it even more freaked out. It’s not that girls are having so much sex (the percentage of high-schoolers who have had intercourse is actually dropping); even if they were, Orenstein’s careful to say she wouldn’t judge, really. But the acts the girls are engaging in, from oral sex to sexting, tend to be staged, she argues, more for boys’ enjoyment than their own. For guys, she says, there is fun and pleasure; for girls (at least the straight ones), too little physical joy, too much regret and a general sense that the boys are in charge. Fully half the girls in Orenstein’s book say they’ve been coerced into sex, and many had been raped — among them, by the way, that econ major, who was so confused that when her assailant dropped her off the next morning, she told him, “Thanks, I had fun.” The sexual playing field Orenstein describes is so tilted no girl could win... (continues)

Girls Just Wanna Be Heard
In her new book, Nancy Jo Sales explores how teenage girls on social media provoke attention—but fails to show how they also demand respect.

“You being ashamed to send your tit pic is misogynistic.” Anna, a high school senior, took a screenshot of the text, which appeared to be sent by someone named Tony. “If you were really a feminist, you would be comfortable showing us your body,” Tony wrote. “Breasts are not sexual body parts. They’re something everyone has. Don’t let your internal misogyny stop you from sending nudes.” Anna tweeted the screenshot under the words “they’re advancing.” As it went viral across social media, the exchange was seen as a shocking but perfect example of how far boys are willing to go to manipulate girls into sending them naked photos.
Girls who take provocative selfies, texting or posting them publicly, are “just trying to get attention.” Attention is delivered as both a diagnosis and an indictment.
The text, however, wasn’t real. Anna’s friend had written and sent it to a group chat. I asked Anna if her friends joked about boys demanding nudes because it happened so often. “No guy has realistically asked for nudes to that extent,” she said. “It’s usually a casual ‘do you have Snapchat?’ message on Tinder.” Did the ease with which boys could pursue girls on social media and the internet feel oppressive? Had the pressure to get likes on Instagram hurt her self-esteem? “I can see how that could easily happen, but for me personally social media has never hurt my self-esteem,” Anna told me. “If anything it’s satisfying to watch people like and retweet what you have to say.” (continues)


  1. "At present [1936], wives, just as much as prostitutes, live by the sale of their sexual charms." 172 This is no longer the case, right?

    I think the quote only applies to trophy wives and gold diggers since those are the only two types of wives, I can think of, who's lives are furthered by sexual charms. What concerns me most about Russell's linking of wife's and prostitutes is saying that "an idle wife is no more intrinsically worthy of respect than a gigolo". I understood this as a gigolo is as good as a house wife, since house wives typically are not associated with a job I consider them the baseline for "idle wife",which I whole heartedly disagree for the worth of a house wife increases in proportion to the number of dependents, ie husband, children, pets, while a gigolo is, well, a plaything for women kind.

    1. I would disagree that the housewife should be the basis for the idle wife. Keep in mind that this was of a time in which women didn't have rights and instead had duties (to husband, home, family). I suspect that for Russell, the idle wife is one for whom these duties are all delegated to others, excepting the duty to the husband. That's where his comparison to prostitution lies.

  2. Quiz question: fill in the blanks "it is no longer Satan who makes sin but _____ and ________"

  3. Several times Russell has indicated his view on education and its importance/power. Do you agree with him that whoever controls education has the power and influence that they do?

  4. What does it mean to you, to be nice? Are you?

    Treat others the way in which you would want to be treated. Something we all learned very early on in our lives. Pretty simple.

  5. Should adults respond to children's questions with "complete openness on sexual subjects"? 177

    This is something I think about from two different perspectives. Firstly, my parents never really talked to me about "sexual subjects", and I never really had any questions. I guess I thought i'd figure it all out myself..but now thinking back I wish that my parents had talked to me more about sex (they did a little bit, mostly my mom), but if they had talked to me more about it I might not have made some of the choices I did. Learning experience. I think because I did not come to my parents very often about this topic they figured that I was not concerned or having sex.

    Secondly, when I have kids (if I ever do, probably not) but hypothetically speaking if I have kids I will for sure talk to them about sex. Anything they want to know. Just like Russell says 'they should be told whatever they want to know', and f*** the bee story. Sex should be treated just like any other subject a kid wants to know about ex: animals, insects, showering, eating etc..

  6. "What does it mean to you, to be nice? Are you?"

    I think that "niceness," in the sense that Russell is talking about, arises from judgmentalism. I like to think that I'm not a very judgmental person, but, like most people, I suspect, I am not always the least judgmental person. I feel as though being unchained to a rigid set of morals and values, such as those found in many religions, has allowed me to be less closed minded and, therefore, more "nice" by my own definition. Which is; that I try to see the good in people, not to be excessively or unhelpfully critical, not to gossip, and to actively listen to people, among other things.

    It also seems that some of the "nice" people he is referring to are that way, because they genuinely worry about the lives of other people or the state of the world and they feel that they are helping people out by trying to steer them in the "right" direction, morally. So, they may be judging personally, but they also have a sense of religious duty and feeling of righteousness in their thoughts and actions.

  7. DQ: What is your view of marriage? What role should marriage play in our society? What is the role of marriage in an afterlife?

  8. The Afterlife

    As an atheist, I’ve pondered the thought of death a good bit and have been asked quite a lot what exactly I believe will happen when I die. If I do not believe in god, then it’s a safe assumption that I must not believe in heaven or hell either, and that is correct. I don’t. So what do I believe will happen when I die? My answer is a whole lot of nothing. My vision of what the afterlife will be like is simply that it will not even exist. I will die, and simply be dead. No golden gate of heaven opening as god greets me with a smile or fiery pits of hell I am eternally burning alive in, just blissful, peaceful death. And I don’t mean this is a depressing “I hate life” kind of way. I love life, I love being alive and being an inhabitant of this beautiful planet we call Earth. However, I also feel that one lifetime is more than enough for me, and that if dying is an inevitable thing I’m going to have to do, when it does happen I’d rather I just stay that way. However when I tell people this, especially to those with faith, they usually don’t understand how I can believe that death is the definite end. So I get asked lots of questions that are some variation of “How can you believe that there is nothing else after this without feeling like your life is meaningless and has no purpose?” or “How can the idea of an eternal life of perfection in heaven not appeal to you?”

    For the first part of this final report, I want to address the first question, of how I can believe that there is nothing more after death and still feel that life is significant. For myself, it is not too difficult because I believe that in the grand scheme of things, my life actually is pretty meaningless. Again, I don’t mean this in depressing way. I mean it in a way that, in terms of my existence in this universe, I kind of am unimportant and there is no true set “meaning” or “purpose” to my life. It is meaningless, which is not saddening but actually incredibly freeing because I am left to make my OWN meaning and purpose for my existence that will only matter to me and those involved in my life. This meaning for my life that I create is not dependent on whether a god deems it meaningful, or whether a god finds it worthy of heaven. If the afterlife is taken away then I am still left with this life. In my eyes that makes it still equally, if not more worthwhile because suddenly this is all you have got, and so you better make the best of it. There is no option of anything more, whether that “more” is good or bad. I don’t see how that concept doesn’t make this life all the more precious and substantial than before if anything.