What should you do if your son says he’s a girl?

Opinion Op-Ed
Op-Ed

What should you do if your son says he’s a girl?

Parents of gender dysphoric children have a difficult decision: insist or acquiesce
Gender dysphoric children generally do not become transgender adults

Since the age of 2, he has been a very different kind of boy. He enjoys wearing his mother’s shoes and his sister’s dresses. He likes to play with girls and hates playing with boys, who are too rough.

Now 5, he has told you that he wants to be a girl. In fact, he insists that he is a girl. Your son isn’t just feminine; he is unhappy being a boy. He has gender dysphoria.

You love him and you want him to be happy. But you’re worried. Some older kids have started to tease him, and some parents have expressed disapproval.

It seems you have two choices. You could insist that he is a boy and try to put an end to behaviors such as cross-dressing and saying that he is a girl. The alternative is to let him be a girl: grow long hair, choose a new name, dress as he (or “she”) pleases, and when it is time, obtain the necessary hormones and surgeries for a female body.

As scientists who study gender and sexuality, we can tell you confidently: At this point no one knows what is better for your son.

We do know a lot about such boys. This includes some important facts rarely mentioned in the discussion about how they should be raised. We suspect this is because those facts are inconvenient to the narratives that have come to predominate.

Perhaps the most influential account is that gender dysphoric children have the minds and brains of the other sex, adult transgenderism is inevitable, and early transition to the other sex is the only humane option.

But this narrative is clearly wrong in one respect. Gender dysphoric children have not usually become transgender adults. For example, the large majority of gender dysphoric boys studied so far have become young men content to remain male. More than 80% adjusted by adolescence.

Granted, the available research was conducted at a time when parents almost always encouraged their gender dysphoric children to accept their birth sex. And this is changing.

For example, the parents of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen and YouTube celebrity, let their son live as a girl starting at age 5, and all the evidence suggests that she will remain female. The little data we have indicate that parental acquiescence leads to persistence.

As more and more parents let their gender dysphoric boys live as girls, the percentage of persisters may increase dramatically.

But, again, we don’t yet know whether it’s better to encourage adjustment or persistence.

(We have focused on gender dysphoric boys because their parents have contacted us much more often than parents of similar girls. Moreover, many fewer gender dysphoric girls have been studied scientifically. The same basic facts appear to be true for both sexes, however.)

Let’s take a look at the likely life trajectories of two imagined gender dysphoric boys: David, whose parents insist he stay David, and Max, whose parents allow him to become a girl, changing his name to Maxine.

In the short run, David will experience more psychological pain than Maxine. Adjustment to being a boy necessarily means accepting that he can’t be a girl, something he desperately wants. Still, most gender dysphoric boys have managed the mental transition.

In the long run, Maxine will need serious medical interventions. In late childhood she will need hormones to block puberty; she will then take estrogen for the rest of her life. Eventually, she may want genital surgery. Although this surgery is usually satisfactory, side effects requiring additional surgery are not uncommon.

Each way has obvious advantages and disadvantages. We would prefer to save David the greater pain he will endure during childhood. And we would prefer to save Maxine the serious medical interventions and possible side effects.

Despite the lack of clarity in this debate, the Obama administration recently appeared to take sides, issuing a statement that decried the use of “conversion therapy” to change either sexual orientation or gender identity.

President Obama is correct to oppose sexual orientation conversion therapy, which is usually offered because of religious objections to homosexuality, and which doesn’t work. But therapy to help a pre-adolescent child overcome gender dysphoria can be entirely different. Some professionals who do this therapy have no moral issue with transgenderism but are trying to help children avoid later medical stress. That is a reasonable goal, even if it is not the only possible goal.

One impetus for the president’s statement was the tragic case of Leelah (born Joshua) Alcorn, a 17-year-old who committed suicide, blaming her parents for pressuring her to engage in religiously oriented conversion therapy. We oppose that kind of therapy because of its message: “Transgenderism is morally wrong.” By Leelah’s age, at any rate, no amount of psychotherapy, of any kind, would have been able to change her gender identity.

But Obama lumped together all therapies, regardless of their motivation, target age and method. Banning all therapists from helping families trying to alleviate children’s gender dysphoria would be premature, a triumph of ideology over science.

The president can set a better example by pausing at the limits of our knowledge and encouraging scientists to collect the data we need. Until we have it, let’s be careful about telling the well-meaning parents of gender dysphoric children what to do.

Eric Vilain is a professor of human genetics and pediatrics at the UCLA and director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology. J. Michael Bailey is a professor of psychology at Northwestern University.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Sound of mom’s voice boosts brain growth in premature babies

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2015/02/sound-mom-s-voice-boosts-brain-growth-premature-babies

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Listening to recordings of their mothers' voices and heartbeats could help premature infants’ brains mature.

BRITTA PEDERSEN/DPA/NEWSCOM

Listening to recordings of their mothers’ voices and heartbeats could help premature infants’ brains mature.

Sound of mom’s voice boosts brain growth in premature babies

Infants born prematurely are more than twice as likely to have difficulty hearing and processing words than those carried to full-term, likely because brain regions that process sounds aren’t sufficiently developed at the time of delivery. Now, an unusual study with 40 preemies suggests that recreating a womblike environment with recordings of a mother’s heartbeat and voice could potentially correct these deficits.

“This is the kind of study where you think ‘Yes, I can believe these results,’ ” because they fit well with what scientists know about fetal brain development, says cognitive scientist Karin Stromswold of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey.

A fetus starts to hear at about 24 weeks of gestation, as neurons migrate to—and form connections in—the auditory cortex, a brain region that processes sound, Stromswold explains. Once the auditory cortex starts to function, a fetus normally hears mostly low-frequency sounds—its mother’s heartbeat, for example, and the melody and rhythm of her voice. Higher frequency tones made outside of the mother’s body, such as consonants, are largely drowned out. Researchers believe that this introduction to the melody and rhythm of speech, prior to hearing individual words, may be a key part of early language acquisition that gets disrupted when a baby is born too soon.

In addition to being bombarded with the bright lights, chemical smells, and shrill sounds of a hospital’s intensive care unit, preemies are largely deprived of the sensations they’d get in the womb, such as their mother’s heartbeat and voice, says Amir Lahav, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Although mothers are sometimes allowed to hold premature newborns for short periods of time, the infants are often considered too fragile to leave their temperature- and humidity-controlled incubators, he says. Preemies often have their eyes covered to block out light, and previous studies have shown that reducing overall levels of high-frequency noise in a neonatal intensive care unit—by lowering the number of incubators in a unit, for example, or giving preemies earplugs—can improve premature babies’ outcomes. Few studies have actively simulated a womblike environment, however, he says.

To test whether the sounds a fetus would hear in utero can have a positive effect on preemies, Lahav and his colleagues asked the parents of 40 such babies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for their participation in a monthlong experiment. The researchers asked mothers of half the infants to sing and read “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and Goodnight Moon in a recording studio and record their heartbeats through a stethoscope connected to a microphone. The scientists then removed the higher frequency tones from the recordings and piped the remaining sound for 45-minute sessions totaling 3 hours per day into 21 infants’ incubators, while the other infants received standard care. After 30 days, they compared ultrasound images of the brains of both groups.

Babies exposed to their mothers’ voices had significantly thicker auditory cortices than those in the control group, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Although the enhanced growth doesn’t prove anything about how the infants will do later on, “we know from other studies that bigger is better” when it comes to brain development in this region, Lahav says. Next, he says, the team plans to track the infants’ through school age to see if they develop hearing or speech problems as they grow up.

The fact that the researchers saw differences in brain structure after just 30 days fits well with existing theories about premature infants’ brain development, Stromswold says. The study has several weaknesses, however, she notes. One is that there were five more females in the treatment group than in the control group. Female preemies tend to do better than males do, especially where language is concerned, so the imbalance could have skewed the group’s analysis to favor a positive result. Another is that the group did not compare “before” and “after” ultrasounds to see how each individual infant’s brain changed over time, she says. Instead, “all they’re saying is that after 30 days of exposure, we find a difference between groups.” The preemies did receive routine ultrasounds immediately after birth to rule out brain injuries, Lahav says, but the images were too coarse to use for comparison.

Lahav agrees that larger and more detailed studies are needed to confirm his team’s results, and he cautions that such interventions may never be enough to counteract the many health problems preemies face. Still, he says, the study suggests that even 3 hours per day of exposure to womblike sounds “may be enough to set the brain on the right developmental track.”

Posted in BiologyBrain & BehaviorHealth

Science| DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7892

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If you speak Mandarin, your brain is different

http://theconversation.com/if-you-speak-mandarin-your-brain-is-different-37993

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25 February 2015, 10.10am AEDT

If you speak Mandarin, your brain is different

From left to right. Mandarin employs a different part of the brain.Chinese man via XiXinXing/Shutterstock

We speak so effortlessly that most of us never think about it. But psychologists and neuroscientists are captivated by the human capacity to communicate with language. By the time a child can tie his or her shoes, enough words and rules have been mastered to allow the expression of an unlimited number of utterances. The uniqueness of this behaviour to the human species indicates its centrality to human psychology.

That this behaviour comes naturally and seemingly effortlessly in the first few years of life merely fascinates us further. Untangling the brain’s mechanisms for language has been a pillar of neuroscience since its inception. New research published in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences about the different connections going on in the brains of Mandarin and English speakers, demonstrates just how flexible our ability to learn language really is.

Real-time brain networking

Before functional brain imaging was possible, two areas on the left side of the brain, called Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, had already revealed their importance for language. Victims of stroke or traumatic brain injury to either of these crucial areas on the left side of the brain exhibited profound disabilities for producing and understanding language. Modern theories on connectionism – the idea that knowledge is distributed across different parts of the brain and not tucked into dedicated modules like Broca’s area – have compelled researchers to take a closer look.

For example, language requires real-time mappings between words and their meanings. This requires that the sounds heard in speech – decoded in the auditory cortex – must be integrated with knowledge about what they mean – in the frontal cortex. Modern theories in neuroscience are enamoured with this type of “network” approach. Instead of pinning miracles of cognition to singular brain areas, complex processes are now viewed as distributed across different cortical areas, relying on several parts of the brain interacting dynamically.

Comparing tongues

By six to ten months children have already learned to be sensitive to the basic sounds, known as phonemes, that matter in their native language. Yet different languages differ profoundly in the sounds that are important for communication.

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language in which the same basic sounds can refer to vastly different things based on the tone with which it is spoken. In a non-tonal language such as English, tone might convey emotional information about the speaker, but indicates nothing about the meaning of the word that is spoken.

Now a group of Chinese researchers, led by Jianqiao Ge at Peking University, Beijing, has found that these differences between Mandarin Chinese and English change the way the brain’s networks work.

The researchers took advantage of the basic differences between Mandarin Chinese and English to investigate the differences between the language networks of native speakers of tonal and non-tonal languages. Thirty native Chinese speakers were matched on age, gender, and handedness (they were all right-handed) with a sample of native English speakers. All participants listened to intelligible and unintelligible speech and were asked to judge the gender of the speaker.

The right side

Both groups of speakers showed activation of the brain’s classic go-to areas for speech – including Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas – on the left side of the brain. But two important differences emerged. The first difference was the operation of the brain networks shared by English and Chinese speakers. English speakers showed stronger connectivity leading from Wernicke’s area to Broca’s area. This increased connectivity was attributed to English relying more heavily on phonological information, or sounds rather than tones.

Two areas on the left hand side of the brain associated with language. OpenStax College/WikimediaCC BY
Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, Chinese speakers had stronger connections leading from an area of the brain called the anterior superior temporal gyrus – which has been identified as a “semantic hub” critical in supporting language – to both Broca’s and Wernicke’s area. This increased connectivity is attributed to the enhanced mapping of sound and meaning going on in people who speak tonal languages.

The second difference showed activation in an area of the brain’s right hemisphere, but only among the Chinese speakers. This brain area, the right superior temporal pole, has been implicated in Chinese tones before but – perhaps more importantly – has until now been considered completely separate from the classic language network in the left hemisphere.

The findings emphasise the importance of developing a bilateral network between the two brain hemispheres to speak and understand languages, particularly for tonal languages like Mandarin Chinese.

New avenues for research

We can expect more such differences to emerge as future research focuses increasingly on non-English speaking participants. Much of what we think we know about human psychology is based on “WEIRD” participants: western, educated university students from industrialised, rich, and developed nations. Other cross-linguistic, cross-cultural, or cross-class differences might emerge as more research develops.

Provocative though the results might be, they raise questions for future research. Tone matters in English, just not to the same extent as in Chinese. For example, think of how your delivery might change the meaning of the question “Where have you been?” to convey suspicion, surprise, curiosity, or jealousy. Language might be among our most important windows to human thought, but research has barely scratched the surface of this complex and curiously unique human ability.

Classifying Research on the Role of Sex & Gender in Autism.

http://www.psychiatry.cam.ac.uk/blog/2015/01/29/classifying-research-role-sex-gender-autism/

Classifying Research on the Role of Sex & Gender in Autism.

Researchers from the Autism Research Centre have proposed a new framework for the study of sex and gender differences and autism spectrum conditions. The team, led by Meng-Chuan Lai, systematically reviewed 329 articles discussing sex, gender, and females in relation to autism. Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, this review resulted in four levels of discussion of sex/gender differences in autism, ranging from descriptions and diagnoses in autism to specific biological mechanisms driving sex/gender differences in autism spectrum conditions.

The 4-level framework proposed by the researchers.

The first level, termed “Nosological and diagnostic challenges”, discusses questions such as “How should autism be defined and diagnosed in females?”

The second level, “Sex/gender independent and sex/gender dependent characteristics”, covers questions of symptoms and characteristics of autism spectrum conditions that individuals of different genders experience distinctly.

The third, “General models of aetiology: liability and threshold”, discusses rates of autism in males and females, and how they can be explained by overall sex/gender differences, such as greater genetic variability in males.

Lastly, level four of the framework discusses specific biological mechanisms that could be driving sex differences in autism, such as the involvement of sex hormones in the aetiology of the disease.

The researchers argue that this new framework will make it easier to classify new studies on sex/gender differences in autism, and the scope of these studies. For example, level one could include qualitative research on female presentations of autism spectrum conditions, while level three could include identifying endophenotypic, genetic, and epigenetic factors associated with the increased diagnoses/traits in families of female compared to male probands.

This 4-level framework, they state, also helps in the identification of new research questions, as it clearly outlines gaps in current knowledge. In fact, the researchers go on to identify future work they consider necessary to help our understanding of sex and gender differences in autism research.

The authors also state: “Although we focus specifically on autism, the principles and issues discussed here could apply to other conditions that show sex/gender differences in prevalence, and/or that potentially have sex/gender-differential characteristics and etiological–developmental mechanisms.

In China, highly educated women are mocked as a sexless “third gender”

 

In China, highly educated women are mocked as a sexless “third gender”

January 29, 2014

HONG KONG—In China, they say that there are three genders: male, female, and female PhD. “It’s a joke that means we’re asexual and not feminine enough,” says Deng, a 27-year-old sociology PhD candidate from China’s southern province of Hunan, sitting at a small metal table outside the main library at Hong Kong University.

Deng, who asked only to be identified by her surname, is one of over 100,000 Chinese women who have been branded as the country’s next generation of spinsters. According to their many critics, they are aloof, unattractive, self-important careerists who, according to some Chinese academics and officials, even threaten the country’s very social fabric by putting education before family.

Deng defies the stereotype. She is talkative, with a high, soft voice and a short bob that gives her a cherubic look. She is researching conditions at Chinese factories in the hopes of improving life for workers. One of her interviewees, a worker in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, was shocked to learn that she was working toward a PhD. “You’re not bad looking even though you’re a PhD,” Deng recalls him saying.

Today, Chinese women are more educated than ever, with more women seeking advanced degrees. But as their numbers increase so does the criticism and ridicule leveled at them. It’s a worrying reflection, gender experts say, of increasingly conservative Chinese attitudes toward women even as the country’s citizens grow richer and more educated.

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Graduates attend a graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai

Students at a graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai(Reuters/Aly Song)

Stereotypes about female PhD students are part of broader worries in China over the number of women becoming shengnu, “leftover women”— those who have reached the ripe age of 27 without marrying. “Women are seen primarily as these reproductive entities, having babies for the good of the nation,” Leta Hong Fincher, author of the book Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, told Quartz.

But the derision towards those with or earning PhDs, who typically don’t finish their degrees until the age of 28 or later, is particularly vitriolic. “There is a media-enforced stigma surrounding women with advanced degrees,” Fincher said, and much of this manifests online in social media.

In a recent discussion thread titled, “Are female PhDs really so bad to marry?” on a popular Chinese forum similar to the question-and-answer site Quora, one user posted (link in Chinese), “They are unscrupulous, hypocritical, filthy, and weak.” A user of the Chinese microblog Weibo wrote in September, “Female PhDs are the tragedy of China’s leftover women.” In an online poll on Weibo last January, 30% of over 7,000 voters said they wouldnot marry a woman with a PhD (Chinese).

Aside from being called the “third gender,” female PhD students have also been nicknamed miejue shitai or “nun of no mercy” after a mannish Kung Fu-fighting nun in a popular Chinese martial arts series. They are sometimes referred to as “UFOs,” an acronym for “ugly, foolish and old.” At Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, where Deng does some of her research, male students refer to the dormitory for female PhD students as the “Moon Palace,” the mythical home of a Chinese goddess living in painful solitude on the moon, with only a pet rabbit for company. “It’s like it’s a forbidden place where a lonely group of female PhD students live and no man wants to go,” Deng says.

“Ignorance is a woman’s virtue”

Educated Chinese women weren’t always treated this way. In the early days of the People’s Republic, the Communist party worked hard to overturn old Confucian ideas about women. Mao Zedong famously called on women to “hold up half the sky,” by going to school and taking up jobs.

As a result, high school enrollment for girlsreached 40% in 1981 (pdf, p. 381), up from 25% in 1949, while university enrollment rose from 20% to 34% over the same period, according to a 1992 analysis by the East West Center in Hawaii. As many as 90% of women were working in the mid-1980s, according to the same paper.

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Woman talk during the recording of an episode of a matchmaking television programme, "One out of 100", in Shanghai July 27, 2013.

Woman talk during a recording of a matchmaking television program in Shanghai.(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Ever since China started dismantling its planned economy in the 1980s and 1990s, dissolving many of the state-owned enterprises that employed women, more conservative values have begun to resurface. Now traditional ideas about women are creeping back into Chinese society. “It’s like returning to the idea that ignorance is a woman’s virtue,” says He Yufei, 27, one of Deng’s classmates at Hong Kong University, quoting an old idiom used to encourage women to focus on their roles as mothers or wives.

Chief among these ideas is that no woman should occupy a position higher than that of her husband. According to Louise Edwards, a specialist in gender and culture at Australia’s University of New South Wales, a flood of soap operas, pop music, and movies from South Korea and Japan­­­—historically patriarchal societies that never went through the kind of female liberation that China experienced—further reinforces this idea. “A PhD is the apex. It’s the top degree you can get, and by getting it you are thumbing your nose at the system,” Edwards said.

What is more, these traditional stereotypes happen to be convenient for the government at a time when China is facing a demographic problem. By 2020, Chinese men will outnumber women by at least 24 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Some researchers argue that the concept of shengnu, “leftover women,” was concocted by propaganda officials to pressure women into marrying as early as possible.

“The government is very concerned with all the excess men in the population who are not going to find brides. So it’s pushing educated women into getting married,” Fincher said. “The Chinese government doesn’t say anything about losing potential women from the workforce and that reflects their short-sighted concern with social stability.”

“They are already old, like yellowed pearls”

The PhD is a relatively new degree in China. Post-graduate programs were banned during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. After that, the first PhDs weren’t awarded until 1982. Now, having expanded its higher education system in an attempt to become more globally competitive, China awards more doctorate degrees than any other country. It had 283,810 PhD graduates in 2012, compared to 50,977 in the US that year, according to government statistics.

Chinese women make up half of all undergraduate students and almost half of all master’s students, but they accounted for only 35% of the PhDs awarded in 2012, compared to 46% in the US. Young women outperform their male counterparts so much that some universities have started requiring higher test scores from female applicants.

“Although women are doing well in university, they usually stop at a master’s and there’s a reason for that. It’s partly because of this stereotype,” Edwards said.

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Graduates stand on the steps in front of the academic building at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Graduates stand on the steps in front of the academic building at Fudan University in Shanghai.(Reuters/Aly Song)

It’s not just anonymous bloggers or male university students who deride women in higher education. In January, Chen Riyuan, an academic in Guangzhou and minor politician, said that single women who undertake doctoral degrees are like “products that depreciate in value.” The All-China Women’s Federation, a state-backed women’s group, infamously wrote on its website on International Women’s Day in 2011 that “by the time [women] get their MA or PhD, they are already old, like yellowed pearls.”

Some women, too, have internalized the belief that a PhD will torpedo their chances of settling down. “Many of my friends gave up their PhDs because they think they need to get a boyfriend,” said Meng Ni, a doctoral candidate at York University in the United Kingdom, who is studying the experiences of female PhD students in China.

The thankless road of learning

Women who decide to go for the top degree are choosing a hard path, either for their love of research or teaching, or in the hope of getting a decent job. “The job market is really competitive and many people think that with higher education, the more knowledge that they gain, they will be more competitive,” says Meng, the doctoral candidate at York University.

The hours are long and pay is typically meager—around 1,000 yuan (about $160) a month, plus a little extra for working as a teaching assistant or a residence hall monitor. Huang Yalan, a 25-year-old woman earning a PhD in communications at Tsinghua University in Beijing, lives in a small single dorm on campus and spends most of her day poring over articles on propaganda theory, her thesis topic. She sees her boyfriend only once a month. If she can find a job as a lecturer after she graduates she can expect a starting salary of between 3,000 and 6,000 yuan a month. It may be years, even decades, before she becomes a professor.

“I’ve never felt discriminated against for being a female PhD, but people are curious because they think a woman’s obligation is in the home or that studying and pursuing a higher academic degree is a man’s path,” Huang said.

For others, the prejudice has been more obvious. He, 27, says that she was turned down by a professor at a university in Beijing because he wanted to supervise only male students. And many Chinese academics aren’t interested in supervising female PhDs or hiring them once they graduate. Women held fewer than 25% of academic posts in the country in 2013, according to a Times Higher Education survey.

A 30-year-old graduate who asked only to be called Carrie, and who graduated with a PhD in communications this year from one of China’s top schools, Fudan University in Shanghai, said she was shocked when the first question a recruiter asked was whether she would have a child within a year. “I was so angry, but I had to control it. This is just how it is,” she said.

What’s bad for women PhDs is bad for China

Discouraging women from getting jobs or education hurts any country’s economy, and especially China’s. The country faces a rapidly aging population and a labor force that is expected to start shedding as many as 10 million workers this year. The working-age population, which has been shrinking since 2012, fell by almost 4 million last year. Two neighboring countries with similar demographic problems, Japan and South Korea, have both launched public campaigns to getmore women in the workforce. China has initiated no such campaigns.

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Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics show a widening gap in nominal earnings for men and women between 1989 and 2009.(“Trends in China’s gender employment and pay gap”)

As a result, China’s female labor-force participation, once among the world’s highest, has been ticking downward. The proportion of urban women in the workforce fell to 60.8% in 2010, compared to 77.4% in 1990, as more women choose to stay home after having a child. On the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings, China now ranks 87th out of 142 (pdf) countries, just below El Salvador, Georgia, and Venezuela. The pay gap has also widened: One study found that between 1995 and 2007, women’s earnings, as a proportion of men’s, had fallen from 84% to 74%.

The fact that women are underrepresented in academia may also help explain why they are absent in policy-making circles and ultimately the government, where half of the members of the most powerful decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) have PhDs. The percentage of women of ministerial rank or higher has remained below 10% since 1982 (p. 139). No woman has ever been nominated to the PSC or to lead the party.

But women PhDs are fighting back

For all the prejudices, women PhDs are quickly catching up with their male counterparts. From 2004 to 2012, the number of female PhD graduates increased 19-fold. In time, attitudes may change.

Male-PhD-graduates-Female-PhD-graduates_chartbuilder

Of the dozen PhD students sitting in Deng’s shared office at Hong Kong University, a quiet fluorescent-lit room with thick blue carpet and beige plastic desks, more than half are Chinese women. A small Chinese flag, red with yellow stars, sticks out from one cubicle. Deng says she believes that she and her colleagues are good for China.

“I think female PhD students can show another kind of life for women,” she said. “As in, not living life through their husbands, sons, or brothers but showing women can be educated, independent, and happy.”

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In China, highly educated women are mocked as a sexless “third gender”

January 29, 2014

HONG KONG—In China, they say that there are three genders: male, female, and female PhD. “It’s a joke that means we’re asexual and not feminine enough,” says Deng, a 27-year-old sociology PhD candidate from China’s southern province of Hunan, sitting at a small metal table outside the main library at Hong Kong University.

Deng, who asked only to be identified by her surname, is one of over 100,000 Chinese women who have been branded as the country’s next generation of spinsters. According to their many critics, they are aloof, unattractive, self-important careerists who, according to some Chinese academics and officials, even threaten the country’s very social fabric by putting education before family.

Deng defies the stereotype. She is talkative, with a high, soft voice and a short bob that gives her a cherubic look. She is researching conditions at Chinese factories in the hopes of improving life for workers. One of her interviewees, a worker in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, was shocked to learn that she was working toward a PhD. “You’re not bad looking even though you’re a PhD,” Deng recalls him saying.

Today, Chinese women are more educated than ever, with more women seeking advanced degrees. But as their numbers increase so does the criticism and ridicule leveled at them. It’s a worrying reflection, gender experts say, of increasingly conservative Chinese attitudes toward women even as the country’s citizens grow richer and more educated.

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Graduates attend a graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai

Students at a graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai(Reuters/Aly Song)

Stereotypes about female PhD students are part of broader worries in China over the number of women becoming shengnu, “leftover women”— those who have reached the ripe age of 27 without marrying. “Women are seen primarily as these reproductive entities, having babies for the good of the nation,” Leta Hong Fincher, author of the book Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, told Quartz.

But the derision towards those with or earning PhDs, who typically don’t finish their degrees until the age of 28 or later, is particularly vitriolic. “There is a media-enforced stigma surrounding women with advanced degrees,” Fincher said, and much of this manifests online in social media.

In a recent discussion thread titled, “Are female PhDs really so bad to marry?” on a popular Chinese forum similar to the question-and-answer site Quora, one user posted (link in Chinese), “They are unscrupulous, hypocritical, filthy, and weak.” A user of the Chinese microblog Weibo wrote in September, “Female PhDs are the tragedy of China’s leftover women.” In an online poll on Weibo last January, 30% of over 7,000 voters said they wouldnot marry a woman with a PhD (Chinese).

Aside from being called the “third gender,” female PhD students have also been nicknamed miejue shitai or “nun of no mercy” after a mannish Kung Fu-fighting nun in a popular Chinese martial arts series. They are sometimes referred to as “UFOs,” an acronym for “ugly, foolish and old.” At Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, where Deng does some of her research, male students refer to the dormitory for female PhD students as the “Moon Palace,” the mythical home of a Chinese goddess living in painful solitude on the moon, with only a pet rabbit for company. “It’s like it’s a forbidden place where a lonely group of female PhD students live and no man wants to go,” Deng says.

“Ignorance is a woman’s virtue”

Educated Chinese women weren’t always treated this way. In the early days of the People’s Republic, the Communist party worked hard to overturn old Confucian ideas about women. Mao Zedong famously called on women to “hold up half the sky,” by going to school and taking up jobs.

As a result, high school enrollment for girlsreached 40% in 1981 (pdf, p. 381), up from 25% in 1949, while university enrollment rose from 20% to 34% over the same period, according to a 1992 analysis by the East West Center in Hawaii. As many as 90% of women were working in the mid-1980s, according to the same paper.

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Woman talk during the recording of an episode of a matchmaking television programme, "One out of 100", in Shanghai July 27, 2013.

Woman talk during a recording of a matchmaking television program in Shanghai.(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Ever since China started dismantling its planned economy in the 1980s and 1990s, dissolving many of the state-owned enterprises that employed women, more conservative values have begun to resurface. Now traditional ideas about women are creeping back into Chinese society. “It’s like returning to the idea that ignorance is a woman’s virtue,” says He Yufei, 27, one of Deng’s classmates at Hong Kong University, quoting an old idiom used to encourage women to focus on their roles as mothers or wives.

Chief among these ideas is that no woman should occupy a position higher than that of her husband. According to Louise Edwards, a specialist in gender and culture at Australia’s University of New South Wales, a flood of soap operas, pop music, and movies from South Korea and Japan­­­—historically patriarchal societies that never went through the kind of female liberation that China experienced—further reinforces this idea. “A PhD is the apex. It’s the top degree you can get, and by getting it you are thumbing your nose at the system,” Edwards said.

What is more, these traditional stereotypes happen to be convenient for the government at a time when China is facing a demographic problem. By 2020, Chinese men will outnumber women by at least 24 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Some researchers argue that the concept of shengnu, “leftover women,” was concocted by propaganda officials to pressure women into marrying as early as possible.

“The government is very concerned with all the excess men in the population who are not going to find brides. So it’s pushing educated women into getting married,” Fincher said. “The Chinese government doesn’t say anything about losing potential women from the workforce and that reflects their short-sighted concern with social stability.”

“They are already old, like yellowed pearls”

The PhD is a relatively new degree in China. Post-graduate programs were banned during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. After that, the first PhDs weren’t awarded until 1982. Now, having expanded its higher education system in an attempt to become more globally competitive, China awards more doctorate degrees than any other country. It had 283,810 PhD graduates in 2012, compared to 50,977 in the US that year, according to government statistics.

Chinese women make up half of all undergraduate students and almost half of all master’s students, but they accounted for only 35% of the PhDs awarded in 2012, compared to 46% in the US. Young women outperform their male counterparts so much that some universities have started requiring higher test scores from female applicants.

“Although women are doing well in university, they usually stop at a master’s and there’s a reason for that. It’s partly because of this stereotype,” Edwards said.

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Graduates stand on the steps in front of the academic building at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Graduates stand on the steps in front of the academic building at Fudan University in Shanghai.(Reuters/Aly Song)

It’s not just anonymous bloggers or male university students who deride women in higher education. In January, Chen Riyuan, an academic in Guangzhou and minor politician, said that single women who undertake doctoral degrees are like “products that depreciate in value.” The All-China Women’s Federation, a state-backed women’s group, infamously wrote on its website on International Women’s Day in 2011 that “by the time [women] get their MA or PhD, they are already old, like yellowed pearls.”

Some women, too, have internalized the belief that a PhD will torpedo their chances of settling down. “Many of my friends gave up their PhDs because they think they need to get a boyfriend,” said Meng Ni, a doctoral candidate at York University in the United Kingdom, who is studying the experiences of female PhD students in China.

The thankless road of learning

Women who decide to go for the top degree are choosing a hard path, either for their love of research or teaching, or in the hope of getting a decent job. “The job market is really competitive and many people think that with higher education, the more knowledge that they gain, they will be more competitive,” says Meng, the doctoral candidate at York University.

The hours are long and pay is typically meager—around 1,000 yuan (about $160) a month, plus a little extra for working as a teaching assistant or a residence hall monitor. Huang Yalan, a 25-year-old woman earning a PhD in communications at Tsinghua University in Beijing, lives in a small single dorm on campus and spends most of her day poring over articles on propaganda theory, her thesis topic. She sees her boyfriend only once a month. If she can find a job as a lecturer after she graduates she can expect a starting salary of between 3,000 and 6,000 yuan a month. It may be years, even decades, before she becomes a professor.

“I’ve never felt discriminated against for being a female PhD, but people are curious because they think a woman’s obligation is in the home or that studying and pursuing a higher academic degree is a man’s path,” Huang said.

For others, the prejudice has been more obvious. He, 27, says that she was turned down by a professor at a university in Beijing because he wanted to supervise only male students. And many Chinese academics aren’t interested in supervising female PhDs or hiring them once they graduate. Women held fewer than 25% of academic posts in the country in 2013, according to a Times Higher Education survey.

A 30-year-old graduate who asked only to be called Carrie, and who graduated with a PhD in communications this year from one of China’s top schools, Fudan University in Shanghai, said she was shocked when the first question a recruiter asked was whether she would have a child within a year. “I was so angry, but I had to control it. This is just how it is,” she said.

What’s bad for women PhDs is bad for China

Discouraging women from getting jobs or education hurts any country’s economy, and especially China’s. The country faces a rapidly aging population and a labor force that is expected to start shedding as many as 10 million workers this year. The working-age population, which has been shrinking since 2012, fell by almost 4 million last year. Two neighboring countries with similar demographic problems, Japan and South Korea, have both launched public campaigns to getmore women in the workforce. China has initiated no such campaigns.

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Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics show a widening gap in nominal earnings for men and women between 1989 and 2009.(“Trends in China’s gender employment and pay gap”)

As a result, China’s female labor-force participation, once among the world’s highest, has been ticking downward. The proportion of urban women in the workforce fell to 60.8% in 2010, compared to 77.4% in 1990, as more women choose to stay home after having a child. On the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings, China now ranks 87th out of 142 (pdf) countries, just below El Salvador, Georgia, and Venezuela. The pay gap has also widened: One study found that between 1995 and 2007, women’s earnings, as a proportion of men’s, had fallen from 84% to 74%.

The fact that women are underrepresented in academia may also help explain why they are absent in policy-making circles and ultimately the government, where half of the members of the most powerful decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) have PhDs. The percentage of women of ministerial rank or higher has remained below 10% since 1982 (p. 139). No woman has ever been nominated to the PSC or to lead the party.

But women PhDs are fighting back

For all the prejudices, women PhDs are quickly catching up with their male counterparts. From 2004 to 2012, the number of female PhD graduates increased 19-fold. In time, attitudes may change.

Male-PhD-graduates-Female-PhD-graduates_chartbuilder

Of the dozen PhD students sitting in Deng’s shared office at Hong Kong University, a quiet fluorescent-lit room with thick blue carpet and beige plastic desks, more than half are Chinese women. A small Chinese flag, red with yellow stars, sticks out from one cubicle. Deng says she believes that she and her colleagues are good for China.

“I think female PhD students can show another kind of life for women,” she said. “As in, not living life through their husbands, sons, or brothers but showing women can be educated, independent, and happy.”

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讚賞孩子的8大技巧

https://hk.mobi.yahoo.com/story/?key=hk:data:story:a4b4b9ec-dfb0-3f0d-bca5-2de217fbfbd9&site=news&ctg=featured

正確地讚賞孩子的優點可以打動他們的心。但假若運用了錯誤的方法,不僅不能鼓勵孩子,相反還可能讓他們變成為「港孩」呢!以下是8大表揚孩子的技巧:

1. 減少「很好」、「真厲害」這類判斷式的讚賞
這個類形的讚賞方式,經常會因為運用得過多而成為了敷衍小孩的用語,而且充其量它是只一種判斷式的讚賞。過於頻繁的話,家長自身一來會忽略了孩子的具體能力,二來更會讓孩子沉溺於「我做什麼事都做得很好,我太完美了!」的錯覺。久而久之,孩子就會依賴成人來告訴他對錯好壞,並習慣於取悅大人,迎合別人的期望。令他衡量自己的價值觀會變成「能不能讓別人高興」。

也就是說,判斷式的讚賞會讓孩子過分在意外在認可,但內心做事情的熱情就沒有得到激發,不懂得自我激勵。孩子必需要學習成為自己的判斷者、主導者。

2. 更具體的讚賞

仔細思考一下你想讚賞孩子的甚麼特點?通常表揚他們都是為了鼓勵更多的好行為,所以讚賞時也要具體指出他們做得好的地方,例如:「你一直都在幫媽媽搬東西,很辛苦哦!」、「這幅畫你很認真地畫了一個上午呢!」。

3. 強調努力的讚賞

最有效的讚賞就莫過於注重孩子做事的過程和為之付出的努力,而不是結果。有效地鼓勵孩子努力向前,他就能學會自我激勵,而不是為了你的肯定才去做什麼事情,例如:「哇!你把房子蓋得很高!你怎麼能把積木壘得這麼整齊?」

4. 以「你」開始的讚賞

這樣說可以幫助孩子審視自己,為自己的成績感到自豪。成就感能促使孩子不斷努力,以獲取成功。

5. 強調效果的讚賞
如果孩子幫助了別人,讚賞的重點就可以放在這個優點之上,例如「你把車子給同學玩,你看,他開心極了。」

6. 有預期的讚賞
「我要你來幫忙你便過來了,讓我節省了很多時間呢!」這樣的讚賞,會令孩子理解你的期望,不會在你叫他的時候沒有反應了。

7. 不添加主觀判斷的讚賞

「你畫的鳥像是要從紙上飛出來了!」比「我喜歡你畫的鳥。」更好。孩子需要的是通過讚賞,對自己所做的事情感覺良好,而不是對大人的稱讚感覺良好。

8. 問句式的讚賞
有時候,尊重他做的事情,以問句形式體現出來,對孩子來說是最大的獎賞。例如:「這座城堡的哪個部分是最難修建的?」或者:「你的畫裡面,你最喜歡的顏色是什麼?」

The 9 Types Of Men’s Collars, And When To Wear Them

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-9-types-of-mens-collars-and-when-to-wear-them-2014-12?utm_content=buffer822e2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

The 9 Types Of Men’s Collars, And When To Wear Them
Articles Of Style
DAN TREPANIER, ARTICLES OF STYLE
DEC. 9, 2014, 5:18 PM 32,581
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Alex Crawford/Articles of Style

A lot can be said about a man from his choice in collars.

Here are the most common styles in menswear, along with a little guidance.

THE FORWARD POINT COLLAR640 81
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the narrow space between the two collar points, which are often not covered by the jacket lapels.

Recommended for: traditionalists, minimalists, bowtie wearers, formal shirts, guys with round faces, narrow ties.

THE BUTTON-DOWN COLLAR640 31
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the buttons, of course.

Recommended for: casual settings, preppy guys, sportsmen, students, non-tie wearers.

THE SPREAD COLLAR640 61
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the roughly 45 degree angle of the collar points.

Recommended for: businessmen, rich guys, men with large necks, wider neckties.

THE CUTAWAY COLLARMenswearCutawayCollarDenimShirt
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the severe angle of the collar points and the visible “noose” ends of the necktie.

Recommended for: fashionistos, statement makers, guys who wear Italian suits, guys with narrow faces.

THE CLUB COLLAR640 41
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the rounded collar points (shown here with a collar pin).

Recommended for: club members, brainiacs, Ivy leaguers, guys who play by the rules, guys who appreciate exclusivity.

THE TAB COLLAR640 71
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the hidden button that fastens the two collar points together under the tie knot (causing the knot to lift and the collar to crease at its midpoint).

Recommended for: guys with strong attention to detail, guys who hate collar flares, guys who take pride in their tie dimples, guys who enjoy the art of dressing.

THE POWER COLLAR640 13
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: a taller neckband that has two buttons on the collar.

Recommended for: large athletic guys, guys with long necks, confident guys, substantial neckties, guys with large personalities.

THE BAND COLLAR640 21
Alex Crawford/Articles of Style
Distinctive quality: the lack of a collar, really. It’s just a neckband.

Recommended for: artists, outdoorsmen, guys who work with their hands, guys who enjoy layering, guys who are nostalgic about old times.

——————-

What’s your go-to collar style?

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

Read more: http://articlesofstyle.com/55368/a-guide-to-shirt-collar-styles/#ixzz3LWAj7gN5