Friday, April 29, 2011

Obama Not Invited?

The biggest wedding of the twenty-first century (so far) occurred in London on April 29, 2011, when Kate Middleton married Prince William. Pointedly, President Barack Obama was not invited. What was the cause of this snub, made more clear when the leaders of forty other nations were invited, and in light of the fact that President Ronald Reagan was invited to the last royal wedding in 1981?

Two actions by Obama seemed to have triggered the situation: first, his dismissive gesture regarding a carved bust of Sir Winston Churchill, which he returned to the English who had lent it to him to display at the White House. Second, his presentation to the Queen of England of an iPod loaded with speeches given by Obama at various events. These two diplomatic blunders were apparently enough to remove any possibility that Obama would be a guest at the royal wedding.

Diplomats around the world noted that Obama failed to extend the usual diplomatic courtesies to Prime Minister Brown's official state visits to Washington. There was no joint statement issued at the press conference, and other niceties - state dinners, photo opportunities, exchanges of symbolic gifts - were curtailed. Why direct such shabby treatment toward England? The reason is not clear, but the effects of it are: Obama was not invited to the royal wedding.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gender Roles and Social Structures

Human nature is a constant in history. From Hammurabi to Hubert Humphrey, from Babylon to Boston, people are people, and they do the things that people do: they love, they hate, they buy, they sell, they ask questions, and they answer questions. In a diverse array of constantly-changing settings, human nature is one of the fixed points.

Part of human nature is gender. Masculinity and femininity are also constants - societies have been compose of men and women since history began, and it will always be that way. But different societies construct different contexts around those two foundations.

At Yale, sociologist Stephen B. Clark concluded that "men have a natural tendency to avoid social responsibility."

Some civilizations have built social structures in such a way as to encourage men to take more responsibility.

Other civilizations have enabled men to be irresponsible (at the cost of placing greater burdens upon women).

This gives us an interpretive framework - a lens - through which we can view and understand various societies at various times. It also explains why, for example, we see trends in which the majority of responsible roles in a society are filled by one gender or another. In many high schools today, the class officers and student council reveal a clear trend: why are these roles filled largely by females? Why don't males seem to have much interest in assuming leadership roles in some circumstances? Perhaps because they've discovered that leadership is work, and they have not been trained to apply themselves to difficult tasks.