It's not about you
Regarding women "baiting" men ("Mr. Wrong," Letters, 12/9/11): Young women in particular follow fashion fads so as not to be thought unstylish or prudish by their peers, mainly other young women. Perk up your ears, guys. Women's clothing is not about you. Short skirts, low necklines and bare midriffs are not invitations to have sex with you. If a woman's interested in you, she'll let you know. Until then, keep your hands off, don't crowd our physical space, and don't comment on our looks or push for sex or attention.
You give yourselves away when you say U.S. women are "permitted to flaunt their sexuality with seductive clothing as well as sexually suggestive behaviors" (perhaps by smiling, sharing a seat with you on a crowded bus, or not keeping our knees clamped tightly together at all times?). You share the attitude of men in repressive countries, where men dictate what women are permitted to wear so as not to tempt poor helpless males to commit rape.
We would like to discourage Mr. Rathmann and Mr. Glickman from believing (and acting on) their fantasies. Women dress for many reasons - to attract a man, or to attract a woman, or to annoy parents, or because nothing else in the closet is clean. Predicating your behavior on your assumptions (fantasies of another's intent as "revealed" by their clothes or actions) can set you up to hurt yourself as you hurt another. Easily throwing around phrases like "flaunting their sexuality" and "sexually suggestive behaviors" should be a dangerous self-warning. If two people both want sex with one another, that desire can melt steel. If only one wants sex, having deluded himself that his desire is shared, the result can be disastrous, as sex turns to sexual assault.
The process you describe, by which "men are condemned if they respond to these baitings by women, unless the response is by that particular man the woman is fishing for," is a result of women taking agency over their bodies and their sexual expression, which is fully their right. It's a sea change that is long overdue.
Stephen Montagna, Joseph Weinberg, Men Stopping Rape
The down escalator
Larry Kaufmann ("The Occupy Movement Has It Wrong," 12/16/11) would have us believe that all is well with economic mobility in the U.S., citing analyses from the Pew Economic Mobility Project. However, to actually quote from Pew's findings on absolute economic mobility for men in the U.S.: "There has been no progress at all for the youngest generation. As a group, they have on average 12% less income than their fathers' generation at the same age. This suggests the up-escalator that has historically ensured that each generation would do better than the last may not be working very well." Moreover, "the main reason that family incomes have risen is that more women have gone to work, buttressing the incomes of men by adding a second earner to the family. And, as with male income, the trend is downward."
In addition, the analysis that Kaufmann cites utilizes data from 1968 to 2006. Studies from the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and Boston show a decline in economic mobility coinciding with the "Reagan Revolution." From the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago analysis: "We find that mobility increased from 1950 to 1980 but has declined sharply since 1980." Inclusion of data from the earlier period inflates the mobility statistics Kaufmann provides.
Larry Kaufmann cites data from the Pew project up to 2006, completely ignoring that it was one year before the economic meltdown fully hit and people began to realize the emperor was indeed wearing no clothes. The key findings of the project suggest that, while middle-class adults remain somewhat optimistic about the future, the elements that they have identified as the foundations for promoting general upward mobility (jobs, housing, education, health care) have been eroded in recent years for the average American family, and government should be doing more to support them.
Consulting Kaufmann's source, the Pew Charitable Trust website, under "Mobility Project" we read headlines "about why the U.S. ranked worst for economic mobility among other countries" and "the difficulties that members of the middle class have moving up (or even keeping their current position) the economic ladder."
One way to square Kaufmann's rosy circle that mobility "is the key measure for assessing whether economic welfare is improving" is to note that the data begin with those who were children in 1968. How would the data look if they began with those who were children in 1978, 1988 or 1998?
Kaufmann reduces the Occupy movement to concerns about income distribution and mobility. But the movement is better understood as being concerned with wresting our democracy from corporate and moneyed interests, slowing the degradation of Mother Earth, curtailing U.S. militarism, and building anew a world of justice and equity.
Joel Garb, Black Earth