Women had power in ancient Greece, but you’d never know…

A very real and interesting example of the ways in which assumptions made by archaeologists determine how they view the evidence. The implications, if anyone ever had time (and the guts) to go back and review the documentary records from previous digs, could be huge.
DNA reveals sister power in Ancient Greece

University of Manchester researchers have revealed how women, as well as men, held positions of power in ancient Greece by right of birth.
Women were thought to have had little power in ancient Greece, unless they married a powerful man and were able to influence him. But a team of researchers testing ancient DNA from a high status, male-dominated cemetery at Mycenae in Greece believe they have identified a brother and sister buried together in a richly endowed grave, suggesting that she had as much power as him.

Professor Brown recalled: We were surprised to discover what appears to be a sister buried beside her brother in the high status, male-dominated grave circle. The implication is that she was buried in Grave Circle B not because of a marital connection but because she held a position of authority by right of birth.

DNA explodes Greek myth about women

British researchers have unearthed evidence that proves Helen was much more than a chattel
Women in Ancient Greece were major power brokers in their own right, researchers have discovered, and often played key roles in running affairs of state. Until now it was thought they were treated little better than servants.
The discovery is part of an investigation by Manchester researchers into the founders of Mycenae, Europe’s first great city-state and capital of King Agamemnon’s domains.
‘It was thought that in those days women were rated as little more than chattels in Ancient Greece,’ said Professor Terry Brown, of the faculty of life sciences at Manchester University. ‘Our work now suggests that notion is wrong.’

The critical point, he said, was that the woman was thought to have been buried in a richly endowed grave because she was the wife of a powerful man. That was in keeping with previous ideas about Ancient Greece – that women had little power and could only exert influence through their husbands.
‘But this discovery shows both the man and the woman were of equal status and had equal power,’ he said. ‘Women in Ancient Greece held positions of power by right of birth, it now appears.
‘The problem has been that up until recently our interpretation of life in Ancient Greece has been the work of a previous generations of archaeologists, then a male-oriented profession and who interpreted their findings in a male-oriented way. That is changing now and women in Ancient Greece are being seen in a new light.’

Future geek chicks?

From the BBC on Microsoft’s survival strategy (innovation and research):

Boku is a video game which is basically aimed at creating the computer programmers of tomorrow.
Principal programme manager Matt MacLaurin, a father of a three and three-quarter year-old daughter, designed Boku “as a tool so that kids can make their own games and its secretly a tool to teach kids what programming is like without getting too bogged down in the detail”.

Mr MacLaurin says Boku’s marriage of creativity and education is a clever way to hook children into this world.
He noted that girls took just two hours to become completely conversant with Boku while he fudged on how long the boys took.

Other interesting ideas include ‘E-Science in the cloud’:

In the carbon project known as Fluxdata, a group of 400 scientists from across the world are looking at how vegetation is being affected by carbon emissions.
In the past they might well have worked in isolation and only exchanged information via email assuming they would know who else was conducting complementary research.

In other news, yay Eurovision!

All women team run NASA’s Mars rover (briefly)

Briefly is better than nothing…

The all-female team of scientists and engineers planned the event after noticing they were occasionally a supermajority on the rover operations team. They designed an action plan and transmitted all the computer codes for the day’s activities, including using the robotic arm to take microscopic images of dust while Spirit was stationed on a slope. Though men still outnumber women in space exploration, the gender mix is changing.

More from NASA.

Woman and men can have equal spatial abilities

Lots of possible questions about the study itself, but the introduction to the article is interesting:
Action Games Improve Women’s Spatial Abilities, Says New Study

While research has consistently shown that the male brain has advantages in spatial skills like geometry, interpreting technical drawings and reading maps, a new study says that playing action-oriented video games can equalize the sexes in that regard.

“And don’t worry. They’ll have plenty of time to learn to hate themselves when they get older.”

I really hoped this article was a joke, but it’s not.
Why 10 is too young for your first Brazilian

Last year Nair, makers of hair-removal products, released their Pretty range, aimed at 10 to 15-year-olds, or, as they call them, “first-time hair removers”. Yes, you heard right. Ten-year-olds. Girls — children — in grades 5 and 6, encouraged to wax and chemically remove hair from their barely pubescent bodies. As online site Gawker put it, what’s next: Baby Brazilians?
Well, it seems that someone heard that throwaway phrase and spied a business opportunity, because Australian website girl.com.au is now promoting a feature about Brazilian waxes, otherwise known as a torture device in which all the hair in a woman’s nether regions is ripped off with a combination of hot wax and a high pain threshold. The website, which appears to be mostly read by girls in the nine to 14 age bracket, says of the Brazilian: “Nobody really likes hair in their private regions and it has a childlike appeal.”

But “Pretty” here is a (hairless) wolf in disguise. It might come in a range of fruity fragrances, but it’s also a non-threatening induction into a society that sets ridiculous standards for female appearance (among them, the notion that being hairy is ugly). “Pretty” ignores the fact that young people are progressing into adulthood at lightning speed, making the “tween” stage a mere formality as they rush from skipping ropes and jelly sandals to midriff tops and glitter make-up.

Ranking the sexiest women?

I’m quoting lots of this response to Maxim magazines poll of the world’s five “unsexiest women” because I think it’s really important.

In calling this kind of vicious, sexist rubbish “news”, the poll is given a smidgen of legitimacy. The media implicitly support the notion that it is OK to scrutinise and rank women on the basis of the most superficial and degrading of all criteria — their appearance.
In the past three decades, as women have made advances in public life and steps have been made towards greater equality between the sexes, the scrutiny of women’s bodies seems to have gathered pace. Take politics as an example. In Media Tarts, Julia Baird’s excellent book examining the media’s treatment of Australian female politicians, Baird argues that women in politics are rarely judged on their merits. Media commentators are far more interested in women’s hairstyles (Bronwyn Bishop, Julia Gillard), sexual histories (Cheryl Kernot), polka-dot dresses (Joan Kirner), sexiness (Julie Bishop, Natasha Stott Despoja) or unsexiness and weight (Amanda Vanstone) than their policy stances or the contributions they might make to the fabric of our nation.
Indeed, in many respects, women are still seen as less the sum of their parts and more the sum of their “bits”.
I can hear the naysayers: if you don’t like lists like these, don’t read them. And I agree. But even if — like me — you don’t actively seek out polls like these, assessments of women permeate every aspect of our culture. Ask any woman and she’ll tell you that such images are the reason she spends hours in front of the bathroom mirror, worrying about her every blemish or ripple of cellulite.
Media outlets need to be much more reflective about the role they play in fostering this kind of self-scrutiny among women. They must abandon the practice of uncritically promoting sexist material about women, of the kind we see in the Maxim poll. Because, as a woman, I can only do so much to avoid such harmful nonsense.

The Age, Media’s ugly looks obsession

The myth of Mars and Venus

There is a great deal of similarity between men and women, and the differences within each gender group are typically as great as or greater than the difference between the two. Many differences are context-dependent: patterns that are clear in one context may be muted, nonexistent or reversed in another, suggesting that they are not direct reflections of invariant sex-specific traits.
If these points were acknowledged, the science soundbites would be headed “Men and women pretty similar, research finds”, and popular psychology books would bear titles like There’s No Great Mystery About the Opposite Sex or We Understand Each Other Well Enough Most of the Time. Of course, these titles do not have the makings of bestsellers, whereas the “men and women are from different planets” story is a tried and tested formula. What does the myth of Mars and Venus do for us, that we return to it again and again?

The genius of the myth of Mars and Venus is to acknowledge the problems many people are now experiencing as a result of social change, while explaining those problems and conflicts in a way that implies they have nothing to do with social change.

Extract in The Guardian