The Problem with Gender Quotas, What Germans Are Reading, and George Washington Mural Update
I didn’t wake up this morning wondering what Germans were reading these days, but as soon as I read this headline at The American Interest, I had to know. Here’s a snippet: “The land of Goethe is fond of fiction, of course, which makes up 31.9 percent of total book sales. Within this genre, they prefer suspense novels and thrillers. Children’s and young adult literature come in second, followed by self-help books, a genre the Börsenverein suggests is in an uptick. General nonfiction rounds out these numbers, but it is also the category, importantly, that generates the most conversation.” Next up are columns on Brazil, France, and the United Kingdom. What a wonderful idea.
The San Francisco School Board may not paint over the George Washington mural at the George Washington High School after all. Instead, they might cover it with other materials. This is better than painting over it, but it’s certainly no grand strike against pigeon-hearted pandering.
More than 18,000 artefacts have been seized in an international trafficking crackdown: “Police authorities from 29 countries joined forces to launch an operation that seized more than 18,000 illegally trafficked cultural goods including archaeological items, furniture, coins, paintings, musical instruments, and sculptures. The joint forces arrested 59 individuals in the operation.”
In case you missed it, J. D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, has become a Catholic.
Nick Burns reviews a newly translated selection of speeches from Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War: “The six speeches—from Pericles’s successful attempt in 432 BC to convince the Athenians to go to war, to Nicias’s vain bid to scuttle the Sicilian expedition—accompanied as they are with Hanink’s succinct and reserved introductions, together make up a convincing précis of Thucydides’s mammoth history.”
“We’re now a good 40 years into the computer revolution,” Joseph Bottum writes in his latest column at The Washington Free Beacon. What should we make of it? “[M]aybe the best way to understand what’s happened would be to construct a scatter plot of the results. We need to graph everything onto a Cartesian plane, in other words, with a vertical axis for the personal effects computers have had and a horizontal axis for the social effects.” Read Jody’s brief survey in which he has some rather strong words against social media. And if you’re interested, here’s a panel I participated in earlier this year with Richard Starr, Lauren Weiner, and Jon Hunter (hosted by Jody) on how the computer has changed publishing.
What is going to be in Amazon’s Lord of the Ring series? Anything from the Second Age with a free hand to explore unanswered questions, though it must “remain ‘Tolkienian’.”
The animals of Bloomsbury and Sigrid Nunez’s Mitz: “It begins with an improbable rescue, based on true events. It is late July 1934, and Leonard Woolf has recently come into possession of his friend Victor Rothschild’s sickly marmoset. (Victor had procured the creature, whom he named Mitz, from a junk shop.) A pet-sitting appointment blooms into a longer arrangement. Good Leonard—‘He was a man who healed sick animals and grew dahlias and wrote books taking on the biggest bullies of the world,’ the fictionalized Virginia explains—nurses Mitz back to health. Spirited, loyal, and uncorrupted by shame or civility, the tiny primate becomes an unlikely fixture of the cultural life of Bloomsbury.”
Essay of the Day:
In The Conversation, Samantha Warren writes about the problem with gender quotas at the recent Glastonbury Festival and the music industry in general:
“The problems begin when we look more closely at what happens when quotas are used to address gender inequality. The argument is that without legislation requiring organisations to appoint a set number of individuals from the minority group, change will not happen fast enough. The 2011 Davies Report, commissioned by the UK Government, calculated it would take 70 years for men and women to achieve equality on company boards if the status quo wasn’t challenged.
“Yet these quotas can result in women’s recruitment to less influential positions. In countries where gender quotas for company boards are already mandatory, it is not uncommon to find women in non-executive positions where their power is limited – impression management rather than real change. We can see this happening at Glastonbury, too.
“Another criticism of diversity quotas is an assumption that choosing people because of their gender – whether to perform at a festival, or lead a company – means ability and talent matter less than getting enough of the underrepresented group to meet the target. This ‘tick box’ view has damaging effects for everyone.
“Men feel aggrieved that they may have lost out unfairly, while women feel they have only been chosen because of their sex, and not their talent.
“But filling quotas does not have to be at the expense of ensuring a top quality bill, providing there are sufficient numbers of men and women in the talent pools you’re drawing from. You set the barrier high, then choose equal numbers of men and women who can jump it.
“We can apply this approach to ethnicity, sexuality, age – and any number of individual characteristics, too. There is also an argument that, if we are serious about addressing inequality, then the dominant group will (and should) necessarily lose its entrenched advantage.
“But this is where it gets interesting. Because in music, as with many other creative and tech industries, the talent pools are far from equally sized. A recent report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative studied 700 popular music songs released in the US between 2012 and 2016. Women made up 21.7% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters and only a tiny 2.1% of producers, suggesting that as creative roles become more techie, already low female participation rates fall sharply.”
Photo: Donskoy Park
Poem: Dana Gioia, Excerpt from The Underworld
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