[Paleopsych] WP: Unconventional Wisdom: Tough Bunnies
checker at panix.com
Thu Oct 27 02:09:02 UTC 2005
Unconventional Wisdom: Tough Bunnies (and more)
[The article by Beggan and Allison itself will come in a moment.]
By Richard Morin
By Richard Morin
Sunday, October 23, 2005; B05
First surprise: Playboy centerfolds are tough, say two social
psychologists who did a content analysis of the biographical text that
runs with the photographs of Playboy's playmates.
Second surprise: There's text with those centerfold spreads?
For the record, your Unconventional Wiz is shocked, shocked! that
women are still being objectified in skin magazines. He has not
personally looked at a Playboy in more than 20 years, and then only to
confirm the barroom claim of a Miami Herald colleague who said she had
posed as a centerfold in her wild and crazee youth. (An exhaustive
search through back issues confirmed that she had.) Anyway, I have
moved on. And I had hoped the world had as well.
But apparently it has not. And that's one reason that James K. Beggan
of the University of Louisville and Scott T. Allison of the University
of Richmond decided to take a scholarly approach to the magazine's
playmate prose. Even in this age of the Internet, with its easily
accessible porn, Playboy claims more than 3 million subscribers,
ranking it among the country's top-circulating magazines.
To ferret out Playboy's message to its, um, readers, Beggan began in
1998 to assemble a database that contained all the photos and text
from the 204 Playboy Playmate pictorials that appeared in the magazine
between 1985 and 2001. Much of it was distilled from a cache of
Playboys he found gathering dust in a Louisville bookstore. (And, of
course, in the interest of scholarship, he just had to rescue them
Beggan and Allison, writing in the latest issue of the Journal of
Popular Culture, found a pattern to the way that Playboy's wordsmiths
described the women who graced the magazine's centerfold. They were
typically strong, career-oriented, aggressive and, in a surprising
number of instances, downright "tough." Adjectives suggesting
vulnerability, submissiveness or passivity appeared less frequently.
But are these women really as they were described? Perhaps not, Beggan
acknowledges. But it doesn't matter: "This is the image of them that
is being presented to men. The Bible or Shakespeare teach important
lessons; it doesn't matter who wrote them" or whether the story lines
cleave tightly to historic fact.
Beggan, who's been a subscriber to Playboy for a decade, has enraged
some feminists by arguing that Playboy doesn't treat women merely as
sex objects and "is not really about men getting laid, but about
teaching men how to be better men." Rather than poised Hefneresque
swingers, he argues, Playboy targets "uncertain guys who are trying to
learn" how to be more sensitive to women's needs.
After all, he says, the symbol of Playboy is a "furry bunny, not a
Notice how gas prices shot up virtually overnight after Hurricane
Katrina -- but are falling much more slowly now?
We have only ourselves to blame, says an Ohio State University
economist who studied how people shop for gasoline. Matthew Lewis
found that the typical person hunts for the lowest possible prices
when costs are rising -- but gets lazy and doesn't shop around when
prices start to come down. As a consequence, gas station owners and
other businesses have less incentive to lower prices when their
wholesale costs drops.
For the study, Lewis used data on prices charged at about 420 service
stations in the San Diego area from January 2000 to December 2001. The
data were collected by the San Diego-based Utility Consumers' Action
Network, which describes itself as a consumer watchdog group. Data on
wholesale gas prices paid by the stations were obtained from the
Energy Department, he writes in a working paper available on his Web
Ironically, consumer buying patterns put more money in the pockets of
gas station owners when prices are falling than when they are rising.
Lewis found that profit margins were highest when the wholesale price
of gas was dropping and consumers stopped bargain-hunting. That eases
the pressure on station owners, which in turn allows them to keep
prices high, thereby increasing their profit margins.
Never mind about gas selling for $3 a gallon. It's when tomatoes top
$2 a pound that we should really worry -- at least those of us who are
concerned about the rate of obesity in children.
A new study by two Rand Corp. researchers found that young children
who live in communities where fruits and vegetables are expensive are
more likely to gain excessive weight than children who live in areas
with less costly produce. That finding helps explain the growing
incidence of obesity in children over the past 20 years, a time when
the cost of fruits and vegetables has increased faster than other food
prices as well as the cost of living, asserts Roland Sturm, a senior
Rand economist and lead author of the study published in the journal
The study by Sturm and economist Ashlesha Datar also was remarkable
for what it didn't find. The researchers couldn't make any link
between obese kids and the presence of many convenience stores,
full-service restaurants, fast-food restaurants or grocery stores near
their homes. Advocacy groups have suggested that such a link exists,
The research team examined excessive weight changes in 6,918 children
in kindergarten to third grade from 59 metropolitan areas around the
United States. The researchers then compared the weight gain figures
with the relative price of fruits and vegetables in each of the areas
studied. The data was collected by the federal government as part of
its Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.
Where do fruits and vegetables cost the most, relative to the price of
other food and necessities? The winner: Mobile, Ala., where children
gained about 50 percent more excess weight as measured by body mass
index (a ratio of weight to height) than children nationally, Sturm
Fruits and vegetables were relative bargains in Visalia, Calif., where
children's excess BMI gain was about half the national average.
morinr at washpost.com
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