‘Genderless’ Baby Highlights Gender Role Anxiety

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer, LiveScience.com

Beyond the online condemnation for two Toronto parents who reportedly refuse to make public the gender of their youngest child, there’s a deeper question on how gender forms, scientists say.

Though there are no solid answers, experts on gender say whether a child identifies as a male or female comes from a mix of biology, environment and something deep inside themselves. And at the end of the day, the “genderless” baby, a 4-month old named Storm, will more than likely figure out which gender he or she identifies with.

Raising a child without a public gender is indeed unusual (In 2009, a Swedish newspaper reported a couple doing the same thing with their 2-year-old, nicknamed Pop), and experts say the jury is out on how or if the doing so will influence Storm’s development. But the response to the case has revealed how deeply gender issues resonate, said Diane Ehrensaft, a California psychologist and author of  “Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children” (The Experiment, 2011).

“It makes people mad, like you’ve tricked them,” Ehrensaft told LiveScience, adding, “There’s a real division between those who want to hold onto our traditional gender norms and those who say, ‘What for? They’ve only limited people’s lives.”

Case in point: Hundreds of outraged comments all around the Web reacting to Storm’s parents’ choice.

“How absolutely selfish to play games with their own child’s mind,” read one representative comment on the Toronto Star’s Parent Central website, which first reported the story about Storm’s family. “Cruel and unusual punishment.”

Bringing up baby

Storm’s parents know their child’s sex, as do Storm’s older brothers. The goal of keeping the information inside the family, Storm’s parents told the Toronto Star, is to limit messages that tell young children how to act based on their sex.

“We thought if we delayed sharing that information, in this case, hopefully, we might knock off a couple million of those messagesby the time Storm decides Storm would like to share [his or her gender],” Storm’s mom Kathy Witterick told the Toronto Star. [Read: America’s Most Hated Baby Names]

It’s unclear whether the experiment will work out, said KatrinaKarkazis, an anthropologist at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University and author of “Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority and Lived Experience” (Duke University Press, 2008). That’s because gender messages are inescapable in our society, Karkazis told LiveScience. However, Karkazis said, Storm’s parents are correct in thinking that people treat children differently based on gender, sometimes in very subtle ways.

One 1975 study, published in the journal Sex Roles, put 42 non-parents in a room with a 3-month-old baby and three toys: a football, a doll and a gender-neutral teething ring. A third of the volunteers were told the baby was a girl, a third thought the baby was a boy, and a third were told that the experimenter couldn’t recall if the baby was a boy or a girl.

Unsurprisingly, when the volunteers thought the baby was a girl rather than a boy, they were much more likely to offer “her” a doll to play with. If they didn’t know the baby’s gender, the male volunteers tended to go for the teething ring, while women offered the baby the doll. That could mean that women see dolls as less gendered, or it could mean that the men in the study hewed more strictly to gender roles.

Overall, people held and touched the baby less if they thought “she” was a girl. When they didn’t know the sex, a gender difference emerged again: Men held the unknown baby less, while women held the baby more.

Likewise, parents view their own children through the lens of gender. A 1991 analysis of 172 previous studies on gender bias found that parents, especially fathers, encourage activities for their children based on sex stereotypes. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that moms of girls underestimate their 11-month-old’s crawling abilities, while moms of boys overestimate crawling skills, highlighting a trend in which male infants are seen as more hardy. A 1995 study published in the journal Sex Roles found that these gender-based perceptions emerge quickly, with moms and dads rating their newborn girls as less strong, finer featured, more delicate and more feminine than newborn boys.

Gender and biology

None of this is to say that gender identity, separate from gender behavior, is a social construct. Gender is “nature, nurture and culture” woven together, Ehrensaft said. And regardless of what they’re told and how they’re treated, kids usually identify their own gender early.

“There are children who are assigned male on the birth certificate who say, ‘Hey, I’m not. I’m a girl,'” Ehrensaft said. “That’s not because anyone told them who they are. It comes from inside.”

For that reason, it’s unlikely that Storm’s genderless status will go on for long, Karkazis said.

“You’d have to give an extraordinary amount of power, all power really, to nurture [rather than nature] to say that this will without a doubt shape all sense of if this child is male or female and his or her behavior,” she said. “We’d have to give no space for biology.”

Storm is growing up in a household and a culture in which almost everyone identifies as male or female, Karkazis said. And because babies pick up on gender cues early — by age 1 or so, studies suggest — by the time Storm starts talking, he or she will likely have something to say about his or her own gender.

“This child is only going to have two models, even within the house,” Karkazis said. “I would be shocked if this child didn’t self-identify.”


Chris Medina Says He Wasn’t Invited To The ‘American Idol’ Finale

by Lyndsey Parker in Reality Rocks

Earlier this season, Chris Medina was a standout contestant on “American Idol.” His sob story was perhaps the saddest in “Idol” history, and it created a huge amount of buzz for the series as it launched its all-important first post-Simon Cowell season. But now it seems that “Idol” producers have already forgotten about Chris, even though his story was clearly manipulated to full effect to generate ratings. According to Chris’s tweets, he has not been invited to appear at the “Idol” finale next week, not even as an audience member.

For those of you who don’t recall, Chris auditioned in Milwaukee, where he told the judges his horrific backstory about how he has been a caretaker for his fiancée, Juliana Ramos, since she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2009 car accident. Juliana even attended Chris’s audition, and Steven Tyler wept as she was wheeled into the audition room. Viewers at home wept as well, no doubt.

Later, when Chris shockingly didn’t make the top 24, it was Jennifer Lopez’s time to cry, as she emotionally delivered the bad news. But it wasn’t all bad news for Chris back then, as Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine decided to put out a Chris single anyway. “What Are Words,” a ballad penned by “Idol”-associated producer Rodney Jerkins, and inspired by Chris and Juliana’s real-life tragic love story, was rushed onto iTunes the day after his elimination episode aired, before any of the top 24 had even competed.

But this week, only a couple months after all that fanfare, Chris tweeted: “Just found out I will not be at the finale for #AmericanIdol sad and disappointed.” When one of his followers tweeted back inquiring why, Chris replied, “not asked. Then I asked for tickets and I [was] told they can’t. No harsh feelings #AmericanIdol”

Obviously Chris and Juliana have suffered setbacks far greater than this one, so I am sure they’ll get over this apparent snub. But still, this seems rather rude, if you ask me. “Idol” viewers may have differing opinions as to whether Chris deserved to be in the top 24, but his dramatic audition and equally dramatic elimination were a major part of the “Idol” story arc this season, so it seems strange that producers wouldn’t invite him to participate in the finale in some way.

Yes, “Idol” has done a lot for Chris already–few top 40 contestants ever get the opportunity to put out their own single on a major label–but not giving him a couple of tickets still seems a little cold.

Schwarzenegger acknowledges fathering child with longtime member of household staff

The Canadian Press

By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has acknowledged that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff, a revelation that apparently prompted wife Maria Shriver to leave the couple’s home before they announced their separation last week.

Schwarzenegger and Shriver jointly announced May 9 that they were splitting up after 25 years of marriage. Yet, Shriver moved out of the family’s Brentwood mansion earlier in the year after Schwarzenegger acknowledged the child is his, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

“After leaving the governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,” Schwarzenegger told the Times in a statement that also was sent to The Associated Press early Tuesday. “I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.

“I ask that the media respect my wife and children through this extremely difficult time,” the statement concluded. “While I deserve your attention and criticism, my family does not.”

Schwarzenegger’s representatives did not comment further. A spokesman for the former first lady told the Times she had no comment.

The Times did not publish the former staffer’s name nor that of her child but said the woman worked for the family for 20 years and retired in January.

In an interview Monday before Schwarzenegger issued his statement, the former staffer said another man — her husband at the time — was the child’s father. When the Times later informed the woman of the governor’s statement, she declined to comment further.

The child was born before Schwarzenegger began his seven-year stint in public office.

Shriver stood by her husband during his 2003 gubernatorial campaign after the Los Angeles Times reported accusations that he had a history of groping women. Schwarzenegger later said he “behaved badly sometimes.”

In his first public comments since the couple announced their breakup, Schwarzenegger said last week that he and Shriver “both love each other very much.”

“We are very fortunate that we have four extraordinary children and we’re taking one day at a time,” he said at a Los Angeles event marking Israeli independence. Their children range in age from 13 to 21.

Since his term as California governor ended in early January, Schwarzenegger, 63, has travelled around the world, his wife nowhere in sight. While the “Terminator” star appeared confident about the future since exiting politics, cutting movie deals and fashioning himself as a global spokesman for green energy, Shriver, known for her confidence, seemed unsettled.

Shriver, 55, maintained her own identity when her husband entered politics, though she gave up her job at NBC. Their union was often tested in Sacramento, where the former action star contended with a rough seven years of legislative gridlock, a budget crisis and lingering questions about his fidelity.

Samoa to move back across Pacific date line, trading America’s yesterday for Asia’s tomorrow By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

APIA, Samoa – Samoa plans to leap 24 hours into the future, erasing a day and putting a new kink in the Pacific’s jagged international date line so that it can be on the same weekday as Australia, New Zealand and eastern Asia.

It’ll be Back to the Future for the island nation, offsetting a decision it made 119 years ago to stay behind a day and align itself with U.S. traders based in California.

That has meant that when it’s dawn Sunday in Samoa, it’s already dawn Monday in adjacent Tonga and shortly before dawn Monday in nearby New Zealand, Australia and increasingly prominent eastern Asia trade partners such as China.

Samoa has found its interests lying more with the Asia-Pacific region and now wants to switch back to the west side of the line, which separates one calendar day from the next and runs roughly north-to-south through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

“In doing business with New Zealand and Australia we’re losing out on two working days a week,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said in a statement. “While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand and when we’re at church on Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.”

Samoa’s change will have a cost: The Polynesian nation has long marketed itself as the last place on Earth to see each day’s sunset.

“It will be really confusing for us. I just don’t see the point, and we don’t know the benefits yet,” multimedia company official Laufa Lesa, 30, told The Associated Press in an interview from the Samoan capital Apia.

“The government says it’s good for the economy, but it’s totally fine the way it is now,” Lesa said.

The prime minister already has a new tourism angle: You can easily celebrate the same day twice, because the next-door U.S. territory of American Samoa will stay on the California side of the date line and remain one day behind.

“You can have two birthdays, two weddings and two wedding anniversaries on the same date — on separate days — in less than an hour’s flight across (the ocean), without leaving the Samoan chain,” Tuilaepa said.

Tuilaepa has proposed leaping forward by scratching this year’s Dec. 31 from the calendar and holding New Year’s celebrations one night early, though the date hasn’t been confirmed.

The original shift to the east side of the line was conducted in 1892 when Samoa celebrated July 4 twice, giving a nod to Independence Day in the U.S.

The date line drawn by mapmakers is not mandated by any international body. By tradition, it runs roughly through the 180-degree line of longitude, but it zigzags to accommodate choices of Pacific nations on how to align their calendars.

Nearly as many Samoans now live in Australia and New Zealand as the 180,000 living in the islands, which are located about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and rely on fruit and vegetable exports as well as tourism.

In 2009, Tuilaepa enacted a law that switched cars to driving on the left side of the road instead of the right, also to bring Samoa in line with Australia and New Zealand. He said at the time the change made it easier for Samoans in Australia and New Zealand to send used cars home to their relatives. Opponents predicted major traffic problems, but they never happened.

“Today we do a lot more business with New Zealand and Australia, China and Pacific Rim countries such as Singapore,” the prime minister said, adding that his latest idea will make commerce with the region “far, far easier.”

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Big Asteroid’s Approach in November Excites Astronomers

By SPACE.com Staff, Space.com | SPACE.com

An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will come closer to Earth this autumn than our own moon does, causing scientists to hold their breath as it zooms by. But they’ll be nervous with excitement, not with worry about a possible disaster.

There’s no danger of an impact when the asteroid 2005 YU55makes its close flyby Nov. 8, coming within 201,700 miles (325,000 kilometers) of Earth, scientists say.

So they’re looking forward to the encounter, which could help them learn more about big space rocks.

“While near-Earth objects of this size have flown within a lunar distance in the past, we did not have the foreknowledge and technology to take advantage of the opportunity,” Barbara Wilson, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. “When it flies past, it should be a great opportunity for science instruments on the ground to get a good look.” [Photos: Asteroids in Deep Space]

Getting to know YU55

Asteroid 2005 YU55 is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide. It was discovered in December 2005 by the Spacewatch program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Because of the asteroid’s size and orbital characteristics, astronomers have flagged 2005 YU55 as potentially dangerousdown the road. But the upcoming encounter is no cause for alarm, researchers said.

“YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over, at the very least, the next 100 years,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. “During its closest approach, its gravitational effect on the Earth will be so minuscule as to be immeasurable. It will not affect the tides or anything else.” [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

This round space rock has been in astronomers’ cross hairs before. In April 2010, astronomers at the National Science Foundation’sArecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico generated some ghostly radar images of 2005 YU55 when the asteroid was about 1.5 million miles (2.3 million km) from Earth.

But those pictures had a resolution of just 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. The November close pass should provide some sharper images.

“When 2005 YU55 returns this fall, we intend to image it at 4-meter resolution [13 feet] with our recently upgraded equipment at the Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California,” said JPL radar astronomer Lance Benner. “Plus, the asteroid will be seven times closer. We’re expecting some very detailed radar images.”

A radar astronomy opportunity

Radar astronomy employs the world’s biggest dish-shaped antennas. The antennas direct microwave signals at celestial targets that can be as far away as the moons of Saturn.

These signals bounce off the target, and the resulting “echo” helps researchers create radar images. These images can then be used to reconstruct detailed, three-dimensional models of the object.

With 4-meter-per-pixel resolution, the new views of 2005 YU55 should be pretty sharp, perhaps even showing boulders and craters, researchers said.

“We’re talking about getting down to the kind of surface detail you dream of when you have a spacecraft fly by one of these targets,” Benner said.

The data collected from Arecibo, Goldstone and ground-based optical and infrared telescopes also should help detail the mineral composition of the asteroid, researchers said.

“This is a C-type asteroid, and those are thought to be representative of the primordial materials from which our solar system was formed,” Wilson said. “This flyby will be an excellent opportunity to test how we study, document and quantify which asteroids would be most appropriate for a future human mission.”

The capabilities of the Goldstone antenna, in California’s Mojave Desert, and of Arecibo are complementary. The Arecibo radar is about 20 times more sensitive and can detect asteroids about twice as far away. But its main dish is stationary, so it can see only about a third of the sky.  Goldstone is fully steerable and can see about 80 percent of the accessible sky, so it can track objects for longer periods and can image asteroids at finer spatial resolution, researchers said.

Researchers are eager to train the instruments of both facilities on 2005 YU55 in November.

“So stay tuned,” Yeomans said. “This is going to be fun.”

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Canadian superstar Shania Twain shares intimate details of her life

Canadian superstar Shania Twain shares intimate details of her life

By Marc Weisblott | Daily Brew 

Considering how she worked, lived and had a child with one of the most reclusive figures in music, it once seemed unthinkable Shania Twain would ever reveal details about ex-husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

She was once exposed for exaggerating her Ojibway background that inspired a stage name that meant, “I’m on my way.”

The singer, born Eileen Regina Edwards in 1965, countered she identified with the heritage of her mother’s second husband.

Yet, despite having kept a low profile during the height of her fame, does the public need to know what it’s like to be Shania?

“From This Moment On,” a memoir published this week, has delivered its share of intimate tidbits. Twain revealed she was emotionally and physically abused by that same stepfather.

And, some 15 years after a whirlwind courtship between artist and producer, Lange had an affair with Mary-Anne Thiébaud, who was Twain’s secretary, house manager and friend.

While she soaked her sorrows in five baths per day at the Switzerland estate, it turned out a new man wasn’t far away, since no one was more empathetic than that friend’s ex-husband. Twain remarried in January to Frédéric Thiébaud.

When the couple turned up in March at the Juno Awards in Toronto, where the singer was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, it was certainly novel to see her with an affectionate gent by her side.

Still, years of being a private person accentuated the impression Twain was not interested in staying in touch, regardless of how much time she dedicated to her son.

But now, Oprah Winfrey has emerged to give Twain a launch pad for a personable persona, including an OWN channel reality show about overcoming the struggles with fear that squeezed her voice box.

“I’ve trapped my own voice, and now I’ve got to unwipe all that,” Twain told Winfrey about living with a condition called dysphonia. “I really can’t imagine not singing again.”

The difference today, in the age of social media, is a singer’s celebrity is never measured by how their records are produced.

(CP Photo)