Women’s History, Women’s Mystery
Growing up, I recall participating in women’s history contests in elementary school during the month of March. We were given a list of names of women who have contributed in one way or another to history and were required to memorize their names and contributions for the contest. At the contest, the judges told us the contribution of the woman, and we the contestants were required to give the corresponding name. The student who answered the most questions correctly was the winner. I recall: “What was the name of the first woman to fly across the Atlantic?” My response: “Amelia Earhart!” “Correct!” I always wondered: is this all there is to this woman? Where did she go after? Why didn’t she ever come back? Well, as a third grader, I wasn’t going to ask all of these questions. I was just happy to have the trophy (I was the winner, by the way). But looking back, one can’t help but wonder: what happened to Amelia Earhart?
Amelia Earhart has been said to have disappeared in 1937 over the Pacific in her attempt to fly around the world. There have been three main theories that have surrounded her mysterious disappearance. The first theory is that she and her navigator Fred Noonan ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific ocean during their route. The second theory is Earhart and potentially Noonan survived the crash, but were taken hostage by Japanese forces who were expanding their control leading up to World War II. The last theory is that the plane crashed on or near Nikumaroro Island (Gardner Island). On the basis of the latter theory, Jantz, a professor of anthropology and the director of the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, has developed some rather interesting findings for us inquisitive women history contest winners. In 1940, data was gathered from skeletal remains discovered on Nikumaroro: a human skull, humeri and radii (both arm bones), a tibia and fibula from the lower leg and two femurs (thigh bones). These remains were sent to Fiji and examined by a physician by the name of D.W. Hoodless. Hoodless examined these remains, and after concluding that they were from a “stocky European male,” discarded them.
Unfortunately, modern technology has shown that Hoodless might have been too rash in his conclusions. Jantz, who works with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, ran the measurements taken by Hoodless through Fordisc, a computer program for estimating sex, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements. This scan revealed that the alleged height of Earhart of 5’9’’ that ruled out the possibility of the bones being hers was incorrect. By examining the ratio of her humerus to her radius, Jantz was able to conclude that she was just a little taller than the average for her time. In fact, Earhart was listed as being 5’7” on her pilot’s license. Jantz states that the technology used by Hoodless to determine sex could not have been adequate enough during that time period; therefore, his conclusions cannot be assumed to be correct. Despite this new knowledge and technology, without the presence of the actual bones, it is difficult to reach any conclusions. There is always a possibility that Hoodless incorrectly measured the remains, which would make any data that is based on his measurements inaccurate.
Reading this story I was filled with anticipation that I would finally find out conclusively what happened to Amelia Earhart. Unfortunately, the story ends with a starch ambiguity. So for now, Amelia Earhart will continue to be celebrated in history for what she initiated. It is a pity that we will never know just how far her accomplishments could have gone.
Treating Girls as Women
In the wake of International Women’s Day, it’s impossible to ignore sexual assault and rape headlines that multiply weekly. While here in America, women are empowered to speak against their assaulters, abroad, women are just girls, who are assumed to have their own say in consent.
France plans to make large legal improvements to protect women’s and children’s rights. One of these plans includes setting the age of consent at 15 years old, so that rape can actually be applied where sexual assault has occurred. “Currently, prosecutors must prove sex with someone under 15 was forced in order to bring rape charges” (BBC.com). As of now, sex without proof of force is considered sexual abuse which warrants only five years in prison.
President Emmanuel Macron has supported this plan, after two recent cases of sexual assault against 11 year old girls. In one case, “The father of two children, then aged 28, approached the girl in a public area of a housing estate in Montmagny northwest of Paris. She performed oral sex in an elevator on the way to his apartment where they had penetrative sex” (The Local.com). The defendant’s lawyer states that the man believed the girl was 17 due to her “mature looks.” Whether or not the courts find the man at fault, the laws, as of now, make it difficult to apply a rape charge.
“A woman holds a placard reading, ‘In France, rapists and pedophiles are protected by law,’ during a protest on Nov. 14 in Paris calling for a law setting an older minimum legal age for sexual consent (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images).”
It seems pretty obvious that a girl, at the age of 11, would be unable to consent to sex; however, the exact age of consent is debated nationally as well as globally. The French government was debating between setting the age at 13 or 15, but finally decided on the latter.
While 11 seems like a ridiculously low age to consent or be interested in sex, due to cultural differences, it is difficult to determine exactly when a girl should be given this kind of voice. Of course, puberty is one marker used to determine a legal age; however, states like New York set the legal age of consent at 17, which is well after the onset of puberty. While many teenagers are sexually active before this age, it seems that like France, these laws are set with “good intentions;” to prevent adults from robbing young men and women of their innocence.
I wonder how setting the age of consent will influence French culture regarding sexual assault. Whether it will decrease is undetermined; however, it seems like a step in the right direction. It seems like women’s voices are being heard. I find this news especially interesting for the ways legislation attempts to distinguish girls from women. It seems like there is a correlation between age and the maturity of one’s voice; the ability to consent, to desire, and to decide.
Here are some legal ages of consent around Europe:
14: Austria, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Germany
15: Greece, Poland, Sweden
16: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom
Here are the legal ages of consent worldwide:
Elon Musk’s Boring Company Isn’t Boring
Contrary to its ill-fitting name, Elon Musk’s Boring Company isn’t dull in the least. In fact, it’s moving ground – literally. The company name comes from the tunnel-boring machines that Musk is using for the creation of his new vision: a high-speed, underground public transit system that runs on electricity.
Musk originally conceived of the idea while stuck in a LA traffic jam in 2016, but he has only recently expanded the goal to mass public transit instead of personal travel alone, with a priority on pedestrians and cyclists. In a video posted to his Twitter on March 9th, he shows off his new plan, called “The Loop.” He envisions an electric pod system that will descend from street level into a tunnel network underground. He asserts that The Loop will be superior to a subway because it will run on electric skates at speeds up to 150 miles per hour and take passengers directly to their destination rather than stopping along the way. These electric skate pods would run autonomously and reduce carbon emission output released by traditional cars. The numerous stations would each be as small as a single vehicle parking space and branch from a main transportation artery, making them easy to integrate into urban centers. Musk hopes that the number of stations will distribute traffic and relieve street congestion in places like LA, Chicago, and the East Coast.
If you’re a skeptic like me, you instantly see how this plan could be problematic. The Loop is supposed to be seamless, weaving through and connecting with pre-existing transportation systems in major cities. Yet if you’ve ever experienced train delays or subway reroutes during your morning NYC commute, you know that the MTA is a notorious beast to manage, much less improve upon. It’s hard enough to get new subway tracks laid down without the hassle of accommodating an entirely new system. Even if Musk has the money to fund such construction work, there’s also the obstacle of local bureaucracy. When the Boring Company presented its proposal to dig a 6.5-mile tunnel to the Culver City Council, the response was less than enthusiastic. Council members doubted that Musk could honor his word that the tunneling would be affordable and fast. Council Member Sahli-Wells also worried that the private transportation company would compete with, rather than complement, public transportation systems – and cities already struggle with competition from app-based services like Uber and Lyft. The list of issues goes on and on. How will the station locations be decided? Will the Boring Company put current public transit workers out of work? What happens if one of the autonomous pods malfunctions en route? Would there be an irreconcilable system meltdown, or are there emergency measures in place?
The progress that Musk imagines also seems farfetched. At the moment, his tunnel-boring machines move fourteen times slower than the speed of a snail. He has no proof that his tunnels will prove minimally invasive to existing infrastructure, and the risk of hitting utility lines or existing transportation lines introduces great risk and danger to civilians. Civil engineers like Henry Petroski estimate that Musk’s complex underground work will take “at least decades” or even centuries to implement, which doesn’t seem worth the time when there are more practical transit reforms on the table.
Here, I must echo the sentiment of Donald Glover: I don’t know yet if Musk is a superhero or a supervillain. He could be Bruce Wayne, constantly pushing forward the frontier of technology to better serve the needs of his ever-changing society. Or, as his other memory-uploading company Neuralink may imply, he could be Lex Luthor, threatening the existence of humanity behind the facade of a philanthropist-engineer-CEO.
Only time will tell, but I’m still strangely hopeful that he will be the former.
It’s partially because the world is in dire need of superheroes right now. But it’s mostly because I really hate traffic.