What can I say?


This story came to me in a somewhat convoluted manner – through Tiger Beatdown, via Shakesville. The original article is in the Guardian.

Briefly, because I have unfinished coursework coming out of my ears, the story is… well, not a story.

One quote that stood out for me:

“The brain scans showed that when men saw the images of the women’s bodies, activity increased in part of the brain called the premotor cortex… The same area lights up before using power tools to do DIY. “It’s as if they immediately thought to act on these bodies,” Fiske said.”

It’s not like it surprises me, it’s just the way it’s put. “They immediately thought to act on these bodies“. Not women. Bodies. Things. To be acted on. This is the researcher saying this. The one supposedly pointing out sexism. Being… fucking horrible. Ugh. I feel unclean.

Also, in a comment that perhaps illustrates the value (ha!) of those headless pregnant women, “the men best remembered images of bikini-clad women whose heads had been digitally removed.

Well, there’s a good, solid patriarchal reason to not wear makeup, perhaps the first I’ve ever found – ladies, the sexist, patriarchal men are only going to remember your torsos! No wonder those men always express bewilderment at “how long you take to get ready” – they never even look at your face!

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Sometimes, you read an article, and it seems to make sense. And then you read another one, and your mind has a *crash* moment. Which is to say that, although both articles seem, on the face of it, to be fairly reasonable, they just don’t work when you read them both at once. If you’re really lucky, you find one article that contradicts itself, or is otherwise badly thought-out, thereby saving you the bother of reading two. Pregnancy advice is, of course, a prime example of this kind of odd double-think, but there are other things that will work just as well. For instance:


Stories about being gay. Apparently, it’s now fine to be gay in the NHS. It wasn’t before, because of people being worried about HIV and paedophilia. But not lesbians. Presumably, lesbians don’t really exist. Why didn’t I think of that? More to the point, why doesn’t anybody worry about all of those heterosexual women working in paediatrics? You know, because gay men like sex with men and therefore want to molest children; straight women like sex with men and therefore….. No?

On the other hand, it’s not at all fine to be gay in Welsh schools. This time, the article uses amazing things called acronyms, which means that they can explain the meaning of the new Welsh charity, LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, and then go back to just using “gay”. It’s a whole one letter shorter, and of course they have to be concise when they write these articles.


Stories about rape. The first, which is better than most because the woman isn’t treated like a liar and the man is actually convicted, contains the quote that the woman waived her right to anonymity to say that “the police system is better than it was years ago and that there are people who can help you.”

I’m sure that will be a huge relief to this woman in Scotland. She was arrested and held in cells overnight after she “struggled to cope in the witness box”. But of course, she’s only an alleged rape victim, which actually makes her nothing more than a witness. So that’s ok then.


And lastly, because Conservatives annoy me, I’d like to point out that it was the Tories that commisioned this survey. I’d also like to point out that for people supposedly concerned about the “awful story of mothers being turned away from hospital at a hugely emotional time”, they’re pretty bloody quick to vote to get the mothers there. The F-Word listed the voting patterns of MPs on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act back in May last year, and 135 out of the 164 Conservatives present voted against the 24-week limit on abortions, in favour of a shorter time limit (22 weeks). By my reckoning, and given that there was an 85% turnout, that means that at least 71% of the Conservatives would make it more difficult for women to have abortions. Which is the kind of thing that would tend to increase the number of pregnancies. They didn’t win that vote, but they tried. So I’m irritated, although unsurprised, at their hypocrisy now.

Having said that, I’m impressed that they managed to get the pregnant woman’s head into the picture. Well done there. Of course, she’s got her hand over her eyes in an incredibly melodromatic I’M UPSET! kind of a way, but you can’t have everything.

I can’t help feeling that it’s not surprising people don’t realise just how many rapes are committed against women, by men that they already know. Check out these stories from the BBC – all stories that I found today. I’m sure there’ll be others tomorrow.


Two stories of rape as child abuse – one reporting on two men who abused boys, the other on a man studying for a degree in social care, who was “convicted of four sexual offences against children”.

Two stories of rape as opportunist, stranger rape. Bonus points to the first story for being of the man-drags-woman-from-street model, and to the second story for getting the words “illegal immigrant” into the first line.

The rapist in that last story attempted to rape two women in separate incidents by forcing them into his car. After he failed for the second time – both women managed to get free and get help – he approached a different woman, telling her she was beautiful.*

“She was subsequently knocked out on the street and when she came round, she realised she had been raped. Subryan was linked to the rape by DNA evidence. When the father-of-two was arrested he initially denied all the charges put to him but has since pleaded guilty to two counts of threats to kill, kidnapping, assault with intent to rape, indecent assault, rape and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.”


*And how many times have women heard that when they’re out by themselves, I wonder?! And how many times are we told that “they’re just being nice”? I suppose it’s a bit like the way we’re told to take cabs home to “keep safe“. Melissa has written a more detailed post on that story, by the way.

This from the BBC:

“To help get boys reading we need a boys’ bookshelf in every secondary school library in the country, containing positive, modern, relevant role models for working class boys.” – Alan Johnson, Education Secretary

Seriously.

Well, I know my school was a girls’ school, and I’m biased, but you know what?

I think boys can have their own, special bookshelves when they put an LGBTQ section in too. Until then, they’ll just have to lump it, the poor things.

And when I think that virtually every computer game I’ve come across is made to be played from a male perspective, when I remember the stories that said that J.K. Rowling used her initials because publishers said that no boy would read anything written by a woman*, when I remember how male was – is – the default in just about everything – newspapers, history textbooks, cartoons… – I don’t think the problem here is with boys being under-represented. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should be looking at the culture we’re living in, that teaches boys not to develop their attention span, not to sit quietly and read, but to expect to see themselves represented everywhere, immediately, to the exclusion of all others. And to immediately switch off, if the book they are given is obviously written by a woman. Perhaps that, and the assumption that “boys” means “white, able-bodied, straight boys”, is what we should be working to change. Because I can’t think of a single disabled boy that I’ve found in all the years I’ve been reading fiction, and the number of gay¬† or ethinic-minority boys was pretty damned limited, too.


*Links here and here to articles mentioning the intent of the publishers, and a quote here from J K Rowling herself.

… Use the number zero, of course! Breasts and zeros are both (roughly) round, you can see them pretty much anywhere you go, men didn’t understand either concept for many, many years…

More to the point, through the geeky amusement that is Bad Science, I’ve been alerted to the truly awful formula published in The Sun. See what I do in the name of research? I actually go to The Sun’s website. Be proud of me. Even Ben Goldacre didn’t do that.

I like to think that if we pitted the articles against each other, something like this might happen:

The Sun: BOOOOOOBS!!!!

Ben Goldacre: Um, your maths is totally wrong

TS: Ha ha – “Boobfin” – geddit?! “Boffin” – but for BOOBS! Geddit?!!!

BG: Oh, God, and your pet mathematician went to Cambridge..

TS: Look! Numbers!! 0 x 70 x (20 x 5 + 32) /75 = 123.2.**

BG: No, you fools! No! 0 x [anything] = 0. Seriously. Stick to thinking about breasts. Or hire better mathematicians.

TS: BOOOOBS!!!

BG: Yeah, that’s better.

*Of course, an easier way of combining maths with breasts is to remember that women can count. But this is The Sun we’re talking about!


** The actual “formula” is as follows:

“The equation is O=NP(20C+B)/75.

To figure out the naughtiness rating (O), you times the number of nipples exposed, from zero to two or expressed as fractions of nipple shown (N) with the percentage of exposed frontal surface area (P).

The sum in brackets is 20 multiplied by the cup size (C), where A cup is one, B is two, C is three and D or above is five.

Add that figure to B, the bust measurement in inches. Then divide your answer by 75. Any score higher than 100 is counted as obscene.”

And I wholeheartedly apologise for letting the words “naughtiness” and “rating” into the blog. It will only happen again if The Mail decides that they, too, want a stupid, pointless, non-news item involving numbers and breasts.

There was some horrible stuff in news this week. But for the good of my sanity, I’m trying not to think about them too much. So, because I’m a coward, I’m heading back to the somewhat safer option of sarcastically commenting on articles involving “statistics”.

First things first, and the BBC, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have all reported on the findings that “intelligent men have better sperm”. I would dearly love to see Ben Goldacre (he of Bad Science fame) covering this one, because it seems to me that a correlation described as “marginal” by the lead researcher should not be condensed down into “intelligent=virile”.

More interestingly, from my point of view, was the way that said researcher was described;

The BBC refer to her as “Lead researcher Dr Rosalind Arden”;

The Telegraph call her “Ms Rosalind Arden, lead author”;

and The Daily Mail? They describe her as “researcher Rosalind Arden” and thereafter use “Miss Arden” at all times.

Interestingly enough, all three articles mention another researcher, a man. And while they differ in their description of his research field (in the same order as above, he is either “an expert in fertility”, a “Senior Lecturer in Andrology” or “a male fertility expert”), they all three refer to him by title as “Dr Allan Pacey”.

If ever you needed a simple guide as to the politics and intelligence of a publication, it’s right there in the titles!


Moving on; my second story of the day is from The Guardian reporting on a statement from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious:

“Most slimming products are a con, claims nutrition expert”.

You think?!

But oh, the irony – the first link in the article takes you to the Guardian’s “Eat Right” homepage, which boasts “Thirteen personalised diet plans to choose from”. From the sentence that says that

“the only [slimming strategies] proven to work are low-calorie diets, exercise programmes, the drugs orlistat and sibutramine, and in some cases bariatric surgery.”

Seriously? The effectiveness of low-calorie diets as a weight-loss tool is “proven”? Well, maybe the Guardian journalists just don’t read the same articles that I do.

In the interests of research, I plugged in an approximation of my vital statistics. I say approximation because I don’t actually know how much I weigh, and until such time as I have to go to the doctors’, that’s how I will stay. But anyway, I plugged in my best guess, and hit the button that said “I wish to lose weight”.

So it came up with this:

guardian-bmi


A “calorie allowance” of 1400, and a “healthy weight” range that starts at 8st 12lbs? Frankly, I’m frightened by that. Since I haven’t weighed less than 10st since I was 16 (back when we still had scales in the house and I still weighed myself from time to time!).


I tried to see what fun and games they’d come up with for me, but sadly, the next page showed this:

guardian-diet-plan

This is where you can get, in two clicks of the mouse, from the article that starts

“Most slimming products are a con, claims nutrition expert”.

It’s definitely an eye-roll moment.


ETA: The day after writing this, what should drop into my spam folder but an email from the Guardian, with the delightful message that “your BMI was between 25 – 30 and this indicates that your health would benefit by losing some weight.”

Call me crazy, but the day before, they themselves told me that the “healthy range” for my height was between 8st 12lbs and 11st 1lb. It’s right there in the screenshot. I plugged in exactly 11st, which is, in fact, within the range that they gave me. This means that I am, by their standards, healthy. (Not forgetting that their standards have very little to do with reality, by the way!) But this means that they’re using scare tactics as well, because I didn’t pay for their product outright. “Healthy” the first time, and now, because I haven’t given them money, my ” health would benefit by losing some weight”. Charming.

So, remember, people: it’s all a con!

As the tag “drivel-purveyors” might suggest, there are some publications to which I take issue. Now, womens’ magazines are a whole barrel of drivel to themselves, and right now I can’t muster the mental energy to take them on.

In the meantime, however, prepare to feel sick.

Actually, I really mean this. Serious Sanity Warning on this one, because since I’m giving the direct link, it doesn’t put the triggering stuff below the jump like it does if you find it from the blog’s main page.

I’m telling you now, this shit made me physically nauseous. Although I’m not sure what’s worse, to be honest – FHM reduced me to rage-induced tears. Which they’d probably have been very pleased about, given that it’s a “feminine” thing to do. Anyway.

From Richie at Crimitism, Zoo Weekly publishes most misogynistic article yet (probably).

The blog’s not one I regularly read (although I think I might have to add it to my ever-increasing blogroll) – I found it whilst following links from FuckPoliteness, who is cool and groovy.