Good tidings from the BBC are sorely lacking, I have to say. And the news seems to be that, if you happen to have been assigned “woman” as your gender, no matter what you’re doing, UR DOIN IT RONG!!!

To start with, the happy happy news that:

Females are less physically active at both ends of life than their male counterparts, two studies suggest.

Joys. The article starts off (rather sensibly) by describing the study that focussed on 10-11 year old children. These would be the children in the last year of primary school, and here they find – shock horror! – justification for those tired old stereotypes about what boys and girls like doing. Aparently, it can be broken down into Girls=Talking; Boys=Football.

As an aside, my seven year old brother is actually quite aggrieved at the moment, because the girls in his school “get their own time in the football cage and the boys aren’t allowed in.”

I’m extrapolating wildly, of course, but could it possibly be that children of both genders generally make it socially unacceptable for the girls to play football when the boys are there? I know when I was in primary school (the same one, in fact), the entire class knew that there was only one girl who was “allowed” to play football with the boys. And that was only because she’d proved she was really, really good.

Back to the studies, and at the other end of the scale is the study that focusses on physical activity in the over-70s. Not surprisingly, nobody over 70 is particularly active, and in general, the women have been found to “do more lower intensity activity which probably represents daily tasks around the house.”

What can I say? Apart from the fact that, as always, I’m suspicious of any study that attempts to find differences between the genders, I have to say I feel like the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious has come calling.

To be fair to the researchers, their conclusions – that excercise tends to be good for you, and that no woman wants to get osteoporosis later in life – are fairly reasonable. You’d think that schools might have picked up on it already, like my brother’s school has, but never mind.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what the photograph of the woman in her fifties playing tennis is supposed to illustrate, given that she represents neither of the age groups studied. It wasn’t so long back, remember, that the BBC published an article about the invisibility of older women in the media…

The second story has already been covered by the good ladies of Shapely Prose, but have it again here. Oh, and before I wade in, congratulations to Kate Harding and Al, who got married in Vegas over Christmas – like you do!

Dieting at this time of year could impair your body’s ability to fight the flu virus, a study warns.

But! But but but!!! Don’t think that this means you can just go and eat! That would be silly!

In a rather wonderful example of Double-Think, we see that although the “research shows that having a body ready to fight a virus will lead to a faster recovery and less-severe effects than if it is calorically restricted”, “The study… should not be seen as a carte blanche to avoid dieting all year, but to reserve weight control to the eight months of the year when flu is not so virulent. “

I’ll say it again, but slower, and with less syllables. There is a binary system in place; either you have “a body ready to fight a virus”, or you have a body that is “calorically restricted” – i.e, a body that is not being given enough energy, since that is what a calorie (or rather a kilocalorie, since individual calories are actually mind-numbingly small measurements) is – a unit of energy.

Therefore, the implication given is that a body that is not being given enough energy is not a body ready to fight a virus.

However, this is only a problem for the four months of the year in which the flu viruses are prevalent. For all other months of the year, it is fine to have a body that is not ready to fight a virus.

For an extra bonus point, don’t you just love the way that “restricting calories” and “weight control” are conflated? Given that they’re really not the same thing at all?

Last things last, the cheerful headline “Period Problems Split Us Up“.

More joys. The story goes that Marie Seward had God-awful PMS for 17 years, didn’t realise that it was anything out of the ordinary (and don’t we all get it rammed down our throats that “the curse” is just something we have to Put Up And Shut Up about?) and so only started getting help after “her long suffering husband, John walked out after 17 years of marriage”.

Fucking hell. I’m sure it must be hard being the partner in that situation, but it wasn’t him that had the PMS, for fuck’s sake!

More to the point, it’s not as though doctors are always sympathetic or understanding. Take the other story that popped up on the subject – “I Pleaded To Have My Ovaries Removed“.

In that story, Ann Wilkinson had PMS so bad that she vomited each month because of it. She eventually had to have a hysterectomy privately.

“Her symptoms became so unbearable that at just 38, she took the decision to have her ovaries removed. Few doctors were willing to consider Ann’s surgery as she was deemed to be too young and had not had children.”

I wish I were more surprised by this.

I know our society has a special level of hell reserved for women that don’t breed, but can we put this into perspective here? My mother got pregnant aged 39, and her doctors were concerned that her age would make the pregnancy and birth more difficult and dangerous.

Ms. Wilkinson was 38. Not “just” 38. Actually 38. How exactly is that “too young” to decide that you don’t want to spawn? And how is that “too young” to make an informed decision to have a medical procedure that seems in this case to have vastly enhanced her quality of life. (I don’t tend to like the idea of hysterectomies. But I like the idea of vomiting for two weeks out of four even less, actually.)

Let this be a lesson to us all, that in our society’s eyes, we as women are never adult. Except when society requires us to be over the age of consent. And then puts us in school uniform.


News from the meeting:

We are on the look out for any campaign topics for the next few weeks as we’ve put the playboy one on hold until February. Let us know if you have any ideas!

We’ve been invited to have a stall at the Sheffield University Women’s Party on 16th November. We’re probably not actually going to have a stall, but we will be there with some flyers and hopefully getting a few more new members.

As it looks as though no one can make it to Reclaim the Night on the 22nd we’re thinking of planning some to do in Sheffield. Firm plans will hopefully be made at the next meeting.
In the last week in January we’ll be having a speaker come across from Leeds to talk to us about how environmental issues effect women.
Results of the Women in Sports discussion – or, food for thought!

  • Women may be more prone to sports injuries training is based around the male body and the physical differences between men and women are ignored
  • The culture of male sports and female sports begins at school- boys do rugby, football etc and girls do netball and dance
  • During the olympics there was much more positive coverage of women’s sports than normal and lots of women winning (are these connected?)
  • Apparently around 2% of sports coverage is of women’s sports!
  • Sports kits are much more sexualised for women- see volleyball in particular (although the Indian team was allowed to wear more decent kits for religious reasons)
  • Equal pay in sport is still an issue, since this was the first year that pay was equal at Wimbledon!

Good times!