I spent a lot of time on the bus yesterday and as I didn't have a book with me I picked up the free newspapers. I guess I should have known better. Three stories left me banging my head against the windows/hand rails/emergency exit door. Firstly the amazing case of the disappearing wife-killer...
Here we have a victim and a "cause" in the headline but no perpetrator. What happened to "man kills wife"? Or even "Wife-killer claims...". Phrasing it that way is step one on a slippery slope to victim-blaming. Also - is anyone else sensing that contrary to the spirit of the headline "not being a virgin" isn't actually a legitimate reason for murder? I know there are quote marks round it, but that IS the headline and that appears to be the reason for publishing the story - to let people know that for some at least that is a reasonable thing to do. But most importantly - there is a real story here, totally buried. The daughter of the couple concerned had asked the clinic where the murderer was being treated for depression to keep him in. And they refused, discharged him, and he went on to murder his wife and then commit suicide. The story should be about NHS provision of mental health care for people at risk. Instead it reads like a warning of retribution to women planning to marry in white!
Secondly - justification for the above behaviour from the animal world...You should be able to read the article by just clicking on it. Anyway it's about a probably rather interesting subject - the sex life of the cricket. Apparently scientists with too much time on their hands (presumably AIDS and cancer have already been cured) have discovered the male crickets smell out females who have mated less with other males and allocate more sperm to them. They're wrong (according to Mr Cru) when they say this is the first time a species has been discovered to sniff out and react to competitors sperm, but let's overlook that. The thing is the whole set up of the article seems to be saying that this applies to humans and justifies a social revulsion of promiscuous women.
The opening paragraph explains that human women are viewed as "sluts" if they sleep around, "whereas men doing the same are hailed as studs". This may be true in their strange out-of-date world but in mine women who sleep around are defiant feminist mavericks and men who sleep around are just assholes... Then the article explains "now it seems this type of chauvinism may serve an evolutionary purpose - in crickets anyway".
Except that (a) The actual report in no way suggests that the findings have any relevance to human reproductive strategies. (b) In terms of sperm distribution it would make sense for humans to have exactly the opposite of the cricket pattern. Human females can produce at most around one infant per year so for a woman with only one partner there is no great urgency to impregnation - one sperm will do the job and if the man is unsuccessful this month, he can try again next month. Whereas a woman with many partners is likely to be pregnant soon, so there is an incentive to provide as much sperm as possible as quickly as possible - so more frequent sex and more sperm each time. Mr Cru tells me he has read studies suggesting that this happens. (c) A biological reaction does not always come with a corresponding social reaction. Men may subconsciously seek out fertile women based on smell and hip shape but I've never found "I'm not on the pill and I don't use condoms" works as a chat-up line. Guys are not consciously trying to help their sperm out. And (d) So what! So what if men's sperm count were to react to the smell of other men's sperm? Does that justify treating promiscuous women as second class citizens? And why should women be judged on the basis of the reaction they engender in men? Lets measure women by who's the smartest and who's the best at singing, weight-lifting and playing the didgeridoo (not all at the same time)!
Thirdly - over in the London Paper. And this one makes me the angriest (those of a sensitive disposition please do not read on)...
The crime itself is so horrible, it's hard to discuss other aspects of it. A mentally disabled woman gang-raped by ten men, who then burned her with caustic soda. And by the way this was on page four - the front page was reserved for "Madonna Gets Divorced". The prosecutor - Rosina Cottage - who is supposed to be representing the interests of the victim is (apparently) saying the victim "may have been raped because she had recently slept with three men known to the gang". And the paper is copying that verbatim as though it were a reasonable thing to say. Now there is an issue already about how exactly a 16-year-old with a mental age of eight was able to give meaningful consent to the three men listed. And of course the other issue is how anyone could dare to imply that she brought the gang-rape or the agonising assault upon herself.
When are these awful sub-gutter press publications going to understand that a woman who chooses to have sex outside of marriage does not deserve scorn, hatred, gang-rape, serious assault or murder? When we see these sorts of attitudes in other parts of the world we react with quite justified disgust, but every day free copies of these hate-promoting, murder-and-rape-justifying newspapers are handed out to thousands of Londoners. Anyone want to go picket something? Let me know, I'm there!