Friday, September 30, 2005

Must-read article!

This is a brilliant piece of writing, providing a whole new sane slant on the issue of ever-growing influence of religious leaders on our schools and education systems. Not that we would expect any less from Prof Dawkins!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Yes, yes, YES...?

The Guardian women's page never fails to have me twitching in delight or disgust or just general bemusement and today is no exception. An interview with Elizabeth Lloyd is offered. Fair enough, she's written a book about female orgasms, lets see what she has to say...

Now apparently the crux of her arguement is that "the female orgasm is not a biological adaptation with evolutionary advantages - it's just a light nature forgot to turn off". And being generally interested in evolution theories I'm curious to see the explanation for this. The Guardian interview doesn't bother with any such thing however. It merely offers Ms Lloyd's remarks that "In my book I examine 20 explanations which turn out to be completely unsupported by the evidence". That's a null arguement. If her explanation IS supported by the evidence, then we should be shown that evidence, just to say that other theories aren't supported by the evidence doesn't mean that an untested theory must be the right one. Now weirdly Elizabeth Lloyd agrees with me, since she adds "my view isn't necessarily the right explanation". So we're not learning much from this interview. I have a few points though...

Firstly, what isn't addressed is the widely-known fact (especially if you've ever seen The Vagina Monologues, which is well worth a trip if you get the chance) that the clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis. So the arguement that it's a biological left-over, compared in the article to male nipples, doesn't hold a lot of water.

Secondly so what? I mean I don't really care WHY it's there. What difference does that make? The article claims that Ms Lloyd's work has enraged feminists... Yet it doesn't name-check any feminists who have been enraged, nor does it offer any quotes from feminists or opportunity for feminists to respond to the comments made about them in the article. I should like to register now that I, a feminist, am distinctly un-enraged by a discussion on biology.

And finally, and this always gets me, why is biology the main thrust of every other article on the women's page. Is X biological? Are women pre-programmed to do Y? These seem to be the perpetual undertones of a majority of articles they feature. As if the question we all need answered is "do women deserve to be treated as second-class citizens?". It doesn't really matter what biological pre-dispositions we all have, what matters is that we're all given a fair and equal chance of success in this society. Save the biology for the science pages and address the issues that matter: the pay gap, discrimination against women, violence against women, the pensions gap and the rights of women around the world to live their lives in the way that they want to.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Big Brother is really watching you

What kind of police state are we living in? Now they have arrested the woman who "leaked" the information about the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. You remember, the information that he wasn't acting in the least suspiciously, that he wasn't wearing a "bulky" jacket and hadn't skipped the ticket barrier at the station? The information that made it quite clear that either the police were deliberately trying to shoot someone to give some credence to the notion that they had stepped up security after July 7th or that they were entirely incompetent in dealing with a straighforward mistake of their own making? Now it may be technically against the law to leak such documents but when the action is so clearly in the public interest surely whistle-blowers, in any industry, need protection, not intimidation!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The new pope...

According to this report on the BBC the new pope has announced that he doesn't want any more gay priests. That's pretty offensive, although not much more so than the policy on no women priests, etc, etc. What really amazes me though is that he can get away with claiming this policy is a reaction to US priests being involved in child sex abuse. Now even the BBC hasn't picked up on this and is reporting it as if we all see the obvious connection. Being gay and wanting to sexually abuse kids are, as far as I know, different things, no...? How horribly offensive to link the two!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Babies and biological clocks and so on

Seems to have been a lot of it in the news again. Most of the usual sources (BBC, Independent, Times, Daily Mail, etc) have been eager to highlight to women (who we all know are the only ones involved in baby-making) the "dangers of waiting to have a family". Well here's a bit of reason on the subject from the Grauniad, pointing out that the fact that men in their late twenties are fed a steady diet of how-to-be-a-swinging-bachelor by the battery of lifestyle magazines aimed at them might just have something to do with it. Not to mention the fact that we all know getting pregnant ruins your career which might just be putting some women off.

I wanted to make a different point though. It really does seem that everyone has assumed that all women want to have children. Or at least that all women have a definite, 100% view on whether or not they want to have children and all women feel that those kids must, at all costs, be biologically "theirs"...

Maybe it's not a question of "waiting to have a family" but in fact of only deciding later in life that you actually want a family. And maybe the focus of medical advice should be to think twice about having a family if you're over 35, rather than encouraging women to get started now in case they decide later that they did want a family. Maybe older couples could be encouraged instead to consider fostering or adopting children if they are worried about the risks of pregnancy later in life? They would be ideal candidates to adopt older children who are often much more difficult to find good homes for than those put up for adoption at birth.

There is no shortage of babies in this country, no pressing need for more screaming ankle-biters around the place. In a fantasy Britain, governed by me, no-one would be allowed to have kids (yes, I know, Hitler tried this and it wasn't very popular, still run with me on it...) until they'd completed a programme of parenting skills classes at the end of which, assuming they passed all the assessments, etc, they would foster a child for a three-month period. It would, I suspect, significantly reduce the birth rate, increase the adoption rate and solve the problems of unwanted children and the shortage of foster carers. It would probably also do wonders for community spirit and race and inter-faith relations since inevitably people would be fostering within their own communities and sometimes across races and religions. ...well, ok, so we would all be living in a fascist state too. Realistically we couldn't make such a programme compulsory. Available and encouraged would be good though. Here's a link to Hackney's foster parenting scheme website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Just what Hurricaine Katrina victims need!

...a day of prayer in their honour! I wonder how the Atheist (with a capital "A" like the rest of you, thanks), Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Buddhist and Devil-worshipping members of the devastated comminities feel about that. I am always infuriated when cases of mass deaths are responded to with Christian rituals. Also I can't help thinking that possibly a bit more aid a bit faster might have done rather more good than a day of sitting around doing nothing!

Well far be it from the Cru-blog to refuse to participate so here's a nice bible quote for all of you to muse on this Friday (or any day you like!).

(Nahum Chapter 1, verses 2-8):
" The LORD is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and wrath. He takes revenge on all who oppose him and furiously destroys his enemies! The LORD is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet. At his command the oceans and rivers dry up, the lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wilt. In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence. The LORD is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trusts in him. But he sweeps away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He pursues his foes into the darkness of night. "

Praise be!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

God bless America

If one news story could ever highlight in one simple go what's wrong with America's undying love for organised religion.... this was it!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Here we go again

I see the ever-popular Guardian gender section cover story is back... Men, it turns out, according to the latest wannabe popular scientist, are smarter than women. As usual the focus of the article then witters on to whether women's progress will be turned back 200 years when word gets out. There are a few points which the article doesn't really get into in all the detail I'd like. So I've suggested some alternative headlines:

1) Lets assume IQ and IQ alone dictates ability to do a high-level job. Now we're told that the study shows that "there are three men to each woman with an IQ of more than 130, and 5.5 men for each woman with an IQ above 145". So why isn't a woman for every 5 men in a position of national leadership?

Here's the numbers by the way - amazing I can get my pretty little head around them I know - there are about 200 countries in the world. Most have one or two main leaders, a president and a prime minister, or just a prime minister, I'm ignoring monarchs who don't have any actual political power like the queen. So lets say a total of 300 key world political players.

And women in those roles:
Chandrika Kumaratunga, President of Sri Lanka (1994- )
Mary McAleese, President of Ireland (1997- )
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia (1999- )
Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999- )
Tarja K. Halonen, President of Finland (2000- )
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines (2001- )
Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1991-1996, 2001- )
Luisa Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique (2004- )
Yulia Timoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (2005- )

I make that nine. Lets assume I've missed one (I haven't, I'm smarter than that but hell...), so thats one woman for every 30 men in a position of global political power. So the headline should be *IQ study suggests women should have six times more political power*. That's not turning back the progress of the womens' movement...

2) This loser's so-called scientific research also shows that *Black people have a lower IQ than white people* by 15 points - three times the alleged male-female differential of 5 points. Why did the Guardian not choose that nugget of "information" as their headline? Well because the public would have reacted with understandable disgust to such a suggestion. And we're back at square one here where racism is rightly shocking but sexism is the acceptable face of prejudice.

3) So what? Since when has IQ and IQ alone been a reliable indicator of ability to do a worthwhile job or earn a certain salary? In my professional life there has always been a lot more need for hard slog than for genius inspiration. And we all know girls get better exam results than boys... "Prof" Lynn tackles this point with confidence:

"Asked why girls consistently outperform their male peers at school, he said: "When you're talking about better exam results like GCSEs and A-levels, this is partly a function of intelligence and partly a function of motivation and conscientiousness.

"Many of today's exams involve coursework, and women are more conscientious than men. This explains why girls are doing well at this level despite their lower IQs.""

So how about running with the headline *Women more conscientious than men*. Since given our super-low IQs we must be doing a hell of alot of extra work to take more exam glory across the board than boys! And isn't coursework - where you can use reference books, look stuff up and ask for help if you need it - a lot more like real life work than sitting in a dusty exam hall? Not that I have seen any evidence to suggest that coursework is the area where girls overtake boys.

4) Funny how whenever IQ is mentioned in any other context the media is quick to dismiss it's relevance. Suddenly when there's a chance to put women down or justify the pre-existing prejudice they've all been subscribing to for hundreds of years, it's the be-all and end-all again. So perhaps *no headline at all* would be a good choice?

5) No difference in average IQs justifies a deliberately discriminatory policy in the workplace, in the academic arena, or anywhere else. A difference in averages relates to averages. If a woman has the skills to do the job, give her the job. Assess people on an individual basis. Surely that's obvious. Again I think I'm going for no headline at all, although they probably need to fill paper space so *Vacuous pseudo-scientist publishes pointless report*

6) Personally my IQ has been measured a few times and has to date come out consistently in the range 156 to 164. This makes me one-in-five-thousand, but remember that means one-in-thirty-thousand since I'm a woman too, and therefore stacks more conscientious. So my final suggested headline is *Cruella for prime minister* ...join the campaign now!

Shock! Horror! Cru-blog gets it right!

Remember this post? Where the team here at Cru-blog postulated that handing out plastic surgery as competition prizes sent out the wrong message? Well the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons agrees with me. It says so on the BBC! It also provides more helpful information about the original competition, explaining that to enter men were asked to send in a picture of their girlfriends breasts and state which celebrity breasts they would prefer them to look like. And comment-adders came on here and said it wasn't degrading... Would anyone care to comment now?