Girl guidance

Lots in the news recently about the list of things that Girl Guides in the UK have reported as wanting to have training or acquire skills in – full details here.

Interesting results: of the 16-25 age group, 80% said they wanted more sex education (perhaps this will help); in the 10-15, 68% wanted to learn how to stand up to boys; 65% self-defence.

Initially positive news, I thought – good that the Guides are responding to the voiced concerns of their members. And indeed, the report claims that the survey was conducted because ‘we prioritise giving girls the skills, experiences and opportunities they need to reach for new aspirations and succeed in the modern world’ (so says Chief Guide Liz Burnley).

….However, I hate to say it, but further investigation lead me to the following conclusion about the best way to get equipped with skills for the modern world: join the Scouts (female members permitted)!

Just take a look at the respective list of activities badges, here and here. As a Guide, one can take badges in camping, science, team leading. Not bad, I thought, til I noticed that as a Scout, one could take badges in many more topics, with much greater specificity: for example, in aviation skills, meteorology, dragon boating, public relations.

And there’s some annoying gendered badges: for Guides, cook and ‘finding your way’ badges; for scouts, chef and orienteering badges.

Further, one might think that a more general point is in the offing: each organisation representing a distinctive strategy for gender equality. One same sex organisation, which provides activities in a way that seems to rely on gender differences, with the projects accordingly attuned (the site tells us: “there is one element that remains central to the ideas and ambitions of Girlguiding UK: the ‘girl’.” I find that way of putting it kind of disturbing!); on the other hand, an organisation for both sexes, aiming for ‘A more balanced and natural environment in which young people can develop … [with] a more diverse range of skills, qualities and interests’. (see the incredibly level-headed training document on mixed scouting here).
Interesting to think about how the gender perceptions of younger generations are being formed, given these will be the feminists of the future (one hopes)!

Compulsory Heterosexuality

Just about the clearest case you could have.  A judge in Spain (yes, Spain– with the great laws on gay marriage) has ordered a lesbian to either find a male partner or give up custody of her child. His explanation:

It is understood that (a parent’s) drug addiction, child abuse, prostitution, belonging to a satanic sect or heterosexual affair would negatively affect the children and serve as a reason for a change of custody,” he said. “Well, it’s the same with homosexuality. 

The good news: a judicial watchdog is now looking into the case. (Actually, the article says that the judge is being probed, but I thought that was a bit ambiguous.) Apparently the judge has made some other controversial rulings, like not allowing lesbians to adopt and ordering the arrest of topless sunbathers despite the legality of topless sunbathing. Many thanks to reader Esa for passing this one on!

Nicer Gifts for Spiderman Fans

Like the gift of sensible advice about safe sex.  Yes, really— back in the 1970s Spiderman teamed up with Planned Parenthood, and together they worked to save the world from an evil genius hoping to profit from unplanned pregnancies.    Sure beats laundry statuettes, huh? Yes, we’ve actually reached the point where kids can get more accurate information about sex from thirty-year-old comic books than from sex ed classes.  Many thanks to Mr Gender (formerly known as ‘H’) for passing this on to me!

When Brains Explode

Dinesh  D’Souza really doesn’t know what to do when faced with consistency.  How else to explain this column, devoted to the amazing fact that feminist advocates of affirmative action actually stand by their commitment to diversity even when it means occasionally favoring men over women?  No matter how many times I read the column, I really can’t tell whether he thinks this form of affirmative action is good or bad.  (Though it is clear that he views universities as heterosexual dating services, a view he takes to be shared by students and admissions personnel.) Many thanks to reader Zack for passing this one on to us.

Travelodge, porn, objectification

Comment here, from Zoe Williams, on Travelodge’s decision to remove the ‘adult’ channels from its services.

Interesting assumptions on the part of both Travelodge and Williams. In the first instance the company appears to assume that:

  •  women fall into the ‘family’ category of the clientele
  • the ‘business’ category of the clientele are men
  • these are the pornography users

On Williams’ part:

  • the culturally standard attitude towards pornography is to see it as ironic
  • that pornography is homogeneous, both in kind and in consequence (suggested by her question: ‘How degrading is porn, then, and for whom?’. Answer, surely: ‘it depends on the pornography’. Even if one thought all pornography degrades women, one might think that there may be differences, according to the porn, on how it degrades, or how much it degrades, or which specific individuals, in addition to all women, are degraded by the particular piece of pornography).

I was also intrigued by her comments on objectification, in particular:

‘The rhetoric of objectification relies on the idea that it’s one-way traffic, that only men objectify, and only women are objectified’.

This may well be the way that ‘the rhetoric of objectification’ is presented. But even if one accepted the alternative that she proposes (‘So, say women do objectify men to the same degree, on the same grounds as they themselves are objectified’ [NB: given cultural norms about sexual attractiveness, I think this unlikely – see, e.g. the differences in what is taken to be an asset in the article in this post]) one might think that context mattered in a way that made it worse for women than men. Namely, in a context of gender inequality, ‘equal’ objectification, to the same degree and on the same grounds, may mean different things, or have different consequences, for men and women.

This kind of view is argued for by Leslie Green – his paper “Pornographies” (8 Journal of Political Philosophy, (2000), pp. 27-52) addresses the meaning of objectification for both women, and gay men (the meaning being quite different in each instance, he argues, due to the different cultural backdrop).

Perhaps these kinds of considerations are pertinent to the wonderings about why some objectifying body furniture (bits of women’s bodies) seem creepy whilst others don’t (hand door knockers)?

Anyway – no more pornography in Travelodge.

Thinking Blogger Award

We’re very pleased to report that we’ve received a Thinking Blogger Award from Thought, Interrupted by Typos.   We’ve been thinkers for some time, but we’re really new to the blogging, so it’s especially nice to be appreciated! Thanks, Thought!

 The rules are as follows:

  • If, and only if you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
  • Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
  • Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (there is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).  

It’s taken us a disgracefully long time to figure out 5 blogs to link to, and to work out how to put our award up.  (Actually, even formatting all the links was a struggle.  We’re new to this.) But now we’re finally ready!  Here are our five somewhat eclectic choices: 

  • From Monkey:
    • A Muslim a Day The blog is run by an American Muslim, and the aim is to post a photograph of someone Muslim every day to show how diverse Muslim people are, and to put some human faces to the word, in an effort to combat prejudice.      
    • Afrigadget The wonderful Afrigadget shows Africans turning old junk into gadgets.  Great source of inspiration for recyclers and re-users all over the globe. 
  •  From Stoat:
    • Mudd Up! It is predominantly a music blog – and well worth a listen – but the writer, djrupture, is quite provocative in his commentating on the goings on of themusical world, and prone to bringing a bit of philosophy into the mix – note his recent post appealing to speech act theory as a way of understanding recent music-world behaviour… Definitely a thinking blogger.    
  • From Edna: 
    • Ethicurean  A blog about the ethics of food,agriculture, agribusiness, and sustainable eating.    
  • And, finally, me.  I’ve had a really hard time thinking about what blog to nominate.  I wanted to give the award to a feminist blog, and there are so many great ones out there. So today I settled on:
    •  The F-Word  A great feminist blog with some excellent writing as well as important news items.


Men in cat carriers

 ftwoman400.jpg  This Fay Weldon article, “Bag yourself a ‘must have’ male” initially sounds like another one to help Monkey in her quest for a rich man. But no, it actually addresses quite a different issue: how men are debasing themselves now that women have all the power. You might think the claim that women have all the power would be the main story– it’s news to me, certainly. But instead it’s not even argued for, just assumed:

The gap between men and women has narrowed so much over the decades that the sexes are intrinsically the same, and it’s happening so fast that it makes us uneasy. Equal pay, equal opportunities, Health and Safety makes wimps of us all… what’s the difference between the male and the female? Except, of course, that women occupy the moral high ground, live longer, look better longer, are more employable and need men less than men need women.    

The result of women having all the power?

Now women want to be stick-like and beautiful to please themselves or impress other women – not men. Women like to have partners: they don’t need to have partners. And so it is the man who has to make the effort to please.    

And what does the man do? He uses hair products and cosmetics, diets, and has surgery– all in a desperate quest to please. Heck, he’ll even climb into the cat carrier if that’s what she asks. (Maybe that’s why folks care about the sex of their vets?) Damn, it’s good to be a woman. So, why am I even bothering with this rubbish, completely unsupported as it is by any facts or arguments? Because it’s useful to look at the trope it employs. It takes for granted the claim that women have all the power, smuggling it into the supposedly shared background of the conversation. (The bit about men debasing themselves isn’t like this: stats are given re male plastic surgery.) It becomes impossible to understand the article if one doesn’t take the presupposition on board. The cooperative, well-trained conversationalist (which nearly all of us are) has to fight rather hard to avoid taking on presuppositions like this (see David Lewis on scorekeeping). It’s a powerful technique.Also, it’s important to realize that lots of people *do* share the background presuppositions of the article. This is what we’re starting from with lots of people, including our students, and that’s worth bearing in mind. (Many thanks to S for enriching my life with this one!)

EOC folds. Bad news/good news?

News here that the Equal Opportunities Commission, in the UK, is folding, to be absorbed by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Some find this cause for concern: statistics indicating the extent to which discrimination and various gender ‘gaps’ remain rife leading to worries that the all purpose equality body will give insufficient attention to addressing specifically gendered inequalities.

On the other hand, the attitude expressed here is more optimistic. In particular:

‘The hope in the EOC is that, with a man heading up the new equality body, there will be more credence given to the idea that the agenda of equal opportunities is as much to do with men as women…  For too long gender equality has been seen as women’s special pleading’.

(Thoughts echoed in recent post and comments here)