Isn’t that disgusting!

Disgust and its Disorders, by Olatunji and McKay, arrived yesterday and nearly immediately I received answers to two puzzles I had, even though the puzzles didn’t motivate my getting the book.

The  answers came with a list of national variations in disgust elicitors; that is, in a list of things people in various countries find strongly disgusting.  I’d love to know what our readers would say about these.

Somethings are  found disgusting in all countries; e.g., feces.  But the distinctive ones that drew my attention were these:

Netherlands:  cats, dogs, drug users (!)

United Kingdom:  drunks, rude people

So first of all, I had noticed that the few men I know from Holland can speak of cats the way many people speak of rats.  I could not understand why these actually quite nice people did that, and now I guess I can say that it’s a cultural thing.

Another thing I could not understand was the use in England by liberal educated people of the term “disgusting” to describe reasonably clean individuals.  Perhaps it’s understandable that one might find someone covered in bodily excretions disgusting, but a rude student?  I thought perhaps it was one of those odd terms that start to be used in a different context to mean something else, like ‘pitiful’ to mean ‘inadequate’ (which might be  more an extended use than a metaphor?).  But it seems that taking the words literally might be quite right:  In the UK, rude people may be found  literally disgusting.

So what do you think? 

And now an anecdote from a  scene in Whole Foods.  Personae: me with  Tarry in a cat carrier in my cart; curious woman peering at him.  Me:  please do look closer if you want.  He’s a snow-shoe.  She: O!  A snow-shoe rat?


Tarry and I thought she was rude and disgusting.

Bad Gender Science in the News

In today’s guardian, Ben Goldacre, author of the column ‘Bad Science’ reminds us, as usual, to think critically about medical stories in the news. In particular today, he explains the bad science behind two recent sex-specific news stories: “Man Flu is not a Myth: female hormones give women stronger immune systems” (Daily Mail and BBC) and “Smarter Girls have Far Better Sex Lives” (Sun, Mirror, Mail). Both of these stories are apparently covered this week on the NHS’s Choices website, and are, to put it briefly, complete rubbish. Goldacre reminds us

People are interested in finding out about this stuff, for their own health and interest, yet they are routinely fed nonsense by the media. When you mention the web, journalists pretend it’s full of bloggers making stuff up. In reality, there are medical research charities, academics, universities’ press releases, NHS Choices, etc. These organisations might want to think more confidently: with figures like 6 million visitors a month, they are now credible publishers, on a subject where information matters.

*Update: I’ve just realised that the “Behind the Headlines” section of the NHS Choices web site is the bit that Goldacre is talking about. It looks excellent. Here’s a link directly to it.

Pole Fitness Classes?

Reader Seagull has sent us this very interesting query:

A group of academics sent a letter to their university’s vice chancellor objecting to the presence of “pole fitness” classes being offered to staff and students in the campus sports centre. Our argument was that a university campus is not an appropriate place for a “fitness” activity which is an offshoot of the sex industry and a manifestation of the mainstreaming of raunch culture which objectifies women. We argued that we had a right to a working environment which enshrined respect for women, and we felt the university’s reputation could be damaged if the press got wind of the fact that we offer courses in pole dancing.

We received a reply from the university’s management which argued that there is nothing remotely sexual about “pole fitness” which is an entirely legitimate and beneficial exercise activity. This was accompanied by considerable documentation from various national fitness and exercise organisations which sang the praises of this wholesome health-benefitting activity which was so far removed from its sleazy pole-dancing roots that our suggestion that it might not be appropriate caused much hurt and incredulity among its practitioners. The most disturbing aspect of the response was the utter inability of the university management and the fitness organisations to understand our concerns about the promotion of raunch culture on campus.

We would therefore be really interested in this blog’s readership’s views on this, specifically,

1. How widespread is “pole-fitness” and other manifestations of raunch culture on university campuses, and how widely does it receive such strong endorsement from management, sporting bodies and fitness organisations?

2. Has anyone else tried to raise concerns about this, and if so, what was the outcome?

3. Does anyone have any strategies for how we could effectively challenge the mainstreaming of raunch culture?

4. Can anyone point us to academic studies or data that could help us show our university why raunch culture of this kind is harmful to women?

5. Finally, is there any point in fighting this fight? Perhaps “pole fitness” has become so mainstream that challenging it is futile and harms the feminist movement/s my making us look like strident old-fashioned harridans out of touch with the modern world?