Raping children is wrong

That’s one of those examples we might use when we need an example of a really obvious moral truth, right? Apparently, however, we should be careful to add “unless you’re a famous director”.

Kate Harding sets things out beautifully.

Roman Polanski raped a child. Let’s just start right there, because that’s the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in “exile” (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never — poor baby — being able to return to the U.S.). Let’s keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she’d rather not see him prosecuted because she can’t stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let’s take a moment to recall that according to the victim’s grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.

Drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are

Can we do that? Can we take a moment to think about all that, and about the fact that Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, before we start talking about what a victim he is? Because that would be great, and not nearly enough people seem to be doing it.

Reader Cait points us to these particularly egregious examples of the widespread child-rapist-defending going on. One about how the girl “seduced’ him. The other a petition for his release.

Check out this party platform!

From the UK’s Liberal Democrats:

* Providing twenty hours of free, good quality childcare per week, for all children from 18 months to when they start school
* Requiring companies to publish data on the pay scales within their organisations and conduct pay audits

* Introducing a ‘name blanking’ policy so that job applicants apply with National Insurance numbers

* Modules on body image, health and well-being, and media literacy to be taught in schools

* Tackle body image pressure by requiring advertisers to label all adverts, disclosing the extent of digital retouching of images of people

American readers may well be assuming that OF COURSE any party called the ‘Liberal Democrats’ must so far left as to be irrelevant, but that would be wrong. The political spectrum is different here in ways that make comparison tricky, but (a) The Lib Dems have traditionally been viewed as the middle-of-the-road alternative to Labour and the Conservatives (though I think this isn’t quite right); and (b) They are a serious third party, and one that controls much of local government in the UK. (Thanks, Andrew!)

Case dismissed: no justice for Janice Langbehn

Janice Langbehn’s life partner, Lisa Pond, was hurried to hospital with a brain aneurysm during a family cruise with their three children in 2007. Janice and her children were denied access to Lisa’s deathbed, even though there was no medical reason to prevent it. They waited for hours and only got to see Lisa after she had just died. Janice did provide the hospital with the medical power of attorney document.

From the report:

[…] the hospital refused to accept information from Janice about her partner’s medical history. Janice was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as Lisa’s partner or family. A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery.

Janice filed a lawsuit against the hospital, but the court dismissed that, yesterday.

The court ruled that the hospital has neither an obligation to allow their patients’ visitors nor any obligation whatsoever to provide their patients’ families, healthcare surrogates, or visitors with access to patients in their trauma unit.

“Working Mothers’ Children Unfit”

So sayeth the BBC. A study

found that five-year-olds whose mothers worked part-time or full-time were more likely to primarily consume sweetened drinks between meals. They used their computers or watched television for at least two hours a day compared to the children of “stay at home” mothers who spent less than two hours on these activities. They were also more likely to be driven to school compared to the children of “stay at home” mothers who tended to walk or cycle.

The study’s author, Professor Catherine Law says:

they had not looked at fathers in this study because fathers employment levels had not changed whereas the numbers of working mothers had increased dramatically. [Further,] “Time constraints may limit parents’ capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Our results do not imply that mothers should not work. Rather they highlight the need for policies and programmes to help support parents.”

Imagine if the BBC had framed their article to reflect that: “Better after-school care needed”, for example. But no, they’ve opted for the very catchy mother-blaming option. And one that completely absolves fathers of responsibility for childcare. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Ethical issues about academic advice

I do an awful lot of academic advising, from the very formal writing of letters and filling out forms, to the informal chats with students about careers in philosophy. And I have to say there are days when it all seems ethically complicated to me. There are a few different sorts of dilemmas I face. here’s one: Clearly I want there to be more women in philosophy, more sexual diversity too, as well as ethnic and racial diversity. But I also think philosophy can be a lonely place for those who don’t fit the mold. It’s a conservative discipline and while that will only change as the people who make up philosophy departments change, there are days when I’m not sure about encouraging young people to pursue careers in philosophy. It’s this mix of utilitarian considerations—we’d all be better off if the discipline were more diverse—and paternalistic concern for those first faces of diversity. I want to say, “I love philosophy too but it can lonely here. Some philosophers might not think the kind of issues that interest you are sufficiently philosophical. Or if they are seen as philosophical, they might be seen as ‘light weight’ or on the edge of the discipline. Many philosophers with interests in gender, sexuality, and race end up with joint appointments in order to find an intellectual community where there work is valued. Or, philosophers might expect you to teach courses about race/gender even if your interests are in logic or analytic metaphysics.” Am I just having a bad day? What do you say to students who you think won’t fit in but for whom there ought to be a place? How to we balance the goals of promoting diversity and being honest about how rough it can be?

Combating Creationism: A useful resource

It’s a bit scary and/or creepy.  If you teach in the US, you probably have students in your classes who have a very different  understanding of causation of our world than most philosophy professors do.  It isn’t exactly that they think the walls of your classroom are actually supported by the leprechauns – though quite possibly a few do – but they certainly think that what science purports to tell them about the originals of the universe and the evolution of the species is just all wrong.  And this means that their capacity to react critically to all sorts of things is impaired.

TalkOrigins has what  looks to be a useful site, with a depressingly long list of false claims creationists make.  Some are very familiar, others perhaps less so – such as sea shells on mountain tops – and still others I think very esoteric.   I had no idea, for example, there was anything special about woodpeckers’ tongues.  Actually, there isn’t, but that’s not what creationists claim.

You can click on a claim and you are taken to an explanation and rebuttal.  The rebuttals are sometimes too short, I think, and require more thought than may be available in the actual dialectic, but it’s something teachers can figure out, and sources are cited.  So don’t despair the next time a student tells you that NASA scientists  have discovered a day is missing.

Trouble with virginity

It was probably just coincidence that I saw this article about mass marriages and accompanying forced virginity tests in India and this article on the scandalous atrocity of faking virginity in Egypt on the same day (thanks delphicoracle).

Of course it’s not just exotic countries where there’s such a stress on virginity before wedlock; there’s the concept of virginity pledges in the US as well.

Made me wonder whether there are actually non religious folk who focus on virginity like that, so I googled it, and got an answer on yahoo answers. There probably are better answers, but at least it was funny, while the whole virginity cultus is not.

Wrong embryo implanted

A fertility clinic accidentally implanted the wrong embryo into Carolyn Savage’s womb, and they found out quite early. All parties involved felt it was very clear whose baby was born, and that’s why Savage voluntarily handed it over to its genetic parents.

“This was someone else’s child,” 40-year-old Carolyn Savage told the AP on Wednesday. “We didn’t know who it was. We didn’t know if they didn’t have children or if this was their last chance for a child.”

But I imagine there are plenty of views of motherhood on which this is far from a straightforward case. (Thanks, Jender-Parents.)

Illegal childcare

BBC report here on two women police officers who were told they were breaking the law with their reciprocal childcare arrangement. That they were doing each other a favour has been interpreted as providing the childcare ‘for reward’ – something ruled out by the 2006 Childcare Act:

“Generally, mothers who look after each other’s children are not providing childminding for which registration is required, as exemptions apply to them, for example because the care is for less than two hours or it takes place on less than 14 days in a year.

“Where such arrangements are regular and for longer periods, then registration is usually required.”

Close relatives of children, such as grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles, were exempt from the rules, [an Ofsted spokesoman] added.

This debacle seems to be underpinned by inconsistent views of the value of childcare: on the one hand, the state hasn’t gone far enough to recognise childcare as important work for which carers should be adequately reimbursed; on the other, that it sometimes is undertaken as paid work (by registered childcarers) causes these kinds of confusions in the application of regulations. Any thoughts?