Is it ok to treat a person like a plate?

That’s not a question I had ever envisaged contemplating, despite philosophers’ well-known penchant for pondering strange topics such as the number of angels that can fit onto the head of a pin, and so forth. But I was recently prompted to consider that very issue (people as plates, not angels on pins) when I came across the practice of Nyotaimori – eating sushi/sashimi off a naked woman. As one might guess from the sushi reference, the practice originated in Japan. A brief trawl of the net revealed that it wasn’t (isn’t?) widely popular in Japan, and was (is?) instead the preserve of the Japanese elite, and according to one site, Japanese gangsters. But enterprising restaurant owners in other parts of the world are now offering Nyotaimori for those who can pay the typically high fees.

So, what’s one to think? Is it ok to treat a person like a plate? Read More »

A (small) step in the right direction

I once attended a public talk on research examining sex differences in the brain.  An audience member (young and female) dared to ask the panelists whether they had measured the ‘degree’ of maleness and femaleness in their participants and was laughed at by the (mostly older and male) scientists.  Even if most scientists working in the area are not so dismissive, it is true that neuroscience research on sex differences takes “female” and “male” to be largely unproblematic concepts.   So I was pleased to see that a recent paper examining brain differences between women and men had correlated the changes they found with results on a test of psychological gender.  Yes, I know that the idea of “psychological gender” is far from straightforward (if even meaningful at all), but I thought that it was great to see scientists trying to think beyond the idea that “biological=innate.”  Let’s at least say that it’s out of the fire and into the frying pan.

(See also this article in Scientific American.)

Walk the catwalk campaign

Walk the Catwalk is a campaign to get the fashion industry to start using bigger sample garments. For some time now, I’ve heard that the reason super-skinny size zero models are used is that this is the size the clothes are– which seems to presuppose that the clothes just ARE a certain size, determined by nature, which we’ve all got to live with. Apparently things have now got to the point where established star models don’t even fit into the samples, which has motivated fashion mag editors to write to designers asking for bigger sample sizes. But the campaign wouldn’t be very interesting if it were just “please start making clothes for Christie Brinkley again”. Instead, it is actually asking for clothes to fit a wide range of women. And at least some designers are doing so. Mark Fast used size 12 and 14 models (for US readers, that’s size 8 and 10) in his recent show. Sadly, this caused some of his staff to quit, though as Broadsheet notes the explanation may be a bit more complicated than it appears.

Walk the Catwalk also offers an excellent list of things you can do.

Preventing sexual assault: Tips guaranteed to work!

Please distribute this list.  Put it up in your place of work, in your university’s library or wherever you think theymight be read:

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

Thanks to Feminist Law Professors!