Small Breasts Banned in Porn

to protect the kids. Really. Because apparently women with small breasts look like kids, and so porn depicting them encourages paedophilia. So Australia has banned A-cups in porn. As well as female ejaculation. And no, that’s not about protecting the kids. That’s because it’s “abhorrent”.

I just don’t know where to begin. But it is fascinating to see how an anti-paedophilia campaign turns into a stigmatization of small breasts. (I’m also wondering if they insist on women with body hair. Because body hair’s actually something kids don’t have but normal women do. Bet they’re not insisting on hairy women in the porn flicks.)

Thanks, Mr Jender!

UPDATE: BW informs us there’s reason to doubt this one. Go here for more.

Philosophy Cuts at King’s London

The story, is I understand it, is this. King’s College London is making redundant several staff members (including full professors) in the Philosophy Department, one of the top in the country. They are making Professor Shalom Lappin and Dr Wilfried Meyer-Viol redundant, claiming this is part of the elimination of computational linguistics. (There is no computational linguistics department, and Lappin and Meyer-Viol are full members of the philosophy department.) They are also forcing Professor Charles Travis to retire, in violation of his contract, which allows him to work past retirement age. Rumour has it they will also be forcing all members of the department to re-apply for their posts.

I urge you to join the facebook group Stop Philosophy Cuts at King’s College London. You might also consider emailing some of the following:

For more, see here.

Why are Nepalese women killing themselves?

Unfortunately, the answer is unclear, but apparently, suicide is the leading death cause in women aged 15-49 in Nepal. This is puzzling, because worldwide, suicide isn’t even in the top 10 in causes of death (WHO stats here).

I haven’t been able to find detailed stats on mortality rates in Nepal, but generally, men are far more prone to suicide than women. It is just flabbergasting that suicide is the number one cause for mortality in women, in a country which used to have perinatal circumstances as a leading cause for death. It would probably be overly optimistic to think that the perinatal circumstances have improved so dramatically that it fell behind as a major cause of mortality.

When googling for mortality causes and rates, I did come across this interesting WHO graph about suicide in the world. The red bits are where suicide rates are higher. So that’s one huge block of red in the Orient.

But still. It is worrisome that suicide is risen so high amongst women in the reproductive age in Nepal.

It is bit of a sad possibility that both the practice of forced marriages and the custom of outcasting widows has to do with it, but there are no data on that.

Transgender rights in Pakistan

There’s a brief and fascinating report (here, and more here) on the hijra of Pakistan – transgender people who have been marginalised but ‘tolerated’. Apparently, a number of pieces of recent legislation have been passed to affirm their civil rights – and under consideration is the move of including a third gender on official documentation.

Spurred by the forceful chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was restored after countrywide protests last year, normally moribund authorities have been ordered to ensure hijras enjoy the same rights as other Pakistanis, in matters of inheritance, employment and election registration.

Police have been warned to cease harassment and intimidation. Pakistan’s national database and registration authority, which issues ID cards, has been told to research a third option under the “sex” column.

“Times are changing,” said Almas Bobby, leader of one of the largest group of hijras in Rawalpindi. “Our community feels good for the first time in 60 years.”

These changes, apparently, were instigated by lawyer and Islamic scholar Muhammed Aslam Khaki who took up the defence of their rights having read about the brutal treatment to which hijra were vulnerable .

A new take on recovered memory syndrome

An important number of people sincerely believe that they were victims of sexual abuse when they were children, that  they forgot it,  and that they recovered memories of the abuse when they were adults. 

Are they right?  Can you really forget and then remember such abuse?  Or are the seeming memories in some ways created later, perhaps by post-hypnotic suggestion.

My understanding is that a lot of recent research has changed a great deal in what we know about memory.  We are not passive recorders of our experience; everything that happens to us is not retained somewhere in the brain, and memories can easily change over time.  At the same time, very serious issues have been raised about whether we do forget horrible abuse.  If it does seem, as many claim, that it is unlikely that we forget severe abuse, a lot of people’s claims about past severe abuse are de-legitimized.  We have the sort of case where, many others worry, the abuser wins twice.

But what if an experience, perhaps a very bad one, is not experienced as abuse at the time?  Seen from the present, it may seem much more abusive than it did in the past.  But if it was not experience at the time as dreadful abuse, perhaps it won’t initially be retained as one of our obvious memoies.  If this is correct, then people might come to  remember sexual abuse after having forgotten about it. 

A new book, The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children–and its Aftermath, based  on about 200 interviews with survivors of abuse, opts for  the  latter account.  When the research was first initiated it was highly controversial and the author was warned by her advisers that it could finish off the possibility of an academic career for her.  As recounted in the sympathetic NY Times review:

[At the start of her research] Dr. [Susan] Clancy figured she knew what she would find: “Everything I knew dictated that the abuse should be a horrible experience, that the child should be traumatized at the time it was happening — overwhelmed with fear, shock, horror.”

But many carefully documented interviews revealed nothing of the sort. Commonly, the abuse had been confusing for the child but not traumatic in the usual sense of the word. Only when the child grew old enough to understand exactly what had happened — sometimes many years later — did the fear, shock and horror begin. And only at that point did the experience become traumatic and begin its well-known destructive process.

Dr. Clancy questioned her findings, reconfirmed them and was convinced. Her audience, when she made the data public, was outraged.

First, her data flew in the face of several decades of politically correct trauma theory, feminist theory and sexual politics.

Second, Dr. Clancy found that the world had little appetite for scientific subtlety: “Unfortunately, when people heard ‘not traumatic when it happens,’ they translated my words to mean, ‘It doesn’t harm victims later on.’ Even worse, some assumed I was blaming victims for their abuse.”

Dr. Clancy reports that she became a pariah in lay and academic circles. She was “crucified” in the press as a “friend of pedophiles,” colleagues boycotted her talks, advisers suggested that continuing on her trajectory would rule out an academic career.

Some of the comments on it at are deeply unsettling.  I certainly can’t simply dismiss them, but there is quite a bit of recent work that might at least mitigate their force.

It seems we can find a psychological syndrome can be largely constructed by therapeutic and medical authorities.  One person who has done a lot of early work on this is Ian Hacking.  See his Mad Travelers, The Re-Writing of the Self and The Social Construction of What for his very interesting thought.

Another recent book, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, examines in some detail the issue of how much cultural beliefs affect the manifestation of mental problems.  There’s now an extended community that sees a mental syndrome as due to far more than facts about individuals and their experience.  The symptoms we see are in part the result of self-interpretation in the light of permissible ways of thinking in the culture.   Among other things.

On Chris Matthews’ Forgetting

A lot has been written already on Chris Matthews’ declaration that he forgot for an hour that Obama was black. And I think Pam Spaulding may well be right when she writes:

What it boils down to is that there’s something about being “black” to forget—such as um, being articulate, or educated, or perhaps in his mind, standing up there and doing the whole SOTU thing in the wake of a whole lot of white guys and guess what? He’s not all that different from any of them

But one of the things I think is most interesting– and potentially useful, educationally/politically speaking– is Matthews’ tacit admission that Obama’s blackness is in the forefront of his mind the rest of the time. It’s refreshing to have someone not insisting that they don’t see race. The fact is we all do see it, and it affects us– if not consciously, then unconsciously. And the sooner we all acknowledge that the better.

Apple’s Ipad: What’s in a name?

How about  a golden opportunity for some new jokes, such as:

“so will the 64 GB one be called the maxi-pad?”

Fast Company also tells us:

Apple’s ipad not the first choice for women.  Period.

And, unbelievable though it is, the name was  anticipated in this video from 2007:


So how did Apple’s branding end up so last year?  Here’s one explanation from Fast Company:

Seconds after the name was announced social networks lit up with not-so-fresh one-liners from both men and women (a CNBC anchor mentioned her very candid thoughts on-air). About an hour after the announcement #iTampon was a trending topic on Twitter.

But it was the females in the crowd who read more into Apple’s menstrual pun. They seemed to think Apple’s name was indicative of a male-helmed team oblivious to the fact that they were pushing an insensitively-named product. “Surely no women were involved in naming it the iPad” was a widely-reTweeted sentiment. Another: “iPad: Proof not enough women work in the Apple Naming Department.”

Many thanks to PJ, jj-son.

Math Anxiety Passed on From Women Teachers to Girls

Rob sent us a story about this important study:

To determine the impact of teachers’ mathematics anxiety on students, the team assessed teachers’ anxiety about math. Then, at both the beginning and end of the school year, the research team also tested the students’ level of mathematics achievement and the gender stereotypes the students held.

To assess stereotypes, the students were told gender neutral stories about students who were good at mathematics and good at reading and then asked to draw a picture of a student who was good at mathematics and one that was good at reading. Researchers were interested in examining the genders of the drawings that children produced for each story.

At the beginning of the school year, student math achievement was unrelated to teacher math anxiety in both boys and girls. By the end of the school year, however, the more anxious teachers were about math, the more likely girls, but not boys, were to endorse the view that “boys are good at math and girls are good at reading.” Girls who accepted this stereotype did significantly worse on math achievement measures at the end of the school year than girls who did not accept the stereotype and than boys overall.

Yet more evidence against the innateness of differences in maths performance. And also a really fascinating example of the way a variety of forces– gender stereotypes, something like copying of same-gender teachers, anxieties being passed down through generations– all combine to produce an important effect. For more, go here.