Ifa Muaza deported by private jet

I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that Team GB has managed to get another of those pesky brown people off our shores and back to where they came from! Thank goodness for that! And thank goodness for Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who made this happen! I’m so pleased that someone in government is brave enough to stand up for their principles, no matter what the cost.* Mr. Muaza is from Nigeria (which is part of the British Empire anyway, so I can’t really see what the man is complaining about) who claims he was being bothered by a terrorist group called Boko Haram, who have already killed two members of his family. Luckily for all of us in good ol’ Blighty, our asylum procedures include the wonderful ‘fast-track system’ which means we can get more of these people out of our country quickly! (Although the bleeding heart liberal do-gooding Guardian-reading types are always complaining that a couple of days isn’t sufficient to gather all the necessary evidence to put forward a proper asylum case. But this is tosh, because asylum-seekers are all benefit cheats who are only here to get free dental treatment on the NHS and steal our jobs.) Mr. Muaza claims he was treated unfairly, and has been starving himself for 100 days and can no longer see or stand up. He had to be carried out to the private jet that deported him on a stretcher. Thankfully, Theresa May saw through this cynical ploy to exploit the system, and had no truck with his complaining. I’m going to write to her now to ask if she could pay for my neighbours to be removed because they look a bit too brown to be here and I certainly don’t want my taxes being spent on their teeth. Go Team GB!

* An estimated £50,000 for the private jet that was used, plus whatever money is paid to hold someone in detention for over three months, and the legal fees required to carry out the legal processes that have made Mr. Muaza’s removal possible.

Mary Midgley

Responding to Jonathan Wolff on the relative lack of women in philosophy.

The trouble is not, of course, men as such – men have done good enough philosophy in the past. What is wrong is a particular style of philosophising that results from encouraging a lot of clever young men to compete in winning arguments. These people then quickly build up a set of games out of simple oppositions and elaborate them until, in the end, nobody else can see what they are talking about.

I don’t agree with everything she says, but this particular remark filled me with glee. You can read more here.

Women MPs should ‘toughen up’.

Melissa Kite, in yesterday’s Guardian describes women who leave UK politics as a result of bullying by their male colleagues as ‘shrinking violets’.

There is some victim blaming in the article:

The problem is not that male politicians can be childish and offensive, but that today’s female politicians don’t seem to know how to handle them.

And a suggestion that women who can’t handle bullying in parliament are lacking not just in insensitivity, but in political conviction:

Ultimately, politics requires women with hides like rhinos, women who are sufficiently on fire with conviction to stand up and fight.

The reference to Mo Mowlam’s staying tough when she was called fat during her cancer treatment is particularly distasteful, suggesting, as it does, that if Mo had backed down then, she wouldn’t have been tough enough and worthy of being an MP.

Mary Jane or Jean Valjean? Take the quiz!

So, there’s a new quiz going around Facebook, sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust, in honour of “Book Week Scotland 2013.” You answer a couple of demographic questions, and then a few Myers-Briggs style questions, and the quiz tells you which literary character you most resemble. I got Coraline. And then I started noticing the results popping up on Facebook. One friend got Mary Jane from Spiderman. Another got Alice (from Alice in Wonderland). And then, the first of my male friends to do so took the quiz and got Atticus Finch. Atticus, I thought. He’s a grown-up! And kind of a hero. And that’s when I realized that the M or F question in the demographic section was actually affecting the results in a way that, for instance, the age range question wasn’t. (I’m 44, but this didn’t stop me from getting Coraline.) So, I tried taking the quiz with all the same answers, but answering M instead of F. I got Hercule Poirot. Now, I’ll grant that Coraline is smart and capable, but she’s no Hercule Poirot. I know I’m gonna piss off Gaiman nerds here, but no smart, capable lonely child quite measures up to one of literature’s most brilliant detectives.

So, I urged others to take the quiz both ways. One friend who’d gotten Mary Jane as an F got Jean Valjean as an M. So, as F she got a spunky, attractive love interest (Blergh. Now I’m pissing off the Spiderman nerds.) versus a rich, complex, grown-up, noble hero type character. Huh. I got my daughter to take it both ways. She got Hermione Granger and Dr. Watson. Prompted by my challenge on Facebook, another friend took it both ways and got Albus Dumbledore and Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird.

I don’t have anything as robust as a hypothesis about this yet. Scout’s a pretty good character. So are Coraline and Hermione. And Watson is clearly sidekick rather than a hero. So, I’m not claiming that the female characters are worse than the male ones. I’m a little worried that slightly more of the female characters are children/youth, or from fiction aimed at youth, or from books with pictures rather than just text (And *now* I’ve pissed off the graphic novel nerds. So sorry. I get that they’re genuine literature. Really, I do.)

And, I get that the canon (at least the well-known mainstream canon; we probably can’t expect Scottish Libraries to use Fun Home in their public outreach, alas.) isn’t an embarrassment of riches when it comes to awesome, well-rounded female characters. So, I’m not bummed at Scotland or anything.

But, I’m really interested in some of gaps between outcomes attendant upon a mere M/F. Choice. At this point, my sample is too small to draw any conclusions. But if you’re interested in taking the quiz and sharing your results in the comments below, that would be kind of cool. And, if you have any reflections on the results you’re seeing, that would be cool too!

(What better way to celebrate Book Week, right?)

‘Classic’ readings by women

A reader sends the following query:

Our department is setting up a proseminar (basically a seminar for first year PhD students to get through some classic material, reinforce some methodology and do some bonding). Of course, there is a danger that ‘classic’ will be read as ‘seminal’ and all the papers taught will be by men. Does anyone have a list of classic papers by women? It might help my cause if I can proactively suggest some.

Suggestions much appreciated!

Sexism in Philosophy in the Guardian

An article by Jo Wolff, here.

I like his analysis of why there were so many good women philosophers in the Anscombe, Foot cohort – fewer men so they got the attention they deserved.

I’m not sure about his description of the bullying nature of philosophy as it is practiced, and its effect on the number of women. It’s a bit too close to the view that states that women are ‘gentler’ or as he says ‘lady-like’ than men, and can’t take the pressure. (He is right, of course, that a more constructive approach to arguing is better, but I’m not sure that has anything to do with women numbers).

You know that medication you spent $50 on to prevent pregnancy? If you weight 11 lbs more than average, it’s completely useless.

Mother Jones reports that an emergency contraception pill in Europe–which is basically the same thing as the only sort of emergency contraception available without a prescription in some places, like the US, is completely ineffective if you weigh more than 80 kg, aka 176 lbs. And it’s less effective for women weighing upward of 165 pounds, so much so that the European labels are gonna suggest you not take it at all.

I’m gonna repeat that.

In certain places (e.g., the United States), Plan B is not really that effective for the average woman, and if you weigh 11 pounds more than average,  You Are Completely Incapable of getting a working form of emergency contraception without a prescription.  (Oh I’m sorry, did you want this $50 medication to also work? Because I thought maybe you just wanted the nice-looking box.)

I’m gonna repeat that yet again, quoting MJ:

“The European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, will warn women that the drug is completely ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds and begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds.”


Now let’s put on our anti-oppressive hierarchy hat, and translate that into societal implications:

A medication that is $50 a pop and is many people’s only reasonably accessible form of emergency contraception, is Completely. Useless. for those of us who are a staggering eleven pounds heavier than average. (I know, it took a lot of burritos, shunning of any physical activity whatsoever, and willful ignorance to get to this point. And then it took even more burritos to make up for all the calories I was burning via unprotected sex. )

Oh hey, and who normally gets the trope stuck to them that they’re stupid and make bad life decisions, like failing to prevent a pregnancy they don’t want and certainly can’t afford?: poor fat women. And guess who can’t use Plan B and probably also can’t afford the alternatives: Poor fat women. So who’s been looking like they’re confirming their own inherent laziness and stupidity when really they weren’t told that a medication marketed to everyone doesn’t work for them: poor fat women.  Thank God at least poor women aren’t more likely to be fat than women of higher socio-economic status. Then we would have a really doozy of a combo on our hands.

Bonus Round Pop Quiz:  How many top athletes also can’t use  one of the most popular forms of emergency contraception without reduced effectiveness?

“Huh?” You say after all that. Don’t worry. I got you covered.


Plan B is useless to you if you weigh more than 176 pounds.

If all this is really true, I’m allowed to set something on fire, right?


‘Don’t call me Freakface’: Changing Faces campaign

I can’t say I’m very familiar with Moshi Monsters, but I know how massively popular it is. So it seems important that it shouldn’t reinforce deeply unpleasant stereotypes about people with disfigurements by using character descriptions like ‘Bruiser’s scarred skin makes for a scary sight’. The charity Changing Faces is launching a campaign to change that:

Changing Faces, the national disfigurement charity, is launching a new campaign, ‘Don’t call me Freakface’.  It is calling on Mind Candy, the creators of Moshi Monsters, to stop using names like ‘Freakface’ which are common terms of abuse towards children with disfigurements.  It is also asking Mind Candy to stop using scars, spots and missing eyes to emphasize the evil nature of their bad characters.

There’s more in James Partridge’s blog post, including Mind Candy’s responses.  And for more on why it matters, see our post ‘Moving beyond the stereotypes‘.

How have better career options for women affected the humanities?

It seems I can’t glance at Facebook or Twitter these days without seeing yet more links to stories about the humanities crisis. We’re doomed. The ship is sinking. Where are the students? You get the picture.

I’m leery in general of “we’re doomed, we’re all going to die” narratives. They tend to have a life of their own. And often when you look at the facts things are considerably more complicated than the simple story that’s unfolding day in and day out on both mainstream media and the university newspapers and magazines.

Here’s one wrinkle: “The supposed decline of the humanities may be little more than an increase in choice for women, who may well want to become doctors instead of, say, English teachers. There seems to be very little troubling about that.” Read Allie Jones’ piece How Expanded Choices for Women May Have Hurt the Humanities.

According to a new study by Harvard fellow Benjamin Schmidt, “The entirety of the long term decline [of the humanities] from 1950 to the present has to do with the changing majors of women.” Before the 1970s, almost all women who went to college majored in education (40 percent) or the humanities (50 percent). Second-wave feminism encouraged women to pursue pre-professional tracks as well as majors in math and science. So, naturally, there was a decline in the number of people majoring in, say, comparative literature.

See also, Is Women’s Empowerment Behind the Humanities “Crisis”?

This doesn’t negate concerns about the current state of the humanities, or the slight but noteworthy losses they seem to have experienced in the last decade. But it does raise questions about the 50-year-corrosion narrative, which has taken on a life of its own. Schmidt writes on his blog, “telling the story of a humanities ‘crisis’ that stretches back to 1967 severely confuses things, because it tries to blame the ’70s collapse on forces that are still relevant today. These are two completely different stories.”

Food for thought.

What do you think?