Category Archives: Gender

Why in Tag Rugby is a girl’s try worth twice that of a boys?

touch
Prior to puberty, there are no significant differences between boys and girls in height, weight, strength or endurance. Therefore, from a physical standpoint, children can participate equitably in all sports and physical activities on a coeducational basis until puberty. 

That is the not very surprising conclusion of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Sports Medicine Department that I found when I googled whether there was any significant variation between a boy and girl’s ability to participate in sports at primary school age (up to 11 in the UK).

This fits with what I would have presumed and reinforces the sense of outrage that my primary school teacher friend felt when she was researching tag rugby and found this caveat in the rules:

tag

Taking that there are no significant differences between boys and girls in height, weight, strength or endurance one has to wonder why a girl’s try would be valued at twice the score of a boys.

The stated aim is ‘to encourage greater teamwork’ but it offers no guidance on how having a separate scoring system for young girls than young boys encourages this teamwork. As far as I can see, all it does is highlight a difference between children which, at primary school age, is primarily not there.

I would be interested to hear from other P.E teachers, rugby coaches etc to see I’ve got the wrong end of the stick on this.

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Filed under Gender, Sport

The Sun’s barefaced hypocrisy on baring boobs

The sun

Today, The Sun published the ‘shaming’ story, ‘New sex game shame for topless Brit birthday girl in Magaluf’.

Putting aside whether or not it is in any of anyone’s business what a girl does on her 18th birthday it is worth just taking a moment to highlight the paper’s barefaced moral hypocrisy when it comes to baring breasts.

The Sun goes to great length ‘to celebrate’ the ‘bare-breasted beauties’ (see this 40th anniversary ‘celebration’) that they have daily on their page 3, but don’t seem to hesitate to talk of the shame that this girl is supposed to have felt for choosing to get her boobs out for a drinking game.

So which one is it – is The Sun celebrating natural beauty, in which case I personally look forward to the page 2 cock close-up juxtaposed next to the boobs, or, are we shaming people for getting their naughty bits out?

Of course The Sun is not the only paper to sink into a moral hypocrisy as they try to appeal to both middle-England’s sense of perpetual outrage and to the dispiriting fact that half naked pictures sell papers.

The other example that springs to mind is The Daily Mail’s obsession with fighting the ‘sexualisation of childhood’ whilst at the same time running pictures of 14-year-old Kylie Jenner in a “tiny wetsuit” and “skimpy bikinis”.

For what it is worth I personally feel a lot of sympathy with the ‘celebrating natural beauty’ argument but just feel that is not, and indeed, cannot, be properly ‘celebrated’ in a society and newspaper industry that is so depressingly dripping in overt sexism.

Perhaps even more importantly though, I just feel that this sort of barefaced hypocrisy deserves to be highlighted.

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Dear Metro, Is sexual assault really so funny that it makes you snort tea through your nose?

metro
Dear Metro, Is sexual assault really so funny that it makes you snort tea through your nose?

I ask because in your article 27 things men do in bed that women hate you seem to suggest that the list your readers provided was ‘hilarious’.

Now, I might have missed something here but I am not quite seeing what is ‘hilarious’ about (for example) number 16:

‘Being so aggressive with their hands during foreplay that they pretty much give you internal bleeding and bruising.’

Or number 18:

‘Pulling your hair so hard you scream and your eyes water.’

The list goes on, biting, putting ‘objects inside’ someone, anal sex without asking or using lube…

These answers are all quite legitimate answers to ‘things [some] men do in bed that [some] women hate’ but let’s be clear…what some of the readers of the Metro have described is sexual assault.

Personally, I’m not seeing anything too funny in that and I find it amazing that both a journalist and then an editor have.

 

UPDATE: the journo who wrote the original article is evidently looking for more laughs. An hour ago she tweeted:

 

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Hollie McNish takes on Flo Rida’s ‘Blow My Whistel’

A massive hat tip to the spoken word artist Hollie McNish for this.

Her poem (below) is a fantastic verbal deconstruction of the warped sexual imagery that is too often found in hip hop. She focuses as a case in point on Flo Rida’s ‘Blow My Whistle’.

Please do give it a listen. But to enjoy her latest poem in its full play both videos at the same time but mute the sound on Flo Ridas’ ‘Blow My Whistle’.

Enjoy:

Innovative and clever. Hynd’s Blog likes it!

 

*I first saw this over at the amazing Poejazzi spoken word site.

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What do I mean when I describe myself as a feminist?

feminism
Someone recently asked me what I meant when I say I am feminist. At the time I gave a woolly answer about fighting discrimination. This answer didn’t quite cut it and I knew it…and so, this is my very brief effort to explain what feminism means to me, and why I would still describe myself as a feminist.

Feminism is…

Nothing more than a pragmatic tool that I use to fight the injustice, the prejudice and the discrimination of our times. I am not inherently a feminist, the entrenched bigotry of the culture in which I was born, raised and live have made me a feminist.

This culture gives weight to comments by campaigning groups such as the often repeated mantra, ‘one in four women in the UK experience domestic violence in their lives‘. As much as objectively you know them to be more, these words are emotionally, just words. That is until you see the black of eye of a female friend who is in a violent relationship.

And then this culture of ours encourages girls to try and hide black eyes teaching them that it is something to be ashamed of.

The only shame here is that this statement stands true today, just as it did 28 years ago when I was born.

I cannot in my own heart accept a culture that allows for such violence. Feminism then is mine, and many others, pragmatic tool (the language and the means) that I have chosen to fight back.

But my feminism stems from much more than just the violence women and girls disproportionately experience. I am a feminist because of all those times I have seen people being limited because of their gender.

To give just a couple of examples…

I remember, at school the laughter at the idea of a girls’ rugby team being set up. Why? Because they were girls and society taught us as kids that ‘girls don’t play rugby’.

I remember in my first job my boss asking me to carry my female colleague’s feather-weight bags. Why? Because my colleague was a women and society teaches us that women are too weak to carry their own bag.

These day to day occurrences, although disturbing by themselves, cannot be separated off from the wider culture that too often leads to the violence I earlier described.

Feminism then is, for me at least, the movement that I have chosen, to try and fight back against this self-reinforcing culture. Feminism is an imperfect coalition of those who are looking to challenge the day to day sexism we all see, but only a few acknowledge. It is the belief that decades and decades of sexism that we have experienced can, and must, be broken down.

Feminism is the pragmatic tool I have chosen to fight the misogynistic status quo.

Until our culture changes, or someone gives me a better tool in which to fight this fight, I will remain a proud feminist.

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No to breast cancer. No to Page 3

no-more-page-3
Over the last year I have been part of a global movement that campaigns for the dignity of every patient. This global movement campaigns for the dignity of, among others, patients with breast cancer.

It is with sadness then that I saw the breast cancer campaigns group ‘CoppaFeel’ have teamed up with The Sun newspapers ‘page 3 girls’ – a relic of a misogynistic newspaper industry that almost by definition is devoid of dignity and respect.

The campaign will see The Sun newspaper every Tuesday dedicate the Page 3 girl slot to encourage women to check their breasts for signs of cancer.

While I of course, just like the ‘No to page 3 girls’ campaign, hope this campaign is a success and it encourages more girls to check their breasts, I feel saddened that The Sun have chosen, out of all the tools available to them, the overtly sexualised images of young girls to highlight this important issue.

In fact I struggle to think of a less appropriate medium in which to highlight this campaign. Page 3 is perhaps the most prominent icon of a culture that reduces women to mere objects and men to little more than objectifiers. This culture leaves some women feeling ashamed of their bodies and shy to ask for examinations.

As much as The Sun would like to think otherwise, the No to Page 3 campaign have collected testimony after testimony from girls who blame Page 3 and the sexist culture it perpetuates for their own understanding of their bodies and sex.

One recent account from a breast cancer patient comments:

“I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had to have a quarter of my breast removed. I feel horrible and ugly and these images in Newspapers and films make me feel worse.”

Another testimony says:

“I compared myself to this picture and having no other pictures of what naked women are supposed to look like to refer to I judged myself in light of it. I grew to hate my body, I grew to hate myself.”

I wonder how David Dinsmore, the editor of The Sun, would answer the following question: Do you think Page 3 helps or hinders the girls that gave these testimonies to stand in front of a mirror and check their breasts?

This campaign will reach millions of people and will hopefully save lives. But in 6 months’ time when the campaign is all done and dusted what will we be left with?

We will still have one of our largest newspapers going to print daily where the largest photo is of a half-naked women. We will still have a culture where women’s breasts are stared at and not respected. And this, collectively, will do nothing to install a feeling of dignity and respect into women which in turn will only hinder the chances of women regularly checking themselves for signs of cancer.

Take Action:

  • Join over 136,000 others and sign the petition calling for The Sun remove ‘the bare boobs.

UPDATE:

The Independent today ran the headline – “Breast cancer charities criticise The Sun’s new Page Three ‘Check ’em Tuesday’ for trivialising the disease“. Good to see I am not the only one who feels like this!

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On Lord Rennard, Chris Davies MEP and the Lib Dems in the North West

Chris Davies

Chris Davies MEP describes alleged sexual assault as “the equivalent of a few years ago, an Italian man pinching a woman’s bottom”

I have blogged before about the up-coming European elections and how the North West promises to be an interesting political battle ground in the lead up to the elections.

In that blog I concluded that the Lib Dems are going to have to fight pretty hard to keep their one MEP in the region.

There current MEP and lead-candidate for up-coming European parliament elections, Chris Davies MEP, has done himself and his party no favours by commenting on the Lord Rennard sexual assault scandal saying:

“This is the equivalent of a few years ago, an Italian man pinching a woman’s bottom. How much more must this man be made to suffer …”

If this wasn’t amazing enough he then went onto pledge financial support to Rennard:

This doesn’t surprise me (as highlighted by Open Democracy, Lib Dems have a certain attachment to Rennard) but this does sadden me on a number of levels.

Firstly, it disappoints me to see a representative of a party set up around the principle of respect for others exhibit such overt sexism in response to alleged sexual assaults.

Secondly, the Liberal Democrats internationalism and general approach to the EU probably sits closet to my own view. I think more Lib Dems in the European Parliament is generally a good things. I think this might be the final nail in their coffin in the North West for these elections.

And of course other parties have not missed this. Peter Cranie, the lead candidate for The Green Party, has today blogged calling for all those (L)liberals to consider an alternative Green vote. In his words:

“Liberal Democrat activists in the North West who have been deeply disappointed by their MEP’s response to this issue are left with a very difficult choice. Vote for their party but re-elect a politician who will earn a Euro salary for five years and contribute towards the legal fees of Lord Rennard, not vote or vote for an alternative.”

Even if Lib Dems don’t chose this Green alternative the numbers turning to Labour or simply not turning up to the ballot box in disgust might well be enough to lose the Lib Dems there one MEP for the region.

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UKIP MEP, Stuart Agnew, not just sexist – but also right wing and wrong

The Independent newspaper has today run a clip from the European Parliament showing UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew saying:

“Women don’t have the ambition to get to the top because babies get in the way”

The implication of this is that another UKIP MEP has put his foot in it with some deplorable sexism. True, but he commits an equally awful blunder that needs to be picked up on.

His belief in a meritocratic society – a disproportionately right wing belief – leads him into an idiotic comment at the end of clip. He says, “those females who really want to get to the top, do so”. 

Really? Does he honestly believe that any women who “wants to get to the top” – can do so? That nothing stands in your way other than your own work rate and inherent ability?

This belief in such a flagrant falsehood – that Britain is a meritocracy – is almost, if not as damaging as his unpalatable casual sexism.

I wonder if he could explain all of the following through “unmotivated women” and babies. 

We have:

  • A gender pay gap of around 10% difference
  • Approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women.
  • Women making up only 17% board directors of FTSE 100 companies.
  • Up to 30,000 women being sacked each year simply for being pregnant.
  • 14% of white British women have being asked about their plans for marriage and/or children at a job interview compared to 20-25% of Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women.
  • A 24 year high for women’s unemployment – highest amongst black and minority ethnic women.
  • Only 1 in 4 MPs being female and women from minority ethnic groups making up only 1.2% of MP.
  • Just 23% of reporters on national daily newspapers in the UK being women. 
  • A 4:1 male to female ratio for experts appearing in our media.

Source

Discrimination is a blight that Old Blighty is having to deal with. To tackle this we have to show that those who peddle the myth of a meritocracy are simply, if sadly, wrong.

 

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Violence against women – the global crisis

A series of papers published in the Lancet have revealed shocking statistics surrounding rates of rape in the UK. 1 in 10 women in the recent study admitted to being forced into having sex against their will. 1.4% of men also admitted to being forced into having sex against their will.

While these figures are shockingly high, I thought it would be interesting to place them in a global context. The last two countries that I have lived in, the occupied Palestinian territories and Uganda, help to highlight the truly global nature of this crisis.

Just yesterday I was reading in the Ugandan Observer that:

“Six in ten Ugandan women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 34 per cent of all Ugandan women have experienced physical violence in the past 12 months…

The 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows that at least 24 per cent of women report that their first sexual encounter was against their will and at least 15 per cent of the women have experienced violence during pregnancy.”

To reiterate – 1 in 4 women’s first sexual encounter was against their will.

When I read out this quote to a Ugandan (who, by chance was female) she simply responded saying, “I can believe that to be true”.

In the occupied Palestine territories the situation was, if anything, even worse.

Sexual violence is a chronically understudied phenomena in the oPt, so statistics are few and far between. But, a few months ago I read this report on the Al-Monitor that reported:

“The Bureau of Statistics report indicated that Palestinian women face many forms of violence, with 76.4% of Gazan women being subjected to emotional violence, 34.8% to physical violence, 14.9% to sexual violence, 78.9% to social violence and 88.3% to economic violence.”

While I was in the West Bank gender based violence (let alone rape) was near to impossible to talk about. One Palestinian who I got to know quite well responded to me talking about the problem of violence against women in the UK by simply saying, “We don’t have these problems here”. I think he might have believed that as well!

Anyway, I choose these two countries for no reason other than my recent residency in them. Similar shocking statistics can be drawn from all over the world.

It’s a depressing context in which to look at these UK statistics but I feel it to be an important one.

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The end of beer bitches in Lambeth?

beer
In October I wrote about the use of hired ‘beer bitches’ at London’s Oktoberfest.

I then tweeted this story to a series of London Assembly Members (AMs). Darren Johnson AM, to his great credit, responded and took the issue up.

As a result, his office has just forwarded me this response letter from Lib Peck, the Leader of Lambeth Council. In the letter, Lib Peck states:

“the terminology used at the event is unacceptable. Lambeth will be addressing this with the organisers as part of the debrief process. The events team will also be amending the terms and conditions to include a clause that Lambeth Events Service need to have sight of all promotional material associated with the event and anything deemed to be offensive will not be permitted.”

A success of sorts. This is now something to hold the council to account with come next Oktoberfest. 

Could this be the end of the beer bitches at public events in Lambeth?

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Remove the question mark BBC Radio Bristol, a rape victim is never to blame

A series of posters have been put up all over Bristol highlighting some of the lingering myths around blaming the victims of rape. The campaigns message is simple: There are no excuses for rape and the victim is never to blame: Whatever they were wearing; However much they’ve had to drink; Even if they’ve said yes to other sexual activities.

It remains a depressing reality that such an advertising campaign is needed in the first place. Sadly though, they really are.

The campaign group behind the posters says that 3894 women and girls in Bristol aged 16-59 are victims of sexual assault in a year. This statistic becomes even more shocking in the context of there only being about 140,000 women of that age living in Bristol.

The campaign primarily focuses though on removing any lingering doubts that a victim is, in any way, to blame if he/she is raped. It is not a question – a victim is not to blame for being raped.

This is a point that BBC Radio Bristol failed to pick up on when they tweeted about these new posters asking the question:

Well, Radio Bristol (and local radio’s obsessive compulsion to make everything into an interactive question)…no, a victim of rape is never to blame for being attacked. By even asking the question I think you have missed the key slogan of this campaign: There are no excuses for rape and the victim is never to blame. 

Remove the question mark BBC Radio Bristol. A rape victim is never to blame.

Follow the conversation on twitter #noexcusebristol

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