Saturday, August 29, 2009

Flex Your Muscles

What!!! The Krypton Factor!!

Since the show began in the 1977, there has been only one female winner out of a possible twenty. We had seven female contestants in the last series, none of which got through to the final. This series we would like an equal mix of men and women and it would be fantastic to have a woman in the final, or even better a woman to bear the title of Krypton Factor Champion 2010.

Last year The Krypton Factor returned in style for the 21st Century. Now
it’s your turn to prove you have the mental and physical abilities needed to become…

Krypton Factor Champion 2010!

If you have super-quick mental prowess, outstanding general knowledge and the physical strength and speed to surpass all others - this is the challenge for you.

We are looking for smart, athletic individuals to compete in the next series of The Krypton Factor,
presented by Ben Shephard.

Auditions will be held in September across the UK.

If you can prove you can apply the skills needed to win please visit:

Applicants must be 18 or over and a current legal resident of the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions apply.

Deadline for applications is 17:00 on 16th September 2009

Off you go then, you powerful athletic bunch you!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

And the winner is...

As reported here boys this year overtook girls in maths GCSE. Why? Because of the eradication of the coursework and it being purely assessed now by exams; which, we are told, boys do better at. We are told "Coursework will be scrapped from nearly all GCSEs next year". I'm sorry but should we be rejoicing at this removal of coursework in future GCSEs because it means boys can statistically get ahead?

In The Guardian write-up, Mary Bousted (general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers) is quoted as saying:

The problem has been that in the 1960s and 1970s boys were getting 12-13% more O-level passes than girls and no one really talked about it. When girls started to do better there were Panorama programmes and inquiries and a national debate. There's a national panic if girls and women start to be successful. Girls have been more successful at GCSE and A-levels but that hasn't closed the gender pay gap. Even if they do better they don't get paid as much.

This is exactly the points I have stressed again and again in any writing on the gender gap in education - firstly this completely unjustified panic over girls 'doing better' than the boys and secondly the fact that despite what the qualification statistics show, better attainment at GCSE/A-Level does not equate with the better pay. Why can't female students be seen as 'doing better'? And why this stress on the "gender gap"? What about differences according to ethnicity or socio-economic background? Because I'm sure as hell that it's not every girl 'doing better' - what about those who aren't?

Teacher training courses emphasis the importance of differentiation and using a variety of techniques for learning and assessment in our lessons because no-one learns the same. We are told that coursework is becoming a problem because of plagiarism but then is that really a reason to remove what is potentially an effective assessment method for a large number of female students (if indeed we take the slightly deterministic argument that coursework benefits girls, exams boys)? Isn't reliance of assessment through exams not differentiating?

A side thought (not properly investigated or backed): I think it's telling that coursework is being removed at the educational stages where firstly girls are 'doing better' and secondly where girls and boys are present in proportional figures to the population when, for instance, no-one would dare suggest the removal of essays (or even dissertations!) at undergraduate level. It would be interesting to see whether such gendered patterns are present at this educational stage and the ratio of female to male undergraduates.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The Personal vs The Political

...feminism should be focused on real change and helping women. I've seen so much written this year about the dilemma of being a feminist who wants to get married that I don't think I can take it any more From We Mixed Our Drinks

Blog post prompted by the above over at femmedium


100 years of Girl Guides


This year is the centenary of the Girl Guides. I was a Brownie but never made it as far as the Girl Guides (the association seemed at odds with my increasing desire to become a rock star). I did love being a Brownie though and I think part of this was because it challenged preconceptions of what it meant to be a 'little girl'. At times yes, we indulged in activities and chores deemed female but there was a balance as we also were encouraged to take part in things that perhaps in our homes, or at school, would be seen as boyish (such as orienteering, camping, climbing trees). Brownies went well with my Enid Blyton world I guess, my nostalgic side sighs at the moves to modernise the association.

Where you a Brownie or Girl Guide? What are your thoughts?


For more on the Girls Guides Centenary see here.

Recent newspaper coverage at:
The Daily Express
The Guardian
The Independent
The Telegraph

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Round-up !

Some bits and pieces that have been going on..

Despite the right to vote, how much say in their future will the women of Afghanistan actually get? Women's eNews

Things to know about the history of UK immigration laws The F Word

Let's join the rest of the femisphere in saying, What the Fuck Germaine? Regarding the unfair and offensive gender testing of Gold Medal Winning athlete, Caster Semenya The Guardian

Pink Stinks goes live, sign up for their newsletter.

It's all about women, the gender agenda, Hilary's quest and much much more at The NYTimes magazine this week.

Research from the University of Exeter revealed that firms with female board members are negatively viewed by shareholders. Women in Technology


Harvest Festival, the Queer Chub way.

My favourite namesake, Charlotte Cooper - queer fat researcher, writer, thinker, doer etc, has set up a new blog and twitter account to provide up to date information on the queer chub harvest festival, Fat of the Land.

The Fat of the Land is a secular DIY fat queerifying of a traditional harvest gathering. These are a familiar part of the calendar for those of us who grew up in Britain, but we acknowledge that many cultures have their own harvest festival equivalent and we welcome multicultural interpretations of the theme.

The Fat of the Land is a DIY food festival, synthesizing interest in slow food, recession-busting, local food, 'make-and-do' etc with a fat queer sensibility.

The Fat of the Land will take place, Saturday 3 October 2009 at St Anne's, 55 Dean Street, Soho, London. Keep up to date, informed and get ready to celebrate.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Croatia Condemned by European Social Rights Body for Homophobic School Text Books

I couldn't pass this over when it dropped in my email box this week.

the European Committee of Social Rights, which monitors state compliance with the European Social Charter, has found that Croatia’s limited curriculum covering sex education discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

I know! It stings.

The complaint alleged that one of the country’s state-sponsored sex education programs TeenStar violated young people’s basic rights to health and non-discrimination. TeenStar’s abstinence-based curriculum teaches that condoms do not prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, that gay relationships are “deviant,” and that stay-at-home mothers make for better families. The complaint also addressed the lack of a comprehensive mandatory sexuality education curriculum, as required by Article 11 of the European Social Charter.

But, in good news.

In its decision, the Committee stated that governments that have signed the European Social Charter are obliged to provide scientifically-based and non-discriminatory sex education to youth that does not involve censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting information such as on contraception. The Committee recommended that such education be provided throughout the entire period of schooling. It stated that sexual and reproductive health education should be aimed at developing the capacity of children and young people to understand their sexuality in its biological and cultural dimensions with the aim of enabling them to make responsible decisions with regard to sexual and reproductive health behavior.

And that, is the day today.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How gender stereotypes hurt men

It's only a minor irk, but an irk none-the-less.

While traipsing through the Times website I came across two stories about men, one was featured in the women's section and the other firmly placed in the mens.

The first article, Same sex adoption: our new life as Dad and Daddy, is just a really wonderful article written by one of said Dad's. The article follows their adapting to life with a new, it bursts with love and pride and all these good things. But it's in the women's section. A story about two men, about fatherhood, is deemed of no interest to men? Or is it simply that a story about families is of better interest to a female readership? It just seems like a missed trick to show the diversity of men, that it's not all cars, sport, fashion...

The second article, We Can't Help Staring!, is not only total gender stereotyped drivel that hopes to firmly place men in their place as misogynist, idiot sex droids, but is illustrated with the ill-famed image of Obama supposedly checking out a young ladies arse... which, you know, he wasn't

It would seem the Times are pretty sure how they want their men, and that is entirely tied up in tired old stereotypes that forge the tired old idea of women, the occasional nags who should know how to please all men or suffer lonliness and ridicule.


Lets talk about sex Lon-don

The London Assembly have released a draft report looking at the sexual health of London's young people. Despite their efforts, changes in services and the way they work, London's teens still appear to have the worst access to effective sexual health information and education.

The paper was drafted by a committee of 6 politicians, including the BNP (balk) and only featuring one woman. It is an update from a paper in 2005, and unfortunately there haven't been any great sweeping changes.

The report early on points to "negative gender stereotypes, insufficient sex and
relationship education in schools, a lack of local prioritisation
and a lack of regional leadership on the issue of young people’s
sexual health.
" as barriers in improvement of teenage sexual health in London. And goes on to recommend sexual health media campaigns and social marketing to combat these.

They also champion some kind of city wide leadership with "a senior London health professional should be appointed as a champion on sexual health and teenage pregnancy.
They should highlight good practice and encourage its implementation across London;

Ever more interesting though, amongst the stats for rising and falling rates of infection, pregnancy and what not, is the look to the media for their need to take a more responsible stance on sexuality and sexual images.

Public health experts told us they are concerned about the way the media use sex and sexual relations for commercial purposes without consideration of how young people can be supported to make what can be life-changing choices.

We heard that negative attitudes towards women, such as those represented in some music video clips and the media, influence the way young people interact in relationships including their sexual ones.37 These gender inequalities impact on young
people’s ability to negotiate safe sex and respect within relationships.

At the same time, the NHS could use the media more effectively when conducting sexual health campaigns, as the wide range of messages being sent out can be confusing.

The report winds up with specific recommendations-

The Committee makes specific recommendations to address the barriers to improving young people's sexual health in London:

* Sex and relationship education should be a core component of the soon-to-be
mandatory personal, social and health education curriculum
* Pan-London branding and improved sharing of good practice and joint working for
the chlamydia screening programme and sexual health media campaigns.
* The Mayor's forthcoming Health Inequalities Strategy should include measures to
improve young Londoners' sexual health and reduce rates of teenage pregnancy.
* A sexual health champion should be appointed to encourage the implementation of
good practice across the capital.

Read More Here


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Harriet Harm Done

Ain't linguistics a bitch?

Had the Daily Mail not carved up one statement from Harriet Harman this week I feel that many peoples shackles would not be up. They'd be on team, we'd all be on team calling out the bullshit misogyny and derailing of her work that is happening so crazy blatantly.

Yes by forcibly making your readers/listeners/watchers believes a handful of words meant Harriet hated men, didn't trust them, thought them two dimensional sexist stereotypes, you can entirely overlook the fact that men can't be left to run everything alone, not because they're inept, though I'm sure some are, but because looking passed gender privilege does not come naturally.

In one week Harriet has shown what could be done if parliament thought it important, if men felt more ready to champion causes that don't directly effect their everyday thoughts and so on and so forth.

This has been covered fabulously and not all over the interweb and news things, roll around in it, have some fun.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Less Airbrushing, more reality

A short one...

Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrat's proposals for improving the media's portrayl of women at Comment is Free.


Lessons on Forming Nonviolent Relationships Really As Easy As ABC?

Today’s The Daily Mail reported on Harriet Harman’s initiative to tackle domestic violence through compulsory lessons on forming healthy relationships for children five and upwards. Before I explain my views on Harman’s proposals, I just want to comment briefly on the presentation of this news by The Daily Mail. The author of this piece seems to me intent on criticizing, and rallying criticism for, the initiative from the word go – the headline line alone begins Lessons about wife-beating at five which to me would suggest the article is going to be about something advocating wife-beating to children, immediately conjuring your distaste, instead of action to combat domestic violence. Secondly, again featured in the headline before even getting to the report, is the use of the expression yet another feminist initiative. ‘Yet another’ suggests disdain at the proposals from Harman and indeed any action in initiated by feminist beliefs. To actually label an initiative as ‘feminist’ suggests to me that people straight away are going to look disapprovingly on the idea because of the negative connotations of feminist/feminism. And the majority of the comments on the web-site with regards to this piece follow suit. So congratulations TDM firstly on the sensitive presentation of such a piece…

Onto Harman’s initiative and the body of the article itself…I can immediately see benefits and problems to this. When TDM reports that

Pupils as young as five will be taught about the evils of 'wife beating' and the need to form healthy relationships. The lessons are part of a controversial drive, unveiled today, to reduce violence against women and young girls. They will include teaching boys that they must not beat their partners or any other female.

I think hey! This doesn’t sound so bad! What is there not to like about a) teaching children about forming healthy relationships and b) reducing violence against women and young girls. Slightly off-putting the way it is deemed a controversial drive (because the notion of combating violence against women/young girls is way out there with, I don’t know, outlawing McDonald’s…) but so far looking good.

Last night, critics warned that ministers are cramming the already over-stuffed National Curriculum with lessons that should be taught in the home or in the community.

This has been an ongoing battle with PSHE. A colleague of mine, when speaking of the subject, would call it “PSHE…or things your parents should be teaching you”. In all honesty, yes it is things you should be taught at home/in the community as an important part of your growing-up but the argument is that this isn’t always being done. PSHE evolved from the early notions that education should be producing ‘good’ citizens socialized into the shared norms and values of our society (so New Right) and so of course when it was deemed that the family was not doing their part (government would cite rising statistics of single mothers/offenders as their proof for this) then the education system should pick up where the parents left off (or even out). I acknowledge that, yes, PSHE is largely what you should be taught at home/in the community (and which a number of us still are taught there) but that until we can ensure this is being done, the education system does appear the only means of attempting to ensure such teaching.

Putting it into practice further, the idea becomes less appealing:

The lessons will be part of the National Curriculum and are likely to be taught in Personal, Social and Health Education classes, which are attended by children from the age of five. Teachers will also be given new guidance on tackling 'gender bullying'.

Now I am not particularly convinced that firstly this would work in practice and secondly that it would have the desired effect. My first concern comes from my experience of teaching PSHE in Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14 approximately) which has demonstrated that the learners, on the whole, dislike the subject. It is not deemed academic; it is not an option which they pick for GCSE; it is not formally assessed as such – all these things contribute to learners not seeing any potential value to the subject (again, on the whole, as there are always a handful who put in the effort/work regardless). So my concern is that this may work in practice for a small minority, but not for the larger majority. Factor into this the impact the introduction of such lessons/curriculum has on teachers, and the education establishment as a whole. An added concern here is how such a sensitive issue would be approached. A year or so ago OCR removed the topic of Child Abuse from their AS-level Sociology course because of the implications of teaching such a sensitive topic and possible impact on learners. Wouldn't this warrant similar concerns?

The most eye-catching proposal in the document is the one to force schools to introduce statutory lessons in 'educating children and young people about healthy, nonviolent relationships'.

I love the idea of children and young people learning about healthy, nonviolent relationships but here we come to how I don’t think such lessons would have the desired effect. Making children and young people aware of violence against women may have positive aspects but as these lessons will not cover violence against men then I believe such lessons will run the risk of further instilling gender differences in young girls and boys. By acknowledging only violence against women and valuing this above violence against men, I believe we would only be purporting that violence against women is justified. If as young children we are brought into a discourse of violence against women I think this could potentially be internalized and acknowledged as we grow older that such violence happens against women, and not men, because of something fundamentally different in them. And though I am not saying this will mean the next generation committing violence against women as a result, I think this will result in further justification of women’s inferior position and treatment.

They pointed out the new classes will not cover violence against men, who are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime. This is despite evidence showing that boys and young men are more than twice as likely to fall victim to violence, and that young women are becoming increasingly aggressive.

I do agree with the criticism of the initiative not covering violence against men. Not because they are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime but firstly because of the argument I have expressed above and secondly because I think the commonly held assumption of, say, domestic violence as violence against women by men needs to be addressed. This is not going to be addressed by navigating away from discussion of violence against men in lessons focusing on healthy, nonviolent relationships. This then suggests that such violence is not important. Not only is domestic violence underreported by women, it is underreported by men who have been victims. Surely keeping the discussion of violence against men behind closed doors is not helping to correct such misrepresentation?


End Note: I am aware that I have focused my line of thought predominantly on domestic violence and it is slightly presumptuous (and hypocritical) of myself to have done so when talking about an initiative combating ‘violence against women’ (which was not expressed as merely domestic violence) and criticizing others for their assumptions on the same issue.

Live debate: when did feminism lose the plot?

Point A. When you posit a question like 'when did feminism lose the plot?' what you're saying it 'feminism has lost the plot' but you should be saying is 'when did the mainstream media co-opt feminism as a buzz word for anything with tits?"

The Alpha Mummy blog are holding a live chat to debate "When did Feminism lose the plot" If you can remove your head from the desk for just one second I hope you'll head over there to represent the good feminist word. We don't just congregate with Object. We're everywhere, thinking feminist thoughts, changing our lives and the lives of others in lovely good ways.

Considering at least one of the comments on the companion piece by Janice Turner there could be some of the patriarchy crying about how equality for women will ruin their shiny world.

Wednesday (today!) 1pm at the Times Website.

Off you go then...


Tuesday, August 4, 2009


So. I'm not in the country at the moment (sorry, should have asked you to sit down first!) but I have sparked a little interest in something on the BBC and I was wondering if anyone had seen it, or who might watch on the iPlayer and let us all know if it's any whack.

The Trouble With Girls

Britain's young women are committing nearly 40 per cent more crimes than six years ago, and they're beginning to catch up with boys in the violence and theft rates. Filmed over six months, this observational documentary tells the stories of two of the young women behind these statistics, whose lives are stuck in the criminal justice system.

20-year-old Shona from Doncaster and 17-year-old Abbie from York have both been arrested dozens of times and imprisoned three times each. We meet them as Shona is coming to the end of her probation period, and when Abbie is released from a Young Offenders' Institute and moves into a hostel. Both girls want to go straight and sort their lives out, but it's not as easy as either hope. Abbie's drinking and partying lifestyle means that within days of her release she's breaching her electronic tag order and missing appointments with her Youth Offending Team. Shona, briefly free of the criminal justice system, is soon shoplifting again with her best friend Jodie.

Over the months, it becomes clear that binge-drinking and drug-taking, trips to court, and packing for prison have become a normal way of life for Shona and Abbie. Both are given second chances to turn their lives around and seem happier for it, but good intentions quickly unravel and the prospect of prison looms large again for these girls.

While Shona and Abbie may seem tough on the surface, between them they struggle to cope with difficult relationships with their parents, self-esteem, homelessness and the reality of job-hunting with a criminal past. Sometimes they wonder whether life in prison is a preferable option to life on the outside


Breast of Both Worlds?

When the first story based around the bare breasted backlash in France I grimaced at the fact the once again feminist thought and action are being only reported if they’re based entirely around our female forms - do we want to wear high heels? is it ok to get plastic surgery? is it feminist to sunbathe topless? Of course, the Guardian subsequently published stories, for and against the next day and launched an online flip book of iconic sunbathing images and an audio file.

By the end of that long week I had shrugged off my concerns with this topic when a story appeared on the BBC, and then not far behind it was covered on Women's Hour.

So, seeing as the breast story monster is chasing me I just want to mention some problematic factors with discussing baring breasts as ownership of your sexuality when breasts are sold as sexuality by every media outlet, every advertiser, every film pornographic or not. And when you start talking about tits being political where do we put breast feeding into the equation? The bare breast in the infants mouth for some reason sends the nut jobs all the more nuttier and they express repulsion and feel intent on shaming women who are doing something natural.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Moral Lesson from the Daily Mail : You whores will probably get what's coming to you

The Daily Mail is a newspaper that can only be described as offensive to the feminist sensibilities, it is an odious rag that peddles dirty gender stereotypes, xenaphobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogony. But, it is a dirty rag that a lot of people read and in the process of doing so subconsciously learn to parrot and defend the confusing and conflicting beliefs that come from the vile pens of people who write and edit it - and so we have to engage with it to some extent, to deconstruct the copy, riddled as it is with contradictions, so we can disarm it, or bring light to its problematic form.

I drift on and off the Daily Mail in my daily scour for news and occasionally I manage to get passed glimpsing the images and headlines and read one of the articles, today I read a story about a young woman called Amy Barnes who was murdered by a violent boyfriend she had tried to leave. The story is of course heartbreaking and a stark reminder that domestic violence, and violence against women is endemic in our world, but it is written in an insulting way.

The Headline : Killed by a tawdry dream: How the obsession to become a WAG led this beautiful girl into the arms of a violent psychopath

And so, the problems begin.

The DM roll out a list of Amy’s achievements they approve of, good grades, good school and then sneak in a disapproving look at her lifestyle of hanging around footballers, posing provocatively in hot outfits under the guise of backstory. It reads like the Daily Mail perhaps believe that if Amy had worked harder at being a voiceless woman, without sexuality, who stayed on at school and worked hard to reach their standards of normal and good she would still be alive.

killed by a man who - had she not been sucked into the tawdry world of nightclubs and footballers - she would probably have never met.

The Daily Mail is one of many media outlets which champions the subservient women, and where possible - the naked sexually subservient women. It uses women, consuming and dominating and embodies the insanity of the madonna | whore complex; asking first for women to guard and conceal their sexuality but to offer it up on demand, oiled and slicked, when wanted or deemed necessary by men. They may be happy to snipe at WAG culture and ‘the tawdry world of nightclubs and footballers’ but these are the things the DM feels are worthy of coverage, these are the people interesting, cool, sexy people that they choose to feature and champion. It’s schizophrenic to say the very least.

We’re made extremely aware, by the opening picture and statements that despite what it may seem from the saucy images and opinions of Amy and her friends, that they feel are necessary to frame a story about domestic violence and murder, she is really a good girl so it's alright to feel sorry for her.

'Apart from anything else, she had a big heart. From an early age, she did voluntary work: helping at pensioners' tea parties at Christmas, teaching disadvantaged youngsters performing arts (Amy inherited her mother's artistic genes) and working at a disabled riding school.'

Safe in the assumption this white beautiful woman's life was worth savign, the Mail chooses to run Amy’s life through the ringers, posting pictures of her and her friends in sometimes revealing outfits posed in provocative positions, that no doubt have been learned from mainstream media outlets like the Daily Mail with their porn culture imagery. The turning point of the tone for me comes at the statement ‘Morrison, who we now know had a history of violence against women, had only one real selling point for a certain type of girl

A certain type of girl’ is not a phrase that readily offers a friendly reading, it is often coached with the sort of statements that confer slut shaming, and could easily be a set up to saying only certain girls are stupid enough to go out with violent boys... perhaps they’re getting what they deserve... but they don’t write that, just imply it.

They imply when they post then and now pictures of a innocent, desexualised young girl and a bottle blonde, glassy eyed sexy woman - where did it all go wrong, one would imagine they were thinking.

The article turns into a shame parade, a long passage of text describes in detail the poses and outfits these young women are wearing in group pictures, it is out of this world.

'A friend has posted a snap of Amy in a pink negligee, stockings and suspenders and 'bunny' ears.'

'Another shows Amy in a top with the word 'Sex' emblazoned across it'

'The 'picture' shows the friends baring their cleavage at a promotion by lads' magazine Nuts.'

'Heather Stretch, wears black bra and panties and stilettos.'

I suppose the editors can’t decide if the readership should be furious or just furiously wanking. The nature of the beast; raunch culture as peddled by those pretending to live some higher moral code of old fashioned proper behaviour.

You can dress it up however you want, the Daily Mail is standing in judgement of all women, along with Amy Barnes, they're not reporting about domestic violence and the loss of women's lives this is a moral lesson for the readers: this is what will happen if you don’t do what we think is proper personal conduct. And while they punish women in print for what they praise in pictures they continue to uphold stringent, suffocating parodies for women to exist in.

The Daily Mail need to get a clue, fuck them for victim blaming, for undermining the lives of women lost to domestic violence, for judging women on lifestyles they've peddled on their pages.

So what is it that turns bright, respectable young girls into women who like to be photographed in a few scraps of clothing, and for whom some half-witted footballer is the ultimate prize?

Fuck me, it’s not the mainstream media is it?


V is for Voicebox

Voicebox is a new (to me, at least) site collating data on youth and young peoples opinions.

Each month, we’ll have new themes, and you’ll be able to play with the results by age, gender, location and ethnicity. And remember, this isn’t our data, this is your data. So we are inviting people to use our data and do fancy things like cross-tabbing, create their own visualisations, pick out random statistics for the community or get campaigning.

It's a great place to get a peak at what people are thinking, there's some telling stuff about opinions on teenage mums already, and it would be nice to see the data used as a starting point for debate and conversations with the age group the site is targeting. Their sample is great, around 2000 so far, and growing and the data is presented in quite beautiful ways.