Thought Of The Day

As I have mentioned over at the Sheffield Fems site, I remain infuriated by Carol Thatcher. First for being racist, then for not apologising, then for taking the opportunity to really rub our noses in her racism. However, I suspect I have not conveyed this as well as I could have done. Therefore, anybody wishing to read a more coherent take on why Carol Thatcher is obnoxious should go to visit Mar at The Mongoose Chronicles. Fly, my pretties!


Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children And Their Working Mothers…

There are some things that really make me appreciate having a feminist partner. Like his now well-developed habit of turning to me, deadpan, and exclaiming “OMG! Shoez!”. And, more specifically for this post, his habit of telling me when something particularly bizarre has made it into his personal radar. Like this story.

J: Have you seen the news story about how working mothers are destroying children?

Me: Um.. no, I’ve been watching snow all day.

J: It was on TV earlier and I just wanted to stand up and shout “WHAT?!!!”. *pause* Well, actually, I did shout “WHAT?!!!”. I just didn’t stand up.

So, in honour of the story meriting standing up to shout, I thought I’d dissect it a little.

First off, the full report can be found here. I started looking at it thinking that the BBC had cherry-picked the most news-worthy snippets. And, in a way, they have. Most of the report summaries seemed sensible and reasonable in content, and for six out of the seven categories (friends, lifestyle, values, schooling, mental health and inequalities) there was little to object to. Perhaps a seemingly spurious statistic in the friends category – that “for women [the age at which they had their first sexual experience] dropped from 21 in 1953 to 16 in 1998” – could have been omitted, or at least balanced with the corresponding statistic for men, but otherwise, I saw nothing that really bothered me.

But then comes the summary on family.

Frankly, compared with the other summaries, I found it to be poorly written, and nowhere near as coherent. A condensed version of each paragraph of the main summary could be:

  • More women with babies of 9-12 months work outside the home, compared to 25 years ago.
  • Women’s economic independence has led to a higher rate of divorce/ separation.
  • “Children, whose parents separate are 50% more likely to fail at school, suffer behavioural difficulties, anxiety or depression.”
  • Parents should not stay together if the conflict between them is bad; but children are less likely to be aggressive/ depressed “the more they see their separated father”
  • “it is a real worry that in Britain around 28% of all children whose parents have separated have no contact with their fathers three years after separation”
  • *statistics on the prevalance of parental separation*
  • “So to reduce the level of conflict in family life, parents must give more priority to their relationship. This would do more for children than anything else.”

Got that?

Women with money = more divorce = more depressed children and therefore “parents must give priority to their relationship”. Even though “parents should not stay together if the conflict between them is bad”.

The whole thing is just bizarre. Especially since in the long version of the family report, they cite statistics from Refuge that say that half of all cases of domestic violence occur in households with children. What they don’t mention is the statistics that then say that “in over 50% of known domestic violence cases, children were also directly abused”. It is not inconceivable, then, to assume that at least some of that 28% of children without contact with their fathers have very, very good reasons for it. It would be pretty strange for a woman to extricate herself and her children from an abusive relationship, only to then voluntarily allow that man contact with the children. And, similarly, is it not reasonable that those children who have been abused by their fathers, and are not in contact with them, might indeed be more likely to display symptoms of depression?

I am not impressed.

I’m not impressed with the BBC for deliberately sensationalising a report that was, in general, very good. And I’m not impressed with the report itself, for giving the BBC the opportunity. And what’s really depressing is that, while the BBC have picked up on it, the Daily Mail haven’t. I’d have staked a fortune on it being the other way round.

Blog For Choice

Well, it’s that time of year again. We in England can ignore the specific date (it’s the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, which is of course American) but if it’s still something you believe in, why not blog about it? And why not blog about it, if you’re going to, when many other people will also be blogging about it. Perhaps studies will be conducted on this kind of thing one day. Who knows?

On the subject of abortion, what can I say that I haven’t already said eleventy billion times before?

I think this year, I’m going to go with short and sour. If you are anti-abortion*, and actually believe that simply by making abortions illegal you will stop them happening, you live in a delusional little dreamworld that I want no part of.

For those people who are a little more pragmatic and reasonable in their outlook for all things sexual, I can think of a few sites, off the top of my head, that might come in handy. Abortion Rights works to improve the current UK abortion law for women, and their links are well worth taking a look at. For more general or advice-based services, Brook (for under-25s), Scarleteen (online only, mostly geared towards young adults – but this post on rape is something everybody should read) and FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) are all helpful.

*I’ll be damned if I’ll call them “pro-life” when I can see no respect for the lives of women in their arguments. Of course, they’d say that I’m damned already.

Oscar Grant

I’ve said what I have to say about the murder of Oscar Grant elsewhere, but here is the story, and here and here is what it reminds me of, and here
is what Americans can do, and if you’re not American, please publicise the story.

Quote of The Night

Ok, so I do have other stuff I want to write about, but seriously, make time to watch this video of little American kids saying who they’d vote for.

And Quote Of The Night?

You know why I didn’t vote for McCain?…. Because… Sarah Palin hunts moose.

H/T to Feministing 🙂

Why Don’t You Care…?

Since I’ve moved up to Sheffield, I’ve been doing the meet-and-greet thing a hell of a lot. So I’ve started to get questions that either I’ve never had to deal with before, or that I just haven’t heard in years.
And what I’ve noticed is that they all follow the same pattern – “why don’t you care….. ?”
So, there’s been:

…. that your legs are hairy, and don’t you know that’s disgusting?
…. about God?
…. about makeup?
…. that you’re not going out all the time?
….that not every parent is letting their daughter have the HPV vaccine?

Doesn’t it say a lot, though, that the one that generated the most acrimony was the first one?
Seriously, the looks of horror were almost frightening. But, you know what? I don’t care because it doesn’t matter!

– It doesn’t matter that my legs are hairy, precisely because I don’t mind. I don’t feel any less for having hair where it’s perfectly normal to have hair. Actually, I’ve got quite competitive, and was disappointed to realise that my leg hair is never going to be as long as J’s.
One of my answers to the question was “I decided that I wouldn’t shave my legs for as long as J didn’t shave his. He can’t be bothered, so I haven’t.”
Predictably enough, this generated a huge chasm of double-think, that I was simply unable to bridge. “But… but… he’s a man – it doesn’t matter for him!”. Exactly. It doesn’t matter for him. His leg hair doesn’t repulse anybody. Why should mine?

– Let’s just not get started on God. I don’t care, because the presence or absence of God doesn’t get me up in the mornings. I’ve got a life to live.

– The makeup’s a difficult one. In a way, I suppose it comes back to the leg hair double-think. It doesn’t matter for him; why should it matter for me?
More practically, I don’t care about makeup because I’d rather spend the money on food, or soap, or books. I don’t care about makeup because I’d rather have an extra cup of tea in the morning than try to cover my face in chemicals. And I don’t care about makeup because I was lucky enough to never really start using it. If I had started, maybe I’d’ve carried on. But it seems a bit silly to start now, after the spotty-teenager phase.

-The HPV vaccine thing?
(Be warned, I’m going to get cross. And I’m going to talk. A lot.)

Ok, first off, it doesn’t prevent all cervical cancer. I’ll say it again.
The HPV vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancer.
Moreover, not all people who have HPV have it develop into cancer.
There is a risk that HPV will lead to cervical cancer. A risk is not a certainty.

Any vaccine carries some health risks with it. Therefore, the decision to have a vaccine requires a weighing-up of those risks. It may be that there are very few risks, or that they will only be minor risks. But jamming a needle into your flesh and injecting yourself with a vaccination will always carry some risk, even if it’s just that you might get a localised infection. Or a numb arm.

My Statistics lecturer would love me for this – I’ve just been to the Office of National Statistics website to see what I could drum up.
Let me say now that I’m not any kind of decent statistician, yet. I couldn’t conduct a proper research survey alone, and I didn’t understand all of the terms used in the statistics I found. But I have had some training, which is better than none.

And what I’ve found actually isn’t very hard to understand.
The most recent statistics for mortality rates of cancer in the UK are from the period 2002 – 2004, with averages taken over these three years.

For women, cervical cancer is 13th on the list of common cancers. This actually isn’t very common.

A quick look at lung cancer (the most common cancer for both men and women) shows that:
In the time period 2002 – 2004, an average of 15,355 women were diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and 13,505 died.

Compare this with cervical cancer:
In the time period 2002 – 2004, an average of 2,784 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 1,106 died.

Which means that I, as a woman, am over ten times more likely to die from lung cancer than I am to die from cervical cancer.

Or, put another way, in a population of 1,000,000, 28 women will die from cervical cancer each year.

Frankly, I like those odds. They are not large. They’re not zero, and clearly some women do die from cervical cancer, but, you know, if I don’t want to die from cancer, I’d be better off (according to the statistics at least) by making sure that I don’t smoke and check my breasts regularly. Oh, and by not being genetically predisposed to developing cancer. That would help.

So if some parents don’t want their daughters to have this vaccine, I’m actually not too worried.
At least, I’m not worried about this as a stand-alone statement.

I am worried if the reasoning behind it is “… because then my daughter will be a promiscuous slut and God will hate her”. This is quite clearly nonsense, and I’m not one for having choices taken away from women in general. Especially not because of the great Bearded One in the sky.

But if the reasoning behind it is, “I’ve explained to my daughter what the risks are, and asked her whether she wants the vaccine, and she’s said no” then no, I don’t mind.
I especially don’t mind if they also point out that if she wants to change her mind about it, it would be best to do so before she becomes sexually active.

I wish people actually looked at statistics once in a while. They might be shocked at what cheap tricks the media pulls when they use statistics as soundbites.

Oh – and have links:
Statistics all taken from here.
If you really want to get specific, try this.
Useful information on the HPV vaccine is here.
A discussion of when parents are God-bothering to the extent of not giving their daughters any kind of choice, here.

On A Different Note

Although Fannie has got this story covered (she also promises a follow-up post), I couldn’t help noticing this quote:

The plaintiffs contended that this state’s statutes contravene
the state constitutional prohibition against sex discrimination
because those statutes preclude a woman from
doing what a man may do, namely, marry a woman,
and preclude a man from doing what a woman may do,
namely, marry a man.

Now, that is quite a cool and groovy argument, I feel.