Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Science and science journalism

I was formulating a reply to an f-word article the other day and it turned into an epic so I'm going to post about it here instead.

I want to talk about the difference between science and science journalism.

The thing is, I keep seeing this time and time again on feminist blogs. Someone will read an article in a paper with a ridiculous title and then go to their blog and rant about science and how horribly sexist science is. Now, I'm not saying you can't criticise science, far from it, what I'm saying is that you can't criticise a piece of science based on how it's reported in the media. If you want to complain about science, go read the paper.

See, the thing about science journalism is that it's not always very good, and the actual scientists themselves often have very little input into it. Sure, the primary research might be based on unsafe assumptions, or whatever, but you can't tell that by reading a piece of journalism on the paper. The reporting is only as good as the person who wrote the article, and there's no guarantee they know what they're talking about.

There are many ways in which we can criticise science journalism. We can criticise their understanding of the science, their selection of the science they write about, their reliance on a small range of journals, their fascination when it comes to evolutionary psychology with saying any difference which we think might have an evolutionary basis is morally green lighted and that people who engage in that behaviour in the wider context can't be held responsible for it. None of that is stuff the scientists behind the work have any control over.

Maybe the odds that the primary research was less sexist are low, but they're still there, and unless you've read that research you can't say for sure. You can't criticise science unless you've see the science, criticising the journalism is something else entirely.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Transphobia is never ok

Sup. It's been ages since posting here, I've been busy with my pesky first year report. This PhD thing is quite hard, isn't it? XD

Anyway, I want to make a post. I have a point! Today, when I checked my feed, I came across a post on Bitch PhD which contained a transphobic 'joke'. In the comments, the poster said that she KNEW the joke was openly offensive and she wasn't interested, she'd made it anyway because she wanted to.

I have to say, I think that's utterly awful. It reeks of privilege. I was glad to see so many people jumping on it in the comments, though the number of complaints that were "that joke is old" rather then "that isn't a joke, it's blatantly offensive" was a little disheartening.

Jokes about how disgusting transpeoples bodies are should never be acceptable, because transpeople do not have disgusting bodies, and if you think they do you probably need to check your privilege.

Standing up to these jokes in a public forum is hard, and I can forgive people for not doing that, but actively perpetuating them on their own blog? No.

That is all. Back to the report.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

And today I overheard...

So, this morning I was walking to work and caught a snippet of conversation from behind me. In a male voice talking about an image where a woman was bent over a table. I was like, "Oh shit, what ass-hattery today?". He's describing this image in detail and I'm trying to walk faster to get out of hearing range, then he says "And it was totally demeaning to the women". His friend says "Yeah, it's disghusting". Guy one again "You couldn't even see her face, it was awful. And then there's the advert where..."

Two young men walking down the street discussing a range of adverts in a feminist light.

It kinda made my day.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

What we teach fat children.

So, after work I went into the canteen/cafe on campus for my dinner. I bought my meal and sat down at one of the comfy tables, intending to eat my dinner and read a little before I headed to anime society. Unfortunatley, where I was sat, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation of the two women on the table next to me. One of the women was remenissing to the other, talking about a girl she knew in high school.

You see, this girl she knew in high school was fat. This was horrible, horrible and disghusting. She was the worst person in the world, in the eyes of the narator. She was fat, and she wasn't trying to loose weight. Anecdotes recalled include that this girl used to drink high-sugar drinks other then when she was directly engaging in physical exercise so the sports teacher had to tell her to stop (that stupid fatty didn't know what was good for her). When they had a fitness day, this girl didn't even want to share all her details for public disection, because she knew she was fat. This girl dared to admit to eating pizza instead of piles of veg for every meal, how disghusting. This girl talked to the boys, which was stupid because anyone could see because she was so fat and disghusting they wouldn't be interested in her. The narator wasn't shallow, or a bitch, because if this disghusting fat girl had a pretty face, it would have been ok. If she'd just been chubby, like the narator and her friends, that would be fine, but she wasn't. She was fat. And, furthermore, this girl didn't just sit back and accept that she should be bullied and tormented because she was fat but complained about the people calling her fat, that bitch.

So I sat there through this story, there with my dish in front of me, and I know that in high school I was that girl. The disghusting fat girl. THAT is why I believe my own body is so disghusting to other people that they'll be repulsed by it, because for the longest time it was. I know the narator. Not her, of course, but others like her. I know Paula, who stopped talking to me when I was 10 because she didn't want a fat friend. I know Stew who called me fat. I still remember getting taunted when I tried to be in the school play, people yelling at my across the hall to be careful to not break the stage.

What those people did to that girl, what those people did to me, that's never acceptable. It hurt me in ways I don't even understand some days. It hurt me in ways which, 13 years and 200 miles later, will cause me when listening to these women to be back in those days. To be that awkward teenage girl in my school uniform trying to hide behind the desk, knowing I'll never be accepted. It can still acuse me to sit there, staring at my pea soup, not knowing if I want to cry or throw up, but too scared to move. I sat there, forcing my food down as quickly as I could, even though I felt physically ill from listening to them, because I couldn't afford to throw the food away, couldn't manage to move, and just wanted it over as soon as possible.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to stand up and look at that women and tell her she was the worst kind of human being. I wanted to make her understand, to understand what it is to have no friends. To understand what it is to have everyone hate you for your body, to hate your own body every day. I want to tell that what it is to be told by the media, by the goverment, by your family, by people on the street, how easy it is to change when you can't. To be told that you're how you are because you're lazy and worthless.

Lazy, worthless and disghusting.

But I didn't. I could already see the scorn in their eyes, hear the retorts on their lips. I'm still just that horribly worthless lazy disghusting fatty to them, and I always will be.

I don't want one more kid to grow up to be me, but we're busy raising yet another generation who, in 13 years, are going to be eating their dinner, overhear these conversation, and realise that there's something damaged in them, under the surface but never quite healed, a hatred of their own body based on what society thinks about their weight.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A collection of anger

The BBC's pissing me of today. To start with, they use an image of a woman of colour eating a piece of fried chicken linked ot an article about KFC creating new jobs. Because, you know, fried chicken is what them black folks eat, lol. Though I suppose I should give them props for having an image of a woman actually putting food in her mouth without an overt statement about it being disghusting.

Then we get this - Uk to shift anti-terror strategy. Seems that the goverment have decided the best way to comabt terrorists is to target anyone who is muslin and says islam isn't compatible with current western morals and call them unislamic. To start with, who on earth do the goverment think they have the right to say to a bunch of muslims who is and isn't muslim? Second, never know it was against the law to have a belief. Who are they going to take acton against yet? Anyone who expresses a communist or anti-capitalist sentiment. Anyone who criticises the modern status-quo and advocates moving away from it?

Will be writing to my MP about it once I get a reply to my last e-mail, a reasponse to a letter circulated in the local area blaming every problem in the local area on student tennants and advocating putting a limit on the number of houses in the area that could be let to students. Hello, students in an area aren't the problem.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

I have made a decision, I want to get fit. I'm not fit now, I pant when I walk up the stairs. This summer I'm going to an anime convention which involves camping, and will no doubt involve a lot of running around with water guns and other sillyness, and I don't want to be the person who has to go and sit out after ten minutes because they're not fit.

The problem I'm coming across is how much, in our society, we equate fit with thin.

I'm not trying to loose weight.

I mean, since I'm planning on changing my activity routine, it's only natural that my body will change too. I can already see the knowing looks from my mother. The approving nod from the doctor "Well, you still need to loose weight, but aren't you doing well". The "compliments", the comments. But I don't want any of that.

Then I'd like a support group. I'd like people I can chat to about ways to increase my activity level while having fun. Gyms are right out, to start with. I will be judged if I go and take a fitness class, not because I'm fat but because I'm "trying to get thin". They'll look at me and they won't think "Oh, she'd trying to get so she can run up the stairs at work and not loose her breath" but "Oh, good, she'd trying to loose the fat."

Well, I'm not. I am NOT trying to loose weight.

Then there's online communities, but they're all the same. I'm a stats nut so I'd love a site that let me put my fitness stats in every day and see how they change over time and chat to people about exercise and what's fun...but I can't because every site I've found that lets me do this comes coupled with weight loss. They want to know my pounds and inches and how thin I want to be and what I ate today. I can't join these sites as it's a small step from using it for the fitenss side to "I might as well put in my food too, just for me own records" to "Oh, but I already had x-calories today, I can't have that chocolate bar I'm craving" to "Oh, but I'm doing so well today, if I only skip dinner then I'll beat yesterday's score for my calories".

Aren't there any resources out there for fat-possitive girls who want to talk about dance classes and progress in feeling fitter with other people who don't give a shit about how much you weigh?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Atheist busses

Work is going a lot better now I've kicked myself up the ass. It's amazing what you can do if you get out of your chair and try.

Now, what I wanted to talk about, the atheist buses.

I live in England. The british humanist association ran a campaign at the end of last year for donations to get adverts on buses reading "There is probably no god, stop worrying and enjoy your life". Or something of the sort. These buses are now roaming the street creating all kinds of drama and censorship including other countries refusing to run the ads and a bus driver coming over all faint and refusing to drive the bus.

I love the atheist buses. I saw lots of them in town when I was there over the weekend and every single one brought a smile to my face. It's the acnowledgement that you exist, that the entire world isn't dominated by people who believe in a god. It's the feeling of having been part of something this big, this evident. It's the pride of not sitting back and being quiet but of having your opinions out there.

Though I did end up doing something I hate, which is debating religion with a strongly religious friend. See, I like to respect my friends, but debating religion is an easy way for me to loose respect for them. This particular friend, let's call them Bob, had already annoyed me by reading a page of comments for and against graduating in a cathederal, pointing out the one secular argument that refered to gods as an imaginary friend as dispicable and an attack on all christians and ignoring the three religious arguments on the page that openly attacked anyone who wanted a secular graduation. So, talking to Bob about religion is definetley a bad thing.

So the atheist buses came up. Bob doesn't like the message. Fair enough, you can't please everyone. Bob seems to think that the statement 'there is no probably no god' will cause everyone on the street to have a crisis of faith and therefore next telling them to stop worrying is strange. I presonally don't think it'll cause anyone a crisis of faith, it's a possitive message to non-believers and those who are already in a crisis of faith. Bob agrees with the bus driver, equating the statement to me refusing to drive a bus if it has, say, posters advocating violence against women (though i hardly thing "There's probably no god" and, say, "You should probably beat up your wife" are equatable). Bob also thinks that christianity isn't shoved in anyone's face, despite my evidence to the contrary.

Anyway, conversation moved on and I aired my complaints about the christian union at my undergrad university. My grievances, let me show them to you. The CU was everywhere. They had talks every week, covered the guild of students in posters, managed to get posters into every toilet I went into. They had advisers in the student halls and would occasionally stop people eating their dinner in the guild and try and talk to them about religion. It annoyed me. What annoyed me more was their targetting of vulnerable groups. I'm sorry but whatever your beliefe, going up to foreign students and first your students you find sitting alone (both of which the CU did) and offering them friendship and a support network on the basis that they come to your prayer meetings and worship your god is morally reprehensible. And bob defended these people. According to Bob, taking advantage of them when they're vulnerable to try and convert them to a different religion is fine because you're saving their immortal souls.

Bob then basically told me that worry about my immortal soul.

Well, you know what, screw you. Maybe, just maybe, my 'immortal soul' is nobody's buisness but my own. And, hell, maybe I'll end up being completely wrong and rotting in hell like bob thinks, but it's my 'soul' and therefore it's my choice to make. And, you know what, those poor kids without any friends or from different countries who's immortal souls you're so concerned about, they aren't your buisness either. You no more have the right to come up to me in the street and try and convince me to put my mortal soul in the hands of your diety then you do to come up to my in the street and try and talk me into, say, having liposuction for the good of my mortal body.

The only soul your need to worry about is your own. Keep your busy-body interfearing hands of mine.

If think if other people could just learn to let us know what's best for ourselves, body and soul, instead of being convinced they need to show us 'the right way', then the world would be a lot better place.

((As an afternote, I don't believe in a soul, but I have no secular alternative to the term to use and bob beleives I have one and it needs saving, so we have to use the term))

((Oh, second afternote, aren't people who say "Well, they're not real christians" fucking annoying? I don't go around telling other atheists that they're not really athiests. Own your own crazies, they're yours if you like them or not.))

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A resolution

I have had a revelation, so far I've not been a phd student. No, seriously. I've been going in every day but not working, not thinking. I've been reading the minimum and avoiding any real work, that's not doing a phd.

The problem is, I've not been sure I want it. I kind of defaulted into a phd. I finished uni, I didn't want to go home, a phd seemed like the logical next step. After all, phds are what you do after an undergrad and I had everything I needed to get a good phd. So I did. But, for the last few months, there's been this voice in my head asking me if this was really what I wanted, if this is really what I think I should do with the rest of my life. I was enabled in this by the fact that the project was a little stalled, and the things I could do weren't so vital either. I told myself there was no need to push.

In my lab meeting on Monday my supervisor turned around to me and told me I need to start taking control of the project, start making it my project. At that point, what I knew all along came into focus. So far, I've been failing. I've been coasting along on the bare minimum work and that is failing.

So, there was the choice. Start looking for a job or pull my act together.

I'm going to get my act together.

I've thought long and hard about it and I WANT this PhD. Not just in a vague way to give me some income and time to stall but I WANT a PhD. I want to be a PhD student, and then I want to go into research. I want this to be my life. This isn't some kind of half-assed declaration, it's like a switch was flicked and now I realise what I've got to do. I want the passion for science I had a few years ago, before being in a lab where I was ignored and achieved nothing crushed my hope. I want to think about what I'm going to do that day on the way into work. I want to find things out and enjoy it. I want to think all day and byh busy doing research. I want to design experiments and perform experiments and I want to really make this project into my own project. I want to live it and be it.

I'm aware that this is going to require determination and sacrifices, but I think I'm ready now for that. I think this is the time when I need to step back and realise that I can't get a PhD like this, and getting a PhD is what's important.

I guess I've not been paying attention to Avenue Q for all these years, for some reason I thought the hard part was over. Now I realise it's only just begining. It's going to be a fight from here on it, but it's a fight I'm willing to take part in. It's a fight for something I want, something I need. I won't give up, I won't fail. I will give everything I've got to this project and I WILL suceed.

That's all.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

I'm back!

I dissapeared like a poof of smoke over the holidays since my laptop got a little bit poorly (this is what I get for naming her after a character with a weak body) so was in limited internet. I'm back and work now and the amazing people at computing services have made her all better again so we're back to work and, thus, back to blogging.

Still not up to date with the backlog of bloggs so I'm probably horribly out of date but there are two things I want to do.

The first is to make a new year's resolution - I am going to comment on blogs. No, really. I'm kind of just sat here at the moment blogging in a corner alone and I'm going to stop that because it's bad for me and start participating. I'm sure nobody will bite me (much).

The second thing I want to do is complain about my mother. Specifically, my mother and my weight. My mother has issues with my weight. My mother wants me to loose weight, despite the fact that she herself has spent most of her life miserably struggling to do the same thing and failing. I've had a lot of issues when I came to university and started to realise I'm not actually grotesque, specifically with my mother and food and my mother and clothes. My mother doesn't eat, or eats very little, the overfeeds the rest of the family. She wonders why we're overweight while forcing more and more food on us. The clothes issue, my mother believes anyone over a size 12 or so shouldn't wear anything that fits, but only things a couple of sizes too big. She likes buying me clothes but only buys them in several sizes larger than I am.

Every time my mother sees me she comments that I've lost weight.

It's incredibly frustrating becasue if I'd actually lost weight every time my mother said I had, I'd not exist any more. The other thing is that she views this as a massive compliment and looks so damn PLEASED that I've supposably lost a couple of stone that I don't have it in me to tell her that I haven't.

The thing is, this time I had. This made it even worse because I couldn't even say "hey, I haven't, you're just remembering wrong". The thing is, though, it's not a deliberate loss. I've not done anything other then eat what I want when I want and go about my life in a normal fashion. The thing is, where I live normally, eating what I want when I want is generally less of healthier foods then my mother gives me and going about my life involves an hours walk to and from work every day. So, yeah, I've lost weight, but it's nothing to be excited about. I'm not trying to loose weight so I don't need to be congratulated on it. I don't see it as a goal or something worth celebrating. It's not something I worked for, even something I desired, it's just a consequence of the different way I live after 3 months of living at home where I don't walk and eat more high fat food more often.

It also helps that, when I'm wearing clothes I pick myself, I look as big as I am instead of two sizes bigger in the mistaken beliefe that wearing bigger clothes will make me look smaller.

I'm trying to reach a point and I guess it's that I'm sick of people congratulating me on weight loss like it's an achievment, a goal. Like it's something real with meaning and value that I've strived for. It's not, and it's never going to be again no matter how tempted I get to find the 'going down a dress size' buzz or how much I convince myself that [object of desire] would love me if only I could drop a few stone.

It's not worth it.

Sorry that was rambly, I'll be better next time XD

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Food and the holidays

It's an unavoidable topic when this time of year rolls around, food. Christmas, especially for those of us who are secular, has one hell of a lot to do with the food. It's not just the christmas dinner, that feast of over-indulgence, it's the entire season. As soon as christmas starts rolling around, the shops start filling up with delights of every kind. There are tins of special biscuits, there are jars and boxes of sweets, there are the delicacies you don't get any other time of the year, christmas cakes and mince pies and things like that. You can't go to a christmas fair without noticing the food. where I lived as an undergrad there was an international christmas fair every year with Kangaroo burgers and crepes and mulled wine and hot dogs and chocolates. In this new town there are new crepes and there's fudge and chocolates still. So many good things to put in your mouth.

Then there's the judging. How do you pick which bits to eat. Surely you can't try it all, that's just indulgent, isn't it?

Then there are the christmas parties. I don't know what it is about christmas parties that means you have to feed other people, but you do. Cheese and biscuits, a gingerbread house, mince pies and nibbles. All that food.

And you feel judged.

Nobody needs to say anything, other people probably don't notice, but part of being fat is feeling constantly judged for what you eat. Did you take the last mince pie? Was your piece of gingerbread house too big? Did you put too many roasties on your plate on christmas day? Should you have not bought those chocolates as well as the fudge at the christmas market? It's the feeling of eyes on you. It's the feeling that, whatever you do, it's too much. You're embarasing yourself and not just yourself but all the other fat people in the world. You're letting them down, living up to the stereotype.

Nobody needs to say anything, to even hint, the shame is innate. It's taught to us with every implication that things that taste good are bad for you, that you are fat because you're weak, because you're stupid. If you would just take one less roast potato, you'd be thin! If you'd just forgo desert, nobody would judge you. If you'd just eat one elss mince pie you could be loved.

But it's a lie, and I'm not buying it this year.

I'm not going to condem myself for food this year, I'm goin to enjoy it. After all, what is life if you can't enjoy a second trip to the buffet table? What's the point of christmas dinner if, afterwards, you're still nervous and hungry?

Not this year. This year I'm going to eat what I want when I want and I'm not going to say sorry to anyone.