Feb 26 2009

Mine’s a Pint

I love geeks. I love them because they know stuff. I may accuse the press wildly of sexism and I pick easy targets (although bear in mind that A LOT of people take most stuff in the press at face value). However, there are those that can methodically and mathematically tear apart sexist science reporting, such as this blog on women and alcohol. Story in the press here, and here.

After such expert and rational analysis – now for the feminist dogma…. There are repeated stories and commentary in the press about women drinking and this being; Britain Going To Hell In A Handcart, Feminism Going Too Far, Ladette Culture Going Too Far etc etc. Fact is, men still beat women when it comes to alcoholism, alcohol related deaths, and many indeed beat them when drunk.

I am not saying ‘Yay, women should drink till they get cancer!’, I am saying that research into women drinking is suspiciously over-reported, regularly misinterpreted and uniformly accompanied with moralising about wimmin and how awful they are.

Declared Interest
I drink. A Lot.

Feb 19 2009

I Can Smell Your Brains

Now of course I’m the first to criticise men. Horrid, despicable men. And I agree that there is a huge problem with the sexual objectification of women which feeds inequality, discrimination and ultimately violence. Yawn, heard it.

However, even I’m not convinced that a brain scan can show that men think of women in the same way as “tools, like spanners and screwdrivers” (note confusion in above pic). Bad science, possibly but definitely badly reported.

Now I’ve criticised psychologists before. And we must remember that a psychologist is neither a radiologist nor a neuroscientist. But it does seem that they are making the fairly unremarkable claim that “When there are sexualised images in the workplace, it’s hard for people not to think about their female colleagues in those terms.”

So yes, girly calendars in the office are inappropriate and are a key signifier of a sexist culture. But there being a “screwdriver” part of a man’s brain? Even I wouldn’t go that far.

Jul 21 2008

Abortion: a matter of science

This may seem a bit out of date to cover the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, but is it still going through Westminster and the dark forces are still trying to use it as a way of restricting women’s access to abortion.

One of the main areas of ‘debate’ is whether advances in science require a change in the abortion laws. I say ‘debate’ because there is scientific consensus on the issue and it is those with a ‘moral’ perspective who are trying to create allusion of a debate.

So is there a case? Well not according to the medical establishment. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, neither known for their radical feminism, have both submitted evidence to Westminster’s Science and Technology Committee in support of the 24 week time limit and a liberalisation of access to abortion in the first trimester.

So where are the medics and scientists marching in the streets asking for the law to be changed? Well, there have been submissions to the Science and Technology Committee advocating time limit restrictions from medical professionals who have not declared their religious affiliations. Luckily the press can do this for us:
Guardian Blog

The majority of them are activists from the Christian Medical Fellowship, an organisation which is opposed to abortion (unlike most Christians) and has already made a submission.

The scientific case hinges on the principle of the “viability” of the foetus outside the womb. It is claimed that foetuses that have been born prematurely at 24 or 22 weeks have be kept alive by science. As stated by the BMA, it is only a fraction of births at this gestation that survive, and most of those are severely disabled. However, then we have a conflation between the theoretical viability of a foetus at 22 weeks and the viability of a foetus that a woman chooses to abort at this time.

Women get a scan at 20 weeks which can show up problems with the pregnancy. Obviously we can’t be certain, but it is very very likely that those being terminated at this late stage have serious problems. Lets remember that 20 weeks is half way through a pregnancy, women would have a very good reason for going through what is a particularly invasive surgical procedure. Either the foetus is in fact not viable or these are particularly vulnerable women. Restricting their rights further is hardly the answer.

Which brings us back to the question, why are we talking about time limits? Suspicions rise further when we start looking at how many abortions we are actually talking about – in Scotland out of over 13,000 abortions carried out in 2006, 62 were between 20-24 weeks. That represents 0.5% of all abortions. So why exactly are we seeking to change the law for a fraction of a percentage (or around 1% UK-wide) of all abortions?

Because this is a tactic, part of a wider strategy to chip away at the right to abortion. Banning by increment. This isn’t my wild paranoia; this is exactly the course of action taken by the Anti-Choice movement in the USA. Restrict women’s access to abortion a bit at a time until it is effectively banned in some States and restricted to 13 weeks in others.

Advances in science do not change the principle that women must have control over their own body and must never be forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy.

Jun 30 2008

Science – good or bad?

I’ve been inspired to start this blog for a number of reasons.

1. A wee while ago I wrote a letter to a paper about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which was making its way through the Westminster Parliament. While Cardinal Keith O’Brien had been given 20mins on Radio 4’s World at One and plenty of column inches, there was no one to represent my rational, science-based views. This was the basis of my letter. The first comment I got on the newspaper’s website read:

“Sadly, being a woman, you will be as rational as the catholic faith itself and as for science based views? Yeah, you mean what you read in Heat or Star magazine.”

Now of course, this gave me epic lols. But seriously, can you imagine a man getting a comment about his gender when he was reacting to a non-gender issue?

2. As a feminist, you are often being confronted with biological determinist arguments: ‘women simply can’t read maps – its been proven’, ‘women are genetically predisposed to liking pink’ etc etc. Given the piss-poor level of scientific reporting in the press, these arguments are used to further demean women and feminist analyses of oppression. These stories are every bit as bad science as homeopathy, but they also impact on women’s inequality.

3. Being involved in the pro-choice movement and again, lobbying on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, it became clear that the scientific evidence supported our cause but was being drowned out by emotional, religious and socially conservative interests. Science won out this time, but it will always be under attack from those who can count on the scientific ignorance of the majority of the population (and our political representatives).

4. I emailed Ben Goldacre to rant about some bad science I came across but weeks after it happened and so he couldn’t follow up on it. Instead he suggested I set up a blog and do it myself.

Er, OK then.

So misogynistic comments on the internet, the need for feminism to engage with science, the need for defenders of the Enlightenment to analyse the science used against women and the fact that I should start taking some initiative on this, all culminated in me starting this blog. I hope you enjoy.