Newspapers and media outlets have a really irritating habit of defining people by their personal relationships to others, and this is never more apparent when they speak of professional women. A good example of that was brought to my attention today, Margaret Archer, a female professor and the most senior female in the Vatican has the headline refer to her as "grandmother".
Why is the media so focused on a woman's ability to generate progeny? Woman from all walks of life can and do plenty of things apart from reproduce and maintain a family life. Last year there was controversy about how Yvonne Brill's obituary seemed to place the emphasis on her role in family life rather than the amazing work she did in rocket science.
It seems to happen all too often for women and I have encountered it throughout my life. When the topic of jobs comes up during a social occasion and meeting new people (the exception being at a conference, but then we ask about research and not what we do for a living) the most common response is surprise ("you don't look like a scientist") and asking me to repeat what I just said.
Define the individual and their accomplishments, not their socially acceptable "role" with respect to other people.
Also, this debate has completely gone off track from the subject being tackled, upholding the rights of those who have been enslaved and abused. I don't care whether she is working for the pope or not, whether she is a mother, daughter, grandmother, cousin etc. it is an issue that needs more focus and hopefully it is her professionalism that will help her to get the work done.
The following 15 minute video tells the story of child brides, featuring one girl in particular. I was struck by her frankness and courage and wanted to share her story.
There is an annoyingly persistent meme in a variety of different media formats where beautiful and thin (but not necessarily smart or if they are there is something unusual about them such as they are from another country) girls get together with nerdy/geeky guys that are often either unattractive by societal standards or are unpopular. The persistence of this is really beginning to piss me off for a number of different reasons and is exemplified by a recent advert that I believe was shown during the Superbowl in the USA yesterday.
The reason that this particular advert bothers me so much are because of the messages that it appears to be putting forward and are as follows (in no particular order);
Geeks are guys, unattractive and make no/little effort to be presentable.
Beautiful women cannot also be smart and computer literate or able to put together a website.
A stereotypical blond, thin, pink and high-heeled wearing Barbie type female is the ideal sexy look.
That geeks are not sexy and are socially inept (Walter starts off the advert by ignoring the audience and working on his computer). And who says geeks have to be computer geeks anyway?
Just before the two of them start to kiss there is an obvious look of disgust on the woman's face and relief when it is over. This offends me. In the first instance because it is obvious she doesn't want to kiss the guy, thus giving me the message that she has been coerced into kissing him (possibly for monetary gain) and, secondly, that Walter couldn't be found to be attractive in his own right. Attraction can be based on a number of factors, not just looks. Had there been any chemistry between the two of them, perhaps fuelled by an attraction to Walter's intelligence, it may have resulted in a less repulsive advert. But this kiss is devoid of any chemistry and highlights the contrast in the two actor's relative beauty. Well, the advert has done a couple of things, caused controversy and certainly stopped me from wanting anything to do with that particular web-hosting agent.
So, the advert pissed me off. But back to the meme "beauty and the geek". It is perpetuated not only in the dreadful reality TV show of the same name but repeatedly in films, TV, adverts (as shown above) and magazines seeking to advise women to date "nerdy" men. Even popular shows such as The Big Bang Theory, which I have to admit I do find funny, also perpetuate the same narrow minded thinking (often the "smart"/"intelligent" girls on this show are not shown to be particularly sexy, with the occasional exception of Bernadette, and the sexy/pretty one is constantly being shown as either unintelligent or uneducated. The "geeks" are not shown in a great light either).
Isn't it about time this meme died, from both sides? Intelligence and beauty do not reside on the same chromosome and thus replace one another. Nor to they act as the other's inhibitor. Lets see more positive exposure for sexy men and women who are intelligent (in my opinion the two go hand in hand anyway) and sexy people who do not fit into the ideal of beauty set by media in today's society. Exposure such as the work done by ScienceGrrl in their latest calendar, showcasing great images of real men and women in science (example image shown below). That is the type of meme I can really get on board with.
Tilly Blyth (l) and Alison Boyle (r) pictured with Babbage's Difference Engine No 2 in this photograph by Greg Funnell and featured in the 2013 ScienceGrrl calendar.
According to the Washington Post (link), the UN's population fund report has stated that legal, cultural and financial barriers that prevent access to contraception and family planning are an infringement of a woman's human rights.
One of the most powerful tools a woman has with regard to making choices about her own life is contraception. The decision about when and whether to have children is an incredibly important one and impacts all areas of our lives. In many areas of the western world it is easy to take for granted such rights. However, there are still countries, such as the USA, where access to contraception is a political issue (USA today) and even in the UK there is a variation in access to some contraceptive services (reproductive health matters).
While the report goes some way to highlighting the issue, the unfortunate reality is that it has no legal effect and probably little will be done in response to the statements.
In a 15 minute speech this week, Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister, made a series of pointed remarks about misogyny and sexism, issues that have obviously affected her personally. I don't get much exposure to Australian politics so cannot comment on any political stance. But I did enjoy this speech and as a female who has experienced both and also felt the desire to push back at those who dismiss and insult women on the basis of their gender, I wanted to share this video with others. Enjoy.
Excellent article about the erosion of women's rights to choice over their own bodies and reproductive health in the USA. I should point out that a couple of the facts in the article seem to involve a bit of selective cherry picking (I think the first point about the legislation requiring a foetus to be carried to term even when still born stands, but allowances are made when the health of the pregnant mother might be severely impaired) so look into each of the points for yourselves. However, the points are valid with regard to choosing what happens to our bodies.
Since when does the fact I have a uterus and am capable of reproduction affect my rights? Apparently, as soon as I want to control whether I have children or not or if I actually become pregnant. It is horrifying that these type of bills are even under debate in the US. Women have as much right to bodily integrity as men. Should it be necessary to have to point this out?
50 women who changed the world, a list of 50 women who have had a significant impact on the world. Some I agree with others I don't. It is interesting that we have to have such a list at all, should it not simply be people who changed the world?
There is, from my perception, a glaring omission from this list. Rosalind Franklin was instrumental to the discovery of DNA structure, her X-ray diffraction images leading to the correct interpretation of the structure, although acknowledgement of this was not made at the time. The discovery of DNA structure has revolutionised biological science and our understanding of how our cells work.
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!