Sense About Science: Fad Diets

Ask for EvidenceDiets on the internet: You might as well make them up.

Sense about Science have a new (ish, I’m a bit slow off the mark on this one!) campaign focus – exposing the claims behind fad diets.

Many societies currently have a problem with nutrition. In places where food is abundant, or supermarkets and fast food chains present the main family options, a lot of people are overeating and eating badly. Poverty doesn’t help, and when you already have little money, companies duping people with claims of superhealthy items and food plans are extremely unethical.

The NHS resources are, in my view, the best place to go for a start. To learn about calories, going about losing weight, “hidden” weight-gain causes, asking a GP about getting and keeping a healthy weight and more – really many of these things should be in schools, so equipping people with skills that will last a lifetime and help them to keep healthy, combating challenges such as lack of support at home when children are growing up.

Unfortunately, a combination of culture generally, celebrity following, personal challenges and insufficient regulation of food suppliers often leads to people who are frustrated and find it difficult to keep healthy and happy. Where there are vulnerable people with problems, there are quacks ready to take advantage and make money from them.

Dodgy dieting

Contradictory diet advice is everywhere – Katy Perry’s acupunctured fish, Matthew McConaughey and the caveman diet, Gwyneth Paltrow’s macrobiotic meals. It seems celebrities feel obliged to offer their opinions on what we should eat, leaving sound diet advice lost in bogus claims.

Frustrated by fad diets, today young scientists are calling on everyone to Ask for Evidence behind diets. To highlight why this is so important they are challenging people to spot completely made up diets in an online quiz. It’s not as easy as you might think. The researchers also looked at the evidence behind 10 diets and came to the conclusion that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

To help people sort the beneficial from the bogus when they come across diet claims in the future, the researchers have 4 things to look out for:

Eat less, eat better, move more – it works. Via National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons.

Immune boosting. You can’t and you don’t need to. If your immune system wasn’t working properly, you would be very ill and you’d be needing serious treatment. If it works, it works.

Detox. It’s a marketing myth – our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets. You’d only need some medical detox intervention if your liver and/or kidneys weren’t working properly. Again, in that case you’d be very ill. If you feel bad about drinking too much and eating crap, just do less of that. Don’t buy pointless, useless, overpriced products branded with this nonsense word.

Superfood. There is no such thing, just foods that are high in some nutrients. Just eat a balanced diet; as per the NHS link, and you don’t need vitamin supplements or super-anything food. Just enough food, generally.

Cleansing. You shouldn’t be trying to cleanse anything other than your skin or hair.

Comments

Further comment on the absurdity and dangers of fad diets:

“Never mind about being tempted by that slice of cake – don’t be tempted by fad diets. When you see extraordinary claims, always ask for evidence.”

- Leah Fitzsimmons, Biochemist and VoYS member

“Personal diets and nutritional health more broadly, are very complex areas. Many people latch on to particular diets through just word of mouth or from articles in the popular press. Unfortunately the impact of some these diets can be, at best, ineffective and, at worst very unhealthy. For this reason, it’s important to have sound food and nutritional science underpinning any diet choice. It is also important that this is soundly but simply communicated.”

- Jon Poole, Chief Executive, Institute of Food Science and Technology

“Let’s be realistic about fad diets – they don’t work. They don’t accelerate weight loss because they’re not sustainable long term. If you plan to lose weight you need to recognise you’re committing to a marathon, not a sprint. They don’t improve your health, nor act as a talisman to protect you against cancer, Alzheimer’s, or whatever health risk is the media focus du jour. Fad diet promoters never let sound nutrition get in the way of persuasive marketing to the public, but rely on the publics’ lack of knowledge on diet and health to promote their dietary myths and generate financial profit.”

- Catherine Collins, British Dietetic Association

“New diets are being made up at an alarming rate. If you are concerned about your weight, look for evidence based advice”

- Dr Ellie Cannon, GP and author

“Hundreds of researchers in the VoYS network are involved in tackling public misinformation about science and health. They make great efforts alongside their research work, and have had a lot of fun tackling dodgy diets. They’ve shown just how hard it can be to sort the beneficial from the bogus – unless you ask for evidence.”

- Victoria Murphy, VoYS Co-ordinator

VOYS Daft Diets Quiz

VoYS members launched a document and webpage published by Sense About Science to draw the public’s attention to the stream of silly diets which drown out sensible advice. It’s hard to spot the spoofs – try the quiz!

The VoYS diet project is brought to you by Agnieszka Piotrowska, Alison Clark, Anusha Seneviratne, Charlotte Dunbar, Chris Creese, Claire Marriott, Daisy Hessenberger, Elizabeth Glennon, Erika Nitsch, Fergus Guppy, Grace Gottlieb, Helen Coulshed, Kate Waller, Kristian Le Vay, Leah Fitzsimmons, Lizzie Tilley, Lucy Hagger, Madeline Burke, Rob Hagan and Tanya Hart.

Related

  • Mosaic – South Africa’s obesity crisis: the shape of things to come?

University adversity – advertising rape

Dear readers, sometimes I feel like apologising that I spend a lot of time in posts on “feminist issues”. But I shouldn’t, so I won’t. I don’t write about this because it’s the only thing I care about, or because it’s particularly interesting – I do it because it’s annoying and it affects too many people I care about, and me, too. Content warning discussion of rape etc.

I’d love to spend more time on other things, but until people realise, accept and get equally angry that sexism and misogyny are everywhere, it’s not going to get better and everything else that’s interesting tends to get polluted with ridiculous-to-dangerous sexist attitudes and actions. So don’t be angry at me, be angry at everything you see that fits the bill – like this example:

Come to our party, find a vulnerable girl!

Kent Students’ Union poster advertising “Party in the Car Park” – apparently withdrawn

For some background: I grew up in Canterbury. I was there at the weekend. I spent a lot of time on the University of Kent campus as I was in a relationship with someone who went to study there when I was at school, and I did some work experience and courses there myself.  So I’ve a certain affection for it, and I know some other alumni who are equally upset by this.

The University of Kent’s official student union, Kent Union, thought this poster was appropriate to advertise an upcoming student event. It’s not – here’s why, here’s what they’ve said, and here’s what I’m doing (and what you could do).

Edit: following Kent Union’s comments, please see updates here and here.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Before we get into the other problems this poster presents, let’s start with the fact that they used this image of a student without her permission. She’s drunk outside the campus club, once called The Venue (but perhaps not these days, I don’t know), if I’m recognising it correctly.

On to the other problems.

This poster is advertising a party outside with the tagline that people (the image suggests female students) will be losing their friends and left alone. Yes, it is common to wander around looking for people while out at a busy venue. But that is not recommended, it’s not fun, so why use it? Well, maybe it’s fun for other students who find these lost, drunk people on their own. Why might that be fun? Why are we told to stay with people we trust while we’re out and incapacitated to some degree?

Because there are horrible people around who do not respect the idea of consent. They believe they are entitled to things, things like other people’s bodies, and to use them as they please without their permission. These ideas are reinforced by a lot of media and culture around us, and it’s dangerous. Teaching people they can take what they want without regard for the happiness, safety and wellbeing of others is what creates rapists. People might not think that’s what they are, if they offer to take a drunk stranger home, then go to her room and do things she hasn’t agreed to. She was at the party, alone, she wore that short dress, she didn’t fight me, so it’s fine, right? WRONG.

Why is this such a problem? University students are as young as 17/18. At school, these messages are also received loud and clear. At university, they are reinforced. This problem is not exclusive to Kent University, it is endemic in higher education. That is something that should worry everyone, and something we need to work to counter.

We know that sexual assault is rife at universities, and the majority of cases aren’t reported to universities or the police – for the same reasons rape and sexual assault is generally underreported (women aren’t believed; their behaviours are questioned; they are victimised further by the legal process; by family, friends and strangers; the conviction rate is low; they fear their situation will worsen) and more. You can find out how many people admit to rape and roughly how many victims there are, so long as you rephrase the “rape” part – people seriously don’t realise that it means forced sex. And they don’t realise that “force” is quite broad, or that “coersion” comes into it.

This is the same in the US, where studies show that not only do men admit to rape in colleges, those who do it do it repeatedly. Rapists think it’s normal – they think everyone does it, because it’s their entitlement. People around them must speak up – jokes are not harmless. Challenge, or no one ever learns, and more victims are created, and kept silent, carrying these experiences with them forever.

Existing evidence and guidelines

We already know this is a problem; the NUS knows it, and universities should know it. In 2010 the NUS released the “Hidden Marks” report, detailing the negative experiences of female students in UK universities with regard to sexual assault and harassment. Some exerpts (emphasis mine):

“The picture that we have revealed is disturbing. 14 per cent have experienced serious physical or sexual assault. 68 per cent have been subject to verbal or physical sexual harassment. Nearly one in four has experienced unwanted sexual contact… violence against women is widespread, serious, and is hampering women’s ability to learn.

Institutions, students’ unions and students have a pressing responsibility to take immediate action to tackle the problem… adopt a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to harassment and violence.

… Respondents reported a range of different consequences of violence, stalking and sexual assault to their health, learning, confidence and relationships, with the most common consequence being deterioration of mental health.”

The NUS and University of Sussex has reported on the effects of lad culture on student experiences. They recommend the following:

“… the student movement must take action to combat the emergence of ‘lad culture’ in higher education and the negative impacts this is having on students. This is not something that NUS can accomplish alone. We will need to work with partners inside and outside the student movement to determine how best to respond to this culture that is at odds with our values and is damaging to our students. We know that this cannot be achieved overnight, and it will require a nuanced and thoughtful response…

We will work towards… creating a safer, more positive, more empowering culture on our campuses”

I hope they can work with Kent Union specifically given this evidence. On to what the union have said in response so far.

Owning up

Kent Union have responded to people’s complaints with this nonpology:

“We would like to sincerely apologise to the students that have been offended by one of the posters we have designed to promote this year’s Party in the Car Park. It was never our intention for the poster and its message to be interpreted in this way.

The concept behind our marketing of the event is to use real photographs taken last year combined with factual statements provided by students.

We can confirm that the poster has been removed and will not be used within any further marketing. In the future we will check our designs with relevant people to ensure they cannot be interpreted in a different way.

Sorry once again,

Kent Union”


What is the purpose of an apology, and does this statement achieve any of the aims it should have had?

1) Admit fault. If you’re apologising for something, you have to recognise that the thing you did was wrong/negative/hurtful in some way. You should address that in your apology. The statement above makes no indication that they concede the poster is problematic in any way, that it encourages/endorses sexual violence (or at least uses the prospect of it as a positive reason for people to attend their event) or is otherwise damaging.

They do not apologise for using the image without consent (perhaps unsurprising, given the context). They pass the blame on to the observers. “for… its message to be interpreted in this way.” – it’s not about interpretation! People seeing this have informed them quite clearly about what it obviously means. What possible positives are there to drunk women losing their friends at a party?! Grow up, own up, apologise properly.

2) Apologise for your mistake and the hurt caused. “We would like to sincerely apologise to the students that have been offended” is not an apology. “Sorry you’re offended” isn’t saying sorry, it is, again, passing the blame on to you for having those silly feelings.

Also, you haven’t just offended students here, you’ve actively promoted the idea that taking advantage of people is ok – you’ve put students in danger. A range of people besides current students are unhappy about this. It’s not just about the university environment – people leave university and go on to jobs and the rest of their lives. Moulding people into inconsiderate abusers at university has a ripple effect and you have a responsibility to counter this.

3) Commit to rectifying the situation. Saying sorry isn’t enough – you have to do something positive to make amends, if you actually want the situation to get better. “We can confirm that the poster has been removed and will not be used within any further marketing. ” A good start. What are the other posters like? I’ve asked if any current students have seen others – do post below if so.

Another good thing would be to create a poster that explains consent to people. There are great sex educators around, like Bish whom I’ve just linked, who could help with this. There are also detailed recommendations in the NUS Hidden Marks report, linked above (pp. 30-33). Includes: “Use educational initiatives to challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes” and “Create a campus environment in which students feel safe“.

4) Commit to doing better in future. If you apologise without any indication of hoping to improve and prevent further harm from your actions, it’s pretty empty. “In the future we will check our designs with relevant people to ensure they cannot be interpreted in a different way.” – commit to researching the problem of sexual violence in universities, and how marketing actually affects people. Discipline the person/people who designed this in the first place. Make it clear that they will be educated. That everyone in the Union knows this is unacceptable.


 

University reponsibilities

As detailed in the reports linked above, it has been recommended by the NUS that university institutions, unions and students work together on these issues. Given UoK seems to pride itself on its environment:

“Canterbury is consistently rated as one of the safest university cities in England and Wales.”

One would think that they would be concerned by this clear tarnishing of their student life image. Sadly not:

It’s also made clear on the UoK Staying safe page that being around trusted friends is an important aspect of personal safety (emphasis theirs):

Best way to stay safe at night is to stick with your friends.

So, they could at least acknowledge that the union’s promotion was contradicting several guidelines, and that they will (and hopefully already do) monitor their activities and provide guidance to the union. If this is not standard practice in any UK university, why not, and how will the NUS’ guidelines be enforced if they refuse to interact on these important issues?

I’m writing to the Kent Union to link them to this information. Please feel free to use anything presented here if you wish to contact them, too. The more people who do so, hopefully, the fewer people will think this kind of thing is acceptable and harmless.

Edit: a friend points to Kent Union’s constitution (emphasis mine):

“The constitution has to be approved by the University so we can function as a Students’ Union.”

“Section D: Under the Education Act 1994, The University of Kent has a statutory duty to ensure that the Union operates in a fair and democratic manner and is held to proper account for its finances. The Union therefore works alongside The University of Kent in ensuring the affairs of the Union are properly conducted and that the educational and welfare needs of the Union’s Members are met.”

It is also clear that Kent Union receives the bulk of its revenue in the form of grants from the University of Kent:

“As a charity Kent Union receives grants from the University of Kent, income under contracts for the provision of charitable services, membership contributions and income from trading activity closely associated with its charitable purposes. Incoming resources are accounted for in the period in which the service is provided.”

It might be advisable to involve the Charity Commission if the university remain apparently unwilling to appropriately regulate the behaviour of the union.

This is not a problem exclusive to the University of Kent. I’d like to see them do better, and I think they can. They could be an example for other UK universities, and institutions worldwide, if they chose to tackle this with the determination and transparency that it deserves.

As the NUS said, it’s not just their responsibility. It could affect you, too. Maybe it already has. Maybe you have or will have children who are students. Not that we need to be directly affected by things to be decent people who stand up for our fellow human beings (hopefully). We all live in this society with other people, and a lot of them go through university, so let’s work to make it better, shall we?


 

Links

Lots of depressing sexist things are coming up today. Here’s a few of them (and this happens pretty much every day, just to show the scale of the problem a little) and other links:

  • UoK and Kent Union have already been criticised by local media: Medwire, Kent Online (well done Bethany Taylor, women’s campaign officer, for voicing concerns)
  • The NUS have spoken about student feminism and sexual harassment – I hope they will engage with this instance too.
  • I have Storified both some of the responses to the poster and its removal here, as well as pro-feminist NUS tweets.
  • Our government’s cuts are disproportionately negatively affecting women, and as this piece shows, victims of domestic violence. Thanks, Cleggeron.
  • Crisis Pregnancy Centres, who hate and lie to women about abortion, are still open for some reason.
  • Gendered toys are becoming more and more common, but feeble “girl monkeys like pink things and boy monkeys like blue” arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny (New Scientist)
  • Tech website thinks it’s the online tech-focused version of Maxim. And we wonder why there aren’t as many talented women in tech as there really could be? (Sweary post).
  • Everydaysexism‘s book is out soon, and today an exerpt is available, which details some of the shocking experience of school-age girls in the UK.
  • A good post on how people misunderstand rape culture
  • Edit: following Kent Union’s comments, please see updates here and here.

What next? Gendered Science Toys.

fizzpopscienceToday’s Twitter rage* is brought to you by some people who think it’s necessary to market science toys at girls and boys separately. Sigh.

Here’s Fizz Pop Science – apparently it is:

a Community Interest Company that is run by David Reed (aka Rocket), an experienced and friendly individual with many years of experience in organising science parties and scientific shows.

Fair enough. While the 0845 contact number, lack of a twitter account and other personable elements makes me raise an eyebrow, the rest of the site seems to be OK (although comic sans critics might disagree with that).

sciencetoysforgirlsandboys

What’s this?

Until, that is, you have a look at the Science Toys section. Overall quite a good idea, to collate some Amazon links to sciencey toys that children might find appealing, inspiring, fun and so on. I’m all for parents who want to encourage kids to explore science from an early age – it can lead to them sticking with STEM topics at school, going on to university, choosing a science career – all of those positive things, if you (and, more importantly, they) like that.

However, On the right are menu items I like a lot less.

Why does this list of toys have to be repackaged for girls, and for boys? And how are they deciding this? Pretty arbitrarily, it turns out. A click on the for Girls link takes us to a pink-background list, titled “Girls Science ideas for gifts or sleepover suprises” – because that’s what girls all do, apparently. The boys, on the other hand, get “Boys Science Toys and Gadgets“. Slumber parties for girls and gadgets for boys! Not the best way to encourage more girls and women into tech.

girlstoysMost of the toys from the original list are not gendered at all – things like microscopes, chemistry sets, some of the boxes even have pictures featuring both boys and girls. The boys‘ section has all sorts, including dinosaurs, sports-themed things, rockets, robots – all the cool stuff, basically. And there’s more than 10 pages of items. The girls’, on the other hand, has only TWO PAGES, which are dominated by make-up and toiletries-based kits. Pathetic.

So I’ve written them a short complaint to go with the tweets they are unlikely even to see:

Dear Fizz Pop Science,

You might find yourselves the object of some Twitter rage today (try searching “gendered #science toys”). I hope you can see through the volume of ire and take on board some measured complaints.

The part of the site in question is on the toys page, under the “…for girls” and “…for boys” menus on the right.

That the girls’ page has been pinkwashed and the boys’ page is generic, the girls’ toys fills 2 pages where as the boys’ has over 10 – what is going on here?

I know you have tried to be diplomatic with “Although I do not particularly like the idea of Girls Science as a stereotyped style of toy” – but then, why have this section at all?

Why feed into these stereotypes? This kind of site has the power to influence parents and children alike, and with gender inequality still visibly affecting academia and science as a broader field, there is no need.

You could feed both links into a page that says “anyone can do science!” and similar – showing no field within science is restricted or biased towards any gender (or at least, should not be).

I hope you will consider redesigning this small area of your otherwise appealing sciencey website, to fit more in line with your About Us page’s commendable goal of making “…fun and inspiring science affordable and accessible to everyone”.

Thank you.

Dr Baker

Do join me if you would like to encourage them to fix this poorly thought out section of their website, and do a little bit for gender equality in science, and indeed generally. They’re not the first, and probably won’t be the last, sadly.

* Thanks to James O’Malley for the tip-off. And to Dean Burnett who has also written most eloquently about gender and science. I’ve also written about the wider problem.

Edit: David, the owner of the site, has picked up on this (see below) and will be redesigning the pages – watch this space!

Poverty Perceptions

I wrote a tweet that pissed some people off, so I better expand upon it, as I knew at the time the fact that I couldn’t fit in “more often than not” would push buttons. But I was in that kind of mood.

It’s because of the latest round of Jamie Oliver bashing, which happens whenever he resurfaces to promote his new book/show/whatever – which is what celebrities do. It’s their job. It’s how they earn a living. Yes, he’s worth millions now but not everyone wants to just sit back once they’ve achieved that, so I don’t really see a problem simply with being a self-publicist.

I’ve defended him before because even though he’s obviously got his flaws – latest comments being no exception – at least he’s tried to do something to help children eat better in the UK. And that is no small thing.

What I’d like to say, though, isn’t really about him, but about some people who have a go at him, and others, when they talk about UK poverty (<60% median income). It’s a complicated topic, and it’s easy to end up with your foot in your mouth, but I do think this is one of those cases where a lot of people throwing stones may also be living in glass houses.

Perceptions

There are, as with most social issues, many angles from which to look at low-income families. It might be that your family is – in which case this post isn’t really aimed at you at all, but equally such families may not even have access to the internet, which is probably a genuine sign of poverty at present, and won’t be reading anyway. Or your family struggled when you grew up some years ago – again my rant isn’t really about you, and I hope you can relate to some of my points – feel free to comment.

As I have tried to articulate before, it is much easier to analyse other people’s lives when you’re very far removed from them. The left suffers from this in a similar manner to the right, often, but with different consequences. The broad solution posited by the left is generally one of support and aid to solve underlying problems (a more sensible view, I feel) while the right would advocate punishment for the inevitable negative outcomes of inequality, all the while increasing that causal inequality – a system that benefits only those blessed with a good start in life.

While people of certain political persuasions no doubt come from many different walks of life, it is natural that the right harbors more well-off individuals and families, while the left appears more of a mixture, but (I would guess) is mostly populated by the middle class* and politically-active others. 

I say both the left and right suffer from distance-based judgments because, if you have the luxury of time to think about and means to research political issues, you’re probably not falling within the poverty brackets. If you are, you’ll likely have bigger things to worry about – like putting food on the table.

Irreconcilable observations

Oliver commented that he found it hard to reconcile seeing people eating very badly, while also apparently having personal wealth in the form of new technology. Now, there may well be simple explanations and reasons to dismiss this as a crass and unthinking statement on his part – TVs aren’t that expensive now; television is an information-rich medium; people who don’t particularly like or care about their kids may find it a worthwhile investment to distract and/or educate them; TV is now an essential item for social reasons; how people spend what money they do have is no one else’s business, etc.

However, I’d advocate for a bit of understanding here. Oliver’s parents run a pub in an Essex village, he’s grammar school educated (like me) and might be fairly sheltered – but he has at least made an effort to understand and help people less fortunate than himself. I’m not saying his comments aren’t worthy of analysis and correction at all but I think he has a point, it just didn’t come out well.

For my part**, I can completely see how hard it is to fit together the ideas that people are poor and disadvantaged with them having a lot of things. Before I managed to get to a good school, I attended my local primary on a council estate. I spent a lot of time with people less privileged than me – mainly because their parents left education early and in many cases had personal problems ranging from drug addiction to abusive partners, leading to general neglect of said peers. From a distance, it’s easy to have sympathy for these people and their situations, to see the big pictures and underlying social problems that should be addressed if people know how.

Gardens often become dumping grounds in deprived neighbourhoods – and a health hazard

But in proximity? Not so much. When people suffer first-hand the social effects of local poverty it can be nearly impossible to be understanding and to reconcile these conflicting images of apparent material wealth (or at least a seemingly reasonable standard of living) and being seriously disadvantaged. Troubled childhoods create bullies and class troublemakers, which are not fun to be around, to put it mildly. Un-cared-for children exhibit antisocial behaviour and make neighbourhoods unpleasant to be in: visually, physically, in many ways.

Out of sight, out of mind

If someone has never actually heard someone say “If I have a baby I’ll get a flat” then of course they’re unlikely to believe it ever happens. Of course it’s very rare in the grand scheme, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real phenomenon. It’s genuinely difficult to see your own family work hard for what little you have and others, who (in your immediate view) cause problems, receive things like furniture and TV or a place to live that you cannot afford, despite your best efforts.  So I can completely see why it’s perplexing to know that families are feeding their children badly and expensively (although there’s evidence that eating well is too expensive for many, so those kinds of comments may well be ill-advised) while seemingly affording other things.

People who have never lived in such a community, or had such problems in their family, generally won’t understand. They’ll see a right-wing commenter make a sweeping statement about benefit frauds and say “it doesn’t happen!” and “they’re so prejudiced”. Of course it’s rare, but if you’ve seen it, you’re more likely to be angered or at least confused by it. They might talk about all the big issues like teenage pregnancy and domestic violence but they won’t have experienced the results, first or second hand.

I’m not in any way trying to imply that living around people with problems is worse than actually having them yourself, that would be ridiculous***. But I’m trying to point out that commenters on either side – whether it’s misunderstanding the effects of poverty or complaining about that misunderstanding – probably don’t have a particularly deep grasp of any of it.

Again, of course some people will have grown up with just those tough decisions; whether you can afford to eat a meal or if you have to give all of the allowance to the kids’ budget, whether you have to get a loan to fix something that’s broken in the house and then can’t afford the repayments. Whether you can afford to stay in your house at all. But there’s also a spectrum to consider here; with the poverty line starting at 60% income, those at that margin are likely to have less difficult decisions to make than those further down the scale, who have every right to dismiss criticism aimed at them. We can’t choose what we’re born into.

But for my part, most of the criticisms I see come from people who have never had to deal with these problems first or second-hand, but instead criticise everyone but themselves without thinking where such views might come from, and perhaps whether their criticism could be better placed.

Yes it’s a bit hypocritical of Oliver to point at people’s spending on food when his restaurants are pricey and his products aren’t exactly budget. The criticism is not undeserved. But there is a problem to address – people don’t know where to buy food, how to cook, or what a balanced diet is like. That’s both a problem with education and access (physically and financially) so I’ll direct most of my anger there, I think.

There’s a McDonald’s at the ground floor of Guy’s Hospital. Happy Meals are still a thing. There are people who give their children money for takeaways at lunch times. More children are having to undergo treatment for obesity-related health problems. Children and families are also suffering with malnutrition.

These are problems the government must address, however many inches of television can be found in each household, but the people with the power to change things are generally even less likely to have first-hand experience. Would it help if they did?

Disclaimers

*I have very little idea about the class system, it’s never been particularly relevant to my life. I suppose the idea of social mobility is, since my generation is the first in my family (immediate family… that we know of – we’re not particularly close) to have people go to university, or indeed get two degrees.

**Given both my parents had manual jobs and my late father could have gone to university, I find the definitions very fuzzy and have never really identified with any particular class. The fact that they worked hard suggested to me working class would be a suitable label if one had to choose.

***I didn’t get the option of designer brands, we didn’t have a satellite subscription. We couldn’t afford it. So yes it was unpleasant to have to put up with bullying because my clothes weren’t good enough or I was too clever, but in the end my parents loved me and supported me, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of the people I grew up with, who were put down by parents who didn’t have much opportunity before them anyway.

I’ve refrained from anecdotes that are too specific because I don’t think it would be fair to the subjects of the stories. I’ve no doubt others have far worse to tell, anyway, but the severity isn’t really my point. It’s that we are all sheltered to some extent… and that’s about it.

Edit: some more links

Oh dear, I appear to agree (for the most part) with Grace Dent. Not that he’s “earned” the right to say those things, necessarily, but yes, the impoverished resent each other as much as anything else, because it’s what is closer to home. It’s what the news rags marketed to them promote.

Russia Running Rings Around Homophobia

Please go to More Links for updates since I wrote this.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time and after a loooong writing break, am finally getting around to it. It’s long, but I hope it’s worth it.

I went to Russia a few years ago. It was a great holiday, and I was hopeful about a return trip someday. However, developments since Putin somehow managed to retain his presidency have basically removed that option.

We can make it happen.

We can make it happen.

It is hard to say exactly why the “Gay propaganda law” has been put in place. A common (but not universally accepted) suggestion is that one goal of a ruler who wants to keep their power is to suppress views they do not like, and that’s precisely where these laws come from, pandering to the “traditional” views of some of the people, and the church. Create scapegoats that aren’t you, but some imagined “other” that are a real threat to your livelihood. In this case, it’s “protect children from things that might make them gay” – obviously based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both sexual orientation and what’s important for young people*.

But these laws don’t just affect gay people, but the whole LGBT+ community; anyone who is found to be interested or engaging in any form of non-heterosexual relationship (or protesting the laws) is at risk of violence (up to, quite possibly, murder) and arrest. Russia has a well-known problem with racism and violence generally; the officially-illegal-but-generally-ignored violence of the skinheads now seems to be joined by the tacit approval of homophobic violence.

It has come to more people’s attention now because of the planned Winter Olympics in Sochi, February 2014. So there are several angles to look at here; the laws themselves (which admittedly I don’t fully understand, and I’m not sure the lawmakers even do), their effects on non-hetero Russians, international views, Olympics issues (such as boycotts and protests, the IOC’s pronouncements and implications of this), Russian citizens’ views and my personal views. I’ll start with the latter.

My views and Russian views

Personally I do have the privilege that my sexuality is generally not obvious to people who are just looking. This can be annoying at times, but overall it probably saves me from some negative experiences. But that doesn’t mean I want to hide in plain sight in a country that would quite happily lock me up just because of who I am or might be attracted to. I don’t want that for me, my friends, or people I don’t even know. Because it’s not right.

Yes, that means I also do not wish to visit places like Egypt, Moldova, Dubai, Iran, plenty of African countries… if I’m aware of laws that restrict my basic human rights and those of my friends, I don’t want to spend my money there, or risk being there at all.

That probably leaves me with a very limited travelling itinerary and I’m aware there are many other human rights abuses occurring globally (against women, children, poor people, the politically active, atheists and people of the “wrong” religion, LGBT+ citizens etc.) but let’s focus on Russia for now.

My favourite landmark from my trip; representing men's and women's contributions to the war effort.

Favourite landmark from my trip; representing contributions to the war effort.

I have some Russian friends and they are lovely people. Their views do vary – the population, while small for the immense size of the country and homogenised in certain ways because of its history, like any other holds diverse opinions. Their age, what they remember of Russian government from childhood and current locations also naturally influence these views.

One friend admits to largely ignoring politics, and it is clear that many of their views are influenced by what they hear from others and they’re not in the practice of questioning hearsay. Their condemnation of gay people has mellowed into a kind of received disapproval, with standard comments like “I don’t have a problem with it, but I wouldn’t want my children to be gay, and I don’t see why people need to do things in the street”.

It is genuinely a revelation for some people when they are told that the goal of the gays is not to be able to have sex in the middle of the road in front of everyone (maybe it is for some people, regardless of their sexuality, but hey), but just to be treated like the human beings they are, instead of being singled out for punishment because they happen to love and/or sleep with people of the same sex.

Some of this view is bolstered by the idea that the population needs to grow, so if you can’t have babies together, don’t be together. Or something. Then there’s adoption of course – millions of children need families, but gay parents won’t do – that’ll make the children gay, of course! Convincing people that sexuality is innate – just as heterosexual people do not choose this, nor does anyone else. [Edit: might have to retract this; if we accept that sexuality is fluid and changeable, our choices can and should be our own, still. Choosing our lifestyles is an important right to have, and we should be mindful of how we use the evidence we have, and what we lack. Good article here.]

Yet many are still convinced that a liberal attitude towards sexuality will make teens experiment, and possibly stick with the gay thing, thus destroying the world. I think that’s the argument, anyway.

The idea that maybe young people just don’t want to fear for their lives because of expressing themselves physically with others doesn’t seem to get through. “I know lots of gays in Russia, they are fine” – but without experiencing the situation from their perspective, that’s not really something you can insist upon. It’s up to the people these laws are affecting to explain it to the rest of us, if they can.

The European Parliament condemned the laws back in June as a result, being not only restrictions on free speech, but also putting the LGBT+ community at risk. Vera Kichanova reported a violent assault on her and some friends in a bar, complete with anti-homosexual slurs and death threats, which was reported by the Financial Times’ Neil Buckley. Also have a listen to Anita Anand’s interview with the Russian minister who drew up the laws and with a gay resident of St Petersburg who explains the fear people like her are living with every day; simply for being in love.

There are more reports coming of possible murders, suicides, horrific assaults and torture, sometimes filmed and put online. But the insistence is that these things are make-believe or Western anti-Russia propaganda [linked article likely to be upsetting].

The minister in the interview displays the unfathomable hysteria about the “sick” gay people who want to force others to view their naked bodies (?!) and repeatedly insists that gay adults are safe in Russia; they simply wish to protect children from the damaging influence of sexually liberal attitudes. It might be convincing, were it not for the implications of this and the reality for gay Russians, some of whom are trying to leave as a result. And I don’t blame them.

What was shocking to me was when my friend who clearly wants there to be reason and justice behind these happenings in her country – which they are largely unaware of – is taken in by things they have heard that make very little sense. They believe that Pussy Riot were naked and cavorting in the church, not just playing music (this might be a confusion with the Voina performance art group who staged an orgy as an election protest). While I won’t get further into this issue, it is worth noting that a priest who supported them was recently murdered. And let us not delve into the Navalny affair.

They also believe that the law restricting adoption is in response to a reported case of a gay couple in America abusing their adopted Russian son; tragically they happen to also be paedophiles. The facts that paedophilia is largely the domain of heterosexual men and abuse is about power, not attraction seem to have escaped Putin’s notice. But because of these stories and others, they believe it is right to protect children from homosexuality. Explaining how this could affect them or people they love just doesn’t seem to hit home… yet. I hold out some hope.

sochi handcuffs

What about the Olympics?

The question of boycotting/protesting/banning/moving the upcoming event is not simple to answer, and I’ll try to provide some information on that here. I’m not sure what the best thing to do is, but I do know it’s good that the issue is gaining more international attention, and it will be interesting to see how the situation develops.

It wouldn’t be the first time that countries have been banned from events for violating human rights. There was also some protest against holding the current World Athletics Championships in Moscow. Russia’s legal stance violates some of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism but for some reason this appears to be confusing the organising committees.

At the beginning of the month, the Russian sports minister confirmed the laws would be enforced during the Olympics; no-one would be allowed to be open about their sexuality, if not heterosexual, during the event. This despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) being told it wouldn’t affect the games.

Some high-profile voices have spoken out. President Obama criticised Putin’s stance on The Tonight Show and “postponed” an upcoming meeting, while All Out delivered a petition for Putin to repeal the laws (with over 300,000 signatures) to the Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, along with an open letter from Stephen Fry calling for the games to be moved and likening the country’s crackdown to that of Hitler in Nazi Germany. But the Russian sports minister implored people to just “calm down” about it.

However, despite loud calls for a ban in some form, it is important to note that local activists’ views often differ, instead asking for a display of solidarity with Russian LGBT+ people, using the prestigious event to deliver this message.

International activism has also occurred, including a huge protest when Putin visited Amsterdam and an excellent demonstration (despite the slight colour mix-up) outside the Russian embassy in Stockholm.

stockholmCrossing

The IOC recently demanded Russia clarify exactly what the law meant and how it might affect the games, around the same time that David Cameron and Sebastian Coe disagreed with calls to boycott the games.

A Russian minister then confirmed that anyone found to be “promoting” homosexuality in any way would in fact be arrested. This is far from the requested confirmation that people would not be at risk in Sochi during the games.

The next day, citing rule 50 of the Olympic charter, the IOC agree that people should not be openly gay during the games, or engage in any form of protest/display support for Russia’s LGBT+ citizens.

Some people thought it might be a good idea instead to boycott Russian vodka, but Stolichnaya quickly pointed out that it is in fact a Latvian product and to do so would harm the LGBT+ community there instead. Others have suggested targeting Olympic sponsors, as similar campaigns have seen success.

OlympicSponsorsRussiaBoycott

What do we do now? I’m not sure, besides continuing to be vocal about the rights of these people to lives that are not blighted by fear instilled by misguided legislation and a violent culture.

More links

See also Alex Gabriel‘s take, picking up the problems with Fry’s otherwise excellent letter and reiterating the need to listen to Russia’s LGBT+ voices on this issue.

This post also criticises the hypocrisy and “white saviour” mentality around such issues. Agree with most, except for the idea that LGBT rights have been made “superior to” other human rights; I’d say that’s nonsense.

7 things you need to know about Russia and the 2014 Olympics” – a short run-down by Steve Williams.

The Daily Mash wonders if some latent homosexuality might be behind the whole affair.

Here’s a petition from @scottwylie7 to have small rainbow flags added to athletes’ uniforms.

21/08/13: Orthodox activists also begin action against “atheist extremism”

22/08/13: Disturbing information about the skinheads’ torture of young gay men and cultural complicity

22/08/13: A reporter was cut off during a (govt-owned) Russia Today broadcast for protesting the laws

22/08/13: Mic Wright acknowledges that homophobia is a global issue, but that doesn’t mean we can’t focus sometimes.

24/08/13: Vice interviews a Russian teenager who posts about his life as a gay person on Twitter. Very sad insights.

27/08/13: @ru_lgbt_teen also gives Mic Wright an interview.

28/08/13: People now being encouraged to report (suspected) LGBT neighbours, and another activist’s home is raided.

29/08/13: Former US no. 1 tennis player criticises laws in his retirement speech. Russian athletes decline to comment in detail.

03/09/13: Protests in London, Madrid and elsewhere to show support for affected Russians

04/09/13: News that Alexander Ermoshkin, a geography teacher, was fired because of his orientation, while Putin insists there is no discrimination. Putin says he will meet with LGBT activists, but has not received requests. One activist has now publicly asked for a meeting.

05/09/13: Plans to make homosexuality a reason to deny child custody

07/09/13: More on the misguided Stolichnaya boycott (it’s Latvian)

04/02/14: A long wait, and a lot has happened. We’ll see what happens in Sochi. If you can, read this harrowing 6-page account on how the lives of LGBT people are affected by this state-sanctioned hate.

*Research shows that children growing up with gay parents are just fine – if not better than those in “traditional” families. What matters for us in our lives is love, pure and simple. Being looked after, protected, supported, encouraged and taught. It does not matter where that comes from, but that it is there. Gay people are just as capable of giving that as anyone else, and when you have to jump through hoops to start your family, rather than just doing a simple, fun thing and ta-da! Then you can be sure that love is there; that child is wanted and will receive the care and attention it needs.

PS. Thanks to Morgan for title ideas!

Skinny bitch

In our culture, we’re all taught that the shape of our body really matters.

Two separate issues

It starts early. I remember complaining to my mum that my thighs were fat, when I was about 8 years old. How absurd (because they weren’t, and what a ridiculous thing for a child to be worrying about), when I look back, but I remember how I felt at the time and it was serious. It’s a pretty constant battle for most women trying not to scrutinise our bodies day after day – this obsession can form the basis of debilitating illnesses.

Childhood obesity is also of course a real problem – that parents cannot afford or do not have sufficient education to feed their children healthy food that doesn’t put their lives at risk is a tragedy, and a huge challenge for public health measures to tackle. It’s important for us to maintain a healthy weight for a variety of reasons; it lessens the risk of heart disease and cancer for starters. We all want our friends and families to be happy and well, so if people are trying to lose weight or bulk up to address this, great.

But there’s a difference between weight-related concerns that focus on health and another category of scrutiny; one that is far more shallow, cultural and full of underlying hatred and insecurity. People (and I cannot exclude myself) make negative comments on other people’s bodies all the time. We’re taught that it’s OK, that it’s our business, it’s just humour, and so on.

The ugly side

The women’s magazines (and the men’s for that matter), just about everything on television, the tabloids and many of the people we interact with daily – they all think it’s acceptable, appropriate, or even some sort of duty, to monitor fluctuations in how fat people are, or are not. I won’t get into the issues around having babies and what the media does with that, it’s a bit of a separate topic.

My problem I suppose is the kind of language that surrounds all of this. “You’re so skinny, you bitch” - it comes from a variety of people, people who are close and loving, people who are acquaintances and really have no right to comment. It’s seems to be based on the idea that it’s so important for women to fit their bodies into acceptable forms, and what this does to us – whether we realise it or not – concerns me. Obviously men face these things, too – “fat-shaming” is not exclusively directed towards women.

A particularly high-profile and shocking case of it has occurred this week and came from Abercrombie and Fitch. As most of us are aware, the USA’s obesity rates are shockingly high, and most shops will stock American sizes 0-14 and sometimes above. A&F, however, are very unlikely to do so, as Robin Lewis revealed of their CEO:

“He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people… He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”

So apparently you have to be thin to be hot and cool – oxymoronic vocabulary quirks aside, I’m sure most people would disagree with that. Personal tastes are one thing (I am attracted to people of a similar slim build to myself, for example – and I have friends with exclusive preferences for bigger builds) but they vary hugely between individuals, and one cannot criticise anyone else for that. But this retail policy from a company CEO does sound prejudiced and extremely insulting.

On the other hand, they are a company and are permitted to choose their audience and which kinds of customers they want their products marketed towards. If you specifically choose some subjective categories like “good-looking” and include “thin” within the entry criteria to that category… well, it’s offensive. Is it wrong? I’d say it’s ill-advised, much like I dislike sexist marketing for MAN CRISPS. Is it worse, or not, than that?

Fighting the tide

As I grew up I heard my dad call Lisa Riley on You’ve Been Framed a “fat cow” and say she should get off the TV as a result. Or he’d say “your fat friend…” instead of using their name (partly because he didn’t know it, but that always upset me). It’s easy for those of us who can maintain a low body weight relatively easily to point at and accuse people who cannot, but it would be nice if there were some more consideration around.

Going back to the health issue, a lot of conditions can cause people to become overweight, or to have extreme weight fluctuations. Medications can affect this, too; whether it’s a kind of birth control or steroids… how would you feel if that person whose weight you just criticised were undergoing cancer treatment? Sure, we make our little in-jokes quietly to ourselves and each other, but like street harrassment this too often spills over into unwanted and upsetting interactions.

Women with large breasts face an added level of this, with barrages of comments ranging from what people mistakenly think are compliments  to accusations of being too slutty by showing a lot of cleavage (often something that’s difficult for such women to avoid without always wearing some variation of a sack) and an assumption that they should be grateful for what they are “endowed” with.

This is a sad state of affairs for many reasons. For starters, no woman should be judged on the size of her bust; with “flat” chests in my family it’s something I’ve seen the flip-side of, too, and have even received such comments myself (somewhat in error!!) based on strange men deciding it’s something worth using as an insult when I didn’t want to talk to them on a dating site.

As someone pointed out on Twitter this morning, one of many problems with Page 3 is that it perpetuates an idea about breasts, aspirations and attractiveness, which can be really damaging. Mastectomy is tough enough to deal with, without a daily reminder that women are only (desirable) women when they have (big) boobs. While the debate on page 3 is extensive and multi-faceted, if you do want to sign the petition against it, it’s here.

In addition to that, larger ladies have a lot to contend with: health issues such as back pain and possibly breast cancer risk; the inability to find clothes that fit, not to mention them actually being affordable.

321362_10200987713192904_1402770802_n

All angles

But it’s not just fat-shaming. A friend who deals with multiple health conditions posted the picture on the right this morning and sparked a little debate around it (which prompted me to write this).

I’m also reminded of the Beautiful South‘s song, Perfect 10 (that I alternate between enjoying and not):

The anorexic chicks, the model 6
They don’t hold no weight with me
Well 8 or 9, well that’s just fine
But I like to hold something I can see

I have trouble saying that this is any more acceptable than unsolicited comments towards overweight people instructing them to eat less or run more. It’s a song, sure, and it’s about a couple of big people enjoying each other, but for some reason that strays into insulting others.

Women are often swept along by the misogynistic undercurrent and say incredibly horrible things about other women, as well as judging themselves harshly. I put on weight in my late teens and I lost it in my early 20s, partly due to illness. The amount of comments I have received on this over time is only now beginning to overwhelm me, and when this picture came up suddenly a number of instances came to mind.

I wish my friends, or their friends whom I barely know, didn’t feel the need to call me a bitch for getting back to my normal weight – I’m a small person. I feel more comfortable in myself having lost the excess. But it wasn’t exactly fun getting to that point – as is the case for many people, I’m sure. I didn’t do it for anyone else, or to spite anyone, either. I don’t want to feel like I should apologise just because I fit into something, or it’s too big for me. Being ‘skinny’ shouldn’t be the ultimate goal of all women*, and we shouldn’t be at each other’s throats about it.

When I was eating dangerously little and people kept telling me “Hey, you look great!”, that didn’t exactly spur me on to healthier behaviour. Weight loss and gain is a complicated seesaw and you’re unlikely to know the facts behind it for people you don’t know very well.  It’s also never about one person, or one comment; It’s the frequency and ubiquitous nature of it. Just like one guy inappropriately touching you in a whole lifetime would make no difference, it’s the constant barrage of little things that turn it into a problem.

No stone unturned

Too fat, too thin, ‘real woman’ this, curves or bones that – it seems no one is immune.

*I haven’t touched on fad diets, why I hate gyms or pretty much anything regarding the health & fitness industry. But this article just appeared in my timeline courtesy of a couple of excellent friends, so you can read that for some great commentary on how women in politics are described, some links to what I’ve written above and the writer’s experience of finding a job in fitness. One of the take-home messages being:

I wonder how my life would have been different if people had encouraged girls (me) to be strong instead of skinny”

And wondering what we can do for our young women today, to spare them some of this crap we’ve grown up with and are now trying to get over!!

“I became a more capable, energetic, independent, and mentally focused person once my focus shifted from what my body  looks like to what my body can do


 

Links

- Jun 2014: American Apparrel CEO & founder fired. Here‘s an interesting take on misogyny in hipster culture.

Battling sexism

Recently there have been yet more stories centred around sexism and misogyny in our culture. I’d like to discuss two that have interested me this week.

At least they got the apostrophes right..? Via guardian.co.uk

At least they got the apostrophes right..? Via guardian.co.uk

A battle won

Today, thankfully, there has been some Good News! A rarity, it sometimes seems, and something to be celebrated. Congratulations to the Science Museum and everyone who spoke up about Boots separating their children’s toys by gender, and including the sciencey ones only in the boys’ section.

Other retailers have binned this outdated, damaging stereotyping behaviour so, while it’s unfortunate that it’s taken a company like Boots so long, it’s good to see them following suit.

“…It’s clear we have got this signage wrong, and we’re taking immediate steps to remove it from store.” – Boots

Yes, it’s wrong. I’ve said so before and will continue to be angered by needless gender separations in stores for e.g. toys and magazines.

It may well be a bit of a chicken and egg situation. So they say they organised it with the separation because of “customer feedback” – parents want to find toys for their boy/girl easily? They can’t just browse a toys section and pick out something they’d like?

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photo by Andrew Holding

To be honest, that sounds like it’s parental stereotyping at work. I’m not going to buy dolls for my boys or cars for my girls, that wouldn’t be right. Well, parents, I implore you – consider your child as a person, irrespective of their genitals/chromosomes, and encourage them in what they enjoy, what they find fascinating, whether you think it’s “gender-appropriate” or not. Be better.

Unfortunately there are other stores – such as Morrisons and Clarks (see image) – who continue to separate toys like this, and it’s frustrating for some parents. Read more in this article by Andrew Holding.

Edit: I have also contacted Wilkinson regarding their toy section that I spotted in Stratford recently. Through this I have discovered this excellent Twitter account, LetToysBeToys! They even have a petition.

A new conflict

You may also have heard that the Bank of England is suggesting that Churchill replace Elizabeth Fry on our £5 notes, which would likely come into effect in a few years, in 2016. This would leave no women on our banknotes. If you really think people are so stupid that you have to point out that the Queen is a woman, you are entirely missing the point. If I must explain, the figures on our notes (apart from the current monarch) are there because of their achievements; their contributions to society and UK progress. Not because they were born into a royal family. So be quiet.

At first glance, this might not seem like the worst thing. The figures on our bank notes change periodically, when we have to redesign the notes to counter fraud. Elizabeth Fry has been on £5 notes since 2002, and we had Florence Nightingale on £10 notes from 1975 to 1994. But they are the only two women, and replacing Fry will erase all acknowledgment of female achievement from our notes for some time – unless one of the others is redesigned with a new female figure at the same time.

Today’s BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour episode included a discussion on the banknotes decision (8 mins long in the link). Plenty of female candidates were pointed out; that most won’t have heard of many of them, despite their amazing work (for example, Beatrice Webb, economist and co-founder of the LSE), is surely reason to increase visibility of forgotten female influences in our history.

Wut about the menz?

I do not accept the argument that history has recorded men as the winners, therefore we should accurately represent that. Here and now we are trying to create a more equal society (well, some of us are) and part of that is doing what we can to correct the mistakes of the past. Acknowledge that sexism and misogyny are alive and well, and used to be even worse – so let’s pull the suppressed achievements of women out of the dark and show them to people living and growing up now. Similar instances of just that include the edit-a-thons in which people have dedicated time to editing pages to give due credit to women, for example in the history of science.

This is important for young women (and men) – to realise that gender is not a barrier to achievement, despite what the history books may show. These little sexist acts build up, and while lacking female role models on banknotes may be a little thing in isolation, it’s one of many that add together to give young people the message that women are underachieving and undeserving of recognition.

I do not agree that striving to have at least one woman on our notes, giving some small recognition to the contributions of approximately half of the population that have been systematically erased, is overcompensating or being unfair to men. Striving for something closer to equality instead of extreme (pro-male) bias, whether that bias be “historically-accurate” or not, is not overcompensating, only pushing for equality. That’s feminism, it’s not asking for no men to be recognised, only to make a positive change that will address an imbalance.

Aside from the gender balance issue, there are other reasons we might object to putting Churchill in particular on our notes (thanks to Liz for pointing that one out).

This will depend on your view of what our currency is for. If you think it’s simply a leaf out of the history books, then this is unlikely to bother you.  The Guardian have picked up on the story and are running a poll. If, however, you would like to object to the removal of all female achievers from our bank notes, you can sign the petition. Also follow @weekwoman and @TheWomensRoomUK on Twitter for more.

Edit: spectacularly on-topic and brilliant is Suzanne Moore’s article today about successful women eschewing feminism as if they don’t need it and never benefited from it. I have had direct experience of this kind of sentiment and am very glad someone has hit the nail on the head with a piece like this.

Another edit: I have also had a rant about the banknotes on this week’s Pod Delusion. Indeed, it is worth acknowledging that Clydesdale bank do in fact have two women on their banknotes; Mary Slessor on the £10 note (bit of a double-edged sword; women’s rights yay! Christianity-spreading boo) and Elsie Inglis on the £50 note – an excellent physician and suffragist.

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