Update

Hey people- apologies for abruptly disappearing. My computer died suddenly about a week ago and is currently in the shop. Unfortunately I hadn’t elevated it enough and a lot of dirt and dust were getting into it, which has caused some damage to the motherboard. I’m waiting to hear back as to whether it’s worth salvaging or not.

As soon as I have my own computer back I’ll be belting out the posts again. Until then, you’ll have to make do with stray bouts of commenting. 🙂

To keep you all busy- what do you think of Miley Cyrus’ photo? I think it’s quite interesting that so many people are willing to come out batting against this type of exploitation of women’s sexuality at this age, but seem to think that being eighteen makes it worth turning our heads about.

I’d personally like to see more press about young, successful girls for being smart or active in their community, rather than just being pretty or being able to act/sing. Those three things are great, but they’re a very limited subsection of what girls and women are capable of. Besides, people will still try to use that kind of press to sexualise them anyway, so everyone is happy. 😉

See you next week

I’ve got some terrible cold/flu thing that’s going around and it’s making it quite hard to concentrate. I’ll hopefully be able to post something useful next week. Fight the good fight until then 😉

Why Sex Education Works

So, as a follow up to the previous post showing that comprehensive sex education actually reduces how much sex teens have, I thought I’d go into my analysis of why sex education actually has this effect.

Teens aren’t mindless. Many of them know, at least from talking amongst themselves, that sex feels good. If you don’t talk about sex while acknowledging what they know about it already, they’re going to realise you’re pushing an agenda and switch off to what you’re saying. Not all of them, but some of them will, because they are bright and they are used to picking up useful knowledge all the time, and a lot of what they learn is actually based on how a teacher approaches a subject, and not what they say.

Giving teens accurate information and exploring what they think about it is far more effective, and this exploration into the wider consequences of sex will make some teenagers think twice about its consequences without requiring the teacher to preach to children and turn them off from actually remembering what they’re saying. Free of the constraints of pushing a specific agenda, it also allows you to prepare teenagers for how to make decisions about sex effectively, and be honest to themselves about what decision they want to make and prepare for it.

I think many people underestimate teenagers when they propose policies with them in mind. Teenagers have their own worldview, and if you prompt them to think about it, they’ll realise where sex fits into that worldview, and when it might be appropriate to say no, or the importance of using birth control.

Give them information, let them explore ideas, and give them safe rules to experiment, and teenagers can and will work things out for themselves.

Why Hollywood still needs more heroes

Randall Monroe over at XKCD has a wonderful blag post illustrating yet another example of male privilege.

Here’s the quick rundown:

There were about 110 movies with a male lead and 5 with a female lead. Of the second-billed females, nearly all are written as love interests of the first-billed man. There were over sixty movies in the sample with two male stars top-billed. The only movies with two top-billed female roles, on the other hand, were The Devil Wears Prada and Scary Movie 4.

So even when we have all these seemingly strong women in Hollywood movies, they’re almost always alone, or their boyfriend is their only backup. Apparently even feminists are dependent on men. Yet we don’t even realise they’re being protrayed this way because privilege and backlash just lead us to focus on the whole “yet another female lead” part of the movie.

And it’s true- the only significantly honest Hollywood movie with empowered women was The Devil Wears Prada.

Gay Rights are Straight Rights

One fact that always seems to be overlooked in the debate over gay rights is that it actually impacts the rights of straight couples, too. Laws that reform the way we view couples to include gay rights- such as our own Civil Unions bill- have generally also extended new rights to straight couples. Not only can a straight couple now receive pretty much the same benefits as marriage without the heteronormal religious overtones, but de facto couples, regardless of sexuality, now have additional rights and protections that they were not afforded before because they are automatically considered equivalent to civil unions after a period of time.

Likewise- laws that protect “family values” tend to do the opposite- They aim to enshrine marriage as gender-specific, when it already is. They overextend themselves to taking away rights and protections from couples that are committed and may even have children, but aren’t married. Or they make adoption harder, don’t allow equal access to adopted kids, prevent co-adoption by unmarried couples, or make things even more difficult for single parents.

The other issue is that they often imply that marriage ought to be universal. Trying to imply that everyone ought to be happily married and popping out kids actually undermines marriage on its own- marriage is hard. It involves a very high level of commitment, compromise, and understanding from both partners. It involves choosing a good partner. In short, we should be encouraging good marriages, but that’s at odds with assuming everyone will get married. Because not everyone is ready for it. Some are, but they’ve not got a good partner. Some will never be ready for marriage. That’s part of why I feel that denying gay marriage is so wrong- when two people really do love each other well enough to spend their lives together, that’s so precious that it deserves celebrating no matter how weird you might find the people involved or the nature of their relationship.

The battle for gay civil rights is far from over in New Zealand, too. Right now there is no way for gay couples to legally adopt children, meaning that they have to resort to artificial insemination to become parents. That’s even ignoring gay marriage.

Personally speaking, I think gay marriage is inevitable, but I think enshrining it in the law is the wrong way to go. It would make far more sense to redefine marriage as a civil union with religious blessing, and then leave the fight over equal rights to the churches and other similar institutions themselves. Because really, most of the opposition seems to be in taking away the decision from religions. I agree they should have to make the decision. And I have confidence that eventually we’ll get them to make the right one, and that doing so will let us open our eyes to the reproductive and social rights we need to extend to everyone, straight or gay, couple or single.

Win a Divorce?

Campbell Live did a story on an Australian magazine that offers a competition to “win a divorce”, including a Playstation and a cleaner. Said story isn’t on their site yet. (I’ll retroactively link it when it is)

I wonder if these guys spent as much time building their relationships as they did trying to avoid them, they might not need to win a divorce. While I certainly agree the best thing two incompatible people in a relationship can do is to get a divorce, I don’t think offering it in general is either funny or appropriate.

Australia catching up…

Australia is set to have its first female governor general. It’s great to see Australia catching up to the idea that women should hold high government offices, and Quentin Bryce looks like a woman I could definitely get behind for the job.

Not only a law graduate and one of the first female lawyers in Queensland, she is an officer of the Order of Australia, she also has a long history of work in women’s rights. She has also held the office of Governor of Queensland since 2003, the equivalent state-level position to Governor General in Queensland.

Dompost: Magazines are faking fatter models

\"Fashion mags make models look fatter\"

So, the story isn’t on Stuff yet, but the Dom Post has a wonderful story in today’s paper about how criticism is causing the fashion industry to have to change its ways.

It’s using the same image manipulation techniques it uses to clean up its models’ minor imperfections to make them look like they’re a more healthy weight- that is, they’re photoshopping them to be fatter. This is deliciously ironic due to the fact that they’ve previously been accused of doing exactly the opposite.

Personally speaking, I think this is a wonderful reversal of direction, but it really is just a start. It’s not enough for fashion magazines to stop pushing unhealthy extremes on women, they need to actively encourage the idea that lots of different types of women can be attractive, instead of pushing for some notion of a mythical female norm of beauty. Until I can pick up a fashion magazine and be utterly uninterested in women that are tall, short, fat, thin, white, tan, brown, and with several other distinguishing factors, they’ll still be distorting women’s ideas of acceptable body images, and men’s ideas of attractiveness in women.

Sex education and teen pregnancy

So, last night the issue of permissive attitudes to sex came up in discussion in the comments. A very frequent objection to sex education came up- that it is too permissive of sex, and thus encourages teenage pregnancy.

Fortunately for us, recently the Journal of Adolescent Health released a study on this very matter. Because I am a complete nerd, I’ve condensed it into a venn diagram as a visual aid: Continue reading

Privilege, Sexist Privilege, and Counter-Privilege

So, having tipped my hat on this post in the comments, I should really get around to publishing it. Feminists use the term “privilege” to describe the advantages men have over women because of sexist attitudes that dominate society. It can also be generalised to apply to any such advantage- there’s male privilege, white privilege, straight privilege, the privilege of being an english-speaker, cis-gendered privilege… I could keep going, but it’d be boring.

Privilege is particularly destructive because generally, people feel they are entitled to it. It becomes a normal part of life. People wanting to do perfectly reasonable things- like keep their own names, or keep their jobs and be a parent, or earn as much as anyone else who does the same job, are seen as somehow trying to take something they don’t deserve. Continue reading