Sep 042011
 

Archbishop Cranmer has written a lot recently about the Dorries/Field amendment, which he describes thus:

…her modest proposal is that women should be offered independent counselling to give them a breathing space before proceeding with termination.

Ostensibly, the rationale behind giving women this choice is because abortion clinics, which provide counselling, are not independent. Cranmer even imputes that they have financial interest in counselling women to have abortions, even though they are not-for-profit institutions, because the government pays them per abortion carried out. Ergo, more abortions means more money for the clinics to…provide more abortions, I suppose.

He has also written disparagingly of Louise Mensch, who has proposed her own amendment to the amendment, to the effect that:

Mrs Mensch believes not only that women must be protected from the manifestly conflicted counselling services of BPAS and Marie Stopes International; they must also be shielded from faith groups who seek to spread their own ‘ideology’.

Faith-based pregnancy counselling does not operate under a financial conflict of interest, and is therefore independent. Cranmer would not appear to recognise that conflicts of interest need not be financial.

From what I can tell (though His Grace is free to correct me on this), the reason this ‘offering of choice’ has anything to do with legislation—when of course ‘choices’ do not need to be legislated for—is that public money is involved. The Dorries/Field amendment would prohibit abortion clinics from providing counselling to pregnant women and instead use public funds to pay for these women to have ‘independent’ counselling, with ‘independent’ bodies being defined as ‘anyone who doesn’t get paid to carry out abortions.’

This would include faith groups, presumably, because they don’t get paid to carry out abortions. Never mind that faith groups have an interest in pushing women not to have abortions. And never mind that paying faith groups to advise against abortion will, naturally, supply them with a financial conflict of interest, as they will now be given money by the government to continue urging pregnant women not to have abortions.

So here is my question for Archbishop Cranmer.

Why should government pass legislation to give taxpayers’ money to faith groups to supply pro-life arguments when pregnant women can, even now, get that same advice for free from any priest, vicar, imam, rabbi, street-corner preacher, church worker, or religious internet blogger—should they wish for that advice?

Why is Louise Mensch wrong to say that faith-based counselling is no more neutral than that provided by abortion clinics, and to object to funding counselling that is equally conflicted, but for different reasons?

Why should taxpayers’ money, if it is going to be spent in this endeavour at all, not be spent providing truly independent counselling by people and organisations that have no interest in either payment-per-abortion or saving souls?

Any why, if the Dorries/Field amendment is all about giving choice, rather than restricting it, is it continually justified in the newspapers and on your blog by the claim that it will reduce the number of abortions by 60,000? Where is the study, the proof, the methodology to show, as this number suggests, that 60,000 women or so are connived into having abortions they don’t really want because they are not availing themselves of government-subsidised advice they could nevertheless get for free?

Because that justification, it seems to me, has nothing to do with women’s welfare, but everything to do with the amendment’s apparent real objective, which is to stop women having so many abortions. It may not be obviously coercive in this regard, but it is nevertheless clear from the touting of this figure that it has nothing whatsoever to do with women’s welfare, and everything to do with using taxpayer cash to give more influence over pregnant women to pro-life, anti-abortion groups.

Aug 172011
 

Via @Athena_PR, this:

Nadine Dorries: We should shut down social media networking sites during a public disturbance

I don’t think I’ve written much about Nadine Dorries, but I’ve read the on-going rhetoric wars over her between Dizzy and Tim Ireland, and I know of the bogus ‘hand of God’ scandal. But I was willing to give her—and her party—the benefit of the doubt in some respects until I read this blog post—this blog post—condemning the very web-based social communication that the post itself embodies.

Let us consider: why would Nadine Dorries want to write a blog post for ConservativeHome? First, because it has a large audience to whom she can suck up. Second, because writing a blog post that reaches a large audience is easier than the hard slog of doorstepping, campaigning on the ground, and connecting in person with individuals. Third, because writing a blog post is a crap-ton easier than going on the media rounds, being interviewed by journalists who jealously (if inconsistently) guard speech privileges and who love nothing better than wrong-footing a politician.

So we’ve already identified a host of practical (if cynical) reasons why social media is good for Nadine Dorries.

But curiously, it is this same social media (ooooh, watch out) whose restriction she advocates via the medium of social media.

She says:

During 7/7, mobile networks were instantly closed down.

The justification for this, as I recall correctly, was to stop the overloading of networks, which would interfere with emergency response systems. Leaving aside whether or not that makes sense, what Nadine actually says is that:

The precedent to prevent those who present a threat to the safety of civilians from communicating with each other is already set, even though possibly not officially acknowledged by the intelligence services.

So, she acknowledges that the justification given at the time was a lie, and that the actual purpose was to stop ‘civilians from communicating with each other.’

What did it stop? More terrorist attacks, that had been planned and coordinated in advance by people meeting in person? Maybe. More likely, it stopped ‘civilians’ from contacting their loved ones to make sure they were safe, to find out where they were, to help each other, to advise each other, to mourn together, to make plans to meet up and feel the comfort of one another’s company. I’m not at all convinced that interrupting communications networks in the aftermath of disaster is a good response; nor do I believe that causing definite worry and pain to the innocent is negligible when compared to the possibility that further terrorists might be inconvenienced.

Presumably, however, Dorries does: deal with it, you civilians, it’s for your own good.

She carries on:

To compare the intention of a democratically elected, heavily scrutinised Government, to restrict social media use during a public disorder in this country, with the autocratic, secretive regimes of others such as Iran and China, is simply not a sustainable argument.

It is a sustainable argument, actually, when one isn’t tilting at straw men. The intention behind the shutting down of a speech channel by government, and the nature of that government, are immaterial. Whatever the intention or the government, the outcome is the same: a speech channel is shut down. Dorries should know, due to her Christian advocacy, that Christ is not concerned with the roots, but with the fruits. And as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I for one do not give a stuff about the government’s intentions, or its democratic legitimacy. What I am concerned with are the outcomes of its policies. It is possible for an autocrat to lead a blissful society. And it is possible for a democrat to preside over a dystopian one.

But hark! To Dorries, this sort of statement is not hypocrisy, for as she says of another suspiciously grassy figurine:

A peaceful demonstration, voicing a desire for freedom of speech, or free and fair elections in other countries cannot be compared to mass criminality or violent social disorder, which is what we saw take place here during the riots.

Allow me to deconstruct this for you in simple symbolic logic, if I can, for it makes little sense, but I’ll give it a go.

Oppressive regimes = bad.
Violent disorder = bad.
Social media = ?

Where are social media in this argument? Nowhere. What Dorries is saying is that condemning oppressive regimes whilst condemning disorder is not hypocrisy. Well, duh. In other news, comfort is good and pain is unpleasant, and the pope shits in the woods. What has this got to do with anything?

I think I would like Dorries better if she was prepared to talk the talk and walk the walk. If one is going to address the criticism that shutting down social media makes the British government no better than China or Iran, one should really go all out and just admit something along the lines of, ‘You know what? China and Iran have their problems, but this is one issue they have bang to rights. Having one or two things in common with them doesn’t make us fascists, too. After all, Hitler liked dogs and watercolours.’

She’d still be wrong, but at least she wouldn’t be a mealy-mouthed, lying, self-deluding, patronising hypocrite.

And there’s still more to come:

The argument put forward this morning by Andrew, on the Today programme, that a Twitter message may have saved a person in a burning house is false and unprovable. It just didn’t happen. What saved a person in a burning house was screaming out of a window.

Does anyone really think that an individual when sat in the middle of a burning building, would calmly remove a mobile phone from a jacket pocket, select Twitter and post a message which says ‘help, help’?

Well, maybe. I can’t speak for this Andrew chap. He strikes me as something of a dimwit. Of course nobody tweets ‘Help, help.’ But maybe what they tweet is, ‘Hey you guys, is there any rioting near Brixton station? I usually go home past it.’

And maybe what they get is, ‘Yes, there is: find a different way home or you might get hurt.’ So there you go: social media can prevent harm as easily as it can contribute to it.

Conversely, rather than saving lives, the overwhelming use of social media during the riots was seriously harmful. It disseminated information so quickly that it undoubtedly helped to spread the riots across a wider area. This resulted in the tragic loss of life in Birmingham and chaotic disruption in other major cities.

This is a total exaggeration. How many people were involved in the riots, vs how many uninvolved people were helping each other through social media channels? Given the numbers rioting were, you know, small in the grand scheme of the online population, I have to call bullshit on this one.

Especially when one considers the fact that, in the grand scheme of riots, this was pretty paltry. It sucks that people died, and that others’ livelihoods and homes were destroyed. But come on, they had way bigger riots than this in 1381 when barely anybody could write, let alone use Twitter. Social media didn’t facilitate widespread, destructive social upheaval. It partially facilitated shitty little riots, characterised mostly by looting, undertaken largely by people with criminal backgrounds.

You know what else social media facilitates? Widespread communication of condemnation of itself, by hypocritical assholes like Nadine Dorries. The tool that allows rioters to reach a wide audience of fellow rioters is the same tool that allows fascist scum like Nadine Dorries to reach a wide audience of fellow fascist scum. Funny, that. I guess social media can be used for good and evil. But just because Dorries is polluting the series of tubes with her authoritarian wickedness doesn’t mean I think the series of tubes should be switched off.

In proposing to close down social media networking sites when threatening public disorder starts to break out, this Government is acting responsibly in using such a measure as an exercise in damage limitation.

It’s also acting to disrupt a much wider-ranging exercise in damage prevention. Everything has a cost.

We must also remember that Twitter and Facebook were used to spread false rumours, to disrupt vital life saving services such as the Fire and Ambulance services…

Ooh, yet again, the justification that the emergency services need these networks to be clear in order to do their life-saving jobs. As Dorries has already admitted the falseness of that justification with respect to the closing of mobile networks on 7/7, it’s not a particularly effective piece of rhetoric here, but let’s return to something, shall we?

Does anyone really think that an individual when sat in the middle of a burning building, would calmly remove a mobile phone from a jacket pocket, select Twitter and post a message which says ‘help, help’?

Does anyone really think that emergency services personnel when sat in the middle of a riot zone, would calmly remove a mobile phone from a jacket pocket, select Twitter or Facebook, and check for a message which says ‘help, help’?

Finally:

To the Libertarians who are constantly arguing against the use of CCTV and the very temporary shutting down of social media when necessary, you have to ask yourself this. Is your political principle really more important that the families who lost sons, the shopkeepers who lost their business and the children who have been burnt out of their homes?

My answer: yes.

Because the failure to prevent rioting negatively affected a few thousands, while the failure to protect my principle negatively affects everyone on this planet. Don’t make Stalin’s mistake in thinking that a few thousand horrors is a tragedy, but a few billion is merely a statistic.

I think what bothers me the most here is not that Dorries believes these things, for I’m sure she’s not alone and I know a lot of people sympathise with her views. What really gets my goat is that she is a representative of the Government of this nation; and her well-paid advisors, her party’s well-paid advisors, and the Government’s well-paid advisors appear to have no objection to her advocacy, on a very popular and highly-read social media forum, of the shutting down of social media in technology-based, 21st-century Britain, all in the name of the possible prevention of criminal behaviour that is barely on a par with the kind of social disorder and criminal behaviour that persisted in eras when social media wasn’t even a gleam in your mother’s eye.

I can only assume, from this and from Cameron’s recent waffle, that the Conservative party endorses this kind of bullshit, and that its supporters and voters endorse it as well. And if this is what passes for democratically elected, heavily scrutinised, first-world, free-world governance, then I fear deeply for democracy, elections, scrutiny, and the civilised world.

Dorries notwithstanding, I’m extremely unlikely to support the Conservative party ever, but you entryists out there (and I know there are fuck-tons of you, because you’ve tried your entryism on me), take note: if you don’t stand up and condemn what Dorries and Cameron are saying, you will earn for yourselves many enemies. And if you, by your silence, permit Dorries, Cameron, and their ilk to follow through on this ragged rhetoric with actual policies, you will earn for yourselves so much implacable hatred that you will consider rock bands claiming they will dance when you die to be an expression of positive affection, and moan about how easy Thatcher had it.

Jun 172009
 

[From me, admittedly, on both counts.]

More comment-mining at Tim’s Guardian piece:

The lack of choice I refer to is, I believe, less due to employers than with female mate-choice. If a man wants to be a father, he first needs to attract a mate. If you’re not a good provider few women will consider you father material or worth settling down with. It’s a catch 22 – if you want to have a family you need to prioritise your career, which leaves you less time to spend with your family.

Do men really think this is generally the attitude of women? Sure, I can see that there will be those ladies who would turn down a lovely man because he had a crap income, but on the other hand, I have personally never encountered such a thing. There have been in my life recently the following:

(a) a professional female friend who desperately wanted to marry and spawn with her dirt-poor, student boyfriend;

(b) another professional female friend who is marrying a man who works on hourly pay as a shop clerk;

(c) my mother, who earned more than my father throughout her entire working life;

(d) and of course myself – I care nothing for what a potential ‘mate’ earns as long as he isn’t boring, and in fact I have never dated a man who has gone out of his way to set himself up as a ‘good provider.’

Anecdote, I know, but I can’t help feeling that amongst professional types, this person’s contention is pure nonsense, the kind of crap spouted by men who as people have trouble attracting women, but would rather blame their modest incomes and the meretricious monstrous regiment than admit it.

UPDATE:Oh! and here’s another one

Another fact that feminists cover up. Women marry “up”, not “down”. When a woman marries a man, she chooses a man earning MORE than her — even if she expects to go on working after marriage. A female banker may have an affair with her electrician, but she would NEVER marry him.

Really? Really really? Prove it. ‘Cause I would.

UPDATE 2: Argh:

Because, dear heart, when you are in your bath chair, doubly incontinent and in need of care and medical attention, it will be other people’s children who will be looking after you, wiping your bum, feeding you and making sure you get the care you need. Other people’s children’s taxes will be paying towards your pension when you retire, the costs of public services, producing the food you will eat, the tv programmes you will watch, mending the pavements you walk on and building and maintaining the house you live in.

I really object to this idea that future adults are a resource for current adults to expect to mine and utilise one day. I don’t have children so that one day they can wipe my co-worker’s ass, and neither does anybody else. And if people truly did think that way, it would be repugnant in the extreme: treating future adults as little service-tax-and-pension-generating engines rather than autonomous human individuals who may very well – pleasegodplease – get sick of being treated thusly, foment a revolution, and eliminate this hideous, fucked-up, socialist society that has held them in that sort of bondage since birth.

I want my own children to look after me when I’m old – not the children of others. I want my own children to love me enough to care for me. And if they don’t, or if I never have children, then I shall reap what I have sown, and go about with ass unwiped and frail and hungry, since the institutions that used to do that for unclaimed old folks – charities – have been co-opted by the state or, if they refused to add their biological and technological distinctiveness to the Borg, destroyed.

Jun 152009
 

As a comment on this article about rape prosecutions, I find this:

As a lawyer, it disturbs me that a politically correct state is seeking to tell jurors what they are permitted to think about human behaviour. The insoluble problem with prosecuting rape is that the act is not unlawful in itself, but is made unlawful purely by the state of mind of the participants.
Feliks Kwiatkowski, Haywards Heath, England

Now, rape is obviously one of those difficult issues, but logic is generally not, so here we go:

First, juries are always told what to think about human behaviour, at least while they are in the jury box. They are always instructed to decide their verdict on the basis of the admissible evidence. All this article is saying is that the rape victim’s dress, level of physical resistance to the rapist, and the time elapsed between the rape and the formal accusation are no longer admissible evidence on which the jury can base their verdict. This is already the case with most other crimes: how one looks, whether one resists, and how long one takes to report it when one is the victim of theft are not considered evidence either.

Second, of course the act – penetrative sex – is not unlawful in itself. Nor is the transfer of cash from one individual to another. It is the state of mind of the participants that makes the actions a crime – namely, it is the absence of willingness or choice on the part of one party that makes the sex rape, and makes the receipt of cash theft. This is not an ‘insoluble problem’ in the case of theft, nor is it a problem in the case of rape.

The difficulty with rape, which this commenter, being a lawyer, ought to be able to articulate more clearly, is not that it is classified as a crime for bizarre reasons, or that the judges in rape cases can instruct the jury how to arrive at a verdict.

If we think in terms of theft: I cannot actually prove that a mugger has robbed me at gunpoint if nobody saw it happen. It’s my word against his that I didn’t give the money to him willingly and of my own choice. My mugger may have been accused or convicted of theft before, which supports my claim a bit, but then again he may not. My mugger may be a total stranger to me, which supports my claim a bit, but then again he may not.

With rape, again, if there are no witnesses, it’s the victim’s word against the alleged rapist’s, and the victim cannot prove the sex was not willing and done out of choice. The alleged rapist may have a record, but he (or she) may not; the alleged rapist may be a stranger to the victim, but he (or she) may not.

The difficulty with rape, therefore, is not in the act of sex itself, or the legal obligations of judge and jury, or even in the nature of the evidence when considered in comparison to other roughly analogous criminal situations. The difficulty is in perception, both of the victim and the accused, and of rape itself as a crime.

Most people are willing to take the word of a victim of theft. The punishment for theft is lighter as well. But many people, whether they will admit this or not, are innately sceptical of a rape victim’s claim, especially if the person they claim has raped them is a friend, family member, or other acquaintance. ‘Maybe it was a misunderstanding,’ they think. ‘Maybe the unwillingness wasn’t made clear enough at the time.’ The punishment for rape is harsh. There may also be an awareness that there is no recompense for rape; victims of theft can get their money back, but what is it exactly that a victim of rape has lost? One can argue that they have lost a sense of personal sovereignty and safety, but this is true of mugging victims also, and is equally intangible in that case. There is, too, the perception that thieves will continue to be thieves, but that rapes are unique to their situations. And so many people will give the accused the benefit of the doubt – not entirely unreasonably – in a way they wouldn’t do if the crime were theft – because conviction does very little to help the victim and does enormous damage to the convicted.

One person I’ve discussed this with has suggested that the problem is in the nature of consent: society (and the legal system) views all sex as consensual unless otherwise clearly stated at the time. Remaining silent is presumed to be consent as well. The solution: all sex should be presumed to be non-consensual unless otherwise stated. This is, after all, how we treat other issues of bodily sovereignty, for example organ donation. (Although I’m aware there’s a move afoot in the UK to change that.) This is also how we treat theft: if I agree to the exchange of that money, all I have to do is not call the police and make an accusation of theft. If a person agrees to have sex, all they would have to do is not call the police and make an accusation of rape. Then, if a rape occurs and goes to court, the various attorneys can get into the problem of thorny evidence, etc, but at least the victim will be spared the necessity of having to prove a negative.

May 092009
 

Occasionally after work, Mr Smug Git and I repair to the local watering-hole and, lubricated by a pair of pints, proceed to sequester the pub’s copy of the Sun and roundly take the piss until (a) we run out of beer money, or (b) he has to get on the train back home.

Yesterday, most unusually considering the front pages of all the other newspapers in Christendom, the Sun carried no mention on its own front page of MPs’ expenses. Instead, the top stories were something to do with footballers being rude to referees, and this:

DD-Day: THE SUN’S campaign to axe the Marks & Spencer bra tax ended in a stunning victory last night.

‘We boobed,’ say Marks & Spencer. ‘In these times of economic trouble, we won’t charge £2 extra for Bras of Unusual Size.’

The Sun’s ‘Hands Off Our Boobs’ campaign, which I managed to miss entirely whilst it was being waged, appears to have championed a bizarre cause, but now that I think of it, hurrah for the Sun!

Because, for what is not a particularly complicated or cloth-intensive garment, the simple brassiere is one of the most expensive pieces of women’s couture. A rapid search of the M&S website ‘by price’ reveals that the most inexpensive bra they offer at the moment comes in at £8. (If one desires the matching knickers, it’s a further £3.) By contrast, one can purchase two tops for the same price, at £4 apiece.

Good on the Sun, I feel, for ensuring that large-busted women are not penalised by a £2 extra charge. It is bad enough that women fork out for these ridiculous apparatus anyway; those blessed (by nature or surgery) with generous chests shouldn’t have to pay even more for what is, let’s face it, two little triangles of cloth connected by a bit of cheap elastic and wire.

Somehow, however, I doubt the Sun will espouse the other women’s cause that is truly outrageous: the blatantly sexist charging of VAT, however reduced, on menstrual items that only women need – but not, let us remember, on things like Jaffa Cakes.

Tell you what, Ms. Harman: instead of championing economically stupid plans that actually hurt women (over-generous maternity leave, flexible working hours, shoehorning females into top banking positions a la affirmative action, etc), why don’t you take a page out of the Sun’s book and get this tampax tax eliminated?

iPhone: tool of the patriarchy or friend to women everywhere?

 sexism: alive and well  Comments Off on iPhone: tool of the patriarchy or friend to women everywhere?
Apr 212009
 

iControl Her:

Tired of telling your woman over and over how to please you? Weary of self-repetition and downtrodden by the futility of your Stepford-wife ambitions? Never fear; your iPhone will boss your woman about so you don’t have to.

Have you ever wished to have a remote control for people? This application offer this mythical remote and by pressing a button on the remote, it will say the words for you.

Feels like and operate just like a remote and you can have so much fun with it.

Updates will be posted weekly.

Future update: Ability to record your own voice over a button. The possibilities are then ENDLESS! Buy now and enjoy the free updates as they become available.

icontrolher1

Note to self: The male mind explained, at last! Now I realise where I’ve been going wrong all these years. I must throw off this pesky habit of autonomy before I permanently ruin my chances to catch me a husband.

[Hats off to Twisty.]
Apr 152009
 

Or, in this particular case, to call rape rape. Instead, they provide this headline:

Afghan ‘anti-rape’ women attacked

Elsewhere we find:

Afghan women protest against ‘rape’

Why the quotation marks, eh? Are these women protesting against something they consider rape, but the BBC doesn’t agree with that nomenclature? Let’s find out.

Dozens of Afghan women who tried to protest against a new law they say legalises rape within marriage have been attacked in the capital, Kabul.

Its most controversial article says a woman must make herself available for sex with her husband when he desires.

The law’s defenders say it actually protects the rights of women.

Aides to President Karzai insist that the law in fact provides more protection for women.

The counter-demonstrators – who support the new law – insist that the legislation stops women from being harmed.

“Muslim women have rights which are stated for them in the Koran, not rights that other countries set for them. We want the rights which have been set according to Islam,” one of them told the BBC.

Among the law’s provisions are that

• wives are obliged to have sexual relations with their husbands at least once every four days

• women cannot leave home without their husband’s permission

Critics say the law limits the rights of women from the Shia minority and authorises rape within marriage.

The law covers members of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, who make up 10% of the population. A separate family law for the Sunni majority is also being drawn up.

Although the BBC acknowledges that this crazy Afghan law obliges women to have sex with their husbands at least once every four days, whether the women want to or not, this still apparently does not count as rape, because some other nebulous crazy Afghans say that, actually quite the reverse, this law protects women and their rights!

Their right to be pronged once every four days at someone else’s convenience, apparently. But, says the BBC, that’s not rape. It’s ‘rape.’ Be told.

Mar 302009
 

Dr David Starkey has opened his trap about the injustice done to poor Henry VIII by the concentration of modern female historians on his wives, to the exclusion of his powerful accomplishments in the realm of politics and religion.

But he warned that the “soap opera” of Henry’s personal life should come second to the political consequences of his rule, such as the Reformation and the break with Rome.

Dr Starkey went further, by saying that modern attempts to paint many women in history as “power players” was to falsify the facts.

Many years ago, when I still taught history, I used to tell my students that almost everything that ‘power players’ did was motivated by money, power, or land. With Henry VIII, it tended to be all three, although as in a sense they’re more or less three sides of the same coin, this is not particularly noteworthy.

In fact, very little of what Henry VIII did is particularly noteworth – and the break with Rome is not one of those things. The English Church, under the direction of the monarch, had broken with Rome already on a number of occasions. The refusal of William II to fill vacant bishoprics (so that the Crown could continue to collect their revenues) resulted in the exile of the Archbishop of Canterbury and William’s excommunication; Henry II’s spat with Thomas Becket meant that half of the priestly class of England joined Becket in exile and, of course, Henry was excommunicated; John’s stubbornness about Stephen Langton mean that the poor archbish couldn’t even get into England, let alone go into exile, and John’s excommunication and the subsequent Interdict laid on the nation lasted for some years. During all of these periods, the monarch and people of England were ‘broken’ from Rome, and in the case of John, many of the people even supported his position. Henry VIII’s quarrel with Rome rather pales in comparison, and the basis of his break was neither theological nor procedural: he wanted the Church’s revenues, and he wanted to be ultimate court of appeal on both religious and civil matters. The 39 Articles were hardly un-Catholic, and most of what he incorporated from Luther’s theological protest was later adopted by the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation anyway. The true Reformation in England happened after Henry VIII’s death, under his son Edward VI and his second daughter Elizabeth I.

What is significant about Henry VIII is that, as part of his megalomania, he rode roughshod over the constitution of England and the traditional liberties of its people as enshrined in Magna Carta. His show trials rivalled Stalin’s and his prosecution of people under treason laws for slights against his amour propre made a mockery of justice. His execution of the Duke of Buckingham for no other crime than being a rival prince of the blood, and his subsequent seizure of the Duke’s ancestral lands (ever wondered about Buckingham Palace?), whilst nevertheless moaning on and on about the sanctity of his conscience, show him to have been a despot and tyrant of the highest order.

Even these dubious accomplishments, however, are not unique to Henry VIII; his father did the same thing.

What is unique about Henry VIII is that he alone of all English monarchs, including the wicked John, the inept Edward II, and the evil-uncle Richard III, beheaded his wives. Everything else he did falls, if you will, into the ordinary realms of monarchical naughtiness. Grasping, greedy, power-hungry – well, fair enough. But double uxoricide? That, my friends, was unprecedented, and has never happened since. It’s the kind of behaviour one might expect from a Mithridates, not from a crowned monarch of a Christian nation, a Defender of the Faith with an exquisitely acute conscience. Is it any wonder historians, whatever is between their legs, focus on that?

I reckon that Henrician history isn’t feminised so much as it is centred on the only thing that makes Henry VIII actually interesting. Apart from his torrid love-life, he’s really a rather run-of-the-mill king.

Starkey does say one peculiar thing, though:

He also stressed his comments were not a “value statement” about how he thought the world should be, but argued: “It is a great impertinence to impose our values on the past. It instantly reduces the people of the past from real people to mere straw men and women in our struggles.”

Using the past to inform our own time is kinda what we study history for; while it may be ‘impertinent’ to impose our values on the people of the past, it is the height of arrogance to argue that we must not employ history as a rhetorical tool in our own struggles. Although I don’t like it, and I resent the use of history that politicians make to prop up their own stupidities, to insist otherwise is to diminish its importance, and the study of history is embattled enough already without historians adding to the claims of irrelevance it has to overcome.

Mar 102009
 

Because I cannot be arsed to read the news while there is work to be done, I find that a lot of what alerts my ‘blog-post dammit’ sensors comes from other blogs, and today is no exception. By David Davis (no, not that one) at the Libertarian Alliance, I was entirely brought up short by a singular piece of commentary:

And, to round off, what a load of feminazi crap from Rowenna Davis at the Grauniad, about the “bloke-o-sphere.” Thanks to “And there was me thinking” for hat-tipping me off to this fem***z* august woman journalist. Perhaps it’s that males are just more intellectually and literarily creative? We can’t fabricate babies, you lot have to do that for us (and yourselves, don’t forget that, ever): so we write more, and harder, and faster, and with more exquisitely crafted anger feeling instead. The pen is mightier than the p**** I guess.

Many eons ago (a couple of years in reality), I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the wonders of University Challenge, that exquisitely British quiz programme hosted by the even-more-exquisite Jeremy Paxman. During the course of several rounds of filming and, later, numerous Monday evenings spent shouting trivia at the television set in tandem with some of the brightest young minds in the country (‘Wadham-Harris!’), it became apparent to me that females made up rather less than 50% of the contestant pool. On our own team (of which I was not a member, lest you accuse me of delusions of grandeur), there was one female, who answered precisely two starters-for-ten in the entire course of the team’s progress. I remember asking my then-boyfriend, the captain of our team, why women were so under-represented in the competition.

To give him his due, he considered the question carefully rather than, a la David Davis, leaping to the defence with accusations of feminazism. Eventually, he said something along the lines of: ‘To be successful on University Challenge, one has to be aggressive and take risks. If you don’t know the answer, you have to come up with a plausible guess and run with it. Those tend to be male traits, I suppose.’

Much later, or perhaps it was around the same time, I asked him why it is that females, on average, perform much better in school, but males perform better at university. His response was similar: ‘When you think about the university examination system, you know that most of it consists of writing rather long essays in answer to rather vague questions. What achieves good marks doesn’t seem to be simple repetition of facts. Instead, errors of fact are overlooked if an answer is bold enough or has enough flair. Men, I suppose, tend to be rather bolder and more given to flashes of insight.’

My own experience as a teacher would seem to support his conclusions. When I taught history in the US (in a mixed school), my best students were male. Even when they misreported the circumstances of historical events, their essays often displayed a deeper understanding of the material and a more rigorous level of analysis than those of the females.

What does this mean for women in the blogosphere, then?

A quick survey of my own blogroll (which is rather more extensive than what you will find in the right-hand sidebar), reveals that there are two women on it: one, Megan McArdle, is an MBA who writes for the Atlantic, and the other is a feminist. This is not to say that I’m not aware of other female bloggers: David Davis tips his hat to one, Dennis often features another, and who hasn’t heard of the lovely Trixy? And yet those five women represent the sum total of my conversance with the female side of the interweb-commentariat. Of the two on my blogroll, I read Megan McArdle to keep up with the American libertarian world, and I read the feminist because she is angry and sweary and uses neologisms like ’empornulate.’

Rowenna Davis (no relation to David) says:

Second, it’s worrying because – like any forum – virtual spaces develop institutional cultures over time. The House of Commons building might be gender neutral, but fill its chambers with mainly men for hundreds of years and sexism begins to looks like part of the furniture. So too with cyberspace. Unlike parliament, the internet was not made exclusively for men, but mainstream political blogs are starting to become defined as such.

In such a context, it’s hard to stay true to yourself online. When editing LabourList, I felt the need to turn up the aggression, to be more cutting than I would like to be and less willing to compromise. Online, I felt a similar pressure that Thatcher may have felt in the Commons – the need to compensate for my femininity in a world dominated by aggressive masculinity.

Her choice of the words ‘aggression’ and ‘aggressive’ certainly hearkens back to my ex’s remarks and suggests that the blogosphere, like University Challenge and university exams, is a realm in which success is achieved by having the loudest, most insistent, most incisive voice.

Rowenna Davis goes on:

But facing that world alongside other female bloggers gave me hope. I was lucky enough to have commentators like Sadie Smith tweeting alongside me, and blog-readers like Grace Fletcher-Hackwood questioning the male-dominated blogroll. While editing, I saw first-hand that – given a critical mass – the internet can work for women as well as against them.

But changing the content for one day is not enough. If women don’t keep up a lively presence online, the “blokeosphere” will rule. Ultimately, the internet is what we make it. This poses a challenge to mainstream political blogs – who have a responsibility to make space for female voices – and to women, who have a duty to fill them.

It’s rather heartening to know that ‘mainstream’ political blogs, of which I read precisely none according to what this woman’s definition probably is, suffer the same dearth of oestrogen as the libertarian blogs I frequent. Whilst I don’t support the idea that any internet community has ‘a responsibility to make space for female voices,’ I do agree that women, if they want their voices heard, need to enter the space and start making waves.

The delightful Tim Worstall mentioned a related problem recently when he ridiculed Mary Honeyball MEP for contradicting her own argument about gender quotas, and let’s be fair, the woman is a stupid ass:

It took all-women shortlists to raise the number of Labour women MPs to 27% of the parliamentary Labour party. Compare this with the Tories – who, incidentally, oppose quotas – of whom only 9% are female. Quotas do work, and I do not believe we will get significantly more women elected representatives without them.

Only 26% of MPs are female, meaning that Westminster does not have enough women for them to form a critical mass – estimated to be around 30% – where they can bring about changes.

Only by getting more women into parliament will some of the structural barriers that prevent more women from being elected be removed. Female MPs are role models who raise women’s and girls’ aspirations. Quotas are a short-term measure that will ensure long lasting democracy and equal representation.

Although women comprise, as is often cited, half of the population, women do not comprise half the population’s representatives. I don’t want to get into the issue of quotas, which are a silly idea in any situation (vide Tim, supra) and already discredited more than ably over at Musings on Liberty, but it’s interesting to see how Honeyball attacks democracy in the name of…democracy. Democracy is not only choosing for whom one wishes to vote, but choosing whether or not one wishes to stand for office. When more men than women wish to stand, and more people prefer to vote for men over women, that is democracy, however much it might offend the sensibilities of equality-seekers.

And why do we have this confluence of more men running and more people voting for men? Perhaps it is because politics, like University Challenge, university exams, and the blogosphere, is a realm in which success is achieved by having the loudest, most insistent, most incisive voice. If a majority of men and women believe that women possess those traits in insufficient quantities, then women will neither stand for office nor receive votes.

The question, is seems to me, is: why are aggression and flair considered primarily masculine, rather than feminine, traits? We all know women who possess them, and we all know men who don’t. Are women employing these characteristics in other spheres of their lives? Is David Davis right in suggesting that women divert their strenuous efforts into the creation of babies?

I don’t know the answer. I know that I am not a person who is much given to flair. I am rarely loud. I do not craft my anger into exquisite, invective-filled blog posts, and other people’s pens are indeed mightier, as David Davis says, than my pussy. I am not aggressive. So maybe this blog is doomed to fail, I will never have a career in politics, and Gail Trimble truly is the man.

What I do know, however, is that whinging on about what women are entitled to, whether it be space in the great political debate, seats in Parliament, or exams tailored to fit their character traits, is a counter-productive waste of time. Women are entitled to be treated as human beings, with all attendant rights and liberties. No more, no less. And the more we focus on dragging down men to pull ourselves up, the more harm we do to our primary, legitimate, and above all imperative goal.