Archive for category in the news


This week a report regarding advertising  aimed at children called “Letting Children be Children; Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood” was published. This report looked into whether or not businesses were acting appropriately in their marketing strategies for minors. It sounded reasonable to me at first but then I started getting a bit suspicious when I heard how they researched the topic. Before I tell you how they did it why don’t you have a think; if you were tasked with investigating the effect that sexual advertising has on children (never mind the nightmare of defining what is and is not sexual or appropriate) how would you go about it. Take a moment…

The Emperors New Clothes; blatant sexualisation of children's books

If anywhere in your plans there was the idea that to investigate the effect that sexual advertising has on children you should research any effects that sexual advertising have had on children then give yourself a pat on the back, you are a person in possession of a brain. Those of you who thought deeper than this initial point may have surmised that published research by child psychologists, evidence from academic sources and interviews with experts in the field might be good ideas. Unfortunately the group does none of this. Instead it sent out questionnaires, held focus groups with concerned parents and copied and pasted opinion polls from previous government reports, it also is filled with the persona beliefs of the authors such as “The world is a nasty place and children should be unsullied by it until they are mature enough to deal with it” and my personal favourite “we believe that a truly family-friendly society would … reinforce healthy norms for adults and children alike “. I won’t even go into the report’s shocking misuse of the term “evidence” or how it can advise moving “lads mags” to the top shelf on the basis that 15% of those polled had a problem with them. Suffice to say anyone who has ever done a statistics 101 module would laugh if they didn’t die on the spot. This report whose head author is Reg Bailey (Chief Exec of the Mothers Union) is so full of traditional-values backed up by “we believes” rather than “studies show” that it must have made David Cameron weep with orgasmic, big-society joy when he read it.

I don’t have time to do a long and detailed debunk (for one thing some of us have to do real research, I can’t get away with claiming “I believe” at a Viva) but luckily I don’t have to. The lovely Dr Brooke Magnanti (author of Belle de Jour) has already done it and I would implore you to read it.


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Watch out it’s the fashion police!

I didn’t intend to write about politics when I started this blog, I fully intended to stick to topics revolving around science. However this weeks activity in France where the burqa has now been banned have incensed me. For those of you who haven’t heard the French ban on wearing the burqa came into force today, now any woman found wearing the burqa will be subjected to a 150 Euro fine and mandatory attendance at a “re-education” meeting. I despise this law; it’s invasive, immoral and totally misguided at best. But what I despise more than this is the reaction some people have had. Here is some of the worst…

“If people want to live in our country they should abide by our culture!”

This statement strongly implies that all burqa wearing muslim women are immigrants who want nothing more than to segregate themselves from the rest of the country. Aside from this being spurious at best whose culture are we talking about? And is this about culture or fashion? I lived in Brighton for many years and have seen people wearing everything and often, nothing. In fact during my first week in Brighton I witnessed a very old man wearing an old man cap, shirt and tie, waistcoat, hot pants, red tights and knee length leather boots. This is not an anomaly! It is common in Brighton to witness odd clashes of fashion and style completely at odds with other norms in Britain such as hoodies and jeans, is this an example of Brighton not abiding by “our” culture? Why is it that if something is different or not native in origin that it should be shunned until it integrates (an Orwellian word that actually means conforms)? One news article went so far as to suggest that all muslim women who do not wear burqas are ‘moderates’ implying that those who do wear the burqa are extremist. At what point did it become acceptable in Europe to consider anyone who dresses or acts differently as extremest? If a selection of Europeans started painting their faces because of cultural reasons why should that not also be banned?

“You shouldn’t be allowed to cover your face in public”

Once a year this child is oppressed into covering it's face. Ban Ghosts

So we are going to ban hoodies, masks and helmets now are we? I accept that in some cases you should have to show your face (i.e. when engaging in an activity which requires ID) but why the hell is it the governments business if I show my face or not? As a matter of fact why is it anyone’s business what I wear?  When celebs are hounded by paparazzi and cover their face should we arrest them? Should faces no longer be blurred out on TV?

“Muslim women are oppressed”

The issue of women being oppressed is a strong one however ordering women not to wear a burqa is hardly a step forward especially as I have yet to see any evidence that the majority of burqa wearers do so under male instruction. I have a friend whose girlfriend tells him what and what not to wear. It’s ridiculous that a man of 22 can be ordered around and told which shirt he is allowed and not allowed to buy, should we ban shirts then? Tackling one small symptom is never going to get rid of the disease.

In addition I find it hard to see why there is a belief that here in Europe our culture doesn’t oppress women by demanding what they can and cannot wear. Our TV bombards us with programs featuring normal women who are then taken by some Guri, told they are doing it wrong and reborn with make-up, surgery and new clothes. Are you any more liberated if going out in jeans and a jumper results in sneers and odd looks from those dressed in less fabric than a small hanky? Anyone who believes that women in Europe can walk down the street wearing whatever they like without fear of judgement needs to get their head checked.

There’s a lot more to be said on this issue that I’m not going into now. All the arguments for banning the burqa are veiled attempts at forcing out Islam under the guise of liberation and integration. I can’t help feel that this is a bad time for our free world when the liberties that we fought to obtain are the ones we are now invoking to justify interference and oppression of our citizens. I, as a free European citizen should be allowed to wear whatever the hell I please and that freedom should be universal. What kind of world are we creating when we say it’s ok for government to pass laws over specific people like this? Is this not another example of what Niemöller warned against?

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