Saturday, 31 December 2011

Things I have learned during 2011

There’s a number of things I’ve learned about this year that have changed my life and the way I live it. I wanted to share them to see if they touch someone else too…

1. A simple hint on how to love yourself [no sniggering at the back!]

David at Raptitude is an ordinary guy taking an extraordinary look at life. There’s a few articles on his site that have really struck a chord with me this year but the one above is the one that’s made the most impact.

TL; DR - Love is what you do to yourself, not how you feel about yourself. Specific, tangible action is much easier than coming to some abstract acceptance of yourself. Do a little something that treats you right.

2. The Thoughts Room

This is a neat little site. When I’m feeling overwrought, I have a tendency to want to write things down but afterwards I can feel a bit overwhelmed by the jumble of things I’ve expelled from my brain.

This website has a box in which you can write everything that comes into your head and as you do so, it turns your words into a shower of stars that explode and disappear before your eyes. Therapeutic AND pretty!

3. Mindfulness meditation

This year I have really gotten to grips with making meditation a part of my life. The thing about mindfulness is that it’s an areligious practice that takes some of the good things about what folks might associate with, for example, Buddhist meditation, but does not have a specifically spiritual end in mind. Instead it’s about learning to accept your thoughts as things that ebb and flow rather than something that must be overcome in order to be happy.

The link above takes you to a downloadable MP3 of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s three minute guided breathing space meditation. I’ve used this often through the course of the year, particularly when things have seemed a bit much to deal with. If you find that useful I can strongly recommend the book he co-authored, The Mindful Way Through Depression, which comes with a CD of all his guided meditations including a full ‘body scan’, listening, breathing and even an eating meditation.

So there you have it. A few bits of food for thought. If any of this helps anyone, my work here will be done.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

[Trigger Warning] This Is Not An Invitation To Rape Me - brilliant campaign from Rape Crisis Scotland

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog, setting out some truths about rape I wished were universally acknowledged. I covered some of the insidious myths that lead people to apologise for the behaviour of rapists and blame those raped for the violence carried out against them.

Today I came across this Rape Crisis Scotland campaign website via Women's Views on News.

Women are by far the most likely victims of sexual assault. The way they are treated by society at large and by the criminal justice system in particular is sickening. Erroneous beliefs pervade the general consciousness that allow perpetrators of sexual violence to partially excuse their actions or even exonerate themselves if their victim is not an elderly nun clad in iron knickers and feed the humiliation rape victims are often subjected to at every stage of their experience of trying to seek justice.

Did you know that if someone is raped and they were drunk at the time, they are entitled to less compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority? That sentencing guidelines in England and Wales say that the prison term for a rapist may be reduced if the victim engaged consensual sexual activity with the same person on the same occasion? So if you've had a few, and therefore in less of a fit state to give your informed consent, if you kiss your attacker before they rape you not only will they serve less time, you will be considered to have wilfully put yourself in a position where sex is inevitable and therefore are less deserving of compensation for the violence perpetrated against you. This is madness, and it has to stop.

The website is brilliant. It is an upsetting read at times, but presents ways in which we can all challenge beliefs and hegemonies that are long overdue a debunking. There are resources you can download to add your voice to their campaign and spread the message far and wide.

Thinking back to my earlier post, I would like to add an additional universal truth to the list based on the most heartbreaking thing I read on the website. There were many things that made me tearful, angry or just feel bleak - but this comment from a visitor to the site made me simultaneously furious with the whole of society and want to reach out and tell this person that things can get better and there are people who don't think that way:

I wish that I had known this all before. He told me that it wasn't rape because I was obviously aroused. They said I deserved it because I'd led him on. I blamed myself so much and for so long I let it happen again and again.
Alexander, male
So I'm adding "physiological signs of arousal =/= consent" to my list of truths. In the same way as rapists are not unstoppable animals with drives that cannot be denied, it is your mind that decides whether or not you wish to proceed with a sexual encounter and not your body, no matter how hard or wet or breathless you are. Your clothes cannot consent for you. Your third glass of wine cannot consent for you. Your marriage vows are not a blanket consent form. Your wandering hands or eager kisses right at this second have an indefinite cooling off period that your partner should always, always respect. If they do not, they are wrong and you have a right to be heard without prejudice.

So please, support the campaign. This Is Not An Invitation To Rape Me. Let's change some minds.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Territorial pissings

I've just made a cup of tea in our office kitchen and, in a fit of pique, rubbed the name off someone's carton of soy milk with my thumb. I now have orange marker on me like a stain of guilt but I refuse to feel guilty.

What is it with people's need to be territorial over stuff in the fridge in communal places? I mean, I can understand it when you're a skint student and your house/flat/dorm mates are all skint and starving but in an office full of adults? Does writing your name on something really help? If someone's determined to have that food in the fridge and they already know it's not theirs, do you think that seeing your name on it is going to deter them? Make them stop to think of you weeping into a fishpond over the fact you have 30ml less soy milk than before? Seriously?

She and I are the only people in the office that drink soy milk and my carton was already in the fridge. Everyone else here thinks that soy milk is muck. So why bother etching your tag all over it? Three times, no less.

A carton of own-brand soy milk costs about 60p. A carton will usually do me for longer than a week. If it goes much longer than that, it'd go off anyway so I'd be glad if someone dipped into it because I hate to waste it. But even if I had to bring in two a week because others were using it, what's the big deal? If there was a little more give and take around the place, maybe people would get on a little better.

So to Jane, whose smudged name now stains my thumb, up yours with your passive-aggressive food marking. No-one wants your crappy soy milk anyway!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Obituary to Common Sense? Testimony to idiocy more like...

Received as an email in my mailbox today (commentary in brackets):
An Obituary printed in the London Times (the whutnow?)

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape (and there was me thinking that "bureaucratic" record-keeping was so you could find stuff that would otherwise be lost in the mists of time, not to obfuscate the past). He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and Maybe it was my fault.

(those aren't so much valuable lessons as trite statements and platitudes that have nothing to do with common sense.)

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies - don't spend more than you can earn - (excellent, provided you never want to own your own house, go to university) and reliable strategies - adults, not children, are in charge (which is great, provided children are also listened to. Let's not go back to the "children should be seen and not heard" of yore that led to kids not being able to speak out *shudders*).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports (in the Daily Mail) of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion (an invasion of personal space) or an aspirin (to which quite a large number of people are intolerant) to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an Abortion (due to the fact that teenagers are human beings with rights to confidentiality).

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses (which they have always been, but not recognised as such); (<- unnecessary semi-colon is unnecessary) and criminals received better treatment than their victims (that's sometimes true, but again has nothing to do with common sense. Neither does commercialised religion).

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault (if you use unreasonable force such as, for instance, shooting them in the back while they're running away instead of leaving them to the Police, Tony Martin).

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, (<- unnecessary comma is unnecessary) after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, (<- and again with the commas) and was promptly awarded a huge settlement (who is this apocryphal woman? How much was she awarded? By whom? Under what jurisdiction? If you have a point to make, please make it specific so we can see the evidence for your assertions).

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust (who must've been so disappointed by their son's lack of likeness to either of them. It's almost like he was... Completely unrelated), by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; (<- um, I think you mean colon, not semi-colon. Please learn about punctuation. Kthx.)
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim
(The obituary is written by Common Sense's bastard cousin, This Is An Outrage. You may know him as a close personal friend of Political Correctness Gone Mad and We Never Had This Ridiculous Health And Safety Nonsense In My Day.)

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone (that's what you get for writing an obituary for someone whose funeral has been and gone). If you still remember him, pass this on (I do, but not in the way described...) If not, join the majority and do nothing.
Ah,  I enjoyed that. If anyone wants me, I'll be reading Speak You're Branes...

Friday, 2 September 2011

A few truths I wish were universally acknowledged [warning: abstract discussion of rape]

Over the course of the past couple of months some messages about men's and women's roles and responsibilities in the arena of sexual behaviour have coming through the media more and more consistently [or maybe I'm just noticing them more] that I find frankly nauseating. With stories such as that of the dropped case against Dominique Strauss Khan, the sex education plans proposed by MP Nadine Dorries and reports of pro-rape groups on Facebook and on campuses in the US and Australia, there have been a number of people keen to make points to which I am fundamentally opposed.

I am talking about the evolutionary psychology-inspired belief that men are hard-wired to fuck at all costs and anyone who stands in the way of that, irrespective of the impact on them, is denying them their right and should be ashamed. The view that if women are raped, it means they were depriving men of what they have the right to take and should therefore have just said yes in the first place.

As a counter to those views, I have a three truths I wish were universally acknowledged.

1. Not all men want sex all of the time

If the rape apologists and evolutionary psychologists are to be believed, men are only programmed to want sex. If they are to be believed, this is their primary drive and anyone denying them that is depriving them of the one thing they want.

If this perspective were true, I'm not sure how men would have made the contribution they have to advances in science, the arts, architecture, politics and such like when they're having to expend all their mental and physical energy controlling the urge not to rape the next woman they see. The assertion that all men want and think about is sex is absurd and disparaging to the entire gender.

Now I don't know about you, but I've known many men who go through periods of low desire and those are only the ones who've felt comfortable enough with me to tell me such. All kinds of things impact on sexual desire and arousal and that works for both genders. There are no absolutes.

I'm not a man, but if I were I would find it frankly insulting to hear people write me off as an animal purely driven by desire. Never mind the fact that it places all the responsibility on women to moderate male sexual behaviour, the idea that men are incapable of self control is derogatory and completely incorrect.

2. Not all men want sex with women

You'd have thought this would be self-evident, but apparently it's not. Some men prefer sex with men. Some men prefer sex with themselves. Other men would rather not have sex at all, thank you very much. The idea that not only are all men incapable of controlling their carnal urges, that those carnal urges will inevitably be directed towards women is wrong. What's more, it puts a disproportionate amount of pressure on women to be guardians of socially appropriate sexual behaviour when not only are men perfectly capable of controlling themselves, a considerable proportion of them may not look to women for satiation of their sexual desires anyway.

3. Men can be raped too

This seems to have escaped the notice of rape apologists, but it isn't only women can be raped. Admittedly, it's less common and probably very much under-reported. However, there is an inherent contradiction in this fact. If all men want sex all the time and men are raped - therefore not wililng - how does that stack up? It doesn't, and there is no way to reconcile these two positions.

It is also true that men can be raped or sexually assaulted by women. That seems to be a less frequent occurrence than male-male rape and is most likely even more under-reported, but it happens. There are ways of going about degrading a person that doesn't require penetrative sex and this is the point. Rape is not just about sex. I'm not going to get into the whole sordid debate about degrees of awfulness of sexual assault because it's vile and upsetting, but these facts - that men can be raped and not necessarily by other men - make a mockery of what the rape apologists are trying to make out is truth.

What some seem to have lost sight of in this debate is that rape is not primarily about sex; it's about power. It's the power exercised by a person to take what they want and to subjugate someone else to their will. It is done by sexual means and sometimes with the motivation of sexual gratification but it is power that's at play, not desire. Admittedly, the links between sex, power, desire and gratification are pretty complex but to say that rape is all about sex is downright wrong.

So next time we're considering tarnishing all men with the potential rapist brush or thinking that rapists are the victims of denied sexual gratification, please can we hold on to these three truths and regain some perspective on what rape actually means?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again?
Last night was utterly surreal. Being nowhere near London and watching events unfurl on the rolling news channels was really upsetting. Seeing places I recognised and hearing the names of areas in or through which people I love would be staying or travelling, feeling so remote and so helpless.

The scenes of devastation this morning were horrifying. Entire streets decimated. Burnt out cars and buildings, smashed windows and mangled roller shutters stretched as far as the eye could see in some parts of the city. Admittedly, the eye can’t stretch too far in London, but still. The pictures of a plume of thick, black smoke rising somewhere in South London [most likely Croydon] against the backdrop of the London Eye just set in stark contrast the ‘public’ face of London and the extent of the wreckage wrought by last night’s rampages.

There’s a few things that I find more disturbing than anything else. As I was looking through cameraphone footage and pictures posted all over the internet, I was stunned by how gleeful the rioters were. The callous way I saw one young lad robbed, his rucksack rifled after being apparently helped up off the floor, bleeding from the face, will stick with me for some time yet. I don’t know quite how to process the complete lack of compassion or thought for other people.

As is predictable in these circumstances, people are starting to ask the Big Questions. Why did this happen? What does this mean for us as a society? Where do we go from here?

The obvious trigger was the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham following an exchange of fire between him and police officers. The incident is still under investigation by the Police Complaints Commission [PCC] and it certainly seems that the peaceful protest that began in Tottenham at the weekend attracted people who wanted to do more than quietly make their grief and dissatisfaction known about that particular incident.

Yesterday, things really took hold and spread far and wide in London and further out into other parts of the UK. Groups of [mostly young] people gathered apparently out of nowhere armed with missiles and started to break into shops. Shops with high value stock seemed to be targeted especially to begin with – electrical stores and mobile phone shops – but quickly devolved into mass destruction. Buildings and vehicles were set alight. Young people with no apparent concern for the consequences were squaring off against lines of riot police. The scenes were reminiscent of those recently seen in Syria, Egypt, Libya, but with one important difference. There was no commonly agreed political aim.

Now, one may argue – and I’m sure social policy-makers, philosophers and any number of other commentators will do the very same over the coming weeks – that these actions say something about society. I couldn’t agree more. They do say something, but what they don’t say is that this is a massive movement of disenfranchised youth taking up arms against the oppressive state. From what I can tell, this is much more subtle and nuanced than that.

Over the course of the past 20 or 30 years, we as a society have gone wrong with the messages we’ve been sending out to our children. With a very fluid population in most parts of the country, there is not the sense of community that there was in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Our media and social discourse is permeated with ideas of possessions being of primary importance. If you don’t have X, Y or Z product, you won’t be successful; won’t have any friends; won’t be able to attract a mate and keep them.

The notable thing about this ongoing situation is the looting. There has been widespread criminal damage to property but even more than that, huge amounts of acquisitive crime. Young people are seen on cameraphone footage discussing what the best shop would be to break into based on the value of the goods they can carry off. Things are more important than people.

There have been lots of between commentators, broadcasters and so-called experts about what should be done in the wake of not just this event but the realisation that we have gone so badly wrong.

“Arm the police!” cry some. “Send in the Army!” say others. Use of water cannon, rubber bullets, baton rounds and all sorts of other tactics have been discussed as ways to quell the riots and bring them under control.

The only sensible solution, which I’ve heard mentioned only once by the Metropolitan Police’s Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin, is for parents to keep their children off the streets. “I urge parents to start contacting their children and ask them where they are,” he said yesterday. “Please get your children off the streets and let my brave officers do their jobs.”

Brilliant. Why did no-one think of that before?

I could go off on a long diatribe here about individual liability, parental responsibility and the expectation that the State is responsible for All Of The Things here, but I won’t because I’ll just make myself angry.

“Ban social media!” others rail. “It’s that Twitter what done it! People having easy access to talk to each other and that. It shouldn’t be allowed!”

Should we also ban the telephone? Radios! They were used in all sorts of nefarious ways during World War II to enable spies to communicate with one another and conspire against us. It also allowed our side to gain intelligence that could not have otherwise been conveyed but, damn it! Some people use it for things we don’t agree with! We should ban it all immediately!

I would like to point out that while some people may have been using Twitter, Facebook and other social networking portals to organise looting parties, there has also been a considerable number of people mobilised through Twitter to wield brooms and help those whose shops and livelihoods have been ransacked to clear up and put things back together. Twitter and Tumblr have also been used to keep people posted on trouble spots to avoid and crowdsource intelligence on the identities of rioters and looters using released cameraphone pictures and videos and CCTV footage published by the Met and other police forces involved.

I have seen the finger of blame pointed at a wide number of red herrings – Police; social media; the Government; the recession. A number of those things may have a large part to play in what led to the events that have unfolded over the last 72 hours but so far no-one is turning the spotlight where it is most painful to shine it: on ourselves. We have all contributed to creating the conditions in which these dreadful things happen and until we start to examine that and decide how we can do things differently, I can’t see any room for change.

And for the record, I don’t think that the necessary change is enforced reintroduction of National Service, 9pm curfews for the under 21s and greater restriction of everyone’s civil liberties. I would like to think that between us we can come up with some suggestions for how we can all start to take back responsibility for the society that we have co-created rather than assuming it’s all someone else’s problem and they will come in and clear it up for us if we sit in and stare in dismay at our televisions for long enough.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Not another trial by media?!

Yesterday in Stockport, a woman was suspended from her job at and subsequently arrested in connection with a number of suspicious deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital where she worked as a nurse.

There is scarce detail available about what happened, other than to say police have arrested a woman, they suspect that saline has been contaminated with insulin and inquiries are ongoing.

That didn’t stop the Daily Mail publishing an astonishing article today. Devoid of information and full of speculation, the journalist makes tenuous links to the case from out-of-context Facebook entries and quotes from ‘close friends’.

The web version of the article is littered with pictures lifted from the woman’s Facebook page and quotes her status updates saying, for example, “’Back to work in the morn’ followed by an unhappy face symbol,” but what does that tell us? What does this actually contribute to our understanding of the case? The only thing that I know now that I didn’t before is that she has a Facebook page, has been photographed whilst out socialising and sometimes feels weary and less-than-enthusiastic about going to work. None of these things are particularly noteworthy and could probably be said about millions of other people. However, the way the article has been constructed is particularly unpleasant.

The article includes 14 out-of-context quotes from her Facebook page dating back to October 2010 painting her as a “party girl” and attempts to draw sinister links between dates linked to the case – such as Friday 15th July, the day after the police were called in to investigate the deaths at the hospital, and her totally ambiguous Facebook status, “this is what it’s all about.”

The whole article seems to imply that she is somehow morally questionable because she enjoys going out and getting drunk with friends. Their use of the term “party girl” is imbued with suggestive undertones. Of all the photos they could have chosen of her, they’ve picked ones of her swigging from wine bottles and pouting, some might say suggestively, at the camera. The journalist ‘researching’ the piece dug back several months into her Facebook past to find sufficiently titillating status updates talking about how she intended to go out drinking. They also state – from what I can tell, completely unfoundedly – that she was using what they euphemistically refer to as her “frantic social life” as a way to cope with “the stress of work.” From what I’ve read in the article, it is a leap of logic to link the two things and is no truer than it might be of anyone who chooses to go out on their evenings off and let their hair down.

The journalist writing the article also includes quotes from personal and family friends in the article and while I do not doubt the veracity of these, the phraseology of these is telling of the way the questions must have been phrased. I thought it was customary only to refer to people in the past tense if they are dead or proven to be substantially different to how they were previously regarded. In the article, the husband of her close friend says of the woman’s relationship with his wife, “they were as close as they come,” and an unnamed friend says “she was just a lovely, happy person” (emphasis mine). 

Why are they referring to her in the past tense? Particularly since the editorial part of the article is written in the present tense. If I were to read those comments about myself, I would be certain that I had lost the good opinion of people I held dear.

And to what end? So far there is nothing to suggest that she is guilty other than the fact she’s been arrested and suspended. Neither of these things would stand up in a court of law as evidence of wrongdoing. Suspension is a neutral act carried out to ensure an investigation can be carried out without prejudice. Arrest is necessary in order to conduct the kind of questioning needed to establish what this woman knows. To insinuate that either of these things are a clear indications of guilt is damaging and wrong.

What disturbs me most about this article in particular and the speculation around this arrest in general is the fact the media – and particularly the tabloid press – are strongly leading the public into condemning this woman on the basis of innuendo and speculation about her personal life. There is little if any concrete information about the case currently available, not even exactly how the saline was contaminated and what her part in it might have been, if any. Yet the front page of the Daily Mail today carried a picture of her next to a typeface about as large as it’s possible to get on a tabloid sheet saying:


So if it turns out, following investigations, that she had nothing to do with this at all, she will always be tainted with that insinuation. If she is later charged in connection with these deaths, how can she get a fair trial when her character has been called into question for behaviour in her personal life that, were it not for the incidental link to her being questioned in connection with this investigation, would be seen as nothing out of the ordinary?

While much of the attention on press conduct brought about by the current scrutiny of News International focuses on the illegal accessing of voicemail and 'blagging' personal information, this is not the only way in which journalists the news media – and particularly the tabloids – have a history of ruining reputations based on scant or spurious evidence of what you might call ‘ordinary’ people.

Another clear case of trial by media involved the speculation published about the landlord of Jo Yeates, murdered in Bristol last winter, where incidental details about his apparently eccentric lifestyle were exposed in the press as supposed pointers to his guilt. When he was later released by the police without charge, the papers dropped their pursuit of him but nothing could undo the damage done by hauling his personal information out into the public eye for needless scrutiny. They took a retired teacher who kept himself to himself and painted him as some kind of creepy, reclusive loner. What benefit did that have in pursuing the investigation? None whatsoever. At what cost to him personally? Who can tell?

I think there is a strong argument for the sake of fairness in the judicial process that the identities of suspects in criminal investigations should be withheld from the media until such time as their trial has been commenced. If the media can’t be relied upon to behave responsibly, this information should be kept from them. It is not in the public interest [even if many members of the public may be interested] and has effects of publicly airing personal details of otherwise innocent people’s lives for titillation and potentially prejudicing juries in the trial of those who are found to have a case to answer.

I don’t believe that the judicial process or people’s reputations should be sacrificed in order to provide lurid entertainment and secure circulation. I can’t be the only one.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Sometimes I despair for my own gender

Today, at the office, I sat on the sidelines of the following conversation:

Julia: I was at my son's leaver's assembly yesterday and all the kids in his class had to stand up and say what they'd enjoyed most about being in school and what they hoped to do in the future. My son said "I enjoyed the outdoor pursuits weekend and in future I'm going to sail around the world and drive a truck for Eddie Stobart.
[General 'aw' noises] 
Julia: Yeah, and every single girl in my son's class wants to be a vet. All of them said "I love animals, so I want to be a vet." Oh, apart from his one special friend, who's a right tomboy, who said she wants to be a firefighter. A firefighter! She's such a tomboy! I can totally see her as a firefighter.

Me: Good luck to her. I hope she makes it. I always like seeing girls who aren't put off doing what they want to do by the fact it's a traditionally male-dominated area. Our local tyre garage is staffed entirely by women.

Katie: Yeah, but aren't you worried that, like, they won't be as good as when men do it?

Julia: Yeah, I know what you mean. I always have a bit of a panic when you're on a plane and the pilot does the announcement and it's a woman. I mean, I'm always confident if it's a man but a woman? I'm not so sure.

Katie: Though I think I'd trust the women in the tyre garage not to rip me off. I mean, women're more worried about other people's feelings while men? Well they just don't care do they? If they see a woman coming along, especially cos we don't know what we're talking about, and they can just totally think they can take advantage, don't they?

Me: *gapes with disbelief*

I don't quite know what to do with this. I mean, how does one go about challenging that degree of deeply ingrained gender essentialism in women who are in their late twenties and thirties? Some women seem to believe that men are the enemies of feminism and equality but you know what? If we as women buy into the hegemonic discourse about what females can and can't do without even a hint of scepticism, what hope for future generations? Are we to forever to consign ourselves to the gutter by repeating age-old myths of gender-specific capability without question and pass them on to our daughters and granddaughters?