Teen Killers: Life Without Parole – A continuation

I recently read a fantastic article by Anniseed, and I just wanted to quickly say something about it.

It was about the BBC Three documentary that featured a series of young men in American prisons, each of whom had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole prior to turning 18. Each of the men talked about their crimes – all of them had committed murder – and their experiences of prison and rehabilitation (which not all of them had achieved). Viewers were left to form their own opinions of the men, and whether it was just that they remained in prison forever for a crime committed before they are legally old enough to make independent decisions.

Scary, scary shit – I couldn’t even begin to imagine being judged on my actions as a teenager, or spending the rest of my long, long life in prison. It’s a fantastically chilling documentary and I’d recommend watching it, if you can.

Anniseed in mentioned a particular man in the documentary that struck them:

Sean Taylor was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting dead an innocent bystander caught up in gang violence. In prison, he continued to live the life of a gang member, viewing the world through that narrow prism and getting into constant trouble with the authorities. But Sean was fortunate. An older inmate decided to look out for him, and every day would approach him and ask him a particular question. Here Sean leans forward and shares the question that was to save him:

“What have you read today?”

So Sean started reading. And it opened up his eyes to whole new worlds, made him delve into his own inner self, and make the tremendously brave decision to change his life. Through reading, he discovered Islam, and this showed him another path. He gathered his fellow inmates together and told them he was no longer going to be a gang member – he was going to live a better life, even though he was incarcerated, and he would help anyone else who wished to do the same. His transformation was to change not only his life, but the lives of many others. And the State Governor was moved to commute his sentence to parole.

Now Sean lives back in his home community, working with young people to try and stop them from getting involved with gangs, and to steer them away from lives of violence. It’s impossible to know how many lives his actions have actually saved, but his brave effort to pay back society for his own crimes were admirable. He spoke as an intelligent, committed and articulate man, and his story moved me greatly. I am inspired.

Proof, if any be needed, that reading can change lives.

That last sentence, that really grabbed me. It’s hard not to take away a message about the importance of books, and education in general, in the process of rehabilitation when faced with inspiring stories such as those of Sean Taylor.

Yet in the UK, a blanket ban has been introduced on the sending of books to prisoners. Sure, they still have access to books in the prison library, but the supply is somewhat limited. And sure, there are some prisoners that have used books to smuggle drugs and other items into prison in the past. Does that really mean that we should deny the entire prison population the opportunity of self-improvement, or the important moral lessons books often contain? I doubt it. When you see these case studies of  people who have turned their whole lives around on the basis of important influences in prison, like particular texts, can you really deny prisoners that opportunity?

Most of these people have not had access to the things we take for granted – a quality education, books, a stable home environment – and prison represents an ideal opportunity to introduce them to these things, in an effort toward their rehabilitation and their reintegration into society. We shouldn’t punish people for the sake of punishing them.

Teen Killers: Life Without Parole – A continuation

8 Things women just don’t do anymore, A Response

I LOVE this post. It’s so accurate (especially about how to divide housework!)

Fit To Be Queen

100283 I recently came across an article entitled  8 Things women just don’t do anymore (that they should!) It had been posted by not one but two of my Facebook male friends. With heightened curiosity I clicked the link and beheld a slew of content that prompted this response.

“There was a time,” the author begins “when a woman’s greatest duty and achievement was taking care of her man.” I stop, catch my breath and prepare myself for whatever comes next. The author then goes onto say that  women have become more independent and in so, she has lost this care taking ability or at least forgotten the traits. “You can still have your career and your own mind and what not,” she states “but maybe there are a few things that women just don’t do anymore, that they should!”

sexism-1

Her List

  1. I am to learn how to cook at least…

View original post 1,308 more words

8 Things women just don’t do anymore, A Response

The (Un)Friend Zone

I apologise for my absence – it was my birthday a few days ago. Let me make it up to you!

I’m going to tell you a story. It goes like so:

Once upon a time, there was a 15 year old girl called Laura, who had a really close male friend. She thought the world of him – even though everyone else found him quite irritating and selfish. She just never saw that side of him. She was really glad to have him as a friend.

One day, Laura and her friend – let’s call him “Ben” – went for a walk in the local area. Ben decided, for some reason, he wanted to go to the grave yard (yeah, creepy, right?) because there was something in there he wanted Laura to see. So she obliged, and off they went. He took her to a patch of grass and sat down… then turned to her and asked her to freakin’ marry him

Laura was shocked – she had no idea he felt that way, and she never wanted to get married, and, well, Ben just wasn’t her type. He was her close friend, and she liked it that way; she didn’t want anything more. So Laura decided to do the right thing, and tell him the truth. He nodded, she gave him a sympathetic hug, and they both went home. As soon as she got through the front door of her house, she received a message from Ben. He called her a total bitch, and said it would be her fault if he went to kill himself that night. Laura was devastated and broke into tears. She told her family, who called him a git. She told her friends.. who sided with Ben, because she’d totally “friend-zoned” him and she was ‘cruel’.

As I’m sure you can tell, this actually happened to me when I was 15. It was seriously scary and upsetting. But you’ll be glad to know he didn’t kill himself at all. Still, the subject of the “friend zone” is one that touches a nerve with me, naturally. So you can only imagine how I felt when on my news feed this morning, I found this:

Yeah, seriously. This exists.
Yeah, seriously. This exists.

I’ve had enough of this shit too. I have a personal policy when it comes to people who insist upon the friend-zone being a real thing, something which is increasingly well known. I UNFRIEND YOUR ASS.

You read that right. You talk about how you, or someone you know, has been “friend-zoned” and, context permitting, I will cease to be your friend. Some people think this is rather dramatic, but I totally disagree. Allow me to explain this policy.

You see, bleating about the friend zone actually says a lot about a person and how they view their friendship and relationships, stuff that probably influences the way they act. People that believe in the friend zone are looking at friendships and intimate relationships from a particular angle – the ‘slot machine’ angle. It works like this:

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A. 

Friendship is a slot machine – you put “niceness” chips in, and you expect eventually the “machine” will put out in a particular way. You’ve been nice to it, you’ve given it your time and all your niceness chips. You deserve a reward. So when the machine doesn’t put out, you’re upset. You maybe shake the machine, demand to know why it isn’t working, and walk away from it to find a machine that does work like that.

One error these people make is that friendships just don’t work that way. In fact, they might look a little more like this:

Yeah, those 'niceness chips' really get around, buddy.
Exhibit B. Yeah, those ‘niceness chips’ really get around…

Let’s say each of those people are the female’s friend, and the arrows are the famous ‘niceness’ chips. Some of them might be interested in relationships with one of those ladies… but judging by the diagram, niceness chips alone doesn’t quite cut it. They both have plenty of niceness chips, and they’re giving plenty of them back. Friendships, much like relationships, are reciprocal – you give something, they give something too.

Plus, the other point about friendships is the reason why you are being nice to someone. Most people are nice to their friends because they enjoy their company, and they want to keep these people happy because dang, these people are awesome to hang out with. If you are being nice to someone simply because you expect something particular in return – like some sweet, sweet lovin’ – you might be a manipulative selfish butthole. Your niceness does not entitle you to any special favours – it is the cornerstone of a good friendship, and a good friend is all that it entitles you to. That’s it. Nothing else.

I was nice to her, so that totally means I can steal her stuff, right?
I was nice to her, so that totally means I can steal her stuff, right?

When relationships do form out of friendships, it’s because that person offers something else on top of niceness coins – like they find them physically attractive, or they share the same sense of humour or something. So if they don’t accept your offer for a relationship, it simply means you were missing that magical ingredient at that time. It sucks for you, but deal with it. Life isn’t a fucking fairy tale. Do not reject their choice entirely and tell them you’re a ‘nice person’ who totally just got shoved into a ‘friend-zone’ by someone who totally only wants to date ‘losers’ or ‘assholes’. (Acting like an asshole isn’t going to make them jump into your arms.) Try respecting their choice as an adult of reasonable intelligence who is fully capable of making their own damn life decisions.

So when I say I will not be your buddy if you talk to me about the damn friend-zone, what I mean is just this – I am convinced that you will only see me in terms of what I can do for you, and not as a real person with real feelings, who makes legitimate choices about my own life, or as a person you might like to have around just because we have fun. I don’t want a friendship based on manipulation and bullshit, thanks. Welcome to the unfriend-zone.

The (Un)Friend Zone

Why I effing love to swear!

You might have noticed reading some of my posts, that I swear an awful lot. If you’re thinking “it’s not that bad”, just remember that I’ve probably edited quite a lot of it out of my posts where I’ve noticed it. While I don’t swear as much as some people, I still swear multiple times daily. I don’t recall a day since primary school (yep, really) in which I haven’t sworn at least once.

I’m not swearing from a rebellious place – the man isn’t very fuckable – and I don’t consider myself to have an addiction. I’m not swearing because I’m always angry or miserable either. I swear an awful lot when I’m excited or happy or relieved.

TSM made the LCS finals!
TSM made the LCS finals!

The truth is, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. In fact, I enjoy swearing. Swearing is fun. Swearing is the ultimate expression of feelings and shit, you know? “I love you” pails into insignificance compared to “I fucking love you”, and there’s nothing as amusing as a middle finger between friends. It’s brutally honest, deeply shitting emotional. I just can’t help that think someone who swears when they talk about something is greatly invested in the thing they’re talking about. They aren’t just there because of a paycheck or some shit.

Non-swearers must be baaarmy.
Non-swearers must be baaarmy.

Swearing is also pretty liberating. People are always telling us not to do it. As a woman, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been told it’s so ‘unattractive’ when a ‘lady’ swears. If anything, it’s more encouraging than discouraging! It’s honesty and expression are liberating, as things we also don’t get to do a great deal either. Swearing is a rejection of the “done thing”. I like that about it.

Plus, swearing might actually be good for you. New research seems to suggest that swearing consistently reduces self-reported pain and your heart-rate, and helps you endure it for longer when going through something considered painful. Although, I must confess, the effect is somewhat greater for infrequent swearers than for Brian Blessed soundalikes like myself. But the fact it exists is good enough for me.

Needless to say, swearing is fucking awesome. Do that shit… just in moderation.

Why I effing love to swear!

Britain is NOT the best place to be a woman

So, the other day UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo said that the UK was the sexist country in the world, in her opinion, and everyone got their knickers in a right twist over it. Understandably, I suppose – it’s hardly a judgement that’s going to help British tourism or anything.

395037015_46a08536ea_m
Britain, anyone? Photo courtesy of hongkonguk13

Her reasoning is that the UK has a “boys’ club sexist culture”, and that government measures like austerity tend to have a disproportionate impact on women. She also criticized the media’s negative and sexualised portrayals of women – she argued they created negative and damaging perceptions of women and girls, and lead to the “marketisation” of their bodies – and was miffed that she wasn’t allowed into Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, where their have been some controversial complaints from women in the past.

Now, I’m not going to argue that Britain is actually the most sexist country in the world, because that statement is utterly ridiculous. I don’t have to worry about being prosecuted for ‘promiscuity’ if I’m sexually assaulted, I can have a job, I’ve been educated. If I had a husband and he hit me, that would be a crime here, not his ‘right’ as my ‘owner’. So being a woman in Britain could be worse – much, much worse.

You could also be Katie Hopkins... Case and point?
You could also be Katie Hopkins… Case and point?

But the counter argument I’ve heard, about Britain being the best place in the world to be a woman, is equally stupid. Where does this even come from?!

First off, just because the lady made a silly hyperbolic statement, doesn’t mean the stuff she’s talking about isn’t an accurate reflection of what it’s like to be a woman in Britain. The “boys’ club” is a real thing – it’s most apparent in Parliament where there are only 147 female MPs, compared to 503 male MPs. There are currently only 3 women in cabinet (though two more of those are allowed to attend. Equality, right?!). To put this into perspective, 45% of Sweden’s national parliament is female. It’s not a competition, but I think it’s obvious who’s winning.

I couldn’t find any figures on transgender or androgynous individuals in politics, unfortunately.

The figures rather accurately reflect leadership positions all over the country. Although more women go to university than men now, there are startlingly few female lecturers, professors, and researchers in general. Research presented by female lead researchers is more likely to be rejected. Likewise, even though women dominate education, but more headteachers are male.  Don’t even get me started on leadership in other industries…

So, men make all the decisions. Not surprising, then, that you have ridiculous outdated rules governing women. Like, you literally have to have two doctors ‘satisfy the criteria’ for the Abortion Act 1967. Which are, by the way:

  • continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the woman’s life than ending the pregnancy
  • continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk of injury to the woman’s physical or mental health than ending the pregnancy
  • continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the physical or mental health of any of the woman’s existing children
  • there is a significant risk that if the child is born s/he would have a serious physical or mental disability.

Yeah, because you’d have to be mad not to want a child.

I’m not even going to talk about domestic violence, or portrayals of women in the media, catcalling, the division of domestic labour, women in science and engineering, austerity measures – I don’t need to. It’s all pretty obvious stuff to anyone who isn’t willfully blind, and it would be patronizing to you.

What I will say is this – just because one turd has a bow on it, and the other has gone white and stinky, doesn’t mean the first isn’t a turd. Stop excusing our existing cultural problems with pathetic stuff like “oh but it’s so much worse elsewhere”, because all you are doing is making Manjoo look right.

Still a turd. Photo courtesy of South Park Studios.
Still a turd. Photo courtesy of South Park Studios.
Britain is NOT the best place to be a woman

Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

TW: This advice is inaccurate and horrible, and might bring back some nasty memories for anyone who has experienced the horrors of bullying. 

You might have heard the story of the school in Nebraska that sent it’s students home with the following advice on bullying:

"advice"

Wow, well done folks. Keep going and you might be shortlisted for the ‘Jerk of the Year’ awards along with US Airlines.

Obviously, this was a mistake. That’s certainly what they’ve told everyone, anyway, and they have since apologized and issued new advice. But let’s face it, anyone who’s been bullied will have heard this lame-ass advice anyway. Despite knowing full well that literally none of the “rules” on that list actually stops bullying, we just carry on with the general ‘sticks and stones’ mantra. WTF, universe?!

bullied-doge

 

This is something that seriously upsets me. Not only was I bullied, but repeatedly I was subjected to this pathetic pseudo-helpful “advice”. In fact once, when I was 13 and pre-self-harm, I went to tell my teacher – my personal tutor, in fact – about being bullied in school for my sexuality (everyone suspected I was gay, that’s a story for another day). He gave me similar advice about not letting them get to me, ignoring them and such. A couple of days later at my parents evening he even had the cheek to tell my father I was “unbulliable”, such was the fuck that man specifically put in charge of my care did not give.

The main problem with this advice is that it represents just that – it reeks of ‘put up and shut up kid, because it’s not our responsibility, and damn it you probably deserve it‘. It’s not dramatic of me to say so – it’s all summed up explicitly in the last three so-called “rules”:

Rule #7: Do not tell on bullies. The number one reason bullies hate their victims, is because the victims tell on them. Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?

Rule #8: Don’t be a sore loser.

Rule #9: Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs. Make a joke out of it or agree with the put-down. For example: “If you think I’m ugly, you should see my sister!”

Loving number 9 – bully your sister, kids, on the off-chance that by ruining the reputation of your sibling and destroying your relationship, you might, just might, stop being bullied. Lovely.

Seriously though, this advice assumes automatically that you have done something to offend the bully, so you totally deserve to be bullied. Maybe you “tattled”, or it’s your sense of humour. Maybe it’s the way you dress, or talk, or walk. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s your gender, or your sexuality. Hey, whatever, kid. You must suffer the consequences of being different. Including, but not limited to, the intense and wide-ranging physical and psychological effects of being bullied.  It just isn’t our concern.

It’s so easy to pass the buck if you pin all the blame on the kids being bullied…

Except we all know the responsibility for bullying lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Blaming the victims is only going to reinforce this as a viable option in response to whatever shit the bully is going through. Is this really the only plan we’ve got in dealing with bullying – messing up a whole bunch of kids lives because we can’t be bothered to get our hands fucking dirty? It seems so obvious to me that we should try to help the damn people involved, including the bullies.

Before you weep for humanity though, guys, there are two things you have to remember. The first is that there’s people like this guy in the world. The second, is that you can still change these things. Get involved campaigning against bullying, teach your kids or your friend’s kids or whoever about it. Call people up on the stupid advice they’re giving if you overhear this rubbish. Do things.

Don’t let bullying win.

 

 

Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

In pursuit of ‘truth’: The question of objectivity

I was discussing this online the other day and someone said I must totally be ‘faking’ being a woman because women just ‘don’t talk like that’. I guess this blog post will be casual misogyny certified!


We’ve all probably heard the term ‘objectivity’, especially in relation to science. To be objective is to be impartial, to be open-minded and without bias. Scientific research is often considered the prime example of objectivity in practice – it is the study of a measurable reality without bias, with valid and reliable measures employed.

At least, on the surface. Not all scientists agree that scientific inquiry is actually objective, or that such a thing could ever be achieved. In fact, the question of whether objectivity is realistic concept at all is still the subject of much debate. My love of the complicated and confusing has me delving right into that debate with you, so sit back and relax, because we’re going on another journey kids. (There’s probably some really traumatizing child-catcher connotations there… I apologise!)

The process of research

Let’s use Psychological research as an example here. Let’s assume a psychologist has decided to investigate whether online gaming communities – like guilds and stuff in MMOs – affect psychological well-being in any way. They rush out into gaming communities with a string of surveys, maybe even conduct some interviews and observations to broaden their scope. They find an answer to their question; there is an effect on psychological well-being after all!

They come to writing up the research, which naturally means discussing some of the limitations they observed within their research. Maybe they’ll write about sample sizes, the questionnaires they used, demand characteristics and other such stuff. Rarely, however, would they write about the fact they were actually seeking an answer in the first place. That is arguably counter to objectivity – you aren’t being open-minded if you are assuming that there is an answer out there for you to uncover. You’re biased in favour of finding an answer, and maybe that means you find one even when there isn’t one to be found.

It’s an interesting dimension – are we actually uncovering the ‘truth’ in our research, or are we creating that ‘truth’ in our pursuit of it?

The story behind the research

An interesting question that is partially addressed in right ups of research is why you picked the topic you did. Let’s use the example above again – why did our researcher want to study psychological well-being and online communities? Is our researcher a gamer? What’s their experience of psychological well-being thus far? What assumption are they making, besides the assumption that there is an answer to be found for their research question? In short, who is our researcher?

If objectivity is a real concept, who our researcher is isn’t particularly relevant – more important is how they separate who they are, their thoughts, beliefs and experiences, and the research they are conducting. Putting your researcher hat on means forgetting these things, and being open-minded and impartial.

But the researcher hat… is just a hat. It has been argued that the experiences, beliefs, cultural values etc. that people hold will inevitably effect the way they carry out research and what research they choose to conduct. You remember how I mentioned I was doing my dissertation on representations of male and female sexuality in the media? Yeah, I’m interested in that title because of the hetero-normativity and male-centred sexualities observed in female magazines. Why is that interesting to me? Because as a bisexual woman, that doesn’t fit my sexuality. Does that make me biased? Yeah, probably – I mean, I fully expect to find representations of male and female sexuality, and I fully expect to find those represented along traditional (hetero-normative and male-centred) lines.

The same is true of a lot of research. The very nature of having a directional hypothesis (though not all scientific research does) reveals that not only do you expect to find something, but you expect to find it a particular way. That’s not just based on previous research – you picked that research because you believed it, or disbelieved it, and there’s going to be a reason for that. That reason will be inevitably grounded in who you are and your life experiences up until that point.

The tools of research

In my previous post on intelligence, I talked about how IQ tests have been criticized as a test of privilege. That criticism perfectly sums up the argument made by some people about the tools we employ for research, and how they might be problematic in our pursuit of ‘objective truth’ in themselves.

IQ tests were invented from the perspective of what two researchers in intelligence presumed intelligence to be – literary and mathematical problem-solving. It’s no coincidence that those are skills they use all the time as researchers, and most of the people they know probably used them frequently too. I mean, it’s a widely accepted fact within society that researchers are intelligent.

IQ tests are also of an era where not everyone was literate, or even educated (because kids that scored below average were thought to have special needs, and they did some other pretty horrific and shocking things to them instead); certainly the only ones who could be researchers were those of privilege. It seems almost inevitable that they would class their version of intelligence as general intelligence, and that their test would disadvantage the already disadvantaged. These people didn’t understand disadvantage, so they sure as hell didn’t know how to account for it in their measurement tools.

The same criticism can be applied elsewhere. Who the researcher is effects the tools they create, or the pre-existing tools they choose to use. If you believe in IQ tests and the definition of IQ they convey, you will probably use them in intelligence research. In the case of our researcher, what you consider psychological well-being, and how you define an online gaming community, is going to affect the measurement tools you adopt in answering your chosen question. Even if you try not to do it, it will happen to an extent, because you simply don’t walk around constantly aware of how your perception of reality is different to the perception of reality that others hold or how and why that is.

What do you think? Is objectivity a realistic concept? If not, how would you combat that in research?

In pursuit of ‘truth’: The question of objectivity