Sexism and the Minister for Women

So, Australia’s new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is now the Minister for Women. Well done on the promotion!

This got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. Is it not sexist for the post of Minister for Women to only ever be held by a woman? If there were true equality, the position would be divided roughly equally between males and females (of course, that’s ignoring the fact that if there were true equality there would be no need for a Minister for Women in the first place…).

The gender bias inherent to the post implies that it is not possible for a man to understand women’s issues, or have the appropriate empathy and understanding to represent them. To believe that makes you just as sexist as the very people the Minister is trying to combat. And let’s face it, who would be better than Tony Abbot for the job? After all, he has personally experienced misogyny and the oppression of women.

And what of transgender and intersex people? Could one of them ever qualify to be a Minister for Women? Of course, that’s a bit like asking if a watering can could become Prime Minister: completely pointless since Australia would never elect one to Parliament in the first place.

Nice work Liberal voters, whoever you are (no really, who are you? I don’t know anyone who voted for Abbott. I’d love to keep not meeting you sometime).

Nuclear fearmongering

Oh dear, the Tokyo olympics are in danger due to the extreme radiation that is going to envelope the entire Northern hemisphere and destroy the earth!!!!

I hate all the fearmongering that came out of the Fukushima incident. The linked article is a classic example of that. What happened at Fukushima was bad, but it wasn’t earth-shattering. The problem is that we will never know how bad because the anti-nuclear people spread so much misinformation (maybe the pro-nuclear people do too, but they seem to be a lot less vocal about it). And of course you should take anything said by anyone with a vested interest in nuclear power with a grain of salt.

I picked one nugget of information in that article and researched it, as a kind of litmus test for accuracy.

It failed.

The article says:

“The US has allowed food measuring up to 1,200 Becquerels per kilo to be sold in the US from Japan, while the Japanese allowable concentration for food is only 100 Becquerels per kilo. What does the US government think it is doing purposely exposing people to radioactive food?”

What a load of needlessly scary crap.

The becquerel is a unit which simply describes how many atoms decay every second. One becquerel = 1 atom decayed in one second. It is a tiny, tiny figure, and 1200 atomic decays per second across 1kg of produce is not much at all. For reference, in 1kg of water, there are more than 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms. The number for 1kg of food will be slightly smaller because food has heavier elements, but it is a good reference point.

The becquerel doesn’t even tell you what type of nuclear decay it is. Is it emitting gamma radiation? Alpha particles? Beta particles? They all have different effects on the body, and the number of becquerels alone doesn’t tell you anything about what the radioactivity will do to you. The measure you want to pay attention to is sieverts. Sieverts show how much damage the radiation does to a body. I refer you to XKCD for the best visualisation of the impact of sieverts.

Here’s a last nugget of info: did you know that the natural potassium in your body produces more than 4000 becquerels (260,000 atoms per minute ≈ 4300 becquerels)? That’s right, you are producing more than 3 times the legal per kilogram food limit in your own body, and that’s just from the potassium. There is also carbon, and hydrogen, and any other natural radioactive isotopes that you have in your body.

I’m not specifically pro-nuclear, but I think it should be considered in a measured way against all alternatives. It won’t always be the best option, but sometimes it will, and we need to make the decision based on actual facts and known risks rather than some emotive fear of the unknown.

Body Image

It is well documented the body image issues that people, particularly young women, are having due to the unrealistic portrayals of “beauty” in the media. I am not typically exposed to these facets of the media, so whilst I was aware of the issue on an intellectual level, I’d never really been exposed to it.

Until the other day that is. I was in a waiting room and I picked up a Vogue magazine. Good grief! The women were all sticks! Where in hell did anyone get the idea that people find stick figures attractive? When in the history of our species has sexual attraction been linked to malnourishment? Here is a hint, magazine editors: anaemia and vitamin B12 deficiency are NOT sexy.

So we have a generation of women with body image issues because they cannot overcome the basic human desire to not starve one’s self almost to death in the hope that they will look like something that nobody actually wants to look at anyway. Is it just me, or is that really messed up?

It’s like the media has become caught in some sort of death spiral, where one magazine has a slightly thinner girl, so then the other magazines have to show even thinner girls to compete. Eventually they will reach the limits of what is possible with digital photo editing, and who knows what will happen next. I suppose it’s too much to hope they will come to their senses and show healthy people.

No wonder people download television shows

Thursday 5 September, 2013, 2:00am

Let’s look at what is on TV:

  • Songs of Praise (hymns, ugh! It’s bad enough that people believe in a god, I don’t need to hear them whining about it to organ music)
  • Latter half of Misbehaving Mums To Be
  • Programs Resume at 6am (didn’t we stop doing that in the 70s?)
  • Home Shopping (until 3:30)
  • Home Shopping (until 3:30)
  • Home Shopping (until 3:30)
  • TV Shop – Home Shopping (until 3:30)
  • TMZ (shoot me before I ever want to watch a bunch of pathetic losers try to make themselves feel like their existence is somehow not completely pointless (note: it is) by harassing and belittling celebrities)
  • TV Shop – Home Shopping (until 4:30)
  • Home Shopping (until 5:00)
  • Major League Baseball (until at least 6:00)
  • Judging Amy (not a show I am interested in, but at least it is a real show!).
  • The latter half of a movie, Heartbreak Hotel (from Sweden, in Swedish)
  • Weatherwatch Overnight

No wonder people are so unreserved about downloading TV shows illegally.

The extremely obvious solution for illegal boat people in Australia

Both parties have been issuing rhetoric about the problem of the illegal boat people (for example, the Liberal Party talk about them here (linked from the Liberal Party policy page), and of course there is Prime Minister Rudd with his Papua New Guinea solution).

But all these discussions seem to be missing the single most obvious solution: if these boat people are illegal, then one simply has to try them in court under the relevant laws. Why come up with all these whacky ways of solving a problem when there is already a legal framework for dealing with it? Like, hello! It’s not rocket surgery. I should be Prime Minister!

I had a look and I couldn’t personally find the part of the law that states that the asylum seekers are illegal, but of course I am not a lawyer and I know it must be in there somewhere because our leaders are saying it, and surely they would never be so dishonest as to spread lies to the Australian people that they wish to represent.