Of States and Secrets

Studying Law when weighty questions are being asked in Scotland on (mostly misunderstood) matters of equality, human rights and the uncodified UK constitution is fascinating enough. Recently, I’ve also been preparing for legal action, quoting the Vento bands, setting damages for Injury to Feelings, down the phone to the ACAS mediator as my former employer seems to be running scared of the public humiliation of yet another Employment Tribunal case, preferring to settle out of court.

Fascinating though the 15th edition of Smith & Wood’s Employment Law is (I’d read about half of its 829 pages a few days after it was posted to me) it’s Stanton & Prescott’s 3rd edition of Public Law that’s more pertinent to the recent failed attempt by Holyrood to modify legislation passed by Westminster. I’ve observed previously the difference between the gracious restraint of legal discourse and uninformed party political rants on the (il)legality of the GRR Bill.

Brain whirling, I took time off my studies to watch J. Edgar, the Warner Bros biopic of the Hoover who headed the FBI for around half of the last century (not the previous and unrelated US president associated with the New Deal). Subtly directed by Clint Eastwood, its understated masculine gaze, verging at times on film noir, was enough to have critics calling it ‘controversial’ on release in 2011.

11 years on, One Nation Under Blackmail, Whitney Webb’s damning dossier of US politics, detailing and evidencing the ‘sordid union between Intelligence and Organised Crime that gave rise to Jeffrey Epstein’, is far less coy about Hoover’s rumoured homosexuality and transvestism.

Where Eastwood hints, with scenes of the devoted son so distraught by his mother’s death that he dons her clothes in front of the mirror, and of a touching and tragically frustrated bromance between Hoover and his second in command and longtime companion, Webb (ch. 2 & 4) quotes eyewitnesses to the scandal of this infamous inquisitor and blackmailer frequenting the blue suite of New York’s Plaza Hotel, known as ‘Mary’, in wig and dress, pleasuring Tolson and having sex with ‘blond boys’ and with Senator Joe McCarthy’s righthand man in his persecution of suspected communists and homosexuals.

J. Edgar is a difficult film to watch, its portrayal of the public derring do of his ‘G Men’ busting mobsters and his private stoic restraint in matters of the heart undermined by the evidence of Hoover’s hypocrisy hiding in plain sight: that he was soft on crime and unconcerned about being seen in flagrante as he was simultaneously being blackmailed to go easy on organised crime and blackmailing anyone who could publicise his sexual predilections.

Two decades before It’s Time, the Scottish Government-sponsored Equality Network’s moving 2013 video campaign for equal marriage (featuring several of my old friends) there was a scandal involving senior members of the justiciary being blackmailed by the pimps of rent boys. With associated concern over the autonomy of their judicial deliberations.

It seems to me that a secret of a public figure, however well-known, does not help a nation. It festers and starts a canker at the heart of public life. Catalyst for either compensatory action or reaction, it can lead to extreme decision-making in a state of schizophrenic politics where the truth is shouted in silence.

At the height of the US ‘Red Scare’, reticence about disclosure of sexuality would be understandable. Now, certainly in any liberal democracy, being so candid might be uncomfortable or even embarrassing if the game of Let’s Pretend has been played for some time (Hoover never married but the convenient strategy of the homosexual ‘beard’ is well-known) however the health of the body politic may depend on it. For the sake of the people, and government policy, a responsible state official may decide that it’s time.

Rusty padlock covered in cobwebs on a wooden gate

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image Padlock into the Public Domain.

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A Divisive Issue for the Freedom Movement

I don’t choose to write about this issue on Halloween from any lack of concern about its seriousness, but the very different views on this traditional celebration are a good place to start. My hope is that, by observing this difference about one topic that’s not very emotive, we might be able to do the same about another that in my experience can sunder fast friends and close allies like no other.

While Neo-Pagans celebrate the old Celtic Quarter Feast of Samhain this evening, tracing a line of continuity with the customs and beliefs of an ancient community that—like all religious claims based on historical fact—is contentious, to most families in the UK, Halloween is a bit of fun for the kids, a bit of careful safeguarding for the adults and no more religious than St Valentine’s Day.

The reaction of the western liberal and even fairly traditional Church includes a similar sense of indulgence, while stressing the significance of the images of ghosts and goblins—similar to that of the gargoyles on the Cathedral of Notre Dame—and that of the name: the Eve of All Hallows, the evening before All Saints Day. More Evangelical/ Pentecostal communities, especially those whose members originate from Africa, take the light-hearted devilry of the day extremely seriously, as evidence of Satanism. What the congregants of the latter religion feel about folk dressing up as demons I have no idea. Finally, commercial interests clearly see it as yet another way to make money selling unhealthy snacks and non-biodegradable single-use tat.

So that’s Halloween; what about abortion?

Stop for a moment and observe your immediate reaction: anger? sadness? dismay and disbelief? dispassion? Only you know why you feel about this issue as you do, and only you know the reason for the strength of that feeling.

A thought experiment—what would what is sometimes described as “the Freedom Movement” be like if everyone felt the same way as you do about this most divisive issue? What if everyone felt the opposite?

Breathe. Is it vitally important to you that we all are unanimous in support of your opinion on this topic? Can you allow for freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression?

Would it be possible for you to work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who differs slightly, or even distinctly, from your stance? Could you accept their freedom to choose their own political path, even while utterly disagreeing with their ethical judgement?

Let’s break it down, because abortion means many things to many people but in terms of ethics the components are fairly clear: termination of a pregnancy (viable or not) by the action of an agent (self or other) with the intent to end the life in the womb (or at least begin that process inside and end it outside).

Ethics can seem like a cold calculation. It analyses according to categories, attempting to cut up the complexity of human experience to fit it into little conceptual boxes—but as the wonderful Professor Martha Nussbaum says,

…this is not how it feels to be in that situation. It does not feel like solving a puzzle

(The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge: University Press, 2001, p.32)

Before we continue let’s address a common reaction to any man venturing an opinion on this most female issue. Standpoint epistemology is a fancy name for “I know cos I am one/ cos I’ve done this/ cos I was there”. It’s a seductive stance and very popular these days, especially on social media but, if taken to its logical conclusion, it means accepting absurdities like “only cows have a say in their welfare”, “only astronauts can argue about footage of the moon landings” and “only the dead have a stake in their funeral arrangements”.

That said, anyone who could not possibly be faced with the choice of whether to continue with or terminate a pregnancy must at least acknowledge the moral gravity of the issue—as well as the deeply personal and emotional nature of that decision. So a basic respect for women in general and pregnant women (whatever the outcome) in particular would be a good start.

Abortion is ethically complex because pregnancy is ethically complex: one body inside another and utterly dependent; one mature and (otherwise) autonomous adult human being with a socially stable status, one developing human being whose status may change from one day to the next—from blastula to zygote to foetus to baby—or from one moment to the next—from wanted to unwanted, or vice-versa.

Immediately the reduction of complexity can be seen on both sides: pro-life attention to the baby, as if he or she is an astronaut in a space capsule instead of intimately involved in a particular woman’s body; pro-choice attention to “my body, myself”, ignoring the existence of another self, like and unlike, not-quite-identical.

At this point it has to be said that the “half my DNA” argument from the father, while factual, is overstated. Nature and nurture intertwine in gene expression so it’s very clear that the mother is not doing only half of the labour of pregnancy.

With all this in mind, the agency involved in abortion is similarly complex. Here are very different ethical categories:

  • I act, affecting my body
  • I act, affecting my body and another
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependent other
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependant other inside my body
  • I act to ask another to act…
  • I act to require another to act…
  • I act to coerce another to act…

This brings us to issues of rights and duties, and the ethical basis of both. “It’s gonna be my way cos I’m powerful enough to force you to comply” is not an ethical argument that commands widespread approval, yet both sides employ it and present it as such. “I know you don’t agree but if you’re a good person you’ll change your mind” is similarly manipulative and “this is too important for you to disagree with me” is also, at least, undemocratic.

I’m writing about abortion on Halloween because if the Freedom Movement is manipulated into in-fighting it will be over this issue. Just now, because we’re so powerless (no, Donald Trump is not and never was fighting for freedom and neither BTW is Vladimir Putin or Volodymyr Zelensky) this clear division isn’t being highlighted. When we, hopefully, start getting elected, will it be the hairline crack that the clever masons of the new world order chisel apart?

I suggest a pragmatic, principled truce. Call it the All Hallows Eve Agreement if you will:

  1. We respect each other’s right to disagree and to campaign to maintain or change the law.
  2. We acknowledge the coherence of our opponents’ stance on abortion with their view of pregnancy.
  3. We commit to work together to improve the socio-economic status of vulnerable women so that they may have better choices.
Crow standing on skull silhouetted by full moon in graveyard.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Halloween Background Poster Invite into the Public Domain.

5 Parties Standing Up for Scottish Women

As my contract was illegally terminated by a Russell Group university recently, following over 2 years of victimisation for blowing the whistle on violation of disabled rights, I have even more respect for anyone willing to stand up for what’s right, no matter the consequences.

Although there are individuals in other parties, and some opposition to self-ID without clear commitment to female safe space (yes, Scots Libertarians I’m looking at you) there are only 5 parties that I know are unequivocally standing up for Scottish women. I want to provide a link to their policies so that voters can make an informed—and perhaps strategic—choice.

In alphabetical order:

AlbaManifesto—“Standing up for women and girls” starts at p.10. Unique relevant points are that the Scottish Government should pause GRA reform until views of women’s groups, the EHRC and the Court of Session ruling on sex and gender are all taken into consideration—and calls for a citizens assembly to consult over any future reforms. These points are reinforced in the Scotland’s Many People section under Women’s Rights.

With the very greatest respect for the elder statesman at the head of Alba, I’d love to read his political (not personal) memoirs and I think it’s time he retired, let Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh take over and so remove the block to victory that is the lingering taint of the court case that means many women won’t vote for the party—despite the not guilty/ not proven verdicts.

Freedom AllianceManifesto—(This is my party but I’ll try to be fair to all.) Under “Personal Freedom”, unique relevant points are: “Freedom Alliance will: Legislate specifically to protect individual’s right to body autonomy and to prevent the state from mandating any medical procedures.” and “Always oppose any form of discrimination based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race, nationality, disability, health or medical choices.” So, to be honest, the clear commitment isn’t here—however it is in the section in Latest News named YOUR SEX IS A FACT : YOUR GENDER IS A FEELING which states clearly:

“We will protect sex-based rights and single-sex spaces. We oppose the Scottish Government’s reforms to the Gender Recognition Act”

I feel the phrase “bodily autonomy” is unhelpfully unspecific as may confuse positive rights (entitlements) and negative rights (protections). I suspect it’s being used a bit vaguely to cover the fact that the party supports politicians who agree on other party policies but have opposing views on abortion. Unlike the SNP, Freedom Alliance does not agree with a party whip, especially on matters on conscience.

Independence for Scotland PartyManifesto—the only mentions here are: “ISP supports the Equality Act (2010) and the Gender Recognition Act (2004).” However there is explicit endorsement of Women Speak Scotland’s Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland. I can’t find that exactly (however that website is amazing for gender-critical resources) but I’m guessing it refers to the Joint Statement by Scottish Woman’s Organisations which contains this:

The Scottish Government must therefore:

  • ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
  • strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
  • ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.

Again I really respect the ISP, especially as they were so gracious in regard to not stepping on Alba’s toes, and my only personal concern is over their massive support for vaccines. I’m also not sure what differentiates them from Alba and I wonder (as my own party is exploring with ADF) whether a merger would be mutually beneficial.

Scottish Family PartyManifesto—basically they say everything about supporting women and children that everyone else says (at length but there’s a helpful electronic ToCs) with the difference that, although they explicitly condemn bullying of LGBT people, they are very clear that the heterosexual family is the basis of morality and stability in society, and that undermining it leads to a multitude of ills. Under “Supporting families”:

As well as being a great source of joy, family life underpins our society. In the family, care and love are embodied, and resources are shared freely. The state should not seek to supplant the fundamental role of the family in bringing up children and should refrain from interfering in family life. Instead, the state should be supporting families to enable them to provide for themselves, structure their family life according to their priorities, and bring up their children according to their values.

While I respect the honesty of the Scottish Family Party, I do feel that the tone and content of some of its messaging, especially on video clips, lacks the urbane respect for diversity that people in the 21st century expect from politicians. That said, there is absolutely no doubt that they oppose gender theory. Under “Values education”:

The philosophy of gender fluidity is dangerous to young people, leading to confusion and unhelpful experimentation.

Under “Policies”:

Currently children and young people are being harmed by the message that choosing a new gender identity is normal, natural and healthy. While we sympathise with those experiencing gender confusion, we do not believe that legal gender change should be possible.

Sovereignty (formerly Restore Scotland)—Manifesto—under “A Free Scotland”, unique relevant points are:

We oppose the SNP’s illiberal family policies. We believe in family autonomy and we will fight for parental rights, and the right of children to be raised in line with their parents’ beliefs.

We pledge to:
• Repeal the Hate Crime and Public Order Act.
• Ensure parents are not criminalised for using mild physical discipline.
• Outlaw Self ID as inimical to women and children’s rights and safety.
• Criminalise the purchase of sexual services and strengthen anti-voyeurism legislation.
• Mandate age verification on websites offering adult content.

Under “Investing in Education”:

  • Replace Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education with politically neutral teaching.

Another party I deeply respect and my only concern is that the respect Sovereignty have (which I can testify to personally) for all persons covered by the Equality Act 2010 could be more explicit in their manifesto.

Other defining (for some) policy points are here:

Abortion—the SFP and Sovereignty are explicitly pro-life, the former (although pragmatic about an incremental legal reduction in time limits) quite militantly. None of the others mention this topic, clearly, in their manifestos.

Europe—whereas Sovereignty explicitly opposes rejoining the EU, Freedom Alliance doesn’t oppose the concept of free trade in Europe but supports decentralisation and opposes the technocratic bent of the EU; the SFP is neutral but respects the referendum result; both Alba and the ISP promote joining EFTA as a means, with the will of the people, to rejoin the EU.

LGBT—apart from the anti-bullying stance, the SFP is clearly against same sex relationships and trans identity. Sovereignty recognises gender dysphoria and the need for treatment but seems silent on LGB issues. Alba, the ISP and FA all are clearly supportive of same sex relationships and all seek to balance the rights of trans people with those of women—although this balanced respect is not always reflected in all the media content put out by all their members.

Scottish Independence—Alba, the ISP and Sovereignty are manifestly for independence; FA & the SFA are neutral, the latter explicitly so and for the former you’ll just have to take my word for it, however FA is explicitly for decentralisation of power, UK-wide, and both encourage more local engagement with political activity and decision-making.

This post is inadequate to convey the complexity and professionalism of the political stances of these 5 parties. If I have misrepresented a party, I apologise and please let me know on Twitter by post or DM. Please take the time to read all of their manifestos because there is much that is admirable in each of them.

Whoever you vote for, please make sure they will stand up for the beleaguered women of Scotland!

Vintage scrap of thoughtful young White woman with blue eyes and light-brown hair with a black butterfly clip wearing red tasseled jacket, colourful scarf and tartan-trimmed highland bonnet with 3 ptarmigan feathers.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Woman Beautiful Art Portrait into the Public Domain.

It’s a Fake

They get the music right, and there is some big hair, cardies and drainpipe trousers—though none of the boys have Wham! style haircuts. Russel T. Davies continues with his self-hatred: the positive portrayal of older White men is limited to those who support the pharmaceutical narrative and whose sexual desire is (presumably) domesticated by having a partner. Older Black men lose points if religious, as that is shown as at least comic if not sinister.

Women gain points for being secular, metropolitan and preferably ethnic as well as for dedicating their lives to the service of (young) gay men. Mothers are mostly monsters but redeemed if fat, disabled or married to ethnic males. Davies gives himself the opportunity to address female self-sacrifice but basically gets a monster mother to blame a young woman for being a fag hag—without the show narrative taking responsibility for that accusation or showing the least interest in her personal life—and leaves it at that.

Brian Mullin, writing for the Los Angeles Times, finds that It’s a Sin doesn’t even advance the portrayal of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I used to believe in that pharmaceutical narrative (I don’t now) but I take his point. Davies is very good at only one thing: the portrayal of young gay male jouissance. In this series he simply makes the equation that joy = death.

Davis also airbrushes drag queens, and their internecine war with m-f transsexuals, out of the 80s gay scene in which they literally played a starring role. Instead he’s opted for vaguely sketched cardboard cutouts of “trans” characters, dotted about the set, never centred and never defined. Lesbians are limited to sitting around tables agreeing with gay men and the main character (effeminate and never shown in the least attracted to women) is shown as ridiculous in pondering bisexuality—the only mention of that sexuality at the time of its major struggle for recognition in the lesbian & gay community.

The most grave sins of the series are those committed against Africans portrayed as backwards (with zero recognition of indigenous efforts to resist or even debate the social and biological harms done by corporate pharmaceutical interests from the global north) and, ironically, against young gay men.

This series continues the profitable trend of pushing drugs. Like all the other AIDS stories, It’s a Sin dismisses the proven connection of poppers (ubiquitous in gay discos then and widely used in gay sex) with Kaposi’s sarcoma and ignores the fact that 47 gay men didn’t just turn up coincidentally at a New York hospital all with the same cancer, Michael Gottlieb was studying low T-cell counts in two cities and actively recruited patients. All of whom were long term massive drug users.

The HIV/AIDS hypothesis (at least the Gallo version, there are others) has been the blueprint for all subsequent viral drug and test advertising campaigns—most successfully with “Covid”—and will be used again if the public are stupid and uninformed enough to swallow “Monkeypox”. Predictably, this latest series, like all the others, is being used to push for more public money for the pharmaceutical industry. So it can kill even more people. That’s not an act of charity. It’s a sin.

Cartoon graphic of two dark-haired men staring at an image of a pill bottle on a wall

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Medical Insurance into the Public Domain.

International Men’s Day

In the late 80s/ early 90s I started some men’s groups. Nowadays, especially in the White liberal middle-class tertiary-educated post-industrial cultural groups that love to congratulate each other for their progressive values on social media, the received wisdom is that membership of a men’s group is evil on a par with joining the Ku Klux Klan. And at least the Klan are honest about it. And, apparently, had a female wing: the WKKK. (By now, they’re probably co-ed and insisting on everyone using inclusive pronouns.)

Despite the prejudice of the gender-obsessed youth born this century and the paranoia of many (not all) middle-aged White feminists, men’s groups in those days were not primarily about women. This may come as a shock. However, yes, on occasion, we men do like to talk to each other about subjects other than our relations with the opposite sex.

Although many men’s groups were self-consciously inspired by their feminist counterparts (more on that later) consciousness-raising was a widespread late 60s/ early 70s strategy of emancipation that by the late 80s was so standard in feminism that its more general application, and revolutionary origin, was often ignored.

Feminism was then (and is even more now) not so much a broad church as shifting and contested female sacred space seething with accusations of ideological heresy, strategic alliance, excommunication and schism – as well as a place of healing, of community and of miraculous resilience and solidarity. So, while my take on male-female relations was based on Dorothy Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur and Jean Baker Miller’s Toward a new psychology of women, in said groups the topics of conversation tended to centre men’s self-understanding and relations with other men.

Rather pretentiously (it was that kind of Uni) I subtitled the group, “an experiment in self-conscious brotherhood” and, although there was some flirting, some macho bravado, some backstabbing and a lot of gossiping, that appeared to be the general experience.

We talked about gender stereotypes, about relations among and between gay and heterosexual men, about the possibility and difficulty of bisexuality, about our relations with our fathers, about loneliness and friendship, and a bit about group dynamics. We went for walks and road trips and sat round a fire in somebody’s cottage in the country. We shared meals (some shared beds) and some of those friendships have lasted decades.

Another inspiration was a book by Robert Bly named Iron John, which personally I found rather macho and extremely American (I’m Scottish) but also valuable if read in context: as a corrective to a certain feminist view, now almost universal, of masculinity as incurable toxic. It is precisely because Bly was speaking, rather bluntly, in that context that his work was used to demonise an entire movement.

A few years later, early in the new Millennium I think, a man trying to start a men’s group in Edinburgh, and announcing it on Facebook, was shouted down by feminists insisting on an approved woman chairing each event and policing the topics of conversation. This was at a time when the exclusion of men from female groups was non-controversial. The reason, plainly stated, was that men couldn’t be trusted to gather on our own as our only possible motivation would be to plot against women.

Several things had changed:

  • The Courage to Heal and other sacred texts of the Recovered Memory Movement had convinced a generation of (mostly) young White middle-class women that either they had been abused in early childhood by an older man or had suppressed the memory due to trauma.
  • Madonna’s postfeminist flaunting of feminine allure had won over Dworkin’s aversion of the male gaze.
  • A new generation of girls were being raised to see themselves, primarily, as victims and, automatically, as more worthy of praise for any achievement (due to having to overcome their victimhood) than boys.
  • The adjective “male” replaced the nouns “man” and “boy” whereas the noun “women” replaced the adjective “female”.
  • To address previous and continuing gender imbalance, countermeasures were applied – some of which confused affirmative action with positive discrimination.

So, for example, in university departments (including those overwhelmingly staffed by women) strategies of diversity & inclusion that were set up to balance gender by choosing a less represented demographic candidate over one equally qualified and experienced were popularly understood as a license to employ and promote good women candidates, still bleeding from deep wounds of the gender wars, over the ever-abusive male candidates who had caused them, simply by being born with a Y-chromosome. So basically White middle-class women replaced White middle/ upper-class men.

Meanwhile more and more boys were receiving primary care in exclusively female-led households and primary education from almost exclusively female teachers. In this process they got the message that men are inherently either mad, bad or sad whereas women as wise, good and in touch with their emotions.

So, is it any surprise that so many young men are attempting to “identify” out of being male? Here’s some homework (I’m a teacher, sorry) for you to verify the outrageous claim that there is prejudice against masculinity: look up the hashtag #InternationalMensDay on social media. Read the posts and comments. What percentage of them are positive about masculinity?

If we want young men to stop invading female space and attempting to appropriate female identity, we need to start valuing masculine men.

US Navy Poster of two fit young men wearing white navy caps riveting girders.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson who has released her image Vintage Navy Poster into the Public Domain.

Heartbeats Under a Lone Star

The chances are that your stance on the recent Texas Heartbeat Law differs not at all from that of (at least) the majority of people you recognise as family, your close friends and your social media mutuals. Their stance, of course, is determined by their collective identity. Broadly, very broadly (because these terms are colliding and confused these days) Left or Right:

The Leftwing will believe this law that prohibits abortion (termination of pregnancy is a euphemism when the intent is always to kill, not remove) after the fetal heartbeat is discerned is the most insidious attack on female emancipation (they’d say women’s not female because that adjective, for reasons that no-one has yet explained, is now shunned by feminists) since the Epistles of St Paul. Well, okay, they won’t, because hardly any of them have ever read any of the Bible.

The Rightwing will believe that the Heartbeat law is the first step, long-awaited, towards making America great again (which apparently they feel it was, at some unspecified point) and one that drives back legions of devils (and/ or feminists) and protects women, children born and unborn, and is due, somehow, to the divine favour currently shining on one D. Trump who will yet reascend the Presidential throne—as long as they all Trust The Plan.

Both Left and Right are utterly convinced (and very self-congratulatory about it) that they, and they alone, really support the well-being of women. Ditto for children and this smug sensibility extends to the Left with the ethical sleight-of-hand that:

A) The products of abortion are no more than fetal tissue and the fact that foetus means baby in Latin is neither here nor there.

B) Abortion care includes what is being killed in the womb (or someway outside or even completely) as it’s selfish to bring unwanted children into this big bad world so it’s no more than kindness to kill them.

In my view (goodbye social media acquaintances) both sides are almost entirely hypocritical and don’t actually give a damn about the welfare of women and the idea that they actually care about life in or out of their womb is, if it weren’t so tragic in consequence, laughable.

Why do I say this? Is it just to stir up both sides so they’ll read my book on the subject? Well, they’re very welcome to but, as it was published some years ago and annual sales have risen to about the price of a posh fish supper (and I’m vegan) I don’t really see that as my major motivation.

It may be that, despite the above polemic, I see good women fighting each other over this and wasting so much valuable time and energy in a screaming match that in its modern form is at least a century old and doesn’t even attempt to be a debate. I was very careful when I wrote that book (and the many women on all sides that I reference are well worth reading) but I’m not convinced now that being careful accomplishes anything so here’s my thoughts:

The Left is hypocritical because if they actually cared about the welfare of women they wouldn’t ban any information (including personal testimony) on the often profound physical and mental stress caused by abortion that can last for decades.

The Right is similarly hypocritical because they make it so very difficult, socially and economically, for so many pregnant women to feel able to give birth—and to bring up a child with decency.

The Left concede more rights to lobsters than to babies that survive initial abortion attempts (a saline bath sounds very clinical but its purpose is to burn the skin off the screaming baby) and only refer to such situations by focusing on the distress caused to staffers! As for the findings of human pain studies in utero, they just don’t want to know.

The Right misrepresent the Biblical tradition (which is ambiguous on the moment of ensoulment) and typically promote an anti-maternal economics that ignores completely the prophetic tradition of hospitality to the stranger, care of the widow and the orphan, leaving the edges of the field for the poor to glean and forgiving debts in the year of Jubilee.

Both sides save face, reject all and any critique of their stance (selective abortion is racist, classist, ableist and sexist—and precisely those same prejudices, along with religious sectarianism and demonisation of other faiths, create a climate of snobbish rejection of pregnant women by communities intent on keeping up appearances and producing progeny of the right sort).

What’s the solution?

1) Realise that someone’s stance on abortion is likely to be coherent with their view of pregnancy (baby or blood clot) and reinforced by the collective ideological identity they value.

2) Accept that criticism of your own stance is possible—and that you may even learn from it. At least you might earn the right to be heard if you demonstrate an ability to listen rather than keep shouting THEM down.

3) Try to see your side from the other (and there aren’t just two sides on this) and acknowledge the possibility of your opponent being motivated by as benevolent an intent as yours.

4) Agree to disagree, if that finally is inevitable but ask yourself what part of the project of your interlocutor might overlap with your own.

5) Try to be honest with yourself about your real motivation regarding ostentatiously adhering to the ideological purity of your familial and social circle. Is that badge of honour more important to you than strategically collaborating with someone they despise—for the real well-being of women and children?

6) Ask yourself how much you and your cronies actually do, practically, to support women who want to give birth and bring up their children well. If you had access to the resources of the other side, how much more could you do? Would you be willing to work with them for that—knowing they’re still campaigning to change the law in a way you utterly oppose?

7) Consider the expression of ambiguity on this issue. How do you deal with it? Sweep it under the carpet or allow the uncertain voice of what “the woman who had been Jane Roe […] Norma McCorvey” called “the messy middle” to be heard?

Chrome stethoscope with yellow rubber cover looped over a red image of a heart

No Bonking Down Under? “XXXX that!”

Ozzies have never been known to be backward about coming forward and here in the UK we regard our antipodean friends (and relatives) with amused affection.

No more so now when, despite living under tyrannical government for 18 months, the Australian reaction to the Covid bonking ban is evidentially “XXXX that!”

Far from adhering to Government advice to couples sharing a household to stop having sex and instead masturbate, wearing masks, not just at 1.5m distance but online, seriously, Australia is apparently experiencing a baby boom.

Just goes to show that, Mel might not, but these Sheila’s know what they want — and they won’t be satisfied with just another shrimp in the barbie!

What the Australian Government will be satisfied with is anyone’s guess. Horrific scenes of their police violence against civilians for not wearing masks (Ozzie cops don’t have a great reputation for civility) have circulated all over the globe. However, like that of their Kiwi neighbours, led by someone not famous at the moment for her promised “economics of kindness”, the Ozzie Government seems to be just following the orders of representatives of unelected global governance whose goal of depopulation is on public record.

Lovers’ footprints on sand

Thanks to Shagan Garg for releasing the image Lovers Steps into the Public Domain.

Suffragette friendship bracelet

For an important meet up later today (as it’s now the wee hours of Tuesday morning of 20th July) I was inspired by the suffragette coloured braids, made my Twitter friends, to try to remember how to make a friendship bracelet.

First attempt, I tried to simply braid the green, white and purple wool strands without cutting them off the ball. So I tied them in a knot held by a safety pin on a cushion then spent as much time untwisting as twisting.

At this point I remembered to measure out three lengths from thumb to elbow and cut them there. After that I tied all three in another knot then rather randomly tied successive knots in each pair.

The resulting band was a couple of times too long for my wrist and the joining strand at the end longer than the one I’d braided at the beginning.

I tried again. This time I measured out two lengths not three and used little cardboard shuttles cut from cereal boxes which I soon realised should have been bigger.

I also changed the knotting technique. I’d basically used braiding before (right over middle then left over middle and keep the tension) and knotting as I went.

This time I knotted each colour from the left over the other two successively. So green left, white middle, purple right goes like this: hold white, knot green over; hold purple, knot green over. Then do the same with white then purple. Some kind of pattern emerged.

Then I braided the end, and tied that off, unknotted the beginning and rebranded that then cut the tails of the three threads equally. Not bad. I put the first one on the handlebars of my bike, and wore the second on my wrist – as I cycled off to meet wonderful women protesting on Glasgow Green against the invasion of their space and silencing of their voices.

But you know what, women won’t wheesht!!!

#WomenWontWheesht!

I started crochet because I saw a wee Suffragette doll adapted by @yarnmonster26 (Instagram) from a Mexican doll pattern by @amourfou_crochet (also IG). Mine turned out to be not at all as planned or as beautifully crocheted as theirs but a joy to create and a gift, that was appreciated, for someone estranged from me.

Suffragette doll worked in white wool with black dress & bonnet, and a green, white & purple sash.

The original and adaptation are a lot neater and everything is in better proportion but she was really fun to make. I bought the pattern – then had to spend months learning the basics of crochet cos it was too advanced to jump right in!

Social media has been full of Suffragettes lately; it’s also been full of the Scots slogan #WomenWontWheesht! In English that’s “women won’t keep quiet” and it’s been translated by women all over the globe:

#LasMujeresNoCallaremos (Spanish)

#女は黙らない (Japanese)

There have also been international reports and sisterly solidarity about the situation in Scotland:

So I felt it was time to add some Scottish brotherly solidarity and, with that manly purpose, I got out my crochet hook! Unfortunately I’d mistakenly deleted the notes for the pattern from my phone so I looked back at photos I’d taken of the process for the last one – and then just made it up as I went along!

First a “magic circle” of 6 and single crochets (SCs) until it looked long enough, compared to the old photo. Cast off and same again then a slip stitch (SS) to link and SGs around the circumference of both legs joined to form the hips. I started a line of black thread, as the old doll has a black dress, but then fancied grey instead as I realised it was too flimsy for a good blouse.

You’ll have seen the problem! A flimsy skirt is hardly decent either so the solution was pink bloomers (Suffragettes were good Edwardians, after all!) and lengthening and billowing (increasing by 2 SCs in the same position) the skirt. To decrease, you bring one new loop through an established loop then immediately bring another through before pulling all three through the one already on your hook.

I had loads of white wool and it’s nice and chunky so a good choice for the body but the black, though stronger than the grey and so easy to work with (except I soon swapped the coloured tray for a pale one to see the gaps between threads easier) was fine, so the bodice had holes where the white showed through. First of all I simply cheated and threaded it through using the plastic yellow blunt darning needle.

Then I decided to make a covering shawl, like last time. As it developed and I kept going round and round to increase the size (I add an extra SC to turn corners) I realised I could just darn it on as part of the black blouse and sew the head on top. Crocheting with different coloured thread means you end up with some nicely embedded long single threads that you can use to anchor additions.

Some more SCs round the cuffs and I was ready to make the head. Same as the legs and arms (forgot to mention those!) that started with a magic ring (6 for legs and head but only 4 for arms and I didn’t stuff those) and I just increase and decreased as needed. Stuffing the head was a bit tricky. It’s best to hook it in from below than try to shove it in from above. I use soft toy filling 100% hi-loft polyester but only because a mate was moving house and chucking it out. He’s a sailor and thinks nothing of knocking out an arran sweater, complete with cable stitch, while binge watching Scandi noir on the high seas. Exciting! (My mum does worry about the pirates 🏴‍☠️)

The hair is made in 2 stages. First a cap starting with a magic circle of 6 and expanding immediately then lots of doubled and cut strands that it would’ve been sensible to affix before sewing on the cap but with the black bonnet on top (same procedure but don’t just maintain size once reached as for the cap, if you decrease it fits more snugly) it was suitably wild and witchy.

I sewed brown thread for eyebrows, black for the mouth with a suggestion of pink around it, and a bit for blusher on the cheeks. The eyelashes were at first a mistake as the thread poked out but I liked the Liz Taylor look (if she were a wild Scottish Suffragette) so I did the same for the other eye. Then I used the pearl pins for nostrils that I’d originally used for the eyes (sounds nasty!) but decided to substitute them for black one. So this version is not child-friendly!

With the addition of the Suffragette sash, the doll was complete! And ready to be posted to…? Well, now, I think you know who.

In other news, I’m completely fed up of this lockdown nonsense so I’m meeting up with a few friends for a shopping trip starting at 8:30 am (shop’s open at 9) on Saturday 20th July. I do like planning ahead. Some of us are meeting at Glasgow Central Station and some taking a wee stroll nearby along the Clyde. It’s so lovely. Do join us! In solidarity.

Women won’t wheesht! And why should they?

Mask Wearing: Young Men and Older Women P2

If you haven’t read P1 of this, click HERE and do so now. Otherwise this P2 will make no sense. (It’s up to you whether you do the task there but you should be in a better position to make an informed evaluation of what I say here if you do.)

In P1 of this blogpost, I conducted a wee ad hoc survey in Glasgow city centre one afternoon a few weeks ago before mask-wearing was mandatory and found, from my tiny sample and very dodgy methodology, that the mask-wearing fraction of the sample was roughly equivalent to the ‘less than a quarter’ of the survey population that I’d estimated at the start.

My reaction to that was that it didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the two demographic groups that were, overwhelmingly wearing masks. Not just in my tiny fraction of 5 out of 24, but all over George Square, and Queen Street Station, when I simply stopped and stared.

In P1 I invited you to replicate my staring, in a more controlled manner (open to other selective errors, it’s true) for yourselves. With these instructions:

  • Look at a clear photo of an unrelated crowd of people, perhaps in the background to a single person, taken in recent months but before mandatory masking was imposed.
  • Draw a grid like this one and enter a vertical line in groups up to 4 then one diagonally across the group for 5 (the gate system, because it looks like one) or just a number in each box.
Sex

Age

Male

Masked               Unmasked

Female

Masked               Unmasked

Child
Older Teen/ Early Twenties
Young Adult
Middle-Aged
Elderly
  • See how your result compares with mine. (Don’t click HERE to find out, until you’ve done your homework.)
  • You can let me know your findings on either Instagram or Twitter; I’m (at)gumptionology on both.

I’m now going to presume that either you’ve completed the task or you’re not going to, so here’s what I found:

Overwhelmingly, the two demographic groups that were wearing masks were … (drum roll) these:

  • In the male group – Older Teen/ Early Twenties
  • In the female group – Middle-Aged

Why?

Tentatively, I began to wonder whether these two very different demographics had different motivations and it struck me that perhaps rule-following might account for the first and caring for the second.

Why?

Rule-following can be characteristic of autism, a condition which appears to affect men and boys much more than women and girls, and which appears to be increasing in prevalence, with exactly this demographic most affected. (All of these generalisations need, of course, careful qualification.)

It’s no news that middle-aged women find the burden of care falling more heavily on their shoulders than any other demographic. True, younger mums are raising families but – as that task seems never-ending (especially nowadays when so many young people can’t afford their own place) – on entering middle age, women can find themselves expected to also take on the lioness’s share of caring for elderly parents as well. That’s not all, according to a 2010 survey in England:

“about 80 per cent of all jobs in adult social care are done by women; the proportion in direct care and support-providing jobs is higher, at 85-95 per cent”

What’s my conclusion? This post is not about the pros and cons of mask-wearing or controversy over the political nature of the pandemic. It’s simply to say that mask-wearing is a complex sociological phenomenon and that people may have very different motivations for compliance and non-compliance with recent regulations. (As well as that, let’s not forget the legal exceptions.)

This may explain why so few mask-wearers are open to evaluation of the coherence of the science. For them it’s not about logic; it’s about security and core identity. Therefore it may be very hard indeed to get the message across that:

  • Sometimes, official rules don’t make sense and the people who make them don’t have your best interests in mind.
  • It’s more caring – to yourself and to everyone else – not to wear a mask.

(Thanks to Mikhail Denishchenko for releasing his image Corona Virus into the Public Domain.)