Monthly Archives: November 2012

Stalking, a new offence covers trolling?

‘Stalking’ and ‘Stalking involving a fear of violence’ have now become criminal offences under Section 111 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which adds a section 2A to the Protection From Harassment Act 1997.

From the act

(3)The following are examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking—

(a)following a person,
(b)contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means,
(c)publishing any statement or other material—

(i)relating or purporting to relate to a person, or
(ii)purporting to originate from a person,

(d)monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form     of electronic communication,
(e)loitering in any place (whether public or private),
(f)interfering with any property in the possession of a person,
(g)watching or spying on a person.

A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine.

The new laws on stalking could possibly be effective for harassment by electronic means, known as trolling, as well. These offences are the final culmination of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform which reported in February 2012. They came into effect on 25 November to coincide with the international day for the elimination of violence against women and sit alongside the existing legislation.

The new offences are added in to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which in Section 1(1) states a person must not pursue a course of conduct:

which amounts to harassment of another, and
which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other

The second arm of the offence prohibits a course of conduct which causes ‘serious alarm or distress’ which has a ‘substantial adverse effect on the day-to-day activities of the victim’ and brings with it a threat of imprisonment up to five years. These are meant to highlight the importance and very serious threat of harassment and stalking.

Clare Bernal was shot dead in Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge in September 2005. Michael Pech began stalking her after their brief three week ‘relationship’ had ended. After he had harassed Bernal for a period of time, one day he followed her from work and blocked her getting off the train. She told him to leave her alone or she would call the police. He told her ‘if you dare report me I will kill you’ and ‘if I can’t have you, nobody will’. He was charged under section 2 of the 1997 Act and breached bail on a number of occasions. Whilst awaiting sentence he went back to Slovakia and purchased a gun. On Tuesday 13 September, Pech entered the Harvey Nicholls store, walked up behind Clare and shot her in the head four times. He then turned the gun on himself.

Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than
from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.

An anecdote about Loose Women and stalking

I dislike the show Loose Women and mention this first so you can judge whether that colours my judgement of what took place on one of their shows.

A woman guest on the panel was chatting and answering questions from other panel members. She was a singer on cruise ships and found fame after featuring in a reality tv show.

The lead loose woman, Kaye Adams said that there was an audience member with a question. All turned their eyes expectantly and a man stood up and declared his love for the singer. He then started to walk down the steps towards the stage. The singer looked shocked and a bit afraid, I project, while Adams proclaimed everything to be ok and encouraged the man, jokingly.

It wasn’t until he was on the stage and very close to the singer that it was announced this was a practical joke. The utter insensitivity that people, predominantly women, face to stalking was just shocking from this show supposedly about, and for, women.

Think again, a free online course

I am studying for an online course. This isn’t just any course, it is being taught by professors at the Ivy League Duke University in the US where if I wanted to attend I would have to pay tuition fees of $43,623. I am paying nothing at all.

I have written previously about this new trend in massive online courses (MOOCs) and this is the one I thought I would try: Think again, how to reason and argue. Learning to argue sounds like a good plan if you’re going to blog and criticise, so, how perfect.

The course will take 12 weeks to teach me “how to analyze and evaluate arguments and how to avoid common mistakes in reasoning” through a series of short lectures, exercises and a quiz at the end of each of the four parts of the course.

Time required should be about 2 hours per week watching the lectures, another 2 hours per week doing the exercises, and about 1 hour on each quiz.

There will also be a discussion forum. So far it sounds positive. I have done a few online courses with the Open University and the only thing missing so far is an advance look at the materials. It would have been nice to have it all beforehand but never mind.

There is no required reading or additional purchases but there is an accompanying book which I got excited about. If it had been affordable I would have downloaded the ebook straight away so I could get started but no such luck.

Understanding Arguments, Eighth Edition, by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Robert Fogelin costs £49.99 from the publishers and £54.99 from Amazon. I found it through an inter-library loan via Birmingham so hopefully that will arrive soon and not cost too much. The chapters are also available individually at £1.99 from the publishers.

The course starts on Monday, 26 November.

Anyone can join in, just follow the link to sign-up.

University Day, 1911

How not to f*** them up, Oliver James

Oliver James discusses parenting, or mostly mothering, styles of under-three year olds in order to help parents to do their best in raising children. He references many studies and notes his biases as he describes three types of mothering-styles: organisers, huggers and flexis.

I found this book really helpful. It gave me a context about parenting and children and validated a lot of what I thought and encouraged me to do more of it. I have taken note of bits of pieces of the book and will post those to give readers a taste of what he writes.

The most important things I took away from the book were that under-threes are satiable and you cannot spoil them, they do not have control over their behaviours and so anything wrong they do must be the parent’s responsibility. This does not mean that they don’t need to learn how to behave socially.

Parents need to be healthy and happy in order to take care of their children but this does not mean that they don’t have to sacrifice in order that their children are raised in a healthy and helpful manner. Selfish behaviour is not the same as making sure you are giving yourself enough space to be healthy, mentally and physically.

Under threes do not need socialisation or education. The most important thing for them is loving and responsive care from an adult.

It really does matter enormously how you care for under-threes. (3)
For the vast majority of children it is not true that their mental abilities – language, reading, number skills – will be helped by early education. (22) What counts with under-3s is responsiveness from a familiar adult who understands needs that cannot yet be conveyed by words. (41)

Babies and toddlers are satiable (56) Babies and small toddlers are largely interested in the company of one responsive adult and get little from other children. (67)


On the whole, babies whose mothers go to them when they cry in the night or who co-sleep are less likely to sleep through the night. However, there is also good evidence that strict sleep routines do lead to more insecure, and to more irritable and fussy, babies. While you may be scared that ‘indulging’ them will be just the first step towards a clingy, greedy, needy, selfish toddler and to a child who cannot obey rules at school, the very opposite is the case. It is the babies whose needs have been met who become the secure, calm, satisfied children and productive schoolchildren, and adults- the ones you might say were spoilt and indulged as babies. (103)

The longer a child was cared for by substitutes, the greater the risk of the child becoming aggressive and disobedient.(104)

There is a lot of discussion about daycare which I recommend you read so I don’t misquote.

There is a massive advertising and marketing industry, backed up by implicit role models portrayed all over the media, which suggests that being selfish is a good thing. Making sure that you create a life which truly reflects your wishes and needs is not the same as that – it would take a large account of your child and partner’s needs too, in order for you to feel yours are being met.(257)

Putting your happiness ahead of that of everyone else is not what is meant by balance.

Since 1950 when 30% of all adult women had a paid job, the increase to more women than men in employment has been entirely in part-time workers. This is true even in Scandinavia.(269) 77% of women have low-paid, low-skill jobs which most say are not stimulating or fulfilling in themselves.(271)


Thus far, results from Britain’s Sure Start programme have been desperately disappointing. A possible explanation is that, although it was originally intended to be more than just day care, Sure Start rapidly turned into a method for cheaply enabling low-income mothers to discard their under-threes and return to work (even its apologists admit this – see Sinclair, 2009, p44: with the expansion of the Sure Start programme ‘came a reduction in spend per child and an increased emphasis on day care to help women, particularly single mothers, get back to work) (277)

There seems little doubt that day care raises cortisol levels. While disrupted cortisol levels may be associated with many problems, including depression and fearfulness, there is considerable evidence they also affect aggression and good conduct. If so, when children raised in day care are compared with ones raised at home, they should be more aggressive.(283)

Studies found that the more time a child spent in non-maternal care (most of it day care), the more disharmonious was its relationship with its mother when with her. Equally true at six to 36 months as at five years old.

The greater difficulties were in –
• assertiveness: they talked too much, bragged or boasted and argued a lot
• disobedience: they talked out of turn, were disobedient at school, defiantly talked back at school stuff and disrupted school discipline
• aggression: they got into many fights, were prone to cruelty, bullying or meanness, they physically attacked others and they destroyed their own possessions.

Scientific studies prove that we are made insecure if the care we receive between six months and three years of age is not responsive and reliable. The insecurity takes three main forms: clinging, avoidance or a confusing mixture of the two (known as ‘disorganised’).

Rates of insecurity are easily highest among children cared for by unresponsive mothers. (288)

Only 9% of daycare in the US and UK is of high quality.(292)

The NIHCD study found that when mothers said they believed it was beneficial for their child if they worked, their infants were more likely to be insecure. For example, such mothers strongly agreed with the statement ‘children whose mothers work are more independent and able to do things for themselves ‘. Mothers with these views were less sensitive or responsive.

it is well established that insecure parents are less sensitive than secure ones.(293)

It should be clear by now that it seems very likely that day care, in and of itself, increases the risk of three problems for children: cortisol dysregulation, aggression and insecurity.

Also, there is evidence that extremely neglectful care causes children to develop indiscriminate friendliness in which the child acts with equal niceness to strangers and people it knows, possibly in an attempt to attract love and attention, and because it has not learnt the most basic elements of intimacy.(294)

other findings indicate that extended or repeated separation from the mother in itself causes long-term emotional problems in adulthood, in particular borderline personality disorder.(295)

Assuming that your child’s attributes are an unchangeable, genetically determined destiny tends to be accompanied by the feeling that you have little control in the relationship. Mothers who attribute a lot of power to their children are at greater risk of maltreating them.(314)

perceiving children as wilful and intentionally bad, the ‘oh they can be little devils’ way of thinking, is associated with abusive parenting and adverse outcomes.(315)

believing that personality and intelligence is malleable means people / children perform better.(319)

Caring for an infant in the earliest months produces dysphoria, a state of low-grade, depressed mood allied to total exhaustion.(323)

These quotations are taken out of context so do read the book for a better understanding. I am very glad I read it.

Oliver James, How Not to F*** Them Up

Noam Chomsky on Gaza

For more information on what is happening in Gaza visit this Media Lens alert.

Meaningless mandates and erroneous privilege for the Bristol elections

There are two topics I dislike: one is the notion of voting as a privilege and the second is turnout somehow providing a mandate of some type on the leader.

Voting is not a privilege, it is a right in the same way that education and health and police protection are rights. Imagine saying that health is a privilege or police protection. It is the government’s duty to ensure we can exercise our right. The burden is on them and not on us.

More importantly, voting arguments about privilege rather than right are usually used to disenfranchise people with the justification that they don’t deserve it. No one needs to deserve it. As a citizen or resident it is your right to vote.

Definition of PRIVILEGE: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor

The government is not doing us a favour by letting us vote, we have the absolute right to vote and they have to take it from us. So no part of me agrees that in a democracy, voting is a privilege, if it was a privilege this wouldn’t be a democracy.

In terms of mandate, I have seen many comments saying a low turnout means that the mayor or PCC won’t have a strong mandate. This is a populistic device to rouse some arguments worthy of newspaper headlines. The most important thing is that the system by which we are governed allows this to take place.

It is the system which suffers from credibility issues and not the mayor or PCC. Where are talks of reforming the system or demanding a media as a real fourth estate which actually questions the way things are run.

Why were pcc statements only published on 26 October? Why was the decision to not distribute information allowed to pass unchallenged by the media? The media are meant to be the check, in the people’s name, on government (legislation, executive and judiciary being the other three estates). Demand the media represent the people.

Democracy is about information, transparency, accountability and more than just a low turnout. There are no “shoulds”, as in “you should be voting because people died” etc. There are only benefits to voting such as making people more engaged citizens and letting the parties know who counts. There is less incentive for elected parties to care for the needs of people who do not cast a ballot.

The system provides the mandate. The arguments about the mayoral mandates just provide fodder for the headlines.

A red trousered little person

Liz Jones doesn’t understand patriarchy

I have written about Liz Jones before and unwisely for her, she did not take heed of my message to keep it nice and try to energise and inspire people. Instead she picks on a whole group of women, mummy bloggers.

She is critical, as usual, and wrong. I won’t bother defending mummy bloggers too much as many of them have already done so and quite well. It is the comment about patriarchy that I want to mention and to point out how she has it so wrong:

As I left at the end of the day, with my goodie bag of stretch-mark cream, organic chocolate, Boden umbrella and Caitlin Moran’s new book, I felt the hand of the patriarchy on my back.

Women have again been duped into thinking the world exists in their tiny, safe, fragrant homes, that life revolves around burps.

They might just as well don a burka, and shuffle, so narrow is their vision.

That doesn’t even make sense. Why would a woman who writes about her life dismiss and criticise other women who make a living out of writing about their own lives? Jones earns considerably more at her job which is in fact within a patriarchal organisation.

The mummy bloggers on the other hand are getting paid to write about the things they do and as an aside are attending conferences, dealing with companies to promote their goods, networking, selling, creating, and choosing to do the things they love.

I don’t necessarily believe it’s as simple as a bottom-up grassroots revolution of all these individual women, there’s something very uniform about all these blogs which suggests there is a source of this model but I won’t go into it now.

The only sign of patriarchy here is the occasional male PR company that buys posts and uses these blogs for its clients. The rest is all about women. Do the PR companies have a disproportionate power over bloggers? That would be an interesting question to ask. The rest of what Jones writes isn’t worth mentioning.

Update: it occurred to me that Liz Jones is the prime example of a victim of patriarchy: a woman stripped down to bitterness and having turned against anything feminine at all. No love, compassion, understanding or caring in her output. She is the stripped out core of capitalism in a patriarchal system at its best. The mummy bloggers she speaks of though are mostly united and help each other.

If you can’t cook why are you in the kitchen?

The Bristol mayoral election has had one consistent line in nearly every article I have read (and written) about it: one female candidate out of 15 for mayor. It sounds dramatic but then what? One answer may be found – ironically, in this case, rather than aptly – in a self-professed feminist’s blog post. Aside from the very useful mention of women’s issues**, she goes on to criticise and decry a male, red-trouser wearing, wealthy candidate and chooses another male candidate for whom to vote.

And you know what, that’s ok. She, Bristol_Jane, can vote for any man she likes. I can choose, if I was a time traveller, to not vote for Margaret Thatcher even though she is a woman.

You vote for what people will do rather than what they look like. It is their policies which are either feminised or masculine – they either support various individuals and practices by balancing out inequality and power relations or they entrench the unbalanced power relations.

That sounds a bit theoretical: in practical terms, individual rights, support for abused people, housing, forests, nature, things that support humanity and empower and energise the world are generally feminised* policies. *not feminist – different kettle of fish

Destruction, growth for growth’s sake, pollution, anger, power centralisation, policies that benefit unequal power relations are seen as masculine. This is not an exhaustive or even uncontested list so share your own thoughts if you would like.

Criticising people for their gender, appearance and status, however, has nothing to do with politics. Judging people on their policies does but George Ferguson doesn’t really have any so @Bristol_Jane’s description of some of his behaviour (however much she projected malice and indifference in it) is probably a little bit useful.

But that statement, of one in 15, isn’t exactly right and it’s been bugging me why. Part of it is because the group are not homogeneous. In a radio broadcast about the exclusion of 10 candidates from the Bristol Culture hustings, Rich Fisher, an independent candidate said ‘well we’re applying for the same kind of job’ or words to that effect.

Job? Accepting responsibility for hundreds of thousands’ of people’s lives and determining their destiny, health and well-being is just a job? It’s not. It’s the biggest thing you can do for other people and some of the candidates are not really showing that they take it seriously (according to their manifestos, or lack thereof).

Daniella Radice, for the Green party, has one of the most detailed manifestos of all the candidates. She has policies, goals and a perspective on how to play her part. She is more than a woman in a group / gaggle of men. She is a serious contender for the mayoral election and there are only four or five others who are the same. One in five serious candidates is a woman. She also happens to be promoting a respectful society with individual care via feminised policies and politics.

Thatcher was a woman too but that does not make her politics anymore feminised. This is all a bit of a precursor to dealing with Zoe William’s spurious link of testosterone politics and one in 15 candidates being a woman. That’s not the only thing wrong with that article but another post will have to do.

**I am being sincere in this point – this is the only blog post I have seen, although I haven’t looked, with a listing of events about women’s issues as part of the election, and not only.

Update 2: I realise I should have quoted her post for evidence. The purpose of her post is as follows:

“As an independent feminist, these are my personal thoughts on why Marvin Rees is the right person for the job… and why a vote for George Ferguson would be a retrograde step for the women of Bristol.”

The comments about Ferguson’s appearance, status and gender are mentioned in the following quotations:

Marvin is a born and bred Bristolian, and doesn’t seem to be using the mayoral election as a springboard to a career in parliament. At 40, Marvin’s comparative youth (compared to some of the other candidates) is also in his favour in my opinion – the last thing Bristol needs is yet another stodgy, middle-aged, over-privileged, out-of-touch, middle-class man in charge. We don’t need or want a wealthy, attention-seeking person in charge – we want someone who is in touch with reality.

My emphasis.

Argh… George relies on novelty trousers to create a personality. We don’t need a showman mayor in a pantomime costume (we could vote for Dave Dobbs from the BirthdayParty if we really want a mayor in a zany suit) – we need someone who puts Bristol first, not their ego.

Again my emphasis.

The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I really wanted to like this book after hearing about it from other bloggers and just enjoying the sound of the blurb. Harold Fry receives a letter and starts walking across the country to save someone’s life.

However, the writing style of Rachel Joyce and I just couldn’t get on. Each character Harold seems to come across has wise things to say,which I found hard to believe, and the descriptions tested my disbelief suspension on a line-by-line basis.

“It was a perfect spring day” even when followed-up by more description grated on me.

“The iced water broke over his teeth, his gums, the roof of his mouth, and rushed to his throat. He could have cried at the rightness of it.” Using the word “broke” so close to “teeth” just didn’t work for me, it made me edgy. And he “cried”, of course he cried he had just broken his teeth.

After four weeks of weekly renewals I gave up on Harold Fry. Rachel Joyce got in the way.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry was not for me.