MonthSeptember 2018

Drowning in Plastic review – a rallying cry, but is it too late?

Wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin investigates the scale of the plastic crisis in the ocean and what we are doing about it Four hundred miles off the coast of Australia lies remote, pristine Lord Howe island: home to the largest colony of flesh-footed shearwaters on earth and a plastic-pollution horror story of 2018 proportions. The well-being of seabirds is a key indicator of the state of our blue planet and flesh-footed shearwaters eat more plastic relative to their size than any other marine creature. You probably know how this health check is going to go. If you are still getting over the albatrosses feeding their young plastic on Blue Planet 2, now is the time to go and manically recycle. In Drowning In Plastic, (BBC One)wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin watches a team of scientists examine flesh-footed shearwater chicks as they emerge from their burrows for the first time. They are just three months old and have never seen the sea. And yet, as one is made to swallow water and vomit into a bowl, 20 jagged pieces of plastic emerge. “They’re gradually feeding their chicks to death,” whispers Bonnin, aghast, in despair, and crying, which is pretty much how I remained for the rest of this feature-length documentary. The scientist explains that 20 pieces of plastic is not actually that much. The record, found inside a single chick, is 260. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Kellyanne Conway proves patriarchy has no gender | Suzanne Moore

Yes, we should reach out to her as a victim of a sexual assault – but she is also a woman who profits from internalised misogyny Kellyanne Conway had a #MeToo moment and so, as feminists, we should reach out to her, surely? She told Jake Tapper on CNN, “I feel very empathetic, frankly, for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment and rape. I am a victim of sexual assault.” Tapper conveyed sympathy. But Conway, Donald Trump’s White House adviser, was on the attack, as all those around Trump are, and there to impugn the motives of Christine Blasey Ford. Watching Conway is always horribly fascinating. This is the woman who came up with the phrase “alternative facts”. She is anti-abortion, and though a survivor of sexual assault, works for a man accused of multiple sexual assaults. I always remember a friend quipping about the strange outfit she wore for Trump’s inauguration. “Is this what happens when the gays won’t dress you?” (it was Gucci!). Now she is on the airwaves announcing herself as a victim, but still acting as a full-time enabler for those who think either a bit of teenage sexual assault is just “boys being boys”, or all of this is a Democrat smearing of a good man. (Brett Kavanaugh has denied all allegations.) He is cast as the real victim here – and he certainly played that part to the hilt. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Animal House and rape culture: what Brett Kavanaugh’s teen-movie viewing taught us

The supreme court nominee invoked frat-house movies at the Senate hearing as an example of ‘goofy’ behaviour. But these films were more like a manual for sexual assault During his charged hearing last week, the supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s detailing of his teenage viewing habits was illuminating: Animal House, Caddyshack, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Kavanaugh invoked these 1980s teen movies as an excuse for the “goofy” things he was up to at the time, which certainly didn’t include blackout-level drinking or sexual assault – allegations that Kavanaugh has denied. But that’s pretty much what those movies served up. Looking back, those frat-house movies of the late 1970s/early 80s look less like a celebration of masculine “goofiness” and more a dodgy celebration of rape culture and male entitlement – if not a training manual. National Lampoon’s Animal House went all-out to champion heavy drinking, inane pranking and broadly misogynist campus culture. Alpha-sleaze John Belushi would have felt right at home drinking in Kavanaugh’s 100 Kegs Or Bust club, but the movie’s abiding scene was when freshman Pinto’s prospective conquest passes out, drunk and topless, at a party. A comedy devil appears on his shoulder: “Fuck her! Fuck her brains out!… You know she wants it,” the devil urges. She is 13 years old. An angel appears on the other shoulder and implores Pinto to do the right thing. He decides to dump her outside her parents’ house in a shopping trolley. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Was I dropped from a drag queen job for being a woman?

Drag is a play on gender constructs, norms and stereotypes. Women have just as much right to play with that as men I was approached on social media by a company that was looking for drag queens to take part in a shoot for a big company. As I got further through the process, I found out it was for Virgin. I was asked for my measurements for costumes and they asked to see a photograph of me without my drag makeup. I sent that over, and within an hour I had an email back saying unfortunately they were going to have to drop me. What had I done differently in the space of an email other than send a photo of myself? In a phone call, I was told it was because I was a woman. [Virgin Atlantic says that McFadyen was not rejected because she is female, but the final choices were based on “aesthetics, ethnicity, height and performance”.] Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Councils are scrapping Black History Month – but every day the news reminds us why we need it

Councils have been replacing the celebration of black people with dodgy, diluted versions that result in the narrowing of difference, as opposed to the embrace of it We have the Bechdel test, for measuring the portrayal of women on screen, and the Riz test, for evaluating the representation of Muslims – now we need to come up with a gauge for diversity. True diversity. Not the ridiculed kind co-opted by defensive white people who appear to see any welcoming of difference as yet another example of diversity gone mad. Lionel Shriver diversity, you might brand it. No, Wide Awoke is talking about actual, complex, intersectional, inclusive, yet-to-be-realised diversity. Black History Month, which runs throughout October, isn’t perfect but it is a tiny respite from the other 11 months of the year, which could be described as one long, tasteless festival of white history … and, for that matter, white present and white future. Even as the Windrush scandal rumbles on and the individual tragedies of victims – such as Sarah O’Connor, who died last month still facing bankruptcy as a result of being classified an illegal immigrant after living in the UK for 51 of her 57 years – are reported, a number of councils have scrapped the name Black History Month. Or, another way of putting it: black experience has been deliberately erased. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

The ethics of manure: why vegans are calling for cruelty-free compost

If you’re concerned about the manure you use in your garden, the Royal Horticultural Society has advice for an alternative that excludes animal excrement Manure is mostly animal excrement – which cannot be guaranteed to come from free-range animals. This is a problem for vegan gardeners, who may also not be keen on the fish bones and animal blood sometimes found in some common composts. But Guy Barter, the chief horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society, says that most vegan-friendly alternatives are just as viable in a domestic garden setting. “The same can be said of fertilisers – these, too, are equally effective, whether acceptable to vegans, such as seaweed fertilisers, or otherwise.” Continue reading… [hmp_player]

If I had a pile of £1bn in £10 notes, how high would it be?

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts The difference between a million and a billion is hard to grasp, but a useful comparison is that a million seconds would last for about 11 days, whereas a billion seconds would last 31.4 years. If I had a pile of £1bn in £10 notes, how high would it be? I ask because replacing Trident is reputed to cost £205bn over its lifetime. Would that pile reach to the moon? Caroline Westgate, Hexham, Northumberland Continue reading… [hmp_player]

From mammograms to nappies: disabled women’s healthcare is a national disgrace

Disabled women are routinely excluded from basic healthcare – from autism diagnosis to smear tests to contraception. The fight for better conditions needs to become central to the feminist movement Has needing the toilet ever endangered your life? Michaela Hollywood, who uses a wheelchair due to spinal muscular atrophy, posted as much recently on Facebook from her hospital bed. Hollywood, 28, can use only a “Changing Places” toilet – which, unlike standard accessible toilets, has a hoist to get on to the loo. Because there are so few of them nationwide, she routinely has to go up to 12 hours without weeing. Regular bladder infections are the end result and her current one is so severe it risked kidney problems and sepsis. “This is life threatening,” she wrote. “If I die from a urine infection, I want everyone to know that it was, in all likelihood, preventable by Changing Places toilets.” Last month, I reported that a number of disabled women are being forced to have unnecessary surgery simply due to Britain’s lack of fully accessible toilet provision. (Hollywood tells me she would have the surgery but it is too risky for her health.) Continue reading… [hmp_player]