What is and what isn’t bullying is important

I’m stepping outside of my family to talk about the wider blogging community in this post, hold on to your hats, it’s a scary bumpy ride! This post has been prompted by endless Facebook posts about (cyber) bullying over the last year or so. The opinions here are my own, based on my views, and are not targeted at individuals because lets face it, I interact with so few of the blogging community now, whenever I meet new people, they assume I’m a newbie. As a parent who suffered physical bullying myself, I know what bullying is and what it can do to a child and I want to clear a few things up.

As long as I’ve been involved in the parent blogging community (that would be around 2007 vicariously and 2009 directly) people have argued the toss about everything, from bottle feeding to PSD, and more recently over who is a freebie grabbing corporate whore and who isn’t.

People disagree, people argue. People can disagree pleasantly, in a rational and dispassionate manner and people can disagree with a vituperative spleen venting tirade of invective. At the end of the day it boils down to the same thing, two people disagreeing over something. View Full Post

The death of empathy and kindness

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We were on our way back from a blogging event yesterday when an elderly chap pushed past (I was holding the hand of our four year old at the time) with his wheelie suitcase and then stopped abruptly right in front of us to collapse the handle and labour slowly up the stairs. It was sort of a perambulatory version of those morons who see you coming and pull out of the supermarket car park at speed but only accelerate to 20 miles an hour. I got cross but my wife’s response was interesting and made me think. She basically said a few months ago she made peace with the fact that pretty much everybody has no thought for others, no empathy or compassion and she wasn’t going to get cross or react to it because she was expecting people to behave badly.  View Full Post

Your Christmas advert is just that, an advert

Another year has passed and we’re again deluged with that peculiar invention of some bright spark at a PR agency, the Christmas Advert Event. John Lewis get a lot of the credit for it, but Coca Cola with their perennial “Holidays are coming” advert they roll out every Christmas are just to blame. View Full Post

The Grammar School Question

I hadn’t anticipated listening to the claptrap about grammar school reintroduction today but I heard an interview with Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, on Radio 4 this morning ostensibly about NATO peace keepers that veered into education towards the end and now I’m cross. I’ve generally given up on Radio 4 in the mornings since Nick Robinson joined the team but the courtesy car I’ve got has a dodgy aerial and can’t hold onto a music station very well.

Something Fallon (privately educated) said really stood out, for all the wrong reasons, which is really no surprise when it comes to education:

“That’s the kind of choice I want to see in every part of the country,[Everywhere] should have a choice, a proper choice of good schools. Not a choice that’s passing the 11-plus and then failing it and having to go off to a sink school of the kind that has let our children down so badly.”

Apparently we currently have a system that doesn’t have a good choice of schools, and basically sees the majority end up at sink schools. I’ve taken the quote from a newspaper article but did hear it spoken, and it confuses the hell out of me. Half the ills in schools at the moment come from an obsession with testing, bench marking and administration, the other half comes from chronic under-funding. Personally I’ve seen my nine year old son’s love of writing crushed under a need to make sure his paragraphs have fronted adverbials or other such nonsense included that when googled only seem to appear on school curriculum websites. I’m not alone in detesting this, Michael Rosen isn’t a fan either. View Full Post

The Haves and Have Nots

I don’t know if accused is exactly the right word but I’m going to use it. Last week I was accused of being rich. We live in a city that has a lot of wealth; a good number of my friends are on 6 figure salaries and earn two or three times what I do. I don’t feel rich, and neither does my wife. We have three kids, and once the monthly payments (mortgage, household bills and so on) have gone out, we have hundreds of pounds (not thousands) left to save up for our annual holiday, feed and clothe the kids and to try and put some away for a rainy day.

The funny thing is, the fact we’re house owners with a fairly large mortgage (although low interest rates mean we’re only paying a few quid more than we did on a mortgage half the size 15 years ago), appeared to count against me in the rich stakes. To be a homeowner in the south east makes you rich. Again I suppose it’s a perception thing- renting our house would almost certainly cost us two to three times what we pay in mortgage repayments because it’s a desirable place to live. We’d certainly be poorer if we weren’t homeowners and almost certainly wouldn’t be able to live where our kids have/are growing up but I don’t know if per se that makes us rich. View Full Post

Vox horribilis

As a blogger I would be some sort of super hypocrite if I wasn’t a proponent of free speech and open constructive discourse. A blogger is bound to have an opinion on everything. And as such I am a proponent of free speech and open constructive discourse. Hurrah! But I think we’re currently suffering a malaise of what I like to refer to as Vox Horribilis for several reasons.

A blog and by extension social media are the idea place to make your voice heard… within reason. I can use many words to describe my thoughts on this but I think Randall Munroe sums it up nicely with this comic:

free speech vs toxic opinion from xkcd

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Why making men look stupid on telly is derogatory to women

surroundedI think of it as “Daddy Pig Syndrome“- the expectation that men will be bumblingly hopeless at all things parental. Although I’ve named it after Peppa Pig, a show I had a lot of time for (and spent a lot of time watching when the kids were younger too), Hollywood has made an entire genre out of it, from Three Men and a Baby right up to more recent stuff like Chef. It’s Daddy Pig that really encapsulates it for me though, well meaning, a loving parent, but utterly hopeless at it all, with a clever wife who puts up with his inability to do absolutely anything outside of the office to

It’s sort of an extension of “idiot-at-household-chores-man“, the informal superhero created by the advertising execs at every cleaning product brand in existence. You know, the man who gormlessly uses a lesser brand cleaner to scrub the cooker top when his much cleverer wife simply sprays it and wipes it off as though friction was an abstract construct that doesn’t apply to cleaning.

On the face of it, it is pretty irritating. Why shouldn’t a father be as capable of looking after a child as a mother? Why shouldn’t a man be capable of cleaning a worktop (admittedly I can clean a worktop but only to my satisfaction, not to my wife’s satisfaction, so there may be something in it after all).

Picking it apart further though, you can probably get back to the (unintended heart?) of the stereotype as something that is bizarrely derogatory to women. Women are paid less for doing the same work, given less respect for doing more than a man could do in a similar circumstance, so inconsequential areas where the perception is that a woman could to do better than a man (cleaning? REALLY?) are built up as part of the inherent patriarchal hegemony.

The implicit idea that women are better at cleaning or staying at home looking after kids while the man does the important stuff is more insulting to women than the bumbling idiot dad is to men in  the scheme of things.

Doesn’t stop it being effing irritating when some woman makes a comment when I’m out with my three on my own though!

This post is an expanded form of the comment I left on Nigel’s post about the portrayal of Dads. You can find his post here.

Too much aspirational TV is frustrating

For our sins, we’re regular viewers of Gardener’s World. We don’t have a huge garden but it’s nice pottering around in the raised beds, or just generally enjoying nature. Increasingly though, the part of the show that’s relevant to us is around 20 seconds long and comes just before the end credits- the “What you should do in your garden this weekend” bit. The rest of it is filled with the current curse of the airwaves, aspirational TV. Funnily enough I don’t want to see how someone with effectively a small holding manages their variety of pampas grasses or plants their lake. I want to know more practical stuff, like how to keep my buddleia from getting too woody, when to prune my raspberries and why my tomatoes didn’t ripen.

It’s not just Gardener’s World that’s guilty of this, nor the public sector remit BBC though, take a look at Phil & Kirsty and ask yourself in pretty much every instance how a couple that young can afford to spend that much on a property. Especially when you look at the overall decline in home ownership due to supply/demand issues, how high a proportion of property transactions are now in the buy to let area and a million other things.

Too much aspirational telly is depressing; you look at what these people have or have achieved and grumble that you can’t do the same. I’d love to see Phil & Kirsty try to find a house in an outstanding school’s catchment area for a hard pressed family but we’re not likely to see that, it’s all first time buyers Karen and Keith looking at houses up to £400K. I’d like to see Gardener’s World focus more on the practical stuff, that’s much more important than vicariously experiencing someones landscaped grounds but again that’s not going to happen.

In austerity Britain, life is grim, and TV has adjusted by showing us better worlds on our screens. I can take this in the fiction but in the factual programmes? That’s just frustrating.

Drowning in game shows and celeb nonsense

Back in January I wrote about where the cult of celebrity was bringing us to, and to be honest it has only been downhill since then. I’d love to say coverage of the new Labour Party leader’s inaugural party conference speech got off to a flying start but when the BBC’s political editor tweets stuff like this, you do have to despair:

 

But again, is it the fault of television or is television simply holding a mirror up to the society it serves? Bruce Forsythe recently chipped in his tuppence worth of opinion on where the BBC should save it’s pennies after the latest round of savage cuts. He thinks BBC3&4 should be axed. BBC 3 is going online only anyway and if I had my way, BBC4 would be ring-fenced, with anything worth saving from the two “mainstream channels” saved.

As I said to a friend recently, all the BBC channels have shifted one to the right- BBC1 is like the old ITV, full of gameshows masquerading as “reality” shows, BBC2 contains the more “serious” stuff that BBC1 used to show, and BBC4 is the old BBC2.

Some of the BBC’s more popular output is gameshow based but many people may not recognise it: Strictly Come Dancing, The Great British Bake Off, Master Chef, Celebrity Master Chef, The Apprentice, Dragons Den- they’re all game shows but instead of stumping up new contestants every week, the keep the same dreary bunch on for months on end, dropping the least telegenic individual every week, or in the case of Dragons Den, put fake pressure on individuals in a studio environment to make good television.

Old fashioned gameshows have been equally dumbed down to the point where they either have celebs on them or are simple games of chance rather requiring any skill. Some stuff, like University Challenge and Mastermind limp on but generally we’re all doomed now.

I understand the gameshows are cheap to make (aside from the celeb fees of course) but personally I’d rather have less quality television than more generic pap 24 hours a day across dozens of channels. The days I’d watch a documentary on a subject I’m not interested in because it was well made are rapidly vanishing and that’s a shame.

Sexual harassment shouldn’t be the norm

I was reading another depressing article on harassment of women the other day, this time involving jogging. It’s depressing that women can’t even go out for a run without getting cat-called or sexually harassed but ultimately not surprising, and as parents we have a responsibility to make sure we raise kids who know that this sort of behaviour isn’t okay.

When parents let their kids play 18 rated video games or watch 18 rated films, the criticism of the exposure to violence is often the first one that is raised. As a 40 something parent myself, with a long term interest in both films and video games, I’ve long been of the opinion that the sexual violence and attitude towards women in both video games and movies is as much of a problem, if not moreso, than the violence.

If ten year olds are banging prostitutes, and then stealing the money back off them in GTA, or watching 20 year old girls play the love interest to an ageing 50 something action star in a movie, is it small wonder that this only reinforces the attitude they have of women as nothing more than sexual objects that the freely available online porn gives them? Yes, porn obviously is responsible for a lot of the objectification of women that boys and men are exposed to but when the mainstream media reinforces it rather than contradicting it, what are impressionable people supposed to think?

It’s insidious- watch any awards ceremony, interview with athletes, and you’ll see the man asked about his performance/work skills/etc, while the woman will be asked about what she’s wearing, how she balances family life with work or other completely different stuff.

I’m not in favour of ruining childhood and I know I had a free run on a lot of stuff when I was younger but there is definitely something to say about the innocence of childhood.

Reminds me of the old joke:

I was having sex the other day, banging away, when suddenly I stopped mid-thrust and stood really still.
“What are you doing?”
“Something I learnt from online porn. It’s called ‘buffering’.”

It’s funny but does highlight the pervasiveness of online porn and how it affects lads. It reminds me of an article I remember reading about the effects of porn on men- one woman said she had a boyfriend who always withdrew and wanted to ejaculate over her chest/face because he thought that’s what was normal. Yes, that’s the most ridiculous (and probably grossest) thing you’ve read today but I’ve no reason to believe it isn’t true and that’s what makes it all the more depressing.

What is required is a sea change in attitude, something that has to start with us and our kids.

It needs to be done now.

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