Roses Only… more like sexist only

I was at the cinema last night to watch Joueuse (Queen to Play) as part of the French Film Festival in Melbourne.  As with every other cinema experience, we were treated to a range of ads for products and services before the film began.  Tefal featured strongly as the sponsor of the festival, and then the last ad (well the last ad I paid attention to) came up.

Unfortunately the ad is not available online, so I’ll just have to summarise what happened here:

  • Man A is sitting in a pub with Man B.  Man A talks about his shed extension and the problems he faced.
  • Man A describes his female partner objecting to the shed extension and the scene changes to her complaining that to extend his shed he’ll have to cut this tree down, and “what about the birds”
  • Man B asks what Man A did to solve this problem
  • Man A states, “Roses only” and the scene cuts to his female partner looking adoringly at a dozen roses and Man A outside starting a chain saw.

I was staggered at the amazing sexism in this ad:

  1. Firstly only women care about the environment, and if you care about the environment, then you’re a woman;
  2. The best way to get what you want is to buy into gender tropes and buy your female partner a nice shiny thing to distract her from her worries or to change her principles;
  3. Women will easily change their principles for expensive gifts; and
  4. Buying an expensive gift now will absolve you from all future issues relating to the same topic.

Now imagine if the ad was switched around, sticking to gender tropes:

  • Woman A is in a cafe talking to Woman B about her recent kitchen extension and the problems she faced
  • Woman A describes her male partner objecting to the kitchen extension and the scene changes to him complaining that to extend the kitchen his shed will be demolished and what will he do?
  • Woman B asks what Woman A did to solve this problem
  • Woman A states, “I bought him a slab/DVD of the footy/tickets to a sporting event/a drill” and the scene cuts to her male partner looking at said item adoringly while his shed is ripped down.

Or of course we could remove gender entirely from this annoying trope and just use people:

  • Person A is dining with Person B explaining about the resort they’ve just built and the issues they faced
  • Person A describes how Person C complained about the development because of the site of the development impacted on a site of significance/religious importance/their own dwelling
  • Person B asks what they did to solve this problem
  • Person A states that they gave Person C some beads/shiny thing/grog/small sum of money and the scene cuts to Person C looking at said item adoringly while having their site of significance/religious importance/their own dwelling destroyed.

Cheerful isn’t it?  So Roses Only, how about:

  1. Not being sexist;
  2. Not playing into gender tropes about what women will do and what principles they’ll compromise for an expensive gift;
  3. Not being so heterosexual focused; and
  4. Never advertise again?

If only it was so easy.

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    More rabid ignorance

    I’m going to join the bandwagon of Hoydon About Town, FWD/Forward and Pharyngula and discuss the awful statements made by US Republican State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas.

    As PZ suggested, I wrote directly to Bob Marshall and told him off in no uncertain terms (well as much as I tell anyone off), and thought at the time that perhaps I should blog about what I was saying, and then got distracted writing my other blog post.

    Here are the comments that everyone is rightly objecting to:

    “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.

    “In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

    After asking if he had any evidence to back up his first statement (which I’m 100% sure he doesn’t), I made the following points to Bob Marshall:

    How could the god of love, forgiveness and compassion (the one I was taught about at school), punish children for their mother’s sins.  How could this Judeo-Christian god be so full of vengeance and hate towards his people?

    What happens to those mothers who foetus/babies die of natural causes, either still birth or miscarried?  Are those mothers also punished by god or nature because their first born child was not “dedicated to the Lord”?

    What about those who don’t believe in a Judeo-Christian god?  How are these arguments even remotely relevant to them?

    Why can’t he and the rest of his posse, trust that women are capable of acting morally and capable of making their own decisions?  Does he honestly think that organisations like Planned Parenthood solicit abortions?  In addition to that, what business is of his whether someone does or does not get an abortion.  I remember from my bible days, that Jesus told everyone to stop judging others, and that’s what Bob is doing here… calling judgement on women who have abortions.

    I also asked him what would he believe would happen in my case given I had to have an abortion or die when I had an ectopic pregnancy.  I found out I was pregnant the same time I was in the process of beginning to die.  I chose to live because I had that choice.  Is Bob and his posse trying to take that option away from women?

    In the end I told Bob he needed to chill and relax, the world will look after itself and he’s not doing himself  (or anyone else) any favours by stressing over such things.

    Of course he will never see my message to him as many other Pharyngula readers would have also contacted him expressing their displeasure at his inflammatory and terrible thoughts.

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    The Gay Agenda!!!eleventy!!

    From god hates protestors (http://godhatesprotesters.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/the-gay-agenda/)
    From: god hates protesters

    Every time I hear about “the gay agenda” I want to scream.  My father-in-law, when I have to spend time with him, will often wax lyrical on this topic, particularly about how gay people are trying to convert others to being gay.

    I’m not 100% sure why I woke up this morning thinking about how stupid the whole “gay agenda” and “gay conversion” thing is, but I did, and so I’m going to talk about it for a bit.

    I was talking to my girlfriend the other day about the “traditional Desi dyke” and how single Desi dykes are scary because they’re out to convert the innocent straight girls.  Her comment was that this really showed a lack of understanding about heterosexuality.  That’s been at the back of my mind for the past few days, as well as the other crap that is generally percolating in my head at any given moment.

    To suggest that gay, lesbian or bisexual people are out to convert people or that they have some sort of agenda indicates that those saying this believe that to be gay, lesbian or bisexual is just a choice, and that the choice is so attractive that people have to be warned against it by religion and other forms of societal disapproval.

    Because let’s face it, being a second class citizen in Australia, not having the same rights as your straight brothers and sisters, is a very attractive choice.  Not being able to marry, adopt children from overseas, obtain reproductive assistance (in some states) and the like is so very attractive, clearly I must rush now and divorce my husband and enter a lesbian relationship.  In the US it is even worse.  Gay, lesbian and bisexual people can have access to their partners denied in hospital, face discrimination in the workplace, are unable to bring their non-US partners back with them to the US, etc.  Why would people choose to do this?  Because, as many lesbian, gay and bisexual people state, as science has begun to back up, and as society is actually leaning towards… there is no choice.  You are gay, lesbian or bisexual… you can’t change that and you should have the freedom to be yourself just like all those straight people do.

    I do love the idea as well that the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, made up of disparate people with different ideas, wants and needs apparently has some “agenda” that threatens all the straight people.  What agenda?  The agenda that they want to be treated like everyone else?  The agenda that they might want to marry their life partners like their straight cousins can?

    Conservative Christians say that gay, lesbian or bisexual people marrying will ruin the sanctity of marriage, and that since god (who the gay, lesbian or bisexual people may or may not believe in) stated that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that is how it has always been done, we can’t possibly change things now… like how we couldn’t change slavery or the role of women.  Its not like marriage is “sacred” these days with the ability to marry complete strangers as long as each are man or woman, or beating your new bride and being arrested twice on your wedding night, or  the ability to divorce and remarry.

    I think it is far more accurate to say that there is a religious straight agenda.  They’re the ones who claim that there is some sort of “gay agenda” and are the loudest at condemning gays, lesbians and bisexuals who want to marry their same sex partner or who want equal rights.  They’re the ones who claim that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is a choice and that you can be “converted” back to being straight.  Of course, they’re wrong.

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    I’d like less Vatican in my life

    In the latest from the Vatican, Benny has decided to condemn priests who abuse children, and for a change not link paedophilia to homosexuality.  The article is good, it talks about how Bishops who have been hiding child abuse are not being condemned, and that the Vatican isn’t really doing anything about the child abuse  other than talking about it.  The bit that annoyed me was at the end:

    In his speech on Monday, Benedict said children deserved to be loved and respected by all – and that they flourish best in a family.

    He stressed his long-standing position that a family is founded on the marriage between a man and woman – and that couples should do everything possible to avoid separation and stay together for the sake of their children.

    “They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love one another; they need to live with and grow up with both parents, because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in educating children and in building their personalities and identities,” the pope said. [emphasis mine]

    This, again, shows how far out of touch with reality the pope is.  I could start with how the nuclear family is a very recent concept and only really started in the 17th and 18th century, and then discuss how widespread nuclear families are, and how common extended families are, to suggest that perhaps the pope’s idea of a family needs to be broadened.

    But what I’m going to do instead is complain about the bolded text above.  I posted a while ago about why conservatism is bad for women’s rights, and this is more of the same, by one of the most conservative and patriarchal institutions on the planet.  I said then:

    The big problem with this style of conservative thinking, and “traditional family values” is that it places women in society at a lesser place than the men. Women are typically more likely to become victims of domestic violence than men (I am not denying that men are not victims of domestic violence), so if it harder for women to obtain a divorce from a violent marriage, then that’s hardly fair and surely not part of what people would think that “traditional family values” are.

    Staying together “for the sake of the children” if you are in an abusive relationship is not in the best interests of the abused spouse or the children.  Staying together “for the sake of the children” if one of the spouses is abusing the children, is not in the best interest of the spouse or the children.  Staying together “for the sake of the children” and raising those children in a toxic environment full of anger, hate and bitterness, is not in the best interests of the children.

    Surely if we are going to “think of the children” then surely what is in the best interests of the children should come BEFORE religious ideals of the nuclear family and traditional values.

    Personally,  I’d also like the pope to show me his research in relation to what children want.  I agree that children want to be loved, but I am sure that in some incredibly dysfunctional households* children don’t want to be loved by one of their parents and would rather be a long way away from them, due to abuse (directed at them or their other parent), neglect or disdain.

    And how does the pope knows that “the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in educating children and in building their personalities and identities”, and how that has to be a mother and father, versus extended family such as aunts, uncles, grandparents or close family friends.  There are many families that are single parents due to the death of one of the parents, should that single parent immediately rush out and remarry because their child is now lacking a maternal or paternal figure?

    I am tired of the Vatican telling the rest of us how to live our lives.  We’re grown up now Mr Vatican and we’re making our own way in the world.  Get back in your box and leave us alone.

    * And yes, I have evidence for this

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    White male privilege

    I recently discussed male privilege with someone who took offence at another woman referring to another man misusing his “white male privilege.”  The woman, lets call her Jane, stated that she was frustrated with another man, we’ll call him Fred, because he was misusing his white male privilege when he was transphobic and refused to listen and apologise .  The first man, we’ll call him Geoff, derailed the conversation and stated that he objected to the term “white male privilege” as it creates a perception that white males are “the bad guys” and that Fred’s actions were indeed wrong, but they were wrong in their own right, not because Fred is a white male.  Geoff believed that there was  a fallacy of division being painted here that he saw just as bad as the transphobic behaviour.

    I pointed out, as gently as I could that white male privilege exists and pointed Geoff towards several resources, specifically:

    A – The wikipedia article on male privilege

    B – A quote from the Geek Feminism blog:

    “Privilege is described as a set of perceived advantages enjoyed by a majority group, who are usually unaware of the privilege they possess.

    A privileged person is not necessarily prejudiced (sexist, racist, etc) as an individual, but may be part of a broader pattern of *-ism even though unaware of it. “

    And C – Andrea Rubenstein’s awesome post on “Check my what?” On privilege and what we can do about it

    In the next conversation about white male privilege, Geoff suggested that he didn’t mind the term privilege but to associate it with another term is similar to saying “Islamic Terrorist”, and indeed that’s the way he regularly sees it used; as an emotional term, or used as a type of discrimination.

    I admit that I began to lose patience at this point.  I reminded Geoff at this point that the term was not used in relation to him.  That the initial discussion was about Fred and not about Geoff.  Geoff responded that the term “white male privilege” gives people a target to aim at, and that as a white male, he is part of that group and therefore about him because he cannot escape being a white male.

    I then wrote a long essay, which I will pretty much reproduce below with thanks to those who have written before me to help guide my thinking and for the parts of their writing that I have quoted below.

    ________________________________________________

    Men, especially white men, are at the top of the pile as far as privilege goes.   It’s not really a venn diagram. There’s male privilege and there’s white privilege; but white male privilege is more than the two put together. There are things that white men get, for being white men, that neither white women nor non-white men get.  For example, a non-white man would have a hard time being a priest in many of Australian parishes; (but so would a white woman), likewise a business banker, or a CEO, or a CIO etc.  There are exceptions, but these are things society generally gifts to white men; over coloured men or any woman.

    You can draw a venn diagram of all Islamic (or any nationality or religion) people and have a small overlap with terrorists and say “this tiny proportion of people in here are Islamic Terrorists (or English Terrorists, or Australian Terrorists)” but privilege doesn’t map that way.

    I don’t know if you read any of the links I put in my emails, but I am going to continue to do so anyway, because they are useful and may help explain my position here:

    http://meloukhia.net/2010/01/your_privilege_check_it.html
    http://meloukhia.net/2009/08/lets_talk_privilege.html

    “Once you have a basic grasp on the system of privilege, the next step is one simple self-realization: you are privileged. Chances are, your reading that has made you feel  defensive. While it’s a perfectly natural, and common, reaction, don’t let it get in your way of actually thinking about what the statement means. What you need to realize is that we all have privilege to some degree: white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc. The hardest thing is to do is to get over your instinct to fight and say, “But I’m not like that!” If you can do it, you’ve completed the first step towards being a pro-equality in reality rather than simply saying and believing that you are.”
    http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

    I highly recommend reading that entire blog post – it is REALLY good.

    It is important to remember that, “If you are in a position of privilege, it is not your fault, and people do not blame you for it.  (For example, I have white privilege. That is not my fault. But I can recognize it and ask myself what I can do about it, and I can respect people who lack white privilege when they ask me to check my privilege.) Privilege is the result of social structure, which means that discussions about privilege are discussions about society, not about individuals who have privilege.” (http://meloukhia.net/2009/11/personal_and_political.html).

    “I believe that luck and random chance play an ENORMOUS part in our lives — much larger than any of us (including myself) really like to acknowledge. And I therefore try not to feel too smug and entitled about every good thing that happens in my life — or too guilt-ridden and responsible for every bad thing. (In particular, I try to remember that, as a white, healthy, middle-class, college-educated American, I pretty much won the privilege lottery when I was born, and that griping and whining about the petty annoyances in my life is really kind of pathetic. Not that I don’t do it anyway… but when I catch myself, I try to knock it off.)” – http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/06/not_a_butler_ei.html

    As a man Geoff, you ride a much smoother life than many others.  You don’t face sexism, you don’t face discrimination and you don’t face objectification.  As a white person you aren’t questioned for your right to be in the country, you aren’t persecuted, you aren’t likely to be racially vilified, you won’t face discrimination on the basis of your skin colour, assumed religion, assumed association, and you’re more likely to be successful at finding work.

    I don’t think that anyone here is aiming at all white men and calling them evil.  Feminists aren’t generally misanthropists, they just want society to change from the Kyriarchy that it is, to something fairer.

    Geoff, you said that it is, therefore, about you because, by definition, you cannot escape that category.

    In the end, this is a logical fallacy.

    Dalmations are dogs.  Spot is a dog, therefore Spot is a Dalmation.

    Males misuse male privilege.  Geoff is male, therefore Geoff misuses male privilege.

    And as stated above, a discussion about privilege is a discussion  about society and how it can be misused… and in this case, about an individual who did misuse his privilege – and that doesn’t mean that it is about you.

    I would like to point out here that asking me to justify myself and explain myself is a use of privilege in itself.

    As I stated earlier, white males generally have more privilege than any other group in the world (and even more if you add wealth, cisgender or heterosexual privilege to that mix – and less if you add trans, homosexual or poor (but still usually more privilege than women and people of colour).  So Fred was using his white male and cismale privilege to refuse to listen, to state that his desire for personal freedom was more important than someone else’s identity and freedom to be  themselves and refuse to hear that he had offended, until threatened with potential expulsion [from our group].

    This might help here:
    http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/how-to-check-your-cis-privilege/

    [and this summary from Andrea Rubenstein’s post as stated earlier]

    “Any time a non-privileged individual busts out with an angry critique (or even a nice one), someone will eventually come up with the, “I’m sorry you hate men/whites/heterosexuals/etc.” line. With rare exception, non-privileged individuals do not hate privileged individuals, but we do hate how many privileged individuals act! Learn to take criticism. Learn to not deflect it with excuses about how the non-privileged person is just angry, hateful, etc. Even if the person in question is angry, hateful, etc. Even if you, personally, don’t act that way.

    “There are many issues in this world that are about you, but non-privileged groups are not the place to discuss them unless specifically invited. Yes, men are negatively affected by the patriarchy. Yes, they get raped too (and have their own set of victim blaming rhetoric). Yes, privileged groups can and do come into contact with prejudice and discrimination. Are those discussions valid? You bet. But, are they appropriate when the topic is on the discrimination and/or oppression of a particular non-privileged group? Not a chance.  If you think the subject may not be appropriate, don’t bring it up.  There’s always a later discussion, a new thread, and especially proper forums for discussions like those.

    “If You’re Not the Problem, Then You’re Not the Problem
    But if you feel the burning desire to leap to your own defense and declare, “I’m not the problem!” then you just might be. The facts are, people who have followed the steps I’ve outlined will most likely not be the problem. If they are the problem, they accept that and will be working on a way to be less of the problem. If they’re not the problem, then they feel no need to protest the critique by saying that since they aren’t the problem, then the point is obviously invalid.  So, whenever you feel an urge to defend yourself against a criticism about your privileged group, think about why you feel that way. Chances are, the more aware of your privilege you are, the more you’ll see it as a knee-jerk reaction about having your privilege challenged (even if you don’t, in fact, engage in the behaviour being ranted against).” – http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

    _____________________

    The copyright for the quoted sections of text belong to the respective authors.  I also appreciate the assistance given to me by my sister and girlfriend for helping shape my thinking in responding to Geoff.

    In addition to that, I would like to add one further link that I found today.  Justine Larbalestier talks about men derailing conversations about sexism to make it about them called “I know you mean well”.

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    Fructose

    It’s been a while since I blogged… the whole moving house, having house dramas, Christmas, New Year and desperately searching for work has not helped at all. I have a large number of topics to write on stashed away, and today am going to write on Frutose, and why it is bad for you.

    This post was insprired, partly, by meloukhia’s excellent blog, and by her recent post on Bad Science Reporting. meloukhia’s post was specifically relating to bad science journalism and how misreported this study was, however I find the study interesting from my own experiences.

    I have Fructose Malabsorption, this is a condition in which my body has enormous difficulty in processing foods that are high in fructose such as apples, pears, mangos, and melons and foods high in fructan such as onions, wheat, legumes, and cabbage. I can no longer eat dried fruit, drink fruit juice or have dishes containing tomato paste (or any concentrated form of fruit). To quote Wikipedia:

    “Fructose malabsorption … is a digestive disorder of the small intestine in which the fructose carrier in enterocytes is deficient. This problem results in the concentration of fructose in the entire intestine to be increased. Fructose malabsorption is found in approximately 30-40% of the population of Central Europe, with about half of the affected individuals exhibiting symptoms.”

    Basically if I consume foods high in fructose I face intense stomach cramps and diarrhoea for up to 3 days after the consumption of food. This isn’t a condition I’ve had my whole life, this is something that has gradually gotten worse over the past 5 years. But that happens… bodies sometimes, for reasons we don’t understand, decide that they are intolerant or allergic to something after repeated exposure.

    Oh… and have a look at the foods I cannot eat… This makes eating out difficult – onion is typically in EVERYTHING, and it is very hard to know if something contains tomato paste… so I typically avoid everything tomato-y when eating out these days.

    Anyway… so fructose is bad for me. Fructose is also bad for those with irritable bowel syndrome as discussed by Shepherd and Gibson (2006). In fact many of the symptoms described in that paper match how I feel… and I really need to see a dietician to find out what I can and cannot eat so I stop inadvertently eating foods I shouldn’t.

    Anyway… back to the recent study on fructose and it being bad for you. There is a good report here about the study, including a comment from one of the authors of the study. Basically it found that the members of the study who had a high fructose diet gained extra abdominal fat… quoting from the article linked to above:

    “…unlike glucose, some of which passes through the liver and is then excreted, 100% of fructose that’s consumed is taken up by the liver. This is turn leads to increased fat deposition in the abdominal cavity and increased blood levels of triglycerides—both of which are risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.”

    I’m actually interested in a lot more of these studies. As someone who struggles to identify what I can and cannot eat if fructose becomes something that must be more clearly reported on in food and medications, then my life is going to be much easier. Right now I avoid everything with apples, juice (no more sorbet), pears, and high fructose corn syrup (thankfully not highly used in Australia), and I am attempting to cut down on wheat consumption – and I bake goddamnit… what am I supposed to bake with when I cannot consume wheat?

    Fructose malabsorption can be a debilitating condition at times, I feel exhausted and weak when it is really bad. Once I have a settled diet, I will have all the energy I need and more, hopefully.

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    Understatement of the Month

    After a gang rape at a school dance in the US:

    “‘‘Obviously we’ve had some breakdowns. Obviously, it was not safe because this happened,’’ said Charles Ramsey, a West Contra Costa school district board member. ‘‘Should we have had higher awareness, should we have been more vigilant? Probably.’’”

    No… that last world should be YES.

    If people felt that gang raping a 15 year old girl was ok, there are a lot of things wrong with that school. I don’t really know where to begin with the list of things that are wrong either… apart from EVERYTHING. At least the police are actively investigating the rape and assaults and hopefully the judicial system will not use the “oh but she asked for it” line.

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    Australia and secularism

    When I read or hear something, particularly someone’s opinions about a subject, I try and apply it to my own experience and see if it fits. When something doesn’t fit in within my experience its harder to understand the concept… maybe I’m simplifying things here, but having experience of something, positive or negative, or even just because its nearby and not something I’ve directly experienced, makes it easier to identify, positively or negatively with an opinion or experience of someone else.

    I used to interview people seeking asylum in Australia and am used to having to understand situations far beyond my experience and knowledge. I have had to consider trauma, torture, gross discrimination and abuse in relation to people sitting in front of me that I barely know and who have gone through situations I can barely imagine. So, I do get that I have not lived a life full of everyone’s experiences, and nor would I want to.

    But when I see a nation, that for all intents and purposes appears to be like my own country (Australia), specifically the US, I think that perhaps things should be relatively similar. Because they purport to be on TV and other media. With one HUGE exception… religion.

    I spend quite a lot of time reading atheist blogs all of which are based in the US. I read about their desire for community, discussions about who is representing atheism and how, what atheism is, and how to make a stand for their beliefs (or lack of them depending on how you look at it) without losing family, friends or their jobs.

    Big parts of these blogs don’t resonate with me, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on it, and finally did when I stumbled across an article in the free newspaper that is available each weekday evening at train stations in Melbourne.

    Before I announce my revelation (which is in the title anyway), I do want to state that I am by no means dismissing the experience of atheists in the US or any other devoutly religious country and the experiences they have to go through to hold their heartfelt beliefs. This post is about my experiences and how they differ from atheists in the US.

    Anyway… back to my thoughts and revelation. Australia is an incredibly secular country. In fact we’ve voted in a Prime Minister who was atheist, as well as other politicans and we clearly didn’t mind. Sure we have religious whack jobs in Australia who attempt at various times to gain political power, but they tend not to gain an amount that threatens the secular nature of the country and often the next political party to gain power distances themselves from the religious whack jobs. I’m specifically thinking of the Exclusive Breathren an Pastor Danny Nalliah as the two biggest, and yet still very uninfluential, religious whack jobs that have attempted to gain some political leverage recently.

    According to census data, thankfully provided in nice graphical form by Wikipedia (go on, click the link and read the article), Australia may be as much as 30% non-believers or atheists. In the 2006 census, 18.7% of people indicated that they had no religion and a further 11.9% of people did not answer the religious question (it was optional), which is where the 30% figure comes from. As “Australia the Confusing Country” written by Jeremy Lee attests, “Religion and politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don’t care too much about either) but sport is a minefield.”

    The Wikipedia article previously cited also states:

    • Although many Australians identify themselves as religious, the majority consider religion the least important aspect of their lives when compared with family, partners, work and career, leisure time and politics. This is reflected in Australia’s church attendance rates, which are among the lowest in the world and in continuing decline
    • In a 2008 global Gallup poll, nearly 70% of Australians stated religion as having no importance, much higher than their American counterparts, and on par with similarly secular countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, Finland, and France. Only a few Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) and post-Soviet states (Estonia) are markedly less religious.
    • The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper with a centrist viewpoint, asked its readers “Would the world be better off without religion?”. 81% responded in the affirmative (April 2009)
    • A 2006 study by Monash University, the Australian Catholic University and the Christian Research Association found that 52 per cent of Australians born between 1976 and 1990 have no belief in a God.
    • A 2008 Christian Science Monitor survey of 17 countries reported that youth from Australia and the United Kingdom were the least likely to observe religious practice or see any “spiritual dimension” to life.

    So I get that Australia is far, far, far more secular than the United States. So much of the struggle that American atheists go through is not something that atheists in Australia even have to think about. There many be family issues for some atheists if they are coming from devoutly religious families, but generally the issues for American atheists are far different than those of Australian atheists. This is why I struggle to identify with issues raised by US atheists on blogs at times, because I’m living in a vastly more secular world.

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    The Vactican and priest sex abuse

    Look, look… they’re doing it too, so we’re not bad… Everyone else is doing it!

    http://www.theage.com.au/world/vatican-responds-to-sex-abuse-accusations-20090929-gb1p.html

    Hardly.

    And adults who have sex with children are paedophiles, not “homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males”… because that’s a sorry attempt to link homosexuality with paedophilia again. Research has demonstrated that homosexuality and paedophilia are not linked. If the clergy who were abusing children were homosexual, why aren’t they off having sex with other adult men? Yes, crickets chirping again… how many gay people do you know? How many of them have sexual interest in children? I don’t know a single one. I’m not saying that there many not be a paedophile who may also be homosexual, but its not homosexuals who are paedophiles… if anything, it may the other way around in a small number of cases. Men who prey sexually on boys (and children) usually self-identify as straight.

    When The Vatican actually stops sheltering those of its clergy who are breaking not only the laws of the countries in which they are working, but also the Commandment that Jesus gave to love one another as He had loved them, then hopefully things might start to improve. That does involve a complete restructure of the power structures within the Catholic Church, and that requires a religion willing to change. One day a reformist might manage to wrest the Pope-hood from the cooling corpse of the previous Pope, but I don’t expect that to happen in my lifetime, and I’ve got another good 50 years in me.

    I heartily approve of this quote from the article above:

    Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: ”Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst.”

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