Tag Archives: suicide

The cold linkspam of our discontent (June 2013)

I’ve found many wonderful things to read in May, so I will share them with you.  I’ve also switched over to Newsblur, which has a sharing functionality, now that Google Reader is on it’s way out.  It is a paid service (around $26 per year), but awesome.  If you are on Newsblur, look me up, I’m under bluebec.

And onto the articles.  First up this month is “The Suicide Epidemic*obvious trigger warning*:

The fact is, self-harm has become a worldwide concern. This emerged in the new Global Burden of Disease report, published in The Lancet this past December. It’s the largest ever effort to document what ails, injures, and exterminates the species. But allow me to save you the reading. Humankind’s biggest health problem is humankind.

Soraya Chemaly writes in the Huffington Post, “The Problem with ‘Boys Will Be Boys’*trigger warning for discussion around rape*:

I know it’s a lurid metaphor, but I taught my daughter the preschool block precursor of don’t “get raped” and this child, Boy #1, did not learn the preschool equivalent of “don’t rape.

Not once did his parents talk to him about invading another person’s space and claiming for his own purposes something that was not his to claim. Respect for my daughter and her work and words was not something he was learning. It was, to them, some kind of XY entitlement. How much of the boy’s behavior in coming years would be excused in these ways, be calibrated to meet these expectations and enforce the “rules” his parents kept repeating?

There was another boy who, similarly, decided to knock down her castle one day. When he did it his mother took him in hand, explained to him that it was not his to destroy, asked him how he thought my daughter felt after working so hard on her building and walked over with him so he could apologize. That probably wasn’t much fun for him, but he did not do it again.

Some good news from the Climate Spectator, “Australian CO2 emissions hit 10-year low“:

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation have fallen to a 10-year low as coal-fired power slumped to its lowest level in a decade, a new report says.

At the same time, the share of renewable energy in the National Electricity Market (NEM) has soared beyond 12 per cent and looks set to continue rising.

In its latest quarterly emissions outlook, energy and carbon research firm RepuTex found coal power made up 74.8 per cent of the NEM in the three months ended in March – its lowest point in 10 years.

Coal was at more than 85 per cent of the NEM four years ago, when wind made up just half a per cent of the overall mix.

Today, wind generation is at 3.8 per cent, hydro 8.7 per cent and gas at 12.7 per cent of the NEM.

Alex White at The Guardian writes, “Is the ‘carbon tax’ the reason for the PM’s low popularity, or is it Murdoch?“:

The apocalyptic predictions made by Tony Abbott did not come to pass. The sky didn’t fall. Mining and manufacturing towns weren’t wiped off the map. Regional airlines didn’t double their prices. The carbon price wrecking ball, python strike and cobra squeeze has not impacted Australia’s interest rates, employment levels or inflation.

Support for the carbon price, and opposition to it, narrowed and equalised.

What didn’t happen was an increase in Labor’s vote. Throughout 2011 and 2012, while the carbon price’s stocks fell, Labor’s also remained low. From 1 July 2012, the two numbers decoupled. Labor’s polling remained stuck, while opposition to the carbon price declined and support increased.

This month, we passed an unprecedented milestone: global carbon levels exceeded levels not seen in over 3 million years. The carbon price in Australia has contributed to a 10-year low in carbon emissions. Few in Australia have noticed either turning point. Meanwhile, conservative state governments have quietly been dismantling carbon reduction policies established by the previous Labor governments, wilfully ignoring warnings by the scientific community of the risks.

Amanda Marcotte at The Raw Story writes, “Fringe Misogynists Expose Themselves To The Houston Chronicle“:

That’s why I have mixed feelings about the Houston Chronicle covering the “controversy” over the existence of Women in Secularism. My concern is that the inevitable process of quoting people from “both sides” creates a false equivalence, much like having climate scientists “debate” global warming denialists creates the illusion that there’s a controversy, when in fact it’s more akin to a struggle between reasonable people and irrationalists with an agenda. You see that problem in this piece. The feminist voices are, by and large, mainstream voices of actual experts who are supported by the mainstream secularist community. The anti-feminists are fringe characters who run hate sites and have had the Southern Poverty Law Center look into them. There’s not an authentic conflict here, but more a story about how normal people going about important business are being harassed by fringe characters with nothing of value to say.

Steven Petrow at The New York Times writes, “What Is the Right Way to Come Out as Bisexual at Work?“:

Over the years I’ve frequently heard from my bi friends that it’s harder for them to come out than it is for those of us who are gay or lesbian because of the enduring myths about being bisexual. Stereotypes persist, and many people think that identifying as bi means 1) you’re going through a phase, 2) you’re promiscuous or 3) you’re really gay but not telling the truth. In fact, many of those in our generation of L.G.B.T. people did claim to be bisexual, when we were gay or lesbian all along but not yet ready to acknowledge it even to ourselves. That’s not deceitful; it’s part of coming to terms with your sexuality.

These old stereotypes don’t die easily. They are so alive and well, in fact, that when I posed your question on my Facebook page I was shocked by some of the venomous responses. It was the first time any topic has caused the Facebook algorithm to hide posts because of the language, and I’ve had to edit the remarks heavily to let even these few appear here…

Andy Palmer at The Limping Chicken writes about Matt Dixon’s experience in “I had to tell my dad he was going to die, because he wasn’t given a sign language interpreter”:

Matt remembers how the cancer centre handled the issue of booking further interpreters for his dad. “They asked me to do it and I said I would but only if there were no interpreters available. For all the scans, blood tests and the chemotherapy that followed they never ever booked an interpreter for him again – even though written on the front of Dad’s file, in big red felt pen, it said: PROFOUNDLY DEAF.”

“At the first chemotherapy appointment my dad was all smiles. I asked the receptionist who the interpreter was and she replied ‘Oh, really sorry, we can’t get one.’ I just had to go with the flow. I was used to it from my life communicating for my family and I didn’t know about the Equality Act back then, all that I was bothered about was my dad.”

“I asked them to book an interpreter for the next appointment but they didn’t and that next appointment was for the results of a scan following the first chemotherapy treatment. It was an important meeting to see if the cancer had spread or not. I relayed to my dad, acting once again as his interpreter, that the cancer had not grown.”

Anna P guest posts at Feministe, “How to be an ally with bisexuals“:

  1. Keep in mind that bisexuality exists when considering someone’s possible sexual orientation. If a person is in a same-sex relationship, don’t assume they’re gay. If a person is in an opposite-sex relationship, don’t assume they’re straight. If a person once dated a man but is now dating a woman, or vice versa, don’t assume one of those relationships was a sham and the other represents their true orientation. If a woman is in a sexual relationship with a man, don’t assume anything she does with a woman is just a show put on for his benefit (by the way, don’t forget polyamory exists too.)
  2. Don’t tell someone they’re not really bisexual. You don’t know their feelings. Even if someone has only dated men (or women), it doesn’t mean they’re not also attracted to the other sex.

Charlie Jane Anders at io9 writes, “They mocked her “science fantasy.” Then she wrote Empire Strikes Back.“:

Leigh Brackett wrote the first script draft of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back, and her contributions helped make the saga epic.

But before Brackett had a major hand in creating the best Star Wars movie, she was a science fiction novelist in the 1940s, writing a slew of space adventure novels with titles like The Starmen and Alpha Centauri or Die!. People called her the Queen of Space Opera — and it was not always a compliment.

At that time, space opera (like Star Wars) was looked down upon as less worthy of appreciation than other types of pulp fiction, including other types of science fiction. Brackett also wrote a lot of pulp crime fiction, and had co-written the screenplay for The Big Sleepwith William Faulkner. But she chose to spend a lot of her time writing these despised novels.

David Wong at Cracked writes, “The 5 Ugly Lessons Hiding in Every Superhero Movie“:

Superman’s awesome crystal fortress in the arctic isn’t called Fort CrystalPunch or Castle SuperPenis or Superman’s Ice Hole. It’s called the freaking Fortress of Solitude. Yes, you’re immortal and impossibly strong and can shoot lasers from your eyes, clearly you need a place to be alone, where you can quietly weep and write your poetry about how the world is a cruel, frozen wasteland.

But solitude is a requirement in these stories. Tony Stark literally has to have his secretary perform heart gadget surgery because, in his own words, “I don’t have anyone but you.”

Jason Bailey at Flavorwire writes, “Guess What: Hollywood’s ‘Bridesmaids’ Revolution Never Happened“:

Hey, remember back when Bridesmaids came out, and everybody was all, “It’s your social responsibility to support female-driven comedy,” and then it was a hit, so yay for funny ladies? And then The Hunger Games came out, and everybody was all, “It’s your social responsibility to support a female-driven blockbuster,” and then it was a hit, so yay for lady ass-kickers? Well, as it turns out, none of that mattered a lick, because according to a study released yesterday by the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, female representation in popular films is at its lowest level in five years. So thanks for nothing, Hollywood.

For those who are Goodies fans like me, a bit of history on the BT Tower (famously knocked over by Twinkle in Kitten Kong), an article written by Joe Fay at The Register, “BT Tower is just a relic? Wrong: It relays 18,000hrs of telly daily“:

Moving on to the present day, the tower is arguably still the most important communications nerve centre in the UK, but this has little to do with its original purpose.

It started life as The Post Office Tower: a radio mast designed as a hub for a national microwave network that was seen as the future of telecoms.

It was officially opened in 1965, four years after construction started. According to a wonderful 1970 brochure BT gave us, the spire – later renamed the BT Tower – was expected to provide four microwave paths, carrying “150,000 simultaneous telephone conversations or 100 both-way television channels”.

Cliff Pervocracy at The Pervocracy writes, “What I Mean When I Say I’m Sex-Positive“:

I’m sex-positive!

And I’m realizing that’s a painfully ambiguous term.  I’ve seen people use it to mean everything from “not viewing sex as inherently evil” to “insisting that everyone should have tons of orgasms and it’ll solve all their problems.”  You can see how people using the first definition could have some seriously unproductive arguments with people thinking they’re using the second.

About the “orgasms for everyone!” thing.  It’s not entirely a strawman.  I once saw a presentation by Annie Sprinkle (who clearly wrote her own Wikipedia page) where she basically argued that we would have world peace and feminist utopia if everyone in all the armies just fucked and had orgasms instead.   It’s superficially sweet-sounding–yay, pleasure!–but there’s some really obvious problems.  Not everyone can have orgasms, not everyone wants orgasms, and there are lots of people who have fabulous orgasms but they’re still assholes.

Over at The Hawkeye Initiative, “Special Guest Edition: The Hawkeye Initiative IRL!“:

work with an all-female team of data scientists, in the gaming industry. This makes me the professional equivalent of Amelia Earhart riding the Loch Ness Monster.

I love my job. Our company in particular is great. Firstly, our game (HAWKEN) is beautiful and people love it. Secondly, half of our executive branch is female. Half of them are punk rock, and all of them are badassed. Our gender awareness standards, compared to the industry at large, are top shelf. We are talking Amelia Earhart in Atlantis, at a five star resort, getting a mani-pedi from Jensen Ackles. I have it good.

For the last six months of my tenure at Meteor Entertainment, there has been only one thing I did not love about my job.

Felicia Day writes, “Star Trek Movie: SPOILERZZZZ“:

Where are the women?  The strong women?  The women we’d like to see in 200 years?  Where are they in this world?  They certainly aren’t around the roundtable when the Starfleet are learning about Khan (there might have been one in that scene, if so that extra was not cut to in any significant manner to be notable.)  In the scene where Kirk gets his ship back and the admiral is having a meeting with “important” people around a table later, I failed to see ONE WOMAN AROUND THAT TABLE, ALL MOSTLY WHITE MEN IMPLIED TO BE MAKING IMPORTANT DECISIONS TOGETHER.  Yes, these are just scenes with extras, but seriously, in the future not one woman over 40 is in charge in this world?!  How can that happen?

For main characters, Uhura had a FEW nice scenes (as a vehicle to humanize Spock mostly), but that other woman character was the WORST damsel in distress ever.  I kept waiting for her turn, waiting for her to not be the victim, to be a bit cleverer, to add to the equation in a “yeah you go girl” way but no, she was there to be sufficiently sexy that Kirk would acknowledge her existence, to be pretty, to serve the plot.  I loved her bob.  That’s it.  What if she had been a less attractive woman, older, overweight?  A tomboy?  Wouldn’t have that been a tad more interesting choice?  Or at least give her a moment where she’s not a princess waiting to be saved.  From a director who is so amazing, who created wonderful female characters in Alias and Felicity, I was super bummed by this.  A woman character CAN exist without having to be sexually desired by the guy.  Oh, and she doesn’t have to be a lesbian either, OMG WHAT A SURPRISING IDEA!

Jane J Lee at National Geographic writes, “6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism“:

Over the centuries, female researchers have had towork as “volunteer” faculty members, seen credit for significant discoveries they’ve made assigned to male colleagues, and been written out of textbooks.

They typically had paltry resources and fought uphill battles to achieve what they did, only “to have the credit attributed to their husbands or male colleagues,” said Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, who studies biases against women in the sciences.

Today’s women scientists believe that attitudes have changed, said Laura Hoopes at Pomona College in California, who has written extensively on women in the sciences—”until it hits them in the face.” Bias against female scientists is less overt, but it has not gone away.

Here are six female researchers who did groundbreaking work—and whose names are likely unfamiliar for one reason: because they are women.

Saman Shad at SBS World News writes, “Comment: Why are we debating ‘blackface’ in 2013?“:

But the question remains are we throwing the word ‘racist’ around willy-nilly? I guess the same question can be asked for sexism. Can a guy at work no longer comment on his female colleague’s legs and say that she’s got great pins? No. It makes the woman feel uncomfortable, it casts her as an object. This is a base comparison but for some it can help to understand the same stands true when the word racist is said. If something you said makes an outdated assumption or objectifies a person of colour then it’s probably racist.

A video on ABC News of one of their news cadets who happens to be blind, and the accommodations the ABC has put in place to help her do her job.  Sadly the manager is a bit trope-y about how inspiring Nas Campanella is, and how a sighted person couldn’t possibly manage the way Nas can.  Sadly the video isn’t captioned (that I can see).

At [insert literary reference], “Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?“:

You know how it is, right, ladies? You know a guy for a while. You hang out with him. You do fun things with him—play video games, watch movies, go hiking, go to concerts. You invite him to your parties. You listen to his problems. You do all this because you think he wants to be your friend.

But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend. And then if you turn him down, he may never speak to you again. This has happened to me time after time: I hit it off with a guy, and, for all that I’ve been burned in the past, I start to think that this one might actually care about me as a person. And then he asks me on a date.

An interesting discussion in The Economist about “The plough and the now“, how farming techniques may have led to patriarchy:

FERNAND BRAUDEL, a renowned French historian, once described a remarkable transformation in the society of ancient Mesopotamia. Sometime before the end of the fifth millennium BC, he wrote, the fertile region between the Tigris and the Euphrates went from being one that worshipped “all-powerful mother goddesses” to one where it was “the male gods and priests who were predominant in Sumer and Babylon.” The cause of this move from matriarchy, Mr Braudel argued, was neither a change in law nor a wholesale reorganisation of politics. Rather, it was a fundamental change in the technology the Mesopotamians used to produce food: the adoption of the plough.

The plough was heavier than the tools formerly used by farmers. By demanding significantly more upper-body strength than hoes did, it gave men an advantage over women. According to Mr Braudel, women in ancient Mesopotamia had previously been in charge of the fields and gardens where cereals were grown. With the advent of the plough, however, farming became the work of men. A new paper* by Alberto Alesina and Nathan Nunn of Harvard University and Paola Giuliano of the University of California, Los Angeles, finds striking evidence that ancient agricultural techniques have very long-lasting effects.

Kameron Hurley at A Dribble of Ink has written, “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative“, possibly one of my favourite posts of this year, and certainly one which has reminded me I need to write two novels:

When I sat down with one of my senior professors in Durban, South Africa to talk about my Master’s thesis, he asked me why I wanted to write about women resistance fighters.

“Because women made up twenty percent of the ANC’s militant wing!” I gushed. “Twenty percent! When I found that out I couldn’t believe it. And you know – women have never been part of fighting forces –”

He interrupted me. “Women have always fought,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“Women have always fought,” he said. “Shaka Zulu had an all-female force of fighters. Women have been part of every resistance movement. Women dressed as men and went to war, went to sea, and participated actively in combat for as long as there have been people.”

And now to bra fitting (UK sizing used), Sam at A Thousand Angsty Whales, all pumping iron (best blog title ever) writes, “DO IT NOW: Guide to Proper Bra Fit and Measuring because Victoria Secret and La Senza and whatever are full of shit and you are definitely wearing the wrong size ok? ok“.

Ann Aguirre writes, “This week in SF“:

So yeah. The audience noticed. I had slightly better experiences at WorldCon and ArmadilloCon, but I suspect it wasn’t as bad because I was roaming around with Sharon Shinn, who has more power and cachet than I had at that time. But I still encountered more than my share of fans, who dismissed my work. At that point, I was disheartened, and I stopped attending SFF cons entirely. I decided I’d rather spend my travel money otherwise. To quote my wonderful friend, Lauren Dane, “If I want to feel bad about myself, I’ll go swimsuit shopping.” My professional work shouldn’t be impacted by my gender, my appearance, my religion, my sexuality, my skin tone, or any other factor. The fact that it is? Makes me so very sad. I’ve had readers and writers stare at my rack instead of my face while “teaching” me how to suck eggs.

I’ve been fighting this battle for five years now.

Marianne at xojane writes, “Go On And Call Me Fat; It’s True“:

There is something incredibly powerful about seeing the word “fat” in print (metaphorical though that print may be in a virtual environment) when it isn’t attached to pictures of headless fatties and headlines about my impending death — and how much I’m costing society just by existing. It’s almost like feeling that our culture doesn’t want to eradicate me and my body.

That’s not a message I get anywhere else.

I use the word “fat” a whole hell of a lot. I use it so often that the predictive text on my cell phone inserts “fat” even when I mean “day” — which leads to tweets like “What I am going to do on this beautiful fat?”

Some friends and I even call each other “Fatty” — as in, “Hey, Fatty! Come eat this food with me.” Or whatever. Fatties do a lot of different things.

Stephanie Pappas at Scientific American writes, “New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You“:

“People in these relationships really communicate. They communicate to death,” said Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont. All of that negotiation may hold a lesson for the monogamously inclined, Holmes told LiveScience.

“They are potentially doing quite a lot of things that could turn out to be things that if people who are practicing monogamy did more of, their relationships would actually be better off,” Holmes said.

And finally a storify of Twitter comments (all positive) made during and after a talk by Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency regarding online harassment.

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*trigger warning – this post discusses suicide*

Today is/was R U OK Day – a day where you are encourage to approach people (friends/family/strangers?) and ask them if they are OK.  From the R U OK website:

Thursday 7 October, 2010 is R U OK?Day. A national day of action that aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.

On that day we want everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to ask family, friends and colleagues: “Are you OK?”.

Because staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feelings of isolation and being alone are major contributing factors to depression and social issues that can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.

It’s so simple but in the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.

I get the whole raising awareness thing, but right now this doesn’t really work for me.  If I had waited until today to ask my friend who attempted suicide a couple of weeks ago, whether or not she was ok, she may not have lived that long.  The analogy for me is something like “Safe Sex” day where everyone practices safe sex and forgets about it for the other 364 days of the year (365 on leap years).  That would be a bad thing, and having one day singled out in a year where you’re told (not encouraged) to ask someone you care about if they are OK, versus the rest of the year, is not exactly helpful.

I think I’d be less … something… about this if they more clearly stated that this was an awareness exercise and that this was to raise awareness of the tools available to those who want to ask if someone is ok, and to provide information to those who need it.  Mainly stating that this is the day you should ask someone if they are ok, misses all the other days when they may not be.

It also assumes that everyone has the spoons to ask someone else if they are ok, or are ok enough themselves to ask someone else.  I have had days where I did not have the spoons to ask someone if they were ok because being prepared to listen and engage with that person enough for answer required energy I did not have.  Asking if someone is OK is not a short conversation, and can go beyond the one coffee suggested above.  It requires focus, probing and understanding feedback, and a willingness to engage – and as well the understanding that whoever you’ve approached may not be willing to open up to you and that isn’t something you should take personally.

The R U OK website also has a page providing suggestions and advice on how to start an R U OK conversation.  This page is full of good information except for one bit which I found somewhat problematic.  The page rightly tells you not to offer advice, “Avoid telling someone what to do: it is important to listen and try to help the other person work out what is best for them“.  But then delves immediately into:

Be encouraging

Encourage physical health. Maintaining regular exercise, a nutritious diet and getting regular sleep helps people to cope in tough times

Encourage the person to seek professional help from their family doctor, a support service or counsellor, or a mental health worker

Encourage self-care. Sometimes people need to be encouraged to do more to look after their own needs during a difficult time

So on one hand, don’t give advice, but on the other encourage them to look after themselves more, seek help and maintain their physical health – things the person you are meant to be listening to may not be able to actually do for a myriad of reasons, or who may be doing all or some of them and doesn’t need you to comment on.

When I found out from my friend about her attempted suicide, I hugged her, took her somewhere quiet and listened to her.  I asked if she’d like to come to my place for a while, if she needed to, again being ok with her saying no, because this was not about me – it was about what she needed.

The fact that the R U OK website also lists groups you can speak to if you need help now, is also a great resource.

In the end the R U OK idea is good, but for me to be satisfied with it, it needs more tweaking.  More conversation up front about how this should happen every day and not just once a year.  More tools for people who’ve never had conversations like this.  More information about what constitutes being helpful, how to provide feedback during the conversation so that whoever is being listened to knows that they are being heard, what to do if things get out of hand, how to check up on someone again later and how to debrief with someone afterward so that you too are OK.

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