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The Professional Status of “Pro-Life” Positions on Abortion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 2:03am in

Should junior job seekers try to avoid outing themselves as “pro-life”?

[Sarah Leonard, “Venus Fly Womb”]

A version of this question was discussed recently at The Philosophers’ Cocoon. The worry that prompted that discussion is that the pro-life view on abortion is perceived as sexist, and so philosophers who would like to avoid having a sexist colleague will avoid hiring people who defend that view.

There are a number of questions one could unpack here: (1) What exactly are we referring to by “pro-life” views on abortion? (2) Which, if any, of these views are sexist? (3) Does sincerely defending a sexist view make one sexist? (4) Is a job candidate’s sexism sufficient grounds for not hiring them? (5) Is the charge of sexism a red herring? Might it be viewed as sufficiently objectionable by others in the profession that some anti-abortion views restrict the liberty of women, regardless of whether the position or the arguments for it are sexist? (6) What should pro-life job candidates do?

I can’t take up all of these questions in this post. But I will share some thoughts about the first two, since I know everyone wants to hear what a man has to say about sexism and abortion.*

To start with a rather obvious point, there are lots of relevant distinctions to make here. Let’s just look at one: the distinction between the question of the moral permissibility of abortion (“the moral question”) and the question of the moral permissibility of banning abortion (“the legal question”). It’s worth making this distinction because it doesn’t follow from the judgment that some act is wrong that it should be illegal and its prohibition enforced by coercion. (Nor is it the case that some act has to be immoral for it to be right to make that act illegal.)

The moral question of abortion is really complicated, and I think philosophers—especially those most familiar with philosophical work on abortion—acknowledge this, and would not jump to the conclusion that someone who argues that most abortions are immoral is sexist.

I certainly don’t think they should jump to that conclusion; whether the conclusion is warranted depends on whether the anti-abortion argument in question is sexist. If one’s argument against abortion depends on premises that hold women’s interests to not be of equal moral importance to the interests of others, that’s one way an argument may be sexist. But not all anti-abortion arguments do that. To take a simple example, classical (total) utilitarianism does not weight interests differentially based on whose they are, but nonetheless the view implies that most abortions are wrong.

Of course, whether jumps to certain conclusions should be taken is different from the matter of whether they are taken. Am I right in thinking that this is not an especially popular jump?

What about the legal question? An assumption that a philosopher is sexist in virtue of supporting legal prohibitions on most abortions seems to have somewhat more warrant than the assumption that a philosopher is sexist in virtue of holding merely that most abortions are immoral. This is because to support making abortion illegal is to support special governmental prohibitions and use of force on women in regard to choices about their own bodies and lives in highly personal, invasive, and significant ways. But how much more warrant, I don’t know.

(I want to say that it is probably better to assess the individual arguments than make an assumption based on the conclusion of the arguments, but I see the counterexamples to that—do I need to assess individual arguments for race-based slavery? can’t I reasonably assume they’re racist based on their conclusion? At the same time, it’s not certain the analogy supporting these counterexamples is apt.)

And again, whether the belief that such views are sexist is warranted, there’s the question of whether the belief that they’re sexist is widespread. I’m not quite sure what to think about that. We could find out if you shared your views on the matter. Then there’s the question of how such beliefs affect hiring and the distribution of professional opportunities, and the further question of what job candidates with anti-abortion views should do in light of this, if anything.

Discussion of these and related questions are welcome.

(Since one’s own position on abortion may influence one’s view of whether certain views of the topic are sexist or perceived as such, it may be useful to share your position when you comment on these matters.**)

* Is there anything worse than having to explain a self-deprecating joke?

** For what it’s worth, I find Elizabeth Harman’s arguments in favor of the moral permissibility of early abortion compelling, and I am generally opposed to legal prohibitions on abortion.

Note: comments on this post are moderated and may take some time to appear.

Related: Political Hostility and Willingness to Discriminate in Philosophy, The Philosophy and Politics of Early Abortion in the U.S., Philosophers On the Ethics and Politics of Abortion.

UPDATE: Comments are now closed on this post.

Comments Policy

The post The Professional Status of “Pro-Life” Positions on Abortion appeared first on Daily Nous.

Private Eye: Tony Abbott Part of Free Trade Group Wanting to Sell NHS to Americans

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 11th -24th September has a very ominous story about new Brexit adviser’s Tony Abbott’s attitude to this country’s single greatest institution, the NHS. He’s part of a free trade group run by the extreme right-wing Tory MP, Daniel ‘Lyin’ King’ Hannan, which wants to privatise the NHS. The article ‘Rough Traders’ runs

Britain’s controversial new trade adviser Tony Abbott, ex-Australian PM, is also on the advisory board of a right-wing British “free trade” group that wants to open the NHS to US competition in a future trade deal.

Abbott, appointed to the government’s new Board of Trade last week, joined the Initiative for Free Trade, a think tank set up by keen Brexiteer and former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, in 2017. International trade scretary Liz Truss has co-opted Hannan on to her new Board of Trade alongside Abbott, making clear the official sympathy for Hannan’s think tank (whose launch in 2017 was graced by a certain Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary).

So what kind of Brexit does these two gung-ho free marketeers now advising the government actually want? In September 2018, their Initiative for Free Trade jointly published an “Ideal US-Uk Free Trade Agreement” with the Cato Institute, a right-wing US think tank. Its proposed deal “should open all government procurement markets to goods and services providers” from either country; and it said explicitly: “Health services are an area where both sides would benefit from openness to foreign competition” – meaning the NHS, its hospitals and drug purchasing should be fully open to US firms. It accepted the NHS was a political hot potato – “We recognise any changes to existing regulations will be extremely controversial” – and so suggested a stealthy approach whereby “the initial focus should be on other fields such as education or legal services” before health, so “negotiators can test the waters and see what is possible”.

The paper from Abbott and Hannan’s think tank also said the UK should get ready to eat US chlorinated chicken and hormone enhanced beef; and any deal should avoid “restrictions based on scientifically unsubstantiated public health and safety concerns”. And provisions on workers’ rights and environmental protections? Yes: any deal should avoid these too.

Much of the objections to Abbott’s appointment have concentrated on his own personal failings – his racism, sexism and homophobia. He comes across as personally obnoxious, the living embodiment of Barry Humphries’ character, Sir Les Patterson, the Australian cultural attache. More serious is his sheer incompetence. He was in office for two years before his own party gave him the heave-ho, and then lost his safe seat to an independent.

But this is what really scares me. He and his buddy Hannan really do want to sell off the NHS. Hannan’s been promoting this for a very long time, so it’s no surprise from this direction. They’re going to do it by stealth, which also comes as no surprise, as that’s what they’ve been doing for the past forty years or so. And the Americans have been very heavily involved in all this. Johnson and the Tories have already included the NHS in their talks with the Americans, and one their best to kept it secret. They’re trying to pass further legislation to keep the negotiations as a whole under wraps, so we can’t see that this is what they’re doing.

And to cap it all, they’re determined to feed us chlorinated chicken, hormone injected beef, and wreck the environment and further degrade workers’ rights. Because this is what free trade American capitalism is all about – feeding people dodgy food, wrecking the planet and making sure there are no penalties for workers’ sick or injured at work.

Get Abbott out of the Brexit negotiations. Get private industry out of my NHS. And get the Tories out of office!

The British Class Room War and the Tory and Elite Feminist Promotion of Private Education

There’s massive outrage at the way the education authorities in England, Wales and Scotland have downgraded pupils’ marks according to a set a algorithms. This has unfairly affected the mass of these children, damaging the hopes of all-too many for a university education. In the poorer areas, according to an I headline yesterday, 36 per cent of students have been affected. This is despite the hard work, time and effort these children and their teachers have put in despite the lockdown and necessary school closures. Teachers are angry, students and their parents are angry, and the schools are protesting. The Scots are trying to correct their errors, but there’s been precious little from the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, except excuses and bluster. And only the mildest criticism from the useless Blairite leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer.

Private Schools and the British Class System

But strangely, none of this downgrading has affected students at the elite private schools, like the Eton from which our clownish, mass-murdering prime minister Boris Alexander, DePfeffel Johnson and so many of his cronies and cabinet have attended. Mike has published a couple of excellent articles pointing out the class dimension to this marking down of the hoi polloi on their schools.

And he’s right. This isn’t accidental. The elite private schools are an intrinsic part of the British class system. They supply and educate this country’s elite, who heartily despise not just those below them, but the state schools that educate them.

Britain is one of the few country’s in Europe that has this devotion and the attendant promotion of elite private schools. It simply doesn’t exist in France and Germany, where most children, I believe, attend state schools. Private schools exist, but there isn’t the same cult surrounding them. There have at times been attempts to introduce it in Germany, but it’s failed. And a Fabian pamphlet on education I read in the 1980s stated that in France many pupils at private schools were there because, er, they were less intelligent than those at the state schools.

Some of this difference in attitude comes from the different history of education on the continent. In France following the French Revolution, there was a bitter conflict over schooling between the Church and the liberal, secularist authorities. This has been decided in favour of the latter, so that French republican society has an official policy of laicism – secularism. Germany also had its Kulturkampf with the Roman Catholic church in the 19th century over the Roman Catholic schools. But I think both countries, as well as Italy, had a very strong tradition of state support for schools and state or parish school provision. There was mass illiteracy in these countries in the 19th century, but I got the general impression that after the Napoleonic invasions where education was provided, it was through local school boards. In Britain education tended to remain a matter of private industry and provision. I’d also argue that the attitude that Eton and the rest of the private schools represent the acme of the British education system is actually only quite recent. Well into the 19th century wealthy children had a broader education at the grammar schools – the public schools were criticised for their narrow specialisation on the Classics – and bullying and brutality by the teachers was rife. The diet was also so poor that the pupils boarding there sometimes died of starvation. This changed after Matthew Arnold became the visionary headmaster at Rugby, and his massive improvement in the standards there and influence across elite private education.

There is, apparently, also a class divide in France in their secular, state education system. The children of the technocratic elite attend a set of similarly exclusive, but state-run schools, which are very difficult for someone outside that class to get into. This was part of the argument the Daily Heil advanced in favour of the British public school system in article back in the 1990s, when Eton and its fellows were coming under attack again as bastions of class privilege. According to this article, British public schools were superior because they developed in their pupils an independence of thought impossible in the French state system. This was roughly at the same time the journo Danny Danziger was interviewing old Etonians in his book, Eton Voices, who droned on about how wonder the old school was, praising it for its tolerance. How ideologically independent private school education is, is a highly questionable point. I’ve met a number of ex-public schoolboys who have rebelled against their upbringing and affected a very working class persona. But for the most part, since Arnold there has been a definite emphasis on moulding character – no bad thing in itself – and the existence of these schools and their very narrow class background is responsible for the maintenance of the British class system and all its attitudes against those further down the British social hierarchy.

Tory Hatred of State Education

And the Tories themselves hate state education. Some of us can still remember how they tried to part-privatise it in the 1980s by encouraging schools to leave the Local Education Authorities to become City Academies. That failed, and was quietly wound up. Until it was revived and expanded again by Blair and New Labour. And the Tories have continued, expanding the academy chains and even trying to bring back grammar schools to absolutely zero enthusiasm. I also remember the ignorant pronouncements of some Tory businessmen in the 1980s, who showed their own contempt for education. Pupils, according to these ignorant blowhards, should just be taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Nothing else was necessary, and they should then be sent out to work. But although it wasn’t said, they probably didn’t mean children from the upper and upper middle classes.

Elite Feminist Attacks on State Education

And part of the defence and promotion of elite private schools has come from ex-private schoolgirls arguing from feminism. There’s a reasonable point there, but it’s mixed up with much elite class ideology. And it includes the liberal, Blairite elite as well as Tories. Way back in the 1980s there were articles in the paper during the debate about girls’ education which pointed out that girls in single-sex schools had better grades than their sisters in mixed schools. Girls tended to be pushed into the background in school performance by boys. I don’t know if this has changed, but since then there has been a reversal in academic performance between the sexes. Girls have been outperforming boys for several years now, and the worse performing demographic are White working class boys. Despite this reversal, feminist arguments are still being used to defend what it basically class privilege. Single-sex schools are centres of female excellence, and away from boys, more girls take STEM subjects. So said an article by one of the female hacks in the I. I don’t doubt she’s right.

But this does create some very skewed attitude towards state education in ex-private schoolgirls. I came across about a decade ago when I studying for my Ph.D. at Bristol Uni. Passing through campus one day, I overhead two former private school inmates, who I think I had just met, who were overjoyed to find that they both had the same educational background. They were glad to find another you woman, who went to the same type of school. Which, one of them declared, was better than ‘the little woman thing they teach in state schools.’


Not in my experience, nor my mother’s. I went to the local primary school, and my mother was a teacher in one of the other primary schools in Bristol. Mike and I were also lucky to get into a church school. This had been a grammar school, but was now a state-assisted comprehensive. And in none of them was there any teaching about the ‘little woman thing’. Now there was a debate within the education system at the time about gender and schooling. There was an article in an edition of Child Education about whether girls should be allowed to play with traditionally boys toys in school, like Meccano sets. But this debate, I think, has been settled a very long time ago. And I do remember that there was a positive attitude towards feminism amongst some of the staff at the Church school. I was in our house master’s office one day – I honestly can’t remember why, but I don’t think it was as a punishment for anything – when one of the women teachers came in. She had some materials on the Suffragettes she wanted to show him. ‘Ah, excellent!’ said the housemaster, ‘a bit of feminism!’

By  contrast, I’ve also come across teachers of both sexes, who in my opinion couldn’t teach boys. One of them was a male teacher, who gave sneers and put downs to the boys if they couldn’t answer questions or gave the wrong one, but was extremely encouraging to the girls. He clearly thought that girls needed gentle encouragement, while boys needed to be kept in line by shaming and humiliation. But it gave the impression he didn’t like teaching them. I’ve also come across some horror stories about the way girls have been treated in schools as well. Another story I heard back in the ’80s was about the headmaster of a London school, who immediately decided to divide the pupils into two classes, an ‘A’ and ‘B’. And all the boys ended up in ‘A’, and the girls in ‘B’. The headmaster, apparently, was Turkish, and this looks like the product of a traditionally Islamic cultural attitude to education. It was mostly definitely not common throughout the British state system and there were very loud complaints.

Blairite Feminism and Class Snobbery

My guess is that these skewed ideas about the sexism of state education are shared not just by Tories, but by Blairite liberals. The hacks writing in newspapers like the Groaniad and the I, although that’s technically non-aligned politically, seem to come from the same wealthy, privately educated class. And I think they share the same attitudes towards social class as the Tories, but argue for it from a liberal, feminist perspective. A few years ago the I carried a piece about a female Labour MP or activist, who was very definitely a Blairite. She commented on how male-dominated the old, trade union dominated Labour movement had been. And so we see the same attitude directed towards state education, by people, who have never once set foot in a state school except perhaps on an official visit.


Boris Johnson famously declared that every school should be like Eton. Well, every school could if it had the money spent on it Eton has. As for the academies, ditto. Once you account for the masses of money they have had spent on them, far in excess of the state sector, and the way they skew their results by excluding difficult and underperforming pupils, they are very definitely not better than state schools. See the book The great Academy Fraud for a very detailed discussion of their failings.

But ‘failing state schools’ is a nice mantra to justify the privatisation of the education system, even though one academy chain has gone down the toilet after the other. The Tories hate state education, and, in my opinion, will do anything to sabotage it. As will the Blairites.

And that includes deliberately marking down state school pupils, while awarding high marks and grades to the privately educated children of the elite.


Five Little Words: All Men are Created Equal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 11:07pm in

In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators on the edge of a wilderness continent declared that no man was born better than any other. America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal. Continue reading

The post Five Little Words: All Men are Created Equal appeared first on

80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.


Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.



























Pressure on women and families during lockdowns due to sexist system

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 6:15pm in


sexism, sexism

The coronavirus
pandemic has exposed the reliance of capitalism on the nuclear family and women’s
unpaid domestic labour.

As workplaces and schools shut, parents have been
expected to home-school children on top of paid work and the usual unpaid
cooking, cleaning and care work—with most of the burden falling on women.

According to a New York Times survey, in 80 per cent
of cases women have taken up the responsibility for home-schooling—only 3 per
cent of women reported that men were doing more unpaid labour at home. And
women already do up to three times more unpaid work in the home than men.

Yvette McDonald, who has two young primary school age
children, told the Sydney Morning Herald she was “at breaking point…
Many of us are managing crisis at work, but then on top of that we’re schooling
our children as well. We feel as though we’re failing, but we’re not
failing—we’ve been asked to do impossible things.”

But it’s not just workplaces and schools that are
closed—many of the other public spaces accessed by parents and families are
also shut including playgrounds, after-school activities and libraries.

And for working women who rely on extended family for
help with childcare, the risk of exposing elderly parents and relatives to
coronavirus means these supports are also off the table.

For some women, the family home is not a safe place to
self-isolate. Domestic violence support agencies in Australia are reporting a
10 per cent increase in urgent requests for assistance, while the Family Court
has received a 40 per cent increase in urgent domestic violence applications.

But in Australia, the sector hasn’t received “a single
dollar in extra funds” to deal with increased demand, the peak body Women’s
Safety NSW said.

Women have also been more likely to lose their jobs.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
shows that women have been the hardest hit by job losses in Australia, as they
are more likely to work in the hardest hit service industries like hospitality
and retail.

In April, women accounted for 55 per cent of all job
losses while those still employed are experiencing a higher rate of reduction
in hours than men. In some states in the US, the majority of unemployment
applications since the coronavirus hit have been filed by women.

With women more likely to work part-time and earning
14 per cent less than men overall, these job losses are predicted to have
longer term effects on pay equity and women’s superannuation.

But women are also being expected
to put their bodies on the line to fight the pandemic, with 70 per cent of
global healthcare workers being women, and one in three jobs held by women
being deemed “essential”.

And while the Australian government is providing free
childcare for essential workers during the coronavirus crisis, under normal
conditions families spend 27 per cent of their income on childcare, one of the
most expensive in the OECD.

Childcare workers themselves, who are over 90 per cent
female, get paid well below the national average.


disproportionate impact of coronavirus on working class women is not because of
innate biological differences that make women more caring than men. It is a
direct result of the way society is organised under capitalism—sexism is
hardwired into the capitalist system.

With access to parental leave being more readily
available to women, and with the price of childcare being unaffordable for the
average woman, capitalism forces families to make the “economically rational”
decision for women to spend more time at home looking after the family.

The nuclear family is essential for raising the next
generation of workers at as little cost to the ruling class as possible.

Women’s role in the family and unpaid labour bringing
up children means the capitalist system can avoid paying for this itself.

But sexism doesn’t affect all women equally. Wealthy
women can afford to outsource domestic labour like cleaning and childcare to
low paid, working class women in order to pursue careers or share the burden on
household labour.

Coronavirus is forcing women to be the mother, the
teacher and the essential worker.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Caring work like
childcare, cooking, cleaning and laundry shouldn’t be seen as something
confined to the private home.

The responsibility for these kinds of household tasks
could and should be shared collectively by the whole of society. We have to
fight for a world where these tasks are socialised and provided free so that
the burden no longer falls on women.

By Ruby Wawn

The post Pressure on women and families during lockdowns due to sexist system appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Surviving this Pandemic is Hard, For America’s Most Vulnerable, its Nearly Impossible

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 2:29am in

They talk about it as if they’re doing a garbage, low budget remake of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” but instead of a golden ticket, it’s a $1,200 check. And instead of a magical trip through a fantasy land of candy and orange-faced crooners, it’s a paltry pittance from an orange-faced fascist who held up the delivery in order to ensure brand advertising on each and every check. For all of us stuck in the real world, outside the movie magic, the illusion of these golden tickets saving Americans from their all too real and all too poor existences is just that – an illusion.

It’s an illusion made all the more sick and dangerous when one considers the fact that millions of people who desperately need a “golden ticket” will never see one. Millions of people in the U.S. fall through gaping cracks purposefully designed to oppress and marginalize the most vulnerable. The exclusion of workers such as undocumented folks, street vendors, domestic workers, and sex workers exemplifies the toxic mix of racism, sexism, imperialism and capitalism that the U.S. blends so well.

A Pew Research report from last year estimates that there are some 10.5 million undocumented people in the United States. Many, if not most of these folks, find seasonal or full-time subsistence wage jobs in industries we now deem “essential.” They build families, pay taxes, and contribute socially, politically, and economically to their new home places. They pay billions into a system that profits doubly off their labor: by paying starvation wages and excluding these workers from any federal, state, or local assistance.

Coronavirus undocumented

A family in need receives a box of donations from other immigrant families, April 18, 2020, in the Bronx. John Minchillo | AP

Now, millions of undocumented workers find themselves without even a measly bailout, and unable to apply for unemployment benefits due to their immigration status. To add injury to injury, as many are “essential” workers, they run a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19. And then what? Do they die in the shadows without seeking medical help for fear of being reported to ICE? Or do they roll those dice and hope they aren’t forced into the plagued Petri dishes that are U.S. detention centers? It’s a decision many have already had to make.

Here in D.C., one family watched in confused grief as their relative was taken away by an ambulance, only to find out days later that they died. Applications for financial assistance for burials require a social security number. Even after Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for D.C. approved an $18 million relief package in early April, which includes $5 million for undocumented workers, folks have been left wondering when that money will actually be there for people. In the end, local organizers and street vendors raised the funds for the family, not the city. The chance for reimbursement feels about as likely as finding a golden ticket.


A Venn diagram of overlapping oppression

In the Venn diagram of exclusion, street vendors make up a large group of both documented and undocumented workers who will never see a check. Here in D.C., Soledad Miranda explained to me that “Before, I would work cleaning eight hours, then I would pick up my daughter and we would go sell on the street (as street vendors). And now, not anymore. We can’t sell on the street anymore,” she says. “We don’t have enough to survive for us here. We don’t have anything left from what we’ve saved. We hope this all will end soon.”

The Venn diagram adds another ring: domestic workers. First off, just the mere fact that someone has to work eight hours and then go to another job in order to make ends meet is a grotesque and all too real fact that rings true for millions. In a conservative 2019 estimate, the Census Bureau found that some 13 million workers have more than one job. Furthermore, women are more likely than men to hold multiple jobs. How’s that for women’s progress?! Not only can we grow and birth humans, but we’re also proving that women are strong enough to work multiple jobs for subsistence pay in a system that devalues our labor, our lives, and our basic human rights. ‘Murica!

In an email, Stacy Kono, Executive Director at Hand in Hand, a Domestic Employers Network told me “Domestic workers are disproportionately women of color and immigrants. COVID-19 has magnified their challenges as families stay at home, suddenly laying off domestic workers who lack access to unemployment and relief.” Hand in Hand has put out a call to domestic employers, asking them to pledge to continue paying their workers during this crisis.

This Venn diagram of overlapping oppression highlights another important fact: that women have always been part of the labor force. Running households, raising children, caring for elderly or sick relatives – these are incredibly labor-intensive jobs, jobs that are predominantly done by women. The International Labor Organization estimates that some 83 percent of domestic workers are women, many of whom are migrants. Still, as ILO notes, domestic work is “often hidden and unregistered.” Indeed, it is work that is largely unpaid and unrecognized. In a recent Politico article, journalist Renuka Rayasam noted that “More of the daily grind tends to fall, on average, on women: From the increased cleaning and chores that come with more time spent in the home, which falls disproportionately to so many female household members, to the extra education and childcare work created through closures of school and daycare, where men have also been known, on average, to skimp.” In short, the “unseen” work is piling up, and those carrying the weight continue to labor in the shadows of a system disinterested in their plight – a plight that for many also includes domestic violence.

A recent report by the UN Population Fund found that “If the lockdown continues for 6 months, 31 million additional gender-based violence cases can be expected.” Already back in early April, nine of the 20 largest metropolitan police departments reported double-digit jumps in domestic violence calls. Still, the reality is likely much worse considering the fact that survivors often avoid calling authorities or domestic abuse hotlines, fearing more violence if their calls for help are found out by their abuser. And with shelters overrun and difficult to access for many, particularly LGBTQ survivors, those suffering from domestic abuse find themselves dangerously locked in during the lockdown. Taken together, it’s perhaps not surprising that the fastest growing population among the unhoused are women and children. The combination of poverty, abuse, and unseen or shunned work is an oppressive trifecta that describes millions of women’s lives.

The US PROS Collective, a multiracial network of women fighting for the protection of sex workers and the decriminalization of prostitution notes that “Women and children make up 73% of the poor in the US, 1 in 25 families, and around three million children are in households living on $2 a day.” Sex workers represent yet another part of the excluded workers Venn diagram. As Rachel West, founder of the US PROS Collective wrote in an April press release, “Most sex workers are mothers, primarily single mothers…Sex workers are deliberately excluded on moralistic grounds from the coronavirus $2 trillion bailout bill if their work is judged to be of a “prurient sexual nature”. (So selling weapons means you get a bailout but selling sex means you don’t.).” Ah, good ole American values. Sex sells, but war pays. Bombs matter. Women don’t. Considering these policy points, it’s not all that surprising that our two choices for president this year are two men accused of sexual assault. Two men that have done more than their fair share of war hawking too. One can’t help but think of George Carlin’s assertion that wars are started by men who are insecure about their penis size.


A $1.32 million token of appreciation

For more evidence of this violent fetish, one need only have looked up this past weekend. Above crowds of people huddled together in the midst of a pandemic, fighter jets seared the afternoon sky in a loud and masturbatory display all meant to honor healthcare workers. Because what says “thanks” to our medical professionals more than pedestaling the number one cause of global death and destruction while risking more mass infection in the midst of a pandemic? I feel all warm and cozy already – tho that could be a fever.

Adding to the frighteningly stupid and reckless nature of the whole charade is the fact that this display of imperialist violence cost taxpayers some $1.32 million. That’s roughly 66 ventilators going for $20k a piece. Or 1.32 million N95 masks, listed at one dollar a piece. Or 1,100 $1,200 checks. Now, military officials assure us that this isn’t money that’s being freshly allocated but money that’s already in the Pentagon’s budget, to which any logical person’s response should be “why?” A follow-up question might be: “hey, instead of using that money for this mind-bendingly stupid display, why not re-allocate that money to deal with the crisis at hand?” The answer boils down to that toxic blend of racism, sexism, imperialism, and capitalism. Indeed, if the U.S. can claim American exceptionalism in anything, it would have to be that no one in the world does imperialist capitalism better than our government.

With this sadistic efficiency, our government keeps money out of the hands of people who labor, tells us to be grateful for bread crumbs when we’re the ones making the bread – and going hungry. They tell the most marginalized and poor that their personal failings are to blame while bloated billionaires are propped up at the expense of those very same poor. Indeed, as we’ve seen in previous bailouts, to the hoarders go the spoils.


To the hoarders go the spoils

The latest $484 billion “relief” bill which lacks funding for food aid, rent relief, and basic worker protections comes on the heels of the ironically named CARES Act which includes a tax break for those earning more than one million dollars per year. To be more precise, 82 percent of the tax benefits will go to roughly 43,000 taxpayers. This generous cut will cost $90 billion this year alone. That comes out to an average handout of $1.6 million to each millionaire or billionaire in 2020. To put that into perspective for all those who got a “stimulus” check, the CARE-ing tax break handout is worth 1,300 times as much as that $1,200 check. And that’s just one section of tax breaks. Big corporations are on track to get trillions from the Federal Reserve as the largest asset manager in the world (as well as a piggy bank for weapons manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry), Black Rock has been tapped to manage these bailout programs. As journalist David Dayen wrote in a recent article, “This is a robbery in progress.”

Coronavirus poor

New Yorkers line up to cash their stimulus checks at a check cashing center in Brooklyn. Bebeto Matthews | AP

More broadly, it’s been a robbery in progress. The entire system of capitalism is built on robbing the working class to profit the ruling class. It’s why billionaires are so eager for us to get back to work. This economy is built to serve them, not us. Consequentially, it’s why strikes have the potential to force the hand of the ruling class: without our labor, without our complicity in a system built on our oppression, they lose – literally and figuratively.

On their site, PayDay Report hosts a map of past and ongoing strikes throughout the country, and it’s an inspiring visual. Wildcat strikes have been popping off since March in defiance of unsafe working conditions, low pay or no pay, and the lack of basic worker rights like paid sick leave. The rolling movement to cancel rent, combined with coordinated rent strikes has further highlighted the need and the demand for housing as a human right. Organizers have deployed tactics like caravan protests to amplify a wide array of issues, from excluded workers to universal healthcare to climate justice. Mutual aid efforts continue to grow and evolve, showing the myriad ways in which communities can and do look out for each other. Indeed, the avarice and sadistic oppression of the ruling class is matched only by the powerful and vital displays of our humanity and solidarity. For instance, despite her precarious financial situation, Soledad now makes masks for children and adults. “I make one, and I give one away. I am selling in my home. I love to share with people who have nothing, who are worse off than me,” she says.

We can’t undo the harm already done, and we can’t smooth over all the sharp teeth of oppression that tear through people’s lives. But we can manifest an alternative. We can show through our work that human value is not tied to a dollar sign and that a few golden tickets will not pacify our passion for change. As historian Howard Zinn once wrote, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.” And what time better than now – in the midst of a global pandemic – to show that dissent can be contagious? We are linked by more than our shared oppression – we are linked by our shared humanity. And from this foundation, we can rattle thrones. We can topple empires. We can transform the world.

Feature photo | Women in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, a neighborhood with one of the city’s largest Mexican and Hispanic community, wear masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus while waiting in line to enter a store, May 5, 2020, in New York. Bebeto Matthews | AP

Eleanor Goldfield is a creative activist, journalist, and poet. She is the founder and host of the show, “Act Out!,” which airs on Free Speech TV on Dish Network, DirecTV, ROKU, Amazon Fire and others. Her articles and her show cover people and topics which corporate media either censor or misrepresent. Her spoken word performances blend visual projections and politically charged poetry. Her latest book, “Paradigm Lost,” blends radical verse with art from 15 dissident artists. She also was the co-founder and singer of Rooftop Revolutionaries, a political rock band born from the fight against capitalism and all the evils that stem from it. Besides speaking and performing, she assists in local action organizing and activist training. She is currently based in Washington, D.C. Her website is Art Killing Apathy.

The post Surviving this Pandemic is Hard, For America’s Most Vulnerable, its Nearly Impossible appeared first on MintPress News.

Opportunity Doorways For Women (1976)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/03/2018 - 8:24pm in

The Opportunity Doorway scheme for women was launched in 1976. Here's an excerpt from the council's literature:

"Scientific studies conducted by some of the finest minds in the Gentlemen's Science Club of Great Britain clearly show it’s not your fault that you were born female.

But that doesn’t mean you are entirely blameless for your irresponsible birth. Lazing around the house all day looking after infants and cleaning your husband's home is all well and good for a few years. But what happens after that, when you have become redundant?

Enter The Opportunity Doorway scheme, which has been designed specifically for you. It won't dig into your housekeeping allowance and you won’t have to worry about reading anything complicated; however, a head for heights is recommended."

See also: International Women's Day 1970, romance novels, birth, sexual reproduction in females and Bastard Lanes for single mothers.