All posts filed under: Abstractions

Abstractions

Women in gender-equal countries have better memory

Let’s try you. Read the title above once, then cover it and write down word for word what you remember. Having difficulties? How well you do may be down to which country you live in. That’s according to a new study, published in Psychological Science, involving an impressive 200,000 women and men from 27 countries across five continents. It revealed that women from more conservative countries performed worse on memory tests than those from more egalitarian countries. Demographics expert Eric Bonsang and his colleagues analysed national survey data from individuals above the age of 50. They used existing data on cognitive performance tests measuring episodic memory (memory of autobiographical events). These involved recalling as many of ten words read out by a researcher as possible in one minute either immediately or after a short delay. The team rated each country’s level of gender equality by looking at the proportion of people agreeing with the statement: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.” Women outperformed men on memory in …

When does borrowing become cultural appropriation in dance?

Dance has been a significant part of human culture since the very earliest civilisations. While today it is done more for entertainment purposes, its use can be traced back many thousands of years to ancient ceremonies and rituals. For as long as they have been moving, dancers have always borrowed from other forms of movement, using them as inspiration to evolve their own work. But in recent years, when too much inspiration is taken, critics have started accusing dancers of cultural appropriation. Take belly dance for example. One of the world’s oldest forms of dance, it originated in Middle Eastern and Northern African countries, such as Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon, but is now danced around the world. Belly dancing isn’t just one type of dance: there is no single set of moves to follow in time to a beat. Though there are certain moves that are similar – focusing on the hips, chest and shoulders being moved in isolation from the rest of the body – each culture has its own version of a belly …

Why people believe in conspiracy theories

I’m sitting on a train when a group of football fans streams on. Fresh from the game – their team has clearly won – they occupy the empty seats around me. One picks up a discarded newspaper and chuckles derisively as she reads about the latest “alternative facts” peddled by Donald Trump. The others soon chip in with their thoughts on the US president’s fondness for conspiracy theories. The chatter quickly turns to other conspiracies and I enjoy eavesdropping while the group brutally mock flat Earthers, chemtrails memes and Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest idea. Then there’s a lull in the conversation, and someone takes it as an opportunity to pipe in with: “That stuff might be nonsense, but don’t try and tell me you can trust everything the mainstream feeds us! Take the moon landings, they were obviously faked and not even very well. I read this blog the other day that pointed out there aren’t even stars in any of the pictures!” To my amazement the group joins in with other “evidence” supporting the moon …

What happens to openly gay athletes, in U.S ?

Journeyman basketball center Jason Collins came out as gay and later signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets, making him the first openly gay player to get into a regular-season game in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB. A few weeks after Collins’ announcement, Robbie Rogers debuted for the Los Angeles Galaxy, breaking a similar barrier in Major League Soccer. That October, U.S. women’s soccer superstar Abby Wambach married her longtime girlfriend. Finally, in football, SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam became the first out player to be drafted when he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in May 2014. But if some were hoping the events of 2013 and 2014 would spark a wave of professional athletes coming out, little headway has been made. Since Sam was drafted, no active players have done so from any of the four major sports leagues. The closest have been players like David Denson, a minor league prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers who quit baseball this past spring, and retired NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who …

No more victimisation

At the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, actress Jessica Chastain – who was serving as a jury member – said that she found the portrayals of women in the festival’s films “quite disturbing.” To many, this isn’t exactly news. The lack of women in film – in front of and behind the camera – has been at the forefront of Hollywood criticism in recent years, with scholars and writers detailing the various ways women tend to be underrepresented or cast in stereotypical roles. University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith, who researches depictions of gender and race in film and TV, found that of the 5,839 characters in the 129 top-grossing films released between 2006 and 2011, fewer than 30 percent were girls or women. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of films fulfill the criteria of the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Despite the uphill climb for women in film, it isn’t all doom and …

Gross face of the new feminism

Vaginas are so hot right now. If that sentence shocks you, then you’ve been out of the cultural loop. Thanks to a new wave of television and autobiographies by some very funny women, female privates have moved to the front and centre of popular entertainment. Male bits, once the only game in town, are now chiefly of interest only as a sidebar to hilarious female riffs on misfiring, awkward and unsatisfactory sex, thanks to recent work by the likes of Lena Dunham, Britain’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge (writer, actor and star of BBC series Fleabag), and now Amy Schumer, whose smash hit “femoir”, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, recently hit stores. This is all part of a new movement – what I like to call “gross-out feminism”. It is gleeful, honest to a fault, and practised exclusively by women who long ago kissed goodbye to the capacity to be embarrassed. Its goal – apart from to make people laugh – is to provide a kind of shock therapy to those still harbouring the notion that …

Skeptic Society Magazine Water Access is a Gender Equality Issue

Water Access is a Gender Equality Issue

World Water Day, an internationally-celebrated day dedicated to collaboration between the United Nations, governments, and non-governmental organizations to tackle the world’s water crisis. Ensuring universal access to safe water by 2030 is identified as a critical component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s mandate to eradicate extreme poverty. The global water crisis is not only deadly—lack of access to clean water claims more lives each year than AIDS, breast cancer, terrorism, and all the world’s conflicts combined—but is incredibly economically costly. And the opportunity cost of water shortage, contamination, and inadequate infrastructure falls disproportionately on women and girls. In communities around the world, women and girls spend much of their days walking long distances to seek out safe water, fetching or drawing it, and carrying heavy containers back to their households. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, an average trip to collect water covers over 3 miles and takes 33 minutes each way—and in a number of countries, such as Mauritania, Somalia, Tunisia, and Yemen, the trip takes longer than an hour each way. In …

Skeptic Society Magazine American slavery Separating fact from myth

American slavery Separating fact from myth

On Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the US, a historian dispels myths about the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery. Slavery has been in the news a lot lately. From the discovery of the auction of 272 enslaved people that enabled Georgetown University to remain in operation to the McGraw-Hill textbook controversy over calling slaves “workers from Africa” and the slavery memorial being built at the University of Virginia, Americans are having conversations about this difficult period in American history.

Skeptic Society Magazine Women Leading Science Maths and Physics

19 Women Leading Math and Physics

In an interview with Quanta Magazine last fall, the eminent theoretical physicist Helen Quinn recalled her uncertainty, as a Stanford University undergraduate in the 1960s, about whether to pursue a career in physics or become a high school teacher. “There were no women in the faculty at Stanford at that time in the physics department,” Quinn said. “I didn’t see myself there.” Her adviser warned her that “graduate schools are usually reluctant to accept women because they get married and they don’t finish.” (He kindly added that “I don’t think we need to worry about that with you.”)In the 1970s, the Italian-American dark matter physicist Elena Aprile survived male advisers with a similar unwillingness to tolerate competing demands on her time. “It made me of titanium,” she said of her relationship with her brilliant but demanding mentor. “He would keep pushing you beyond the state that is even possible: ‘It’s all about the science; it’s all about the goal. … You have a baby to feed? Find some way.’”Four decades later, the welcome mat can still be hard to locate. “In …