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Conceptualising Gender Equality in Relationships

A brief revision map of some of the main sociological concepts which have been developed to describe the ‘typical relationship’: taken together, they suggest a movement towards greater gender equality in relationships:

gender equality relationships

This is the briefest of revision slides on this topic, designed for A-level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology, families and households section (AQA exam board). For more details on this revision topic please see this post: are men and women equal in relationships?

 

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Solutions to the ‘Crisis of Masculinity’

In the final section of Zimbardo and Coulombe’s ‘Man Disconnected’ the authors outline a few suggestions about how to combat the crisis faced by young men around the world. The post summarizes chapters 16-21).

Before reading this you might like to read the following posts:

  1. Man Disconnected, which summarizes the evidence that young men are in crisis (chapters 1-7)
  2. Man Disconnected summary part 2: why are young men in crisis? #1 (chapters 8-10)
  3. Man Disconnected summary part 3: why are young men in crisis #2 (chapter 11) – technology enchantment and arousal addiction
  4. Man Disconnected summary part 4: why are young men in crisis? #3 (chapters 12-15)

Solutions to the Crisis of Masculinity

Zimbardo and Coulombe break down their solutions to focus on what governments, schools, parents, men, women and finally the media can do…

What governments can do:

  • Support the role of the father
  • Limit the use of endocrine-disruptors
  • Get more men into grade school teaching positions
  • Get junk food out of schools
  • Improve how schools prepare students for their lives ahead

What schools can do:

  • Teach life skills
  • Incorporate new technology for more interactive learning
  • Quash grade inflation

What parents can do:

  • Teach children to be resilient by letting them organise their own play and take risks
  • Give children responsibility for important tasks within the family
  • Encourage children to think about a future career, and to explore vocational options
  • Discussing taboo topics like sex
  • Fathers need to priorities fatherhood
  • Get children to track how much time they spend on different activities

What men can do:

  • Turn off the porn
  • Track your activity and consider what else you could be doing!
  • Play sports
  • Make your bed (small accomplishments lead to bigger accomplishments)
  • Discover your inner power
  • Make a few female friends
  • Don’t call women sluts
  • Find a mentor, be a mentor
  • Vote

What women can do

  • Mothers and sisters basically need to encourage the strength and hardness associated with manhood, while having the depth of character and emotional sensitivity to help men become better communicators.
  • Don’t be promiscuous – because this just sends out the message to men that they will always have a string of available sexual partners
  • Choose a ‘good partner’ rather than a ‘flash partner’ – there are plenty of ‘good men’ (who want long term relationships) being overlooked because they are ‘drowned out’ on dating sites by better looking men who have no genuine interest in commitment.

Zimbardo’s final chapter is a brief one on what the media (especially the porn and gaming industries) can do to help stem the crisis of masculinity.

 

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Man Disconnected #3: Young men in yet more crisis!

Chapter 12: Sour Grapes: Entitlement Versus Reality 

Young men are brought up being told that they can be whatever they can be, without even trying, and one thing which perpetuates this illusion is the education system: grade inflation has taken place over the last decades with more people getting grade As and second class upper degrees than in the past, with less work being done.

At some point, however, young men have to realize the ‘great disappointment’: the moment they realize they are not as able as they think they are. But the problem today is that they haven’t been prepared for this realization through their childhood or adolescence.

Both the cause and effect of this is the online world: boys growing up in unreality, and then retreating further into it when they realize actual reality does not match up to their own perception of themselves.

Chapter 13: The Rise of Women?

The chapter starts with a review of women’s ‘progress’, pointing out that women are increasingly learning to live without men, but that men’s issues need to be taken into account if we are to have a truly equal society – especially where men’s parenting rights are concerned, given that equal numbers of men and women would ‘rather be at home raising a family’ than working, but maternity rights tend to favour women.

The rest of the chapter outlines some of the overlapping issues men and women face dealing with such things as sexuality – Zimbardo and Coulombe outline how women, as well as men, face problems expressing their true feelings, how girls are more obsessed with their online networks than boys, and also how women are negatively affected by unrealistic ideas about romantic relationships portrayed in movies (they expect too much, in short).

The chapter rounds off with an interesting discussion how both men and women are generally not sexually liberated – what has happened since the 1970s is that porn has become liberated, and as a result we are now suffering the ‘Beyonce Effect’: we have certain ideas about what it means to be ‘sexually liberated’ provided to us by the media, but these are actually quite narrow and shallow ideas about sexuality.

Chapter 14: Patriarchy Myths

This chapter starts by suggesting that men are actually disadvantaged by patriarchy: men are effectively socialised into being more responsible than women: and the reason more men do STEM subjects and have higher paying careers is because they are brought up thinking it is their role to provide.

We may have equal rights, but men are expected to do more – at least according to male socialisation.

Evidence that men suffer more than women in society:

In the final sections of this chapter Zimbardo outlines how men have worse lives than women in the following respects:

  • Men die earlier than women
  • Men suffer from bottling up emotions
  • The amount of sexual violence experienced by men from men and women is under-reported, and not treated seriously. And, as role reversal takes place, this is likely to increase.
  • Men have higher incarceration rates than women
  • The pay gap is justified because men do riskier jobs than women.
  • Gender equal relationships are lower quality for both men and women.

NB – He doesn’t actually deny that women have issues to, so this isn’t exactly anti-feminist!

Chapter 15 – Economic Downturn

Basically the cost of living has increased, and young men, especially those with little education see no prospects of every being able to be the breadwinner, so now they don’t bother with relationships!

 

 

 

 

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Man Disconnected #2: Why are young men in crisis?

Man Disconnected by Zimbardo and Coulombe is about the challenges young men face in our technological age. This post summarizes chapters 8-10. 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might also like…

  1. Man Disconnected summary part 1: which deals with the evidence of the problems faced by young men today.
  2. Man Disconnected summary part 3: why are young men in crisis #2 (chapter 11) – technology enchantment and arousal addiction
  3. Man Disconnected summary part 4: why are young men in crisis? #3 (chapters 12-15)
  4. Man Disconnected summary part 5: solutions to the crisis of masculinity (chapters 16-21)

Chapter 8: Rudderless Families, Absent Dads

Today, children are brought up with much less contact with adults: they used to be surrounded by extended families, but today the average household size is just below 3 in the US and 2.4 in the UK, and on top of this, the typically teacher pupil ratio at school is 1:20.

It’s not just quantity of contacts, but quality: something like 50% of households feel the ‘time pinch’ to the extent that they cannot find time to sit down to meals together on most days of the week.

Zimbardo also cites the tired evidence on the increasing number of children being brought up in cohabiting households, which have twice the break up rate of married households, and the fact that today about 1/3rd of US children and ¼ of UK children are brought up in single parent (mainly mother) households.

Declining trust

In the US trust in the general public has declined so much that we no longer even trust the nannies we employ to look after our kids – as evidenced by the increasing sales of ‘nanny cams’.

The percentage of people reporting that most people can be trusted has fallen from 55% in 1960 to  32% in 2009.

Zimbardo now seems to link declining trust to divorce, citing evidence that divorced people have lower immune systems than married people (yes, there are measurable physiological effects!)

He focuses first on the effects of divorce on separated mums and their children: arguing that only around 25% of single mums report that they are happy, half the number of married women. He also argues that girls brought up in single parent households are given mixed messages – that they should put their kids first, and get a career, but there are hardly any examples of people who successfully do both!

He then turns the effects on the separated dads: who have a suicide rate 10 times higher than divorced women, suggesting that the typical experience is for them to spend time working for someone else, who is now distanced from them, and basically having to ‘suck this up’ because they are conditioned to not seek help from anyone.

High divorce rates makes children who experience them think differently about relationships – he cites Vaillant’s famous Longitudinal Harvard Study as an example of the negative effects….suggesting that such children are suspicious of relationships (they are less likely to trust adults!) yet they are still caught up thinking that stable monogamous relationships are for everyone (thanks to Disney).  

Zimbardo finishes off with the usual trawl through the ‘problems’ which the decline of the nuclear family create for society – arguing that countries with more stable families (basically a prosperous society is based on the nuclear family seems to be his argument) are correlated with higher employment rates, more wealth generation, better qualifications and lower obesity levels. Although he cites Charles Murray as part of his evidence.

Boys are affected relatively more than girls by family break up

The USA leads the way in fatherlessness, and for those who do have fathers, the  average school boy spends just 30 minutes a week in conversation with his father, compared to around 44 hours in front of screens.

Zimbardo basically goes on to make the argument that boys need father figures – but that way too many of the current generation are missing out on this – boys are growing up thinking that ‘being male’ effectively means avoiding parenting (this is something mothers do); he cites further evidence that men are basically afraid of hanging out with teenage boys.

Boys need men to offer reassurance and guidance, but they are less likely to get it now than in the past.

This is further compounded by the fact that girls have been taught how to evolve into both traditionally male and female roles, but boys have no role models to teach them how to evolve into both roles either: and when they fail at the traditional male role, as they increasingly go, they are left in the shit.

This problem is further compounded by the lack of positive male role models in the media, and especially porn, which offers teenage boys instant gratification with no need to learn how to communicate.

Chapter 9: Failing schools

Education systems are failing our boys.

The general gist here is that schools focus on ‘academics’ which require children to sit still and focus for longer periods of time, and they require this from a younger and younger age. This disadvantages boys because boys mature later than girls, and they are thus turned of learning, which explains why boys end up with worse GCSE results than girls and for the dramatic increase in female graduates compared to males since the 1960s.

Then there’s the fact that school play times have been cut and that hardly any teachers are male, all of which has resulted in a gynocentric education system which is increasingly shaped in the interests females, and works against male achievement.

Zimbardo offers up Montessori style education as an alternative.

Finally, Zimbardo suggests that we need to start educating our children about sex properly from the ages of 10-11, rather than leaving it to the porn industry!

Environmental Changes

In this chapter Zimbardo makes the argument that toxic chemicals in a whole range of day to day products (such as tins) are causing endocrinal (hormonal) disruption, resulting in increasing health problems for men: such as higher rates of testicular cancer and a lower sperm counts.

In order to back up his claims, Zimbardo cites a range of evidence from studies on animals who have been exposed to toxic chemicals over the long term, and admits the effects of chemicals on human biology remain inconclusive.

He rounds off the chapter by suggesting that many harmful chemicals are built up in body fat tissues, and we don’t really know what the effects of the release of these when (if?) fat cells get broken down will be.

All in all this is something of a speculative chapter.

 

 

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The Suffragettes and the Historic Battle for Women’s Votes

Who first called for women’s votes?

The first appeals for women to be given the right to vote date from the early 19th century. One of the first calling for such was Jeremy Bentham, who first suggested that women should be given the right to vote in his 1818 ‘Plan for Parliamentary Reform’.

Women at that time had no political rights at all, they were deemed to be represented by their husbands or their fathers.

A second historic call for women’s formal political equality was made by the radical MP Henry Hunt – who in 1832 presented a petition drawn up by Mary Smith, a rich Yorkshire woman, asking that unmarried women who owned property and paid taxes should be allowed to vote.

NB – to put this in context, following the 1832 Reform Act, only 18% of men had the right to vote, which was linked to property-ownership at that time.

When did the campaign really get going?

The first campaigning women’s groups weren’t formed until the end of the 19th century, initially focusing on the lack of education and employment opportunities for women and their lack of legal representation, and the vote gradually became the central symbolic and practical issue for these groups.

In 1867, Barbara Bodichon and others form the London Society for Women’s Suffrage; other committees then sprang up all over the country and in 1897 the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett was formed.

millicent-fawcett
Millicent Fawcett

How were their arguments received?

The issue gained traction throughout the later half of the nineteenth century. The philosopher and MP John Stuart Mill tabled an amendment to the 1867 Reform Bill, calling for all householders to be enfranchised. And, as the suffragists pointed out, the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884 had enabled about 60% of men to vote, some of whom were barely literate; yet well-educated, taxpaying women still did not.

Motions were debated in Parliament throughout the 1870s, but they were defeated on the arguments that women were less able than men, that their natural sphere was in the home, that they were unable to fight for their country, or that they simply did not want the vote.

This later was at least partially true, and supported by some women: Florence Nightingale declared in 1867 that she had ‘never felt the want of a vote’.

What about the Suffragettes?

In 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union was formed in Manchester by Emmeline Pankhurst and other campaigners. The WSPU, frustrated by slow progress on women’s rights, was committed to ‘deeds, not words’.

In 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney repeatedly shoted over a speech by the MP Sir Edward Grey, asking ‘Will the Liberal government give votes to women?’. They assaulted police officers when asked to leave and were arrested. A series of mass processions followed: more than 250 000 women protested in Hyde Park in 1908, shocking Edwardian England.

How effective were their protests?

Most historians believe that the suffragettes were very effective in mobilising women around the campaign for votes for women. Many were arrested and treated brutally, with prisoners on hunger strike being force fed for example.

Over time their tactics became more radical: smashing shop windows and setting fire to letter boxes, libraries and even homes…. and in the most famous event of the period, Emily Davison threw herself under the kind’s horse on Derby Day, 1913 and was killed.

However, at the time, it was thought these violent and dramatic tactics were a step-backwards for their cause.

The First World War and Vote Reform

It was the First World War which finally brought the vote for women. The sacrifices of the war bolstered support for expanding the suffrage to women. The war saw more than a million women employed outside of the home – in munitions factories and engineering works for example, and the vote had traditionally been based on occupational status.

In 1918, The Representation of the People Act was passed be an enormous majority which gave women over 30 who were householders or married to one, or university graduates, the right to vote. However, the act also extended the vote to nearly all men over the age of 21.

It was not, however, until 1928, with the Equal Franchise Act, that men and women had equal voting rights.

Sources 

The Week, 3rd Feb 2018

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On that Lewis Hamilton ‘Gender Shaming Video’

You may remember Lewis Hamilton posting a 12 second video of himself teasing his nephew about ‘wearing a princess dress’ at Christmas, basically telling him that ‘boys don’t wear princess dresses’.

And he got a lot of stick about ‘gender shaming his nephew from the liberal and trans community, so much in fact that he and later posted a video apologizing for his actions (probably on advice for his agent).

Lewis’ actions do seem somewhat out of touch with the times….. in our postmodern age of ‘gender diversity and fluidity’ the Scottish government has just published guidelines recommending that primary-school children should be allowed to identify as either gender without parental consent, while the Church of England has issued new guidance saying that children should be free to wear tiaras or fireman’s helmets,  whatever they want, with out prejudice.

There is a rational argument for allowing children the freedom of gender expression… Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall, argues that society has nothing to fear from becoming more open-minded towards people who question their gender identity.  She argues that you can’t ‘turn’ children trans just by allowing boys to dress up as girls and girls to dress up a boys, because ‘trans’ is innate.

She further argues that the reason we’re seeing more trans people today, the reason they are more visible is because society is at last allowing them the freedom to express who they really believe themselves to be. From this perspective, I guess what Lewis Hamilton was doing was restricting the right of his child to ‘be who he really was’.

So it’s only a 12 second video clip, but the reaction to it tells us so much about the society in which we live – changing norms and values surrounding gender and the (terrifying?) way in which public discourse can penetrate into our private lives, if we choose to post videos of ourselves on Twitter that is!

 

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No More Boys and Girls

No More Boys and Girls (BBC, August 2017) BBC programme documents a 6 week experiment in gender neutrality carried out with one year 3 primary school class in primary school on the Isle of White…. Can our kids go gender free?

Doctor Javid Abdelmoneim (*) believes that these attitudes are not just the result of biology, but down to socialisation, and so establishes a gender neutrality experiment, conducted on one class of year 3s,  in which he removes all traces of gender differentiation for a 6 week period, finally testing them to see if ‘typical gender differences’in things such as self-confidence and spatial awareness have been reduced (*I recommend you check out the above profile, on Al Jazeera, he seems like an interesting character!) 

Strong Girls.png

The rational for doing this research now is that these children have lived their entire lives under the equality act, which was passed in 2010, emphasizing that men and women should be treated the same.

Thankfully, some generous sole has kindly done the BBC’s job for them and provided an effective and just service to license fee payers by uploading the documentary to YouTube, which the BBC itself only made available  for a short time on iplayer, a totally unreasonable action given the cost of the licence fee. Here is said video:

The documentary finding, however, suggest that this is far from the case, and there are several differences in terms of attitudes about what boys and girls should do, and how the teachers treat boys and girls.

The programme starts with a few clips of boys’ and girls’ attitudes towards gender, which suggests that they have very set views about what they suited to do in the future, in which various girls and boys say that:

  • ‘If a woman has a baby, the man will have to get a job to look after them.’
  • ‘Men are better at being in charge.’
  • ‘Men are more successful because they could have harder jobs and earn more.’
  • ‘I’d describe girls as pretty, dresses, lipstick and lovehearts’
  • ‘boys are cleverer than girls because they get into president more easily’.

There are also early observations of one class in which the teacher clearly uses gender specific terms for girls and boys – calling the girls ‘love’, and boys ‘mate’, for example.

But why do gender differences between boys and girls exist?

Dr Javid visits a neuro-scientist who helpfully tells us that there appears to be very few structural differences in the brains of boys and girls, and thus gender differences are not biologically determined, but exist because of socialisataion – their experiences have taught them different skills and different mental attitudes.

Research from Stanford University suggests that seven is a key age in the development of gender identity, because it is at this age that boys and girls start to develop fixed ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, thus Dr Javid’s experiment should be able to change gendered expectations of boys and girls.

Dr Stella Something now comes in from the UCL psychometric lab to subject boys and girls to what seems to be a pretty rigorous series of activities aimed to measure….

  1. Their levels of self-esteem
  2. Their perceived intelligence
  3. Their understanding and levels of empathy
  4. Their levels of assertiveness
  5. How good they are at resisting impulses
  6. How much vocabulary they have to describe their emotions
  7. Levels of classroom behavior, hyperactivity and

The basic findings (which are corroborated by the class teacher) are that:

  • Girls underestimate their levels of self-esteem, intelligence and assertiveness: three times as many boys overestimated their perceived intelligence, and girls were more likely to underestimate it. 50% of the boys described themselves as ‘the best’, compared to only 10% of girls.
  • Boys cannot seem to express their emotions – girls were more able than boys to provide ‘similar words’ to describe every emotional cue-word given to them, except for anger.
  • Girls tendED to describe themselves through words about looks (such as ‘pretty’ and ‘lipstick’)

The Control Group

Another, very similar year 3 class which had a regular 6 weeks of teaching was also tested alongside the experimental group to act as a control.

The Experiment 

Dr Javid turns up on day one and tells the pupils about the experiment – he basically tells them he wants to ensure than boys and girls are treated the same, because they can all do as well as each other, and he then gives them a load of signs saying such things as ‘girls are strong’ to challenge gender stereotypes, which they put up around the classroom.

For further details you’ll need to watch the programme…. for now – I’ll update with the rest when I get time!

Notes

The school where this experiment took place is Lanesend Primary School, on the Isle of Wight, with 300 boys and girls aged 5 to 11,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2017/33/no-more-boys-and-girls

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Global Gender Inequalities – An Overview

Gender Inequalities in Employment –

  • For every dollar earnt by men, women earn 70-90 cents.
  • Women are less likely to work than men – Globally in 2015 about three quarters of men and half of women participate in the labour force. Women’s labour force participation rates are the lowest in Northern Africa, Western Asia and Southern Asia (at 30 per cent or lower).
  • When women are employed, they are typically paid less and have less financial and social security than men. Women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs — characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity and substandard working conditions — especially in Western Asia and Northern Africa. In Western Asia, Southern Asia and Northern Africa, women hold less than 10 per cent of top-level positions.
  • When all work – paid and unpaid – is considered, women work longer hours than men. Women in developing countries spend 7 hours and 9 minutes per day on paid and unpaid work, while men spend 6 hours and 16 minutes per day. In developed countries, women spend 6 hours 45 minutes per day on paid and unpaid work while men spend 6 hours and 12 minutes per day.

Gender Inequalities in Education –

The past two decades have witnessed remarkable progress in participation in education. Enrolment of children in primary education is at present nearly universal. The gender gap has narrowed, and in some regions girls tend to perform better in school than boys and progress in a more timely manner.

However, the following gender disparities in education remain:

  • 31 million of an estimated 58 million children of primary school age are girls (more than 50% girls)
  • 87 per cent of young women compared to 92 per cent of young men have basic reading and writing skills. However, at older age, the gender gap in literacy shows marked disparities against women, two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.
  • The proportion of women graduating in the fields of science (1 in 14, compared to 1 in 9 men graduates) and engineering (1 in 20, compared to 1 in 5 men graduates) remain low in poor and rich countries alike. Women are more likely to graduate in the fields related to education (1 in 6, compared to 1 in 10 men graduates), health and welfare (1 in 7, compared to 1 in 15 men graduates), and humanities and the arts (1 in 9, compared to 1 in 13 men graduates).
  • There is unequal access to universities especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In these regions, only 67 and 76 girls per 100 boys, respectively, are enrolled in tertiary education. Completion rates also tend to be lower among women than men. Poverty is the main cause of unequal access to education, particularly for girls of secondary-school age.

Gender Inequalities in Health

Women in developing countries suffer from….

Poor Maternal Health (support during pregnancy) – As we saw in the topic on health and education, maternity services are often very underfunded, leading to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary female deaths as a result of pregnancy and child birth every year.

Lack of reproductive rights – Women also lack reproductive rights. They often do not have the power to decide whether to have children, when to have them and how many they should have. They are often prevented from making rational decisions about contraception and abortion. Men often make all of these decisions and women are strongly encouraged to see their status as being bound up with being a mother.

Gender Inequalities in the Experience of Overt Violence – Around the world, women are

  • Victims of Violence and Rape – Globally 1/3 women have experience domestic violence, only 53 countries have laws against marital rape.

 

  • Missing: More than 100 million women are missing from the world’s population – a result of discrimination against women and girls, including female infanticide.
  • At risk from FGM – An estimated 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation/cutting each year.
  • Girls are more likely to be forced into marriage: More than 60 million girls worldwide are forced into marriage before the age of 18. Almost half of women aged 20 to 24 in Southern Asia and two fifths in sub-Saharan Africa were married before age 18. The reason this matters is because in sub‐Saharan Africa, only 46 per cent of married women earned any cash labour income in the past 12 months, compared to 75 per cent of married men

Gender Inequalities in Politics

Between 1995 and 2014, the share of women in parliament, on a global level, increased from 11 per cent to 22 per cent — a gain of 73 per cent, but far short of gender parity.

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Westminster – A Culture of Harassment and Abuse?

The issue of sexual harrassment in Westminster has been in the news this week – here’s a round up of some of the worst cases…

The trade minister, Mark Garnier admitted to having sent a secretary into a sex shop to buy two vibrators (one for his wife and one for a female worker in his constituency office) while he waited outside. It was, he insisted, just ‘good-humored high jinks’. He also admitted to having once called the same woman “sugar-tits” in a bar, but said it was part of an “amusing conversation” about Gavin and Stacey.

Former Cabinet minisiter Stephen Crabb admitted to having “sexted” a 19 year-old he had interviewed (and rejected) for a job.

A labour activist went public with allegations that Labour officials urged her not to report a rape. Bex Bailey sasy she was attacked at a Labour event in 2011, but was discouraged from going to the police.

At lease six Cabinet ministers were rumored to feature a spreadsheet of Tory MPs accused on sexual harassment and misconduct known as the ‘dirty dossier’. The allegations, which have not been verified, range from extramarital affairs to being “handsy in taxis”, and harassing researchers to paying for prostitutes. A Labour-affiliated organisation, Labour Too, has begun compiling similar complaints against MPs on the opposition benches.

Women at Westminister have created a WhatsApp group to warn each other about serial sex pests, while other shave started making off-the-recored allegations to the press. They said that one former Tory minister was famously not afe to share a lift with, and that he was once overheard asking his secretary come “come and feel the length of my dick”.

Stephen Rush, writing in the New Statesman, reminds us that many of these allegations are unproven, moreover, a lot of the behaviour described in the so-called ‘dirty dossier vary from serious harassment to strange yet consensual activities which do not constitute harassment, which muddies the waters about the whole affair.

Sources:

The Week.

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Why boys aren’t really catching up girls at A-level

The 2017 A level results revealed that boys beat girls to top grades,  with 26.6% of boys achieving the top grades A-A* compared to 26.1% of girls. This is the first time in years that boys have done better than girls at A level, and suggests that they may be starting to close the ‘gender gap‘ in education.

exam results gender 2017.png

However, such general analysis may actually be misleading, at least according to some recent analysis carried out by statisticians on behalf of Radio Four’s More or Less.

 

Firstly, girls are outperforming boys at all other levels (all other grades) at A Level.

Secondly, a lot more girls do A levels than boys, and it’s problematic to talk about how well boys are doing without taking into account the seemingly higher proportion of boys who have been judged, by virtue of their GCSE results, not to be competent to do ‘A’ levels in the first place.

Finally, if you analyse the results on a subject by subject basis, you basically find that the above data is skewed by the A level maths results.

Maths is the subject with the highest proportion of A-A* grades of all subjects, with nearly 18% of 18% of grades being A or A*, and 60% of exam entries are by boys. Contrast this to English Literature, where 75% of entrants are girls, and only 9% get an A*, and you can pretty much explain the .5% in different in high grades by these two subjects alone.

Overall, girls got more As and A*s in 26 of the 39 A level subjects.

Maybe pulling all of these 39 subjects together and just presenting the overall percentages is not helpful?