Friday, December 20, 2013
Victory for intolerant feminism as shop chain pledges that all of their toys will be gender neutral by the spring
Will boy's toys become black-market buys?
Let Toys Be Toys are celebrating today after retail giant Marks and Spencer announced that it will ensure all toys stocked in store are gender neutral by the spring.
The parent-led group campaigns against gender stereotyping in toy shops, and started putting pressure on Marks and Spencer at the beginning of the year.
Mystery shoppers for the campaign found toy marketing at the store to be one of the most gendered on the high street with Marks and Spencer selling a wide range of science and tech-themed toys branded as 'boy stuff', and craft toys marketed only to girls, branded 'Lil' Miss Arty'.
Kerry Brennan from Let Toys Be Toys said, 'We're really pleased that Marks and Spencer have publicly committed to leave behind these outdated stereotypes. Girls can enjoy tech and science, and boys love arts and crafts too - why turn them away?
It's especially good that Marks and Spencer are tackling their packaging too, as the problem of sexism in the toyshop goes far beyond just the retailers’ signs.
'In many stores, pink-and-blue colour coding, gender-specific packaging and promotion of toys continue to send the message that some interests are only for boys, and others only for girls.'
Marks and Spencer’s announcement is part of a wider trend on the high street.
Twelve toys retailers have agreed to take down gendered signs after contact with Let Toys Be Toys, and the group's recent survey of the high street across the UK and Ireland showed a 60 per cent reduction in shops using ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ signs in their toy departments since the campaign was formed a year ago.
Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism says: 'I understand that for some people this may sound like a minor issue, but it isn't until you have heard the hundreds of stories we've received about little girls genuinely believing they 'aren't allowed' to be doctors because science is a 'boy thing', or asking if they can be turned into a boy so they can go into space, that you realise the true impact gendered toy marketing really does have on young children. [If toys are so influential, why not buy boy's toys for girls?]
'Why cordon off science, adventure, technology and engineering as 'boys' toys' from such a young age when only one in ten UK engineers is female and we're struggling to recruit enough women into STEM careers?
'Why send the message to boys at a young age that dolls, or cooking are only 'for girls'? Don't we want them to grow up to be great parents and partners too? It's the sort of issue that some people will scoff at, but when you stop and really think about it, removing gendered toy division really is an important step forward.'
Marks and Spencer say on the issue: We offer a wide range of fun and educational toys which are designed to appeal to children regardless of gender.
'We always listen carefully to feedback from our customers and based on this a decision was made earlier this year that by spring next year all our toys will be gender neutral.'
Navy to remove Nativity secenes at Guantánamo after some troops complain
The commander of the Guantánamo Bay naval base decided on Wednesday to move Nativity scenes from two dining halls following complaints that the decorations improperly promoted Christianity.
Both Nativity scenes will be moved to the courtyard of the base chapel, said Kelly Wirfel, a spokeswoman for Capt. John Nettleton, commander of the base in southeastern Cuba.
The displays were set up by foreign contractors who manage the two dining facilities and were “not intended to endorse any religion,” Wirfel said in response to concerns raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
The group, which advocates for religious freedom in the U.S. military, had said earlier that it had been approached by troops who felt the Nativity scenes and Christmas decorations were inappropriate.
Wirfel said base officials had received no complaints about the displays. Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the organisation received an email from 18 service members who were afraid that any direct appeal to commanders would be ignored and result in retribution.
“They are terrified. Right now, there is a witch hunt going on to find out who did this,” said Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer who said the troops wanted to remain anonymous.
Eleven of those who complained are Protestant or Roman Catholic and the rest are Muslim, Jewish, agnostic or atheist, he said.
The base has a population of nearly 6,000 military and civilian personnel. Outside the coils of razor wire surrounding an area where nearly 160 prisoners are held, the base has set up many exterior displays of Christmas lights and other decorations along wide streets, creating the feel of a typical suburban American town in December.
The challenged decorations are inside two dining facilities, one of which is used primarily by people who work inside the prison such as guards and translators. An email sent to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation from the troops said the Nativity scenes went up in late November in the centre of the eating area and no other religions were represented despite the presence of other faiths on the base.
“By placing these displays in prominent common areas, the impression is that one faith is better than others and that the military institution singularly promotes Christianity,” said the email, provided to The Associated Press by the organisation without the names of the senders.
The email said prominent members of their command had shown “Christian religious undertones,” which led them to believe they could not complain directly about the decorations.
The senders said they put up with a great deal of hardship in their jobs, including having bodily fluids hurled at them by prisoners, and should not be made uncomfortable on their time off.
“We would prefer to not have a large deal made out of this situation and only ask that these clear violations of military policy, and the Constitution, be removed immediately,” the email said.
What does it say about British values when a judge is rebuked for speaking up for marriage?
A prominent High Court judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, has been reprimanded by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice, and found guilty of ‘judicial misconduct’.
It is a serious ruling. Has Sir Paul been consorting with members of the criminal classes? Was he caught driving under the influence? Or perhaps he has delivered a spectacularly wrong-headed judgment?
The answer is that he has done none of these things, or anything at all reprehensible. The Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office, which acts on behalf of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice, has taken exception to Sir Paul’s views on marriage, of which he is strongly in favour.
You may think he is accused of proselytising his opinions during court cases, but that is not the charge. No, Sir Paul has fallen foul of the authorities because he gave an interview to The Times newspaper almost exactly a year ago, and wrote a piece for the Daily Telegraph last June. For these little acts of candour he must be punished.
He suggested during the interview that the Government had spent too much energy in championing gay marriage, which he thinks is of minority concern, and too little energy in supporting married couples. But he emphasised that his independent charity, the Marriage Foundation, did not take a stance on gay marriage.
In the Telegraph article he took issue with a report which suggested that stable couples tend, whether married or not, to do equally well. He argued that this is beside the point. The crucial issue is that co-habiting couples are far more likely to break up than married ones, with all the resulting harm to children.
Until quite recently Sir Paul’s beliefs would have been shared by most judges. (He thinks they still are, but I have my doubts.) His views are empirical rather than sternly moralistic. As a judge in the family courts for more than a decade, he has seen at first hand the devastating consequences of family breakdown.
As he put it in a recent article he wrote for the Mail (for which he hasn’t been censured, or at least not yet), ‘study after study’ has shown that ‘the single most vital factor, by far, in the successful development of children is a committed, healthy relationship between their parents.’
And such a relationship, he observed, is far more likely to last if the couple are married. According to research carried out by his pro-marriage organisation cited in his article, ‘cohabiting parents account for only 19 per cent of all couples — but the separation of cohabiting parents makes up 48 per cent of all family breakdowns’.
What alarms me is that an intelligent man who has been presented with more evidence of family breakdown in his professional career than most of us, and who has studied and thought about the reasons for its rapid increase over recent years, should have had his knuckles publicly rapped by the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office.
It goes without saying that judges should not make political remarks, but Sir Paul’s comments cannot be so construed. He was expressing his considered beliefs — beliefs that would have been held by about 99 per cent of sentient beings until quite recently.
His crime, of course, was to veer off the official script. In such cases free speech is not allowed. My strong suspicion is that there would have been no reprimand from the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice had he expressed the now fashionable view that marriage is merely one of several lifestyle choices, none of which is preferable.
There were no official reprimands for Mr Justice Eady, or any discernible intake of breath, when in a series of judgments the learned judge appeared to place no particular importance on the institution of marriage.
In one case in 2006, he ruled that a cuckolded husband could not name a man (a famous sporting figure) who had seduced his wife. In Mr Justice Eady’s view, rights of privacy trumped natural sentiments of outrage at adultery. The legal estate of marriage was subservient, and seemingly not worth upholding.
Two years later, the same Mr Justice Eady took a relaxed, almost humorous, view of the deviant sexual antics of Formula One racing chief Max Mosley (a married man) in a mega-orgy in which blood was shed, women were beaten and other amazing practices took place.
I can’t say whether Mr Justice Coleridge’s views or those of Mr Justice Eady are more widely represented among the judiciary. But I do know that there is a marked reluctance among the political classes to do anything to uphold or strengthen marriage.
One way of achieving this is to give allowances to married mothers who stay at home to look after their children. Whereas those in Britain currently receive no support, mothers in Norway receive nearly £400 a month for a child up to the age of three, and in Germany parents who stay at home are paid two thirds of take-home salary up to a maximum of £1,520 a month for 14 months.
No wonder that, according to a study just published by the University of Trento, in Italy, stay-at-home mothers in Britain feel under twice as much pressure as those in the rest of Europe.
From April next year, some married couples in Britain will be able to make use of a transferable tax allowance worth £3.85 a week at most. This extremely modest innovation — indeed, some would call it footling — has been criticised by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and is known to be opposed by the Chancellor, George Osborne.
Meanwhile, as a result of this Government’s policies, families in which both parents work have been handed up to £1,200 a year for each child to help with childcare costs. It’s not a remotely even playing field.
The question is why, to a greater extent than anywhere else in Europe, our political class is unwilling to uphold marriage. I think it unlikely that Nick Clegg or George Osborne — or indeed the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, or the Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Thomas, who have upbraided Sir Paul Coleridge — have had experiences that have turned them against the institution.
Why not do more to encourage it, then? The very same people who dispute that tax incentives can strengthen marriage have no doubt that tax measures can be used to influence other forms of human behaviour — for example, tax breaks to encourage saving and charity-giving, or penal duties on tobacco and alcohol.
The truth is that deep in our political culture there is an unwillingness to strengthen marriage because it is widely regarded by our elite as just another lifestyle option. The prevalence of such beliefs surely owes much to Britain’s status as the most secular, and irreligious, country in Europe.
Along comes Sir Paul Coleridge, cautiously and judiciously speaking in favour of society’s most important institution, and he is cut down by the judicial Establishment. A man who has served justice is rebuked and humiliated. Unsurprisingly, he has decided to thrown in his wig and robes five years before he is required to.
Sir Paul knows we have the worst marriage breakdown record in Europe. And it is getting worse. The politicians do little or nothing about it; the Churches are regrettably too weak. This, sadly, is a country in which a judge can be charged with ‘judicial misconduct’ for speaking the simple truth.
Australia: Conservative appointment to head Human Rights Commission stirs controversy
The Abbott government has sent shockwaves through the anti-discrimination and political establishments by appointing one of the nation's most vociferous critics of the Human Rights Commission as its new chief.
Tim Wilson, for the past seven years a policy director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank that early this year called for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission, will be informally known as the "Freedom Commissioner".
Mr Wilson, who resigned from both the IPA and the Liberal Party soon after the announcement, told Fairfax Media he was determined to "refocus" the commission on defending free speech rather than concentrating on anti-discrimination work.
Attorney-General George Brandis made it clear Mr Wilson's $325,000-a-year appointment was made on both political and ideological grounds.
"The appointment of Mr Wilson to this important position will help restore balance to the Australian Human Rights Commission which, during the period of the Labor government, has become increasingly narrow and selective in its view of human rights," he said.
On Wednesday, Senator Brandis said that he knew Mr Wilson was a very strong advocate of traditional, liberal rights, such as the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
"I think he is the person with the policy background and the intellectual grunt of the public reputation to be just the person to be the Freedom Commissioner," Senator Brandis told ABC Radio.
The Attorney-General also argued that there was no contradiction between Mr Wilson's appointment and his previously expressed belief that the Human Rights Commission should be abolished.
"People can have a view about whether or not a particular agency or organ of government should exist or not but hat doesn't foreclose them for serving that agency or organ of government while its exists," he said.
When asked if he - like Mr Wilson - believed that Section 18 c should be abolished, Senator Brandis replied: "That's something I'm looking at at the moment".
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus described Mr Wilson's appointment as "dubious".
"How can Mr Wilson possibly undertake the role of a Human Rights Commissioner when it's obvious he has such contempt for the commission itself?" Mr Dreyfus said.
"By appointing Mr Wilson, Senator Brandis has sent a strong signal about exactly the kind of blatant political agenda he wishes to pursue as Attorney-General."
Greens legal affairs spokeswoman Penny Wright described Mr Wilson's views as "extreme".
"The Attorney-General has already made it clear he thinks some human rights are more important than others, including that free speech ought to trump anti-discrimination laws," she said.
Mr Wilson, who described himself as a "an economic and social liberal and a cultural and institutional conservative" conceded that "no doubt some people will find my appointment challenging". However, he did not expect any of his fellow commissioners to resign.
Commission president Gillian Triggs, who has been acting as Human Rights Commissioner since August last year, offered cautious support.
She said although Mr Wilson had been critical of the commission, it was implicit in his acceptance of the position that he recognised the commission undertook worthwhile work.
On Wednesday, Ms Triggs said she expected Mr Wilson to bring "some fresh air" to the organisation.
But he had to understand he had to work with other commissioners in his new role, Professor Triggs said.
"This is not the place for party-political rhetoric," she told ABC radio, adding the commission needed to be independent of government.
Professor Triggs said the commission could see some value in amending Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
"Of course it’s possible to tweak it to amend it to take bad language out, put new language in that strengthens it," she said.
Early this year, in a heated debate on ABC-TV with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, Mr Wilson condemned the commission as a "silent observer" which had displayed a "massive absence of knowledge and judgment on freedom of speech" when the Gillard government tried to impose new regulations on the media.
Mr Wilson made clear on Monday he supported repealing the section of the Racial Discrimination Act that made it illegal to insult or offend people on the basis of their race.
Conservative News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt was found to have breached in 2011 section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after he wrote two articles implying some light-skinned people who identified as indigenous Australians were doing so for personal gain.
Prominent members of the Abbott Coalition, particularly Senator Brandis, have been fiercely critical of the ruling and have moved to modify the section of the Racial Discrimination Act that landed Mr Bolt in trouble.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.