Tuesday, September 19, 2006


And an even crazier police force that ignores real crime but is always ready to investigate complaints of political incorrectness

The architect of laws protecting child sports stars yesterday criticised abuse zealots after police investigated Cherie Blair's playful slap of a cheeky teenager. Celia Brackenridge, an international athlete turned academic, said that children's sporting chances were being spoiled because some were now being over-protected. "Having been one of the major advocates for a long, long time, we have got to the point where I am saying `whoah, slow down a bit' because it has got out of hand in some areas," Professor Brackenridge said. She fears that Britain's Olympic chances could be harmed by volunteers being driven from youth sport over fears of being accused of attacking or molesting children.

She spoke after six detectives were called in to investigate an incident where Mrs Blair aimed a friendly slap towards the arm of a 17-year-old boy who made rabbit ears behind her head. Professor Brackenridge's pioneering study of sexual exploitation of young athletes led to the creation in 2001 of the Child Protection in Sport Unit, run by the NSPCC with Sports Councils. The unit provided welfare services at the UK School Games in Glasgow, visited by the Prime Minister's wife earlier this month.

Miles Gandolfi, captain of the England under-17 epee fencing team, put his fingers behind Mrs Blair's head while a photograph was taken. Film shows her aiming a harmless slap at his arm and calling him a "cheeky boy" before the pair descended into giggles. After organisers consulted the unit, Strathclyde Police were asked to investigate. Miles was escorted to a side room and spent half an hour giving a statement to detectives. The police have now said no incident had taken place and the matter was closed.

Sport's burgeoning child-protection culture was already under fire from veterans such as Roy Case, chairman of the English golf union's boys' selection committee. He has said volunteers were being discouraged by guidelines saying that winning competitors should not be hugged, nor should children be driven home alone by adults.

Professor Brackenridge, the former Great Britain lacrosse captain based at Brunel University, told The Times: "People say, `We are not going to run our junior club' or `Nobody will drive the bus'. Some people given a child-protection role have become a bit officious."

Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, sympathised with Mrs Blair but recalled: "There certainly have been well-documented cases where sporting coaches have been discovered to have been abusing children." Steve Boocock, the director of the Child Protection in Sport Unit, said: "Parents are generally very supportive." Miles, from Chelsfield, Kent, said yesterday. "I had no idea why the police wanted to speak to me. I thought it was a joke."


The Menaissance

Say goodbye to the metrosexual and say hello again to the brute - Australia is in the midst of a Menaissance. In a backlash against the feminisation of men, old-fashioned manliness has returned. Real men no longer wear pink, have pedicures and eat quiche. Nor is the manly man the guy who gets $100 haircuts, uses eye cream and waxes his chest. He is more likely to be found in hardware stores, drives a ute and has grease-stained fingernails and a strong aversion to sushi.

"For the majority of women, the death of the metrosexual is a blessing," AustraliaSCAN social analyst David Chalke said. "They were sick of having to wash their man's hair gel out of the pillowcases." Manliness is everywhere as the metrosexual is ditched for the machosexual. In film, Superman and Vince Vaughn's character in The Break-Up are both blokey pin-ups.

On television, Surfing The Menu's beer-loving surfers, Lost's scruffy hunters, McLeod's Daughters' rough cowboys, Prison Break's sweaty crims, and the boys and their toys on MythBusters all fly the manly flag.

The latest best-selling literary craze is men writing about drinking and womanising while the next big thing in music is tipped to be Philadelphia's tattooed rockers Man Man.

But a love of sport, stubble and steak is just the tip of the hairy-chested iceberg. Gender studies expert and QUT senior lecturer Dr Barbara Pini said women should not fear this new-found manliness will push them back into the kitchen. Underneath the beer-swilling brute is a man trying to find his place within the post-feminist world of sexual equality. "It's not throwing out the metrosexual entirely and it's not going back to the neanderthal - it's finding a middle ground," she said.

Brisbane events co-ordinator Kate Pegg, 22, said young women were secretly repulsed by metrosexuals. "I want a man who uses one bar of soap to wash his face, his body and his hair," she said. "I don't want some guy who tints his eyelashes."

Tool-belt-wearing Tim Treloar, 22 - who is building a house in Brisbane's Paddington with some of his mates - is a guy's guy. The Bev Jenner Constructions carpenter from Toowong never subscribed to the metrosexual movement. "Horses for courses - everyone is different, but that's not something I'm into."


Dr. Laura debates feminists on men and violence

In a recent radio broadcast and newspaper column, Dr. Laura Schlessinger addressed the 'Take Back the Night' movement that protests violence against women. She accused it of deliberately ignoring data that suggests men may be more vulnerable to violence than women. In the Santa Barbara News-Press on Aug. 27, Schlessinger wrote, "This information should, but probably won't, usher in a new approach to gender and violence." The new approach would offer male victims as much attention and compassion as female ones.

Why won't this happen? Schlessinger explained, because "the ideology, fomented by politically correct [PC] feminists, that women are an endangered class has been supported almost universally in our culture, government, and educational facilities." That PC ideology rests on the concept of women as victims and men as aggressors.

The backlash against Schlessinger was dramatic and instructive to others who consider questioning the dominant paradigm of victimhood. Through a letter in another Santa Barbara periodical, The Independent, an array of community leaders collectively denounced her. The leaders represent feminist, gay and reproductive rights organizations, many of which are tax-funded and based upon the approach to gender and violence that Schlessinger decried.

The specific data to which they objected came from the first national Personal Safety Survey (PSS, 2005) released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Aug. 10. The PSS is the first national survey by a 'Western' nation that uses the sex of a respondent to break down the degree and types of violence experienced by ordinary people. The population surveyed was massive and the results are publicly available without cost. In short, the PSS is the best snapshot we have of the dynamics of personal violence within a Western society.

The PSS is particularly important because some of its findings are surprising. Schlessinger touched on one of the surprises; although men are three times more likely than women to be the perpetrators of violence, they are twice as likely to become victims of physical violence or threats. Eleven percent of men surveyed experienced personal violence compared to 5.8 percent of women. (Schlessinger cited these statistics from an Aug. 22 FOX News column I wrote on the same subject, entitled "'Take Back the Night' for Men as Well.")

Similar data on male victimization has been presented by men's rights advocates for years now. Typically, however, PC feminists have dismissed such studies as biased and driven by an 'anti-woman agenda'. But it is difficult to dismiss the Australian government as 'anti-woman'. Australia's gender policies -- on affirmative action, domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc. -- are comparable to those of North America because it has been shaped by the same cultural influences.

Moreover, if the PSS has a gender bias, it is probably 'pro-woman'. For example, the survey used only women interviewers. Women respondents may have discussed their experiences more freely with their own sex but male respondents may have been inhibited.

Despite its significance, a remarkable silence has surrounded the PSS. Silence from PC feminists is understandable; the survey challenges their ideology and policies. For example, the fact that one in 100 women reported being victimized by family (domestic) violence in the previous year is difficult to integrate with the claim that domestic violence is epidemic. Silence in the media is less understandable until you consider the response to Schlessinger. Even prominent commentators risk their reputations when they speak out against the current approach to gender and violence.

Consider the letter of collective denunciation. It opens with a vague slap at Schlessinger's "views" on unrelated issues such as gay rights and public education. Then, the signatories state a claim. They had been giving Schlessinger the "benefit of the doubt" on her new column with the Santa Barbara News-Press "because we assumed you would undertake a rational discourse on issues relating to our community." Now, in a rival publication, they withdrew that doubt and invited the rest of the community to "add your name to the list [protesting Schlessinger] by posting a comment!" The letter briefly cites a selection of data that supports the view of women as the victims of violence. These references, at least, are on point and could be the opening of valuable discussion. Instead, they are used to close it.

Statistics have been improperly cited and debunked so often that scrutiny and skepticism are necessary when approaching data from either side of the gender divide. It is easy to criticize the letter for offering one-sided data. For example, it states that "1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18" without stating that the comparable statistic for boys is one in six. But a more fundamental question is whether the statistics offered are correct. Their accuracy is presented as an unassailable conclusion but 'the battle of the stats' has been raging for over a decade now. Each side wields the latest Johns Hopkins study or cherry-picks findings from the most 'favorable' year of data offered by the Department of Justice; each position is proven and disproven over and over again.

For those who want facts without agendas, the PSS offers hope. The survey may have methodological flaws but it seems relatively unbiased. Because it is based on an anonymous general survey and not on police reports, it reduces problems such as 'unreported rapes' driving down the statistics. It includes both sexes; it is massive and comprehensive; it doesn't make policy recommendations. In short, the PSS could be the genesis of a much-needed and candid re-evaluation of gender and violence in society. But, as Schlessinger noted, this won't happen. At least, it won't happen as long as those who publicize the data are dismissed, or defamed so that others will dismiss them. The PSS should be debated. It should be debunked if grounds for doing so can be found. But it should not be buried, nor should those who raise it for discussion.


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