According to a poll of 538 experts on women’s issues, the United States is one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world for women. Admittedly, America is ranked tenth, but it’s still considered more dangerous than 183 other countries, including Iran, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh and Myanmar. That’s quite a claim when you bear in mind that Iranian women caught not wearing a full hijab are routinely sentenced to 74 lashes, that an estimated 94 per cent of women in Sierra Leone have had their genitals mutilated, and that thousands of Rohingya women and girls have been raped by Myanmar’s soldiers and militiamen in the past year. What can these so-called experts be thinking?
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which carried out the survey, it was a ‘perception poll’. In other words, none of the standard data metrics used to evaluate how dangerous a country is for women, such as the incidence of sexual violence, were used. Instead, the respondents were asked to name the five countries in six different categories that they perceived to be the most dangerous. A clue as to how objective they tried to be has been provided by Zakia Soman, a women’s rights activist and one of the ‘experts’ polled. When asked by the BBC why she had ranked India above Somalia and Saudi Arabia — India came top in the poll — she explained that she was holding India to a higher standard because it’s a democracy. But surely she wasn’t being asked to judge countries according to whether they lived up to their own ideals, just how dangerous they are, plain and simple? ‘It’s not about the ranking,’ she snapped. ‘Our society is ruled by misogyny and patriarchy.’ (To read more, click here.)
A controversy has erupted in Folkestone over a forthcoming screening of Zulu, the classic British war film. A charity has arranged to show the film at the Silver Screen Cinema on Saturday to raise money for members of the armed forces and their families, but the event may have to be cancelled following a letter to the town’s mayor signed by 28 locals objecting to Zulu’s ‘racist overtones’. ‘The film glorifies the myth that was created in 1879 after the humiliation of the British military defeat at the battle of Isandlwana,’ they write. ‘The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was, in reality, little more than a footnote after a far more important and far more gory battle earlier in the day, 11 miles away at Isandlwana.’
The Folkestone letter writers may not know it, but they are part of a growing movement to cleanse popular culture of its politically incorrect content. It is known as ‘the awokening’. In America, numerous films and TV programmes have been criticised for being insufficiently ‘woke’ — that is, failing to advertise their awareness of the systematic biases and challenges facing marginalised communities. I’m not talking about The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s silent epic which has long been condemned for its sympathetic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, but much more recent fare, such as Friends. The long-running 1990s sitcom is now considered ‘problematic’ — woke-speak for ‘completely unacceptable’ — because, among other things, it poked fun at one of its characters for being an overweight adolescent. That falls under the banner of ‘fat shaming’, one of the deadliest sins in the woke decalogue. (To read more, click here.)
An academic paper by a group of child psychologists caused a stir earlier this week. ‘Helicopter parenting is bad for children,’ was how the Times reported it, and other news outlets summarised it in the same way. Here was proof, apparently, that wrapping your children in cotton wool and limiting their exposure to risk is bad for their emotional development and can lead to problems at school, as well as difficulties in later life.
A few years ago, when I was in the first flush of fatherhood, I would have leapt on this study as confirmation that my laissez-faire attitude to parenting was more effective than the more hands-on approach of my peers. Indeed, I have written columns in the past praising parents who leave children to their own devices and criticising schools for protecting them from failure. I’m a big fan of The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and am constantly hurling my children up rock faces and telling them not to be so wet when they get stuck. (To read more, click here.)
According to a new study published by some feminist academics at the Australian National University, women risk damaging their health if they work more than 34 hours a week. That’s not because women are the weaker sex, obviously, but because they do more housework and childcare than men, effectively working just as hard but dividing their labour between the office and home. On the back of this, the report’s authors have called for women to be paid the same for working a 34-hour week as men are for a 47-hour week. Until this happens, according to the researchers, women are being forced to choose between their health and gender equality.
On the face of it, this proposal is bonkers. Think of all the small firms — and even some quite large ones — that would go out of business if they had to reduce the number of hours their female employees work without reducing their salaries. And presumably this would be on top of maternity pay. Gender equality is one thing, but under this proposal women would be paid 38.5 per cent more per hour than men.
But then I began to think about it from a purely selfish point of view and realised there might be something to be said for it. (To read more click here, or to read a piece for the Mail on Sunday about becoming a househusband click here.)
In today's Independent, Amrou Al-Kadhi defends Penguin Random House’s new diversity policy by appealing to aesthetic relativism — no such thing as literary merit, therefore publishers should judge manuscripts according to whether they promote inclusion. (To read more, click here.)
My heart goes out to Owen Jones. The left-wing journalist is one of the headliners at a Labour party fund-raiser scheduled for next Saturday and, at the time of writing, 85 per cent of tickets remain unsold. It is particularly embarrassing for Jones, given that Rod Liddle managed to sell out the London Palladium last month.
As someone who has struggled to attract audiences to these sorts of things in the past, I have a few tips for Owen. First of all, don’t give tickets away, because those who have already bought them will ask for their money back. Unfortunately, that horse has already bolted in Owen’s case. Labour has sent thousands of emails to party members offering them free tickets, as well as free coach travel there and back, which hasn’t gone down well with those who have shelled out £35. One Twitter account, describing itself as ‘Socialist Workers in Europe’, has already demanded a refund. As the Tory councillor Stephen Canning quipped, ‘Glad to be in agreement with Socialist Workers that it’s just terrible when some people get things for free that other people had to work hard for.’ (To read more, click here.)
I am currently in Brittany with the family, having made the 11-hour drive from London on Monday. It sounds like quite a lot of effort for a few days’ holiday, but my friend Wendy Steavenson invited us to stay and that so rarely happens when you’ve got four children that we felt we couldn’t turn her down. No doubt Wendy will regret this after 24 hours, as nearly all our previous hosts have.
The journey wasn’t as much of an ordeal as it sounds since Caroline did the driving and I sat in the back and read Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West. It’s a highly readable, 351-page polemical essay about the ‘miracle’ that is capitalist liberal democracy, pointing out that its survival depends upon resisting the lure of various anti-modern, romantic ideologies and remaining true to the values of the enlightenment. He’s particularly concerned about the rise of the neo-Marxist intersectionality cult that is spreading its poisonous, anti-western dogma through our most important institutions. I found the whole thing utterly convincing.
Just before this trip I bought a second-hand car, an experience that can test the faith of even the most fervent capitalist. On the one hand, the safety, reliability and affordability of modern automobiles is a great argument in favour of the free market — just compare the cars manufactured in the capitalist West with those produced in Russia and eastern Europe before 1989. (To read more, click here.)
According to a report issued yesterday by the Sutton Trust and the National Foundation for Educational Research, the government’s free schools policy is little short of a disaster. At least, that is the impression given by the press release, which begins: “Free schools are failing . . . ” But if you bother to read the report, you come away with a very different impression.
For instance, the researchers compared the progress and attainment of pupils in secondary free schools with that of a matched group of children with similar characteristics at other types of school and found that the former were outperforming the latter on almost every measure.
The authors of the report claim that the rationale for the policy when it was first rolled out was to promote innovation and encourage parents to set up schools. They then claim the policy has failed because only a third of free schools are innovative and only a fifth of those that have opened since 2015 are parent-led.
But those were secondary justifications. The main rationale, the one repeated by Michael Gove ad infinitum, was that free schools would raise standards, particularly for the most disadvantaged. And according to this report, they have done precisely that. (To read more, click here.)
As a conservative, I wasn’t sure what to make of the news that the BBC was adapting A Very English Scandal, John Preston’s entertaining account of the Jeremy Thorpe affair. On the one hand, it’s easy to depict Thorpe, the son of a Tory MP and an old Etonian, as a ruling class villain. Would the BBC turn his story into yet another ‘bash the rich’ tragi-comedy in the same vein as The Riot Club, a piece of left-wing agitprop in which members of the Bullingdon Club conspire to commit murder? When I heard Hugh Grant had been cast as Thorpe that confirmed my suspicions. At one stage, Grant had cornered the market in making posh British men seem sympathetic and self-deprecating, but he has ditched that act and acquired a second wind by portraying them as sulphurous and self-seeking.
But on the other hand, Thorpe was the leader of the Liberal party and campaigned for a number of causes dear to the hearts of cosmopolitan progressives — against capital punishment, in favour of unrestricted immigration — and was a bug-eyed evangelist for the EU. How would the BBC and the right-on scriptwriter it had hired to adapt it — Russell T. Davies — not to mention the director Stephen Frears, a self-confessed member of the metropolitan elite, cope with these contradictions? (To read more, click here.)