26 June, 2010

All Women Are Ugly (Except Kelly Brook)

Can you conceive of a world in which any woman can leave the house without fear of a photographer in the bushes, crouched like a predator, waiting to photograph them without their permission and sell those photographs to tabloids, who will ensure that even her most minor flaw is highlighted for the world to see and ridicule?

No? Neither can the Mail, apparently, because approximately 30% of their articles are based on the above formula.

This week, it's Peaches Geldof in the firing line. Now, I'm no real fan of Peaches but the Mail's obsession with is really quite inappropriate. Take this week's slew of articles for example. Starting with a creepy article about her 'extra curves' which features no less than seven pictures of her in a bikini. It would be bad enough, but it's also astonishingly hypocritical: "Last week, Peaches was the subject of cruel internet jibes when she was pictured looking bloated and out of shape at a water park in the city" the article simpers, quasi-sympathetic. And yet which paper ran the story originally? Interestingly, I can't seem to find the article online anymore, but the Mail reported on her 'unflattering' bikini, 'tacky' tattoos and 'bloated' abdomen with almost masturbatory glee.

And even though I can't find the original article, the Mail has kindly provided me with two more examples: This one, which insinuates that since Ms Geldof is wearing a loose-fitting black dress, she must secretly despise her body despite stating several times that she's quite happy the way she is, thanks, and is a lying liar whose pants are on fire. And this one, which rips into her 'unflattering' outfit and snidely points out that she 'drew attention for all the wrong reasons'

But! If you thought you could evade Fail scrutiny by being slimmer than Ms Geldof (who, being at LEAST a size 10, is the Mail equivalent of a pygmy hippo) think again! Two nobodies from an American TV show were this week criticised for being 'painfully thin'. How dare they assume they have the right to show off their bodies when it's quite clear they are imperfect? Everyone knows there's no such thing as naturally skinny people.

In fact, unless you're Kelly Brook, you may as well not even step out of the house. The Mail loves Kelly Brook. As the sheer abundance of non-stories about her wearing clothes, or not wearing clothes, can attest. And let's not forget that she's the only woman over the age of 21 who is allowed to wear a short skirt. Put that minidress away, old crones!

Mind you, is any of this remotely surprising coming from a paper which suggests that a 5'4 woman 'ballooned' to 9st?

24 June, 2010

Don't Lie To Me

Don’t lie to me. But that is what the Daily Mail does best. But worse, it does it with Science. I’m an engineer (hopefully, results not through yet) which means I’m not quite a scientist but also not a science fan. This means that I can recognise basic stats, scientific method and the role of experiments and analysis. And well as is often pointed out the Daily Mail is one of the worst papers for reporting anything science related. And by doing this it ruins science, the image of science, and the role science has in society.

Take for example this article on the relationship between abortion and breast cancer. After googling around for the original paper I found this abstract (linked, might I add, from a pro-life website). Now what do you see? The paper is about how breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer by two thirds. The Daily Fail uses the spin done by a pro-life website to suggest that aborting the child increases the risk of breast cancer. The paper does mention abortion; it mentions it as a factor in the findings along with the menopause and exposure to passive smoking. But the main conclusion is that prolonged breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer. Which isn’t really about abortion is it. The whole ‘triple risk’ factor was in fact just a twist of the two-thirds decrease. So... the Daily Fail uses the spin by a pro-life website to warp the findings of a paper that has little to do with what the headline is about. This means that I can only conclude one thing; that the Daily Mail has a pro-life agenda.

But this is not the only thing dodgy about this article. The medical survey was of only 300 women, Sparta my film geek mind cries, and from that this graph was the conclusion. Now this is a research support study which is designed to aid major studies rather than be something that can be the basis of medical practice. But the whole point was that it wasn’t a major conclusion. It was a significant find, no doubt, but it wasn’t a major conclusion.

The last point I wish to make, is that the tail end of the article goes for the whole balanced approach by not being balanced with a view from both sides. The way the article goes it starts of quoting a scientific paper, it then has a sound bite from Cancer Research UK about how the study might be flawed and that there have been other studies that have claimed otherwise to be true. From this the article then elbows in this wonderful quote from what can only be described as a quack from a pro-life counselling service.

We have encountered from the pro-abortion lobby manipulation of the evidence on a truly disgraceful scale. This study is further evidence that has been gathering from all around the world that abortion is a major risk factor for breast cancer. When will the establishment face up to this fact and pull its head out of the sand?

You can almost see the specks of foam can’t you, and note that the pro-life guy is male. These two opposing viewpoints have clearly been conducted by phone or email as well as the former latches onto the whole 300 women part and the latter that it is a scientific study but neither seem to give a full description of the main flaw, that it wasn’t a study into the link between abortion and breast cancer.

But the final part of the article, the cherry on the sundae or the dead rat on the garbage heap if you will, is trying to link in the rise in breast cancer to the rise in abortions. Yeah that’s right correlation and causation being one and the same thing. Now it may well be in future that there might be a link just as there is a link between reading the Daily Mail and wanting to punch Richard Littlejohn or there might not be a link at all, such as there not being a link between reading the Daily Mail but still wanting to punch Richard Littlejohn. But either way stating to rises does not mean that they are related.

To draw this post to a close, it is difficult to determine the causes of cancer and anything we do towards finding something that might help us live healthier lives is all well and good. But what the Daily Mail has done here is taken a report, filtered and spun the information until it says something that appeases their rather aggressive anti-woman agenda and then spat out some disinformation to throw off anything that might be useful. Effectively it neuters scientific method and rigour and then uses the scepticism to fuel its own machinations.

15 June, 2010

The Daily Misogyny

I fucking hate the Mail. I would happily pulp all known copies of the Mail and turn them into papier-mache sculptures of Germaine Greer and Emmeline Pankhurst sticking their middle fingers up at Piers Hernu (in fact, I might do that anyway)
In this case, I think the swear word is justified; I know they say that profanity is the last resort of the barely literate (or something) but bollocks, sometimes a well-time f bomb is the most effective way of emphasising just how godawful something is.

‘Non-stories’, usually involving celebrities appearing in various states of undress seem to be on the increase recently, pushing their body-fascist agenda.

Skim across the Mail’s website today (I did it, so you don’t have to) and the following articles appear at various points on the Sidebar of Doom:

Sarah Jessica Parker has ’sinewy, bony legs’
Elle McPherson ‘has lumpy foot’
Natalie Imbruglia ‘wears same dress twice’
Estelle ‘has new teeth, looks better’

It’s fairly standard dross and typifies the kind of judgemental non-story the Mail specialises in. There is no story in these articles; they are not in the least bit newsworthy. Just a couple of pictures of an invariably female celebrity not conforming to the rigorous aesthetic standards the paper sets. However small their deviation (and really, who gives a shiny shite whether Natalie Imbruglia wears a dress twice) it’s written as if the celeb has left the house in, say, full Nazi regalia (they'd probably quite like that) or perhaps with a strap-on and nipple clamps.

The really unpleasant thing about it all, though, is that it encourages us to pass judgement on anyone who is in any way different – be it because they dress in an unorthodox way (or perhaps dare to wear clothes they spent good money on more than once) or because parts of their body are ‘imperfect’. It is symptomatic of a society obsessed with criticising women who have not spent every hour of their life moulding themselves to fit the current image of perfection. So Sarah Jessica Parker has muscly legs and is a bit on the slender side. Who out there thinks this is significant? Who out there cares?

It might be fluff, but it’s also becoming the norm; where once we might have brushed these things aside as just a symbol of the incredible diversity of the human body, or a celebration of freedom of choice, they are now held up as fodder for mockery. Not only is it extraordinarily rude, it’s pretty depressing too.