On separate swimming hours for women

Hamilton City Council is proposing that up to three hours a week be set aside at one of its community swimming pools for a women-only session.

Man ban at public pool

And the response is…. predictable. Start with the headline, with its overtones of “Begone, ye wicked men!” It’s designed to elicit a negative response.

Then there the usual “PC gone mad” trope.

…the proposal was concerning and represented “separatist thinking”.

Excluding ratepayers from public facilities based on their gender was “political correctness going too far”.

“If we are going to do this for women, what about all the shy men among us. Can we have a couple of hours free from women?”

I’ve gotten very tired of the “PC gone made” trope. I’d like to know exactly what the speaker thinks is wrong with the proposal, and his reasons for thinking it’s wrong. Perhaps he’s concerned that it will lead to divisions in the community. Perhaps he’s concerned that it means that some people will miss out on swimming altogether because they are not able to use a particular facility at a particular time. If he had spelled out his concerns, instead of waving his hands in the air and saying, “PC gone mad”, then at least we would have the beginnings of a conversation.

Of course, it could be that the speaker *did* specify some of those concerns, and they just didn’t get reported.

And, Kiwiblog is onto it. DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. Really, just don’t. (‘Though there are a few people in there fighting the overwhelming tide of, you guessed it, “PC gone mad”.)

How much better to think of this from the point of view of what the community needs. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is. Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.

It’s all very well to say that women should just adapt and fit in and get on with it. The net effect will be to exclude these women from swimming altogether, all for want of a little flexibility. Setting aside this time means that Hamilton City Council is working towards providing for the needs of *all* the members of its community. More to the point, there are plenty of other swimming facilities in the city. No one is going to miss out on swimming, or on swimming at a particular time (there are other venues), or on swimming at a particular place (there are other times).

If we are to live in a tolerant and inclusive society, then we need to find ways to accommodate difference. Yes, there are some differences we must not tolerate (forced marriages and clitoredectomy performed on people who have not consented come to mind, and no doubt there are others). This is a difference that a society can tolerate, and ought to tolerate, on the grounds of being inclusive.

And a big shout out to my lovely friend Anjum Rahman for making the case for setting aside a few hours to allow women to swim only in the company of other women.

Prescribing morality

Another day, another doctor deciding that it’s just fine to impose his morality on his patients. This time, it’s a doctor in Marlborough who thinks that it’s okay for him to refuse to renew his patients’ prescriptions for contraceptives.

Except that this chap goes a step or two further than most dispensers of morality.

Women have reproductive duty, says ‘rhythm’ doctor

Lee, a doctor at Wairau Community Clinic in Blenheim, stood by his views and actions. “I don’t want to interfere with the process of producing life,” the Catholic father-of-two told the Herald on Sunday.

Lee also does not prescribe condoms, and encourages patients as young as 16 to use the rhythm method.

Teen pregnancy might be a girl’s “destiny”, he said, and it was certainly not as bad as same- sex marriage.

Let me tell you the other name for the rhythm method. It’s commonly known as “Vatican roulette”. The failure rate of this contraceptive method is high: about 24% of women using Vatican roulette become pregnant each year (one, two).

So this doctor prefers to prescribe a method that is much much less efficacious than other methods of contraception. About the only “method” that is worse is not using contraception at all.

You might just possibly be able to argue that Dr Lee shouldn’t be obliged to go against his own morality in the conduct of his employment. But whether or not that’s a viable argument, it’s not tenable in this case. Dr Lee is on the public coin. A large part of his income is funded by government, so that people in New Zealand have access to healthcare. And government in this country is secular.

More than that, Dr Lee’s direct employer, the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation, says that patients’ rights are governed by the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Code of Rights, which includes rights such as this:

Every consumer has the right to be provided with services that take into account the needs, values, and beliefs of different cultural, religious, social, and ethnic groups, including the needs, values, and beliefs of Maori.

and this:

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of the individual.

and this:

Every consumer has the right to the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer’s circumstances, would expect to receive, including –
a) An explanation of his or her condition; and
b) An explanation of the options available, including an assessment of the expected risks, side effects, benefits, and costs of each option…

I’m finding it hard to understand how Dr Lee’s employer thinks that he is doing enough to comply with this code of rights.

But that’s not all.

The only circumstances in which [Dr Lee] would prescribe the contraceptive pill would be if a woman wanted space between pregnancies, or had at least four children. (ref)

So there you are, ladies. You’re all obliged to have at least four children each.

What I find horrid about this is the extent to which this man feels that he is entitled to control women’s lives and bodies, and to impose his own morality on them. He expects to be in a position of moral authority over his patients.

I find this offensive. As I have written before (one, two), perhaps it used to be reasonable to approach doctors for moral advice, when they were often the only highly educated person in a community. But that’s hardly so any more. And in any case, using contraception is not considered a morally difficult issue by the great majority of New Zealanders. It’s only some fringe religious groups who think that using contraception is morally impermissible. I say “fringe” deliberately: only a small minority of New Zealanders are practising Christians, and of those who are, an even smaller number subscribe to the view that contraception is wrong.

Dr Lee is right out of line. And so is the system which allows him to overrule his patients’ rights, and attempt to control his patients’ lives and bodies, because of his own private morality.

No girls allowed

There’s a new man in the Vatican, and he seems to be a humble man. He’s not interested in all the pomp and glory, not does he want to lead an isolated life. So instead of living in the grand (grandiose?) papal apartments, he’s going to live at St Martha’s House.

Pope stays put in St Martha’s House

His reason for doing this? He likes living in community.

Pope Bergoglio’s fondness for community life in St. Martha’s House is quite obvious to everyone. The chance of meeting people, sitting down for meals with them, sharing parts of his day with the other residents and celebrating mass in a chapel that is able to hold a good number of people: all these reasons contributed to Francis’ decision to stay, which he communicated to the other guests of St. Martha’s House, first of all to the fifty priests and monsignors who work in the Roman Curia and were able to return to their rooms following the Conclave.

Isn’t that nice? The Vatican Insider certainly thinks so, saying that:

Bergoglio has essentially chosen normality. A normality and approachability that has struck representatives of other Christian denominations in recent days, particularly the Orthodox delegations representing the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, who were glad to have had the opportunity to sit down to table with the Pope.

It’s all about “normality”.

Except there’s just one critical facet of “normality” that Pope Francis and the Vatican Insider have overlooked.

St Martha’s House is a no-girls-allowed zone. The hostel is for priests and prelates. And in the Roman Catholic church, those priests and prelates are all men. So there will be no chance meetings with women, no possibility of a casual conversation that might give the pope an insight into women’s lives and women’s realities, no passing the time of day with members of half the human race.

Mind you, it’s not quite true that there are no women in St Martha’s House. The House is run by members of the order of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. That’s right. There are women there, to do the housework.

And that’s normal, isn’t it?

Dangerous women and “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”

Cross posted

People that the Vatican thinks should be disciplined and silenced: nuns who work on poverty and social justice issues.

CHICAGO — A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns group said Thursday that it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social-justice concerns and not enough on condemning abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by U.S. bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

People the Vatican promotes and places in positions of authority: priests who actively lie and cover up for other priests who rape children.

The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

Not only did he not pass on the details to police or children, but he actively coerced the children into staying silent. And he has LIED about the support the children were given.

Sean Brady’s role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy was questioned.

He claimed, however, that the boy’s father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker.

However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.

The child’s father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy.

The story about Sean Brady will make you sick. And he’s still making excuses. He says that he wasn’t the only one who knew. In other words, it was someone else’s responsibility. And he claims that he had no power to do anything in any case.

“The commentary in the programme and much of the coverage of my role in this inquiry gives the impression that I was the only person who knew of the allegations against Brendan Smyth at that time and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975.

“I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order.

He is completely wrong about that. He always had the ability to go to the police, instead of participating in covering up a crime, and enabling a rapist to carry on raping children.

And he is now a Cardinal in the Catholic church.

So on the one hand, all those wretched women who dare to spend their time and effort working on issues of social justice are dangerously out of line and need to be reprimanded and controlled, and on the other, a man who participated in covering up the rape of children and is still making excuses for his behaviour, is given a position of high authority in the church. He is an “authentic teacher of faith and morals.”

I do not think that phrase means what the Catholic hierarchy church thinks it means.

Previous posts on the Catholic church and its protection of men who rape children:
Out of touch
Can the Pope be impeached?
They could always turn themselves in
Chanting the script from Rome
Sez it all.


This year’s Hot Atheist Buns.

Darwin Fish Buns

(Description: Tray of buns, each with a Darwin Fish instead of a cross)

I used the same recipe as I have used in previous years, except that I added a tablespoon of instant coffee to get a browner colour and a richer flavour, and per Stef’s advice one year, I made them freeform rather than squishing them up in a tin.

This is becoming a tradition of sorts in our house. Last year I had an unaccountable lapse, and didn’t make any, but in 2010, I made Eye of Sauron buns, and in 2009 I made Flying Spaghetti Monster buns. I first made sacrilegious buns in 2008, when I made atheist “A” buns. The children climbed up the fence and told our elderly neighbours about them, but they just laughed. After all, it wasn’t as though we done something terrible like support Port Power instead of the Crows (this is a somewhat obscure reference to sports teams in Adelaide).

Delicious. We had some late this afternoon, and we will have the rest for breakfast tomorrow.

Hot Darwin Fish Bun

(Description: Hot Darwin Fish bun, split in two, spread with melted butter)

On re-watching Brideshead Revisited

We’ve just finished watching the sumptuous 1982 Granada TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisted, and this time, Ms Thirteen watched it with us.

I don’t know what Evelyn Waugh had in mind as he wrote the book, and really, I don’t care about his intended meaning, if any. ‘Though I am impatient with most post-modernism, I am quite taken with the idea that writing is completed by the reader, and ultimately, it is the reader’s reaction to the work that matters most.

As ever, I found the early episodes very beautiful, if nostalgic. Oxford was glorious, and the lifestyle of the great house was fabulous, for the privileged few. Really, I drooled my way through the series, enjoying the splendour of the architecture and the clothes and the art.

But this time round, in the final few episodes, instead of agonising with Julia, I simply got terribly impatient. For god’s sake, I thought (and yes, that is intentional), seize love!

Instead, she was trapped by the Catholic church into rejecting the man who loved her, and like her sister and brothers, she was defeated by the church. No partnership, no children, no connection. Those last few episodes are a savage indictment of the Catholic church of the 1930s.

Ms Thirteen was very disappointed by the way the story ended. We asked her what she thought about it all.

“Wow,” she said. “Don’t be a Catholic.”

“There’s more to it than that,” said Mr Bee. “What do you think the deeper ideas might be?”

She thought for a moment. “Really, really, really, don’t be a Catholic.”