Thursday, October 11, 2012

In which saoili recommends YouTube subscriptions

There was a time when I used YouTube just for looking things up. If there was a particular song I wanted to listen to, or video of some sort I wanted to watch, I would check to see if it was on YouTube.

And then, one weekend was stuck in front of a computer without much to do, someone linked me to a Philip De Franco video. I laughed my socks off and watched another, and another, and another. And then one of his 'if you like this you should subscribe' messages sank in and I did so. Since then YouTube has been politely informing me every time he uploads and new video, and I watch most of them. To see him at his best it helps if you watch his videos when they're new, like this one currently is. This is actually where I get a lot of my international news. He's not for everyone, but I really enjoy his stuff. If the objectification of women is a real bugbear for you you might want to give him a miss though. 

In one of his videos, he linked to this video by CGP Grey, explaining the difference between Great Britain and the UK, and a bunch more besides.

I highly recommend that one. I also subscribed to his videos and they've never disappointed me. A favourite topic of his is how crazy voting systems are crazy. Which is more amusing to watch than it might sound.

Again at some point, someone linked me to a Vi Hart video. I don't think it was this one, but this is one of my favourites. Anyway, I liked it so much that I subscribed to her too.

If you're at all into maths If you're not completely adverse to maths, I recommend Vi Hart's videos. She shows the beauty and joy of maths in very entertaining ways.

When Ze Frank's original show 'aired' (know of a better term? Let me know in the comments!), my sister followed it, but I didn't. So I had a vague impression of what it was like and I had watched a few of his videos. I always meant to get around to going back to the start and watching the whole thing, but I never did. When he recently started uploading videos again, I subscribed.

I think the best way to describe Ze Frank is probably surreal. His videos are very compelling, often funny, and thought provoking. And weird.

Shortly after they started at the start of the year, someone linked me to a Crash Course video. My husband and I have been watching them pretty religiously as they've come out since. Entertainment and learning in ten to fifteen minute videos, perfect for my attention span? Yes please!

Watching Crash Course has also led me on to SciShow and VlogBrothers videos, by the same guys, of which there are many.

So there you go, that's most of my YouTube habit in a nutshell. These days I mostly use it for learning things in short, entertaining bursts. How about you? Do you use it at all? Do you have any subscriptions to recommend?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why is it okay to be sexist about children?

Feminism has done a lot already. I can vote, stay working after getting married, wear trousers, study honours maths, and do numerous other things that I couldn't have done a few generations ago. But we still have a lot to do.

I have been reading some classic science fiction, written in the 1950's and set in the distant future. This has really brought home to me just how far we've come. The author didn't foresee feminism. He thought 'okay, women can vote now, that's that over and done with', or something along those lines. Or maybe he didn't think about it at all. But it can be a little jarring to me, reading about women in a distant future that don't even have as much equality as I do.

A lot of what's left to do is subtle. It's changing perceptions and culture. A lot of it is slippery stuff. We've already won the battle, for the most part, of convincing people's conscious brains that being a woman doesn't make a person stupider, less able, less of a person. People don’t think that women should be treated as lesser, just for being women.

But there are still elements where men and women are treated differently. And often those differences come with value judgements, or have negative effects for one gender. For example, being nice is emphasised in our society for women, but less so for men. This contributes to the fact that women are less likely to negotiate than men are. Which in turn contributes to the gender wage gap. Although we have fixed the system so that you can no longer pay a woman less simply because she is a woman; it is perfectly reasonable to pay someone only as much as they negotiate you up to. The net effect is the same.

Nowhere are these differences in the way people are treated more apparent than in the way we treat children.

Why is it considered okay to be sexist about children? Why are children's clothes so completely categorised by gender when, unlike adults, pre-pubescent children are basically all the same shape (well, actually, they're lots of different shapes, but apart from underwear-wise, it's nothing to do with their sex)? Why is it so hard to get pretty children's shoes that cover the top of the child’s foot? Why do Tesco feel the need to sell two different versions of this toy?

Blue sand pit with boy and girl, pink with only girl

What possible positive outcome is there of things being split this way?

The ‘boys just prefer x and girls just prefer y’ thing holds no water. Even if it was true that most boys like certain types of toys and most girls like other sorts of toys, what harm would grouping the toys by type rather than gender do? A little boy who is slightly inclined towards a pink doll is unlikely to go to the girls toys section to get it, but he might go to the dolls aisle. Why, in a society where the average person would be opposed to laws or regulations that discriminate based on gender, is there such a strong cultural imperative to enforce gender roles in children?