A bad week for the beauty myth part 2

The problem with  spells of hot weather is that it lends opportunity for the’beautiful people’ to wear less clothes and smugly parade their toned bodies around. In fairness, it’s not every lad who walks around with their shirt off that does so to show off their muscles, and its not every girl wearing a skimpy dress that does so just to show off their toned legs and (probably fake) tan, some just find it more comfortable, but there are plenty of people that walk around feeling smug about how good they look – you know the types – their the ones that are constantly looking at their reflections in shop windows, and the ones who have that ‘sex in the city’ gait.

What depresses me about this is that these people are shallow enough to have bought into the social norm that you should base your self-worth on your appearance, they have thoroughly, males and females alike, bought into the beauty myth – and the most depressing cases are people in their 30s and 40s – the types that think they’ve got a ‘good for age’ body that parade it about in the summer.

I just want to take this opportunity to reiterate the important truth that the thinking that you’ve achieved something because you look good ( and I don’t care how many hours you’ve spent in the gym or how much effort you’ve invested in buying whatever clothes or ‘procedures’) basing your self worth on your looks – and getting a ‘self esteem’ fix in summer by parading your bikini body around is flawed for three basic reasons –

1. No one else really cares what you look like, they are too busy worrying about their own looks, or other things.

2. Eventually,you will sag, this period will last for more than half of your life, so at some point you need to get over your looks.

3. If you do judge yourself by your looks – and you get your cues from the media, then you are probably aspiring to an unrealistic goal of beauty that you will never achieve and thus you are unlikely to ever be satisfied – happiness is just around the corner…..

A bad week for the beauty myth part 1

There have been lots of high profile examples in the news of the ‘beauty myth’ and the ‘male gaze’ – demonstrating the persistence of this.

Just a few of them – all many and varied but tied together by that ubiquitous thread of the beauty myth.

Firstly, and OK, this is a bit behind the times, but I only just stumbled across J Lo’s latest video – on the floor – in which this 42 year old shakes her ass about as if she was 20 – Obviously someone like J LO, having been born with naturally good looks, and having added to that with who knows how much botox and lipo suction (someone with an ass that big doesn’t keep it in that shape at 42 without lipo), as well as a lot of media- touching – can, at 42 appear pretty much as she did when she was 21 – but it ain’t a realistic beauty- goal to aspire to – I say – J Lo – act your age, and be a decent role model rather than a shallow, vacuous tart -seriously, listen to the lyrics, you’d hope that someone at her age would have had a few spiritual insights to share with us maybe – something deeper than ‘you know we’re on it tonight on the floor… bla bla…. stay young on the floor’

Kate's fit - now I'm a Royalist!
Kate's fit - now I'm a Royalist!

Secondly, there’s all the obvious comments about Kate Middleton being ‘fit’ – my students’ judgements – as if she’s ‘ OK with us’ because she’s good looking – she’s not ok, she’s about to marry into a total anachronism – a family whose wealth is inherited and status is unjustly ascribed. I dread to think how many comments will be made about Kate’s looks over the next few days. I actually just typed in ‘kate middleton fit’ to google, it asked me if I meant ‘kate middleton hot‘ – which returns images as the first links – honestly, what did I expect?

Finally, the week had a little article describing how two teenage girls had to flee one of Silvio Berlusconi’s parties after being asked to dance naked for him – that’s the corrupt Italian PM who likes sleeping with 17 year olds.

As if that’s not bad enough, I open up my copy of the NUT – the teaching union magazine ( not NUTS – which is what google returned instead of ‘NUT magazine’ – and I’m greeted with a pretty face on the cover – even the bloody NUT is using beauty to sell it’s wares!

Defo a bad week for the beauty myth and the male gaze – I’m going to surf for pictures of ugly people, or I might just look at some old photos instead…

Good GCSEs – A levels – University = the road to success?

Edge is an independent foundation that claims that the UK suffers from a kind of academic snobbery, aiming to raise the status of vocational and practical learning in the UK. Edge argues that schools and parents put too much stress on students needing to get good GCSEs, and afterwards we tend to think that ‘A levels’ are better than more vocational subjects and that doing a degree will give us a better chance in life than going straight into a job.

What Edge wants to see is much more focus on vocational learning in schools from the age of 14 onwards – with students that want to being supported in learning a profession, alongside studying the more traditional academic subjects. They also stress that going to university is not necessarily going to result in your being more employable or in you earning more money than those without a degree.

So there are three related questions to focus on here –

1. Are schools too focussed on GCSEs, should they be more focussed on vocational education?

2. Are traditional A levels ‘better’ than BTECs – to limit the discussion focus on the question are ‘A levels’ are more likely to get you into a university than BTECs?

3. Does getting a degree make you more employable, and will it get you a ‘better’ job that earns you more money in the long run?  (NB – this is an excellent example of a question that would require longitudinal research!)

I may well post on this later as there’s a lot of digging to be done, but I’m going to take the radical step of getting students to do the digging for me first of all and answering any of the three questions above by doing their own research and posting comments!

The Serious Crime Analysis Unit

You know those gripping scenes in crime movies where the crime investigating duo pull an all nighter to leaf through files of paper, newspaper clippings, CCTV footage etc… typically ending in a eureka moment that leads to to the offender – well the real world of criminological research isn’t anything like that –

At least not according to a nice little item on this morning’s radio 4 programme about the Serious Crime Analysis Unit – based in Hampshire, the unit has on record over 6000 cases of serious violent crimes – focussing on sexual crime and murder – details of each offence is recorded such as location, time, characteristics of the offender (where known obviously) – the whole point of it is to provide nation wide – joined up information – for police forces around the country.

This is a great example of the ‘real world of criminol0gical investigation’ – the centre employs a number of ‘research assistants’ (earning about 15 grand a year each) and what these do is look at case notes from the police – victim and witness statements in other words – of cases of serious crimes and then ‘code’ the information – entering it into a computer – which can then look for relationships between new crimes and past crimes – in one case the centre found that victims  in different areas of the country in certain ‘rape cases’ reported a similar use of language and clothing by their attacker – which helped convict him of numerous rapes.

No, it hardly sounds like interesting work – but that’s what the real world of crime investigation is like – meticulously tedious! They offer work placements linked to certain unis for anyone interested in doing a degree in this area.

It’s also interesting to note what they don’t know – they list ‘research ideas’ for incoming students on their work placements – one of which is to investigate further the relationship between serious violent offending and past criminal behaviour. Yes, believe it or not, this is an unresearched area!