Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sex-Selective Abortions

Sex-selective abortions have hit the headlines in a big way over the last week. There has been outrage in the media over the 'mass murder' (or so it's been represented) of female foetuses, particularly in some British-Asian communities. In these groups, the Independent reports, the problem is often so severe that this has skewed the natural boy-girl ratio of the population. 

Many individuals have suggested an initiative to withhold information about the sex of the child until the 30 week mark where it is no longer legal to have an abortion. The rest are too incensed to reflect upon practical solutions to the problem. But, overwhelmingly, a lot of the debate has massively overlooked how complex this issue is.

Stopping women from knowing the sex of their baby before it's too late to get an abortion may lead to less girls being aborted purely on the basis of their sex (obviously a positive), BUT it doesn't get to the root of the problem.

I'm not against abortion by any means. Modern medical practices are able to help women who, for whatever reason, aren't ready for or don't want their baby. That's incredible! Finally, we live in a society that is able to and willing for us have some control over our own bodies!

Pro-life campaigners seem to be labouring under the illusion that we should protect life at all costs. It's just illogical. We should be preserving quality of life, not the sheer quantity it. If a mother doesn't have the finances, stability and love to provide her child with the upbringing we would want it to have, why should society bully her into keeping the child?

The mother - that is, the fully conscious human being with thoughts and memories - should always come before the foetus - who is oblivious to most things, not least all the problems it is causing. The mother's wellbeing, her right to control over her own future, and lessening the impact on her relationships, is the most important factor in any pregnancy.

But back to the topic at hand. If the agency is taken away from the mother, if it is no longer her own choice to abort her baby but is a result of pressure from overbearing families, then abortion becomes another tool for controlling women's bodies against their will.

The problem with those aforementioned, well-intentioned commentators is that simply prohibiting the disclosure of a baby's sex does not eliminate the huge cultural stigma surrounding female children. The mother will still feel inadequate at her 'failure' to provide her husband and family with the son and grandson that they require, and these families will continue to uphold the unequal value that they attach to boys and girls.

Since the issue is a cultural one, the best solution is education. The idea of trying to impose our own ideas and values onto traditional communities is an unsavoury one, and  I don't have any bright ideas about how to go about such a task. But I think, in this case and for the sake of progress, that it is a necessary evil.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


So part of what I want to do with this blog is to share companies that I feel have got it right with their branding and marketing strategies and why and how I think they're particularly interesting or innovative. I'm starting with Graze because I feel like they're doing something really fresh and exciting.

Founded in 2008, Graze has grown rapidly in a very short space of time. It's a simple concept: one box, four pouches of goodies that changes each time. Nutritious, varied, stress-free snacking. It's not a cheap product at £3.89 a time, but the quality of the food and the service is what makes this basic idea have widespread appeal.

They initially targeted offices - their ideal customer being people who sit at desks all day and want an alternative to snacking on unhealthy food. This enabled them to build up a network of people who could be seen to be enjoying the product and would spread the message to their colleagues, but the little box has since become a great success with other groups, particularly with students.

The name fits with the simplicity and originality of the brand, as does the catchy tagline, 'Nature Delivered'. The packaging feels expensive and the design cashes in on the modern need to have expensive and quirky looking things for the sake of having them (eg. I could go buy a pack of Tesco own brand raisins and cashew nuts... or I could get this uber cool box thing that will make people like me more). The tv advert makes the food look out of this world with deep, indulgent colours. And the music and style of voice-over reinforces the quirky uniqueness of this brand.

Aside from the product, what I admire about Graze is the way in which they have spread the word about their company. Existing customers get vouchers to give to their friends for a free first box and a second one for half price. Once they have signed up, the initial customer also gets a free box as an incentive (clever!). This model works like a virus - if every customer shares it with three friends and those new customers share it with their three friends, with a little patience, world domination won't be far away. Personal recommendations are always more valued by consumers than even the most expensive marketing campaigns, and it seems that Graze has managed to find a relatively cheap but reliable way of instigating this behaviour themselves. The best part is, it's so transparent that the customer doesn't feel like they're being cheated out of anything!

Like many of my friends, once I got my free box, I cancelled my subscription (because I'm a poor student and £4 a week for a fancy box of fruit and nuts seemed an unnecessary extravagance). BUT they don't let you off the hook that easily. This is another part of their cunning strategy: once you cancel, they get in tough offering you 3 boxes at half price. If that's not enough to entice you to reactivate your account, they won't stop there. Every month or so, I get a little reminder about what I'm missing out on. Every so often they send me a code for another free box, trying to get me hooked. And it's worked! Although I don't get them delivered now, I have such a good impression of the brand that the minute I get my high-flying graduate job (wishful thinking!) , I will be restarting my subscription.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

LAD Culture

First blog post!

I don't really have a clear idea about what my posts are going to focus on - I think I'll just go with the flow and write about whatever I'm thinking about at any given time. I'm also not sure how often I'll be posting. With three huge final year essays and a dissertation to complete, plus a tonne of other commitments (oh helloooo job search) this year is shaping up to be pretty hectic. But I'm going to try and use this as a kind of catharsis.

So without further ado:

We could all do more to address the 'lad' culture - so why don't we?

The short answer to this, I guess, is that if we don't we will be ridiculed for being boring and ostracised from our peers.

By its very nature, the lad culture bullies and belittles those who are different. And 'different' here means anyone who doesn't fit in to the boisterous, macho male stereotype.

The question that bothers me is, do these 'lads' actually exist, or is this just a subversive ideal that hundreds of thousands of adolescents are trying to measure up to? Do these guys actually feel like they are being true to themselves, or is it just something they perform in order to seek acceptance from their social group?

The Urban Dictionary definition for 'lad' reads:

A lad is a male who specialises in creating and distributing exquisite banter. Though most lads are youngish (late teens and early twenties) age is not a defining characteristic and you will find both young lads and old lads. Some special skills of lads include, but are not limited to the following:
- Binning Pints
- Exposing genitalia and getting naked in public places
- Throwing up after copious alcohol consumption
- Spousal Abuse
- Getting kicked out of pubs/nightclubs for being overly offensive
Excelling in all areas will earn a lad the title of "top lad". There is no higher praise that can be bequeathed upon an individual.
"That guy just saw off a whole bottle of Vodka then partyboyed that bird, what a lad!"

Most people enjoy a drink, and sometimes it's funny when your friends make prats out of themselves... But surely mutual abuse and humiliation (masked as 'banter') is not the aim, or indeed the product, of a functional relationship. I've been party to many groups of 'lads', and it seems to me that the unrelenting insults are a defence rather than an offence. In this perverted culture, you have to put others down or be attacked yourself.

The misogyny that is encouraged in these circles stems from the same root cause: the need to feel superior ('go make me a sandwich'). The crude and demeaning way they talk about the women they have had sex with is a warped means of gaining status. Furthermore, joking about rape is the way that boys are being taught (through popular culture, tv and the internet) to confirm and validate their own masculinity.

And this isn't just a problem in the most extreme groups. It's an epidemic which normalises abuse - of women, homosexuals, children. You only have to look at Sickapedia to see what I'm talking about.

I'm not saying that I don't find myself laughing at these jokes. I recently brought the box set of The Inbetweeners, because, quite frankly, I find it hillarious. But I also ask myself why? When you stand back and really think about it, these things aren't funny - we've just been conditioned for so long that we don't know what's acceptable anymore.

I couldn't isolate one cause, but I do know that a lot of the problems that society faces today are interlinked: trolling/cyber bullying, the resurgence of misogyny, over-sexualisation, teenage suicide...

In my opinion, there hasn't been nearly enough research into this emerging culture. It has its roots in so many different things - not least the virtual anonymity of the internet - and it affects many people's day to day lives. Joking about rape/paedophilia/homophobia is not only insensitive - it trivialises and normalises it. And that's no laughing matter.