Thursday, June 19, 2008

Out of office

I'm going to Indonesia.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ontology and etymology (or Losing My Religion)

I'm writing this after a pint and a half of cider and some vodka and coke so if it's less than comprehensible I hope you'll understand...

When I started postgraduate study the first time round we talked a lot about ontology and etymology, which were words I really struggled to understand.  Eventually I got the hang of it: what we know and how we know it.  How do we think the world is made up, and how do we know this?  So for me, among other things, I'm a feminist - in part, we're split into men and women and that affects how we'll get on.  And I'm a social constructivist - I think society is created through the language we use and how we behave.

I have discovered a downside to not believing in God.  I have no basis for believing in anything.  Until recently, having the certainty of an existing authoritative God and the Bible, I had a solid basis for everything I needed to have an opinion on, and room for lots of interesting debate within safe parameters.*

Now, I don't have that.  In an uncertain world, I have no idea how to know anything.  There are lots of theories and I can tell you which ones I like and why I like them, and also discuss the merits of them as theories, but how do you know anything?  Is it just a case of deciding something and sticking with it, hoping for the best?  Or making a best guess?  Do I just have to earn to live with uncertainty?

*Actually, it was always much more painful and indecisive than that, but that's just the outworking of my personality.  I've learnt to live with it. 

Friday, June 06, 2008

Public bodies (and a gratuitous baby...)

Did you know that Fern Britton has lost a lot of weight?  Did you care?  Well, bear with me, because it's vaguely relevant to what I want to talk about. 

We watched a debate about the child of our time series on BBC4.  The participants, who were all vaguely famous and vaguely clever, were discussing a variety of those things people always talk about when talking about modern childhood.  And we discussed whether we liked what they were saying and if 'critically evaluating' was normal language or jargon (guess who fell on which side of that fence?) and we critically evaluated their outfits.

So.  One woman was wearing just too many different attention-grabbing accessories/hair/make-up/everything.  One woman had weird hair.  And one woman had a top I didn't really like.  One man was, maybe, dressed a bit too casually.  One man looked nice, smiled a lot and said nice things that I liked.  And one man was Robert Winston, who I think may be a modern-day saint as no-one ever says bad things about him.

I noticed 
we were much more critical of the way the women were dressed, which reminded me of the whole Ferngate thing, and the Guardian's suggestion that public women's bodies are considered public property.  So I interrogated my thinking...  Is it just because women wear a wider variety of clothing, so there's more to discuss*?  Or is it that the way every public woman dresses is considered fair game for discussion in a way that doesn't generally happen to men?  Or maybe that women are considered to be more interested in clothes generally, so are more scrutinised because of this association between women and clothing?  I don't know, but I'm planning to do some more thinking about it every time I dislike someone's shirt.

And, as we're discussing children, I'm throwing in a gratuitous picture of my favourite baby ever:

*It's like this at work too.  Men wear a shirt and a pair of trousers.  And either a tie or not a tie.  There's some choice over colour/pattern of shirt, the tie question and, if they wear one, how much they care whether their shirt matches their tie.  For women, it's more interesting, probably a bit more relaxed, but much more complicated.