In defence of men

Isn’t today Father’s Day in the UK? Maybe the post below is a suitable Father’s Day gift.


Women often complain about or ridicule the phenomenon now known as mansplaining.

A typical and highly illustrative example is a man at a cocktail party explaining something to the woman he is talking to when the woman happens to be the world’s number one expert on the topic.

Is this really a feminist issue or could it be something else?

I am a feminist.

I am also Dutch.

Dutch men and women also do a heck of a lot of mansplaining. Dutch culture says that it is everyone’s democratic duty to have an opinion on everything.

The Dutch don’t say “I think that…” or “In my opinion…” and they don’t phrase their opinions in the form of questions either.

They make authoritative-sounding statements because they feel it is their duty to do so.

So I often get corrected and told that such and such is the truth and nothing but the truth. Also when it concerns topics that I have in my professional background and the other person does not!

When I go to the Netherlands, having been away from the country for a long time and having gotten used to a very different communication style puts me in the shoes of the average foreigner who is faced with the very direct and opinionated Dutch.

I too am now taken aback at first, but after a while, I fall into the familiar patterns again.

But it sometimes stays on my mind for a while when Dutch people seemed to be dismissing my professional background.

So then it hit me.

This is the same phenomenon as mansplaining.

It usually has nothing to do with wanting to take the other person down a notch or two, with wanting to convey a lack of professional respect or anything like that.

It is much more often a genuine effort to contribute to the discussion and do one’s very best.

That’s simply what men tend to do. That’s also what Dutch people do.

Emancipated Dutch women do it to me too. Mansplaining.

Of course, the old phenomenon of pissing contests does play a role in mansplaining as well. I am not denying that.

But maybe mainsplaining also happens because humans are really quite willing to help one another.

When someone offers to help you with heavy luggage at a train station, does that mean that the person seriously thinks that you’re not capable of carrying your own luggage or because he or she simply wants to be kind and give you a hand?

That this happens on the basis of outward appearances like apparent age, manner of dress, gender and hair colour (age) can be somewhat discriminatory.

Hey, tired young people wouldn’t mind a hand with their luggage either! And yes, the help often includes the assumption that women are less strong than men.

But these are snap decisions that people make, not decisions made after an hour of debate.

When you see a very young kid fall into the water, you rush. When you see a strong young man dressed in swimming gear fall into the water, you are a little bit less concerned.

That’s probably where it all comes from. Some people may say that this is the reptile part of our brain kicking in.

There is a difference between seeing someone fall into the water and having a conversation with someone, though. No life is potentially in danger during a conversation, so there is time for a quick thought or two before speaking.

Maybe the mansplainer and Dutch person could ask himself or herself “What is the other person’s background? Is it possible that he or she knows a lot more about the topic than I do?” before offering their opinions, which creates room for the option of asking a question instead.

But then, they also might not offer their unfiltered views and hold back what could be a genuine gem.

So, maybe the person on the receiving end of the mansplaining should simply listen and then provide a reply based on a wealth of knowledge.

It could lead to much more fruitful discussions.

This will go into my new book “We’re such animals!”

Stress is bad for your body, but how? Studying piglets may shed light

While I do wonder what is being done to piglets in the name of academic research, the article makes valid points and I want to share it with you. We need to find a way of living that is much more balanced, not only for the planet, but also for ourselves.

-Ange

File 20180611 191965 1g834yf.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Pigs and humans have a lot in common, particularly their digestive tracts.
Krumanop/Shutterstock.com

Adam Moeser, Michigan State University

Stress affects most of us to one degree or another, and that even includes animals. My lab studies early-life stress in pigs and how it impacts their health later in life, specifically in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Pigs, whose GI tracts are extremely similar to those of humans, may be one of the clearest windows we have into researching stress, disease, and new therapies and preventatives – both in livestock and people.

In my study of how stress makes humans and pigs vulnerable to disease, I have seen the profound impact that stress-related chemical substances, such as hormones and peptides, can have on a body’s tissues. I’m hopeful that our research in piglets could eventually lead to treatments for both people and animals designed to mitigate the adverse effects of stress on the GI health.

How stress can save your life

Not all stress is bad. When we perceive a threat, our hypothalamus – one of our most basic parts of the brain – kicks in to protect us by triggering what many recognize as the “fight or flight” response. It is a primal evolutionary response programmed in our brains to help us first survive and then restore us to a normal set point, or what feels like stability.

The stress response is essential to helping escape a dangerous situation, such as an attacking dog.
Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock.com

What actually is happening has to do with something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is at the core of the stress response. During stress, the hypothalamus, a region in the brain, makes and sends out a chemical called corticotrophin-releasing factor, which signals for the pituitary gland to release another chemical, adrenocorticotrophic hormone.

This stimulates the adrenal gland to release adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin and cortisol, two of the most well-known stress hormones, power our bodies to react during the fight or flight response. They can heighten our response time in a fight. They can pump blood to our extremities when we flee. They can boost our immune system to protect against pathogens. That stress response gives us what we need to resolve the situation.

How stress can harm your life

Fortunately for many of us, we don’t have to deal with life-threatening situations on a regular basis. However, we still experience stress. This stress can be chronic, due to a specific situation or overall lifestyle.

But, our stress response is meant for short-term resolvable conflict. So, in a way, the stress response is misplaced in today’s world of enduring stressors. Danger comes when we experience repeated elevations of these stress hormones, or when we are exposed to too much of these stress hormones at a young age. Instead of physical threats, many of us experience psychosocial stress, which triggers a similar stress response but is often not resolvable.

For example, stress in the workplace, such as feeling overworked or undervalued, could be perceived as a threat and in turn activate the stress response. However, in these situations, the survival aspects of the stress response, such as increased heart rate and immune activation, is not effective in resolving this threat.

This results in continued production and higher levels of these stress chemicals in the body. They bind to target receptors in many organs, which can have profound effects on physiology and function.

Stress is particularly damaging to the developing brain.
Mcimage/Shutterstock.com

High levels of stress are also especially harmful when they occur at a young age, when many of the body’s important stress regulatory systems – for example, the brain and nervous systems – are still developing. Exposure to stress in early life can alter the normal development and physiology of many organ systems, resulting in increased sensitivity to stress and lifelong health risks in offspring.

Also, a mother’s stress during pregnancy can be “transmitted” to the fetus, resulting in permanent changes to the stress response system and health in offspring.

This early-life stress can fuel a constant stress response inside the body. This can include inflammation, or increased activity of the immune system, or immune suppression as its new “normal.”

Inflammation and immune suppression are unpredictable and can manifest in many parts of our body, with different consequences. For example, stress and inflammation near blood vessels can cause blood vessels to constrict. This causes elevated blood pressure, which can lead to a slew of other conditions like coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Immune suppression can reduce the body’s ability to heal wounds and make it more susceptible to other pathogens. Inflammation and immune suppression can affect anything, including our mental health. Chronic stress can traffic immune cells into the brain, where they can cause neuroinflammation, which can affect our mood and fuel diseases like depression and anxiety.

Your GI tract and you

The GI tract is our largest interface with the outside world. If you think about it, your GI system is “outside” your body; it experiences many of the pathogens and other foreign entities with which we come into contact. If you unfolded your entire GI system, it would cover a tennis court. The GI system also contains just as many neurons as your spinal cord and houses the largest collection of immune cells in the body. A system of that size is as powerful as it is susceptible.

Chronic stress that affects your GI tract can manifest as abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation and can lead to common diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

Early-life stress is especially concerning; scientists only now are beginning to understand the long-term consequences. My research demonstrates the impacts of early-life stress on animal health and productivity, as well as human health. In pigs, this stress can result from early weaning and other management practices. In humans, it could be from physical or emotional trauma like abuse or neglect.

What we can learn from piglets

Pigs and humans have similar digestive tracts, making pigs an excellent model for human GI disease. My research team has demonstrated early stress in piglets results in GI symptoms (e.g. diarrhea, GI infections) that are remarkably similar to stress-related GI disorders in people: Irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and food allergies are examples.

Through my lab’s research of piglets and early-life stress, we have been able to significantly lower the stress and GI disease that they experience through their life by eliminating individual early-life stressors.

Much of their stress is caused through early weaning, social change due to maternal separation and mixing with unfamiliar pigs. These pigs then experience a higher rate of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases, as well as reduced growth performance and feed efficiency into adulthood.

We also learned that a particular type of immune cell, called the mast cell, becomes highly activated during stress, which in turn causes much of the stress-associated GI disease. By focusing on animal welfare and implementing new management practices to eliminate individual stressors or intervene therapeutically with mast cell blockers, we can lower the overall threshold of stress that the piglets experience.

This basic research could result in future breakthroughs regarding how we combat stress in humans. Maybe with more fundamental research in animal models, we can develop a therapy to help lessen the impact of bad stress on our bodies.

The ConversationIn the meantime, those of us experiencing stress can take action. If you experience a lot of stress on a daily basis, focus on what you can and cannot control, and then apply your energy to the things within your control while taking care of your body by eating properly, getting enough sleep, and maintaining some level of physical activity. Then, learn to cope with the things you cannot control through therapy, meditation and other stress management practices.

Adam Moeser, Matilda R. Wilson Endowed Chair, Associate Professor of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Michigan State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Police officers’ bullets, tasers, arms and bodies often kill people who are ill

Remember my taser reports? And the incidents in which innocent men become unable to breathe because they are being crushed to death? Here is another story that should never have happened.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/28/anatomy-of-a-police-shooting-the-final-hours-of-elijah-holcombe

Why do we often feel guilty?

Because we have been taught that something – whatever it is – is bad. If you let go of the idea that something is good or bad, you may feel a weight lift from your shoulders.

If you simply allow and observe the thing that is supposed to be bad, you may find that it is interesting – hence also good, right or even fun – all by itself.

Feeling depressed is bad, for instance. It is even considered a mental health problem these days. An illness. Feeling cheerful is good. Acting cheerful when you’re feeling depressed is good. Is it?

It can be, but there are times, after the death of a loved one for example, when we really have to allow feelings that are supposedly bad.

(Is mourning someone’s death truly “a mental health issue”? Or could it be a natural part of life?)

It is our resistance to “bad” feelings that often becomes the greater problem. As soon as you allow certain feelings and stop considering them bad, they can lose their power over you quickly.

And heck, even moping can be a heck of a lot of fun too.

What always comes to my mind when I say something like that is an image from the original Swedish Pippi Longstocking TV series.

Pippi is in a foul mood and goes around angrily stamping her feet, probably in puddles of water, powerfully indulging in her foul mood, full of energy. Acceptance. A foul mood is just a foul mood, not the end of the world.

Puddles of water? So it must have rained. Rain! Rain is bad.

I too have my personal good/bad hangups. Ideas that make me feel vulnerable or guilty or inadequate or unhappy. What are yours?

 

 

 

You thought animals we eat have no feelings?

Boiling water hurts them too.

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Illness and the social self (upcoming Uehiro lectures)

The annual Uehiro lectures will take place in Oxford next week. This year, they are by Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Their topic interests me because I feel strongly that we need to start looking differently at various forms of illnesses. Continue reading

Dealing with empathy

Humans occur along vast ranges of characteristics and one of those ranges is the scale that has empaths and extreme altruists on one end and probably psychopaths on the other. They all have their pluses and minuses. Nothing is bad or good. Everything is both. There is good in bad and bad in good. Good and bad can’t even exist independently. They are expressed relative to each other, after all.

Do you know where on this spectrum you are? Continue reading

Sadistic stalking

In my book “We need to talk about this”, I mention sadistic stalking, that is, I point out how difficult it is to tell that the target of such activities is not imagining things, is not mentally ill.

I give the example of the woman who was stalked for a long time and eventually found the excavated remains of her deceased husband dumped on her doorstep. She had a heart attack. In my book, I take you through a few scenarios that put you in such a woman’s shoes to show you various sides of what are in fact “mental health” prejudices. Continue reading

Time for a rethink?

There is no such thing as a dumb animal. Okay, with the possible exception of that one bee who currently keeps flying into my kitchen, again and again and again. But he always finds his way out again. Hm. Then maybe even this bee isn’t really that dumb… I haven’t figured out yet what smell on my windowsill could be attracting him. Or her.

Individual chapters of “We need to talk about this” available as e-book soon

I’ve decided to make individual chapters of my book available too, some at no charge, as it occurred to me that some people may only want to read the chapter on euthanasia, for example.

(That’s Chapter 8. I discuss the Groningen Protocol, and mention the Charlie Gard case as well as the Ashya King case.)

I think that when you purchase an e-book, being able to purchase an individual chapter only is a really handy option to have. It doesn’t work the same way for the paperback version.  

The separate chapters should be accessible soon through various major online retailers soon.

A tale of inequalities (and colonialism?)

The Elephanta Suite, by Paul Theroux. The clickable image on the right and the above link take you to the Kindle version and to used print versions as cheap as 0.01 on Amazon.

It includes, among other things, a tale of inequalities (and colonialism).

Hardback This link and the clickable image on the left take you to the hardcover version.

Update on the Brexpat case

See this post

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Public transport accessibility

Once you start thinking about how many of the impairments of physically non-mainstream people are created by society, you notice it increasingly frequently.

 

Why, for instance, isn’t it much easier to roll onto a train than it currently is in most cases?

(For blind, deaf, and deaf-blind people, more could be done as well, but that kind of research, into wearable technology that connects with the already present station networks, is underway.)

About a week ago, someone tweeted about a very positive experience with Eurostar. Others reported similar experiences. But it still involves complicated activities that simply shouldn’t be necessary.

In my home country, it’s no better. If you’re in a wheelchair, you can get the required assistance that enables you to travel by train, but I think that you actually have to book it in advance. So, while the rest of us simply hop on the train to the next town if we suddenly feel like attending a theatre performance or concert of any kind, anyone who uses a wheelchair is probably forced to jump through multiple hoops first and then realizes he or she won’t be able to get to the event in time.

(At this point, I am not aware of any transport-related research in my home country that focuses on accessibility, but I have not concluded my little investigation yet and still need to make some phone calls as well.)

Why don’t trains come with automatically extending ramps that lower onto the platform?

In the rare cases that the platform is higher than the train floor, they should not extend, of course, but that can be accomplished either sensor-based or programmed.

Someone on Twitter (Sven Slootweg: thanks!) helpfully made a drawing for me:

Well, here is one possible answer as to why no innovation is taking place, for the case of Britain:

https://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-focus-why-your-boxfresh-train-is-being-replaced-by-a-brand-new-model-a3766501.html

I also ran into some other news, though, and sent the message below to the Spanish manufacturer of those new trains. I am looking forward to hearing back from them.

Hello,

I saw that you are constructing new trains for Britain (here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42937218).

As you probably know, 10 to 20% of any population is considered “disabled” but many physical impairments are actually caused by hindrances created by society.

By 2050, there are expected to be nearly one billion urban dwellers who are “disabled”. How are you taking them into account in your new designs? Do your trains have automatic extending hinging ramps that lower onto the platform so that anyone in a wheelchair can easily roll on and roll off and make use of public transport just as easily as anybody else?

I am neither disabled nor looking after someone who is disabled. I am merely becoming increasingly aware of how biased society is toward mainstream people.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Angelina Souren

There is no way that they can ignore such a large proportion of the human population, and I can imagine that increasing accessibility, also for parents with small children, would also improve punctuality.

As someone else commented or hinted at (a blog post for which I currently don’t have the link at hand), such automatic ramps would likely also be very handy for freight trains.

For more on the topic, see for instance this article in The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/14/what-disability-accessible-city-look-like

The challenges of publishing a book

Well, of course, after I thought I had weeded out all the typos, added a reference that I was sure I had already added, and tweaked the new cover for the print version sufficiently, I still found a missing space, and one or two missing words in the proof. That’s how it goes! Continue reading

UK police liability becoming a real thing

The Supreme Court, in Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2018] UKSC 4, has declared that if “a third party such as a pedestrian is injured as a result of a negligent arrest on the street by a police officer, the police are liable in negligence where that injury was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the police’s actions.”

Read more, here:
http://www.ukpolicelawblog.com/index.php/9-blog/163-an-assault-on-hill-police-liability-in-negligence-narrowed

It’s always annoyed me immensely that British police could almost never be held accountable for anything they did. It’s a recipe for carelessness, almost literally, when duty of care does not apply.

So I am pleased to see that a little bit more liability is finally appearing.

(I used to have an interesting in policing and the law a few years ago but local police officers weren’t very fond of that, I was made to understand, and I decided to drop it.)

No wonder Rees Mogg wants Brexit

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See also this post: https://angelinasouren.com/2018/01/31/the-illegality-of-british-government-actions/

Update for Brits abroad (within the EU)

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See this earlier post (and various newspapers in the UK and the Netherlands):
https://angelinasouren.com/2018/01/17/british-and-residing-in-the-rest-of-the-eu/

James O’Shaughnessy has done it again

Who he is, you ask? UK Government Health Minister.

Last year in October, he said, as reported by the Evening Standard, that the “British taxpayer” funds the NHS, which suggests that foreigners in the UK do not pay taxes. That could have been plain sloppy. Unfortunately, the Standard did not correct him. Continue reading

We need to reconsider our view of other species, urgently.

Read this story: https://www.thedodo.com/on-the-farm/starving-pig-shared-food-with-his-friends

Two pigs were rescued, one had piglets and was well and the other one was very thin. Rescuers were puzzled. Turned out that the latter had been giving most of the food he had to the other pig. To help the other pig survive.

We need to reconsider our views regarding other species, urgently.

Personally, I have seen small parrots stand up for cats.

How on earth did we “developed” humans manage to think for so long that other species have no cognitive abilities? No capacity for emotions? Mind-boggling. The more developed we become, the less wisdom we humans seem to have?

Traditional scientists have to stop being so damn pig-headed about this. To see the obvious does not make you stupid, silly or dimwitted.

Sad

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Landlords no longer rent homes to EU citizens and EU citizens can no longer easily find work either. Many are being forced underground, into being exploited. And foreigners are no longer very welcome at foodbanks either.

And this remains, too.

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There is no way in hell I’ll visit a British hospital while this stays in place. That’s essentially the only protest available to me.

I am seriously worried about all these hostile measures. It all seems too much like those days when people became required to wear a star on their sleeves and that’s creepy.

But there is this, too – plenty of Brits do protest against what the Conservative government is doing – and like the previous time when tens of thousands of people marched in London. the German news (Tagesschau) reports on it, but the BBC does not. The previous time, they marched past the BBC’s offices… Probably today as well.

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And once again, the UK government has gone back on two promises it recently made to EU citizens in the UK. It keeps doing that, and as a result, it is impossible to know whether the UK government considers you to be here “legally” or “illegally”, and as a foreigner, anyone can get arrested and placed in detention indefinitely. Indefinitely!

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Citizens’ rights and reality

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The illegality of British government actions

A pattern is starting to emerge. The British government does not display a lot of respect for the law.

At least one judge has commented that the government is wasting the tax payers’ money as well as judicial capacity.

The pattern shows unequivocally that the British government goes after the most vulnerable in British society and seeks to protect the wealthiest in society.

Apparently, the Lord Chancellor has the task of ensuring the government’s compliance with the rule of law. As of the beginning of this year, that is David Gauke, appointed by HM the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister recommends who gets to monitor the legality of her own government’s actions? Hmm.

His predecessors were Chris Grayling (2012-2015), Michael Gove (2015-2016), Elizabeth Truss (2016-2017) and David Lidington (2017-2018). All Conservatives.

Liberty

I just ran into the case of KW, a 52-year-old woman who suffered a brain haemorrhage during an operation at age 34. A complicated matter. Am still reading and mulling it all.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/45.html

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/1054.html

http://www.mentalcapacitylawandpolicy.org.uk/js-mill-strikes-back-mostyn-j-takes-on-the-supreme-court/

http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2015/10/22/when-a-judge-disagrees-with-precedent/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/high-court-judge-removed-from-second-case-this-year-over-his-passionate-view-of-the-law-a6705001.html

Filthy EU migrants contributed over 20 billion pounds to Britain in past decade

UCL study finds EU migrants to Britain contribute big time in taxes:
https://www.ft.com/content/c49043a8-6447-11e4-b219-00144feabdc0?segmentid=acee4131-99c2-09d3-a635-873e61754ec6

The idea that EU migrants would come to Britain for benefits is utterly preposterous. Sorry, I can’t make this any prettier than it already is! Yay!

I’ll leave it at that and will resume my bioethics focus in my posts (am currently tackling the matter of wrongful life cases, which needed more depth in my book, and then I’ll be largely done).

I think it is impossible anyway to convince people who firmly believe that migrants are all “filthy thieves” of the fact that we’re not. It’s not about the truth, it is about what they need to believe for themselves to keep their world whole, somehow. It probably has to do with the inequality that  the British government imposes on them.

But guess what, we contribute a lot more than mere money, too. We are all from nations with much greater equality than Britain, for example. (Yes, all other 27 nations in the EU have greater equality.) Our insights and experiences help make Britain a better place for everyone.