Women’s Revolution

Image

Last week I read a harrowing tale from a brave British journalist that had travelled to Egypt to report on the state of affairs over there. She was aiming to report on the social problems relating to female human rights and was in Cairo when she got attacked by a group of men and was publicly abused. I would strongly encourage everybody to read her account here: http://natashajsmith.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/please-god-please-make-it-stop/

But aside from a deep feeling of sorrow for this girl, I found myself completely angered by the injustice she had to suffer just because she was female. And what’s worse, this behaviour is considered somewhat of a norm in Egypt.  Women in Egypt have to continually suffer this gross invasion of personal space and complete dismissal of their human rights, when men decide to grope and leer whenever a female walks by.

Britain are by no means perfect when it comes to equality; with more men still representing the country in government than women and the wage gap between men and women still worryingly high, we still have a long way to go. But our health and our safety, our privacy and security, are all a given and we rarely have to worry about those rights being encroached upon. It’s appalling then, that while we are worrying about our economic and professional prosperity as women, that just 2000 miles away women are actually living in fear every day.

In April 2012, the National Council for Women (NCW) in Egypt had to protest against potential sex laws that would massively impinge upon women’s basic human rights. The two laws, one which would lower the age for marriage and another which would allow a husband to have sex with his dead wife for up to 6 hours after death, caused outrage in Egypt when parliament announced their plans.

These laws would undo all the hard work that women in Egypt have been fighting for up until now. And this is what really grates. Women’s voices are still not being heard.

In the early part of the 19th Century women in the UK joined their American sisters into battle; the battle for the vote. The Suffragists and Suffragettes used a variety of different means and methods to get their voices heard, to relay the message that women deserved a say in the way the country operated.  It took a lot of time and determination but they saw success when the vote was granted in 1918(UK) and 1920(US). Obviously, this was only the start of women’s fight for equality but women had proven their ability to force changes and shape the way men thought of them. And nearly 100 years on, it seems that these battles are still taking place in other parts of the world.

And in realising this, I have an overwhelming sense of knowing that had I been born in that era, I would have fought on the picket lines and happily participated in hunger strikes for women’s freedom and equality. And yet I feel completely helpless in this modern day revolution of women’s rights that is taking place in Egypt.  A war of words from the west will do very little to convince the misogynistic Islamist-dominated parliament in Egypt that they need to make some serious changes, and fast.

The Bucket List


Image

With university coming to an end and the horrendously sudden realisation that it’s time to grow up and actually start acting like an adult, I find myself daunted by all the things I want, but have never had the time or opportunity, to do. Having been financially crippled by the last three years, I am now looking forward to having the monetary capability, as well as the time, to fulfill some of those lifelong ambitions.

When I first sat down to write what has only ever previously been a romantic unspoken notion, I found that writing my bucket list was harder than I had anticipated. How extravagant does an ambition have to be to make it onto the bucket list? How achievable do the activities have to be? I settled on 30 things that I can, and will, accomplish by the time I kick it. Some are more outrageous than others, and obviously some are going to take far longer than others to achieve. But looking forward into unknown territory, I find myself comforted by the notion that I can, and will, always be working towards an end. It may not be career driven, romantically charged, but it’s enough to keep me in a perpetual state of progression.

Whilst I appreciate that many say that university is the time of your life, I resent the idea that everything is downhill from here; I am far too young to believe that is true, and far to naïve to think that there aren’t more adventures to be had. So as I sit here, contemplating the huge empty hole I have to fill with career expectations and a stable living environment, I realise that it’s just as important to keep learning. Unearth new things about yourself, your friends, acquire new skills and make new memories. For, it’s these things that we will inevitably look back on with the fondest of hearts, and these achievements that will ultimately define us as a person.

And what’s more, when were feeling low or unfulfilled, this list should act as a catalyst to make you strive for all the greatness you are yet to witness in yourself, and will remind you of all the possibilities open to you if you are willing to seize the opportunities. This personalised list of objectives will become your mission, should you choose to accept it, and has the power to bring about some amazing results.

So, if you have an hour to spare, I encourage you all to collate a bucket list of all the things you aim to achieve in life. These goals can change, can increase, can even snowball into bigger dreams but for now just look deep into your heart and your imagination and see what you most desire.

The next time you find yourself swamped at work, and feeling like you are constantly working just to keep afloat, drowning in the mundanity of everyday life, you can look at that list and know that you still have a lot to be excited about. You may even feel motivated to try and tick one off. Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said that ‘Life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better’. At this point then, I find myself wanting to make the most of life; for what point is there in it, if it’s not to be enjoyed.  

My Top 10

  1. See a Wonder of the Natural World
  2. Travel America
  3. Learn to play the guitar
  4. Cycle from the Andes to the Amazon
  5. Meet a REAL celebrity hero
  6. Complete a triathalon
  7. Read my way through Waterstones top 100
  8. Learn German
  9. Get published
  10. Travel in a hot air balloon

Multi-tasking is magicians’ work

University life is non-stop. In between lectures and seminars, essays and exams, we still need to find time to train for sports teams, attend societies, partake in a part-time job, make an appearance at Crisis/Ocean/Market Bar. There seems to be a never ending list of to-do’s that will literally take up every hour of your day. Never has there been a time in my life where I have been so chaotic in trying to control everything that is going on around me and no matter how hard I try, I always feel like I’m two steps behind. How are we supposed to manage such a mountain of tasks and maintain our sanity?

There is a significant difference in my current approach to that which I adopted in first year. Last year, lectures and the library were the first to go if I was feeling hectic, and sleep was my main priority. And whilst this was brilliant and kept me quietly content for those wonderful 8 months, it would appear that such laziness will not help me make it through this second year. You’d think by this point in the term, I may have discovered some miracle cure for the diminishing hours in any given day, and somehow found a way of staying home and doing work whilst simultaneously going out and socialising with friends, but alas I have had no such luck.

It could definitely be a personality thing. Some people thrive in having busy schedules, getting off on filling their Blackberry calender with events, and by some miracle manage to do it all. I am not fortunate to be graced with such super powers, and am far too easily tempted away from those monotonous tasks that stay on your to-do list for far too long. And as far as multi-tasking goes, I can just about manage to check Facebook, text my friends and watch television at the same time- if only this could translate to writing essays, whilst reading and sitting in a lecture.

University certainly brings out your organised side, or it at least it should. Multi-tasking is not only advised, but is essentially necessary just to get through that mountain of activities/work/socialising. The university offers workshops in career choices, how to perfect your CV and various other activities- but they definitely need to start one in multi-tasking so we at least have a chance at making it through university in one piece!

The Evolution of Man

 

Evolution of manDespite Darwinian claims that man has evolved from primitive beings to highly sophisticated and intellectual creature, I continue to struggle to see the truth in this claim. Either the men that don our wonderful university have somehow missed this final step in the evolution process, or Darwin is telling porkys!

I have recently had the pleasure of moving in with some lovely lads who instantly made me realise that men are still as primordial as ever. And whilst I have taken pleasure in watching them acclimatise to the reality of cooking, cleaning and attempting to get out of bed prior to the Loose Women gracing the TV, I now feel this overwhelming duty to warn those who are yet to witness the primal effort at existing that comes with living with guys.

Firstly, it became immediately obvious to me that cooking is not something that comes naturally or even unnaturally to boys. Some will refuse to make anything other than a bacon sandwich, others will simply live off cereal and the majority will never progress beyond the one dish they managed to master in the first week. Boys will inevitably struggle with any menial cooking task you ask them; be it stirring gravy, defrosting dessert or even cutting an onion. And ask them to run to the shop of red wine vinegar and you should expect them to spend 10 minutes looking around the alcohol section of Sainsbury’s before returning home empty handed. Watching a typical lad grapple with the kitchen is distinctively similar to watching a dog learning to swim; they will either refuse to go in, sink or just swim really badly.

You must also be aware that despite rumours that men are more entrepreneurial than ever, most university boys will not surface before midday. If men aren’t in bed, then they can generally be found on the sofa/in the gym/at the pub. And should a guy be up at the godforsaken time of ten thirty then they will generally expect some sort of fanfare or sympathy. In all fairness, though, it’s far better if the lads spend much of their time asleep, it saves you from having to watch them complete 10 million objectives on Halo.

Obviously, with such a hectic timetable, you also have to appreciate the boys find very little time for chores. One male friend once told me that ‘you don’t have to clean the shower because the water cleans it every time someone uses it…’ so I wouldn’t have high expectations of cleanliness when cohabiting with the opposite sex. Skid marks in toilets are generally compulsory and often accompanied by lovely brown toilet water, and you can almost always depend on dirty dishes lining the kitchen tops.

So considering we’re living in a generation of meterosexuals, young business enthusiasts and aspiring graduates, it’s fairly hilarious to see that when it comes to men and domesticity, things really haven’t changed in the last millennium or two. Men are just as primitive as they have ever been. The evolution of man is clearly just a myth aimed to trick us women into living with the beasts.

Experience over Education

Having just finished my first year of your University, it struck me that I have just 2 years left of avoiding the inevitable 40 hour working week which awaits me when I join the real world. This prospect is both welcome and horrifying simultaneously. Whilst I cannot wait to pursue all these dreams and ambitions I possess, the realisation of the difficulty of achieving these aspirations weighs heavily upon my shoulders. I am living in a world where a great education from a prestigious university and an abundance of enthusiasm just isn’t enough.

Gone are the days where you could walk out of university and into a high profile corporation. Plain love for what you do seems to count for nought. Now, to even get your foot in the door you need to have a wealth of experience in whatever field you choose to pursue. You need to have relevant experience for any job you now apply for, despite having been in education for the first 21 years of your life. Realistically how much experience can one person have in their chosen career by 21? Surely the entire point of undertaking an undergraduate degree programme is to progress towards your career goals? When did a degree become a mere credential rather than a track to success?

I love studying and am thoroughly enjoying my time at university, yet my experience seems tinted by this sinking feeling that it will all lead to nothing. Soon I shall just join the other 50,000+ graduates that struggle to find employment every year. One Times shows that 22% of graduates are stuck in non-graduate jobs for up to 5 years after university. The realisation being then, that thousands of people are racking up £30,000 debt just to find the same job they could have prior to university. Remind me again why the numbers of applicants to university is rising every year? Maybe an old school attempt at working your way up through a corporation shouldn’t be so swiftly written off.

Today it seems that a degree will only progress you towards a career as an academic, all those other jobs you have dreamed of since you were 10 have one hundred other hoops to jump through, lions to tame and mazes to negotiate before you can even attempt to convince the big boss that your worthy of their time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate that employers would prefer there potential new employees to have some experience, but what is an acceptable level of experience to expect? Having spent the last month trying to secure work experience, I am well aware of just how difficult it is to get even unpaid work in some industries. And here we arrive at the junction where you cannot get any interview without experience, yet will continue to lack experience until someone takes pity on you and, lack of experience aside, gives you a shot.

So I stare down the barrel to a life of being work bound, paying a mortgage, and being unable to avoid taxes, I realise that I have a mountain to climb if I am actually going to end up in a job I will love. Does that put me off though? Not just yet.

Fancy a real conversation?

We are the Facebook generation. A generation, who feel the need to publish all of their day to day activities on the internet, for hundreds of friends online to read. It is this generation then, that have swapped real life conversations for Skype and MSN that have given up on proper relationships. People seem more content to converse over social networking sights then grabbing a coffee with a friend and having genuine interaction.

How did it get this far? There are obvious advantages to these social networking sites, and I too have fallen victim to its addictive nature but it’s time that we stepped away from our computers and actually engaged with our friends, family or colleagues. Finding out that a best friend got a dream job would be far more exciting if I was told in person; not so much when it’s scattered among the rest of the ten thousand status updates that litter my news feed!

And that’s another thing, I wouldn’t expect my neighbours cousins brothers nephews friends fiancé to tell me how she ‘will never feel the same way again’ in person so why, oh why, do I need to see it on Facebook? Why people seem to feel the need to a) update their status every time they undertake even the most meaningless tasks and b) broadcast break ups, make ups and sexual encounters to an entire network of people, is completely beyond me. Social networking sites seem to have become a hub of gossip and rumours, where even the smallest of comments can be blown completely out of proportion. We have become a generation who need to know everything about everyone.

So, as radical as this may be, I would like to propose that we stop living our life through the internet and actually get out and engage in some real conversations. Let’s publicise actual human interaction; let’s just enjoy each others company.

Here’s to turning Twenteen

Peter Pan said to Wendy “Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown up things.” As I turned 20 it dawned on me that at some point, in the not so distant future, I would have to start worrying about grown up things. My friends, and I use the term loosely, seemed to revel in my misery as I realised I was getting old. It’s a fairly daunting prospect and one that I would do anything to avoid. Peter, won’t you take me to Neverland?

I am not ready to grow up and quite frankly I don’t know who can make me. I still own a teddy bear, I quite clearly indulge in Disney and I still find flatulence fairly amusing. Just because I am no longer a teenager doesn’t mean I can’t be careless and irresponsible surely? I must have a few years of pranks and pettiness left in me. I begrudge being told that I am old, or that it’s time to start acting like an adult. While I am well aware that I now have responsibilities, I am not too keen on taking life all too seriously. I vow, then, to enjoy being Twenteen.

Twenteen is this marvellous age where I can enjoy all of the benefits of living on my own, spending my money how I want to and staying out as late as I want without feeling like I need to justify my decisions to anybody. Twenteen is that wonderful empowerment of knowing that you are in control of your own future and it can be whatever you want it to be. Twenteen is being able to put cling film on the toilet seat so that your housemate pisses all over the floor- now it’s your house so who is going to tell you you’re being immature or silly? (Except your housemate, should s/he be a) boring or b) grown up.)

Getting older is, unfortunately, inevitable. And whilst I am not quite ready to let go of my teens and embrace my twenties, I intend to have a lot of fun finding that somewhere in between.

How smart are ‘smart drugs’?

Smart drugs

According to reports released recently, UK universities are likely to see an increase in the use of ‘smart drugs’ by students to increase their cognitive function and enhance academic performance. Whilst most of the drug use in the UK is currently anecdotal, 1 in 4 students in America are thought to be using these ‘smart drugs’ in order to boost exam performance, and many academics genuinely believe this will filter through to our Universities.

‘Smart drugs’ are ordinarily used to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One report has claimed that there are 27 major agents currently available in the UK that can be taken to boost brain power; including 10 dietary supplements. But, it’s drugs such as Ritalin and Modafinil that are apparently the most popular for students trying to improve their academic Performance. Modafinil, which is normally used to treat Narcolepsy, is said to have incredibly stimulating effects. In small doses, it can improve your memory and increase your focus; great for those last minute cramming sessions before exams. The drug is also said to prevent you falling asleep. Scientist believe Modafinil could keep its user up for 48 hours, and amazingly suggest that users won’t even have sleep ‘debt’ so one 8 hour sleep session will make up for no sleep the previous night!

In a study at Cambridge, researchers found that a single dose of the drug helped male university students remember long chains of digits, complete puzzles and perform in mental planning tests. Modafinil has also been tested by US and British forces to allow soldiers to complete operations throughout the night. Therefore, ‘smart drugs’ clearly offer it’s users an advantage, and it’s obvious why academics fear that more students will seek the benefit come stressful exam times.

However, it has been stressed that there are some serious side-effects that come with abuse of these kinds of drugs. Insomnia, anxiety, and heart problems as well psychotic episodes have all been associated with the intake of these substances. Dr Ken Checinski, a specialist in addictive behaviour at St George’s, University of London, has been confronted with some of the more extreme realities of taking these performance enhancing drugs. He says “they [the user] might have a mood disorder not quite as bad as the crash from coming off cocaine but a near crash. They might feel suicidal.” He warns that the drugs are advertised as making people smarter and braver, but the reality is often quite opposite.

Impact spoke to one student at The University of Nottingham, who had taken these ‘smart drugs’ before to find out if they really do work. Joe Bloggs, whose name has been changed for obvious reasons, told Impact “The ones I took is Adderall, I only took it once and it worked pretty well.” The drug in question, Adderall, is an amphetamine which is usually used to treat Narcolepsy and ADHD. Taken in appropriate doses, the drug is said to increase energy and awareness whilst heightening concentration levels. It is also said to give users a compulsion to complete tasks. On urbandictionary.com, one user has even put Adderall: The only way to finish homework. Joe explained that “I just felt like I could concentrate a lot and wanted to get stuff done. I ended up doing a 10 page essay, loads of e-mails and then tidied my room.” So, it would seem that reports on these types of drugs are fairly accurate, and with more and more students filtering to and from the US, where these drugs are fairly common, it’s hardly surprising more and more UK students are starting to discover the benefits. When asked if Joe would use these drugs again he replied “I would use it again, especially if I could get hold of it in Nottingham.”

These ‘smart drugs’ are currently only legally available in the UK by prescription, and most GPs will not prescribe these drugs to anybody who doesn’t have one of the conditions the pills are designed for. However, with the few clicks of a computer mouse, you can find a whole host of drugs available for purchase online, which means that every student, worryingly, has easy access to them. It goes without saying though, that you don’t always get what you pay for on the net, and when it comes to something as serious as drugs, people need to be careful. With drugs easily available then, and the supposed effects speaking for themselves, some Academic’s worries that these drugs will soon, if they haven’t already, infiltrate the UK University system are quite relevant.

The use of drugs to enhance academic performance has started quite the debate. The advantages of taking these ‘smart drugs’ are apparent, and with side effects only showing in extreme cases of overuse, more students will undoubtedly be tempted by these pills to give them an edge over their peers come examination period. But, is the taking of these drugs classed as cheating? Will it be giving some students an unfair advantage? Experts in the UK are divided on the issue. Some believe that the health and social dangers of the use of these drugs are too great to allow students to take them freely whilst others feel that, with the right supervision, these drugs could be a legitimate way to boost performance.

Amongst those that are in favour of the use of these performance enhancing drugs is John Harris, Professor of Bioethics at Manchester University, who has openly said “My position on enhancement generally and on ‘smart drugs’ in particular is that enhancement is definitely a good thing. If they do improve function in a way that is safe enough I think people should make their own choices about whether to access them.” Harris, therefore argues that it should be left up to each student as to whether they decide to use the drugs or not, but clearly feels that enhancement is only a good thing.

It would of course, also, be very difficult to stop students using the drug if it is so easily available. Vince Cakic of Sydney University, whose work has been published in the Journal of Medical Ethics explains that “any attempt to prohibit the use of [smart drugs] will probably be difficult or inordinately expensive to police effectively.” So, one would be forgiven for thinking that some academics have already given up on the idea of trying to patrol the usage of these stimulants.

There are of course some academics that are still concerned with the welfare of the students that may be tempted by the quick fix these drugs seem to advertise. Dr Paul Howard Jones, senior lecture at Bristol University says “These drugs will multiply in number, range and power. I can see there are potential huge benefits but they challenge many of the values we have in education and society.” And that is a crucial area that needs to be discussed by those in charge, when it comes to deciding the fate of these ‘smart drugs’ as they do promote some cheating aspect as well as encouraging people use supplements in order to improve, rather than merely working hard to achieve their goals.

Dr Paul Howard Jones conducted a survey among teachers where he found that many thought these drugs would increase the education poverty gap, as those who could afford the drugs would be given an unfair advantage. It was also discovered that most teachers would demand drug testing if they became prevalent, and that they wouldn’t grade students who were taking the drugs as highly as those that were taking the exam sober. Obviously, this is a hot topic with a lot of social, political and health implications and it is hardly surprising that the teaching profession are worried about the repercussions if ‘smart drugs’ make a nationwide appearance.

It seems then, that these drugs may offer desirable effects, and that will interest an alarmingly large amount of students. With more and more students finding ways to access these stimulants, no doubt they will be making more of appearance across the country come exam period in May. And with the professionals arguing among themselves, it is difficult to predict what the future hold for these drugs. The monitoring or prevention of the use of these drugs is always going to prove difficult, and short of making each student give a urine sample before they enter the exam room, the University can’t do much to prevent students trialling these ‘smart drugs.’

Sex before small talk

It’s somewhat odd, I find, that not only are we now a generation where sex is the norm, but we’re a generation where sex is expected. We students are quite happy bed hopping our way through University, networking our way through the bed sheets, without any real care for love or romance. Between the hours of 2 and 3 am on a Saturday morning, as Ocean draws to an end, you inevitably see the pairing off of the remaining singletons on the dance floor, seeking out their mate, their bed warmer for the night. But when exactly did sex become oh so casual? When did sex become something as common place as conversation?

No doubt I sound some what prudish, out of date, but when did people give up on finding something deep and meaningful in sex? It seems to me that this idea of casual sex is not only worrying, given the rapid rise in people contracting sexually transmitted diseases, but is somewhat upsetting- I didn’t realise that romance was realistically dead. The old school taunts of being ‘frigid’ make me hesitant in portraying what many may be perceived as a naïve point of view, but I genuinely don’t understand what people have to gain from being able to contest how many people they’ve slept with, how many notches they’ve got on their bedpost.

And what’s even more depressing, is the fact that this craze is no longer purely an attribute of laddish behaviour but is now just as relevant to the female race. Girls are just as likely to cop off with a guy, whose name is irrelevant, just an hour after meeting him in Cr-isis. In the words of my mother, how do you ever expect a guy to respect you, if you don’t respect yourself? The irony of it all though, is that the same girls then spend their days moaning about how guys never take girls on dates anymore- that some traditional notion of gentlemanliness has somehow been lost. But realistically, what guy is going to spend money taking a girl out if he’s already seen and enjoyed the goods?

Now, don’t get me wrong, this by no means an anti-sex campaign… far from it. But I guess I just reminisce about the time where we talked about sex using sport metaphors; when 4th base was a big deal.

Gordon Brown has sent you a friend request

 

FacebookImagine that? You log on to Facebook for a harmless gander at what your friends are up to, because you definitely haven’t checked for at least 10 minutes, and there in blue and white is a friend request from Gordon Brown…

Okay, so that will probably never happen. Unless of course you just so happen to have an unfortunate friend who shares the same name. But there is talk of more Government involvement in our online dealings, which could mean that they would know what we are all up to on our beloved social networking sites. I wonder if I could be pulled up on stalking charges for following Brad Pitt’s tweets all too closely.

In a proposal last year, The Home Office requested to have access to people’s social networking information (both the information they post and any movements they make within the site) as part of an Intercept Modernisation Programme, which also included monitoring people’s telephone calls and e-mails. With approximately 17 million British people using Facebook, and a further 10 million people choosing Bebo, the government would have copious amounts of information on us mere mortals.

In a recent survey conducted by the BBC, the public were asked whether they felt the government should be monitoring our internet usage. 55% of people in the UK believed that there was a case for some government regulation. So it seems that half the population feel that there may be some positives in having the government monitoring our internet, and with the continual rise in internet related crime, it’s hardly surprising people feel that something needs to be done.

The Government are looking to introduce the Digital Economy Bill which would see the Government implement a ‘three strikes’ rule for users on the internet. This would obviously mean more monitoring on internet usage and would definitely crack down on crimes like illegal file sharing, and will also monitor the amount of explicit content that can be found on the net. Somewhat more importantly, it will surely make the internet safer for the rest of us- with previous offenders not being able to use chat rooms and networking sites to find new targets. So perhaps it’s not too bad an idea having Alan Johnson trawling the internet to see who has ‘poked’ who…

Furthermore, the Digital Economy Bill would see the whole of the UK decked out with Broadband by 2012, meaning that everybody would have access to the internet. This comes as the BBC poll concluded that 79% of people believed that access to the internet is fundamental human right. The United Nations are looking to get proper legislation to protect internet access as a human right implemented on a global scale.

We are a generation who have become somewhat dependant on the internet, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The internet has made information more accessible on a larger scale and has meant that communication is quicker than ever. We shop on the internet, whether it’s for clothing or even food shopping. We e-mail everybody; be it tutors, prospective employers or family. We even use it for our academic study- what would we do without Wikipedia or Spark notes? If our access to the internet was ever revoked we would feel like we had been catapulted back to the dark ages, and I for one, would feel a little bit lost. I already find myself getting angered when I find myself in some obscure location without a wi-fi connection, as if some divine being is trying to taunt me.

So it would seem the implications of legislation deeming internet access as a human right are quite impressive, it would mean that everybody’s online access is protected. It boils down then to this. Perhaps, just maybe, the Government have got something right here. We may moan that Brown, or his successor, could see that we have visited the cute guy from our seminars page a stalkerish amount of times but realistically, if we have done nothing wrong, then we should have nothing to fear. And quite frankly, if it means the internet being a safer place to surf then I might just have to accept that friend request.