Amazing Science Jewellery

I only ever advertise something if I love it. Consider me Oprah and I’m doing ‘My Favourite Things’. 

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Aroha Silhouettes (http://arohasilhouettes.com/oxytocin-necklace.html) is a fantastic online store which sells handmade jewellery. However, this jewellery is extra special, as it’s modelled on molecules such as dopamine, seretonin, coacaine, and my favourite (and the necklace I just purchased and linked to) oxytocin.

Tania makes the jewellery, and I had a bit of trouble with postage concerns and she answered my email right away and cleared it all up for me. She couldn’t be more helpful.

So I’m telling you to buy this jewellery. And guys, I know you might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you, but I can promise you, if you have a nerdy science loving girlfriend, one of these necklaces or earring sets will put you in the good books FOREVER.

Do it.

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The atheist arse kissing is getting embarrassing

Arse kissing is not a recent phenomenon. It has probably been used since the dinosaurs (how else would a T-Rex convince anyone to help scratch himself? With those teeeeeny little arms) roamed the earth and I don’t see it disappearing any time soon. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t annoy me.

Recently on Twitter (I’m @fearblandness, hey, this is my blog, I can shamelessly promote myself) I’ve noticed an uprising in brown nosing kiss arse atheists and it’s making me vomit in my mouth a little bit. The Follow Friday posts are the worst. A particular online group of atheists constantly message each other like 13 year old girls seeing external validation.

‘#FF Follow this gorgeous atheist @insertnamehere, she’s so inspirational!’

Which is then followed by ‘Aww thanks! No YOU’RE the best!’ and so on and so forth. You’ve seen it happen on Facebook, and now I see it happening on Twitter.

You might think I’m being a jealous grumpy pants because I’m not part of their little club. I can assure you this isn’t the case. I’m only concerned that it’s making atheists on Twitter look clique-y and immature. You could accuse me of being the latter as I tweet about bodily functions a lot, but I never claim to represent a group.

Basically I’m trying to say that if you’re on Twitter and your name is ‘Atheist Avenger’ or something else equally ridiculous, keep your arse kissing to Facebook, where it belongs.

P.S. I totes want to thank Richard Dawkins for being such a strong and inspirational atheist. I ❤ him lololol!

Ironically, my favourite characters in HBO’s ‘Girls’ were the men

I’d heard a lot about HBO’s ‘Girls’, so I decided to give it a crack. From what people had been raving about, I expected it to be a funny, warm yet realistic representation of life for early 20-something women trying to make their way in the world. I thought ‘Hey, I’m a 21 year old woman I should be able to relate to these women and their stories’. I was bitterly disappointed and a bit frustrated that I’d been promised this great show and was instead stuck with a series I kept watching just in case it got any better.

The series opens with the main character Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) having dinner with her parents. Her parents then have the AUDACITY to tell her that they’re going to stop funding Hannah’s life, which is what they’ve been doing since she graduated college 2 years ago. Hannah promptly throws a hissy fit (remember, she’s in her early 20’s) and tries to explain to her parents that she’s going to be a fabulous writer and the ‘voice of a generation’. I vomited a little bit in my mouth when she said this. She then goes home to bitch and moan to her equally vapid friends about how she needs a job, yet when it’s suggested she work for McDonald’s, she vehemently declines. She is of the mistaken and arrogant mindspace that beggars can be choosers and that she’s ‘too good’ to work at McDonald’s because she has a writing degree. So even from the start, because I’m not a spoilt brat, I had nothing in common with the main character. Sure, I receive some financial support from my parents, but I also pay rent, actively apply for jobs, am completing an Honours degree, and volunteer in my spare time (I know, I’m fantastic).

We’re then introduced to Hannah’s roommate Marnie who is whinging about her boyfriend loving her too much. Then ‘worldly’ Jessa who looks like she googled ‘How to dress bohemian hipster’. Finally, Shoshanna who is Jessa’s cousin, and a neurotic ditzy Sex & the City fan. Don’t you want to totes be BFFs with these girls?!

I watched the first episode, was put off by all the characters, and couldn’t relate to any of their first world, petty, spoilt problems, but I persevered. Maybe it was just finding its feet and the characters would soon blossom to become normal and likeable? By no means do I expect television characters to be gorgeous, witty, charming and all round fabulous, but I do like to feel some sort of connection, I want to root for them.

I finished season 1 last night. It was a relief to say the least. Why did I keep watching? Ironically, because my favourite characters in Girls, were the men.

We’re introduced to Adam in episode 1 as Hannah’s semi boyfriend/friend with benefits. She antagonises over how many times he’s texted her (something I unfortunately can relate to), whilst he is completely unaware of how much distress he’s causing her. He walks around topless, makes useless things in his workshop and is very sexually expressive. He’s your everyday young man. He displays slight autistic qualities such as saying strange things at inappropriate times, but this just makes him more endearing. He doesn’t try hard to be anyone, he doesn’t care. He’s the complete opposite of Hannah. Throughout the series, Hannah explains to him that he’s not treating her well and blah blah blah, so he changes. They turn into a real couple. He cares for her deeply and eventually tells her he is in love with her. Apparently this is too much for Hannah, who if I remember correctly, WANTED EXACTLY THIS. She spills a boring monologue about how insecure she is and how hard her life is. Yeah, it must be really hard having lovely parents who support you all the way through college then for two years after while you live in a nice apartment in New York working on your ‘writing’. Where do I donate to your charity? Adam calls her out on her spoilt white girl shit and then breaks up with her. I wanted to high five him.

Next likeable guy is Marnie’s boyfriend (then ex) Charlie. His problem was that he loved Marnie too much. Now, where did I put my tiny violin?… After 3 years together, she breaks up with him. Fair enough, some relationships can fizzle out. I can understand that. He is heartbroken and finds solace in another girl’s arms a fortnight after their break up. Marnie finds out and gets all mopey and looks through Facebook photos of him and his new girlfriend. An appropriate response in today’s modern age. If anything, this situation is the one in which most women can relate to. But what annoys me is that Marnie is just boring. There’s no spark to her. She has no ambition. Charlie isn’t the most developed character, but I feel sorry for him. I decided I liked him because unlike the other female characters, I don’t cringe when I watch him.

Finally, my favourite character in Girls; Thomas-John. He is played by the adorable and hilarious Chris O’Dowd and only appears in 2 episodes. However, he gave me the first and only genuine laugh in this supposed comedy series. He is introduced as a dapper businessman sitting at a bar, who hits on Marnie and Jessa and asks them to come back to his place for a bottle of wine. Now for anyone with a third of a brain, this can be decoded as ‘I would like to attempt to sleep with you two’. I assumed the girls knew this, and were okay with it. So they went up to his apartment, he turned out to be a wannabe DJ and while the girls lied on his carpet (what?) he tried to initiate a threesome. Marnie and Jessa act offended and indignant. How dare this man who obviously wanted sex suggest we have sex?! Then, because Marnie wants to be more crazy and loose, she starts to passionately kiss Jessa. Yawn. Thomas-John starts to become annoyed as they are ignoring his advances and goes on a hilarious tirade which includes my favourite line of the series ‘WHO WEARS A BOWLER HAT?!’. He rips them to shreds for being try hard rich daddy’s girls and angrily asks them if they’ve ever worked hard in their lives (Enjoy the rant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWsovTuub8g).

Many might say that Thomas-John is a pig, but I don’t see it that way. It was blaringly obvious that he was interested in sex with Jessa and Marnie. They could have easily said no. But to have led him on, make him believe they liked him, then to laugh in his face, I’d say that’s cruel on their part.

To sum up, don’t watch Girls unless you’re an entitled, arrogant, naïve, spoiled white 20 something year old living in New York. Or watch it if you want to feel better about yourself because you actually strive to achieve in life instead of moping around feeling sorry for yourself.

Your hijab isn’t special

I’m a big fan of equality. I don’t think exceptions of the rule should be made, or tokenism allowed for anyone, regardless of gender, religion, ability or ethnicity. The idea of ‘equality’ usually evokes feelings of power and fairness, but sometimes equality can mean everyone gets treated the same in shitty situations. Sometimes life is unfair, but occasionally, you just have to suck it up. However, some people think they’re above this occasional unfairness. I recently read an article ‘Muslim women face an uphill battle against prejudice to find work’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/10/muslim-women-prejudice-getting-job#start-of-comments) in which Muslim women are sometimes forced to remove their hijabs for work. As I was reading, I experienced all the normal reactions; outrage, sympathy, etc. But then I removed myself from my default emotions regarding discrimination and realised that these women were using their religion to demand special treatment. Now before you yell ‘Muslim hater!’, know that I despise all religions equally. I’m a fair woman, so it wouldn’t matter if this article was about Christian or Hindu or Scientologist (if you can even call them a real ‘religion’) women not being allowed to wear their sacred religious garments.

I personally believe there is no harm in a Muslim woman wearing her hijab to work. However, when you look for and accept work, it usually involves being aware of that particular organisation’s or business’s dress code and expectations of employee’s presentation. I live in the real world. I know that some employers do not like my look. I have facial piercings and visible body tattoos and I’m aware that these are deal-breakers for particular employers. I wouldn’t be offended if I got knocked back to become a waitress for a café that serves high tea, or for a job teaching lady’s etiquette. I understand that by having these body modifications, I am limiting my chances of employment in some areas.

This is where it comes back to equal treatment. In supposedly secular countries, religious people should be treated exactly the same as those who do not identify with any religion. To me, this means that employers should have just as much rights to ask a Muslim to remove her hijab as they do to ask me to remove my nose ring. Both are cosmetic, materialistic items with abstract meanings. A Muslim woman’s hijab may be worn to make her feel more comfortable in herself, but this is the same reason why I had my tattoos done. Once you remove the element of religion, a hijab is simply an accessory. If we are to truly be an equal society, I believe religious garments, beliefs or rules should be up for the same scrutiny as their secular equivalents.

Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. If you desperately need a job, and the only option includes a position in which you need to forgo or supress some of your values or beliefs, then you bloody take that job. I have applied for positions in all sorts of organisations that I don’t agree with, including; counselling at a private Christian school (in which I would have had to incorporate Jesus’s teachings in my advice), case managing for a Lutheran homeless charity, and volunteering for various different churches. This is the real world. People aren’t always going to pander to your personal values.

At the risk of committing the ‘Slippery Slope’ argument fallacy, where would it end? Under the rules of ‘religious freedom’ and free expression, people could argue that wearing giant blood soaked crosses around your neck is a Christian right, or that wearing a tin foil hat so that the aliens can’t read your thoughts is a Scientology necessity. Of course these are ridiculous examples, but religion is in the business of being ridiculous and nonsensical.

Of course there are exceptions to this opinion. Employment discrimination based on race, gender, disability, etc, is unacceptable. Furthermore, I’d have a problem if an employer suddenly changed his or her mind regarding the dress code and enforced rules that weren’t in place at the time of initial employment. But if I was employed and 6 months into the job my boss said ‘Holly, I’m going to have to ask you to cover your tattoos and piercings’, I would weigh up my options. If I desperately needed this job, I would do it. I might grumble a bit and write an angsty entry into my diary, but I’d realise that I need the money, and I’d have to grit my teeth and get over it. If I didn’t desperately need the job, I’d leave and find a new one where my cosmetic differences were accepted.

No accessory should be given precedence over another, regardless of whether it is religious or not. I’m lucky that I live in a free society in which I can leave my house with my piercings and science tattoos, as can Muslim women with their hijabs or burkas, and Christian women with crosses around their neck. Just don’t tell me one is more sacred than the other.

Tell me what you want, what you really really want

Hello minions,

I am officially free from university commitments for about 3 months, which means I’ll have a lot more time to bang out stuff here on my blog. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve for possible topics to discuss, but I also thought I’d give my TENS OF READERS the chance to suggest topics.

If you want me to write about anything specific, you have questions you want answered, or you just want to generally mess with me, leave a comment or Contact Me. Same goes for my videos as well. Want to see me rap, knit or prepare a 5 course meal? I won’t do that.

So get cracking and let me know if you want anything special!

Don’t let women on the front line! They might bleed and stuff!

Before I start my rage induced spillage of opinions, injustices and general hatred of everything ever, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s 2012. Let’s proceed.

The Australian Defence Department released an extensive list of reasons why they’re concerned about letting women on the front line. I thought this would be a good read, and I was open to some serious concerns they may have. However, I was met with ideas and ‘risks’ reminiscent of a relic from the 1950’s. I’d like to go through a few of these seriously stated reasons why women should not be able to join the defence forces and serve on the front line. As aforementioned, please be aware that it’s 2012.

  • ‘May be an increase in sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour within combat units’ – Can anyone say ‘Victim blaming’? My jaw dropped when I saw this was included in a serious list of why women shouldn’t be on the front line. Basically, women should be banned from serving their country, because the men who are already in the defence forces may sexually harass them. I think the concerns here shouldn’t be with whether women should join the forces, but rather what kind of men are being accepted. Does the defence force admit men with sexual harassment tendencies? Why isn’t this major breaking news? Of course this isn’t a rare case of women being blamed for some men’s bad behaviour and ideas. Victim blaming is rife in rape and sexual harassment cases. The woman was wearing a short skirt, the woman was flirting, etc, all seem to be good enough excuses for some men to get away with inappropriate behaviour. It’s worrying to know that the defence force is employing this reasoning as a deterrent for perfectly capable women to join.
  • ‘Physical testing will increase incidents of injury among females’ – Well we are fragile little creatures with brittle bones and no tolerance for pain. Also, women who are applying for the defence forces are in a fantasy world where they think they’ll be serving alongside rabbits and kittens with nothing potentially dangerous. Seriously, that’s like saying ‘going swimming might increase incidents of drowning’. Of course physical testing may result in an injury, but why does that increase if the participant has a vagina? If a woman believes she is fit enough to participate and pass physical testing, who is to tell her no? I felt like they were clutching at straws with this flimsy excuse.
  • ‘Allowing women to join would lead to the perception that the army is lowering its standards’ – Yes because as soon as women are involved in an establishment, it turns to ruins and means only blubbering idiots are allowed to join. This is just a blatant sexist remark. You can’t even make excuses about women’s strength or looks like you could regarding the previous excuses. This is explicitly saying that involving women makes something worse. Imagine if someone dared to makes these claims against potential defence force applicants of different skin colours? There would be an UPROAR. Hey defence force, keep your standards and physical testing and only let women in who meet these standards. We’re not asking for you to treat us differently, we’re asking for you to treat us the same.

I’d like to briefly discuss some other popular reasons why women shouldn’t be on the front line that were (thankfully) not mentioned in this release:

‘What if they get their periods?!’ – Yes, because being on the front line, none of the soldiers will have ever learnt how to deal with blood before. Furthermore, when has having her period ever stopped a woman from any job? Do policewomen take the day off when they menstruate? Does Hilary Clinton cease her duties and have a lie down once a month? I don’t think so.

‘Men will get too distracted’ – Once again, another case of victim blaming. Also, I’m assuming that women will not be parading around in bikinis on the front line.

‘Women are too emotional’ – Firstly, that’s a giant stereotype. Secondly, I highly doubt that those women intent on serving on the front line are necessarily the type of women who cry over a broken nail. Soldiers undergo extensive psychological testing before being put in the field, if she is ‘too emotional’ it will be picked up before she can even pick up a weapon.

So please big bad defence force, don’t give us shit about how there are ‘concerns about letting women on the front line’. They’re sexist, sensationalist, stereotypical and largely inaccurate.

I should have been aborted

Abortion is a difficult issue that ruffles feathers. When disability is an extra variable, it incites all sorts of opinions, ranging from the extreme to the ambivalent. Recently here in Australia, a television program called ‘Insight’ held a forum on ‘Designer Babies’ (the link is available at the end of the post) where prenatal genetic testing was discussed. At first, the idea of choosing a baby’s gender was discussed, with the answers mainly involving sexism, political correctness, and gender ratios. The conversation then progressed to talking about prenatal genetic testing for major disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, etc. My ears pricked up, as I’d previously discussed this issue with my mother, and I was interested to see what the speakers on the programme had to say.

The show had experts in genetics, philosophy and ethics, along with community members who had their stories to tell and opinions to share. The philosophers sat on the fence (no surprises there). The main ethicist Professor Julian Savulescu argued that parents have a ‘moral obligation to create the best humans possible’ and would like to see genetically inherited diseases bred out. The opposing argument came from disability advocate Stella Young, who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta and feels that screening foetuses for genetic disabilities sends the message that the lives of those living with disabilities aren’t worth a lot and are of lesser value.

Both sides presented well structured arguments and good points, but from my personal experience, I couldn’t help but side with Professor Savulescu. It may seem strange that someone with a genetic disability (Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy) would side with the position that essentially thinks I should have been aborted and my condition ‘bred out’, but it’s because I was born with it that I agree.

What I have to preface this argument with is that this is solely my opinion, and in no way do I endorse compulsory termination of foetuses with genetic disorders. I’m 100% pro choice and believe that women have to right to do whatever they choose with their bodies and fertility. I’m simply approaching this with the knowledge of what life is like with a debilitating genetic disorder and the conversations I’ve had with my mother regarding her feelings towards my birth and conception.

With a sound mind and acknowledgement of how depressing and shocking it sounds, I believe I should have been aborted. I was my parent’s first born, and they had no idea that they both carried the Muscular Dystrophy recessive gene (making it so that every child they had would have a 25% chance of having the disorder). They then went on to have 3 more children, unaware of the MD genes or even of my diagnosis. In no way do they regret having me, they love me unconditionally regardless of my disability. However, had they’ve known about prenatal testing, and that they were both MD carriers, I wouldn’t have been born. This may upset or anger people, but I completely agree and support this hypothetical decision.

I believe a lot of people have difficulty separating the person who I am now, with the foetus that I was. Obviously, I was born, am alive and am generally a delight to everyone who’s ever met me* (*citation needed). But a foetus is a collection of cells. Sure, that foetus has the potential to form and grow into an amazing human being, but it’s similar to someone feeling upset over eating seeds because the seeds could have been planted and grown into a beautiful tree. Of course human life is very different and more sacred, but the logic still applies. I don’t believe aborting foetuses with genetic disorders is ‘killing’ a person.

As for my reasoning behind this opinion, it’s quite simple; I would never want a child of mine to go through what I have in my life. Without sugar coating it, my MD is quite terrible. It’s the breaking down of my muscles over time, rendering me gradually incapable of day to day activities and actions. I’m actually wasting away. I’m only 21 and I need help with nearly everything. I have no idea what life will be like in 6 months or 10 years. It’s a painful and depressing waiting game. I live life to the best of my capabilities and I’ve been provided with every opportunity under the sun, but it’s a life that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, let alone a child of mine. Of course having MD has taught me many valuable lessons about life, relationships, self esteem, and ambition, but I don’t feel like these have outweighed the negative aspects that come from MD. You can be as philosophically content as you want, but I find not being able to care for your little sister when she scrapes her knee much more important and heartbreaking.

I’m being honest about this because I feel like disability is often misrepresented as something that’s okay as long as you plaster on a smile. I would rather a potential child of mine not be born, than have to live with the pain, frustration, depression and uncertainty that comes with MD. The foetus has no knowledge of its existence, just as every one of us did before we were born. I do have knowledge of my existence, and while I enjoy my life and am surrounded by joy, family, friends, and opportunity, I wouldn’t put myself through it, if I’d had the choice.

 

My article on atheism in The Age

Thanks to the wonderful Australian Atheist Foundation, my article has been picked up by The Age newspaper. I wrote about how my Muscular Dystrophy changed my perspective on life, religion and responsibility.

Enjoy!

Women in politics DESTROY THE JOINT

Alan Jones recently said on air that women in politics ‘destroy the joint’. I disagree. I talk about some great female politicians Australia has, and how blatant sexism should not be tolerated in the media.

It’s your responsibility to get the shot

This is an issue very close to my usually cold and concrete heart as it involves the lives and deaths of innocents from completely preventable diseases and infections. With the recent explosion of anti-vaxers circling internet forums, television, and communities, I felt helpless to stop them or challenge their disastrous messages. I thought, what can I do, as an individual, to make their toxic message just a little bit less effective?

I’m going to help strengthen herd immunity, and urge others to do the same. If we can’t silence the anti-vaxer’s dangerous vocal arguments, we can silently protect those they affect by doing our part biologically.

I was worried that this post might conjure images of me sitting on a very high horse dictating what you should do and how great I am for suggesting you do so. If that does come to mind, what colour is the horse? If this post reminds one person to get their booster shots, then I consider that a large victory.

A lot of anti-vaxers recoil in horror at the mention of ‘herd immunity’ as if they’re being referred to as mindless sheep being herded into the doctor’s office in an orderly assembly line (if only that were the case…). Herd immunity is the immunity of a large proportion of the members of society and the consequent lessening of the likelihood of an affected individual coming into contact with a susceptible individual. These susceptible individuals are usually newborn babies who are too young and vulnerable to receive their vaccinations for various infections such as whooping cough (pertussis) and the measles. So basically, the logic of herd immunity dictates that the more individuals who are vaccinated, the chances that a chain of disease transmission will be interrupted are very high, resulting in self-contained, small outbreaks that will die out quickly.

What many adults do not know, and what I’m endeavouring to spread the word about, is that you need booster shots. I was surprised to learn that the vaccinations I received as a young child are not permanent (and this is why I’m not a doctor), and your body needs ‘reminding’ with regards to fighting these infections. Vaccinations for adults are also highly stressed for new parents, or people who are in contact with young and vulnerable babies and children. What actually spurred me on to getting my boosters was the fact that my neighbour is pregnant and I will no doubt be interacting with, holding, kissing, and sucking the youth out of this newborn baby. I feel like it’s my responsibility to be vaccinated before handling this new innocent baby. I am the adult, and for visits where I am responsible for the baby’s health (not dropping him, holding him correctly, basically keeping him alive), I should be vaccinated against any infections that he may catch.

The same logic applies to older children who I am in contact with as part of my work, study or volunteering. I do not know whether these children have been vaccinated. If I can be one more person that they interact with who CANNOT infect them, I see this as only a positive result of booster vaccinations. Their parents have obviously decided against vaccinating their children (something I vehemently disagree with, and with the help of ‘Stop the AVN’ am trying to change), and I can’t change that, but I can help herd immunity by protecting the ‘innocents’ in society. These innocent new born babies include Dana McCaffery who at 4 weeks old died after being exposed to whooping cough after her mother took her outside in a notoriously anti-vax area of New South Wales here in Australia. My heart breaks every time I hear this story, both for the painful death of this beautiful little baby and for the guilt the family feels for not knowing about the blatant apathy their community had with regards to immunisation. Here is her story:

http://danamccaffery.com/openletter.html

Although verbal back and forths with the anti-vax groups may be falling on deaf ears, you can do your part to fight their dangerous messages. Do exactly what they’re campaigning against. Get vaccinated. Next time you go to your GP, discuss possible booster shots you’re eligible, swallow some concrete, and get the shot. Then, when you’ve got your little bandaid and lollipop for be such a good patient, tell anyone who will listen about what you did and why. You never know whose life you might be saving in the future.

Here is some information for Australian residents about vaccination programs:  http://www.myvaccination.com.au/