Remember, Remember…

Meet Rose.

Rose wanders up and down the corridors of the nursing home for hours on end, her feet moving in small, shuffling steps; her expression vague, almost eerie. Her speech is no longer coherent, but she attempts to explain that she has “to go home”, because her “mother will worry” about where she is.

Rose is 73 years old, and is one of the 800,000 people diagnosed with dementia in Britain (although it is approximated that 400,000 unknowingly have the disease). People assume dementia is merely age-related memory loss, but Rose is incontinent because she has forgotten how to use the bathroom. She cries at the sight of her own faeces, as she no longer understands what faeces are. Rose also cannot remember her husband, children, or grandchildren. Yet, despite the inability to remember the present, many dementia sufferers only remember a fragment of their life – for example, a time when they were children, or early on in their marriage, etc. Tragically, Rose remembers the most traumatic part of her life, and now believes that her heartbroken granddaughter is her sister, and that her husband is her abusive father, causing her to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming in terror, in the belief that her father is “coming to get [her]”.

Rose’s story comes to light just as today’s news reports on former England footballer Gordon Banks’ and Sir Michael Parkinson’s accounts of their personal experiences with dementia, as part of a new campaign launched in the UK to drive dementia awareness.

Despite the stigma that the news reports on today, very few understand the severity of the disease and the impact on lives. Not only are sufferers stigmatised by friends who often abandon them in their fear of being in the company of a mentally ill person, but there is often some harrowing ridicule of dementia sufferers within society in general.

Only a few evenings ago, a visit to my local supermarket was a reminder of this. I was appalled to witness two members of staff at the supermarket, laugh at an old man who is suffering with the disease. I see the old man is at the supermarket almost every evening, and recognise that he is still at a relatively early stage of the disease whereby he can occasionally visit the supermarket by himself (although is usually supervised by his wife). He regularly forgets an item he needed, and is often circling around the small store for an hour at a time. The other night, he would continuously arrive at the check-out only to subsequently shuffle over to another area of the shop, upon realising he had forgotten biscuits, or cheese, etc. The two male staff at the check-out would make “loopy” gestures behind his back, and sniggered rudely as the old man left/returned to the checkout for the umpteenth time.

Similar behaviour was experienced by my own grandmother, whom my mother and I were joint-carers of, and it never ceased to amaze us how ignorant and cruel people can be to a person they think of as being just “a crazy old woman/man”. It was also a harsh reminder as to how society so cruelly stigmatise those who are mentally ill. Remember, the mentally ill are human beings, too.

Perhaps society needs reminding that dementia could affect pretty much any person. Although the disease is generally considered an “old person’s disease”, it has also been known to affect people as young as 30. The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are over 17,000 people under the age of 65 in the UK, who are sufferers of dementia. Researchers have yet to find a cure, and can still only speculate upon many of the potential causes of dementia, although some faulty genes have been identified, and in some rare cases the disease can also be inherited.

Let me introduce you to Claude. You may of heard of him.

This is Claude Shannon, the person to whom you can attribute the founding of electronic communications age, and is a person whom you can now thank for enabling you to be able to use a computer and read this post. Claude died of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, in 2001; completely unaware of the significance of his scientific discoveries going on around him.

Despite this Nobel prize winner’s remarkable intelligence and achievements, the disease nevertheless took his mind from him too.

Any person who sees humour in a person suffering with dementia, should be grateful that they still possess their own mental health. Our brains are central to who we are; yet, the brain can be so fragile and so vulnerable to disease, regardless of our character, strength, or intelligence. The heartbreaking effects of dementia could potentially affect us, or our families.

Despite the disease becoming increasingly more prevalent, Dementia is one of the most underfunded areas of research, with eight times less invested in dementia research than cancer research. However, Dementia is reported to be ahead of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke one for being one of the main causes of disability later in life. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Society reports that more than 24 million people have dementia in the world today, with the numbers affected predicted to double every 20 years to more than 80 million by 2040.

If, like me, you are also interested in supporting the research of dementia, you might be interested in this page.

If only every person from the UK could donate £1 to the research of dementia, that would amount to a total of around £62,000,000, which could make a big difference to all our families.

(Please note: This post was not endorsed by any Alzheimer’s charities)

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“You’ve Got Mail!”

Ah … I just received a private message from someone named “Stuart”! How exciting!

Except … I actually receive a number of private messages from the same online dating site every single day. That may very well make me sound popular, and maybe even “drop-dead-gorgeous”, but funnily enough, despite all the private messages I receive, I don’t have an active profile!

You see, despite my skepticism regarding online dating, one cold evening when feeling a little downhearted and dangerously close to old (as we all feel sometimes), I decided, “Oh, what the hell!”, and signed up to a dating website that is supposedly for busy professionals. However, after the initial sign-up, I decided that I had no interest in filling in one of those long-winded online profiles about who I am, and who I’m looking for.  I soon realised that I am just too busy to have the time for a relationship, nor do I even want one at the moment. If I did, I would have surely taken the time to fill in the profile. More to the point, if I had spent quality time in writing a full profile to ensure others know who I am, to attract a potential mate based upon my personality and mutual interests, etc., how many people would actually take the time to really read all of my (or any other person’s) profile, anyway…?

Generally speaking, most people will see a pretty face and it will prompt them to send a message to that person. After a bit of online tittle-tattle and abbreviated messages (“hw bout we go 2 pub sum time”), they will go on a date with someone who is probably highly incompatible with them, never having actually read the person’s profile properly in the first place. But, maybe I am being completely unfair. Whilst I always take the time to read another person’s words carefully, I do get the impression that not everyone is quite so thorough.

The fact that I am receiving so many messages from people like “Stuart”, when my profile has bugger all on it (not even a photo!), may perhaps, go some way in substantiating my suspicion.

On the other hand, it certainly seems to corroborate the reports on the increasing number of fraudulent profiles circulating the web, and serves as a reminder as to how we should remain vigilant where our online security is concerned.

I, for one, will be sticking to the old-fashioned method of meeting potential partners via real-life interaction.

As for Stuart… Perhaps he is an online rogue of some description, or an escort touting for business, or maybe he genuinely is a very lonely and desperate man, whom I should give the benefit of the doubt. After all, he does seem compelled to message people regardless of whether they actually have a profile or not. Poor guy.

Let us hope that “Stuart”, “James”, “Will”, “Tom”, et al, will all find true love one day.

Please Mind The Gap!

No, I’m not posting about the London Underground on this occasion.

I am instead referring to the wage gap between men and women, which continues to make headline news.

Just the other day, the International Business Times reported that the U.S. Census Bureau found no progress had  been made to close the gender wage gap in the United States. It reported that womens’ wages have continued to hover at an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man in an equal position, since 2005. This is despite Obama passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, shortly after taking office in 2009. Whilst the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may be relatively new in the US, legislation to ensure equal pay has been in place in the Britain for 40 years. Despite this long established legislation, the gender pay gap not only still exists in Britain, but the discrepancy remains among the highest in the EU.

In Britain the full-time gender pay gap between women and men is reported to be 14.9%.  The Fawcett Society report that the pay gap varies across different sectors and regions, rising to up to 55% in the finance sector, and 33.3% in the City of London, with 64% of the lowest paid workers being women. Progress in closing the gap has been slow, and now there are concerns that the wage gap may now widen, as the economy faces difficult times. The US has already seen the wage gap widen: the median income for women working with full-time jobs in 2011 was $37,118, compared to the median of $48,202 for men. In 2010, women averagely earned $38,052 compared with the average male earnings of $48,202.

The poverty rate for women is reported to be considerably higher, particularly among the elderly. The US Census Bureau reports 15.5% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 were living off less that $11,170 per year, meaning that 15.5% of women are officially living in poverty in the US. This is compared with just 11.8 percent of men. 10.7% of women over 65 were living in poverty last year, compared with 6.2% of men in the same age category.

Such a pay gap inevitably translates into a significant economic disadvantage for women in female-headed households, and especially in is the US where women are already reported to be less likely to have health insurance. In 2010, 20% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 are reported not to have had any form of health coverage, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation. Most did not qualify for Medicaid, and did not have access to employer-sponsored plans. This is all the more worrying when one considers that many female-headed households in the US, are thus also less likely to be able to provide health coverage for their children.

In Britain, nine out of ten single parents are women, yet the median gross weekly pay for male single parents is reportedly £346, while female single parents will averagely receive £194.4. Although Britain has the NHS to rely on for free healthcare, a number of single mothers are still, nevertheless, living poverty, and this inevitably effects their children.

There could be a number of factors influencing the wage gap. Feminist theory has speculated that the differences may be due to the discriminatory undervaluing of women, and “women’s work”, but I doubt this is the case. Even if struggling to find work, very few women will actually choose arduous manual labour over shop-keeping, nor will many women choose manufacturing work over a job in the nursing sector. How often will one see a woman laying bricks or operating a digger, rather than claim benefits or work part-time? Although more women may choose a career in engineering today than they may have in previous eras, it is still a case that relatively few women will actively *choose* such a career over the more traditional female dominated careers such as primary school teaching, nursing or secretarial roles, which are generally lower paid than more male-dominated careers in astronautics and space engineering.

A female JCB driver?

It seems unlikely that the reason behind the gender gap is largely due to sex discrimination, when it is actually the women themselves, who so often select the sector in which they choose to work in. That is not to say that sex discrimination is never a factor, of course, as both women and men could potentially be open to experiencing sex discrimination within the workplace. Indeed, there have been reports of an increase in employment tribunal cases where men have been subject to sex discrimination by their female colleagues. Sex discrimination is not exclusive to women.

There is also the factor of a lack of available flexible work opportunities, which means that single mothers who cannot afford childcare, can find it hard to reconcile paid work with family responsibilities. This might result in women working in part-time positions for fewer hours, or taking on a number of different temporary jobs. The so-called “motherhood penalty” could also arguably lead to discrimination in companies. There have previously been a number of employment tribunal cases revealing how employers have been less likely or refused to hire or promote women of childbearing age, for fear the female employees will prioritise pregnancy and childcare  over their commitments at work. One factor which may heighten the case for this argument is that lesbian women are reported to earn higher than their heterosexual counterparts.

According to the research the site pointed to, lesbians make about 6 percent more than heterosexual women when factors like race, education, profession, location and number of children are accounted for. There are other factors to take into consideration as to why the gap exists between heterosexual and homosexual women. One being that heterosexual women may expect their husbands or partners will earn more than they will. As a result, heterosexual women might choose to make career sacrifices, such as rounding a family, and thus choose to invest less effort in making themselves appear more indispensable to employers.

It may also be that employers and employees of either gender are unaware they may be either experiencing or perpetuating a gender pay gap, and so it remains unnoticed. Perhaps the mere knowledge that a male in a similar role at the same company is being paid more, might be enough to trigger a change. As a result the Fawcett Society has long proposed that businesses employing more than 250 people, should routinely audit, monitor, and publicise any pay gap between male and female employees. The 2010 Equality Act also included a clause, requiring companies to carry out gender pay audits if they failed to make enough voluntary progress. Unfortunately, the Section 78 clause was dropped by the coalition in 2010.

Whilst the Fawcett Society reported that the wage gap is even bigger in certain professions, such as financial management, a similar picture is mirrored in the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study conducted at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, found that male doctors reported making an average of slightly over $200,000 per year, whilst women earned about $168,000. However, the study researchers found women were more likely to work in lower-paying specialties such as paediatrics and family medicine. Female doctors also tended to work slightly fewer hours – an average of 58 hours per week, compared to mens’ average of 63 hours. Although such differences were responsible for some of the salary gap, Dr. Reshma Jagsi, the lead author of the new study, found that despite factors due to career and life choices, women still made about $12,000 less than men doing the same type and amount of work.

The finding of the study does not reveal the underlying driving force between the salary differences between men and women. In this instance, perhaps female doctors accepted slightly lower pay in return for less time being on-call to spend time with families.

One significant explanation is that women are less aggressive about negotiating for pay. Indeed, a report by Shuchita Kapur in Emirates 24/7  reveals how experts believe the gender gap to be a result of female unwillingness to negotiate.

The article points to the suggestion that companies will generally present every employee with a low starting offer, and it is usually up to the individual to negotiate any salaries rises. Professor Horacio Falcao who specialises in Negotiation at INSTEAD has suggested that men are much more likely to negotiate pay than women: “Research actually indicates that in many countries around the world, women are more likely to accept the first salary offered than men. This usually results in men entering the company with a higher pay than women and then making more money in the future as raises tend to be percentage increases relative to the base pay.”

The opinion of Grainne Fitzsimons, Associate Professor of Management at Fuqua School of Business, also coincides with Falcao’s, and stated that: “Research suggests that women are less likely to negotiate salary, because women feel uncomfortable in that role and worry about the impression they will make if they ask for more money. In fact, research suggests that this unwillingness to negotiate is extremely costly for women, and leads them to be underpaid in a number of domains,” she told Emirates 24/7.

A research study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US, revealed that while 51.5% of men negotiated their initial offers, only 12% of women did.

So, ladies; perhaps the moral of the story (at least in part) is: If you don’t ask; you don’t get.

More to the point, whilst a job providing the benefits of full-time pay with flexible hours, may be ideal for working mothers, the truth is, we cannot have it all. Nor should any of us expect it. Salaries should be based upon merit, hours of work, and dedication. Until modern medicine discovers a method in which men can give birth and become mothers, women cannot realistically expect the salary statistics to match those of men.

Given the subject of ” Please Mind The Gap”, I decided to include this rather wonderful photo of Hannah Dadds, who made history by becoming the first ever London Underground Tube driver, in 1969. Story can be found here.

The name’s Bond… A Battered Bond.

20120915-095117 AM.jpg

Since writing an article about male rape victims and female perpetrators, it has just emerged that Sir Roger Moore has also been a victim of domestic violence. In an interview with Piers Morgan, the 84-year-old actor, Sir Roger Moore, spoke of the violence he experienced at the hands of both of his first two wives.

Despite the well-published statistics on the domestic abuse of women, it is slowly emerging that a significant proportion of men will also experience some form of domestic abuse in their lives. The revelation by Sir Roger Moore reflects how just about anyone could potentially be a victim of domestic abuse. It will be interesting to discover over the coming years, how many other male celebrities will slowly start coming forward, to reveal a few bruised truths that nobody wants to hear: women are not the only victims in society, but are also deviants, capable of untold violence. Hopefully, as more men become brave enough to speak out, any stigma and shame attached to male victimisation, will be banished once and for all.

Sir Roger Moore is by no means the first celebrity male victim. The famous American Western Actor, John Wayne, despite his macho image, was a victim of domestic abuse by his wife Esperanza Baur, a former Mexican actress. In a drunken rage she is reported to have also attempted to shoot him as he walked through the front door of their home, after returning from a post-filming party of the movie Angel and the Badman (1947). Humphrey Bogart was also stabbed in the back with a butcher’s knife by his wife Mayo Methot in 1938. Historians report that Abraham Lincoln was severely beaten and abused by his wife Mary Todd. The one thing these men and many others have in common is that they never spoke about it in public. The late Whitney Houston also admitted that it was she, not Bobby Brown, who was physically violent in their notoriously destructive relationship.

No man should feel ashamed of disclosing the truth. Violence should never be excused or accepted. Hopefully Sir Roger Moore’s story will help to break some of the stigma and shame associated with being a male victim.

A Dubious Degas? – Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses

Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould holding the painting, Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses (Image courtesy of BBC)

Today’s BBC news features the wonderful painting Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses, which was once considered to be one of the greatest works painted by Edgar Degas. The small oil painting depicting a ballet dancer on stage, was bought as a Degas from a reputable London dealer in 1945, but failed to make the official record of the catalogue raisonne. The painting was declared a fake by a leading Degas expert in the 1950s, after it was deemed that the dancer’s features and composition, was atypical of Degas’ unique painting style.

According to reports on BBC news, cutting edge forensic techniques have now made it possible to establish the authenticity of the work, in a way that was never possible before. As a result, paintings by some of the greatest artists that were either unknown, or considered fakes, are now being re-evaluated.

The once ‘dubious Degas’, Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses, has since been declared authentic after tests found the paint contained lead (consistant with paint used during Degas’ day), and did not contain titanium white – a constituent of paint used after Degas’ time. Modern photographs were also taken of dancers at the Paris Opera, to evaluate the body composition and the reality of the dancer’s position.

The fascinating investigation of the painting’s authenticity will feature in the second series of BBC One’s ‘Fake Or Fortune?’ which begins tomorrow on Sunday 16 September.

I will be looking forward to watching the programme on iPlayer.

The Silent Male Victims of Rape

Whilst researching various sociological topics on Twitter, I was reminded how insensitive and ignorant people can be. This was a re-tweet from a so-called “holy” person. The initial tweet was also by a person who describes himself as “a child of God” in one of his subsequent tweets.

Almost every day, there are reports in the news of rape, or rape convictions. Indeed, recent reports reveal a 53% rise in recorded rape in London over the last four years, and whilst perusing through the Irish news the other day, I also discovered an article that reported on an increase of almost 18% in first-time callers to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre last year. A few weeks earlier, I had also read about the reported rape of a 14-year-old boy in the toilets of Debenhams in Manchester.

Most women in society are indoctrinated to be cautious of unfamiliar men, and to fear rape. From childhood, females are taught to be afraid of, and to never talk to any ‘strange men’. Women are warned to remain cautious: never be alone, keep all doors locked, and do not behave in a manner that may encourage a sexual assault. However, living in a patriarchal society, how often do we hear of such guidance provided for males?

Males, by contrast, are brought up from a young age to be “strong”, masculine, and “in-charge”; and indeed, feminists use our expectations and perception of what a male should be, to base many of their misandrical arguments, using their infamous male-female rape theories. Society so often perceives men as being the perpetrators, whilst women are the victims. Consider the following examples of despicable feminist misandrical misnomers:

“All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” Catherine MacKinnon

“In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies, p. 129.

“Most perpetrators are male and most victims are female. It is both a consequence and cause of gender inequality.”UK Rape Crisis Charity

“All men are rapists and that’s all they are” — Marilyn French Author, “The Women’s Room” (a metaphor in a novel to suggest male lust for power and domination.)

Ladies: Bear in mind that if, according to Marylin French, “All men are rapists”, this must mean that your dear baby boys are rapists, as are your fathers, and your grandfathers – and let us not forget your brothers, too! If there is any logic in the above feminist assertions, that must be the reason as to why your baby boys suckle upon your breast when they are breast fed, and why your baby girls must surely need to have your breast forced upon them – right? Furthermore, if such blatant misandric feminist arguments stand any validity, this would suggest that your sons will rape your daughters, and even you. Logic alone should tell us how absurd such statements are, and should surely reveal much about feminist theory.

Yet, with such preconceptions that rape exists only within the context of a male perpetrator – female victim model, very few people will consider how males are also victims of sexual assault. Yet, male-male rape is often shrouded in secrecy due to the social stigma that many men associate with rape, which annihilates everything that our patriarchal society dictates men should be. But, you might find the results of recent research to be quite shocking.

Statistics of Male Rape

The British Crime Survey estimates that up to 15% of the adult population of the UK have been sexually abused in childhood, and this includes 11% of young men. A 2003 national study of U.S. adults reported that 14.2% of men were sexually abused before the age of 18. Furthermore, Metropolitan Police figures reveal that on average, in London, a man is the victim of a sexual crime every hour, and the British government estimates that 11% of male victims report being attacked. Based upon such research, it is believed that the 945 assaults recorded by the Met in 2009-10, actually suggest a true figure closer to 8,500 in London.

Baroness Stern acknowledged in her 2011 rape report, The Stern Review, that the vast majority of male victims of sexual violence do not report their crimes because of the common view that men “should be able to fight off an attacker”. The review recognised that men do not report rape for the fear of being regarded “less of a man”. They fear being ridiculed, fear that they may be considered gay, or fear that they will not believed.

Several studies argue that male-male prisoner rape, as well as female-female prisoner rape, might be the most common and least-reported forms of rape, with some studies suggesting such rapes are substantially more common in both per-capita and raw-number totals than male-female rapes in the general population.

The claim in the following n+1 piece, suggests that more men are victims of rape in the US, than women, as a result of prison rape:

“In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.

No doubt, many will sneer at this finding, believing that it is a justified act for “undesirables” who deserve punishment, and need putting in their place. This is perhaps one reason as to why there appears to be so little interest as to the extent of prison rape, and so few reports. With such possible reason in mind, we must not forget about the number of innocent men who are wrongly convicted and imprisoned, and who are subsequently made victims of rape – a crime inflicted on them perhaps, in a cruel twist of irony, as a result of a false rape allegation for which they were wrongly imprisoned. How could such inhumanity ever be considered fair?

Rape as a weapon of terror in warfare

Male rape is also used as a weapon of terror in warfare, and the Syrian regime is regularly reporting that rape is used as a tool of war against male opposition forces, as is the situation in Congo. Feminists and the media regularly report of the horrendous cases of female rape in Congo, but there are very fer reports of the horrific physical and psychological damage suffered by the victims of male rape in Congo. I would highly recommend a read of this article from The Observer.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that 22% of Congolese men (and 30% of women) have experienced sexual violence as a weapon of war. Male victims have also had genitalia amputated, raped with screwdrivers, circumcised, or castrated in cases where they were spared amputation. Yet, under Congolese law, it is the male rape victims who are the ones considered guilty of a crime, and can face severe punishment for the so-called crime of homosexuality. Male survivors will, therefore, almost never speak of their experiences to anyone. Taking this into consideration, the rate of non-reporting amongst male victims is likely to be high, thus, the real statistics of men victim to sexual violence before being killed by their rapists, cannot be accurately determined. The statistic is more than likely greater than 22%, and no charities or agencies providing funding to male victims of rape, to help them get them back on their feet, as there are for female rape victims.

Furthermore, these men will typically hide their experience from their family, due to fears of abandonment. According to an employee of the Refugee Law Project, it is common for a woman to take the children and leave her husband, upon discovering that he has been raped. The view being, “If he can be raped, who is protecting me?” The cruel, ironic, hypocrisy is that despite the patriarchal social view of women needing a “strong, protective man”; women are, in fact, “strong” enough to be the aggressors of male sexual assault.

Female-Male Rape

A study on male rape in Congo published by the Journal of the American Medical Association defies the cultural narrative of patriarchy surrounding male rape in Congo: 40% of sexual violence against women in Congo, and 10% of that against men, was perpetrated by women.

Only a few days ago, the BBC reported that three women in Zimbabwe who were arrested in connection with a series of male rapes, had their rape charges dropped, and were instead charged with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault – merely because Zimbabwean law does not recognise the act of a woman raping a man. It is believed that there is a nationwide syndicate of women raping men in Zimbabwe, possibly to use their semen for use in “wealth” rituals. The three Zimbabwean women were charged after being found in possession of 33 condoms containing semen, obtained after a string of sex attacks whereby women targeted male hitchhikers.

Feminists argue that women are “more maternal” and “less aggressive”, and have been often speculated that if a woman were in charge, there would be no violence or wars. Yet, when Adam Jones examined the activities of five of the “female architects of the Rwandan genocide”, he noted the women not only participated in the selecting of thousands of Tutsi men and boys to be killed, but it was the women who were so often the ones perpetrating their murders. Accordingly, author Tim Goldich has stated:

“These cases of female leaders represent only a small part of the story of women’s participation in the genocide. At the grassroots, “very often, groups of women ululated their men into the ‘action’ that would result in the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children, many of them their own neighbours.”

“Their role was dominant in the post-massacre looting and stripping of bodies, which often involved climbing over corpses (and those still alive and moaning in agony) piled thigh-high in the confined spaces in which many Tutsis met their end. Frequently these women assisted in administering the coup de grâce to those clinging to life.”

Another report currently in the news, is the alleged rape and murder of a wealthy Nigerian man, Uroko Onoja, by his six wives; and let us not forget the female aggressors of male rape in the West: Only a few days ago, Oklahoma teacher, Michelle McCutchan, was convicted of raping two 16-year-old male students, and also Keyvette Gamble for sexually abusing her friend’s 14 year old son. In the later cases, however, both female perpetrators have been sentenced to 15 years in prison. There have been several widely publicised cases of female-on-male statutory rape in the United States involving school teachers raping their underage students, such as the cases that lead to the convictions of Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave.

Misconceptions and Ignorance

When a boy is sexually abused by a woman, people often do not recognise the harm. Take for example the recent case of, Zakiya Gaskins, a woman from Washington, who was charged with assaulting her neighbour’s 13-year-old son. Authorities had to relocate the teenage victim and his family, because neighbours harassed the boy when he reported the assault. It is reported that neighbours referred to him as a “punk” and quizzed if there was “something wrong with him”, because he “didn’t like it”. Another recent Washington case reveals how 18 year old Heaven Wright, gave her 13-year-old male rape victim a sexually transmitted disease.

Not only do male rape victims report a lack of services and support, but many legal systems are often ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime. Inconsistent definitions of rape, different rates of reporting, recording, prosecution and conviction for rape create controversial statistical disparities, and leading to rape statistics which are unreliable, and do not represent the full picture. Even though Britain has, more male rape awareness campaigns and crisis centres available per head of the population than in most other Western countries, under British Law, the crime of male rape was only legally recognised in 1994. Unlike most countries, British society is beginning to open their minds, and recognise that men are also vulnerable, and men have hope through Male Rights activist groups. Yet, even Britain still has a long way to go with regards public awareness of male rape.

A hard-hitting poster campaign by male rape charity Survivors UK, targeted this year’s Six Nations to urge victims to speak out, using the high profile at Twickenham. The masculine image of rugby was used to convey the message that male rape does not make a victim any less of a man.

There are still many misconceptions that male rape will only happen to a “weak” man, and that only gay men are raped. In reality, many victims are heterosexual. One example that might go some way in dispersing the “weak” theory is the story of a male US soldier who was a victim of female-male rape, and has since suffered Military Sexual Trauma (MST) after being raped by his female supervisor, who was a First Sergeant, and reported “used her higher rank and position to get what she wanted”. The US Attorney Shana Dunn, has reported that at least 27 percent of men serving in the military are estimated to have suffered “Military Sexual Trauma” either as a result of sexual assault, or repeated harassment and threatened assault. Whist the figure for females is 60 percent, the 27 percent figure for men is, nevertheless, 27 percent too many. So is the figure of 60 percent.

How can a man have an erection, or ejaculation, during a sexual assault unless he wanted it?

There is also much ignorance regarding the biological aspect of male rape, with statements such as, “a man cannot have an erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault, unless he wanted it”. However, an article by Philip M. Sarrel and William H. Masters entitled “Sexual molestation of men by women” (Archives of Sexual Behavior 11 (2): 82–88), states that male erectile response is involuntary. Any physical contact or extreme stress can cause an erection and ejaculation, and does not imply desire or enjoyment. Women can initiate penetrative sex through stimulation of external male genitalia or the anus, and can force penetration of the anus with the use of foreign objects such as dildos, or even force oral sex. As some abusers and rapists are aware of this biological process, and how it can confuse a victim of sexual assault, Survivors UK – a male rape charity, has reported that it motivates some attackers to “manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage people from telling their story”.

Although more research on male-male and female-male is beginning to emerge, almost no research has been conducted on female-female rape, although there have been cases reported, thus further dispersing many feminist theories and social misconceptions about men only being perpetrators, and females the victims. Perhaps there are fewer female-female rapes because of size restrictions: female victims are more likely to fight off a female aggressor, whereas men are often taught not to hit a women back. Certainly, as a female, I can testify to having been the recipient of far more aggression in my lifetime from fellow females, than I have from males. Memories spring to mind of being pushed down stairs, hit with a hockey stick, and pushed onto the road in front of a travelling lorry – all by fellow female schoolmates. Very little aggression was ever perpetrated by boys towards girls, yet, the girls were certainly known to hit a few boys. However, this is only an observation from my own personal experience as a Caucasian female living in Britain, and is by no means an official statistic. This is not to say that women are not victim to male abuse, as the domestic violence and rape figures reveal otherwise. Nevertheless, research on female aggression has revealed that women can be more violent than men, and let us not forget that rape is a crime of control and aggression, and not a random act of passion.

Given the extent of the social stigma towards male rape, and the level of patriarchy in society, it is understandable as to why so many male-male sex crimes are believed to go unreported. Even if the numbers are smaller – so what? Men are human beings, just like women; and no human being deserves such pain and suffering. Nor do men, as fellow human beings, deserve the psychological terror male rape victims experience of being judged, abandoned, ridiculed, and not to mention the fear or actuality of contracting HIV. In certain non-Western countries men are left with no access to healthcare or surgery, leaving them incontinent from their injuries, and unable seek help for fear of homosexual conviction. Many men end up doubting their sexuality, fearing sex, and many have difficulty forming relationships as a result of rape. Male rape can cause severe disability or disorder, and whilst the crime is undoubtedly a real threat for women, it is also so for men. It a heinous crime, no matter who the victim may be, and is not something to joke about, or judge a genuine victim for. Male rape victims need to know they have nothing to feel ashamed of – it is not their fault, and they need to be able to speak out.

Every single one of us could potentially be a victim of a sexual attack, irrespective of whether we are male or female. It is high time that the draconian views of society accepted this, and provided men with the same level of benevolence and protection as females.

Still not convinced? Question how you might feel if the victim of male rape were your son, or your father. Perhaps that concluding thought will provoke a few to open their minds, and hopefully their hearts.

Is Chivalry Dead? – If only!

Since blogging on WordPress, I have encountered a number of interesting blogs written by fellow bloggers. One post that provoked some disagreement was ‘Chivalry – it’s not just for knights’, written by author, Stephen Liddell. Whilst I respect Stephen’s views on the matter, I must confess that my views do not coincide. Why should one gender be treated differently to the other when it comes down to something that, essentially, should be nothing other than good manners and common courtesy?

From a female perspective, the underlying patriarchy of chivalry has always sat uneasily with me: The implication that men are the strong protectors, who tend to the perceived weaker gender, like a knight in shining armour. Feminists argue that chivalry is, therefore, misogynistic, but I disagree with this view entirely.

Misogyny is defined as being a “hatred, dislike, or distrust of women”, and even if men really are chivalrous as a result of their inherent beliefs that women are weak (as the feminists claim), I fail to see the correlation between the belief that someone is frail, and hating them. A newborn baby is more fragile than a fully-grown adult; does that mean that we nurture and protect a child who is so precious to us, purely out of hatred? Such feminist theories are preposterous, and as such, do not stand any validity in forming a well constructed argument or reason. Chivalry may very well be patriarchal, and exasperating for women such as myself, but it is surely not a feature of misogyny.

 

On average, men are only about 15-percent larger than women, although the average male is usually physically stronger than most women, because of greater muscle mass. Of course, there are exceptions, and even if a woman is physically weaker than her male suitor, that does not make her too frail to open a door for herself, or to stand during a train journey. Women such as the suffragette, Emily Davison, died in the fight for female equality in our history; so what a kick in the teeth to the memories of women who fought for equality, when there are still some instances of women being perceived as the “weaker” gender, so many years on. Perhaps such patriarchy is the result of modern women demanding they be “treated like queens”, just as much as men are at fault for bestowing it upon women whilst, quite hypocritically, failing to treat their fellow men with such good manners.

When a sports injury necessitated the use of crutches last year, I was admittedly, very grateful when a seat was offered on public transport, and was genuinely touched by the number of kind people who would stop and offer to help – both men and women. Usually it was men who offered to help, and I could not help but wonder how many of them would have been so helpful had I been male. No doubt the men who stopped to offer help, believed they were just being kind, and maybe they really would have been as helpful towards a male as they were towards a female. But, as Steven Liddle wrote in his blog, “I do it for me” –  Is such a statement not a form of moral superiority, whereby the person is rather egotistically making the gesture, merely to make himself believe he is the “good guy”? I cannot help but object to, what is essentially a patriarchical moral high ground, particularly as good social etiquette dictates the obligation that I should graciously say thank you for something I neither wanted, nor asked for, but was imposed upon me nonetheless.

Being a humanist (as opposed to a feminist), I advocate equality between both genders. Men should be treated the same as women, with good manners bestowed upon both genders – and not forgetting the transgendered, too. When a man runs to hold a door open a door for a woman, or offers to carry her bags, then he should offer the same to a fellow male. If a woman is genuinely in a position where she appears to be in need of help, such as being on crutches and struggling to carry heavy bags, or may need a seat; then yes, by all means offer her help – but also offer the same assistance to a man on crutches. I certainly would, and very often have, much to the surprise of the men in question. With regards pregnant or elderly ladies (and elderly men!) unsteady on their feet; yes, a physically healthy man should give up his seat – but so should other women who are not pregnant, elderly, or less physically able to stand (I.e. on crutches or recovering from surgery, etc.) It is a matter of priority and common courtesy.

My message to all the “Knights in Shining Armour” out there: Instead of behaving in a chivalrous manner, try being an all-round decent human being instead. People will respect you for it more.

My little anti-feminist joke of the day!

Are today’s children “a Jack of all trades, master of none”?

The results of new research reported in the news headlines today, suggests children are now reading less than they did back in 2005.

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According to a study of 21,000 children and teenagers conducted by the National Literacy Trust, today’s generation of children read fewer novels, comics, magazines and websites. While many enjoyed reading, it is reported that 17% said they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them with a book.

The results of this research reminded me of two previous posts that I wrote for this blog, only a matter of days ago:

Hate peepz who typ lyk dis’?

Have English Standards Taken A Nosedive?

A Government review of British education, in addition to a more dedicated and specific parental encouragement, is long overdue it would seem. As the research has suggested, childrens’ lives have become more crowded with other activities, and it seems that parents are putting too much emphasis on a number of activities to try and make their children more “well-rounded”, instead of having their children focus on fewer, but more educationally beneficial, pursuits.

It would appear there is more truth in the old proverb  “Jack of all trades, master of none.”, than parents care to realize. Whilst “well-rounded” children are deemed highly desirable by schools when selecting new intake, and subsequently during the application process for university admissions, finding a healthy balance is also crucial.

The Imaginary Friends: President Obama and Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood made the news on Friday after speaking to his “Imaginary Friend” at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, US. It almost made me question if Mr Eastwood should perhaps be sectioned (“Baker Acted”, as it’s apparently called in the US) for an involuntary mental examination under section 394.463 of the 1971 Florida Mental Health Act!

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So, how thoroughly heart warming(!) it is to see the President harbouring no grudge against Clint Eastwood’s attack on him during the Republican National Convention, in this subsequent picture…

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Joking aside. In an interview with USA Today, President Obama diplomatically referred to the aging Hollywood star as a “great actor, and an even better director”, and claims to be a “huge Clint Eastwood fan”.

If anything, I would imagine Clint Eastwood’s bizarre speech may have actually had the reverse effect to that intended, and if anything may have increased Obama’s following, particularly after the President’s Twitter response to the actor became the most popular tweet related to the Convention last week.

The tweet  from Obama’s account reads “This seat’s taken,” and includes a picture of the back of Obama’s head in a chair marked “The President.”

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I will continue to watch the progress of the US election campaigns with interest.

Our personal data does not always need to be deleted by companies to comply with Data Protection Rules.

This week I am delighted to be a guest blogger for the Political Idealist website, which covers political, news and current affairs both in the U.K. and around the world. The Political Idealist is a website maintained by the talented Jack H. G. Darrant, who has keen interests in British democracy and environmentalism, regularly writes for The Independent newspaper, in addition to his weekly contributions in the ever popular ShoutOut blog. If you would like to know more, or enjoy this article, check-out the Political Idealist.

Many have questioned the safety of our personal data.  Now it appears that a loophole in the law could result in organisations holding personal data records, even when the information is no longer necessary for processing purposes.

Recent data protection guidance published by The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed that organisations that are unable to justify the storage of personal data they had been previously processing, may not have to delete the information immediately, despite the fifth principle of the Data Protection Act 1998, which states that organisations are not permitted to store personal data processed beyond what is “necessary” for the “purpose” or “purposes” of that processing.

However, the ICO has stated in their new guidance, that recognised challenges can be faced by organisations during the process of deleting personal data. Thus, the ICO has stated that it would generally accept those “challenges”, provided that organisations put unjustifiably held information “beyond use”. The guidance states that:

“The ICO will be satisfied that information has been ‘put beyond use’, if not actually deleted, provided that the data controller holding it: is not able, or will not attempt, to use the personal data to inform any decision in respect of any individual or in a manner that affects the individual in any way; does not give any other organisation access to the personal data; surrounds the personal data with appropriate technical and organisational security; and commits to permanent deletion of the information if, or when, this becomes possible. We will not require data controllers to grant individuals subject access to the personal data provided that all four safeguards above are in place[…] Nor will we take any action over compliance with the fifth data protection principle. It is, however, important to note that where data put beyond use is still held it might need to be provided in response to a court order. Therefore data controllers should work towards technical solutions to prevent deletion problems recurring in the future”

The ICO  have also stated that organisational and technical safeguards will be necessary, yet  they have failed to provide any guidance as to the procedure of how organisations should implement the safeguards required, to ensure that organisations will not attempt to use personal data after it is no longer required. Furthermore, the ICO guidance stated that companies are allowed to retain personal data that is no longer justifiable in keeping, if they are unable to detach the information from other data contained in a legitimately stored “batch”, if the result of a “technical reason”. “In cases like this the organisation holding the information may be prohibited by law from using it in the same way that it might use live information,” the ICO said.

An example provided by the ICO is where: ” a court has ordered the deletion of information relating to a particular individual but this cannot be done without deleting information about other individuals held in the same batch.”

However, the ICO added that the permanent deletion of electronically stored information from the “ether” was not something that organisations would have to ensure. Thus, “the ICO will adopt a realistic approach in terms of recognising that deleting information from a system is not always a straightforward matter and that it is possible to put information ‘beyond use’, and for data protection compliance issues to be ‘suspended’ provided certain safeguards are in place“.

It would appear that the general view of acceptance by the ICO is that if personal data has been deleted with no intention to use or access this again, but still exists in the electronic ether, then data protection compliance is no longer applicable, because the data is no longer live. A potential problem could arise when the computers are later discarded, as there appears to be no guidance as to how to discard the equipment in a manner that would prevent access to the computer’s ether by a third party.

There are numerous methods in which third party sales companies and rogues can attain our information, ranging from companies selling our information onto third parties, unshreaded documents left lying around in an outside bin, the internet, public electoral roll records, or even the telephone directory. Perhaps this latest loophole discovery also answers the question as to where some international companies may be attaining our supposedly private information from.

This matter links in with the view of The Working Party, a committee made up of representatives from each of the EU national data protection authorities (DPAs), who have recommended that individuals should generally not be identifiable when their personal data is being processed. They recommend that organisations should be required to “anonymise or pseudonymise” personal data when processing the information if it is “feasible and proportionate”, as recommended as part of a published opinion on the European Commission’s proposed General Data Protection Regulation.

I am sure most of us will be in accord with The Working Party’s recommendation that:
 “The concept of pseudonymisation should be introduced more explicitly in the instrument (for example by including a definition on pseudonymised data, consistent with the definition of personal data), as it can help to achieve better data protection, for example, in the context of data protection by design and default.”

Perhaps “pseudonymised data”, if possible, is one way to prevent the possibility of potential abuse of data retrieval, should companies be negligent in their methods of discarding of any obsolete computer equipment during future system upgrades.

“Get outta m’ house!” New Law Criminalises Squatting

This week I am delighted to be a guest blogger for the Political Idealist website, which covers political, news and current affairs both in the U.K. and around the world. The Political Idealist is a website maintained by the talented Jack H. G. Darrant, who has keen interests in British democracy and environmentalism, regularly writes for The Independent newspaper, in addition to his weekly contributions in the ever popular ShoutOut blog. If you would like to know more, or enjoy this article, check out the Political Idealist.

September is now upon us, and at a time when an increasing number of people are falling into redundancies, unable to find employment, unable to pay their rent, and ending up without housing; the new squatting law comes into force as of today. This new piece of legislation now makes squatting a criminal offence in England and Wales. However, squatting in commercial premises will remain a civil matter.

The new offence, introduced by section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, will be punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a maximum £5,000 fine, or both. Under this new law, the Police will now be able to assist landlords in evicting squatters from their property.

This change in the law has been described as ‘a tax subsidy’ for landlords, with the Chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, Giles Peaker, stating that:

‘ [Landlords] will no longer have to pay to get people evicted; it will be the police’s job to do it, paid for out of the public purse’.

Right-wing homeowners are delighted; whilst left-wingers such as lawyer and journalist, David Allen Green stated on Twitter:

“Bit by bit, the British state is shifting property rights from a civil law to a criminal law basis. Both misconceived and highly illiberal.”

A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘Residential occupiers are already adequately protected from trespass under the Criminal Law Act 1977, and for that reason we, along with the Metropolitan Police, the Magistrates’ Association and many others, did not see the need for the introduction of a new criminal offence for squatting.’

Campaigners have warned that criminalising squatting in residential buildings would lead to an increase in some of the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough. Furthermore, once a person is confined to a life on the street, it is very difficult to find a way out. Employment is unavailable to those without a fixed address, leaving a large number of people destined to life of homelessness for as long as they are unable to squat or have their name listed on a very long waiting list for council accommodation – provided they have a disability or dependents. As the homeless charity, Crisis, has stated, the new law will now criminalise vulnerable people who are just trying to find a place off the streets, leaving them in prison or facing a fine that they are unable to pay.

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Ultimately the Government needs to tackle the reasons as to why homeless people squat in the first place by helping, not punishing them. “It also misses the point,” Leslie Morphy, the chief executive of Crisis, said. “There was already legal provision that police and councils could, and should, have used to remove individuals in the rare instances of squatting in someone’s home.”

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt also added: “For too long, squatters have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs. Not any more. Hard-working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first – this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting.”

Certainly, one advantage to the new law is that having the police involved in removing squatters is surely more preferable to an unscrupulous landlord “sending the boys round”, which might also put innocent tenants at risk in a case where a home has been sublet without the landlord’s permission, unbeknown to the innocent subtenant.

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Whilst the right-wingers and homeowners may continue to cheer as they read these words, I raise the question as to whether the police will have the resources to enforce this new offence, given their previous unwillingness to act with the previous law outlined by section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. Not to mention that the new law is poorly drafted. Unlike section 7 of the 1977 Act, which previously protected homeowners by making it a criminal offence for a squatter to remain in a property after being ordered to leave by the owner; the new law does not cover gardens. Therefore, a person squatting in someone’s garden shed will, technically speaking, not be covered by the new law. Thus, we might now discover some truth in the fairytale phrase “pixies at the bottom of garden”…

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On that note, I wish you all a nice weekend.

Do “Too Many Tweets Make A Tw*t”?

Public opinion of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has just about reached an all-time low, but it appears that our dear Mr CamWrong may have been “right” about one thing …

Twitter.

During an interview on Absolute Radio, back in 2009, David Cameron was asked by presenter Christian O’Connell whether he used Twitter.

“Politicians do have to think about what we say,” Mr Cameron stated, seemingly without irony, before bestowing the following howler upon us: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”

Despite the absurd irony of Mr Cameron’s ineptness, his statement is made all the more ironic by the fact the Conservative Party had a twitter account, and not to mention that Mr Cameron now also has a Twitter account for No. 10 Downing Street. Therefore, it would seem that one “twit” in particular, really can “make a tw*t”.

As a user of Twitter, my opinion about the site is somewhat mixed. I am often bemused by the sheer ludicrousness that some people manage to incorporate into just 140 characters. Because of the 140 character limit, one can often be subjected to a long list of multiple tweets from the same person(s); full of ridiculously abbreviated words, and depending on who one is following, may result in a trail of absolute nonsense trawling up the newsfeed.

Whilst I like to think I am a little more selective about who I follow, one does come across some real “gems” retweeted by others, sometimes retweeted purely for comedy value.

Just take a look at some of these examples:

Let us not forget the way Twitter was used to incite the London Riots, whilst bystanders tweeted their riot “observations”, or riot warnings to others. Quite often, it emerged that a ridiculous number of tweets provided nothing other than false information. Yet, the false information spread like wildfire, such as rumours about the streets of a West London borough apparently being set in flames, only for nervous residents to later discover that the worst event to have actually occurred in that particular area, was a brick thrown through a shop window! What a kick in the teeth to the people who genuinely were affected by the Riots, and who lost their homes in the fires in Croydon, Tottenham, Hackney, etc. However, it must also be pointed out that Twitter also played an important role in the post-riots clean-up, which gave the police a means of tracing those who incited and recruited other rioters.

One disturbing aspect of Twitter is that regulating the site is virtually impossible because of the massive volume of messages and tweets that are sent every second. On the subject of immediacy, as also mentioned by Mr. Cameron, it can only take so much as one misinformed tweet for a false rumour to become a worldwide trend in minutes, as we have seen in the past, ranging from the apparent “death” of a celebrity, down to their so-called sordid affairs. There is a great deal of misinformation and sometimes sheer nastiness. But none of this is a special feature of Twitter, as it is a feature of people generally. Furthermore, it is very difficult to pick up on humour and sarcasm via Twitter (and, indeed, other social media sites), leading to many misunderstandings and quarrels. One careless or false tweet has the potential of giving information capable of ruining lives and relationships. But, on a more positive note, celebrities and high-profile people have utilised  Twitter’s immediacy as a way of “setting the record straight” about a rumour,  and to engage with their fans, and even form more of a following.

I must confess that I do love Twitter as a means of keeping up-to-date with current affairs. Twitter is a fantastic forum for learning of any errors in news reporting and for academics to promote general public understanding of their research. It is also a wonderful forum for lawyers, politicians, and and journalists to share information such as links, viewpoints, and to receive instant feedback. It is now becoming common for interesting legal trials to be live-tweeted and debated by legal scholars, and for the mainstream media to subsequently try and catch-up! Whilst one may have to sift through some rather trivial tweets, there are so many high-profile academics who are happy to share a fresh insight and engage in very interesting topical debates. As a result of instant tweeting and academic blogging, newspaper reports are now becoming old news that contribute little additional value to what one has already learned “straight from the horses’ mouths” on Twitter.

Some university departments are also increasingly using Twitter as a teaching resource, and whilst it may seen that nothing of value could possibly be written in only 140 characters; for all the bizarre tweets full of abbreviations that I sometimes think only the person who tweeted it could possibly understand,  I have also very often been pleasantly surprised. The restriction in communicating with just 140 characters can be a very useful learning method: It teaches one how to be more succinct by forcing one to stick with the facts, and not swaying off topic, which would result in a long series of multiple tweets. That, after all, might lead to a mass exodus of followers, as they become increasingly more frustrated with having to sift through the vast number of irrelevant tweets on their news-feed.

Taking the latter into account, maybe too many tweets really do make a “twat”. However, too many tweets might actually rid you of some, too!

Cheerio, chaps!