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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Women in politics , politics in decline

Statistics from the World Bank state the percentage of the United Kingdom population who are female is 50.8%, While this figure is unsurprising I draw attention to it in order to highlight the oddity that this modern western democracy, which expounds on the representative nature of its political system, is 49th in the world for the percentage of those representatives who are female; a mere 17.9% of it parliamentarians after the general election of June 2001. The United Kingdom is not alone in this; indeed 49th in the world is quite high in a ranking of over 200 countries. In the French parliament, for example, the figure is as low as 12.2%. These already low figures are thrown into sharper relief when compared to the Nordic states where the figures for representation range from the higher figure of 36.4% in Norway, to Sweden where 45.3% of its parliamentarians are female. If you follow the logic that a parliament should be representative of the people of the state then it would seem self-evident that the Nordic states and Sweden in particular are better at representing the female half of their population.
The question of why this is the case is something we can apply some comparative study to . by looking at the citizenship models of Britain, France, Belgium and the Nordic states . For example in Britain, moves by the labour party to increase the number of sitting female MP’s by introducing all female selection lists for election candidates were challenged in the courts and had to be dropped. It was not until they gained office that they were able to make changes to the sexual discrimination act in parliament to allow for such positive strategies in selecting female candidates. While this can be seen as a positive change it has not greatly changed the political landscape of the sexes in the United Kingdom. Contrast  this with the approach taken by the Nordic states of introducing a quota system, and indeed the Belgium system where legislation was introduced stipulating that electoral lists could not contain more than a two thirds majority of any sex. Interestingly Denmark which was one of the first country’s to introduce the quota system has since abandoned it, and yet percentage of female representation has continued to expand in that country. The Danish political landscape having being originally changed by use of a quota has appeared to become self-sustaining.
Using a comparative methodology to look at politics in different states allows us to get a broad view of trends which seen in isolation tell us very little. Take the question of why participation in politics is in the decline, one which informs much debate in the United Kingdom. It is not until we look at trends in other countries however that we see that this is not a problem isolated to the United Kingdom but is endemic of most western democracies around the world over the last 50 years of the 20th century . Conjecture would have it that this is due to a high degree of contentment within these countries leading to a culture of not bothering to vote, as it makes little difference whom is in power. Oddly however this is not the case in two of the states on this list, Denmark and Sweden, where the trend towards less participation is reversed. Denmark and Sweden share a commonality in the investment in ‘social capital’ within their societies. Social capital helps to promote electoral participation. From this we can see that it is not simply a case of contentment, leading to apathy in the electoral process, leading to lower figures for voting, but perhaps a lack of social capital which leads people to feel less inclination to vote in elections. Here the comparative approach has the advantage of allowing us deeper exploration the issue of lack of participation in elections, and allows us to contend that by trying to increase the social capital within British society we may reverse this trend. Rather than the opposing view that it is simply contentment among the population, a view that many Politian’s would probably happily champion.
This lets us draw an interesting correlation of our own. This being that the two nations cited as having increased participation by the electorate, namely Denmark and Sweden are also respectively 2nd and 3rd in the world rankings for having female representation in there parliaments. While this is only a correlation and by no means proof of cause and effect, it does suggest that being more representative in parliament of the 50% or more of your population who are female leads to more interest and involvement in politics.
So strangely having  women with more  representation in political life will lead to more participation in  politics. Because the 50.8% of the population who they make up might think that there is something in it for them.

A final note , the country where women are best represented in their parliament ,, Rowanda 

Remember remember , November can start in June ( struggling with words 1 )

I have been trying to write a novel for years, which is to say trying to write several aborted novels since I was about 14. I still have reams of A4 pages in loose binders that have followed me around where ever I have lived for the past  32 years or so, steadily growing in size as time has gone by , until about 15 years ago when I started using word processors and stopped printing them off. I started on my dads only non-electric typewriter. Hacking out words then screwing up pages or using liberal amounts of tipex.
Over the years I have tried to write all kinds of things, from the near compulsory fantasy epic I started at 14 and typed out slowly and very very badly. (needless to say it was awful) to comic science fiction on my old amiga 500 which if nothing else made me laugh , but sadly no one else . The earlier fantasy epic had a wonderfully unintended gag in it where a warriors sword, strapped across his back kept clanking on his breast plate… oh the mirth . It never occurred to my much younger self , that the plate at the back was called a back plate ……..
Time has gone by , along with relationships , the discovery of beer, fatherhood, addiction to computer games, further addiction to world of warcraft. And I have kept on writing in fits and starts and never got very far. Sometimes I will have a huge wave of enthusiasm for a few months  and start a new project which I know will come to fruition. But somewhere , somehow , something gets in the way.
Every year I have intended to do the November write a book challenge + and every year work goes its normal pre-christmas rush and it’s the one time of year I have the least time. The simple plan of writing with a bunch of others to act as a support and encouragement network appealed , but mostly the write to a time frame come hell or high water be done by the 30th of the month, as a challenge and an aid to block procrastination appealed.
So this year, I turned over a new leaf, and made  an attempt to try and write 1000 words a day, everyday on something, be it a short story, part of a larger project, or just a few ideas which never really become anything other than a descriptive piece. It sort of worked , and at the same time didn’t . but I kept trying to plug away at it before I had a moment of clarity. November can just as easily start on the 15th of June .
So from a restless night of ideas washing over me as they do, several mind map characters of the bare bones of a story and character sketches , I launched November early. Gave myself 30 days and slung myself at a new project .
I ignored my normal tendency to fantasy and science fiction, and went for a straight forward none genre novel . because I had half an idea , and half another one, and because it avoided the pitfall of writing in my preferred reading matter and writing something I have read before.
I stripped away a lot of other tendency of mine. Rather than edit as I went along I just fired away writing, word count been everything , a target of 50000 words and daily updates to my Facebook friends to lobby encouragement became a mantra. Changing all my writing habits which had become so easy to procrastinate from. No in progress editing, no 1000 words a day and then stop, and just keep aiming for the word count.
In  the end draft one ran in at 72000 words. And was completed with three days to spare, and I woke up the morning after completing it and realised I had written a novel . Actually completed it . Start to finish. I was , it has to be said , shocked .
I then had to face a whole new challenge , that of draft 2…………..

Anyway , the point of this post is a piece of advice , that been , keep plugging , change habits that are stale , and remember remember November can start in June …….. 

Fantasy Armour vs real Armour

Armour , according to our friends at Wikipedia is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted, not an astoundingly difficult concept you would have thought. Here then is  a real woman in armour...




Champion of Longsword- Harcourt Park International Jousting Tournament, 2013

(reblog, because we don’t see enough women in armour who are kick ass swordfighters)

real armour

As worn, indeed, when she became the Champion of European Long-sword at Harcourt Park International Jousting Tournament, 2013. Not woman's champion I may add, she beat men and women to win the title. Swinging that big heavy long-sword, which though blunted for obvious reasons still weigh in at 2.5lds and swung in anger can break bones and cause no end of damage to the unprotected. 
Its' a fairly safe bet therefore that when swing big heavy European long swords about, and importantly having them swung at her, a woman chose's armour that actually protects those vital organs, bones and skin.

Fantasy armour from world of warcraft
Image result for bad breastplate for women
female blood elf armour 


So can you spot the difference, between real armour and fantasy armour? For it would seem to me that it is decoration rather than protection. Either that or the trio above have no actual vital organs that need protecting. The 'real' armour of the second picture is based on a blood elf armour set, notice the lack of protecting, well much to be honest. Even the shoulder guards do little to protect the actual shoulders... 

The sad part is not that the fantasy armour is decorative rather than protective. I am not greatly concerned by this in comic books, games and movies. If that is the male equivalent in those same comic books, games and movies followed the same rules. However in general male fantasy armour is heavy, bulky, and indeed effective if overly ornate. From this one can assume the male characters have actually got vital organs to protect. or perhaps one organ closely linked to the male ego to protect.  

This is I am sure far from news to anyone. it has all been said before and better by others.
Indeed I recommend +  as an entertaining view point of the issue. 

This is I know a minor rant , but it is something which seldom ceases to amaze me. I understand the intent behind decorative none functional armour, and sure it looks nice, sometimes. But occasionally its nice to see some fantasy try and be a little more realistic, and a little less, here's her boob's insert your sword here... 

Monday, 26 August 2013

female characters

One of the hardest things I find to do as a writer is write convincing female characters. I am not alone in this among male writers, indeed among some female writers I have read. Even some of the greatest writers of the English language have struggled with this at times. George Orwell to take a random example fails to write anything but two dimensional female characters.
I am particularly aware of the difficulty of writing females characters as a male writer due to  spending a lot of time reading informative well considered and well written blogs on the subject by people who have expressed the issue far more eloquently than me.
Rather than point people at individual posts on these blogs (because I think they are blogs everyone should read , ) I will just link the main blog + + and + been among those I read most frequently, though they have links in their own posts on the subject to many more . Admit ably this saves me trying to fish out individual posts as well.
Having been immersed in eloquently written opinion on how female characters often fall into ‘love interest ’ secondary characters , or  lead characters who’s main overwhelming drive is their own romantic interest.  Which is to say female characters who are defined by the male characters in the novel rather than by their own characteristics. I have striven to avoid the more obvious pit falls in my own writing. That is I have tried to make my female characters as well rounded, fleshed out and complete as any of the male characters. Without their drives and goals been based around the love interest.  The best that geekdom has to offer often fails to do this, to cite another blog which talks about a single example of this + , I am an unapologetic Whoaphile but I recognise Sophia’s arguments here, and agree with them. There are so many other examples.

In my novel ‘Cider lane’ (which is the working title, until I come up with another one ) I have strived to make both main characters well rounded , with the view of trying to make them both equally fleshed out and complete as individuals. With the aim of been at least honest with myself and making both main characters equal in terms of work and effort and one not just a love interest for the other. I also tried to follow this through with other characters in the book . and am using a female friend as a proof reader just to see if I have got the female characters even vaguely right .