Saturday, September 23, 2006

Elsewhere in the blogosphere...

Molly and Amanda at Pandagon are answering questions on everything feminism related.

And there's a new Carnival of the Feminists here

And BitchPhD comments on the shocking (shocking!) suggestion that women in science and engineering are hindered by
"a pattern of unconscious but pervasive bias, “arbitrary and subjective” evaluation processes and a work environment in which “anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a ‘wife’ is at a serious disadvantage.”"

rather than by their inferior feminine brains.

Read the comments for a good discussion of the issue including some opposing viewpoints. Everything original I could think to say about it has been said there already...

what goes into crisps goes into you

Have you seen this campaign from the British Heart Foundation which aims to 'expose hidden salt, fat and sugar in common foods' - not that the fat in crisps is particularly well hidden, and even if it was you could always take a look at the back of the packet.

But anyway, this annoyed me immediately, because '5 litres per year' is completely meaningless unless you put it into some context, i.e. how much fat are we supposed to consume in a year, and what percentage of that would 5 litres make up? Because without that, there is no way to tell whether it's excessive or just normal.

5 litres does sound like an awful lot of oil. But is it really that much when you think of it in small amounts over a whole year?
I did some calculations, and 5 litres of sunflower oil per year actually works out to 12.6g per day
I also had a look at the nutritional information on a packet of Walkers crisps, and the fat content is stated as 11.7g. So 5 litres per year is a slight overestimate, but it's accurate enough. But is it a lot? Well the recommended fat consumption is 70g for adult women, so assuming I eat a fairly normal diet that would mean the equivalent of drinking over 30 litres of cooking oil a year. Is this looking meaningless yet? I can't find the GDA for children, but even assuming it's significantly less than that for adults, a child eating a healthy diet would still be 'drinking' many more than 5 bottles of cooking oil every year, if you want to use that metaphor. So it's really not looking like such a bad thing.

No of course eating too many crisps is not good for anyone, for many reasons. But isn't there a better reason than claiming 5 litres of sunflower oil in a year is a lot, when in fact it's actually a lot less fat than we should be getting in out diets?

Drinking cooking oil straight from the bottle would probably be a bit disgusting. I wouldn't really want to try it. But if you could stand the taste and the texture, and you drank 13.7 ml per day for a year, it would be really unlikely to do you any harm. Sunflower oil is not such a bad thing.

And it's patronising and irritating that we are supposed to make the logical jump that since cooking oil doesn't taste very nice, eating crisps is bad. Yes maybe this is aimed at children as well as parents, but shouldn't we be encouraging logical and critical thought in children, not irrational panic?
This made me think about a wider issue, which is this: is it ok to lie to people for their own good? That's got to depend on who is doing the lying and who is being lied to, for example it's generally considered ok for parents to lie to their children to encourage them to behave better or eat well or whatever.
It's generally considered not ok for the government to lie to the voters, or for a company to lie about its product in order to sell it (*). But the British Heart Foundation is not the government and is not selling us anything, in fact they're discouraging us from buying crisps...but I still don't like it. Because encouraging people to eat a healthy diet and give their children good food is a good cause, but if it is so good, then surely we can come up with some real reasons for doing it, rather than inventing reasons that aren't reasons at all.

(*) Who else has seen those adverts for the toothpaste containing 'liquid calcium'? The melting point of calcium is over 800C, which is a lot hotter than my toothpaste tube tends to get even on a very warm day. How can they possibly ever get away with claiming that? How can anyone ever believe them? This is worse than the 'limescale is just calcium that sticks' thing. And the myth about milk being a good, in fact necessary source of dietary calcium.

Poor calcium. Was there ever a metal more misrepresented?