Flat White

What’s woke this week

4 October 2019

12:54 PM

4 October 2019

12:54 PM

What do Barbie dolls, meat myths and Maths have in common? They’ve all been very woke this week, as you’ll find when you read on. A warning, though. This article may contain nuts.

Gender bender Barbie

A few years ago Barbie was losing her commercial edge. Toy giant Mattel had seen a huge reduction in sales of Barbie dolls over a number of years and decided to look to wokeness as the remedy in the run-up to her sixtieth birthday earlier this year.

First Barbie eschewed her plastic fantastic, anatomically-impossible body type in favour of three distinct, more realistic body types. Then Mattel introduced a series of career dolls portraying women in male-dominated careers, and ‘Shero’ dolls celebrating ‘global female role models’.

Their recent ‘Inspiring Women’ series of dolls includes feminist icons such as artist Frida Kahlo (minus the monobrow, which was obviously a bridge too far, even for woke Barbie, and without a Leon Trotsky Ken) and astronaut Sally Ride. A limited edition Barbie dressed as Ziggy Stardust apparently sold out in minutes when hordes of gender-confused kiddies descended on stores in search of metallic suits and platform boots. Oh, wait… perhaps that was just cashed-up adult collectors.

But you’ll be pleased to know that the gender-confused kiddies will now be properly catered for with Mattel’s latest, and wokest, release: Creatable World genderless dolls with toned-down feminine or masculine features and interchangeable hair, clothing and accessories. Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, said in a statement:

Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels.

Additionally Time reported:

Mattel’s first promotional spot for the $29.99 [US] product features a series of kids who go by various pronouns – him, her, them, xem – and the slogan ‘ A doll line designed to keep labels out and and invite everyone in’.

The world was so much simpler in the days when kids just pulled the head off Barbie and swapped it onto Ken’s body. After all, we always had our doubts about Ken.

Meat myths

I apologise for the unfortunate mental imagery but the knotted knickers of vegans and environmental activists around the globe have been on display this week. So, what’s the cause this time? A study led by Dalhousie University and McMaster University in Canada, came out against the recommendations of the the World Health Organization (WHO), labelling meat a carcinogenic. In fact, the study, which was a systematic review of existing research, concluded that :

Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease… From 12 randomised controlled trials enrolling about 54,000 individuals, we did not find a statistically significant or an important association in the risk of heart disease, cancer or diabetes for those that consumed less red or processed meat.

You would have been hard-pressed to find many favourable comments about the study in mainstream media like The Guardian despite many academics applauding the academic rigour of the research. Cambridge University’s Professor David Spiegelhalter stated:

This rigorous, even ruthless, review does not find good evidence of important health benefits from reducing meat consumption. In fact, it does not find any good evidence at all.

Instead, we heard from, among other outraged scientists, Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Willett has some serious skin in this game. He advocates a plant-based diet and is the lead author of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health report released earlier this year, which, unsurprisingly, advocates a plant-based diet. He is also one of the authors of a report that linked a plant-based diet with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

He clearly didn’t like the affront to his views and his work, saying that the new study:

[H]as layers of flaws and is the most egregious abuse of evidence that I have ever seen.

Hell hath no fury like a scientist scorned, I suppose. I think it’s time to light the barbie (small-l, not the Barbie).

Mad as a meat axe

On a lighter, but still meaty, note a vegan in the UK has been ‘traumatised for life’ after being accidentally served a pork sausage roll at her local Greggs Bakery. Sharleen Ndungu posted three separate videos to social media about her ordeal but all have since been deleted.

In one she said “My body is poisoned for life now, you know”.

And, even though there was nothing to suggest she’s actually allergic to pork, she also claimed:

If I was allergic to pork or any of the ingredients that were inside that dirty sausage, I literally could have died. Some people, namely meat eaters, might think I’m over exaggerating but I could have died.

And you can draw your own conclusions about that.

Math delusion

A couple of weeks ago we introduced you to the woke concept of grading writing assignments according to effort rather than quality. This week, proving that nothing is safe from today’s woke education warriors, Maths is now in their sights.

An Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee (ESAC) for the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent this week published a load of gold-plated guff, otherwise known as the Math Ethnic Studies Framework. You may have thought of Maths as the science of numbers but not so, according to Seattle’s mathematical minions of Marxism. They want Maths viewed through a prism of ‘Origins, Identity, and Agency’; ‘History of Resistance and Liberation’; and ‘Power and Oppression’ where:

[I]ndividuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see “Western” mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color.

The framework also asks a range of questions that appear to be designed to root out quisling mathematicians. These include:

What does it mean to do math?

How important is it to be Right? What is Right? Says Who?

How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?

How can we change mathematics from individualistic to collectivist thinking?

How any of this will help develop students’ maths skills is anyone’s guess. Those poorly-designed planes falling out of the skies that I mentioned in my earlier article are suddenly looking even more likely.

Mathematician John Venn, populariser of the Venn diagram, is probably turning in his grave now that intersectionality has taken on a new woke meaning and in its new iteration is even entering the world of mathematics.

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