On the whole I am a very mild mannered individual. I don’t tend to rant, and if i do have negative thoughts or feelings I usually choose to express them in person to people who know me well, rather than here on my blog for the world to see. I have had the odd rant here, of course, but as someone who can usually see both sides of the argument and find some positive in everything I usually take an “each to his own” attitude to things that might make me ranty, and move on.
However, today I have free rein to rant. I’ve been challenged by Sally who blogs at Who’s The Mummy? to tell you what three things I would send into Room 101. Have you heard of Room 101? It was the name of the torture chamber in George Orwell’s book 1984, and later re-purposed for a TV show where celebrities were encouraged to share their pet hates and try to encourage the host to condemn them to Room 101. So today I am going to tell you the three things that make me most ranty, that I want to send into Room 101.
I love toast. I make my own bread in the bread machine, and I love nothing more for breakfast than a slice of my malted grain loaf, toasted to perfection and spread with butter and my Mum’s home made marmalade. So why would I want to send all toasters into Room 101?
Well, toasters only have one purpose in life. They exist to heat bread up so that it turns consistently golden brown all over. It’s not a difficult job.
SO WHY IS IT SO HARD TO BUY ONE THAT ACTUALLY WORKS?!
Whenever I attempt to buy a toaster I am faced by an array of devices. All different sizes, colours and with a ream of extra functions that I have no idea if I need or not. It’s impossible to differentiate one from another. And yet, without fail, when I buy one, bring it proudly home, plug it in and attempt to make my first piece of toast, this is where the problems start. Every toaster I have ever owned has failed at the fundamental job of a toaster – to turn bread into toast! My current machine was a very expensive model which I bought assuming that expensive should be better, right? Wrong! If I only want to toast one slice of bread it cooks one side far more than the other, which means I have to decide whether I want one side toasted to perfection and the other side barely warm, or alternatively wait for the second side to toast which then means the first side will be burnt. Before that I had a machine which, despite having a circular dial with 6 different settings for toast colour, only produced two kinds of toast – barely warm or burnt to a crisp!
I don’t care about “high rise”, defrost function, little trays for warming teacakes on or any other extra features the manufacturers want to throw in. I just want a toaster that turns bread into toast. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?
Apparently it is. So I want to condemn all toasters to Room 101 and I’ll go back to toasting my bread under the grill. I won’t end up with any better toast, but at least when it burns I will have only myself to blame for leaving it under for too long.
2. Misuse of Statistics
Not a week goes by without the world of parenting being rocked by statistics from the latest piece of research. The advantages of breastfeeding and the dangers of co-sleeping seem to feature regularly, but it could be anything. Is it any wonder then that as parents we feel like we’re constantly walking around on eggshells, just waiting to be told the next way in which we are seriously damaging our children? But we’re not given the information we need to make informed parenting choices, just the headlines.
Co-sleeping doubles the risk of cot death the headlines scream. Those who were never going to co-sleep anyway smile, safe in the knowledge that they are doing the right thing for their child. Those who do co-sleep take to social media and forums to defend their choice. Those who are suffering from sleep deprivation and wondering if co-sleeping might help them feel guilty for even considering it.
I have two major issues with the ways things like this are reported. First of all we are never told the underlying figures behind the statistics. They are contained within long research papers which, quite frankly, most of us don’t have the time or the inclination to read. Yes, on the face of it, co-sleeping doubling the risk of death sounds very cut and dried, but if the standard risk of cot death is one in a million, double that is “only” two in a million, and that’s still a lot lower risk than many of the other things we do as parents on a day to day basis. (Please note I have no idea if these are the actual figures or not, I have just made them up for illustrative purposes)
Next there’s the age old issue of causality versus correlation. I suspect many of you have heard about ice cream causing drowning? Or pirates causing global warming? There are so many factors that affect our day to day life that actually isolating the cause of any individual thing is incredibly hard. And no matter how many of these studies say they have “adjusted” their findings to take into account other things that might skew the statistics, there are still so many unknowns. I suspect a lot of these studies are reporting correlations rather than causality.
Statistics have their place. They allow us to analyse things that have happened in the past, and mathematically predict things that might happen in the future, assuming identical circumstances. But if we’re going to be fed alarmist headlines that make us doubt our own parenting instincts, at least give us the figures to back up the message, and the information we need to make our own informed choices.
3 – The false genderfication of toys
My daughter has a Gruffalo dressing up costume. She loves putting it on and chasing her brother around the house, roaring at him. Yet this very costume was listed on the John Lewis web site in the “boys’ dressing up” category. Really?!
We have a toy piano at home. It’s pink. Early Learning Centre sell two versions of this piano, identical in every way, apart from the fact that one is blue and one is pink. At least that used to be that case – checking the web site now they seem to have amended that slightly and now sell a pink and a red version. That’s not any better really, is it?
Why does a unisex dressing up costume have to be classed as bring for girls or boys. Why sell different coloured versions of the same product?
I was what was referred to in the seventies as a tomboy as a child. I had a cowboy dressing up outfit, and a great collection of matchbox cars. I was supremely jealous of my cousin’s Hornby railway set, and desperately wanted Scalextric! I was never told I couldn’t do any of this because I was a girl, and I would never ever tell either of my kids that they couldn’t do something or have something because of their gender. Yet I find myself having daily conversations with the geekdaughter where she insists one thing or another is “only for boys” or “only for girls”. I know part of this is her trying to figure out her place in the world, but really it would be so much easier if the toy stores weren’t so intent on polarising everything.
So there you are. Three things that make me rant, and that I would like to see condemned into Room 101. Do you agree? Will you let me put them in?
I’m tagging the following three bloggers to join in and tell me what they’d like to put into Room 101
What would you put into Room 101?
Image credit: Keep Calm image by the Keep-Calm-O-Matic