Monthly Archives: February 2012

Football and the Cheating Problem

Weirdly, I’m actually about to come out in favour of cheating, of a sort. I’ve just finished reading an article in the  sport section of the usually execrable Evening Standard. It got me thinking about Suarez, and his infamous handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup quarters:


I’ll get on to why I don’t see much wrong with what he did in a second. But first I’m going to briefly explain a couple of the rules of basketball which will hopefully illuminate my point.

In basketball, the rules on what constitutes a foul are very strict – other actions are considered violations rather than fouls and so do not count towards this total. To give a very common foul in basketball, we have the shooting foul: make contact with a player’s arm while he shoots and you have fouled him. The penalty is free throws and an extra foul to your tally.

The definition is deliberately specific and makes no mention of severity – merely to touch a player’s arms is (technically) a foul. It makes calls far more black and white than in football. A referee in basketball can get a call wrong, and replays may be inconclusive as to whether a foul occurred, but we never see the absurd example in football where three experienced pundits with all of the necessary data to make a decision still unable to come to a consensus.

The law in international football is extraordinarily vague – a foul is a ‘careless’ tackle. What the fuck does careless mean? If I spill me tea while making a tackle is it an infringement?

One big consequence of basketball’s rules on fouling is that of the deliberate fouls – they occur all the time. Often there is a tactical advantage to committing a foul, but the important thing to note is that these infringements are considered a part of the game. If a player deliberately fouls, the rules are structured in such a way as to allow him to do it safely.

My point is that when a player fouls, and accepts the consequences of those actions, he is not breaking the rules but playing the game entirely within them – just as putting the ball out of bounds results in losing possession to the other team, fouling gives the other team free throws.

Okay: back to Suarez. I argue that Suarez did not subvert the rules of football. In fact, not a single thing occurred within that entire video which is not explicitly laid out in the rules of football. Nobody got hurt, and the rules of the game were followed to a tee. Again, just as it is ‘against the rules’ for the ball to leave the field, it is against the rules for Suarez to handball on the goal line; each action has consequences which benefit the other team.

Suarez felt that handballing on the goal line was an action worth the consequences and it turned out to be. I have no problem with that at all, although his attitude was bit arsey. 

Contrast and compare Gareth Bale and the diving issue. The question is: is this cheating? Absolutely. A deliberate foul should make no attempt to subvert the rules – it plays entirely within them. The question of cheating lies in the question “Would a magical referee armed with a Palantir, or a video replay, call the action differently?” And with diving, the answer is absolutely yes. Simulation uses the imperfection of referees to mock the rules of the game itself.

A fuller post on diving, and eventually a comparison with capital markets and financial responsibility, will follow.

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Filed under Ethics, Sport

The Random Artefacts Effect

I’ve argued with people about why I oppose religion as an institution; and why I think blind faith is kind of stupid. This video sums up much of what I say far more elegantly than I could:

From the Friendly Atheist

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Boots and Adverts

I was wrong. I blogged a while ago that adverts which try to sell by pushing traditional roles on people annoy me. I also said that it doesn’t happen too often. That’s the bit where I was wrong.



I used to passively get annoyed at them – if I happened to notice anything was wrong iu’d get me, but since writing that post I’ve spotted these issues more often.


Let me offer another example which has annoyed me for a long time (one day I promise I’ll talk about adverts which annoy me for reasons other than sexism): the recent round of Boots adverts. I’m going to pick a particularly egregious version of these ads.



It’s a good thing for Boots that they have disabled comments for this page. As well as avoiding the random homeopathy spammers which I assume go after pharmacies, this is the sort of advert which brings out the MRAs in their droves.


Since I’m a sucker for punishment, I thought I’d see if I could find any such opinions and it wasn’t difficult (even I’m not crazy enough to start hunting through places like Reddit, though). First, why adverts like this aren’t anti-men: if two people are equally sick and one gets to rest while the other one has to work all the harder, who do think has the role power?


As a person who is not a woman, I can’t speak from experience about how misogyny harms women. I’ve talked about why men should be feminists for selfish reasons, but here there is only one reason to consider this advert sexist: it patronises women as unpaid servants to their over-sensitive man-child partners and then has the gall to put music over top which implies it is somehow empowering. “Yes, you can [find better ways to please your man]!!!1!” is not an empowering message, it’s deeply patronising and teaching people to rationalise a culture gender-stereotyping.


Noooooow, back to the over-sensitive men-children:

[T]hey have managed to portray men as stupid, incapable and lazy whilst implying that “The girls” have the answer to everything. 

Ah, the “this portrays men as bad – why aren’t the men portrayed as superior in every way?!” remark. Ultimately this advert, along with many of the others, doesn’t portray women as having the answer to everything, but merely being servile.

Of course there are adverts for men that could be considered sexist but I don’t think any of them attack women so blatently [sic].

Except, perhaps, Yorkie’s “it’s not for girls”, the endless Fairy Liquid/Febreeze/Mr. Muscle showing women doing all the housework, Lynx ads, about a third of all posters I see on the tube that aren’t for West End shows and all adverts for female beauty products which portray any deviation from the “standard” female body type as undesirable. And Lynx.


In fact, the erstwhile author correctly identifies the Lynx ads as sexist, but believes that it’s okay because the Lynx effect is “meant to be more of a fantasy”. Sure – the really really really blatant kind of sexism is fine as long as women are getting undressed while it’s happen. Excuse me while I go and spank a stranger.

Women can laugh all they want, they’re just jealous of our bigger brains and general hardiness 

Aaand I’m back. No comment for this one, but I challenge anyone to read this and not shudder at the thought that you might actually know this person – I’m sure somebody has to.

Only women shop at Boots anyway so who cares?

And the award for misunderstanding the issue goes to… Mr. the above. And I close with some helpful advice for any self-respecting Real Man(TM) from one of our more flagrant of commentators. If ever you find yourself telling a woman to shut up and make a sandwich, and for the briefest moment realise what a bottom-feeding, waste-of-air piece of human offal you are, remember these words as a reminder of just how much worse you could be, and that is still hope for you yet top become a real human being:

I think you’re menstruating, frankly.
Have a can of man the **** up already

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Filed under Advertising, Feminism

Why Feminism is a good thing for men, too

I was heading out to the London Dungeons with my girlfriend last Sunday. We had a lot of fun and the actors were mostly very good, although for some it’s not too hard to see why they’re not West End stars yet. There were a few moments which were pretty good for making you jump, but all was child friendly and the dialogue was occasionally inspired.

However, the thing which has stuck with me was a tube poster – an advert for SurvivorsUK, a charity helping victims of sexual assault and professionals who work with victims of sexual assault. All very admirable, and always worthy of praise and support. What made this stand out against other charities is that SurvivorsUK, as you will already know if you have clicked on the above links, is a charity for male victims of abuse.

It is a singularly sorry state of affairs that support for male victims of abuse is so rare that I feel it worthy of special comment. But it is. This almost sounds like I’m about to turn this blog post in to a heavy-handed, misogynistic “what about teh menz!!1!” type rant and that the title of this post is merely an unsubtle bait-and-switch, but before you judge me, check out the poster itself:

Yes, this is aimed at the rugby-playing, beer-swilling “real men” who would, if given the opportunity, describe themselves as “beer chugging, banter loving, footie watching, womanising man – a LAD“. It is aimed at the people who believe that getting raped, or admitting weakness, or showing emotion, or treating women like other human beings instead of walking, talking vaginas are somehow not proper men.

This is aimed at the men who feel the need to add “No homo” to the end of any internet comment which is in any way not entirely critical of another man. This is aimed at exactly the kind of men who oppose the feminist movement. It is aimed at them because misogyny is hurting them too.

About halfway through writing this post I noticed Jason Thibeault has a great post about this topic, which I recommend reading. His feeling is that the use of the phrase “real men” is reinforcing a harmful stereotype of men:

The “talking about it takes real strength” line does in fact undermine that toxic stoicism. But reinforcing the idea that there’s a Real Man archetype, and it involves being strong, is kind of terrible to those men who do not see themselves as strong enough.

And I agree with that point – but the ad is trying to reach a specific subset of men. And it’s the one which has  already fallen for the real man party line. They make websites crowing about it. Before we can help people, we need to reach them. This is one small way of doing so, but it all fits in with the larger idea of feminism.

I am a feminist because I wholeheartedly support equality for women. But (somewhat more selfishly) I am a feminist because a world without feminism is one with gender roles such as these for men, which ultimately are unbelievably harmful. How many men are harmed by this? According to SurvivorsUK’s own website:

About 3% of men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. 

(National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998)

So quite a lot then, and if these go unreported because of a rape culture in which only women who dress like sluts get raped, then our society is much the poorer.

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Filed under Ethics, Feminism