Mar. 10th, 2013

Two ELIZABETHANS passing the time in a place without any visible character.
They are well dressed -- hats, cloaks, sticks and all.
Each of them has a large leather money bag.
GUILDENSTERN's bag is nearly empy.
ROSENCRANTZ's bag is nearly full.
The reaason being: they are betting on the toss of a coin, in the following manner: GUILDENSTERN (hereafter 'GUIL') takes a coin out of his bag, spins it, letting it fall. ROSENCRANTZ (hereafter 'ROS') studies it, announces it as 'heads' (as it happens) and puts it into his own bag.Then they repeat the process. They have apparently been doing this for some time.
The run of 'heads' is impossible, yet ROS betrays no surprise at all -- he feels none. However, he is nice enough to feel a little embarrassaed at taking so much money off his friend. Let that be his character note.

GUIL is well alive to the oddity of it. He is not worried about the money, but he is worried by the implications; aware but not going to panic about it -- his character note.
*

Many moons ago, [livejournal.com profile] caliston organised for the then president of CICCU to come to Cambridge MethSoc Coffeeeeeeeee and respond to questions we had about CICCU. [livejournal.com profile] markrowland** ably chaired this discussion. Various things stick in my memory but the one that I've been coming back to in recent times concerns his response to a question about women speakers. It wasn't that they had a policy against women speakers he explained, but that some of their members believed that women shouldn't teach men, so it just so happened that each week the speaker was a man because no-one could have a problem with that. Keeping my temper in check, I tried to explain why I did have an issue with that. Now, 11 years later, in a Twitter conversation I've just realised the way to explain the problem. CICCU were like Rosencrantz in the opening scene of 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead'. Week by week , the toin coss comes up 'heads' (male speaker) and CICCU (or at least the then president) like Rosencrantz shows no surprise. There is not even any real embarassment at the run of heads. I like Guil, was aware of the problem, though unlike him I was pretty furious about it.

This sudden realisation came up in a twitter conversation with @revjodystowell, @matthewpfirth & @God_loves_women.
@RevJodyStowell tweeted "Sometimes things get under my skin - receiving a leaflet from St Paul's institute advertising talks with no women speakers is one of them". @matthewpfirth suggested that this was sexist and said there were female speakers at other events. I queried how many speakers. The answer was 3. My initial response to this was that had it been 10 it would have been clear statistical bias, but with 3 the sample size was too small. As the conversation progressed, I got the impression that others felt I was with Matthew, not Jody. But that's not the case. At root, I agree with Jody, there is a problem here with women's voices not being heard, but I can't argue it from one event witih three speakers. It's like comedy panel shows (eg. Just a minute, News Quiz, QI), to get a true picture of what is going on, looking at the make up of one panel isn't enough, it's the stats for the series which really count.

Statistically, if you select 3 from a larger population made up of Xs and Ys, let's say a drawer full of 50 black socks and 50 white socks, then some of the time , you'd expect to end up with three black socks or three white socks.*** The problem is that in comedy panel shows and Christian events (and indeed most events) , it's very common to have an event with 3 or 4 male speakers/panelists, but it is not equally common to have an event where there are 3 or 4 male speakers/panelists. This is the point various campaigners have made about various comedy panel shows and fair play to the News Quiz, they did in fact have an all female show a few weeks ago and this week's Just a Minute had two female panelists (though with a male host that was still slightly skewed) and my impression is that they've had more women recently (though probably still not 50/50). WIth QI, 1 of 5 is still a good week.

To be fair to the St Paul's Institute, I'd want to look at a series of their events and see if this event was a one off, or balanced by an all female event, with an overall speaker list with a roughly equal balance of male and female speakers. Unfortunately, my browser is refusing to show me their website and I'm too tired to fight it now. But I will return.

I will also note here another recent Twitter conversation about the fact that Plaid Cymru has a female leader, a female chair, a female chief exec and a female president**** but has never had a female MP, and hasn't had that many female AMs elected via a constituency rather than the regional list.

WIth CICCU 11 years ago, the bias was obvious, outside Ros & Guil are dead, the coin doesn't come up heads time after time. With other institutions it is less obvious, but insidious nonetheless.

*Opening stage directions of Tom Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead'. First performed on 11th April 1967 at the Old Vic Theatre, London.
**It must have been in the 2001/02 academic year as that's the only year all three of us lived in Cambridge
***Unfortunately, I'm tying myself in knots trying to remember how the stats work to calculate the probability, Nor can I quite recall how to do an χ2 test on it. And a 10 hour work day after insomnia and 2 hours sleep isn't the time to try! There is also the problem that if the larger population isn't 'the population of the world' (51% female) but 'Christian speakers' then there is a likelihood that the drawer probably actually has say 70 black socks for 30 white socks. I.e the root of the problem is further back.

****Though this position has just been voted to be abolished.

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