Reader Center: The Libya crisis is a global issue

Khalifa Haftar’s foreign backers have egged him on – and civilians are paying the price

The warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls eastern Libya, has never disguised his ambitions. Once one of Muammar Gaddafi’s generals, he returned from exile in the US when the dictator fell in 2011, attempted to launch a coup three years later, repeatedly declared his intention to take Tripoli and has said that his country may not be ready for democracy.

So the professions of shock from his backers when he mounted his assault on the western capital, held by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, cannot be treated with great seriousness.

The only real surprise about his advance was its timing. By moving while the UN secretary-general was in the country, to discuss arrangements for a UN-organised conference intended to lead to elections, he destroyed muted hopes of a political solution and underscored his already evident contempt for the process.

As the prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, complained, the response of many supposed allies was silence.

Mr Haftar apparently hoped to flip the ragbag of militias on which the GNA relies and saunter into Tripoli. But with his self-styled Libyan National Army stalled on the outskirts, the cost of his ambitions is becoming clearer.

Libyans, who endured decades of Gaddafi’s rule followed by the bloodshed and turmoil after his overthrow by rebels with Nato support, now face a new chapter of suffering. More than 260 have already died, including civilians, and many more are wounded.

Around 32,000 people have been displaced. Refugees held in the country’s brutal detention camps have also suffered. Last week’s attack on an LNA airbase in the south served as reminder that the attack on Tripoli may well ignite fighting elsewhere.

Yet Libya’s crisis is not Libya’s alone. Both Russia and the US blocked a British-led ceasefire security council resolution critical of Mr Haftar. Donald Trump, who held a chummy phone call with him, is merely the latest to succumb.

Mr Haftar needed external backing to launch this attack, and it appears unlikely that he can manage a protracted campaign without such support. Weaponry appears to be pouring in for both sides. His advance on Tripoli happened shortly after he visited Saudi Arabia, where he was welcomed by King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman. The UAE has been a particularly enthusiastic provider of arms and military support.

Egypt is another backer. Both countries are believed to have lobbied the US on his behalf.

More shocking, perhaps, is that while France claims to be a mediator, it has repeatedly bolstered him, clashing with other EU members and in particular with Italy.

The two European countries have competing oil interests at stake. But France also seems to have believed Mr Haftar’s hype, which casts him as a Sisi-like strongman who can unify and stabilise his country, clamping down on extremists and stemming the flow of migrants through it. In truth, he himself relies on Salafist militias, looks far less mighty than his backers hoped, and in his recklessness and authoritarianism is more likely to further fracture and inflame his country.

The military “solution” they perceive is no such thing.

Stemming the flow of arms is a priority: the UN arms embargo imposed in 2011 has been repeatedly and flagrantly breached.

Meanwhile, the rest of the EU must press France to think more sensibly about Europe’s interests: the continent will feel the repercussions as others will not. There is a real risk of Islamic State taking advantage of the chaos. Libya’s crisis did not just result from events within its borders. Nor will it end there.

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Reader Center: why are people giving up on coffee?

Decaffeinated joe has leapt in popularity because the real stuff is keeping everyone awake – but surely that’s the point

Name: Decaffeinated coffee.

Age: Patented by Ludwig Roselius in 1906.

Appearance: All the taste of coffee, without the point of coffee.

Ah, decaffeinated coffee, the Alien vs Predator of brown liquid. Well, hang on a second. Plenty of people like decaf.

Like who? Like people who enjoy the taste of coffee.

Nobody likes the taste of coffee, you bozo. It’s a pick-me-up. It’s the acceptable form of licking a battery in public. What if I told you that more and more people are adopting decaf as their drink of choice?


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I would ask for proof. OK: Lisa Lawson, the founder of Dear Green Coffee in Glasgow, told the Times her decaf sales had tripled since 2017.Advertisement

Anything else? According to the researcher Kantar Worldpanel, sales of instant decaf are up 20% compared with two years ago.

Why, though? Decaf is so disappointing. Apparently, coffee is keeping people awake.

Again, that’s the point of coffee. It’s a ritual. The brew, the pour, the endless sleepless nights spent grinding your teeth to a fine dust. Do you have a problem?

No. I enjoy constantly feeling like I’m on the verge on a coronary. You’re in the minority. People take care over the production of decaf now. A decade ago, it all tasted disgusting. Now, there are some really nice ones.

Name one. To give you an example, the coffee website The Coffee Bazaar recently reviewed Decadent Decaf Coffee Company’s Indonesian Sumatra and said: “Only a pro coffee taster would be able to tell the difference between this and a normal coffee.”

I’m still not sure. That’s because you’re stuck in the past, my friend. Coffeeshops are replacing pubs as the primary community hubs; if we all sat around drinking obscenely strong coffee all day, we would be twitchy, paranoid messes.

We have Brexit for that already. Exactly. In any case, it’s important to factor in highs and lows when calculating your daily coffee intake. Sometimes you need a decaf to take the edge off a caffeine buzz; sometimes you need a caffeinated boost after too much decaf.

Alternating uppers and downers. Just like Elvis in his fat period. That’s right, now you’re getting it.

This is an outrage. Coffee is coffee and people who don’t like it should stick to water. You seem on edge. How much coffee have you drunk today?

Four pints, so far. OK. Here’s some decaf. You sip this, I’ll call an ambulance.

Do say: “I don’t want to be kept awake by caffeine any more.”

Don’t say: “I’ll stick to being kept awake by the endless nightmare of life on Earth.”

Reader Center: GTBANK cannot afford to pay Innoson 8 billion Naira

All the options for GTBANK to overturn the initial ruling ordering them to pay Innoson Motors 2 billion Naira has been exhausted, and the first ruling, compares to the later would have been, from all indications the best ruling the bank would have received, but in the process of trying to avoid paying debts, the money has risen to to 8 billion Naira due to a monthly interest capped at 22%.

Now that they’ve gotten to this point, the questions remains are they going to pay? If yes, how and what are the risks?

Divine Mmeje wrote;

If they try paying that money it will expose them to a lot of risks, that’s their dilemma and even the declared 2018 profit was a pre-tax profit.

The Board chairman should Come to her Bank’s rescue, because if media that is rooted in financial times buys into this, the bank share will at least drop, and it’s not healthy for them.”

Yes this is a good side of it, and further more, it is going to expose them to some financial investigations and lots of loopholes are going to be opened and and it may likely going to attract more questions about their tax declarations and many other financial management within the bank.

Jasper Ahamefule wrote;

“GTB can’t pay that money, it will kill them. Forget that noise about market value. We are talking liquids cash. When it was 2.6 billion they couldn’t pay, is it now that it is 8.8 billion? They can’t even try instalment because that debt is capped at 22% interest. So instalment won’t work.

It is either they pay in full cash or let Innosson take over because at such amount, he becomes the highest shareholder.”

The process of finding out the good answer to this question will be long, but one point is would 8 billion make Mr Innocent Chukwuma the highest shareholder of the bank? Well, according to our readers, that would be determined also by his initial share at the bank (if he has any) and how much share is it.

Divine Mmeje Wrote;

“That would be determine by if he is the highest shareholder, the highest shareholder has how many shares, those should be the question before you say Innoson is the biggest shareholder.

Unless Mr. Innocent has a bigger share prior to now that he can add to this new one, that is the only way he can be the biggest shareholder enough to take over the bank.”

This is open to our readers, what do you think about this developing story?


Have any comment our contribution? Send it to us at infobloomgist@gmail.com Or Whatsapp +2349065647671

Abolition of Angola’s anti-gay laws may force regional reforms

Angola has decriminalised consensual same-sex acts between adults in private.

An erstwhile Portuguese colony, Angola inherited an ancient colonial statute – dating back to 1886 – that criminalised “indecent acts” and persons habitually engaging in “acts against nature”. These formulations have widely been interpreted as a ban on homosexual conduct.

Punishment upon conviction included confinement in an asylum for the “mentally insane”. It could also lead to jail time with hard labour, and disqualification from practising a profession. Portugal abolished a similar offence in 1983. It then adopted far-reaching constitutional protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Its former colony has taken a long time to reach this point.

The Angolan National Assembly voted of 155 to 1 to abolish the provision criminalising homosexual relationships on January 23. It went further, making a criminal act against another person because of their “sexual orientation” an aggravating factor in sentencing. The new Penal Code (in article 214(1) also made discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation an offence, with punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment. It is homophobia, not homosexual acts, that will be punished in future.

This is a great step forward for Angola’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community. And the decision could have tremendous significance beyond the country’s borders – by spurring change in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Angola is a member.

That’s because Angola’s move means those SADC states which actively criminalise same sex activity are officially in the minority. And data shows that attitudes towards homosexuality in the region are becoming less negative.

Tipping point in SADC?

Decriminalisation in Angola brings SADC, which has 16 member states, to a tipping point. Two countries in the region – the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar – never made same-sex conduct criminal.

Three others have unequivocally abolished such laws in the last two decades or so – South Africa in 1998, invalidating all convictions since 1994; Mozambique in 2015; and Seychelles in 2016. In a fourth, Malawi, the situation is ambivalent. In 2012 then President Joyce Banda committed to repeal all laws that criminalised same-sex sexual relations. But, a 2012 moratorium on arrests and prosecutions was suspended in 2016. A court ordered review of the constitutionality of “sodomy laws” is ongoing.

In Lesotho and Namibia, the situation is not very clear. There is no explicit legal prohibition. But it’s assumed that same sex sexual acts remain a common law crime. This leaves a minority of seven states – Botswana, Comoros, Mauritius, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – in which the legal prohibition is clear. People are prosecuted for same sex relations in these countries. But, cases are infrequent these days.

But, litigation is underway to challenge these laws in Botswana. And, in Mauritius, the Law Reform Commission already in 2007 recommended that “sodomy laws” be abolished.

There is evidence to suggest that southern Africa is relatively fertile ground for legal reform in this domain. In its 2016 survey independent African research network Afrobarometer found that tolerance towards homosexual persons in the region was higher than in any other part of the continent. In the survey, an average of 32% respondents in southern African countries expressed a favourable view towards having neighbours who are homosexual. This contrasts with an average of 21% across Africa.

Although there will be many obstacles to achieving region-wide decriminalisation, there is also much to build on in terms of popular support and lessons learned from Angola’s experience.

How Angola got here

Various factors contributed to decriminalisation in Angola. The most important was the change in political leadership in September 2017. This led to the political will to take on an issue that doesn’t necessarily enjoy popular support.

Angola’s new President João Lourenço has shown some willingness to engage in a more inclusive politics. Since he took over power in September 2017, an openly LGBT organisation was for the first time officially registered. And, Parliament all-but-unanimously decriminalised same-sex acts.

Organised civil society, including Angola’s first ever LGBT organisation Iris Angola, also played an important role. National efforts were supported by pan-African NGOs such as African Men for Sexual Health and Rights.

The close relationship between Angola and other states in the Lusophone world  also contributed. Brazil, for example, is a major socio-cultural influence – and its sexual minorities have traditionally enjoyed high levels of acceptance, to the extent that same sex unions are recognised. In all likelihood, Angolans also closely followed the abolition of similar offences in Mozambique.

More than just decriminalisation

While decriminalisation is an important part of securing a world in which LGBTQ people coexist on an equal footing with others, the mere absence of criminal sanction is not enough.

In 2014 the African Union’s major human rights body, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted Resolution 275. This called on state parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to refrain from, investigate and punish acts of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Angola’s legal reforms are in line with this resolution.

Other SADC states should draw on Angola’s example by not only abolishing same-sex prohibitions (where they still exist). But, they must also adopt anti-discrimination legislation. A good starting point is the context of employment law. South Africa, Mozambique, Mauritius and Botswana have already explicitly prohibited discrimination in the workplace.

This is an area of human rights protection in which Southern Africa is well placed to take a firm lead, and achieve region-wide decriminalisation and anti-discrimination laws. Closer collaborative links should be forged between states and non-state actors to work towards this goal. And, greater openness and genuinely inclusive politics should be cultivated.

SOURCE: The Conversation

Reintroducing Bloomgist Reader Center

The Bloomgist is reestablishing a Reader Center to capitalize on our readers’ knowledge and experience, using their voices to make our journalism even better. Our readers are among our greatest strengths, helping us to distinguish ourselves from all of our competitors.

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Our readers (and listeners and viewers) can offer a wealth of story suggestions, insights, analysis and more. On our digital platforms and on social media, their voices amplify what we stand for: the power of information, ideas and debate to shape the world and inspire change.

Our readers also hold us accountable, helping to ensure that we meet the standards of quality, fairness and accuracy that they expect from The Bloomgist.

Now, we are planning to build even stronger bonds with our readers by establishing a Reader Center at The Bloomgist. We want to capitalize on our readers’ knowledge and experience, using their voices to make our journalism even better.

To deliver this, we are building a team that will partner with reporters, columnists and editors in the newsroom and in opinion on a range of projects, including:

  • Improving how we respond directly to tips, feedback, questions, concerns, complaints and other queries from the public — whether they arrive through email, social media, posts on our own platforms or other channels.
  • Helping to make sure that we are as transparent as possible in how we explain our coverage.
  • Experimenting with new formats to reach out to and engage audiences.
  • Broadening our efforts to allow readers to make their voices heard on our digital platforms about issues of the day.
  • Assisting our journalists in building communities of readers who are interested in the subjects that they cover.

The Reader Center, based on the News Desk, will work across the newsroom and with opinion, and it will have close ties to colleagues in marketing, product and other parts of the company.


 

Reader center: Islamic laws and the killing of Shiite

Shiite protesters


By Mike Ikenwa


On Bloomgist coverage of the continued protest by Shiite Islamic group which has lead to killing of many of the group members by Nigerian army, while hundreds have been injured badly, one of the Bloomgist readers has argued that as a Muslim, it’s not permissible to protest, except when it is under a condition where the rights of the Muslim is being abused or in a situation where such person is been deprived of the freedom to pray the five times daily prayers or celebrate Eid.

The Reader writes;

In Islam protest against anything is Haram for a protest causes mayhem to the community and death or injury to who ever involved, Muslim may crash against themselves and Muslim brother might kill Muslim brother for a protest also it causes insecurity to the state , in Islam leaders are not allowed to be insult nor abuse even if they are bad, but a protest can only be done where any pillars of islam is been deprived of the Muslim, for example if the authority deny us of 5 times daily prayer or not to celebrate Eid. Allaahu Alam. – Alabi Jamiu

According to IlmGate, an online Archive of Islamic Knowledge, Muslims can take part in protests and marches as long as they are not abandoning their primary duties like the daily Fajr, etc.

A post from the author responding to this question stated’

Expressing solidarity and support for oppressed people in any part of the world is a noble act, more so if the oppressed happen to be Muslims. Allah is Just and He has made oppression Harām for Himself, so how would He ever allow it for another?

Islam imbues Muslims with a keen sense of love for justice and hatred for injustice. The Muslim therefore instinctively identifies with the suffering of an oppressed people or nation. The Qur’an and Hadith [are] replete with injunctions on this subject.

In today’s world, the mode of expressing indignation and outrage against oppression assumes many forms. Among these is the practice of holding demonstrations, protest marches, rallies, vigils, and so forth. Some of the primary objectives of adopting these modes of protest [are]:

  • to convey to the oppressed people one’s solidarity with them;
  • to draw the attention of the world towards their suffering;
  • to embarrass the oppressor and to swing international public opinion against them.

In a world that keenly tracks news events, the international media gives extensive coverage to events of this nature and thus, maximum exposure is gained to the strategic advantage of the oppressed.

For a Muslim to express detestation for injustice and solidarity with the oppressed in the form of protest marches, etc. is allowed. Mawlana Ashraf Ali al-Thanawi (ra) has deemed these to be mubah (permissible) acts [refer to Hakimul-Ummat ke Siyasi Afkaar by Mufti Taqi Usmani, p.60]. In a recent ruling, the eminent scholar, Mufti Taqi Usmani has also intimated that if the demonstration was not for any impermissible cause then [the demonstration] is permissible.

However, all mubah (permissible) matters are governed by certain provisions or regulations of Shari’ah (Islamic Law). So long as these regulations are adhered to, there is no issue. If these regulations are ignored, then a mubah act will be rendered impermissible and may in fact itself become an act of transgression and sin, akin to oppression. A Muslim is always motivated by the desire to seek Allah’s pleasure in all that he does and will not transgress or violate His orders in the process of attempting to perform a mubah deed.

Among some of the matters that need to be considered by the organizers and participants of these activities [are] the following:

  • They shall not be accompanied by any Harām activity such as violence, disrupting the peace, vandalism, coercion of unwilling people to participate by threats of violence, damage to persons or property, music, dancing, vulgarity, rowdy and uncouth behavior, hindering the safe movement of non-participants, or any other act that is un-Islamic in nature. All of the above acts are incorrect. In all of the above cases, support is being shown to others who are oppressed; but by the above acts, the protester is ‘oppressing’ his own soul in the process. The protester’s activity should not become a manifestation of Rabbana zalamna anfusana (“O Allah, we have indeed oppressed ourselves”). The organizers of these protest events have a greater responsibility to take the necessary measures that none of the above things take place, by arranging marshals and so on.
  • It shall not lead to the neglect of one’s primary responsibilities such as proper fulfillment of Salāt on its time, or a student neglecting his studies, or an employee neglecting his work duty unless permission is sought from the employer.
  • The act of expressing protest must not be considered as the end-all and be-all of a Muslim’s responsibility towards the oppressed. Such an attitude needs revision. Rather, it should be regarded as a means for greater involvement in the struggle against oppression. Muslims should never allow themselves to get ensnared in the deceptive thinking that by merely joining a protest event or two, they have truly fulfilled their duty towards the oppressed.

On the point of burning flags and effigies, caution must be exercised in not allowing the main issues from becoming obscured or covered. For example, at certain protest events, flags (and effigies) of countries that are friendly towards an oppressive regime are also burnt. From a strategic point of view, this may not be the ideal form of protest. Citizens of those nations, who may not fully understand the rationale behind this, will not take kindly to watching their country’s flag being burnt. Driven by a spirit of patriotism, they may in turn develop negative attitudes towards the oppressed people. This is counter-productive to the purpose of the protest, which was supposed to have influenced public opinion and not the other way around. The focus must therefore be kept primarily on the oppressor and must not shift away from the actual villains [and instead] towards their supporters and sympathizers. It is observed that some protest events unwittingly fall into this trap.

  • Do you have any contribution to make or any correction? Do you have another view of this? Kindly write your message to Reader Center with the form below. Don’t forget to join Bloomgist Reader Center on Facebook

Bloomgist’s Ogbonna Jill’s speech at the Enugu Readers Summit 2018

Over the weekend, the Annual Enugu Reader’s Summit organised by Impactfield Initiative took place at the Center for memories, Enugu Nigeria.

Bloomgist Ogbonna Jill at Enugu Readers Summit 2018

The annual event which organized for readers and writers across the South-Eastern state of Nigeria was witnessed by many, including Bloomgist’s Ogbonna Jill, who on behalf of Bloomgist, delivered a speech on how both writers and readers can benefit from the newly launched Bloomgist Book, the literary channel of The Bloomgist.

Below is the full speech;

About The Bloomgist

Bloomgist is a 75% Africa-focused multimedia news brand that incorporates user-submitted contents for writers and columnist who writes outside our majors (News, Special Reports, Technology & Sports). We are targeting audiences with taste for original and changing contents.

Bloomgist is on the mission to build a global understanding of international issues and broaden Africa audience’s experience of different cultures. With over 4 years in digital publication, The Bloomgist has taken its readers into an Africa the rest of the world doesn’t talk about and is on the mission to report more of the underreported stories, while helping our readers make sense of every day events.

Vision

Nominated as the 2018 Best Digital Media in Africa by SoMA Awards, an annual Media Award by Kenya Televisions, Kenya; Bloomgist has a very clear vision for the African future: To be the most reliable and balanced digital news media in Africa and to pioneer new ways to serve at least 5 million registered customers through quality journalism and experiences, bringing them closer to us, Africa and each other.

Introducing Bloomgist Books

Bloomgist Books, the literary channel of the Bloomgist, was born out of the need to bring global literature closer to the African readers and writers, as well as lovers of literary works.

Since it was launched on the 16th of August 2018, Bloomgist Books has gotten over 1200 subscribers in less than 3 months, that is to say that apart from our audience of over 123,000 readers a week, there are 1200 people who are particularly interested in Books, hence they subscribe to be notified whenever we publish on the channel.

How can you be part of this?

For writers, we are interested in seeing you succeed, and as part of our vision, we are giving you the opportunity to publish your book reviews to our growing readers of over 800,000 people every month. We are offering you the opportunity to publish your first review with us, and have your next book reviewed and published for free by our team of professional and well informed reviewers like the iconic writer Okey Ndibe author of Foreign God’s Inc, Muyiwa Awoniyi, author of The Genesis of Our Exodus and Harouna Risa, author of Mombasa Raha, My Foot.

For readers, we are giving you 60% discount on any African Book you buy on Bloomgist Bookstore, as well as the opportunity to be among the first to have more insight on any new book published by African writers.

We are also inviting you to join the Bloomgist Readers Center on Facebook, where we, alongside intelligent and smart Africans talk about our stories, what’s behind them and our next project.

You can Access the channel on Bloomgist.com/books

Follow Bloomgist on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @BloomgistBooks

Thanks.


Cover photo: Bloomgist Ogbonna Jill at Enugu Readers Summit 2018. Photo: Bloomgist

Reader center: What does Zuma’s resignation teach Nigeria?

Earlier today, Bloomgist published the news f the resignation of former South Africa president, Jacob Zuma, who resigned just on the eve of a no-confidence vote sponsored by his own party, ANC.


Bloomgist readers have taken to both our web comment section and on Bloomgist social media handles to express their views on the news and their expectations from other African countries like Nigeria.

Below is one of the comments we picked out of them.

Can any minster in Nigeria ever resign because of allegations of corruption, talk less of a governor or a president?

Even Dino Melaye (Ajekun iya Senator) who his constituency made several collective efforts to recall has not been pulled out, his recall is still a test of democracy in a jury-less Nigeria.

Well, folks, there you have it; the power of a jury system, and the level of probity and accountability and reverence that politicians have for the voice and will of their citizenry. For all those who would be quick to ascribe this cheap feat in a country like South Africa to anything order than the ripple effects and benefits of the jury system; I’d say, simplify their national conscience all you want, but in the absence of the fear and regard for the citizenry by politicians, this kind of effect would hardly be felt in Nigeria even if we revert to ‘truest’ federalism!

The power of a jury-empowered citizenry…oh, how badly we pray for this to also be witnessed in Nigeria: well, I guess it is time Nigerians look introspectively and ready ourselves to be legally and constitutionally given a role in governance and a resounding voice in the room, else we would remain in a state of trance.

With Nigerians as jurors, politicians would fear, respect and regard us, because our civic duties would go beyond election voting every four years. Never under-estimate the power of a jury system!

Written by a Bloomgist Reader


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Why do women talk so much? You asked Google – here’s the answer

Every day millions of people ask Google life’s most difficult questions. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries.

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Photo: UCSF

woman’s tongue wags like a lamb’s tail”, so an old English saying goes, and if you deign to type “why do women …” into Google’s search bar, the search engine will finish your sentence accordingly with “talk so much”. We’ve been brought up to believe that women are the talkative ones, the ones whose words, both soothing and scolding, are the social glue of small communities and families alike. We assume women talk more than men. But there’s also the more sinister notion that women must be silenced for risk of what they might say about men, a belief Mary Beard traces back to the classical world in her recent tract Women and Power – and something we’ve seen in full contemporary flourish with the eruption of #MeToo.

Because of the prohibition on women’s speech, which continued right through the middle ages and up through the mass growth in western female literacy, it took until the 20th century for a more positive, parallel notion to take hold: that women might be biologically better with words. Today scientific study has even found the odd bit of evidence that girls may indeed find it easier to acquire language than boys. But does the idea of women’s super- (and superfluous) loquacity actually hold up to scientific scrutiny?

It depends on the context. For more than 20 years, Deborah Cameron, one of Britain’s leading sociolinguists, has examined the concept of conversational dominance. What she has found is that men hold court more often in mixed-gender conversation unless the topic is one where female expertise is presumed – relationships or babies, for example – and this is not just because the men talk over the women but because the women more frequently defer to them.

What’s more, in formal or public situations – business meetings, political debates, TV interviews – men nearly always talk more than women. And that’s also a matter of status, says Cameron – people higher in the pecking order command the floor. That more men hold positions of high office than women explains again why it’s male voices that resonate more loudly and more regularly.

As an educated woman of Yorkshire-Irish heritage, I think it’s fair to say I’m better at talking than breathing. And yet while learning to debate on TV, I’ve been called everything from “mute blonde piece”, to “bog-eyed chipmunk”, to “confused bint” by men and women alike. In fact, when I first started, I was amazed at how many more words the male guests and presenters felt justified to slot in. I was even more surprised by how I seemed to self-censor my usual garrulousness when given male sparring partners, something I’ve had to work hard to overcome.

It’s notable that the practice of filibustering – talking irrelevantly at length to prevent a political bill being passed – was devised by men (the orator Cato, against Julius Caesar, in the first instance). In British parliament, the tactic is on record as having been almost exclusively favoured by male politicians, and it’s well-noted by many a female politician that learning to speak above the male brouhaha is one of the most difficult aspects of life in the Commons.

There’s a perception at the moment that a cacophony of feminine complaint about everything from sexual harassment to equal pay is drowning out the sensible “balance” of male voices. But the fact is that women are simply catching up to the level of public self-expression with which men are so comfortable. When Cathy Newman interrogated the rightwing psychologist Jordan Peterson recently, many journalists, academics and experts criticised her method. But the trolling and vitriol she received from a particular sub-section of the internet seemed to be a symptom of the fact that she had dared to challenge Peterson at all, prompting Peterson himself to step in and defend her.

The episode seemed to perfectly exemplify what the linguistic theorist Jennifer Coates has called “the androcentric rule”, whereby the linguistic behaviour of men is seen as normal and the linguistic behaviour of women is seen as deviating from that norm. That most trolls on the internet are, according to a study from Brunel and Goldsmiths University, disenfranchised males with narcissism and face-to-face communication issues makes for an interesting aside. Behind a computer screen, lower-status men still feel more entitled than women to vent at higher-status females.

In some ways it’s no surprise given that Twitter, despite having 55% female users, is a male domain. According to a 2009 study from Harvard Business School, men have, on average, more followers than women, are twice as likely to follow other men, and even women follow more male users. Then there was the survey of Twitter’s most influential political voices with regards to the 2017 election, which caused Yvette Cooper MP to ask why experts such as Laura Kuenssberg, Gaby Hinsliff and the Guardian’s own Anushka Asthana and Heather Stewartand other prominent female journalists had failed to make the cut.

What’s more, when women do speak up and at similar rate to men, there’s an inaccurate perception that they are talking more than them – and it’s perceived by men and women alike. We are so used to hearing less from women that when they reach anything approximating equivalence, listener bias kicks in and we think we are awash in women’s words.

As Deborah Cameron puts it: “The idea that women talk more than men is a good illustration of the power of our perceptions to mislead us about the facts. No belief about gender differences in language is more widely or strongly held, yet none receives less support from the available evidence.”

Wise words to ponder. And even better, to speak up about.


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