Monday 14 September 2015

Pirates of the Caribbean and feminist academics

The new Pirates of the Caribbean movie being made is Dead Men Tell No Tales. And Carina Smyth, the female lead, is to be a feminist bluestocking.
Kaya Scodelario (pictured below), who plays that role, says Carina 'is an astronomer, and she is an academic. She's fighting for the right to study at university, because women couldn't at that time.'
It's very good to hear that a mainstream movie is addressing injustice in education and showing that women were anyway pioneer scholars.
Read more:

Yes, women could be astronomers
If Pirates of the Caribbean is set in c1700 then in fact it was only 180 years later that the first women pioneers took STEM subjects at universities, and over 240 years before they were awarded degrees.
But some technically-minded women, such as Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), (pictured on right) pursued their interests in such matters even without access to universities. In 1786 Caroline became history's first woman to identify a comet.

Saturday 12 September 2015

How do mermaids make babies: animation artist ' explains'

At last week's Women's History Network Conference artist Professor Joan Ashworth was talking about her animation of suffrage campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst.
But Joan also referred to an animation none of us had seen before: 'How Mermaids Breed'. She made this in 2002.

The Facts of Mer-Life ...

And for those of you who want to know how ladies with tails achieve the feat of growing and delivering a merbaby, here's the answer.
First of all the mermaid wakens to her biological bell ringing: it's time to become a mamma.
She surges up, hauls herself onto the beach and lays her eggs, through a slit in her lower fin. She then buries them under light sand.
Then, she and the mermaid team wreck a seaman. Not with Syren-like beguiling calls but by taking up the corners of the sea as if it's a sheet, then shaking it out until the poor baby-father's boat capsizes.
Gently, the team take him below. While he's out of it they apply an ingenious pump and extract semen from him. Under the watchful eye of the senior Matron-mermaid they keep him from drowning with another of their clever machines.
Finally, he's escorted up to safety. He thinks he's just had a dream. And the mer-mother-to be takes the flagon containing his donation and injects the eggs.
A little while later the lighthouse beam shows us the babies hatching and their return to the underworld (see pic below). So now we know. This is how mermaids make babies. For sure.

Different sorts of mermaids

These mermaids are neither ravening vamps nor sea-porn maidens. They're kindly slow creatures, like dugongs-cum-Henry Moore sculptures, and they probably have degrees in mechanical engineering too.
You have to see their clever contraptions, including the hourglass, and enjoy the sound effects.
Joan Ashworth's fascinating work can be seen at The book, Shaped by Water, and the DVD are available to buy there.

First African woman to take command of navy vessel

This is simply a re-posting of articles on the first African woman to take command of a navy vessel.

From Wed 26 August 2015 Lieutenant Commander Zimasa Mabela was 'at the helm of SAS Umhloti.' A senior Naval Officer, Lieutenant Obed Medupe says 'We are looking up at more women taking over commanding vessels.'
Her's is a counter measures ship. Ships in that River class carry 40 personnel and weigh about 390 tons. Other women in command in the UK Navy started off on smiliar small ships in the late 1990s.
You can find more photos and even a video at shows Zimasa Mabela with her husband, Ivan, their two daughters and her mother at the ceremony in Simon's Town on 26 August 2015. Picture Monique Mortlock/EWN

In the Cape Times the next day Francesca Villette added detail. Lieutenant-Commander Zimasa Mabela joined the South African Navy in 1999.
'Mabela, originally from the Eastern Cape, joined the Navy in 1999 as a telecommunications radio official because she was “fascinated” by the force.
'In 2004 she completed the Military Training for Officers course in Gordon’s Bay and then the Combat Officer qualifying course at the Navy’s maritime warfare training centre.
'She joined the frigate SAS Isandlwana in 2005 and was appointed as the Assistant Operations Officer, where she obtained the Officer of the Day qualification.
'In 2006, Mabela obtained her Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and was later appointed as the Assistant Weapons Officer.
Commander Brian Short, former commander of the vessel, handed over command to Mabela at a ceremony at the Simon’s Town Naval Base.


'Lieutenant-Commander Zimasa Mabela said “I remember how excited I was when I first got accepted to be a part of the Navy. I am proud to be the first black African woman to command a naval vessel. But, more than the title, I want to be an example to my crew.
'“I want to be judged on my ability to command, and not my gender.
'“Everyone has their own unique way of leading and to be in command you need the right attitude and personality.That is what will take you far.”
'Without divulging much state-secret information, Mabela said the vessel she will command is currently used for training new recruits and performing rescue operations.' (