Thursday, 27 July 2017

Gym Etiquette

There is no pleasant way of saying this, so here goes, body odour is offensive. The gym serves a dual role and purpose. Our views and opinions are largely rooted in how we are socialized, as well as, the values and attitudes which are important in and to our families. However, on the issue of personal hygiene I do believe that there should be some basic standards, especially regarding the sharing of public space. In recent times there has been an increase focus on the health of Jamaicans. This increase spotlight is aimed at promoting a state of conscious and physical activity among the populace.  The Ministry of Health currently has a programme called “Jamaica Moves” which is geared at getting Jamaicans to lead a healthier lifestyle by encouraging them to engage in some physical activity to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCD’s), for example, diabetes and hypertension and to remain healthy. Hugh, 49, who attends the gym regularly, shares his opinion in the following way. “Because you shower every night before you go to bed”, Hugh says there is no need to shower before you go to the gym. For those who go to the gym in the evenings Hugh has a different perspective. “Evening goers I believe must be refresh with proper hygiene after work before going to the gym. He added that proper hygiene in this regard does not  necessarily mean taking a shower but could include using a deodorant or brushing one’s teeth. Another colleague Fabian shared his opinion. “Without a doubt, body odours are not always pleasant. Most gyms are inside of an enclosed space which traps the various odours. Fabian added that taking a shower encourages confidence. “When you shower it makes you know that you smell fresh, makes you feel more relax after a long and tiring workout”. It’s always good to have a perspective from both sexes. Miss Bucky answered in the affirmative to the question. “I have to, I feel nasty. Ok so I am a low key germophobe so I always shower before any physical activity including the gym. When I go there I have to see them with Lysol or some other cleaning aid to clean off the equipment you can imagine catching crabs OMG! or Hepatitis C”.  A germophobe is a person with an extreme fear of germs and an obsession with cleanliness. Clearly a germophobe would have an impulse to take a shower before going to the gym and after working out. 
Claude, age 54, is an avid gym goer voiced his opinion “Why freshen up to go get all hot and sweaty. Unless one has a high body odour then a shower would help to keep the odour down during a workout. But it also depends on how bad the odour is, so if you have a means of controlling same with a shower and medication and deodorant then by all means it’s fine to shower before gym”. Anthony, age 45, “If I am leaving work where I am in the air conditioning all day I am not going to shower before gym. However, if I am out and about and sweating and smelly, I owe it to those in the gym not to make them uncomfortable with my smell”.
Scents, Sexuality and Personal Hygiene
As humans we try our best to prevent ourselves from perspiring by using various antiperspirants and deodorants. We are socialized from early that excessive sweating is to be shun and not to be tolerated. This natural occurring human activity perspiration is often used to label individuals as being nasty and dirty. Pheromones are chemical substances that are secreted through our skin pores. Pheromones are crucial to critical development phases in our lives, from breast-feeding to mate selection. It can be argued that the scent produced by pheromones contribute to making us horny. In light of the fact that most gyms if not all are used by both males and females the gym is often a place of hooking up as well as for getting one into shape. Androstenone is a pheromone compound that is present in male and female sweat. In males, androstenone is associated with alpha-male like characteristics to be the leader. Females often see the alpha-male as dominant and sexually appealing. Androstenol is found in the sweat glands of males and has a musky smell. Many studies have concluded that women who produce higher than average amounts of female pheromones also known as Copulins have greater success with men. These women are often viewed as exciting, seductive and desirable. Interestingly, body scents can and does send sexual messages to the opposite sex. Whether or not we act on the message is another story and for another blog.  The reasons why people go to the gym are wide and varied. Maybe you are desirous of meeting someone of the opposite sex? Perhaps, going to the gym for you is mainly to build muscles, or maybe to tone your body.  Whatever your reasons are for going to the gym just be mindful that you share a public space and as such you should do your part in making the gym experience a pleasant one for others.  
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo
#pheromone #copulins #androstenol #hormones #sweat #physicalactivity #sexuality #gym #androstenone #hepatitisC  #germophobe #personalhygiene  #masculinity #femininity

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Scaffolding Boys' GSAT Achievement

For the first time since 2012, boys outperformed girls in the 2017 sitting of the Language Arts paper in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). According to data released by the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, boys achieved a higher mean percentage score of 76.7% in Language Arts, compared to 68.5 % for girls. This development augurs well for boys’ education, especially since men’s educational attainments have fallen and continue to fall drastically behind women’s. Boys’ underachievement has been at the heart of many academic journals and discussion over the years. The issue is not unique to Jamaica; in fact the concern is of global significance and is rooted in both a socio-political and educational ideology. Males over the years have been underperforming at almost every level of Jamaica’s education system. There are various schools of thought which have been forwarded with regards to boys’ underachievement. There are those who argue that boys’ underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent males with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling. Statistics from the Mona Campus, of the University of the West Indies, indicate that more than seventy per cent (70%) of all graduates are females. Data from the other degree granting institutions paint a similar picture. The discourse surrounding gender and education is often emotional resulting in a loss of focus regarding the issue at hand. Boys too have structural hurdles to overcome in the education system.  One such is the gender-based bias in the curriculum as well as the methodology being used. It is hope that the new National Standards Curriculum (NSC) will address the deficit boys’ face. According to the Minister of Education, Senator Ruel Reid, the National Standards Curriculum will improve methods of teaching, particularly for boys. The National Standards Curriculum aims at improving the general academic performance, attitude and behavior of students. The National Standard Curriculum is student centered and emphasis will be placed on project-based and problem-solving learning, with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM) incorporated at all levels of the education system. It is critical that we engage our males, specifically, adolescent males in trying to change the gender norms within the society, one of which is that English Language is a girl’s subject. Unfortunately, we live in a society in which boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. Undoubtedly, our males continue to struggle with questions surrounding their masculinity and manhood and many just give in to the popular culture of the day. The achievement of our boys at the primary level is more significant against this prevailing thug culture often far removed from education. It would be interesting to have the progress of these young men tracked over the duration of their high school years to see how well they perform at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) especially so in English Language. We need to build on the momentum gained from the boys’ GSAT achievement by fostering a movement to rescue our boys from academic slumber. The onus is on the policy makers to ensure that equality of educational opportunity for both sexes is achieved and that this is sustainable for the long term viability and development of the society.  In the words of freedom fighter and statesman Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A Changing Culture- For the Better or Worse?

“We are, at almost every point of our day, immersed in cultural diversity: faces, clothes, smells, attitudes, values, traditions, behaviours, beliefs, rituals”- Randa Abdel- Fattah
It is astonishing and somewhat frightening how our ideas about self, the society, gender-relations, masculinity, politics, culture and indeed the world have changed over time. Recently, a colleague and I had a discussion surrounding some of the social issues which infuriate many law abiding citizens. My colleague was very obdurate regarding how much in bondage we still are as a people and collectively as a society. My colleague stated that the freedom we lose as a society with each fleeting culture change is rather disturbing and unacceptable. It bears thought as to what are some of these freedoms? We are also left to ponder whether or not culture is static or is culture on a continuum defined by globalization and technological advancement.  Culture is defined by The Center for Research of Language as the characteristics of knowledge of a group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. The Center for Research of Language Acquisition goes a step further by defining culture as shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. This bondage of self to which we seek freedom is to a great extent self-imposed having been socialized in a manner not to critically think outside the box about issues which affect us, including those pertaining to cultural matters. We live in a society in which our mores and norms are part of the socialization process and are handed down to us from role models and parental figures usually along matriarchal lines. To this extent one can easily dismiss the father figure role in the process of socialization since many of our homes are father-less. This is quite troubling on many fronts, especially the responsibility regarding how to be a man role has been taken over by mothers, strong black women, who single-handedly have had to raise generations of boys into men. This is especially true for Jamaica, as the 2012 Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions shows that 46.4 per cent of all households were female-headed. One can surmise that the situation has worsened since the survey was conducted five years ago. Dr. Barry Davidson of the Family Life Ministries research was a bit more probing and revealed that father-absent children scored lower in Intelligence Quotient (IQ) than father-present children. This finding is rather disconcerting and should be of concern not only to parents but to the policy makers especially those in the field of education.  Undoubtedly, this finding has serious implications regarding parenting in light of the absence and burdens this place on the parent who is there in administering discipline and raising the children.
Genderization of our Culture
We live in a world and society in which even our refreshments and drinks have been coloured by gender. We often speak of female drinks and male drinks. I was at the barbershop recently, and my barber informed me that Smirnoff is a typical a female drink; he went on school me in the genderization of liquor. He ended the lesson by telling me that Campari was a male drink. My trip to the barbershop was for a haircut, not to be schooled in the binary construction of drinks along gendered lines. However, we all know that the barbershop just as much as the hair salon is that space, where ideas collide consciously and subconsciously on life and social issues. The premise behind the male versus female drinks has much to do with the alcohol content in a drink the more alcohol content the more masculine gender the drink becomes associated with.  Additionally, our fruits have also taken on a gendered involvedness. The peach for example, is largely considered a female fruit. My colleague added that many men do not eat strawberry, simply because, they claim nothing of that colour should pass their mouth. Just stupidity if you ask me!  However, this is the reality and these realities are true of men from a wider cross section of the society regardless of the intersectionality of social class, educational background, religious persuasion or age. These gendered ideas are rooted in a culture of hyper-masculinity and machismo. Ironically, behind closed doors, some of the said men who have this twisted ideas, are the very ones who are indulging in fifty shades of grey and ‘under the table’ activities. Years ago males who used lip-balm were looked on as being weird, now, it has become commonplace, especially in North America for men to wear chap sticks especially during the harsh months of winter. The examples are endless and all these issues are associated with social constructs that each society has in place to somewhat regulate human behavior. The politician by the name Andrew Fletcher once said; "Let me write the songs of a nation: I don’t care who writes its laws.” His point is all too clear for if music were a workman's tool it would be a hammer. As per definition by the Center for Research of Language the behaviours and thought patterns that create culture are learned. However, one does not become cultured by merely reading about a culture and I would argue that the halls of academia have little impact. Culture is formed through living and interacting with people, together we form culture. I made reference to music because I believe this is our most effective way of influencing behaviour and thought construct. Parents have a lot to do with our cultural make up. Music, especially reggae touches people at the very core (heart beat music), stirring emotions and imprinting on our minds the doctrines that becomes culture.  Some may see this as another attempt to malign Reggae music. However, this is not the case. I am a lover of our music and I am proud of it being a hallmark of our culture. With that said I look back on my own life and remember messages and ideas that were conveyed via all genres of media but found music to be the most influential. During the 1980s crack/cocaine was issues new to Jamaican youths but not for the life of me can I recall one advertisement regarding this issue. The mass was once again reached through music. The lyrics; "doone gi mi that mi nuh waan nuh crack" and "coke is a ting weh feed pan yuh system" comes to mind.  This followed by Shine Head encouraging us to; strive, remove the doubt from out your minds and let good flow". The Jamaican cultural identity continues to evolve.  Our values and attitudes are no longer being shaped and defined by ourselves. Instead the Jamaican cultural identity has become a cultural hybrid mirroring closely the happenings of those who control of the economic purse string to which the Jamaican state need access to in order to realize sustainable development and progress.
In the words of Mark Pagel, culture has worked by coming to exercise a form of mind control over us. We willingly accept and even embrace this mind control, and probably without even knowing it.   

Wayne Campbell, waykam@yahoo.com, @WayneCamo
and Andrew Nugent, laptopswer@gmail.com


Saturday, 1 July 2017

Education, Masculinity and Examination

For the first time since 2012, boys outperformed girls in the 2017 sitting of the Language Arts paper in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). According to data released by the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, boys achieved a higher mean percentage score of 76.7% in Language Arts, compared to 68.5 % for girls. This development augurs well for boys’ education, especially since men’s educational attainments have fallen and continue to fall drastically behind women’s. Boys’ underachievement has been at the heart of many academic journals and discussion over the years. The issue is not unique to Jamaica; in fact the concern is of global significance and is rooted in both a socio-political and educational ideology. Males over the years have been underperforming at almost every level of Jamaica’s education system. There are various schools of thought which have been forwarded with regards to boys’ underachievement. There are those who argue that boys’ underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent males with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling. Statistics from the Mona Campus, of the University of the West Indies, indicate that more than seventy per cent (70%) of all graduates are females. Data from the other degree granting institutions paint a similar picture. The discourse surrounding gender and education is often emotional resulting in a loss of focus regarding the issue at hand. Boys too have structural hurdles to overcome in the education system.  One such is the gender-based bias in the curriculum as well as the methodology being used. It is hope that the new National Standards Curriculum (NSC) will address the deficit boys’ face. According to the Minister of Education, Senator Ruel Reid, the National Standards Curriculum will improve methods of teaching, particularly for boys. The National Standards Curriculum aims at improving the general academic performance, attitude and behavior of students. The National Standard Curriculum is student centered and emphasis will be placed on project-based and problem-solving learning, with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM) incorporated at all levels of the education system. It is critical that we engage our males, specifically, adolescent males in trying to change the gender norms within the society, one of which is that English Language is a girl’s subject. Unfortunately, we live in a society in which boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. Undoubtedly, our males continue to struggle with questions surrounding their masculinity and manhood and many just give in to the popular culture of the day. The achievement of our boys at the primary level is more significant against this prevailing thug culture often far removed from education. It would be interesting to have the progress of these young men tracked over the duration of their high school years to see how well they perform at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) especially so in English Language. We need to build on the momentum gained from the boys’ GSAT achievement by fostering a movement to rescue our boys from academic slumber. The onus is on the policy makers to ensure that equality of educational opportunity for both sexes is achieved and that this is sustainable for the long term viability and development of the society.  In the words of freedom fighter and statesman Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo