Friday, 8 March 2013

Sexism is bad. Happy Gender Equality day.

This is why I don't call myself a feminist.

You can argue all you like that a 'real' feminist is only in the middle section where the red and green circles cross. You can also argue that the word 'cool' REALLY refers to temperature and people who use it to mean 'trendy' are using the word wrong. It doesn't change the fact that if you say 'Today was cool' I will have NO IDEA if you mean you had a good day or if you are talking about the weather. If you tell me you are a feminist I HAVE NO IDEA if you care about gender equality or if you think men are scum. It tells me you care about women's rights – that you are in the red circle. It no more indicates that you are ALSO in the green circle than that you are also in the pink circle.

The point of language is to communicate with others. The word feminist does not communicate what you think it should. It could mean too many different things. It's a woolly word – too broad to be useful. (If you want to bemoan this fact then I suggest that you speak out against the pink circle not the green one.)

And another point. If you say 'Today was cool. I wore my hat'', how can you NOT realise that wearing a hat implies you are talking about the weather, not your funky new hat that made you feel great? If you say 'I'm a feminist. Women need x, y and z.' you are implying that you are using 'feminist' to mean that you care about women's rights NOT gender rights. I actually believe that the VAST majority of self-proclaimed feminists are egalitarians. I ALSO believe that most MRAs are egalitarians. But then, I'm an egalitarian.

If you tell me you are a feminist – you are NOT indicating that you are an egalitarian – even if that is your intent. It is not a logical inference to make. Maybe it sucks, but that's the way it will be unless you manage to prove feminists are egalitarians - maybe by NOT using sexist language all the time. Like having campaigns to stop domestic violence rather than ones to stop domestic violence against women. Which I'm afraid implies – I assume unintentionally - that hitting men is A-OK. Laws should not be sexist. Not even accidentally. No person should be allowed to hit their partner. And yet it's tolerated – even expected – for a woman to slap her cheating boyfriend's face. I've done it myself when I was a teenager. (Sorry Dave - you lied to me, hurt me, and treated me very badly - but I had no right to hit you.)  No normal western man could possibly not know that hitting their wife is not ok. MANY women don't realise it's actually not ok to hit their husbands.

I'm an egalitarian. It's a clearer, cleaner word than feminist. If I want to stress I'm talking about gender rights rather than race, sexuality or something else - then I can call myself a gender egalitarian. I find the word 'feminist' just as jarring as the word 'masculinist'.

So there you go.  I am NOT part of the sisterhood - I have a brother, a husband and a son.  I believe they should enjoy the same freedoms I have - to choose whether to prioritise family or career, to choose what clothes to wear, whether to grow their hair long or to speak out without being mocked if they are raped or abused.

Welcome to the siblinghood.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

In defense of guilt

No one can *make* you feel guilty... You must KNOW that you are doing something wrong, or you wouldn't care what other people think. The truth hurts, doesn't it? Don't shoot the messenger. Get angry at the people who encouraged you to formula feed, not me.

If a formula feeder tells a lactivist 'stop making me feel guilty', someone will always make these comments.

And in my not-so-humble opinion, this is an enormous load of bollocks!

Try this on for size:
No one can *make* you feel embarrassed or humiliated when breastfeeding in public. If you are embarrassed about it when someone says that you should stop or cover up, you must KNOW you are doing something wrong, or you wouldn't care what people think. Truth hurts, doesn't it? Don't shoot the messenger.  Get angry at the people who encouraged you to NIP, not me.

Ok? It's not kind, it's not fair, and it's not true.  Quit it, guys. 

And now for the metaphor part:

Imagine a classroom of students. The teacher asks them to answer some very simple true/false questions at the beginning of the class, by a show of hands - the students are instructed to put their hand up if the statement is false.

He holds up a blue ball. 'This ball is red.' He says.

Alice puts her hand up confidently. She is the only one in the class who does so. She looks around in confusion.

The next statment is 'This ball is blue'  Alice's hand goes down, and every other hand in the class is raised.

The teacher reminds them, looking at Alice, that they should put their hands up if it's false. This pattern repeats, over and over again. How long until Alice starts to distrust her own eyesight? Or wonders if she is somehow confusing the meanings of true and false?

We know this happens, this scenario has occured, as a pyschological experiment. It's a test to gauge Alice's reaction.  (The other students have been asked to get every question wrong deliberately.)  Alice might figure this out, since she is in a controlled setting - but even if she suspects it's a trick, she is going to find it harder and harder to raise her hand every time.  She will lose confidence.  The normal response is to doubt oneself, and either lie to fit in, or get angry and defensive.  Could you honestly tell her that no one has 'made her' doubt her eyesight, that if she believed her eyes were perfectly fine before hand, she would never have worried about it, that she must already be worrying that her eyesight is bad, or she wouldn't care what other people think or say... 

And Alice at least has a chance to believe that everyone is lying to her. She has NEVER had her knowledge of the colours questioned before, she has had it confirmed to her every day. This is a one off situation, in a controlled environment, and she is STILL extremely likely to have her feelings about her own competence shaken. How much worse would it be if it was a less familiar colour (say 'teal' or 'vermilion' or 'aqua')? If it was an online, open site and she knew that everyone else genuinely believed what they were saying, and some even linked to websites showing that aqua is a shade of red?  If she came across people with differing opinions about colour all the time? 

So, if a formula feeder gets a bit defensive - can we all please shut the hell up about 'own your own feelings' and 'no one can make you feel guilty'?  We are social beings.  Our feelings are ALWAYS affected by the words and actions of others. Yes, I suppose that very strong, independent, self-assured, arrogant people can just shrug off the roomful of people telling them the ball is red when they know it to be blue. But they are the exception, not the norm, and frankly, I wouldn't want to be so damn cocksure that I would just ignore everyone else and think I knew better without even trying to open a diaologue about it!  If I am SURE I'm right, I'll defend my position, I'll explain it to others who believe I'm wrong... I don't think that's a bad thing. Engaging in the discussion is the only way I'll learn if I *am* wrong, and that won't happen if the others don't engage with me, but simply dismiss my viewpoint, and me, for being 'defensive'.

By the way - the actual quotation frequently cited is 'No one can make you feel guilty WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT.'  And it's true. But irrelevant. Just as 'No one *made* you do it' doesn't really excuse people who were pressuring their friends to get drunk/take drugs/etc.'  It may be ultimately the responsibility of the person who did it, but it wouldn't have happened without the peer pressure, and those peers are therefore not entirely blameless!

Having said all that, even though we ARE making them feel guilty, that is an unfortunate side effect, and NOT a good reason to stop.  Another example - I'm an ex-smoker. If I see a cigarette (for instance, on an anti-smoking ad), I often crave nicotine.  The ad 'makes' me. I wouldn't have felt that way if I had never seen a cigarette, so yes, seeing a cigarette - in conjunction with being an ex-smoker - does 'make me'.  I don't think anti-smoking ads should be banned because I am reacting to them in this way. But nor do I think that it'd be a sensible response to tell me that if I was confident in my decision to quit, I wouldn't feel that way.  If I knew quitting was the right thing for me, I wouldn't be doubting myself? Um, no. I'm human.  Self-doubt is not peculiar.  Guilty feelings for something completely outside of your control, and/or something that you know was the lesser of two evils, are not peculiar. And it is not an admission of wrong doing to feel guilt.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Red hair

Ok, so I haven't posted for ages, (pesky old real life getting in the way!) and this is a bit of a place holder. I intend to expand on it.

I've been reading the Fearless Formula Feeder recently - to try to understand the other side. Half the time I roll my eyes at misunderstandings of what's actually being said by lactavists (as I'm sure she our interpretations of her words!)  But one thing that struck me is the way we think about statistics.

We KNOW that 'only' around 2% of people cannot breastfeed. This is not a miniscule number. 1 in 50. The chances are HUGE that at least one formula feeding woman you know had a problem that LITERALLY meant she couldn't breastfeed.  Now add in the problems that, yes, may have been solvable with support and a lot of effort - but here's the kicker. Yes, breastfeeding is normal, healthy, ideal and worth it once difficulties are conquered. But so is learning to bake your own bread, run marathons, and a huge number of other things - and no one individual has the time, energy or inclination to do ALL of these things. 

From wiki:
Red hair occurs naturally on approximately 1–2% of the human population
Around 2-3% of people self-identify as homosexual.
Around 2% of people have green eyes.

Red hair is the obvious one - you almost certainly know of people with red hair, because it's a popular hair dye choice. You ALSO almost certainly know people with  naturally red hair.

It's not common, but 2% isn't actually that rare. 

Just bear it in mind.

I have 157 friends on Facebook. At least 2 of them have naturally red hair. At least 1 of them is openly homosexual. (Probably more in both cases, those are the ones I could think of off the top of my head.)  I don't know the details of all of the formula feeders stories - but I do know that percentage wise, the chances are good that AT LEAST one of them is in the 2% who couldn't have breastfed no matter what the circumstances.

Be kind. Be aware. Yes, breastfeeding is great if you can do it, and yes, any one individual is MORE LIKELY to be in the 98% who can. But 2% is not a small number of individuals. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Risk in black and white terms

Risk is just another word for chance. It's the probability or likelihood of a bad thing happening. In the real world, risk is always fluid, always changing, because there are an enormous number of factors involved in risks.

It is more risky to drive at 70mph than at 40mph. However, if you drive at 40mph in a 20mph zone, that is more risky than driving at 70mph on an empty motorway. But it is still more risky to drive at 70 mph than 40mph (imagine how risky it'd be to drive at 70mph in a 20mph zone!).  

If you drive around a corner and crash into a tree, your speed does not cause the accident, although you may have avoided it were you driving slower. The tree does not cause the accident, although if it hadn't been there, you wouldn't have hit it. The corner does not cause the accident, although if it hadn't been there, you probably wouldn't have hit the tree.... There are lots of factors that affect the risk, i.e. the probability of the accident occuring, none of which are solely to blame.

Breastfeeding - or the lack thereof - does not give a child a disease or prevent a child from getting a disease. It reduces/increases the risk.  No more, no less.

Simply put:

Most babies will get some minor diseases. Most breastfed babies get colds, most formula fed babies get colds.  
Most babies will not get major diseases. Very few babies get necrotizing enterocolitis, however they are fed.

Nevertheless, if a baby is breastfed, they are less likely to get both minor and major diseases, and the symptoms of these diseases are more likely to be milder than in a formula fed baby.

It doesn't matter if you personally know 100 breastfed babies who always have colds, and 100 formula fed ones who are never ill. The formula fed ones are nevertheless at greater risk of getting colds (by virtue of being formula fed) than the breastfed ones, even if other risk factors or plain luck affected the end results.

Imagine there are 2 bags – one red, one blue. Each bag has a certain number of black stones and a certain number of white stones in it. Horace chooses the red bag, and Boris chooses the blue bag. The aim of the game is to draw out a white stone. Each round, more stones are added, and they try again.

The blue bag holds 49 white stones and 1 black stone. When Boris picks a stone randomly, he is most likely to get a white stone, but may be unlucky and get the black one.

The red bag holds 39 white stones and 11 black ones. Horace is also more likely to pick a white stone than a black one, but that doesn't chance the fact that the risk of him picking a black stone from his bag is greater than Boris's risk.

Round 2: One player gets another 10 white stones and 40 black ones, the other gets 40 white and 10 black.

If Horace gets more white stones than black this round, he ends up with 79 white stones and 21 black stones, while Boris would end up with 59 white and 41 black. Horace now has a better chance of success than Boris.

This does not mean it is just as safe to chose the red bag as the blue bag. This means that Boris was unlucky in this round. As shown in the table below, while it is possible for someone with the red bag to have more white stones than someone with the blue bag in round 2, that is despite their poor start, and doesn't change the fact that they still have 10 more black stones than they would have done had they had the blue bag in the first place.

Round 1
Round 2

Initial stones
10 black/40white
40 black/10white
Blue bag
1 black, 49 white
11 black, 89 white
41 black, 59 white
Red bag
11 black, 39 white
21 black, 79 white
51 black, 49 white
Probability of getting a black stone
Blue: 2%

Red: 22%
Blue: 11%

Red: 21%
Blue: 41%

Red: 51%

It doesn't matter how many other stones are added to the bags – the blue bag will always be the safest choice to have made in that initial round. And since having a blue bag does not increase your chances of getting more black stones at a later date, it is impossible for it to be 'just as good' to have taken the red bag.

If you have a genetic propensity to SICK (Some Illness - Could Kill), and your children have a 98% chance of getting it anyway, that chance is still increased by formula feeding/reduced by breastfeeding. In the simile above, that's as if you start off by adding an extra 98 black stones and two white in your bag – it being a blue or red one still makes a difference to the probability.

It isn't your fault, and you are not to blame if you didn't know that the red bag was more risky than the blue bag, or if you did not have the option of picking the blue bag. No more than a family history of SICK is your fault. And, I'm sorry, but one day, a black stone will come out of every bag. And none of us can ever know which round of the game added that particular stone to our bag. All we can do is reduce risks whenever we can, and accept them when we can't. You can never, ever say with 100% certainty that 'formula feeding didn't do me any harm' (or indeed any other thing you do that may increase risks of illness in later life), unless you are permanently in perfect heath until you die from something that couldn't possibly be related to it (like getting hit by a bus). Even if you live in perfect health until you are 100, and then draw that metaphorical black stone from a bag containing millions of stones – it would have been more likely to have been white, had you started with 1 black stone instead of 11.

Which sounds really depressing, until you look at it from the other angle: look at the table above. If you had the red bag, and got lucky in round 2 – your risk has decreased from 22% to 21%! No matter how many black stones there are in your bag, there are other ways to add white ones, and improve your chances. Formula feeding your infant increases the risk. But you can reduce the risk in so many other ways – how you feed your infant matters, but you have the power to minimise the impact in real terms by what you choose to do next.

Note: I am aware that I have referred here to breastfeeding reducing risks as well as formula use increasing them. I know that this is rather frowned upon, as it does not use the biological norm of breastfeeding as a starting point, as lactivists generally prefer. This is important in cases where the risks of formula are being played down, and formula is being treated as the norm. This doesn't really transfer well to the metaphor I'm using today, so I am using both phrases. It would be as absurd to suggest that breastfeeding has no benefits when compared to formula feeding, as it is to suggest that while breastfeeding has benefits over formula feeding, there are no risks to formula feeding.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Context is crucial in comparisons

Currently, the above article is being linked to on many of the Facebook boards I frequent, with the headline Australian Breastfeeding Association class told baby formula 'was like AIDS'.  Shocking, right?  Propaganda, total exaggeration, just the sort of thing that makes people call lactivists 'Breastapo', 'Boob Nazis' and pushes away exactly the people that we are trying to reach?

Well, yes and no. This sort of HEADLINE is like the Times 'Are you mom enough?' headline – it is not giving the correct impression of what is actually going on. And the headlines are what make people feel that lactivists are all judgy-smuggers (if I may borrow a perfect turn of phrase from this lovely article

The simile of formula feeding being like AIDS is apt – in context. Just as the metaphor of colostrum as 'liquid gold' is apt – in context. Just as the comparison between breastfeeding and urination is apt – in context.

Lactivists often get upset/angry/exasperated by the urination comparison – and I'm sure some of my readers will be shocked by my opinion on this – but it is actually a brilliant simile, in its place.

It's not ok to do things in public on the sole grounds that it is natural. It is not reasonable to suggest that something is beautiful because it is natural. Therefore, one can easily dismiss these as reasons why no one should mind NIP (nursing in public) by using the fact that breastfeeding is like urination in that it's natural. Obviously, breastfeeding is NOT like urination in many many other ways – and often when the urination simile is trotted out, it is used to suggest that natural acts are NOT appropriate in public, because urination (a natural thing) is not. The flaw in this reasoning can easily be shown by flipping the argument and saying that since breathing – a natural act - is acceptable, and even expected, in public, so too must be urination. But I digress.

Being appalled by these comparisons, when they are used correctly, is like thinking that when people refer to colostrum as 'liquid gold' they are advocating pouring a molten metal into the stomach of a newborn. That's going to kill the baby! Clearly they are saying that colostrum is fatal!

Colostrum is like liquid gold in that it is an extremely valuable, gold-coloured liquid.  Colostrum is NOT like liquid gold in that it is not metal, it is not at least 1064 °C (the melting point of gold, according to a quick google), it does not traditionally get made into wedding rings or jewellery....

Here is the context of the simile of formula feeding to AIDS: “Nobody actually dies from AIDS; what happens is AIDS destroys your immune system and then you just die of anything and that's what happens with formula. It provides no antibodies.”

So, formula feeding is like AIDS in that it doesn't actually kill you, but it does make you more vulnerable to other things that might kill you.

It's a brilliant comparison. It refutes the idea that because no death certificate claims formula feeding as the cause of death, formula feeding does not cause deaths. (No death certificate will put 'smoking' as the cause of death either, of course.) It increases the understanding of what is ACTUALLY the problem with formula feeding – which is not that it will doom your child to definitely getting x,y and z, but that the risks of these things are increased.

Or we could use a bike helmet simile. Breastfeeding is like wearing a bike helmet in that *if* you crash your bike, you have more (but not infallible) protection from head injuries. If you don't crash your bike it makes no difference whatsoever whether or not you were wearing a helmet. Someone wearing a bike helmet who crashes their bike will be more badly hurt than someone who isn't wearing a helmet who doesn't crash.  However, please don't forget that breastfeeding is not like wearing a bike helmet in that you are not supposed to do it while on a bike!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Once upon a time...


There lived two sisters. They lived in two pretty little cottages, one of the north side of a wide river, and one on the south, and in the garden of each cottage, there was a magic berry bush. For no matter the season or the weather, whenever a berry was plucked from the bush, another berry would grow before the next morning.

One day it happened that both of these sisters were visited by a witch, who made them a curious offer. “Simply give to me, each day, 10 of the berries fresh picked from the magic bush. Do this for a year and a month and a day, and on that last day, I shall give you a bag of gold.” Well, as you can imagine, both girls jumped at the chance, and went diligently to pick 10 berries for the witch. On that first morning, the girls both got ten berries, and several scratches as well, but thinking of the gold, they both handed the berries to the witch happily, and she went on her way, promising to return next morning for the next 10 berries.

The next morning, when the girls went to their berry bushes, they found that only 8 berries were easy to reach – for the others were growing high up, and in the thick of brambles. Persevering, the girls reached the berries down, and when the witch arrived, handing the berries over. But the witch said to the each sister in turn “See, this berry you have plucked is not ripe. I have only 9 berries that I can eat here. Please pick another one for me.” The first sister nodded, return to the bush, and with some difficulty, plucked an eleventh berry for the witch, who thanked her kindly and left. The second sister, however, frowned at the witch and said 'Do not try to trick me, crone. Our agreement was 10 berries each day, not 11 – I owe you no more than 10.' The witch was most disappointed, but agreed that the payment had been made, and the deal was not broken.

The next day, the same thing happened, and the next. But on the fourth day that the witch came, the first sister had no difficulty in plucking ten ripe berries – for as she had plucked all the berries from high up on the bush, and deep in the brambles, now the berries grew on the outer parts of the bush, and were plentiful and easy to reach. The second sister however, had picked only the easiest berries to reach, and the ones that had been in the thickest part of the bush had rotted on the branch. So, when she picked her ten berries, they were harder to reach, and she was much pricked as she got the tenth. More than ever, this day, she would not listen to the witch's request for ripe berries – and this time, her complaint was that three of the berries were not good to eat.

Well, and so it continued, and as time went on, the first sister found more and more berries on her bush, plentiful and easy to reach, and she found pleasure in spending a few minutes of her day in the sunshine of her garden, with such an easy and pleasant chore, and then the visit from the witch, who was congenial company, and became her friend as they grew to know one another.

But each day, the second sister found it harder to reach the berries, and was more worried and unhappy each time, as the witch scowled at the hard, small, sour offerings the girl made to her. The husband of the second sister saw how scratched and worn she was, and how she hated this task the witch had set her, and he bethought himself how it could be made easier on her. “My love,” he said one day, as she picked the berries “You have but 5 berries for all your travail this morning, and need twice that number, and the bush cannot provide. Why don't you rest yourself, and I shall go and call upon your sister, and see if she can spare us a few of her berries?” Well, the sister agreed, of course, and off he went on their donkey, to the bridge across the river. And in a short time, he returned, with five berries, as promised, and gave them to the witch himself. And she parted, happier than she had been for a long while.

The following day, it was only three good berries that she found upon her bush, and the husband was off again to the sister, and returned with seven berries. And the next day, it was only one berry she found. It did not sit well with the husband to be begging each day from his sister-in-law, so he offered to pay a copper coin each day for 10 berries, and the bargain was struck.

So, for a time, both sisters were happy. The witch had ten berries from each girl, and the first enjoyed her berry picking, and the second enjoyed her leisure time as the husband fetched the berries. But after a while, the husband spoke to his wife, saying “These berries are not cheap, when we must buy them each day. Can you not pluck some more berries from the bush, and save us the coin?' But when they went to look at the berry bush, they saw that it was barren, and no berries at all grew on it – for all had rotted away, and not been picked, and so the bush was bare.

And there came a time when the husband had to sell their donkey, and take himself to find work in the town – and so it fell to the sister to make the long walk across the bridge each morning to buy the ten berries off her sister. And whenever she tired, she remembered how the brambles had scratched her arms, and counted herself lucky to have merely a long walk each day instead.

And after a year and a month and a day, the witch came to the first sister, smiling, with a bag of gold. And instead of bidding her farewell, the sister said that, if she wished, she could come to visit anytime, and welcome. “There will always be berries and a warm welcome for you.” said she.

And the witch came to the second sister's house and was given the last ten berries, and handed over the bag of gold. And the door was slammed in her face. And much of the gold was spent before they could enjoy it – a new donkey, and shoes for both man and wife – since their shoe leather was well worn with the walking each day.

Both sisters gave the witch her berries. Both sisters received a bag of gold for doing it. And both sisters felt they had the better part of the deal.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Starving strawmen

No one is advocating letting babies starve.

It seems rather strange that it needs saying, but apparently it does. I've read the sentiment SO many times: “I couldn't breastfeed, I suppose you'd rather I let my baby starve!' Obviously not.

Try these on for size:

  • 'I TRIED to quit smoking, but I couldn't. I suppose you'd rather I just injected myself with heroin!'
  • 'I can't afford designer jeans, so I'm wearing these supermarket own brand ones. I suppose you'd rather I was naked!'
  • 'The supermarket had run out of your favourite chocolate, so I bought MY favourite brand instead. I suppose you'd rather have nothing!'
  • And a topical one (A-level results came out today in the UK) 'I got a B! I know you're disappointed I didn't get the A I was predicted, so I suppose you'd rather I'd failed!' (I managed to avoid saying that to my Dad back in the early 90s – who thought criticising my B was funny – and I was an exceptionally stroppy teenager!)

It's petty, it's absurd, and it's based on misconceptions. Not only does this make the assuption that there are only three possible options, but it also assumes that expressing a preference for option A over option B means that you think option C is also better than option B. It makes no sense!

There are grey areas.

The jeans wearer has an enormous range of clothes to choose from, and the chocolate buyer has a huge variety of chocolates available. The smoker has the option of continuing to smoke as they do, quitting altogether, cutting down on the amount they smoke, changing the brand of cigarettes for a less harmful one....or a whole HOST of other things less insane than attempting to replace nicotine with heroin. 

The other common phrase is 'Formula isn't POISON, you know'. We do know. It's not poison (although it does contain some poisonous chemicals - but then so does the human body), but then nor is glass - but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to eat it. It's false logic. It's a strawman - a false representation of one's opponent's position. 

For the record, here is the hierarchy of what is the best substance to be fed to an infant. The lower down the list you go, the higher the risks.

1. breastmilk directly from the mother
2. expressed breastmilk from the mother
3. wet nursing – breastmilk directly from another human
4. donated breastmilk
5. formula
6. raw animal milk (I don't know for sure, but it seems logical that the more similar to human the animal, the more appropriate the milk would be. So a primate's milk would be better than cow's milk, which in turn would be better than cat's milk.)
7. pasteurised animal milk
8. coconut milk/almond milk/fruit juices/cola and other liquids that contain some nutrition
9. solid foods
10. allowing the baby to starve. Or poison. You know, this-is-literally-going-to-kill-you-if-you-eat-it poison. (Which formula is not. Truefact, that.)

Hope that clears that one up!

Oh, and by the way, the risk increases hugely between numbers 5 and 6 on this list. WAY more than it does between 1 and 4. To go back to the A-level analogy and use grades – numbers 1-4 are very roughly the equivalent of A+ to A-, number 5 is C+, and 6 is an E-. Everything else is a failing grade!