28 October, 2009

A glut of links

Being an excitable wee femi, I've got some links for everyone - some of which I've put on the links bar over there, and some interesting articles.

First up, Hollaback UK, inspired by Hollaback NYC, which aims to fight back against catcallers and street harassment of women and LBGTQ people by sharing stories - and posting mobile phone pictures of the idiots who think sexual harassment is an acceptable form of social interaction.

Then The Women's Resource Centre, which apart from anything has a massive list of local and national women's groups, campaigns, aid groups and charities. And their twitter feed - @whywomen - is brilliant too.

Talking of twitter, are you following @Feminazery? That's us. We like you.

Eaves' Nothing Personal Campaign. Actually, any of Eaves' projects are excellent, from their Weekly News newsletter to their work with victims of domestic violence.


And an interesting CiF article entitled "Climate change is a feminist issue". Just don't read the comments. It suffers from the usual CiF issue of being vague but inflammatory, so can be read any way you damn well please, but the intention behind it is good - the need for all women in all countries and cultures to have safe access to contraception (and sex education) which is accepted by the men they have sex with, in order to choose how many children they have. Although it does also raise interesting notions of cultural imperialism and the need to find a way to not limit other countries' industrial (and therefore polluting) development without being massively hypocritical, as well as the need to encourage people to limit their own pollution (although I would argue that, as long as we have Trafigura and other global businesses not doing much, my energy-saving lightbulbs and recycling bin are going to do diddly squat).

23 October, 2009

No amount of bias can damage the BNP as much as Nick Griffin did.

I don't think this needs any real introduction: Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time has made front page news and even our friends over at the Stun are foregoing their usual Jordan-based headline to squeeze Jolly Saint Nick in.
Somewhat predictably, the far right backlash has started to kick in, attempting to make a martyr of hapless Mr Griffin. Let's look at their primary argument:

"Nick Griffin was victimised, not allowed to speak. The whole show was a Lefty set up"

Interesting accusation. Having applied to be in the audience, and having recieved a response from the BBC telling me they were rejecting my application on the basis of wanting a fair representation of pro/anti BNP politics in the audience (coupled with the occasional cheers for Nick Griffin heard on the show) I think it's fairly evident that the audience was not a hostile block of Guardian-reading lefty "knit your own yoghurt" types. Plenty of the aforementioned type in the audience, yes, but not the complete lefty whitewash theorised by Griffin's supporters. Griffin was offered several opportunities to speak, asked for his opinions on various matters along with the rest of the panel.
It's not the fault of the "Guardianistas" that whenever he did open his mouth a gust of nonsense escaped. It's not the fault of the 'liberals' that Nick Griffin spent more time laughing, trembling and grinning inanely than actually defend his policies and viewpoints. How can this man profess to aspire to becoming a 'mainstream' party if he can't cope with opposition? Did he expect people not to fiercely contest his divisive policies, his slapdash summary of Islam, his dressing up racism as 'immigration policy'? Really? Honestly?

The same people deriding the BBC and audience for "victimising" Mr Griffin are lapping up the same treatment of Jack Straw. Dimbleby's protestations that Straw answer the question, that he was evading the issue, were no more or less vehement than his protestations at Mr Griffin's constant refusal to properly answer any question posed to him. The same people railing at the audience for deriding and mocking Griffin are cheering at the same treatment afforded to Jack Straw. Hypocritical much?
That the audience responded by jeering was testament to Griffin's lack of coherence and the glaring idiocy of what he eventually did say. That they responded with personal remarks shows just how close to the bone the BNP's hateful policies cut. People with non-white friends and family, people with black parents or Asian partners or gay children - these are the people who hate the BNP. It's not a leftist conspiracy, it's the reasonable anger of those excluded, derided and hurt by Griffin's politics. Personal responses are entirely justified, in my opinion, by policies and statements which base themselves around the personal beliefs of the knuckle-dragging far right trolls the BNP call their support. If suggesting that gay men ought not kiss in public because it's 'creepy' isn't personal, then what is...?

When asked about his previous denial of the holocaust, Griffin replied 'I can't explain why I used to say those things. I cannot tell you any more than I can tell you why I changed my mind. I can't tell you the extent I changed my mind.' On homosexuality Griffin revealed himself both to be hideously intolerant and more than a little bit childish - "A lot of people find the sight of two grown men kissing in public very creepy" - before going on to slam "militant" homosexuals teaching kids about homosexuality (Invading a primary school near you!) It's astonishingly ill-thought out comments such as these that made Nick Griffin a laughing stock, not an 'orchestrated campaign'. The idea that Griffin was victimised by people who wanted to foster prejudice is hilariously ironic in the face of Griffin's own politics, which uses fear and misinformation to attack the "other", who talks of the evil in the Koran without stopping to consider the evil in the Christian Bible (how about this lovely quote about unbelievers?
"Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people." (Deuteronomy 13:8-9)"

Or about women?

"If however the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death..." (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)"

The point being, of course, that it is deeply ironic and misguided for this man to claim Islam to be a hateful religion based on his apparently cursory understanding of the Koran when clearly he is not aware that his own religious book preaches the same morals. And yet here he is, lambasting Islam and Sharia law without comprehending that the religion he wishes to base his society on is equally capable of throwing forth hateful, bigoted statements. Pot, kettle, indigenous.

The fact remains - and it is a fact - that the BNP are a party whose policies are not based in politics at all, but rather social commentary. A lot is being made of the manner in which Griffin was treated and yes, even I believe there could have been a little more decorum. But don't be fooled. Under the anger and the sniping it was clear that Griffin is an ineffectual racist. No amount of orchestrating from the left could have incriminated him more than he incriminated himself. What we saw, underneath the furore, was a man with a frail grasp of his own ideologies - unable to explain exactly what he meant by 'indigenous' (which is a farcial concept in itself given Britain's history of invasion and occupation spanning centuries) and ineffective in the face of criticism. He was unable to answer, when asked directly by an audience member, a key question regarding his wish to return Britain to it's 'great white roots' asked by a British Asian (of the type the BNP refutes the existence of) He repeated "I was misquoted" like a mantra despite Youtube providing primary evidence to the contrary. He was like a school bully with his pants pulled down.

It's shame the Question Time audience and panel didn't quiz Griffin on his party's policies beyond the issue of immigration and race. For seasoned BNP watchers like myself, the show just confirmed what we already knew - that Griffin is a parody of xenophobic hysteria, a one trick pony filled with hot air and soundbites and very little else. For the average viewer, tuning in out of curiosity or hoping to learn something, it was a massacre. A deserved massacre, and one which showed beyond doubt that the BNP have some truly abhorrent beliefs. But to question him about the economy, about education, about crime - these questions would have shone a torch upon the gaping hole in the BNP's manifesto. They don't have any ideas. They don't have any plans - beyond kicking out the forruns, they haven't actually thought of what to do with the country. The emperor may think otherwise, but he's definitely not wearing any clothes.

The BNP's popularity - and let's not forget that "popularity" is a very relative term - can be attributed solely to their occupation of a gap in British politics. They exploit the disenfranchisement of the working class (believe me, I am working class myself) by pretending that their problems are caused by brown people rather than the rich middle-class white man (of which Nick Griffin can count himself a member) and exploit the discontent of the middle classes, angry at the sharing of their previously exclusive privileges by telling them that when the country is emptied, they can go back to enjoying their perks. There are issues not being addressed by any of the major parties (not even you, Baroness Warsi, covering your rampant batshit homophobia under the guise of "not being quite as bad as Nick Griffin") but to believe that the BNP will address them with workable policies ("Pull up the drawbridge, shut the doors and kick out the wogs" is not a workable policy) is to be suckered in by Nick Griffin's snake oil patter. If Question Time showed us anything, it's that the BNP can't truly be considered a viable alternative, no matter what the failings of the Big Three might be.

16 October, 2009

We are taking part in an orchestrated internet campaign to say "Jan Moir, you're a twunt"

It has taken me several attempts to write this. My first attempt looked like this:
dsfgsdfgdsafgiojhgRoiv['hnWS' IOFJNADF'IL VJNADJ' FJC'WO
accompanied by incoherent shouting, rapid twittering, and frothing at the mouth. After a few hours of calming meditation, crocheting some oatmeal, twittering, and listening to Women's Hour, I managed this:
Jan Moir is a vile, homophobic, horrid waste of perfectly good oxygen.
That's as far as I got before the frothing started again. But you've probably figured out what I'm on about. That Jan Moir article published today, previously entitled "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death" (the title has since been changed).

Moir, as far as anyone can tell, is blaming Gately's death on his "gay lifestyle" (if anyone can come up with a description of this that doesn't involved luriddigs.com, you know where the comment box is). Not, you know, his undiagnosed congentital heart condition - which, as Charlie Brooker pointed out, 12 young people die of every week, irrespective of their sexuality.

She links Gately's death to that of Kevin McGee (who had previously been married to Matt Lucas). As far as anyone with even a pinch of rationality can tell, the only thing connecting the two young men was their sexuality, and that Gately was married, and McGee had been. Somehow, in Moir's mind, this means they died of Teh Gay Marriage Disease. Nevermind all those people who die, from various causes, who are straight and married.

I'm not going to witter on about though. Anton Vowel, over at Enemies of Reason, has put it much better than I could. As has Charlie Brooker at The Guardian. There's plenty going on at twitter under the #janmoir hashtag.

Moir has since released a statement. It doesn't say much, other than a complete lack of apology, and Moir claiming a "heavily orchestrated internet campaign" (spearheaded by Teh Ebil Gays, no doubt) has resulted in people reading her article and not being overly impressed about her homophobia. She still doesn't admit that Gately's autopsy revealed a heart condition - instead insisting that going clubbing until the early hours, smoking weed and having sex was the cause of his death (in which case, I'm surprised there is anyone aged 14 upwards left alive to read this). She doesn't say much of anything really, except "no, no, you didn't read it - I like gay people but they're a bad influence on young people and would you please pass me that big shovel there as this hole I'm making isn't quite big enough yet."

I'm so looking forward to what happens tomorrow. And whether Moir gets her adverts back.

05 October, 2009

Redrawing the battlelines: I am not childless, you are not a mother. We are women.

To the naked eye, this article might almost look like it has the makings of a feminist piece on discrimination against child-free women. Almost:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1217345/Friends-selfish--having-kids-best-thing-I-ve-done.html



A few years ago I was pleased to see articles like this pop up; after all it was rare to have someone defend the position of the child-free by choice against the barrage of both subtle and direct accusations that choosing not to procreate made you a failure as a woman.



Indeed, this article was warmly received in some femi-circles I move in. But over the years I have realised: it's a trick. A dirty rotten trick.



First of all, this article isn't for child-free women, it's against them. See the way they repeat the accusation over and over, and put it in bold in the headline that child-free women are selfish? Fair enough, this woman says a friend called her it once, but I'm not sure that justifies the emphasis the article puts on it, which is increasingly suspicious when you realise that "selfish" is the Fail's very own favourite accusation to level at women who choose not to have children.



Second of all, if this were a book it would flop, because the protagonist is so inherently unlikeable. She's unbearably smug: not having children means she and her husband can go five on luxury holidays a year. And for the author of what momentarily sounded like a semi-feminist statement, she's the perfect embodiment of the Fail's sexist attitude towards women and mothers: by not having children she is able to devote every free moment to pampering her husband; it wouldn't be fair of her to have children because her having a career would mean she would be neglecting them (wherever have we heard that before?). I'm seriously starting to think this woman may be a plant.



But more than all that, this article does women, child-free or not, no favours, for two reasons. One, it's clearly designed to set women against each other. Look at the comments (a depressing 500+ of them), an equal split of "Who's going to look after you when you're old? You'll be in a home paid for by MY child's taxes!" and "Who's going to pay for your kid's education? MY taxes!". It's classic divide and conquer; we can't fight sexism if we're too busy fighting each other. Two, drawing such distinction between mothers and the child-free only serves to encourage women to define themselves by their reproductive status, which re-enforces the belief that a woman's sole purpose in life is to procreate, and once she has done that her contribution and usefulness to the world is over (hence the blatent discrimination of post-menopausal women by just about everybody). Well, that's simply not true. All of us, whether we choose to have children or not, have more to offer the world than our uterus. We are not just mothers, or the childless of child-free or whichever label you choose to use. We are more than that. We are women.

02 October, 2009

The Polanski Debate - Some Corrections and Responses

Since I seem to be unable to comment on Slummy Mummy's blog, I'm writing this quick note of my own to address some of the confusion in the comments after.

Number one - it has NOT been proven in court that the sex was consensual. Polanski was convicted of unlawful sex with a minor - aside from the fact that this is a crime because a minor cannot legally consent - they did not rule on whether the girl consented, only that sex occured.

Number two - Polanski was originally charged with rape, sodomy, providing intoxicating substances to a minor and a few others I don't recall right now. The reason he was only convicted of unlawful sex with a minor was because the victim could not face the trauma of facing her attacker at trial, hence he was offered a soft plea bargain he would be foolish to turn down, on the grounds it was better to get him on *something* rather than let him walk. He has NOT (and I'd double underline that if I could) been cleared in court of rape or any of the other charges, because he has NOT faced trial for them. Since he pleaded guilty there was never a full trial, only a plea hearing and a scheduled sentencing hearing, which, I'm sure you'll recall, he didn't attend because he was too busy absconding from justice.

Number three - I'm frankly apalled that anyone is questioning the issue of consent, in the face of the evidence heard at interview and in the face of common sense. She was 13 for crying out loud. When I was 13 I wanted my parents to take me to see Boyzone, and to get my ears pierced. I didn't want to have anal sex with an ugly 44-year-old midget. Now obviously, I'm not the victim here, but I do think the taste of 13-year-old girls worldwide is fairly universal. And anyway that's all academic, because she was 13 and couldn't bloody consent by law!

Numer four - expand your mind with some research - Polanski has admitted in interviews to what he did. He's just too much of a coward to accept his punishment.

But why let any of that get in the way of a spot of victim blaming, which our rape apologist friend obviously likes to indulge in, eh?

01 October, 2009

Because stopping women getting cancer is wrong - according to the Fail (sometimes).

Pop along to the Fail's website, and there's an almost daily stream of articles on the evils of the cervical cancer vaccine.

Apparently it will encourage promiscuity and bring numerous health problems.

Now, sadly, a fourteen year old girl has died. Unsurprisingly, the Mail were quick to blame her death on the cancer jab she'd had two hours before - either "an extreme reaction", or a dose from a "rogue contaminated batch".

Neither of these turned out to be the case, and it turns out that Natalie had a tumour in her heart and lungs. Her death shortly after receiving the jab was just an unfortunate coincidence, but one the Daily Mail were all-too-happy to blame on Cervarix.

Out of one million girls, 4,657 have reported side effects "including sore arms, dizziness and swelling". I, and many of my friends, had these after being given a meningitis jab at the age of 11/12, yet the Daily Mail seem to have no qualms about children being immunised against meningitis.

The Daily Mail's major concern seems to be these fears of "promiscuity". The argument that a vaccine will prompt a nation of 13-year-old girls to go out and have sex is just astounding. Despite what the Mail seem to think, teenage girls aren't all complete idiots. Yes, some do get pregnant. But the vast majority of 13-19 year old girls DON'T. Having a cancer vaccine isn't going to change these facts.

Their stance against the jab is even more shocking when you consider their constant coverage of the death of Jade Goody. This woman's painful and traumatic death was front page news for months. I do not want to go through that. I don't want anybody to go through that. I'm amazed that some parents are still denying their daughters the innoculation, when we've seen first hand what cervical cancer can do to a young woman.

But what's this?

"The Irish Daily Mail launched a campaign in November calling on the Government to reverse its decision to axe the cervical cancer vaccination programme...The Irish Daily Mail will not relent and will continue to urge the roll out of the vaccine"

Words actually fail me. I didn't think even the Fail could be quite THIS hypocritical.

29 September, 2009

Guest Post by Slummy Mummy: Roman Polanski

I read an article in the Independent today, which moved me more than anything the Fail have ever managed to come up with.

Harvey Weinstein, the uber powerful Hollywood producer, made an empassioned plea, on behalf of his close friend Roman Polanski, who has suffered a miscarriage of justice so heinous, that he, and many of his hollywood compatriots felt compelled to write about it on his behalf. Not since Live Aid have we seen so many celebs moved.

Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss Authorities at a film festival, for a 'so called crime' he committed, aged 44.

When he was 44, the internationally renowned director took a 13 year old to the home of his friend Jack Nicholson. He promised to take her photograph for Vogue. He gave her champagne, and Quaalude. Then he told her to get into a jacuzzi, and while she was dazed and confused, he raped her orally, he raped her vaginally, and he raped her anally.While she asked him to stop. She repeatedly asked him to stop. He told her to keep this a secret from her mother. She didnt.

Then he plea bargained, and when he believed he may actually be punished for the crime he committed, instead of the one his lawyer managed to get a deal for- he fled.He fled for 32 years.

Mr Weinstein speaks from the heart when he talks of the artistic merit of his friends offerings, and of the life path he took which was filled with tragedy. Mr.Weinstein talks poetically about the suffering his friend has gone through, by not being allowed to re-enter the US. He dismisses the crime of drugging, and raping, a 13 year old child- as a 'so called crime'. He speaks with confidence of the connections he, and his friends have, and how they will use them, to get this 'matter' cleared up. Apparently he is going to go visit Governer Arnie, and others are going to petition the Clintons, they even have the ear of Nicholas Sarkozy.

He tells us that Mr Polanski served his time, 'whichever way you look at it'. Now I may not be the brightest spark in the box, but in which country is living around the world, in palatial homes, continuing to direct acclaimed films, a punishment. Apparently the fact that he didnt get to pick up his oscar in person- is enough on the statute books that serve Mr.Weinstein and Mr.Polanski-to be considered justice. I had never seen that on our statute books.

And herein lies the problem. Apparently Mr.Polanski belongs to a set where the same rules dont apply. His artistic genius, his survival of the holocaust, and the tragic loss of his wife- means that he apparently has carte blanche, to do as he pleases. If Mr.Weinstein and Mr.Polanski, and their friends, donot view the drugging and raping of a child as a crime, the only question I have, is -at what income level, level of celebrity, level of connection, do you just get to bring children to the homes of your friends, and rape them, and it become just a perk? Sarkozy, Schwarzenegger, and Clinton, are apparently not elected officials- who are answerable to the people-how could we have thought that?. For people like Mr.Weinstein, the ears of these people, is a perk of celebrity and power.

Mr.Polanski, Mr.Weinstein, and everyone of the morally bankrupt celebrities today, who have spoken up about this 'miscarriage of justice', shows me very clearly the world we live in. I am reassured to know that people with this kind of power, and this kind of money, fully believe they have the right to use the connections that they have, to help a friend evade prosecution for this 'so called crime'. It makes me feel very positive about the world, that the drugging and raping, of a 13 year old child- is not rape, as long as it is a powerful celebrity that is raping her.

It reassures me that women like Deborah Winger, and Whoopi Goldberg- are standing up to tell the world that this 'so called crime' is not really that bad, its not like its 'rape rape' after all. Well if a case where a undisputed facts are that a 13 year old was repeatedly fucked against her will, after being drugged, is not rape= then really, I would like to know what constitutes rape at all?

Oh wait, I am not reassured. I am fucking angry. Disgusted. Horrified. Dumbfounded. They are words I would use to describe how I feel, when I see the stance of those crying out, about the injustice of arresting a man who used his money and power to groom a child, then drugged and raped her. The shock compounding itself, after realising so clearly, we live in a society where celebrity is all, and rape is just a perk to that celebrity- and while Harvey Weinsteins article was abhorrent- it may just be a very true reflection of the society I live in.

Slummy Mummy is a regular on the Daily Mail Hating Feminazis from Hell facebook board. And we heartily recommend her own blog, Deeply Flawed But Trying.

23 September, 2009

Daily Mail - "Feminists are evil!"…now with added irrelevance!

The Daily Mail have published a story entitled “Why I Loathe Feminism…and believe it will ultimately destroy the family”. Which is just fine and dandy. Except that the article isn’t about feminism at all. Save a few cursory references, such as the one below:

“Thirty years later, when feminism exploded onto the scene, I was often mistaken for a supporter of the movement. But I have never been a feminist, because, having experienced my mother's violence, I always knew that women can be as vicious and irresponsible as men.”

The article doesn’t expand on this, but goes on to tell the story of Erin Pizzey’s abusive childhood at the hands of her mother. An awful story, yes, and it sounds as if Pizzey’s mother was an awful person (and a racist to boot. Are you listening, Daily Mail?) Her hatred of feminism is built on a singular foundation: that women are as vicious as men and that feminists deny this.

Well, yes and no. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a feminist who denies that women can be violent and cruel. We’re not fantasists; we know that women aren’t perfect. But we are acutely aware of the fact the perpetrators of domestic violence are still far more likely to be male. Amnesty International figures state that in the USA, women accounted for 85% of the victims of domestic violence in 1999 (671,110 compared to 120,100 men). That’s a hell of a majority. These findings are backed up by a study by the United States Bureau of Justice, which estimates that women are six times more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence. Amnesty International also estimate that domestic violence accounts for nearly a quarter of all recorded violent crime in England and Wales - one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime.

These are worrying statistics. We shouldn’t ignore the reality of female-initiated domestic violence, we certainly shouldn't pretend it's not as serious. But we also mustn’t be cowed by sensationalist journalism which attempts to turn this issue on its head. “What about the men?” should never be an excuse to pretend that male-on-female domestic violence doesn’t make up the majority of recorded incidents. It shouldn’t sweep under the carpet that nearly half of all female murder victims in the UK are killed by a current or former partner. And it definitely shouldn’t attempt to justify the prevalence of male violence against women by suggesting that men are lashing out on the counter attack – that women bring violence upon themselves by verbally abusing their partners. This is not justification. No woman deserves to be hit or beaten because she spoke out of line. The same is true for men. It’s a massive insult to the victims of domestic violence, male or female, to suggest they were asking for it and it’s scarily similar to the rape apologist’s proclamation that an inebriated or scantily clad women is inviting rape.

It’s sad and unfair that Erin Pizzey experienced such abuse at the hands of her mother. But that isn’t feminism’s fault - it wasn't feminism that made her mother a horrible person. And surely, without feminism, she would not have the privilege of being able to publish her story in a national newspaper...?

14 September, 2009

The Politics Of The Bikini Line

The somewhat hyperbolically-titled "To Wax Or Not To Wax: Have women ever faced a greater dilemma?" raised some interesting questions for me, and after discussing the matter with my fellow femis, here's a blog on this apparently terribly important matter.

The article itself seems to gently persuade the reader to 'give it a go', which irritates me somewhat because it seems very evident that she doesn't actually want to. It bothers me that Rowan Pelling compares a painful, expensive procedure which literally rips the hairs from their follicles with hot wax to...buying a pair of racy stockings. "It suggests a woman has put a bit of extra effort into seduction." Pelling states, which is a horrible smug little sentence, almost suggesting that a woman should depilate herself in order to show she's actually putting some effort into her sex life, regardless of the fact that stockings can be put on and taken off with no pain, discomfort or itchy regrowth. Pelling gives the illusion of choice whilst not so subtly promoting the joys and 'benefits' of a hairless undercarriage...even Iranian women do it, she simpers, as if Iranian women ought to be the benchmark of backwards sexual practises.

Of course, the real issue here is addressed in the comments. A startling number of people argue that a Brazilian is cleaner, which is complete rubbish (if it were cleaner, wouldn't thousands of years of evolution have gone some way to addressing that? And if hair is so unhygenic then why aren't men removing theirs?) Among other things, pubic hair cushions and protects the genital area, keeping it warm and protecting the (very) sensitive skin down there. It also traps and holds pheremones, which are an integral element of human sexuality as we understand it. There's a reason we all have pubic hair! (and besides, hair or no hair, if you don't wash regularly it will be unhygenic!)

Of course, it should be up to the individual whether they want to bare all, and in an ideal world we could say that every woman has that freedom of choice. But thanks in part to the rampant pornification of society, and the expectation for all women to match the plucked and preened centrefolds young boys are growing up with as their representations of the naked woman, there is an immense amount of pressure on women to have the full Brazilian wax. There's a strange idea that women with pubic hair are somehow unkempt and untidy, and therefore ought to spend countless woman-hours removing every last sprig.

What Rowan Pelling should have made abundantly clear is that any man who tries to persuade his partner to wax or shave when it's quite clear she doesn't want to is being a domineering prick. It is a decision that should be made by the owner (or non-owner) of his or her own pubic hair. If a woman wants to have a full Brazilian, or even just a bikini line trim, fair enough - that's her decision, and nobody has the right to tell her she's wrong. But there's a lot of unfair pressure on women to imitate this fashion statement, the fear of being found unsexy or not making enough effort to seduce. We're already cowed into removing our underarm hair and leg hair whether we like the idea or not (a practise made popular in the early 1900's - not so long ago!). Surely 'what lies beneath', abdundant foliage or otherwise, should belong to us, and only us?

10 September, 2009

The Problem With Pornography

This is a programme I think every feminist should watch:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search/?q=Hardcore%20Profits


I've always hated porn, and the reasons have been pretty straightforward - it reduces women to the sum of their orifices and pepetuates the idea that women are mere objects to be used purely for male pleasure. The number of rapes and sexual assaults have risen with every year that consumption of pornography has increased for obvious reasons, and women are never going to be seen as equals, at home or in the workplace as long as men are conditioned to view them as vaginas that talk.

But Tim Samuels' documentary (and I'll warn you, he's a smug git of the highest order) has exposed a darker side to the industry than I knew existed and it's time for us all to face up to some home truths. I won't spoilt the programme for those of you who haven't seen it, but here is a summary of the most shocking points:

*Only one porn production house enforces condom use - the others essentially ban it. The porn industry doesn't give a toss about the sexual health of it's "stars", despite there being an outbreak of HIV just five years ago.

*The invisibility of condoms in porn is fueling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in Ghana, where there is no sex education, but plenty of western porn. Women are reporting increasing incidences of rape and sexual assualts carried out by men who gather together to watch porn in the village at night.

*Women in porn are rarely happy or willing. A male porn star interviewed for the programme admitted he found it "difficult" to work with girls who were "crying in the toilets between takes" - yet he didn't seem to have any inclination to stop doing so. What a nice man. A female porn star also interviewed said no women in porn were happy and all had "pyschological issues", and yet she was hell-bent on pursuing a career in the industry. It was later revealed that her pimp - whoops, I mean manager - was also her boyfriend, and was shown on camera to be controlling and verbally abusive, at one point dragging her across a room by the wrist.

*Agencies exploit young women who are breathtakingly naeive about what porn involves. Samuels interviewed a 20-year-old actress who had just signed with a porn agency. She watched porn for the very first time a few hours before her first shoot so she would "know what to do".

*There is apparently a market for porn where men ejaculate directly onto women's eyeballs.

*Worse, there is a market for porn where women are forced to perform oral sex until their throats bleed and/or they are sick, and where women are forced to ingest their own excrement.


The last two points in particular make me think more than ever that porn is not supposed to be arousing simply because of the sex, but because of the depiction of the subjugation and degradation of women. That men aren't actually turned on by women vomiting over themselves, but by the violence. And considering how wildly popular pornography is, that makes me really fearful about what so many men actually think about women. It's no surprise that lads mags were a reaction to the sexual liberation preached by women's magazines like Cosmo, and that porn has got more extreme and more violent with every stride women have taken towards equality - it's all about putting women back in their place, letting them know who's really boss, etc etc. Porn is made by people who hate women, for people who hate women. It's really sickeningly scary. I could throw up thinking about it - I hope that doesn't turn anyone on.

08 September, 2009

Boris Keep Your Promise

Just a quick one to say - the BKYP petition needs 3000 signatories, so if you haven't put your name on it, go here and do so: LINKY

Basically, BoJo promised, during his election campaign for London Mayor, that he would secure the £744,000 of funding needed every year (during his term in office) which would maintain four rape crisis centers in London (as it is, there is only one, in Croyden). Making him keep that promise seems like a good thing to do.


07 September, 2009

the internet is for porn

Ah, feminism and porn. Let the battle begin. I'm throwing some thoughts out there, rather than connecting them to the single Daily Fail article. This piece was actually started by a number of things, including spending time with the other femis at our Fascinator Funday (there are pictures on facebook. It was awesome.), the post about Filament magazine on The F-Word last week, which also linked to Erotica Cover Watch, and me taking on a role as Office Bitch at the gloriously wonderful Coffee, Cake and Kink.

I like porn. There we go. I don't expect you to, although bonus if you do. Everybody has something that turns them on, whether it's naked men, naked ladies, or men dressed up as raptors flapping their "wings" while a cave-lady blows them (I draw the line at the people with a fetish for dragons fucking cars. Dude. seriously. what. the. fuck?).

However, I have noticed this, and you'd be an idiot not to. A lot more men will admit to liking - and watching - porn than women. And the vast majority of porn is made for, and consumed by men. Even the images of naked men are produced, in the vast majority, for gay men. If you go to fleshbot, there is a "gay" filter if you want to look at naked men, and "straight" for naked women (you don't have to choose a filter, though). Why? Both options assume I'm male - despite fleshbot coming from the same group as Jezebel. ECW talk about this issue here. Redtube at least allows me to choose my gender and interest - but all the adverts are aimed at straight males. Pornotube does the same as Fleshbot - gay, straight, all. But once again, the adverts (the facebook of sex! github for lesbians!) are for men. And they're skeezy.

Anyway. There is a point. Feminism, at least for me is - partly at least - about the right for women to control their own bodies. If women make the choice to sell their bodies for money, then I think they should be entitled to - although I also think that women in porn and prostitution need a great deal of support. No woman should ever have to sell her body - but if she wants to, with both eyes open, then ok*. Same goes for porn - if a woman wants to make porn, then sure, why shouldn't she? And if she wants to watch it, hurrah! If, for any person, watching porn is a part of embracing or experimenting with their sexuality, then why the fuck should they be made to feel bad for doing so?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wrestle my flowery chick-lit "girl porn" romance off my boyfriend.



*And mandatory health checks and no pimps.

The Daily Mail: Legitimising lechery since 1896

Let me preface this rant by stating that I am not a prude. It's unfortunate that I have to state this, because I would hope that most sensible-minded people would be able to see the difference between a woman terminally pissed off at the way women's bodies have become public property for sale and exchange and a woman afraid of the female form. Hell, the human body is an amazing thing - an infinitely variable masterpiece of evolution. But that would be too highbrow for the Mail.

So with that said, here is today's bone of contention: "Proof that men just can't help looking at women's boobs", an article which manages to insult both men and women in one dash of its greasy misogynist fists, as well as cleverly shoehorning Kelly Brook into the article as an irrelevant piece of window-dressing. According to the article, a whopping 47 per cent of men notice a woman's boobs before anything else. Which, er, directly contradicts the headline - less than half of men notice a woman's chest first. And that means that more than half of men look elsewhere.

But let's forget this small, unimportant statistical detail, because without it there'd be no basis for an article essentially stating "Men are going to look at your tits whether you like it or not. Deal with it". And this is insulting to both genders. It suggests that men are drooling morons driven by their basest instincts and are incapable of escaping their caveman urges to check out a lady's fertility (based on her cup size, naturally) It suggests that they cannot engage their brains enough to realise that there is a living, thinking woman behind those two lumps of mammary tissue - 'it's evolutionary!' wails the article, in an attempt to portray dirty-mac wearing perverts as perfectly reasonable men acting on instinct. Well, Mail, if this is indeed the case, how come more than half of men are able to "resist" this "natural urge" to park their peepers in a woman's cleavage?

The comments are the usual hovel of despair and decay:

I could have told them this and saved tem a lot of money. What gets me is, women wear a plunging neckline and then complain men do not look them in the eye. Give us some time-we will get to your eyes, Honey ! Admit it, you like it or you would all be wearing turtlenecks.- Bernard ex pat, Pawleys Island USA

In many ways this comment is exemplary of the most depressing type of comment: the right to own and possess women's bodies. Because what Bernard is suggesting is that, unless a woman covers herself from head to toe (Perhaps in an oppressive burkha! Ho ho, the irony) she is automatically consenting - nay, asking - to be regarded as a collection of component body parts to be measured and weighed and rated from 1 to 10. Which is utter bollocks, of course. If I wear a short skirt, it might be because I feel warm, or I like the skirt. It isn't because I'm asking to be judged by every passing man.

"Breast size is a lot like Coke and Pepsi. Men have a preference but will take whatever's on tap. As long as it's not flat.- rebecca, mallorca

Of course! Because if you admire a lady with less than a B cup, you must be gay. Or not a man. Rebecca knows these things.

I am often tempted to pin a £50 note or a photo of a nice pair of shoes to my chest just so I can walk around shouting "Hey lady, eyes up here, talk to the face" when women look at them.Why do women who put the goods on show then moan that people look at them?- brad, NIMBY

This inflamed arsehole is the worst of the bunch, by far. Not only does he employ the old and offensive stereotype of Teh Wimmins being drawn to pretty shoes or banknotes of a high value (as if men aren't!) he refers to breasts as 'the goods'. 'The Goods'! Did I miss the memo stating that my breasts were a commodity? Did I miss the meeting where it was decided that if I wear a low cut top of any kind I obviously deserve to be ogled? No. When I buy a V-neck in a shop, it does not come with a certificate stating that, on wearing the garment, I have turned myself into an object for the perusal of any man that might wish to reduce me to pieces of aesthetically pleasing meat. (Or, judging by the shouts of 'Grow some tits!' I often encounter whenever wearing said garments, less-than-aesthetically-pleasing. Hey, looks like rebecca was on to something...)

The fact is, this whole article is filled to the brim with rancid shit, and coming from a paper that preaches sexual morality, that claims to despise the sexualisation of our 'yoof', it's somewhat ridiculous to have to swallow the idea that women should submit to the lecherous gaze of the poor primitive male, that unfortunate creature who is but a slave to his instincts. Because to believe that would be to cheapen and insult the male gender, to objectify and dehumanise the female gender, and to reduce the infinitelt comples ideas of beauty, aesthetics and attraction to sneaked peeks at cleavages and surreptitious glances at the bra-line.

03 September, 2009

Love Music, Hate Sexism

Apologies first of all, fair readers, that this post is not directly linked to the Fail. Oh, I know it's a great read, but my head was turned by baser reading material this week; yes, that's right, I almost bought a magazine about a genuinely interesting topic, instead of which skin cream will bag me a bachelor but give me cancer if I don't cook for him.

Almost, but not quite. You see, I do like bands. But I also like being a girl.

I remember quite vividly the first time it occurred to me that these two things could be incompatible. I was fourteen, we'd just got the internet, and a whole new world of fandom was opening before me. And then there it was; a scan of Kerrang magazine, Davey Havok and Dexter Holland sharing the cover with the headline, "ROCK IN THE DOCK: is rock music sexist?" I never did track down the article, but I even neverer forgot its title.

Those words have come back to me a lot over the years, most times I've read about Courtney Love or Brody Dalle, and every time I've flicked past yet another male-targeted advert in a music magazine. (Yes, I sometimes read the NME; no, that does not mean I aspire to style my manly hair into so improbable a quiff that women will dance on tables in its honour thus allowing me to look up their skirts, Shockwaves haircare). But this week really took the balls-up biscuit. Shipped out to Marylebone because Euston thought it might perhaps possibly be on fire and with a four-hour train journey ahead of me, I trudged into WHSmiths for something to read. Oh look, a new Q! But oh wait, it's shrink-wrapped to FHM.

Er, what the fuck? I stared at it for a moment, processed the fact that one of my favourite magazines had just turned to shit before my very eyes, and walked out of the shop.

I don't care how much it comes down to publishers' alliances, I don't care what snivelling little marketing strategy is behind it, I don't care if some girl whose face has started popping up in the London Lite has taken her "hippy chic" clothes off, but I am fucking livid that a magazine I really respected precisely because it was so much more interesting, well-written, and generally grown-up than its peers has done that for which every successful band risks crucifixion in the music media; sold out.

Well, I'm not buying it. I'm not sure what I'll buy instead (the NME's too flimsy, no-one at Artrocker can spell... maybe Clash will fill the gap) but Q can stick it; I'm sure FHM can tell them where.

25 August, 2009

Sharia Law vs Daily Mail Law

Much is made by the Fail of the inherent evils of Sharia law. Now, I don't like to speculate on the relative merits of cultural law without doing my research first. So below, I've outlined some of the basic tenets of Sharia law (focusing mostly on gender equality) and contrasting them with the Daily Mail's own opinions on the same subjects. The results probably won't shock you at all if you're a seasoned Mail-watcher.

WOMEN IN EMPLOYMENT

SHARIA: There is a hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari 5:59:709) in which Muhammad is recorded as saying that people with a female ruler will never be successful ("When Allah's Apostle was informed that the Persians had crowned the daughter of Khosrau as their ruler, he said, "Such people as ruled by a lady will never be successful."), however historically Islamic women have had access to education and employment unheard of in many other societies. The Muslim scholar Ibn Asakir states that, as early as the 12th century, women were able to study and become scholars and teachers. During the years of Caliphate rule, Women held respectable jobs in a variety of sectors. Muslim women also held a monopoly over branches of the textile industry, which was the largest market-oriented industry of its time. Europe, by contrast, had very few working women.

What about modern Muslim women? Some interpretations of Sharia law suggest that women should not take prominent jobs, for example in government. Women are generally encouraged to work, although there are conditions. Women working outside the home must dress appropriately to maintain their modesty. It is also important that a woman's job does not affect commitments seen by the Muslim community as more important, such as family. However, treatment of working women varies from country to country; Morocco, for example, legislates that certain fields of work are restricted to women and under 16's . Though this is often defended as protection of women as potential child-bearers, it also suggests that women are less able to protect themselves. A 2005 survey found that while 16% of Pakistani women were in employment or considered able to work, 52% of Indonesian women were - there are glaring discrepancies despite the overall attitude to working women being rather positive.

According to the Islamic Voice website, "when a woman earns something from her work, her earnings belong totally to her. If she is unmarried, her father cannot claim her earnings as his own. Similarly, a woman’s husband cannot put any claim to her earnings. "

DAILY MAIL:

The Mail, despite considering itself far more progressive than Islam, consistently asserts that working women are doing themselves a great injustice. The Mail assumes that most women of childbearing age, whether they realise it or not, want to have children and that working mothers not only do their children a terrible injustice but secretly wish to return to the 'good old days', when men worked and women cared for the home. "Nine In Ten Working Women Want To Quit To Become Housewives" states that "The worry is that since for most women in our society marriage, conception and children are connected - consciously or not - there is a danger that by the time a woman decides that marriage is not for her she may have left it too late to have the child she so desperately wants."

This article reinforces the long-held Mail belief that working mothers are detrimental to a child's development, and to family life. In this respect, Sharia Law is completely compatible with the Daily Mail.

RAPE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE


SHARIA: A Sunni hadith states unequivocally that the punishment for rape is death. Elsewhere in Islam it is generally agreed that a woman should not be punished for being raped, and that there is no sin on the part of the victim. However, the requirements under Sharia law (4 witnesses, usually 2 male and 2 female) mean that rape is very rarely reported and even more rarely punished. That said, many Muslim scholars believe rape falls into a different area of Sharia law, hiraba, which does not require four witnesses. There is also no mention in the Qu'ran of stoning, which some Muslim countries offer as punishment for women convicted of adultery - a criticism of Sharia law is that rape cases are sometimes turned on their heads by the rapist, leading to a wrongful conviction of the victim for adultery or some other sexual crime.

The Qu'ran states that rape, within or outside of marriage, is wrong and a reprehensible act. Further information can be found here. However, there is a verse of the Qu'ran often quoted by apologists of domestic violence - "...and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them" (The Qur'an, chapter 4 (An-Nisa), verse 34) . Some scholars have sought an alternative interpretation, unfortunately it certainly seems that this verse advocates violence when a woman 'asks for it'.

DAILY MAIL The Daily Mail's attitude to rape is very telling when one 'searches' the Daily Mail homepage using the keyword 'rape' - the page of results is dominated by stories of women 'crying rape'. Much like the Sharia system of four witnesses, the Mail often errs on the side of the perpetrator, as evidenced by not only the number of 'cry rape' articles but the general attitude of commentors on rape articles. The Mail seems to subscribe to the Sharia idea of requiring absolute proof from the victim before a conviction can be made. Intriguingly, the Mail expresses outrage in articles written about recent laws passed in Afghanistan making it effectively legal for a man to rape his wife, or Saudi judges ordering a rape victim to be lashed. Much like Sharia, the Mail almost suggests that sexual violence can be considered more acceptable if the victim was 'asking for it'. The Mail is also fond of asserting that claims of domestic violence ought to be treated with suspicion.


DRESS AND BEHAVIOUR


SHARIA: The Hijab is required of both genders and refers to modest dress, although it is now used mainly in reference to the headdress worn by women. Extreme examples of hijab include the burqa, which is not required by Islamic law but is instead enforced by some governments in Islamic countries - in contrast, the Tunisian government try to discourage wearing of the veil. It is, however, required that women act and dress so they do not draw sexual attention from men. Some scholars believe that women must lower their gaze when speaking to men in order to enforce this. In some Muslim countries women are actively forbidden to communicate with men who are not their husband or close relatives - this 'purdah' was strongly enforced under Taliban rule.

DAILY MAIL:
While the Mail doesn't lay down any concrete rules for women in terms of dress, it is extremely quick to criticise women who do not fall under its umbrella of 'acceptable appearance' - from today's Mail, we find several examples ('Sharon Stone's not wearing makeup!'
'Helena Bonham Carter dares to wear a swimsuit!' 'Nadine Coyle's not wearing a bra!') the standards of acceptable female appearance seem unattainably high and only Kelly Brook ever seems to tick all the Mail's boxes. The Mail lists smoking cigarettes, eating food and taking the Pill as just a few examples of undesirable female behaviour.

Obviously this is a fairly superficial overview of both Sharia law and the Mail's gender politics, but it's pretty fascinating to see how close the Mail and Sharia Law are, despite the Mail's constant assertions that Islam is the greatest evil to pillage our earth since Chris Deburgh.

04 August, 2009

Three little pigs...

This is a little... unconnected. I had three rants, but none of them warranted individual blogs. So you get a bumper-blog of leftovers. I'm good to you.

You don't have to like Harriet Harman. You don't have to agree with her. However, I don't really think that her comment "Jack [Dromey, her husband] is not waiting for dinner to be there in front of him or he'd be starving" is exactly a feminist war-cry up there with some of the statements coming out of I Blame The Patriarchy, is it now, Daily Male? Yes, she is a feminist. She is open that she wants to see more women in positions of leadership. Reading endless articles like this - which don't actually appear to tell us very much about Harman's policies are*, beyond an "equality agenda" (oh noes! equal rights!) and her making a comment that the number of women in the workplace is not reflected in the number of women in boardrooms and decision-making positions, particularly in banking - it's easy to get depressed about the state of politics in the UK. The article itself isn't overly hectoring, or particularly nasty - for once - but still, there is this constant undertone of "uppity woman should go home and be a good housewife". It doesn't applaud her outspokenness, doesn't view a politician with determination as a good thing (she's too bitchy, see?), and doesn't do anything to actually argue why Harman is wrong.

The DM likes a good moan about unobtainable beauty standards, especially if run with beauty articles (with airbrushed models) or finger-wagging "vaguely famous person has gained/lost weight/looks a bit tired/isn't smiling like a cracked-up clown on laughing gas/is wearing something not overly flattering" articles. So do those writing the comments. Except for David, in London, who thinks that

"Maybe it's not the airbrushed ads that are at fault, maybe it's all the ordinary women who just need to make a bit more of an effort! Come on girls, raise you're game a little."

Yes. Excuse me, David. Once I've quietened the urge to circle your abuse of the common apostrophe in red pen, I'll just slap on a bit more lipstick. Maybe then my breasts will double in size like Keira Knightly's did in that film poster.

Dear Liz Jones
You did not learn to shear. You washed a fleece, although I suspect that was done for you. You did not card it, or dye it. You did not spin it, you merely posed for a photograph with a spinning wheel (a rather nice one, but a little overly-fancy for your needs, and don't tell me you can move properly in that jacket, you'd be covered in lint too). You did not knit that lace shawl. You admit that in your third to last paragraph. So why the fuck does your title claim you made the shawl with your own hands from your own wool? (this I will allow - it is your wool). Finally - who the fuck is Alison Haggas? Why did you not link to people like British Wool if you're so concerned about the plight of the British wool industry (which is, admittedly, in need of a helping hand), or speak to Jo Watson, who organised UK Ravelry Day. Or link to fucking Ravelry.com, if you're so into your yarn and needles.
Yours,
Fucked-off Wool Hugger who is actually just jealous of your spindle and your sheep.

P.S. Holistic shearer my left dicknipple.


*except intimating that she'd probably like to have all men castrated or something

31 July, 2009

Let's all laugh at fat people

More Daily Mail body fascism

A brief one today, but the Daily Mail is inviting us to laugh over pictures of 'some of the skinniest and most desirable' celebs 'looking as if they have been let loose at a hamburger stand' (because eating lots of burgers is the only reason people are fat, ever!) The whole article reeks of spite and bitterness. I've been very slim for most of my life and yet I cannot stand the perceived superiority a person is imbued with if they are thin. Of course, it's not enough to just be thin, because there's the 'right' kind of thin (with large breasts and a dayglo tan) and the 'wrong' kind of thin (any of the following: small boobs, prominent collarbone, UGLY KNEES.)

On the other end of the scale is the frankly irritating idea, as presented by commenter 'Brucie from Liverpool', that big girls are 'real women' (so I suppose skinny girls are just pretending?) You just can't win, really. Where's the middle ground here? You know, the one which embraces the reality that all women, regardless of their body shape or size, are equally real and equally deserving of a little bloody respect.

28 July, 2009

Just a small piece of annoyance

This cropped up today. A rather bleak story of how a woman committed suicide, and I found myself wondering why the article was intent on mentioning very little apart from her being a working mother.

True there was a detail of her death, and where her body was found, about how she was a caring mother of three (about four times) and was just restarting work after maternal leave (about five times) and that’s it aside from her final text message. But from that there is precious little to piece together, and to fill this void in the article the Daily Male’s writer inputs a number of times that she was juggling a career and children. This is odd seeing as it seemed equally likely to be postnatal depression, which affects any number of mothers (from 5 to 25%) but the overall effect can be pretty severe in some cases. Such as with most forms of depression. And this was for the most part just added as an extra.

But, as I digress, for some reason I’m still drawn back to this point of a working mum. I got the subtle feeling (or as subtle as a brick through the window subtle) that the article was actually anti women working. The repeated use of mother and working with little reference to her life as well, made it feel like the author didn’t want women to build a career. But also the singular case would then be added the pantheon of hate this rag perpetuates in its readership. A similar tack is used with immigration. There was and will be a series of small stories ranging from the casual sh*te surveys the paper digs up to articles like this whereby a single event has happened and then be applied to the whole. There will be anecdotal type stories and pieces submitted by hacks hoping to earn a small living.

Finally this sort of thing is then topped up with irony as the columnists (a career perhaps) such as Liz where’s-my-horse Jones or Melaine You-either-agree-with-me-or-you’re-anti-Semitic Philips writing dithering codswallop about how either their ‘friends’’ lives have been affected by working or how their own ‘lives’ have been affected. And maybe have Peter the-c*nt Hitchins* write some dumb diatribe in his usual blathering way and then blame it on the government.

And hey presto you have the nation** wanting women to stay at home, tend to the children and house and be submissive to whatever the husband brings her. So yeah a minor annoyance but expect in a few weeks sudden articles on why women are happier as housewives and how women with careers are unhappy.


* Wasn’t feeling that original, was going to say how misogynist, regressive, bible-blinded, hate-monger but really that one word sums it up

**I.e. Daily Mail readers and the legions of commenters that scour the web and letters’ pages, in other words people whose opinion is as fair and balanced as a judge at a show trial.

14 July, 2009

Popstars: The Rivals *

You know how Cheryl Cole and Danni Minogue hate each other? Oh, they're always at it like cats and dogs, never have a nice word to say about each other. Danni's jealous you see, because Cheryl is younger than her, and because younger automatically means more beautiful, of course. The rivalry between them has got so bad that all at war has erupted on the set of the X Factor - a style war. Every day they try to outdo each other in that uniquely feminine way, with their outfits. so far Danni's trouncing Cheryl (apart from an embarrassing incident yesterday when they turned up both wearing the same shoes - NIGHTMARE!) and boy, isn't she smug about it.

Dear reader, you may have noticed that the previous paragraph is pure, unparallelled bollocks. I don't know Danni Minogue or Cheryl Cole, they're pop singers and judges on a tv talent show; I live in Essex and have savings totalling 47p, our worlds have yet to collide. They've never publicly said a bad word about each other, no "sources close to (either) star" have been quoted dishing the dirt on their "feud" and there's no evidence whatsoever that any more thought has gone into their outfits every day of last week beyond recognising the need to not leave the house naked.

Yet the Fail has presented every one of the ideas stated in the first paragraph as fact. Daily. I don't like the X Factor (though I'll admit to watching the auditions - yes, I'm a horrible person), Cheryl Cole (the "tv personality" I suppose, as I don't know her as a person) irritates the hell out of me and I have no strong feelings towards Danni Minogue, but Cod, I know every detail of their "feud", thanks to saturation coverage in the Fail.

It started when Cheryl joined the show on the last series. The Fail reported on the day of her appointment that Danni would "obviously feel envious and threated by her younger, thinner rival". She "could not compete" looks-wise, simply because Cheryl was a decade younger. Before filming even started they reported that Danni "would hate" Cheryl. All pure speculation, of course, and ignoring key points like the fact that beauty is subjective and thus not ruled by age and dress size.

And so it went on, and goes on, the last week being dominated by reports of how the judges were "trying to outdo each other" with their choice of clothes, with daily updates suggesting that one was "smug" and the other "furious at being outdone" without ever providing any evidence other than a photo of each of them smiling gaily, and quotes regarding "rumours" that they started, and have not been reported anywhere else.

If you're wondering what my point is, it is this. This "feud" is as manufactured as Girls Aloud theselves. It exists only within Fail writers own minds. Yet they slavishly report on it every day, along with innumerate other "catfights" between female celebrities for which no evidence exists. Why? Because they get to perpetuate their own ridiculous views on female beauty, by both implicitly and explicitly implying that Cheryl is 'more beautiful' because she is younger, and that more beautiful is 'better'. This in turn encourages women to judge each other on these terms and society in general to dismiss women as petty, insignificant creatures obsessed with make-up and clothes. Female solidarity is replaced by in-fighting; the Patriarchy rumbles on undisturbed.

The idea behind this blog was to bring our own brand of Facebook activism into the wider world, where we might one day help to inspire change. With that in mind, while there's no petition to sign and no ombudsman to complain to, we can all do something to help fight this characterisation of women as shallow bimbos in constant competition with one another - don't believe everything you read. At least if you read it in the Fail.

* With apologies to those quite rightly uninterested in fake tv talent contests.

12 July, 2009

Too Much Shit In Newspaper Hampers Readership Prospects

Only joking, sadly; The Mail manages to garner readers even with non-articles like "Too much cleavage in workplace hampers promotion prospects". Just as well we're here to rip them to shreds too, eh?

In contrast to Ayelet Waldman's unfortunate foray into Mailanism, it seems fairest to distinguish this drivel from its ostensible source ("an author... Elizabeth Squires" who is quoted but sparingly) as from research it is hard to tell precisely how stupidly sexist she is in her own right, as compared to through the Daily Mail looking-glass. Reviews for her boob books are split down the middle from the evangelical to the eviscerating, and I am loathe to make as prejudiced use of her material as the anonymous Daily Mail Reporter responsible for cobbling together this waste of words.

Dislaimer dispatched, it must however be said that for an article barely 300 words long, it packs an impressively idiotic punch - aided and abetted most of all by Ms. Squires' own research. While it is the commonest of sense to know that one should dress (and speak, and write, and behave) professionally in a professional context, this article stretches that most basic truism far beyond the bounds of objectivity.

Like many a Mail article, "Too much cleavage..." begins with a veneer of reasonableness. Many women probably have "stopped power-dressing in preference for wearing tighter and more skimpy outfits at work", and it's probably not a good idea. As a woman naturally endowed with large breasts, I know that there are some styles of top that I should steer clear of for work, in the same way that a male colleage would be expected to dispense with his Hawaaian shirts/shorts/vests/stupid T-shirts. I may not like it, but I can understand it, as part of a sartorial paradigm to which both genders must submit between the hours of nine and five. A sartorial paradigm, no less, which can be hard to negotiate at times; "I don't think women are stupid, I just don't think anyone knows the rules", says Squires. So far, so fair (if also somewhat frustrating). But not for long - this is, after all, the Daily Male.

For, after labouring this obvious point for a few pedestrian paragraphs, the Emperor's new clothes dissolve to reveal the usual bile beneath. Why, for instance, does it matter that Ms (or, interestingly, "Miss" - Christ on a bike, is this woman unmarried?! What's she doing being quoted in a national rag, ye gods?) Squires is "a mother of three"? Oh yes, it doesn't. They just don't know how else to categorise us breeding stock.

But most of all (and on Squires' head let this squarely fall) why is the research on female professional attire cited based entirely on "men examin[ing] photographs in a generic workplace in various outifts"? And why do these photographs feature "different bra sizes" rather than "different cleavages"?

The first variable assumes an almost exclusively masculine workplace, when in fact other women's opinions of these same pictures would have been just (and in some sectors, arguably more) relevant. We may still be battling the glass ceiling, but it's sure as hell getting crowded in the female wage basement, so to survey only men is sloppy to say the least. Unless of course you believe men both do and should have the first and last say in any professional sphere... goodness, I almost forgot I was reading the Male

The second variable is altogether more sinister, though. Dress is elective, and we must all pay for our choices in one way or another; however, to promote "medium-sized breasts" as a professional accoutrement is outrageous. What are we meant to do, list breast reductions or augmentations on our CVs along with which software packages we can use? "Fully fluent in French, German and your company's narrow definition of what constitutes mammaplastic professional perfection"? (Not to mention dressing "discreetly" - because if you have to be heard, you had better not be seen as well).

But perhaps this article's biggest failing is one of omission; the question should not just be how to dress for work, but also why "increasing numbers [are] showing more cleavage at work by wearing plunging necklines and tight tops". It couldn't possibly be that in institutionally sexist environments, some women have decided that if they're going to be judged on their looks anyway, they may as well exploit the system, could it? And it couldn't be that this professionally unprofessional approach will only disappear when male sexism does, could it? Of course not; this is not just sexism, this is Daily Mail sexism - hotpot most definitely included.

11 July, 2009

Middle-aged woman in ageing shocker

Sorry for my absence in recent weeks I have been, um, otherwise engaged.

Also, the piece I was due to tear to shreds – a sickening article in The Telegraph where a quite frankly amateurish “scientific” study on rape at the University of Leicester was further misinterpreted to say that a. women who dress provocatively deserve a raping and b. men who sleep around a bit are more likely top be rapists (puh-lease!!) – was pulled and apologised for by the aforementioned pseudo-intellectual right-wing rag. Cheers to Ruth for pointing it out though.

However, I have found something else to get my hairy, gluten-free goat. The Heil website leads with this piece:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1198795/Elle-Macpherson-shows-fine-Bodywork-46-gleams-car-launch.html

To spare you the horror of having to read these loathsome twats’ ‘work’, I will summarise:

- Elle MacPherson has some cellulite just above her knees.

- The fact that Elle, 45, has some cellulite just above her knees is of some surprise.

- Elle is 45. Elle shouldn’t be 45, or something.

- And, the biscuit-taker (direct quote):

'Creping is also more common in skinnier people. Fat tends to pad out the skin and supports it more. If you have a very low body mass index like Elle does then basically you have skin travelling over muscle with no fat in between. Whereas if she was slightly plumper, she would not have the creping phenomenon as much.'

Ooh I could crush a grape.

So women should not have cellulite. They also, it seems, should not get older. Especially not if they are supermodels. Furthermore, they should not be skinny. Yet, inevitably, people get a. older and b. their metabolism slows down.

So what to do? Cull all women above the age of 35. Especially if they’re really attractive former models. Shit, time’s running out Karo…

09 July, 2009

I Don't Have Much To Say...

I didn't want to miss my blog spot but the net is a bit all over the shop at home and to be honest I'm struggling to find inspiration.
The reason for this is that my landladies have split up. Do they still love each other? Yes.
The reason they are splitting and one is leaving with the kids in just under two weeks is simple: the teenaged daughter made a concerted effort from the outset to split them up. Not really because she disliked Liz, though she now says she "hates" her, but because she doesn't want her Mum being gay. Her methods of doing this have utterly shocked me, and I grew up in a fractured, messy family. She even asked her Mum if, now she had split, if she would "go back to the other side".
So I'd like to thank the Fail and everyone else for peddling homophobic bile and making out Clause 28 is the antichrist. Maybe if that wasn't the case, a teenaged girl (who was bullied and assaulted by homophobic fellow pupils, who no doubt got their lovely opinions from their parents) would not be doing such terrible things. Or maybe she would, I don't know.

All I do know is it's very sad.

08 July, 2009

Love all?

So Wimbledon is finally over, and I'm breathing a sigh of relief for two different reasons. First of all, I don't enjoy tennis; it's dull as anything and so far as I can tell, designed exclusively for the upper classes. Who else would pay £12 for strawberries? However, for the week Wimbledon was on, I happened to be working in an office full of people who think tennis is the sport of kings, or possibly Gods, and as such the big screen in the reception area where I worked was duly switched to the BBC for all day coverage, leading to there constantly being a gaggle of suited bankers hanging around my desk all day chatting almonst themselves (or worse, to me) about the tennis. This, in case you were wondering when I was going to get to it, leads me to the second reason I'm glad Wimbledon is over: it brought out amongst these men and women such misogyny that I had to spend seven hours a day restraining myself from reaching over the desk and smacking them in the mouth.

I speak, of course, about Venus And Serena Williams. Now I never heard anyone once comment on Andy Murray's physique (a bit weedy looking, if you ask me) or ponder if the male player who was 6'7 had an unfair advantage. But when it came to the Williams sisters, two dedicated atheletes who are famously known for having the muscular physiques of, um, a dedicated athelete, the bile poured.

"Oh, I hope she doesn't win - look at her, she looks like a man", "yuck, I hope she gets knocked out, she's revolting, so manly", "it's unfair for them to get this far, they look like men", "I prefer Venus to Serena, at least she's a bit more feminine looking..." - yep, my charming colleagues, male and female, were rooting against two talented players because they don't have the most feminine of physiques (I'd also ask whoever wrote the book saying muscles were a masculine attribute, but I fear that's a different topic for a different day).

It just goes to show how thin the veneer of equality we have these days truly is. Yes, we can have female atheletes but heaven forbid they actually *look* like atheletes. Women players now get equal prize money to men, but we only really approve if they remain slim and delicate, and you know, non-threatening. Because that's what it's about, isn't it? We, men and women, don't like strong women, still. Women should be fragile, delicate, submissive, or so the Patriarchy would have us believe, so we freak out when someone comes along who challenges that ideal.

Add to that the fact that Wimbledon officials have admitted to putting the most attractive female players on centre court, regardless of ranking, or the importance of the match (hence Serena Williams, 2nd in the world found herself playing an important match on court number 2, which attracts virtually no tv coverage while two unknown but nubile blonde beauties battled it out for the cameras on the centre stage) and the constant lingering close-ups of whichever women in the audience that day had made the sartorial mis-step of wearing a low-cut top in the sweltering heat, and I think we can all agree tennis is a strong contender for the prestigious title of Most Sexist Sport Ever.

04 July, 2009

"I don't hate gays, I just don't think kids should know they exist"

...is the general theme of this ridiculous piece of fearmongering journalism, which I shall proceed to gently critique. And by gently critique, I mean 'expose as the hateful ramblings of a paranoid homophobe'

The first piece of telling evidence is contained within the first few paragraphs:

Of course, attitudes towards gay rights have changed a lot in the past 21 years. But it is still wrong for councils to spend their residents' money promoting homosexuality.


Ridiculous. Councils are not promoting homosexuality. The long overdue apology over Section 28 is nothing to do with 'promotion' of any sexual persuasion. Section 28 forbade councils to distribute any material which portrayed homosexuality as anything but abnormal. To overturn this rule, and then (rightly) apologise for it ever having been put in place (thanks, Tories) is NOT promoting homosexuality - it is recognising the right of gay couples to regard their lifestyle as normal, and for others to accept homosexuality for what it is - a sexual and romantic preference for the same sex present in a person from the day they were born.

There's the key; a person is born gay. They do not choose homosexuality like they choose to, say, dye their hair or wear skinny jeans. Homosexuality is not a trend or fad - it's a genuine, honest affection for the same sex.

Of course, the coincidentally named Harry Phibbs seems to think that telling our kids about gays will turn them all into the pink-wearing, limp-wristed flouncy poofters Conservatives still believe make up the vast majority of the gay population:

Another book called The Milkman's on his Way explicitly described homosexual intercourse and, indeed, glorified it, encouraging youngsters to believe that it was better than any other sexual way of life....From my experience of those children, it is difficult enough for them to understand normal sexual relations without having homosexuality foisted upon them.
'I find it horrifying that anyone would support that.
'All of that was stopped dead by Clause 28. Clause 28 was introduced for that purpose, and that purpose alone.
'It was not intended to harm people who, as adults, decided that that was the way of life for them.


Quotes from Baroness Knight, and may I humbly suggest she takes the stick out of her arse and begins to realise that learning about sex will not turn kids into little shagging demons with penises for teeth and STDs coming out of their ears. And Phibbs uses this as an apology for Section 28. He suggests that it was little to do with homophobia and more to do with a 'Won't Anyone Please Think Of The Children' type mentality.

But why shouldn't children learn about homosexuality? Why shouldn't they be given the opportunity to learn about some of the things that make human beings different? There are a lot of excellent reasons why kids should know about 'Daddies and Daddies' as well as the traditional family unit.

Firstly, as the Mail constantly bemoans, the traditional 'Mummy, Daddy and Baby' family is no longer the only valid option for parents these days. An increase in single parent families, adopted families and step families cannot be halted by closing your eyes and singing 'la la la' until they go away. Our kids will have better self esteem and become more well-rounded, less prejudiced people if they realise that growing up with two daddies, a mummy and a mummy or even just one mummy doesn't make you any less of a human being than the other kids whose parents married, stayed together and remain together. Children who hit puberty and discover their own homosexual tendencies won't feel trapped by their sexuality, won't feel forced into a false heterosexuality in order to feel 'normal' - all of this is progress, and all of this is good.

Unfortunately for the Fail, it also stands against the rigid, traditional values they hold so dear. But, as a final thought, what would the Fail say if a law were passed forbidding local councils to create or distribute materials portraying Christianity as 'anything but abnormal'? What would they say if Baroness Knight suggested that children were too young to be exposed to the adult world of religion? (After all, while one is born gay or straight, a child is taught religion - no child is born a Christian) Is it not, to paraphrase the Baroness, hard enough for children to understand the world around them without having religion foisted upon them....?