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:


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....?

02 July, 2009

And so we have the overprotective mother...

Hokay so it’s my turn to write a blog post, bit late I know. And while the issue about France’s recent ban on burkas has got me thinking about the imposing of clothes on women by state and/or religion, I found that writing as a white, atheistic-secularist male I wouldn’t really be able to comment much beyond that of wtf. So instead this post is about three articles by Penny Marshall, Middle-England’s defender from sex and pornography.

Anyway, there are three articles in the Daily Fail archives to choose from. The most recent is about lipstick lesbianism and how it is an evil and corrupting force that destroys young girls, the next is about the TV and how it is an evil and corrupting force that destroys young girls, and finally an article about teenagers making their own porn (which actually is disturbing, but the scapegoat of TV returns as the evil and corrupting force that destroys young girls). And from these three articles I got the picture that Penny Marshall is conservative and over-protective and elitist. Three properties of an individual I consider diabolical and unnerving.

The first article, that is the one about lipstick lesbians, I got the feeling that the writer was not only homophobic but also shocked at the type of culture her conservative upbringing never allowed. However in trying to defend her way of thinking, that sexuality should be like a binary labelled object such as a consumer product might have, and pointing to the problems of peer pressure that occurs in youth culture, she comes off as sounding a wee bit homophobic and sounding more like Mary Whitehouse. Pointing at famous lady liplockers (horrible phrase I know), whose lip-shtick whatever shenanigans are more likely to appeal to lonely male divorcees than teenage females; it hawks more of Edward Woodward’s Sergeant Howie screaming at the Wicker man than a serious article about the connotations of association from the media-infused culture delegating the practices of young women.

But then the problem, that they are doing it for the sake to appeal more attractive to potential mate, is surely a problem about the current media obsessed necessity in coupling, pregnancies, marriage and the alienation of people being single for the sake of being single. Shoot if two girls are kissing to appeal more attractive to males then surely the problem is not the kissing but the apparent necessity to be non-single. But we can’t be blaming the press can we?

As to article two, the TV viewing, this is just hilarious. ‘PARENTS YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING FILTH’ to paraphrase the humour. I’m not sure whether I’m a prime candidate to criticise, having watched the likes of Monkey Dust, Neco Z Alenky, the Godfather, the Shining, Alien, South Park: the Movie and series and Trainspotting before the age of fifteen, I’ve supposed to be a mass-murdering, cynical junkie with a deeply dark sense of humour. Well the last bit is true but as of twenty I haven’t murdered anyone yet and in being a very moderate drinker I don’t think diving into the filthiest toilet in Scotland for a hit is going to happen anytime soon. But it is funny the angst the author has about what the teenage girls are watching. It is like seeing a nervous breakdown in typographical form. See as TV shows are lined up and criticised for being corrupting and wrongly influential (as opposed to say the popular press pushing criticisms of any famous women who are not married, with children, without a strong voice, within a certain body image, and are not Kelly Brooks).

But then that worried mother screaming “Won’t somebody please think of the children!?” (as Helen Lovejoy would cry) is just what suites the Daily Fail. That is, cheap criticism on modern culture (that doesn’t feature ITV) and the degradation of youths, and the collapse of morals. This brings me onto the third article, the actually mildly disturbing article.

This article’s content is mildly alarming. Not because what is happening, that teenagers are making their own porn and distributing it among their peers (this is more disturbing than alarming and has a whole range of problems not least that the Daily Fail is probably the culprit), but the way that this article insists that this thing is a problem because it has ‘infected’ middle class girls. For the sake of Pete I cannot abide by this elitist bullshit any more than I can abide the Daily Mail itself. Because what it is saying is that it is okay for teenagers to make porn of themselves so long as they are of what was once called the working class. Hence because some prissy private (dick-)eds and grammar girls are doing it it is now a moral decadence that must be stopped for “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”.

In closing I look forward to more Penny Marshall articles, as she strives to defend teenage girls from reality, as they’re nothing short of stereotypical wailing that can never be taken seriously.