Friday, December 21, 2007

Deck the Halls

Christmas is almost upon us and I am finally writing a post. This month has flown by, mostly from a combination of frantic work-based activity and exhaustion induced cold-head. Still, presents have now been bought, they are mostly wrapped and awaiting beautification (this is where the odd obsessive trait comes in very handy) and the house looks festive.

Nick Clegg has been elected leader of the Lib Dems, which I don't really have much of an opinion on. The government is lurching from one crisis to another, with the only bright spot being Cameron ending up with egg on his face over the whole illegal donations thing. The police want to strike (we won't even start on why that is a bad idea), GPs don't want to work evenings or weekends and there has been disasterous news from Terry Pratchett. First Great Western are still shit.

Still, there is always next year. And before then, a whole week of festive celebration - in fact, I may well go and make some mince pies...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Interrupted Service

November has been a bit of an heavy month for various reasons, none of them particularly earth-shattering, but together they've formed a giant heap of crap that I've given up struggling to get out. As a result, I have neglected my blog. Apologies.

Part of this is my fault. I shouldn't have started writing so much about politics - especially how *optimistic* I was about things that were happening - because I've obviously jinxed the Labour party. The more depressing things got, the more I couldn't bear to look at my previous witterings. So, I have gone back to resolutely ignoring newspapers/articles/blogs touching on the current string of disasters. I'm trying to cheer myself up by drinking my tea from my new funky mug but so far, it doesn't seem to be working.

It's not like anything positive has been happening on the feminist front either. The church has gone bonkers and it feels like it's only a matter of time before someone takes my uterus away because I am incapable of looking after it. I know I shouldn't really feel so defeatist but I've no energy to think positive thoughts, perhaps because the doom-pill (this month's contraceptive of choice) may well be an attempt by the patriarchy to break me through continuous bleeding, bloating and general foulness.

To cheer myself up, I attempted to teach myself to crochet but I am incompetent and haven't got beyond the first chain. Having conquered the ribbing in knitting, I felt full of confidence (now shattered) and I can't do any knitting because I can't afford any more wool.

Has anything even vaguely cheering happened in the last month? Farnham's annual ceramics fair was good, although actually not as good as the Oxford one in October. I've bought a giant, glittering german advent calendar that is practically the size of me. It turns out I am of the branch of my family completely lacking class who believe that anything can improved by the addition of glitter and/or sparkling things. Although even I draw the line at the pink-and-blue-sparkly reindeer from Paperchase (I was going to link to a picture of one, but can I find one anywhere? No. You'll just have to take my word for it).

So, I am clawing my way desperately towards Christmas, a period I usually love for the abundance of sparkling lights and good cheer. I think I'll take a trip to Liberty in London next week and look at the Christmas decorations to jolly myself up. Until then, I'm going to stick on some music, drink some wine and wallow in gloom. December tomorrow, December tomorrow...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And another thing

Mildly encouraged by the bill going forward in parliament next year – although I expect that we’ll see more belligerent statements from church leaders and the anti-abortion crew before then (who I refuse to call pro-life because, let’s face it, life seems to be the least of their concerns).

The idea that women will no longer need two doctors to sign off on abortions is very welcome and should have the knock-on effect that more women will manage to fall under the 12 week mark. Similarly that some of these early terminations could be finished in the woman’s own home, thus easing the burden on hospitals and making the whole thing less traumatic for the individual.

However, not so encouraged by Rowan Williams’ rant against women who have abortions, all of whom apparently see the whole thing as part of everyday contraceptive plans. Yeah, you know what Rowan? Noticed that myself. My friends and I *always* talk about how our contraceptive plans consist solely of abortions. In fact, we spend so much time having them, we barely have time to conceive.

These comments always seem so patronising because they assume that women are stupid. The abortion rate has gone up, not because more women are exercising their right to decide what happens to their own body and taking action earlier and earlier in the process, but because we all can’t work out how to use condoms, oral contraceptives and so forth. The fact that the NHS is getting better at informing women of their choices means nothing.

Rather than penalising women who want to get abortions and representing them as misinformed, why not campaign to increase education on contraception in schools? A friend of mine who has just started university rang me up to ask how one went about getting the contraceptive pill and how much it cost. Thank goodness she had someone to ask! Can you imagine how many young women out there just don’t know and are too embarrassed to bring it up? Then again, according to the church we really can’t do that, because that would be promoting sex.

So, let’s just hate women and blame them for being uninformed and refuse to tell them anything useful. That sounds rational. Well done!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stuck in the mud

I have an acquaintance who used to be a very good friend. It’s sad that we don’t talk very much any more, or see each other that often. She blames for this – her view of friendship is that I ought to stay religiously in touch: a call once or twice a week, a night out once a week. Needless to say, I don’t manage this. My own mother is lucky to receive a call every fortnight. As a result, she refuses to contact me off her own bat. I have to initiate contact, otherwise there will be none. And even when I do, if my offering is judged unworthy, I will receive no communication back. I accept some blame for this – I am not as organised as I could be.

I suppose we have clashing definitions of what friendship is – mine is wider, vaguer: people that you like and keep in touch with and when you see them, it doesn’t feel like time has passed. I have friends I don’t see or hear from for a year but seeing them again is welcome and nice. They are still my friends. Obviously, I understand the need to be discerning about what constitutes a friend in opposition to someone you know/used to know but I have a feeling I am in the right here.

The issue is that it is no longer possible for me to be a friend in the way she so desires. We are no longer at university, living in the same house. I live with my partner, in a different city. I work a nine hour day in an hectic, stressful job, with four hours commuting on top of that, for 5 days a week. I have commitments to my work colleagues, my family and my partner which tend, due to necessity, to come before my social life. She is still a student, taking a more lax and flexible course than before, in the city in which I work. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to expect that, at this point, she should make some effort to contact me, or to try and arrange her schedule around mine rather than getting cross when mine does not match hers. That maintaining our friendship should be the responsibility of both of us rather than just me.

To be honest, it has reached the stage when I am increasingly unlikely to call her. Meeting up involves ten minutes of recriminations, half an hour of me apologising and then another hour or so of her looking martyred. I no longer feel I can apologise for having a life – we grow up, move on, our time is more precious. And I feel cross and frustrated that she makes us go through this ridiculous pantomime and makes sustaining our friendship such a challenge.

I think it is time to let this one go and I’ve been reluctant to do it because losing a friend is sad. However, you need to pick your fights carefully and this is definitely one battle I’m never going to win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Act your age

I can't believe Sir Ming has gone - I actually feel a little digusted. I have met Simon Hughes and, far be it for me to launch a personal attack (because as you can tell from my blog, I am so restrained) I think he has acted wrongly.

The fact that Campbell has decided to resign with immediate effect - can you even think of a leader of a British political party doing the same thing in the past decade or two? - suggests that he was well and truly pushed rather than decided to leave of his own accord. Obviously, it was down in part to ageism - the other part was down to the Lib Dem's determination to tear themselves apart.

It is *not good practice* to have three party leaders between one election. The way Kennedy went was embarassing enough, but how can one seriously expect voters to believe you are capable of running a country if you can't even wait 5 years before tearing yourselves apart? It's completely ridiculous. With the Tories experiencing a revival, the best thing to do would have been to stand loyal and help the Lib Dems win some seats. The only reason Ming was doing so badly in opinion polls was because his own party kept stabbing him in the back. Did anyone else even care?

The fact is that Labour and the Conservatives are going stronger than ever - this is really not the time for the potential 3rd party (we won't even get in to that debate here) to go through an existential crisis.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And this is why you should Just Say No

As you may have noted, I am working from the position that the wrongness of voting Conservative is completely self-evident. However, I do admit that just because I cannot think of any plausible reason for doing so (except for being a reactionary, selfish person) does not mean that there *aren’t* any, nor does it excuse me from having to justify my own position. So – here is one reason why voting Conservative is a bad thing.

It involves the Conservative proposal of cutting benefits to single parent families. Watching Cameron talk to ol’Marr on the BBC, he made the comment that single parents receive more money than cohabiting couples with children (although let’s not pretend that he wasn’t *itching* to say “married” couples) and how this didn’t make any sense. Why should one person get more money than two people? Who are, after all, one person + one person. And then his brain melted out of his ears and he started twitching in a strangely compelling manner.

Okay, so the last bit didn’t happen. Outside of my head. That still leaves poor old David confused as to exactly why we should continue to give more money to single parent families. Let’s give him a hand here:

• Single parent families live off of *one* wage – or, if the parent is unable to work, one set of benefits. With cohabiting couples, the earning potential is presumably double (I’m going to keep this simple for the moment so we don’t go off on a tangent)

Aha, my Conservative opponent might say, but in two parent families, you might only have one person working. With only one person working, you have more family to support than the single parent. (We may have a sneaking suspicion that they are being rather reactionary here and there is a whiff which suggests that mothers ought to be staying at home with the children anyway, unless they are single mothers in which case they ought to be kicked out onto the streets and left to starve, the lazy bitches. However we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.)

Then we have the key Conservative argument, which they get triumphantly twitchy when putting forward: paying single people more means that couples will *split up* in order to get twice as much benefit. And let’s face it – they’re not talking about the middle classes, who are decent, wage-earning folk. No, they’re talking about poor people. Because we all know they can’t be trusted – the slippery, conniving individuals that they are. So, by enabling them, we are contributing to the *break-down of society* (cue big cymbal clashes etc and flashes of doom).

It’s not over yet though – we have an extreme example of our own. Which is actually not all that extreme.

• By cutting benefits to single parents, you are effectively taking away the only escape route that many women have from unhealthy and/or abusive relationships. It is a well-known fact that manipulative partners often keep their partners financially dependent on them as a means of control. If a person cannot afford to leave a relationship and provide for their families, they won’t leave.

It seems that, for the Conservatives, it is more important that people are in relationships – any relationships - than that they provide a stable environment for raising children in.

But that’s okay – the extra money that comes in from couple benefit can go towards therapy for Johnny after he gets PTSD from watching daddy beat the shit out of mummy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In other news

I've finished scarf #1 (which looks great) and have started scarf #2 which, to be honest, is going less well. I am unable to do ribbing - the resultant mess on my needle looks like a unwell wool-bird took a gigantic crap on a stick. Rather than work at figuring it out, I've decided I'll just never do it. Like many fairly clever people, I like to avoid things I'm not very good at, thus perpetuating my fantasy life as someone who is Great. As such, my knitting career looks likely to involve an awful lot of very simple scarves.

They will be very *good* simple scarves though.

I'm serious now: just stop it.

I have pretty much stopped reading or listening to the news at the moment - it's just too depressing. First there was the non-stop blanket coverage of the conservative party conference. Then there was Cameron's moronic (but, one has to grudgingly admit, well executed) speech and the promise to do away with inheritance tax etc. etc. stop foreign people taking our jobs blah blah and the general public *are eating it up*. In fact, they are demanding seconds. They are grasping at the opportunity to fill their greedy, bloated faces on complete crap.

So: when did the British public become so... stupid? I like to think that I generally have a pretty positive view of humanity but this is starting to change. I just can't believe that people are so easily persuaded into utter imbecility. For once, I am at an utter loss to describe how sodding depressed I am feeling. No wonder people go somewhat loopy and start demanding the rule of the elite, philosopher kings and so on - it's beginning to look like the General Public (I feel it should be capitalised) cannot be trusted to do anything properly, let alone engage in rational thought and elect the best possible leader.

Now poor old GB is taking a beating because he didn't call an election. WTF? How can the media be so full of righteous indignation when they were the ones stirring up the rumours anyway? And when did it become the biggest mistake he's ever made? It seems a pretty big leap to make.

To sum up: let's have the rule of the elite, as long as the elite actually means me. And, whilst we're at it, let's have some sense out of BBC Breakfast because it's starting to give me the impression that there are no actual important world events going on outside of arguing over which supermarket has the best food labelling.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stream of consciousness

I haven’t blogged for a while, mainly because I was on holiday, then I was busy trying to catch up the work I should have done, then I got ill and now I’m really lazy. Also, things happen too fast to blog about, so how to choose?

Things I thought about blogging:

• Gordon Brown’s great pre-conference interview with Andrew Marr – more specifically, how remaining completely calm and unruffled works much better than getting irate and defensive and how I wish that I could do this in my own life.

• Cameron’s completely *insane* ideas about giving benefits only to couples and cutting benefits for single parents. WTF? Anyway – I will be blogging about this at some point.

• Protests in Burma – actually this just made me too depressed and caused me to slump into a weeping mess, despairing at the fact that there are so many bad people in the world. It still does and I wish there was something more constructive I could do about it. Apart from stop moaning about my job because then I feel guilty about whining about something so trivial. It takes me into a bit of a Singer situation and, as much as I would like to, I can’t sustain this level of my-problems-mean-nothing forever.

• Why no-one dares to sexually harass me at work in person, yet when I’m on the phone in a professional context, people try to flirt. It must be something about my body language (or the stony, fuck-you set of my face) that’s not present in my voice. I do have quite a young, girly voice I guess. Maybe I am not coming across as professional as I look. Who knows? Or maybe, given the large numbers of calls I make, I’m just bound to come across more weird men.

• Women who insist on referring to everyone as girls. *All the time*. I am not a girl. I am especially not a girl at work. Or whilst commuting. Or pretty much any time really. We all make the occasional slip, but really. I don’t think that “girl power” is particularly empowering because, let’s face it, you’re trying to empower yourself from a position of traditional misogynistic oppression. So let’s be women.

• Knitting. I’ve taught myself to knit. It’s fun. (Yeah, wouldn’t be a particularly inspiring post, I guess.) It is especially rewarding because my mother thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’m left handed and all previous attempts to teach me ended in disaster. So I’m just doing it right handed and you know what? It works fine and I am pretty good at it. Sort of. Relative to how I was. I’m making a scarf.

So: there is my download. Hopefully putting these down in a list will spark off other thoughts and I will never again lack for things to blog about. One can only hope…

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pink please Bob..

About to depart for my long-awaited holiday, I am struck – not by the jolly end-of-term feeling I’ve had to endure from my colleagues for the past two months – by inertia. Lots to do, no chance of doing it all, grumpy emails: all result in mental paralysis. It would be lovely to think that it’ll all be over once I get back; sadly this is not going to be the case. However, for a little while at least, I do not have to think about it.

Nor do I have to think about the black-tie-do I have to go to when I get back. I don’t suit black-tie clothing, nor go to enough events that buying something nice could be seen as investment, so it has been quite stressful. Given my general state of dour grumpiness, an evening or so of navel-gazing is hardly going to be enjoyable. Here’s hoping there’s going to be some nice wine.

To top it off, it’s pouring with rain and I didn’t take a coat with me this morning. I am a fool.

On a more cheerful note – some good stuff has been happening since I last blogged:
• Karl Rove has resigned and, joy of joys, GWB’s nickname for him was “turd blossom”. It’s obviously very bad to laugh at the misfortune of others, but let’s face it, it’s really funny.
• The Conservatives pledged to fight hospital closures as hospitals that weren’t even closing, apologised for it and then retracted the apology. The inability to get that right seems to cast doubt on their ability to actually run anything. Very entertaining.
• It’s been scientifically proven that women prefer pink because that’s what colour their lipstick was back-in-the-day… No, hang on – that’s wrong. It was because we were hunter-gathers and elephants were pink… You know, actually, this may not be good news after all. A study proving something completely useless, based on socialised traits… Especially given that pink was considered a *male* colour until the 19th Century. So, in summary, I think we’ve proven… well, nothing. Except you can apparently get research money for *anything* if you’re looking to enforce gender stereotypes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big Fish, Little Fish

This post is in response to a comment left on my post about the personalisation of the political – namely that feminists personalise issues because otherwise it’s hard to know where to start. I think this is a valid point. In other areas of life – say environmentalism, relationships to charity giving – we feel we cannot make a difference to the larger issue, so we try to make a difference in our immediate circle: carbon offsetting, volunteering at care centres, walking instead of taking the car. We feel we are making a contribution and it allows us to readily identify others who are prepared to make a similar contribution, rather than forcing us to face the difference between ourselves and (to take a wild example) those people camping outside Heathrow. Why should this not be an uncontroversial approach to feminism?

Making an individual contribution in the name of feminism is not controversial – I think we should definitely encourage people to do so. Some people may not feel comfortable going on marches or campaigning on a national level but they can still make a difference by refusing to laugh at misogynistic jokes, or through volunteering at their local shelter/rape crisis centre. My blog is part of *my* own individual contribution – how worthwhile or productive it turns out to be is sort of beyond the point.

However (yeah, you knew that was coming). Our approach to feminism in terms of localised/individual contribution does, I believe, differ from the way we approach environmentalism or charitable giving. With these issues, we hold in mind the bigger picture approach – we visualise, as we make the contribution, the world we are willing into existence – and we expect that battle to be fought at higher levels than ourselves; we are merely a lower tier in the overall fight. If we did not think this, we would not have to listen to Cameron blathering on about his wind turbine, nor would we care about the US and Australia opting out of the Kyoto treaty. With feminism, we are often urged to accept the smaller victories and ignore the wider issue because we can’t do much about it.

This seems wrong. Unless we have a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve large-scale, how can we judge the success of our individual action? Unless we see it as part of a wider movement, it seems hard to defend the idea that it is worthwhile doing it. It’s true that we might not be able to make much difference and that it’s hard to see where to start – but that need not always be the case. Facing up to the challenge of identifying what it is we hope to achieve in the wider world could make the whole thing a lot more manageable.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Quiet Optimism and the card-carrying contingent

I’ve done it: after a couple of years with no fixed political membership (or, maybe, being affiliated for the first time – was I ever really a member of the other one? Lack of documentation makes me wonder whether my comrades pocketed the membership fee whilst I flittered on none-the-wiser.) I am now a paid-up member of the Labour Party.

I am a little surprised at myself really. I’ve always had a bit of a leaning towards Labour from my younger years, when I blithely assumed Labour meant Left and that was the way it was always going to be. Then, as we trooped further into the Blair years, that changed. New Labour felt corporate and earnest in the wrong way. It probably didn’t help that I was, at this point, introduced to some of Oxford’s finest (read: scary) Labour hacks which turned me off further. I grew increasingly apathetic, which is sad given how enthusiastic about UK politics I used to be.

Unlike many critics, I won’t blame this all on Blair – I may have been dissatisfied with the style of government that emerged under him, but I refuse to swallow all of that crap about the country getting worse under Labour – clearly, we are much better off than we used to be. Hence all of the whining – we can *afford* to whine now. Listening to people (including my own parents) whinge makes me want to bash my head against the wall. Certainly, things aren’t perfect but come on – under Thatcher my dad was unemployed – now they have a large, 4 bedroom house with a paid off mortgage and two new cars. Do not expect me to sympathise.

Now that Brown is in charge, things feel different again. They haven’t gone back to the Labour I thought I supported when I was younger (although I’m prepared to admit that that Labour probably didn’t exist at all, at least not in the form I’d imagined) but there is a sense of progress and competence. And, more importantly from my perspective, the sense that there is quite a lot of thought going in to making decisions. I’m all for sensible government; let’s have more of it. Hopefully, I won’t have Brown on a pedestal like many did with Blair in the early years. Still, I’m quietly optimistic.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Better late than never.

Why I am not a third-wave feminist - Part I. Personalising the Political

Although it is not true of all third wave feminists, I increasingly find that these feminisms revolve around the idea that feminism should only be concerned with cosmetic changes, rather than deeper social transformation. No doubt that this might be unfair on some feminists, who do not see their own contribution as purely cosmetic, but I do think it's an issue that needs to be raised. Much is made of the gains that can be achieved within society - for example, the halting of the lads-mag phenomenon, achievement of equal pay. As I will explain a little later, it's not that I don't think these issues are important (on the contrary, I believe they're incredibly important and hats off to all women out there fighting the fight) but that they limit the sphere of acceptable action for other feminists.

My point is this: most of our campaigning is done on things that are personal to women - lads mags, short skirts, empowerment, porn. I do not mean that we all stand on our own moral soapboxes and ignore the issues of others, but that we have taken these arguments out of the political sphere. We wish to change these aspects of society without modifying society itself. Undoubtedly, society would be better if these issues were addressed and everyone respected each other, but it seems completely naive to think that we can achieve our goals without changing basic social norms and institutions. To put it bluntly, how can one expect society to change (which is effectively what we're arguing for) if the underlying themes of acceptance are couched in the exact same fabric as the sexist principles?

I don't blame third wave feminist for this - in fact, it's perfectly understandable that feminism has made this move. It is, after all, a way of hitting back at critics. In order to appear "legitimate" and to avoid slurs of hairy-legged-man-hating-dyke-prudes, we have often had to separate ourselves off from "other" feminists. We are pro-sex, not prudish. We teach young women that "we can join in the joke if we want to" (with obvious emphasis on the choice) because otherwise, how would we appeal to them? Daily-Mail style, shrill outrage at feminism takes the exact same form - what if this was your daughter? Feminists are emasculating your sons, women are stealing jobs, there is a brick through your window because the mother of the child that threw it went to work and didn't stay at home. There is periodic worry over the amount women drink and the way they wear short skirts. This is so much easier than looking at the long run and saying that feminism challenges our misogynistic social practices and this can be a little worrying. No - instead, they have to personalise the political.

And so do we, in our turn. We talk about issues in terms of "how it affects me" or our communities. We eschew grand political movements in favour of grass roots action. We try to make our cosmetic changes because there is no room for us to talk about anything larger. We are too afraid of seeming unpopular and giving the media more to sieze upon. We see politicising the personal as too intrusive and intimate, ignoring the fact that it already *is* political (more of this in a later post). So we take what *should* be political and move it back into the personal sphere, out of context and, if I am honest, away from the best chance we have of making a real difference.

It's not about saying these battles are unimportant, because they *are* important. However, I would say that these are *battles* and not the war. There is little, if any, immovable and unshakeable progress that can be achieved on this battlefield alone because all victories are achieved within the patriarchal framework.

Row, row, row your boat...

Hasn't this week been exciting? Floods, surges, sandbags... Yes indeed, if it hadn't been terrifying it would have been rather exhilerating. Luckily, the waters did not reach the Heloise-stronghold, although we did at one point make an emergency dash to the sandbag pick-up point. Filling and lugging sandbags in the rain was not pleasant but being flooded is hardly a picnic either, so I can't really complain.

So. National disaster, tragedy all round, lots of nice "human suffering" features on the BBC etc.

Predictably, this is where I'm going to stop being uncontroversial and start being a little critical.

1) Not really a national disaster. Yes it was terrible for the people whose homes were flooded. Yes it is horrible that they will have to wait 18 months until it gets sorted. Being without water is almost unimaginable and I am exceedingly glad that it didn't happen to me. However: the emergency services coped, some disasters were averted, water is being flown in, insurance will be paid. It was hardly Hurricane Katrina though. People aren't going to return to their homes a year later and discover dead bodies in wrecked houses, or realise they will never be able to go back to their city...

2) Far be it from me to detract from the (considerable) suffering of the fairly wealthy south, but it seems to me that the flooding of Hull, some weeks before this, was actually more disasterous. All the more so for being almost completely ignored. 17,000 homes in Hull were flooded and uninhabitable. That's quite a lot. And all we heard were people blaming the north for not being insured. Hardly the sympathetic treatment given to, say Tewkesbury (which I happen to be rather fond of).

3) News coverage was a bit gratuitous. Or should I say *is*. Whilst away (in the north) we discovered that Oxford was flooded and were informed by a breathless reporter, that the site of the Heloise stronghold was flooded. You can imagine the doom and panic this inspired - far away from home, unable to defend property etc etc. So much so, a long-suffering colleague agreed to cycle down and check it out. Oh the humiliation when it turned out the river had not even burst its banks. There's also been a bit too much badgering by news reporters, who seem to be out to win prizes for making people cry. "Everyone's been very kind" says an old lady. "But aren't you upset that all of your possessions are gone - things that can't be replaced" urges the sincere-eyed news reporter. Leave the old lady alone! Don't compound her misery by making her cry on national TV.

In summary - yes it is horrible and some poor people are going to have to endure the consequences for a long time. Let's not blow this out of proportion though. We in the UK are lucky enough to live somewhere where extremes of weather and natural disasters happen extremely rarely. Moping around feeling sorry for ourselves is hardly going to endear us to anyone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

And the heat is on...

How long until I crack and read the online leaked Harry Potter final installment?

Must... wait for... book (claws at face) but its not out until *saturday*... (much wailing and gnashing of teeth - the SO is upstairs reading it RIGHT NOW)

teh internets are a bad, bad thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Like Smarties...

I know I said I was going to blog about third wave feminism but various work crises have put this on hold for the moment. Instead, I am going to briefly rant about medication.

Boringly, it seems as though everyone who has a blog is on some form of anti-depressants. This just brings home to me (a) how mediocre I am even in medication (b) there will be a lot of people suffering from adverse side effects *as I write this*.
Having recently switched back to my original happy-pills, I am enjoying the sensation of no longer being medically sedated (oops – shouldn’t have been driving for the past few months). This is a good thing, as before I was so zonked that I was too tired to do any work. Now I am similarly unable to work, but because I’m feeling the full force of the agitation the other pills blocked out. And I have numb fingertips – a weird and fascinating phenomenon.

I have come to the conclusion that chemical solutions are not optimal – it’s like sticking a duvet over a buzzing mobile phone; buzzing still going, only… muffled.

Just because I’m a masochist, I am also going to try changing contraceptive pills at the end of the month. Given the hormonal meltdown that occurred with the first ever pills I took, I am understandably dubious. Still, I am nothing if not insane (hah hah). Don’t even get me started on how the contraceptive pill side effects are part of a male conspiracy…

The SO, on hearing I was changing Ads expressed disappointment: “but you were so meek on these ones – like, like a… sheep.” I love you too. Luckily I know he’s only joking – who *wouldn’t* want a crazed belligerent girlfriend ranting about political correctness whilst he’s trying to watch the Simpsons?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quick Post...

The chastity-ring-case has been lost (hurrah!). I previously posted about this and have to say the comments of the young woman in question have backed up my thoughts. If she really *is* as worried about sexual health and STIs as she claims, why didn't she spend the time campaigning for better and more comprehensive sex education? Focus on the oppression of Christians seems a little off-bat.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why I'm not a third wave feminist and other, equally riveting, stories.

Having indulged in some explicitly feminist reading recently, I’ve been thinking more closely about what I believe *my* feminism to be. More particularly, I’ve been trying to process why I feel so uncomfortable identifying as “third wave”. You know what? Really I’m not third wave at all. Yes, yes – shock all round I’m sure.

I’m going to try, in my next few posts, to explain why this is. I don’t want it to sound offensive, or as though I am being disparaging of other feminists (many of whom are of my generation) who *do* choose to identify this way. Feminism needs support, from as many people as possible. However, I do want to make it clear that I do not think that one type of feminism is more “feminist” than others – feminism, like most schools of political thought, is made up of many variants and the most sensible thing to do (rather than dogmatically picking one theory and sticking to it) seems to be to pick up the bits that work, acknowledge the bits that don’t and think about why that is.

Sooo… that is the mammoth task I have set myself. We shall see how I manage. I’m a little rusty on the ole constructing-a-valid-argument type thing so you’ll have to cut me some slack/hound me mercilessly until I get better at it.

In other news, I’m completely flabbergasted by the whole Jacqui-Smith and her amazing cleave story. I have to say, in the blanket coverage of news I was subjected to over the terrorism-weekend (the perils of a politically aware SO), I completely failed to notice it. The cleavage that is. I certainly noticed the *story* in the papers over the next few weeks. Christ almighty – this is the Home Secretary being calm, unflappable and apparently competent, yet all some people seem to have noticed is her cleavage. She was wearing a suit, as far as I can remember. I think I admired her necklace (yes, charmingly *female* of me). Boobs? No.

The only conclusion I can come to: too many people are dangerously obsessed with breasts. Interesting as they can be – I should know, I have grown some – really, it’s time to seek help.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Daily constitutional

Have to admit that I am quite impressed by GB’s proposals to increase accountability to Parliament and other constitutional reforms. I wondered, when he said that tightening security due to threats of terrorism had to be balanced by greater and clearer accountability to parliament, whether this was just paying lip-service to a wonderful liberal ideal. It was certainly a more reassuring response than Tony Blair’s martyred rhetoric, or the bruiser approach favoured by John Reid (and who *didn’t* cheer when he left office?). Yet here it is, expanded in more detail.

Yes, it is lacking in some ways – no mention of electoral reform, but I can’t see the switch to AV+ or similar happening soon; I expect that Labour thinks it might damage their chances in the next election, where I suspect (if they win) it will be by a narrow margin. However, I wouldn’t give up hope of this altogether. Cameron bleating on about Scottish MPs blah-blah-blah, seems a weak kind of response, given people get worked up about this every so often, to no great result.

As for the clash this morning – slightly disappointing: thought GB might give it a bit more oomph. When I think back to that first budget when Cameron was leading the tories, I recall the glorious moment that Brown steam rollered over Cameron with great gusto, so I’m not that worried yet.

Interesting times.

Less of a bang, more of a whimper...

I’m currently reading “Full Frontal Feminism” (review to follow once I’ve finished it) and I was struck by one of the comments on the back of the book, which referred to it having the “sassiness” to keep people reading. I don’t quite know why I found that so troubling but I do (which is a lie really, as I’m about to tell you why).

The reason is this: the expectation that young feminists have to be sassy and full of “fuck you!” to have their opinions considered valid is unhelpful. It creates a stereotype which is, in some ways, just as damaging as the whole man-hating-hair-legged-bra-burning schtick. Sassiness can be just as alienating as it is inclusive and sassiness, whilst it may be enjoyable to read, does not close the wage gap or lead to greater rights in the work place. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that sassiness does not *contribute* to any of these things – indeed, it may well give the kick start needed – I’m simply pointing out that it is not the be all and end all. And I think we might be in danger of dismissing the contributions of those people who do not express it in a recognised way, which would be detrimental to what we’re trying to achieve.

Perhaps I am only noticing this because I myself, at the current time, am not at all filled with sass. I’m exhausted, fed-up and completely shit-scared because work is a nightmare. However, I’m still a feminist – and I don’t think my opinions are in anyway less valid because of it. Well, relative to usual, given that they are of course *opinions*.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

In Crisis

In the Guardian today, a sobering article described how the lack of funding for Rape Crisis centres means that many will have to close down, possibly within days. I found this information deeply disturbing – although I have never used the service myself, I wish that I had previously been aware of it and find the idea that it might disappear abhorrent.

After being raped, it is essential that women have a “safe” ground – someone to talk to that they don’t really know, but who can provide information and support about whatever they feel their next step should be. Often, rape survivors suffer in silence (as I did) because they are too afraid to discuss or confront what has happened to them with people that they know and love. They are too afraid that they will be judged negatively, or that they will be blamed for something that they ultimately could not control. In this sense, Rape Crisis does more good than anyone can ever estimate, simply by being there.

Perhaps the difficulty stems from the fact that Rape Crisis is not centralised like other organisations (e.g Refuge). Of course, centralisation would bring difficulties – how would the level of funding needed be judged? Also, the local groups themselves are often better placed to decide what kind of services are needed – are they in an area with a large ethnic community and require different training to understand cultural sensitivities, for example. However, a centralised base for Rape Crisis would be better placed to publicise and raise initial funds for the local organisations. A small policy/research unit could lobby more effectively than disparate groups. Recruitment to local centres may well become easier if there was a central core to promote issues and raise awareness of the service.

One day, I would love to take on this challenge. I would really like to give something back and make sure that people are aware of the importance of Rape Crisis and to make sure that all women had equal access to it. Sadly, it looks like it might be too little, too late.

Please, if you can – phone your local centre and find out what’s going on there and what you can do to help. Rape Crisis needs your support, just as we have needed it in the past.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Initial thoughts...

Not that excited by the new cabinet. I thought there might at least be a few (interesting) surprises. Alas, it was not too be. I spoke to a friend at the Home Office - they got hugely excited by the idea Jack Straw might be coming, then came to the thudding realisation that he was off to "the other bit" and they were left with an unknown. To be fair, nice to see that a woman has such a prominent position, but still. I think I would have prefered Jack Straw back in as Foreign Secretary - shown that Brown wasn't opposed to a dissenting voice. Justice seems a bit of a cop-out. I guess we shall see.

On another note, managed to hugely offend a (perhaps oversensitive) colleague by offering some constructive criticism of her recent work, meant to improve my workload. In fact, it added an extra two hours to it. Sometimes hard tactics work - the offending thing is now no more. However, the workmate is unlikely to ever speak to me again. Given that they annoy me, it's not too much of a problem. Still, I probably ought to work on being more constructive and less abrasive. It's just the last straw in a string of completely infuriating work-related issues. Argh. (Bangs head against desk.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Too much fun

If you haven't already, you really need to check out the Obama ringtones - Sadly unavailable to those of us unable to vote in the US Presidential elections, these are just incredible.

A lot of American liberal commentators (including JS down at the Daily Show) are heaping scorn on the whole thing but you know what? - they are *just so cool*. I think they're all just trying a little bit too hard to prove how cool they are. Seems like that's shutting the door after the horse has bolted. How hip-and-with-it can you actually be when even your supposedly intelligent liberal comment show conflates Al-J. tv with Al-Quaida? Because you know what guys: that's seriously uncool. At least try.

In other news, I would like to extend a plea to all of the people that get on my train at the end of the day and look like they've been off having fun. First it was drunken idiots coming back from Ascot and sporting feathers/top hats etc. Yesterday it was muddy, stoned people on the way back from Glastonbury. Some of us actually have to *work* for a living and we are categorically not having fun. Stop rubbing it in our faces.

Do I sound bitter? Yeah, well - I am.

Monday, June 25, 2007

In other news...

I'm actually pretty chuffed that Harriet Harman got the deputy leadership position. I've been trying not to have too much of an opinion on this (bizarrely, given that this is UK politics and I live in the UK) but she seems like a good thing. Obviously, I say this relatively. I think I am now under the impression that good people don't want to be politicians, so those that do are in some way necessarily flawed, but given that, I quite like the Brown-Harman ticket. She seems unashamedly feminist, without feeling insecure enough to qualify it. Of course, she is not perfect (nor is her track record) but it would be politically naive to expect perfection.

I have always had a somewhat irrational affection for Brown over Blair (perhaps it's the Scottish Pre. thing - I can be unjustifiably morally righteous myself at times) and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

In some regards, it's completely irrelevant - in terms of voting, let's just say that I will *not* be voting for Cameron (one of life's little certainties) and as much as I have flirted with the libdems, at the moment it just doesn't appear politically plausible. The LDs have squandered the opportunities for advantage they had and despite them being (de facto) the most left wing party around, I can't say that I'm committed enough to stick by them. Quite frankly, as long as Labour don't go completely barmy, it seems like the only responsible vote. Except that sounds horrid and isn't really what I want to say.

Yet another well thought out and completely coherent post then...

Ring of Fire

My first reaction to the recent news story regarding the “silver ring thing” ( and whether the wearing of such a ring should be banned from schools, was: Yes, it bloody well should be banned. I suppose my main reasons for thinking this would be:
a) What does a *ring* have to do with being chaste? Surely, chastity is one of those decisions that you make and decide to keep – the presence of a piece of jewellery is not going to be a huge factor as to whether this is going to work.
b) Perhaps the ring is a symbol of how chaste you are and maybe, in times of real temptation, the sight of it will keep you strong. IME, there is not really much temptation at school. Or, more importantly, the opportunity to carry that temptation through. By all means, put it on when you get the school bus home, but frankly, if you need it at school, you have some deeper issues that ought to be confronted first.
c) Having (fairly recently, although it is receding into the distance) been a teenager at a mediocre state comp, I can safely assure you that allowing one sort of ring is going to be a slippery slope. Remembering accidents that were downright gory (although entertaining back then because we were sadistic), rings are just not a good idea.
d) I’m not religious and even if I was, I wouldn’t like the idea of chastity. By all means, young women and men should be encouraged to have sex with people they really like and there is nothing wrong with wanting it to be special. However, too often, chastity is used as an excuse to debase women and to discourage a comprehensive (and important) sexual education.
e) Not only am I not religious but (ashamedly I have to admit) religious motivation has me stumped. I just don’t get it. As I have been told in the past, I am spiritually impoverished. On the plus side, it makes things like this gloriously straight-forward.
I have to admit, I thought that this point of view would be shared by my nearest and dearest, so that we could pour scorn on the whole procedure together. However, it was not to be. He thought it should be allowed as a religious symbol (apparently that kind of thing is to some Christian Evangelists) and that, on the whole, schools shouldn’t be allowed to dictate about jewellery. He amended this point to allowing “one ring per pupil”.

We have hit an impasse – he becoming more libertarian and I, more stridently authoritarian (I can’t help it, it’s my aspirational lower-middle class background) as I embrace republicanism – of the political theory kind, not, god forbid, the American sort. He’s wrong, but I’m inclined to be nice about it…

Monday, May 21, 2007

Well *now* I wish I hadn't eaten that last cookie

Thrilling news in the fight to make sure rape allegations are taken seriously by all involved. Last week (yes yes, I'm behind) it emerged that the young girl gang raped by some youths in a park - who phoned her mother to tell her all about it - was, according to their defense lawyer, glad of the attention because she was fat.

Okay, I can take the point that at some point, the poor, slightly chubby girl, may have wished that boys fancied her. And perhaps, when the youths first approached, she felt flattered. One would assume that that feeling (if it ever existed at all) disappeared at some point, given they proceeded to assault her. Surely, if she had felt *grateful*, there wouldn't be a court case at all.

It seems completely inhuman to suggest that it wasn't rape because she was fat and no-one would ever really fancy her. I would love to indulge in a more complex discussion of this, but I can't because (a) I'm too cross and (b) work has made my brain atrophy. Where do we draw the line then? If a woman is not a beautiful, paragon of innocence, preferably wearing a habit or shapeless tunic, then she can't have been raped? We are not all beautiful and we are not all slim, that is true. However, I'd state with grim certainty that this does not make us *grateful* when we are raped.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Have mercy...

There I was, innocently browsing teh internets for work purposes (yes, I swear it's true) when all of a sudden - kapow. Apparently, the Times has discovered that a lot of its readers would vote BNP.

Okay, so this is not exactly surprising. The Times is hardly at the forefront of the class struggle (speaking of which, if I had not studied Marxism, a recent visit to Blenheim palace might have converted me), still, I had at least hoped there was *some* vestige of sanity left. Alas, it was not to be.

Rather than mocking this inbred, irrational, nutcase element of their readership, it seemed sympathetic. Commenters pointed out how brave the Times was to go against the tide of the "PC" etc etc. Admittedly, whenever I see this kind of comment, I do go a pleasant shade of magenta and splutter "what???!?" in an increasingly high pitched tone. Still.


Obviously, you're not. So forget that question. I have a horrible feeling we're going to end up like France, having to choose between Chirac and LePen. Let me state categorically that this would be the *only time* that voting for Cameron would be acceptable. If the BNP keeps gaining support, I will have to emigrate to... okay, given the lack of acceptable alternatives, some sort of mental breakdown would probably be in order. The outcome of that event happening is, seriously, just to horrible to contemplate.


In more (directly) feminist news, bad news for women in the US regarding the Supreme Court and a certain method of abortion. BitchPhD has some good posts on this - so I suggest you go to her. I would link to her, but (in gross technical incompetence) have forgotten how. Google it; you'll all be fine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You what?

Yesterday’s shock stories regarding more and more doctors refusing to give abortions were, just a tad, misleading. Turns out, if you actually bother reading the articles, that what is happening is that medical students etc are simply choosing *not to specialise* in this area, leading to a potential shortage of people qualified to perform the procedure. Presumably, there are shortages in other areas too as doctors choose to specialise in, say, neuroscience(?) rather than something a little more mundane. Sure, some people may be choosing not to go into this area because they don’t wish to perform abortions, but quite frankly, the evidence did not actually seem to lead to this conclusion.

Imagine my surprise then, when I was flicking through the TV channels this morning before leaving for work. There, on Sky sunrise, discussing the day’s papers, was some idiotic guest journo-hack who apparently *had not* actually read this article, but only the title. Sanctimoniously, he announced that *even pro-choicers* (because we are evil, child-killing demons from hell) had to question the 24 week limit and that it was great that doctors were saying no because “after all, abortion is murder”.

Pardon me?

Where did that come from? When did it become perfectly okay for a middle aged, middle class, smug man to go on a breakfast news programme to discuss papers and come out with something like that? I am okay with gentle sarcasm, a bit of light bitching. However, I will not be morally judged or hectored by *anyone* who goes on these programmes in the name of objective, impartial journalism. To be honest, I was absolutely outraged. If he is pro-life, fair enough. He can believe whatever he likes. At the same time, there is no way that I have to have his beliefs inflicted upon me, with no nod to reason, sanity or any justifiable argument behind his position. His comment was unnecessary and inflammatory and I am completely appalled that Sky news felt it was appropriate for the situation to let that go.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Long time, no see...

Gosh, has it really been that long since I last posted? Apparently so. It's not that I haven't been thinking turmoiled feminist thoughts, it's simply that I have been too tired to write them, or even formulate them in a coherent manner.

Today's rant of choice involves the 15 soldiers abducted by Iran. Obviously, a disturbing scenario in and of itself, not helped by the insane war mongering of certain US ex-ambassadors to the UN (yes John Bolton, I mean you). Leaving this inside, what really bothers me is the media treatment of Faye Turney. In case you've been living inside an isolation tank for the past week or so, she is one of the 15 naval personnel captured by Iranian forces. And she is a mother, with a distraught family at home.

There is uproar, to be frank, about the fact that they have captured a woman, and continue to hold her. As a result, we have heard absolutely bugger all about the men who are held with her, regardless of the fact that they also may have children, or families, or friends who are worried and miss them. Why is this?

I will not deny that, in terms of things that can happen in captivity, a woman may be seen as a more vulnerable prisoner. We all know of the terrible things that can be done (I don't think we need to list them all, more out of concerns for space than squeamishness) and there is no doubt that Iran is, to some extent, playing upon these fears by using her as a bargaining tool. Similarly, all of us may be guilty of internalising the old refrain "women and children first" and - for those of us who *are* women, finding this helpful when faced with dire circumstances - e.g. the sinking of the titanic. The fact is that the capture of a woman is, for many people, simply more horrific than the capture of men.

So we have this instinctive reaction. Not just to capture, but to murder or robbery, or attack and so on. Is it right? Are we really prepared to say that, all things considered, a woman is intrinsically worth more than a man (forgive me if I am wrong, but that seems to be what the logical conclusion is)? That she is a more valuable asset? Perhaps we would want to frame it as - the children will suffer the loss of their mother more than the loss of their father.

This, it seems to me, is dangerous. If we go down that route, then we give vital ammunition to those who wish to see women off the front lines, out of their jobs and back home with their children. If we have to work harder to protect women for the sake of their children, then it is only a matter of time that someone decides that to *protect* women, we should not put them in dangerous places at all. In fact, let's just lock them up in big, padded, breeding wards and let the child-bearing commence.

Okay, that was a little silly, but you get my point. Rather than a feminist concern for women, the media frenzy smacks more of the "precious doll-lady" attitude of old. I don't think it's "unsisterly" to point this out and in fact, in the name of solidarity, is deserves a proper debate. Even if, in the end, it is to the detriment of Faye Turner (who, let's face it, probably wishes she wasn't the centre of such scrutiny anyway).