Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Festive Cheer

Almost Christmas now and I am hugely excited. Ill, but excited. Still, feverish is probably the best state to be in. Feverish and swollen.

Still, just a couple of days to go. Although I will gripe about the endless round of family and motorways, Christmas is my favourite time of year and I will enjoy it immensely. Hurrah! If with less good health and a diminished appetite.

It would be remiss of me to enter the festive season without a small amount of bile and contempt. So I leave you this article to remind everyone that feminism still has a long way to go... As does the war against ignorant morons.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shocking News!

Research shows that the bigger allowance you get from Mom and Dad,” explained Andrew M. Sum, director of Northeastern’s center, “the less likely you are to work.”

My God. My value system has been totally shaken.

Friday, December 12, 2008

All the rage

Things that have annoyed me this week:

1) The Miss London-University-my-breasts-are-empowered contests. Gah – how much more self-justification do we need to hear from the contestants/organiser before I’d have a credible case for throttling them with my thermal leggings? My favourite quote comes from the contestant who believes we “are in post-feminism”, as though feminism was a foreign country you could occasionally visit but, to be honest, you wouldn’t really want to live there. Good God, do I really have to explain this – when you’re striding around in underwear thinking “my goodness, having my waist and breasts measured is a jolly good laugh and look how empowered I am” men are *not* thinking “gosh, what a strong woman. I admire and respect her. How empowered she must be!”. They are thinking: “Look at her tits. Quite like to give her a good banging”. So either you’re deluded, or if you think the latter thought *is* empowering, you need therapy. Take your pick. (And I should mention that I have absolutely no problem with telling these women that they’re deluded because – for god’s sake – They Just Are. And they’ve given us sodding empirical evidence that this is the case)

2) David Cameron whinnying about the economy. Does he have any sensible suggestions to make? No? Then Shut Up.

3) Plane Stupid. There is nothing I hate more than obnoxious, middle class teenagers with a huge sense of their own entitlement whining about things and making life more difficult for people who are actually trying to do things, to make themselves feel better. Stop being so immature and actually do something constructive if you’re so worried. I also don’t like this movement as it always seems to be about the middle-classes feeling outraged that poor people actually get to go on holiday. All those people stuck at the airport for days? On easy jet flights. If it was only, you know, *business class* and people going skiing, there wouldn’t be so much pollution, would there? And who else but the trust-funded could afford to take 3 months out to cycle down to Italy for a wedding (which is an actual example from a colleague of guests at her wedding who refuse to fly)?

4) The Times article claiming that parents need to be pushy to make sure that their children do well at University. No, they don’t. They need to get a life. As, presumably, should their poor, over-protected children. No wonder they chain themselves to airport fences.

The general theme here seems to be that *posh* people have this week really pissed me off. One day I will have children that will fall into this category, but I can only promise that I will raise them in such a way that they will never enter beauty contests, become leader of the Conservative party or chain themselves to parts of airports.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Funny Farm

I've been planning lots of long posts in my head at work (although, because I am *very* busy and important, I cannot post from work) but too tired to actually blog once I get home. I'm finding the commute exhausting at the moment - 2hrs each way is a little much, especially as I'm actually expected to work once I arrive - what is that about? Still, I chose to work in the City, so I shouldn't complain. Much. Zombified.

Anyway, after the end of the US elections, it took a little while to remember what I did all day other than sit in my little cubicle crying whilst reading transcripts of Obama speeches. And voting stories. And wondering if I'd have to walk in front of a bus or something if he didn't win, because that would be an indication that the world was terminally fucked (I've seen two accidents involving buses since I started work in the city and it's pretty darn scary). Apparently I used to laugh a lot at right wing loons in the UK.

Heh. Lot of that going round at the moment. What with the whole BNP-membership-reveal etc etc. One of the shocking things was that you could get family membership for £40. What kind of nutcase signs their children up to any political party, let alone a crazy extreme right-wing one? Good grief. I have no sympathy whatsoever for any of them - they don't have to join the BNP, so the very fact that they're now all whining about it being made public suggests they know that they're doing something wrong. Let's face it, it's easier to be a smug bigot when you're going to secret meetings. No, I am all for making political party membership public anyway.

And I hate intolerant racist bigots who blame all their problems on immigration. And then try to claim they're just like everyone else. No, you're not. You're pathetic and delusional.


Friday tomorrow though. Which means *wine*. I am bravely clawing my way through to tomorrow evening, when I shall self-meditate and no doubt drunkenly rant until the wee hours. Or 9.30pm, when exhaustion overwhelms me and I have to go to bed. I am completely lame.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Incredible Happiness

which, incidentally, is what I'm feeling about the results of the US elections.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Woo - it's 1am and I'm up watching the US election coverage. Stop dithering about not being able to call states! Come on CNN (sadly we can't get MSNBC, which I'm pretty darn upset about). Man up.

Ooh - MSNBC is rumoured to have called Pennsylvania for Obama. Eek!

The excitement in the Heloise stronghold is palpable. We even had a special electoral tesco trip to get supplies for the long night ahead. The SO believes it will be a landslide for Obama. I'm less sure, mainly because I'm so nervous...

I am hoping for a landslide, as that will allow me to go to bed and actually get some sleep before work. Yeah. Sleep.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Out in the cold

It's not even the end of October and it is snowing. Makes me glad that I crocheted myself an hat at the weekend, although stupidly I did it in a yarn that is a combination of silk, cashmere, lambswool and kid mohair, so getting it wet is probably not a good idea. Does make me want to stroke my head a lot though.

For some reason, I have Bruce Springsteen "Dancing in the Dark" on continuous loop in my head. Why? Not that I have anything against Bruce Springsteen, but really. It's starting to get a little tired.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Comfort Blanket

It is fairly sad that I can cling to the fact that I've shaken the hand of a woman who shook Obama's hand.

Having now read the campaign autobiography, I like to think that the support I feel for Obama has decreased down to manageable levels. I can find policy points where we disagree. I am preparing myself for the fact that if (when?) he becomes President, he will disappoint in some ways.

However, I cannot deny what it would mean to me if he got elected. What he symbolises. To be honest, I wasn't really sure that I'd ever see a black President - and think how little I'm going to be invested in it compared to some.

Hmm. I probably shouldn't blog whilst drunk. Still, if *I* think it's going to be hard to go into work as normal if he loses on Nov 4th, it doesn't really bode well for America...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

In other news...

A good article on the return of Peter Mandelson - which I think took most of us by surprise (indeed, my reaction was "WTF?").

Bad things going down in Iceland. The global economic situation just gets more and more terrifying every day. In a surreal way. In the City things seem to have calmed down a bit. I think this is more because the anticipated bad things have actually started to happen (nothing worse than waiting) rather than because things are getting better.

I still have a cold, which seems to be getting worse again. To console myself, I shall go to the farmers market, get sourdough bread, make some chilli (yum - trying to recreate the great chilli I had in the US this summer) and then play WoW until the weather improves enough for me to get a life...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Thanks for the memories

So, we are finally saying goodbye to Ruth Kelly. I cannot say that I am disappointed about this (dancing gleefully on the remains of her political career is more accurate) given that she has had an atrocious record in terms of advancing gender equality and was a shoddy minister for women.

I was a little surprised by the articles springing up around the time of the announcement, darkly proclaiming that her resignation *conclusively proves* that women cannot have a career and a family at the same time. It seems a bit bizarre to draw this conclusion given that:

(1) she's certainly been doing it (and being promoted whilst doing it) for the last ten years or so. I'm sure it is hard to balance having-a-lot-of-children and a high profile career, but she seems to have been managing admirably so far.

(2) Reading between the lines, it looks likely that she jumped before she was pushed - e.g. she and Brown don't get on, she'd have been bumped from the cabinet in the reshuffle anyway so thought about it and decided to pack it in first.

Thinking about the phrase "to spend more time with her family" is a little weird - when men spout it, it is usually a sign that they've fucked something up and/or about to get fired. When women say it, it's seen as a worthy and admirable thing to do. Odd that the same phrase can be interpreted so differently depending on the gender of the individual using it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Abort! Abort!

Holy Crap - nevermind The Grudge, Bloomberg at the moment is probably the scariest thing I've ever seen. It's red - it's all red, red everywhere... apart from gold! Woo- if only I had some!

On the plus side, I have no savings to lose - hurrah for living beyond my means! On the negative, I do still have a job to lose. Argh (grips face rather like the Scream).

Great graphs though. It feels a bit like a Special Family Emergency. Time for cake and a medicinal whisky.

Breathe, Heloise, Breathe.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Sarah Palin is painfully stupid. I just sit there thinking "surely you must be listening to the crap that's coming out of your mouth?"

Holy crap - I mean, my job involves bull-shitting but come on, I can form a coherent sentence. What is the McCain campaign doing? Just give her a sodding script and tell her to nod intelligently every so often. The incompetence beggars belief...

It actually hurts. It's like intellectual piles.

In other news:

But, looks like the debate will go ahead - come on Obama...

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Today I am ill, which sucks given that (a) it is really sunny and (b) I was very much looking forward to this weekend. Instead, I've become a mouth-breathing, whiny invalid who is oscillating wildly between whimpering pathetically, being unreasonably angry and getting the urge (and then acting upon it) to clean and sort the house. Joy.

Despite the cold, we ventured out to the farmers market this morning. I feel quite ambivalent towards these trips - yes the farmers market has some nice produce but it also a stadium for the worst kind of Oxford smug-middle-classness. Like the kind that likes dirty feet. And to take five hours to make a decision. It wasn't quite San Francisco, sadly.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Still hating.

The Tina Fey performance on saturday night live was great. Scary, but great. Especially the Bush Doctrine bit. And the part where Hillary nearly batters her to death with part of the podium.

Even better than that (and the fact that Sarah Palin really doesn't have a clue about the Bush doctrine) is the fact that the republican party is trying to spin the event as sexism. Because it portrayed her as "less substantial" than Hillary. Who is also a woman. So they're saying some women are substantial and others are more "superficial". Which is really sexist. Obviously. Because everyone knows - and as I have often pointed out - having a vagina protects you from any intellectual crticism. It's magic like that.

But, no. I think "less substantial" means actually they're taking the piss because... well, she came across as STUPID. And trying to frame that as sexism just makes her come across as *more* stupid (if such a thing is humanly possible). So maybe they ought to just quit.

Red Alert

For once, not a political post! Well, not *directly*. Today, the credit crunch, economic downturn, giant crock of shit, whatever you would like to call it, has got a little bit too exciting. Luckily, I do not work at Lehmans, so I am still gainfully employed. However, it's a bit harder to dismiss the situation as something that won't eventually catch up with me when you see people walking around with their packed-up boxes. Or receive their desperate phone calls. I'm sure it will all blow over eventually... (she says, reaching for a strong drink and some comforting coverage of the US elections)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Why I hate Sarah Palin SO MUCH. SO, SO MUCH.

I can't stand it any longer. I've spent the last week or so growing more and more angry with Sarah Palin.

I started out thinking that she was a bad choice because she is inexperienced. And that I disagreed with her Pro-life stance. Her particularly hard-line pro-life stance that says no abortions even for victims of rape or incest. She also managed to lie in her first speech to the American public. I thought it was patronising to assume that she'd win disgruntled Clinton voters - she'd publicly criticised Hillary for "whining" about complaints of sexism and, also - had I mentioned her pro-life stance? I disliked the fact that when McCain listed her accomplishments, he listed "wife" as the first one. I also disliked it when he called her his "soul mate". And then the revelations - what did the vetting process actually consist of? Google is not difficult to use. At all.

But now, now it feels personal. I hate her. I can't help it. I just cant stand her. Here are a few choice reasons why:

3) She's a swaggering bully. To hide the fact that she has no experience herself, she launches spiteful verbal attacks on others. One could argue that this is the point of elections. I don't think so. She's exactly like some of the individuals I went to school with. Individuals who attack people with worth and talent because they have none of their own.

2) She's racist. That hideous mocking of Obama for being a "community organiser". We all know she means that he's black leader. And actually wants to make a difference. There are other comments too - that are in fact too awful to repeat. She's such a fucking racist that it makes my teeth hurt to think about it. The more she can say those things and have people applaud her, the more those opinions can be repeated loudly in wider society.

1) She hates women. That must be the case. Otherwise, why would she repeat the pitbull joke? Or marry her pregnant teenage daughter to the apparent neanderthal that impregnated her? Or - and this is the most horrible thing I have ever heard - WHY WOULD SHE HAVE SUPPORTED MAKING RAPE VICTIMS PAY FOR THEIR OWN RAPE KITS.

So, for all these reasons, and for all the other reasons that have made my pulse race in anger, I say FUCK YOU, SARAH PALIN. This is not a sexist opinion, nor is it me being a whiny democrat. This is because you're claiming to be achieving something for women when all you're doing is spreading hate and ignorance. This is because I am so disgusted by your behaviour, and the behaviour of your supporters, that it almost makes me want to cry.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I shall break my (unofficial) hiatus to say: the world is a terrifying place. Really. Perhaps my unusual interest in the olympics is an attempt to ignore this. Or a result of my work-related exhaustion. Either way.

Guess we're all just waiting to see what happens next...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pig in the City

Or, rather me in the City. I have decided that, despite early starts/late finishes, I've decided I quite like it there. Its the architecture - where else in the city are so many big, tall, glass/metal structures next to ancient churches? Today, I was especially impressed by the inside-out LLoyds building. Unbelievably awesome. The fact that everyone is rushing around is fine, as I don't like slow-walking people. Begone, meandering fools!

So - no real thoughts. What with the beginning of the New Job and the commencement of the Mega-Daily-Commute, I haven't had much room for thinking. A lame excuse.

One thing I have noticed is the way Nintendo are trying to takeover the world via the Nintendo DS. Not content with testing the intellect, they released the tell-you-what-to-cook game (what? I totally don't get what the point of that is) and now - the "health coach". A computer program to tell you what to eat, when and - as far as I can tell from the TV advert - make women feel bad for disappointing an imaginary health coach. Yeah, great.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pregnant Pause

I've just watched Juno and although I found it irritating at first, by the end I really liked it. I just wish that they could have treated abortion as a more serious option, rather than a reflexive non-thought. Also, maybe that pregnancy actually tends to involve some sort of hormonal attachment to the would-be-child (although this may not happen to everyone, I assume it happens in the majority of cases) that could make the choice to give up the child for adoption less clear-cut. However, this would make it a completely different film. And I don't think it was handled completely insensitively - Juno's desire to make sure that the home the child went to was perfect seems to embody some of the latter sentiment. As with all these things, it's hard to distinguish between what is an objective reaction and what are my own personal feelings about the subject matter.

Would my parents have reacted so well? Somehow, I doubt it - then again, I could never have gone through the whole adoption process, so my presentation to them might have been different...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Big Guns

Now for my favourite places to eat outside of Oxford (but close to it...). These are all a bit more expensive but very much worth it.

1) The Goose at Britwell Salome. Recently got its first michelin star (yay!) but happily, the price doesn't seem to have caught up yet. Tastefully decorated gastropub with spectacular food. Sunday is the cheapest day - a good roast, but not much you can do wrong with a roast really. Go on an evening to really get the best out of it. If you have the chance to try the lemon tart for dessert, do not pass it up - it is an almost orgasmic experience. Staff are really friendly and efficient, so no complaints at all.

2) The Old Butchers at Stow-on-the-Wold. Has been a favourite for a few years now and we first went when they were running the Kings Arms pub. Now they have a restaurant but the old regulars still pop in for a drink and a chat. Tasty, varied menu (it changes every day) with a good combination of fish and meat. Laid-back atmosphere - they really enjoy their food and they want you to too. Good on an evening but my favourite time to visit is on a Saturday lunch time for a long, unhurried lunch.

3) The Swan at Tetsworth. The chef used to run the Goose at Britwell Salome before it changed hands (and had a michelin star there himself). Now he runs the restaurant in the back of what is a rather large antiques centre. Eccentrically decorated but in a good way (for example, our table had been an old sewing machine table at one point) with very skillfully cooked food. Portions seem a little small initially, but you do come away full. The only fault would be that the menus don't seem to change that often so you can end up having the same meal twice. Afterwards, you can waddle around the antiques centre until you're ready to drive home...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hunger Pangs

I thought it might be a good idea to put together a list of my favourite places to eat, in an around Oxford. Given it's quite a touristy city, it's quite likely that a visitor might miss out and end up eating somewhere mediocre (and a lot of Oxford eateries fall into this category...). So here it goes:

1. Best Place to eat Indian: Aziz Pandesia on the Abingdon Road (just past the Head of the River pub). It's the sister restaurant to Aziz on the Cowley Road and set on a great riverfront location. In the summer, you can even eat outside on the floating deck if you're brave enough. The food is great - I'd recommend the restaurant's own special dishes (for example the chicken makeni) which are beautifully flavoured without being overly hot. There are all the traditional dishes as well, for those who like to order the same thing at every restaurant. The only negative would be the service, which can sometimes be a little iffy. However, all that considered, still definitely the best place in Oxford.

2. Best Place to eat Chinese: Shanghai 30's on St. Aldates Street (just down from Christ Church). Fantastic Shanghainese food - especially things like the salt and pepper squid, although they do have a good range of dim sum in both cantonese and shanghainese styles. The service is great and the building is very old (check out the great plaster work on the ceilings), with language tapes playing in the toilets... You might want to book if you're planning to go on a Friday/weekend as it's very popular.

3. Best Place to eat Thai: Bangkok House on Hythe Bridge Street (towards the station - believe me, you can't miss it). Good Thai food, lavishly decorated restaurant. You'll need to book as it's always packed. Otherwise, try Chiang Mai just off High Street. Food is also great (and they do some good lunch time deals) and it's in a tastefully decorated Tudor building. A little more expensive though.

4. Best Place to eat on the go: The Mission, just off Carfax. Take-away Burritos, based on the wonderful Chipotle (yes, I'm sure there are more authentic burrito places in the US, but here in the UK we are very much deprived). It only opened this year and so far, seems to have been surprised by its own success. The food is tasty, service quick and the price is very reasonable. Go fairly early in term time, as it's usually full of students.

5. Best Place to go for a pint: The White Horse, Broad Street. A tiny pub squeezed underneath Blackwells bookshop. Good selection of ales and generally less full of pretentious students/tourists than the usual favourite, the Turf.

6. Best Place to go for a nice meal: The White Hart at Wytham. Just out of town in a tiny, picturesque village. A gastro-pub serving well thought-out food for fairly reasonable prices. More expensive than some places in Oxford, but so much nicer than its equivalents (e.g. Quod or the Lemon Tree). Nicely decorated and a good atmosphere - best to phone and book rather than turn up and be disappointed, especially if you have a large party (i.e. more than two of you!).

There are more, but that will do for now...

Serious Stuff

There are quite a few articles on the BBC website at the moment calling for specialised police squads to deal with rape cases (and one on how damaging it can be when these cases are mishandled).

I don't have much to say about this - obviously, I think anything that means the police treat rape seriously is a good idea - but on the otherhand, I'm just too cynical now. Even if the police do everything right, unless the judge and jury also take rape cases seriously, things are not going to improve. Wider societal change is needed to ensure that the latter parties take things seriously and narrow organisational changes can never be more than a quick fix. This is not to say that we should therefore not carry out those changes, but that this should be acknowledged alongside it.

I think the way I feel about this reflects the ambivalence I feel in relation to reporting rape to the police. If my daughter was raped, would I encourage her to report it? Yes - I would encourage her to do so, mainly because it's de facto the right thing to do (despite not having done this myself) and because rape conviction rates aren't going to get better if people don't report rape. However, I think I would have reservations that it would be the right thing to do in terms of helping her - a mistrial or a not-guilty verdict would arguably create more damage. I recognise that this is not an helpful attitude to take, but it's hard not to react to how things are rather than how things ought to be.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

One step forward

for women in the Church of England. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

The Travelling Circus

I am currently celebrating the brief interlude of nothingness before I start The New Job next week by spending a week with various different family members. All very nice. Apart from the rain, but I can't really complain about that - so far it's allowed me to crochet a shawl and two hats (I'm onto winter clothing now - it might be July but you just never know when the cold might hit...). I'm quite tempted to start a third hat, but feel I probably ought to learn some different stitches first - there are only so many tea-cosyesque hats a woman and her SO need. I quite fancy doing some crazy shell-like lacy stitching but it might be too mentally taxing to work out how to do that in the round (I'm supposed to be on holiday, after all - plenty of time for thinking next week).

Other than that, I've been enjoying the culinary delight that is thai curry with deep fried haddock - perhaps the finest dish ever invented, although I grant you it does sound weird. I've also been living the cafe lifestyle with a delicious brunch last weekend. Later this week, we're off here, which is a fantastic gastro-pub and well worth the visit if you're in the area.

So, besides crocheting a multitude of hats and growing to the size of a weather balloon, not much going on. We're hoping the rain might ease long enough for us to get out and walk some of it off this afternoon...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Denial, denial, denial

Article in the Guardian today by Julie Bindel - quite good (don't always agree word-for-word with Julie but I think she has a point) and worth reading.

I think it is true that more men than one would automatically think are perpetuating violence against women. I don't mean that they are waking up each morning with this aim in the forefront of their minds, but they are certainly doing it. I don't think the man who raped me considered himself as a man who would commit violence against women, but the fact is that he *did*. He didn't think of himself as a rapist but he did commit rape.

Whenever these articles get written, there is a backlash from indignant men who resent the assertion that more men than admit to it commit violence against women. I think one commenter on this article stated that he didn't like that fact that *all* men had to feel guilty about it - he pointed out that there aren't articles which expect all women to feel guilty about being gold-digging "whores" (nice choice of phrase there). Except that there are, almost weekly, in most mainstream newspapers - often written by women by the way, which makes them true. Of course.

What is it that they can't stomach? That human beings can behave badly? That we should all check our behaviour for things that sanction (either directly or indirectly) this kind of behaviour? Because, you know, if we actually focus on the fact that violence against women is a bad thing (rather than whether X in particular would do it) then we really lose sight of the point...

I think they're scared. I think they're scared to look back and think - well, that was a situation I could have handled differently. Or to look at a court case and think - my God, the fact I think she is to blame for her own rape is irrational. Because if they do that, then that makes them part of that "very small" group of people who perpetuate violence against women. And then they might have to change something about the way they think, behave or respond.

We can all behave badly - women, men - but what we need to do is get beyond the "but I don't do that so I don't need to hear it" mentality and actually think about ways to solve it. Refusing to engage in the process harms everybody - something which the overly defensive ought to think about.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

In name only

Recently, it seems like a lot of people that I know are taking the plunge and deciding to get married (which is not surprising I guess, given that I am getting older) and the conversation inevitably turns towards the changing-of-the-name.

Having got engaged myself a few months ago, I've always made it clear that I would not be changing my name. I am myself - that's the way it's going to stay. What's odd though, is how unusual I seem to be in that respect. I'd thought that actually, I'd be in the majority - that most women nowadays wouldn't change their name. Obviously, I was wrong. The reasons for changing their name go like this:

(1) So our whole family has the same name
(2) I'm proud to be Mrs-so-and-so
(3) He was upset when I said I wouldn't change my name
(4) I haven't really thought about it, it's just what people do

I can see that (1) might have held more sway in the past - people I know who have older children with different names have told stories of trying to go to the doctors/school with different names and the fight they had to be recognised. (2) just seems bizarre - marrying someone is hardly an achievement but you know, whatever. Similarly (3) - my response would be "don't marry him then" but it's not as though I'm the most tolerant person around, nor would I marry someone likely to make that argument. (4) is lazy, but doesn't seem any worse than the others for all that. At least it's honest.

Still, there you go. My own mother suspects that I will cave in and change my name, but quite frankly, she's so glad my feminism hasn't turned me into a lesbian that she's not going to complain either way. She also pointed out that it would be quite rude to send post to friends who have changed their name in their maiden name, but given the amount of times I already get called by my partner's name (and we're not anywhere near married), I don't buy this argument. Sod it - as an act of rebellion it's quite lame, but I'm all for fighting false consciousness anyway I can.

So: congratulations guys, but be prepared...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Told you so...

After a few months (well, it's nearly been two) of pointless acts of what can only be random malevolence, we have this

Makes one wonder who exactly Johnson would call a racist.

Perhaps he has some special power that allows him to see deep into the soul of people? Until we all have the special mind-ray, the rest of us will just have to keep making our judgements based on what people actually say.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The downside

of blogging is that there are certain things that one cannot blog about and maintain a sort-of-anonymity.

Sadly, it is precisely one of those unbloggable things that is annoying me right now. It's been a stressful day and this is just. not. helping.

Fucking arse.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Things I now know...

that I didn't before:

1) When you quit your job, people send you nice emails and thus boost your ego. I should resign more often. The CEO has stopped talking to me, but it is debatable as to whether that's a bad thing.

2) World of Warcraft is not just for teenage boys who have no social skills. It's fun and worryingly addictive. Good for rainy weekends when you can't be bothered to do constructive things like paint the bathroom or hoover, bad if you get tempted to log in when working at home. Don't do it.

3) Kidney infections really hurt.

4) I'm easily impressed by bald, scottish, buddhist women who talk about the importance of being myself. I can't tell if this means I'm naive, completely self-absorbed, or both.

5) Changing a tire is not as difficult as it looks, but there is the ever present fear of being smooshed by a lorry going along the A34.

6) Driving on my own is a lot less stressful than driving with the SO in the car. Especially when attempting to reverse out of the tire-garage and some wanker has parked their car across the middle of the forecourt.

7) Working for the Electoral Commission would be rewarding and terrifying. I was speaking to a guy who was in Kenya for the election in December and had a policeman stoned to death beside him. He's holding out for Florida in the US Nov elections, but suspects he'll get somewhere like Nebraska.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pointless Creativity

Recently I crocheted myself a 1940's style capelet (with some interesting lacy stitches as well - get me). It was technically a waste of time for two reasons:

1) I made it in mohair. I can't wear mohair - it makes me itch. Especially if it's anywhere near my neck.

2) Capelets make me look like an american football player - I have rather broad shoulders. And, more to the point - when would I ever wear a 1940's style capelet?

When it comes to knitting and crocheting (which I have recently taught myself) I've got a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, I really enjoy doing it - I've got fidgety hands so crocheting is perfect - and feel close to my grandmother, who used to always have a knitting project on the go. On the otherhand, how can I justify my hobby to myself in feminist terms? Sometimes I wonder if I'm as bad as the women who buy those make-household-tasks-more-complicated items and flowery garden tools. I guess I try to think that as I don't *need* to crochet capelets, this is okay. No-one expects me to crochet (most people are unflatteringly astonished that I have the coordination to do so) and I'm not made to.

What I'm really trying to say is that I don't have an answer to this question. Or, similarly, to whether it's okay that I've suddenly got the urge to start making chutney and other preserves. Heh. Let's just change the subject...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Older but not wiser...

During our Monday meeting (whilst talking about diversity, of all things) someone remarked positively on Clinton's comment on the cracks in the glass ceiling from her concession speech. Our company directors jumped in eagerly:

A: Yes! Yes, I heard that!! He's such an idiot!

my colleagues and I look at each other in puzzled concern. Surely A is not saying...

B:I know! It'd be better if he'd not said anything at all, through the whole campaign!

horrified enlightenment is dawning...

A:Hah! Apparently it's his medications, you know.

Brave Colleague: erm, we're talking about Senator Clinton. Hillary. She said it.

A:Yes, right. (pauses) We know that.

The meeting ended soon after.

I don't like Mondays...

But before I take my hot, sorry self onto a train to the capital for my disastrous Monday meeting:

(1)Good article about Clinton (probably more to write about this later, but I've probably been writing too much about US politics recently...)

(2)Mmm... bilberries. Ate quite a lot last summer whilst out walking, without really knowing whether they were edible. So tasty. Sell them in the south!

(3)Am I the only one who is quite impressed that the death toll in Afganistan is only 100? Yes, every death is a tragedy, but as this has been going on since 2001 it is a lot less than I was expecting. Go to war - people die. It's just the way it is (which sounds very cavalier, but it's not quite what I'm intending).

(4)I love my new Asus Eee PC 900. It's so lovely. I may even write a review of it on the train - who knows? Admittedly, my intention of working on it this morning was scuppered by the fact that I fell asleep as soon as I sat down - but I will be using it to work. I will.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Moving Forward

Now that Hillary has conceded and pulled out of the race (very graciously and with a commendable strong endorsement of Obama) you'd think it would finally put a stop to all those Clinton supporters who claimed that they would rather vote for McCain than Obama in the general election. A brief moment of insanity, you might think, to illustrate how upset they are that their chosen candidate didn't make it through.

Yeah. You'd think.

Instead, it seems that the insanity is here to stay. There are still plenty of Clinton supporters (I won't say Clintonites because I'd actually question their commitment to Clinton the actual person, given that they are still prepared to disregard her very-clearly-stated wishes) who are even more determined than ever to vote JM rather than BO at the general election. For a full explanation of why (not that much substantive explanation is ever given) – the crazy can be located here. Otherwise, I shall explain “why” given the evidence available.

(1)It seems that a lot of women are upset that their next president will not also be a woman. This seems fairly understandable, given that there has been a tendency amongst american feminists to attack women who decided against voting for Clinton – one could extend that (without too much difficulty) and claim that it was purely misogyny that stopped Clinton from being nominated, thus the other democratic candidate should not be voted for. It's still insane though. The whole idea that Clinton should be voted for because she is a woman and that-is-what-a-feminist would do was completely insane (I articulated this in an earlier post). It wouldn't happen in the UK because (a) we've already had a woman PM and (b) this leads us to think that just having A.Woman in post is not preferable to having the right woman in post. Thus (I hypothesise) feminists in the UK would be more likely to make the claim (as I did) that treating Clinton's policies with the same scrutiny you would for any other candidate and deciding on that basis is actually more respectful and feminist than anything else. As I said before, I'd guess that this is down to differing experiences, so the insanity is relative.

So, we're at the point where a lot of women will not vote for Obama because of perceived misogyny from that campaign (I won't even explore that claim here as this post is already too long). So instead they'll vote for a crazy republican – republican party being the one that wants to erode women's rights. Yeah – makes sense. Get your shit together, ladies.

(2)There are a lot of comments on these pro-clinton vote mccain websites that are along the lines of “Obama will be the worst President ever and is doing horrendous things to the Democratic party” without ever explaining what these horrendous things are or how he would be the worst President. The fact that no-one can articulate what these terrible things actually are leads me to what is really an horrible conclusion: a lot of these people are racist. Not openly, perhaps not even consciously, but I can't see that there's any other conclusion to come to. How else does one explain that voting republican is SO MUCH BETTER than voting for someone your chosen candidate endorses? Is it 'coz he is black? Erm... yes, I suspect it is.

I know that I am/would be biased – I cannot imagine voting Conservative in an UK election because of what the Conservatives stand for, even if the candidate for Labour is not to my own personal taste. If I was in the US, I can imagine that emotions run high during primaries – it was tough (wonderfully so – there was real choice) and there was history to be made every step of the way. But in the end, it was only a primary. The real fight, the important fight, is yet to be had. Whatever differentiated Clinton and Obama, what unites them is a belief in change and that four years of a democrat president would be better than four more years of a republican. Most supporters of Clinton know this and embrace this. To those who don't – really, I think you totally deserve whatever shit you get and you certainly deserve the shit you've received in the last eight years.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Know thyself...

I've been thinking quite a bit about why private sector companies should care (or at least think) about diversity when recruiting. Mostly because this is an argument that I'm having to make a lot recently and I'm not sure I've yet come up with an answer that is completely convincing.

The line that people in the private sector take is that they are, effectively, blind to diversity. They don't care who the candidate is, as long as they are the best candidate for the job. This strikes me as old-fashioned and naive for two reasons.

1)It assumes (rather like basic economic principles) that we live in a completely rational world. Thus, if one could guarantee that the short list of candidates that they have to choose from are indeed the best 3 or 4 candidates for the job (selected without bias from the HR universe, or whatever function is being recruited from) then yes, their attitude would be positive and sensible. I don't think we can safely assume that market forces are completely objective and free from societal prejudice. To pretend that they are, or to act as if they are, is therefore irresponsible.

2)A recruiter to the private sector can repeat this belief, based on the idea that if they themselves are without prejudice, then the list of candidates they present will be The Ideal list of candidates. However, as above, I don't think that anyone can trust themselves to that degree. Although we may try and act as if we are not discriminatory on any grounds, the truth is that most (and I would go further and say *all* of us) do hold some beliefs either subconsciously or consciously, that would bias the selection we make. This doesn't make us bad people - we are bad people if we accept these beliefs without question or if we pretend that we don't hold these beliefs because we do not want to feel uncomfortable.

Given both (1) and (2) I think the private sector would do better to admit that there could be some bias to what is supposedly an objective process and to make sure that this is redressed to some degree by having a system of checks in place. Thus, if a short list of Finance Directors is presented that consists only of white men, I don't think it's at all wrong to question why that is - in fact, I think that's the responsible option. The sooner that this sort of response is made part of the typical recruitment process in the private sector, the sooner they will be approaching the stage where they really are selecting the best candidate. To deny that the private sector has an interest in diversity is completely counter-productive.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Come on Hillary, time to back-out gracefully...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Fire when ready..."

Captain Jean-Luc Picard would know what to do in this kind of situation. He is completely the best Star Trek captain of all time.

(It was Star Trek or watching Justin Timberlake and Madonna in their completely incomprehensible and most likely extremely *wrong* music video. What can I say, there was no competition.)

When real life gets unbearable

it's time to switch off BBC Parliament. When ND got up to speak, it was just too awful (especially when you can hear Ann Widdecombe agreeing with her in the background - a sure sign to anyone sane that the right view to take is the opposite to that being expressed) - it can't be just me that thinks she's completely betraying all of womenkind? She has a *daughter* for god's sake.

I'm so appalled by the banality of the erosion of liberty these days (she looks just like an ordinary woman - maybe I expected her to have horns?). You'd think these kind of things ought to be heralded with thunder etc etc.

Come on parliament - you can do it. 2 good decisions made, one more to go...

Monday, May 19, 2008

On the same topic

If you haven't read Kira Cochrane's article in the Guardian today, you really should. She's really captured just how bleak and terrifying the whole situation is.

Terrifying Times...

I haven't blogged for a while, mainly because everything is a little bit too depressing (or too frustrating) to want to write about it. However, it does feel that I'm not doing my bloggerly-duty: here is an important issue for me to write about on my supposedly feminist blog and I shirk it. So here we go.

The Embryology Bill is due to be voted on, as well as the terrifying amendment to cut the abortion time limit to twenty weeks. In this post, I think I'll focus mostly on the amendment - mainly because it's an area I feel very strongly about and because to discuss the whole bill would take more time than I currently have available.

Okay - so cutting the time limit. 3 Reasons why it's bad:

1)It's just intrinsically a bad thing. It feels as though any ground that we give on this issue will inevitably lead to a strengthening of the anti-abortion movement and (I fear) gradually, eat away at women's right to choose. I'm using the term "anti-abortion" instead of "pro-life" as I think that the latter is misleading in terms of casting the pro-choice lobby as "anti-life" when clearly, that is not the case.

2) Most abortions that take place during the later weeks of the limit are done for medical reasons and *all* for important reasons, not just on a whim. Cutting the time limit will ultimately lead to more distress for those women who have to make these difficult choices. Arguing that the scan for genetic deformations etc takes place at 20 weeks and therefore that's when the abortion should take place if needed is, in my opinion, cruel and callous. It seems to suggest that it's an easy decision to make (which is pretty hypocritical, as they don't seem to think it *is* an easy decision at any other point in the pregnancy).

3) A lot of the reasoning behind this amendment is misleading. Yes, there may well be an increase in survival rates at 24 weeks, but there is not at 23 weeks and those who do survive at 24 weeks often have severe learning disabilities and/or development problems. It's not as though you can give birth at 24 weeks and then it's all very straightforward. This also seems very cruel - to those people who *do* have the misfortune of a very premature birth and have had their expectations raised to unrealistic levels by this kind of statistic.

Obviously there are more, and I could go into it in more detail. However, for the moment, this will have to suffice.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


You could be flippant and say that everything that is wrong with Hillary Clinton's campaign is embodied in the fact that she chose a Celine Dion song for her campaign theme tune.

Obviously, that's not entirely true, but it's still a bizarre choice. Why not go for something a little bit jazzier, that doesn't turn the brain into instant mush? Simply the Best by Tina Turner, for example - strong woman, powerful message.

My own vote would have been for MC Hammer "Can't touch this" (can you imagine how entertaining that would have been?) and this goes some way to explain why I have never been asked to run a campaign.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Last Bastion of Sanity

At least in Oxford, the Conservatives got completely purged in the local elections. Quite incredible given the way the elections worked out elsewhere, but shows I'm living in the right place.

Not quite enough to make up for the fact that Boris Johnson got London Mayor. Now I'm left with the sinking realisation that the transport infrastructure within London that I depend on is going to flounder and ultimately degenerate into complete shite. Quite aside from the fact that the Conservatives don't run things but ruin them, whoever voted for BJ because he is "funny" ought to be lined up and shot. They may as well have just brought in Mr. Blobby (presumably some people also find him funny - I don't, but I don't find incompetence funny either, so what do I know?) put the whole of the GLA in a gunge machine and then dunked TFL in a vat full of snakes. I'm sure that within a year or so, it will have turned out to be more cost effective.

Quandary of the week: do I hope that...
(a) BJ gets run over by a bendy-bus during his first week of office
(b) he actually turns out to be good.

(a) would be more personally satisfying but might end in his martyrdom. (b) would make me want to tear off my own face, but my journey to work might be quite smooth.

Decisions, decisions...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Is it giving in to the patriarchy to let it slide when the security guard at the entrance to your work building makes sexist comments? Admittedly, they only get as far as "Give us a smile love" (inherently annoying as this may be when you've just struggled for 2 hours to get there) and "all right, darlin'" but they are sexist.

On the one hand, I know I should really be stamping out this kind of behaviour whenever I encounter it. On the other, if I did try and stamp it out, they might prevent (or at least make it difficult) me from entering my building with minimum fuss. Yes, I could protest about this, but let's face it - I don't have the energy.

For the moment at least, I shall swallow my pride, principles and moral standing and content myself with grunting non-commitally as I stomp up the stairs to the office.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sexism and the City

There are times when I love my job - not least when I get to do things I'm interested in on work time and it's still actually work. The latest of these (admittedly rather rare) occurances happened on Tuesday, when I attended the launch of the Fawcett Society's Sexism and the City campaign.

It was definitely worth going to, especially as it reminded me that not all (probably the vast majority in fact) of the people who work in the city are earning millions and are at the most basic - and arguably the most brutal - end of sexism. I think it's something that's very easy to forget when you're lucky enough to have a decent job that pays good money - as suddenly the aspects of sexism that are of primary concern become whether or not Henry got promoted before you because he's a man, rather than having to work a badly paid night-time cleaning job so that you be at home during the day because you can't afford childcare. That the campaign has the breadth to cover both ends of the spectrum is admirable, not to mention ambitious (and I don't think that this is necessarily a bad thing).

So, go to the website, read the manifesto and see if you can persuade your organisation (or yourself!) to do something to help.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why should not having finished them stand in the way of denouncing them?

I was given yet another business book to edumacate me in the ways of big business. Needless to say, I got about one page into the book before I got incredibly angry, skimmed the rest of the chapter and then gave up. I decided to review the book on this blog, then wondered whether that was completely fair, given I hadn't read anywhere near the whole thing. After a moment's pause, I came to the conclusion that if the first chapter - where they lay out their theory for the rest of the book - is a load of shite, it is somewhat unlikely that it will get any better. So it's fine. It got me wondering about other business-books-I-have-hated-without-reading-them-all-the-way-to-the-end.

Here is my top three:

(1) Inside Her Pretty Little Head: I think I hate this one the most, simply because it seemed rather promising. It's written by women who have set-up their own company to market things to women, as they got tired of the traditional advertising approach, which was to make it pink. I am also tired of this. I haven't mentioned here how much I hate the idea of a pink blackberry pearl, mainly because every time I think about it, I can't contain my own bile. Needless to say, if anyone tries to suggest I should have a pink blackberry pearl to show how much of an empowered career woman I am, I will forcefully insert it into their anus.

Anyway, a promising start. But then, you start the first chapter and there is a chart of ways in which women are different to men. Including the fact that women "tend and befriend" rather than experiencing the "fight and flight" instinct which men apparently developed on the veldt to defend their womenfolk.

I don't think I'd mind so much if they would just say "selling princesses to young girls works" but they seem to feel the need to justify this claim with some absolutely ridiculous evolutionary psychology bullshit. I hate evolutionary psychology even more than I hate pink blackberry pearls and tools with flowers on the handles, which is saying something.

I was so outraged that I didn't bother to read the rest of the book, which seemed suspiciously like it was starting from the "let's not just make things pink" stance and then going on to justify that we should in fact just make things pink.

2) Life's a Pitch: short summary of this could be described as - success in business takes the form of a misogynistic pig trying to get sex on the first date. Whatever. I have to say, that given any dates *I* have been on are nothing like the general experience ascribed to dates in the book, it seems unlikely that any success I have in business will resemble it either. Case Closed.

3) Things they don't teach you at Harvard Business School: if I'd wanted to watch smug men wave their cocks around I'd have rented some niche porn. Enough said.

The lesson here is probably that I should stop reading business books. Especially ones recommended by my employer.

The good news is that I've ordered a copy of Deborah Cameron's latest book which I will be able to review at a later date.

Friday, March 07, 2008

This week in the news

A great article on how Norway is getting women into the boardroom.

It would be great to set up something similar over here, except the positive discrimination ruling wouldn't hold up. Still, as the new Equality and Diversity Head in my workplace, maybe I can come up with something that is slightly more helpful than researching the addresses of people to invite to a dinner event, which is my current task. I suppose I just have to grit my teeth and try not to throw myself out of the window first.

Thank the blessed Lord for my BlackBerry

Last weekend, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I live in Intellectual Oxford and went to a lecture hosted by the Oxford Radical Forum. Sadly, I'd missed the feminism-focused day (although thinking on, this may have been a good thing - attend something like this and it's only a matter of time before someone gets all PoMo on your ass) and had chosen to attend what I now think of as "Why I can never be a Marxist" day.

The lecture itself, given by Gerry Cohen, was great. He's always good to listen to and knows how to engage an audience. It concerned the fact that Marxism *was* dead in its traditionally accepted form, because the working class (which is central to it) no longer exists in the form that Marx had thought it to exist then. Thus, if Marxism was to survive, it had to change its content regarding the working class. This is a terrible summary of the actual lecture, but doing it justice would take more space than is reasonable on a blog.

I began to have misgivings when I walked into the lecture room and found it dominated by SWP leaflets and pamphlets. Never a good sign. Nor that they'd advertised "Jerry" Cohen on the website, who is actually a completely different person. Indeed, the questions after the lecture indicated that:(a) the terrible stories about Marxist meetings are true - lots of people liking the sound of their own voice and getting impassioned about the fact that "we can rise up and defeat capitalism now!" which they can't (b) most of the people there were there to argue rather than actually listen and (c) the pomposity of Oxford Students is unbelievable. Oh the nostalgia...

High points:

(1) When someone took a pamphlet about beating capitalism from the rack and the SWP lady raced after him and told him they weren't free, they cost £1.00, with a completely straight face. Communism for those who can afford it, apparently.

(2) The man who claimed, as a deputy head teacher, he experienced the same exploitation as the workers did in the factories Marx and Engels observed. Yeah, I'm thinking not, theoretically or literally.

(3) The Oxford Radical Forum t-shirts for sale had a design on them that looked like it had been hugely influenced/stolen from the modernist movement, who - incidentally - were the artists of choice for many fascist movements.

(4) Singing "Solidarity forever" and realising that I am deadly afraid of earnestness in all its forms. I can't sit in a room full of middle class students with expensive hair cuts, all singing seriously about the workers without wanting to be swallowed up by a huge hole in the ground. It felt rather like being immersed into a cult, which is rather too much first thing on a Saturday morning when slightly hungover.

Leaving the lecture, I felt like I'd managed to be a horrible, capitalist pig (as I dialed the SO to tell him all about it) and at the same time terribly sad, because somewhere deep inside, I would really love to be earnest and a communist. Sort of. You know what I mean.

Anyway, "solidarity forever" has been going round my head pretty much continuously since that point, especially when coming up against the gross incompetence of FGW. Perhaps there's hope for me yet...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Say what now?

Today someone commented (not here) that they were tired of people judging Hillary as agressive and war-mongering and claimed that this would not happen if she was a man and that it's completely irrelevant. I beg to differ. I actually think that how aggressive or hawk-like Hillary would be as a President *is* a live issue and one that I also judge other candidates by.

The problem with Hillary (as I see it) is that, in order to be a successful female politician, she has adopted a more masculine stance. Thus to make up for the fact that women are dismissed as "maternal" or too weak to be commander-in-chief, she is undoubtedly taking a more offensive stance on matter such as Iran. This is worrying - if the US go into Iran, then so will the UK. And we will be completely screwed. Hence my claim that it is in fact hugely relevant, irrespective of the fact that she's a woman.

It would be completely irresponsible to ignore the flaws in Hillary's campaign and take on foreign policy just because she is a woman. And it goes against my feminism. I am glad that Hillary has a chance to run for President and that she can be considered a serious candidate. But I will not support her as a candidate just because of her gender - I think that would actually be a form of disrespect. We are not arguing for equality so that women will vote for women, without making a judgement on their policies. So, for me, the most feminist thing to do is to ignore the fact that Hillary is a woman and to look at what she is saying instead. It just so happens that I don't agree with all of it.

So, the next time some middle-class idiot accuses me of sexism in relation to my views on the US elections (especially when one of their reasons for supporting Hillary is that she is "glamourous" -wtf?) I shall point them to this. Or tell them to sod off. Which knowing me, is more likely.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Just to clarify

Oh, this crazy, crazy world. Over the last few days, I've heard/seen a few arguments that go like this:

"Just because I did so-and-so* doesn't mean I'm sexist. It was just fun and no-one was offended..."

Let's pause and reflect on this a moment. Hmm. I'm afraid that, actually, yes that is exactly what it *does* mean. You my friend, are sexist. And delusional. (Ahem, let's keep this friendly.)

Whether or not a person *perceives* themselves to be sexist is irrelevant. As is how "fun" the activity happens to be. If someone takes part in an activity that is clearly sexist (in that the point of the "fun" is to demean women - for example, dressing them up like foxes and then "hunting" them, which, might I add, is *completely random* as an example. Indeed.) then they are perpetuating sexism and indulging in it, which by its very nature, makes that person sexist.

And then, if someone (who happens to be a woman) suggests that the activity might offend *other* women, to go on to attack her on a personal level, with their attack focused upon the fact that she is a woman, *most definitely* makes that person sexist.

And a complete and utter Knob-End.

To re-cap: make argument (i) "I am not a sexist but..." and follow it up by action (ii) deliberate sexist attack because someone had the audacity to ruin your "fun" by pointing out something rather obvious makes you: A complete and utter knob-end with shit for brains

*Insert activity of choice here

NB - yes, I am very angry. I am, in fact, furious. I could've, and have elsewhere, made this point more politely and more coherently. But this is my blog, so I can be as angry as I like.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bit of Obama

If you haven't seen it, watch it.

Interestingly, some people are saying it's schmaltzy. Maybe, but actually I found it genuinely moving - and I'm not even American and/or allowed to vote.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm happy to wear the trousers...

Lately I've been thinking about the role of women in business and politics, partly inspired by the ongoing battle for the Democrat Presidential Candidacy (I feel it needs capitalisation) and also because I've been encouraged to read "business literature". If any of the latter is aimed at women - which, judging from the amount of bullshit these smug men are spouting about how selling business is like seducing a woman, is not a lot - it generally encourages them to become more like men. Similarly, Hillary Clinton attracts quite a lot of sniping because she is too "man-like" and not "feminine" enough - it is clear that she has felt the need to develop quite a strong (and perhaps more war-mongering) brand of politics in order to get over the disadvantage of being female.

Is this the way things have to be? If we want to get ahead, in any sphere, do we have to conform to a certain level of expectation? Research quoted in the Harvard Review of Business (come to your own conclusions about how reliable *that* makes it) suggest that employees are less likely to take a female boss seriously. Being a woman is associated with softness, vulnerability and maternal instincts, no matter how ridiculous that assumption is (how many women like that do you come across every day... er, none).

Perhaps then, we have to overcompensate for this. Women have to network like men, swagger like men, be aggressive and stereotypically masculine (even though those stereotypes are often just as unrealistic as those about women) in order to get what they want and be taken seriously. Yet this also backfires - employers are more likely to judge a woman harshly when she is angry than they are to judge a man. Some women high up in organisations get a bad reputation amongst female staff because they are not seen to help other women reach the same heights. I could go on - but I won't; there's not that much time.

I don't have an easy solution to the problem, which ends up boiling down to "damned if you do, damned if you don't". Is the answer to develop a different notion of what is feminine? To change work cultures and try to correct prejudices? To ignore all of this and soldier grimly on? Obviously, a bit of all these things wouldn't hurt, it's a question of how productive they are.

I also think we need to stop criticising women who don't meet our standards of how they ought to be behaving so harshly. Yes, Clinton's not perfect and she might not be our ideal of a first woman President (for various reasons, if I were an American, I would not be voting for her atr this stage). However, let's criticise her policies as policies rather than bitch because she's acting too male, or she cried and so on. Let's also recognise that she faces some of the same problems the rest of us do - and that honestly, for many of us, our own reactions to these problems are also far from perfect.

...But the pockets are too small to be useful

Why is it that trousers designed for women have such impractical pockets? Men can carry around a whole host of useful items including (but not limited to) phones, wallets, ipods, loose change, keys in their voluminous pockets without looking like they've sprouted giant tumours. Women, on the otherhand, are lucky if they can fit in some clean tissues and 20p for the machine in the toilet. It's made quite clear that pockets are there for show and are shrinking over time - rather like the little toe. Perhaps it is part of the conspiracy to encourage us to buy vastly overpriced handbags.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Redundancy: word of the week

Things that annoyed me this week:

1) The advert on TV for a children's magazine (specifically targeted at young girls) called Strawberry Shortcake. Not only does this charming magazine give away crappy pieces of tat so that teh childrens can play at cooking, the TV voiceover cheerfully exhorts these innocents to "learn to cook just like mummy!"

To which I (quite cheerfully - although it would be a lie because actually I'd be spitting with rage) respond: bite me.

Mummy might be an excellent cook. She may well (rather like I do) own many cook books and enjoy good food. However, it is *not* the sole responsibility of mummy to do all the cooking. Nor, in this day and age, should we be marketing such blatant sexist crap to children. Especially when it is obviously false - look at all the famous male chefs on TV who outnumber the female ones. By all means encourage your children to cook but (a) do it regardless of their sex (b) don't do it by making them think that mummy should do all the cooking and (c) ease off on all the pink coloured, strawberry-decorated bits of plastic.

2) All attempts to make powertools/gardening equipment and screwdrivers more "suitable" for women by making them pink or decorating them with a vile array of floral motifs. WTF? Are women incapable of using tools unless they are markedly "feminine" (and I use feminine in the narrowest possible sense, as I hardly think bouquets of flowers are the be and all and end all of feminity)?

Perhaps women in general are scared and perplexed by something like a screwdriver. They don't know how to wire a plug. However, stick some fucking flowers on the thing and all of a sudden - empowerment! Why did we not think of this before? Maybe if we repaint fire engines to be pink with a ribbon border and rose petal motif, women will want to be fire officers!

It is *kind* of the patriarchy to give us the permission to use these tools. I mean, it just wouldn't do for a women to use a plain old garden trowel (the way she's been doing for *years*) because that's just too emasculating. No, better make it pretty for her.

I had this argument with my (supposedly feminist) boss, who thinks its wonderful that this has happened. He feels this is empowerment forging ahead. Now women can do "manly" things. In fact they are positively encouraged to do it. How can this be bad? He is seemingly unable to see the point that women are only encouraged to do these things as long as they do them in the male-approved, girly way. Which, when you think about it, is only the patriarchy once again dictating the behaviour of women.

3) My sexist new colleague: He's in a position of some power in the organisation, which is a little worrying. At first we gave him the benefit of the doubt - his "in a room with a bunch of girls" comments were annoying but could be due to nerves. They weren't. He's just an arse.

Today he made the wonderful remark that if he were in charge of recruitment he would "never hire any women over the age of about 28 because they'll just go and get pregnant". Gee, how enlightened this man is. Especially given that he's about 35 and already has three children under ten. But that's okay, because that's his wife's problem.

Ignoring the distinctly frosty looks he was getting (he works in an office where he is the only man) he carried on making highly "amusing" remarks about our capacity to be walking incubators and how scary we women were and men better watch out. In the end, I couldn't take it any longer.

Him: "...yeah, all the fellas better watch out with you around."
Me: " Haven't you heard Egbert*? You're surplus to requirement. Men are completely redundant now."
(He starts to snigger then examines my dead-pan expression, looking increasingly worried. He then walks off without saying anything.)

On the one-hand, I'm annoyed with myself for letting him get to me. My comment may have shut him up, but he's obviously so thick that it's going to be one more bit of proof to him than feminists are all a bunch of ball-breaking man-haters who envy him his penis. On the other, it may well be true**.

Think about it, if even *some proportion* of men were to become redundant in terms of procreation (and we're definitely thinking crazy sci-fi utopia here) the misogynist wankers who can't control their mouths even in the most inappropriate of circumstances are going down first. Fact.

*Egbert not actually his real name
** I do not think that all men are redundant. Only the ones I don't like (heh).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Unreasonable Optimism

I am inexplicably cheerful about the coming few months at work, despite nothing having changed in the slightest and the likelihood of me ever getting promoted (or at least to a job that doesn't make me want to eat my own limbs and howl like a wolf) is still zilch. Yet, I still have this unnerving sense that *good things* are going to happen - perhaps the work ethic I mysteriously developed in the closing months of last year was not just zombified, mindless obedience but an actual moment of maturity/growth.

(Shakes head in horror at the thought I might always feel like doing random extra work *at the weekend*)

It could be that this good mood is just a leftover of Christmas cheer or some side effect of the recent illness. Either way, it should be gone soon enough: it's bonus and pay meetings at the beginning of next month. Meh.

Seasonal Malaise

So Norovirus has struck again this year, worse than ever if the media is to be believed. The back-to-work season was sandwiched between dire warnings of projectile vomiting and uncontrollable pooing. Commuters on packed, sweaty trains looked at each other furtively in case their seatmate was suddenly struck down - after all, the papers warned us, these germs were everywhere and could hit at any time. Anyone who looked vaguely ill was to be avoided or sent evil glares: were they the fiends who were ignoring NHS advice to stay at home? In offices, there were competitive renditions of whose-family-was-worst-hit-at-christmas-dinner and slightly sadistic shudders at the terrible pains absent colleagues must be going through.

I am almost disappointed I didn't get it - I feel I managed to miss out on an experience bigger than myself (I am of course being sarcastic here).

There obviously was/is a nasty bug going around - attendance at my work post-xmas party was decimated by ill-health (or perhaps people using a mild cold as an excuse not to go) and the Heloise-stronghold has been brought low by disease of the mucus/miserable/exhaustion type. Apart from the feeling ill part, it's all been rather jolly and an excuse to sleep for 16 hours a day and not change out of pyjamas. Due to the rigid following of the "feed a cold" rule, I've failed to lose weight - although colds should probably not be fed by left over xmas chocolate but by healthy things that we were too ill to go out and buy.

The trouble with illness-related media paranoia is that it tends to override my usual scepticism and awaken any latent compulsive tendencies floating around my head. I have a slight weakness for hygeine paranoia anyway - if I think too hard I can find myself avoiding touching door handles, taps, light switches or the flush on toilets (to name just a few) - but with something as thrillingly disgusting as Norovirus, it can spiral well out of control. Those germs could be everywhere - buttons on cash machines, chip+pin machines at the supermarket, train seats, tables, computer keyboards, restaurants, the kitchens where my pret sandwich was made - and if I'm not careful the logical next step would be to lock myself in my own bathroom, gently rocking backwards and forwards. Luckily, getting a genuine illness put a stop to this dangerous behaviour, if only because I was confined to house arrest.

On the plus side, Tesco was gloriously empty last weekend (although they were so short-staffed they could only open half the tills and the shelves were pretty empty) which gave a bizarre snapshot of what the world would be like during a flu epidemic but without the death and actual terror.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Read it and Weep

Rather than start the year with my usual moaning, I thought I'd start with a list of some of my favourite feminist reading - if the state of the railways this week is anything to go by, we'll all have the chance to catch up on a bit of reading...

1) The Women's Room
Definitely worth reading - if you're only going to read one feminist book, I'd read this. Not only did it resound within myself and my own experiences, it also illustrates that feminism is not just one theory, but lots of different strands of thought grouped together. It's one of my favourite books of all time and I've read it over and over again.

2) The Second Sex
Simone often gets overlooked, but it's not a bad book. You might want to pick and choose the chapters you read (rather than grimly plough through the whole lot) but some parts are bizarrely relevant, for all society is thought to have moved on.

3) Feminine Mystique
Yes, Betty did go a bit bonkers towards the end, but this is a good read and it's great to see what all the fuss is about. Not perfect, obviously (but who, or what, is?) and some parts are a bit outdated, still - I'd recommend it.

4) The Golden Notebook
I know Doris Lessing is a bit edgy in terms of her feminist credentials but this really is a great book. Perhaps all of you are more sane (or together) than I am, but I found some parts of this book very insightful.

Other books worth reading:
Germaine Greer - Female Eunuch
Naomi Wolf - Beauty Myth
Bell Hooks - collected writings
Imelda Whelan

And of course there are others; the only trouble with doing this when you're supposed to be doing something else (and preferably more productive)is that time is somewhat limited.

To head off the criticism that all/the majority of these are (a) middle class and white and (b) fairly old; I am myself middle class and white and I haven't been all that taken by recent books on feminism. Still, I will try to do better next time.