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...