Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Apologising for the way I am.

I was a little hesitant about making this post. I get the feeling that I'm going to get a lot of backlash for it, and it's really difficult to convey my intended message here and not have it interpreted in the wrong manner. I'll do my best.
Real women have real bodies with real curves. And Dove wants to celebrate those curves.

...you'll be happy to hear that some teen magazines (like Seventeen and Teen Vogue) are finally getting a clue, featuring more 'real' girls with curves and all.

All of the above are positive comments. It's fabulous that fashion magazines and multinational cosmetic companies are recognising that you can have big thighs, a big bum and cellulite (well maybe not; then Dove would loose money on their firming creams) and still look absolutely gorgeous. In short, it's possible to be both big and beautiful, you needn't loose 3 stone to look fantastic. But look closer at those quotes. Each and every one of them does something that's just as damaging as the taboos they are fighting; they make a sweeping generalisation of what a 'real woman' is. They do not intend to be offensive, but each time I read comments like this it really hits home - because, according to them, I am not a 'real woman'.
I am around 5'8", and weigh 8 stone. My BMI* of around 17 classifies me as underweight. I have visible ribs and slightly protruding hipbones, and a spine that makes leaning against walls uncomfortable due to its lack of padding. My wrists are a bit angular, and I can fit my fingers around them with a bit of room to spare.
I am not this way through dieting or obsessing about my appearance. I eat as much if not more than my sister, who is almost the same height and about a stone and a half heavier - a 'healthy' figure if ever there was one. I have never opened a teen or fashion magazine in my life, and have always dressed how I like in comfy, loose clothing. My figure is not a product of an eating disorder, a strict exercise regime, or surgery. It is my natural shape. And in the quest to reverse the stereotype of thin=beautiful*, all those well meaning commentators and concerned critics have started to demonise all women who are a bit skinny. Not just the women with eating disorders - and they need our help, not our scorn - but women who are also actually healthy but not within a certain weight range. I've seen pictures on forums that members crowd round and mock, and I think, 'That girl looks just like me...'.

As I mentioned earlier, full-figured women are beautiful too. But does that mean I can't be? When I looked, I was a 'real' woman too - after all, I was brought up as one, I have the same anatomy, the XX chromosomes, I'm the same species and I most certainly FEEL like I'm female. But now it's me getting the scornful comments, just like the larger women were before. Is this progress? People proclaiming to love women 'of all shapes and sizes' provided that they are curvaceous? I'm a size 8 17-year-old female with a flat chest. Does that mean I'm less of a woman, less of a human, than the size 16 diva with all her curves? No. I'm as much a woman as she, and vice versa. I shouldn't be made to feel insecure about my body any more than she. Anorexia is a serious health problem, but so is obesity. Do we want to see the skinny women of today dying of clogged arteries next year because they forever saw themselves as 'too thin' and ate too many high-fat foods? No. We are ALL women. We all have different bodies, which function in different ways, with different structures and metabolisms, each of which is suited to each individual. None of us should be seen as anything less simply because we are the 'wrong shape'.

*Yes, I'm fully aware that this is a flawed measurement. But ignoring that, I LOOK underweight too.

*Yes, I'll get round to the demonisation of the larger figure as well. But this is a personal thing I had to get off my chest.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Contraception spreads AIDS.

A response to Jessica's "Shocker..." at Feminsting.com .. Obviously there are negative effects of contraception which both you and Christine fail to mention. The contraceptive mentality, that is, sex separated from marriage and pro-creation, has resulted in over 25 million deaths (world wide) from AIDS since 1981. How pro-family is it that this mentality has resulted to millions of AIDS orphans? Additionally, here in the US the increase in abortion is related to easy access of contraception. Failed contraception often leads to abortion, and killing one's offspring isn't pro-family. (By the way 54% of women who have abortions used contraception.) When you are dead from AIDS or abortion, life isn't better, is it? Obviously, there is far more to the story than Christine Page's biased writings or the juvenile rants on Feministing.com

That was a response on No Room For Contraception (NRFC) to a post at Feministing which celebrated the improvements made by accessible contraception to marriages, women's career choices and education. NRFC claims that the rise of contraception has lead to the rise of AIDS and abortion, and is a strong advocate for Natural Family Planning (abstinence within marriage during the wife's fertile periods) as a means of family planning.
I'm going to go through the claims step-by-step:

1) The 'contraceptive mentality' caused a rise in AIDS.

Not quite. Certainly, sexual promiscuity is a factor in the spread of STDs. However, the rise in AIDS was not caused simply by lots of people having lots of sex, but rather by lots of people having lots of sex without using protection. Take Africa's epidemic as an example. During the conflicts that have devastated many parts of the continent such as Darfur, rape was used as a military tactic to break down the people. Inadequate or no sexual education has lead to many people contracting the virus due to incorrect or NO condom use. Sexual inequality and poor women's rights further exacerbate the problem - it is not uncommon for men who KNOW they have the virus to force their wives to sleep with them without protection. Rape within marriage doesn't get postponed if there aren't any condoms to hand, and if they are it's likely they will get ignored. All of these have lead to a rise in AIDS.
Now, it has recently been shown that condom use in Africa is increasing, with 60% of single women using condoms to prevent pregnancy. Meanwhile, despite attempts by the Bush administration to impress the idea of abstinence into the African peoples' minds, abstinence rates have remained the same.
This shows that no matter what you tell them, people will have sex when they aren't married. To continue to believe that you can just tell people not to have sex and then assume they won't is not only naive, it's dangerous, especially in the midst of such an epidemic. The failure of programmes such as The Silver Ring Thing and True Love Waits demonstrates this very well. Yes, contraceptives can fail. But we cannot stop people from having sex, so it is better to prepare them and give them a chance to protect themselves than to deny them any protection, no mater how successful it is.

2) Failed contraception leads to abortion, abstinence does not.

This looks good on paper; if you do not have sex at all, you will not end up pregnant. This is actually true - in theory. Unfortunately, it's a form of prevention that's easier said than done. Abstinence programmes have proved to be monumental failures, contributing to the rise in STDs and unwanted pregnancies by misinforming people about contraception or disregarding it altogether. Within marriage it may be a little easier to work with your partner on this one - that is, provided that your partner is not the abusive type and is not having an affair. However, NRFC has not taken into account the fact that almost all Americans have sex before marrying and have been doing so for decades, and I doubt that it's different over here in the UK or anywhere else. Religion hasn't managed to prevent people having sex. Abstinence programmes, both religious and secular, are failing to do so now. Why? Well, face it - most people find sex fun and highly pleasurable in the right context. Furthermore, while it is true that failed contraception can lead to unwanted pregnancies (especially if the morning-after pill is hard to get), it is equally true that people who don't use contraception and who do not know when their fertile periods are (tell me just how many adults, let alone teenagers know this?) end up aborting unwanted babies too. Perhaps the fact that a slight majority of abortions were performed on contraception users would suggest that people who use contraception really do not want a child. The other 46% either had complications, the NFP failed, could have had religious issues with contraception but weren't too good at NFP either, or - and here's an idea - weren't using contraception because they were told it doesn't work or weren't given any info at all. Perhaps a majority of people using contraception has caused the imbalance. Perhaps they forgot to take the pill. I'm not saying that any of that is actually true, but quite simply, a 4% difference is a) unconvincing and b) not impressive unless you give details of every cause of unwanted pregnancy among both sets of people.
And 46%... gee, that's a lot of non-contraception people getting abortions too.
'But if they would just abstain...'
Look around you. We live in a sex-drenched society. Pornographic images scream out at us from every newspaper stand. Women are told by magazines to look sexy, and men are told by their magazines that sex is something that they should all have as often as possible. Actually, scratch that, everyone;s told that. TV series, adverts, movies - everyone's having sex! Wax your legs, guys will find you more attractive! EVERYONE, SHAG! As Ariel Levy pointed out, running this plus the idea of abstinence through the teenage mind will often produce a message that says girls should be sexy, guys should want to do it with sexy girls, sex is amazing, don't have sex. It doesn't really compute. So, you can either cut everyone off from the world and keep the two genders isolated from one another until they reach marriageable age, all the while teaching them every tiny detail about their bodies until the girls can tell how fertile they are by examining their fingernails, or you can give everyone a full sex education than includes contraception as well as NFP, and let them make their own choices in life.

3) Killing one's offspring isn't pro-family

I agree.
To kill a child or indeed any human being is a terrible crime to commit, be they a preschool child, a 60-year-old journalist or a 30-year-old working in an abortion clinic.
So tell me. When exactly is the offspring well and truly 'alive'? From conception, when it is a clump of undifferentiated cells? From 20 weeks, when some prematurely born children do survive (but cannot do so independently) and are at severe risk of being permanently damaged as they haven't fully developed? When it is capable of surviving independently of machinery? WHEN? No-one seems to agree. However, the majority of abortions here in the UK are performed well before the 24-week limit, within 13 weeks. Are all these foetuses truly 'alive'? They certainly look human and fully formed when you see all the propaganda pictures. But that cute smiling foetus is, in reality, around 7cm long. That's the length of my forefinger. Also, it takes about 13 weeks for all the organs to form. With abortions happening at various points within this 13 week time, a lot of these foetuses would not have the organs that are necessary to life. Some have no brains, or hearts, or lungs; to say that they are alive or capable of life at these stages is, in my humble opinion, false. Thus, as they aren't alive, they cannot be killed. Stop being emotive and be precise - tell us, what is your definition of alive, and how many of these foetuses fit that description?

Extra notes

NRFC, elsewhere on their site, warns of the health risks of chemical contraception. Now, this is also legit information. The hormone pill can have some nasty side-effects for women, can increase the risk of cancer, and some people have allergic reactions to latex in condoms, (However, there are non-latex versions.) and of course in some cases NFP is the best method either due to your beliefs or health problems associated with available forms of contraception. On the other hand, there are some women for whom predicting what stage of their cycle they're at is extremely difficulty due to health problems which cause extremely irregular cycles. Removing the option of contraception for everyone would do more harm than good. Also, I notice that they provide 'education information such... documents of the Catholic Church'. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the Catholic Church has other reasons for opposing contraception, many of them religious. Catholicism is a patriarchal religion, and banning contraception and abortion is a step back in women's' reproductive rights, removing from them the power to choose not to be a mother, the choice to have sex for any reason that isn't procreation, reducing them to their wombs. Wake up and smell the coffee - NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES IN GOD, JESUS OR INDEED ANYTHING DETAILED IN THE BIBLE. Stop preaching. I hope never to be ruled by a government that bases all of its laws on something that was written by men as a tool of power and which I do not believe in. I want to be free to make choices about my body and my life. I don't want to be seen as merely a womb on legs.
I would say more, but this post is already long enough.


Hi. I've wanted to do this for a while, but never plucked up the courage to do so. Well, here goes; I've started my own feminist blog.
Now, I'm a little inexperienced in this area, considering that I have thus far focussed upon drawing a webcomic that has nothing to do with this particular subject. However, I have to start somewhere, and that 'somewhere' is here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Afghanistan's women, 5 years later.

If you feel like a bit of reading, Guardian Unlimited is running an article discussing whether the predicted emancipation of women in Afghanistan has been successful.
To summarise:
1) On the surface, things do seem to have improved, most notably in Kabul.
2) Although women have entered previously forbidden workplaces (radio stations, government etc.) they often face threats and violence for doing so.
3) Despite the hopes that education would open up for women, some of the schools opened for them were quickly shut down again.
4) Men who teach women face violence, as do female teachers.
5) Although the Taliban were removed from government, there are still thousands of sympathisers who continue to exert control ofver the lives of outspoken women.
6) Warlords, tribal leaders etc. command great control, and practices such as trading of women like goods to settle disputes are still in use.

In other words, there has been some improvement, but not a great deal of it. Yet another unfinished job from the Western Liberation Forces Against Evil And Nasty Things from our side of the world.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Well, I guess I was asking to be robbed and my house burned to the ground with my family inside...

... I mean, I left a window open. I was asking for it.

Does that argument stand up, to you? Would you let someone off the hook for something like that on those grounds?

I wouldn't, and I'm usually a pretty forgiving person. Unfortunately, we are seeing similar kinds of arguments every month, only on the subject of rape.

'Oh, she was drunk/walking home alone/wearing a short skirt, guv. She was asking for it.'

What's more, despite the law being changed to be just a tiny bit more helpful to rape victims in court, excuses like this are still being accepted every day, all over Britain, by otherwise competent juries and judges. Somehow, women are being made responsible for being attacked. They did something 'unladylike', which provoked a man. And as we all know, men are useless at controlling themselves and can't be held responsible for their actions at all. (Yes, boys, that's what you're being made to look like while the women are called whores. You are subhuman and severely lacking in any self-restraint or moral character.) So the blame falls on the shoulders of the victim, who is defamed AND punished for defaming the poor little rapist.
Oh, aside from her actions at the time of the event being twisted like this, our victim may also be judged by her sexual history. Despite laws against this now, it is still happening. Some of you may have heard the infamous comments made by an anti-choice politician in America saying that rape only happens to young white devoutly Christian virgins who have been horribly ravaged and sodomised - the implication being that anything else just ain't rape. Here, if you aren't a virgin, your chances of winning your case decrease with every sexual encounter you have had in the past if the courtroom hears about it. Similarly, if you show no obvious physical signs of being viciously attacked, they'll assume you didn't put up much of a fight and thus it was all consensual.

So, lets just labour the point here.

Rape is NEVER the woman's fault.
No-one 'asks' to be raped.
Regardless of what she was doing or wearing, what happened to her was STILL rape. Drunk? Rape. 'Provocatively' dressed? Raped. Alone at night? Rape. Being female? Rape. Being male? Rape. Being an 'easy target' in any way? Rape. It doesn't matter how the victim responded to the attack, if it was non consensual, it was rape, and remains as illegal as if they were swaddled head to toe in thick winter clothes and had tried to beat the crap out of their attacker in their efforts to escape.

Why is has she chosen this subject today, you may well ask. The BBC reports the apology from a Muslim cleric about his sermon which compared non-hijab-wearing women to 'uncovered meat'.

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside... and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?" he asked.

The uncovered meat is the problem, he went on to say.

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he added.

Sheikh Hilali also condemned women who swayed suggestively and wore make-up, implying they attracted sexual assault.

He has apologised after an outcry by Muslim women in Australia, saying '...the sermon was targeted against men and women who engaged in extra-marital sex and did so through alluring types of clothes...'.
Try fitting that in. It doesn't quite fit with the wording, does it? Oh, for the record, women who wear the hijab and/or stay at home get raped too. In fact, the majority of sexual assaults and rapes are carried out by people, such as friends and family members, who knew the victim well - not by the stereotypical shadowy monster in a dark alleyway (though, of course, this happens too). In these cases, they cannot be safe in their rooms, and no amount of modest apparel will change that. Changing attitudes towards women will.