Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This isn't feminism - but it's so important it needs to be spread.

I lifted this directly from my best friend, so none of the wording about from the very last 4 words are mine. I've never been so shocked before - this is a proposal which is almost guaranteed to affect the people of Europe and the USA, and many other parts of the world. At a glance, I can see potential for epidemics caused by highly resistant strains of bacteria, increasing dependence upon drugs and medicines, and the end of truly organic produce. And it's all being forced upon us. Read it.

This concerns YOUR health, and YOUR life, not to mention your (future) children...

Ok, put your hand up anyone who's heard of the Codex Alimentarius?

No one?

Neither had I. But it's going to have a huge impact on your lives, make no mistake.

Here is a video about it: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5266884912495233634&pr=goog-sl

And a website (yes it's American, yes it's relevant to you as well): http://www.healthfreedomusa.org/index.php

Another one: http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/codex-alimentarius.html

And the "official" one: http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/index_en.jsp

PLEASE LOOK AT THE OTHER ONES FIRST SO YOU KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE OFFICIAL ONE.

If you're unable to view the other websites, or the video, or you're just plain lazy, let me summarise. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the World Health Organisation and United Nations working with the World Trade Organisation and pharmaceutical companies and banks to control food standards. The WTO and pharmaceutical companies and banks, as you may have guessed, have no interest in protecting the consumer. They control things like the level of pesticides in food that are acceptable, which antibiotics/steroids/growth hormones can be fed to animals intended for consumption, guidelines for vitamins & minerals, some labelling of food.

According to the Codex Alimentarius, vitamins and minerals are now classed as "toxins", and as such we must be protected from them. Do you or anyone you know have the desire to be protected from vitamin C? Under their guidelines, any amount of vitamin/mineral/herb that produces a noticeable effect on someone's wellbeing will be forbidden (For example, Vitamin C over 200mg). I thought the point of nutrients was that they produced a noticeable effect, no? And since when were NUTRIENTS (essential for life and functioning etc) classed as toxins? Obviously too much of anything is toxic (even water), and there are limits, but shouldn't that make either ALL food and drink toxins, or NONE?

Under the Codex Alimentarius ALL cattle will be given growth hormones, and antibiotics. ALL animals intended for consumption will be given antibiotics. ALL meat intended for consumption will be irradiated. That includes "organic" food.

Under the Codex Alimentarius, any GMO will not require a label, so you will not know whether you are eating genetically modified plants or not.

Any country that does not follow the Codex Alimentarius guidelines will have massive trade sanctions imposed on it. Britain is definitely going to follow them, as is America, and most of Europe. It supersedes all laws the countries have on food standards, and will reduce our access to information about the food we eat. It will effectively gut the alternative medicine industry, and deprive people of options. Any nutrient or herb over a certain dose will either be illegal, or have to be bought at grossly inflated prices on prescription from pharmaceutical companies.

This will come into effect in 2009, and it's been worked towards for over 40 years. If you're not worried... well, you should be.

I do not know everything about the Codex Alimentarius, and don't claim to. I'm just sharing some stuff that I only stumbled across in the last couple of days. I think people have a right to know what's going on with their food and health. I certainly want to know what's being done to my food, and if any of my healthcare options are being taken away from me. It may seem like I'm talking about some sort grossly exaggerated doomsday theory, but I don't believe I am. You can check all my sources, and help me out if you believe I'm wrong. I just want to know the truth.

Here's a European petition about the Codex Alimentarius: http://www.laleva.cc/petizione/english/intro_eng.html

Spread this around. Talk.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Out of interest...

Are there any Scottish, or indeed Glaswegian feminists reading this?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Sport needs to change" - for women, that is.

Today's Guardian has this article which explores the radical idea that maybe, just maybe, fewer women are taking sport because it's not seen as a very girly thing to do.

"Social pressures which portray sport as unfeminine and encourage girls to be thin rather than fit are an important barrier preventing girls and women from taking part in exercise, according to the study by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation.

Negative experiences of sport in school and low body confidence also put women off exercise, the research found.

The prime minister, in a recorded address at the report's launch today, will warn of a "critical under-representation of women and girls in sport" at all levels, and will urge "a cultural change that allows girls to see sport and physical activity as aspirational".

"Sport needs to change so that it becomes as much a place for women and girls as it is for men and boys," he will say, telling sports bodies to "work harder to understand women's lives".

A failure to reverse the decline in women's fitness will have serious health implications, ranging from obesity and heart disease to depression and low self-esteem, Brown, a former rugby player and keen sports fan, will tell a conference on women's sport, Raising the Game, at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

The prime minister will also attack the "critical lack of investment and profile" at the elite end of women's sport, with no professionally paid women in team sport in the UK."


Finally, after all kinds of hand-wringing about how girls and women are getting too fat/thin, they're actually doing something positive and trying to get us to be... healthy. It's about time. Women's football has it's own league and competitions, but it's not taken as seriously, and female professional footballers cannot have a career focused upon their sport. (Update: The F-Word now has this post on the subject. The players for England's World-Cup-standard Women's Team got a minuscule £40 a day for their efforts, and had to fit their training around university life or work. Many are now unable to train because they must work to make up for lost earnings during the tournament. They feel unappreciated and aren't being given a reasonable chance to maintain their sporting abilities to a high standard. Not quite the same for the male players at the same level, is it?) The mere fact that it is called 'women's' football - as opposed to just 'football' - marks it off as 'other', and reflects a pervasive attitude towards it and other sports; the women's league is not seen as the 'real thing' and is not given as much respect. Tennis has caught up in this area, with women now finally being awarded the same cash prize as men, but not after a lot of pathetic arguments including the notion that, because women (with their slightly different physical abilities in comparison to men) play fewer sets, they don't deserve as much - never mind that they are dedicating themselves to the sport, working just as hard and are just as impressive out on the court. When the women of sport aren't given as much airtime or respect, how can the laywomen be persuaded that it's so great?

Away from the professional side, I can also agree with the talk about girls in general not seeing sport as attractive.


"The foundation's chief executive, Sue Tibballs, said: "To put the challenge into perspective, there has been almost no change in the level of women's physical activity in the UK for the past 20 years. The forecasts show that the situation is getting worse, which points to a real crisis in women's sport and fitness."

...

Girls and women feel "at best, pretty ambivalent about sport," Tibballs said.

"When you think that the highest profile women in sport are the Wags, is it so surprising that girls have these attitudes? Being active and sporty is not an aspirational place for young women to be."


Sport gets you all sweaty, the clothes aren't stylish, and it's hard to look decorative when you're throwing yourself around the gym. I've noticed girls in gym classes stop applying themselves as much or mysteriously get ill every time a large sports hall was shared with a male class.In mixed classes, some were constantly worried about what they looked like. Somehow, the way you appear under the male gaze became more important than just getting out there and having a bit of fun. And don't get me started on the changing rooms; I'll be here all day. I know that appearance is not - CANNOT - be the sole repelling factor for the majority, but it's worrying that even a few people are put off sport by it.

Personally, I'm glad that the government is finally taking some steps in this direction - in the long term, if successful, it could lead to more positive female role models - and young girls may stop seeing 'footballer's wife' as a more worthy life goal than 'footballer'.


Friday, November 02, 2007

An Incident in the Underground

The following passage was posted in a Myspace bulletin and is an eyewitness account of sexual harassment. It may be triggering, and I found it to make for rather unsettling reading.

How can I explain this story, and why am I starting a topic regarding this? It's just bothering me. Something felt wrong.

After work tonight and meeting my father for dinner, I went to Brooklyn to check out an art gallery a friend was in via the F train. As all was said and done, I had to hop back on the F train and transfer to the J/M/Z to get to Broad St.

This is a very empty and dead stop.

So I sit down and begin reading Kevin's journal, since it is perfect for commuting and a girl around my age (early 20s) sits next to me waiting for the train.

Nothing unusual there.

However a man, late 30s, early 40s appears. And he looks dirty. He gave off this "You don't want to talk to me on the streets, let alone underground" vibe. He wore a busted up cap, and the weirdest accessory of all was a little dog. Something you'd see Hilton or Lohan walk around with. Not to be one to try and fall into stereotypes, even if it means what kind of dog a person like that would normally buy, I shrugged it off.

Until he walks straight to this young woman right next to me and asks "Do you like dogs?"

I'm a bit paranoid in general, and with him going straight up to a girl that has to be about 20 years younger than him and asking if she likes dogs... It felt like he was carrying that thing around as bait. And not like "Girls like dogs and it's a good conversation starter... When you're at Central Park for your morning jog." This was unusual. I immediately could tell she was uncomfortable because she began muttering and mumbling answers to him. "Mmm" was "Yes" after the 4th or 5th time the guy said "What?" to her.

I then get concerned when he began asking her where she lived. How long she has been in New York City, if she lives alone, how much does she pay for rent... What kind of conversation openers are that?!? This guy... Maybe he is just socially inept?

At that point I was noticing I was rereading the same paragraph over and over again, focusing more and more on this guy than our beloved director. I put the book away and tried to give off this "back the fuck off" glare at this guy, which I'm told I can do easily, being the kind of person that can't hide his emotions on his face.

This girl began biting her nails and fidgeting in her seat. I didn't know what to do. I thought in my head to whip out my cell phone and write a text message, but not send it to anyone... Then show it to her saying something like "Oh.. check out this message I just got" Which would read "Is this guy bothering you?"

The everyone's equal side of me fought this urge and I said to myself that this woman can take care of herself. If she was really uncomfortable she would get up and leave to get as far away from this guy as possible. I do not need to intervene.

The realistic side of me said "Doing anything might very likely make her think you're trying to stalk her too. Let them be."

Then when the subway came she gets up and says "Oh. I'm on the wrong side." and walks away from the guy. Immediately in my head I feel relief that she does make a move on her own.

Then the guy FOLLOWS HER. Follows her down the stairs to the other platform. If this guy wasn't going downtown like I was... What was he doing there?

My paranoid imagination kicked in again. I paused before going in the subway knowing it was too late to do anything civil and hoped to god this guy will just be creepy and not make any horrific movie-like moves. I just watched as I went into the subway car. Completely worried about a complete stranger as if she was someone I've known for years.

I feel terrible that I didn't do anything. I called my parents. My mother, a shrink, told me similar things that I was thinking and that ultimately, there was nothing I could do. My father shared other views that was in my head as in, if she was really wanting my help, she would initiate saying something like "Is that a book by Kevin Smith? Have you seen his movies too?" and she would be the one to show the guy to get the hell away.

But I just feel uncomfortable and worried and I wanted to share it to someone.


When I was speaking to the man who posted this to request permission to replicate his story, he mentioned several times how cowardly he feels, how he wishes he'd done something. Yet how many of us can honestly say that, had we been in his shoes, we'd have acted differently? I get the feeling that the women he was sitting next to was going through the same thought processes as he was, and was maybe worried that dragging him into the situation would make it worse.

What I'm wondering is this: where were the security guards? Do they have CCTV in the New York subway system? At near-deserted stops like this, anything can happen. In the Glasgow underground system there are cameras and staff are usually nearby. Why was this woman left to, essentially, fend for herself? I wouldn't want to be left hoping that a random stranger would a) have the capacity and b) not be nearly as scared as I am to help me out. It's not as if sexual harassment is unheard of on the NYC subway system, as this report documents.
(A taster of the report: On the threat of sexual harassment and assault,

· 63 percent of respondents reported having been sexually harassed in the
New York City subway system.
· 10 percent of respondents reported having been sexually assaulted in the
New York City subway system.
· 69 percent of respondents reported having felt the threat of sexual assault
or harassment in the New York City subway system.
· Of those respondents, 51 percent of respondents reported “sometimes” or
“frequently” feeling the threat of sexual harassment or assault in the New
York City subway system.
That's staggering.)

Going back to the man whose account is above, his thought processes also seem familiar. 'Maybe he'll leave her alone when the train comes.' 'She'll ask if she wants help.' 'I can't do anything.' 'What if I make things worse?' And then, hindsight - 'I should have done something.'
We should all do something. We need to combat attitudes towards women. We need to do more to educate everyone on what counts as harassment (anything unsolicited and unwelcome, essentially). It struck me, as I was reading this, that maybe the stranger with the dog thought that his actions were acceptable. Perhaps this could be that his threatening demeanor has, as in this instance, held back others from telling him otherwise.

A final thought from the onlooker - he feels that, if anything, he has learned from this experience and, should there be a next time, will do something - anything - to let the harasser know that what he is doing won't be tolerated.

I hope that woman is okay.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ugh

Upon reading a blog post over at The F-Word on the subject of last names, I was reminded of a small incident that occurred a few weeks ago concerning my title. I was at the job centre filling out forms when my advisor turned to me and said...

"You've missed your title. Is it Miss, Mrs, Ms...?"

"Ms."

"So you're divorced?"

*huh? WHAT?!*

"... No. I've never been married."

"Okay then."

I then watched, a little shocked, as she wrote down my title: MISS.
I didn't want to hang around, and was a little tired and couldn't be bothered arguing. But considering that the title 'Ms.' is supposed to be neutral and can be chosen by women regardless of their married, single or divorced status, AND HAS BEEN SO FOR QUITE A WHILE, this kind of ignorance is unforgivable.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not quite feminism, this time.

The debate on global warming has become even more heated (excuse the pun) this week after it was announced that Al Gore had won the Nobel Peace prize. On the one hand, there are fans cheering him on, glad that a man so passionate about slowing global warming and saving what natural environments we still have is being recognised for his work. On the other hand, we have those who say his argument was flawed or even completely false, that global warming is a myth and that we are now one step closer to banning all cars and placing strict limits on ego/penis size, or something.

So I want to stop, and take their scenario - that Global Warming is nothing to worry about, and if it is happening it's Not Our Fault.

I think of it from that point of view, and you know what my conclusion is?


SO WHAT?!


Seriously! Even if our cutting down forests has absolutely no impact upon the global temperature, shouldn't we still preserve them? Do we really want to live in a world devoid of all natural beauty, where the only green spaces are other people's lawns? Do we really want to destroy all the wildlife we marvelled at as children? To only ever see exotic monkeys, sloths, polar bears, leopards, peacocks etc. within the confines of zoos until they eventually die out completely? If our pumping toxins into the sea poisons and kills all that swims, shouldn't we consider finding a different way of disposing of waste? When our cars pump out gasses that befoul the air, hang in smogs and cause all kinds of respiratory diseases, maybe, just maybe, we should consider reducing the amount of pollution! All this is said without even considering global warming.

Honestly, I'll never understand some people.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I can totally sympathise with this.

From Crimitism, the way procrastination works:

  • Open Word.
  • Stare.
  • Get up.
  • Alphabetise DVD collection.
  • Re-organise DVD collection by genre, ensuring there is no distinction between animation and live action. That “animation” is considered a genre is a pet peeve of mine, as if DearS and My Neighbour Totoro belong in the same room, let alone the same shelf.
  • Realise I haven’t done any work.
  • Have panic attack.
  • Watch The Seventh Seal to cheer myself up.
  • Re-organise Doctor Who DVDs, CDs and novels in chronological order, based on the time period that the story is set in, purely because I know it will take the longest possible time and require me to cross-reference various continuity guides.
  • Realise what I’ve done.
  • Collapse into abyss of self-loathing.
  • At least it’s not Dragonball Z.
  • Feel marginally better.
  • Write paper on snake symbolism throughout history, beginning with the Mahabharata and ending with Metal Gear Solid.
  • Try writing new blog update.
  • Delete it.
  • Start again.
  • Give up.
  • Consider enrolling in another course after I graduate.
  • Realise that the course I want to do next year requires units I’ve already finished, and whether or not I complete this degree is irrelevant.
  • Ponder whether “I have three unfinished degrees” makes me look like a broadly-knowledgeable journeyman or just a directionless waste of biomass.
  • Stress-induced illnesses say: Who cares!
  • Download application form.


Replace 'DVD re-organising' with 'Room tidying' and you get a rough idea of what I'm like whenever I have something more important to attend to. Application forms, unstudied texts, thankyou letters to write, blog post ideas piling up... I think I'll get mum a cup of tea instead!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Have I linked you yet?

Much as I love reading and writing feminist blogstuff, I'm somewhat absent-minded when it comes to keeping on top of all my links. So I'm asking for your help: If you read here and have a feminist blog that I haven't linked to in the sidebar, post it in the comments and I'll head on over to check yours out and put up a link. Similarly, if you find a broken or otherwise defunct link in the sidebar, give me a shout and I'll remove or fix it.

Cheers!

[UPDATE 1: Feminist Fire and Mind The Gap have been added! Go read them if you haven't already. That is a COMMAND.]

Friday, September 07, 2007

Glasgow, City of Rape Culture 2007

A report in today's Evening Times speaks of the appalling record of sexual assaults and rapes in Glasgow this year.
Mr Connel spoke out as new figures obtained by the Evening Times revealed there were 192 rapes reported to Strathclyde Police between January and the end of July this year - only one fewer than the same period last year.
There are three things blamed - inadequate transport for the thousands of nightly clubbers to get safely and quickly home in, a lack of responsibility on the part of young people and - here's the interesting bit - 'lap dancing culture'.

Well, I'll agree on the transport part. I once waited for a bus which would take me and my three friends home for over half an hour in the cold and wet. Taxis were, of course, all taken and started to become fewer and fewer as time passed. Eventually we all gave up on it, trooped together and walked the way home. The transport in this city is reasonably good, but it could be better - more frequent buses to ALL areas of the city, more taxis, even a 24-hour subway service instead of having one which closes at around 11.30pm (or earlier on a Sunday).
Of course, transport is no guarantee you'll be safe - buses in particular have a rather poor track record for assault. But it's still a bit safer than walking the city streets (possibly alone) at night.

'Lack of responsibility' - I was surprised here, as it wasn't immediately translated into 'young women getting drunk and making themselves into targets.' Of course, alcohol is factored into it - but the sex of those inebriated is not specified:

"We are not asking folk to regulate their lives to the nth degree - but think a bit ahead, have money on your phone, don't get lost, stay with your friends. It is really simple stuff.

"When people are under the influence their skills in dealing with these kind of things are decreased dramatically."

'Folk', 'people'. A call for common sense without saying 'you're female, don't get drunk.' Refreshing. However, there is a little, tiny flaw here - of the six attacks mentioned in the report, three people were at least 30 and only one person was specifically mentioned as having been attacked after going clubbing. One woman was walking her dog. Another, waiting for an early bus to work. One girl was attacked in broad daylight. Three of the attacks are mentioned as having occurred whilst other people were nearby - one woman tried to flag down cars, another was dragged off a busy street, the third was 'yards away' from other clubbers. And one woman was gang-raped in a West End square near bars, homes and galleries. Despite all these things, the report has focussed on warning the young drinkers out at night, telling them to stick together. Being in well-populated areas didn't help any of these women, nor did their sobriety.

Finalement! Le point le plus controversé! (How bad is my French?)

Diane Travers, personal safety tutor with Glasgow-based Wise Women, said she was concerned about what she called the "lapdance culture" in Glasgow city centre.

She added: "Our current culture of lapdancing clubs is worrying, especially hearing so many young men talk about it.

"There is a connection between lapdancing - which is sexual exploitation of women - and rape.

"It is saying that women are there to be watched and used and that they are there for entertainment."

Ms Travers claimed the statistics were the tip of the iceberg because so many women who were raped by someone they knew did not report the attacks.

She said: "It is easier to report an attack by a stranger but they are less inclined to talk about a friend, partner, boyfriend or someone in their family.

"It is very chilling to realise rapists are people who appear like normal everyday guys that we talk to in the pub or at home."

Mr Connel agreed lapdance culture and many television images were adding to the problem.

He said: "It is all about exploitation and it is all about behaviour I would say is unacceptable but [sic] is creating the wrong type of role models."


Note, they say it's a 'connection' not a 'direct cause'. For the record, there IS evidence that links a sudden rise in sexual assaults in previously 'safe' areas with the opening of sex clubs and shops. An example of this is the Lilith report, showing a rise in sexual assaults and rape (by 57% and 50% respectively) in Camden over three years following the opening of strip clubs. (Thanks to Witchy-woo for the link!) However, this doesn't stop people from leaping to their defence in the comments section:

Why do we demean a horrific subject by trying to relate the activities of monsters who, frankly, need no encouragement, with sonething like lapdancing?

These filth would do what they do regardless of motivation. Perhapslate night drinking could be a stimulus, but again, where is the evidence?

The only people exploited at table dancing clubs ar ethe men who leave with empty wallets. My expereince is that these clubs are well marshalled with proactive and strong securtiy on site.

(Now, I'm going to leave the debate on whether porn is in and of itself harmful. It's still early and I'm lazy. Having re-read the following paragraphs, I've realised that I'm already beginning to rant.)

For a start, not all lap dancing clubs are like this. Object has covered this.
Why is discussing things that feed into negative attitudes that LEAD to such attacks 'demeaning the subject'? It's a valid point. (Oh, and 'late night drinking'? Inebriation in a potentially dangerous person makes them a threat REGARDLESS of the time of day.) Also, are these men exploited? They are feeding the demand for such clubs, they're giving these women a job. I doubt all the dancers would be out there performing to the drooling masses if they weren't paid for it - they need the money, they are paid to do this, without the punters they will be unemployed unless they hold down second jobs. The men (and indeed, women) who attend the clubs are paying for a service they want. Are farmers in the third world exploiting me when they ask to be PAID for the bananas and chocolate I eat?
Also, it's not so much the act of erotic dancing that is at hand here, but rather the attitudes that arise from the complete normalisation of such pornographic things throughout our daily lives. Lap dancing has now become something that people go to for a night out, is portrayed as 'just a bit of fun', pole dancing is 'merely' exercise with no sexual connotations AT ALL despite having roots in the sex industry and, along with images of half-naked women and other pornographic imagery, has reached out beyond the confines of the sex industry and has seeped into the rest of our culture. You no longer have to go to a sex club to see lap/pole/table dancers, and therein lies a problem. When we are constantly, unquestioningly exposed to such things as 'normal', when they are everywhere we look, it has an affect on us. Women are - on billboards, in magazines, in adverts, movies, television programmes - portrayed as decorative, as sexual objects, as things to be paid for, used and then forgotten about 'til next time. And the more we're exposed to it, the more the message sinks in. THAT is what is leading to the RISE in rapes. Yes, there will be people who do terrible things to men and women who aren't porn users or regulars at Stringfellows, but in a culture where woman (and it is MAINLY women) are constantly portrayed as lesser, as the 'sex class', why is that surprising?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Tagged!

Just as I thought that I had slipped safely under the tagging radar, Arantxa delurked and got me. Here goes!

A. Each person lists 8 facts/habits about themselves.
B. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.
C. At the end of the post, the person then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.


  1. I have a pair of freckles on either side of my left inner elbow which match up exactly when I bend my arm. This, for no particular reason, fascinates me.
  2. I have learned (through one-time necessity!) how to operate my manual camera with my teeth. Not brilliantly well, mind you - I wouldn't recommend it.
  3. When I was quite young I attended ballet, tap dance and Highland dance classes. This was how I discovered that dancing isn't really my thing. Nowadays, I dance like an embarassed, drunken spider if I don't have a specific set of steps to follow precisely.
  4. Living with dogs my whole life has trained me to go on half-hour walks every evening, regardless of whether I have a canine escort or not.
  5. I'm a teetotaler, yet have been mistakenly seen as the most inebriated person present at more than one informal gathering. Who needs alcohol when you can 'get drunk' at will, retain all mental faculties and not suffer a hangover afterwards?
  6. I am currently knitting a basic scarf. I learned stocking stitch back when I was little by asking my mum to teach me, and recently I thought that I might as well develop the skill a bit. This is an extension of my interest in learning to make my own clothes, something I keep telling myself that I'll learn to do 'later'.
  7. I haven't been to a hairdresser in about two years, and have no intention of breaking that record. Why? Last time I went in, they couldn't even decide whether my hair colour was 'light brown' or 'dark blonde'. It's plainly the former. Also, I only require a trim every once in a while, and I have no intention of forking over £20+ for such a straightforward task.
  8. I have lived in a house with animals since the day I was brought home after birth; since then there has never been a single day when there was not at least one dog and one cat living as part of the family. As a result, I can stay home 'alone' for ages without seeing anyone and not care, but if the cat or dog is not also there with me I get lonely fast.
Now to tag people! Grace, Book Girl, Charliegrrl, Lonergrrrl, Pippa, Heloise, Thinking Girl, and any eighth person who would like to do this. Everyone seems to have been tagged already!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wolf-whistles

Recently I've been going out more - I have free time, new friends and a willingness to have fun, so why not? I went to a couple of clubs, had a good time and was hit on by a couple of guys. Now, when I'm at a bar or a club, I'm prepared for this, I don't really mind - I mean, people often go out to bars and try to hook up with people, it can be part of the fun, half the patrons, male and female, are flirty and so a few attempts to be chatted up are to be expected. Time and a place etc. Usually (in my experience), if you make it clear you aren't interested, it's cool and you get left alone - you may even make a few friends.

However, when I'm nowhere near the bar, I DON'T APPRECIATE THE ATTENTION. I don't enjoy having strange men whisper things in my ear as I walk down the street to post a letter. I don't like groups of men eyeing me up on the Underground. WOLF-WHISTLES AREN'T WELCOME. This never used to happen to me, I used to go out and just be another person on the street, then all of a sudden I turn 18 and it's like I broadcast a signal saying 'Harass me! I have a vagina!' Why don't these men understand how threatened you can feel when a strange person who looks like they could knock you over with a flick of their finger starts leering at you? How it makes you HATE being who you are, if only for a few moments, because it feels like YOU brought this attention on yourself? I'm not doing anything differently. I'm not even looking at these people half the time until they draw my attention with their idiotic comments. But suddenly, I'm all too aware of myself. Of my gender. Of my physical weaknesses. I hate it, and wish people would leave me alone. I'm not ready to go back inside yet.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Waitaminute, The Sun isn't victim-blaming?!

An online petition has cropped up at The Sun calling for a 24-hour hotline for rape victims and more specialist centres for them. Which is good. I signed it. It accompanies an article in which the journalist Abigail Grant tells of her ordeal (which is detailed, and may trigger) when a man broke into her house and attempted to rape her 12 years ago, seriously injuring her in the process, and her experiences when they finally brought him to trail recently, 12 years after the attack. There are also details of other recent rape cases that were carried out appallingly - the man who got off practically scot-free after he claimed that the 10-year-old he abused (and that IS sexual abuse, as a child cannot legally give consent no matter what you say) was 'dressed provocatively', and the other recent one where it was implied* that the victim was 'glad of the attention' when she was gang-raped. The article highlights the huge prejudices that exist in rape cases, highlights how unfairly they are treated and calls for change.

However, I did have a few questions when I looked at where the article was featured in the site (I only knew about it via The F-Word, which linked straight to the petition). It is in the 'Woman' and 'Real Life' (personal accounts etc.) sections. Not on the Home Page. Not in the 'News' section, despite the fact that rape is a current issue and recent events are mentioned. In the sections that it does feature in, it's not immediately noticeable - Real Life has it after dieting articles, something about new mothers having sex (SHOCK!), humourous pictures of eggs and mobile phone allergies. And in the 'Woman' section.... sex, sex, fashion, diets, guys, fashion, celebrities.... ah, there it is!

So, despite this being an important issue which affects everyone, despite having a message we should all hear, it's been cordoned off as purely a 'women's issue' and hidden down the pages of two of the 'girlier' sections. I can understand why is would be in the section of personal accounts, but come on! It's a bit more important than weight loss and hot pants! Nice to know how important you guys at the Sun think this is, but I should've expected this, really. The Sun isn't exactly renowned for it's gleaming track record in highlighting the inequalities that exist in our country, except perhaps how 'unfair' it is that some women don't look like Pam Anderson.

Thoughts, anyone?

*Sorry, make that 'stated in plain language by the defence barrister', because the victim was overweight. Just to add insult to the injury.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Comments

Oops - looks like I checked the 'hide comments' box by accident. Goodness knows how, but it happened. They should be back now, though.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Politics

While it was no surprise to learn that Gordon Brown will be running the country for the next few years, our new Deputy Prime Minister was a little more unexpected. Harriet Harman won the race by an approximately 0.6% lead, finally pulling ahead of Alan Johnson in the final round of voting.

Ms. Harman has been described as 'Labour's in-house feminist', and in her acceptance speech said that she would work for equality of women as well as men, among many other things. However, some of her comments were a little confusing. She said that she realised the need for more women in power in order to have a truly representative and fair government, but then went on to say that, as women need more opportunities, she would be 'championing the family'. Now, does that mean she'll work for childcare, to allow more women to pursue a career? Is she somehow assuming, because or despite her own position as a professional working mother, that all women want families if they don't already have them? Why were 'women's rights' equated so flippantly with 'family rights'? They may be closely connected, but they are by no means one and the same. What, exactly, did she mean? Mwezzi doesn't know. Hopefully her intentions in this area will become clearer.
Despite these initial musings, I'm not going to dismiss her out of hand. After all, she has campaigned for more female MPs, paid parental leave and has been critical of the party's stance on women's rights - definitely a good thing to keep in mind when mulling her speech over. Her other policies, including improving youth work and apologising for the war, and her focus and willingness to go against the grain if she opposes something are all promising. The only thing left to do now? Wait and see how she performs in her new role. Good luck to her, I say.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Messing About


Mwezzi --

[noun]:

A master blogger



'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com


Nicked from Feministe. Yeah, this is the ultimate in lazy blogging, but when you get a randomised answer like that, posting duty calls. Normal service resumes soon, I promise!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Battered Woman Chic

The United Colors of Benetton have come up with their 'Colours of Domestic Violence' ad campaign, ostensibly to raise awareness of DV. Now, they've had some controversial campaigns in the past - for example, anti-racism:


or featuring death-row inmates:

Apart from the company logo, the focus of these posters is on the issue they're raising awareness for. But let's look at their new one, shall we?


(via Adpunch)

Oh, look at those bruises. At least she colour-co-ordinated her wrap! Oh, isn't she stylish!

Yep. Benetton is hawking their products, and domestic violence sells. They could have focussed on the faces, where the signs of battery are clear, and have provided a straight-to-the-point message. Instead, in all three adverts, the clothing choice of the 'victims' is very obvious. This is just exploitative.

Of course, the first discussion I saw of this didn't see it that way. Nope, the focus was 'what about the men'. Men get beaten by their wives too! UCoB is anti-men! Those women are trying to make as all appear evil!
I'm tired of this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lazy blogging II: Feministe

Before I go to bed, here's a post for everyone who continues to say that women are treated equally on the internet. Flea at Feministe blogged about a discussion that was had about a father who, tragically, had to make the decision for his dying wife to end a wanted pregnancy, and how different his reaction was from what had initially been expected:

I think about Amy Richards, the selfish, lazy, convenience-oriented slut with a husband who should have put her in her place, or Cecily, the murderer, or Biting Beaver, who struck such a major nerve that her life was threatened, the lives of her three children were threatened, her bodily integrity was threatened by rape, and she was offered, via email, not one, but two recipes for “herbal abortions” that would have killed her had she taken them. And for her the threats began shortly after the condom broke. What was different between his post and theirs? Nothing, really. In fact, his story and Cecily’s story were so similar they could almost have been the same tale, one told by the husband and one by the wife.


Similar experiences, different genders, wildly different responses.

'Sorry to hear of your loss. No parent should have to make such a decision. Our hearts and prayers are with you and your wife.'

'Hey, let's kill the slut before she kills her child - LET'S OFF 'EM BOTH! Bitch has it coming.'

And they say that they're pro-life.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lazy Posting: Here's to Scarleteen!

I've embarked upon exam leave recently and so have a lot on my plate, but during a break I came across a great post on abortion over at Scarleteen* (now added as a feminist site, though if you want a more accurate description, it's humanist and pro-life in the truest sense of the word.) It's written from the editor's personal experience.

I was pro-choice before that abortion. I remain so. Thousands upon thousands of women in the past have died to make that choice, before abortion was legal, and then, and now, those who do not support choice, let me make this clear, do not oppose abortion. They oppose a woman's right to make choices for the quality of her life and her children, and that is not supporting life or any quality of life. It is supporting an ideology and dogma that cannot fit something so subjective and varied as every single woman's choices and set of circumstances.

Being pro-choice is not often or necessarily being "pro-abortion." I do not believe it should be used as birth control, for instance: as a replacement for known reliable methods of accessible birth control. I personally believe that as women, it is our responsibility -- if we do not want children at any time -- to do whatever we can to avoid getting pregnant. However, there are times things happen, we make mistakes, birth control doesn't work, natural abortion doesn't work, when we may change our minds about wanting to be pregnant even in planned pregnancies -- and surgical or medical abortion is an option we may consider like any other, and may easily be our best option. There is no need to apologize for that, and no need to demonize that choice or oneself in any way. It is as valid and acceptable as any other.

Being pro-choice, in my mind, is being pro-child. Anyone who tells you that it is in the best interest of a child to grow up without the most basic things they require, reared into a family that either doesn't want them, or who simply isn't ready, or who harbors anger and resentment towards them is not thinking of the best interests of a child. Anyone who tells you that there are thousands of families just waiting to adopt ALL children isn't familiar with the fact that hundreds of thousands of children every year remain without homes and many will never have permanent homes, especially minority or special needs children. Many saying such things are projecting their own values and morals in the larger sense, and the person that benefits most is themselves: not children, not the women who bear and rear them.


Full article here.


*For those who don't know, Scarleteen is an American site offering unbiased (i.e. without religious or societal values) contemporary sex education for teens, and was of far more use to me in many respects than school sex ed ever was. While a lot of it could be considered 'girl stuff' by some, it does its best to run the full gamut from sexuality to erectile dysfunction to religious views on sex.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Religion and Politics - Making A Bed To Tell Lies In.

Up here in Scotland we have just been receiving the latest news about our local elections, the missing votes, the recounts, the gains and losses. When my parents were readying themselves to vote on May 3rd, my mother an I sat in the living room looking through the various leaflets we'd received from all the hopeful candidates. There was the SNP, giving us a simplified version of their manifesto, and there was Labour, telling us not to vote for the SNP. The Conservatives echoed Labour's actions in the past few years in their own policies, then told us to make a difference by voting for them. Even the BNP tried their hand, with a big red-white-and-blue leaflet telling us that they were just like Labour but without the ethnic tolerance. But hang on, there are more parties than that. Where were the Greens? The SSP? Come, on, there are some gaps to fill in here.
A quick Google search yielded odd results. The Scottish Christian Party called the extra-liberal Greens 'eco-fascists' due to their plan to stop giving government funding to religious schools, and to merge them with non-denominational schools. The SCP says this will remove parental choice. Alright then, let's see what those lovely Christians have to say to convince us that a fully religious education (not just R.E.) is still a good thing. Off I trot to their website. Being an atheist, I have no intention of voting Christian when my chance comes. However, aside from that, the SCP gave me plenty to dislike.

I followed the sound of some cheesy music to a television spot that they had in Inverness, styled like a news broadcast. I was immediately faced with at least two reasons to oppose them:

According to research, teenagers who have an abortion are up to 800% more likely to develop breast cancer in later life, with abortions among under-16s reaching record levels. This spells a cancer crisis for Scotland in the coming decades...


Huh? What study was this? Last time I looked, the overwhelming evidence was that there is no link between having a safe, legal abortion and breast cancer. Look here (emphasis my own):

In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.


But wait, there's more! Cut to Dr. Murdo Murchison, former Director of Health for Grampian Health Board:

...There are other problems, much more immediate; there's the immediate psychological problem for the woman concerned, there's [sic] possible fertility problems, and these are all areas of considerable concern.


Where to begin?! Fertility problems are extremely rare - in fact, they're more a problem with unsafe abortions of the kind practised in back-alley terminations, and if abortion is legal and easy to obatain, if doctors are trained to perform them correctly... well. Suffering infertility from an abortion in such circumstances would be almost unheard of. Not to say that women shouldn't know the risks, but it's a risk that is far smaller than the report would have you believe here. There is a risk to every medical procedure out there, including getting tetanus jabs - and early abortions carry a smaller risk than later, surgical ones. The majority of abortions occur early on (I'll link when I find that). As for psychological problems, Feministing covered this one a while back. It links to a ten-page NY Times article that shows a lot of evidence that abortion itself doesn't have psychological implications, and is, in fact, no worse than carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term:

Academic experts continue to stress that the psychological risks posed by abortion are no greater than the risks of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.


Studies have also found that harmful psychological effects can actually be created by so-called 'abortion counselling' that basically tells the woman that she has killed a human being and must live with and atone for that for the rest of her life. If I can find the relevant links for that, I'll update this post later. On a related note, if they want to cut abortion rates, they might want to consider educating adolescents about safer sex and the like - from the insider accounts I get, the sex-ed currently on offer in some of the Catholic schools is beyond the pail. However, I doubt that's on the SCP's 'to-do' list.
...It isn't! Here's what their manifesto says on the matter:

The Scottish Christian Party will call for sex education classes to be given only to children on a parental opt-in basis. The Scottish Christian Party will fight for the promotion in school of chastity before marriage, and faithfulness in marriage, as the safest sexual practice, as and when sex education is taught.


What? They abhor abortion, but also don't want mandatory sex education? Does anyone else see a problem here?

So far, so bad... but we ain't finished, oh no. You can't have a party preaching the gospel truth without a hearty dose of sexual intolerance, can we? When telling us to vote for the SCP, the party's leader, Englishman Rev. George Hargreaves invokes Godwin's Law:

In 1933 Adolf Hitler passed a law saying that Kosher food should be banned. Within 10 years he was murdering millions of Jews. Next week on the 30th April, regulations come in that affect Christians. The Sexual Orientation Regulations come into force. We must stop this. Go out and vote for the SCP on May 3rd, it is the only way we can stop the Sexual Orientation Regulations from becoming law, which is the first stage of persecution of Christians in this land.


What, exactly, are the SORs? Well, another site, Christian Concern for Our Nation bemoans them and gives us an outline:

What are the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR)?
Using power they gave to themselves through the Equality Act 2006, the government are pushing through a new law (the SOR) which will make it illegal for providers of goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions to discriminate against the recipients on the grounds of their sexual orientation i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual.


Oh dear, Christian, Muslim or indeed any religious schools will not be allowed to say that gay children will go straight to hell, and are abominations. B&B owners won't be allowed to turn away gay couples. What is the world coming to, when we can't tell people to be heterosexual or die? Check the manifesto again...

The Scottish Christian Party will also call for the re-instatement of Section 2A, thus calling for the end of the promotion and “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."


In essence, this party wants to turn the clock back on women's reproductive rights and to reserve their 'right' to treat 'undesirable' or 'unGodly' types such as homosexuals as second-class citizens. Then they have the audacity to say that others are persecuting them.

I sincerely hope these people didn't make any major gains this year.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Newt in a Teacup's questionnaire

TCupnewt has created a women's survey on body image, in order to get people to share their experiences in that area and hopefully get people talking. Read the full details (and find the blank template) here.

Name: Mwezzi (internet paranoid!)

Age: 17

Height: 5'7" - 5'8"

Weight: 8st2.

Do you consider yourself attractive?
In a mundane way - I wouldn't say I'm unattractive, but I wouldn't say I'm out of the ordinary.

Do others consider you attractive?
Apparently so - I've been complimented by strangers as well as by my family and boyfriend.

What is your biggest insecurity and why?
I'm a braless wonder because I feel more comfortable without, and also do not really need one, but as I tend to be surrounded by male friends/classmates/dog-walkers when out of the house I often find myself hunching, folding my arms or rearranging my hair to disguise any possible pointiness. I don't like the idea that it could draw people's attention, even if I know that the person I'm talking to won't actually notice.

Have you/Would you consider using plastic surgery? Why or why not?
I'd never consider it. There's a lot to go wrong when resorting to such measures, and I think that my natural dimensions and appearance suits me far better than any modification would.

What is your relationship with make-up?
It's a weekend thing. I'm a bit gothy and like to change my image completely when out of school, but I don't use it to appear prettier or disguise any shortcomings - it's just part of the outfit, so to speak.

How much money do you think is reasonable to spend on your appearance?
Not including clothes, I spend about £3 pounds in total - that's the rough cost of both types of eyeliner. Occasionally, that goes up to a bit under £6 in order to get facewash because I'm an oily-skinned type. I don't like to spend too much on my clothes so looting second-hand and charity shops is my forté, and overall I think I'm being extravagant if my overall appearance on a normal day, including the above, cost me more than £15.

What is your experience of dieting?
I have never dieted - though my mother has always been concerned about her weight (and she is overweight, so it's not all in the mind) and has always tried to exercise regularly and eat healthily.

Have you/ anyone you know tried any specific diet programs i.e. Lighter Life? How did that affect your health? your moods? your relationships?
N/A

Do you have any experiences of eating disorders i.e. either yourself or someone you know?
Despite statistical probabilities, I am not aware of anyone I personally know suffering from an eating disorder.

Have you had negative experiences relating to your appearance and people’s reactions to it?
I got a fair few snide comments about my unshaven legs when I took P.E. and I still get a few disapproving stares when in public changing rooms.

What about positive reactions to your body?
My boyfriend has never been anything but positive about my appearance, and I do occasionally draw compliments from people, otherwise complete strangers, who talk to me when I take the dog for a walk.

How has your body image and attitude changed over the years?
I've become a bit more secure about my underweightness; I've come to terms with the fact that it's just the way I am at the moment, and I'm still healthy.

What do you love about your body?
The skin on my tummy. Interestingly, so does my boyfriend. It's very soft.

What is your opinion on the media portrayal of women’s bodies?
One-dimensional, unrepresentative and often downright fictional, to oversimplify my opinion. Don't get me started, I don't want to type out that essay again.

What would you change about the way you/ your friends/ your family/ general people see their bodies?
I wish people would start admiring the positive aspects rather than focussing on what they perceive to be the negative ones. I also wish people would stop worrying about their weight for any reason other than health reasons. Worrying that you're not slim enough is different than worrying that you may be damaging your health by continuing to be a certain weight.

What makes you feel beautiful?
My hair, when it's clean.

and just for fun… Do you shave legs/pits/upper lip moustache?
Nope, except when I'm wearing one specific top I will go baldpits. And I'm phasing that out too.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wrong time of year

The current administration in America may have a depressing record for Women's Rights, but don't fret! They care enough to send out a poorly-timed seasonal card!



From Married to the Sea (image links there, as usual).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anti-Feminist Bingo!

Two bingo cards have recently sprung up as a way of 'spotting the trolls' or anyone who doesn't actually give a shit about feminism or they would not be saying these things. The first one, concerning 'general anti-feminism' is from Hoyden About Town:



The second one, concerning the more specific subject of anti-feminism in comics, is at Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed):



Click each one to go to their respective blog posts. And before you say something daft because you can't be bothered reading the actual posts, I'll say it here: Some of those entries may not be anti-feminism in and of themselves. Case in point: the 'Patriarchy hurts men too' square in the first card is actually part of the feminist philosophy, and has been discussed many times all over the place. However, if spouted along with several other phrases there, it's almost always a way of de-railing a discussion and is basically another way of saying 'But what about the men?!'. Remember, this is bingo - you're scoring five-in-a-row, not one.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Everyone else is talking about it....

... so I will too. Word has been getting around recently about yet another documentary that I didn't see, this time about women with body hair. Shazia Mirza's 'Fuck Off! I'm A Hairy Woman' was about her experiences when she, a self-confessed hairy woman, ditched the razor and began to grow out all her body hair. Unsurprisingly, she was met with complete disgust.

I didn't see it, though, so I can't say much.

However, I can say that we still have hope, for there are men out there who neither fetishise nor demonise body hair. When I shaved under my arms recently (I decided that the top I was wearing was the only one in my wardrobe that I preferred with bald underarms due to a need for antiperspirant to make full contact with the skin and thus make handwashing slightly easier), I got two reactions. One from an old friend who I had talked into ditching the razor a few years back, who said that she now had boasting rights about her fluffiness until mine grew back. The other was from my boyfriend.
He was a bit disappointed. He preferred the fuzzy, like me.
Damn, that made me feel good.

Anyway, yes, fluff. Personally, I hope that I'll see the day when people don't actually debate it anymore, because they won't really notice. At least, not in the way they do now. I hope people won't be saying that hair on a woman (apart from on her head) makes them feel physically sick and that it's somehow 'not right'. Hell, nobody really seems to see it as a moral outrage if men do or don't shave, beards or elsewhere - it's just seen as personal preference (or in some cases, a religious thing). It's just 'guys have hair. Sometimes, they don't.' Whereas a woman who doesn't shave risks being seen as irrational, lazy, even (paradoxically) unnatural. What woman in their right mind would see her natural fuzz as anything but abhorrent?

Well, put it this way. To all the men out there who just don't get it, imagine the razor burn you get after shaving your beard. The itch when the stubble's growing back. Bit irritating, isn't it? Painful at times, for some. Now imagine that itch in your armpits, all over your arms and legs, between your legs and round the base of your penis, where clothing is CONSTANTLY RUBBING. Imagine being told that this itch is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to being seen as attractive to anyone. Imagine being told that having even a little bit of hair down there is enough to make others want to throw up. Imagine feeling compelled to go out and buy bleaching products and lots more shaving cream than you currently do, book appointments at the barbers every few weeks, waste ridiculous amounts of your money to ensure that all those extra hairs remain invisible. It's time consuming, it eats all your cash and you're getting really insecure about those hairs. Now can you see why some women are saying that enough is enough? If not, I say you try out the 'beauty regimes' that you insist we undergo for a year, then come back and I'll ask you again.
To all the women who don't get it, and are already going through all of the above... well, basically I'd rather spend my money on (and time doing) other things, and it's all to do with personal choice. You wanna, I don't. Stop sneering at me in changing rooms. I'm as female as you are. No, I don't care what people might say, or I wouldn't be in this situation.

Thank goodness that I'm surrounded by less judgemental people.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You cannot perfect perfection

In response to a recent article (quoted at the F-Word) on how famous women are often 'prettied up' on celluloid to make them look nice for the masses, I have at least one positive counterexample. Did anyone watch The Hours? The movie makers, bless them, actually made an effort to create an accurate Virginia Woolf, even making a prosthetic nose for Nicole Kidman to transform her entirely:
















That said, Ms. Woolf was already pretty damn good looking to begin with. But at least they didn't have her looking like Kidman on film.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

...last one today...

I love this quote from Laurelin as she dissects some of the insults that are hurled at her:

‘Dyke’- neither ‘lesbian’ nor ‘canal’ are insults.


On Evolution (for all you rabid Biology fans)

Quite often, I find articles stating that men are like this or women are like that because of genes, and thus they are all thus and if they aren't they're abominations of nature. They say that humans are all one way because they evolved. I think that this is a bit of a fallacy, as it ignores another crucial part of being human - our potentially long life spans.

Let's start at the basics here. The mayfly. It has a tiny lifespan, leading it to be called the 'one day fly' in various languages. (Its temporary nature is reflected by the rather beautiful name the French have given it, l'éphémère.) Once it has emerged in its adult form, it has a day to fly off, find a mate, breed, find a suitable area to lay its eggs and then do so before it dies. With such a tiny window of time within which to fit everything, it would mean the extinction of the species if it had to first learn how to perform all of its actions - especially in the absence of any parents to do the teaching. Thus, it makes sense that the little naiad is largely controlled by its genetic make-up.

Creatures such as elephants and us ape-y types are a bit different. We can live for decades. We produce fewer offspring than our small, short-lived neighbours and these offspring receive a good deal of parenting before cavorting off to be independent like all the cool kids. All this parental help we get gives us a greater survival chance in the early years, and also mean we have plenty of time to learn from observation, trial and error and straightforward lessons from our parents. We also continue to learn throughout our lives, picking up skills and tips as we go. Thus, human behaviour has a lot more to do with learning than it does in the case of a mayfly. We have different personalities, different ways of expressing ourselves, different habits. To say, then, that we will be a certain way purely because of our genes is to deny that we have any individuality and also says that parenting means nothing - we could be brought up in any way but will always be X. Even parenting doesn't predict us though, as is shown by numerous cases of children 'turning out differently' to expectations. We are influenced by social and familial pressures and our own growing minds and ideas, with our genes only providing a 'groundwork' for many of us.

Let's look at evolution in the case of monogamy. If we are to look at our closest relatives, chimps, which share a whopping 98% of their genetic material with us, you will see that they are... not monogamous. Gorillas... no. In fact, I learned by reading The Descent of Woman (Elaine Morgan's precursor to The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis) that where natural, genetic monogamy happens, it is usually in the case of creatures like gibbons and a wide range of both aquatic and terrestrial creatures which are so fiercely territorial that, if they did not go through a stage of imprinting that would allow them to bond with another member of their species with which they would mate with and allow to live with them, they and their species would face some serious problems establishing themselves. Humans are rather less territorial than that, yet we still get people saying that women are monogamous purely due to genes. If we went through the imprinting process then we could say that love at first sight was universal, we'd go through a short period of time in which we would latch on to a mate and, once the window has closed, wouldn't so much as look at another one. Cheating in relationships would be EXTREMELY rare if not unheard of.
Not. The. Case.
The evidence suggests that our genetic foundations do not mark us as monogamous, and thus the practice of monogamy is a result of choice and social influence. I'm not saying 'monogamy is bad'. I'm saying 'there's no proof that humans are monogamous by default'.

There are several examples of this, all ignoring the human capacity to learn and be influenced. So before simply saying that humans should be a certain way because of what they are, think about the other factors first.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'd rather eat chocolate, too...

... but I won't deny that other women prefer 'exercise'.
Joan Sewell has just written a book. But not just any book, oh no. This book is about how any woman who is not like her must be delusional.

The idea that women’s sex drive can match men’s is politically correct piffle, says Sewell, who is 45. Her memoir, I’d Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido, recounts one frustration after another in a buildup to an anticlimactic conclusion: she’s just not that into sex. Such a pronouncement may not be titillating, but it’s groundbreaking, says Sandra Tsing Loh in the March issue of the Atlantic.

Libidinous ladies parade across our television screens—in Sex and the City, for example, or Desperate Housewives—but Sewell thinks they’re faking it. Like many real women, they are conforming to an image of supposed sexual liberation as they throw down their men and play rough. Poor Sewell, then, is the deviant.


The ensuing interview basically draws out her views: she doesn't like sex, and actresses and porn stars are faking it because that's their job, therefore all women are faking it because they are incapable of doing anything other than imitate the imitators. Or something.
I'm a bit like Sewell, in the fact that I have a very low to non-existent sex drive (and I'm not even married or over 40, something she feels factors into it) and think that the current raunch culture encourages girls and women to put on the display of lust where there is in fact none. However, our views diverge there. Whist Sewell decides that women all have low libidos and fake it all the time even when not in the public eye, I feel that women have different libidos and some fake it due to social pressure; but even then, many have the confidence to say 'no' if they aren't in the mood. Certainly, there's a problem with some feeling obliged to put out when they don't want to, feeling they must be something wrong with that - this is something to be remedied. But to go as far as saying that women are almost all sexless is like saying that women are almost all gagging for it - it's not progressive, ground breaking or subversive, it's just another way to make people feel that there's something wrong with them.
She also implies (if not yells, in your ear, with a megaphone) that all men are sex fiends who are only being monogamous to keep the little lady happy. Wow, what a way to box the men in AND make their partners feel guilty. This woman is clearly a beacon of truth and light to us all.

Update: I think this quote sums up the interview.

It’s all an act, then, and the truth is that men are fundamentally lustful and women are not?

Men are far more interested in sex, and if they can get as much sex as they want, they’re going to try. They do tailor their sex drive, at least the gentlemen do, to women. Sometimes they have to, just to get them into bed, and sometimes they genuinely want to. But men had harems in the past. Women’s lib has made monogamy more of a standard, but if it were left up to men, would that be a standard? You know, I don’t think so. I think they like having a main squeeze, a woman they can be emotional with, but they also like the idea of having sex on the side. Are women completely monogamous? No. But it tends to go the other way far more.

You talk about evolutionary influences on libido, and I wonder how real you think they are, how acutely you think we feel them.

Well, across so many cultures, men are more promiscuous, men want more variety, men want more women. And for women, security overrides the sexual urge. That happens because, well, the woman’s sexual urge is weaker. Maybe it is because of biology.


This argument ignores socialisation, for a start. Let's take Islamic culture, for example, where men can take up to 4 wives. Is this because they are inherently more lustful? Well, the reason given in the Koran is that men have a duty to protect women, so taking in more than one wife was a way of looking after those such as war-widows or older women who were more dependant and needed shelter and support. It isn't encouraged in the scriptures to take more than one wife simply because you want them, and if you are incapable of treating them all equally then you should remain monogamous. (How closely this is followed in some areas is a different story.) Before Islam, in some Eastern countries it was fine for women to have several husbands as well, though this was outlawed by the new religion. I'm going to look this up and get back to you (I can't find mah book!) but there is also a community out there (in the great beyond!) which actively encourages women to take multiple partners. Here in the West, however, women's sexual desires have up until comparatively recently been ignored or even denied - sexual desire of any description was seen as a disease in women in the 19th century and a variety of treatments, including clitoridectomy, were used to 'cure' them of their lustful ways. Now, having no desire may be seen as a bit odd at the very least, and asexuality is recognised to be the least common sexuality out there. While Sewell isn't going as far as to say 'women have no desires at all', she is putting 'low libido' as the norm for the vast majority, largely based upon her own experiences and assumptions from data which can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Feminism 101

If you have a general question about feminism and its large issues, from 'is it victim politics?' or 'why not tell them to defend themselves against rape?' then head on down to the Feminism 101 blog and have a snoot around.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Friday, March 02, 2007

What kind of a feminist ARE you?!

Is a question I occasionally get. I shall try and answer that before I answer the more unusual question later.

Okay, let's see. Well, first up, I'm by no means fixed in all my views yet. At 17 years old, I've not been properly 'into' the movement for very long at all, but women's issues have always grabbed and held my attention.

Books

In terms of literature, my personal feminist collection is sparse, consisting of Female Chauvinist Pigs, A Brief History of Misogyny (a current favourite), The Beauty Myth, Price of Honour (next in line for reading) and The Female Eunuch. Interestingly, it is that last one, the one so highly praised by seemingly every feminist I come across, that I found the least engaging. I never finished it, so I cannot comment on it completely, but as your average girl on the street, a mostly male group of friends and no background in the feminist 60s-80s period in which the book was published, I found it difficult to fully relate to. Perhaps someday I'll read it completely with a different eye. Meanwhile, it was Ariel Levy's flawed and much-criticised paperback that got me hooked. Her arguments are far from perfect, and she does sometimes come across as having little respect for people who do actually enjoy and embrace 'raunch culture' as a true reflection of their sexuality, yet as someone who does find such a society both intimidating and dull (if it could be possible) as well as alienating, I was heartened to find someone who - at least to a certain extent - saw it as I did. Despite everything people have said against the book, for me, it was as good a starting point as The F-Word was in finding out what feminists are saying here and now.
However, I don't think that 'blame the slags' is a good philosophy.

Discrimination and the 'isms'

I have always been an avid reader, and always enjoyed a good story. When in primary school and nursery I could usually be found in the book section, and the picture books were my earliest source of information about the world apart from my actual day-to-day experiences - and in the books that I saw, the doctors were always male and the nurses were always female. Our family doctor, similarly, was and still is a man, and on our occasional visits to the hospital we would be surrounded by female nurses - so I assumed that the books must be right. So when my dad asked me once what I wanted to be when I grow up, one of the first things I said was 'a nurse'.
'Why? Don't you want to be a doctor?'
'Only men can be doctors.' I replied matter-of-factly. Regardless of the intention of the books, this was what I had learned. This was sexism, accidental or not. I also learned that families always consist of Mum, Dad, and minimum of two children and the family pet(s) - I didn't know what divorce was until I met my best friend, I didn't know that women can love women and men can love men until a family friend passed around some wedding photos. I assumed that EVERYONE gets married at some point. Girls must try and look pretty all the time, while boys go out and rip the knees of their trousers climbing trees. I learned that white people marry only white people, Asians marry only Asians and so on. Hopefully, the books have become more representative since then.
Now that I'm older I am told that women are damaging the family by going out to work, but men aren't (I OBJECT!) - reinforcing the picturesque nuclear families in those picture books. Every now and then, a study tells me that I find maths challenging purely because I'm female, and the roughly 5:1 ratio of boys to girls in my maths class is discouraging. Immigrants are destroying our way of life. Black single mothers should be blamed entirely for their family's breakdown. Et. Cetera.
I wish I'd been shown more accurate depictions when I was younger. Maybe not all stories of family breakdowns and cancer, but even just a few mentions - a few female doctors or male nurses, a child with parents who are co-habiting - something. I wish people would stop reading the fucking Sun. I wish that people would stop automatically trying to pin the blame upon a single group whenever something goes wrong. I hope that things will improve. I look forward to it.

I was going to go on longer with this, but I've found a way to summarise it all. Feminist Critics made a list of the things that they believe feminism has got right and which they agree with - it basically says everything about how I see things. When I analyse something, these are the basic premises that I start from:


1. There is a gender system

Males and females are socialized into masculinities and femininities. Masculine and feminine behaviour is not simply determined by biology.

2. The gender system is damaging

Masculinities and femininities can be damaging and dehumanizing to both males and females.

3. Women are oppressed

Women have suffered various types of systematic mistreatment throughout history, and continue to do so in the present. This mistreatment is unjust. If it can be called “oppression,” then women suffer gender oppression.

4. Sexism exists

Sexism—hateful, contemptuous, bigoted, or discriminatory attitudes based on sex—is real. Sexism can be institutionalized socially and politically. The feminist identification and critique of misogyny has mitigated misogyny, though institutionalized misogyny still exists.

5. Males have unjust advantages

Males have some systematic advantages over females that they do not have a right to.

6. Marginalization of the experience of women

Prior to feminism, the experience of women was marginalized in academic and scientific disciplines, and in public discourse.

7. Sexuality involves power dynamics

Under the gender system at least, sexuality is intertwined with power dynamics. E.g. male-dominant, female-submissive, and male-active, female-passive. These power dynamics are not limited to heterosexuality. The link between power dynamics and sexuality can be damaging to people.

8. There is something wrong with pornography

Pornography can be dehumanizing toward both its users and towards its participants. Even if pornography can be defended on legal grounds, these liberal arguments doesn’t protect it from moral critique.

9. There is intersectionality of oppression

Gender oppression and oppression based on race, sexual orientation, or class, can combine multiplicatively into oppression that is more than the sum of its parts.

10. Beauty standards can be damaging

Beauty standards and objectification can be damaging to female self-esteem. It would be both practical and moral to change images of beautiful women in the media in certain ways.


Overall, I think feminism is a positive force, and one I gladly associate myself with. Yes, there have been times when we've 'got it wrong' as it were. All movements have their highs and lows and sub-groups of differing opinions which occasionally clash. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I hope I can 'grow into' the movement over time, I want to learn more, and I want to see it succeed it improving conditions for women (and, hopefully, everyone) worldwide. I want to be a part of that.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I've got your 'consent' right here...

Just in case you didn't hear me.

Now for something completely different and waaay after everyone else has finished talking about it.

The Vagina Institute. A group whose sole purpose is to tell you that your genitalia is ugly and that you should be ashamed if it doesn't match those you see in the average porn magazine. That is, if you are female. Somewhere, earlier in the week when this was first pointed out and a reference was made to male genitalia, the comment was attacked as being potentially damaging to the ego of someones son. No mention was made to the harmful effects of telling the majority of women that they have ugly vaginas which will cause their partners to ditch them if not 'corrected'.
Let's see what happens if some of the Institutes paragraphs are regendered (or more 'masculine' language added)...

UGLY PENISES VS. GOOD-LOOKING PENISES...

...how your penis measures up to the most masculine, most handsome penises in the world. The essence of manhood resides in the beauty of form, function and size... the further away the penis and testicles are from the preset parameters and symmetrical values, well the penis tends to be not as good-looking, in fact we can use the word 'ugly' to define it correctly...


Yeah, real nice. Feeling good about yourselves, guys? I know I wouldn't.
And guess what, all this stuff about vaginae being hideous is all packaged up to look professional, with statistic adding weight to their findings. So not only do they say that you have nasty genitals, but guess what? THE WORLD thinks that you should change it for the better. Keep in mind that many women already do have insecurities about their vulva, and and some have had 'corrective' surgery - sometimes loosing all feeling down there in the process, or making sex PAINFUL. So despite everything looking just like the pornographic ideal, and thus making her appear 'sexier', the actual act has now been wrecked. For some more regendering, I will refer to Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth:

Imagine this: penis implants, penis augmentation, foreskin enhancement, testicular silicone injections to correct asymmetry, saline injections with a choice of three sizes, surgery to correct the angle of erection, to lift the scrotum and make it pert. Before and after shots in Esquire. Risks: total numbing of the glans. Diminution of sexual feeling. Permanent obliteration of sexual feeling. Glans rigidity, to the consistency of hard plastic. Testicular swelling and hardening, with probable repeat operations, including scar tissue formation that the surgeon must break apart with manual pressure. Implant collapse. Leakage. Unknown long-term consequences. Weeks of recovery necessary during which the penis must not be touched. The above procedures are undergone because they make men sexier to women, or so men are told.

Even without surgery, it can be damaging. Being told that you are ugly, repeatedly, day in day out, can lead to a fall in self esteem. Women are constantly told that they smell bad down there, that they're too hairy. The Vagina Institute, like many others, now makes it 'official': many women have unsexy vaginas. When you are told that your vagina is so hideous that your partner hates looking at it, that it's a turn off to them, then the you may indeed have some serious anxieties about going to bed with them. Same for men - not really a good idea to barrage them with abuse about how they're too small, too thin etc. as that will make many men feel bad. As many already know, a drop in self esteem is usually mirrored by a drop insexual performance, difficulty with arousal etc. But there is no Penis Institute, spouting statistics and saying that your testicles are officially ugly. Only this constant assertion that 'some women think that...', just like the whole 'some men say that...' thing. It's just not the same.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Making the point abundantly clear.

A tip of the hat to Laura for her post on women's attire and rape. Not a recent post, but I've just found it and it's still worthy of a read if you have a minute to spare.

I have a post brewing about more recent things, it'll be up soon I hope.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Climate change campaign

Taken from the Alliance for the Planet (L'Alliance pour la Planète), and edited for relevance:

Take part in the greatest campaign against climate change!

Alliance for Planet issues a simple call to all citizens, 5 minutes of respite for the planet: everyone extinguishes their lights on February 1, 2007 between 19h55 and 20h00 [18:55 - 19:00 GMT]. This is not to save 5 minutes of electricity on this day, but to draw the attention of the citizens, media and leaders to energy wasting and the urgency to take action against it! 5 minutes of respite for the planet: it doesn't take long, it's free, and it will show to politicians that climate change is an important subject which must be included in political debate.

Why on February 1? Because on that day, in Paris, the climate experts of the UN will release their report in Paris. One should not miss this chance to alert our governments and leaders of the urgency of the world's climate situation.

Spread the message!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Instant Favourites

Here are two interesting posts that have recently turned up:

*Women just shouldn't have sex if they don't want to have babies.

I can imagine how well these very same men will take widespread constant refusal to have sex. Can't you? "You're a prude! A tease!" So how about men? Should they have sex with other men?


Ginmar lacerating some of the most common arguments from anti-choicers.

I also take issue with those protesting raunch culture being labelled “conservatives”. What could be more conservative than dressing up as a sex object, as men would like you to be? What could be more conservative than fitting into a commercial, plastic, popular mould of female sexuality? The author of this article is the conservative one for advocating women to carry on being what they have always been, and in turn maintaining his ‘right’ to objectify women as men have traditionally been encouraged to do.


Michelle pointing out a young man's rather dubious stance on our freedom to participate in, but not to object to, raunch culture.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Not even worth my awesome freehand skills.


Though, of course, they'd still keep a few of the 'older models' around to look after the babies and make dinner.
Addressing prefectural assembly members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Matsue, the 71-year-old Yanagisawa touched on the nation's declining birthrate and said, "The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head, although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines."

Yep, it's the latest insult from the men who want us to do nothing but make babies - but this time in Japan! I'm personally fed up of hearing things like this where women's potential fertility is seen as their defining and most important feature, as I'm sure many others are. We don't all want to be mothers, and for those who do, not all of them want to be seen as potential Quiverfull wives. Stop assuming that they all want to 'do their best' by spawning as many offspring as their bodies and minds can cope with. If they only want one child (or none at all), for whatever reason, that's their choice.
So yes, Mr. Yanagisawa, you are right. It is not appropriate to refer to the women of your country in that way.

BBC story here