Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unsurprisingly, 'more feminine' = more acceptable in law firm.

I keep telling myself not to, but time and again I find myself drawn back to the dull, dismal drivel in Femail that I, as a carrier of two X chromosomes, am supposed to be naturally interested in. It's almost as is I WANT to get irritated.

Women working at top law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have been told that, in order to to achieve the 'correct' professional look, they must 'embrace their femininity'. This means two things: skirts (well, okay...) and high heels (sigh). Never mind that these shoes are, at best, uncomfortable and at worst extremely bad for your feet, ankles and back. No, no, apparently forcing one's feet into an extremely unnatural position makes you stand BETTER. If you are a woman, that is.

Freshfields says it has been offering the image course to staff for some time.

'It's basically a session on how to project a professional image within the workplace,' said a spokesman.

'It's advice rather than a list of do's and don'ts.

Around 90 employees attended the makeover session in recent months as part of an induction programme for trainees.

One image consultant who used to be a lawyer explained why women might have been given advice to wear heels.

Lucinda Slater, founder of Best Foot Forward, said: 'It helps them stand better and gives them height.'

Oh, advice, is it? I'm willing to bet that having an official sounding personal tell them to wear them will make more women fell pressured to choose shoes they find uncomfortable when they'd rather wear flats, but maybe I'm just a cynic. I mean, heavens, I KNOW how uncomfortable heels can be because I choose to wear them occasionally on nights out too. I do rather like being tall, and they look quite good. But from TWO NIGHTS of wearing them, here are my list of complaints:

Rough skin
Sore toes
Pain along my right big toe and up its related metatarsal bone
Broken toenails (they were cut short, but having my full body weight pushing down on the very ends of my feet causes the toes to swell and any extra crushing can then crack the nail)

The sore metatarsal was a sign to go back to my just-as-nice and far-more-comfortable Docs until all damage has been rectified.
It's one thing to occasionally wear such shoes, we all know they hurt but lots of us also rather like them, but we decide when to stop and go flat-footed again. When an employer either actively encourages or even flatly tells the women it employs to wear these shoes every day that they come into work, I call bullshit. That's DAMAGING, and the more successive days that heels are worn, the more damage they inflict and they more likely it is for such damage to become permanent. Furthermore, they look no more professional than a good pair of well-crafted flat smart shoes, and we should be able to take a female lawyer, a very smart, well educated woman, seriously without making her teeter about on stilts and dress all pretty and 'feminine' for us, especially if this isn't a choice she'd otherwise make. Some women like skirts and heels, others prefers trousers and flats. Let's stop treating one as somehow 'better' (which is what they mean by 'more professional') than the other.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Remove the Gag - sign the petition.

The Global Gag Rule, implemented in 2001 when US President George W. Bush came into power, denies US funding to overseas health centres if they offer or even mention abortion, even if it's legal in that country. This means that they must stay quiet if asked, they cannot even provide basic information, and if a clinic receives funding and doesn't offer terminations but has a related clinic which does (even if that doesn't get any US money), that centre will no longer receive any money either. These centres aren't just abortion clinics, they offer basic health care, advice, family planning, maternity services. So when these clinics are forced to close due to lack of funds, entire communities are denied the basic services that they have a right to receive. Mothers are more at risk during pregnancy and childbirth. Couples receive no information on contraceptives and safe sex, leaving them more likely to contract STIs or end up with an unwanted pregnancy which, y'know, they may wish to terminate, thus driving more women to the back streets as they have no support or safer alternatives. These clinics also offer vaccinations and medicines, such as anti-malarials. Thus, the GGR has left millions of people sick and dying because of the American Religious Right's closed-minded moralistic selfishness.

There's now a petition to the President-elect, asking him to remove the GGR upon his inauguration. Sign it here.

Story via Feministing.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New President - New Chances for Women?

The Obama team have launched a new website, Change.gov, outlining their proposals and offering the American people a chance to have their say. Excellent! My inner sceptic is reminded of the UK version, allowing us to send online petitions to the government, which rarely seems to make much impact, but here's hoping that it's more than just an empty popularity-generator. Certainly there's a lot of positive stuff in there!

Naturally, I went straight over to the 'Women' section of the agenda, and it makes me smile. Headings such as 'Empowering women to prevent HIV/AIDS', 'Fixing the nation's healthcare system' and 'Supporting stem cell research' jump out - and for all the pro-choicers out there, here's the reproductive rights section:


Supports a Woman's Right to Choose:

Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.

Preventing Unintended Pregnancy:

Barack Obama is an original co-sponsor of legislation to expand access to contraception, health information and preventive services to help reduce unintended pregnancies. Introduced in January 2007, the Prevention First Act will increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex methods. The Act will also end insurance discrimination against contraception, improve awareness about emergency contraception, and provide compassionate assistance to rape victims.

Oh my. Along with the recent pro-choice voting going on over the pond, this new load of sensible speak is a breath of fresh air after all the 'Zygotes=fully-formed cute babies in miniature' rhetoric. See, if all this comes true, the USA may have a chance of shaking off the unfortunate 'idiotic bigot-rich power-crazed backwater' image that it's been building up under Bush. I can't find anything on LGBT rights though, which brings back my reservations. Considering the recent successes of motions like Prop 8, what's in store when Obama is finally the president? Hopefully it'll be positive too, but there's no mention. More progressive action, please!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election night in another country!

But it could affect us over here and it WILL affect other countries threatened by war and relying on US aid, so damn straight I'm getting excited! Here's a little vintage humour. This is, incidentally, exactly how us Brits see politics.

I always imagine Ron Paul as Kevin Philips Bong.

I recall someone describing the difference in attitudes to political matters between the UK and USA. In Britain the situation is hopeless, but never serious, whilst in America the situation is serious, but never hopeless. And that's why we have a lot of satirical programmes such as Yes, Minister and across the pond they have drama like the West Wing.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Quick Hit - Dismissive Doctors

Over at Ramblings of Today's Yoof we have a trio of posts about doctors being dismissive because of gender, i.e. treating men with dignity and women as hypochondriacs when both present with the same symptoms. All three bloggers have had negative experiences which we think were influenced by our sex - alongside my suspicions that the GP was brushing me off, there's Becca's history of being told her problems are psychosomatic and being prescribed ineffective treatments as she sat crying in front of the doctor and, disturbingly, Curly Sue's visit to hospital where her life was put on the line as the doctors wrote off symptoms of a ruptured appendix as 'minor issues' such as constipation or 'bad period pains'; meanwhile, a young man with the same symptoms got surgery quickly.
Check them out, and please, if you have had similar experiences of your own, feel free to tell your own stories.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Feeling Spooky!

I'm not 100% healthy, but I'm rested and ready for some scary shenanigans. So, to everyone who's been sending me well wishes, I thankyou very much, and to all, I wish you a VERY happy, safe and fun Hallowe'en, hopefully free of sexism and racism.

I'm not the type to dress as 'Sexy ____' for anything, but on Hallowe'en I can take a 'sexy nurse' outfit and twist it to my own needs:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Apology

I'm sorry I've not been posting recently. I've not been well.
I started studying medicine at the end of last month and, a few weeks in, I started feeling really tired all the time. Not just a bit stressed, a little worn out due to the sudden onset of work where before there had been none - more a complete lack of energy, and inability to concentrate, a struggle to stay awake whenever I sat down for even a moment, hours spent staring into space, mind blank. No matter how well I slept each night I'd wake up feeling like I was crushed under a sack of rocks, then I'd carry those rocks around until my classes ended, at which point I'd go straight home and into bed because there was no way I'd be able to concentrate on the books full of jargon that all medical students must peruse on a regular basis, let alone carry on with all the other things I loved like my hobbies, working with the Glasgow Feminist Network (who are back after a summer break! Hopefully I'll be actively involved with them again soon) and, of course, posting to this blog.
This all reached a head a few days ago when, trying to study the immune system within the context of transplants and being unable to absorb any information no matter how hard I tried, I just broke down and sobbed. A bit alarming for me, considering I've never cried outwith the context of death, extreme pain or heartbreak.
Anyway, it's finally pushed me to go and see a doctor. Last time I visited the GP he put me off the place entirely so I've arranged to see a new one in a different practise. Hopefully they'll be able to help me out there. In the meantime, I'll do my best to think of something interesting to say upon my return.

Oh! Another thing! I'll also be co-blogging with Becca at Ramblings of Today's Yoof! I'll be doing my normal feminist ranting but also hope to go into other things that interest me, such as health, society, science and silly little things that get me through the day. Becca's already kicking off with some interesting articles that she's found, so do go over and have a look.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thankyou, Feminism.

Feministing has the 'Friday Feminist Fuck You/Yeah' now, where they either vent their anger about a particular anti-woman person or group or praise someone who has helped the cause. In a sense, this is a bit like that. I'm saying thankyou, on a Friday... but not to any one person, not to an organisation. I would like to thank Feminism.

"What for?", you may well ask. "There are lots of positive things that can be attributed to the feminist fight, are you grateful for ALL of them?" Well, yes... but today, there's one particular reason at the forefront of my mind.

My virginity.

To those of you who find this strange, sit tight, let me explain. I know there has been a lot of inaccurate criticism of feminism in this area. The suggestion that telling girls that sex isn't sinful and need not be marriage-linked will turn them all into raging sex-addicts who have 15 pregnancies and 9 STDs and 100 partners under their belt by the time they reach the grand old age of 13 has been flung around a lot recently; I've lost track of the number of times I've read about the spread of abstinence-only education, or seen yet another book being published about how wonderful it is to be a virgin because having sex will RUIN YOU, or scrolled through another thread full of people expressing the view that a girl's sexuality is the property of first her father then her husband (REMEMBER THAT LESBIANS ARE SINFUL), and how all of these things are seen as good and the only way to have a healthy sexual attitude.

This, my friends, is rubbish.

I am 19. I have had 3 boyfriends, in relationships ranging from 6 months to 2.5 years. I also have vaginismus, a fact I have known about but initially could neither name nor understand since I hit puberty. There have been several situations where I could have been pressured* into penetrative sex, where I could have ignored the fact that I knew I could get hurt because 'losing your virginity is supposed to be painful'. Where I could have been pressured into a whole range of things before I was ready. Currently I am on the path to overcoming my condition (yay all-month swimming!) but am still refraining from The Big Sinful Act That Will Make Me Worthless And Un-Marriable through choice - I don't feel that I'm ready yet. I'm perfectly fine with this decision, I'm happy with my choice, and my current partner is fully supportive of it.

To whom do I owe my ability to say no and not feel guilty about it? What helped me stay a virgin until I'm ready?

The people who define sex as a sin?
The idea that sex must be saved for the man I marry?
Being fed scary misinformation, such as 'condoms don't work at all'?
Modesty, trying never to excite a man's sexual desires by covering up everything below the neck?
Purity pledges?
A big ceremony where I tell daddy that I will never have sex before marriage?
Never being told about sex?


I had a flawed but still comprehensive sex education at school. I filled in the gaps with information from sites like Scarleteen and from groups like the Sandyford Initiative, and was so impressed by these people that I too hope to be able to help others in the realm of sexual health in the future. Religion played no part in my upbringing, and my parents were always honest whenever I had questions to ask. I knew that condoms have a high success rate when used correctly and can protect against a range of STDs. I have no dreams of marriage, and don't want to turn my sexuality into a bartering chip. I HAVE WORN SKIRTS ABOVE THE KNEE! I also think that purity pledges do nothing, and statistics have reinforced my opinion that abstinence-only sex-ed doesn't work at all - and can be harmful.

What I do have to thank:
Being told that my body is my own, as is my sexuality.
Being told that it's okay to say no.
Being told that no-one has the right to force me into anything.
Being told that, whilst sex can be a good thing, it should only happen when both me and my partner are ready, and it is not a bad thing to ask someone to wait if they are but you're not.
Being told that there is nothing shameful about my body - allowing me to seek help and find out about my vaginismus instead of hoping it'll go away and never understanding it.

All these things - bodily freedom, integrity and autonomy, openness about female anatomy, the belief that women are worth something and can make the right decisions for themselves when given all the relevant information (as opposed to being told what is and isn't right or blatantly mislead) - these are all championed by feminists everywhere, every day. I know more about myself through talking to other women in a frank and open way than I would from being told not to touch that thing there, it's bad. I have been able to help myself. I have been able to make a choice and have the courage to stick by it, because I know there's nothing wrong with abstaining - but I also know there's nothing wrong with not being a virgin, either.
As a bonus, thanks to all those progressive types out there who don't demonise normal human behaviour, I also know a good deal about safe sex. When I'm ready, I'll be ready.

So, thank you Feminism, and all forward-thinking groups, for allowing me to be happy with my hymen. And to all those who still think that feminism forces girls to sleep with everything with a pulse - don't let the door hit you on the way out.

*they never intentionally tried to force me into anything, but due to a combination of misguided thinking and a few other things the problem still arose. I'm on good terms with my exes, they ain't bad guys - if anything, they've learned what is and isn't acceptable now. Had I been unable to express myself, however, things would've turned out very differently.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I'm currently in my final week of preparations before I start university and start learning about exciting new things involving facts, instruments and bits of the human body I was previously unaware of.  So, in the spirit of broadening one's horizons, I present to you a video with nothing to do with feminism, which is quite good for a bit of mind-boggling during one's ten-minute study break.  Things start to get a bit odd by the 5th dimension.  Enjoy!

Just want something fun and cheerful? Never fear, for here are the guys who made diet coke and mentos into something infinitely more spectacular than we could have imagined, doing the same thing to post-it notes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Women Against Sarah Palin

Proof that we don't just vote for vagina-owners.  A few e-mails asking for women's opinions of the American Vice Presidential nominee generated thousands of responses.  Here you will find lifelong Republicans who are withholding their votes, conservative and liberal women alike horrified by the policies and views expressed by Palin and McCain.  Go read it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Phyllis Schlafly Sexism Watch

Inspired by the multiple sexism watches for Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton that have been running over at Shakesville, here's mine.  On Point Radio has a post on a call made about Ms. Schlafly's comments calling Democrats as 'pro-abortion' as opposed to pro-choice, and saying that all democrats would abort a child if it had Down's Syndrome.  The host didn't call her out for this, but an hour later a caller did.  Phyllis' reasoning was that there's a 91% abortion rate for children with Down's Syndrome in the USA, but of course this statistic doesn't say what the political affiliations of the women having the terminations are.
Now there are a lot of things I could say about Schlafly.  She is anti-choice, anti-feminist, opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment and a firm believer that all women should abandon any thoughts of careers and stay home making babies, unless those women happen to be her (she is a lawyer, editor and activist).  She shouts down the very movement that fought for the privileges she now enjoys.  She will also support a woman in a public role if they happen to have almost exactly the same views as her, as shown in her support for the ultra-conservative Palin.  She is, in short, the kind of person I despise.  HOWEVER!  That doesn't mean that the following comments are valid or warranted:

Phyllis Schlaffly [sic] is an ignorant, bigoted slut - a total warrior whore for the Republican party.

I'd say she was ignorant and bigoted, both descriptions are as justified as they are harsh.  But... 'slut'?  'Whore'?  Translation: Oh hey guys, there's a woman, and the worst thing a woman could do is have sex with people.  For money, no less!  Let's denigrate women everywhere along with the subject by demonising female sexuality and equating prositution - something that millions of women worldwide suffer through every day and try to escape from - with 'women saying things I don't like'.  And you know, a male politician saying the same thing would not have such gendered insults hurled at him.  Criticise the remarks and context, criticise the politics and speaker, but do NOT insult her gender - it has nothing to do with what she said.  Insults like this show possibly as much ignorance as Schlafly's comments.

76 and counting!

The bloglist at the side is getting longer by the day.  To your right you will find radicals, liberals, activists, theorists, columnists, different religions, nationalities, skin colours and, importantly, views.  It's not entirely representative of the online world of feminism but hoepfully it'll get better with time.  As always, if you spot a feminist blog (or even a blog which ties in with the issue without being devoted to the subject) then drop me a line and I'll check it out and, most likely, have it up shortly.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Look

Having got started shifting things around and doing minor changes to layouts and code during the blog move, I thought I might as well continue flying on the wings of motivation and spruce the place up a little. Hence: the new banner! It's a bit wonky as I had to use a permanent marker (having lost my fineliner) and all the ink leached into the paper, but I like it so far.

An explanation

Me and My Army has moved without warning.  Something -not sure what, mind - went oddly wrong with my old blog at apparentlyequal, and I've spent the last few hours getting everything up and running on a new account and deleted the old blog.  I'm sorry about the inconvenience of it all - whilst I doubt I had that many regular readers, I know that plenty of people had linked to me a few times and will now have to seek me out and change their links.  
I'm still typing!

Ain't That Fancy?

The blogroll now shows you exactly when each blog updates, so the old list and asterisk system is now out the window.  The exceptions seem to be Pandagon and the actual blog on the F-Word (though for reviews and features it's fine), for which I can't seem to get a feed.  Both sites still have a link up, though.  Hope you all like the new look!

Friday, August 29, 2008

BBC in 'stupid reporting' non-scandal.

From the BBC Breaking News Alerts in my inbox:

Obama names Biden as running mate

and, a few seconds ago

McCain 'picks woman running mate'

Because, you know, her name isn't important enough to be a headline. Those crazy women are all the same, so rather than give the Republican candidate's newly-chosen running mate a name, we'll just alert everyone to the fact that she has ovaries and only give her an individual identity in the body of the alert. For the record, this woman is Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska. According to the BBC website:
At 44, she is younger than Barack Obama and is credited with reforms during her first term, but she is relatively unknown in US politics.
Well, thanks for making her that little bit more well-known as 'a woman'. She was, apparently, an unorthodox choice when compared to her more high-profile (male, but that's the default so it's not mentioned) rivals for the post, and maybe there is a bit of political motive behind choosing a comparatively young woman considering the high profile of sexism (against Clinton and Michelle Obama, for example) in this race, but I seriously doubt that she was chosen solely based upon the number of X chromosomes she carries. Heavens, her gender would have been clear had they mentioned her name in the headline, but instead the BBC chose to make that her sole identifying factor.
'A woman'.
'A Non-Male'.
'An Other'.
Also, making her femaleness seem more important than it truly is? The BBC is now as patronising as those who think women always vote for women just because they're women.  Sisterhood's all well and good, but there are many other things factoring into our decisions and most of us realise that a vote for Palin is a far cry from a vote from Palin/McCain.  One of them, for example, isn't very pro-woman at all.  Guess which one.
I'll sign off with a few of Palin's achievements, nabbed from her Wikipedia article.

When elected, Palin became the first woman to be Alaska's governor, and the youngest governor in Alaskan history at 42 years old upon taking office. Palin was also the first Alaskan governor born after Alaska achieved U.S. statehood. She was also the first Alaskan governor not to be inaugurated in Juneau, instead choosing to hold her inauguration ceremony in Fairbanks. She took office on December 4, 2006.

Highlights of Governor Palin's tenure include a successful push for an ethics bill, and also shelving pork-barrel projects supported by fellow Republicans. Palin successfully killed the Bridge to Nowhere project that had become a nationwide symbol of wasteful earmark spending.[9][16] "Alaska needs to be self-sufficient, she says, instead of relying heavily on 'federal dollars,' as the state does today."[10]

She has challenged the state's Republican leaders, helping to launch a campaign by Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell to unseat U.S. Congressman Don Young[17] and publicly challenging Senator Ted Stevens to come clean about the federal investigation into his financial dealings.[9] Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard praised Palin as a "politician of eye-popping integrity" and referred to her rise as "a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle—especially to transparency and accountability in government—can produce political success."[10]

In 2007, Palin had an approval rating often in the 90s.[10] A poll published by Hays Research on July 28, 2008 showed Palin's approval rating at 80%.[18]

On the negative side, she is pro-life anti-choice and is in favour of abstinence-only education, she promoted drilling in Alaska, and, despite wanting to reduce greenhouse emissions in the state, is of the belief that global warming has nothing to do with us at all. She opposes same-sex marriage and only grudgingly allowed such couples benefits but excuses this with 'I have gay friends'. THESE are things I'd want to know about a politician, they give insights into what messages a presidential candidate would want to promote, who they are reaching out to. Yes, I say again, her gender may be an ill-advised factor in the decision, an attempt to attract ex-Hillary supporters (how naive) but Palin would not be where she is now had she not also been a successful Republican politician - she's not just 'some woman'. McCain would not want an unpopular, incompetent unknown as his sidekick, regardless of their sex.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't Be That Guy

Just a quick post tonight. Head on over to synecdochic for a detailed explanation of what makes a man in a feminist space into That Guy - the self-absorbed, entitled, careless idiot who couldn't give a damn about what you think because his opinion's way more important than any woman's. This one point rang very true for me. When I talk about rape, or unfair treatment, or the damage patriarchal society causes to people, I spend half my time* in arguments tying myself in knots trying to take everyone's experiences into account so that I don't get guys doing this, as they inevitably will:

6. Co-Opting The Argument.

Okay, if you're still with me, first of all, thank you. Second of all, I'm about to say something that (in my experience) makes a vast majority of men I've ever said this to sit up, open their mouths, and say "But --":

The absolute last words you should ever say in a discussion of sexual assault are "men can be raped too".

Or "but men can be falsely accused of rape". Or, well, pretty much anything that attempts to shift the focus of the conversation, subtly or not-so-subtly, away from women's problems and onto men's problems.

Because most women have spent their entire lives living in a world where it's All About Men's Problems. (In fact, we can generalize that: most people without $Privilege have spent their entire lives living in a world where it's All About $Privileged_Group's Problems.) When a discussion is happening among people without a particular privilege, it's ridiculously common for a member of the privileged group to come across it, see that rage or upset directed towards the people with the privilege, feel like they personally are being attacked (because they are a member of that group!) and leap in, guns blazing, to talk about how their group is also affected by the systematic brokenness of our society.

This doesn't calm the rage. I think it's probably pretty safe to say that no woman, ever, has heard the words "men can be falsely accused of rape" and suddenly said "Yes! You're right! Let's stop talking about how angry we are that women worry about being raped and start talking about how angry we are that men worry about being falsely accused of rape!" Whether or not it is a problem (and I so do not want to have that debate, and if you're tempted to bring it up in comments, please go reread points 1-6 again), by co-opting the argument like that, by attempting to re-focus the argument like that, your actions will be taken as not giving a shit. Your actions will be taken as trying to make it All About You.

On the surface, this can look like women doing the very same thing I've been cautioning you against: them trying to say that your experience isn't valid, and that their way of viewing the world is the only way possible. And yeah, in some rhetorical circles, that might be happening, because women are no more automatically enlightened than men are. Having a vagina does not make a woman automatically not-an-asshole any more than having a penis automatically makes a man an asshole.

But ultimately, the fundamental difference is this: because men are the group with the privilege, every conversation, if not stated otherwise, is assumed to be about men's worldviews and men's issues. And for a woman (who's used to running smack into that default assumption a hundred times a day), finding that she's in the middle of a very good conversation about something that matters to her in a place where her worldview is being given due weight and consideration can be so tremendously uplifting that to have someone come in and (in essence) say "Whups, just kidding, let's restore that status quo, it's still all about me" is either a). very frightening, or b). very enraging.

Co-opting the conversation like that is a rhetoric-specific form of Point #1 all the way back up there. By coming into a conversation in that fashion, it does not matter what your intention is. There is a much-greater-than-nontrivial chance that the women who are listening will view it as an expression of entitlement and a manifestation of your privilege. And in a predominantly-female space, there is a much-greater-than-nontrivial chance that the women inhabiting that space will feel empowered to tell you to sit the hell down and shut the fuck up.

Sometimes it is not about you. If you have ever received a LiveJournal response anywhere along the lines of "your life, so hard", or "let me tell you, internet, it is tough being a white man", or "get off the cross, we need the wood", this is a sign that you have been That Guy.

Does this make you angry? Does it make you feel upset? Do you feel like your right to speak, like your right to be heard, has been silenced?

That's the space many women live in all the time. And we can't put it down and go back to a place where that silencing doesn't exist the way you can. Because for us, the conversation you just took over was that space, and we are sick and tired of repeating this fact over and over and over again.

Don't be That Guy.

*This is difficult in fast-paced online arguments where, by the time I've finished writing my all-inclusive, non-judgemental post with full disclaimer, people have moved several points on and my post is now out of context. Oh, and people are now discussing how hard it is to be a man, regardless of the original subject.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reclaim the night? I do it all the time.

The ghetto boys are cat-calling me as I pull my keys from my pocket
I wonder if this method of courtship has ever been effective?
Has any girl in history said, "Sure, you seem so nice, let's get it on"?
Still I always shock them when I answer, 'Hi, my name's Amanda'.

Amanda Palmer, "Ampersand"

Time for some anecdotes!
When it comes to acts of personal feminist freedom, I, like many other, have to do it alone. I've never shaved my legs, but until recently I wouldn't bare them at all outside of the swimming pool or P.E. class either. So going out and overcoming the self-conciousness of showing my legs at all, and them being the unpopular hairy kind on top of that, was a bit of a challenge at first. Now I chuck on a shirt, skirt and shoes and stride down to the shops without a care in the world, no tights necessary. It took a while, but I got there. One thing that I had to do without the chance of phasing it in, however, was walking home at night. Alone.

I'm not talking about a quick walk down a couple of streets from a nearby corner shop or a friend's house. This is a half-hour journey from a pub or nightclub when I've missed the bus (one-hour wait at a quiet bus-stop in the small hours of the morning? No.) and there are no taxis in sight. I can't book taxis from these places, it's against their policy, and calling them, as I have done a few times, will lead to a minimum half-hour wait - on my own, again. Sometimes I stay the night with a friend and head off at a more sensible hour. If we're both out and leaving at the same time I can walk about half the journey with a different friend before we split off in opposite directions, which still leaves me with a twenty-minute lonely walk ahead. Like it or not, the choice is often waiting around alone or getting a move on, also alone. The latter strikes me as more sensible. I'm sober, I'll be able to walk fast and I won't lose my bearings.

So what can I expect as I march through the town, head held high like I couldn't care less? Leers. Cat-calls. Occasionally ducking into a nearby late-night eatery if I think I'm being followed (which has happened before). Oh, you get different kinds of harassment. Some try to 'converse' with you - 'Hi, how are you, you look tired, where've you been?' These men tend to persist until you take a different direction to them, ignoring the fact that I'm stonewalling them asnd clearly have no interest. Others swerve and block my path, forcing me to look at them as I avoid them. Groups in cars (usually on the way out to meet everyone) whoop and holler. Some men don't seem interested in anything other than pissing you off - they walk past you, saying 'You, me, in here.' whilst staring at you, but never drop their pace and continue walking straight past, seemingly just to make you feel like a piece of meat. There is nothing to do with attraction* here - I just happen to be a woman with no male guardian. When I'm with a female friend, we draw fewer comments but still get them - when I'm with a male friend, we get none. The worst kind is the man leaning casually against a wall, who notices you and leers at you as you pass, continuing to stare as you go down the street. I always check a second time with this kind, as I don't want to have to shake off and lose someone in a residential area again.

I also notice that I'm often the only girl walking home alone. Other women are in crowds of friends or, if they are alone, they clearly weren't on a night out in the first place. This very thing seems to attract unwanted attention, as if a man walking solo down the street is somehow 'normal' but I'm a weird freak of nature. What with all the warnings against being a woman alone, and my actual experience with men (and yes, it's men, a lot of them each night and not just one or two. When I get harassed even once by a woman, for being a woman, then I'll stop talking exclusively about the men.) on the street, I'm not surprised.
I tend to wait out the night with others more and more these days.

*Especially as men behave quite differently when they are trying to attract you as opposed to merely piss you off and intimidate you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm glad I hadn't fetched my tea just there...

... for I most assuredly would have spat it all over my monitor. The Guardian reports that rape victims are having some of their compensation withheld if, before they were attacked, they had been drinking alcohol.

I'll break that down for those who don't quite understand this.

1) A woman goes out for a drink, or has a glass or two at home before going out.
2) A man, who statistically speaking has probably also been drinking*, attacks the woman.
3) If the man had indeed been under the influence it has for a long time been seen as a mitigating factor (by the public and thus, the juries as well as a few terrible judges) as his 'judgement was impaired' and he may have thought the woman was 'leading him on' when she wasn't. This can sometimes lead to reduced sentences despite the fact that whether he was drunk or not is hard to prove unless he was caught and breathalysed pretty quickly.
4) However, because the woman was drinking, instead of punishing the man for breaking the law and taking advantage of a women in a more vulnerable state than him, she is being punished for doing something that isn't against the law at all, in a public place where almost everyone else was doing the same thing as her and where there were no warnings that there was a rapist in the room.

Punishing the woman for having the audacity to hope that she wouldn't be raped is quite simply abhorrent. This is victim blaming, being thrust in the faces of women who are already traumatised enough by their ordeal as it is.

Helen, a beauty therapist who has not worked since the incident, said: "When I read the CICA letter I just had no words; I could not take it in. It felt like I was being punished for having the audacity to step up and say 'I don't think this should have happened to me.' It was like going back to the 70s, saying 'she was asking for it'. How else could you read the letter but as saying it's my fault I was raped?"

Helen told the CICA she had been drinking but did not say how much alcohol she consumed. The police submission said it was "possible" her behaviour had contributed to the incident, because she had drunk a "large amount" of alcohol.

Maybe I'm just reading a slightly ambiguous section wrongly, but sounds to me like the police are taking a few liberties here. She didn't disclose how much she'd had to drink- does that mean she gave an unspecific estimate of 'a lot' or did she just say she'd had something to drink and then someone else decided she'd had 'a lot' because, in some peoples' minds, drunk women are the only women who get raped? I can't tell from this. However, the police should know better than to say that being drunk makes a women a rape target. As we all should know by now, the likelihood of a woman being raped is dramatically increased by her proximity to a rapist. There aren't little disembodied penises that fly around targeting any woman with a glass of wine or a pint in her hand, no matter where she is.

In a second statement, issued later, the CICA said a mistake had been made in Helen's case and its policy was not to reduce awards to rape victims on the basis of alcohol consumption.

Oh, really. So how come 14 victims in the past year have had this very thing happen to them? Clearly there's something going on here. Hopefully, this won't be happening in the future but, cynic that I am, I don't think this is the last case of its kind that we'll be hearing. CICA may try to make amends, but they're a drop in the ocean. Attitudes still haven't changed in many places.

*In this study, for example, over half of the men who had attacked women had been under the influence.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Support for working mothers declining

Ugh. Go read it, click the title. Public opinion is turning against working mothers (more so) as, both here and across the pond, surveys show that more and more people are believing that those women who have kids and also go out to work are compromising their family life.

"While British attitudes are more egalitarian than in the 1980s, there are signs that support for gender equality may have hit a high point some time during the 1990s," said Scott. "When it comes to the clash between work and family life, doubts about whether a woman should be doing both are starting to creep in."

First, I can't help but notice that the public opinion of what a family is consists, yet again, of mummy, daddy and the kids. I'm not sure that the 'family life' of single mothers would be vastly improved if they dropped out of the workforce and relied solely upon benefits purely so that they can fit into the idealised role of the stay-at-home mother*. I'm sure that their children are happier when there's money coming in too, but maybe I'm just crazy. What about stay-at-home fathers, are they just not up to scratch? And as for lesbian couples who are allowed to adopt here, which of them counts as 'house-mummy'? Dear public - think. Cheers.

Focussing upon the 'traditional' family now. There are poor families. There have ALWAYS been poor families, and in these families a second income is extremely helpful. Not every family unit is fortunate enough to be able to rely solely upon Daddy's income. There seems to be this bizarre notion flying about that, 'back in the day', no married woman ever did any work outside of the home, taking her away from her children. What wash. When living below the poverty line, it has always been that those women able to bring in more money for the family have gone out to do work along with the father. They may have been able to get the children looked after by the extended family, friends or neighbours, or they may have had to hope that the children could look after each other, but when times are hard women have always tried to do something about it. It's about survival, about looking after yourself and your offspring. It is, in short, motherhood.

Moving on to the middle classes - the ones with a well-earning father where the woman 'chooses' to work. (Note that Daddy never 'chooses' to work, it's just assumed that he will be the default. No matter if Mummy was also working successfully before her marriage and the birth of her children, once that wedding band's on it's her who's choosing.) If both parents are working, the numbers show that it is still the woman shouldering most of the parental role. Oh, no doubt that more and more fathers are taking a more active role in family life aside from breadwinning, but in a breakdown of hours, mothers are still disproportionately more busy here. They are the ones organising the babysitters, cooking and clearing up, laundering the football kits and so on. They are getting more worn out in general - social attitudes about the division of family labour here aren't equalising at the same pace as working rights, and women are feeling the pressure as a result. At the same time, many workplaces aren't adjusting to allow for the flexible hours that such women require. Women do still want to be there with their children, particularly at the beginning, but for some dropping out for a year may mean losing their job or being demoted to a lower-paid role. If they do manage to hang on their careers, not everyone can afford a full-time nanny upon their return to the workforce. So, juggling difficult work hours with their household roles is hard and this will have a knock-on effect for their family if the struggle is particularly bad, making more mothers feel that they must make the decision between working and having a family.

Social attitudes are clearly outdated too. There's still the idea of mummy always being there personally for her children, the father being an authoritative but slightly more distant figure. Many people grew up with this, little boys and girls grew into men and women without ever having this notion challenged, and the lesson is sometimes hard to unlearn. It's time we started teaching our children that a family is no longer about gender roles. When children grow up expecting to be modern parents as opposed to the traditional Mummy or Daddy, change will be far closer than it is now. We're getting there. There's been progress. But we aren't at the finishing line yet.

*I say idealised, but I do recognise that many women who do want to stay at home receive a lot of flack for it. You just can't win, t'would seem.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A few tweaks

I'm on holiday and have far too much free time on my hands, so I'm doing a bit of belated spring cleaning here. I was horrified to discover how lax I've been with the blogroll, which I sadly discovered contained a fair few dead blogs. It's always a loss when another feminist stops typing online, though it's encouraging to note that one or two had stopped typing in order to better pursue 'real-life' feminist work and activism. To these women I send my best wishes. Others had deleted blogs in disgust with the world of online feminism, or have been so hounded by trolls that, if they haven't stopped for good, they now blog privately to only a select audience. Unfortunately, I found myself deleting more links than I merely updated. I hope that next time the list will grow, not shrink - and in the spirit of this, head on over to The Angry Black Woman, the newest addition to the list! As always, if you you enjoy a feminist blog which isn't in the sidebar, send me the link and I'll add it in.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There are tennis fans...

... and then there are fans of women who play tennis. Or rather, their bottoms.
Yep, it's summertime here in Great Britain and the charming, world-class tournament that is Wimbledon has begun. The men's games have been reported upon fairly normally, with all the disappointment and excitement directed at various players' performances. The women's games have also been receiving the same depressing commentary as always - aside from a bit of cursory critique of each player's ability on court, the majority of the mainstream coverage of the sport has, yet again, been about the ladies' bodies and clothing choice.

This year though, instead of just posting a million upskirt shots, the tabloids (and, unfortunately, some of the more upscale papers) have had something to complain about. Guess what? One of the lovely lassies isn't conforming to their fantasies. Maria Sharapova, one of the world's best tennis players who won the Wimbledon women's tournament against the favourite and defending champion Serena Williams at just 17 years of age in 2004, has decided that she'd like to play wearing shorts this year. Nothing too tight or too baggy, neither too long nor too short; just a pair of white fitted women's shorts, allowing her comfort and freedom of movement without having to worry about what kind of underwear she has on as they will always be hidden from the crowd. Why not? I'd do the same - personally, if I were in her position, playing tennis in front of millions of viewers and knowing that there are tonnes of seedy reporters who will jump at the idea of plastering my arse all over their front pages without my permission, perhaps wearing shorts might encourage them to consider my gameplay instead. Y'know, like they do with the men's tournament. And hey, her legs are still visible, her outfit is shaped and fitted, so if they really must comment upon her body it's still there to see. In fact, you'll notice from the picture that she's showing more or less the same amount of skin in her shorts as in her dress. Millions of women participate in sports dressed in similar attire every day - it is practical and comfortable, doesn't flap around and generally does the job of covering you up without negatively affecting your gameplay. Which is what all basic sportswear should do.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this point I must confess that I am utterly, completely bored. I want to get angry about something, or maybe be pleasantly surprised. With this in mind, let's see what that beacon of bad taste, The Sun, has to say on the subject.

DISMAYED tennis fans yesterday condemned Maria Sharapova’s new Wimbledon shorts as pants.

They reckoned the leggy Russian babe will look far too manly — and asked: Where are the tiny skirts we love so much?


Roofer Steve Johnson, 35, of Earlsfield, South London, said: “I come here for the tennis but there’s no denying it’s a bonus to watch some of the women players running around in short skirts.

“Sharapova’s a great player but I feel she’s letting down blokes in the crowd by opting to wear shorts.”

Marketing executive Gary Olsen, 40, of Bristol, said: “Sharapova’s a great looking girl and a great talent.

“But I don’t understand why she feels the need to recreate the look of Martina Navratilova.”

It's okay, folks - I've taken my tranquillizers today and have none of that dreaded PMT that will no doubt turn me into a raging monster incapable of rational thought*, so your country is safe! Also, here's a personal confession - I think a lot of the tennis players today are hot. The men and women on court, and in many other sports (rowing, anyone?) are physically stunning as a result of their training. However, there's a difference between "casually noting that the athletes are good-looking" and "reducing 50% of the players to their collective body parts and sex-appeal and normalising this in the media", which is what I'm taking issue with today.
Firstly, using Martina Navratilova as an insult is probably one of the worst things here, because it shows how common the judgement of women by their appearance is. Yes, Navratilova did wear shorts on court. She's also the former World #1 Women's Tennis player, and has been described as "The greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who's ever lived", but that's irrelevant because she didn't pander to the heterosexual male gaze, which is the whole point of women's tennis don't'cha know.
'Letting down the blokes'?! Here's the thing, Mr. Johnson - Sharapova does not spend all her time playing in tournaments and training to stay in peak physical form just so the lads can have a nice bit of totty to ogle once a year. This is her CAREER. She enjoys tennis and is so fucking good at it that she can play in the biggest event of the year and have a good chance of winning. She is an athlete, not a Hooters waitress, and her future in the world of tennis rests upon her being able to play the sport better than the vast majority of people, not upon whether you can see her bum and give it marks out of ten.
Moving on to Mr. Olsen. I can't help feeling he only chucked the word 'talent' in there as a nod to decency, to stop people saying he's just a dirty old man. As we've already established that, standing still, Sharapova's outfit reveals no less than her previous ones, we can gather that he, and the other men in these articles, are angry because they can't look up a young woman's skirt. Allow me to spell out in simple terms, Gary, the possible reasons for her decision to wear shorts.

  • She wants to.
  • She is fed up of having people like you, strangers she's never met, passing comment upon her like catcallers in the street.
  • There are no rules against wearing shorts.

What's all this about her being manly? So WHAT if her attire is a tiny bit less feminine than before? So WHAT if her knickers aren't on display? She's a woman making a choice about what she wants to wear. Her clothes do nothing to conceal the fact that she is female, in fact, if you are calling her outfit masculine then I suggest that you imagine Roger Federer wearing the same ensemble.
Whilst it's not as 'ladylike' as the tennis skirt, it's still a far cry from what's considered 'menswear'. But even if it were utterly manly, why does it matter so much?


Because women's tennis, never forget, has little to do with tennis. The sport is just to get the ladies moving and bouncing for the men. Then, when the tournament has ended, you can see all those women you have been feverishly fantasising about naked in Playboy magazine. These women, these world-class athletes, these sporting role-models, just aren't doing their job if they don't dress up all feminine and sexy for the men. If they aren't getting their bums out for the lads, what right do they have to be on court? What's the point of women entering Wimbledon if they're just... going to play tennis?

*It's true! That's what menstruation does! I read it on the internet somewhere!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CEO Barbie 'unrealistic'

Post title is the link. This is The Onion's take on the recent news that women on Wall street are rarely found in the top spots.

Image originally found at Feministing.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sex(ual violence) and the City

Click the title for info. Police appeal here.

On Thursday night 5 women, aged between 20 and 36, were indecently assaulted over an area covering the city centre and west end between 6:15pm and 7:45pm. Analysis of CCTV footage and victims' testimonies have lead the police to suspect that all 5 attacks were carried out by the same man, and one woman was attacked TWICE. Here's the suspect:

These women were not 'out alone after dark' as at this time of the year they would have been travelling in broad daylight - and these areas aren't the most deserted at these times, either. Get those stereotypes right out of your mind.
I've only just heard about this and can't really comment at the moment. Check back later.

Death in the City

On the morning of the 29th May, the body of Moira Jones was found in Queen's Park on the south side of Glasgow. The following day, another woman, Eleni Patchou was found stabbed to death in the west end, as a result of a robbery at the restaurant where she worked. No link has been drawn between to two attacks.
A sentiment I heard expressed a few times by several people was that the woman in the park 'was probably African and/or a prostitute'. The area around Queen's Park does have a larger concentration of ethnic minority people, but why does that matter? Does it some how make it less of a crime if the victim had darker skin, or if she had to sell her body to make a living? And WHY did they assume she was a sex worker? There are prostitutes of all backgrounds (and sexes, but a male murder victim is never assumed to be a prostitute) all over the city, and yet I'd never heard this assumption made so soon after other attacks! Right away, before any information other than the sex of the victim had been released, people were making racist, classist and sexist assumptions and expressing them in a way as if such circumstances made this any less of the tragic and horrific crime that it was. Oh, and for the record? She was a white, UK-born sales consultant. What assumptions will people make with that information, I wonder?
No-one has been arrested in the case of Eleni Patchou, who was a trainee manager at the west-end restaurant. She was the last person left and was locking up after closing time when the attack occurred. No assumptions were made about her background. No-one was dismissive. Everyone was shocked, angered and saddened. Both investigations are ongoing. Neither of these women deserved their fate. I hope that the families of both victims receive justice and murdering bastards are found soon.

UPDATE: The GFN is holding a vigil to honour the memory of the female victims of violence in the city.

Eleni Pachou. Moira Jones. Michelle Reid. Jeannette Cooper. These are the names of four women killed in Glasgow so far this year. Some have already received more media footage than others - there may well be more names to add to this list, names that never reached the newspapers.

Last Thursday five woman were sexually assaulted in Glasgow in the space of an hour and a half - the Thursday before that, Moira Jones' body was found. The day after, Eleni Pachou.

The women of Glasgow - the women of the world - should not have to live in fear of men's violence.

We will be holding a vigil in George Square, at 6pm this Friday the 13th, to commemorate the lives of Eleni, Moira, Michelle, Jeannette, and all the women we've lost.

This will be a peaceful vigil with singing, flowers and candles. It will be a time to grieve for the women we've lost - but also a time to stand up, be counted, and let everyone know... we won't stand for this anymore. Violence against women must stop, and until our society changes, more women will die needlessly at the hands of men everyday.

We must let the city know that the women of this city are not and will not be victims. We invite men to attend this vigil and be bold about their refusal to participate in a culture then denigrates, objectifies and, ultimately, kills women.

Join us. Please forward this message, and invite your loved ones to attend with you.

In memory and in rage,

Glasgow Feminist Network x


Weeks after the event *headpalm* here's my account of the pro-choice protest in Glasgow on Monday 19th May.

I arrived there at a little past the starting time of 5.30pm, and there was already at good crowd of around 30 people there, chanting and waving placards. I picked up a 'Keep abortion safe, free and legal' sign and located some of my friends from the Glasgow Feminist Network. Aside from us there were several groups represented incuding Glasgow University's Labour group, Socialists and several others. There were men and women of many ages there, and one woman near me had brought along her baby, who sat in their pram and wooped with glee whenever we cheered! Just goes to show that being pro-choice doesn't mean you are anti-life. Helping to direct the event was a woman from the Socialist group whom I had met previously at the protest at Glasgow University Union.

As opposed to just standing and chanting, several speakers had been called out to speak about the importance of a woman's right to choose. Once they had all been out there was an open megaphone to anyone in the protest who had something to say. And boy, did I have something to say after spotting the 'Pro-Life' group across the way:

'Women need love, and who are they *points* to say we don't love them - after all, one way to show how much you love someone is to TRUST them to know what's best for themselves!'
Some of them had stuck 'Life' labels over their mouths. Whether they were trying to show us up as loud-mouthed bullies as well as pretending to be silenced if up for discussion, but the result of the vote on Tuesday showed that speaking out is better for supporters of women's rights than hoping for the best and shutting up. We'll be keeping our megaphones, thankyou!
One rather telling thing that I noticed was that, compared to our gathering, the other protest was about a third of our size. We were definitely the Pro-choice Majority.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Full post tomorrow

But for now, a memento from Monday's protest in Glasgow and a message to all the anti-choicers out there:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Spot the Harry Enfield fan

All I've been doing online is procrastinating, it would seem. To pass the time, here, my new t-shirt (on my chest, SHOCKHORRORWHATASLUT!). Cheap black t-shirts and tippex make for some good fun.
(For those who don't know, here's the reference:)

I wore it out to a club last night and had quite a few compliments! I'm going to make myself a few more less in-jokey shirts as well - I don't have the money to order nicely made stuff online, but that doesn't mean I can't have anything! Ideas for the next design, anyone?
Enjoy the rest of your weekends, mi'dears, and I'll try and get something serious written soon.

UPDATE: Next design!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I finalised my decisions; I'm going to medical school this year!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The pay gap - undervaluing womb-carriers.

Click the title for more. The TUC has discovered that the pay gap - you know, that thing which doesn't exist? - trebles as women get older.

The difference between men's and women's pay more than trebles when women reach their 30s, TUC research revealed today. It found women leaving school at 16 and going into a full-time job earn 9.7% more than their male contemporaries. But from the age of 18 - and throughout the rest of their working lives - they earn less than men.

In their 20s, the pay gap for full-timers is a modest 3.3%, but in their 30s women take home 11.2% less than the men. And in their 40s - the peak age for discrimination - the gap rises to 22.8%. The TUC said the undervaluing of women in the workplace was partly due to a "motherhood penalty".

Got that? A pay gap is always there, with 16-17 year-old boys getting less and then women getting less as soon as they are a legal adult.
The gap has been blamed upon jobs being built around traditionally male skills and lives - 'soft' skills aren't valued and, if you parent a child and want to be able to divide your time effectively for that, the 'top jobs' are inhospitable. As women are more likely than men to do the majority of time-consuming parenting, they cluster in the lower jobs where they can get necessary leave, work at home etc. and don't go for promotions that they are qualified for. As for part-time work, women are earning over a fifth less than their male counterparts per hour in that area.
Yes, this is discrimination against mothers and indeed any parent. If you are prevented from attaining a senior role because it fails to acknowledge your role as a parent - not just a parent, a MOTHER (who will likely be earning less than a father), that is discrimination. People are complaining all the time about an ageing population, yet in a world like this is it any wonder that women put off childrearing for longer? Having jobs which are technically open to everyone but weighted heavily in men's favour due to an emphasis on masculinity and inflexible hours is discriminatory. It IS possible to have flexible hours for the top jobs, to be able to do some work from home etc. Many successful companies have proven this. Why are we making it so difficult for half the population to progress in their careers?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cheer up

A muppety video, 'Put Another Log On The Fire'.

Bumped frae Feministing.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Why I'm a Feminist

On Saturday the Glasgow Feminist network held a public participatory reading at Borders entitled 'Why I'm a Feminist'. Instead of coming along and having an author or scholar do all the talking, people brought along books and materials that opened their eyes to the fight for gender equality.
I searched around for something by Ensler or Dworkin or Greer or... well any of the feminist authors in my bookshelves that would sum up my reasons, but no-one truly represented my reasons for being a feminist. I then forgot about it until the day, and with nothing else to read I wrote down my piece on both sides of an A4 sheet and jumped on the subway into town without editing or re-reading (looking back, I'm proud that I remembered my statistics correctly!). Here it is with added references.

I wasn't always a feminist. When I was a little girl I just assumed I would be treated fairly... or better than boys because they were smelly and I was pretty and a princess and everybody loved me, of course - but even then there were signs that I was wrong. An example of this is the nursery picture books I loved. There was mummy the housewife or the beautiful queen, and there was daddy the farmer, baker, banker, king, outdoor hero, he-who-saves-one-from-the-big-bad-wolf. The princess would love being pretty, was chastised for messiness and a temper (also known as an opinion) and always needed a prince for lifelong happiness. Lastly, the doctors were men and the nurses were women. Always.
I internalised all of this. I hated trousers and Lego because those were for my brother and told Dad that I wanted to be a nurse "because that's what girls do". He told me that was good and nursing is an honourable profession, but girls could be doctors too. I didn't believe him. (I recently discovered that, around this time, my mum finished her job as a research Biologist not only because she wanted to see her children more but also because she was being given a hard time at work since giving birth to us.)
Then I entered the real world. A world where famous chefs are men but we'd never dream of giving a boy a toy kitchen or iron or anything domestic because it's too feminising. A world where Wal-Mart pulled a line of T-shirts featuring a girl saying 'Someday a woman will be president' because it was in some way 'anti-family values' yet kept the one of a boy shoving an 'uppity' girl ("Problem solved!") despite the worldwide epidemic of domestic violence. A world where I'm told to be scared to go out after dark, even though statistically I'm 10 times more at risk of victimisation from an intimate whilst my brother's more likely to be, and has been attacked by a stranger when out. Where the woman who married Steve Wright, the Ipswich murderer, was recently asked if she thought that if only she'd had more sex with her husband, he wouldn't have seen and killed those women. Where my bodily freedom is government-controlled, whether I want to plan or end a pregnancy. Where I'm 'asking for it' if I get raped whilst drunk even though the majority of rapists are inebriated when they attack, yet that somehow excuses them. Where I'm still likely, in our modern country, to be paid less and given fewer opportunities than my male counterparts, where male violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities to 15-44 year olds than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war put together, where almost a third of the British public say violence against women is absolutely fine and half - 50%, one-in-two! - say domestic violence is a private matter that should remain behind closed doors where we can't hear or do anything about it - and where people who say they want this all changed for the better are called man-haters, crazy, or worst of all, ugly fat spinsters *cue mock distress*.

I don't have the answers to this. I believe that my position is perfectly logical and morally right, and I want people to know that when half the population of the world is poorer, less healthy and more frightened than the other, I care. I want REAL equality, new attitudes, men proud to be sensitive and women proud to be assertive; people being who they are as opposed to what they are told they should be.

And I'm going to med school this year.
Your future doctor is a feminist.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Lord wants virgin nurses or no nurses

Well, not quite, but Lord Mancroft is clearly shocked that the nurses looking after him have sex.

Lord Mancroft told the House of Lords that he was treated at the hospital in 2007, and described the nurses as "grubby and drunken".

"The nurses that looked after me were mostly grubby. We're talking about dirty fingernails, slipshod, lazy."

The hospital said it had received no complaint but would be contacting Lord Mancroft to discuss the matter.

Yes, nurses should be held to high standards, should take care of their appearance and personal hygiene as a fundamental requirement of working with hospital patients. And DRUNKEN, you say? They were drinking on the job? They should be sacked!
Oh, no. Nothing so serious. Here's what he ACTUALLY means.

"It's a miracle I'm still alive. But worst of all my Lords they were drunken and promiscuous."

"How do I know that? Because if you're a patient and you're lying in a bed, and you're being nursed from either side, they talk across you as if you're not there.

"So I know exactly what they got up to the night before, and how much they drank, and I know exactly what they were planning to do the next night, and I can tell you, it's pretty horrifying."

Emphasis mine.
Nurses shouldn't act like the patient isn't there and shouldn't gab about their personal lives whilst caring for patients, but come ON! WORST OF ALL? Not the lack of hygiene, the careless attitudes, the laziness - no, these nurses DRINK! and have SEX!!! like MEN do sometimes!!!!!!!!! Pass the bleeding smelling salts, I'm not prepared to be cared for by human beings with lives outside their work. If I'm not going to be nursed by teetotal virgin angels that have no vaginas, or at the very least women who pretend to be just like this, I'd rather not be cared for at all.

That's what Mancroft's insinuating, perhaps with less melodrama. By his own wording, he's treating the fact that these nurses go out, drink, and have sex in their free time with as much horror as if they had been drunkenly humping the patients themselves. The real complaints to be found here are

  • that the nurses weren't maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene and therefore could be putting patient health at risk
  • were discourteous towards their charges
  • were scruffy and unprofessional, and
  • that drinking heavily the night before going into work could impair their ability to deliver a high standard of care (whilst discussing this in front of a patient will do nothing for their trust in their carers).

THOSE are complaints. 'My nurses like alcohol and have libidos' is not.

Dear Lord Mancroft,

Grow up, lodge real complaints and stop slut-shaming.


No "kisskisskiss for you". That might be too slutty for your tastes.

NOTE: Click the title of this post for the BBC article. Neat, huh? Please tell me if you prefer this format or not.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Doctors are supposed to help, right?

Back at the start of November I got ill. Very ill. Can't-get-out-of-bed, can't-eat-due-to-severe-pain ill. It turned out that I'd come down with a nasty case of tonsillitis, so I saw a doctor for the first time since I broke my arm 10 years ago. She was sympathetic and patient, she listened to my concerns and symptoms, gave me a quick once-over and prescribed me a ten day course of penicillin. This particular GP has a long waiting list of patients who prefer to see her, and she must've been busy, yet I couldn't have hoped for better treatment at such short notice.

Fast forward to today. Since my tonsillitis was treated I've had a persistent cough, at one point coughing up thick discoloured mucus for a period of at least 2 weeks. I've had aches and pains, suffered lethargy and disrupted, irregular sleeping patterns, and have been much paler than usual. I'd been working in a pharmacy over Christmas helping people with common winter cold and flu related problems, which may not have been great for my weakened immune system but gave me a fairly good grounding in the basics of what is and isn't normal, and from my personal knowledge of my own health I knew this wasn't a normal cold - they used to be the only health problem I'd have, getting them once a year, and I'd have shaken it off in, at most, a fortnight. This was my first long-term illness; yet still I was prepared to leave it for as long as possible in the hope I'd fight it off unassisted. However, today I finally gave in a saw a GP. Not the same one as last time. He was also a busy man, of course, and I understand that he has many patients to see - but this didn't warrant his interrupting me as I listed my symptoms to 'remind' me that he had house visits to do, as if I'd just popped in for a chat without making an appointment. I was instantly made to feel like a nuisance. My sleeping problems were brushed off with standard advice that I'd seen before - 'try reading, don't use the computer near bedtime, cut down on caffeine,drink something warm and milky, gentle midday exercise, warm baths' - which I'd tried before, but felt so belittled that I didn't say. I wish I had. He looked a little put out when I explained that no, I wasn't a student, nor was I undergoing any stressful points (or at least, not for the full 3 months!). I guess I he realised I wasn't so easily brushed off. My cough was diagnosed, after some chest-hearing, as a viral cough - these are fairly common after an infection like I've had, and can take a while to go away, and I was advised to come back in another month if it hadn't subsided. This is fine, I understand this, but the way it was delivered just made it sound more like he was dismissing me as a hypochondriac than as someone who has a very slim medical file and no history of such complaints who has a very good reason to be worried. On the plus side, my paleness and lethargy was plain to see and he ordered some blood tests done - I suspect anaemia (like my mother has) or some other deficiency, I'll find out when my results come in next week.

This reminded me of another case I heard. A friend of my mother once came in in a fury and said, "If your daughter becomes a doctor, make sure she doesn't become a pompous git!" Her own daughter is away at university and had been suffering from a variety of stress-related and other health problems, and eventually went to see a GP. He basically looked down his nose at her and dismissed her concerns as 'women's problems' and that he 'suspected you girls get these complaints all the time'. Seriously! She has problems which she hasn't had before, goes to see a doctor as any concerned person would, and is told she's overreacting and a silly little girl!

Why are so many doctors - and I hate to say it, but the majority of such complaints I hear seem to be about male GPs towards female patients - such condescending arseholes? They are trained and paid to help all their patients without making them feel like they're stupid or making stuff up. No WONDER the first GP has such a long waiting list, when some of the others at the practise are so unsympathetic. 'Women's problems'? How about, instead of packaging up all sorts of complaints into these two words (which seem to have become short-hand for 'unimportant time-wasting matters'), the doctors explain to the patients the possible causes for their complaints and, if it IS possibly related to hormonal changes in a woman's body, help her to understand what's happening and give ways to help cope instead of dismissing her? We don't get a lot of readily-available information about our bodies aside from 'you'll grow breasts and have periods during puberty. This may hurt a little. Try not to get pregnant or infected if you must have sex. Eventually you'll be unable to have children, so remember to have plenty when you're young or you'll regret not contributing to our already oversized population and following the urges you must have if you're a real woman.' A lot of the changes caused by hormones and the possible discomfort this can cause is ignored, so when women DO experience them it can be worrying or even frightening, so WHY DON'T DOCTORS UNDERSTAND THIS? More to the point, why do we have to go so much out of our way to find out about such things?


[UPDATE: All this 'medical rape' stuff recently just got me even more riled. Men and women across the medical establishment are ignoring their own patients. All these stories are coming from women - that is the one common factor in these tales so far, it is WOMEN who are feeling that they have been truly violated, although there are men who are also having their concerns and voices ignored. Where is all this arrogance coming from? Why are doctors, nurses and midwives ignoring the need for their patients to consent to any and all procedures, failing to see how traumatic it can be to have ANYONE force ANYTHING upon someone who's already in a vulnerable state? Are doctors also carrying out prostate exams on men whilst they're repeatedly told to stop, or are they only forcing things into women 'for their own good'? WHAT'S GOING ON?]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Making up for lost time

I've been dormant recently. I had so many idea for posts, so much on my mind, and yet didn't type a word. Everything in this post will be a brief game of catch-up, but will summarise a few things for me to expand upon when I get my head together, get all my university interviews right out of the way, relax and stop worrying and learn to love the bomb.

Firstly, I must again direct you to my best friend's blog, Ramblings of Today's Yoof. She's got a list of facts and has checked it more often than Santa would, so head on over there for info on health, alternative contraceptives and cosmetics, politics and why feminism is still important. Link's in the sidebar!

As I mentioned previously, the ever-outspoken Ann Widdecombe came to our fair city back in January, her only stop made at a Scottish university. I have a few things to say about the chosen venue, the Glasgow University Union, so prod me about that later. The talk was on the Embryology Bill which, although not containing anything about abortion itself, would be replacing the old Bill which does influence the laws on abortion here in the UK. A demonstration was organised by the university's Labour group, and many other groups - the Glasgow Feminist Network being one - were in attendance. It was immensely encouraging to see such a good turnout, with men and women of many kinds out in protest against the current efforts of anti-choicers to lower the current UK abortion limit from 24 weeks to 12 or less, all supporting the right of women to have full reproductive justice. Unfortunately entrance to the talk itself was restricted, and as I was not a member of the student union or already signed up to attend I was barred entry - though many people did get in, and from what I hear there was a lot of rhetoric and the old implication, based upon a single anecdote, that women having abortions make fast, rash decisions without thinking them through properly and always regret them afterwards, so of COURSE they must all be delayed and have as much anti-choice (as opposed to truly informative) material rammed down their throats until they realise that they don't actually want to terminate after all. Which is, of course infuriating. Here is the placard I was holding:

See that little thing in the first "0" of "200"? That's a lapel pin that, along with wristbands and other things, came from an anti-choice stall. It is a pair of small silvery feet, showing yet again how that movement spouts emotivist garbage whilst women all over the world DIE, along with all those poor foetuses with their tiny little feet, forever denied the chance to go 'pitter-patter'.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blaming inanimate objects

Gets to the point. It's funny how, with crimes that are committed (mainly against women) that involve fear and power, such as domestic violence and rape, non-living objects (poorly-placed doors, alcoholic drinks) seem to get blamed so much more often than the attacker. More needs to be done to remove the fear of speaking up - possibly one of the main reasons that such crimes are still so common.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where's that 'Blog-For-Choice Day' Post?

... you may well be asking. Mwezzi's pro-choice, and yet she hasn't said a thing on the subject all day!

My reason is simple - on Wednesday night, I shall be attending a peaceful picket of a meeting by anti-choice MPs (including Ann Widdecombe as an 'anti-choice feminist' - just so they can say 'See! Real feminists, the big important people who we approve of, aren't evil baby-killers!'). Considering the relevance of this, I've decided to leave my post a little longer, even though I'll miss the 'official' day on which to post it, and include any experiences that I deem fit for posting. It's important to keep the pro-choice discussion going all year, not just on a single day, so although I'm missing the big online event, I don't mind.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

'Yale sluts' fight back

The Women's Centre at Yale University are suing a fraternity for sexual harassment after they posted a picture on Facebook of several of their members standing outside the Centre holding a sign reading 'We love Yale sluts'. Because I'm in a hurry, I'll just let my outrage at such a stunt be implicit (and Feministing says it well enough), but I did enjoy a rather stinging comeback in the comments to yet another 'bloody overreacting feminists' idiot:

D '10 says:

I hate it when law-illiterate morons threaten to take legal action against people for non-crimes. Get your act together Yale Women's Center.

Y '11 says:

I hate it when ignorant morons hold up a sign that is derogatory to women in front of the parent organization of the support group for rape victims on campus. The Yale Women's Center should clearly respond to this photograph. There is a case to be made for sexual harassment here, and sexual harassment is a crime. Get your act together, Zeta Psi.

You tell 'em. Calling women 'sluts' at a place that helps women that are often accused of 'asking for it' and 'being provocative' is beyond the fucking pale. Why must people constantly try to undermine (any organisation set up for) women? Why is such sexism considered funny? Holding up a 'we love the KKK' sign in front of a vandalised Asian community centre would be rightly seen as racism - why don't we treat sexism in the same way, why do we dismiss it as mere tasteless humour?