Friday, December 11, 2009

The Patriarchy's Perfect Woman

From Natalie Dee. Proper blogging will resume at some point.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why I Hate Buying Hallowe'en Costumes

From a website competition to win money to buy costumes:

You don't even need to see their faces to know that the two in the middle are men. Seriously, SEXY FREDDY KREUGER?! The CHILD-MURDERER?! (Dude, where the hell have your trousers gone?) The lady on the left looks more like a cheerleader for Jason Voorhees than the charachter himself. Why is it that so many costumes aimed at girls are so tame and dull like this? Short skirts and cleavage-exposing necklines do have their place on Hallowe'en - my Silent Hill nurse outfit from last year is an example of this, a monster born from a man's entrenched insecurities around hospitals and intensely repressed sexuality. 'Sexy', however, has no place in costumes for these characters. Note the great pains taken in these pictures not to hide or disfigure with prosthetics the women's (pouting) faces. Note the high-heels, footwear that really wouldn't work for Freddy and Jason as they lurch through swampy wasteland and launch themselves at they victims.
Thing is, though, if I wanted to buy an outfit like those the men are shown wearing, I'd be hard pressed to find one that fits. Why? Because all the 'proper' Jason/Freddy costumes that are easily available are made for men. I'd be drowned by them, making a rather comical homicidal maniac at best.
This is why I make my own damned costume every year. Grr.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I've been looking back over my old posts, and a lot of them strike me as either poorly written or no longer in keeping with my views. Which is a bit of a problem, as I don't want to give the wrong impression of myself but I'm not sure I want to delete them either.

I may just shove them into an archive to be polished up and re-written later, if I think that's worth doing.

In the mean time, time are a' changing and this blog has to, too. The list of sites on the right has been cleaned up a little, with those that have been inactive for half a year or longer removed and some URLs updated. A few new ones, mainly on disability, have been added - FWD/Forward and The Deal With Disability are both worth checking out if you have the time! I'm also on a search for someone else to co-blog, as I am, quite frankly, lazy in my updates and it'd be nice to get one or two others on board to keep things going and hopefully post about all the things I regularly miss. If you are a young UK feminist I'd be particularly interested to hear from you, as I feel that the UK blogosphere seems to be a bit small compared to the huge swathe of US feminist bloggers out there. I won't mind hearing from people outside the UK, though! Drop me a line and tell me a bit about yourself if you wish to join me here. Hopefully this site will become a bit more than just me ranting into cyberspace, in time.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I do not want to be a Hepburn in anyone's world.

I hate generalisations. I particularly hate them when offered as excuses to dish out shit, misogynistic relationship advice. 'Women just LOVE babies, and thus should be happy to do all the hard work with them - making your husband (never partner or, heaven forbid, wife) share the responsibility will force him to hate you!' Or, 'Men hate women who think for themselves! Never express an opinion unless it's his own.'

Naturally, this quote from the book How To Be A Hepburn In A Hilton World makes my blood boil. In bold, my responses to each point.

It's no secret that we girls start fantasizing about a fairy-tale wedding and happily-ever-after love story around the same time we start teething (I still have a wedding book that I compiled at age six!). Good for you. I did none of that, I was too busy climbing trees and playing with our two spaniels. Relationships are a big deal to us. I agree, my friends and loving partner are very important parts of my life. We want to hear all about our roommate's new boyfriend (beyond his name and whether something's going wrong, I'd rather not hear everything. Your boyfriend, not mine.), have to get every detail of our coworker's upcoming nuptials (weddings are some of the most boring things I've ever experienced. Conversations about planning them, even worse.), and lament right along with Jennifer Aniston over Brad Pitt as if he cheated on us (spare me.). We love to watch TLC's A Wedding Story (no), feverishly scan Us Weekly for the latest blossoming celebrity romance (all I read is the Student BMJ and National Geographic. Why? No dull, vapid, bland, boring celebrity gossip, no fashion spreads, none of that bullshit.), and sob every time we see Sleepless in Seattle (I have never seen this, nor do I plan to.). We spend hours prepping ourselves for a date (about as much time as I'd spend getting ready for any other night out - under and hour. Two hours tops if my hair needs a lot of work to achieve Siouxsie-heights.) and even more time obsessing about what our potential children will look like (I spend more time making plans to never, ever have them. And why worry about their looks? Are you really that shallow?) and whether or not our initials mesh nicely (My previous question is answered. That's... pretty shallow.). Conclusion: girls love love. (Yeah, but none of those things you've listed are equated with love in my mind.)
You see? None of her advice, based upon her perceptions of what women are like, would work for me because her description of what women are like clashes utterly with my own personal experience. Oh, and the whole thing is based on that false virgin/whore dichotomy that everyone worth their salt should know about.

Fuck that. Hepburn was beautiful and a talented actress. I don't think I'm that bad in the looks department and my acting skills are fairly good, but I'd quite like to be me. And that means continuing to ignore stupid, dated advice such as that doled out by Jordan Christy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Every feminist is fallible. Some, unforgivably so.

We all have our idols. I'm rather keen on the musicians Thom Yorke and Amanda Palmer, the activist Julia Serrano, numerous talented and hard-working friends and family. Up until recently, there was also Germaine Greer. There's no denying it, she has written some iconic, challenging, revolutionary stuff in her time. Some of her work is nigh indispensable to the average feminist, providing a foundation to work from or awakening the anger we didn't know we had at the treatment of women. Unfortunately, and more and more often as of late, she has also caused the awakening another anger. Anger at being called non-existent. Anger at being seen as 'less than' - by the very people who claim to be fighting your side. To pick an example, she has belittled the latest generation of feminists, as if nothing has happened at all since the second wave. She has bought into the stereotype of the modern feminist, the female chauvinist pig, the girl for whom 'empowerment' is nothing but lipstick, pole-dancing and being seen as sexy, who sees anything else as dowdy, unimportant, outdated. This image is an insult for the millions who try to be so much more, who tirelessly speak out for our political, reproductive, social, HUMAN rights and are still being judged solely by their fondness for certain fashions.

And of course, she's transphobic.
There still lingers the line of thought, with her and many of her devoted followers, that only the cisgendered woman is truly a woman. That you must be both inwardly and outwardly female, chemically female, raised female to be female. That even if you felt so disconnected with your past gender that you went through years of humiliation and pain to be allowed to live as a woman, did so for decades, tried to 'pass' - no matter what, if you were at any point seen as 'male' before your transition, no matter how briefly, you will never be a woman, and thus it's okay for you to be talked about like some form of mutant. If you haven't transitioned, you will be ignored and dismissed as some wannabe man.

Hell, even when Greer is possibly* speaking in favour of a particular person** she cannot help but let her thoughts be heard on trans women.

Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women's names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn't polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man's delusion that he is female.

Think they are women. Ghastly parody. Delusion. Words written by a woman who has been lucky enough to never have any doubt as to what she is. To listen to her you'd think it was a breezy walk in the park, that every trans woman wakes up one day and thinks, "Gee, wouldn't it be swell to just, like, change? I think I shall be a lady today."

I've read the debate a thousand times, of how trans women will be threatening to cis women who have faced abuse when they show up in changing rooms and woman-only spaces, how they'll never know what it's like to be raised female, et cetera, ad nauseam. I'll admit I cannot speak for women who have faced years of abuse and just want a safe haven. I have not idea what it's like for them - but I also have no idea what it's like to be trans gendered, to be raised as something you have a powerful feeling that you are not. All I can say is that there is no excuse, at any point, to treat anyone as subhuman, to write about them in such hateful language, simply for trying to live their life. They aren't attempting to harm anyone else, yet to hear some of the vitriol directed at the trans community you'd think they want to wipe out the rest of the human race. Remove the 'trans' prefix, and what do you get? PEOPLE. As in, human beings. Men and women. Not monsters. It's little wonder that some just ain't feeling feminism.

The more I read from Greer, the less admiration I feel. I cannot happily align myself with someone who freely dismisses whole groups of people like this, no matter how great their past work has been. Articles like this, I'd expect to see in the Daily Mail. Not in the supposedly progressive Guardian - but we all know what Comment is Free is like.

*The article is so disconnected and fluctuating it's hard to tell exactly what she's getting at.
** My thoughts on Caster Semenya? An androgynous woman is still a woman.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Diary of a Hairy Young Lady: The Reaction So Far?

You heard me. Good press. No hard feelings. People are still treating me like a human being despite the obvious evidence of hair follicles on my arms, shins and oxters. Most people I've met personally haven't made any comments at all about this aspect of my appearance, which is good - I'm not looking to be treated as 'special' or 'different', I just don't want to get any grief. The comments on my very first post in the series tell the stories of several women - one of whom is growing her hair to show support for her daughter who is receiving flack for daring to be normal*. It always makes me smile to hear such positivity around a subject that's often seen as disgusting.

In fact, in all the time since I started posting these blogs, I have only received one negative comment. From a complete stranger. On a Youtube video.
I'd made a short tutorial for a friend who lives in another city on the spur of the moment a few months back. No preparation involved just sat down, made the video and uploaded it so she could see. I didn't mind other people seeing it, but it wasn't one of those 'Hello, Youtube! Check this out!' clips, so I hadn't made much of an effort with my appearance. I was scruffy and my hair was a little greasy, I'll admit, and the commenter pointed this out - whilst also telling me to shave my armpits, saying they were repulsive. I cheerfully assured them that the video was misleading, and that I do actually wash all my hair on a regular basis.

That's it. One insult since January. From someone who I don't know, will probably never see and don't particularly care about.

There is hope yet, my friends.

*I'm not saying that women who remove the 'extra' hair are abnormal, I'm saying that those who don't

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The niqab and the police - a post on 'hiding one's identity'.

I prefer not to delve into this subject too much; I am not Muslim, I have never had any religious convictions of any sort and so I cannot speak much about the compulsion to express one's faith in a very visible way. In terms of gut feeling, I see no problem with the head scarf, jilbab, chador or any other form of modest dress provided that choice to don such garments is a truly free one - there's no reason to force women to either cover up entirely or to wear garments which flash a lot of skin, and it should be left to the individual to decide where on that scale they wish to fall on a day-to-day basis. In terms of covering the face too, that's a complicated one which brings in lots of questions about human nature, the teachings of the Qur'an, the occupations of women, freedom and the nature of free will and choice, amongst other things. I'm not going too far into that here. I just have a single response to a particular point.

I'm currently listening to a debate on Radio 4 about the practice, specifically, of covering the face with the full niqab or burqa. A few people were bringing up the issue of identification and security - what if these 'masked' women go into a bank, or through an airport? Shouldn't they be required to show their faces? The woman responding these questions, a religious scholar and law student who I think wears the niqab, pointed out that in these situations she would go to one side and show her face to a female member of staff, allowing her to be identified without having to reveal herself to any male members of the public or staff in the process. Then more callers went further - what about on the street? They feel 'really uncomfortable' when they see a woman with a covered face. One said they didn't know if such a woman would smile back, so to 'avoid the snub, he wouldn't smile at her, thus he was being forced to be unfriendly'. ('Give us a smile, love', anyone?) Others said they felt there was a 'wall' being put up, that such women were openly refusing to be a part of our society.
There seems to be this huge preoccupation with always seeing a woman's face. In a society where women are constantly Judged on appearances, where our smiling faces are used to sell everything, where a woman is a 'bitch' for not altering her outward show of emotions to make others more comfortable even when she's just trying to walk down the street in peace, we have become obsessed with the fact that some women - for whatever reason - are not conforming to this. We attack them, we call them backwards, we attack their religious views, their husbands, their entire culture. Women must be identified at all times, even though there are no laws against being anonymous, save for in particular situations. We are outraged that a particular group of people are refusing the be identified by anyone who passes them by. Yet, whilst we rain down upon them with insults and vitriol, there is another group of people, very well respected in our society, who are occasionally also hiding their identities - and breaking the law whilst doing so. Not nearly as much fuss is being made about these people, and when someone does speak up they are often called a liar, or told they're exaggerating, or accused of stirring up trouble. Who are these people who are getting away with this blatant anonymity? The police.

Before I go on, here is the obligatory disclaimer - I feel the police are a good thing in many situations. The majority of them are conscientious, upstanding members of society who want nothing more than to ensure that everyone is safe. Yet there are some members who, at some point, have done something serious to undermine the public trust in the law forces and to make our society a less free one by preventing people from exercising their rights, particularly at protests such as the recent G20 rallies, and these people, who were breaking the law and every bit as dangerous to the public as those who ransacked the bank branch, need to be called out and disciplined.
They are the law keepers, the peace keepers, role models to thousands, and regulated by a set of laws themselves. One of these laws states that an officer, when uniformed and carrying out their job, must be identifiable. Their faces must be visible, sure, but there are other things too - it's easy to forget one face amongst many, and in situations where people might want an officer to identify themselves there are often whole groups of police present. Whilst in uniform they must display a number which identifies them, which can be seen on the epaulette*. Just ask Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson. If asked by any member of the public, they must give this number - they can keep their name to themselves, but the number must be given. This means that, should an officer break the law, this number can be passed on to the relevant authorities and the relevant action can be taken - the police are thus kept in check by the public, without putting their personal lives at risk by showing a name that could be looked up in a phone book. For the most part, this rule is followed to the letter. Yet already there are stories all over the place of officers who refuse to display this number. Not usually from sightings of them as they're on the beat, but often at protests, where tensions run high. You know, where people might actually want to know those numbers. Because things like this are likely to happen.

Picture from here. This officer has been suspended for beating a protester. Where's the number?

"Numbers on riot police are like spots on zebras", to quote one seasoned protester. Either it's not worn at all, or (according to several accounts) a piece of tape is stuck over it, masking it whilst the commanding officers aren't looking. When asked for their numbers by the public, they refuse to disclose this information. Now, when the same members of the public attempt to photograph these officers in an attempt to get some record of identity to pass onto the authorities, they could be arrested. In fact, here is video footage of this happening. A woman requests a number, it is refused, she asks her fellow protesters to take pictures and at that point they are dragged away, forced to the ground and arrested. Interestingly, an officer makes sure that the protester's face was visible to the police camera by grabbing her around the throat and forcing her head up, but the officers had all their own faces blurred and continue to hide their own identities. There is no law that makes the photographing of a member of the police illegal, for the record**. In this case, it was the officers who were ignoring the rules, for the protesters were doing nothing wrong. This is far from an isolated incident, and I've been told by a lot of people that these women were lucky to have avoided being beaten in the process. When it comes to events like this, I wouldn't just feel 'uncomfortable' at seeing an officer without a number - I'd feel threatened. A face is useful but, in a situation like this, often not enough and, furthermore, if it's effectively being hidden by threats of arrest, the police might as well be wearing masks. Yet already, people are speaking out to defend these actions, forgetting all the footage and tragedies from the recent rallies in London.

I ask this: why do we feel so strongly about a few women, a tiny minority of our population, hiding their identities but still respecting the laws around identification, when there are people who have been given power over us, WHO ARE REQUIRED TO BE IDENTIFIABLE IN ORDER TO BE PROPERLY REGULATED, who are just... getting away with it? If all members of society must be accountable, then more action needs to be taken to ensure the example is being set by those who enforce the law. And if you don't think this, then please - stop picking on Muslimahs. You don't need to know who they are at all times. They aren't breaking the law. They're just trying to walk down the street.

*From a Home Office spokesperson: "...the public has a right to be able to identify any uniformed officers while performing their duties."

**"The taking of photographs in a public place is not subject to any rule or Statute and there are no legal restrictions on photography in a public place. Police Officers do, however, have a discretion to ask people not to take photographs for public safety or security reasons. The offence is not intended to capture an innocent tourist taking a photograph of a Police Officer, or a journalist photographing Police Officers as part of his or her job. It does not criminalise the normal taking of photographs of the Police. There are no legal restrictions on taking a photograph in a public place except where the picture is taken with the intent of committing a crime or terrorist act."
- Response from Nigel Battersby, GMPA Legal Adviser at Police Authority Meeting, 1/5/09
Many police officers, despite this law, continue to claim that it is illegal to photograph them under any circumstances and make it difficult for people to do so when they are trying to gather evidence of misconduct. The 'intent to commit a crime or terrorist act' is a rather vague detail that can be expanded to cover pretty much anyone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Here’s the reason, stated plainly: Forget for a moment that Palin is anti-choice, something that makes my fucking blood boil. Let’s consider only her party-affiliation: If Palin runs around with Republicans, the enemies of women’s rights and women’s organizations, does she have any right to turn around and expect feminists to defend her in feminist terms? It’s like Caitlin Flanagan and Phyllis Shlafly – “women” shouldn’t work, but I will, thankyouverymuch. Palin: “women” shouldn’t have everything that feminism and liberals want them to have, but my daughters need feminist defense."

The Apostate on Sarah Palin's sudden conversion to feminism.

Shortened version: Feminists can, should and often will speak out against sexism regardless of the target woman's political alignment, but it's really galling when those same women turn around and say, "Thanks for the support. Now fuck off.".

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Diary of a Hairy Young Lady: Dare to bare!

Adverts are everywhere now the weather's heating up. 'Get your legs ready for summer!' 'Don't hide away!' 'Dare to bare with Nair!' Clearly, us women need Wilkinson Sword and Veet to enjoy the hot weather, for we cannot show an inch of skin if it's got any of that... that... stuff on it. Urgh. We'd be run out of town.
Same with all the lotion companies - we may be Scots, but that's apparently no excuse for having pasty skin, and the bizarre, unnatural Oompa-loompa 'Maryhill Makeover' look is bursting back into full bloom nationwide. To quote an Irish woman on the radio, "I used to go home and all the girls had white faces and orange hair. No they all have white hair and orange faces."

I hereby declare that my legs ARE ready for the outside world. At any time. With their natural coat and sans fake tan.

Click for full-sized hairy glory!

I will also admit that I'm rather fond of Carl Sagan's work.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What marks a feminist?

[NOTE: I'M LEAVING THIS UP FOR NOW, BUT I'M INTENDING TO MODIFY IT SLIGHTLY - LARGELY BECAUSE I GOT SIDETRACKED AND CONVEYED SLIGHTLY THE WRONG MESSAGE. It's posted on Feministing somewhere, where someone's comment alerted me to the fact that I was, in terms of my intended message, talking bollocks.]

There are several saying out there which talk about how a true friend will support you through the hard times as well as the good, stick by you even when they disagree with you, that sort of thing. I've been drafting a couple of posts and they got me thinking about some feminist acts I've encountered recently:
  • On the news last night, I saw Zahra Rahnavard, wife to the Iranian presidential candidate and reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi, stating her view that women should be allowed to choose what they wear without fear of recrimination by people like the current morality police. She herself was fully covered, with not a hair visible, though many of Mousavi's supporters are less strict about their headscarves.
  • I have a few devoutly Christian friends who would never terminate a pregnancy unless their lives were at risk, but have no qualms with other women choosing otherwise.
  • Feminists all over the place decide not to remove their body hair as both a political statement and personal preference, but don't chastise other feminists when they choose to be clean-shaven.
  • Stay-at-home mothers are often uncritical of the decision of other mothers to join the workforce. Don't let the Daily Mail fool you, these women aren't in the minority.
It's all very well to be a feminist, or to follow any political or religious movement because it happens to agree with your own personal choices. But sometimes I just feel that the true feminists among us are those who, regardless of their own beliefs and practices, are willing to trust other women to make their own decisions in life without simultaneously making judgements and demoting them as 'less good' because of their choices. Opposing all attempts to restrict our freedoms, even if you yourself may never make use of them, preferring to spread honest information to allow others to make up their minds as you did rather than force everyone to follow your own line of thought. Allowing women to make truly free decisions.
In essence, supporting every woman's right to choose - in ALL areas of her life.

What would YOU define as truly feminist?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Busy, busy.

Sorry about the lack of posting on here lately. My exams are tomorrow and I've been studying like mad. I've not slack off entirely, though - head on over to Rambling of Today's Yoof for a post on cancer and the media and a quick note on voting. If you haven't read it yet, Philosophical Weegie also made an excellent post there on the public response to a simple ad for the morning-after pill.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jazz - Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold

To sort-of steal the quote from the presenter who played this on Radio 7 yesterday, every day should be started with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It really does take some skill to be able to play so badly so well.

Now, back to university.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Diary of a Hairy Young Lady: Conversations with other young ladies.

My friend was a little upset last night at the club, so I took her aside to where we could hear each other to have a chat. As we sat down, she glanced nervously at my strappy vest.

'Are... do you still do that... not-shaving-your-armpits thing?'

This was a little unexpected; such questions don't often just pop out of the blue from teary-eyed people who are asking advice on relationships. Nevertheless, I answered her question by raising my arm, exposing its now rather fluffy depths.

'Oh, cool. I'm doing that too - was worried I was the only one!'

The conversation then went on without further mention of hairiness.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Domestic Violence - Isn't it time someone called 'cut'?

Whilst Rhianna has been dragged out as the DV poster girl and had to suffer all the humiliation and idiotic, sexist commentary that comes with such unauthorised public exposure, Keira Knightley has teamed up with Women's Aid to produce this national awareness campaign against domestic violence. I must warn you, this could be triggering - the message isn't softened.

Knightley's line about 'not agreeing to this, this isn't in the script' is a telling one - women never 'ask' to subjected to this abuse and violence. Not by getting together with these men, not by staying with them, not by going back to them, not by 'nagging', not by being late home, not by burning the dinner - in the theatre of a woman's life, ABUSE WAS NEVER IN THE ORIGINAL PLOT - and she wasn't consulted when the scriptwriter added it in.

Also, via the Feministing Community, a Canadian PSA against verbal abuse:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Killing Us Softly 3

Kate posted an abridged version of this excellent talk a few days ago and I just had to dig out the full version. So, if you have a half-hour to spare, make yourself a cup of tea and sit back.

Jean Kilbourne talks about how advertising reflects and influences our view of women, often with a little humour but never de-emphasising how serious this subject is.

I couldn't help but notice that, in the comments for the first video, someone talked about how incredible it was for a man to post these videos. Whilst I am very pleased to see people spreading videos like this about and actively supporting the feminist cause, proudly calling themselves feminists, I couldn't help but bitterly think how very different the comments would be had a girl posted these. For every time I see a woman posting a feminist video or column, the comments are filled with vitriol, sexism, degrading comments; when men post feminist videos and columns, they are praised for being so amazing and brave as to believe that women are human beings too. So while I commend everyone, regardless of gender, who makes and spreads these videos and blog posts and articles and artworks, my joy is always edged with bitterness that, even here, sexism rears its ugly head.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I Love Emilie Autumn

Taking the old 'Girls are grateful for the attention, and obviously want all the guys in the joint to objectify her' line and turning it into a song.

Thank God I'm Pretty

Thank God I'm pretty
The occasional free drink I never asked for
The occasional admission to a seedy little bar
Invitation to a stranger's car
I'm blessed
With the ability to rend a grown man tongue-tied
Which only means that when it's dark outside
I have to run and hide can't look behind me
Thank God I'm pretty

Thank God I'm pretty
Every skill I ever have will be in question
Every ill that I must suffer merely brought on by myself
Though the cops would come for someone else
I'm blessed
I'm truly privileged to look this good without clothes on
Which only means that when I sing you're jerking off
And when I'm gone you won't remember
Thank God I'm pretty

Thank you God
Oh, lord
Thank you God
Oh, oh and when a gaggle of faces appears around me
It's lucky I hate to be taken seriously
I think my ego would fall right through the cracks in the floor
If I couldn't count on men to slap my ass any more
I know my destiny's such, that I'm all stocking and curl
So everybody thinks that I'm a fucking suicide girl

Thank you God
For the occasional champagne I never asked for
The occasional admission to a seedy little bar
Invitation to a stranger's car
I'm blessed
With the ability to rend a grown man tongue-tied
Which only means that when it's dark outside
I have to run and hide can't look behind me
Thank God I'm pretty

Thank God
Thank God
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you God!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Today Did Not Start Well

I woke up with a headache, couldn't find my dissection kit, ran out of cereal, knocked my shins off things - the whole lot. My concerns, however, are minor compared to the news today of the ways in which the recession is hitting women.

First, a report on GMTV told how a fifth of women and a quarter of men (surprise, surprise) felt that, if a business has to make some employees redundant, the the maternity-leavers and possibly the working mothers should be given the boot first. Can't be having women with children working to support their progeny, can we? Why, they may have concerns outside of making their employer rich! They're a drain on the economy - in fact, I bet they're the reason for the whole recession. Women! Go back home and let the mostly male people in suits get us out of the fix they created. The men will save the day if you just stop stealing their jobs! etc.

With the sour taste from that little newsbit still in my mouth, I returned from classes to find this Guardian article sitting in my inbox. It's predicted that violence against women will go up as people (men) get more stressed about finances.

The attorney general, Lady Scotland, has also warned that domestic violence will rise with increased financial worries. The government booklet devotes a section to the impact of the recession on divorce, violence and family tensions.

"Economic downturns can be difficult times for family relationships. Worries about finances can create additional tension and in some cases, where couples have already decided to part, problems over selling the family home can deepen tensions," the booklet states.

It goes on to say: "Women may face threats from violent or abusive partners." Information about the state-funded services on offer for victims are set out in the leaflet, with advice about when to call for help from the police. A separate report headed "Are women bearing the brunt of the recession?" published today by the Fawcett Society echoed the government's concern, warning that "women's social and economic circumstances make them particularly vulnerable to economic downturn". The campaign group for women's rights said there had been an increase in domestic violence referrals.

Fix the economy, please. And whilst we're at it, teach those guys some better ways to manage their anger. You know, something OTHER than lashing out.

Sod today for a bundle of laughs, I'm going back to bed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Why The 'What About The Men?' Question REALLY Bugs Me, Part I

A bit less navel gazing from me, more on Feminism As A Whole! Let's go.

There are lots of questions that feminists are asked all the time - what it is, if they hate men, if they hate certain clothes/cosmetics/activities/sexual practises, if they're all lesbians... but one that's been cropping up a lot for me lately has been the ever present, "Why don't you campaign for men's rights too?" Variations on this include 'I prefer the term 'humanist'', 'Men get abused too' and 'What about human rights?'. There's a really, terribly grating assumption underlying this, of course, and here'

Just because I'm a feminist does not mean I don't care about non-females.

The thing is, I also identify as a humanist, just like you, my dear detractor. I care a lot about the humanitarian crises all over the globe, the famines, the race issues, the legions of young men outnumbering the scores of young women who are sent out to fight in unnecessary wars every day.
However, I also identify as feminist, because I care about the rights of women as a specific group of humans who sometimes have different needs and problems to other members of the species - needs and problems, I may add, which are often trivialised and overlooked. When I say 'I'm a feminist' I'm not saying 'I only care about women', in much the same way as a maths student doesn't necessarily ignore everything that doesn't involve numbers and equations.

I was thinking of an analogy for this today as I walked to uni - how do I make people understand that feminism isn't thinly-veiled sexism when that's what they are told all the time? The it hit me - the answer lies in my own future career.

Think of the medical profession. As students begin their path, they study a broad, over-arching subject - Medicine. For five years, we look at a variety of ailments, common problems, societal issues relating to health, general first aid, communication skills, hygiene - things that we'll need to know about in just about any medical profession. When we graduate, we start to specialise a little, applying our knowledge to general surgery and medicine during our foundation years, transitioning from 'people who know' to 'people who practise'. Then we start to choose our precise area of specialisation. Some go into surgery, and from their focus on particular areas - neurosurgery, ears, nose + throat surgery, heart surgery. Others take a different route, becoming medical consultants or going into research, and others leave the hospitals to become community health workers and GPs.

These people all received the same basic training in university, with the same goal - 'I want to help people'. In the same way, people who care about human rights usually start off the same way, learning about all the injustices in the world, wanting to do something about it. They march, they write letters, they get angry, they read. They build up their basic knowledge of as many common issues as they can, to try and create a solid base from which to speak. Some then start to identify strongly enough to, say, become a member of a general group against injustice - think Amnesty International. They may become more than a lay member, working up to become a key figure in the group's administration, building up more in-depth knowledge and reading news from all over the world, writing about a wide variety of subjects, working hard to keep as up-to-date on as many things as possible. These are like the general practitioners of the humanist world - they're one of the first groups people go to to find out about campaigns, about the issues that affect everyone. They link a huge range of human rights groups together.
The 'specialists' - the surgeons, the consultants, the psychiatrists of this humanist hospital - are the more focussed groups. They may campaign for gay rights, or women's rights, or speak out against racism, or work to fight poverty. Among them you may then get the really specialised groups (neuro/heart surgeons, say) who have chosen to take a very specific path - imagine all the different feminist sub-groups!
At each level of specialisation, these people are learning more and speaking more about their chosen subject. What they are not doing, however, is divorcing themselves entirely from their roots. An ENT Consultant may be more focussed than a General Practitioner - but they are both doctors. The difference is that the GP has chosen to keep up with a variety of medical subjects and work on a primary care level, whereas the consultant knows a lot more about various head-region maladies and will be able to deliver specialist, advanced treatment to those patients whose earache the GP was unable to cure. They both work together though, as part of a huge medical network, and they will both know a fair amount about a number of overlapping medical issues that they both face. In the same way, I as a feminist am trying to understand the roles that women play in societies and the issues they face, but this will overlap with a number of other subjects that I'm less 'specialised' in and I'll encounter a fair few others in my day-to-day life, and so I learn about some of those as well as I go along. I know a little about gay men's rights, for example - but if I want the full story, I'll go to the experts in that area. And, if there's a campaign against gay hate crime, I'll be going with that too, but I can't say I'm a leading figure there - my role will be more of a supporting one.
There are many people out there who are 'specialists' in more than one area, too - someone may be a feminist AND a campaigner for African-American rights AND a trans activist. They could know a lot and do a lot about all these areas - so if you see someone speaking as a feminist, don't assume that that's they ONLY thing they do anything about.

What I'm trying to get at, in my usual convoluted way, is this - yes, I care about your rights too. I care about human rights passionately, but I don't know everything and I find it quite hard to keep up with it all, so I've chosen to focus on one area. I'm... a humanist specialist. I'm keeping up as much as I can with as many things as possible, but my most developed area lies with the subject of this blog.

So, why aren't I talking about men? For the same reason that you wouldn't ask a podiatrist to perform a hysterectomy. I know about general human rights and women's rights, but if you want some specialised analysis of the trials of the male human - well, why are you reading this?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Rape Crisis Centre Faces Closure in London

These places need funds, you know. This is just awful. As Amelia points out, Rape Crisis centres are often ignored and forgotten about, deemed unimportant until another woman is attacked and needs their help. When this service is gone, where will survivors go for help? No-where else offers the specialised care that they do:

Because we are in the voluntary sector, everyone thinks that we are working for free, and that we are middle-aged, middle-class women who want to help these poor victims. The reality is that our eight, paid counsellors are highly trained members of staff, with degrees and diplomas in counselling and sexual violence training. Some have master's, all have thousands of hours of experience. We are working at a level equivalent to that provided by the NHS or higher.

The NHS doesn't offer specialist rape crisis assistance. They offer short-term courses, but women who may have been abused for 10 or 15 years when they were children may find that six weeks of counselling is not enough. Sometimes we work with people for up to a year. Last year we saw 320 women, but also offered emergency couselling and a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week telephone helpline.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be as cynical as you like, but I'd like to savour this moment.

A friend of mine, after hearing US President Obama's inauguration speech, commented that it was fantastic, encouraging, exciting - yet he couldn't help but be reminded of a similar great speech delivered back in 1997 by the the victorious new Labour leader, Tony Blair, who had come to save us from the horrors of the Conservatives and bring Britain into a new age of equality, health and happiness for all. Over a decade, several eroded liberties and a couple of unjust wars later, we look back on that moment and mourn. Although, that said, the introduction of the national minimum wage was a fantastic idea for which we are all grateful. It would just be so much better if our shiny amazing New Labour hadn't turned out to be 'like the Tories, but just slightly more towards the centre'.

Yes, we're a jaded and bitter lot here in Britain. Whilst Washington D.C. was swamped by millions of excited Americans chanting "YES WE CAN!", a good number of the Brits watched on reservedly and thought "... but will you?" Some noted that Obama was treated as a hero before he had done a single thing as President. Others noted dubious donations, having seen so many politicians over here engaging in underhand financial activities. Others (all white, I noticed) got frustrated at constant references to his race: "Just because his skin's dark doesn't mean he'll be any better than the white prat he beat!" (We can't even enjoy a great historic moment anymore without griping, it seems.) Still more suggested that, considering his predecessor, it won't take much for Obama to be 'better', and we should reserve our celebrations for the time that he proves himself to be more than just 'not Bush'.
Yet so far, our pessimism appears misplaced. The proposals set down on the White House's website are inspiring. The promises for transparency are encouraging. Suspending all activity is Guantanamo Bay? OH HELL, YES! The new President, whilst not perfect (not a few have noticed his opposition to gay marriage), he still seems to be more than a small improvement on the Republican administration.
Of course, it's not unknown for the new guy in the Oval Office to make big changes to mark his entry, only to dumb down or reverse things later. But for once, in spite of those who surround me, I for one would like to look forward with a little more hope. This involves attacking my inner cynic with a minigun, which will at least stun it temporarily. The Presidency in the USA often sets the tone for our Government over here. Bush helped take the world to hell, and we watched in growing disbelief as our own leaders started to imitate him. If Obama can live up to his promises, it may just put a little pressure on those in Westminster to stop messing about and treat us ordinary people like we matter too (well, one can dream, at any rate). The whole world is watching and taking note. This is big.

Besides, I have assessments to worry about without stressing over someone else's new leader. Smile, everyone!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Diary of a Hairy Young Lady, Day 1.

Y'know what I'm sick of? Tabloids and gossip spreads going out of their way to find famous women with the slightest hint of body hair just so they can loudly denounce them for daring to ditch the razor for a day or two.
You know what pisses me off even more?
This. This shoddy, stupid, pathetic excuse for journalism which tells everyone that, not only is hair on a woman's body DISGUSTING, it's also UNHYGIENIC and DIRTY and makes you HIDEOUS. It's all true because a woman grew a little bit of pit-hair and, surprise surprise, some men were repulsed because they've been raised in a culture which shames women for daring to put even a toe over the line of conventional beauty rules, and have been trained to see such women as sub-human.
FUCK YOU, The Sun. TO HELL WITH ANY STUPID BEAUTY ARTICLE OR WOMAN'S MAG WHICH DARES TO TELL ANYONE THAT THEIR NATURAL HEALTHY BODIES ARE VILE. It shouldn't matter if you do or do not shave your pits and legs. Really, whatever you prefer. Cool, fine, awesome. What I want is for those who prefer less hair to stop picking on those who see nothing wrong with a fuzzy woman. That's all. Live and let live.

Of course, I can't just leave things at that, so here: my own little diary of hair-growth! Now, I'll admit, I'm cheating - my armpits haven't been shaved for a wee while, so I'm not starting from point zero here. This is what I look like after 2am on Day 1, having just decided to do this:

Those of a fashion-sensitive disposition may be shocked to realise that this unspeakably noticeable amount of underarm fuzz is NOT due to a momentary slip in a usually impeccable grooming regime, or due to a lack of razors - I usually shave under my arms about once a month, so my armpits are normally like this for about two and a half weeks out of every four. They don't get covered up unless I'm cold. They get flashed about, willy-nilly, all over the place. But just for you lovely people, I'm gonna let these babies grow free for a bit longer, and if I'm treated like mud then I'll be sure to tell you. But I can promise you this - such moments of unpleasantness are actually quite rare. Thing is, lots of men and women can actually accept that hair happens, and treat a girl like a human being even if she doesn't have the same standards as Zoe-from-the-Sun says she normally has. I think it's about time that people hear the story from someone who doesn't see womanly stubble in the same light as, say, cat vomit in one's slippers. It's just a normal aspect of most people's bodies, like fingernails and skin. Please, if any of you ladies have any stories, good or bad, about your own bodily hair then feel free to share them! Let's get some feminist voices out here.
So, my status on this first day - about half a centimetre's growth of dark hair, dark circles under eyes from lack of sleep, dark clouds swarming round my pissed-off lady-brain. See you soon with an update!