Attaboy

Or rather, Attaboys. Worthy of a Sun headline perhaps? On the lines of Gotcha. (A reference to the sinking of the ARA Belgrano by the RN in 1982.)

Readers will know I’m among the first to denounce endless unnecessary military invasions, invariably by American-led forces under the guise of humanitarian aid or mythical WMD.

But I have to say, had I been on the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, I would have been thanking my lucky stars for the intervention, courage and presence of mind of the three Americans who tackled the gun-toting Moroccan.

All credit to Spencer Stone, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, and Briton Chris Norman for their bravery.

And rightly so, they’ve been commended by presidents and prime minsters Obama, Cameron, Hollande, and Valls, and received bravery medals from the Mayor of Arras, Leturque.

Stone was attacked with a Stanley knife by the gunman, and was taken to hospital with serious injuries to his hand.

Meanwhile, train staff were barricading themselves behind a steel door and leaving passengers and the gunman to get on with it. Because, let’s be honest, train staff aren’t usually trained to deal with gunmen. So who does deal with them?

Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, announced that Franco-Belgian security patrols would be beefed up on Thalys trains, which link Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.

This includes increased patrols and baggage checks at international stations.

Because, the Moroccan said he just happened to find a bag of weapons:

the suspect has told police officers he is not a terrorist but intended to rob the Thalys passengers at gunpoint having found the weapons “by chance in a park in Brussels”.

Yeah right.

But do security patrols and baggage checks really do it?

Back in 1984 I travelled all the way round the world with my Swiss Army Knife on my person. Apart from anything else, it had the keys to the padlocks on my rucksack on it. When I got to NZ, it was a big no, and it went in a special bag, returned to me when I got off the plane. Weird. That was one journey out of more than a dozen. No one else had any interest in it.

The last time I got on a ferry, Brittany Ferries, Plymouth to Cherbourg, they had introduced luggage scanning. As ever, appearances count. The staff apologised to me for making me wait while they checked the luggage of the long-haired man in front. I was in non-rucksack mode and looking relatively smart.

One can envision the day when planes, trains and ships have armed guards, in true sci-fi mode. Buses too. Maybe even the little buses around Gib? No conductors because they’re a thing of the past, just armed guards and a driver, well maybe a driver, maybe not. Payment will be by card/chip anyway. No evil cash.

Again back in 1984, I was horrified boarding the sleeper from Bombay (as was) to New Delhi. The first person I saw on the train was a guard, holding a rifle! A rifle? What on earth for? I made my way to the ladies-only compartment still in shock.

During the night, male family joined the Indian women in our compartment to eat the evening meal, but then left, and at curfew time, we locked the door, to dream of bandits and armed guards fighting it out as we slept soundly behind that safe, secure door.

There’s a difference however, between a deterrent to bandits trying to board a train, and a passenger with a Kalashnikov and other weapons, who is already on board.

And the cost. What’s the cost benefit analysis? What price fare increases? Still, armed guards might provide much-needed employment. Always assuming the employees aren’t trigger-happy terrorists anyway.

The future sadly, seems to be easily scripted. Tracking of all legal citizens, retina scans, and at some point there will be no need to microchip cards because we’ll be chipping people, as we already do animals. Although one can always get them taken out. Private security forces will be everywhere. Freedom of movement will be restricted.

The question is however, would this dystopian future have always happened, regardless of some religious-based form of terrorism?

News source: The Grauniad

Posted in europe, life, news, politics, travel, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Abortion – some facts and history

Abortion became legal in the UK when I was a child – 1967.

I grew up with tales of knitting needles, bottles of gin, and hot baths. The amateur method of choice for pregnant women who didn’t want to give birth, for whatever reason. Their only other alternative was a back-street abortionist who may, or may not, have been a qualified doctor.

As abortion raises temperatures and inspires much rhetoric, much of it from people who seem to want to tell women what to do with their bodies, I thought a look at some history and some facts might be worthwhile. Sources listed below.

History

Firstly, and hardly surprisingly, given the Christian god’s approval of abortion in the Old Testament, records show that the church was not against abortion. Please note, NOT, against abortion.

Do I need to repeat that?

The first references to abortion in English law appeared in the 13th Century. The law followed Church teaching that abortion was acceptable until ‘quickening’, which, it was believed, was when the soul entered the foetus. The legal situation remained like this for centuries.

For the benefit of those slow on maths, the church was accepting abortion in the 1200s. That’s 800 years ago. And, as it was before the Reformation, we are talking the Catholic Church here. So no, Catholic Church, you have not always opposed abortion.

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the law surrounding abortion suddenly became much tighter, and women in Great Britain and America found their freedom of access to abortion severely restricted.

In 1803, the Ellenborough Act introduced the death penalty (or transportation) for performing, attempting, or causing an abortion post ‘quickening’.

And by 1837, the act was amended to remove the quickening distinction so all abortions became illegal.

In 1861 performing an abortion or trying to self-abort carried the mere sentence of life imprisonment.

By 1929 a new act was established, making it a crime to kill a viable foetus ie 28 weeks. The law was vague about the position pre 28 weeks.

Thousands of women resorted to back-street abortionists, permanently damaging their health or dying. Newspapers advertised cures for ‘menstrual blockages’, but women knew they were abortifacients. Many of these were ineffective and were also poisonous; one of the cheapest, a lead-based potion, poisoned and blinded many women.

1923-33:

Fifteen per cent of maternal deaths were due to illegal abortion.

“In the thirties, my aunt died self-aborting. She had three children and couldn’t feed a fourth … So she used a knitting needle. She died of septicaemia leaving her children motherless.”

Well, that’s really helpful isn’t it?

On 27 April 1938 a girl of fourteen was raped. She was taken to see Dr Joan Malleson, a member of the medico-legal council of the Abortion Law Reform Association, who contacted a fellow council member, Dr Aleck Bourne, obstetric surgeon to St Mary’s Hospital. He replied:

I shall be delighted to take her in at St. Mary’s and curette her. I have done that before and shall not have the slightest hesitation in doing it again. I have said that the next time I have the opportunity I will write to the Attorney-General and invite him to take action.

On 31 May, the girl was taken to see Dr Bourne by her mother. A letter of consent to the proposed operation was then obtained from her father. Bourne then saw Dr Wingate, a resident obstetric officer at St Mary’s and informed him of his reasons for operating, namely that the girl was under the age of consent and had been raped. On 6 June she was admitted to the hospital. A pregnancy test proved positive.

Don’t you love the small print where a letter of consent was needed from the father? We’ve still got men owning women back in 1938.

More on this:

In a landmark case, Dr. Alex Bourne was acquitted of having performed an illegal abortion. He believed that abortion should be legal in exceptional circumstances and, most courageously, admitted having performed an abortion for a gang-raped 14-year-old who was suicidal. He argued that the law did permit abortion before 28 weeks and did allow abortion when a woman’s mental or physical health was in danger. The court agreed that this was a life-threatening situation and acquitted Dr Bourne. As a result some women were able to get a safe abortion. However, uncertainty remained as a psychiatrist’s approval was needed. It was usually only educated and/or relatively wealthy women who had the resources to find, and pay for, a compliant psychiatrist.

Ironically after aborting the teenager’s child he became a pro-life activist.

But let’s remember this:

In 14 June 1938, Bourne was arrested after performing an operation without fee at St Mary’s Hospital to terminate the pregnancy of six weeks of a 14-year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted by five off-duty British soldiers, officers in the Royal Horse Guards, in a London barracks

Can you imagine that? A 14-year-old raped by five soldiers?

And sexually assaulted? Faulty language there. Try rape. Rape results in pregnancy.

But let’s look at how other women managed:

The most common advice for getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy was gin and a hot bath. Many unmarried pregnant women who knew little of contraceptives knew about the old ‘gin and a hot bath’ remedy. Though many were unclear on how much gin to take, whether or not a hot bath was also required, and whether the gin itself should also be hot. One doctor’s medical advice after confirming a woman’s pregnancy was, ‘have some gin and a hot bath, perhaps try falling down the stairs a few times.’

Some were offered douche cans by their doctors, or acquired them on their own, but the douching failed to bring about miscarriage. Others mentioned knitting needles and crochet hooks, though they did not attempt these methods. Abortifacient suggestions were quietly passed between desperate women, which beyond those mentioned above also included pennyroyal, salts, slippery elm bark, leeches, deliberate injury (such as falling down stairs), caustic soap and syringe.

Then there was slippery elm and the leech. The leech you’d put inside you and then it would attack the womb, and open the womb up, and of course you’d lose the baby then. I know one of my aunties done it.

And anti-abortionists want women to go back to leeches, knitting needles, crochet hooks, hot baths and gin, or throwing themselves down the stairs?

This was the reality of illegal abortions.

In 1967 in the UK, Liberal MP David Steel put forward a private member’s bill to make abortion legal. It was passed. There have been repeated attempts to reduce the time limit but essentially, his bill is still pretty much in place. I remember his bill, and I remember the attempts to change it, trying to influence what could happen to my body. Why was it their business? Why?

Some stats:

In 2014, there were 185,000 abortions, for residents of England and Wales. Plus, another 5,000, mostly from NI. (All figures rounded up/down)

Most abortions were carried out under 13 weeks and medically rather than surgically.

Repeat abortions accounted for 37% of the procedures.

The rate was highest for women aged 22.

Girls under 16 accounted for 2,400 abortions.

Yet, of these approx 700 were to girls aged under 15, and similarly, just more than 700 were to women over 45. Different ends of the spectrum, but both in the same boat.

Eighty per cent of abortions were for single women.

Ethnicity is also recorded. Most abortions were for white women, but for repeat abortions, Black/Black British women accounted for nearly half.

Most repeat abortions were for older women.

image

But let’s move on and look at Europe. From a World Health Organisation Report:

Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia and Ukraine have the highest estimated abortion rates in the world. In 2003 there were more abortions than live births: 103 abortions per 100 births.

Nevertheless, eastern Europe has seen a dramatic decline in abortion incidence. It was estimated to be 90 per 1000 women of childbearing age in 1995 and 44 by 2004. The decrease coincided with substantial increases in contraceptive use in the region.

Legal restrictions on abortion do not affect its incidence; women seek desperate measures if they cannot obtain safe abortions. Data from Romania revealed that, when termination of pregnancy was banned by the Ceausescu regime, maternal mortality was more than 20 times higher than today.

Unsafe abortion kills. [my bold] Much has been done to improve abortion services in the Region, but up to 30% of maternal deaths are still caused by unsafe abortion in some countries of eastern Europe and central Asia.

The cost of conducting a safe abortion is up to one tenth of the cost of treating the consequences of an unsafe abortion.

And looking worldwide?

Well Eastern Europe comes out poorly as cited above, Northern/Western Europe does well and:

The abortion rate in the United States declined by 8% between 1996 and 2003 to 21 per 1,000 women, but remained higher, and in some cases substantially higher, than the rates in many Northern and Western European countries. However, within the United States, abortion levels differed widely by racial or ethnic group. In 2000, the abortion rate was 12% among white women, 31% among Hispanic women and 57% among black women.

Here’s an interesting conclusion:

Studies have demonstrated that abortion levels are strongly linked to contraceptive use patterns.

No!!

Blow me down with a feather. I never would have thought it.

http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/history-of-abortion-law-in-the-uk/

http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9780511563683&cid=CBO9780511563683A026&tabName=Chapter&imageExtract=

http://www.motherandbabyhomes.com/#!alternatives/cqcu

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/433437/2014_Commentary__5_.pdf

http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Life-stages/sexual-and-reproductive-health/activities/abortion/facts-and-figures-about-abortion-in-the-european-region

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3310607.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleck_Bourne

And for blogging posts, here’s one from Violet, and yet another lurid one from

David which suggests that the biggest proponent of birth control (Sanger) in America was pro-abortion. Takes all sorts.

Posted in feminism, Religion | Tagged | 202 Comments

On the use of inflammatory language

I am a moth to a flame when it comes to a post decrying poor use of language. So I was irresistibly drawn to John Zande’s post about an evangelical who was proclaiming the ‘correct’ use of language for abortion.

Not only did we have language, we have feminism too!

Ironically, the OP quoted by John, moans about ‘political correctness’ but then proceeds to assert his own definition of the correct language regarding abortion. In simple words, abortion is murder.

Regardless of anyone’s personal views about abortion, as John said, this language is inaccurate based on law, science, medicine.

Or to dumb it right down, a foetus is not a person, a child, a baby, a human being. Unless your religion tells you it is. And you don’t agree with a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body.

There are times I wish men got pregnant. I really do. Not to mention having periods.

I looked at David’s ‘About’ page, and followed his linky about how he became a fundy Christian and was intrigued with some journalism claims.

Dad was a journalist in the Air Force, who served in Public Affairs with the FAA after his military service.

and

I graduated high school, worked at the Sheriff’s office, and did courses at community college. My journalism instructor introduced me to broadcasting and got really interested in it, so I joined the Air Force and served in Armed Forces Radio & Television Service.

I asked about this on his post about correct and accurate language.

Did either of you gain any experience outside the armed forces or gain any national qualifications? I ask, because you are clearly aware of the power of words. But, had I ever used such grossly inaccurate and incorrect terminology in any of my jobs in government public relations or private sector journalism, then I would at least have got a carpeting and at worst, got the sack.

One of the paramount rules for journalism is NOT to let personal opinion influence one’s reporting, whether political, religious or whatever. Objectivity is our aim.

Your proposal for use of language here totally negates that and seeks to impose your religious perspective over and above the law and science. That is neither accurate or correct.

His reply:

I wanted to address the journalism angle, first. My father served in Public Affairs in the US Air Force, as well as being a deputy public affairs officer for the FAA. He wrote under the rules of the “journalism code”. I took journalism in my sophomore year of undergrad. From the inside, it looks like a fair-minded way of discourse. I remember thinking that way.

OK. So neither of them were qualified journalists or worked outside the armed forces or related, (FAA), according to that.

Then we have:

From the outside, it operates like a bunch of people who have only 1-side of a story they are allowed to tell. The only competition is how much higher one liberal reporter can stack talking points when compared to the other. I am grateful that I don’t have to attempt journalism, because my faith and convictions would never allow me a moment’s success.

Whoa! Whoa! What part of objectivity did you miss? Admittedly current day journalism leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m talking about reporting factually about something and presenting those facts honestly without bias.

Nice piece of patronisation here:

It seems like you come from a liberal/secular worldview, so you may not know how the other half of the country thinks and speaks. I vividly remember thinking the right-wing Christians entire worldview was nuts. I know the liberal mindset, because I had it. You know my background well enough to know that I realize how to detect spin – I made my living in it.

Truth is, I am totally confused about how America thinks. All of it. Let alone one half. But I did know about how my country thought. From rich to poor. The good thing about growing up in the UK was that no one put labels like that on you. Because no one gives a shit about your religion.

But spin. No, you are now making your living in it David. Religion is nothing but spin. An amateur PR person in the armed forces is not a professional spin officer. I, on the other hand, worked as a government public relations officer. I did make a living in what came to be called spin.

Apparently I am easily influenced.

I believe you genuinely believe what you are saying, but I also believe your thinking has been infused by liberal spin.

Try this:

I believe you genuinely believe what you are saying, but I also believe your thinking has been infused by religious spin.

Sadly spin has become a misused word, just like the words political correctness. When I started out in government PR, it was only just starting to bubble above the surface. Think, Bernard Ingham, all you old Brits.

But clever PR is about telling the truth without lying or misrepresentation. I cringed when I had to answer questions about Rechem and dioxins to the Sunday People. Every time there was a nuclear incident, and the odd radioactive flask went missing, I was the calm reassuring voice. When I was on call at night, it was down to me. Try dealing with the Herald of Free Enterprise capsizing (1987) and killing 193 people when all you have is a telephone landline to call people out of hours who might not answer. That’s not spin, or fluffy stories, that’s dealing with death and saying what the government is going to do about it.

And this, is why, I take exception to people deliberately misusing language. Did I try to paint my employer in the best light? Uh, yes. That was my job. Did I lie? No.

It seems some people can’t tell the difference between lies and damned lies.

Posted in christianity, feminism, journalism, Religion | 109 Comments

Raggy trousers part dos

Such a dilemma.

Animals or people. Animal rights, people rights. Dead lions, dead elephants, well just dead animals really.

What to write about?

Jo posted a nice one about it all and the hypocrisy surrounding okay to kill these animals and eat them, but not other animals.

Anyway, for once human rights win out, so I’m not joining the poor dead hunted game animals rantalogue for once. I’ll write about people.

People. The ones who also deserve a few rights. Maybe.

Partner has been working nights. In pubs. When they are shut because greedy landlords don’t want to close during the day and lose money, so he does the graveyard shift, starting around 11/11.30 and comes home some time after 6 am.

Firms won’t touch this sort of work. It incurs treble time. Partner is lucky to get ten pounds an hour. He struggles to get that during the day.

Meanwhile, I’m scouring the Internet for work in Gib and notice a couple of items. A cleaner. Charges ten pounds an hour. She holds the key for five apartments. My partner has a five year apprenticeship and trade qualifications. He can tell you more about chemical properties of paint and related things than I can with my chemistry O level.

People do not want to clean. Amazing. They will pay anything not to clean. They won’t pay for decorators though.

A Portuguese guy on the Internet wants a job so that he doesn’t go home as a failure. Gee whizz. Plenty of Gibbos want jobs too. Sadly, my heart is not breaking for you. The Gibraltarian market is over-saturated as it is.

Apparently someone else on the Gib Internet is really cheap. Only charges £25 an hour for handy person jobs. I wish. I can’t even get that for editing.

(NUJ recommended rate £27 an hour.)

Still, back to the pub job as was. Take down pictures, repaint, and rehang them.

Except when it came to rehanging, the pictures weren’t safe. The fixings weren’t secure. The screws were broken.

Basically, they could have fallen on staff or public. This was a big safety issue.

I suggested the boss might want to get his maintenance team to sort it. Done.

But next day, handyman was busy. Instead, we should do it as part of the job.

Just to explain, rehanging in the same position is not the same as repositioning and drilling four new holes per frame. So that was a no. Repositioning was an extra.

He refused to pay extras for the work.

I told Partner to take his tools off the job and walk.

Partner paid his employee for two nights work. Out of our pocket, obviously.

Speaking to people, some said, you should always pay your staff. Others said, if I wasn’t paid, they don’t get paid.

I must be getting extremely old and out of the game. As far as I am concerned if someone agrees to work for us they get paid. Our issues are not their’s. If they carry out the work, they get paid. Simple? Maybe not these days. And surely, safety is a priority?

But while the world continues to corrupt itself, we exist in our microcosm of morality.

Ragged trousered philanthropists

Posted in animal rights, animals, internet, life, work | Tagged , | 36 Comments

Colonial fans

It’s summertime and it’s aircon time.

Except in our block.

A couple of the rented flats have it, but it doesn’t work. They (British) are most disappointed. After all it is sooooo hot here at not even thirty degrees. The Vamp living above has just had it put in.

‘The aircon doesn’t work,’ say the rentees to us. Well so what? And, none of our business. Not a block management issue.

Did you take the lease on with fully functioning aircon?

Try getting that out of the people you are renting from.

‘Can’t you put aircon in our block?’ said one of the younger residents whose parents own the flat.

‘Er, no. That’s up to you to put it in your flat.’

Some years ago, a few houses in our pueblo had it installed, when everyone had a few euros still.

Aircon = huge electricity bills.

Aircon, as I learned in Australia, means you have to take warm clothes with you to go to work, because it is freezing in the office and when you get outside your body has to adjust to roasting temperatures.

And while home aircon units aren’t associated with legionella I spent too long dealing with outbreaks to regard aircon kindly. Reminds me of recycled smoke in airplanes.

So, no, we don’t have aircon.

We have switched on fans occasionally. Primarily to keep mosquitoes at bay at night in preference to nasty chemical implants polluting the atmosphere and my lungs.

And, when we bought Gibflat, it had one of those gorgeous Somerset Maugham ceiling fans.

Sooo, colonial. Sooo exotic.

Sooo Apocalypse Now.

Aircon just doesn’t have the same ambience.

Credits to napalm, Coppola, Conrad, and The Doors.

Posted in environmentalism, life, music | Tagged , , , , , , | 92 Comments

Victim blaming (regarding rape)

While I will agree with you entirely, RS, that no crime against persons is excusable, still there are precautions that one can take. If I were to walk down a dark alley in a major metropolitan city, with hundred-dollar bills hanging out of my pocket, I wouldn’t feel entirely blameless if I were robbed.

That is one of the most crass comparisons I have heard for some time. Don’t leave it all hanging out girl/woman or you’ll get touched/assaulted/raped. Your fault.

Of course. If I walk down the street, or in a quiet secluded area, showing my legs, arms, hands, ankles, eyes, some of my breasts, just basically any part of my body, I wouldn’t feel entirely blameless if I was raped.

Because, it’s always up to a woman to avoid being raped.

How many times do women have to say,

IT’S UP TO MEN TO STOP RAPING WOMEN.

Michelle said it beautifully.

https://aghostdancer.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/582/_still-not-asking-final3/

So, what should women do?

Precautions that one can take?

Cover up from head to toe? Not wear summer clothing? Not go out alone? At night? At all? Maybe need a male escort? Hello Islam.

There is, strangely, a difference between walking around with money hanging out of your pockets and being a woman walking down the street.

Or at least, there is from a woman’s perspective. Perhaps not from a man’s.

If you don’t understand why this is a blatant example of sexism and patriarchy then, please go do your homework.

Posted in feminism | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments

Happy birthdays

Are such fun as we age.

Gone are the days of cards dropping through the letterbox, or here on the Iberian peninsula, appearing in an external mailbox.

No. One gets an email from one’s not so nearest and definitely not so dearest.

Making a flippant comment on someone else’s blog about being up early for my birthday, I immediately got a personalised visual greeting on there. Three others wished me birthday greetings on the same blog.

One also sent me an email with a lovely handmade personalised image.

These are all people I haven’t met, apart from on the blogosphere. But polite, friendly, and thoughtful.

Meanwhile … back in the real world … a friend sent a greeting at 12.20 am the day after (ie today). Technically late, but as he lives in the UK, not late in his world. It was chatty and fun and sent me happily off to sleep.

Today … my ‘best friend’ from university finally wrote. I’ve known her for thirty eight years.

Happy Birthday yesterday, darling. You were in my thoughts Wednesday evening and I didn’t want to send greetings too early then yesterday was one of those days when I didn’t get near a computer – you were in my thoughts though.

Ever heard of delayed emails sweetheart? Or maybe send an ecard, which can also be delayed. Still, I’m not sure of the level of her technological skills. Or, what about your iPhone darling?

My very first birthday greetings came from a great efriend who had managed to send me an ecard for the first few minutes of my birthday. How difficult was that?

Blah blah about ‘best friend’s’ exciting social life …

Then it was yummy lobster and crab for lunch, you’re probably bored with it in Gibraltar.

What? I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 30 years. She’s catered for me when I’ve stayed with her in London. There was no seafood. When they hosted a dinner at The Ivy (posh London restaurant, for non-Brits) we were the only vegetarians and had our own special, fairly vile, meal. Possibly deliberate? But anyway. Why would I suddenly be eating lobster and crab in Gib? which, I have to say, doesn’t seem to feature on Gib menus anyway.

Ah. Here we are. The Landing’s at Queensway Marina. Lobster Thermidor at a mere £28 a head. For those who are mathematically challenged that’s £56 for two.

image

No. I think not.

My dearest friend concluded with the usual desire to meet up:

Hope that your ankle is better by the time you are sixty as we will have to meet up then!

Gee thanks sweetheart. Kind of you to hope it takes another flipping four years before I can walk properly. And when I’m sixty, meeting up with you for lobster and crab is not high on my agenda.

Seriously, if people can’t send friendly emails as birthday greetings, why not just send a one liner, an ecard, a photo image like my creative friends send, just less is most definitely more. But digging yourself into a hole and leaving a bad (fishy) taste in someone’s mouth by sending a late and thoughtless greeting doesn’t serve anyone. Just send the greeting early next time. If there is a next time.

Posted in friendships, life | Tagged , | 38 Comments

No. I don’t hate men

One of the silliest arguments I read on the internet is that all feminists hate men. Really, they, or rather, we, do.

This is on a par with all feminists are hairy ugly lesbians, it is so ridiculous.

The view that feminists hate men and want to damage them emotionally, socially, and financially is downright crass.

There are some people I dislike. Some are men. Some are women. Likewise, there are people I like, again some are men, some are women.

None of this has anything to do with feminism. Feminists dislike a system. Feminists want to see the elimination of a patriarchal system that discriminates against anyone who isn’t an alpha male. Preferably a white one.

Suffrage

There is more to feminism than achieving the right to vote. Interestingly, New Zealand was first with the extension of the vote to all women over 21 in 1893. Canada followed (except for Quebec) in 1919, and America timed it in 1920 for a presidential election.

The UK managed to give women over 30 the vote in 1918, based upon property qualifications (historically the UK right to vote was based on property), and universal female suffrage for women over 21 had to wait another ten years.

So? Then what?

Women had the right to vote in the UK. A big step forward. But just one.

Education

Around the same time, Oxford University finally allowed women to receive a degree (1920). Women had been attending Oxford since the 1870s and passing examinations with honours. But, because they weren’t men, they couldn’t graduate.

The first woman to gain honours in a University examination which was intended to be equivalent to that taken by men for a degree was Annie Mary Anne Henley Rogers. In 1877 she gained first class honours in Latin and Greek in the Second Examination for Honours in the recently instituted ‘Examination of Women’. In 1879 she followed this with first class honours in Ancient History.

Annie Rogers returned to Oxford to matriculate and graduate on 26 October 1920.

So two battles won?

Well not really. I’ve written before about how my mother was narrowly allowed to go to grammar school because her mother saw no need for it, and despite attending for a few years, she was finally pulled out of school to do the cleaning, ironing, cooking etc for the men in the family, approximately 20 years after the first women graduated from Oxford. My grandmother got her own way in the end. Life was different for the working class woman in the late 1930s.

Education is one of the cornerstones of feminism. Along with health care, bodily autonomy and economic independence.

Pregnancy, from the World Health Organisation

Maternal deaths have dropped from 427 000 in the year 2000 to 289 000 in 2013, but are still unacceptably high: nearly 800 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth every day.

We’re mostly looking at low income countries, but look at this comment from a blog two years ago about childbirth in America:

Bearing a child is still one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. It’s the sixth most common cause of death among women age 20 to 34 in the United States. If you look at the black-box warning on a packet of birth control pills, you’ll notice that at most ages the risk of death from taking the pills is less than if you don’t take them—that’s because they’re so good at preventing pregnancy, and pregnancy kills. The risk flips only after age 35 because birth control pills increase the risk of stroke. (Psst, guys, you know what makes an excellent 35th birthday present for your partner? Getting a vasectomy.)

So. Contraception has made one big difference to women. It’s reduced our chances of dying young from repetitive strain injury childbirth.

And, the other major factor that has moved forward women’s rights, was being able to go to work and earn money.

Employment

Now, women are no longer dependent on being passed as a dependent chattel from one man (father) to another (husband) to serve as a brood mare, and risk their health in endless pregnancies. We can go to university, vote and get jobs. We can provide for ourselves. We can have sex without the risk (or a very low risk) of getting pregnant.

There are equal opportunity laws. Life has moved on. We are now all equal. Sure. Women and other minority groups really want to add the stress of taking a case as well as being discriminated against because we now have legal recourse to do so. In theory, everything is there for us. No more worries, discrimination in the workplace doesn’t happen? How many stories do you want from my office? Sexual harassment? Discrimination while pregnant? Laws don’t end discrimination, and they put the onus on the discriminated.

At the same time, while legislation, education and health care may have changed in the western world, attitudes haven’t. Women continue to be brought up to attract a mate, a secure meal ticket so they can have a couple of kids, sit back, put their feet up, and be a good housewife. Pretty much what my mother aimed for.

Except. Life doesn’t work out like that.

Divorce

Because, we know plenty of men who haven’t just got divorced, they have literally walked from a toxic relationship and left their ex-wife and kids with everything. These men are now in their 50s and living in rented accommodation while their ex-wives sit prettily in the (bought) houses funded by their working husbands. And if these men don’t get work? How do they eat and pay their bills and rent?

And the classic. It used to be the gossip in the UK that young women would get pregnant to get council housing. Well, that still happens today. Some women in Gibraltar meet someone, (preferably British and innocent), get pregnant, and … chuck out the bloke shortly afterwards. The woman either gets government housing or sits prettily in bought or rented accommodation while the man pays. The same applies in Spain, women with kids have all the rights.

This is not to say all women do it. And maybe they aren’t playing someone. But some do.

One woman, divorced, said the other night that divorce was one of the biggest reasons people faced financial problems. The split, and the ensuing payments, whether they happened or not, can wreck someone’s life. Not just women’s lives, but men’s lives too.

So, why am I, as a red-card-carrying feminist standing up for the men? Because, men and women, all suffer from a rigid society that imposes artificial constructs upon us.

Men are not the problem. They suffer under patriarchy, as do women, differently, but they still suffer.

They suffer because they are cast in the role of financial provider, as protector of that cute little woman whose sole role is to pop out a couple of kids. Or more, depending on your religion. Just why, should men have to buy a woman? And spend their whole life paying?

Men suffer because women are taught silly rules about sexuality, and think they should use their sexuality to trap men. There is no honesty within these games.

I’m not talking about powerful people here, because little affects them. Just the ordinary person on the street. Who can’t even see what’s hitting them.

Feminism helps men and women. Here’s a short quote from Huff.

In fact, a new piece in the New York Times’ data blog Upshot suggests that the divorce rate has actually been dropping for some time now.

The feminist movement of the 1970s played a considerable role in where the divorce rate is now, according to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfer. As women entered the work force and gained reproductive rights, marriage began to evolve into its “modern-day form, based on love and shared passions, and often two incomes and shared housekeeping duties.”

I think that says it all. No set role. We each do what we can to make sure our relationship works. In our case, my career, his business, whoever cooks and cleans as and when does that. No expectation based on gender. I didn’t expect anyone to provide for me in return for domestic slavery or sex.

No one has the right to a free meal ticket, not men, not women. And men, if you think that it’s your role in life to provide and protect, you have bought right into patriarchal bullshit.

And to finish and re-emphasise:

Feminists do not hate men. Feminists want to end patriarchy. Feminists merely want a level playing field for everyone. Feminism isn’t a gender war. It’s trying to destroy an age-old artificial construct.

Nor do feminists alienate men. It’s hardly as though my blogs are short of comments from men.

But please don’t believe equality yet exists. It doesn’t. Women are still a minority social group.

For those of you who like the academic side of things, here is an excerpt from a thought-provoking piece:

in her landmark feminist analysis of oppression, Marilyn Frye writes that it encompasses “a system of interrelated barriers and forces which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group.”6 Others add that oppression presents multiple faces, including marginalization, exploitation, and powerlessness, and extends beyond economic and political forces to include psychological barriers that reduce, limit, or mold people as members of certain groups.7 Ann Cudd also clarifies that, by means of physical violence, economic domination, and psychologically coercive forces, oppression is essentially “an institutionally structured harm perpetrated on groups by other groups,” in which a privileged social group benefits from the harm endured by the oppressed.8

And for the men who read my blogs, I love you all, lots. :)

Posted in Atheism, feminism, health, life, Longreads, Religion, Sexism, WPlongform | Tagged , , , , , | 81 Comments

With reference to ‘baiting’ and ‘playing games’

Or blog etiquette?

My last post referred to a comment of mine on one blog, that was then made the subject of a post on another person’s blog (Tricia’s).

Just to summarise, I pointed out that police officer is a more appropriate generic term than policeman/men. In fact I didn’t even realise people still said policeman, fireman, postman etc.

A little history lesson

In olden days, many women did not work, and when they did, they didn’t work in the police force, the fire brigade or deliver mail. The people doing these jobs were—men. Hence the terminology.

And, when women did start doing these jobs, against all odds, the language clumsily pointed out they were a woman, eg a woman police constable (WPC).

WPC is no longer appropriate. (Phew, thought I had better check!)

My immediate response would be, a) why is their gender important and b) we don’t have man police constable (MPC or, as one wag said on the police forum, MCP).

And, to quote from the forum:

Ok, just imagine addressing some of your colleagues as “Black Police Constable”, “Gay Police Constable” or “Jewish Police Constable.”

Now see how inappropriate it is?

Here is the police forum.

It’s an interesting read, I only read the first page, but even in one page there are a range of opinions and ‘really funny’ comments. Assuming you find sexist jokes about making tea, looking after kids, and escort services funny.

The sensible comment above regarding, black, gay, Jewish, reinforces my point that women still face an uphill battle against discrimination compared with other minority groups. A number of commenters could not see the problem in pointing out that an officer is a woman.

Any police constable is a police officer first and foremost in their work environment. Pointing out their gender in their title is irrelevant and inappropriate and implies, by not doing the same for men, that a male police officer is the norm, and the default.

Similarly, by referring to a male nurse, one is still presupposing that nurses are normally women. In fact last year in hospital, men and women seemed pretty equally balanced, my ‘main’ nurse was male.

But by highlighting someone’s gender in a job we continue to reinforce the idea that one sex is automatically the ‘right’ one for the job, and that we expect to see them in that role. Because, by virtue of their gender, we stereotype women and men into different roles and affect their chances of being successful in gaining jobs and having successful careers in those fields.

If you don’t believe me, try reading this article on why sexist language matters. It is absolutely spot-on. Hell, it even picks up on my bugbear of ‘you guys’ and it’s written by an American. Or at least, someone who was teaching in North Carolina. It’s also more than eight years old. It’s a short and easy read.

Note. I have given two references here. One to the police forum, and another to AlterNet. This is important, and the crux of my post.

References

On my past post, I linked back to Tricia and InsanityBytes regarding their relevant posts about language/sexism/feminism.

As far as I am aware most of us do this when we refer to an external source that we are writing about. It gives the reader the chance to read further material and make up their mind independently. It is also being upfront that you are referring to another blog post and not tattling behind the poster’s back. Up to them whether they even choose to visit, let alone read or comment.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single person who refers to another blog post, website, whether it’s a restaurant, a news article, or an academic publication, whatever, who doesn’t link back. It also takes time to do so.

Which brings me onto three very different examples.

  1. When I was at university, I learned to make sure I listed my source materials. They were divided into primary and secondary sources, eg Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch, Machiavelli, and Rousseau were primary. Text books were secondary. An essay without significant primary sources would be poorly rated.
  2. When I was a newspaper journalist, we used court sheets, council papers and took verbatim shorthand notes at both. When we interviewed people, we used direct quotes or put it into reported speech. Again, a story is unsubstantiated without a source.
  3. When I was writing board papers, I would quote and reference government documents, legislation, and peer-reviewed articles in journals.

Why would I not do the same on blog posts?

And yet, Tricia complained elsewhere that I only linked back to ‘bait’ her.

I had a similar experience over on Rough Seas blog where myself and Insanity Bytes were mentioned with much disdain on a recent post. I took the bait and made a comment which was very restrained and respectful, …

and

Oh and you’re not fooling anyone by saying you don’t play games. No one links to another blogger without hoping for some type of response.

Some might do. I don’t. I link back for all the reasons cited above.

Here, should you choose, are the links. ;) Merely if you suffer from insomnia.

References:

Tricia’s comments and my replies on Colorstorm’s

My original post, ie the last one

Tricia’s post I referenced

InsanityBytes post I referenced

Posted in gender-specific language, blogging, feminism, writing, journalism, Sexism | Tagged , , | 80 Comments

The poor are always with us

What do I think of the Tory majority in the UK?

Pal Hariod Brawn asked me this so I thought I would give a somewhat superficial answer as that is all I can manage.

I’m not surprised.

Most people are racist, selfish and not interested in philanthropy. By and large the Tory party appeals to that point of view.

And, while my principles/beliefs lean somewhat to the left, in my lifetime I can’t remember a good/successful Labour government.

‘I’d vote Labour but I’m a socialist’ always comes to mind. Certainly I remember the euphoria around the Blair victory. And the disenchantment. The disillusionment. A Labour prime minister who modelled himself on Margaret Thatcher.

Which brings me neatly onto a nice feministy thing. (Sorry Hariod, that’s it on politics, for the most part.)

I have read recently some real arse about backwards comments about women and feminism.

One of the most common fallacies is that being a woman means a woman

  • a) is a feminist, or at the least can speak on women’s and feminist issues

and

  • b) a woman will do her all-out best to ensure other women receive at least equal treatment, if not preferential, to address the power imbalance in society.

Queen Bees

Many women in positions of power (well, the few in positions of power) exhibit the Queen Bee syndrome.

Thatcher was a classic example of not wanting to aid other women.

One of the chairs of my board was a similar example (also Tory incidentally). At a time when there was a government push to get a gender-balanced board of directors, my chair plaintively said: ‘But I’m the chair (she probably said chairman), surely we don’t need any more women on the board?’ On a board of eleven directors?

Erroneous credibility

More recently on religious blogs, I have noticed a trend for religious women to approve of sexist language, defend it, and criticise people (me, and others) for pointing out that gender-specific language is no longer appropriate.

This goes back to the fallacious belief above that says, I am a woman, therefore I can comment because I know what I am talking about.

Well, sure. If you have a relevant qualification in the use of language and thirty years of experience, go ahead. And that’s not just discussing use of sexist language, that’s often discussing the potential insult of a lot of words and trying to find appropriate and accurate ones.

For example, one of my journalist colleagues wanted to describe a group of protesters as ragamuffins and I stood my ground. I felt it was demeaning and inappropriate and inaccurate.

‘I am a woman’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to determining sexist language.

After my comment about policemen, Tricia kindly made a post about it, InsanityBites made a confusing follow-up. Don’t go there if you want to retain your sanity.

Insanity seems to think she is qualified to comment as she used to be a True Feminist (TM). Well, I’m not sure she really was … as the saying goes. Tricia is qualified because she is a woman.

Anti-feminist distractions

Tricia, on her post about my one blog comment elsewhere, said:

If you’re going to be mad about something, at least go after real outrages like the horrible oppression experienced daily by women around the world, or the disastrous way we are failing those in need of mental health services here in the U.S.

But I have mentioned that too. On more than one occasion. Readers of roughseas will have seen a number of posts about it, invariably on what is laughably called International Women’s Day.

I plead guilty to not campaigning for the state of the health service in America. I’m more interested in health and education for women in poorer countries than in the inglorious insurance-based health care system of the leader of the western world. Which, incidentally has nothing to do with women’s rights per se. Nor can I do fuck all about it.

Quite frankly, America has a shit health care system and that is neither my fault or my problem. But if you want my view, it fails because it is based on money. America is based on money and corporate greed. I know nice Americans, well, I think they are nice, but any country that resents paying into a communal pot for health care and is willing to see people out of house and home to pay for medical bills is living in the dark ages. But, that’s a new country for you.

So having pointed out that I can do Jack. Shit. Nada about the state of American health care or health and education for women in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, poor parts of the USA, what I can do is write about language.

And by writing about language, if I only open one person’s eyes as to how influential and discriminatory it is, I will have achieved something.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Or for those with a biblical preference:

They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes but do not see
They have ears, but do not hear

Etc

Psalm 115: 5, 6

Glorious sexism

Let’s finish on a discriminatory and trivial high, ie one that bans women from exercising personal choice and personifies them as sex objects.

Oh yes.

The Cannes Film Festival Dress Code.

Got ankle problems? Over fifty? No darling. Go away. We just want the young skinny leggy bits of stuff. Because, after all, we only really want to look at those sort of women anyway. It’s not as though women serve any other purpose. Apart from breeding and cleaning.

Breed before you’re fifty? Maybe become the old cleaning woman afterwards? Just keep out of sight.

And people wonder why I comment on gender specific language? Women have a long way to go, throughout the world.

Posted in Atheism, christianity, feminism, gender-specific language, life, politics, Religion, UK | 69 Comments

On being called a liar

What annoys me …

… is being called a liar.

Three examples.

Number One

We’d just moved into our new house in the UK. By new, I mean the next one, it was actually 1930s.

The next day, seriously, the very next day, a couple knocked on the door. Were they offering tea and biscuits or ‘welcome to the street’?

No. In fact, their house backed onto ours, so they weren’t in our (rather better) street.

They wanted us to chop our trees down that overhung their garden.

Gee! Yes! Of course! We haven’t even fucking unpacked but we’ll get the chainsaw out right now just to suit you.

No wonder the previous occupants of our house wanted to move.

But, being overly nice as usual, Partner did as requested later that week.

A week or so later, Knock Knock.

I answered the door.

It was the Carping Couple again.

‘We came and asked you to cut your trees and you haven’t done it yet.’

So which huge branches (that we would have liked back actually for firewood) did you miss in your back garden? Huh?

I had previously remonstrated with Partner for getting wound up about their initial request. But …

‘He has cut them.’

Carpies started arguing.

‘Don’t call me a liar. Fuck off.’

Door slammed in faces.

I then understood why Partner had been annoyed with them.

Number Two

We had been in Gibflat a few months.

A knock on the door. Yes, another Knock Knock.

‘Can you stop your dog peeing on the staircase?’

Eh?

If, he had, and he hadn’t, we would obviously have cleaned it up with bleach.

What was annoying here was a) the assumption, based on no information, knowledge, or actual witnessing, and b) thinking we would have not cleaned up had it happened.

These accusations went on for a while. He threatened to report us to the leaseholder. For something he couldn’t prove.

Partner suggested he check out if there were other animals in the block. He did. There were. To be honest, it was unlikely to have been animal pee as our dog showed no interest in it. It could just have been water.

But what absolutely arsehole behaviour.

He eventually conceded it wasn’t our dog. Not before his wife, and I, managed to tone down what was getting into a very heated conversation.

Thank you so much, prick of the first order.

Number Three

This weekend. And yes, another dog story.

A block in our street has been refurbed. Mostly offices, but a couple of flats. A couple drove onto the kerb.

‘Can you stop your dog peeing on my step?’ demanded Mr Imperious.

Said dog pee was a waterfall. Snowy is a small dog. He does not pee waterfalls.

Why do people who know stuff all about dogs make such crass assumptions?

Why do people have nothing better to do in life?

‘I have more respect for my neighbours than to allow that,’ said Partner loftily.

‘You’re not my neighbour,’ said arrogant shithead.

‘Yes I am,’ and Partner walked slowly over the road and into our block.

Because, unlike Ms Two degrees, journalist, editor, health service assistant director, my partner is working class with a skilled craft trade. And he looks it. Stuck-up bastards don’t expect him to be able to live where they do.

So not only did he make an erroneous assumption, and accuse Partner of being a liar, he added in a typically classist insult too.

And they should clean their step more often. That solves the problem.

But, to return to the point. We both hate being called a liar. I heard the raised voices in the street. I knew there was a problem. It took Partner hours to calm down. I understand. Because I hate it too.

It should be simple. Innocent until proved guilty. Don’t jump to conclusions or assume. If you get it wrong, apologise. None of the three above did.

Just don’t go there in the first place. Life is too short.

Posted in communal living - flat life, dogs, life, musings, thoughts | Tagged | 41 Comments

Things that puzzle me

In no particular order:

1) Why do people have comment moderation for blogs about cookery, books, photography and other presumably inoffensive subjects?

I can’t work out whether it is paranoia, over-inflated sense of self-importance or some strange form of blog management whereby having to approve a comment means they will never miss one. Most bizarre indeed. And also frustrating for readers.

2) Why do people oppose gender neutral language? This is the 21st century. We have had women in police forces for some considerable time. For goodness sake, we even have them in the armed forces now, so why are total morons referring to police officers as policemen and then justifying such use of sexist language?

The reason we have gender neutral language such as police officers (do watch Hot Fuzz if you haven’t seen it) instead of policeman, and firefighters instead of fireman, is that society is actually beginning to recognise that women can and do perform these functions too.

Just as when I chair a meeting, I do not accept being called a chairman. Even wiki mentions a reference to a chair as a person in a position of authority back in the seventeenth century. The origins are primarily religious/academic, so it follows there would have been no need to specify the holder was a man …

As someone who has worked professionally as a writer (and public relations manager) since leaving university, I do get mildly miffed by people telling me that words are not important. Words and our use of language are extremely important, that’s one reason why people get paid money for getting them right. Or as right as we can.

The reason why using the term policeman, fireman, postman etc as a generic term is offensive is because it assumes the person carrying out the work is a man. It excludes the concept that women might or are also doing that work. By continuing to perpetuate the idea that the default is male and a woman in the job is the exception—or not even there—we continue to reinforce the inequity (or iniquity?) within our society.

In reverse, how often do you read about ‘a male nurse’? Because the expectation, even though nurse is gender neutral, is that a nurse is a woman. Gender shouldn’t come into it. A nurse is a nurse. When I was in hospital last year, there was an interesting mix. Not quite 50:50, but probably 40:60 men to women. A far cry from 40 or 50 years ago when I was a kid in hospital and a male nurse was unheard of.

Times change and so does language, we may not agree with some changes but we should accept they are here to stay.

If it’s generally recognised that nigger, slopey and slanty-eyed chink are offensive, why is there such a resistance to gender neutral language?

3) Why do (some) bloggers have such transparent double standards? I’m probably guilty of this too, but some of it is so blatant.

The religious ones are the obvious ones here.

Commenter A goes off-topic. S/he is not of the same viewpoint as the religious blogowner so gets remonstrated with for going off-topic.

Commenter B is religious and goes off-topic, so clearly that is acceptable.

Commenter C (not religious) replies to something by B and is also told off for going off topic, despite replying to a question originally asked by the ‘approved’ Commenter B.

Commenter D insults someone. D is told off and threatened with moderation/banning because natch, D is not religious.

Commenter E (religious) insults someone (not religious). Blogowners response? Oh it’s good to see you again, Brother (or such similar twaddle).

And finally, got to love our religious brothers and sisters for giving us material to write about, blogowner F accuses me of lying without any proof at all. Merely an (incorrect) assumption. There’s no need for that on a public forum.

4) Today I got a request to fill in an opinion poll. There is an election this year. Will I vote for the GSD (right of centre) or the GSLP/Liberal Alliance (left of centre)?

Two options. No more.

Where was the don’t know/haven’t decided box?

How can I decide before I have read the manifestos? Yes, I do read them.

Why assume I am going to vote for one or the other? We have ten votes, and ten candidates for each party, so I could split my vote if I chose. Does that mean I should tick both boxes?

What about, I’m not going to vote, they are all a bunch of shysters, same tricks just different faces? Where was that box?

I’m not sure a badly thought out ‘poll’ like that deserves my time.

5) Heard this morning. Two Rumanians painting a flat for six pounds an hour between them. ie three pounds an hour each.

Minimum wage in Gib is five pounds something. Craft rate is £7.69. Firms normally charge out at £27/35 an hour (and pay craft rate or less). Flat rental starts at approx £700 a month. You’d only have to work 233 hours a month to pay rent. That’s nearly sixty hours a week. Then there are bills and food on top of that.

Charging, what in Gib, is not enough to live on unless you are hot bedding or squatting and starving yourself to death, is ridiculous. All it does is drag down the rate for everyone else. I’m not sure who is the worst, the person gleefully paying such a cheap rate, or the ones charging it. Next, people will be paying for the privilege of working. Sort of like buying an apprenticeship I suppose.

But at the other extreme, an acquaintance was looking up painting prices and found a template. To paint a door with one coat only was £35 a side. The last doors Partner painted, got two coats of paint and he charged £20 for one side. Seventy would have been very nice.

And finally, on maths. Another painter had priced some doors. They were new doors, so he was looking at three coats of paint, both sides. He priced them at £100. He didn’t get the job. But the killer here is, there were ten doors. The client asked the painter how much the total would be because he couldn’t work out 10 x 100 …

People puzzle me.

Posted in blogging, christianity, feminism, gender-specific language, work | Tagged , | 58 Comments

Just an everyday in a sexist life

It’s easy to say, ‘I’m not sexist, racist, disablist, fattist, ageist’ etc.

But what happens when someone challenges that?

None of us like being challenged so the automatic response is ‘Oh, no, I’m not’.

Except, how do we know? Ruth (and MMJ and Neuronotes) make the valid points that without an understanding of sexism and misogyny it’s somewhat difficult to say whether you have experienced it, or have dished it out.

I’ve read a lot recently about men who aren’t sexist, and there are currently some great posts around on understanding sexism, and specifically, victim blaming and shaming. Links at the end. Well worth a read.

I always swore I’d never do a feminism 101 for people. But here it is, in oldspeak before 101 appeared: ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Feminism’ (I know, ‘idiot’ is so uncool, but really sometimes appropriate). Or, at least a few tips and pointers to think about. Mostly based on personal experience.

The following behaviours are sexist:

1) Wolf whistling on a building site

Mostly this has stopped. Some workers have been suspended on site. The general current view is that it is no longer acceptable.

Yes, I’ve been whistled at.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, who cares what you think about some woman’s appearance? It’s called objectification. It’s not flattering. It’s called signifying approval that you meet the sexual standard for the men.

And of course, if you don’t get whistled at, then you are below par.

Either way, not good.

2) The reverse. Abusing women in public

How about approaching them and saying ‘Dooooog’ and then running off laughing.

Yes. I’ve had that too. It gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling. Thanks boys.

Because making jokes about a woman’s appearance is just Oh. So. Funny. And it is the privilege of the men to do so.

But, that doesn’t mean men who do so are sexist, oh no. It’s just a joke yes? And if you don’t find it funny you lack a sense of humour.

3) Women commenting on your appearance. Usually lack of breasts

‘Is that a boy or a girl,’ they said as I walked past, aged 13. ‘Can never tell these days.’

Gee thanks mum for getting my hair cut, and my fault for being tall and slim.

But, why is it your nosy business, strangers, whether I was a teenage boy or girl? Bad enough to think it, but to say within my hearing?

And the barwoman in the pub, ‘Oh, you’re flat-chested like me.’

Thanks. Just thanks for boosting my fragile teenage ego.

4) Men assuming your sexual status in the street, and commenting on it

‘Oh, German virgins,’ said to me and my French exchange pal in Paris, we were aged around 14/15.

And just what did our nationality or sexual status have to do with total strangers?

5) Let’s move up a little. Touching people

This is a rather sensitive issue. If you know someone, and have a friendly relationship, you may touch them on the arm. In Europe, we do kisses on the cheek. One in Gib, two in Spain.

What we don’t do, is creep up behind complete strangers and slide our hand up a woman’s arse. In a rather secluded place. With no one else around.

Yes, that’s happened to me too. I was in shock for hours. What happened was bad enough. What might have happened was worse.

But no men, you don’t have a right to stroke my arse.

6) Drinking pals. You know, a little alcohol, and oh yes, the woman is drunk and your luck is in

No. If the woman is drunk, and/or you are drunk, sex is a no-no. Is. That. Clear?

It is not a good idea to try and intoxicate a woman, with or without the aid of rohypnol, ketamine and/or GHB to deliberately have sex with her when she is not in control.

Nor is it a woman’s fault if you rape her in those circumstances. It is yours. And if you are extremely drunk or drugged, I would suggest you sober up before you fuck. Or, think about fucking.

Personal experience? Yes, I was drunk once and a ‘friend’ took me to his house. To sleep.

I probably wasn’t too drunk because I refused to play with his ‘toy’ (as he tried to convince me that his cock was just a plaything) on the grounds that I was drunk (at least I knew that) and I didn’t want to regret it in the morning.

It is never, ever, funny to try and make women lose control so that you can have sex with them. That is non-consensual sex. It’s called rape. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex when she’s sober, then don’t try to get her drunk to ‘change her mind’. And if she is already drunk, don’t act the knight errant and then rape her.

A woman who doesn’t know what she is agreeing to, is not consenting.

7) Fun phone calls

You know the ones. Anonymous ones. ‘I know the colour of your knickers.’ Or just the heavy breathing.

Have you any idea how much that freaks the recipient?

Yup. I’ve had those too.

8) Jokes

Because everything about women is light-hearted and whatever we men say is just fun. A laugh. With the boys.

No. Rape jokes are not funny. Appearance jokes are not funny. In fact, anything that basically puts women down, mocks them and scorns them is not remotely funny. It’s not feminists who need to get a sense of humour. It’s sexist people who need to re-evaluate.

9) Opening the door

These is a silly antiquated behaviour, not a symbol of deference or respect.

There’s nothing wrong with opening the door for anyone, regardless of gender, if they have their hands full. Or holding the door open for someone following behind you rather than letting it slam in their face.

But if you’ve ever been in the position of going to a meeting with someone in a strange building, having every door held open for you as you make your way to the room ends up like a farce. The two scenarios that follow go like this:

Scenario One

Man holds door open for woman. Woman goes through and stands there like a spare part not knowing where to go. Man follows through, embarrassingly squeezes past and resumes the lead until the next door appears. Repeat ad infinitum until reaching destination.

Scenario Two

Man holds door open for woman, but instead of squeezing past to take the lead, man then issues instructions somewhat like a driving test, telling woman to go right, left, take the third door on the left, walk straight across the junction, and then stop at the staircase. Assuming she’s made it that far. I have never seen men issue these orders to other men.

It is much easier for the person who knows where they are going to take the lead instead of displaying an unnecessary and impractical form of ‘respect’. Because, when necessary, women are capable of opening doors all on their little own.

And if you don’t behave like that with men, why are you doing it with women?

11) Claiming that there is no need for feminism because it’s all equal now. Yes. Sure it is. Do I need to quote statistics?

Even worse, moaning that men are discriminated against, and women are sexist towards them.

Because men are now the discriminated underclass. Really?

12) Feminists are just men-hating lesbians

I’m not. A lot of men read my blogs. Most of my friends are men. Feminism isn’t about hating men. It’s about trying to achieve equality for women. There is a significant difference. Feminists are not opposed to men. Feminists are opposed to a patriarchal society (invariably reinforced by the three patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) wherein the power rests with men.

It’s the system that is at fault. But to change that we need to challenge it and our behaviours.

13) My women friends don’t agree with you, so therefore you are wrong

This one cracks me up every time. This is invariably trotted out by some ignorant (as in not having a clue about the issues) man, who parrots off what I have said to his equally ignorant women friends, and then comes back and tells me they are women, so they must know.

Well possibly if they are radical feminists they might have some idea. But given that radfems are thin on the ground, I find it odd that a man who uses sexist language would have a bunch of radfem friends.

14) And on the language issue …

Using terms that apply to a woman in a derogatory or abusive style is sexist. Here are a few examples:

Bitch (and bitch slap)
Cunt
Slut
Slag

And, infantilising women by referring to them as baby, girl, chick etc when they are 20 or 30 just perpetuates the ‘women MUST keep their looks and appear younger than they are’ stereotype.

In a similar vein, referring to a woman as a lady is not good. Not only is this sexist, it’s inaccurate and classist. More about language on my previous post, mixing ladies and whores.

Language is so powerful. What we say influences others. So, please think about your choice of words. Before you claim you aren’t sexist.

15) And back to the beginning

If you trot out a bland statement that you believe in equal rights for women and you are not sexist, and behave in any of the above ways (or have done and think it was fine) then you are sexist.

If you argue with a woman who says you are, then you most probably are. Instead of arguing, try and work out why.

Up here for thinking, down here for … So use the brain for thinking. Not the other organ.

Some links:

Rebecca’s great post about victim shaming

Her link to someone with a long name who wrote a brilliant post about consent. She uses a great analogy for describing non-consensual sex

And finally, a fem 101 site that has some good posts answering basic questions with some well thought through answers

Posted in blogging, feminism, gender-specific language, Longreads, Religion, WPlongform | Tagged , , | 48 Comments

Just another ripping post into women …

Who couldn’t get excited about going to university?

Leaving home for a whole new life. (Well, not quite, but more on that later.)

Meeting really clever people, wondering if I would make the intellectual mark? (That was another delusion. Everyone else was as ordinary as me. Phew. Still, a slight let-down.)

I crossed the Pennines in the late 70s.

From Yorkshire to Lancashire. Don’t ask me why someone from Yorkshire went to university in Lancashire but I did.

And every weekend I went home to work on my parents’ market stall. Because, they couldn’t manage without me. So they said. I’m sure it wasn’t about parental control. (So, not quite the whole new life, only a weekday new life.)

But my trip across the Pennines coincided with the advent of the Yorkshire Ripper.

He’d started killing in Leeds when I was in sixth form. Leeds was nine miles away and somewhere I went occasionally to nightclubs. He killed first in 1975, then in 1976, and four times in 1977. He usually bludgeoned the women to death with a hammer and either stabbed them with a knife or sharpened hammer.

His initial murders were of prostitutes, often from Chapeltown in Leeds. But his third murder in 1977, ie his fifth one in total, was of a 16-year-old who was not a prostitute.

This put a new complexion on these killings. No woman was safe. Because prostitutes were different, yes? Or as one of my dad’s friends said regarding the other women who were killed, ‘Well, they were only whores* anyway.’ [*prostitutes, hookers, slags, sluts, I no longer remember his word of choice.]

So now, bright, pretty, young teenagers had become targets too.

And in the month I fled the murder stamping ground in the West Riding of Yorkshire for the safe haven of my university across the Pennines, the Ripper killed again. But not in Yorkshire, in Manchester. Across the Pennines.

Speculation grew that this killer was a lorry driver as his murders continued in the same areas: Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Manchester. Did he regularly travel from one area to the other, maybe across the Pennines, ie from Yorkshire to Lancashire, killing en route?

I was in touch with a schoolfriend and went to stay a few times with her in Leeds. In the heart of Ripper area. We went to pubs in Chapeltown and I wondered how she could live there with the threat of death hanging over the place. But, we all have to live, and accommodation was cheap in Chapeltown. So was life, sadly.

He was still killing when I graduated.

One Sunday night in the early new year, I’d gone to the local with my mum and dad. It was the semi-posh local, very old, wooden beams and all that.

Suddenly, John, the landlord, shouted to the whole bar: ‘They’ve got him. They’ve got the Ripper.’

The bar stilled. And then, the feeling of relief spread through us all.

No more worrying about which town or city would be next. Or who would be next. Or worrying about your wife, daughter, sister, mother, whenever they went out at night.

It’s more than 30 years ago but I remember that night.

John was listening to the news and the details that came through were limited. All I remember was a comment about basic policing and stolen number plates from a local scrapyard.

So although Sutcliffe was apprehended in Sheffield, with his potential next victim, he was brought to our local police station to be charged with stolen number plates because the scrapyard was within our area. Love the way the law works!

What other personal memories about this sad and vicious case? Well, the detective heading it up was the father of a girl in my year at school. She was actually our head girl at the time this was going on. The past plays tricks with our memories, but I remember this was mentioned at one point. Search wiki though and there’s no record of her. Search films made and yes, there she is, the daughter being portrayed, same name, studying for A levels, complete with glasses and long blonde hair.

Perhaps slightly more chilling is that the Ripper’s defence solicitor was one of my parents’ former employees. Spooky.

But I’d like to talk about Kerry for a moment. He came from a catholic family who lived on the local council estate. Well, there were lots of local council estates where I came from.

On Saturdays my mum and dad hired someone to help out on the market stall to cut cheese. At one point, Kerry was the cheese boy. Nice lad, quiet, studious and wanting to get away from the council estate. Hoping to study law, which was pretty difficult given his background. His Saturday job gave him and the family of seven or nine or eleven kids some cash.

And he did get away. Last thing I read of him while researching this post was that he retired, aged 62, as a circuit judge. He’d made it as a high court judge which isn’t bad for a lad from one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

The Ripper years dominated my late teens, early twenties. It was no joke to say that women in Yorkshire were frightened to go out.

Let me finish with some facts:

  • Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women and attempted to kill seven others within a six-year period. Plus an earlier attack on a prostitute in 1969.
  • He was interviewed nine times during the course of the investigation. He was a lorry driver.
  • Sutcliffe claimed he heard god’s voice, telling him to kill prostitutes. Right. That would explain killing women who weren’t prostitutes wouldn’t it? Well?
  • He is serving twenty concurrent services of life imprisonment. But naturally he appealed against all that, because, you really want this nice chap on the streets yes?
  • Sutcliffe is in Broadmoor. This is a high-security psychiatric hospital. He has been assaulted twice while incarcerated.

Let’s look at a little religion here though. God told Sutcliffe to kill prostitutes. Somehow. Telephone? Holy Email? Oh, not then. Well maybe spiritual virtual something.

An eye for an eye.

Sutcliffe duly carried out his god-given duties (failed on 30% of them actually) and gets into Broadmoor only to be stabbed in the left eye. Ten years later, another Broadmoor inmate tries to blind him in the other eye:

You fucking raping, murdering bastard, I’ll blind your fucking other one.

It seems, our fucking raping murdering bastard is not too happy:

Sutcliffe was reportedly “terrified” as he was already blind in his left eye following the 1997 stabbing incident.

Hmm. I wonder how his twenty victims felt as he bludgeoned 13 of them to death and attempted to kill the others? Terrified? Possibly?

This man terrified women in a huge geographical region for six years.

So when Clarkson makes jokes about lorry drivers killing prostitutes, it isn’t funny at all.

  • Killing prostitutes isn’t funny.
  • Killing women isn’t funny.
  • Judging women because they are prostitutes isn’t funny.
  • Reminding women of the fear they face every day isn’t funny.

And telling them there is no patriarchy and everyone is equal is beyond derisive.

Should you want to read more about the Ripper:

http://www.execulink.com/~kbrannen/arrest.htm

And the obv wiki:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Sutcliffe

From which I idly took my material that wasn’t personal.

Please people. Don’t joke about using, abusing, raping, threatening or killing women. It really isn’t remotely funny for us to live a life of fear.

Especially a god-given one.

ETA Don’t you just want to know this convicted murderer became a Jehovah’s Witness this year. Guess all his sins are absolved. I love me this religion. Repeat rhetoric. Forget crimes. That is right, yes? Because, repentenance forgives killing.

Posted in Atheism, christianity, history, journalism, Religion, WPlongform | 33 Comments

Fifty shades of … Vanilla Cinderella

It doesn’t matter how you look at it, but the Cinderella myth is going strong.

For my purposes I’m doing the easy version, no Jung, Freud, nada. Poor girl meets rich prince, disaster intervenes but then they end up happily ever after.

You can read straight romances or sexual ones. You can watch films and TV. You can listen to the soft words of your parents, ‘Daddy’s little princess’, but the blunt truth is, most little girls do not end up marrying rich men. So why do we perpetuate this myth?

*warning*

This rest of this post is mildly sexual in content and may put you off your breakfast/lunch/supper, depending on where you are in the world.

Like many others, I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. This isn’t out of sexual prudishness, but rather that I tend not to read the flavour of the month books. So I haven’t read The Hunger Games whatever they are, I only read Twilight and a Potter book when they appeared in one of my free book bags.

I actually thought Fifty Shades was quite a literary novel for some reason. Probably the title. When I initially heard about it nobody mentioned BDSM.

Eventually, ie a few weeks ago, I ‘looked inside’ on Amazon and it was so riveting (not) that I can’t remember a thing about what I read.

However, I have read other BDSM books. I’m not for a minute going to profess to know anything about the lifestyle so please put aside images of a) Roughseas dressed in a (fake) leather corset and thigh-high boots brandishing a whip, and b) Roughseas naked and chained/tied to the bed submitting to the Dom of her dreams. The only thing I know is that everything should be safe, sane and consensual, which seems a good idea to me. And therefore what consenting adults get up to together is their business alone. Or is it?

However, back to reading the books. Some of the BDSM books are total tat. They are poorly written and either not edited at all or badly edited or someone’s sister or reading group had proofread it. Others are much better. The sexuality comes not from the tedious descriptions of the sexual acts but from the interplay between the main couple in the story. All the ones I have read have been heterosexual, and the books have invariably been written by women. They are basically romance books with some graphic sex added.

And of course, the relationship starts out as purely sexual with Mr Cold and Handsome not being interested in soppy stuff, just having a really good fuck and being totally in charge.

Rather than fifty shades of plot, there only seems to be one. The Dom is always tall, dark and handsome with tight muscles, a wonderful arse, and a huge cock. I lie. Occasionally he is fair-haired.

Clearly none of these Doms took part in the recent survey of penis size which said the average length was 3.5 inches or something. Oh, here you go:

The enduring question now has a scientific answer: 13.12 centimetres (5.16 inches) in length when erect, and 11.66cm (4.6 inches) around, according to an analysis of more than 15,000 penises around the world.

In a flaccid state, it found, the penis of the average man is 9.16cm (3.6 inches) in length and has a girth of 9.31cm (3.7 inches).

Thanks, Guardian. Always good to have this interesting info at ones … fingertips? Let’s hope there aren’t the usual Grauniad errors with those numbers …

But back to the non-plot:

The woman (the sub) either isn’t remotely interested in a D/s relationship and/or she may have a mild interest in it. Handsome Dom is always extremely experienced, incredibly good at sex, and immediately realises our heroine is a natural sub just crying out to be trained. By him.

Skip this next bit if you want to enjoy your boiled egg/lunch/supper.

There is lots of foreplay. It always follows the same pattern, starting with masturbation. And at some point in their foreplay he usually rips off her knickers, gazes at her beautiful arse and says ‘you have a beautiful ass’ (they’re all American, even the odd sexy Brit who appears manages to say ass), and spanks her. Hard.

There is always oral sex. These men love it. Oh and the women are always shaved/waxed. Either fully or almost. No stopping midway through for handsome hero to have a coughing fit on a stray hair. There is no mention of the men being shaved for the other way round though, and the women always swallow. No going ‘yuk, that’s salty’ and spitting it out.

Finally, after twenty orgasms through foreplay for the woman, they have PIV sex when, naturally there are another fifty shades of orgasm. Two very important things to note. 1) the woman is in a permanent state of sexual arousal, and 2) she always has the most fantastic orgasms ever. The man is only interested in her pleasure (???) and he has an impeccable sense of timing.

Sometimes the woman has reached her mid-twenties and is still a virgin. Really? She’s always beautiful, usually with a decent pair of tits, a fit arse, yet she’s gone through school, university, and started her career without one single shag?

If she has had sex it’s not been the mind-blowing sex she gets from her wonderful Mr Best Shag in the World. Either way, she’s def an anal sex virgin. But with the help of our kind and considerate Dom, yes, our no longer an-anal-sex-virgin has yet another wonderful, rather, different, orgasm.

Our submissive heroine is often taken to a club where she gets to see what the experts get up to, although she is only ever tied up, sometimes blindfolded, and always spanked. Nothing heavy.

There we have it really, a quick summary of all the BDSM books that are around at the mo. Invariably part of a series.

Nearly forgot. One other really important sexual attraction. The men are not just millionaires, they are billionaires. Because these days, Cinderellas are going for mega bucks.

And to think Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned.

However, the serious points about these books are:

  • Reinforcement of the myth that pretty women being sexually complicit always end up with the handsome rich prince
  • Handsome rich prince has a big cock (not sure whether money or size is more important, nah, money wins out)
  • Women don’t really want a career, just a handsome rich prince (complete with BC) so they can settle down happily ever after in large mansion and have 2.4 kids (plus maids, gardeners, cooks, chauffeurs etc)
  • Being sweet and innocent always ensures the woman is rescued by the handsome (rich, BC) prince
  • You have to be beautiful, drop absolutely dead gorgeous to even get a look in for the prince

Now, if that isn’t Cinderella revisited what is?

The same tosh is also churned out minus the sex under the so-called genre of ‘romance’.

But while what people do behind closed doors is one issue, I am worried when it strays into everyday life.

And telling women what to eat ie ordering their meals in restaurants, what to wear, what not to wear, is going off the wall. And it is seriously control freakish when it walks out of the bedroom.

Even worse, when it becomes acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. Because some BDSM blogs do mention this. Because the Lord says women should submit to men? Where and when does religion and sex become so blurred?

When you take sex out of the bedroom, these are mind games you shouldn’t be playing. Especially if you involve silly sky fairies. This stops being about sex. It is about power and control. Ah, wait, perhaps that’s what the whole scenario is about …

It doesn’t matter where you go, the story is always the same. Pretty little girl meets rich handsome prince. And does what he tells her. Bad news people. This is not real life. Princes are few and far between. Sensible women think for themselves.

And it really doesn’t matter whether Kenneth Branagh’s production of Cinderella portrays an active or passive heroine with an extremely narrow waist. The end result is the same. She gets her prince.

When will we stop grooming girls and young women to believe in the delusion that they need to be sexually attractive and complicit princesses to achieve their stinking rich prince? And that they should only concentrate on that one unachievable goal in life?

Here’s a suitable song, Esther has a beautiful voice:

Posted in feminism, Longreads, love, relationships | Tagged , , , , , | 91 Comments

Is Clarkson paying the price?

Or, is this about trying to absolve the past?

I have always found Jeremy Clarkson to be the personification of an obnoxious loathsome git. He is the classic rude, boorish, sexist, Yorkshireman.

Because yes, dear reader, said arrogant egotistical 54-year-old boy is a similar age to me, comes from not very far away, and even trained as a journalist in Yorkshire. Shudder. Anyway, I never met him. There were plenty of other sexist, arrogant, obnoxious male Yorkshire journos to contend with.

He has been allowed to get away with sexism, homophobia, racism, environmental damage, and really whatever he has wanted.

Wiki has a long list of his ‘antics’ but I’ll pick possibly my favourite.

In November 2008, Clarkson attracted over 500 complaints to the BBC when he joked about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes.

The BBC stated the comment was a comic rebuttal of a common misconception about lorry drivers and was within the viewer’s expectation of Clarkson’s Top Gear persona.

Well clearly the BBC hadn’t been a woman living in Yorkshire in the late 70s, when the *Yorkshire Ripper who was a lorry driver murdered 13 women and attempted to murder 7 others.

I do not think all lorry drivers murder prostitutes because one did.

But one did, and he was a serial killer. And for Clarkson to make a joke about it, is beyond words. For those of you who don’t understand sexism, that is sexism at its finest.

Killing women is not funny.

Killing prostitutes is no different. This is not funny either.

But worse, this buys into the fact that because prostitutes sell sex, they value even less than non-prostitute women.

And making jokes about it is sick and grossly sexist to the point of misogynistic. What on earth is funny about someone being killed?

It is no way a ‘comic’ rebuttal. It is offensive and disrespectful to women who were killed and to their families.

Chris Mole, the Member of Parliament for Ipswich, where five prostitutes were murdered in 2006, wrote a “strongly worded” letter to BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, demanding that Clarkson be sacked.

Clarkson dismissed Mole’s comments in his Sunday Times column the following weekend, writing, “There are more important things to worry about than what some balding and irrelevant middle-aged man might have said on a crappy BBC2 motoring show.”

This is the irrelevant middle-aged man worth an approx £30 mill and who fronts a ‘crappy’ programme with a five mill viewing in the UK and sold all over the world? Very modest Jeremy. Very.

Andrew Tinkler, chief executive of the Eddie Stobart Group, a major trucking company, stated that “They were just having a laugh. It’s the 21st century, let’s get our sense of humour in line.”

This is the 21st century Andrew, let’s stop going back to our caves. Or at least if you do. Just. Stay. There. Preferably with Jeremy.

What’s wrong with this comment by Tinkler? It’s the classic defence to sexism.

It is funny to joke about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes. Really?

No. It is not. And please do not accuse anyone who doesn’t find it funny of lacking a sense of humour. Maybe you lack a little empathy for murdered women and their families. Truckman.

Another sexism quote at its finest. ‘Just having a laugh.’

But anyway, there are more of Clarkson’s Classics on wiki should you choose to read his oh-so-important views.

My real question here, is that, as he has now allegedly punched someone because he got a cold cheese platter instead of a red hot man’s meat meal, why is the BBC making such a fuss?

Of course Jeremy shouldn’t punch people – if he did – and of course the BBC shouldn’t condone it. But they’ve let all his other outbursts go with a gentle rap on those tough macho knuckles.

Or is this about finally catching up with the past? And putting today’s values, guilt and morals (or lack of) onto yesterday’s events.

Because, is Clarkson today’s Savile or Harris? Just using and abusing his powerful position to do whatever he wants. And say whatever he wants? I’m not for a minute saying he has raped and molested children and young people like the other two. So go away Clarkson lawyers. But, the BBC let these things go in the past. Or didn’t know. Or something. And in the case of Savile, not just the beeb, but the NHS and the police.

The bigger issue here, is how much power do famous people have, and how much does their bad, discriminatory, or illegal behaviour get overlooked?

And how much do we, the public, support it?

Could Clarkson end up paying the price for his own obnoxious behaviour? Or, with management’s hindsight, paying the price for that of his egotistical predecessors? There again, should Clarkson have been gone before?

Does the BBC finally think they need to stop letting their superstars rule the roost? Doubtful. As with everything, viewing figures, and more importantly, money, always rules.

For the record, I did like Rolf Harris. I didn’t like Savile. I may even have spoken to him on the phone once or twice as a reporter. Hardly my claim to fame.

*I’ll write about the Yorkshire Ripper from a personal perspective next. It might help to show why jokes about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes are not funny.

Posted in feminism, journalism, media, news | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

No one else asked me

My mother was a deputy matron at 19 at the local nursery school. It was during the war, ie 1940s.

The local nursery was so local that it was literally at the bottom of the garden of her parents’ home. I can still remember it now. It was white, single storey, with red paintwork and trimmings. Beyond the nursery was the park. To reach both, one walked out of the wicket gate from the front garden, and turned immediately left down an unmade track towards the park. On the other side of the track was the large vicarage.

My mother was brought up in a council house. In fact, it was regarded as desirable. Relatively new, ‘The Crescent’ as it was popularly known, was the height of aspiration for working class people who could never dream of owning their own homes. My grandfather kept bantams, and during the war, the kids at the nursery got real eggs courtesy of the deputy matron’s father.

My father lived in a one-down, two up, toilet out the back, privately rented terraced house. Contrast this with the standard of affluence of my mother’s childhood home, three bedrooms, indoor bathroom with toilet, oak staircase, gardens front and rear, not just one but two sitting rooms. OK, one was the never used parlour, and the other was the main room complete with coal-fired range. A true living room.

Mum’s old house. Looked better before. And, what happened to the laburnum tree?

Not dad’s, but same terrace, I think. Except three bedrooms? Not in a million years.

Both families brought up four children. Both men (my two grandfathers) were engineers. How come such disparity? Luck of the draw?

My parents were both bright and went to the local single sex grammar schools. My grandmother objected to my mother going, as mum’s role was to be a domestic slave. Something that never really left her psyche. She was totally imbued with the idea of getting married and being the perfect homemaker. But my grandfather and her older brother stood up for her and off to the grammar school she went. Only to be pulled out at the earliest possible school leaving age, 14 back then I think. My dad stayed at school long enough to matriculate, his main gripe was not being able to play cricket on Saturday because he had to work on the market stall. Many years later on, I couldn’t be a ball boy (as was) at tennis matches on Saturdays because … I had to work on the market stall.

Yet, despite my mother’s failure to complete her education (washing and ironing and cooking being so much more important), she managed to get some decent jobs. Many years ago, and well before my time, WH Smiths lent out books and my mother worked there as a librarian. It sounded like another world even as she was telling me. Smiths was where I went to listen to free records under the pretext of buying them, or read magazines that told you about sex.

Not the place where one got preferential library tickets. A ‘pref’ ticket was apparently a paid for subscription where one got new books to read. Unsullied by anyone else’s dirty little hands. Yesterday’s Kindle Unlimited?

My mother loved books and loved reading. Many of my old leather-bound classics come from her small book collection. When I went with her to the library, she would spend ages choosing the four books. When I went with my dad, he would just grab the first four that looked readable.

But her heart lay with children. When she started going out with my dad, the war was over and she was working in a different school in a run-down Irish immigrant area. Many years later I worked there too. By that time it was still a run-down immigrant area, just the Irish ones had changed to Pakistani. Even now, the areas where my parents and I grew up and worked are classified in the top (or lowest) ten per centile of deprived areas in the UK.

Mum had an older teacher as a mentor. Miss Brooke taught her how to complete cryptic crosswords during their breaks. Miss Brooke encouraged my mother to go for formal accreditation as a teacher. She never did.

When my mum got married, the children of these poor working class families scraped together enough pennies to buy her six crystal glasses. They sat proudly in her corner cabinet, long after she’d given up her job, a testimony to the love and affection of those years working with poor children. Until the day my dad’s niece was babysitting for me with her boyfriend and knocked into the cupboard. Only one glass remained. And, yes, I still have it.

My dad didn’t want children. My mother did. My dad came from a Methodist family. My mother’s was Church of England. My dad’s family was politically liberal. My mother’s was conservative. My dad’s mother was divorced. My mother’s parents were together until my grandfather died. My grandmother was renowned as a great cook, my nana (on my dad’s side) was not. My mother liked opera. My father liked Stranger in Paradise but had never heard of Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances.

Chalk and cheese.

Fast forward to my mother’s last years and we were discussing life, as you do. I asked her what she’d most enjoyed, and she said unhesitatingly that it had been working with the rough poor Irish immigrant kids in Batley Carr. She could still remember the names of some of them, and felt it was such a shame that bright kids were so disadvantaged.

And yet, she gave up that job. Why? Because my dad was working at the power station, started early, finished early, and didn’t like coming home to an empty house. Bye bye career, independent work, and all that. Hello, subservient slave. At this point I’d been married for more than 25 years, but it struck me as so sad that a woman gave up a potential career that she loved because a man couldn’t handle coming home without the welcoming little woman.

She’d always asked me why I got married. I’m not religious and I’ve never wanted children. To her it didn’t compute. Although she wouldn’t have been happy about me living with someone either. And she didn’t like me retaining my birthname rather than becoming Mrs Husband’s Last Name. She would always address letters to us by our first names, as though the whole postal service would sit in judgement if they saw two different surnames together.

And she died without me answering her question. Hell. I don’t know why I got married. I just did.

But I asked her why she married my dad.

‘No one else asked me.’

For those of you who don’t read my not-a-photo-blog, here’s my mother. She’s the one in black.

My mother

My mother

Posted in family, feminism, life, Longreads, love, parents, WPlongform | 68 Comments

Mr, Mrs, Miss, Dr. But … no Ms?

I was filling out an online application form.

First question, title.

Natch, the first option was Mr. Followed by Mrs, Miss and Dr.

Whoa! This is the 21st century.

And if you don’t see anything wrong with that list, then you can pat yourself on the back that you are truly sexist.

Alphabetically one would put Dr first. Or if starting without academic titles, then Miss would come first. Either way, why no Ms?

Even my nearly 80-year-old Jewish neighbour refers to me as Ms and the chair of our committee.

I move onto another option. The default? Mr.

I’m wondering if I should just scrap this form altogether.

Next up, am I married?

And what, pray, is the relevance of that?

To anyone?

And, as I’ve answered Miss, and given a different surname, will that confuse whatever dimwitted arsehole designed this crass form?

How will legally married same-sex couples be viewed? Imagine Mrs or Miss or Ms whatever surnames fill in this form as married. Or Mr X and Mr Y.

Next, any dependants? Why, two dogs of course. Do I get bonus or minus points for that? Who knows?

Surely you also want to know whether I own my own house(s), have a mortgage, outstanding loans of other types, and what sort of shower gel I use?

I’ve asked for a downloadable form because I can’t possibly give them a correct picture when the shower gel info is not an option.

But, why is marital status relevant to any form?

And why is Ms not an option on there?

Yes. I did ditch the online form and now have a headache.

For those of you interested in a little history, Ms was used back in the 1600s. Oh. Yes.

So it’s not a bra-burning 1960s women’s lib thing.

And it was revived at the start of the 20th century.

Bu of course, those who don’t know their history …

And give me one good reason why we identify women who are married or single by their title and we don’t do the same for men?

Poll time. Fun time.

And, if you want another poll, check out Ruth’s.

https://gulliblestravelsdma.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/can-the-frogs-get-out-of-the-pot/

Posted in feminism, gender-specific language, writing | Tagged , | 49 Comments

Comfort zones

How many of us step outside?

A comment by EllaDee made me think about how often I read blogs that have little or nothing in common with me.

Or to put it another way, vegetarian, left-wing, atheist, feminist, environmentalist, veganic gardening, animal rights supporting, childfree women aren’t exactly popping out of the woodwork.

In terms of visiting blogs that are poles apart, the atheist/religious dances are the most fascinating.

Atheists, a number of whom, or probably most of them, are deconverts, happily frequent religious blogs arguing the toss about whether this person or that person really existed, how much of the bible is fiction, and what the latest archaeological survey says.

And it all floats over the top of my head.

My really clever intellectual justification for not believing in any of it, is that religion sounds totally implausible, so therefore that’s that.

But somewhat like people who read gossip magazines, I will confess to visiting religious blogs when I have something else more important to do. Like washing up.

I’m attracted, like iron filings to a magnet. Many times there is lots of jolly backslapping, with comments of ‘Praise be, brother,’ ‘Amen to that sister,’ ‘The Lord truly shows us the way,’ and endless variations on that theme.

Nothing of any substance until the evil atheist appears, and then, it’s gloves off. Or pistols at dawn. Insults are hurled, academic references are cited, 20 interpretations of one word are minutely examined, and no one is any the wiser, nor is agreement ever reached. Plus, there are threats of moderation and bans! Comments are edited, links to sources deleted. Amazing stuff. To which I can contribute absolutely zilch.

But still, it makes a fascinating read on occasion.

The one religious blog where I have been welcomed is Wally’s. I have no idea why, as we can’t agree on anything, but still we seem to be able to do so politely.

On my last visit, I was somewhat upset to find general euphoria that 21 people had been killed by ISIS for not denying Christ. Sounded a bit of a fishy story to me as the 21st person wasn’t Christian but was so impressed by the previous 20 sticking up for Jesus that he did too.

Anyways, the point of all this was that said euphoria was because the alleged non-Christian found the Lord just before he was beheaded.

And that’s good? That’s more important than the fact that 21 people were murdered by another fundamentalist religion?

However, if I can traipse over to Wally’s blog with my ignorant comments and be welcomed, what about Christians visiting non-christian blogs?

Rebecca Meyer is a new blogpal. In fact, she has managed to conduct a civil conversation with Mr SailorDale which says something about her levels of patience and reasonableness. She recently criticised, on her own blog, some pastor’s post about ten women not to marry. I probably fitted in at least 50% of the categories.

As Rebecca said, out of nowhere, a woman visited her blog and started criticising her.

KQ Duane:

This is obviously a clan of feminist groupies patting each other on the backs for their “enlightened” view of the world, at the expense of a man, who’s advice you all desperately need. Have any of you ever considered that you may all be so bitchy and obnoxious BECAUSE you’ve spent your young lives obsessed with proving Christians wrong rather than listening to their advice? Radical, second and third-wave feminism sucks the dignity and humanity out of women’s young lives and you are PERFECT examples of why it should NEVER be adopted as a lifestyle! Get over yourselves!

and,

You don’t have to state specifically that you are a non-Christian, it is obvious from the content of your blog.
And “hate” is a harsh word to describe well-intentioned advice, given by someone who’s “been there, done that”. Someone who knows much better than you, where you’re headed and the deliberate disaster your “radical feminist lifestyle” will lead you to. Your reaction to my comment is symptomatic of the chronic negativity that radical feminism produces in its adherents. It will destroy your life.
Next, you are obviously a disciple of radical feminism and unwittingly regurgitating the same feminist BS that has been disproven time and time again. ” Equal pay” does not exist because the men are holding women back. It is because, thank God, women, of their own volition, choose to leave the workforce to raise their children. This, and only this, tilts the income scale in men’s favor.
Being treated like a human being? Behaving like one goes along way to accomplishing that goal and being a bitchy feminist will kill that chance for you.
Sex object? Come on! Radical, second-wave feminists created the “sexual revolution.” They have been demanding equal levels of promiscuity for women for 45 years! YOU got what THEY asked for.
I’m completely insulting people I know nothing about? Hardly. Radical feminists are all alike and I can pick them out from a mile away. I would say you needed to take your own advice when you laughably tried to demean the pastor’s well-intentioned advice. Maybe you wouldn’t look like such a fool at the moment if you had taken your own advice.
And don’t give me that crap about, aren’t Christians supposed to be nice to people. I don’t buy that when it comes to radical feminists because they are “possessed” and you CAN’T kill them with kindness. You can only hope to shock them back to life.
Again, good luck with your life’s journey. Only with God’s help, not some radical, lesbian, feminist academic’s “help”, will you ever find true peace and happiness in your life.

And from same woman to me:

Obviously you need the advice of a man who loves you to breakthrough the feminist concrete between your ears.

Another good anti-feminist for Christianity.

Full exchanges on Rebecca’s should you wish further enlightenment.

Posted in Atheism, blogging, christianity, feminism, Religion | 70 Comments

Intent v impact?

Six years ago I wrote this:

Browsing on the internet this week I seem to have read a lot about misunderstandings.

They happen every day. We rarely see the world from someone else’s perspective. If we are lucky we occasionally share random points of view.

I thought this:

“impact is more important than intent—whether we meant to hurt is not really the point. It’s how our actions were felt by the other person”

was such a neat way of describing the dichotomy where someone is insulted/offended by words that were never meant to do so. (Credit for the quote to Bird, which in its original context was in relation to sexual harassment training).

It’s hard to apologise when you never intended to do anything wrong. But when you have been hurt and that’s not acknowledged at all, it’s even harder. It stays with you and colours your view of people you once thought were friends.

I know. I’ve been in both positions. I wish I didn’t get it wrong. But I also wish people didn’t get it wrong with me too.

Lack of communication and honesty ruins relationships of all sorts. It would be nice if we could trust people enough to be honest with them, to say when we are offended, to say what we really think. But it doesn’t happen. And another relationship falls off the end.

Sirius picked up on the issue of intent this week, in relation to sexism.

But rather than start with sexism and feminism, let’s look at a couple of other minority groups that are discriminated against.

Over on Sirious’ blog, Ruth related a tale of years ago being pulled up for saying coloured people, in her ignorance, instead of black people.

I was brought up in a racist sexist environment. When we went to a local rugby match and the black player got the ball, one of our friends yelled: ‘Give ’im a banana!’ And of course we laughed.

When a tall black man with dreadlocks approached me in a quiet car park, I wondered whether he was going to mug me, rape me or knife me. I looked around. No one to help me. He offered me his car parking ticket because the time hadn’t been used up. I was no longer a teenager at a rugby match, I was a career woman in my thirties, and realised just then, how horribly racist I still was, even though I professed not to be.

In the same job, I was increasingly concerned about how disabled women were being treated for screening services.

One of my male colleagues had told a female one that if a disabled woman in a nursing home refused cervical screening she should be sedated.

There are a couple of sexist issues in this.

The first, obvious one, is that all women have the right to refuse cervical screening. It is not compulsory. It is not up to a male doctor to make that decision for anyone.

Secondly, my colleague in charge of nursing homes chose not to ask me about the policy. I was in charge of cervical screening. I knew the national policy, legislation, and procedures inside out and upside down. I chaired our local cervical screening quality assurance group which included surgeons, GPs and pathologists.

So why did my colleague choose a male doctor who had no specialist knowledge of the subject instead of me, as the policy lead? We haven’t just got implicit sexism here, we’ve also got differential knowledge, ie that ‘doctor must know best’. Or maybe we just had workplace competition between women?

While chairing breast screening meetings I listened to the radiographers refer to women as wheelchair-bound. This is a non-starter. The intent of the radiographers was good, they wanted to provide the service to women using wheelchairs, but the whole approach was of dealing with a difficult problem rather than thinking about it from the perspective of the women.

I called a meeting, jointly with a colleague who worked with disability groups. It was a fucking disaster. What I intended to do, was to get the patient perspective across so that I could get the clinical side to approach breast and cervical from the women’s perspective. But the best-laid plans of mice and women …

What actually happened was that a formal complaint was sent in against me and I had to go on a disability awareness course. Which was really interesting and involved two days out of the office at a seaside hotel.

However, back to the meeting. I wanted to improve the service for disabled women. I wanted their views on how to do this. I wanted to get the radiographers to change their language and not treat disabled women as second class citizens.

The first disaster was a room change. The reception staff swapped us around at the last minute so we ended up with a smaller meeting room. No double doors. Piled high with junk around the edges. Absolute manna for an irate woman in a wheelchair who took at least ten minutes to be able to get into the room, let alone to the table.

My good friend the radiographer provided the next minefield. Every time she referred to wheelchair-bound ladies, I wanted to dive underneath the desk. My local disability rights activist in the wheelchair criticised everything. Especially me. I seriously wondered why the hell I had bothered.

But, what were the lessons?

Did I have the right intent? I think so, to improve the services for disabled women, and to get their view, not just what I thought was needed.

Did I use inappropriate or discriminatory language? I doubt it very much.

Did I stuff up with the room booking? Originally no. I had booked the main conference room with double doors. But, the rooms were changed for a ‘more important’ meeting. Should I have kicked up a fuss? I didn’t. Pragmatically in terms of politics that was the right decision. Ms Disability Activist was going to complain about something regardless. From the POV of someone in a wheelchair, she was being discriminated against.

Was our policy of room bookings wrong and discriminatory? I think so. But are poorly-paid reception staff expected to deal with the finer political power play points? No.

Was I misinterpreted/misunderstood? Of course. Or so I would say.

Was the awareness course worthwhile? Very much so. The politics around disability were interesting, and I was interested to see how, as in many cases, disability came before feminism.

So let’s return to feminism.

It’s easier to point out discrimination when there is a physical perspective. That person is in a wheelchair, has a white stick/guide dog/ hearing dog, has a different colour skin.

What isn’t so easy, is when discrimination is based on 50% of the population and is aimed at every essence of her being.

It’s not as easy as changing buildings to make sure wheelchairs can enter, or paving stones so that blind people can tell the difference, providing audio tapes or Braille, or remembering to caption blog photos so that software can read it out to people who can’t see.

Would people still laugh these days at ‘Give him a banana’? Maybe they would in working-class Yorkshire. Or would it even be said? more to the point.

Yet, we still laugh at sexist jokes and comments. Because it is still ok to put women down.

Years back, I read a great book about discrimination. The one comment that stayed with me was about how we treat children, or, rather babies/toddlers. Not just the whole colour-coded pink/blue thing, but how we react to and with them.

The example given was of lifting a little boy to the window and showing him the big wide world. For the little girl, she was told to be good and sit in the corner and wait while the world came to her. If it ever did.

But so starts our indoctrination. From childhood about not just our own role in the world, but that of others. Girls do this, boys do that. Or rather boys do this and girls wait nicely to be told what to do.

And it continues though life. We make jokes about ugly women because a woman’s role in life is to look decorative aka sexually attractive.

When we see or hear women reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes then we know we aren’t being sexist, because other women think the same as us, right? Wrong. Women are just as unwittingly sexist as men.

Ever used gender specific language? OK to call a man a chairman because he’s a man? But, maybe think more carefully about a woman? Because, by now, you are aware of the whole language thing. Why not call both a chair? Because every time you call that man a chairman you are reinforcing gender specific assumptions.

It’s not easy is it?

You can support equality from here to Timbuktu and in the next breath, you will come out with one gloriously, funny, hateful sexist comment. Without even realising it.

Before you deny that you are sexist, racist, ableist etcist, stop and listen to what the other person is saying.

I can’t speak for black people, people with disabilities, with diabetes, or even older people (getting there though).

I can, and will speak for women.

Earlier posts:

https://cloudsmovingin.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/an-exchange/

https://cloudsmovingin.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/political-correctness/

Posted in Atheism, blogging, feminism, gender-specific language, Longreads, Religion, WPlongform | 12 Comments