Wednesday, 27 May 2009

This has no relevance to anything but...

Skunk Anansie are getting back together! And they're going on tour! And I've got tickets! Nobody in the entire fucking world is more excited than me right now!

(Cross-posted everywhere on the internet that I frequent semi-occasionally)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

It's not just me!

Other people have noticed that Nadine Dorries is a huge lying crackpot!

"According to one Tory source, party officials have rebuked Ms Dorries on more than one occasion for her “increasing tendency to make wild and eccentric statements”. "

Yeah! Damn right! I bet they noticed that when they realised she had her own tag on this blog. Hey, I can dream.

This time, Nadine has been claiming that all the furore over MPs' expenses (I'm sorry, there is NOTHING ELSE in the English press. Except swine flu, which we've already decided is no big deal, and suddenly Madeleine McCann again, whom I absolutely will not write about because the whole saga with the disappearance and the press and the the desperate need for it to be All Someone's Fault depresses me more than I can say, and I just don't have the strength) is going to drive someone to suicide. Nobody in particular, just someone. Which is all our fault, as the baffled and angry public, and if we don't all shut up we'll have killed someone. Nadine is always going around accusing me of murdering people when nobody's actually dead. You can tell me abortion is murder as many times as you like, it won't make it true.

Of course, this may all be a plot by David Cameron to make me agree with him on something. Well done, Dave, it worked. I have a good bit of stuff to say about him in light of recent events, so look out for that soon.

A consensus has been reached! By the admission of her own fucking party, Nadine Dorries IS a huge lying crackpot! Looks Like Satire has accomplished its first goal of what will hopefully be many! Come join me in imaginary wine and muffins!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Lord Foulkes the Blog Troll

So, the expenses row. In case you’re not aware, the expenses claims of some of our MPs have been leaked and they’ve been claiming for some – ahem – spurious items, such as swimming pool maintenance. I did love the explanation for that one: "The pool came with the house and I needed to know how to run it. Once I was shown that one time, there were no more claims. I take care of the pool myself. I believe this represents 'value for money' for the taxpayer." Snerk. He couldn’t possibly have paid for his own pool maintenance, of course.

That’s not the point. The point is this.

A quick recap: a peer of the realm goes on TV to defend Michael Martin (who could have introduced reforms over the way expenses are dealt with and didn’t, so... zzzzzz. It’s dull, isn’t it? Sorry. This is why I haven’t written about it. Or read about it, excluding amusing anecdotes about swimming pool maintenance. We’ll be done with the dull background stuff in a minute, I promise). He goes on the news to talk to an interviewer about something that has made a lot of people pretty angry. And then he’s outraged that she asks him some questions he doesn’t particularly like.

This is classic:

He added that BBC presenters such as John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman were paid hundreds of thousands of pounds "to come on TV and sneer at democracy and undermine democracy. The vast majority of MPs are being undermined by you."

I’m really glad he said that, because until now I never knew that 'democracy' meant 'never questioning those in authority'. I sort of thought that the sign of a good democracy was that the men with the power would be held accountable if they misbehaved. Now I know better. If MPs do something that could be considered questionable, we have absolutely no right to question it, because that constitutes undermining democracy. I’m glad that Lord Foulkes is helping me with my vocabulary, and teaching me how to be a better citizen. I’ve obviously got some way to go, because I still think he’s a pillock. Is that wrong?

I’ve worked it out – Lord Foulkes is a blog troll. Think about it:

He said there were "far more important things going on in the world"

Does this look familiar? How many of us have got sucked into an argument with a troll who tells us that we should be ashamed for going on and on about slut-shaming or the abortion debate or sexism in the workplace or appallingly low rape conviction rates because someone else has it worse or how can you waste time on this when such-and-such is going on or you should be ashamed of yourselves. We all know what it means – I am massively uncomfortable! I do not want to think about this! Deflect! Deflect! Deflect!

Perhaps one of these days you'll do a thing about how much the BBC is being paid.

Don’t look at me! Look at yourselves! I’m clearly aware that criticism is well-deserved here, because otherwise I would be answering your questions instead of making inappropriate inquiries about your salary (nobody is complaining about how much MPs get paid, they’re complaining that the taxpayer is funding things that we probably shouldn’t be funding. Like horse manure. No, really, horse manure). There might already be a serious discussion about a relevant subject going on, a discussion which I have come here specifically to participate in, but I, with the breathtaking arrogance of a rich white aristocratic male, am going to waltz in and demand that everyone stop and have the conversation I want to have instead. I’m only pretending to be him as a journalistic device, and I have deep feelings of self-loathing at this point.

You're not at all sorry to interrupt me - every time an MP comes on you constantly harass them.

We all love this guy. You’re harassing me and it’s not fair! The nasty bitchy woman is asking me reasonable questions! Well, I’m a rich white aristocratic tosspot, and I don’t have to put up with that, no sir!

I feel I must also point out that in response to her questioning him on expenses claims as a general matter (and not even his expenses claims), he chooses to inform her that she is not worth her salary. He reduces her career to working three days a week and "talk[ing] nonsense". If anyone is doing any undermining of anyone or anything, it’s Shithead McGee here, the Troll of the Lords. He’s a small-minded, petulant bully. Hear that, Lord? You smell.

On another topic, apologies for the long absence. I just got promoted! Yay for me!

Monday, 23 March 2009

But racism is funny, you weirdo

Presented for your consideration, a story in two small parts that has amused and depressed me in equal measure.

Part one is set in a small pub just off the centre of town. Present: your faithful blogger (the Brunette), two of her closest friends (the Blonde and the Redhead – there is a reason I refer to us in joke form), the Blonde’s partner and another couple that the Blondes are friendly with. I have met them both before but barely spoken to either of them.

After complaining about how quiet the pub is, the male half of this couple pulls out his phone and shows us a text message. It's a joke. A joke that he will not read aloud. Can you guess where this might be going? Blonde sees message and laughs. Redhead sees message and makes a small noise of "I do not wish to engage". Brunette sees message. Message turns out to be a variation on the old "Bus full of lawyers goes over a cliff, which is a shame because one of the seats was empty" joke, but invoking a charming racial epithet. Brunette shakes her head sadly. At this, the joker gets his back up.

Joker: Do you not think that's funny?
Joker: Do you not like jokes like that?
Joker: Why not?
Brunette: I’m not a big fan of racism.
Joker: Don't say that! People can hear you!
Brunette: That's what it is, though.
Joker: Don’t say it out loud.
Brunette: I can’t believe I'm actually being told off for not laughing at a racist joke.
Joker: Stop saying that word!

The Blonde, I should add, later interprets this exchange as me telling him off.

Part two takes place over MSN. I am, for reasons best known to myself, talking to my ex-boyfriend. I am going to switch names at this point, just to confuse you all.

Ex: I thought of you the other day. I got into a conversation about the feminist aspects of the film Aliens.
Jen: Oh dear, is my influence spreading?
Ex: I don't mind, I always liked your strong views.
Jen: Most don't. I got told off the other week for a) not laughing at a racist joke and b) referring to it as racist out loud.
Ex: Oh! I should have guessed that was you!
Jen: Beg pardon?
Ex: Was it [repeats joke]? My brother has been telling me this story about how his friend Joker was out with this girl and he told that joke and she didn't find it funny.

Not only am I apparently the only person in my ex's general acquaintance who isn't thrown into paroxysms of laughter by racism, but also the racism = not funny thing is so bizarre and incomprehensible that Joker is telling people the story and these people find it so strange that they, in turn, pass it on. "My mate told a random girl this joke and she didn’t laugh." I am amused that I'm so instantly recognisable by my strident attitudes (amused enough that I now want to get a T-shirt that says "Strident Bitch: Don't Tell Me Jokes" and I'm getting my own Strident Bitch tag), but seriously. There is nobody in the entire world that hasn't heard some variation on that joke, so there's no real humour potential in the joke itself. The only reason to tell it is to bond with your fellow pub-goers over how much [insert specialised group] suck, and don't you just hate them (in a totally nice way, of course, but they need to realise that this isn't their country), and wouldn't it be funny if they died? But don't you dare call it for what it is. It's not racist, remember, it's politically incorrect, which is all cool and edgy and shit, and don't call me a racist because that's not fair. You’re totally bullying me by using that word. Whiiiiine.

Oh, and he didn't like it when I put the dampers on his sisters-having-sex fantasy either. Hah.

Monday, 16 March 2009

ANTM Blogging: All Pretences of Seriousness Abandoned Edition

I'm going to have to face up to it: I like America's Next Top Model. I wish to write about America's Next Top Model. But the show is fluff, pure and simple, and I cannot keep pretending I'm going to write worthy screeds on its attitudes towards women and how they are reflected or otherwise distorted in our society. Because I'm not.

So, with that out of the way:

My three girls for this cycle (which, yes, I watch on Youtube from England as soon as it's uploaded. I am a little addicted) are Teyona, Fo and Allison. I wasn't so keen on Allison until I saw the last batch of photos - the stupid group shot things with the light-up vibrators - and was immediately drawn to her in every photo she was in. Fo was my earliest pick, so I'm a little annoyed that she's turned out to be one of those "My hair! My hair! I'm nothing without my hair!" types. But I still like her. I'm charmed by her freckles. Teyona I like because she was the only one who pulled off the ridiculous make-up and styling in the promo picture.

I inexplicably hate Natalie. Tahlia, too. I know I'm meant to feel sorry for her, but she just... irritates me. Grrr. I didn't like Jessica, either, and am very pleased she's been booted.

The photoshoots have been a bit crap so far too. The first one was creepy as all get-out. Why, if you are so distressed at the loss of girlish innocence in this world, would you dress a bunch of models in little-girl clothes complete with huge killer heels? I thought it was quite disturbing. And why were the pictures so grainy? I know grain is sometimes a stylistic device, but in a "little girls playing games" shoot? No. And in the second one, they were posing with glow-in-the-dark vibrators. You can't tell me that's normal.

So, I'm pulling for a Teyona/Fo/Allison final three, and worrying a little about the upcoming "immigrant" shoot. Thoughts from other shameful addicts?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Today In Bad Ideas

Get married on Juliet's balcony! Yay! The place where two daft teenagers declared undying love and then died before they could change their minds!

Does nobody read anymore?

Monday, 9 March 2009


This scares the everloving shit out of me.

It's all horrible, every bit of it, but what really disturbs me is that the most so-say acceptable reason for hitting a woman is the wearing of revealing clothes in public. What the FUCK? Twenty per cent of people think it's at least sometimes acceptable to hit your girlfriend because... why? Because she's making other men look at her? What is it? I genuinely don't understand.

Also, I notice, it seems to be more acceptable to hit a woman for flirting than for cheating. I can't really think of anything to say about that, except yargh argh grrrrr argh bah scream arrrgggghhh. The more I see of the world, the more I am made to realise that female sexuality is bad and wrong and weird and scary and must be contained by any means necessary.

One of my ex's favourite lines to justify his possessiveness and dislike of my male friends was "Of course I trust you. I just don't trust them." The whole time we were together, this made no sense to me. How could he trust me if he didn't trust them, unless he thought they were rapists? I asked him a couple of times if that's what he thought, and he responded in complete shock that of course he didn't, how could I get that from what he said? So I remained confused.

I get it now. If I'm around a man who could conceivably find me attractive, said man might think about me. And that, right there, is the violation. There are versions of me running around in other people's heads, versions that no stern looks of his or monogamous nature of mine could regulate or control. It's got nothing to do with how I feel, and it's really not got much to do with whether or not said man would ever act on his hypothetical fantasies. The point is (or was) that they're out there. That somebody created a world where I did not belong to my ex. That in the recesses of somebody's imagination, I was being unfaithful. And (and this is the key point) I should not have been encouraging it. I think this is the logic: You know what men are like. You know what men's brains are like. You should know that being around them, wearing make-up and laughing at their jokes and dancing and everything else you do with your friends, will only make it worse. And unless you want them to be having those thoughts, why would you encourage it? And right there is where it becomes Your Fault.

I'm in no way saying that all men are like this. Indeed, I think my ex is an extreme case. But I look at survey results like that, and I have to acknowledge that no, it's not all that strange. He's not the only man who thinks this way, and I have a one in five chance of coming across another one.

It's stuff like this that makes feel justified in snapping at men in pubs who say shit like this then pretend, innocent faces firmly plastered on, that "it was only a joke". It's NOT only a joke. And I refuse to apologise for being a cranky, sexy, difficult feminist bitch. So there.

I was going to end there, but then I realised that I only put the last paragraph there to avoid ending another entry with "I'm really scared". Defiance is an easier stance to take at the moment, and one that won't result in me hiding in a cupboard for the next thirty years. What can you do with fear, except turn it into anger?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Currently Stuck In My Head...

I just wanted to have this somewhere. What don't you fuckin' understand... doo doo doo doo doo...

(Women + Money) = (Divorce + Damaged Children)

The BBC informs me that we must think of the children. Why, oh why, won’t we think of the children? Whose fault is it, you ask. Well, if you can possibly blame the working mothers, you do, don’t you? We all know the “mothers should be at home with the children” rhetoric, and if that’s what the article said I’d probably have ignored it. But it doesn’t say that.

"Most women now work and their new economic independence contributes to levels of family break-up which are higher in the UK than in any other Western European country."

Yeah, it’s not that we should be at home with the kids. It’s that women having money is causing divorce. If we really want to help the children, we will stop allowing women to have their own money. See, if women are reliant entirely on their husband’s income, then they will have no choice but to remain in unhappy, unhealthy relationships! Then the children will be alright!

I don’t know who comprised this “panel of independent experts”, but the Archbishop of Canterbury is listed as a contributor. Hmmm. These are, perhaps, not experts without an agenda. The thing is, I can understand people who believe that it’s detrimental to a child to have both parents working (usually phrased as “Mums should stay at home”, of course). I would like to stay at home with my hypothetical kids for a bit. I would also like my hypothetical partner to stay at home with the hypothetical kids for a bit. I totally, completely understand the thinking here. I learnt a lot from my parents in my early years (though probably not stuff that Rowan Williams would approve of – I asked my mother why I hadn’t been christened and she said: “that will be your decision to make when you’re older, Jennifer.”). If this panel has been stuffed with bishops and such, I can understand why they’re making such a big deal out of divorce, though I think people at the BBC would do well to bear in mind that correlation does not imply causation. But to say that women’s economic independence is causing divorce and hence harming the children? Can I get a “bullshit”?

The headline worried me, too. Selfish adults damage children. Clearly, they don’t mean selfish adults – they mean selfish mothers. And what does a mother have to do to be selfish? Not a lot. Want a career? Selfish. Part-time job? Selfish. Evening course? Back to school? Selfish, selfish. And god forbid you go out with friends. This is what we’re told. We’re given the impression that our child is so precious that he or she must be given all of our time. All of it. And then, when the child becomes a teenager and starts demanding independence, we are expected to adjust to that in a snap. If we get upset, or panic, we are yet again selfish. What this all comes down to is: women wish to be human. This wish is selfish. Men (of this type, at least) wish us to be quiet, perfect porcelain dolls with no needs of our own and an unlimited supply of unconditional love and nurturing, for which we demand nothing in return. This wish, we learn, is not selfish.

I am confused. I have gone right off the idea of having kids.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A Neat Display of Privilege

Carol Thatcher has been banned from a BBC show after making a racist remark in the dressing room. By the looks of it, the BBC didn't want to ban her from the show, but had no real choice since she refused to apologise. Her spokesman said:

"Carol never intended any racist comment. She made a light aside about this tennis player and his similarity to the golliwog on the jam pot when she was growing up. There's no way, obviously, that she would condone any racist comment - we would refute that entirely. It would not be in her nature to do anything like that. It is disgusting that we've had a leak of private conversations in the green room - the BBC has more leaks than Thames Water. Carol is mortified that anyone should take offence at a silly joke. She has summarily apologised."

I'm embarrassed to be so stunned by this. I am stunned that somebody would genuinely argue that it's not racist if the black guy really does look like a golliwog. I'm not stunned that she's done the "Well, I'm sorry YOU'RE SO SENSITIVE, you bunch of losers" apology, or that she's done the "I'm the real victim - that was a private conversation" defence. But the whole speech reeks of a privilege that really astonishes me.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and whatever else come, most of the time, from people who say they love the oppressed group in question and are totally all for their equal rights. And because they're all for equal rights, it's fine to call a black man a golliwog if he really looks like one, or call a woman a bitch or a whore if she really is one. And then someone objects, and they are shocked. Oh, come on, they say. Don't be so bloody dramatic. Fight the real enemy, the people who really hate you and aren't ashamed to say it. Go fight them. Leave me and my "silly jokes" alone.

Carol Thatcher is clearly stunned that we have mistaken her for a racist. And I am stunned that people still have to stand up and say: "It is unacceptable to compare a black guy to a golliwog, whether or not you think he really looks like one." And that, I suppose, is my privilege.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Abortion: You Be Her Judge

I liked this. I also really despair of some men, sometimes. I'm not going to go into it too much, as the article smacks down the pillocks quite thoroughly, and I have other things on my wandering mind.

I read all the comments on that piece, which I tend not to do on blogs (I don't enjoy trollfights, as a rule), and I continue to be fascinated by some of the arguments that anti-abortionists come out with, as well as those put forward by "centrists" or "moderates". I mean, this one-per-customer idea - what good is that going to do anyone? Once is alright, but twice is murder? Obviously I know why they suggest it, because they tell me. It's about responsibility. We must be responsible for our own decisions. Translation: I feel that I have the right to control your body if I don't like what you're doing with it. It astonishes me that anyone feels they have the right to tell women when and how often to have sex, and then when and how often they can have a medical procedure. The arrogance of it is astonishing. They think they get to decide who is allowed medical treatment. I mean, I don't like smoking - I think it's stupid, a filthy habit, and can only do you damage, but I cannot imagine saying to a smoker, "Lung cancer? That's your own fault. Fuck off and die in the street."

I also find it difficult to take seriously the position of those who believe abortion should be illegal except in case of rape or incest, et cetera. Why? If you believe it's child murder, then why is the "child" who is the product of rape any less of a child and more worthy of murdering? If we take the favourite crappy trope of the forced-birth crowd: Well, You Wouldn't Murder A Three-Year-Old, would it be more acceptable to murder a three-year-old child who was the product of rape? Obviously not. I firmly believe that the majority of anti-abortionists don't give a shit about children. They make the rape/incest exception because those women can still be redeemed; they can still be Good. Those who had sex on purpose are Bad and must be Punished. It's about control of our sexual habits. It's about transporting us back to this idyllic 1950s state that nobody I know remembers actually existing. Since I first became aware of abortion, I've heard people say: well, it shouldn't be used as a form of birth control. And yeah, that would be a bit dumb. We have much better forms of birth control readily available to us (I know this is less true for Americans, who have to pay for the Pill, but we Englishwomen get ours for free). And if "not as a form of birth control" was meant to mean "don't be bloody stupid about it and learn about contraception", fine. But it doesn't, does it? At its most harmless, it means "I judge sluts." At the other end of the scale, it means "I hate sluts and think I should get to deny them medical treatment." We know it's not about abortion being murder, because otherwise they'd object to all abortion, substitute birth control or not.

You don't often come across people (from a British perspective) who will happily announce that all abortion is murder and nobody should ever be allowed to have one. We mostly get "Well, I could never have one" (which is fine), that strange breed of wishy-washy sort-of-Conservative who firmly believes that we will one day be able to pinpoint exactly the moment during gestation when a foetus becomes a child, or those who sort of vaguely think it's a bit icky but don't support either side of the debate. Of course, we do have an occasional whackjob. No, I promise I won't link to Nadine Dorries again, but she is getting her own tag.

So our abortion debates, such as they are, are often led by the second group. Where and when does life begin? We must find it. David Cameron apparently thinks life begins at twenty weeks in the womb. Why? We don't know. He pulled the figure out of his ass. Should we ask him - which I promise you I will, given the slightest opportunity - he would probably make some noises about scientific advances (one of the arguments I hate most because it implies that one day we will have the technology to outlaw abortion), but I bet you his true feelings lie with the third group: he vaguely thinks it's a bit icky. I use David Cameron as an example partly because I still can't stand him and haven't had a go at him for a while, and partly because he's such a good symbol of England in regard to the abortion debate. We think a fertilised egg is clearly not alive and a thirty-nine-week-old foetus is clearly a baby, so somewhere in between is the point where a magical transformation occurs and what is clearly a ball of cells turns into what is clearly a human being. We don't think of it in those terms, of course, because it just sounds daft. We like to make noises about "viability", but what does that even mean? Foetuses can be "viable" at twenty-four weeks because we have some impressive technology these days. And as I said, at some point, we may well have the technology to make all foetuses "viable". Does this mean abortion should be outlawed when we have made such advances? We would still say no, I think. I think we might also say that removing a six-week-old foetus and incubating it for eight months is a little creepy.

Abortion is a hugely contested subject, but most of us have no idea what we think about it. We might know that we're pro-choice or pro-life (hate, hate, hate that term), but for almost all of us there are questions that would make us go "...huh. I don't really know." I don't know what the time limit should ideally be. I know I don't think it should be any lower, but why couldn't it be higher? I don't know. I just sort of defer to the consensus of the medical profession and gloss over it. If I were in America, I wouldn't do that. I don't believe there should be a limit on how many abortions a woman can get, but if I were to hear that a woman had had twelve abortions, I would want to know why. How stupid is that? Why, even in my own head, am I asking this hypothetical woman to justify herself to me? What if she'd had all twelve because she was careless and didn't use contraception? Well, what if? Why on earth should that make any difference to me whatsoever? Why should she have to set out her precise reasons for me so that I may judge her a slut or an idiot? (I hate the whole concept of "slut" so I'd never do that, but I absolutely see myself judging her as an idiot. And maybe she is an idiot, but what has that got to do with me?)

It shocked me a little when I started thinking about this - I throw huge stroppy fits about anti-abortionists judging women for their choices, so why is it alright when I do it? I don't believe that every choice a woman makes is necessarily feminist, or that it must be the right choice because a woman made it, but I clearly think abortion is alright. If one abortion is a personal, private medical decision to be kept between a woman and her doctor (plus partner and/or family if she so chooses), why aren't twelve abortions just twelve personal, private medical decisions to be kept between a woman and her doctor? Why, instead, do twelve abortions carry some heavy statement about the woman's life? The reason she had one abortion wouldn't matter to me, so why would I demand her reasons for having twelve? Is it because most of us pick up a little of this vague "abortions are icky" from society and have to consciously fight against it? Or maybe because we all feel that we have the right, to some greater or lesser extent, to judge a woman for her sexual behaviour? It's probably both. Unless we work to get over it, we look at the gestation of a pregnancy and pick a point between "clearly just cells" and "clearly a baby" as the point where life begins, just we look a woman's sexuality and pick a point between "clearly a prude" and "clearly a slut" as the point where we as a gender should ideally sit. The whole thing is subjective and ultimately pointless, but most of us have 'em, and they slide up and down as we change, as we think we've learned more and therefore it's alright for us to judge these women now because I've learned.

Have you?

Sunday, 28 December 2008


I could use a little help here. Can somebody please explain this to me?

Apparently, Claire Sweeney has purposely gained two stone in order to show the horrible, disastrous consequences of being overweight. I don't see the point, but that's not what I need explained. Take a look at the photos of her at a "healthy" weight and then "obese". Then please explain it to me. Is it me, or does she look exactly the same? She has a slightly bigger stomach (and to be frank, I can create that sort of difference in the size of my stomach by holding in then pushing out), and a bit of a double chin, which most of us can get if we hold our heads in a certain way. Is that what "piling on two stone" looks like? Where has she put it? How has she managed to put on two stone and fit into the same bikini? She is the same damn size. The Mail insists she's gone from a C cup to a G cup. Not in those pictures she hasn't.

I am somewhat tempted to call shenanigans on these pictures. Why does she have exactly the same line running across her lower abdomen? She looks THE SAME. If I lose two stone, is that all the difference it's going to make? Full disclosure: I am fairly close in weight to "Fat Sweeney", and am a little taller. I can't wear a string bikini. I have DD breasts and they will not stay in a top that size. Oh, and that stomach does not contain two stone of weight. It just doesn't.

I feel bad for sitting here and analysing another woman's body like this, but it scares the crap out of me that Fat Sweeney is being held up as HUGE SCARY OBESE UNHEALTHY GO AND HIDE IN THE LETTUCE. I'm also confused by the premise: apparently she travels to Hollywood where she's told she'll never make it unless she loses weight. In response to this, she decides to deliberately overeat in order to prove that Fat Is Bad... why? What was the point of that? We're told that she went on the Atkins Diet a few years ago to try and lose weight, and she collapsed with a kidney infection after four weeks. So she decides to go out and bravely prove that Fat Is Bad? What the hell is going on here? Oh, and in case you hadn't gathered, she looks exactly the same. I've put on two stone before. I did not look exactly the same. Perhaps she genuinely did put on two stone, but they forgot to take Before and After photos so they dragged her into the studio once she'd lost all the weight again and faked it? I don't know. All I know is, I do not get this. I would very much appreciate someone explaining it to me.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

You Don't Count

I shall attempt to post something festively cheerful later today, but first this needs a little attention:

"Infamous prosecutor Ken Starr has filed a legal brief -- on behalf of the "Yes on 8" campaign -- to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California between May and November of 2008."

YOU ASSHOLE. You nasty, weasly little piece of pond scum. I'm quite happy to fuck up your lives because you're not really people. You don't count.

It really, really pisses me off. These people go on and on about the breakdown of scoiety and how horrible the divorce rate is and why can't couples just stay together and work things out for the children, but they'll quite happily force it on eighteen thousand couples who don't want it. Look through that slideshow. Tell me those people aren't really married. Tell me their love doesn't matter. Tell me they're screwing up our society by doing something that makes no difference whatsoever to you. Tell me any of those things, and I will kill you.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Punching Women Is Funny

Since my ex and I split up, I've been processing the past five and a half years and wondering what lessons I can take from this, because I haven't quite managed to shake off my self-help book past. There's a lot of processing to do, because my memory is annoyingly good. And about twenty minutes ago, I remembered this:

We wander into a local pub. We go to the bar to get drinks, as one tends to do in a pub. Standing at the bar with a pint is a cheerful-looking elderly chap. He smiles affably as we approach, and watches us order our drinks. He makes a little small talk. He mentions something his wife said him the other week. Then he says: "I told her if she ever said that to me again I'd smack her."

I do my bug-eyed "Excuse me?!" face. He turns to my ex with a friendly face and a male-bonding laugh. "Eh?" he says. My ex says nothing. Loud, loud silence from him. "Oh," says cheeky chappie, "can't say anything while she's here, I get it!" He still looks genuinely friendly, laughing good-naturedly as though the three of us are enjoying a joke, even though my "Excuse me?!" face has turned into my "I am seriously appalled and must leave NOW" face. My ex lets out a weak laugh and we turn to go and sit outside.

I'm not sure why this little scene should suddenly have popped back into my head, but I remember several like it. Horrible domestic violence jokes or insults about me as a stand-in for all women, usually coming from a source that genuinely seemed to think they were good-naturedly joking around. And (duh) it upset me. Hugely. I would say this to my ex, and every time he would tell me that he knew the jokes were horrible, but he wasn't going to say anything, and I had a choice: either I could back off and let him say nothing, or he would get into a physical fight with the joker. Those were my two choices. Shut up and take it, or tell him to get punching. He said there was no other way to go, because were he to say anything, the other guy would take it badly and want to start a fight. Some of these men were our friends. One was (is, indeed) my friend's partner, and I could well believe that he thought these jokes were welcoming. Were you to respond, I would say, to a joking comment that you are totally screwed now that we're engaged with a smile and "Actually, I'm really lucky", that would provoke nothing more than a grumpily affectionate "Sappy git." No, he insisted, it would start a fight. I know men.

No, you don't. Or at least I hope he doesn't. I don't think he does, but the one thing I've been left with post-break-up is a huge, steaming pile of uncertainty. I've heard a lot of men make those jokes. I believe that had their blithe assumptions that said jokes are funny to all been met with a cheerful yet firm refutation, they would have stopped. I don't think men say these things with the intent to force other men to into fist fights. I just think there are a lot of people who think that on a theoretical level, punching women is funny. And as all comedy fans know, if your joke falls flat, find a better topic and fast. If you make a joke, it's because you're trying to be funny, and only really terrible comedians punch people who don't laugh at their jokes.

Scary, though, to realise that so many people do think this is funny, and scarier to realise you spent five years with a man who thinks that whilst they're not funny, they're certainly reasonable. Misogynistic jokes are a reasonable part of modern life, but isn't it a pain when your girlfriend takes exception to them? Isn't it a pain when she expects you to be bothered too? Bloody women, wanting to go out without hearing how men would really like to punch their partners in the face/tie them up and shove them in the boot of their car? (We had this one too - my ex's response was a long silnce and then "She wouldn't fit.")

Punching women is funny, and moving on is really, really tough.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Oh, David.

I'm very upset at having to do this, but I must.

*grits teeth*
*takes deep breath*
*silently apologises to personal comedy gods*

Shut up, David Mitchell.

Ouch. That hurt. I am a great lover of the divine Mr Mitchell - his ranting, his inability to understand music, his ordering of David Cameron to just shut up and do things. Love him. This article, however, I do not love. I can find nothing to love about it. I can't even love that it's ripe for a smackdown, because it isn't. It's so self-importantly smug that it makes me want to hit him in the face, and since I believe that violence is never the solution, I can't go line-by-line on this one. What I can say is this:

I was offended by Brand and Ross. David Mitchell is obviously not offended by Brand and Ross. Fine. If he wished to write an article detailing why he was not offended, I would write an affectionate post asking him to please check his privilege. But that's not what he's done. He's written an article that says, several times, that Brand and Ross were definitely wrong. He then spends four paragraphs patronising us about it - it's so obviously wrong that nobody should have said anything. It's so clearly wrong that nobody should be allowed to complain about it.

Wait, what?

He then goes on to tell us: if you complain about a broadcast, you have no life. If you weren't diligently listening to the broadcast when it was originally aired, you don't get to complain (well, you can, but I will then cover you with a large dollop of Unwarranted Snide. It now comes in strawberry flavour!) Oh, and if you complained, you're an idiot, because Brand and Ross were so obviously in the wrong it would be the same as saying "Post office closures in rural areas cause widespread inconvenience."

Uh, David? People do complain about that. That's how they get them not to shut the post offices. It doesn't always work, sure, but what good will it do them to sit at home and say "No, I'm not going to bother complaining about the post office closing. It's so obviously wrong, they'll think I'm an idiot if I say anything." When we think something is wrong, we complain, otherwise people KEEP BLOODY DOING IT. If there had been no complaints at all about the incident which I will not call Sachsgate or Brandgate or Rossgate or Hahaha-I'm-sweary-and-he-sleeps-with-a-lot-of-womengate, you think they would have got together after the show and said, "You know what we did was so obviously wrong that I now feel heartily ashamed of myself. Let's never do that again"? Do you think? Or might they have thought, "That was funny. We should do that every week. Who else have you slept with, Russell?" And it can't be wrong, can it, since nobody's complaining.

What really irritates me, though, is that he finishes up with that tired old trope about how comedy is all about taking risks and they've been pretty successful in the past so why are we complaining when...zzzzzz. Sorry. First of all, if they knew it was wrong, as you keep insisting, then it wasn't a risk, it was just assholish. Second of all, do you remember that time Russell Brand phoned 999 during a gig and tied up the operator for quite some time pretending he'd seen a man wanted for multiple sexual assaults? Remember when he potentially put lives in danger and took the piss out of women whose attacker was still on the loose? Do I get to complain about that, David? Do I? Even though I wasn't there and it's quite clearly a stupid thing to do? Russell Brand is not a sensible man. He's not "taking risks", he's just doing whatever he feels like and couldn't give a shit if real people get hurt. We have to say No, Russell. Stop it, Russell. We have to tell him no every time. Because he does not get it. Perhaps you haven't noticed?

And thirdly, please see my quote of the year:

"They mocked the weak. You have to aim a bit higher than that."

Perhaps talk to Bill Bailey sometime, David. Perhaps try to understand that just because someone is a comedian doesn't mean we have to accept "I was trying to be funny" as an adequate explanation. We have the right to say no, not good enough. You get paid truckloads for this, go back and come up with something that's funny. We also have the right to say that harassing people isn't funny, humiliating people isn't funny. You would agree with that, right? I mean, it's obvious. But it's not obvious enough to stop them from doing it. It wasn't obvious enough to make either one of them think, "Hang on. Calling up Andrew Sachs and leaving message after message about how Russell Brand fucked his granddaughter isn't actually funny" or "Wow, that would be a colossally mean-spirited thing to do to him and a horrendously disrespectful thing to do to her. Let's not do it." That didn't happen, did it?

So, in conclusion, David, don't you dare talk down to me for stating the obvious. "Kids shouldn't ring doorbells and run away," you say. But they do. So we tell them to stop, and/or complain to their parents. "Post offices closures in rural areas cause widespread inconvenience," you say. Yes, they do. But they're still being closed. So we protest, and we complain, even when we don't use the specific post office in question. "Donkey homelessness is a crying shame," you say. Yes it is. So we raise money for sanctuaries, and we complain when we hear of animal mistreatment. You then go on to imply that anyone who would dare to complain about Russell Brand thinks that drug addicts deserve to be homeless, for which I would really like to give you a clip round the ear, but I can't, because your ear is currently up your backside with the rest of your head. Don't you dare condescend to me like that. Don't you dare call me an idiot for having a problem with something that's wrong. Yes, it may obviously be wrong, but it's STILL HAPPENING. Which is why we COMPLAIN. Yaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh.

I'm being harder on David Mitchell than maybe I should be, but I'm doing so because I'm a fan. And I became a fan because not only did he not need to do the easy-target jokes, he called out other people who did them. He got cross with Angus Deayton for focusing on Ann Widdecombe's looks rather than her highly unpleasant political stances, told off Frankie Boyle for making a "Chinese sounds a bit funny" joke and ranted at a studio audience for laughing at a rape joke and booing a "Peaches Geldof won't have a very long marriage" joke. This is why I love him so much, and this is why I hold him to a higher standard than those who aren't in my Dara/Bill/Ross pantheon. To hear him spew out the comedy-is-risk crap when Bill Bailey so neatly and wonderfully buried that argument in one sentence is somewhat painful. You have to aim higher, you have to be better. Yes you do. And above all, you have to stop using such bizarre logic as, "It's obviously wrong, therefore you shouldn't complain about it." Please, David. I love you. Stop it.

Note: I have decided to add a "Bill is My Guru" tag for such posts as these - when I expect more of someone, be it a comedian, a politician, a friend, or myself, Bill is my guru. This is the new motto of LLS - you have to aim a bit higher than that. I realise this is a fairly lofty motto for a blog that goes on about America's Next Top Model and occasionally stops to pick apart grammar, but I can if I want, dammit.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ew, Hair.

And so to the minor feminist issues, the ones which don't - or shouldn't - really matter, but hell, we know what kind of world we're living in and we have to deal with them.

Body hair, specifically women's body hair, is gross and weird and wrong and should never ever have to be viewed by the human eye. This is what we learn from a pretty young age. We see the world shocked and outraged by Julia Roberts displaying armpit hair in public, and we all know that the shock and outrage goes beyond the shameless display of said hair in public and extends to a misogynistic disgust at the existence of body hair at all.

It's bizarre, when you think about it. A woman raises an arm to wave at a friend, or her adoring public, and the whole world goes, "Ewwww! Hair!" And the world can say whatever shit it likes about reasons of hygiene, but if that had any real weight then men would be expected to do it too. Suggest that to any given man (well, except Len Goodman) and watch him try to comprehend what on earth might possess him to do such a thing. It's really a nonsensical thing to do. But I do it, just like most women do it. My mother is a professional waxer and does my armpits every few weeks. I'm a bit more lax with my legs. I have less hair there, and I'm English. My legs never see daylight. My bikini line is off-limits. I've tried it, it hurts, it's bloody stupid. My mother is also a practitioner of electrolysis, and if you think pouring hot wax on your crotch is stupid, try having an electrical current zapped through it. I only let her do that once.

This is one of those subjects where we all have an opinion and none of us have an answer. I mean, we could all rise up as one and chuck out our wax and razors and blow a giant raspberry at men and tabloids alike, but some women like being hairless. It's also one of those subjects where we all have to make some sort of compromise between the ideal and real life, and I've made mine: I will remove public hair, not pubic hair. I will remove societally-condemned hair that will be exposed to the world in general, but societally-condemned hair that remains a secret between me and my underwear will stay where it is. I'm quite alright with it being there. I don't feel unclean, it doesn't make me uncomfortable, and removing it is a real pain in the arse (or somewhere thereabouts). Any man that has a problem with this doesn't get to go down there. It's as simple as that. I've been fortunate enough never to be with a man who demanded or even slyly encouraged me to get rid of it, but now that I have been thrust back into the world of singledom with a new and fundamental distrust that I will ever meet a nice man who will accept me, I anticipate such an event with a sort of gloomy resignation. And when it does happen, I will tell him to go first. Oh, and get his back waxed. And keep it waxed.

As I've said before, I hate this stupid idea of feminine mystery, and any man I ever go out with is going to know what a time-consuming, expensive, painful and ultimately pointless process I and most other women go through in order to look the way we're supposed to. If no sex is preferable to sex plus hair, I will not go there. I will wax if I'm going to be out in public in a vest top, but I cannot and will not sleep with a man who expects to see shiny hairless me every single time we have sex. Sometimes I have hairy armpits. I'm a person. Deal with it.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Why I Love (and Now Admire) Bill Bailey

“You have to pick your targets,” he says. “And I've realised that, consciously or unconsciously, I tend to target multinational companies! The world's richest banks, the world's richest retailers, people who aren't vulnerable. Because I think, of anyone, you can take this, me, some beardy bloke, shaking a fist at you.

“That was the thing about the whole Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross affair. It was just the wrong targets.” They mocked the weak? “They mocked the weak. You have got to aim a bit higher than that.”

From an interview with the Times.

I love Bill Bailey for a hundred different reasons, but this is the big one, which he has now handily summed up for me in a quote. "You have got to aim a bit higher than that." I loved him upon seeing his cheerily bemused comedy stylings on Never Mind The Buzzcocks for the first time, I loved him even more when I first saw his incredible musical talent in a stage show, he had my undying love forever when I saw a picture of him in a "This Is What A Feminist Looks Like" T-shirt. Bill Bailey is possibly the most well-loved comedian in Britain at the moment (I'm having a hard time thinking of other contenders), and on the basis of that he could say pretty much anything and get a laugh. He knows that. When you get as popular as he has, you don't have to try anymore. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand haven't had to try for some time. They went too far, and will be forced to aim for a higher standard, at least for a while. Bill Bailey does it all for himself. He holds the concept of the "easy target" in contempt, not because he has to but because he is better than that, both as a comedian and as a person.

My love for Bill Bailey has grown into admiration because of what he demands of himself. I don't admire many people (never surprised, never impressed) and I almost wish this weren't a reason to admire him, that most comedians thought like this and the Russell Brands of this world were an aberration, but I know they don't and they're not. Bill is an exception, a rarity. I admire him for expecting more of himself, and for expecting more of his industry. In fact, in his honour I'm going to implement a new Thank You feature.

Thank You, Bill Bailey, for restoring a little of my faith in comedy.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Fun With Names

I have a terribly important job doing other people's grunt work. It's a combination of copying things from one place to another and dashing round like a mad thing because a piece of paper has gone missing. As you may imagine, this isn't so taxing for the brain cells, so my mind likes to go somewhere else while my fingers type and my legs dash and my hair goes frizzy. A reasonable chunk of my daily work involves inputting employment tribunal cases to a database (it was actually all my daily work today - grrr, argh, bloody people calling in sick), and I've developed a tendency to invent lives for these people based on where they live, what they've chosen as their email address, the reason they're suing. Of course, sometimes I just laugh at their names. My juvenility has been well-documented here.

Names interest me. Beyond the base level "who would call their child Tangy?" and "hehe, Mr Vincent-Squibb" (I apologise to any Tangys or Vincent-Squibbs that may be reading - this is my problem, not yours), it brings up a lot of gender questions. Often solicitors do not put an honorific on their forms. This leads to many bemused discussions among us grunt-workers: is this a man's name or a woman's name? Is this a male or a female Alex? Is R Jones a Richard or a Rachel? And this, in turn, leads me to wonder why on earth we need to know. I mean, we ask the questions of each other because it affects what we type in - is the salutation Mr Jones or Ms Jones, all that stuff. But why is that necessary? Why do we need to know someone's gender in order to send them a form letter? What, in all seriousness, is the point?

It seems strange to me that in this day and age, we haven't developed a gender-neutral honorific or salutation. It shouldn't, I suppose, since the world hasn't really come round to "Ms" yet. My ex once told me off for putting "Ms" on a form because "that's for divorced women". My mother likes to tell me that "Ms" is ridiculous. No more ridiculous than having to surreptitiously inquire about female colleagues' marital status because I'm not sure how to refer to them in a letter. No more ridiculous than realising you know exactly which women in the office are married but have no corresponding knowledge about any of the men. It's bloody stupid. At this juncture, I'd like to throw in a complaint about "Miss". I hate being called "Miss". It makes me feel eight.

Women have a tricky time with this stuff. Whatever we choose to call ourselves, we will be judged on it. Some people think they can suss out our whole personalities from whether we choose Mrs or Miss or Ms. And then, inevitably, we have to look at the whole surname thing. This is a difficult one to bring up, as any opinions on the subject are bound to piss someone off, and with good reason - names are an intensely personal thing, and we don't want to feel we're being judged negatively when we've done what we feel is the right thing for us. With that in mind, I'll tell you which corner I sit in.

I always assumed, fairly complacently, that I would take my husband's name when I got married. Firstly, I don't like my surname very much, secondly, it wasn't something I thought I had much choice about, and thirdly, I'd heard all those practical arguments - what about the kids? This is clearly the best option for them. During my relationship with my ex, I spun right round (like a record, baby, right round) on this issue. I remember telling him I'd take his name. I assumed I would for several years. Then, when we got officially engaged, my mind started rebelling. That's not my name. I said so to my friends, and all of them laughed at me, but the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. That's not my name. Part of this, I'm sure, was my writer's obsession with symbolism - I couldn't stand the implication that I would be leaving my family, which has always been wonderful, loving and supportive, and becoming part of his, which has never been any of those things. I told my ex, either both of us change or neither of us do. We take a new name or we keep our own. And if we keep our own, then have children, they aren't getting your name. I thought perhaps my stance might soften after we broke up, imagining that it was in large part due to problems with his family, but it wasn't and it hasn't. I do like my symbolism, and I will not change for a man who will not change for me. Simple as that. My mother says I should hold off on making any decisions like this, in case the man I marry has a really nice surname. So what? I bet we could pick a better one.

You hear a lot of arguments for changing versus not changing versus hyphenating versus taking a new name, and the only ones that bother me are the ones that hinge on women as a monolithic group should do, as opposed to what's best for the arguer individually. If your name isn't a big deal, fine. If you wanted to take his name, fine. If you would never in a million years want to share a name with your husband, fine. But don't tell me that name-changing is something wives should do for their husbands. Don't tell me that women who do change are tools of the patriarchy. You think the concept of name-changing is bizarre, fine. You think women who do it are bizarre, not fine. I don't feel like any of us have the right to stomp around telling other people how they should refer to themselves, which is why I will never, ever marry a man who demands I become Mrs Hisname, for any reason. Don't tell me what my name is.

On a global, political scale, this issue doesn't matter that much to me, although I am dying to see a reduction in the various stigmas attached to women's choices in this area, and to men's choices to do anything besides keep their names and have lots of mini-Theirnames. I cannot muster up the indignation to criticise a woman for what she wants to call herself. It's her damn name. But at the same time, on a personal level this is intensely important to me, maybe irrationally so. It is strangely vital to me that you, whoever "you" may be in this scenario, cannot tell me what my name is. It must be something I have control over. I must not become a Jones or a de la Garza or a Snott-Pickling simply because of who I fall in love with. It makes no sense. My name, of all things, must be my decision.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Why Is This News?

(I wonder if this may become a depressingly regular feature.)

John Sergeant has left Strictly Come Dancing. For the international reader: a man who can't dance very well has left a show about dancing because he couldn't dance very well. And not only is this news, this is The Biggest Story In The World, Ever. We can't get away from it. John Sergeant has quit! John Sergeant has quit! I could not possibly care less! Please tell me something interesting!

This has been quietly irritating me for a couple of days, but this has just pushed me over the edge. It is filed under "Politics" because a cabinet minister has been remarking on the story on Question Time. WHY is this coming up on Question Time? Is nothing else happening in Britain at the moment? For ages you couldn't go anywhere without hearing about the whole bloody Russell Brand thing (can't stand Russell Brand, the whole incident was terrible, but please don't make me spend any more time thinking about him), and now that's all been shunted away so that thousands of people can complain that John Sergeant has quit. Hey, I hear we're entering a recession. Apparently, America has its first black president. The BNP membership list has been leaked. I want to hear more about that, if only in hopes of more gems like this one from The Times:

"Some of the information is inaccurate, whether by error or design. One possibility is that simple codes have been used to mangle numbers. For example, the mobile for a top English scientist, said to require discretion because of his job, was answered yesterday by an angry Glaswegian who launched into a four-letter torrent of abuse."

Consider this my Quote of the Day (rather, week). I think a lot of interesting ethical questions are thrown out by the BNP member leak, but I can't read about it because no news outlet will write about anything other than John bloody Sergeant. And I quite like John Sergeant, but for fuck's sake. He's a man who can't dance. A man who can't dance has decided to stop dancing. Please stop this now. This is DULL. For the love of God, give me some actual news, or failing that, several pun-filled jokes. Anything other than John bloody Sergeant. PLEASE.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

NaNoWriMo Blogging: The Procrastination Starts Here

Alright, so let's just say I took October off. Will that do?

So, I'm back, and I'm procrastinating. It's November, which means NaNoWriMo. This will be my fifth year, and I've managed it every year except last year, so I'd like to get back on a winning streak.

I've sort of accepted, given the events of this year, that I'm going to end up writing a therapy novel as opposed to a great work of literary genius. I think I need it, and I also don't have a plot, so what's going to come out is what's on my mind.

I'm having terrible trouble with names this year. It's not usually a problem for me, but I need a name for a guy who's not very nice and I cannot come up with one. I don't want to use the name of someone I know because I am dumb and always feel like I'm casting aspersions. I have like three readers, so I'm probably talking to the air here, but how does everyone else do it?

Just for shits and giggles, a dorky NaNo tally thing:

Word Count: 3446
Junk Food Count: Half a box of After Eights and some Pringles
Dare Count: 2
Pointless Word-Count-Boosting Scene Count: 0
Restart Count: 0
Nervous Breakdown Count: 0

Saturday, 27 September 2008


Sorry for the hiatus. I have a new job and have to get adjusted to the hours. Bloody exhausted. *flop* As such, I haven't really been keeping up with the news and so haven't had enormous amounts of inspiration to write. I will try and get some stuff up within the next week.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Scared, Not Stupid

I was reading this post at Feministing when I came across a comment that upset me. The article is about women being coerced into sex by their partners and having their reproductive choices denied to them, and in wades a commenter to tell us that this is off-topic but Very Important. What is it? Why, that women who allow themselves to become financially dependent on a man are "100% stupid/dumb". Then they complain when they get abused, silly women! Now, I have no idea whether this commenter is male or female, but why is everything in a relationship assumed to be a woman's fault or responsibility? To an article about the frighteningly high figures of rape and abuse in relationships, this person feels the need to add that these women are stupid? Oh, thanks.

I'm nervous about adding my own voice to this story, because my ex knows about this blog. But since he dismissed it as unimportant when we were together, I should be alright. So here goes: why on earth do these people assume that women walk into abusive or controlling relationships knowing exactly what they're getting into? Why do they assume there was a point when the woman willingly handed over all control of her finances to a man she knew was going to abuse her? Why is the default assumption not that this man is horrible, but that she's dumb? Why have we created a culture in which not only will a woman not be believed if she reports physical violence or rape committed against her by her husband, but emotional abuse is believed not to exist? Why have we decided that emotional abuse does not constitute an abusive relationship? Why does the phrase "I wish he would hit me, so I could leave" resonate with so many women?

I'll talk from the perspective of a woman who has left an abusive relationship. I had to stop myself qualifying that sentence with "emotionally abusive" just in case anyone mixed it up with "real" abuse, because that's what we're taught to believe. Everyone yells. If it scares you, that's your problem, not his. Everyone says things in the heat of the moment, you should learn to brush it off. Everyone gets road rage, and it's not like he's ever hit you, is it? Did he apologise? Well, that's alright, then. And then we get the guilt trip: how dare you call yourself abused? Think of those poor women who are getting beaten senseless by their husbands every night. How can you diminish their suffering by calling yourself abused? After all, it's only a bit of yelling, or a bit of jealousy, or one slap in the face. That's not abuse. Who do you think you are?

We don't quantify anything else this way. We don't tell people they weren't robbed because the burglars didn't smash anything, or because Mrs Johnson up the road had more stuff taken. We don't say the Iraq war isn't a war because World War II was bigger. By calling emotional abuse for what it is, we don't diminish or cheapen women who experience domestic violence. We aren't claiming to have it worse than them. We are simply admitting our own experiences of abuse, and using the awareness of what we went through to help us pick ourselves up and move on.

Women do not walk into abusive relationships knowing that the partner is an abuser. We walk into abusive relationships seeing a charming, sweet guy who adores us. We fall in love, as people do, and we continue to see a charming, sweet guy who adores us. Instead of seeing his jealousy as a form of control, we see it for what he tells us it is - a sign that he loves us, can't live without us, can't bear the thought of losing us. So we cut down on the going out, pull back from the friends who inspire these feelings, because we don't want to hurt him. We applaud him for being so willing to open up to us, for being so unafraid to be vulnerable. We don't see this as control. After all, it's not like he asked us not to see these friends. We did it willingly, because we saw it was hurting him. We chose this.

Women do not walk into abusive relationships intending to relinquish control of their finances because we are dumb and can't be bothered. Maybe it starts with something tiny. He's an old-fashioned gent, he likes to pay on dates. He wants to look after us, to provide for us. Perhaps he begins to tell us not to take money out with us. We don't need it, he pays, we know that. Perhaps we get sick, or lose our jobs. Perhaps he looks after us during that time, pays for us, supports us. We feel grateful for all he's done for us, and he says, no, not at all. I enjoy looking after you. Perhaps when we're ready to go back to work he says, no, stay. I like having you at home. Perhaps we say we want to go back to work and he says why? Don't you trust me to provide for you? Am I not enough for you? Perhaps by this point, we're already a little bit scared of him. Perhaps we've seen him as an aggressive drunk. Perhaps we've seen him scream at someone who didn't deserve it, or hit someone in a bar fight. Perhaps he's never done anything to us, and we think we're safe, but we know he has that unpredictable, violent edge to him. We know that, maybe, it's not so safe to disagree with him. He won't hurt us, but he might hurt someone else, or he might start punching the walls when we fight, the table during breakfast, the pillows when we're in bed. Does it make us "100% stupid/dumb" to just give up? Or does it make us shit-scared? Perhaps you don't think it's wrong to call frightened women "dumb". Perhaps you think we can "just leave". Perhaps you, from your lofty position on the hill, think we should have seen it coming, should have got out earlier or never got in, and because we didn't, it's just our too bad. We got ourselves into this, and we can get ourselves out. Perhaps you see no need for compassion here.

For a long time, I knew that if I got in the car with my ex, I was bound to hear an aggressive round-up of all my character flaws. If he took a wrong turn, it was my fault. If he was in the wrong lane, it was my fault. If I dared to start crying, he would scream. The first time this happened, I was shocked. I jumped out of the car at traffic lights and ran home. He left me message after message, crying and apologising and telling me he loved me. And I forgave him. After all, it was only once, and everyone has their off-days, right? This is why it's so hard to find the red line that says "GET OUT" - we can all forgive someone for fucking up once. When he did it for the second time, it was a year later. That, too, could be written off as an isolated incident. Once it happens for a third, fourth, fifth time and you're sure that this is a pattern and not just a couple of isolated incidents, the impact has gone. You're no longer outraged that he would treat you this way. You've got used to it. Not only that, but you're frightened. This stuff is scary. Being attacked, verbally or physically or emotionally, by someone you love is frightening. Being attacked by someone you know to be violent is frightening. You're confused. You thought you were safe, and he only acted that way to other people. You didn't have a plan for what you'd do if he attacked you. You don't trust him not to follow you if you leave. Your self-esteem is shot. You don't trust yourself. If someone you love can say such horrible things to you, he must mean them. You must really be that bad. He's a saint for putting up with you, really. None of this makes you "dumb". It makes you ABUSED. You don't believe you're abused, of course. You believe him when he says he's just being honest, or he's trying to help, or that he just gets this way sometimes and you just have to ignore him. If you do talk to someone else about it, they tell you you're overreacting. You lose all trust in your own judgement, and begin to rely on his. He's lovely to you in public, then screams at you behind closed doors. He tells you he only has the courage to be honest when he's mad. You trust that. You trust everything he's telling you, because he wouldn't make that up, would he?

We are not "dumb". We are not "stupid". We did not choose this. We did not ask for this. We do not want this. We may be stuck, we may be scared, we may have given up, but we are not stupid. We know that people won't believe us, or will blame us. We will be hysterical women, overreacting to a stupid fight, or we will deserve everything we get. I am proud of myself for getting out. I am proud that I am not that woman anymore. I am not stupid, and it was horribly upsetting and jarring to come across that sort of victim-blaming. So many women have not done what I did. So many women are scared, and stuck. So many women have given up. I pray that one day they will be able to get out. What they do not need is to have sanctimonious tossers calling them "dumb". If you must throw blame around, there is one very logical place to throw it, and that place is the abuser, NOT the abused.

EDIT: The original commenter has informed us that we are far too sensitive and should get some professional counselling if we cannot deal with "opinions" such as "abused women are dumb". This post is not for that commenter. This post is for those who want to understand.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

ANTM Blogging: Team Isis Edition

So, as previously predicted, I am now going to reverse my opinions on most of the girls (including, surprisingly, Samantha, who proved entirely unoffensive). I still love Isis and McKey. I now hate Clark and ShaRaun.

Warning: here be spoilers.

So, I wasn't expecting ANTM to treat their first transgender contestant with any sort of nuanced sensitivity, but nor was I really expecting (and this is my privilege showing, I guess) that so many of the other girls would be so gratuitously nasty. Isis is a woman. Isis has always been a woman. She wasn't legally born a woman, but she was a woman nevertheless. I'm not sure if I'd prefer to believe that the state of education in America (and probably here, too) is so dire that most people don't realise that, or that ANTM purposely brought in some very horrible girls. Over the course of Wednesday's two episodes, I heard "Isn't this supposed to be a competition for girls?" "Isis has no place in this competition", "that man", "drag queen" and "he/she". Actually, that last one comes from an infinitely more frightening sentence, which I am paraphrasing: "I come from a small town, and if a he/she walked down the street in my town, she'd get shot." And this, believe it or not, was said in defence of the bigotry shown towards Isis. I also heard a particularly odd comment about Isis needing to shave and sweat burning off body hair that I really didn't understand, so I'm assuming that ShaRaun is just an idiot. Thank fuck she's gone.

ANTM is my fluff show, my meaningless source of amusement. Tyra Banks always goes on about "controversial" photoshoots and "making the viewer uncomfortable", but this is the first time she's ever actually achieved it. I sincerely hope she has good intentions, though I worry. I know from experience and the Television Without Pity forums that some people will sympathise with Clark and ShaRaun and their bigotry. People are asking prurient questions about what Isis does with her penis (she's pre-op) and saying that of course it's reasonable to take the piss out of her for being trans! Like, hello, free speech! You know what would be a funny nickname? Guysis! Or S/He! Hahaha, aren't I clever? No, you're not. Shut the fuck up.

I am very firmly on Team Isis. Aside from the fact that it takes a lot of guts to come on a reality show and deal with horribly unpleasant people like these, she's also brilliant. She knows her stuff, and her picture was my favourite. She was about the only one who actually got the theme of her shoot, as opposed to standing in front of the appropriate background and prancing. Although, on that topic, "voting is sexy"? Really, Tyra? And what was up with the random "register to vote today" chorus from the judging panel? That might be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen on this show, which is saying quite a lot.

I'm interested to see how the girls, the judges, and the editors handle this in upcoming episodes. I have to say, I'm not optimistic. Clark is already my least favourite contestant of all time - I am absolutely convinced that she's not just ignorant, knows exactly what she's doing and thinks it will help her in the competition to be a horrible bigoted asshole. It better bloody not, is all I can say.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Rape Is Always Rape

So, this morning, IMDb says to me (possible trigger warning, it certainly upset me):

Dame Helen Mirren was the victim of sex crimes in her youth - because she didn't have the courage to stand up to men who wanted sex with her.

The veteran British actress has admitted she was date-raped on several occasions, but never reported the incidents to the police because the men involved weren't violent.

In a candid interview with Britain's GQ magazine the actress says, "It's such a tricky area (rape), isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson. I don't think he was a rapist.

"I was (date-raped), yes. A couple of times. Not with excessive violence, or being hit, but rather being locked in a room and made to have sex against my will."

And the star believes that, although women have every right to say no to men in the bedroom, they shouldn't press charges against someone they were planning on being sexually active with.

She adds, "I don't think she can have that man into court under those circumstances."

What the fuck, Helen? First of all, no, it's not a tricky area. Rape is the absence of enthusiastic consent. That seems pretty fucking simple to me. Second of all, what do you mean, "no violence"? Rape is violence. It does not become more or less "like rape" with the presence or absence of a punch in the face. It's one of the worst and most invasive violent crimes we know of, and the idea that it's not so bad because the rapist didn't hit his victim is vile. Absolutely fucking vile.

But we don't stop there, oh no. Helen Mirren thinks that if we were planning to have sex with someone (and, presumably, if we are already in a relationship with someone), we cannot press charges if he rapes us. That would be unfair. For fuck's sake, Helen! I used to like you. So if I go out with a man I like, and he turns out to be a rapist, is that my own fault? Should I have known better? Do you really think we can pick out which men are rapists and which men aren't? Do you really think that if we consent to sex once, or even plan to consent to sex, we have consented to sex indefinitely? Why the fuck can't we take him to court? Are we just sluts, or should we know better than to ever be alone with a man?

I understand, given that Mirren has been raped more than once, that this might be a coping mechanism. Oh, it's not so bad, I probably would have had sex with him anyway, at least he didn't hit me. Trust me, I understand that. When you feel that you cannot report a rape because you won't be taken seriously, it makes sense to try and convince yourself that there's a reason you won't be taken seriously. The police have better things to do with their time, it's only natural that nobody would believe me, think of the poor women who get beaten senseless before being raped. I sympathise. But for the love of God, don't try and make the rest of us believe it. Don't buy into the slut-shaming culture. Every weekend, people go out on dates with new people. Every weekend, some of those new people turn out not to be as nice as previously thought. Women have been raped this weekend. Some have probably been beaten up, too, and some haven't, but the act of rape is the SAME. The women in the first category have gone through exactly the same experience as those in the second category - the physical assault is extra. It is not part of what makes a rape a rape. The women in the second category have not been "sort of raped" or "had sex and regretted it". It's rape. Rape is always rape. And what these women do not need is to hear more people spouting off about how they weren't really raped, and it was kind of their fault anyway for not being a perfect judge of character and for liking someone who turned out to be an evil rapist asshole. It's not their fault, Helen, it's his fault. It is not a "tricky area". Rape is always rape, and it's always the fault of the fucking rapist.


Tuesday, 26 August 2008

ANTM Blogging: Pre-Show Fluff Edition

America's Next Top Model Cycle 11 starts next week. I'm embarrassingly excited about it (it's my only reality show), so I'm going to start now with my pre-show impressions. There will generally be more serious stuff in these posts, but this time I'm sticking with fluff. I'll go in alphabetical order because I don't have them ranked in my head yet.

Analeigh - I didn't like her in the group shot, found her oddly compelling in her individual shot and went right off her when I saw the video. She seems nice enough, but she looked kind of ordinary in motion. I'm reserving judgement on this one.

Brittany - She seems to be wearing short, waistcoat-shaped overalls. Why would anybody do this? Lovely face, but I'm not sure I can get past that outfit.

Clark - In the group shot, I loved her. The individual shot is kind of weird. She looks like she's been blown sideways, and it doesn't look anything like the group picture. She's standing in the blown-sideways pose during the whole video, actually - maybe she's stuck like that. Currently not keen, but willing to be persuaded otherwise.

Elina - Absolutely stunning. Both the pictures are gorgeous, but she's apparently a PETA activist, which is, um, troubling. She also has a freakin' huge head in the video. Nevertheless, I think I like her.

Hannah - Boring, yawn, et cetera. A lot of people have been saying she's the most modelesque of the bunch, but I just don't see it. I couldn't stop staring at her teeth in the video.

Isis - She was my favourite in the group shot, I like her individual, but what is up with those earrings? They're about eight foot across. I think she may catch some flack over her teeth - if she doesn't, it's because they don't plan to keep her around long and won't shell out for dentistry. I am worried about how she might be exploited.

Joslyn - I don't like her at all. Nothing memorable about her. So much so, in fact, that they didn't even bother to put up a video for her. The girls I hate never leave early, so look out for her in the final four.

Lauren Brie - Why is she called Lauren Brie? Why did she feel the need to add cheese to her name? I might start calling myself Jennifer Camembert (if you say it with a French accent it almost rhymes!). Her video was one of the most boring things I've ever seen and her eyes scare me.

Marjorie - What is up with the outfits this year? High-waisted trousers with braces? No, no, no, Marjorie. Based on her video, she's either going to be adorable or extremely annoying. I just hope I never have to see those evil trousers again.

McKey - Stupid name, gorgeous girl. Her jaw bothers me a little, but as long as it's less huge than Keenyah's she'll be one of my favourites.

Nikeysha - Has stupid Saleisha hair. Her pictures aren't completely dire, but she looks about forty in her video.

Samantha - Hate. She was quite pretty in the group shot, but her individual has serious bitchface. She looked no better in motion. Probably going to be the girl I hate irrationally whether or not she gives me any reason to, and that means she will probably win.

ShaRaun - I quite like her. She was one of the few that didn't drive me nuts in the video. So she's out first, then.

Sheena - Her face is huge. And, in the video, shiny beyond belief. Don't they have people to deal with that? I'm not keen on her so far, but based on previous patterns she's got a good chance of winning. In her pre-show photos she looks like Mutya out of the Sugababes.

I liked a lot of the girls in the group picture and hated most of them in their individual shots. I'm not sure whether this is me or the Photoshopping. Watch out for the next post, in which I completely reverse my opinions about everyone except Samantha.