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.

Monday, 25 August 2008

CICA Sucks

So, as if this wasn't bad enough, we now find out that the little girl abused by paedophile Craig Sweeney will get £9,000 compensation. Yeah, you read that right. Nine grand. This child was three years old. Sweeney was on early release for another crime when he attacked her and can seek parole in 2011. Nine fucking grand.

I'd like to put this in some sort of perspective. I once broke my ankle on school property and got five grand. CICA insists that it works on some sort of tariff scheme, grading pay against injuries. I assume this must include emotional injuries, and to that I say what the FUCK? Who wrote this fucking injury list? She was three and abducted by a fucking paedophile, and nine grand is the best you can do? How much therapy is this girl going to need? How many horrendous emotional problems is she going to have thanks to this abuse? How many times is she going to wake up in the night screaming? You cannot possibly tell me this is only twice as bad as broken ankle. For fuck's sake.

You can't compensate the child, clearly. There is nothing anyone could do to truly compensate her. But come on, at least give it a shot. At least pretend like you give a shit. I sincerely hope that our justice system will keep the asswipe in prison for the rest of his life, and CICA, pull your fucking finger out. Jesus Christ.

In Case You Didn't Know...

Jeremy Paxman is a pillock.

Oh, no! The poor middle-class white men! They've got no chance of getting into TV, have they? He knows of five women - five! - in powerful positions, and so obviously this is evidence that women have taken over the world, because they shouldn't be in those positions at all! How dare they? Why aren't they making the tea?

What is wrong with these men? If there are a hundred people in a room, ninety-four men and six women, women are clearly underrepresented. But the ninety-four men are all panicking because there were only two women last time. It's a conspiracy! There can't possibly be six women who are good at their jobs. Bloody political correctness, grouch grouch grouch.

Jeremy Paxman makes insane amounts of money. He sees an awful lot of middle-class white men on his job. I would wager he sees very few women or people of colour on a day-to-day basis, unless they're fetching his sandwiches for him, so presumably it must come as a shock to have anyone who isn't a middle-class white man speak to him like an equal. Perhaps that's the problem here.

I decided to do a little experiment, using the guest hosts of HIGNFY. In the eleven series of the show since Angus Deayton was fired, we have had:

13 white women
1 woman of colour
3 men of colour
30 white men

Ooh, Jeremy's right! Look at that, nearly half as many women as men! Wow, we really must be taking over. Seriously, though, I really enjoy HIGNFY, but only one black woman (newsreader Moira Stuart, who'd just been fired for apparently being too old. Lotsa jokes there)? I must say I'm disappointed. Mock the Week has had exactly one black man and one black woman, and in every show five out of six of the panellists are white men. I decided to look up the panellists on QI, too - in the first series we have Meera Syal and Peter Serafinowicz, and then no POC at all for the next four series. Wikipedia promises me Lebanon-born Dom Joly next series, but then it also promises an appearance from creepy molesting bastard Johnny Vegas, and I'm afraid that if appearances by Vegas outnumber appearances by all POC put together, I am going to have to go and scream at Stephen Fry.

So, yeah, nice one, Paxman. White men are totally screwed over by British TV.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Shitty Comedian Watch: Him Again

Dear Frankie Boyle,

I watched Mock the Week yesterday. I was left with the impression that you had stumbled across this blog and were determined to piss me off in every way possible, just to show me that you're better than me. Next time, leave a comment, please.


In other news, I am now completely in love with David Mitchell. It takes an awful lot for me to watch a show despite presence of Boyle, and that's him. I'm even going off Dara since he gave out points for a rape joke. Bah.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Never Again...

I was perusing the internet trying to cheer myself up, and I cannot stop laughing at this:

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I usually hate this sort of stuff. It inevitably leads to LOLspeak. But "Do not laugh at sign"... Damn, I've started myself off again. Excuse me.

We Must Be Warned

So, new research tells us that abortion is not as traumatic as the anti-choicers like to claim. And, of course, some people are not pleased about this. The Times presents us with this charming piece by Melanie McDonagh which protests: "But risks! There must be risks! Because it's an abortion! You're killing a baby!"

It's been a while since I've done a smackdown, so let's go through this, shall we?

She starts off by going on about how there's no such thing as "value-free abortion research" or, indeed, "value-free interpreters of the research". What this translates to is: Bias! Bias! This and all previous and subsequent information about abortion is biased! You can't trust any of it! She goes on to reveal which side of this particular argument she's on by referring to the APA report as "meat and drink to the pro-choice lobby". Hey, we're a lobby! You know, she's probably right; I welcome anything that might lessen the potential for guilt-tripping and scaremongering. Odd, that. I bet she'd think I was value-free.

The APA has concluded that abortions do not really impact one's mental health. McDonagh has to throw in a quick scaremonger about multiple abortions. She then complains that this research will be used when the UK Parliament votes on a possible amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (how poncy are we?), which would require compulsory counselling for every woman wanting an abortion. She's not happy about this report being used, because the evidence is biased. Come on! We need something to counter the truly excellent research of Nadine Dorries! She then refers to journalists writing about their own experiences with abortion (as Caitlin Moran, among others, did) as "snuff journalism". Yeah, snuff journalism. Look at all these nasty murdering women, "bragging" about their abortions. Yes, Melanie, they're bragging. It's not as though they're doing it to break the taboo or reduce the censure that women get if they consider having an abortion. It's not as if they're writing because they aren't ashamed of their abortions and don't believe that any woman should be. Way to demonise women, though. Why aren't they ashamed of it? Shut up, bitches!

Ah, now we get to it: "My chief objection to abortion isn't the damage that it might cause the woman concerned; I mind that it kills the foetus." In case you missed that, she doesn't really care if abortion does cause huge amounts of mental distress - she just wants to exploit that line of reasoning to protect her own world view, and while we're at it, the imaginary babies. But if we are going to take the silly mental distress thing seriously, we must acknowledge some spurious studies that she's thrown in in order to make herself look academic. Apparently, there are a lot of variables. Who knew? Women are people! Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor. It really irritates me that she then spends the rest of the article pretending to care about our mental health and how important it is to warn us of the risks, when she's already admitted she doesn't really care.

I have to admit to being highly confused by her next bit. She says that a study which concluded that there was increased risk of "depression, suicide and substance abuse" was criticised for not including information about the backgrounds of the women who had these abortions. She then informs us that some other researcher said: "there is consensus among most social and medical science scholars that a minimum of 10 to 30 per cent of women who abort suffer from serious negative psychological consequences". Oh, consensus, is there? That's what Nadine said. Surely if there was consensus, the APA wouldn't have just told us the opposite? What I really don't get about this is that she's just provided us with a handy rebuttal to that quote - what about the women involved? What are their backgrounds? Do they have a history of depression? She does say something about the APA study being criticised by pro-life groups for this and that, but I have yet to come across a pro-life group that doesn't rely on emotional blackmail and slut-shaming to get their points across.

Bizarrely, McDonagh then complains that MPs are susceptible to research from well-respected sources (well, she says "authoritative-sounding" because she is right and everyone else is wrong). And, y'know, I hate to bring up Nadine and her "reasons" again, but your side really doesn't have a leg to stand on at the moment, Mel. This stuff is coming from a highly-placed academic organisation, and countering that with the Daily Mail just isn't going to cut it. Sorry. She then says this:

"Before the recent Commons vote on whether to restrict the time limit on abortion, research was published that suggested the life chances of premature babies had not increased beyond 24 weeks, despite medical advances. This was extensively quoted in favour of keeping the limit at 24 weeks, even though babies born prematurely self-evidently have problems, or their mothers do. The study had no bearing on ordinary, healthy foetuses, yet was used to see off the attempt to change the time limit on abortion."

This really pisses me off. As I've said before, you cannot painlessly remove a foetus from a woman at 24 or 20 or 16 weeks and place it in an incubator for a few months until it's fully developed and is ready to be sent to an adoption agency. The woman has to carry that unwanted foetus inside her. She's stuck with it. She has to give birth to it, even though she doesn't want to. That's what this all boils down to - McDonagh and her ilk want to force women to give birth. Who cares, really? She's pregnant, not a person. You can opt out of any medical procedure. If you don't want it, you don't have to have it. Even if it would save another person's life, like a kidney transplant, you don't have to do it. We do not have to give birth. Leave us alone. It freaks me out that these forced-birth people think the limit should get lower and lower along with medical and scientific advances. I once had a very early miscarriage. Should the day come when I have to bring it into the hospital to see if they can "save" it?

McDonagh then protests that there must at least be a risk of depression following an abortion, mustn't there? All that other stuff is biased anyway. There must be a risk, and "isn't there a case for warning women of this?" ARGH. Jesus, Melanie, we're grown women. We know what abortion is, we know how we feel about it, and we can make our own damn decisions. Just because a woman has gained an unwanted foetus does not mean that she has lost her mind. We who support choice know what abortions involve, we know that we may or may not feel upset over having one. We do not need to be talked down to by some sanctimonious counsellor who wants to make sure that we really understand sadness. She also advocates a cooling-off period, because we all know that pregnant women are irrational, and also five years old. We shall place her on the naughty step until she sees the error of her ways. Then she chucks in a little more scaremongering, just for good measure. You'd better have this kid, you know, because if you don't, your next one might come slightly earlier than it should. Think about that! And, of course, if we have a slightly later abortion, we should definitely be talked down to by a sanctimonious counsellor, because we clearly haven't thought it through at all.

"Come to think of it, has anyone done any research on the effects on men when their wife or girlfriend has an abortion?"

GAH. Fuck off. Seriously, fuck the hell off. "You can't have an abortion because your husband might be sad"? Fuck off, Melanie. Frankly, if he doesn't support me he can go to hell, and it'll be the best place for him. It's my fucking body and no man has any say over what happens to it. Get lost.

Then McDonagh really frightens me by letting me in on her idea of counselling. Remember the guilt-tripping and scaremongering? Yeah, she doesn't want to help us.

"Of course, there is nothing magic about counselling. It depends how it's done. The best and most brutal example of pre-abortion counselling that I can think of is in the film Alfie (the original version, with Michael Caine) when the unfortunate illegal abortionist rattles through all the downsides of the procedure before pocketing his £25, mentioning, if memory serves me correctly, “the injustice to the unborn child”."

She thinks this is "counselling". She also says she'd make a bad counsellor because she'd say "Don't you realise the foetus is human too?" She wouldn't be able to stop herself. This is likely to be much more traumatic than the actual abortion, having some nasty woman call you a slut and a baby-murdering bitch, but what does she care? She has no interest in our mental health - the best form of counselling is the most brutal. If a woman left in tears, she'd be pleased. A job well done, she'd say, and possibly a baby has been saved today. Even though it's not a fucking baby. Hear that? Foetuses are not babies. And nor are pregnant women.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Today in Bad Ideas...

I would just like to say that I was against the idea of a Rocky Horror remake in the first place, but if they cast Russell fucking Brand as Frank-N-Furter, it will be the most irredeemably godawful piece of shit ever produced. Jo Brand would be better than Russell Brand. Get Anthony Head! I'd watch that. Not fucking Russell fucking Brand. I'm just praying this is like the time when people were claiming that Robbie Williams was going to be the next James Bond, and that everyone will realise how shit Russell Brand is before they go and do anything stupid.

Friday, 15 August 2008

A Personal Note

A quick note with regard to this post. I wrote this:

"The only thing I can do is refuse to be labelled by the people I care about. I can only promise myself never to get involved with anyone who puts me on any kind of pedestal, who calls me perfect and acts aggrieved when my looks or behaviour are not. I can only refuse to be shamed for being both human and a woman, for liking cake and sex and being picky as hell over both. I can only hope that I have the guts to tell the man who likes mystery to go to hell. I can only believe that I will never put up as being treated as less than human, even if he thinks he's treating me as more than human, and that I will choose to be alone over being someone else's nice girl."

I was writing to myself, and I have taken my own advice. I have chosen to be alone rather than to be Adam's nice girl. It feels like utter shite, to be honest, but it was something I had to do. Your regularly scheduled ranting will soon resume.

Shitty Comedian Watch

Another new feature that may last three or four posts before I forget about it. I was going to title it "MtW WtF?" but I just can't write that sort of stuff.

For Part One of Shitty Comedian Watch, we have to go back to Mock the Week, which has been an inexhaustible source of horribly traumatising jokes this series, despite presence of the eternally lovely Dara O Briain, who I will shut up about one of these days. A number of people I know have stopped watching it, but I sort of feel the need to keep an eye on it, if only to discover what the BBC considers acceptable humour in this day and age. I was feeling slightly better about last night's episode - Frankie Boyle's racist joke was met with, "Oh, that's alright now, is it? They've got an economy, so the racism is OK?" (I think I might be slightly falling in love with David Mitchell). And then, of course, Boyle gets up to do his little stand-up bit. His horrendously triggering stand-up bit. I'm not kidding, I was almost sick.

So he says:

"Viagra is overrated. You know, it takes at least half an hour for Viagra to take effect. By that time, the woman has usually managed to wriggle free."


How on earth is this getting broadcast on national television? I expect shit like this in a comedy club, but on fucking BBC prime time? Ha ha ha, it's funny, see, because you think it's just a sex joke, but then it turns out not to be, and that's funny! Frankie Boyle is so, like, edgy and dangerous with his humour! Isn't he clever?

No, he's not fucking clever. I don't understand this. You can make dumb noises about comedy pushing boundaries or whatever crappy excuse bad comedians always use, but why the hell is this considered acceptable for broadcast at a time when swear words are bleeped out? Why is the BBC continuing to screen jokes about women being imprisoned and raped? Who the fuck is running this operation, and what the hell is wrong with him? It's not funny, it's traumatising. Boyle is allowed to get away with this stuff because some stupid people have decided that being nasty is his schtick, so he can say whatever he wants - oh, he's just Frankie, he does that. That's his thing that he does. It's harmless, really, they say. Hey, guys. When a joke leaves a woman in tears, that's not harmless. When a joke leaves a woman in tears, that's not her fault, that's your fault. Frankie Boyle can say what the hell he likes at his gigs. He's on TV a lot, so we've all to come to know what to expect from him, but on the BBC? No fucking way. If programmes with unbleeped swearing have to begin: "This programme contains strong language throughout", why doesn't a show with this sort of sick-fuck content warn me: "This programme contains potentially upsetting material"? Why doesn't it warn me that I might be triggered when it has to warn people who object to swearing?

I would like a re-edit of this show that contains only Dara and David, please.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

At Last, An Excuse!

The viewing public in general has been informed that one of the contestants on the upcoming season of America's Next Top Model is transgender. Here she is. Fierce, no? I'm very pleased for many reasons, not least of which is that I now get to blog about ANTM without looking frivolous (not that I'm not frivolous, but everyone else is doing Serious Blogging and I feel compelled to keep up). So, you, my dear imaginary readers, are going to be subjected to weekly posts about ANTM. Don't worry, I'll warn you in the titles.

Isis, the transwoman, is my current favourite to win. I picked her out of the promo shot (the first picture in the link) along with a couple of others as Girls I Will Stick Up For No Matter How Bitchy They Get, and coupled with the fact that she's likely to get an awful lot of crap from the media in general and Tyra Banks in particular, I am now enthusiastically rooting for Isis to be ANTM. I mean, I doubt she's got a hope in hell, but I really, really want her to get it. My other favourites, as if you cared, are Elina the Ukranian girl and possibly Clark and McKey, if I can get over the fact that they're called Clark and McKey.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

It's All Your Fault

So, the BBC informs me that the decision to cut a rape victim's compensation because she had been drinking has been overturned.

This is what we're dealing with. Rape victims can get a poxy £11,000 "standard award", but because she'd been drinking they cut it by 25%, implying that the rape was 25% her fault. It beggars belief that our fucking justice system can hand down such a verdict - the attacker was never found, so nobody was busting out the old "you're just regretting consensual sex" line. It's simply considered acceptable to assume that a woman who has been drinking is by default responsible for any sexual crime. A mugger who attacks drunk people is accused of preying on the vulnerable, so why is rape still considered to be a two-way act?

I'm pleased the decision has been overturned, but really, what's eleven grand to this woman? After being brave enough to report her case and take it to civil court, she then has to continue fighting against the assumption that it was her fault. I don't think she cared about a couple of grand, really, but how can get on with your life when you've essentially been blamed for the worst thing that ever happened to you by the very system that's meant to be in place to protect you? I can't wait for the latest Drink Responsibly ad. Hot on the heels of the guy that drives his wife home when he's pissed and kills them both, and the guy that runs up the scaffolding thinking he can fly and falls to his death, we'll have: "Alcohol makes you responsible for rape. Drink Responsibly: don't drink at all."

I cannot believe she had to fight for this. God speed, anonymous woman.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Nice Girls Don't Do That

I've always shied away from writing about sex, but what the hell. New horizons and all that.

My partner is what we might call a feminist novice. He comes from one of the least feminist backgrounds possible, and whilst he is willing and eager to learn, I'm often surprised at the things he's surprised at. I cannot and will not marry a man who doesn't call himself a feminist, so light lectures often ensue, which so far he's been taking rather well. We had one such discussion in the car the other day, after I told him about a dream I'd had the previous night. In the dream, I was on a TV panel show (I've been watching nothing else lately), talking about the time I did a talk on female masturbation for the BBC, who then cut everything masturbation-related from the broadcast. Everything I said on this imaginary panel show was then cut for being "potentially offensive".

Masturbation jokes are all over the TV at the moment (as it were), and every single one of them is made by a bloke about a bloke. I ranted gently about the fact that masturbation is considered normal for men but some sort of bizarre deviant practice for women (see also oral sex).

Adam: Well, we don't think you do it.
Jen: Why not?
Adam: Because you don't talk about it.
Jen: We don't tend to talk about having a shit either.
Adam: Some men think you don't do that.

Which explains a lot really - the number of times I've come back from the loo in a pub and a man has said, "What do you girls DO in there?!" I probably should have twigged earlier. We don't shit. We just sit on the bathroom counter wielding oversized powder brushes. I always knew that the Nuts crowd consider women's toilets to be arcane and mysterious places, and now I know why - they don't think there are actually loos in there.

The above conversation came as no surprise to me. Adam's biology teacher sent the boys out of the room when the time came to discuss menstruation, and he has long been surrounded by the sort of well-intentioned men who will respond to a fact about rape or sexual harassment with "Really? Are you sure?". We know it's not "feminine" to be sexual, or to talk about shitting, or to eat an entire pizza followed by a huge pudding and a belch. We've learned to accommodate this - we say "down there" and "powder room" and "do you want to split this?" because we're meant to be better than that. Men have these "base desires" and "can't help themselves", and we are supposed be "refined" and "elegant" and "ladylike". All of which translates into: Women aren't supposed to be human.

Since I was very little, I've hated the sort of misogynistic arsehole who refuses to be with his partner when she's giving birth because it "ruins the mystery". He wants to walk in afterwards, when the baby has been cleaned up and the woman is smiling happily and he can pretend that the whole stork thing really is true. If you're having a child together, you're having a child together. She's got the worst of it by far, and putting up with a bit of blood and screaming is the least he can do, really. Referring to the wonder of a woman's "mystery" is one of my top ten warning signs that a man is a git. He wants to believe that you don't fart, or get drunk, or bleed. He doesn't want to know that you shave off or rip out your body hair - you're a woman, so you have to do it, but he wants to think of you as naturally hairless, smooth and perfect. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the courage to let my armpits go au naturel, but I'm not going to pretend I don't cover them in wax and rip all the hairs off. I'm not going to pretend I'm not hungry. I'm not going to pretend that I don't even notice my period (seriously, fucking ARGH. Whose idea was it to make it so bloody painful?). And I don't see why we have to pretend that we don't masturbate. Blokes sit around and boast about it. Why, exactly, are we supposed to be above it? Why are we supposed to be "nice girls"? And what the hell is a "nice girl", anyway?

Some people think I'm a nice girl. I don't sleep with men outside long-term relationships (partly because I have severe trust issues with strangers, and partly because nobody has ever made me feel inclined to do so), I've never smoked, have no interest in drugs and barely even drink anymore. My friend's boyfriend consciously tries not to swear around me. On the other hand, some people look at me and see a bitch. And, y'know, I'll be a bitch. I don't think I'll ever feel comfortable enough to reclaim "cunt" as a feminist word, but I can deal with bitch. Because "bitch" means "not a nice girl" and if there's one thing I dislike about my drugless, monogamous lifestyle, it's the idea that I will be mistaken for one of these "nice girls" who don't shit and laugh dutifully at bigoted jokes. So I have to make do with being bitchy, because if I talk about masturbation and a man hears me, that's a desperate come-on. Nice girls don't talk about that sort of thing, so since I've said it, I'm not nice - or, in modern parlance, a slut. And we all know that sluts are there to be used, and have no business being discerning. I saw "slut" defined, brilliantly, on Shakesville as "woman who is getting more sex than I think she should", which apparently applies even if that sex is with yourself.

I used to read a lot of really terrible chick-lit (it was my secret guilty pleasure for years), including a series of books in which the nasty bitch was always marked out by a masturbation scene. This told us she was a bitch because a) she was always fantasising about money, or private planes, or something equally ridiculous, and b) she couldn't get a man. In a) we see that even a masturbating woman is not allowed to actually have a sexual fantasy, and in b) we see that women only masturbate if they are single and desperate. Where the hell did this come from? Why can't we be in control of our own bloody orgasms? How come we're only allowed to masturbate if there's a man watching? Why is it never about us? GAH. Sick of having my desires regulated by some sort of bizarre governing body. OFWANK, or something. We're told who we're supposed to find attractive, and it's usually David Beckham, even though he's as dumb as a box of hair. I once tried to write an essay on the rules of attraction, but getting people to admit to unauthorised crushes was damn near impossible. I remember Adam listing several unspeakably gorgeous women and then saying, vaguely, "That's embarrassing for men. Trust me." I have a bit of a thing for John Malkovich, but you try admitting that to people in the pub.

I have no solutions, I confess. I don't know how we go about breaking down this wall that divides us into nice girls and dirty little sluts when none of us are either. The only thing I can do is refuse to be labelled by the people I care about. I can only promise myself never to get involved with anyone who puts me on any kind of pedestal, who calls me perfect and acts aggrieved when my looks or behaviour are not. I can only refuse to be shamed for being both human and a woman, for liking cake and sex and being picky as hell over both. I can only hope that I have the guts to tell the man who likes mystery to go to hell. I can only believe that I will never put up as being treated as less than human, even if he thinks he's treating me as more than human, and that I will choose to be alone over being someone else's nice girl.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Quote of the Day

"Alan Sugar made his money by building the ninth best computer on the market, and the second-best satellite dish when there were only two satellite dishes. Then he bought Tottenham Hotspur. Who is he to talk about winning?"

- Dara O Briain lambasting one of my arch-nemeses, Alan "I won't hire women of child-bearing age" Sugar.

I still love Dara, but I am sad to report that this week's episode of Mock The Week contained yet another Fritzl joke. Is it me, or is comedy getting lazier?

Upskirting is "Sometimes Annoying"

This morning, IMDb says to me:

Actor David Thewlis once threatened to attack a photographer - for trying to film up his girlfriend Anna Friel's skirt while she was pregnant.

The Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban star hates it when the paparazzi try to get unflattering pictures of his partner, Pushing Daisies actress Friel.

And he once confronted a snapper who deliberately tried to get an embarrassing shot - when Friel was expecting their first child.

He says, "It's sometimes annoying when a cameraman tries to put a camera up her skirt.

"The only time I've got close to hitting a cameraman is when one tried to put a camera up her skirt when she was pregnant - that's sexual assault.

"I said 'What the f**k are you doing?' I could have understood if she was wearing a mini skirt but to put a camera below a knee-length skirt with a pregnant woman...That's weird. It's illegal I'm sure."

The couple's daughter, Gracie Ellen Mary Friel, was born in 2005.

I'm confused. It's "sometimes annoying" when a guy puts a camera up your partner's skirt? It's only sexual assault when she's pregnant? It's fine for a guy to put a camera up your partner's skirt if said skirt is short?

I see two possible theories here. One, Thewlis regards women as public sexual objects. Of course a photographer will try and take pictures of his partner's underwear, why wouldn't he? She wears short skirts. It's kind of annoying, but hey, that's life. However, when a woman is pregnant, she is not sexual. She is off-limits because she's some sort of holy vessel for his seed, or something like that.

The other theory is that Thewlis has simply got used to this. Friel has been constantly treated like a sexual object (first lesbian kiss on British TV and all), probably since long before they got together. Maybe she said to him, "It's alright, they always do this." So it's not outrageous, it's just annoying. Sometimes. Photographers are permitted to take pictures in public so long as their subjects have no reasonable expectation of privacy, and we've been told again and again that if you're out in a skirt, you can have no reasonable expectation of your underwear remaining private. I find this depressing as both a woman and a photographer - you can be banned from photographing your own children, but not from sticking your camera up a stranger's skirt.

As we all know, things are different for pregnant women. Pregnant women are pure, fresh-faced and shiny, provided they're not chavs, in which case they're sluts and probably have four more by different fathers at home (© The Daily Mail). But decent pregnant women are a class unto themselves - in exchange for automatically getting a seat on the bus, you must resign yourself to your lack of entitlement to personal space from the moment you start to show (taking pictures up your skirt is unacceptable, but grabbing at your stomach is the right of everyone), take advice and stern tellings-off about your diet, exercise, sleeping patterns, reading material and sex life from stranger and friend alike, be bullied about your future sprog's name ("You can't call it Jake/Andrea! I went to school with an evil Jake/Andrea! What do you mean he is/isn't getting the father's name?"), and become an enormous hypochondriac after every single newspaper publishes contradictory reports about tiny things you should or shouldn't be doing, all of which will be cut out and brought to you by someone who's heard you're pregnant. All this you must take with a contented smile because a baby is coming. It's almost as if pregnancy turns you from a slut into a child.

I just can't get my head round a world where a man thinks it's reasonable for people to be shoving cameras up his partner's skirt and publishing the pictures in national media. It's bad enough that women have had to write it off as "one of those things": we know no policeman will bother his arse, and we'll just get a lecture on how some things aren't appropriate to wear in public and next time perhaps we could try wearing some shorts. We know people will roll their eyes at us and tell us it was only a picture of our knickers, let it go, it's not that big a deal. You go out in a bikini, right? We sort of have to let it go, because we're sick of being whacked round the head with the slut-shaming stick. I'm not saying if someone did it to me I wouldn't at least try to stamp on his camera, but if it's already so normal as to be "sometimes annoying", like pigeon shit, what chance have we got? Proper post about "letting it go" coming up soon.

Whether this is Thewlis's issue, or society's, I'm scared.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Who to Avoid, and Who to Love

As you may know, I spend a lot of time watching stand-up comedy, panel shows and other such things, and I have become aware lately of a huge broadening in what is acceptable (since the BBC now seems to be allowing some quite horrific stuff and yet another upsurge in fawning over so-called "controversial" comedians. I've learned in my time not to bother with controversial comedians - it seems to translate as "this comedian will bully his audience".

I was at this show when the idea of an Avoidance list came to me. The charming comedian in question made misogynistic jokes, painted himself as a serious homophobe and closed with the most disgusting anti-trans joke I've ever heard. It was disgusting enough to make me worry about who was in the audience. Sean Lock will forever be on my Avoidance list, and it's a list I'd like to share and expand.

My list is based on comedians I've actually seen performing stand-up, whether live or on TV, except in extreme circumstances like this. I'm also doing a corresponding Safe list, which is based solely on live stand-up (Sean Lock never said anything triggering on TV). I'm taking suggestions for both lists, if anyone would like to volunteer. I would like to say, this isn't a list of everyone who's ever made a slightly unpleasant joke, and I'm not after censorship, I just want to help prevent comedy-goers being triggered.

This is what I have so far.

Avoidance List
Johnny Vegas (misogynistic sexual assaulter/rapist)
Jim Davidson (probably horribly offensive to most, but especially LGBT)
Sean Lock (LGBT, trans especially)
Simon Clayton (women - most misogynistic show I've ever seen)
Andy Parsons (rape jokes, eating disorder jokes)
Frankie Boyle (offensive to most - rape jokes and ableist jokes particularly common)
Jim Jeffries (women)
Paul Zerdin (LGBT)
Adam Carolla (women, LGBT)
Bill Maher (rape jokes)
D.L. Hughley (rape jokes and associated misogyny)
Jimmy Carr

Safe List
Bill Bailey
Ross Noble
Dara O Briain (his stand-up is totally safe - as you may have noticed, Mock the Week is not)
Eddie Izzard
Gina Yashere
Mark Steel
Omid Djalili
Peter Kay
Kathy Griffin
Margaret Cho
Jim Gaffigan
Brian Regan

They're both pretty short at the moment - I don't want to list anyone I haven't seen and my memory escapes me on some of the particularly bad ones, but I will keep updating.

Update One: Can anyone give me information on Jimmy Carr's stand-up act? From what I've seen on TV he looks like one for the Avoidance list, but I'm determined not to presume.

Update Two: Yeah, Jimmy Carr is best avoided. Has anyone seen Reginald D Hunter or Rich Hall live? Both of them seem pretty safe from what I've seen on TV, but I'd like to know what they're like on stage before I give them the seal of approval.

Link Time!

Please read this. I have seen little coverage of this horrendous crime (the post may be triggering), and if we discount the articles that use the word "duped" in the headline, I have seen no coverage at all. This doesn't surprise me - wouldn't want to freak out transphobic readers, after all - but even though I am basically a trafficless blog, I can't just shut up and sit down. This is evil, and the general reaction to it is evil too. You don't get to kill a woman just because you think she's icky. No.

That's all I have. As you were.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Why Isn't She Dead Yet?

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and was reminded to do so this morning when the BBC reported on Margaret Thatcher's funeral plans. Is she dead? No. Has her health worsened? No. Have any decisions been made as to whether or not she will get a state funeral? Again, no. So, perhaps, this is not technically news. But the BBC has learnt that people love to read about Thatcher's impending death. At the time of writing it's the most-read story on the website. And for a long time, probably since her stroke or maybe before, there has been an unmistakeable whiff of "Why isn't she dead yet?"

I was born during Thatcher's government, and I quite like that I got to come into the world during the reign of the first female Prime Minister (when I was seven or so, I did a quiz which asked "Who was the first female Prime Minister?". Thatcher was the only one I'd heard of, but I was convinced that couldn't be right as there must have been female PMs back in the 18th century, mustn't there?). I was still very young when she was kicked out, so I don't remember much about the way the country was under her, but I was always keenly conscious of the fact that everybody hated her. It was so acceptable to hate her that newspapers could call her a damnable bitch with no fear of complaint - except from a few reactionary Conservatives, but who cares about them, right? - and praying for her death on stage would earn you a huge round of applause. But this was the way the world was, so I didn't think about it much.

This all came back into my head during one of my frequent bouts of insomnia, when I decided to hell with the sleeping and I would watch comedy videos on Youtube. My first port of call was Room 101, with guest Mark Steel. I am quite the Mark Steel fan; he's the sort of comedian who will be invited onto Question Time to make serious points. He makes politics funny, he makes history funny, and he never has to resort to slurs based on gender, race, sexuality or physical appearance, unlike the legions of comedians who think they're being terribly clever and edgy in doing so. Anyway, Steel talked about Bono and Ben Elton and bad teachers, and I nodded and laughed merrily. He then said he would have chosen Thatcher, but that it was "too obvious". He told a story about how he was sitting at home watching the news on the day Thatcher had her stroke - the Very Serious Music played, the newsreader had his Very Serious Face on, and a picture of Mrs Thatcher flashed up: "I must have been one of about a million people who leapt out of their seats and shouted 'Dead?!'" He went on to talk about the disappointment of it being "only a stroke".

In a similar vein, Jeremy Hardy on QI (whom I am not a fan of the way I am of Steel, but he's usually funny and I consider both of them part of Linda Smith's lot, which gets them quite a lot of points automatically) remarked, "Thatcher's grave is going to be a permanent urinal to all decent people, isn't it?" Let's look at that. First of all, Thatcher wasn't the topic of conversation - this was the first thing that came into his head when someone mentioned graves. Her grave is going to be a permanent urinal - she will never, ever, ever be forgiven. And to all decent people - she is so horrible that pissing on a grave becomes not a sign of horrendous, deliberate and malicious disrespect, but a badge of honour, and if you don't fancy pissing on the woman's grave, you're not a decent person. Neither Steel nor Hardy are proponents of the "haha, I can swear and toss out tired old stereotypes" style of what is apparently terribly sophisticated comedy, so I can only conclude that yes, they do bear that kind of ill-will towards Thatcher, and they do genuinely believe that she was such a force of evil that she ruined the country. They genuinely see her death as being 'justice'.

Why? She's an old lady. She has had no power of any kind for more than fifteen years. She is ill and frail, and looks it. Will it be 'justice' to see an old lady die nearly two decades after she last did anything? Tony Blair took us into war under false pretences, but nobody was praying for his death - they just wanted him to leave power. Now that he has, we don't care what happens to him. When he does die, there will undoubtedly be people who say "I'm not sorry he died, he caused thousands of others to die" but nobody will be hanging around his deathbed screaming for him to piss off and die already, we're tired of waiting, you soldier-killing bastard, you Iraqi-massacring bastard, why won't you die? Even from parents of the dead, this would be unacceptable and, well, pretty damn weird. Politicians make bad decisions and we hate them for it, but they're rarely criminals (well, of the non-profiteering type, anyway). Mrs Thatcher was not a serial killer, she was not a rapist, she was not an abductor of children. And I have no truck whatsoever with people who say things like "well, she raped the miners" or "she abducted our children's future" (both of which I have heard recently), because using language intended for violent crimes to describe a political decision you disagreed with is frankly vile.

Is death 'justice'? I don't think so. I can see, however, how some might think that Ian Huntley's death would be justice, or Josef Fritzl's (when they're not pissing themselves laughing about it, of course), or any other real criminals who directly inflict real abuse on others, but this does not describe Margaret Thatcher. It just doesn't. Her policies may have caused great difficulties for great numbers of people, sure, but to compare her to a violent criminal is grossly offensive. "Thatcher did worse things to the miners" is a LIE. And to anticipate her death with the eagerness of Christmas Day, to look upon it as a gift, the shiny toy in the shop that will finally, finally make you happy, finally make you truly believe that Father Christmas exists, is just ghoulish. And yes, whether you like it or not, misogynistic. The same show that laughs at Josef Fritzl's actions talks with unconcealed disgust about Thatcher and the desperate wait for her death. There are few figures in the world, criminals or not, who inspire such gleeful reflections about their eventual death, and it is hard not to conclude that Mrs Thatcher, an uppity woman who dared to believe in power for herself, is in her old age a victim of men who wish they could have cut her down to size when she was powerful and are now taking the opportunity to do so in her weakness.

I believe that there are a lot of lovely men in the world. I also believe there are a lot of down-and-dirty misogynist assholes, who know they are misogynist assholes and enjoy it. The majority of men, I think, believe that they are good guys who love women, but have never dealt with their internal misogyny because they simply don't see it. Most Thatcher-hating men believe themselves to be totally open to a woman running the country, and they hate her that much because she is Just That Awful (Hillary Clinton has seen a similar thing in the last few months: "I've got no problem with a female President, but why does it have to be that bitch? I'm not sexist, I just hate her. Jesus, you fucking hysterical feminists, what's wrong with you?"). But she's not Just That Awful. A man in her position would not be subjected to this. He might have been disliked at the time, sure, but once he got out of power nobody would care. There would be no close watch on his health, looking for signs of the Reaper. There would be no comedy routines predicated on the blissful day when he finally passed on. There would be no large-scale defacings of his image. In fact, his death would be treated the same way as that of any other Prime Minister - we would look in the papers and say: "Oh, is he dead? He was the guy with the miners, wasn't he? That was a bit crap. Oh well." Then we would look at some cartoons.

All this fuss about a state funeral, too - who cares, really? I'm not sure anybody does. People are just frightened that she'll have a funeral in public and nice things will be said. People don't want good things said about her, and crucially, they don't want her to be remembered as anything other than a useless evil bitch. A state funeral is an endorsement. An endorsement of the first female Prime Minister who managed to get elected three times, despite her apparent useless evil bitchery. The Auditor, currently, is a fair picture of "useless" - wasn't elected in, and will probably be elected straight back out again. And if she was an evil bitch, so fucking what? What choice did she have? You can't be a woman in charge and be a moderate, or be "nice", especially if you're in the Tory party, where women are there to make the tea, thank you, sweetheart. You have to fight them all the damn way. You have to take them to war, you have to tell them to toe the fucking line or you'll fire them, no excuses, no nothing. And to the watching public, that's not what women do. The papers tell us that women are embracing their destiny as nurturers, and want to stay at home with the babies. If this is what you're being told constantly, and then along comes a Mrs Thatcher who is going to do what she's decided to do, you can't use human interest stories to appeal to her feminine side, because she doesn't care. She will not have it. She is busy. People perhaps start to think, maybe she doesn't have a feminine side. Maybe she's some sort of mutant. She's weird.

And now the evil bitch is old and sick, withering away. Just getting out of power wasn't enough to satisfy the misogyny that dare not speak. She ran the country, and she ran it like a man. She must be destroyed, utterly and completely. After all this time, the scars run deep. How dare she? I hope I live to see her die, and all decent people will piss on her grave. Well, fuck that. No decent person pisses on anyone's grave. I don't care whose grave it is. And no decent, self-aware person waits with delight for the death of someone they never met. Hate her policies, hate her actions, whatever. But if you're desperate to see her die, you're just a creep.