Saturday, 31 May 2008

Oh, Go and Put Up Some Shelves

In my time as an active feminist, many things have confused me about the way people respond to the concept of feminism. A lot of them boil down to: Is anything that diminishes feminism automatically supposed to be funny? I don't understand how a hundred men can think that saying "Go and make me a sandwich" or "You're really ugly" or "Oooh, I have a penis" over and over again is somehow really cool and clever and amusing. I also don't understand why "sammich" is suddenly a word.

A helpful troll explains that "it's fun to annoy you and you just don't understand that." No, troll. What I don't understand is exactly how you intend to annoy me with your endlessly repeated cliches and remarks about your genitalia. Is it simply their presence in what is meant to be a feminist space? Is it the repetition? Or is the content supposed to needle us? I'm genuinely unsure. I'm also curious, in a rhetorical sense, as to why these men feel the need to keep emphasising their dicks. I sort of think it's meant to be threatening, though it comes across more as "it's really small", but it's slightly odd. I also wonder how many of these men would say, if confronted, that they were just being funny and can't you take a joke and humourless feminist and what's next on the overused cliche list, and how many would claim that they were, in fact, making a valid point.

In Jessica's screenshot of youtube comments, I find the one that says: "[D]o you honestly think you are smarter than me? You better have an Iq [sic] above 125, stupid bitch" especially funny. Ooh, 125! That's, like, so huge! I'm not sure if that's the highest IQ he's ever come across or it was just the biggest number he could think of. Either way, the answer is yes, I do, stupid little boy, and the fact that you think 125 is so enormous is really rather adorable.

I have to console myself with the thought that all of these men are right to feel threatened by me. Should the troll brigade, through some strange quirk, actually find this trafficless blog, I will warn them beforehand that any comments like those in the screenshot will be made with either "Go mow my lawn, little boy" or "Hahaha, small penis!" Because the power of the internet does not extend to the education of anonymous morons, and I would prefer to amuse myself rather than waste my time.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Sorry, Another Bishop Post

Oh, for fuck's sake. Now the Anglicans are getting in on it, insisting that Christianity must stick its nose in all over the place or else Muslim state scary terrorists battle against Islam yada yada yada. No, Bishop. People are perfectly capable of functioning without an all-governing religion being forced upon them. We don't need your religion, we don't need their religion, we don't need my religion.

I understand that when faith is such a huge part of your life, you cannot understand other people not feeling it, or not needing it. You probably assume that atheists have a big gaping hole inside them, and having turned aside your prayers for their souls they search in vain for something to make them feel whole. I understand, I do. But it's not true. Music junkies don't believe there can be anyone in this world who doesn't really like music. For my part, I cannot understand people who say they just don't read books. We all have things that are so vital, central to our lives and our beings and our personalities that we have a hard time comprehending that none of these things are essential. I was going to say "Reading really isn't essential", but I can't write that and believe it, although it probably is true. So if you've dedicated your whole life to Christianity, it's probably very hard to believe that not everybody gets their moral guidance from the Bible, and that not everyone feels an intangible ache and emptiness from the abscence of Jesus Christ. It must be almost impossible.

By the way, I use the example of reading and not religion when relating this mindset to myself because in order to find the right path for me I had to separate from what the world told me was spiritually right. It's a silent part of my life, for the most part, and I had to find it through enormous amounts of research and self-questioning. Mostly, though, I choose not to use it as an example because I question it every single day. I will not become one of those people whose beliefs remain rigid merely because that's what she's always believed. If I'm going to grow, I must question. My love of words, however, I have never questioned, not once. Besides my family it was my first love, and I give it at least partial credit for bringing me through some awful times in my life. Paganism, on the other hand, is what I have come out with on the other side - not the lifeline, but the urge to learn to swim. I think that any bishop would credit his religion with having sheltered and strengthened him through the bad times, every knock further solidifying what he knew for sure anyway. This to me is books, not faith.

However. I do not blame society's ills on lack of reading. I might say that lack of education was a factor, just as a bishop may reasonably say that lack of general, not specific, faith, had caused a not-altogether-welcome shift in society. I have yet to find a bishop who advocates any kind of belief as opposed to his (never found a female bishop, either, though I hopefully will soon) very exact faith. This is sort of like me blaming society's troubles on the fact that not everybody went to university and took English.

The bishop in question appears to be arguing that Christianity = Britishness (no, taking the piss = Britishness), that we must use Christianity to "fight" Islam (do we have to "fight" Islam?), that other religions are not adequate substitutes for Christianity (again, I understand, but fuck off), and that Christianity gives us hard principles by which to live as opposed to the governement's vague ones.

I admit to being very amused by this:

"The Bishop of Rochester said Christianity had created a British identity imbued with values such as liberty and freedom of conscience."

followed by this:

"What are needed, he insisted, were the "transcendental principles" of Christianity - the sort of fundamental issues that are raised when people consider what it is to be human, and life and death questions such as abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research."

So, nothing to do with liberty, in fact. What the fuck is "freedom of conscience" anyway? Especially in this context? It seems to mean "freedom to think what we tell you to think."

I still don't know if there's been an upsurge of bishops and cardinals trying to assert their positions in society or if there's just more being written about it, but even though nothing's likely to come of it, it still drives me absolutely fucking nuts. Why is this news, and why are people listening? Why does it seem like such a threat to me? Don't answer that; I know the reason. In strict hard-line Christian parlance, I am both low and scary and need to have my rights taken away (I am a young Pagan feminist who cherishes her reproductive freedom despite having pretty conservative personal sexual values which means she can't just be dismissed as a slapper, and they have to go back to 'dangerous heretic' which isn't as belittling as they might like).

Note this:

"He is one of three Church of England bishops to back an initiative by a traditionalist Anglican to commit the Church to work explicitly for the conversion of Muslims."

Yup, conversion of Muslims. Assimilation is the goal here. We must not forget.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

A Eurovision Plot

Terry Wogan might quit Eurovision because it's become entirely about the politics as opposed to the music. Hmmm. I remember watching it when I was younger and complaining that Greece and Cyprus gave each other maximum points for being "great neighbours". And most European countries hate the English. We're resigned to that. We smirk upon Europe from afar, comfortable in our superiority. But we ask ourselves: why do we still bother? If it's so obviously rigged, why don't we excuse ourselves? Others say: it's not rigged, we just send in shit songs.

So I propose: Next year, our entry is Bill Bailey. He's said he's willing (I didn't realise we could have had Morrissey last year, but the BBC told him he'd have to audition alongside Scooch and that pillock from The Darkness). If Bill Bailey doesn't win by a fucking landslide, it's rigged. Everyone, including snotty Eurovision judges, knows that Bill Bailey rules all. If this, ladies and gentlemen, doesn't win Eurovision for us, then nothing will:

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Please, Think Of The Children



Gordon Brown has earned himself two points. He voted for the 24-week abortion limit, and he voted to get rid of the heterosexist guff about a child's "need for a father". Well done, Gordon, you impressed me. The Tories, not so much.

First and foremost, I do not understand how, in this day and age, a man like Sir Patrick Cormack can have anything to do with the running of our country. He said: "A child that is deliberately brought into the world with no desire that there should be a man or a woman who is the parent is brought in with a disadvantage." This makes no sense whatsoever, and I sort of hope the BBC did that on purpose because they hate him, but translated into English, it means, "Lesbians shouldn't be parents."

I sincerely hope that David Cameron, a man whom I royally despise but who claims to be leading the charge to modernise his party, will realise that such sentiments are not endearing the Conservatives to the young generation. I seem to be his target voter; a young, white, middle-class woman. Young, white, middle-class women have no truck whatsoever with this sort of insidious gay-bashing. If Cameron ever wishes to win my respect, he must acknowledge that this ridiculous "need for a father" motion tabled by Iain Duncan Smith (the most useless Tory leader ever, and that ought to tell you something) comes out of an out-of-date view of Britain and is representative of his party's subconscious - or, indeed, conscious, in the case of Sir Patrick - bigotries. "Need for supportive parenting" is exactly the correct way to phrase it. When Duncan Smith and his ilk tell us that children who grow up without a father are more likely to go off the rails, they're ignoring a big chunk of the story. I know a lot of people who grew up without fathers, and they're fine. The ones that aren't fine are the ones whose fathers were present and neglectful, or present one day a month. They're the ones who grew up with abuse, casual insulting remarks tossed out to get them to shut up, and not so much as a card or phone call on their birthdays. These are the kids who feel deprived, who feel they've done something wrong to drive Daddy away and end up with no sense of self-worth, or who just can't get Daddy to acknowledge them and end up in deeper and deeper trouble. This is still a generalisation, but it's far more accurate than "single-parent families fuck kids up."

We will keep our 24-week abortion limit, no thanks to Mr Cameron, who voted to lower it by two weeks. Why two weeks? Lord knows. The BBC is careful to point out that all the Catholic Labour ministers voted to lower it to 12. Yeah, fucking 12. Nice one, Ruth Kelly. Someone called Edward Leigh is yacking on about sanctity as though he's a right-wing American pundit, and frankly he is so insignificant that I have nothing else to say about him. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor turned up in the Times supporting everything I argue against and vice versa, using the phrase "incremental change". Remember this, ye who value your freedom: this two-week-at-a-time knockdown is part of the plan to erode your rights completely. If, God forbid, he should ever get his two-week knockdown, he'll be out there again arguing for another two weeks. And another, and another. Before you know it, we're in Ireland. You could have stayed there, y'know, Murph.

There are numerous things I could say about these votes, but I'll stick, for now, to this one: in general, the people voting to restrict IVF were the people voting to slash the abortion limit. This strikes me as a wee bit illogical. These people insist that it's absolutely vital that a baby has a mother and a father, but if a woman accidentally gets pregnant, the man pisses off and the woman doesn't want it, well, tough. Why isn't it better for a loving same-sex couple, or a single woman who wants a child enough to go to these expensive and invasive lengths, to have their baby than for a frightened, abandoned teenager to be unable to choose not to? I am feeling charitable, and so I'll assume the best. I'll assume that these men (as the vast majority are in the Commons) are loving and devoted parents who cannot imagine their babies being unwanted, who cannot imagine abandoning a woman pregnant with their child, who help to change the nappies and get up in the night and play football and read stories and consider there to be no greater joy than the laughter of their sons and daughters. Excellent. But guys, not all men are you. Some men cannot think of anything worse than having a baby. Some men will panic. Some men aren't ready, and have the luxury that women don't of just fucking off. Some men are just assholes. I know men who, variously, forget their children's birthdays, dump them with someone else on their visitation days, run the other way if they see mother and baby in the street, deny the child's existence to their friends, yell at the child, hit the child, hate the child. I know men who conceived children in wedlock - the Conservative lucky charm - and after divorcing the mother, try as hard as they can never to see the kids again. I'll assume, also, that your wives were delighted to be pregnant, wanted children, were ecstatic over the prospect of giving birth to your little one. Do you, any of you, have any idea what it's like to be pregnant and alone? To take an equal part in an 'accident' for which you alone are now reponsible? Do you have any idea what it's like to have something growing in you and hate it with a vicious passion, while sanctimonious arses like you are going on about the sanctity of life, and how abortions are 'social' and calling that horrible little ball of cells your 'baby'? It's not a fucking baby.

I wish people would stop going on about 'tradition' and lamenting the loss of 'traditional family'. I don't want the kind of tradition that forces women to have babies they don't want, and forces couples to shackle themselves together for eternity because one night has unexpected consequences. Duncan Smith complains that by removing the "need for a father" clause, we undermine the traditional family; well, duh. Some people aren't wired that way, mate. We're not all born traditional. Some people would love to be parents. They would love to devote themselves to raising a child. And if they happen to be a pair of women or a pair of men, so fucking what? When Catholic adoption agencies were trying to get themselves excepted from the "no homophobia" law - to ask for Government-sanctioned bigotry takes some nerve, I must admit - numerous commentators pointed out that Catholic adoption agencies took on the most difficult, unplaceable kids, and the people most likely to adopt one of these kids were gay couples. Instead of taking a lesson from this, the agencies threatened to shut down. To paraphrase Dara O Briain, essentially their stance was: "If you won't let us do what we want, we shall release the children into the wild."

Memo to Britain: The Conservative party is still nursing its bigotries. Please do not forget this next time Cameron starts going on about recycling in modern Britain.

Memo to Conservatives: For the love of God, move on. It's 2008. We can't still be proposing laws that basically say "Gays are weird".

Memo to Murphy-O'Connor: I still hate you, and everything you stand for.

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Monday, 19 May 2008

In The Stocks: Self-Destructives and Uppity Bitches

The BBC posts an interesting article about the disproportionate hatred for celebrity women. In a poll, four out of the five most hated celebrities were female, and the man was Simon Cowell, who also appears on the "Most Loved" list, along with four other men. Just as an aside, Gary Lineker? Really?

The British, the poll concludes, love Paul McCartney and hate Heather Mills. We love David Beckham and hate Victoria Beckham. The article doesn't comment on this, but it seems a little weird to me. It's almost as though we pick our national treasures and then unleash hate on their wives. It never seems to happen the other way round - the only times we've come close, oddly enough, are with the other two women on the list. When Brian McFadden of awful Irish boyband Westlife left Kerry Katona of awful English girl band Atomic Kitten, we hated him. Boy, did we hate him, and his new girlfriend too. We hated him so much that he's buggered off out of the country. We were right to hate him, too, I think. I don't trust any man who compares having children with his ex to "having a dog we weren't ready for" (they'll read it, you asshole!), or who bashes the mother of his children to journalists and threatens in the national press to sue for custody then does jack shit about it. I think Brian McFadden is an odious piece of crap. But now that he's off in Australia or America or wherever and most people have forgotten about him, we've decided to hate her instead. We claim it's because she's behaving like an unfit mother, smoking and drinking, taking drugs (or so the delightful Mr McFadden informs us), and generally behaving like - hmmmm - someone who's not very well. Kerry Katona, back in the dark ages, was one of the most popular women in the country. She'd just split up from a man who slept with a lap dancer on his stag night, she'd just won an appalling but highly-rated reality show, and she was down-to-earth and Northern and smiley. We just loved her. She won Mother of the Year twice, and got the Iceland ads on the strength of her being a recognisable symbol for good parenting. My unofficial theory is that when she began to break down, we felt betrayed. How dare she not be the perfect mother? We gave her an award! We were proud of her for moving on from her nasty ex, and we expected to see a marked improvement in her future choice of partner. When she yet again opted for a loser - or someone represented to us by the press as a loser - we got impatient. When we heard that she was smoking while pregnant, we got mad. We're not having that, Kerry! We don't care what your problems are, you're a damn role model! Act like one!

Everything she does is now fair game for bile and ridicule. I can't imagine that she's still working with Iceland, but nevertheless she's still attacked for it. She is, or was, advertising insufficiently healthy food to the nation. How dare she? Whether you choose to attack her on a serious level or just make eight hundred jokes about lard, you're perfectly entitled to do so. I mean, it's her fault, isn't it? When she was subject to robbery at knifepoint in her own house, we took the piss. Relentlessly. Not a word of sympathy for her. And it's her fault, of course, because she let us down.

Amy Winehouse follows a similar pattern. When she really came to our attention with the release of her second album, we fell in love with her, bonkers beehive hair and all. So talented! Such a songwriter! Such a voice! Gather round, boys and girls, this is real music. We thought Simon Cowell had done away with actual musical talent. We were impressed. And then Amy, too, turned out not be perfect. A lot of pop stars like a drink, but Amy was old school and turned up drunk on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. I know people who went off her then, because her speaking voice was annoying and she was all uncouth and spat. Spat! On TV! Then she picked her unsuitable man, and all the drug-taking palaver unleashed itself upon us. And we blamed him. He was a useless smug little man who didn't appear to have a job of any description. Ditch him, Amy, we urged, but instead, she married him. And I think that's when the backlash started. Amy Winehouse's husband is currently awaiting trial for GBH or perverting the course of justice or both, depending on which reports you believe. Her parents blame him for getting her onto hard drugs. He has reportedly refused to go to rehab with her, saying instead, "You can go if you want to," which is classic manipulator's language if I ever heard it. Maybe it was never right to put all the blame on him, but no way in hell can it be right to put all the blame on her. She's self-destructing and needs help, which is NOT a hanging offence, but we blame her because she let us down too. She was our great white hope of British music and shouldn't expect to be allowed flaws and issues too. The day after Heath Ledger's death, I read five separate blogs (all male authors, incidentally) who screeched, "If someone was going to die, why not Amy Winehouse?" That, my friends, is not normal.

A commenter on that article claimed he could understand the hatred for all of them except Winehouse, who is talented. But we don't hate people for being untalented. As I said, we used to love Kerry Katona, and even when she had a singing career we all knew she wasn't any good. We used to love Posh too, and her singing ability hasn't deteriorated to any great extent. I've felt stung into becoming a Posh fan. She may look like Self-Tan Barbie but so fucking what? The reason people hate her and Heather Mills is because they married people the public have decided are too good for them. These women are up themselves. We can't have that. Amy and Kerry married below them and allowed themselves to get screwed up, we hate them for that. Victoria and Heather married above them and made a lot of money, and we hate them for that.

It's a terrible mistake to marry a Beatle. The press and public will hate you for it. They hate Heather now the way they hated Yoko then, and the way they've conveniently forgotten they treated Linda. Oh, she may be a veggie-burger-making saint now, but back then she was a damn outrage. How can she have the nerve, we asked. She must be a gold-digger. Only by being silent and supportive and staying at home and finally dying of breast cancer did she win our love, and turn into what might as well be a fictional character. Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror wrote, in a short article that Google is currently refusing to turn up, that it's understandable that we hate Heather when we've been used to the wonderful Linda. She then went on to say (in what I was convinced would turn out to be a parody) that Linda stayed at home like a good wife and mother, supported Sir Paul and raised children. Bless her. Not like this bitch, with ambitions and other such shit that has no place in a woman's brain. This is a charming piece of revisionist history that beyond the appalling misogyny the woman is spewing, shows that we think we get to decide who is good enough for our heroes. If a man picks a woman we think is beneath him, we turn on that woman. If a woman picks a man who is beneath her, we wait five minutes then turn on the woman. Again.

Notice, if you will, that the McCartney divorce is perceived to be entirely, 100% Heather's fault. If Paul gets any flack, it's for being "a naive old man", caught by the surreptitious and scheming wiles of a predator. Notice, if you will, that when the story of Beckham's affair broke, he was the only one who got no flack at all. The mistress got a decent dose, and Posh got the rest. Ian Hislop, who is not normally my first point of reference on feminist issues, remarked on how weird it was: "God, her husband's cheated on her! What a cow! She's been humiliated publicly! Bitch!" If he cheated it was her damn fault and there's no use her crying about it now. The press waits breathlessly to this day for them to split up, even though they seem to have put it behind them and are moving on quite happily. Neither of these women get any points for being a mother, though there has been nothing to suggest that either are anything less than highly devoted and attentive parents, certainly more so than either jet-setting father. Heather Mills has made it acceptable to make horrendous jokes about artificial limbs ("no, it's OK, 'cause she's an evil bitch"), and gets villified daily for apparently being a compulsive liar. People don't take kindly to me when they make a nasty remark about that and I suggest that if that is the case, then she's ILL and shouldn't be subject to your judgement.

I think anyone would be surprised to see me defending these women. They're "offensive" and "talentless" and "selfish" after all. Some of the commenters on the article would be astonished to see a woman defending other women because they've decided we don't do that. One even manages to get in a "poor little white boy" whine, amusingly. Those people especially would tell me I'm wasting my time on these women. Why don't I defend someone who's worth it? It makes no odds that I like Beckham and Winehouse, or that I have no strong feelings either way on Katona and Mills. It would make no odds if I hated the lot of them. They are human beings. Human beings who have made choices that we think are inappropriate. They are women who happened to fall in love, or woman who happened to fall ill. They are women with problems that we'd rather pretend weren't real. They are women whose wretched humanity got in the way of our comfortable assumptions, and we're punishing them for it (some of those comments make me believe that we're punishing all women for it). We laugh at, or condemn them for, their misfortunes. We villify them for their mistakes, and for mistakes we asume or believe that they made. Basically, we're hating them for being women who behave in ways we consider "unfeminine". You married up? You must have chased him. You must be ambitious. Ambition is unfeminine, bitch. Drugs are unfeminine, bitch. Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch. We know how you should behave and YOU'RE NOT DOING IT. You deserve everything you get.

This has been a rant from a pissed-off woman. Thank you.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Two Short Notes

Dear Dara O Briain,

Thank you. You were fucking brilliant. You have officially restored my faith in paying huge amounts of money to see stand-up gigs. I was getting worried after the homophobic mess of two weeks ago, but you managed to do a two-hour gig without attacking anyone for their inbuilt traits (I'll forgive your disdain for anything even vaguely New Age because I've met some of the people who gave you that impression), and you spoke to us! I was beginning to forget comedians did that. I was impressed that you didn't let the heckler get away with the nasty Austrian comment, and pleased that we provided you with the most bizarre heckle you've ever heard (stigmata?!). Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Dear world,

If you get the opportunity, you must see Dara O Briain live. Funniest show of the year so far.


Friday, 9 May 2008


This story, about a child abuser who's just been caught, contains the most intrinsically disturbing line I've read for a long time:

Judy Stone, a neighbour who worked with him as an entertainer, said he was "the best Santa Claus anyone has ever seen".

EWWWWW. Why did you have to put that in there, BBC? Why? Why make me panic about Santa Claus? That quote is so unnecessary, and disturbing on about eighty different levels. I feel quite sick now.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Lost Cause Says: Shut Up, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor

We must respect the atheists! says Murphy-O'Connor.

You first, tosspot.

If one is truly to "respect" the atheists, then one must respect that they are atheists, that is what they have chosen, and it is not one's place to try and convince them otherwise, yes?

No, of course not. "Respect the atheists" means "Give the atheists a cup of tea and a biscuit before giving them a Bible." One must "respect" the atheists in order to make the atheists think that atheism is a stupid idea, no? One must not insist to an atheist that God is a fact of life. Why? Because God is a fact of life and you're all stupid.

Murphy-O'Connor says: "Our life together in Britain cannot be a God-free zone and we must not allow Britain to become a world devoid of religious faith and its powerful contribution to the common good."

Yes it can, Murph. I sincerely hope that one day our life "together" will be a God-free zone. You can have as much God in your own personal life as you please, but that's not what you mean, is it? You want God to come into every little bloody thing, and it'll have to be your damn God as well. If my God (such as it is) were to enter into your interactions with me, you'd have a spiritual heart attack and start lecturing me on morals and values or some such crap. And what on earth does the second clause of that sentence mean? Don't worry, Cardinal, Britain will never become a world devoid of religious faith. Because it's a fucking COUNTRY. Yeesh. Please, for the sake of all our gods, cut down on that horrific flowery prose.

'Last year, he complained of a "new secularist intolerance of religion" and the state's "increasing acceptance" of anti-religious views.'

Shut up, Murph. We all know that when you say "anti-religious views" you mean "the atheists are persecuting me and not letting me have my hardline Christian way on absolutely everything! Waaah!" Jennifer is now complaining of a "new drive by Cardinals to foist their stupid religious views on everyone" and the state's "increasing acceptance" of "interfering old buggers". Also, she prefers not to write in the third person like this and is very upset at having been driven to it.

"I want to encourage people of faith to regard those without faith with deep esteem because the hidden God is active in their lives as well as in the lives of those who believe."

Quick translation:
People of faith: Christians (Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Pagans don't really believe in God, y'know)
Those without faith: Anyone who is not a Christian/Evil bastards
Esteem - Patronising, martyred patience
The hidden God - My personal judgement
Active in their lives - You can't get away from me, so there. You may as well just give up now.

I want to know why the Cardinals are making so much fuss lately. Is it because we have a new PM? Is it because Blair came out as Catholic after leaving office and they want to make sure to get as much guilt in as possible in case Brown is the same? Is it because of Bush and the Religious Right in America? I'll make my usual disclaimer that I have no problem with any religion in and of itself, but I will protest to the last second against religious "leaders" trying to advance the encroachment of their, or any, religion on our government and on our essentially secular state. I also feel the need to point out yet again that Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is a leader in the CATHOLIC church. The UK is officially an ANGLICAN nation. Those two are DIFFERENT. The CATHOLICS do not get to interfere with the running of the country because we are technically ANGLICAN. It doesn't work like that, bub. I apologise for all the capitals, but I've had several fights of this nature on the BBC's Have Your Say (I've stopped now, don't worry).

I get particularly cross even at the most innocuous stories regarding cardinals and bishops and their complaints about lack of religion in the public eye, because I know what they want. They rag on the abortion limit, saying that a lot of people would like to see it lowered. First of all, "a lot of people" are not doctors. Most don't even have a rudimentary understanding of the hows and wherefores of abortion. Second of all, most of these people don't want abortion banned. And the cardinals do. If we let them lead the charge of "Just a two-week drop" (though it appears they would push for a 12-week drop to bring us into line with some other European countries. Yeah, twelve fucking weeks. If you haven't been trying, you may not even have notied you're pregnant at twelve weeks), then they'll keep going. They'll keep attacking it a little bit at a time, using "new technology" as evidence - which means that when you can grow a foetus in a petri dish and incubator, they'll call for a total ban on the basis that every foetus is now viable - until we really have nothing left of our abortion laws. You think they'll leave it there? Bollocks they will. They want a Christian nation. They want five-year-olds to be forced to pray and go to church and learn the Bible, on the basis that for every hellchild like me who was put off Christianity by attending church and reading the Bible (it's horrible, guys), there'll be ten who believe what they're told or can at least be frightened into saying they believe.

I am going to make a fuss any time they say anything. I am going to yell about it. I am going to write to every single politician they go to, just to make sure they know that this stupid "women support lower abortion limits" thing is not in fact true. If any of their persuasive tactics begin to work, I will protest. I will make a banner out of a pillowcase and I will go down to London and I will scream my head off. I will not hand over control of my uterus to these men. I will not allow them to dictate what I say. I will not allow them to dictate what my future children do. I will not allow them to force me to act like a Christian and I will not allow them to further push the discrimination faced by those like me. I do not want my religion in schools or dictating law any more than I want theirs to do so. I just want religion kept OUT. Out of the schools, out of the government, out of society's model. I will fight you, Murphy-O'Connor. I went to church for years as a kid and I read the whole damn Bible from cover to cover, and as a result I am truly lost to your cause. Do not underestimate the lost cause, Cardinal. The lost cause is watching you.

You know, if I'd known I'd be doing so much Cardinal-bashing, I would have called this blog the Lost Cause. Perhaps I'll make it into a series instead.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Whose Fault Is This?

Oh, for fuck's sake. "Beauties for Britain" party? Really?

If Miss Great Britain wants to be a politician, excellent. But what's up with this "ooh, politics is so dry and boring, let's make it sexy" crap?

"I think that people should be proud of Britain and proud of themselves especially the beauties that Britain has produced over the years and I'm very proud to be Miss Great Britain and standing for this."

Did they purposely not put punctuation in this sentence? I don't know if she really speaks like this or if they just want to make it look like she speaks like this. The whole thing sounds like a joke made up by The Sun, who will no doubt apply their usual writing style ("patronising lust") to this story for the next few weeks. If it wasn't the Sun's idea, then whose was it? Who told this girl to go into politics but make sure nobody thinks she's got a brain? After reading that article, I certainly don't think she's got one, which is awful. Does she have any opinions on global credit and Brown's standing in the polls? No, but she could give him some advice on beauty products.

I'm quite conflicted about this story, because I know it makes me angry for feminist reasons, but I can't pinpoint them any more precisely than that. I know someone has really screwed up here, but I'm not sure who to blame for it. I'm wary of blaming her for being a dumbass, or for trying to make everything revolve around her looks, or for perpetuating some seriously irritating stereotypes, but if it's not her fault then it's someone else's, and we get into the whole "women have no agency" thing. So I don't even know if I'd prefer her to be a pawn or a dumbass. Ugh.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

A Comedy-Goer's Perspective on Why Johnny Vegas is a Nasty Tosser

Johnny Vegas decides to sexually assault a woman onstage.

Full disclosure: Johnny Vegas ranks only slightly lower than Jim Davidson in my personal list of Shittiest Comedians Ever. I've never once found him funny. The episode of QI he did is not an exception - it's my least favourite episode. He is a slobby drunken loser with the world's most annoying voice and his routines are shambolic. He can get away with more than Jim Davidson because "Vegas is playing a character! He's being ironic!" Alright, but is he being funny? Well... no. What he's doing is getting audience members to carry a girl onto the stage and then assaulting her.

This story is disturbing enough in itself, but made all the worse by hundreds of commenters claiming that the girl can't have been sexually assualted because a) she didn't slap him in face, b) nobody tried to stop it and c) Vegas hasn't been arrested. I don't think any of these people are inveterate comedy fans. We who go to gigs (no, I did not see this gig - that makes none of my points about assault invalid) know that you don't get up and interfere with the act. You just don't. When a comedian drags you up on stage, you do as they tell you. I saw a woman reduced to tears when she was dragged up on stage at a Rex Boyd gig - she was humiliated, he wasn't funny, but she did as she was told. A shy person at a comedy gig does NOT want the audience turning on them, and chances are, if you screw up the routine, any half-decent comedian will immediately being making cruel jokes at your expense, and provided he's got laughs previously, that's enough to make the audience turn on you. We once saw a comedian we suspected was high on crack during his performance. We KNEW he was high on crack when my friend Jess and I started playing noughts and crosses, right at the front of the stage, and he didn't say anything. A lot of people like witty cruelty, and only a comedian high on crack wouldn't pick on us for blatantly disrespecting his act.

Also, the difference between a comedy club gig with four or five small-to-middling comedians and a show with a household name headline act is huge. Take my review of Sean Lock's abysmal gig on Saturday night. No way in hell would he have got away with that performance as an unknown perfoming third in a night's entertainment at Wolverhampton Jongleurs (I assume there's a Wolverhampton Jongleurs). He would have been heckled, booed, snarked at, people would have got up and gone out for a fag. What actually happened was that we sat there mostly in polite silence, forcing laughter at any joke we found even remotely funny. A few people made quiet, unobtrusive exits during the interval. No heckles. You don't heckle a big-name comedian, unless it's a Ross Noble type whose whole show thrives on heckles (and all those are very much pro-Ross heckles. I miss Ross. Come back to England and save me from all this shitty comedy!). It's an unwritten rule that you don't heckle someone whose audience has mostly come to see someone they recognise from the TV. They don't want heckles and it spoils their enjoyment, even if the heckle makes a good point. You do NOT get involved with an established comedian's act unless he invites you, and if he invites you, you do NOT attempt to swing his routine your own way. I like to think that if I'd accidentally ended up at this particular Vegas gig, I'd have least yelled, "Get the fuck off her, loser" or something to that effect. I know I'd have walked out and complained to the management. But despite what a couple of commenters on that Guardian article have said, established comedians have all the power in that room. They can choose not to prepare, to segue away from their planned material to complain about having to wait for a breakdown truck, to actually include the breakdown truck complaint in their written material (you suck, Lock), to insult the audience, to ignore the audience, whatever they choose to do, and the audience will say nothing. I wonder if these people arguing that Vegas has no power at all have ever disrupted a performance. I wonder if they'd be cross if they were in the cinema with two hundred other people, and someone came in and punched a hole through the screen because they thought it was disgusting. If you disrupt a show, the audience will turn on you. Everyone knows this. As one of the Guardian's commenters pointed out, comedians go to great lengths to imply that their brand of humour is edgy and fashionable and funny, and anyone who doesn't get it is a middle-class reactionary. If you don't get it, you're humourless, you're a prude, you're a member of the PC Brigade. You wouldn't know funny if it hit you in the face. I was certainly told this once when I complained about Bernard Manning (Bernard Manning! Edgy, fashionable and funny! Even he would have laughed at that). Why hasn't Vegas been arrested? Because if this girl was indeed assaulted as badly as Mary O'Hara claims, she's afraid of what people will say about her. She'll be the middle-class reactionary, the prude, the girl with no sense of humour. Johnny Vegas is a nationally-acclaimed comedian, so it must have been funny, and she doesn't want to look like a bad sport. And after all, she went up there. She did what he told her to do. She doesn't have a leg to stand on. And the truth is, she doesn't, even though she should. In her position I wouldn't file a complaint - I'd tell anyone who asked that it was 'no big deal', I'd beat myself up for a while then resolve to be much more careful in future, either stopping visiting comedy gigs altogether or only sitting right at the back where nobody could see me. We still don't consider coercion to be a real thing. We don't think everything described above is coercion, because coercion means "someone held a gun to her head". We say, "if you go to comedy gigs, what do you expect?" Even O'Hara, writing to condemn Vegas, says this.

Well, here's what I expect. I expect a comedy gig to BE FUNNY. Even if we assume that Vegas wasn't assaulting the girl, he was apparently using her to take the piss out of Shakespears Sister's "Stay" (I really hate the lack of apostrophe in that band name. Damn you, Siobhan Fahey). From nineteen-ninety-fucking-two. Jesus Christ, Johnny, try to move in the same century as the rest of us! To think we were scorning Sean Lock for doing a riff on Gail Porter's hair. The standard defence of Johnny Vegas as a "character" is crap, too. When his "character" gets involved with people who are not acting, everything that happens is his responsibility. Not his character's. It doesn't fly that it's alright to grope a stranger's breasts if you "don't really mean it". It's not alright to grope a stranger's breasts because "that's what the character would do" or because "he is trying to portray his character's self-loathing" or because "it indicates to the audience that his character is a loser". The last one is especially off, because if it were okay to grope strangers to show you were a loser, it doesn't really seem to have worked. People now think that Johnny Vegas is a criminal, Johnny Vegas didn't actually do it, or Johnny Vegas is allowed to do it because he's Johnny Vegas. It's not about his stupid fucking character.

In conclusion, Johnny Vegas is a nasty tosser. I'm cross and hate everybody. I will delete any of the following comments:
"But you weren't there!"
"Why didn't she stop him, if it was so bad?"
"Why haven't the police done anything, if it was really assault?"
"OMG you just don't get Johnny Vegas he's soooo funny" (I don't want this person on my blog ever again, thank you)
"How dare you condemn him before you've heard his side?"
"But you're forgetting that he's a truly brilliant actor - his performance in the BBC's Bleak House was exquisite." (This is not relevant and smacks of the 'he's an upstanding member of the community with a steady job' that people use to defend rapists.)
"But people saw her chatting to him afterwards! He said thank you!"
"The journalist hasn't gone to the police, which means she's lying."

Seen all of these, at least four times, and I just can't be arsed with them. Jennifer is not impressed. Jennifer SMASH.

Via Shakesville.

Edited to add: On Chortle, this is quoted:

"...[O]ne seemed to understand the point Vegas was trying to make by saying: ‘Not totally defending him but I'm sure that the point was that pathetic individuals/society are totally enthralled with celebrity and let them get away with murder. She, and others, could have told him to get lost but didn't probably for that reason.’"

The POINT he was trying to make? What the fuck? The POINT??? He wasn't making a point. If I killed someone in public and my defence was "I was trying to make a point", people would think I was a psychopath. You don't fuck with people on stage in order to make a point. Making a point, my arse. He wanted to grope a girl. Jesus. I'm interested to see if he'll make any comment on this at all. I always got the impression he'd like people to think that 'Johnny Vegas' was an idiot but that he himself was really a lovely guy. So, what do we think? Will he apologise, will he say nothing? Or will he claim he was making a fucking point? If he claims he was making a point, he will officially surpass Jim Davidson on my shit list. At least Davidson managed to apologise and admit he might have a problem with homophobia after all those 'shirtlifter' attacks. I never thought I'd see the day when a comedian could be worse than Jim Davidson. Christ.