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.