A day or two ago, my alarm clock woke me up by broadcasting the dulcet tones of John Humphrys (he of BBC Radio 4′s Today Programme fame) into my bedroom. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be afraid of.
However, as I lay there, probably more than half-asleep, I thought I heard some mention of a story about babies having a lower risk of death if they were born in normal office hours. This did not feel normal, and, since J claimed to know nothing about it when I asked him later that morning, I assumed I’d merely been dreaming.
“The analysis of more than one million births in Scotland over two decades found the risk of death for babies born out of hours, while small, was a third higher than for those born in the day… Those born between 0900 and 1700 on Monday to Friday were classified as being within normal working hours, all others as out-of-hours, the British Medical Journal reported.”
This is one of those times in which I simply don’t know what to do with the information I’ve been given.
I can’t help but think that the reason there’s a manhunt on for Raoul Moat is not because he’s attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, but because he killed a man and has threatened to kill police.
If he’d only threatened her – or even killed her - do you really think anybody in the media would care? He’d be just another abusive misogynist (or, as we’re always told in these situations, “a nice guy really who nobody thought would ever do such a thing”), and she’d be just another expendable woman.
Oh, yes, indeed, I have a one-track mind. Did you know I went away for a week? This was delightful for many reasons – I got to see my family and friends, and I did a grand total of not much tidying at all.
Well, while I was away, J did some extra shifts. The day before I was due to get back, he had his first day off for 10 days. And (probably partly because I had pointed out that all hell would break loose if I came home to find that there was so much mess I couldn’t unpack) he spent a large portion of that day off cleaning.
That night, I called him to check in and see how his day had been. “Not great,” was the answer. He’d done everything he’d meant to do; the house was, if not spotless, then at least only acceptably grimy round the edges; he’d spent time playing his beloved computer games; he’d cooked a nice dinner for himself. “But I just feel… angry,” he told me. “I’m in the kitchen and it’s clean because I cleaned it and I should be pleased, but I’m not. I’m just grumpy, and I don’t know why.”
Now, I know that feeling. I know it well. That feeling of angry dissatisfaction after surveying all the work you’ve put into making the house nice, knowing that it’s only you that’s done anything? I think a lot of the people who read what I write would understand that feeling.
So. J has had his epiphany. He’s had one week of dealing with the kind of crap he and Flatmate pulled on me, and he’s been talking about making a cleaning rota ever since. Of course, he hasn’t actually made one yet. But you know what he has done? His share of the cleaning!
Last time I posted, I was just about as dejected as I ever get. (This makes me feel extremely lucky, by the way, because the way I felt then – although grim – was nothing compared to the way I felt when my granddad died, and nothing at all compared to the way some people feel every single day.) But, you know, for somebody who’s not depressed or recently bereaved, I was pretty fucking sad. And angry, too. Don’t forget angry.
It turned out that what I’d decided to do, which boiled down to taking back my space in the flat, both literally and metaphorically, was exactly the right thing to do. I told J what I’m doing, and why, in a conversation in the pub that involved two big gin & tonics and a lot of arm-flailing. And I haven’t told Flatmate at all, because I can’t be arsed to deal with the conversation about self-esteem that will inevitably follow.
(Our house rules are a little unusual:  food is not a moral issue.  your actions do not reflect on your worth as a person. This means that nobody’s allowed to talk about foods being “good” or “bad”, because really, shut the fuck up. And while you can say “crap, I didn’t do the washing up. That wasn’t very good of me. Sorry.”, you can’t say “crap, I didn’t do the washing up. I am a terrible person.” Flatmate is basically ok with , but has difficulty with .)
I was full of unholy glee as I deliberately ignored the washing machine, J and Flatmate. It was incredibly relaxing to hear and see all of those things that would usually infuriate me being directed at people who weren’t me. And it helped, too, that I’d done a couple of days of paid work. That always makes me feel better, because at the moment I work in a warehouse full of cardboard boxes, which as we all know, are brilliant for taking out your frustration on.
What have I learned from this? Well, quite a lot, actually.
Firstly, I have to work this summer. If I don’t, bad things will happen. But I kind of knew that already.
Secondly, it turns out that the easiest way to get other people to modify their behaviour is to modify your own. Because, you know, I talked with both J and Flatmate on multiple occasions about the housework, my impending exams, and so on. But it’s easy to listen to requests that you change the way you’re behaving, and easier still to listen and then not change your annoying behaviours.
In my case, the behaviour that I modified was the way I was saying what I was saying. By asking, I was giving them the opportunity to ignore me. By telling them, I denied them that option. For instance, asking them to remember that I was studying for my exams and to be considerate of that – that’s easy to nod along to and then forget about. Telling them that because of my exams, I was studying on the desk, that I’d already had dinner and that they’d just have to work around me – that’s impossible to ignore. I was where I said I’d be, doing what I said I’d be doing, and completely ignoring them.
When I say it like this, it seems obvious. And there’s a big bit of me wondering why on earth I ever thought that just asking them to be nice would work. And an even bigger bit of me wondering how I ever managed to take over the clothes washing so comprehensively without any of us noticing. But then I start wandering into the kind of territory where I blame myself because the men I live with weren’t considerate of my stress, and didn’t think in any sensible way about how they could help with that. And that there, that’s not right.
So, I’m just not going to fret. I tried an approach that didn’t work; now I’ve found one that does. Hopefully it’ll start to become a habit for all of us, and then I won’t need to even think about it anymore. Well. I live in hope.
Yesterday, neither I nor J felt like cooking. And, you know, when even *I* look in the fridge, freezer and cupboard and my only response is “meh”, you know that’s some seriously uninspiring food!
So we decided to go out. And it had been raining, which meant wet pavements, which meant wet jeans, which meant a potentially uncomfortable dining experience. Being sneaky, I thought “ooh! I could wear a skirt!”
Do you want to know my thought patterns as I got changed out of my manky I’m-revising-so-don’t-care-if-I-look-grim clothes? I bet you do:
Oooh! I could wear a skirt! That way my ankles will stay dry. Hmm, better wear tights though. Maybe I don’t want to look like a peasant girl in my swooshy skirt. Ok, I’ll wear that smart skirt I haven’t had an excuse to wear yet. Oh, but it’s got a red lining. I’ve only got two red tops. One of them’ll go, surely. No, this one’s too casual. And the other one emphasises the breastsplosion I’ve got going on. Crap. Well, maybe a black top would do? I can’t wear a shirt, I’ll look like I’m auditioning for a part in a porn film. Anyway, J’s wearing jeans. I’ll look stupid if I wear something too smart. But all the rest of my black tops just don’t go. They’re faded, or make me look slightly pregnant, or just *boring*. Ok. How about turquoise. Yeah. That’ll do. Right. Shoes. Well, my high-heeled knee-high pirate boots clearly don’t work. Also, see the porn comment. Ok, then, the little ones with the strap. Fuck, I look like a seven-year-old dressing up.
Sod it, I’m wearing jeans. The faded black one’s'll do. They’re clean. And that red top I said was too casual. That looks nice. And that red necklace I’ve got. And my normal, black shoes. Ok, they’re the same ones my mother wears, but who’s going to care? Anyway, I can walk in them.
This thought process I present to you almost without comment. Except to say: some women must do this all the time. How exhausting. How time-consuming. And how upsetting. Fuck that.
So, you might remember me getting hugely fucked off a week or so ago because of the whole ha-ha-Roman-Polanski-rapes-children thing on Have I Got News For You. If you’ve got a very good memory, or if you scroll down to the post before this one, you might also remember that I complained, and that I was taking bets as to what kind of response I’d get. It turns out, in fact, that the email I got was less full of bingo-squares than I expected, but there has to be a winner in the what-the-BBC-said competition, and that winner is Cim, who suggested a variant on “the show caters to a broad audience and so not everything will appeal to everyone”.
For a bit of perspective, I’m posting up the complaint I wrote.
“The “joke”, a throwaway comment – which appeared to be scripted – was made by Alexander Armstrong in relation to Roman Polanski’s new film. Aparently, “it comes out with a fifteen rating but Polanski swears it was an eighteen”.
There is nothing funny about the rape of a child. There’s nothing funny in knowing that as a girl, or a woman, you have over a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. There’s nothing funny about knowing that if you are raped, you have only a 6% chance of seeing your rapist convicted for his crime, and there’s nothing funny about Roman Polanski being one of those men, and *still* evading punishment.
And there’s certainly nothing funny about being reminded of this while trying to relax in the evening by watching Have I Got News For You.
I expect better of the BBC.
I don’t expect to find all of the jokes made on HIGNFY funny. I *do* expect that they won’t normalise rape by diminishing its gravity. That’s harmful to everybody.”
It was a difficult thing to write, and I struggled to express the way I felt in terms that could be understood by somebody who hasn’t taken Feminism 101. But either I failed, or the BBC failed to engage with the problem I had with the “joke”, because the line that won Cim the bet, just after the pleasantries, was: “As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour.”
Would you like the whole email? I bet you would. Have the whole email:
“As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour. We believe that there is no single set of standards in this area on which the whole of society can agree, and it is inevitable that programmes which are funny to some will occasionally strike others as poor. The only realistic and fair approach for us is to ensure that the range of comedy is broad enough for all viewers to feel that they are catered for at least some of the time.
Nevertheless, feedback like your own helps to inform the discussion about a programme’s tone and content and the reactions of our audiences are closely studied by our producers and senior management to ensure the right judgement is being made about what is acceptable to the audience in general.
With your complaint in mind I can assure you that I’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.”
I’m struggling now with how (or whether) to respond to this. I don’t want to leave it, really, because I feel as though they’ve ignored the important part – the part about how it’s really not nice to be reminded about how prevalent rape and rape culture is. If anybody has any advice about how (or whether) I should respond, please, let me know. I write a lot, but right now, I’m not sure I have the words.
Well, the title says it all, really. Last week’s episode of Have I Got News For You featured a hilarious deeply inappropriate “joke” on the subject of Roman Polanski’s new film. Aparently, “it comes out with a 15 rating but Polanski swears it was an 18″.
Yeah. Rape culture. Rampant sexism. Hell, let’s go all-out humourless-feminist: the patriarchy. Just what I want to be reminded of when I’m winding down of an evening. Except for how it isn’t. If it was, I’d watch Mock The Week. Or anything with Russell Brand in it. It’s difficult enough as it is to take off my feminism-glasses – HIGNFY seem to have some weird unofficial policy of having either a woman (white) or a black person (male) on the show, if they have to, but not both at the same time. It doesn’t help that Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are always there, which is already middle-aged white men filling two of the five slots. (Wikipedia tells me, of course, that my impression of the show isn’t completely accurate – they did once have Shappi Khorsandi on as a panelist. I went to see her perform live once; she described herself as “the box-ticker”, since she’s a female Iranian comedian.)
So, because as a woman I have no sense of humour, I wrote to the BBC to complain. I’ll post their reply when I have it. And I’ll award myself 10 points for every bingo card box I can fill. Filling in the “it was a joke!” square is pretty inevitable, I reckon, but I might also get “why are you so aaangry?!”, “I’m sorry that YOU were offended”, “it got lots of laughs”, “there were women in the audience who didn’t complain”, “yes, it was awful, BUT…”, “he didn’t mean it to minimize the severity of rape, so clearly it didn’t”…… and so on.
I’ll take bets in comments as to how many bingo cards I can fill.
In something of an “aha!” moment recently, I was chatting to J about the problems he has when women our age bond over things that happened or were fashionable in the ’90s. The main problem, it turns out, is that J is not a woman. And so fashion more or less passed him by. As did a lot of the objectionable messages peddled by girls’ magazines. (There, wasn’t that a neat segue?!)
Top of today’s list: “boyfriends come and go, but friendships last forever”.
- “boyfriends” – heteronormative
- “come and go” – probably true, but dismisses the value of young romantic/ sexual relationships
- “friendships” – although not explicitly stated, refers to female friendships; everybody knows boys are only after one thing (eleventy!)
- “last forever” – utter bullshit
This kind of crap is particularly nasty for anybody who has had a female friend whose friendship soured, or became bullying, or just dwindled into nothing. It becomes just another way in which you, as a teenage girl, are doin it rong. Because clearly, if a friendship fails, it’s a Really Bad Thing, because friendships last forever! And if a friend acts in ways you don’t want them to, you’re less likely to say so – or to extricate yourself from that bad relationship, because, as everybody knows, friendships last forever!
Or perhaps, as a teenage girl, you really will end up in a situation where you feel you have to choose between your boyfriend and your female friend. And that is no fun at all. Because then, by even feeling torn, you’re doin it rong. Because even if your boyfriend is respectful, and kind, and considerate, and all those other reasons you might have for, you know, liking him as a person, well, clearly, boyfriends come and go. He can’t be worth anything to you, because – since boyfriends come and go – you’re pretty much guaranteed to be worth nothing to him anyway. Duh. And even if your friend has long since stopped being even friendly, friendships last forever. And if you can’t save it, that means you were a crap friend. And crap friends have no friends. And you wouldn’t want to be a loner, now would you?
It’s a shame, because the idea that romantic relationships don’t have to last forever’n'ever is a good one, and needs to be said more, especially with all of the stalker=romantic cliches around in the media, and if I were forced to choose between, say, the Twilight series and this message, I’d choose boyfriends come and go like a shot. But there’s no point trying to tell young women that romantic relationships don’t have to last forever, if the way you go about doing that is to say “but this non-romantic relationship totally will last forever, otherwise you fail at life”. Because it’s disingeneous, it doesn’t stop treating young women as failures – just transfers the way in which they’ve failed – and, more to the point, it’s wrong. It’s just wrong.
This weekend, I was out in the pub with a few people from my maths class, including one guy we’ll call Mike, and another we’ll call Steve. Mike is tall, probably 6′ at least, and stocky. Steve’s build isn’t important, but what is important is that Steve is aware – and has been for some time – that I’m deeply feminist. He takes the piss, but never in an offensive way, and since I get the feeling that if he ever actually thought about things for two seconds he’d identify the same way, I don’t get angry with him. There’s better uses of my anger than that. Mike has only become aware of the feminism in the last few days; perhaps it was a mutual friend of ours leaning over to tell me that she’d had an afternoon that had made her want to scream “DAMN YOU, PATRIARCHY!” that did it.
And of course, in the pub, because Steve started it, we got chatting about feminism. And of course, Mike’s reaction was…
Mike: God, I’m gonna be terrified of sitting next to you now!
Mike: Well – you might kick me in the balls…
Mike: … You’re a feminist…
Me: What the hell? What is this – I’m two different people now? I mean, objectively, we know that I’m 5’6″, considerably smaller than you, and if you wanted to beat the shit out of me, you could, but as a feminist, I’m ten foot tall, I’ve got lasers for eyes, I could kill you with my moustache! You know, as a feminist. Because that’s the way we roll.
The conversation moved on to bizarre facial hair after that little rant, so I leave you with Bill Bailey (unfortunately I can’t find a video, but this is the pertinent quote, viaWikiquote, and originally featured in Part Troll):
“There’s this one celebrity, Rosie O’Donnell, a talk show host, and she said this: “I don’t know anything about Afghanistan, but I know it’s full of terrorists, speaking as a mother.” So what is this “speaking as a mother” then? Is that a euphemism for “talking out of my arse”? “Suspending rational thought for a moment”? As a rational human being, Al-Qaeda are a loose association of psychopathic zealots who could be rounded up with a sustained police investigation. But speaking as a parent, they’re all eight foot tall, they’ve got lasers under their moustaches, a huge eye in their foreheads and the only way to kill them is to NUKE every country that hasn’t sent us a Christmas card in the the last 20 years!! Speaking as a mother.”
So, one of the things about me that is probably well-known by now is this: styling my hair does not interest me.
I’ve had, oh, maybe four hairstyles in my life:
- The little-girl bob. This is how my mother got my hair cut, because it was all one length apart from the fringe, and she could totally do that herself. Which is why my fringe was always just that little bit wonky. The rest of my hair started out just above my chin and got as far down as my shoulders before being cut off again.
- The “this doesn’t even have a name” long hair style. Which is to say, my hair was one length all over. This is what happened after I grew out my fringe. And it just kept getting longer, because I was lazy about arranging a haircut.
- The “just cut it all off” short hair style. This is what happened when I eventually made that appointment. It went from being half-way down my back to being up above my ears. I looked like a page boy at first, but by progressively getting shorter and shorter styles, it started to look halfway decent sometimes.
- The “I should really get my hair cut” short hair style. This is what happens now. My hair starts off as short as it can actually get cut using scissors, and grows until it’s in my eyes. At which point, I reluctantly head to the hairdressers, for another thrilling installment of….
“I’ll make it a girly cut, shall I?”
Sometimes I think I must have a sign on my head saying “for the love of Ceiling Cat, make this woman feminine!!”
People hear what they want to hear. This is a thing I have learned. It doesn’t matter if I tell them – as I did – that I don’t want to style my hair, that I just want to wash it and ignore it, that I don’t give a fuck about looking feminine, but I do care very much about it going in my eyes… All that this means is that they’ll nod along in that oh-so-understanding way, before saying, “well, why don’t I do you a pixie cut? It’s not very much work, you just need to blow dry it after you’ve washed it, maybe put in a bit of wax…”
And then, then they’re really surprised when I laugh.
Because I don’t own a hairdryer.