“Just because somebody belongs to a minority group, that doesn’t mean they’re capable of rational thought”
I’ll have to make this into a sampler, I think, and hang it on my wall, so that the next time I’m shocked to hear (for instance) that a group of lesbians have told a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man that “as soon as [she] finds a nice girlfriend, [she]‘ll become a real lesbian” I can look at it and keep calm. Instead of (for instance) telling the lesbians that, if that’s true, all they need is a good boyfriend each to make them into real straight women.
Back in February, Carol Thatcher, a white woman, referred to a black man as a “golliwog”, backstage at the BBC’s The One Show, in a private conversation between her and a white man. She was subsequently sacked from the show, though she was still able to appear on the Andrew Marr Show afterwards and further display her racism.
Fast forward to this month, October, and Anton Du Beke calls his dancing partner on Strictly Come Dancing – a mixed-race woman, Laila Rouass, a “paki”, also backstage, also in a private conversation, but this time between him and Ms. Rouass. This time, the BBC is “standing by” their foul-mouthed liability.
The BBC justifies this on the grounds that Du Beke has apologised. To be fair to the man, he has indeed apologised. It’s a shame he had to spoil it by clarifying it by insisting that “I am not a racist and … I do not use racist language“. It makes one wonder what it is he’s apologising for. The rest of it boils down to him saying that he didn’t intend to be offensive; that he accepts it’s an offensive term; that he didn’t think about how others would react; and that he’s sorry if he’s offended anybody. So it’s a fairly standard industry non-apology, really – bar the part where he accepts that it’s offensive, which most non-apologies don’t do.
Frankly, in some ways I prefer to deal with people like Carol Thatcher, who at least own their racism. She didn’t give the BBC a choice – it would have been very difficult for them not to sack her. Somebody like Du Beke, though – well, as I see it, the BBC are acting like that parent in the playground, who, when they see their precious spawn kick the crap out of you, tells said spawn in a sing-song voice to “say sorry and play nicely“, and then takes the muttered “sorry… that you weren’t strong enough” as a sign that everybody is the best of bestest friends again.
And, being the nasty suspicious person I am, I have to wonder whether it’s really the apology that’s made the difference.
You know, since Carol Thatcher’s a woman in her fifties – practically retirement age for women at the BBC – who insulted a man, and Anton Du Beke is only 43, and, more importantly, a man who insulted a woman.
… Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, has been an utter douche.
Joy. Of. Joys.
You know what’s reasonable for me to need to be concerned about when I go back to uni?
My modules, my timetables, my exams, my finances, my notes… the list goes on. It’s not pleasant, granted, but it’s kind of expected that you might have to think about those things.
You know what’s not reasonable for me to need to be concerned about when I go back to uni?
Whether my male lecturers are trying to look down my top.
How a man clever enough to be a professor can be stupid enough to be such an entitled, arrogant, heteronormative, sexist shit-for-brains astounds me.
Or, you know, maybe he’s not that stupid. Maybe he was smart enough to know that he wouldn’t really get called out on it. After all, it’s only the NUS Womens’ Officer who’s objected. Not anybody important, like that spokesman from the University and Colleges Union. It’s not like anybody with any power to do anything cares.
I feel stabbity.
“The mother of his children” – a phrase usually applied to situations in which the positive attributes of a woman in a heterosexual relationship are being considered.
As though the mother – who has generally (though not always) carried the pregnancy to term and then given birth to the damned thing – has nothing to do with it!
Well. If ever I spawn, I will bloody well be refering to “the father of MY children”. So there.
A more substantial post will happen at some point, but in the meantime, have this snippet of wisdom from J:
J: You know how we were talking about stereotypes? Well, I went to get some things from Boots and the woman there was convinced I was getting them for my wife.
Me: Oh? And what were they?
J: Moisturiser and nail polish remover. I didn’t have the heart to tell her they were for Mum.
Me: *laughing* Well, they wouldn’t do me much good, would they?! [I bite my nails quite severely, and am allergic to most skin products]
J: You might use the nail polish remover.
Me: I don’t have nails to use them on!
J: Well, of course you wouldn’t use it on your nails! I just thought you might use it to destroy things with.
So, this morning I have been following links. And this continued until I reached a post entitled: “blaah owwww aughh fuck meee uurgh an overshare“. How could anybody not want to know what the hell that’s about?!
And I read it, and it is about periods. Specifically, really nasty periods. The kind of periods described are the ones that make me rather unhelpfully think “thank fuck that’s not me!”. The whole post is definitely worth a read, including the comments, which are hillarious. And true:
“The most popular narratives are about how periods are really no big deal (and have become even less of one since the writer started using menstrual cups/got in touch with her inner moon goddess/stopped eating hormone-laden meat)” – Colleen
So this is me, jumping on the bandwagon:
I don’t give a flying fuck about my inner moon goddess. And, given that I take the pill and am therefore not at all following my “moon cycle”, I don’t think she really cares about me, either. I also don’t give a flying fuck about using disposable pads and tampons. You know, I’m pretty big on recycling – to the intense irritation of my housemates, I might add. So yes, I’ll wash out my milk cartons and recycle my cardboard boxes and tins and so on and so forth… but I absolutely will not feel bad about not using cloth pads.
Why? Well, because tampons and disposable pads are just that – disposable. I can get rid of them quickly and easily. Also, I don’t think it’s a problem to flush a wad of blood-soaked cotton down the toilet. I have not blocked a toilet yet, and I reckon any toilet that can cope with excrement can cope with tampons. Pads of course go in the bin, because they are clearly not biodegradeable.
If I were to use cloth pads, I’d have two choices: either I’d have to wash them out, by hand, every day, or I’d have to leave them for up to two weeks until I did my regular wash in the laundrette. And you know, regardless of how clean menstrual fluid is when it leaves my body (and it is, in fact, pretty clean), after two weeks, that would smell. And I do not want my room to smell of old blood. Also, when I am on my period, the last thing I want to do is unnecessary washing. I don’t even want to do the washing up, for goodness sake! I’m lucky enough to have pretty light periods now that I’m on the pill, which means I no longer have that horrible pooling sensation when I wake up on the first day of my period. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most people reading this will know what I mean, but for those that don’t – it’s that feeling when you wake up that you’ve already bled over your pyjamas/ duvet/ sheet, that your thighs are covered in blood, and that, furthermore, the moment you stand up, it will gush. Because the only thing that’s stopped you bleeding more is gravity. And when you stand up, gravity will not be working in your favour.
Anyway, the point is, I don’t get that anymore. I don’t have to shuffle to the bathroom with my legs together and my bloodstained pyjamas sticking to me, hoping that I won’t encounter my father en route, I don’t have to wash my sheets three times in my period week, and I don’t have to try to rinse the blood out of said bloodstained pyjamas when I’m half-asleep and hurting. I don’t want to have to revisit those days, not even a little bit. So no, I don’t want to have to wash out cloth pads.
It occurs to me now that if ever I had a problem with feminism, this would be it: that we police each others’ moral standards. Well, I mean, apart from the rather unsavoury history of bigotry that has plagued feminism and causes some women to identify as womanists/ humanists instead. But seriously, what are we thinking?
What have we achieved if we get society to back the fuck off from the idea that all periods are icky, but at the cost of pretending that none of them are? What have we achieved if we get society to acknowledge that a woman’s choices are none of their damned business, only to create our own hierarchy of who is the “most feminist” based on what kind of period controls one uses?
Isn’t the point of feminism to understand that women are human, and complex, and different, and that one woman’s choice will not work for another, and that one woman’s inner moon goddess is another woman’s fairy tale? Don’t we know yet that we’re not, and shouldn’t aim to be, a hive mind?
And, while I’m on a roll, what’s up with treating women like they all have periods? What about the women that don’t? What kind of a message are they getting? Do they get to embrace their inner moon goddess too, or is that a privilege reserved for the women that bleed? Aren’t we just creating another hierarchy, one which places women who bleed above women who don’t? And why? Is it coincidence that these discussions are prioritising women who show signs of being able to concieve? This, to me, is a pretty fucking uncomfortable thing to think.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be talking about periods. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t be challenging the notion that periods are icky because they’re a woman thing. I am saying that we need to think about who our period discussions are including, and who they’re leaving behind, whether that’s women who have periods that don’t conform to the comforting “oh, periods aren’t that bad really” narrative, or whether that’s women who don’t have them at all.
Something I’ve learned is that we can all be blinkered, and insular, and yes, privileged, no matter what privileges we don’t have, no matter how much we’ve learned. And if we want to gain allies, and if we want to avoid alienating people, we need to be asking ourselves uncomfortable questions. And then we need to be doing something about it.
So, last night, under the influence of the lurgy, I decided I would watch the first episode of The Apprentice.
As you may or may not know, depending on your luck in avoiding the damned thing, each series starts off with the contestants being split into two equal groups, based on whether they are “boys” or “girls”. Except that this year, there are eight women and only seven men, as one of the men pulled out before filming began. They are then given a task to perform, in their groups, which will inevitably be something that is designed to be “beneath” them. By which I mean that it is clear that nobody expects these privilleged, well-educated, weathly-looking people to have, for example, sold fish at a market stall. Or, as in yesterdays’ episode, cleaned for money (as opposed to cleaning their own homes, supposing that they actually do that).
Ten minutes in to the programme, after swearing loudly and violently at my laptop twice, I turned it off in disgust.
Given the nature of the task, I’m sure you can guess why I was swearing. But, to reiterate: the contestants were split into groups defined by gender, and then told to set up a cleaning business.
Five minutes in, in a taxi that is taking the men to their starting point, one of the men says:
“well, come on! It’s cleaning! How hard can it be? My wife cleans all the time…. no, that’s a joke.”
Call me a humourless feminist if you must, but I’ve always thought that if you have to say that something was a joke, it wasn’t fucking funny.
A few minutes after that, with the womens’ team sitting around a table, they have asked everybody and ascertained (surprise, surprise!) that no, nobody has any experience of industrial-scale cleaning. Almost immediately afterwards, one of the women, giving a “pep talk”, says:
“We’ve got to win this! There are more of us that there are of them… and besides, it’s cleaning!”
Yes, well spotted. It’s cleaning, and none of you have any experience. But presumably, you’ll know what to do by instinct, being women. Wow. It’s beyond me why the cleaning companies that I’ve tried to join ask for experience at all! I could just say to them, “hey, don’t worry – I’m a woman! I don’ t need experience when I’ve got a womb! FACT!”
To be honest, it’s probably a good thing that it was full of stupid, nasty stereotypes before anything had really happened. Because the episodes are an hour each week, and I don’t want to waste a whole precious hour on stupidity like that. Although I’ll admit to having to fight the compulsion to carry on watching it, much in the same way that people slow down to look at crashes on the road.
Not a very good one, admittedly, but I do at least have one.
So, you know how there’s that bingo-worthy saying, “I don’t see colour”?
And you know how there’s a trend for advertising towards men to use all of the shades of the black/grey/white/silver spectrum?
Maybe it’s true!
Maybe, the reason that advertisers don’t use actual colours to advertise to men is because they are advertising primarily towards white men who are likely to say “I don’t see colour“! The advertisers are therefore targeting a more specific demographic than it would first appear: the demographic of racist, mindless, male douchebags!
For example, Lynx. They have a white man surrounded by white women to sum up the brand on their website. I think my assumptions are reasonable.
I am a genius.
In other news, because I am a maths geek, it turns out that any numeric palindrome of the form ABBA – like 1331 – is divisible by 11. This pleases me, because it was worth 4 marks in my exam. And also because it makes 11 a more useful number.
There are some things that really make me appreciate having a feminist partner. Like his now well-developed habit of turning to me, deadpan, and exclaiming “OMG! Shoez!”. And, more specifically for this post, his habit of telling me when something particularly bizarre has made it into his personal radar. Like this story.
J: Have you seen the news story about how working mothers are destroying children?
Me: Um.. no, I’ve been watching snow all day.
J: It was on TV earlier and I just wanted to stand up and shout “WHAT?!!!”. *pause* Well, actually, I did shout “WHAT?!!!”. I just didn’t stand up.
So, in honour of the story meriting standing up to shout, I thought I’d dissect it a little.
First off, the full report can be found here. I started looking at it thinking that the BBC had cherry-picked the most news-worthy snippets. And, in a way, they have. Most of the report summaries seemed sensible and reasonable in content, and for six out of the seven categories (friends, lifestyle, values, schooling, mental health and inequalities) there was little to object to. Perhaps a seemingly spurious statistic in the friends category – that “for women [the age at which they had their first sexual experience] dropped from 21 in 1953 to 16 in 1998” – could have been omitted, or at least balanced with the corresponding statistic for men, but otherwise, I saw nothing that really bothered me.
But then comes the summary on family.
Frankly, compared with the other summaries, I found it to be poorly written, and nowhere near as coherent. A condensed version of each paragraph of the main summary could be:
- More women with babies of 9-12 months work outside the home, compared to 25 years ago.
- Women’s economic independence has led to a higher rate of divorce/ separation.
- “Children, whose parents separate are 50% more likely to fail at school, suffer behavioural difficulties, anxiety or depression.”
- Parents should not stay together if the conflict between them is bad; but children are less likely to be aggressive/ depressed “the more they see their separated father”
- “it is a real worry that in Britain around 28% of all children whose parents have separated have no contact with their fathers three years after separation”
- *statistics on the prevalance of parental separation*
- “So to reduce the level of conflict in family life, parents must give more priority to their relationship. This would do more for children than anything else.”
Women with money = more divorce = more depressed children and therefore “parents must give priority to their relationship”. Even though “parents should not stay together if the conflict between them is bad”.
The whole thing is just bizarre. Especially since in the long version of the family report, they cite statistics from Refuge that say that half of all cases of domestic violence occur in households with children. What they don’t mention is the statistics that then say that “in over 50% of known domestic violence cases, children were also directly abused”. It is not inconceivable, then, to assume that at least some of that 28% of children without contact with their fathers have very, very good reasons for it. It would be pretty strange for a woman to extricate herself and her children from an abusive relationship, only to then voluntarily allow that man contact with the children. And, similarly, is it not reasonable that those children who have been abused by their fathers, and are not in contact with them, might indeed be more likely to display symptoms of depression?
I am not impressed.
I’m not impressed with the BBC for deliberately sensationalising a report that was, in general, very good. And I’m not impressed with the report itself, for giving the BBC the opportunity. And what’s really depressing is that, while the BBC have picked up on it, the Daily Mail haven’t. I’d have staked a fortune on it being the other way round.
I saw a comment recently online to the effect that US President Obama’s daughters are rapidly approaching adolescence, “faster than Dad would like”.
So I thought I’d say a couple of things.
Firstly, that it’s always annoyed me when people call somebody “Mum” or “Dad” – or any variation on the theme – if they clearly do not have that kind of relationship with them. My paternal grandmother, for example, always refered to my mother (her daughter-in-law) as “Mummy”. For quite some time, Mum didn’t realise that my grandmother was addressing her, since not even my siblings or I call my mother “Mummy”! Of course, my gran was convinced that Mum was not answering just to be rude to her, and made our visits a little hellish. Joys.
Secondly, I really, really hate those horrible “Dad” stereotypes.
In short, because they’re just another nasty offshoot of the patriarchal stereotypes of men generally.
In long, because not only are they just another nasty offshoot of the patriarchal stereotypes of men generally, but because I feel that they are an insult to just about every good father out there. Including my own.
The two most pervasive stereotypes that I’ve found are:
A: “Daddy” doesn’t want “his precious little girl(s)” to grow up.
For the record, my father has no interest in the state of my hymen. He does want me to be healthy and happy, and to that end, we did indeed once have a conversation to the effect of “have fun, just don’t get pregnant or infected with anything”. Now that that’s done, I don’t expect to ever have that kind of a conversation with him again. He knows I’ll take care of myself, he knows I know what I’m doing, and I talk openly with my mother about being on the pill. So I’m sure he’s been informed – in general, at least – that I’m not likely to get pregnant any time soon.
B: “Daddy” secretly always wanted a boy.
When my mother was pregnant for the third time, nearly eight years ago (and possibly also when she was pregnant the second time round – but I wouldn’t know about that, as I was 1 at the time), my dad got a lot of well-meaning comments which strongly implied this. You know the type: “Oh, I bet you’re hoping for a boy this time!” or, “wouldn’t it be nice to have a son to play football with?!” – that kind of thing.
And you know what? Seriously, my dad never cared. He just wanted a healthy baby. And you know what else? It’s really, really fucking insulting to his two daughters, to say, when they’re standing right next to him, “oh, I bet you’re hoping for a boy!”.
What, are two daughters not good enough? Seriously? Am I, by virtue of the fact that my gonads are inside my body instead of outside, worth less to you? Does a tiny little floppy thing inside a nappy mean that much to you? If so, you’ll make a shitty, shitty parent. And I’m glad I’ve got my dad and not you.
I don’t think that the commenter I picked up on was saying what they did in a malicious way. I do think that perhaps what they said was not as thought out as it could have been. And I do think that stereotypes should be challenged. Because they are rarely true, and rarely complimentary.