A couple of things:

Once again, that pinnacle of education and information, Sky News, has its priorities just right.

To accompany my two thickly buttered bagels for breakfast, the news that even though a recent study of twins has shown that being overweight is over 3/4 to do with your genes (if anyone else wants to shout, as I did, “No! You think?!” – go to Shapely Prose, where they do it brilliantly well!) – that is no excuse for getting fat.

Yes, you might be very genetically predisposed towards being fat – as you might be at higher risk of cancer, or diabetes, or indeed having twin babies – but that doesn’t mean you can just relax! You must stay thin, and cancer free, and diabetes free, and have no babies, just in case they turn out to be twins.
Actually, no – have the twin babies, and then we can race them, and see if a “winning streak” is down to your genes.

And, as a second thought, something I have been pondering.

Kirsten has lent me The Beauty Myth (by Naomi Wolf).
I can’t bring myself to read it in more than short bursts, because it feels very close to home and suppressing the rage makes my head hurt.

Anyway, leaving that aside, she talks a lot about clothes, and work clothes, in relation mainly to women. As you might expect.

One of the points she made runs something along the lines that women are at a disadvantage because, whereas men have a clearly defined work uniform (suits, or at least suit trousers, together with a collared shirt, and a tie as optional), women do not, and where the default setting for professional is male, and therefore uniform, to not have a uniform singles you out as less professional.

At least, I think that’s what she meant. I am paraphrasing, and don’t have the book in front of me.

So, I had a thought. A second thought, even.

Should company dress codes give trousers as the only option?
Technically, I suppose, one could argue that it is sexist to allow women to wear more casual clothes to work than men. Not that men would say that too loudly, in case it looked like they were advocating men wearing skirts, which is something only for women. Which would be bad and wrong, because remember, if you are a woman, you are less than a man.

But I have heard men complaining about it, quietly.

As it happens, I have always worn black trousers to work. In two of my three jobs, I have been required to wear trousers. In the other, at the shop, a skirt would have restricted my movement, impeded me in my work, and also, completely separately, annoyed the hell out of me.

So. Women being required to wear trousers. Is this right? Is it even legal? And what about the women who like having their legs shackled together, and who feel capable of getting through the day without laddering a pair of tights? I think we should be told!


The God Squad

Seemingly disconnected from the title of the post, I now get a 15 minute breakfast break at work. This is my reward for turning up at 8 rather than 8:30 (I successfully argued that I couldn’t physically function if I had to eat at 6:30 and then wait over 7 hours before eating again).

What this means, however, is that I end up watching Sky News, which is projected onto the wall of the staff restaurant.

And what this means is that I have a whole new source of irritation to disturb my day. And sometimes some real news.

So, in the news today? Something about the precarious state of the stock market – apparently it’s the fault of the Americans, who have such a big country they can afford to bring down their interest rate by 1%, whereas we on our tiny little island have no such option. Or something. It seemed strangely linked to virility and manliness and, you know, size, but maybe that’s just me being a cock-obsessed slutwhore. You never know.

Anyway, that story obviously doesn’t link to God. Unless God is secretly also cock-obsessed. But let’s assume that that would be a bit silly, and then I can talk about what I actually wanted to.

The story that irritated me was the startling news that political-extremist types “recruit” at universities.

No! You think?!

As my mother once said, “at the University of East Anglia there was nothing to do, except become radical.”

Of course politics becomes big at uni. Lots of young people are away from home, sometimes for the first time, trying to work out who they are and who they want to be, and you think politics isn’t going to make an appearance?! For goodness’ sake, it’s people of university age who’ve just got the vote!

But this wasn’t the most irritating bit. The really, really irritating bit was the sadly innevitable mention of Teh Muslim Extremists. You’d think they held a monopoly on extremism, if you believed the media. But that can’t be right, because before that, the extreme group was Teh Communists (also known, amusingly, as “The Reds Under The Bed”). And I saw the Socialist Workers’ Party just the other day. So they do all still exist. That must be quite irritating for them, actually. The communists, I mean. Because now nobody talks about them.
Presumably, atheism isn’t as bad as believing in the ‘wrong’ God.

Basically, the soundbites were saying that “Muslim extremists” were “luring” or “recruiting” “young Muslim women”. That the “extremists” were saying that the society of the West was a bit shite, really, and that Islam would be better for them.

And I did what I’ve been doing quite a lot recently, and thinking that actually I sympathised with the people who were being demonised.

Western society is a bit shite, really. There are a lot of problems with it. And when you look at the model that Islam wants to provide:

Islam instead maintains that both types of roles are equally deserving of pursuit and respect and that when accompanied by the equity demanded by the religion, a division of labor along sex lines is generally beneficial to all members of the society.

This might be regarded by the feminist as opening the door to discrimination, but as Muslims we regard Islamic traditions as standing clearly and unequivocally for the support of male-female equity. In the Quran, no difference whatever is made between the sexes in relation to God. “For men who submit [to God] and for women who submit [to God], for believing men and believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for steadfast men and steadfast women, for humble men and humble women, for charitable men and charitable women, for men who fast and women who fast, for men
who guard their chastity and women who guard, for men who remember God much and for women who remember – for them God has prepared forgiveness and a mighty reward” (33:35). “Whoever performs good deeds, whether male or female and is a believer, We shall surely make him live a good life and We will certainly reward them for the best of what they did” (16:97).

Well, doesn’t it make you wonder what a society like that would be like? It doesn’t sound too bad, to me. I mean, from the religious point of view, can you imagine the Bible saying anything so rooted in equality? I can’t.

So, I might have a quibble with the way work should be divided along gender lines – I can’t think of many jobs that can be performed well by only one gender – but I think they have a point when they say that “both types of roles [typically male vs. typically female] are equally deserving of pursuit and respect”.

Strangely enough, it reminds me of something Bitchy Jones once wrote:

“Way back in the past when they invented misogyny they decided that women were lower status and thus had the low status role in sex. He had the mighty phallus – she had the dirty needy hole. You can see how femdom later thought, hey, lets flip this shit. Let’s make the guy be called slut for wanting and be filled. But those things aren’t really submissive. Having something pushed into your body that feels amazing is only submissive because someone decided that the female role in sex was a submissive one.”

For once, let’s ignore the sex. Yes, I know it’s hard. Er, difficult. But seriously, the point I’m getting at is that things associated with women – traditional roles, be it in the bedroom or in the workplace – only seem “less good” for the reason that Bitchy says so well – “when they invented misogyny they decided that women were lower status”. [emphasis mine].

Damn, I just made a link between Islam and Femdom. That’s got to be a first, surely.

So, and back to Islam, isn’t it great that it’s saying both roles are equally deserving of respect?

Because they are. They are just as good as each other. And this is something that Western society has failed in teaching us, rather drastically.

So, to be honest, it’s not such a silly – or radical! – idea, to say that Islam can offer young women something that Western society can’t. Whether it actually lives up to this idea, I don’t know.

Anyway, so the whole ‘news’ story irritated me.
And it infuriated me that a middle-aged male professor could be talking so confidently about the perils of Teh Extremists to young Muslim women, without justifying it. Either without thinking about the points I put forward above, or simply without mentioning them.
I suspect he simply hasn’t thought about it. Like many of the men I know in real life wouldn’t think about it.

And it felt like, once again, Muslims were being tarred with the “heathen unbeliever” brush. You know, the one that says, “oh, well, it’s jolly good to go to Church, dontcherknow, and even just staying at home on a Sunday, that’s not so bad, eh… but praying to Allah – well, it’s just not done, dear boy! Not, er, not British, old chap, what!”

It would seem that for all my relief that at least the British public don’t let their politicians get too devout, or claim that God tells them to go on crusades, they are still easily swayed by religion.

The God Squad, you see, is still insiduously there. Because it still seems terribly bad form to think that a religion involving the “wrong” deity could be a reasonable religion.


Abortion Rights

Anybody who actually waded through my rant about sex will have seen that I was planning on going to a public meeting on abortion rights.

For once, I actually did what I said I was going to, and, even better, I found my Mum a birthday present beforehand. Which was useful, as I’d kind of forgotten that her birthday was this month.

Anyway, so I went to the Houses of Parliament – and you know, for somebody that identifies as a Londoner, I’m really not very good. I seriously had no idea how close together everything all was, and, what’s worse, I was genuinely surprised to walk past Downing Street on the way.
Obviously I’m living more on Planet Rachel than in London at the moment.

However. I got there, I queued, I watched the Met. (London’s very own police force, aren’t we lucky?!) get progressively more and more uneasy with the number of women coming to infiltrate the Houses of Parliament, and I wandered around gawping at statues, like a tourist.

We got moved from one room to another because too many of us turned up, and then we kept coming so they started putting people back into the room we’d just left, and in the end, we had two meetings, in two different rooms, with the same speakers at the same time.
Because feminism is nothing if not logical, dammit!

The crowd was excellent, too. A handful of men – mostly young, and nobody over 40, I’d say – trying not to look frightened, or inadvertantly hold posters with the strapline “keep your laws off my body”. And women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours. Which was nice.

We had the crazy women who sat in the corner muttering, because you always get a couple of crazies at any big event. We had the typical “Chelsea girls”, very fashionable and with very irritating voices (I try not to hold it against people, but when they’re standing right next to me…!). We had a hell of a lot of studenty types. We had the Socialist Workers Party people, selling newspapers as always (I do wonder whether they care what they attend, sometimes). We had women who’d protested about the same thing way back in ’78. We had the radical protesters with mohicans and dyed red hair. Dammit, I want red hair! We had businesswoman types, amusing me greatly when they got fired up. And we had me.

It was wonderful that it didn’t seem to be exclusive. It wasn’t all middle class, or all white, or all old, or anything. It was just women. All different types.

And it was great.

I heard phrases like “the patriarchy” used casually as though we’d all know what it meant.
So I was happy.

I heard that the pro-choice movement had cross-party support, which made me even happier, especially when one of the speakers said “it’s a particular pleasure to have thinking conservatives”. It made me chuckle.

Possibly most amusingly, I was in the same room as a man whose first words after being introduced were,

“I’m not normally known as ‘Dr. Evan Harris’ – I’m normally known by the Daily Mail as ‘Doctor Death’“.*

*Disclaimer: Do not visit that link if you want any sensible information. In fact, the article is so amusingly bad, I may break it down at some point, in order to scoff.

Personally, I found him to be intelligent, articulate and sensible. But hey – I’m a crazy, hairy-legged feminist – what do I know?!

Rather embarressingly, I’ve forgotten the full name of the woman whose speech I enjoyed most. I think she was called Dianne, but evidently I should have written this down!

Her points were beautifully put, and she was fantastic.

Her main point was this: That it is those same people who so loudly and vehemently protest about “the rights of the unborn child”, who want nothing to do with that child once it is born. You will never see them voting for a universal childcare system, or extra child benefits, or anything else that would benefit real, living children. And therefore, since their actions show where their words do not that they do not care about the rights of any child or foetus, one is left to conclude that their attack on abortion is aimed at the only other party – women. Not anything to do with children at all.

She got a very, very loud round of applause for that, as you can imagine.

Anyway. I went to this to get more information, which I have. I feel I have more of an understanding of what is happening, and this pleases me. And I have websites to visit:

* Abortion Rights has a model letter that you can download to send to your MP, if you live in the UK. The MPs that were present at the meeting say that personal letters really do make a difference, and can help stiffen resolve, so please, if you can do this, do.
Also, it will help to counteract the lovely, intelligent, adult tactics used by the anti-abortion crowd, who last time round sent every single MP a plastic foetus in the post. Nice.

There are going to be rallies, lobbies, general shouty things. If I can possibly get involved, this meeting has shown me how important it is.

And then it’s just one small step before we take over the world!!!!!


Let’s talk about SEX, baby…

Does anybody else remember that song?

I think it marks you out as an ’80’s kid; “Let’s talk about sex, baby/ Let’s talk about you and me”. Or something.

Anyway. I had (have) a kind of love-hate thing going on with that song. Firstly because I only remember those two lines, and occasionally I get them stuck in my head. And they’re bloody annoying. Also, I hate the word “baby” as a term of endearment. If you’re having sex, or thinking about having sex, they should be a grown up, for goodness’ sake!

But then again, at least it’s being reasonable. At least it’s asking to talk.

So let’s talk about sex.
Vibracobra over at Mind the Gap has written lots on the subject, and the need for a new sexual revolution. As has Amy at Scorpio Risen. Which is nice. I suggest that people go and read, because it’s all very well done.

So we have these problems.

That people don’t know what “real” sex is. That they think it’s icky. That it’s two-dimensional and restrictive. That there’s too much choice. That people are “doing it” too young. That they’re not being careful. That they don’t know how to be careful.

Look, sex is… sex.
It’s everything and nothing.

Everything because everybody is different and one person’s fantasy is another person’s joke, one person’s crush is another person’s spotty younger brother, one person’s fetish is another person’s… I don’t know… dirty clothes pile…
and so it can never quite be summed up.

Nothing because it’s not the most important thing in the world. And nothing because it can’t be pinned down, boxed up (unless you like that, of course!) so it’s in some strange way intangible.

It’s everywhere and nowhere.

Everywhere because it’s a selling point. Because breasts make us look at things, because certain women in certain positions can sell just about anything.
Because even the heterosexual sex-orientated magazines for women say that having a sexy woman, rather than a sexy man, on their cover boosts their sales. Because only gay magazines feature sexy men on the cover.

Nowhere because it’s all fake. It’s a myth. Hardly any of us look like, act like, are those women. We don’t have tits like that and arses like that and pouts like that. Men do exist, although you’d find it hard to believe, considering their scarcity in the sexy advertising world. All kinds of different sexualities do exist.
And the world keeps turning, people are still having sex and having the babies to prove it. So the lies that are thrown at us, that we need tits like that and arses like that and pouts like that, that the few men in the world want, need, expect these things – it’s not true!

Think about real sex that you’ve really had. With yourself, if nobody else.

Was it perfectly sanitised, perfectly placed, perfectly proportioned, perfectly choreographed?

Or was it better than that?

Because sex is many things, but generally physical – and one of the nice things about it being physical is the number of different sensations. And isn’t that good, that maybe you could remember the way your partner(s) smelt, or tasted, or sounded, or looked, or felt?
That you could think the same of yourself?

Please, let’s just get over our hang-ups about sex. Seriously. There are more important things to think about.

Oh, I know it’s a meaningful debate and some things do need to be thought about and ….. good. Well done.

Sex is sex. People are different. Don’t punish people for being different. Make sure it’s all safe and consensual and informed. Done. Let’s move on now.

Let’s talk about related things, like rights and responsibilities. Like the way we need to be shouting out about wanting our right to abortion (if you’re interested, please go to this thing. I will be.) Or whatever it may be. Let’s talk about what else we can be doing.
Let’s talk about the way feminism should be for everybody’s benefit. That actually it’s a bit worrying when we all start in-fighting, and the only people that give a damn are the Men’s Rights Activists who are laughing at us.
Let’s talk about the way that despite all of our growling, rich white men are still at the top. What are we waiting for? Do we just stay as we are until they all die off?
Let’s talk about the way we’re still teaching our kids bad habits, that the minute you tell that little boy that he looks “girly” with his hair over his eyes, you’re harming that next generation’s chances to be better.

Let’s talk about sex, baby?
Well…. actually…. yes, but –
Let’s talk about something other than sex, too, gorgeous!


That God Post in Full…

I wouldn’t normally want religion to enter the happy little world I have going here, but a couple of days ago I had a very, very frustrating argument with a convert. I was hungry at the time, which didn’t help. So, for the record, this is where I am in the God-bothering stakes:

1: I don’t believe in God.

You can argue whatever damned theory you like, I don’t give a shit. I still don’t believe in God. That’s why it’s a belief system – it’s a faith. At some point, you have to just believe. It’s just that my “just believing” is in the opposite direction to yours, Mr. Convert.

(Also, if we’re going with the creation theory — the one that says, essentially, “everything must have had a creator. Except God, who is mysteriously exempt” — I say, what’s the difference between you taking the cut-off point as “except God” and me taking the cut-off point as “except the universe”?)

2: I heartily dislike going into any church.

Make of that what you will – maybe I’m just to sinful to like it. Rather like vampires can’t enter churches. Except in real life, and without the pointy teeth and immortality.
Or maybe, just maybe, I feel that it’s disrespectful.
Because I can see that it is a holy place for many people, and I feel nothing for it. It makes me uncomfortable, as though I’m intruding.
Especially when, as part of the service, I am required to say that I believe in God. (I didn’t say it, by the way. Because that would be lying.)

3: I don’t think Christianity (or indeed Judaism or Islam) have a particularly good track record when it comes to tolerance.

I can’t really comment on the other major religions – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism… – because I simply don’t know enough.

But it’s easy to see that the more “Western” religions don’t do so well.
All this stuff about gay people being sinful and perverted, and about a woman’s place being, well, wherever she’ll shut the fuck up, and how every other religion is doomed to the fiery depths of Hell, and….
No. Just no.

I happen to think that if you want to believe there are little happy pixies in the bottom of your garden that created the world, that’s fine and lovely.
Just don’t try to foist your happy little pixies on me.

So why is it that when organised religion gets involved, suddenly anybody believing in the happy pixies are [heathens/ heretics/ infidels/ fucking stupid] and liable to [death by stoning/ banishment/ media stereotyping/ attempts at "saving their souls"]?
Why can’t they just live and let live?

More to the point, why on earth would I want to get involved with an organisation that actively goes against my most major form of politics — feminism? Which leads me on to…

4: I am a feminist.

And as such – athough (because I always feel I should put this disclaimer) I don’t speak for every feminist or indeed any particular feminist ‘ideology’ – I have a lot of ideals that set me at odds with organised religion.

Such as, the fact that I am unapologetically in favour of premarital sex. Which seems to be a fairly common no-no in religious circles.
Or the fact that I regard the right to an abortion as a very good thing.
Or the fact that I don’t believe that women should either “submit to their husbands”, nor “be their husband’s better half”. The former because – oh, just fuck off if you can’t see why that annoys me – and the latter because it’s yet another example of men being given the implied OK to behave badly – they are the “worse half”, logically, after all. And I, as the woman, should just forgive their faults, because hey, I’m “better”, I can afford to seem magnanimous.
Both of those examples come from the man who was trying to convert me, by the way.

I could go on in this department. But I’m sure you get the gist.

So, without the faith, without finding any comfort in the holy buildings, communities or ideals…

Tell me, why on earth I would want to convert?


Another addition to The List::

Kevin Doran, who seems to have become incapable of making a reasoned argument.

Or reading a comment policy.*

For the record, it is not big or clever to deliberately set up a situation whereby your comment is deleted, in order that you may point, laugh and say “ha ha you feminists are shit; you won’t let me say what I want to say”, as I believe he has done.

*It is, in fact, common politeness to abide by a blogger’s comment policy. And it is common sense to try to keep your comments on-topic. Off-topic comments are not interesting; that’s why you have your own blog.


On a Different Note….

… I’ve been thinking about cheating.

Not the kind of cheating you’d describe as the result of being the (rather unscrupulous) Banker in a family game of Monopoly, with the chance to con your sister.

The kind of cheating you you’d describe as infidelity.

Anecdotal evidence has shown that, at least amongst my peer group, the women are much less likely to forgive than the men. In fact, we have already found three couples in which the guys have said that, in theory, they would take their girlfriends back, while said girlfriends have reacted with shock and horror, and also said that, were positions reversed, they would never take their boyfriends back.

I don’t know what this means. It’s just there.

Frankly, I find the guys’ stance on cheating strange, to say the least.

I’ve always thought that love, and relationships, are based on trust, especially in those relationships we have most choice over: our friends and partners. And perhaps I have a very blinkered view on what constitutes love.

I wouldn’t trust my grandmother further than the TV she sees men behind. I have some affection for her, as she is, after all, an elderly woman and my father’s mother, but I don’t think that I have any real love for her.
On the other hand, I have a deep love for both of my mother’s parents, which I feel stems from long, trusting and mutually respectful relationships.

I have moved away from many people, both friends and boyfriends, when I felt that I could no longer trust them. In some cases I could be civil, and in others I could not bear to be in their company, but in all of those failed relationships was the gut feeling that any further relationship with those people would be worthless and meaningless in the absence of the trust I once had.

And so, when people say that they would forgive their partners cheating on them, I am incredulous. Some things are unforgiveable, and many, many more are unforgettable.

I’ve heard the argument used that infidelity indicates a fundamental flaw in the relationship, and might be the saving of it, as it forces the couple to talk about what went wrong.

For me, that seems foolish. Because what kind of relationship is worth having, when you can’t talk about those kinds of flaws to begin with?

I am a talkative person, but to be honest, if somebody did that to me, I don’t know if I’d even have anything left to say to them, as I walked away and got them the hell out of my life.


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