This Second Thought Was Dim

I was making pie this evening. This is relevant to my story only because it’s a lot of effort, and then you shove it in the oven and ignore it for half an hour.
For the record – and this is not relevant, but oh well! – I make bloody good pie.

Anyway, the point is, I was tired and had a cup of tea and half an hour in the kitchen to kill.
So I thought I’d indulge in a little light masochism, and flick through this month’s Cosmopolitan.
Yeah, and then I started playing Bingo again. It’s been a common occurrence this week, and with that in mind, I just lost The Game. Damn.

So, my second thought was this:

Perhaps I should conduct a statistical analysis of the ways in which reading Cosmopolitan requires playing Anti-Feminist / Fat-Hatred / Homophobic Bingo.
Or, put more sensibly, some kind of analysis of the messages contained within Cosmopolitan.

Clearly I am being foolish. Because it then occurred to me that one edition is a fucking terrible sample to take. (My statistics lecturer would be so proud.)
But… this means that I will have to both find and read back issues of Cosmopolitan.

Now, I’m all for pointless studies that prove [nothing] / [nothing we don’t already know] (delete as appropriate!) because they mean that I have something to gnash my teeth about.
But, you know, I don’t think that even I have the strenth of character to drag myself through the Bingo-playing ordeal of back issues of Cosmopolitan to produce a sensible study on it.

I would love to just be a terrible statistician and take a sample of one, but the problem is that this will actually give me nothing to analyse. I mean, I doubt it, but technically this month’s issue could be an aberration from a feminist-friendly norm. I can but hope.
There might be trends that I miss through not documenting statistics for older issues.
Or it might completely justify all of my biases and knee-jerk assumptions. Who knows?

Still, at least I don’t claim to be objective.

(As I write this, I can’t help but remember the time when I used to buy Cosmopolitan because I actually enjoyed reading it. I have to wonder what the hell was wrong with me, because I got so angry with the magazine this evening that I had to put it away and go to “check” the potatoes I was cooking [for “check” read “stab with a big knife”].)


Troll Poking – A Bit Like Bear Baiting, But Legal

So, a couple of days ago I promised you the story of the Troll. I’ve now sorted out my coursework for the week and done my washing, so what better way to celebrate than to mock the unfortunate?

As I mentioned last time, his statements boiled down to:

“because I, personally, have noticed that more men than women attend Laser Quest when I am there, this must mean that men, on average, are more aggressive than women.”

But this doesn’t give the whole picture.

He started out with the hilariously bad generalisation of:

“because…. [etc] … this must mean that all men are more aggressive than all women, and women are not aggressive.”

Being the mathematician that I am, this was almost boringly easy to refute. I am a woman; I had just come from sword-training. I am quite clearly aggressive and, as I am a woman, this disproves his statement. Yawn.

So, he revised it to the statement I initially linked to. Hurrah! I thought, a modicum of sucess. The rest should be easy.
…… Not so much.

Having conceded his wording was shit, he then proceded to argue in such a way that I was able to play Bingo* while he did so.

Sadly, his statements have appeared (in modified forms) on so many different bingo cards that I couldn’t win using just one.

“…But I’m the only one here [as a white, straight male] who’s being objective – you just can’t be”

“You haven’t proved to me why my [completely unfounded] statement is wrong”

“I’m a feminist too! Just not, you know, radical.”

“Hah! You’re so gay!” [to the man arguing with us]


“I don’t see gender”


“But it’s our genetics that make us this way [male or female]!”

[also, I feel it’s worth mentioning that genes =/= chromosomes. And therefore his statment was not only inane, and present on many Bingo cards in the form of “biology”, but factually wrong as well.]

“Yes, I think I’ve probably said in the past that I don’t see colour”


“I hate the way people [who aren’t white, straight, male] have to talk about their “oppression” all the time. I don’t think it’s productive.”

The problem was that pretty much everything he said was bollocks. And no, I don’t think I need to prove it. I think it’s fairly bloody obvious.
Also, he suffered from verbal diarrhoea. I don’t think he expected me to lean forward, glare and say loudly “are you going to let me finish my sentence?”. And then, when he carried on talking, to tell him in no uncertain terms to STFU. In fact, I may have actually said “shut the fuck up”.

To be honest, I’m pretty much past the stage of being shocked that people think and act this way. I know they do. I see it online all the time.

What did annoy me was that he claimed to be feminist, when he was clearly no such thing.
Oh, and him accusing me of having “no knowledge of feminist literature” because I had not read one book by Judith Butler.
At that point, I started shouting at him. I reeled off – very loudly – a list of books and people that I read or have read. Kate Harding, be proud, you were on the list. Even though, as we all know, I am Kate Harding! Cunt was also on the list, which – unsurprisingly – made a fair few people turn round and stare. Troll looked embarressed; I did not. Victory for Rachel!

I know, in the end, that I did not change his mind. I also know that he was intellectually dishonest and blinkered to the point of blindness about his own privellege. So I think I’ve decided that I don’t really care. You can’t win ’em all. But it did bring home to me the importance of feminism in my life. And, you know, the way that the arguments that I make, make sense!

*By “Bingo”, I mean the sets of cards entitled “Anti-Feminist Bingo” and the like. Links to bingo cards are best found through The Curvature, which has the largest list I’ve yet come across.


Troll Alert!

I should really go away and do some coursework, but before I do, I just wanted to share a lovely gem from a liberal concern troll I met on Sunday:

“because I, personally, have noticed that more men than women attend Laser Quest when I am there, this must mean that men, on average, are more aggressive than women.”

Rest assured, when I have time I shall dissect this comment, and the ensuing argument (during which I shouted only once, and punched only my own chair; I feel this was reasonable considering the circumstances).


Coffee Table

The coffee table in my flat looks a little strange.

There is a houseplant (Evil Flatmate’s).
There is a tea-stained mug (mine).
There is an issue of Cosmopolitan (EF’s).
There is a copy of The Vagina Monologues (mine).

I’m not sure what this shows, but it must show something.

Also, I have decided that I really hate women’s magazines. I shall add them to my list of drivel-purveyors, if I haven’t already.

I used to merely get annoyed with them, but now I can’t actually touch the damned things. Which is probably because there was a Big! Scary! True! Story! about how the only man that you ever have to worry about is the rich one, you know, that you’d normally think was really Hot! because he’s rich (duh! what was I thinking?). Secretly, Rich Hot Man is a Date-Rapist in disguise.

Now, I’m not saying that’s not true, but how about you make use of the fucking statistics, Cosmo? How about you don’t scare women with the less-likely option, when all of your articles about how to please “your man” in bed – even when you’re not in the mood yourself – are just another symptom of the fucked-up rape culture we live in? How about you tell women that yes, their husbands can rape them, their boyfriends or ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends can, and that actually, they’re far, far more likely to know their attacker?

Also, how about you remember that not every woman fancies men?
Fuck you, Cosmopolitan. You do not live up to your name.


Quote Of The Day

From Ben Goldacre, author of the Guardian column “Bad Science”:

“”nutritional therapist” is a term we can all legally use to describe ourselves, alongside “dilettante”,”handsome” and “clown””

H/T to my mother for suggesting that I might like his writing, since he thinks that homeopathy is bollocks.


Strange Thoughts

Is it bad to be really intrigued by the way your skin heals?

I ripped the skin off the palm of my hand when I was playing Stuck In The Mud on Sunday. I was giggling like a fool at the time, so I didn’t actually notice that my hand was hurt until we had to stretch and do press ups and things.
And then I fell over because if you put weight through a part of your hand that’s all raw, it hurts. Shocking, I know!

Anyway, but I’ve spent most of today watching it for signs of infection and/ or healing. I’m not entirely sure that this is a good thing to be doing.

But it beats getting into arguments with your flatmate because she can’t see how being a walking, talking Daily Mail might be offensive.


Why Don’t You Care…?

Since I’ve moved up to Sheffield, I’ve been doing the meet-and-greet thing a hell of a lot. So I’ve started to get questions that either I’ve never had to deal with before, or that I just haven’t heard in years.
And what I’ve noticed is that they all follow the same pattern – “why don’t you care….. ?”
So, there’s been:

…. that your legs are hairy, and don’t you know that’s disgusting?
…. about God?
…. about makeup?
…. that you’re not going out all the time?
….that not every parent is letting their daughter have the HPV vaccine?

Doesn’t it say a lot, though, that the one that generated the most acrimony was the first one?
Seriously, the looks of horror were almost frightening. But, you know what? I don’t care because it doesn’t matter!

– It doesn’t matter that my legs are hairy, precisely because I don’t mind. I don’t feel any less for having hair where it’s perfectly normal to have hair. Actually, I’ve got quite competitive, and was disappointed to realise that my leg hair is never going to be as long as J’s.
One of my answers to the question was “I decided that I wouldn’t shave my legs for as long as J didn’t shave his. He can’t be bothered, so I haven’t.”
Predictably enough, this generated a huge chasm of double-think, that I was simply unable to bridge. “But… but… he’s a man – it doesn’t matter for him!”. Exactly. It doesn’t matter for him. His leg hair doesn’t repulse anybody. Why should mine?

– Let’s just not get started on God. I don’t care, because the presence or absence of God doesn’t get me up in the mornings. I’ve got a life to live.

– The makeup’s a difficult one. In a way, I suppose it comes back to the leg hair double-think. It doesn’t matter for him; why should it matter for me?
More practically, I don’t care about makeup because I’d rather spend the money on food, or soap, or books. I don’t care about makeup because I’d rather have an extra cup of tea in the morning than try to cover my face in chemicals. And I don’t care about makeup because I was lucky enough to never really start using it. If I had started, maybe I’d’ve carried on. But it seems a bit silly to start now, after the spotty-teenager phase.

-The HPV vaccine thing?
(Be warned, I’m going to get cross. And I’m going to talk. A lot.)

Ok, first off, it doesn’t prevent all cervical cancer. I’ll say it again.
The HPV vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancer.
Moreover, not all people who have HPV have it develop into cancer.
There is a risk that HPV will lead to cervical cancer. A risk is not a certainty.

Any vaccine carries some health risks with it. Therefore, the decision to have a vaccine requires a weighing-up of those risks. It may be that there are very few risks, or that they will only be minor risks. But jamming a needle into your flesh and injecting yourself with a vaccination will always carry some risk, even if it’s just that you might get a localised infection. Or a numb arm.

My Statistics lecturer would love me for this – I’ve just been to the Office of National Statistics website to see what I could drum up.
Let me say now that I’m not any kind of decent statistician, yet. I couldn’t conduct a proper research survey alone, and I didn’t understand all of the terms used in the statistics I found. But I have had some training, which is better than none.

And what I’ve found actually isn’t very hard to understand.
The most recent statistics for mortality rates of cancer in the UK are from the period 2002 – 2004, with averages taken over these three years.

For women, cervical cancer is 13th on the list of common cancers. This actually isn’t very common.

A quick look at lung cancer (the most common cancer for both men and women) shows that:
In the time period 2002 – 2004, an average of 15,355 women were diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and 13,505 died.

Compare this with cervical cancer:
In the time period 2002 – 2004, an average of 2,784 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 1,106 died.

Which means that I, as a woman, am over ten times more likely to die from lung cancer than I am to die from cervical cancer.

Or, put another way, in a population of 1,000,000, 28 women will die from cervical cancer each year.

Frankly, I like those odds. They are not large. They’re not zero, and clearly some women do die from cervical cancer, but, you know, if I don’t want to die from cancer, I’d be better off (according to the statistics at least) by making sure that I don’t smoke and check my breasts regularly. Oh, and by not being genetically predisposed to developing cancer. That would help.

So if some parents don’t want their daughters to have this vaccine, I’m actually not too worried.
At least, I’m not worried about this as a stand-alone statement.

I am worried if the reasoning behind it is “… because then my daughter will be a promiscuous slut and God will hate her”. This is quite clearly nonsense, and I’m not one for having choices taken away from women in general. Especially not because of the great Bearded One in the sky.

But if the reasoning behind it is, “I’ve explained to my daughter what the risks are, and asked her whether she wants the vaccine, and she’s said no” then no, I don’t mind.
I especially don’t mind if they also point out that if she wants to change her mind about it, it would be best to do so before she becomes sexually active.

I wish people actually looked at statistics once in a while. They might be shocked at what cheap tricks the media pulls when they use statistics as soundbites.

Oh – and have links:
Statistics all taken from here.
If you really want to get specific, try this.
Useful information on the HPV vaccine is here.
A discussion of when parents are God-bothering to the extent of not giving their daughters any kind of choice, here.