But On The Other Hand…

When J first moved in with me, there was a brief phase during which he would come to me to tell me – with some pride – about what he’d done that day. Like, for instance, loading the dishwasher.*

Nine months on, J comes to me to tell me – with a lot of pride** – about what he’s done during the day. Like, for instance, telling one of his (young, male) colleagues that he, J, thought that the sacking of Sky’s football presenter Andy Gray for his off-air sexist remarks was absolutely justified.

According to J, the subsequent discussion about equality involved him asking his colleague – who lives with his parents – whether he did any housework, and why (not)?

This, my friends, is what we call progress.

That, and the beautiful sound of Flatmate hanging up the washing.

 

 

*It didn’t take long for him to stop that. Especially when I came in from uni one day and walked into the kitchen with the words, “Hi J, guess what? I’ve just walked in and taken my shoes and coat off, and emptied the washing machine and hung up all the clothes, and then put another load of clothes in to wash, and now I’m saying hello to you, and oh, look, the dishwasher needs emptying so I’ll do that, and once I’ve done that maybe I’ll get round to putting the kettle on, and if you’re really, really lucky, I might even offer you a cup of tea. You can ask me about my day now.”

**He was so pround that he ended his account of the day with “…you could blog that. If you wanted.”


… And Then I Threw A Shit Fit

It’s no secret that I’m very firmly in favour of procreating at some point. (I went through a stage in my teenage years of being terrified at the mere idea of pregnancy, thanks to watching my mother go through her third pregnancy when I was 12, but that seems to have passed now.) Actually, for the last couple of months I’ve been broody to the point of wanting to change my contraception so that I can’t just “forget” to take my pill. But I got over that. Exam stress has a wonderful way of making you forget about hypothetical babies.

So, because I’m possibly too honest for my own good, I was talking to J about this odd broodiness, and that led quite neatly into The Baby Name Discussion. That’s always good for a laugh – J’s traditional father has inadvertantly ensured that my surname will be passed on to my children.* When we moved on to first names (there are remarkably few that work with my surname, but I’m damned if I’m giving it up!) J suggested that we call our first son, if we have one, by J’s fathers name. And then I threw a shit fit.

Firstly, because I can’t imagine anything worse than giving a child of mine a name that could only have been popular in the 50’s, and probably wasn’t even popular then.
Secondly, because I could imagine his reaction if I suggested we named our first daughter, if we have one, after my mother.
Thirdly, because – well, you should probably just read this post.

Eventually, I prevailed. This is because (a) I am more stubborn than J is, (b) it was a crap idea, and (c) my womb, my rules.

Pointing out that J has his father’s surname, and that therefore all of our children would have a link-by-name to their paternal grandfather, probably helped.

But mainly it was (a) and (c) that did it. As before, when a discussion has got grouchy, my strongly worded response was that if it mattered so much to J that he couldn’t compromise, then he should feel free to find somebody else to reproduce with. And yes, trolls of the internet: it matters enough to me that I would go and find somebody else to reproduce with. The moral of this story is that compromising is fantastic, as long as it’s not you that has to do it.

 

*We’d discussed hyphenating, which I hate, and discussed using one name as a middle name, which is what will happen. J’s dad, thinking that we were planning on hyphenating and presumably terrified that J’s surname would be less visible, insisted that J’s should go first. So it will. As the middle name. Mine will be the “real” surname. There’s a small, petty bit of me that is just waiting to see his face when he realises….


Biphobic Bingo!

Dear readers (and I know you still exist, because WordPress tells me, so there!), have you seen Rose’s comment on my Sexuality and Gender Expression Bingo page? No? Well, here it is:

“This is awesome. Can you please do one for biphobia next?”

As I said there, I didn’t write any of those cards, I just transcribed them. But my search-engine skills are second to none, and I’ve actually found not just a Biphobic Bingo card, but a whole load of others, too! Hooray!

Bear with me as I tinker about behind the scenes to bring the new ones to your attention…


So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, Shapely Prose

So, the inevitable has happened, and Shapely Prose is officially closed for business. The amazing Kate Harding is still alive and well and is leaving Shapely Prose up as an archive, which is lovely. She’s also blogging in a personal capacity here, but as you’ll see, she’s not wanting to deal with comments threads of doom, even nice ones, so this is my official “Thank You, Kate Harding” comment-turned-post.

Shapely Prose was feminism and fat acceptance, with a smattering of Health At Every Size and a fair few posts entitled “Why I Shouldn’t Breed”. I’m one of the lucky young women that avoided a teenage eating disorder, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never looked at myself and wished I was a different shape. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I’d never looked down at myself in the shower and thought to myself that I really looked quite like a supermarket chicken from that angle.

And Shapely Prose helped with that. Not with the looking-like-a-chicken thing, that’s just something that is, and actually it’s quite entertaining. A bit like the way watching the shower water drip off your breasts is entertaining. But it definitely helped with the wishing-I-were-a-different-shape thing. I suspect most of us have done it at some point – gone clothes shopping and come home empty-handed, with the feeling that our bodies must just be wrong, because nothing fits. But as Kirsten’s dad recently pointed out, and as the good folk at Shapely Prose said often, that just means that the clothes were wrong.

And you know, it’s actually helped me in my work. As I’ve mentioned, I’m working for a lingerie company. That means I get a hell of a lot of questions about sizing, shaping and so on, and if I hadn’t had the resources of Shapely Prose behind me, I don’t think I would’ve given the kind of customer service that I have. I also don’t think I would’ve been happy with taking the extra large size myself – but we make those sizes for a reason, and that reason is, some people are that size. And one of those people is me. What I’m trying to say is that Shapely Prose was all about being body-confident, or at least working towards it, and my job is a lot easier if I can absolutely believe that my body is awesome. (Guess what? My body is awesome!)

It’s also helped me deal with members of the medical profession. Had Shapely Prose’s BMI project not existed, and had they not devoted the time to ripping apart the concept of a BMI scale, the “news” that I’m officially “overweight” might’ve scared me. As it is, I couldn’t care less. And I’ll eat what I damned well want to. Because of Shapely Prose, I can recognise my own weight range, and if there’s ever any problem, I’ll be able to draw on that knowledge.

And lastly, Shapely Prose was nice. That’s what I liked. I even filched bits of their comments policy when I was moderating a group blog a while back – you know, the bit that said: “If you’re really worried because you don’t have any specific guidelines for not getting banned, try this: be good-natured and delightful.” Then, of course, Kirsten press-ganged me into writing with her instead, on a blog that’s all about niceness. We need more niceness in the world, and especially on the internet.

So, thank you, Kate Harding, for founding Shapely Prose, and for keeping it going for so long. With my baby flavoured doughnut, I salute you!

(Cross-posted at Teaspoon of Sugar.)


Today In “Let’s Make No Fucking Sense”…

Once again, MSN has done itself proud:

“Is size 14 the perfect body shape for women?”*

I have only one thing to say to this.


“Join me again next week on this episode of ‘let’s make no fucking sense’, when I’ll be waxing an owl…”

*link here, but it’ll eat your sanity points.


Daily Dose O’ Weird

OK. This story begins like this:

Rachel walked into a bar.

It’s kind of like a joke, except for how it quickly turns into a huge wall of WTF?!

She had a couple of drinks, and then went to find the toilets. Eventually, she found three doors.

The first door had a picture of a stick figure in a wheelchair on it, a standard sign that could have been bought from a wholesaler.

The second door had a picture of a toilet hanging on it, lovingly hand-painted with a blue background.

The third door had a picture of a toilet hanging on it, lovingly hand-painted with a pink background.

Because I was (a) a little tipsy and (b) not thinking so much about how much I like pink, it took me a good couple of minutes of staring at the doors in confusion before I realised which one I was meant to use.

This has been your daily dose o’ weird. Remember, don’t take more than your recommended dosage, as this can result in a permanent frown of confusion.


What The Fuck?

This article I present with almost no comment, because… WTF?! Pertinent quotes below:

“The Lancet said mothers-to-be should not be able to opt for [home births] if they put their babies at risk – under UK law women can override medical advice…

The editorial was written following the publication of a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology….

The relevance of the US study to the UK was questioned by medical bodies as midwives in the NHS are said to have better training in resuscitating babies in home birth situations.

The Lancet said: “Women have the right to chose how and where to give birth, but they do not have the right to put their baby at risk.””

Except… we do, actually. It’s not illegal to drink, smoke or take drugs during pregnancy. Not that I’d be surprised if it became illegal in the near future. Anyway, I leave you with the last paragraph of the article, a quote from Mary Newburn from the National Childbirth Trust:

“Pregnant women have the same rights as other adults.”

You wouldn’t think so, sometimes, would you?


Entirely Unsurprising

Hey, guess what? Pregnant women are doing it wrong again! I’ve transcribed the interview between John Humphrys and Mike Kelly that forms part of this article, because I actually couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I would say “enjoy”, but, well… you probably won’t.

JH: Eating for two is dangerous. Women have been for generations – forever perhaps – that that’s what they should do when they’re pregnant, but National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says they shouldn’t. Professor Mike Kelly is the institute’s public heath director, good morning to you. Um, why not?

MK: Because if they do, they’re likely to put on more weight than they need to and um produce an obese, er, an obese pregnancy, and that’s very bad for them and very bad for their baby.

JH: But haven’t you got to eat a bit more if there’s another little person inside you munching away as well?

MK: In the third trimester, in the last three months of pregnancy, the woman should be eating about 200 calories a day extra, that amounts to about two pieces of toast and a milky drink, that’s all.

JH: I see. I have this image of pregnant women, who goodness knows have enough problems – some of them anyway, not all of course – but thinking, the one thing I *can* do is a little bit of comfort eating – is it really going to hurt them that much?

MK: Yes it is, the – um. Well, first off, around about 40% of women of childbearing age are already overweight or obese and presenting at our –

JH: [interrupting] – Are they 40% of –
MK: – That’s –
JH: [incredulously] – of women of childbearing age are *obese*?

MK: Overweight and obese.

JH: [skeptically] Mmm, yeah, there is a big difference, isn’t there.

MK: Overweight is a body mass index over 25, and obese over 30.

JH: But I mean, can we put it into very simple terms – if you look at somebody who is, as you say, overweight, do you say “oh my word, that’s a fat person”?

MK: Not necessarily.

JH: Right. So therefore aren’t we getting this a bit out of proportion?

MK: No, not at all. Because it’s um, a direct, um, line, if you like, a ratio, as with each pound that’s put on, the risks increase.

JH: [surprised] Really?

MK: Yes, indeed. And the risks that we need to get people to understand range from miscarriage, subsequently, pre-eclampsia, thromboembolism, gestational diabetes – and that’s very important because the diabetes often continues post-pregnancy, so the woman is becoming diabetic for life potentially. During delivery more pain relief is required, slower wound healing, potential miscarriage, foetal death. The risks are enormous. This is not a minor minor problem, this is a major difficulty. It also of course adds cost because if a woman has to have a caesarian as a consequence of having a larger baby, that’s an additional around about £2000 per delivery. [Emphasis mine, because… wow.]

JH: But I come back to this difference between being obese and overweight. I mean, *clearly*, if somebody is grotesquely overweight, then there are going to be – we can all see that, that’s blindingly obvious, but aren’t we in danger of *scaring* women into thinking “oh my god, I can’t have that extra piece of toast or bar of chocolate or something because I’m gonna put my baby or me at risk”?

MK: What we should be doing is explaining that the amount of extra calories that are required, they’re very small amount and they’re only in the last three months of pregnancy, and that’s why this business of eating for two has to be knocked on the head. What we need to do is make clear that a healthy diet – this is the diet that you or I needs to stay in reasonable shape based on starchy foods, avoiding sugary drinks, drinking plenty of water, avoiding fatty food, all that sort of thing, that’s a healthy diet and that’s what a pregnant woman should eat, that’s what a woman before she gets pregnant should eat and that’s what she should eat afterwards. It’s the standard advice on diet and nutrition that we’ve been giving for forty or thir- forty years or so. Nothing in that regard has changed. The myth about eating for two is one that needs to be knocked on the head, as is the idea that they need to do the same when they’re breasfeeding – they *don’t* – a small amount of extra calories during breastfeeding, the natural bodily processes will take care of it. We need to alert health professionals as much as anybody that this is a significant problem.

JH: Professor Kelly, thank you very much indeed.

I’m a skeptical soul, but I’m also running a temperature, so I’m not about to do any sums for you. Not even to prove how awesome I am. I have, however, found the guidance from NICE, which contained the statistics that Mike Kelly was quoting:

“At the start of pregnancy, 15.6% of women in England are obese (Heslehurst et al. 2010).”

“About half of women of childbearing age are either overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m²) or obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m²) (The NHS Information Centre 2008).”

Personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that women who are “obese” have a higher risk of having a caesarian delivery in part because their doctors think they ought to have one because they’re “obese”. Not because they actually needed one.


In Which I Have A Fucked-Off Ramble

For a little while now, I’ve found my feminist focus shifting. After a while, I felt like I’d got a permanent sense of deja vu with the big blogs and their interminable blogwars and even more interminable US-centrism. So I stopped reading most of them. (I’m also quite sensitive to blog layouts, for some reason, and it’s no coincidence that the ones that I stopped reading first were the ones I found difficult to look at. Womanist Musings is a good example of this, as are Pam’s House Blend and Pandagon.)

To fill in the gap, I headed down under. Hoyden About Town is a long-term favourite of mine, although they too did some very strange things with their layout recently. Luckily for me, they give the option of reading HAT in the old, simple blog format, or I’d’ve had to stop reading them, too. Anyway, I also started following Blue Milk. And Spilt Milk. And so, despite not being a parent, I kind of got suckered into reading about feminist parenting. I love it. I think of it as gentle feminism, the kind that’s part of a nice chat about your day. I also would like to have kids one day – I don’t mind how. (My parents were seriously considering fostering before Mum unexpectedly got pregnant with my brother when I was 12. If pregnancy doesn’t happen for me, I’d do that. At least, I think I would.) So it’s nice to read about people who are just a bit ahead of me in life. And because I spent my teenage years in a house full of nappies and lego, and being woken up at 2am for a surprise bonus cuddle, I can already relate to a lot of it.

So, it’s been nice. Gentle. Easy reading, if you like. And I do like – that’s why I read them, and that’s why I write for Teaspoon of Sugar, the whole point of which is to be nice and gentle and easy.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the blogwars came to Blue Milk! Well, not quite – she’s steering clear of the threads of doom, and I don’t blame her one little bit. I thought I’d seen all of the blogwars, but this kids-in-public-spaces meltdown must have passed me by last time it rolled round.

It just seems ridiculous to me. Ridiculous and unnecessary. Arguing about whether kids should be in bars or watching late-night films is just daft (age ratings and the discretion of the management: it turns out we have them). I hate those kinds of discussions anyway. They seem no different to the arguments I’ve had with men about street harassment, who try to “win” by pulling ever more stupid arguments out their arses – you know, the “but what if a woman was walking down the road in nipple tassels and a tutu, *then* could I stare at her?” arguments. For the kids debate, you get “but what if a parent took their kid to a BDSM club, *then* could I say that kids don’t belong in public?”.

To the people who make those arguments, I say now: fuck you all.

Children are people too – and by that, I don’t mean that children are defective adults, just like I am not a defective white person, or straight person, or man. I mean that children are people, and therefore not animals, not dolls, not burdens. People. Some children can’t communicate verbally. Well, and nor can some adults. Some children display behaviours inappropriate to the situation they are in. So do some adults. Part of living in society is understanding that not everybody is just like you, and not everybody can behave the way you want them to. This is basic stuff.

But even more basic is this: I didn’t sign up to feminism to have other feminists police my moral standards, whether that’s to do with what kind of period control I use, or where I take my imaginary child. Well, ok, I didn’t sign up to feminism at all – there’s no membership card, no joining fee, no contract. Which is just as well, because right now I feel like asking for my money back. Reproductive rights are a feminist issue. Not just birth control, not just abortions, not even just parental leave issues, but also real children. The children that a lot of the feminists in the thread’o’doom don’t ever want to see, hear or interact with in any way. Thanks a lot, ladies. I’m really feeling that supportive sisterhood I’ve heard so much about.

In more hopeful news, I see that Tigtog from HAT and Chally from Zero At The Bone are now moderating the thread’o’doom, which might mean a bit less shit gets hurled. Even so, I think I’ll be sticking to the nice, quiet, parenting blogs for a while.


The Exquisite Irony Is Not Lost On Me

The problem with having a hotmail account is, simply put, MSN. Usually it makes me angry; today I just rolled my eyes so hard I fear I may have lost an eyeball.

Screenshot of MSN main site, which has a link entitled "why do women hate their bodies?" next to another link, "how to avoid gaining weight on holiday"

Description: Picture shows part of a screen shot of MSN’s uk website from Tuesday 27th July 2010. A picture of a racially ambiguous woman with brown eyes and straight brown hair fills most of the screen. She is shown from the shoulders up, wearing a white strappy top (I assume) and a white headband, using a hair straightener. To the right is a headline: “Look slimmer instantly” with the tagline “2o ways to look like you’ve lost weight – without diet or exercise“. Underneath are two links, in this order:

  • Why do women hate their bodies?
  • How to avoid gaining weight on holiday

Oh, MSN. You’re practically a bingo card all by yourself.

(Incidentally, I clicked on the link, so that you didn’t have to go looking for it, and it turns out that the dude who wrote the opinion piece – there go my eyes again! – has begun to see where the problem might lie, which kind of makes it worse:

Marketers tell men to be fit and strong. They tell women to be beautiful. And when the essence of beauty is an unhealthily skinny supermodel whose wrinkles have been airbrushed away, that’s an impossible ask.

So my advice – and I know it’s easy for me to say – is to ignore them.

Why, thank you, Captain Obvious. Now, moving on: why do smokers hate their lungs? 870 words later, I have concluded that smokers should just pack in the smoking! Because it’s just that simple!)