Words of Wisdom from my Mother

“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.


Phrases That Have Been Getting On My Nerves

Disclaimer: my lecturers are, on the whole, fantastic. There are, however, a couple of things they say, independently of each other, but fairly regularly, that drive me round the fucking bend.


The minor gripe first:

*long and involved explanation of a concept*  “… and so, obviously…”

Well. If it were obvious, remind me why I come to your lectures?

I know that there are certain things that we’re meant to be able to get by now – so if you rearrange an equation from “x + 2 = 3” to “x=1” without doing the middle bit of “x = 3 – 2”, fair enough. We’ve had years of practice at that. And also, if we can’t count to 3, we shouldn’t be in the lecture. But that’s never what you do, is it?

It’s always something incomprehensible, like “…we have a relationship between sigma squared and S squared and so obviously, the student t-distribution has n-1 degrees of freedom attatched to it in this case…”

That’s many things, but one thing it certainly isn’t obvious. So there I am, scrabbling away like a flea-infested monkey at my notes, which have got increasingly scrawled and muddled as you correct yourself and go back and jump forward and… really, what?!

And there’s no point asking whether we have any questions, either. Do you know what I think when you say things like that? I think you are in league with dentists, that’s what I think.





Anyway, but all of that just detracts from the main gripe I have for this evening, which is what happens when you forget your words.

When pointing to esoteric mathematical symbols: “… this guy…” or “… these guys…”


It burns, I tell you, it burns! They’re not even objects, for fuck’s sake – they’re symbols. Patterns on a projector (or a blackboard, if the lecturer is old-school!). English has gender neutral pronouns. Please use them properly.  It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a one-off, but it’s not. It’s all the time.

“This guy”. *points at symbol*

“This guy”. *points at symbol*.

“This guy”. *points at symbol*.

You see how it starts to get annoying?

You know, I sit in those lectures, and I reckon half, or maybe just over half of the students are female. Sometimes, even the lecturer is female. We’ve had a ratio of 2:4  female:male lecturers in both semesters this year. Four different women, eight different men. So I’m not badly represented. And yet… the lecturers saying “this guy” when they really mean “mu” or “X squared” or “theta” or “the gravitational force acting on an object”… that makes me feel invisible. It makes me feel like they’re talking to the men in the room, and only the men in the room. As though the whole of mathematics is an inherently masculine domain. Which is ironic, really, considering that on the prospectus, they called maths “the Queen of Sciences”.

It is at this point that I realise I have wasted a lot of time by playing Bill Bailey clips, in the hopes of finding something even slightly appropriate to put here that would make me feel less grumpy. Sadly, I can procrastinate no longer. Coursework beckons.


Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children And Their Working Mothers…

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.”

Got that?

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 Have Used Up All Of My Sanity Points

I fail at using Google.

Seriously, I do. I noticed I’ve been getting quite a few hits on my Bingo page – which I reckon is the most comprehensive list around at the moment. I’ve had to update it again, and it’s now got 22 different cards. That, my friends, is dedication. Shame it’s not on a blog with a larger readership, really.

Anyway, there was a point to this, and the point was, that I googled “anti-feminist bingo”, just to see where my humble little blog turned up. I didn’t find it in the first couple of pages, but I did find something called “fembot bingo”. I’m not linking. It turns up all over the place, including YouTube.

Now, when I saw that, it set off minor alarm bells. But I had this idea it might be along the lines of bingo-playing using trolls who believe that women are there for their sexual pleasure alone. As a reminder, I last saw the word “fembot” here.

Anyway, being foolish, I clicked on the link. And only as I did so did I notice the address. Suffice it to say that the phrase “antimisandry” was in it. Like I say, I fail at Google, because otherwise I would have noticed that before clicking on the link. But the damage was done. And now I think I need a new desk. Mine has a big, head-shaped dent in it.

According to man in the disturbing YouTube video (who seems to be labouring under the delusion that wearing a shirt and tie will somehow make his words, you know, make sense), the word “fembot” is made up of two words: feminist and robot. This surprised me, as I am more used to the two words being feminist and nazi. But I digress. He goes on to assert that feminsts use “shaming language”, including “you’re fat and ugly” and “you’re gay”. Perhaps you can tell it’s “fembots” saying these things because, unlike trolls, they actually know how to use punctuation? I think we should be told.

Of course, if your head isn’t too far up your own arse, maybe you’d be able to work out that it’s incredibly unlikely that any real feminist would ever say those things. Given that mostly we are the recipients of such comments. And given that we tend not to give a damn about other peoples’ sexuality and/or fuckability. In fact, the people most likely to use those phrases as slurs are the very people who create websites with “misandry” in the title, the people that think that all feminists are part of a hive-mind, the people that claim to live in a matriarchy. Sometimes, I wish they’d share. I’d love to live in a matriarchy right now.




Blog For Choice

Well, it’s that time of year again. We in England can ignore the specific date (it’s the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, which is of course American) but if it’s still something you believe in, why not blog about it? And why not blog about it, if you’re going to, when many other people will also be blogging about it. Perhaps studies will be conducted on this kind of thing one day. Who knows?


On the subject of abortion, what can I say that I haven’t already said eleventy billion times before?

I think this year, I’m going to go with short and sour. If you are anti-abortion*, and actually believe that simply by making abortions illegal you will stop them happening, you live in a delusional little dreamworld that I want no part of.

For those people who are a little more pragmatic and reasonable in their outlook for all things sexual, I can think of a few sites, off the top of my head, that might come in handy. Abortion Rights works to improve the current UK abortion law for women, and their links are well worth taking a look at. For more general or advice-based services, Brook (for under-25s), Scarleteen (online only, mostly geared towards young adults – but this post on rape is something everybody should read) and FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) are all helpful.


*I’ll be damned if I’ll call them “pro-life” when I can see no respect for the lives of women in their arguments. Of course, they’d say that I’m damned already.


Reposting: Creepy Guy, V 2.0

This was another post I originally wrote on my I-Ate-Toast blog, back in the days when I was still working in Big Posh Department Store.  April 2007, to be precise, so nearly two years ago now. It doesn’t seem any less creepy now. So to all men looking for a relationship, I say this: don’t do what this guy did.

You know what’s creepy about this?
Aside from the fact that it’s at work.
And totally unwanted attention.
And he’s 14 years older than me.
And I don’t really know him.
And I don’t really like him.
And he’s slow and stupid and irritating.
And I know he’s being overly friendly to other women in the food halls as well.

The really, really creepy thing is, he’s my manager.

There are so many levels of wrongness there I’m not sure I know where to start. But hey, I’ll try!

So he joined a few weeks ago, maybe just over a month. I’m not quite sure about time anymore, it all tends to blur into one long day in the end. And, you know, we thought, ok, give him the benefit of the doubt, give him time to make his mistakes and all the rest of it, just be nice.
Rachel. Don’t be so sarcastic! Jackie. Stop being so damn northern and brusque! Fulvio. For God’s sake stop muttering Italian profanities! And stop saying what you want to do to that woman on the other side of the counter. The last one understood you perfectly and you’re lucky she laughed at you instead of complaining to your manager!
Anyway, you get the idea. Because it’s pretty bloody obvious if someone’s slow and irritating, even if you are going to give them a bit of time to settle in. But I tried. Honestly I did, I didn’t take the piss or try to take advantage of the fact he didn’t know what he was doing, because that isn’t fair and tends to make managers resent you once they’ve worked out what you’re doing. Despite the fact that he never even introduced himself to me. Something I really hate.

Even from day one, he spent more time talking to the women than the men.
Fair enough, we thought, maybe he feels less threatened by the women. (This isn’t necessarily a sexist thing, we had a female manager who seemed to feel threatened by anybody over 5’6″!)
Or maybe he just prefers the company of women, like I prefer the company of men. Who knows?
But it’s carried on. And really, if you’re a manager, you need to speak to everyone, even if it’s just a little bit. But I’m sure he doesn’t speak to some of the men at all.

More to the point, he is always talking to the women. And not even just the ones that he manages, but others too, women that just happen to be in the office, like the one from Tea&Coffee who’s always in and out. And not just chatting, either. Asking people to have lunch with him, have their breaks with him…. stuff. Thing is, you can’t really get him for that, but it’s just not the done thing. If you’ve worked with those people, fair enough. If you happen to be passing, fair enough. But you don’t make an arrangement. It just doesn’t work. And it isn’t quite right.
He tried that with me. Bloody idiot.
Him — “Will you take your lunch with me?”
Me (impatiently) — “Are you on your lunch now?” [I was about to take my lunch break at the time and wanted to get away from the counter before anybody tried to get me to serve them]
Him (slowly) — “… No.”
Me (incredulous at such stupidity) — “Then no. I’m going now.” (To the counter monkeys in general) “I’ll be back in an hour” (under my breath) *incoherent grumbles*

But like I say, irritating though it is, you can’t really say anything about that.

On the other hand…….

5:30ish pm. The counter is quiet. Vince (fellow counter monkey) and I are standing talking and trying to look like we’re discussing work.
Manager walks over.
Him — “Rachel.”
Me — “Yes.”
Him — “So, we’re going to see a movie tonight.”
Me — “No. I’m going home. To bed. To sleep.”

There followed a few comments about the lateness of the hour, the lateness of the shift, the time a “movie” would most likely finish… all from him. I stayed mostly silent and can’t remember it word for word. I must have reiterated the fact that I was going to go home and sleep, because the next comment I remember was

Him (to Vince) — “Ah, she’d prefer her bed to my company”
Me (very, very sarcastically) — “Hmmm, my bed, you…. tough call….” (flatly, cruelly and accurately) “Bed wins”
Vince (to me, teasing, half-joking) — “you could at least say “no, not tonight”… or “no, I’ve made plans”… it might be nicer”
Me (mainly to Vince, unconcernedly) — “yes, but it would be less accurate… excuse me…”

At this point, probably luckily for me, I was able to walk away and serve a customer.
After serving her, I found that I was still so angry about the incident, small as it might seem, that I wasn’t in a fit state to serve anybody. Cue me walking off the counter to the till. Explaining to Fulvio that the manager has made me so angry I really need to just sit quietly, and would he mind serving. Of course not, because he gets very very bored on the tills, and thinks that I am doing him a favour.
So I sit, and I scan food and I pack it into carrier bags and I give people their change and I translate into tourist French or Spanish or American (yes, some Americans need things translating… like “lift”) and in the lull where I’m not serving anyone, I work out that the main reasons that I’m upset are:

He is my manager. What a bloody cliche, apart from anything else. At least I’m not a secretary, I suppose. There are many other reasons why that’s bad, but I think they’re fairly obvious.
He did it in front of Vince. To be honest, I found that embarrassing. And I felt that I couldn’t challenge him on it. Because (aren’t I nice?!) I reckon if you’re going to say something that could make somebody feel awkward, you ought to do it in a way that means they don’t have to display that awkwardness to other people.

Of course, the other thing is, I like to keep my professional life and my private life separate. That’s why my private life is, well, private! And because of the way he made me feel, all I wanted was to hide in J’s shoulder and wait for the world to disappear. And I was at work. And so I felt terrible, because I couldn’t.

Anyway, after an hour and a half on tills, I was back on the counter and feeling slightly less homicidal. Slightly. Enough so that when I was next able to speak to my manager alone, after some work-related exchange of information – who would be closing which counter and so on….

Me — “…… And…. Please don’t do that again.”
Him (confused) — “Talk to you about the pies?”
Me — “No. Don’t ask me out again.”
Him — “…….”
Me — “It made me very uncomfortable. Especially in front of Vince. Don’t do it.”
Him — “It was only a joke…. that’s why it was in front of Vince…”
Me — “Well I didn’t like it. Even if it was a joke.”
Him (as though lecturing me!) — “Yes. You do need to be careful because sometimes what you think of as a joke other people don’t take it that way….”
Me (interrupting) — “Right. And I didn’t like it. And I’m telling you now so that it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want this to be a problem.”
Him — “…. ok…..”
Me. “Good. Thank you.”

And I ended the conversation again, by walking off and serving.

But I’m still uncomfortable. The thing is, if it was only me, as a one off, I’d have left it there, no question. Because you’d have to be really, really stupid to try that with me more than once. Especially after the reactions I gave. Which weren’t exactly kind or polite.
But because there may be other women, nicer than me, who he does it to, I’m still worried. ‘Tis difficult. I only wanted to do my job. Grrrrrrr.


Not Again!

To the person that found my blog – and actually clicked on the link! – by searching WordPress for “girls kissing”…

I’m sure you’ve become aware of this by now, but this site is not porn.

It is specifically not child porn.

Please feel free to wank off elsewhere. Oh, and next time, please revise your search term to “women kissing”, so as to appear less creepy.

Thank you.