Group Projects: Not Always Fun

This year, I’m taking one year-long module called Practical and Applied Statistics. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin – the aim is to turn the students into people who can actually write a report, rather than just being able to crunch the numbers. One of the projects is a group project. There’s five people per group, all randomly assigned (as far as I know, anyway). Together we have to design an (extremely simple) experiment, write a protocol, conduct the experiment and write up a report. It’s frustrating, because the experiment is so simple – we’re growing plants – but it’s a good experience.

But we don’t know each other well, my group. Sometimes that’s good – it means there’s no friendships to be ruined! – and sometimes… it’s not so good. I made it clear that I’m not straight last Tuesday, in an episode that involved one of the guys in the group grumbling about having to grow plants, and then talking about how none of us were “lesbian tree-huggers”. I’m not explaining it very well, but it didn’t seem to be intended maliciously, just thoughtlessly, so I cheerfully came out and left it at that. Sometimes, a little embarressment is all that clueless guys need to stop them saying inappropriate things. Sometimes.

Tomorrow was the deadline for the protocol, and we pretty much did all the work for it over the last three days. So, by today, tempers were fraying somewhat. Which is probably why he repeatedly called the computer “gay”. And it’s entirely why I, after the third or fourth time, turned round and snapped, “you need to stop that. Just stop.” He looked a little scared, it stopped the conversation momentarily, and we carried on, minus the “gay” slurs.

The good news is that, after we’d finished the work and submitted it electronically, he asked to speak to me privately, and apologised for not thinking that I might not like him saying those things.

The sad thing is, I don’t think he realises that he ought to modify his language no matter who he’s talking to.


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.


Today In My Spam Filter – An Epic Warning:

“WARNING!
If you will not delete this topic within 5 days – Spam will be here, I promise!”

This was left on my Bingo page, as is 99.999% of all the spam I get. I can’t help feeling they’re a little late to this particular party. But it made me chortle, so I decided I’d share.


To Paraphrase Bill Bailey

This weekend, I was out in the pub with a few people from my maths class, including one guy we’ll call Mike, and another we’ll call Steve. Mike is tall, probably 6′ at least, and stocky. Steve’s build isn’t important, but what is important is that Steve is aware – and has been for some time – that I’m deeply feminist. He takes the piss, but never in an offensive way, and since I get the feeling that if he ever actually thought about things for two seconds he’d identify the same way, I don’t get angry with him. There’s better uses of my anger than that. Mike has only become aware of the feminism in the last few days; perhaps it was a mutual friend of ours leaning over to tell me that she’d had an afternoon that had made her want to scream “DAMN YOU, PATRIARCHY!” that did it.

And of course, in the pub, because Steve started it, we got chatting about feminism. And of course, Mike’s reaction was…


Mike: God, I’m gonna be terrified of sitting next to you now!

Me: What?!

Mike: Well – you might kick me in the balls…

Me: Because…?

Mike: … You’re a feminist…

Me: What the hell? What is this – I’m two different people now? I mean, objectively, we know that I’m 5’6″, considerably smaller than you, and if you wanted to beat the shit out of me, you could, but as a feminist, I’m ten foot tall, I’ve got lasers for eyes, I could kill you with my moustache! You know, as a feminist. Because that’s the way we roll.


The conversation moved on to bizarre facial hair after that little rant, so I leave you with Bill Bailey (unfortunately I can’t find a video, but this is the pertinent quote, viaWikiquote, and originally featured in Part Troll):

“There’s this one celebrity, Rosie O’Donnell, a talk show host, and she said this: “I don’t know anything about Afghanistan, but I know it’s full of terrorists, speaking as a mother.” So what is this “speaking as a mother” then? Is that a euphemism for “talking out of my arse”? “Suspending rational thought for a moment”? As a rational human being, Al-Qaeda are a loose association of psychopathic zealots who could be rounded up with a sustained police investigation. But speaking as a parent, they’re all eight foot tall, they’ve got lasers under their moustaches, a huge eye in their foreheads and the only way to kill them is to NUKE every country that hasn’t sent us a Christmas card in the the last 20 years!! Speaking as a mother.”


The Moral Of This Story Is: Don’t Be A Pillock On The Train

I spent my formative years travelling around London. You’d think I’d be used to agressive men metaphorically (or indeed literally) dick-flailing in public. But.

  1. I haven’t had to deal with this sort of nonsense on a regular basis since I left our wonderful capital over a year ago.
  2. It’s fucking scary.

The train last night was basically Dick-Flailing Central. There was one drugged-up bloke screaming “we hate Rotherham” and yelling about football results and the miners’ strike (which, since it happened in ’84, he probably wasn’t even born for) and another six guys (boys, really) being drunk and loud. And there was yelling, and homophobia, and racism, and sexism, and all of the usual things that makes me stabitty. And the guy sitting next to me was laughing. Not shit-I’m-a-bit-scared laughing, but outright isn’t-this-hillarious laughing. I nearly punched him. Except, you know, that I might have ended up a little bit dead.

Anyway. Eventually the boys goaded each other into a fight. Involving a glass bottle. Which luckily didn’t get used, or broken. And I wasn’t too sad to see them getting kicked. It was a bit like a fight between UKIP and the BNP – you wanted them both to lose.

But glass bottles and drunken angry boy-men are a danger to everyone, sadly, not just themselves. And it wouldn’t have taken much to set Bottle-Guy off again. Like, say, someone looking at him in a funny way.

So with the carriage totally silent, and – no shit – every single person in the carriage looking at me, I walked out. Out of the carriage, past Bottle-Guy, Miner-Guy and all of their little friends, past every other fucker who’d done nothing, and down to the other end of the train. Where I found the conductors, tried to tell them what was happening and – burst into tears. Shaking, crying, the works.

How humilliating. And how fucking terrifying.

The good news is that this persuaded them to get the police out.

The other good news is that at least one of them will be charged for fare evasion.

The bad news is that nothing’s likely to happen about the guy who was waving the bottle around.


But. They were trying to get to Sheffield. They got arrested a stop down the line. The last thing the conductor said to me was that he sincerely hoped the police would keep them nicked until the last train had gone. And at least one of them will be fined for it. So. The moral of the story is: don’t be a pillock on the train. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to get you arrested.


A Bit Of A Breakthrough

On Friday night, I went out with the Troll, and some of his friends. Because I’m a masochist that way. And, more accurately, he invited me out, saying that I’d meet new people and promising, when asked, that he wouldn’t come on to me. So. I met up with him, and he bought most of the drinks, because he is rich at the moment, and I am relatively poor. We talked about silly things, inoccuous subjects, and managed, for once, not to argue. And I talked to his friends, at least two of whom were nice, and, around about midnight, said my goodbyes, because I turn into a pumpkin if I stay out too late. Five minutes later, he called, saying that the person whose floor he’d wanted to sleep on had bailed on him, and could he sleep on mine.

On the way back, we talked about more serious things. Things like consent. He started it; he reassured me that he would be “a perfect gentleman”. I told him I didn’t give a fuck about that, I just didn’t want to be assaulted. Which is pretty reasonable, I feel.

I also explained to him that while he can think of consent in abstract terms, I don’t have that luxury. I told him that, although I didn’t think that he would assault me, if he did, there would be fuck all I could do about it. I pointed out that nobody would believe me; I’d met up with him, I’d had drinks that he’d bought me, and I’d agreed that he could come back to mine. Given that, if I went to the police, odds are, they wouldn’t even investigate. And I told him that that kind of knowledge colours the way you see the world. And that what seems like a perfectly reasonable and innocuous request to him (asking to sleep on my floor) is actually not a small thing at all, for me.

I told him that there are different kinds of coercion, and that even if he didn’t use violence against me, there was nothing stopping him waiting until I was asleep, or nearly asleep, and climbing into bed next to me. And that anything that happened then would be just as much assault or rape as if he’d beaten me and forcibly restrained me.

Then I told him about having my drink spiked. Not in much detail, but enough. I don’t think anybody has ever told him anything like that before.

After I told him about it, he was quiet for a few minutes.

I asked him if he was ok (because women are not the only ones to have their drinks spiked, and if you have and only realise later, it can hit you hard) and he replied that he was fine, but that he was “thinking back through all my girlfriends to make sure I’d never done anything like what you’ve said.” He paused. “No, I haven’t.”

If he had, I wouldn’t have expected him to tell me, necessarily. I’d like to say that I believed him wholeheartedly – after all, he did stay on my floor, and I remained unmolested – but in all honesty, I’m not sure that I can. He had an awareness that there are some things you shouldn’t do –  hence the “gentleman” comment – but I suspect that he’d never considered things like nagging for sex to be wrong. What I would say is that if he has done any of those things in the past, I highly doubt that he’d do them again. Because doing them with a knowledge that they’re wrong would make him, in his own eyes, a Very Bad Person. And while pandering to one’s ego is not a particularly good reason not to rape, if it means that one less woman has to deal with the fact that her otherwise charming boyfriend has done less than charming things to her, it’s a good enough reason for me.


Rampant Silliness: SuperCunt Edition

So, I was on Shakesville, being silly, as is my way, and indulged in a little light troll-baiting. This was five days ago, and I regret to say that, unlike Pyre of the Monster “Chairman” Thread Of Doom, the troll did not return.

However, one of my comments (“I’m not Sarah, but damn right I have a super cunt!“) had somebody asking me what SuperCunt(s) might wear; in particular, would the SuperCunt(s) be likely to wear either capes or masks. So, because I felt like being silly again, I bring to you….

supercunt

Seriously, I feel like I’ve just taken part in the Vagina Monologues – the bit where they ask women, “what would your vagina wear?”. Clearly, my answer is “loose clothing and a fuck-off death stare”!


Revision, and a Story

Yesterday, I finished writing up the Killer Module of Doom. This is a good thing because out of the 5 chapters, 3 made me want to cry, one was painfully boring and the last one (perhaps to give me some courage) turned out to be work that I did three years ago when I was taking Further Maths A-Level. Anyway, it’s done now, and before I start doing other things – I have many, many other write-ups to do, plus problems sheets – I thought I’d share a post I found via Diary of A Freak Magnet.

There’s a woman who writes a blog callled Snark Scribe, who has possibly the most bizarre, drama-filled life of anybody I’ve read about. And she retold a story of her cousin, who works in customer services.

A customer asked, “How much is that wine?”

When my cousin gave him the price, he said, “What? That’s too much.”

She said, “There’s a cheaper kind over there.”

The customer decided to take that as a personal insult. “Are you calling me cheap? You don’t think I can afford this wine or something?”

When she didn’t correct him, he yelled, “Look at you! You must be some kind of uneducated person to work such a degrading job!”

My cousin retorted, “Look at you! You look like you have venereal disease!”


This reminds me of life working for a Posh Department Store. But perhaps it shows the differences between English and American English.

We had a till that was positioned in front of a glass cabinet full of Champagne. One day, as I was serving, a customer came up to me and said, “now, be honest with me. Which do you think is better, the £20 bottle or the £30 bottle?”

“Madam,” I said, bemused, “to be honest with you, I work at [Posh Department Store]. I can’t afford to shop at [Posh Department Store], and I don’t buy Champagne, so I’m afraid I can’t give you an opinion.”

For some reason, she took this as an insult, and spent the next ten minutes harranguing first me, and then my supervisor.


The moral of this story is that customers are peculiar, no matter which country they’re in. And also, honesty really doesn’t pay. I should’ve just told her the cheaper bottle was better, and then we’d both have been happy.


This Should Be Obvious

To the charming German speaker who somehow turned up at my blog after searching for “sexxx girl”:

You are very much in the wrong place. You silly, silly person.

Although, it is not really your fault that the search engine you used to find wank fodder was crap and picked out my blog because I used the word “girl” recently.

I swear, I cannot make this shit up. And I’m imaginative.


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.