Up in the grim North, we’ve had two full days of sunshine.
I’ve reacted accordingly:
The temptation was just too great, and besides, it was only ten quid!
I don’t usually post pictures of myself online. In fact, there aren’t many pictures of me to be found anywhere. I’m elusive that way.
But then I stumbled across Llencelyn’s blog, and I got a little scared. Here’s two pictures of me, and a picture of her, so that everybody else can be scared, too. Llencelyn, be warned. If ever you grow your hair out, or need glasses, this is what you will look like.
You know how sometimes, if you say things often enough, people latch on to the idea?
Like the way my father and his friends talked about money all day to my uncle when they were away on a cycling holiday, and then that night my uncle said, in his sleep “big cheques are the worst when you have to write them”.
So, anyway, one of the things I say often, and usually in tones of great disgust, is “if you can’t tell me what a calorie is, you shouldn’t be counting them.”
Well. J called me today to tell me that one of his managers was going on a diet. The conversation went something like this:
J: [manager]’s on a diet.
R: Well, tell her the BBC said she’ll get flu AND DIE!!!
J: I can’t, I’ve already told her that she can’t count calories unless she can tell me what they are.
R: [laughs like a fool] And could she?
J: Um… well, you know how when you’re not quite sure about what you’re saying, and it works better if you believe it than if you don’t?
J: Yeah, she didn’t really believe it. She tried to tell me that they were like… little… balls… of fat….
R: Hmm. Do you know what they are?
J: Well, you know how when you’re not quite sure about what you’re saying….
J:…. a little thing… a unit… of energy…???
R: Yay! [pauses] But you still can’t go on a diet.
R: According to the BBC, you’ll get flu, AND DIE!!!!
The whole diet-in-winter=flu=death vs diet-in-summer=sexaaaay thing is bothering me somewhat, as anybody who’s been on the Sheffield Fems site recently will be able to testify. Not that I’m gratuitously self-referencing at all.
I went for a “christmas casual recruitment event” – better known as a group interview – today, with the Post Office. And it was all cool and groovy – I didn’t get observably lost, and I was finished in under an hour.
What struck me, though, was the way that other people seemed to have treated the interview.
Call me old-fashioned, but when I go to an interview, I wear something roughly approximating to a suit. Meaning clean black shoes (not my beloved steel-toed kitchen boots!), black trousers and some kind of shirt. It’s usually not a white shirt because I don’t like wearing clothes with the potential to go see-through in the rain. But it will have a collar, and I will look smart. I even – and this is shocking, for me – change my bag, so that instead of my battered, cord, everyday bag that’s covered in badges, I actually have one that’s neat. Boring, but neat.
Anyway, so that was me today, all dolled up. Most of the rest? Um, not so much.
There were probably 30-odd people. I could count on one hand the number of people wearing suit-like outfits. Which by my reckoning is less than 20%. And the others were actually quite shocking.
Scruffy trainers, ripped jeans, t-shirts… things that I’d wear to sword-fight in, not present myself as a prospective employee! And a couple of poor unfortunates who smelt. Not in an I’ve-covered-myself-in-aftershave smell either, this was an all out I’ve-been-for-a-strenuous-workout-for-three-days-solid-and-haven’t-washed-in-that-time kind of a smell.
Thinking about it, there weren’t very many women in the room. Not to be interviewed, anyway. The post office staff were a fairly even split. I don’t know whether that would have made a difference to the overall smartness of the group, but I can speculate.
The thing is, we don’t live in a vacuum. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I always wear an almost-suit because I’m a woman, or because I’ve been taught that it’s the “done thing”, or because I have a need to make a good impression, or because I treat every interview seriously, or (more likely) a combination of those things.
Which means that I can’t tell whether the (mainly men) that dressed down did so because they were men, or because they weren’t taught that it’s the “done thing”, or because they don’t feel the need to make a good impression, or because they didn’t treat the interview seriously. Or some other reasons that I haven’t thought of. Most of us, men and women, were students. Perhaps, then, a fair amount of the people there had not seriously looked for work before, and simply weren’t aware of the conventions. Perhaps they’d been at uni and had forgotten, or couldn’t be bothered, to change their outfits.
I don’t even know if it makes a difference, my almost-suit. It could be that the post office interviewers were sitting there wondering why on earth I’d dressed so smartly. It could have been me who was dressing inappropriately.
But I have a feeling that I did the right thing. I also have a feeling that if there had been more women there, it’s likely that they would have also dressed smartly. I might be wrong, of course. But when you live your life being used to people looking at you, and judging you, for your appearance, and when you know it really does make a real difference to your career, I think you’re more likely to err on the side of caution. And I think that this mindset is a disproportionately feminine mindset.
To help the unitiated on their merry way, go and read The Beauty Myth. Either that, or go and read what Kirsten had to say about it, or the quote up now at Hell On Hairy Legs. And watch this, which seems to be the only real clip still left of the video that Kirsten watched:
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.
I am, as I may have mentioned before, of extremely mixed heritage. Some of that heritage, through my maternal grandfather, is Anglo-Indian (a distinct group made up of the children of European fathers and Indian mothers, back when India was up for grabs, based on the cunning use of flags).
My mother and I went to see my grandfather today, as he is in a respite care home for a couple of weeks – he has Alzheimer’s and my grandmother, his primary carer, is going to Ireland to visit her family for a break. And, to liven up the day a little, Mum found some magazines specifically aimed at Anglo-Indians…. like you do!
Anyway, this evening, after we’d got back, she wandered in to my room, magazine in hand….
Mum: Congratulations! You’re an Anglo-Indian!
Me: Oh good. Why?
Mum: You’re the child of an Anglo-Indian.
Me: Cool. So my kids can be Anglos too then..
Mum: Yes. Now, do you want to marry a nice Anglo boy?
Mum: Because I could put an advert in this magazine.
Mum: Here, listen to this one — “Alliance invited for 30-year old spinster, B.Sc, 5’3″, 75kgs. Interested Roman Catholic/ Protestant bachelors from India may reply with personal details/ family background” — [laughs] — see, you thought our family was weird – we’re really on the normal end of the scale…
As though my early-morning commute isn’t frustating enough as it is, I found myself this morning confronted with a scene designed to fry the brain of any feminist. Especially this feminist, who had not yet had her tea.
Remember the not-quite-there advertising campaign by Coca Cola for their genius scheme, Coke Zero? The way that even though there didn’t seem to be much hype, suddenly it was there and everybody knew they were meant to call it “Bloke Coke”. Because real men wouldn’t be seen dead holding a bottle of diet coke (which is for girls, because only girls would diet!), but nevertheless need a brand of coke that has no calories. For body-building purposes, naturally.
Well, this morning the not-quite-there advertising suddenly turned in-your-face.
A big cool-bin full of bottles of Coke Zero. A big, burly, masculine black man in promotional uniform. And….
A young, tall, slim, big-breasted blonde woman wearing a tight, form-fitting promotional T-shirt, tight black hotpants and, as the icing on the cake, knee high white socks.
What. The. Fuck?
At quarter to eight in the fucking morning? I don’t want to have to think about all the ways in which that kind of advertising is wrong, not before eight in the morning and especially not before I’ve had my breakfast!
I’m guessing the not-so-subtle message behind it is that, by drinking Bloke Coke, you too could become a big, burly, masculine black man, with a hot blonde woman as your sidekick. Not that there’s a whole heap of pornographic stereotypes about “blacks on blondes” or anything. Not that there’s that lovely racial stereotype about black men having huge cocks. No, I bet the good people at Coca-Cola never had those thoughts cross their minds, as they sent out that particular team.
Oh, and the thought about how a hot, big-breasted blonde woman in hotpants would look as she bent over a conveniently sized bin to get more free samples…. yeah, I bet that never crossed their minds either.
It must’ve just been my filthy mind that leapt to those kinds of conclusions.
And don’t even get me started on the way she was offering all the men the coke by shifting her posture to look up at them, calling them all “sir” whilst in knee-highs….
Yep, sex sells. Especially thin, female, big-breasted, blonde, submissive sex.
That woman? I don’t know how she felt about what she was doing, and I’m not going to speculate. I could see that she was making the effort, though. Making an impression. Fair enough; it’s a job, it must pay. There’s always the satisfaction of doing a job well.
I just wish it wasn’t this way. Wish that it wasn’t all about Teh Sex. And worse, that it’s so…. male-orientated. That sounds daft, but what I mean is – that Coke Zero was being linked inextricably to sex. The kind of sex that’s advertised as good sex – for men. Really good sex. But only for men.
And it’s always that way.
If food is advertised for men, it’s packaged in a way that links it to good, male-dominant, heterosexual sex. Socially approved hunger, both for food and sex. All tied up in a fizzy drink, or a beer, or whatever.
Whereas, if food is advertised for women, it’s packaged in a way that links it to the fall of Eve*. It’s always, always about the sin of it all. Chocolate. Sweets. Naughtiness. Knowing you shouldn’t. Knowing you will. It’s about submitting. About surrendering control. About not being able to help yourself.
It’s no wonder we’ve got so many hang-ups about food. And sex. The two just link. All the time. And that’s not what I wanted to think about before I’d even started my day.
Of course, I wasn’t the demographic that Coke was targetting. So I was safe from being accosted, and walked past, unnoticed, and bought a chocolate croissant instead. And I didn’t link it to sex, not even a little bit. The crumbs would get everywhere.
*Also, I object to the phrase “the fall”. I rather think she jumped.