Still not dead :)

I imagine there might be a fair few posts like this from me. I start with good intentions – or, well, intentions at least – and then forget. Or do other things instead. Honestly, I really ought to be cleaning the kitchen and then making food for myself right now. But I remembered this blog, so here I am.

There’s a few things I feel like saying. One thing is that I haven’t really felt like reading or writing much about feminism recently. I’ve made an exception for Blue Milk, whose blog I still keep up with, because (a) I love her writing and (b) she doesn’t make me sad, just frustrated by injustice every once in a while. Some of the larger feminist blogs honestly feel a bit overwhelming for me at the moment. Not because I’m in any kind of bad place – I’m not – but just because… well, I suppose I wanted a break from caring.

The second thing is that I’m getting married to J in about 6 weeks. Whoever knew that a small wedding would be so demanding? Not me, that’s for sure. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Actually, there’s probably a whole heap of feminist writing that could be written on the subject of weddings. I feel like that might justify a whole post on its own though, because I really could go on and on and on about it. Also, I feel like anybody who actually reads this blog should get a bit of warning, so having a post dedicated to it might be the way to go.

The third thing is that we’re moving house again, 4 weeks after the wedding. (In fact, there are multiple weddings. One that we’re planning and hosting, one that J’s parents are hosting, and one that my parents are hosting. At different times, I either think that this is exactly as batshit as it sounds, or that it’s a great idea.) But only to the flat immediately above the one we’re currently in. At this rate, the internet will never know about the flat we’re living in at the moment. I’m sure it’ll be heartbroken.

The fourth thing is that I’m spending a fair amount of time on Ravelry now that I’m not really anywhere else on the internet. It’s a lovely place to be, because – probably a bit like the feminist blogosphere – it feels predominantly female. But, unlike the general feminist blogosphere, Ravelry is a knitting and crochet site, so there’s an awful lot of stitching related forum threads. But at times, it also feels a lot like internet-based consciousness-raising sessions. I feel like this is a win.

Today In I Can’t Believe You Just Said That

Don’t read this opinion piece if you like doctors who “specialise in obesity care” to, well, care.

Especially don’t read it if you take exception to the idea that some people are more equal than others. (Spoiler: guess who Dr. David Haslam thinks is more deserving of weight loss surgery: an old woman who’s immobile, or a middle-aged man with erectile dysfunction?)

Let’s hope the dear doctor is too busy pontificating to see any patients, as clearly, they’ll fare better without his “help”.

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.

Well, That Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

Yesterday, I said that we should none of us feel safe if France goes ahead and bans muslim women from wearing veils. And now?

Should the UK ban the Muslim face veil?” asks the BBC.

I suppose I should feel grateful that they’ve presented ‘both sides’ of the ‘debate’. Objectively.

Actually, fuck that. You’ve never got an obligation to present ‘both sides’, especially when one of those ‘sides’ includes UKIP.

On The Lone Heroine

Now, this is an epiphany I don’t quite know what to do with.

Fantasy books for women perpetuate a binary that makes no sense: be ordinary, with company, or be extraordinary, alone. Well, I say “ordinary”. I probably mean “feminine”. And I say “extraordinary”, but I probably mean “masculine”.

All those female leads, with no family, no female friends, only one or two men, at least one of whom they invariably end up having sex with…. To only realise now what kind of message that gave me, that it still gives me – well, it feels about as clever as the time I spent half an hour looking for my glasses, only to find them on my face.

I always wanted to be that girl.

Always alone, always the best. Never needing anybody. Especially not other women. I don’t like to write that, but it’s true. Yay for deeply entrenched misogyny. It’s always fun discovering that in yourself.

And only now do I realise that I’m not that girl, that I never was and I never could be. Not only that, but now – now I don’t want to be her anymore.

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.

Ultraviolet, or, That Hair Was Amazing!

So, I’ve had Sam come to stay with me for a couple of days this week. This is cool and groovy for a variety of reasons, not least because she seems to have a good effect on Sheffield and it was therefore warm enough to have a picnic.

It was also cool and groovy because we got to be silly in a number of ways. We played a fighting fantasy book – I found the first one in a charity shop for all of about 50p, so it had to be bought. Also, if you are both an 80s child and a geek, how can you be self-respecting if you haven’t played at least one old-school game involving the use of paper, pencils, dice, and all eight fingers keeping your place(s) in the book so that if you died, you could just backtrack?!

Something else that is has happy nostalgic memories for me is playing Chips Challenge, which I used to do with Kirsten when we were still in primary school. Because we are that cool.

Anyway, but Sam and I did not play Chips Challenge. We did, however, watch Ultraviolet.

It is bad. It is so shockingly bad, that in a bizarre kind of a way, it’s almost good.

First off, it fails in a fairly major feminist way. There is only one female main character, Violet. So clearly she cannot talk to any other woman. No, talking to herself does not count, not even when she says things like “God, what am I doing?”, because God is portrayed as male most of the time. Also, her entire motivation for her killing spree is that she had her pregnancy forcibly terminated. We are told this, by Violet (as narrator), at the very start of the film, which is just as well, because the film itself consisted mainly of matrix-style fight scenes and very little in the way of actually letting you know what was going on.

But since it was so clearly an Epic Fail, there was no need to treat it seriously. So we didn’t. We narrated it. Actually, with our narration, it was quite good. Film directors, take note. What you really need to make your films better is a couple of sarcastic, foul-mouthed, feminist young women with no tolerance for badly done computer graphics, especially when it looks like you’ve photoshopped each individual frame that your female lead appears in.

It should be said at this point that even though I’m crap with films, I have seen more than one film with Violet in. She was the woman in The Fifth Element, and yes, I can say the woman. When we talk about films and I can say the man, then we shall be living in a matriarchy. Until then, it is a figment of the MRA’s imaginations. Even Bring It On has more than one named male character, for fucks’ sake.

Anyway, the point of that was to point out that Milla Jovovich (see, I can do research!) is no stranger to gratuitous nudity. Which is good, because there was quite a lot of it in Ultraviolet. Possibly she would have preferred doing the naked thing in Ultraviolet in fact, because I seem to recall that Bruce Willis appeared in her naked scenes in The Fifth Element, and that doesn’t sound like fun to me. Don’t get me wrong – if I wanted a man to do the “shit, I have a complicated moral dilema to make… in a vest” thing, well then, Bruce Willis is clearly the man to get hold of. But as a man to do the “hmm, I see that you are a naked woman and I am going to be empathetic towards you and try not to scare the fuck out of you” thing, maybe not so much.

So yeah, there was gratuitous nudity, and I do believe that most of the plot was based around Ways To Get Violet Naked. Which mainly involved her sneaking into places she wasn’t meant to be, sometimes going to the lengths of modifying her own DNA, or something. I think that this is where the film went wrong, because there were other things that were much more exciting, that were hardly even touched upon.

For example, the hair. The hair, as I may have mentioned, was amazing. It went different colours! Just like Britney Spears did in that music video that I didn’t want to dance to when I was in Year 10 because it was a “sexy” song and I was not a fan of the underage-sexy-dancing thing. Except that Britney Spears’ hair went different colours because she wore wigs, and only went from blonde to brown to red, whereas Violet’s hair went all kinds of cool colours, like blue and, well, violet, presumably just because she willed it so.

Also, her jackets changed colour to match. Which was amusing. Although her hair did not go stripy when she was in stripy places. This saddened me.

The other thing that wasn’t really talked about, but should have been, was the way that both she and her motorbike worked independently of gravity. That was many kinds of awesome, except that it made my eyes hurt when she drove up buildings.

In fact, if the film directors hadn’t been so busy making her out to be a vampire, Violet could clearly have been God. She could perform miracles and smite men that she didn’t like, and, a bit like that Bible story that I half-read about once, with the sacrifice of the child, she got really close, and then went back in a “yeah, I wasn’t really going to let them kill the kid” kind of a way. There are many parallels.

This, my friends, is why I am not a professional film critic.

However, it is a little bit good for me to watch these films, because I get double the amusement – once whilst watching the film and arsing about with Sam, and then again when I criticise the film whilst talking to J, and he mentions the gratuitous sexual assault before I can. He got bonus points in that conversation for criticising Kill Bill, which is what I usually do when arguing against him, thereby utterly confusing me.

In conclusion: Ultraviolet is shit, unless you watch it with Sam. Popcorn would have been nice though.

Disembodied Things

One of the many reasons I like Shakesville is that they pick up on things that I miss because they’re so ordinary. Of course, seeing women represented as only parts of bodies shouldn’t be normal. Unfortunately, it is.

Every so often, I get J in on the act, sending him links, discussing things with him and usually ending the conversation with an argument about films, which started when I first talked about the Bechdell-Wallace test, many months ago, and which shows no signs of ending.

So, when we were in a kitchen-things shop yesterday (good potato peelers being irritatingly difficult to find), it was him and not me that noticed a Disembodied Thing.

I can’t find a picture of the ones that we saw, but this will give the gist of it:

Charming, isn’t it?

Well, the ones we saw weren’t even clothed.

There three of them: all disconcertingly thin, all white, all nude. The only part missing, and by implication inside the bottle, was the head. One of them was a mermaid, so while her crotch was still defined, it was fish-scaled and green, but the other two had very obvious black pubic hair, and all three had large, prominent breasts and dark pink nipples. It was, if you like, a Snow White of nudity. A silent Snow White.

I think perhaps I shall go back to that shop, when I’m next in the City Centre. And when I go back, I shall ask them why they stock those things.

Things Not To Do When Ill

When you have the lurgy, and want to relax quietly in a semi-darkened room, don’t try to read Sexing The Body. You will end up with the book on top of your head when you fall asleep. This does not make you look or feel clever.

Also, although it is interesting, there was a whole chapter on cutting up brains. In my weakened state, I decided that Anne Fausto-Sterling must have some connexion with zombies.

Also also, although it was published in 2000, it presumably took some time to write, because she refers to “something called a listserve…. The comments are read by a group of people hooked together via electronic mail.” Perhaps because I was growing up when the internet prettified itself, and so never participated in forums like that, both the idea and the explanation seem terribly quaint to me. In much the same way that my brother finds it amazing that I existed before DVDs.

At some stage, when I am less ill, I might try to review this in a way that approaches sensible writing. Right now, the only other thing I have to say is that it’s a very dense book. I am only halfway through. And the bloody thing’s a short-term loan from the university library, which means I should be giving it back on Thursday. I’ve already renewed it once, and I only got it out yesterday!

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.