Why Don’t You Care…?

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.


On Joining the Massed Ranks of the Unemployed

Today is my second day of freedom (I’m not counting the weekend, which is a freedom of another kind). The second day in a row that I haven’t had to set my alarm, drag myself out of bed in the wee pre-dawn hours and sleep on the bus on the way to work.

It is also the fourth day in a row that I have woken up spontaneously and, it would appear, of my own free will, in the wee pre-dawn hours. Frustratingly enough, I’m waking earlier now that I don’t have to get to work than I ever did when I was working.

On the other hand, things have happened, and the morning has only just finished, so maybe it’s no bad thing. In all my other holidays, I haven’t even seen the morning.

My colleagues were very lovely when I left, and gave me a rather tasteful card – no baby pink or bunnies or stupid teddies anywhere in sight, just bright red, purple and silver. And balloons. Which was nice.

Of course, some people can’t resist having the last laugh, and when I eventually got around to reading the whole thing, I found this little gem:
“Rachel! All be best for the future. Remember what I said: Jesus is the way! Love & God bless…”

I forgive him, of course, because he meant well.
And because, funnily enough, Christians don’t hold the monopoly on turning the other cheek.

But I have to say, I did find it frustrating.

Not once, not even a little bit, did I suggest that he would be better off without his religion. Not at all, not ever. Oh, we had discussions on religion from time to time, but I was very careful not to cause offence. Besides, it’s always better to err on the side of caution – just because I don’t think that God exists doesn’t mean that God feels the same way, after all!

But seriously – theres this certain breed of person that truly and charitably believes that it’s their duty to bring me to the light.
Personally, I like the dark side

*

But silliness aside, I find it insulting when people of one faith try to persuade people of another to change. My worship, or lack of, is no business of anybody but me and whichever deity I choose to involve. And if it turns out that Jesus was behind the sofa the whole time, no doubt I shall apologise. In the meantime, I wish to be left to my rather unsociable position of disbelief, and I will leave anybody who wants a weekly party to their religion. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of tolerance!

*I can’t make the picture larger; the slogan reads “come to the dark side, we have cookies!”


Stealing Ideas

Looking back over blog archives, I came across a post written by the wonderful Kate Harding entitled Twenty Ground Rules for the Wedding I May Never Have.

It is very funny, and should be read.

And it is a very good idea, and should be stolen! But I can’t think of twenty without stealing all of hers outright, which kind of defeats the point of it being mine….

  1. There will be no church. I am the kind of heretic that in ye olden times would have been burned at the stake as a witch, and there’s no point in deliberate provocation. Because, after all, just because I think God doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean that God feels the same way! (I mentioned this theory to a colleague, who looked very confused and was still saying “but… but…” when I got called away)
  2. There will be no flowers attached to my person, as they make me sneeze. In fact, there will be no smelly flowers anywhere near me. Huge plastic sunflowers all the way, ’cause I’m sophisticated!
  3. Photographs of the bride will be taken when the bride permits it. And not before. On pain of much pain, possibly involving a blunt spoon. Or a tuning fork (thank you, Kirsten!)
  4. The only things resembling meringues at my wedding will be meringues.
  5. Invites to my wedding will be awarded on a merits system; ie, if you don’t merit an invitation, you won’t recieve one. Relatives do not merit an invitation simply because I share some of their genes. I share what, 50% of my genes with the banana in my fruitbowl. It doesn’t merit an invitation on that basis. Although thinking about it, it might merit an invite by being a food product!
  6. If it’s not fun, it’s not happening ๐Ÿ™‚ (this one is entirely stolen, but who wouldn’t agree with it?!)
  7. I don’t need presents.
  8. No, not even a little one.
  9. Everybody can be nice to me instead ๐Ÿ˜›
  10. And indulge me when I go and get my third helping of dessert ๐Ÿ˜€

Just Quickly…

…. The Apprentice.
Bloody awful, curiously addictive TV series in which a group of eight men and eight women compete for a 6-figure salary working for Sir Alan Sugar, entrepeneur extraordinaire.

Split, for competition’s sake, into two teams.

The ‘Girl’s Team’, and
The ‘Boy’s Team’.

It’s a small thing, I know, but really? Does it have to be this way?

These people are all of ‘management’ stock, meaning that realistically, they’re power-hungry egomaniacs without a clue of what happens in the real world. However.
This doesn’t mean that they should be infantalised, for goodness’ sake.

Can’t we call them ‘men’ and ‘women’?

….. Our “fruit of the week” report that we receive from our fruit and veg suppliers at work was yesterday extolling the virtues of a particular type of orange.

Apparently, men need it because there is a vitamin in it which, and I quote, “helps to flex muscles”.
Oh, and pregnant women need it because it’s good for your folic acid intake. Or something.

So I got the chef to edit that bit before we used it. Because, you know, women have muscles too. At least, I hope like hell we do, otherwise how do those babies get out??

….. I have shocked Evil Porter to the core. But he started it; he came to sit with me at breakfast and asked me if I was Christian…..!


The God Squad

Seemingly disconnected from the title of the post, I now get a 15 minute breakfast break at work. This is my reward for turning up at 8 rather than 8:30 (I successfully argued that I couldn’t physically function if I had to eat at 6:30 and then wait over 7 hours before eating again).

What this means, however, is that I end up watching Sky News, which is projected onto the wall of the staff restaurant.

And what this means is that I have a whole new source of irritation to disturb my day. And sometimes some real news.

So, in the news today? Something about the precarious state of the stock market – apparently it’s the fault of the Americans, who have such a big country they can afford to bring down their interest rate by 1%, whereas we on our tiny little island have no such option. Or something. It seemed strangely linked to virility and manliness and, you know, size, but maybe that’s just me being a cock-obsessed slutwhore. You never know.

Anyway, that story obviously doesn’t link to God. Unless God is secretly also cock-obsessed. But let’s assume that that would be a bit silly, and then I can talk about what I actually wanted to.

The story that irritated me was the startling news that political-extremist types “recruit” at universities.

No! You think?!

As my mother once said, “at the University of East Anglia there was nothing to do, except become radical.”

Of course politics becomes big at uni. Lots of young people are away from home, sometimes for the first time, trying to work out who they are and who they want to be, and you think politics isn’t going to make an appearance?! For goodness’ sake, it’s people of university age who’ve just got the vote!

But this wasn’t the most irritating bit. The really, really irritating bit was the sadly innevitable mention of Teh Muslim Extremists. You’d think they held a monopoly on extremism, if you believed the media. But that can’t be right, because before that, the extreme group was Teh Communists (also known, amusingly, as “The Reds Under The Bed”). And I saw the Socialist Workers’ Party just the other day. So they do all still exist. That must be quite irritating for them, actually. The communists, I mean. Because now nobody talks about them.
Presumably, atheism isn’t as bad as believing in the ‘wrong’ God.

Basically, the soundbites were saying that “Muslim extremists” were “luring” or “recruiting” “young Muslim women”. That the “extremists” were saying that the society of the West was a bit shite, really, and that Islam would be better for them.

And I did what I’ve been doing quite a lot recently, and thinking that actually I sympathised with the people who were being demonised.

Western society is a bit shite, really. There are a lot of problems with it. And when you look at the model that Islam wants to provide:

Islam instead maintains that both types of roles are equally deserving of pursuit and respect and that when accompanied by the equity demanded by the religion, a division of labor along sex lines is generally beneficial to all members of the society.

This might be regarded by the feminist as opening the door to discrimination, but as Muslims we regard Islamic traditions as standing clearly and unequivocally for the support of male-female equity. In the Quran, no difference whatever is made between the sexes in relation to God. “For men who submit [to God] and for women who submit [to God], for believing men and believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for steadfast men and steadfast women, for humble men and humble women, for charitable men and charitable women, for men who fast and women who fast, for men
who guard their chastity and women who guard, for men who remember God much and for women who remember – for them God has prepared forgiveness and a mighty reward” (33:35). “Whoever performs good deeds, whether male or female and is a believer, We shall surely make him live a good life and We will certainly reward them for the best of what they did” (16:97).

Well, doesn’t it make you wonder what a society like that would be like? It doesn’t sound too bad, to me. I mean, from the religious point of view, can you imagine the Bible saying anything so rooted in equality? I can’t.

So, I might have a quibble with the way work should be divided along gender lines – I can’t think of many jobs that can be performed well by only one gender – but I think they have a point when they say that “both types of roles [typically male vs. typically female] are equally deserving of pursuit and respect”.

Strangely enough, it reminds me of something Bitchy Jones once wrote:

“Way back in the past when they invented misogyny they decided that women were lower status and thus had the low status role in sex. He had the mighty phallus โ€“ she had the dirty needy hole. You can see how femdom later thought, hey, lets flip this shit. Letโ€™s make the guy be called slut for wanting and be filled. But those things arenโ€™t really submissive. Having something pushed into your body that feels amazing is only submissive because someone decided that the female role in sex was a submissive one.”

For once, let’s ignore the sex. Yes, I know it’s hard. Er, difficult. But seriously, the point I’m getting at is that things associated with women – traditional roles, be it in the bedroom or in the workplace – only seem “less good” for the reason that Bitchy says so well – “when they invented misogyny they decided that women were lower status”. [emphasis mine].

Damn, I just made a link between Islam and Femdom. That’s got to be a first, surely.

So, and back to Islam, isn’t it great that it’s saying both roles are equally deserving of respect?

Because they are. They are just as good as each other. And this is something that Western society has failed in teaching us, rather drastically.

So, to be honest, it’s not such a silly – or radical! – idea, to say that Islam can offer young women something that Western society can’t. Whether it actually lives up to this idea, I don’t know.

Anyway, so the whole ‘news’ story irritated me.
And it infuriated me that a middle-aged male professor could be talking so confidently about the perils of Teh Extremists to young Muslim women, without justifying it. Either without thinking about the points I put forward above, or simply without mentioning them.
I suspect he simply hasn’t thought about it. Like many of the men I know in real life wouldn’t think about it.

And it felt like, once again, Muslims were being tarred with the “heathen unbeliever” brush. You know, the one that says, “oh, well, it’s jolly good to go to Church, dontcherknow, and even just staying at home on a Sunday, that’s not so bad, eh… but praying to Allah – well, it’s just not done, dear boy! Not, er, not British, old chap, what!”

It would seem that for all my relief that at least the British public don’t let their politicians get too devout, or claim that God tells them to go on crusades, they are still easily swayed by religion.

The God Squad, you see, is still insiduously there. Because it still seems terribly bad form to think that a religion involving the “wrong” deity could be a reasonable religion.


That God Post in Full…

I wouldn’t normally want religion to enter the happy little world I have going here, but a couple of days ago I had a very, very frustrating argument with a convert. I was hungry at the time, which didn’t help. So, for the record, this is where I am in the God-bothering stakes:

1: I don’t believe in God.

You can argue whatever damned theory you like, I don’t give a shit. I still don’t believe in God. That’s why it’s a belief system – it’s a faith. At some point, you have to just believe. It’s just that my “just believing” is in the opposite direction to yours, Mr. Convert.

(Also, if we’re going with the creation theory — the one that says, essentially, “everything must have had a creator. Except God, who is mysteriously exempt” — I say, what’s the difference between you taking the cut-off point as “except God” and me taking the cut-off point as “except the universe”?)

2: I heartily dislike going into any church.

Make of that what you will – maybe I’m just to sinful to like it. Rather like vampires can’t enter churches. Except in real life, and without the pointy teeth and immortality.
Or maybe, just maybe, I feel that it’s disrespectful.
Because I can see that it is a holy place for many people, and I feel nothing for it. It makes me uncomfortable, as though I’m intruding.
Especially when, as part of the service, I am required to say that I believe in God. (I didn’t say it, by the way. Because that would be lying.)

3: I don’t think Christianity (or indeed Judaism or Islam) have a particularly good track record when it comes to tolerance.

I can’t really comment on the other major religions – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism… – because I simply don’t know enough.

But it’s easy to see that the more “Western” religions don’t do so well.
All this stuff about gay people being sinful and perverted, and about a woman’s place being, well, wherever she’ll shut the fuck up, and how every other religion is doomed to the fiery depths of Hell, and….
No. Just no.

I happen to think that if you want to believe there are little happy pixies in the bottom of your garden that created the world, that’s fine and lovely.
Just don’t try to foist your happy little pixies on me.

So why is it that when organised religion gets involved, suddenly anybody believing in the happy pixies are [heathens/ heretics/ infidels/ fucking stupid] and liable to [death by stoning/ banishment/ media stereotyping/ attempts at “saving their souls”]?
Why can’t they just live and let live?

More to the point, why on earth would I want to get involved with an organisation that actively goes against my most major form of politics — feminism? Which leads me on to…

4: I am a feminist.

And as such – athough (because I always feel I should put this disclaimer) I don’t speak for every feminist or indeed any particular feminist ‘ideology’ – I have a lot of ideals that set me at odds with organised religion.

Such as, the fact that I am unapologetically in favour of premarital sex. Which seems to be a fairly common no-no in religious circles.
Or the fact that I regard the right to an abortion as a very good thing.
Or the fact that I don’t believe that women should either “submit to their husbands”, nor “be their husband’s better half”. The former because – oh, just fuck off if you can’t see why that annoys me – and the latter because it’s yet another example of men being given the implied OK to behave badly – they are the “worse half”, logically, after all. And I, as the woman, should just forgive their faults, because hey, I’m “better”, I can afford to seem magnanimous.
Both of those examples come from the man who was trying to convert me, by the way.

I could go on in this department. But I’m sure you get the gist.

So, without the faith, without finding any comfort in the holy buildings, communities or ideals…

Tell me, why on earth I would want to convert?


For We Are All Creatures Of Habit

If I’m travelling alone, I sit at the front of the bus, on the top deck. Unless there is nobody else on the bus, in which case it feels a little silly.
Most buses are arranged so that there’s only one seat in front of the stairs, so I sit there and feel marginally safer in the knowledge that, while people could come up behind me, they’d break their neck the next time the bus turns a corner/ starts/ stops suddenly. It’s something I’ve done ever since I was about twelve, when I chose a seat in the middle of a train and got surrounded by boys I didn’t know or like. I also sit in the corner on trains, where I can, strangely enough!

And I read, too, which, when combined with the seating arrangement, seems to radiate a big Fuck Off Now sign above my head. This is a good thing, as most bully-types are scared of it and do indeed Fuck Off Now.

Sadly, there is still one group of people that ignore the blatant Fuck Off signals. Hello, Creepy Guy in the corner, I’m now talking about you. Feel those ears burn!

And, most recently, not only have they been Creepy, they’ve also been Persistant God-Botherers.
So the last one sat down next to me, clutching his bible, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure whether he was more likely to try to save my eternal soul, or lure me into a den of sin and vice. Tough call. Actually, he didn’t seem to know either. Though he attempted to give me his number regardless. It got torn up and thrown away at Waterloo.
I mean, really. How do you give someone the brush-off when you can’t be sure if the correct response is “Ah, I have seen the light. Obviously my poor misguided soul is in need of redemption, and your God is the perfect solution. Goodbye”, “I’m Buddhist, my soul will be reincarnated, Fuck Off”, “Frankly, I don’t give a shit about my soul”…. OR “No, I don’t fancy you/ want to go out with you/ want a boyfriend/ want a girlfriend……”

Somebody in the comment thread over here suggested reading such books as Cunt*, which seemed to scare people away.
It’s tempting, but I have a feeling that they’d then either assume my immortal soul was in even graver danger, or that I was a brazen hussy just dying to jump into their arms/ bed. Hmm.**

The problem is, the only people who dare approach me these days are the nutcases that don’t respond to simple social signals. I doubt they’d respond to a book cover, sadly.

That said, I may start reading Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water For Chocolate), and answer them only in Spanish. Now, what’s the Spanish for “Fuck off, you weirdo”…? Tee hee!

*I have actually read this, which is another reason not to bring it with me. And it was pretty good, except for the bits about Goddesses and moon-worshipping and stuff.

** When I was actually reading in public, it seemed to attract men, rather than repel them. I had a whole tube carriage talking to me at one point. This is unheard of, which is why I didn’t mind, but it wasn’t the best thing if you actually wanted to read the damn book. I’d reached the Goddess stuff by then though, so I wasn’t overly bothered!