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.


Filed Under “Things That Make Me Feel Unsafe”

Via the BBC website (which has only just caught up with the news that radio 4 gave me a few days ago):

“A French parliamentary committee has recommended a partial ban on women wearing Islamic face veils…. The BBC’s Hugh Schofield, in Paris, says the reasoning behind the report is to make it as impractical as possible for women in face veils to go about their daily business.”

This is nonsensical. Worse. It’s dangerous.

Not because of OMG TERRORISTS either. It’s dangerous because this is a law specifically designed to target women from the “wrong” religion. It’s as though France – which feels predominantly christian, whatever bollocks they spout about being secular; there’s a reason they do bugger all on a Sunday – has, in a fit of masculine posturing, metaphorically shaken its fist at Islam, saying “well, muslim men, we don’t like you, so we’re going to persecute your women!”

I could analyse this to death, but I’m going to stop here, pausing only to say this:

When a country as rabidly invested in the democratic model as France is can create laws like this, that affect women, and only women, when the rulers of that kind of a nation recall that yes, they are still, after all, a patriarchy, and they can still legislate the ways they think women should dress and behave, then we are none of us safe.


I’m Not Alone… But I Kind Of Wish I Was

So, Kirsten put up a link on Teaspoon of Sugar to research done by children. Which was really, really cool.

And one 11-year-old girl had done some research (link loads as a powerpoint presentation) into “boy, girl relationships, in other words, a girl and a boy going out with each other”.

The research was really interesting (and a bit sad) in and of itself, as she – a muslim – focussed on attitudes of different religions and found, unsurprisingly, that the majority of children of every religion she sampled, including her own, were disapproving.

But the bit that really made my heart ache was the conclusion:

“I’ve learnt a lot in this research and If I could do another research, I would research about racist bullying. Most schools in England have more white people than any other colour. Some people like to gang up on people and bully them because of their race.”

Yeah. I remember that.


Spot The Difference:

Back in February, Carol Thatcher, a white woman, referred to a black man as a “golliwog”, backstage at the BBC’s The One Show, in a private conversation between her and a white man. She was subsequently sacked from the show, though she was still able to appear on the Andrew Marr Show afterwards and further display her racism.

Fast forward to this month, October, and Anton Du Beke calls his dancing partner on Strictly Come Dancing – a mixed-race woman, Laila Rouass, a “paki”, also backstage, also in a private conversation, but this time between him and Ms. Rouass. This time, the BBC is “standing by” their foul-mouthed liability.


The BBC justifies this on the grounds that Du Beke has apologised. To be fair to the man, he has indeed apologised. It’s a shame he had to spoil it by clarifying it by insisting that “I am not a racist and … I do not use racist language“. It makes one wonder what it is he’s apologising for. The rest of it boils down to him saying that he didn’t intend to be offensive; that he accepts it’s an offensive term; that he didn’t think about how others would react; and that he’s sorry if he’s offended anybody. So it’s a fairly standard industry non-apology, really – bar the part where he accepts that it’s offensive, which most non-apologies don’t do.

Frankly, in some ways I prefer to deal with people like Carol Thatcher, who at least own their racism. She didn’t give the BBC a choice – it would have been very difficult for them not to sack her. Somebody like Du Beke, though – well, as I see it, the BBC are acting like that parent in the playground, who, when they see their precious spawn kick the crap out of you, tells said spawn in a sing-song voice to “say sorry and play nicely“, and then takes the muttered “sorry… that you weren’t strong enough” as a sign that everybody is the best of bestest friends again.


And, being the nasty suspicious person I am, I have to wonder whether it’s really the apology that’s made the difference.

You know, since Carol Thatcher’s a woman in her fifties – practically retirement age for women at the BBC – who insulted a man, and Anton Du Beke is only 43, and, more importantly, a man who insulted a woman.


Thought Of The Day

As I have mentioned over at the Sheffield Fems site, I remain infuriated by Carol Thatcher. First for being racist, then for not apologising, then for taking the opportunity to really rub our noses in her racism. However, I suspect I have not conveyed this as well as I could have done. Therefore, anybody wishing to read a more coherent take on why Carol Thatcher is obnoxious should go to visit Mar at The Mongoose Chronicles. Fly, my pretties!


Oscar Grant

I’ve said what I have to say about the murder of Oscar Grant elsewhere, but here is the story, and here and here is what it reminds me of, and here
is what Americans can do, and if you’re not American, please publicise the story.


Goodbye, Winston

My maternal grandfather died on Wednesday 17th December 2008. He was just shy of both Christmas and his 85th birthday, so his timing wasn’t fantastic.

When somebody dies, there’s generally a lot of talk about what so-and-so would have wanted. Of course, unless they are like my father (“when I die, write a round robin telling everyone that I didn’t face my death with bravery at all, I was a total coward and a pain in the arse”) you don’t tend to know for sure that X or Y is what they’d have wanted to happen.

I suspect that he wouldn’t have minded this though. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s appeared in this blog, and in any case, he can’t do much about it now! That painting was one that I did, of him and for him, for his birthday. It seemed a bit mean to turn up to a birthday party without a present, but I was faced with the dilemma of what on earth you get for an eighty-year-old man. In the end, although I was sixteen and should really have stopped drawing pictures as presents about five years beforehand, I decided that one thing he definitely wouldn’t already have was a portrait of himself!

winston

What’s important here is that I really loved the old man. In any family, there are going to be relatives that you go to see out of politeness. Winston was not one of those people. He was great.

When I was younger, he taught me to club-swing. To this day, I can’t remember why. What I can remember is him saying, very solemnly, “of course, that was back when I was in short trousers”. Clearly, to him, this was a reasonable explanation!

Despite his sister being a piano teacher, and despite the fact that he was clearly very musically-minded, he always insisted that he had had no formal lessons. Then he’d sit down at his keyboard and accompany himself to “Danny Boy”, a song that he was inexplicably attatched to.

I spent years of my life trying to work out, in vain, which of his eyes was the false one. He lost the real one after an ember from a coal in the steam train he was driving flew into it. Yet, though it was glass, it matched his real eye perfectly, and I never could tell. Nor, unfortunately, could the nurse in the hospital he spent his last day in; she tried to get a response out of him by shining a light into the false eye. I think he probably would’ve been amused by that, if only he’d known. Even more bizarrely, it turns out that he had, in total, five false eyes. Aparently, they’ve been appearing all around the house, hidden away in various little boxes. However, it’s never a good idea to say, in company, “so, have you found any more of Winston’s eyes lately?”. As my mother found out, you do tend to get a few funny looks.

It’s difficult, of course, to avoid wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Winston wasn’t perfect. He was a wind-up merchant, for one thing. But he could hardly have been part of our family without it. Sarcasm just seems to be a family trait, along with imperfect vision and a penchant for bad puns. I suppose all you can say about someone, in then end, is that you’re glad to have known them, even if they did annoy you. And that’s definitely true of him – on both counts!


On Being An Anglo…

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?
Me: No.
Mum: Because I could put an advert in this magazine.
Me: What?!
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…


Bloke Coke

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.


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 – she had the dirty needy hole. You can see how femdom later thought, hey, lets flip this shit. Let’s make the guy be called slut for wanting and be filled. But those things aren’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.