Thank You, Captain Obvious

Cat wears paper hat with "cat" written on it. Caption reads "thank you, Captain Obvious".

The BBC informs us that the divorce rate in England and Wales is now the lowest it’s been for 29 years:

“Ayesha Vardag, a divorce lawyer involved in a landmark court win last year over a pre-nuptial agreement, said: “Our experience is that fewer couples are divorcing because fewer are marrying.””


Period Time

On a list of Things Which Are Not A Good Idea To Say:


Me: It’s strange, because it’s Monday now and I don’t have any signs of an impending period. And I normally get it on Tuesdays.

*pause*

Me: I shouldn’t have said that. That just means I’ll get the pain, the excess emotions and the blood, all at once.

*pause*

Me: Tomorrow is not going to be a good day.


Tuesday, of course, was yesterday. True to my prediction, I had everything, all at once, including ravenous hunger. Today is better, but this week is going to be pretty damned tiring.

In related news, I’ve been reading The Woman In The Body. It has some incredibly interesting things to say on the subject of periods, like the way that medical “wisdom” treats them as a form of “failed production”.

To paraphrase Emily Martin’s work, her point is that metaphors have been developed that treat the human body as a kind of factory system – the brain “sends signals” to other parts of the body, like a manager, and those other parts respond, as workers. In terms of the uterus, the “product” is seen to be a sucessful pregnancy, and periods are therefore seen as a failure to produce. She quotes from medical textbooks to underline this idea:

“Given this teleological interpretation of the increased amount of endometrial tissue, it should be no surprise that when a fertilized egg does not implant, these texts describe the next event in very negative terms. The fall in blood progesteron and estrogen “deprives” the “highly developed endometrial lining of its hormonal support,” “constriction” of blood vessels leads to a “diminished” supply of oxygen and nutrients, and finally, “disintegration starts, the entire lining begins to slough, and the menstrual flow begins”. Blood vessels in the endometrium “hemorrhage” and the menstrual flow “consists of this blood mixed with endometrial debris.””


Looking back over the descriptions – “deprive”, “constriction”, “diminish”, “disintegration”, “slough”, “hemorrhage”,”debris” – actually makes me angry.

Now, speaking personally, my period, frustrating though it is, is nevertheless a good thing, signifying as it does that I am not pregnant.

Actually, I’d go further, and say that even if every woman, at some point in her life, actively tried to get pregnant, she would be unlikely to do so for over half of her reproductive years, and therefore, it is likely that, for the most part, women in general will see the arrival of their period as a good thing.

So where is that, in medical descriptions?

Where is the idea that, far from being a “failure”, the occurence of a period is actually more likely, generally speaking, to be seen as a “sucess”?


I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to have my ideas about periods challenged in that way when I read the book.And I’m finding it quite hard now to wrap my head around the idea that what I have been led to believe to be objectively true, is in fact extremely negative and unhelpful.

But having been challenged, there’s only one description of a period that I think I now want to embrace, which is something that one of the women in the study said; asked to explain why women bleed, she replied, “to clean out your insides”.


Comment Moderation

It’s not something I do often, mainly because I’m not famous enough online to attract A-grade nutters.

However, I came back from my Christmas break to find a couple of comments waiting for me. To this commenter (since it does seem to be a real person), I’d like to say a few things.


1) What the fuck makes you think I’m remotely interested in your sexual preferences?

2) If I thought feminism was about prescribing who I could or could not have a sexual relationship with, for what length of time I could have said relationship, or what I chose to call it, I would never, never identify as feminist.

3) I was not aware that a “feminist dream” existed. Is that like the American Dream, only less capitalist? And how do you have this dream? Is it something to do with the Feminist Hive Mind (TM) ?

4) If you want your comments published, I suggest you read the comments policy. If you just want to get some hatred out of your system, I reccomend swearing at the mirror for a while.


What Girls Are Really Thinking (No, Honestly)

Ok, so I wasn’t going to blog, because I notice I’m posting a fair bit these days, trying to hide from my Statistics coursework.
But then I realised that somebody (I’m going to assume a man, and I’m going to call him… Ted. Hi Ted!) had got to my blog by typing “what are girls really thinking” into Google.

So, Ted, first things first.

When you say “girls”, do you actually mean “pre-pubescent”? Because if so, you’re in the wrong place. I am not a “girl”. Although I was, once. And I’m not going to talk about what girls are really thinking, because if you’re a man, you’ll either be very bored by that, or very creepy. If you’re creepy, please go away now. I don’t like creepy men.

And, if you didn’t mean “pre-pubescent”, can you tell me why the fuck you just referred to all women as “girls”? Honestly, it’s one of those things that just keeps on annoying me.

I am a woman. Have been for a while, whichever definition you choose to use. So this is about what women are thinking.

Now, I really would like to insist that you ignore this article. Yeah, yeah, I know what it says. I know how it panders to all those stereotypes that you just can’t help loving…. but, poor, naive Ted – it’s a lie. It’s all a lie. Cake is a lie too, probably.

I could give you links to various blogs by various women, because that shows you what women are thinking. Of course, I am biased and selective, so I would only link you to women that I, personally, find interesting or amusing.

Actually, you know what you could do? You could go and watch the Target Women series. It’s awesome. I love it. And it shows you, fairly easily, what women are asked to think, and what (some) women do think.

But I wasn’t meant to be linking you to things, really. Because you could go to my blogroll and check out what women are thinking from that, and it would be really easy and simple.

Anyway. It’s not difficult, Ted. And if I asked you what men were thinking…
Well, actually, since you had to google the phrase “what girls are really thinking”, you’d probably tell me that men were thinking of Teh Sexxx, you know, like they have no other function.

But I’ve actually thought about this (OMG! Thoughts!! From A Woman!!!) and so I can tell you that what women think about, is pretty much what men think about.

And that would be… Everything.

Yes, Ted, that’s right. Between us, we “girls” think about everything.
Some of us even think about God sometimes.

Seriously, if you ever need to type this kind of thing into a search engine again, I suggest that you start to wonder why men and women are held to be so different. And when you start to wonder, I suggest that you then go to this blog, where you may start to understand.

And don’t assume I’m thinking about how to make you like me.


Eviltude

My computer thinks that I am spyware. If I try to access blogger, I get this message:

We’re sorry…

… but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can’t process your request right now.”

So, although – bizarrely – it will let me post, I can’t read what I’ve written, and nor can I see anybody else’s sites if they use Blogger.

Logical……!

Anyway, if I’m quiet for a bit, that’s why.

Bloody Google.


Money

Money can’t do everything. This much we know. There are many things that money can’t do:

  • buy unicorns, dragons, or other mythological beasts
  • buy love, happiness or other emotions, although it often leads to worry
  • make everything better. As everybody knows, only tea can do that.
  • buy style or poise, or indeed good fashion sense.

I have been thinking about money a lot recently, both in and out of work.

In work, because one of my bosses is trying to buy me new trousers.

I am resisting this for a variety of reasons. I work four days out of five kneeling on the dirty, dusty floor of the male changing room, sorting laundry. To buy me new (suit) trousers makes very little sense.
Instead, I have appropriated the trousers of a sacked porter. He won’t be needing them, they are sturdy and comfortable, and, rather usefully, they can be washed with our laundry company, so that I don’t have to take them home.
That’s the financial bit.
Of course, my other reason is that I don’t give a flying fuck how loose my stolen trousers are, or if they were designed to accomodate the girth of a really big cock. I don’t care if they aren’t bright black, because by the end of my sorting the laundry, the knees will be dirty and grey anyway. And I don’t care if the trousers don’t flatter me, because I come to work to work, not to seduce people. I spend most of my day on my own in the kitchen office, or in the kitchens themselves. It would be bloody stupid to walk around the kitchen in suit trousers, as anybody in the kitchen is always at risk of airborne food. Or spoons.
But with such good reasons not to buy me trousers, I can’t quite understand why he’d want to throw the money away like that. Surely his budget could be better used for other things?

Outside of work, I have been thinking about money because almost everybody I spend any time with tells me they don’t have any.
Which is bollocks, really.

When you don’t have any form of income, no proper job, no dole money, no gullible relatives or friends – THEN you have no money.
When I was unemployed one summer, relying on babysitting for cash to go looking for a proper job, having to make the decision to spend my last £20 on a Young Person’s Railcard that I then wouldn’t be able to use, not having any money to spend on a train ticket, but knowing it would save money in the long run, that was the closest I’ve got to having “no money”. And evidently I still had some. Just intermittently.

When you’re a student, you get loans. It might not be your money, and you might need to spend it on food to eat, but you still have money.

When you’re working, and getting a steady income, you have money. You might have bills, and things that you want to do, but you still have money.

For goodness’ sake, is it really so hard to budget?

Sit down and work out how much you earn each month.

If you work, look at your payslip, you fool. Somewhere on it will be something like “basic pay”.
Somewhere on it will be “tax” and “NI” or “National Insurance”, with a total.
Take the amount you’ve been taxed away from the basic pay, and you have a very conservative estimate of how much you earn each month (by which I mean, you won’t earn less than this, but you may earn more.)

If you’re a student, find the bit of paper that tells you how much of a loan you get each year. Divide this by 12, for the number of months in a year. That is your conservative estimate (because, if you’re any kind of sensible, you will get yourself a job, or gullible relatives, to supply yourself with extra money.).

Then think about what you actually need to spend. And when I say that, I mean money that is necessary to spend to live:

Rent, and any household bills as applicable.
Any loans, direct debits etc. that keep you alive (including phone bills)
Food (but only to keep you alive. I don’t mean that £50 you eat by sodding off to Pizza Express or wherever. If you were really poor, you’d be in McDonalds to eat out.)
Travel (but only the travel that gets you to work or uni. The money you spend going to see your friends, or a gig – well, if you were that poor, you wouldn’t have the gig ticket anyway, would you?)

When you work these out, make them generous. Round up to the nearest £10. Even if your phone bill’s always £21 – make it £30.

Then take all of that away from what you earn.

The money that’s left is yours. And if you can stick to using only that money for going out, you’ll have money left at the end of the month.

And then you’ve saved money, and you can put it in a savings account and know that it’s your money.

And then you won’t tell me that you have no money, ever again.

And we’ll all be happy.


The Vagina Monologues and other books

In the time that I’ve been out of blogland, my birthday happened. And it was a very nice birthday; I am now 20, and will not get funny looks for procreating.
Not that I intend to procreate just yet.

The nice thing was that my birthday entailed lots and lots of books. Lots.

So instead of writing, I’ve been reading:

1 – The Vagina Monologues – Eve Ensler.
Read this. Everybody should read this. I’m lending it to J because it contains some of those things that we need to know. Such as the fact that the clitoris has around twice as many nerve fibres as a penis – more than anywhere else in the body, male or female. Not only is that a useful thing to know, it’s also very nice!

2 – Bachelor Girl – Betty Israel.
I picked this up on my birthday holiday in a little sleepy town with a remarkably big bookshop. Wall to wall bookshelves on four levels, and half a shelf somewhere in the middle labeled Feminism. I was happy. And the book is one of those books that needs to be read quietly. It’s focussed on American women, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or relevant. Just different.

3 – Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade – Guy Browning.
Because you’ve got to have some fun in life and laughing out loud on a train, scaring the man sitting opposite you always counts.

I have a few others still to go, which is nice. But I keep lending them to people – just as well really as my bookcase is small and I suspect that to accommodate my growing collection, if they were all there, I’d need to buy another one.

Also, I don’t like Reading.
It is Guildford, only squashed a bit flatter. And it’s Guildford – and therefore London – prices.
I’m not becoming a student for that.

So I rather suspect that I will be heading North in October.

Hopefully more regular posts now that life has settled down a bit, but with my sister stealing my laptop to ‘revise’ for her A-levels, using that ever popular medium of Facebook, who knows?


A couple of things:

Once again, that pinnacle of education and information, Sky News, has its priorities just right.

To accompany my two thickly buttered bagels for breakfast, the news that even though a recent study of twins has shown that being overweight is over 3/4 to do with your genes (if anyone else wants to shout, as I did, “No! You think?!” – go to Shapely Prose, where they do it brilliantly well!) – that is no excuse for getting fat.

Yes, you might be very genetically predisposed towards being fat – as you might be at higher risk of cancer, or diabetes, or indeed having twin babies – but that doesn’t mean you can just relax! You must stay thin, and cancer free, and diabetes free, and have no babies, just in case they turn out to be twins.
Actually, no – have the twin babies, and then we can race them, and see if a “winning streak” is down to your genes.

And, as a second thought, something I have been pondering.

Kirsten has lent me The Beauty Myth (by Naomi Wolf).
I can’t bring myself to read it in more than short bursts, because it feels very close to home and suppressing the rage makes my head hurt.

Anyway, leaving that aside, she talks a lot about clothes, and work clothes, in relation mainly to women. As you might expect.

One of the points she made runs something along the lines that women are at a disadvantage because, whereas men have a clearly defined work uniform (suits, or at least suit trousers, together with a collared shirt, and a tie as optional), women do not, and where the default setting for professional is male, and therefore uniform, to not have a uniform singles you out as less professional.

At least, I think that’s what she meant. I am paraphrasing, and don’t have the book in front of me.

So, I had a thought. A second thought, even.

Should company dress codes give trousers as the only option?
Technically, I suppose, one could argue that it is sexist to allow women to wear more casual clothes to work than men. Not that men would say that too loudly, in case it looked like they were advocating men wearing skirts, which is something only for women. Which would be bad and wrong, because remember, if you are a woman, you are less than a man.

But I have heard men complaining about it, quietly.

As it happens, I have always worn black trousers to work. In two of my three jobs, I have been required to wear trousers. In the other, at the shop, a skirt would have restricted my movement, impeded me in my work, and also, completely separately, annoyed the hell out of me.

So. Women being required to wear trousers. Is this right? Is it even legal? And what about the women who like having their legs shackled together, and who feel capable of getting through the day without laddering a pair of tights? I think we should be told!


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.


Abortion Rights

Anybody who actually waded through my rant about sex will have seen that I was planning on going to a public meeting on abortion rights.

For once, I actually did what I said I was going to, and, even better, I found my Mum a birthday present beforehand. Which was useful, as I’d kind of forgotten that her birthday was this month.

Anyway, so I went to the Houses of Parliament – and you know, for somebody that identifies as a Londoner, I’m really not very good. I seriously had no idea how close together everything all was, and, what’s worse, I was genuinely surprised to walk past Downing Street on the way.
Obviously I’m living more on Planet Rachel than in London at the moment.

However. I got there, I queued, I watched the Met. (London’s very own police force, aren’t we lucky?!) get progressively more and more uneasy with the number of women coming to infiltrate the Houses of Parliament, and I wandered around gawping at statues, like a tourist.

We got moved from one room to another because too many of us turned up, and then we kept coming so they started putting people back into the room we’d just left, and in the end, we had two meetings, in two different rooms, with the same speakers at the same time.
Because feminism is nothing if not logical, dammit!

The crowd was excellent, too. A handful of men – mostly young, and nobody over 40, I’d say – trying not to look frightened, or inadvertantly hold posters with the strapline “keep your laws off my body”. And women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours. Which was nice.

We had the crazy women who sat in the corner muttering, because you always get a couple of crazies at any big event. We had the typical “Chelsea girls”, very fashionable and with very irritating voices (I try not to hold it against people, but when they’re standing right next to me…!). We had a hell of a lot of studenty types. We had the Socialist Workers Party people, selling newspapers as always (I do wonder whether they care what they attend, sometimes). We had women who’d protested about the same thing way back in ’78. We had the radical protesters with mohicans and dyed red hair. Dammit, I want red hair! We had businesswoman types, amusing me greatly when they got fired up. And we had me.

It was wonderful that it didn’t seem to be exclusive. It wasn’t all middle class, or all white, or all old, or anything. It was just women. All different types.

And it was great.

I heard phrases like “the patriarchy” used casually as though we’d all know what it meant.
So I was happy.

I heard that the pro-choice movement had cross-party support, which made me even happier, especially when one of the speakers said “it’s a particular pleasure to have thinking conservatives”. It made me chuckle.

Possibly most amusingly, I was in the same room as a man whose first words after being introduced were,

“I’m not normally known as ‘Dr. Evan Harris’ – I’m normally known by the Daily Mail as ‘Doctor Death’“.*

*Disclaimer: Do not visit that link if you want any sensible information. In fact, the article is so amusingly bad, I may break it down at some point, in order to scoff.

Personally, I found him to be intelligent, articulate and sensible. But hey – I’m a crazy, hairy-legged feminist – what do I know?!

Rather embarressingly, I’ve forgotten the full name of the woman whose speech I enjoyed most. I think she was called Dianne, but evidently I should have written this down!

Her points were beautifully put, and she was fantastic.

Her main point was this: That it is those same people who so loudly and vehemently protest about “the rights of the unborn child”, who want nothing to do with that child once it is born. You will never see them voting for a universal childcare system, or extra child benefits, or anything else that would benefit real, living children. And therefore, since their actions show where their words do not that they do not care about the rights of any child or foetus, one is left to conclude that their attack on abortion is aimed at the only other party – women. Not anything to do with children at all.

She got a very, very loud round of applause for that, as you can imagine.

Anyway. I went to this to get more information, which I have. I feel I have more of an understanding of what is happening, and this pleases me. And I have websites to visit:

* Abortion Rights has a model letter that you can download to send to your MP, if you live in the UK. The MPs that were present at the meeting say that personal letters really do make a difference, and can help stiffen resolve, so please, if you can do this, do.
Also, it will help to counteract the lovely, intelligent, adult tactics used by the anti-abortion crowd, who last time round sent every single MP a plastic foetus in the post. Nice.

There are going to be rallies, lobbies, general shouty things. If I can possibly get involved, this meeting has shown me how important it is.

And then it’s just one small step before we take over the world!!!!!