Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Boris Johnson made an election promise about rape crisis funding. He said he would increase funding to £744,000 to pay for four new centres as well as funding the one that already exists. Studies suggest that as many as one in four women experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault in their lifetimes so really who ever thought one rape crisis centre was enough for a city the size of London? So far, so good.
Well Happy Christmas London. Johnson has just made an announcement about that funding promise. To cut a long story short it went "Not really!". He now says he can only spare £233,000, which as I recall is basically the orignal budget which he had pledged to improve.
Now I call that news. Shocking, awful, distressing news. But news. News of a more important nature than some bloke in sequinned tights (apologies to male readers who choose to wear tights - I bear you no grudge) prancing about in front of Bruce Forsyth. Or is that just me? The news only got out of the GLA because Green Party GLA member Jenny Jones took the time to ask him what was happening with the funding and issue a press release.
Come on media - what is going on? Do your job please!
I'm not so far aware of a protest or sponsored shoe-throwing being organised but readers wishing to do so could certainly write to Johnson at email@example.com. Or better still write to your local or national paper and ask them when they plan to cover the story.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
What a relief to know that I've been well and truly "spoiled" by feminism and am not at risk of being set up with the kind of jerk who thinks he can buy women on this sort of site!
"'Ah, I'm after the scent of the souk,' she cried later, like a madwoman peeling a fresh concubine"
Has Moir bothered to double-check the definition of a souk? It means market in an Arab or Berber city, like the one pictured. Which bit of that is supposed to be overpoweringly sexual? Moir explains further...
"'They infuse everything with a glorious sweetness,' she whispers, and rolls them around in the palm of her hand. Then she proceeds to chop them. For they are onions, of course. How shameless."
It's shameless to like onions now?
Or could it be that Ms Lawson represents a successful woman who is actually good at something (cooking and presenting rather smug TV shows about it), confident about her own sexuality and in control of her own image? Now that is disgusting, right?
Never mind that a few channels away NutsTV is running back-to-back shows with names like "Make Me A Glamour Model", "Sextastic Double Header"and "UK Uncovered with Nuts Babe Search". And of course the Daily Mail itself is simultaneously running photo-heavy articles like this one "Small Wonders: Luxurious Underwear to Warm the Cold Nights", "Nicola McLean's Famous Assets Get Covered in Snow" and "Rihanna Narrowly Avoids Wardrobe Malfunction as She Performs in Yet Another Barely-There Outfit"
But no, of course, that dreadful slapper Lawson is the problem.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
So let me make a quick announcement: If you buy me anti-wrinkle cream for Christmas I will be offended.
Just as if you had bought me a book called "Reiki For Controlling Bad Breath" or "How To Overcome Binge Eating Through Feng Shui". Not that I think there is any shame in having wrinkles or bad breath or an eating disorder - but if you are giving me something to help me resolve that problem then you are (a) telling me I have a problem which I might not be aware of or comfortable sharing (or actually a problem I might not have!) and (b) implying that you know better than I do how to address that problem. That will not fill me with festive cheer.
And if anyone does get you anti-wrinkle products for Christmas I recommend a little trick my sister came up with when someone tried to pull that stunt on us a few years back: look surprised, delighted, but a little embarrassed and hold it up while loudly saying "Oh gosh, for my bum! How did you know? Thank you!".
The one we were bought was one that claimed to fight "the seven signs of aging" which led to a four-day debate on what these signs were...
"Wearing cardigans is definitely one."
"I think buying Peter Gabriel albums might be one"
"Knowing the words to ABBA songs...?"
"Making a noise when you stand up?"
"Inability to use predictive text?"
Etc, etc. Feel free to add your own comedy signs of aging in comments if you know one!
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
1) I was on BBC Breakfast TV this morning talking about Lad Mags again. They had me on with a guy (Derek) who used to edit Loaded and Maxim (or something like that). We were discussing whether the current voluntary code (which no-one adheres to) of not selling them to children should become a compulsory code. His argument was no because "some people enjoy them".
If there's one thing I hate more than those who argue in favour of porn, it's those who argue in favour of porn with logically meaningless arguments. So I said "some people enjoy child pornography - should we legalise that too?". And then it sort-of kicked off and there was a lot of raised voices and a lot of me interrupting him and making sure I got my point across since his wasn't even a point.
By the time I got home my inbox and text-box were full of messages from people saying "good job" and "well said", etc. Here's a sample one: "I saw you on telly this morning as I was getting ready for work. Your peremptory manner left the slimeball umming and erring. It was great to see.." (thanks Crispin!).
Then I got a facebook message from a guy I don't know. He must have looked me up by my unusual name. Fine. I get lots of people doing that to say they agree or the disagree with me. Cool. But instead he had messaged me to say that he hoped I didn't mind some unsolicited advice and that while he agreed with me he thought I should have been less forthright, and listened more.
As an incident this really shows how deeply entrenched male priveledge is doesn't it? Has he been invited to make repeated appearances on TV? Does he write an award-winning blog? Does he work as a professional public performer? Not that we know of, and yet he felt like he would just send me some advice, as a "favour". And that advice, as it happens, was to sit back and take it while a pornographer defended his sordid industry.
So I declined to respond (if you message people on Facebook they can then access your friends, etc for a month...) and instead reported it as harrassment. Still seething a bit though. Jeremy Clarkson can count himself lucky I didn't run into him today!
2) One thing I didn't get the chance to rant about today is the impact Lad Mags have on my industry (stand-up comedy). All of them publish sexist jokes which have become increasingly acceptible in recent years and as far as I can tell they more or less invented the "women aren't funny" myth.
At one point FHM (I think) ran some comedy awards and in the "Funniest woman" category were Catherine Tate, Jo Brand, Lily Savage*, Dame Edna Everage* and the option to vote for "none of them". As I recall despite the tone of the the piece Catherine Tate managed to win it.
I've actually been introduced to the stage and before I get to the mic heard audience members (guys) go "Uh, oh lads it's a bird, lets go to the bar...". And if some of them are saying that out loud you can bet some more are thinking it and before I've even started it means I have a harder job than the guys on before and after me.
The BBC of course takes a much more fair and gender-neutral view of comedy, as witnessed by these photos taken at the British Comedy Awards.
Comics: Male 2, Female 0
Comedy actors: Male 4, Female 2
Random totty: Male 0, Female 3
*Footnote for overseas readers. Lily Savage and Dame Edna Everage are male comedians who perform in drag.
(Photo by Matt Farrington Smith)
Monday, December 08, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Well I was in a lift this lunchtime with none other than Clarkson himself. I was over at BBC Two to talk to appear on the Jeremy Vine show to discuss the Miss University London pageant. No idea what Clarkson was up to.
While in the lift he said "This is actually too low for me", standing on tip-toes and jabbing the light fixture with his head. And since I did want to be on the Jeremy Vine show I didn't say "You might want to try not standing on your toes, unless of course you're trying to bang your head which would explain a great deal about your offensive low-grade presenting patter."
Now he sounded very bunged up as he said this and someone asked him if he was ok and he said "I sound awful [check], but I feel fine, I never get flu". I thought wow - even flu viruses won't go near him, amazing.
It was a pretty small lift though. There would be a certain twisted irony if I actually caught some horrible bug off of him now.
While I was waiting for the interview I also shared a sofa in the waiting area with Jason Donovan. Eat your heart out groupies. Nothing exciting happened, he laughed at my flippant remark about the government reaction to the credit crunch (the radio was playing with people arguing about who would win and lose from the latest proposals and I said "They should just send everyone a fiver"), I made some tea, I got called throught to the studio.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Firstly this article is in the "Femail" section. This is an article of interest to women. Presumably women who don't want to get shot in the head at point blank range...? Sick.
Secondly large parts of the article are not about the case - they are about Jon himself:
"I’d love to live somewhere like this if I could afford it, I think ruefully as I drive through the village"
"I show him my Press card. ‘You look too scruffy to be a journalist,’ he says. We both laugh. Then I bid him farewell and drive away."
Of course lots of great journalists include their own reactions to situations, but this isn't his reaction, it's the minutiae of his day, the stuff of "Dear Diary". And it shows a kind of lack of respect for the victims I think. He's more interested in being jealous of the area they lived in and having a laugh with the local police.
But it gets much more sinister than that. The murderer is portrayed as a nice guy...
"According to his friends, Foster adored his family."
According to the gunshot wounds, he didn't. That is not the hallmark of adoration.
Then our intrepid journalist goes to meet Ian, a friend of Foster's. The guy explains that Foster was a big spender who liked to spend money ostentatiously but who was actually going bankrupt. And then mystically the subject of divorce comes up:
"‘I empathise with Chris,’ Ian says. ...‘I’m going through a divorce at the moment. I probably seem normal and relaxed to you, but inside I’m finding it very stressful."
OK, now I do find it weird that anyone would tell a newspaper that they empathised with a multiple murderer. I see where Shipman was coming from, that Peter Sutcliffe was so misunderstood...
"‘We’re supposed to be manly,’ ... ‘We’re not supposed to get upset. We’re supposed to be the breadwinners and the providers, especially in our children’s eyes. We’re supposed to do miracles.’"
According to who? I have never said this. Who is telling people this? As far as I am aware - mostly journalists at the Daily Male.
"‘When I went to the divorce hearing, my wife’s solicitor suggested I sell this house and split the proceeds. The judge agreed. He knew nothing of the case — he’d just read a brief thing.’"
The judge agreed to a 50-50 split? What an evil bastard...
"‘If I sell the house I’ll have to sell the horses, too. My kids live for those horses. For someone to take that life away from the children…’ There’s a silence. ‘It’s heartbreaking,’"
I think your kids would rather lose their horses than their lives. And if your kids live for their horses maybe they need a more fulfilling family life. Maybe they would benefit from more time with their father, rather than just a lot of expensive toys.
"'Fair enough, it’s my wife who’s trying to take things away from me, but it’s somebody else who’s giving her that authority."
Giving her authority? She's been in this marriage as long as you have and she's been raising the kids too, it sounds like with rather little help from you. I think she's entitled to half the house. No-one is giving her that authority, the court is defending her right to it which you are trying to take away.
"‘You’re as mad at them as you are at her. That’s where I can empathise with Chris. The idea it puts into your head is getting back at the Establishment."
How does it get back at the establishment to murder your wife and daughter? He seems to have forgotten that they are people, not items of property that the state might have wanted to put up for auction.
"When you hear about bailiffs turning up the next morning, as the bodies were still smouldering, you think: “Fair play”."
You do? You hear of the bodies of two innocent women smoldering and you think "fair play"? Then you should be shot at dawn you creepy weirdo asshole.
Are you hearing what I'm hearing? That the reason Chris Foster murdered his wife and daughter was because of the difficulties of getting divorced? The article glosses over things like his being a member of a shooting club where the members tell obscene jokes and talk about suicide. The article doesn't bother to expand on the risks of the fact that he collected guns as a hobby. And when his career is mentioned it is to suggest that the state has no right to reclaim money owed by Foster. Yet even his business career had signs of danger in it, like this one:
"At the High Court, on February 28, 2008, Lord Justice Rimer said Foster was ‘bereft of the basic instincts of commercial morality. He was not to be trusted’."
But most incredibly of all after all this: Chris Foster wasn't getting divorced. His wife knew he had no less than eight mistresses and yet still "played the dutiful wife". Clearly she would have been much much MUCH better off if she had gotten divorced a long time ago. But that's not what the "Femail" section is there to tell women is it? Not when they can have a male journalist tell them it's their own fault when they're murdered.
Photo by Ian Britton, from FreeFoto.com
Monday, December 01, 2008
Someone is paying good money to get an airbrusher in to create an image that is unrealistic, unattractive and weird. Mel B is a great-looking woman with a great figure. But somehow for the advertisers - that's not enough!
Now an important point to remember here is that a caution can legally only be issued if the criminal admits the offense. So these are cases that should in theory at least be easy to prosecute fully. Of course every case is different but I can't think of a scenario in which a caution would be the right response to rape. So my feeling is we should find the officers who've issued these cautions and do a fair bit more than just caution them.
Photo by Ian Britton, from FreeFoto.com
Friday, November 28, 2008
Frustratingly the BBC has put up on their news site a link to Stringfellow talking bollocks but not bothered putting up a link to Sandrine Leveque from Object doing a brilliant job of explaining why the law change is needed. Luckily the footage is up on Parliament Live TV where what I find amazing (aside from the great job Sandrine is doing) are the weird, pathetic and totally out of date objections put up by the MPs hearing the case. At one point one of them says (essentially) "But don't women get jobs stripping on cruise ships as a way to get their Equity card?". Now firstly I'm not aware that this is true but whatever. Secondly if it is true, surely it's a rather horrible state of affairs and we should sort it out. Or does the government thing stripping should be a short-cut into acting. What other career paths does the government think should offer fast-track access to those prepared to strip for money? Forgotten to study for your GCSEs? Just flash your boobs at the invigilator... Is that what these idiots actually want?
(Piccie from Freefoto.com)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The Facebook advertising system is supposed to allow advertisers to target the customers most likely to be interested in their product. But I don't seem to be getting any adverts that are hitting me because I'm a university graduate, because my favourite film is Secrets and Lies or because I'm a member of the group "I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin". You would think Republican adverts for foreign policy researchers would be over-loading my system. No instead the only measure I am being profiled on is "has vagina" (tick) therefore "must hate own body and want to be size zero" (uh-uh).
Now as a teenager I suffered quite seriously from anorexia. I made a pretty full recovery, but there are lots of women out there who aren't as lucky as me - those currently experiencing eating disorders anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating. And BDD (body dismorphic disorder) along with other related issues - like feeling the need to have extensive sugery or bottulism injections on their healthy bodies. Is Facebook checking to make sure it doesn't send adverts like these inappropriately to those with or at risk of developing issues with their bodies? Maybe they could add an extra box to people's profiles. Are you interested in starting an extreme weigh-loss diet based exclusively on grass seeds and acai berries? No? Oh, ok we'll leave you alone then.
But it works - since going gender-neutral on Facebook I have very few diet ads. Instead my adverts are mainly for theatre tickets, loans, legal services, other facebook apps and christmas shopping sites. I seriously recommend other women do the same if they want to be able to surf the web without having their self esteem sureptitiously eroded!
The law change was supposed to crack down on the men who visit prostitutes, the idea being weirdly that this is in some way "fair" to legally pursue both parties. This of course misses the point that the vast majority of prostitutes are not doing the job out of free and straightforward choice. It makes sense to criminalise those who use prostitutes because it reduces demand and thus the incentives to those who would force women into this role. It would make more sense however to simultaneously decriminalise the women themselves, so that they can seek help and a route out of prostitution when they are ready and feel able to.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Upstairs at the Round Table Pub, St Martin's Court. Down the side of the Wyndham's Theatre. Near Leicester Square Tube.
Special comedy night fund raiser for Abortion Rights.
As I’m sure you will be aware Abortion Rights has had a very busy year keeping the likes of Ann Widdicombe and Nadine Dorries from telling us all what to do with our bodies. It’s been tough but reasonably successful. Of course it’s cost a lot of money to run the campaign so we thought that we could raise a bit back while having a great comedy knees-up for all our members and supporters.
The line-up is completely different (except me as MC still) to the Feminism In London comedy night so it won’t be the same old stuff. I’m really excited about it: Grainne is the Irish act who had to drop out of the FiL night so she’s been on my wish list for a while, Hannah is only 19/20 and is already winning national awards and Tiffany is a big deal on the circuit (I was quite a lot surprised she said yes!).
All-female line up featuring:
MC - Kate Smurthwaite (me)
“A little reminiscent of an excitable, slightly irresponsible head girl luring impressionable fourth formers into some illicit fun” – National Student
Winner of Paramount Comedy’s Student Comedian of the Year 2007 (at only 19 years old!!)
"Highly promising, has a big future ahead of her" - Time Out, “nice observations. ..can employ understatement with the dry mastery of a Father Ted script" - Chortle
TV star who has appeared in: Comedy Cuts, The Office, Chambers, Balls of Steel, Dead Clean and Days That Shook The World.
We’ll also have a raffle to raise a little more I think, prizes to be announced.
Show is £5 if you book in advance, £7 on the door (if any tickets remain)
I know after the huge success of the Feminism In London comedy night, this is going to be full so I strongly advise booking in advance (which will also save you money). It's also a much smaller room than we had for that show so seriously book now if you don't want to miss out. I don’t however have the means to let you pay in advance so please only reserve if you are definitely coming, bringing cash, and at least one of your party is able to be at the venue by 8pm to collect your tickets. Otherwise we’ll end up in a real mess.
So to book send a message with your name, your email address and how many tickets you want to kate [at] winstonspencer management [dot] com (note: not my normal email address, one I never use which hopefully means I’ll be able to see all the reservations neatly in one place and not lose any!). I will reply to you and confirm your booking, if you don't get that within 24hrs mail again or leave a comment on the blog. I will accept bookings this way until either we are full up or until 27th November. After that you'll have to take your chances on the door.
Notes you might need to know about:
1) Come by public transport, there isn’t anywhere to park. It’s less than a minute’s walk from Leicester Square tube.
2) Venue is upstairs and sorry not wheelchair accessible. That said if we can carry you/your chair/help you up the stairs, let me know and we will do whatever we can. The seating at the venue is a mix of chairs, stools, benches, tables, etc. If you really need a chair with a back on let me know when you book and I'll reserve you one.
3) The venue is a lovely pub, open all day and it does food. You are welcome to arrive early, hang out, have a drink, etc. I will be upstairs setting up but you can come up, bring food, chat and eat while you wait if you want to. There will also be two intervals for you to load up on drinks and chat.
4) It’s a pub. No kids.
5) The pub sells food and drinks, you do not have to have a drink or any food but please don’t bring in outside food or drinks.
6) As it's a fund-raiser we don't have a concession price for students/oaps/ etc - it is only a fiver. But we do want to be inclusive so if you are desperate to go but money is a problem then let me know what you can afford and we'll discount your tickets so you can come.
7) Some of the acts may use dirty words or talk about scandalous things like sex. So don't bring anyone who doesn't like that sort of thing.Any questions let me know. See you there!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
1) The architecture is amazing, what a shame that all this time and effort goes in to designing a shopping centre while so many sports centres and libraries are so run down and so many Londoners live in substandard housing.
2) Boring boring shops - didn't seem to be anything new or different or interesting, just the same stuff. Did we need another M&S in London? Were queues forming outside the existing ones and dressing rooms overflowing? Or are we less filling a need and more just manufacturing a need? Er actually Cru, that may be a stupid question...
3) Why is every single product on sale advertised through the medium of James Bond tie-ins. I heard the latest film is rubbish and I never much liked the old ones, they're all the same misogynist crap and they're totally dated. But Daniel Craig's face is on every wall selling everything from watches to car insurance. No doubt the loos have a sign that says "Have a quantum of solace in our bogs" or "007 - he squats, he squirts...!"
4) I mentioned manufacturing need - there's a salon in there that ONLY does blow-drying. And the appointments they offer are half an hour long! I think half an hour of professional blow-drying is over the top for someone who's getting married in the afternoon, but there were people in there on a Monday morning mid-shop! Not that there's anything wrong with being pampered once in a while but it was pissing down outside so the poofed-up look will only last a few minutes.
5) The sales assistants in many of the designer stores were suspiciously attractive. Makes me want to put on 200 pounds, apply for a job and open a court case. I can't risk it though in case they call my bluff and I end up perched in a mobile hospital bed in the entrance to Ted Baker reciting the company-approved welcome comment and crying on the inside.
6) Lack of seating. They want you to come in, to walk around the 43 acres of shopping mall loading your arms up with heavy and bulky products but if you want a quick sit-down to take the weight off you are going to have to buy an over-priced coffee first. Or a half-hour blow-dry.
...not that I really thought I was going to LIKE it!
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I disagree. I don't think it is the way that the BBC is funded that causes these problems. I think other stations have just as much rampant misogyny and tasteless jokes as the BBC. In fact the way the BBC is funded makes it more accountable to the public than other stations. Remember while Brand is no longer working at the BBC, he still has a show on Channel Four.
I think instead we should be asking - why is the BBC trying to compete with commercial channels? The whole point of the BBC is that it's different to commercial channels and should be offering something to the public which commercial channels cannot offer because of the way THEY'RE funded.
The BBC doesn't need to have the best ratings. There's no need for the BBC to put on these "laddish" shows - like Top Gear and Jonathan Ross - in order to win viewers. They should instead focus on offering more quality cultural shows, more quality documentaries. And as far as entertainment, they should be nurturing new talent, not paying through the nose for established "talent".
Jonathan Ross, we are told, is on £6m a year. For that money you could hire 200 new up and coming writers, actors, performers, comics, singers, dancers, entertainers, directors, etc. I'm thinking a basic £20,000 salary plus £10,000 towards the cost of putting together the show they want to make. Is there anyone in the universe who really thinks the output of such a massive-scale project would be less interesting than yet another middle-aged straight white bloke sat behind a desk asking actresses to describe what it was like working with Daniel Craig...? Of course not.
Now of course I'm biased, I don't seem to have my own TV show yet (although I was on BBC London again yesterday trying to explain to that creep Simon Warr why lap-dancing clubs shouldn't be licensed like cafes). But then again I guess that also makes me pretty well qualified to say that there is a lot of talent out there on the comedy circuit and the acting circuit and in terms of writers and directors and producers that would really benefit from the opportunity to complete their projects.
We love the BBC when it finds new talent and new ideas for us - whether it's The Office or Teletubbies but no-one cares whether they watch Jonathan Ross on the BBC or on ITV or Channel Four. Let the commercial channels pay the seven-figure salaries if these people are really worth it and lets have the BBC be about something different, something that rejects the prevailing misogynist climate and focusses on education, culture and new talent.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Here we have a victim and a "cause" in the headline but no perpetrator. What happened to "man kills wife"? Or even "Wife-killer claims...". Phrasing it that way is step one on a slippery slope to victim-blaming. Also - is anyone else sensing that contrary to the spirit of the headline "not being a virgin" isn't actually a legitimate reason for murder? I know there are quote marks round it, but that IS the headline and that appears to be the reason for publishing the story - to let people know that for some at least that is a reasonable thing to do. But most importantly - there is a real story here, totally buried. The daughter of the couple concerned had asked the clinic where the murderer was being treated for depression to keep him in. And they refused, discharged him, and he went on to murder his wife and then commit suicide. The story should be about NHS provision of mental health care for people at risk. Instead it reads like a warning of retribution to women planning to marry in white!
Secondly - justification for the above behaviour from the animal world...You should be able to read the article by just clicking on it. Anyway it's about a probably rather interesting subject - the sex life of the cricket. Apparently scientists with too much time on their hands (presumably AIDS and cancer have already been cured) have discovered the male crickets smell out females who have mated less with other males and allocate more sperm to them. They're wrong (according to Mr Cru) when they say this is the first time a species has been discovered to sniff out and react to competitors sperm, but let's overlook that. The thing is the whole set up of the article seems to be saying that this applies to humans and justifies a social revulsion of promiscuous women.
The opening paragraph explains that human women are viewed as "sluts" if they sleep around, "whereas men doing the same are hailed as studs". This may be true in their strange out-of-date world but in mine women who sleep around are defiant feminist mavericks and men who sleep around are just assholes... Then the article explains "now it seems this type of chauvinism may serve an evolutionary purpose - in crickets anyway".
Except that (a) The actual report in no way suggests that the findings have any relevance to human reproductive strategies. (b) In terms of sperm distribution it would make sense for humans to have exactly the opposite of the cricket pattern. Human females can produce at most around one infant per year so for a woman with only one partner there is no great urgency to impregnation - one sperm will do the job and if the man is unsuccessful this month, he can try again next month. Whereas a woman with many partners is likely to be pregnant soon, so there is an incentive to provide as much sperm as possible as quickly as possible - so more frequent sex and more sperm each time. Mr Cru tells me he has read studies suggesting that this happens. (c) A biological reaction does not always come with a corresponding social reaction. Men may subconsciously seek out fertile women based on smell and hip shape but I've never found "I'm not on the pill and I don't use condoms" works as a chat-up line. Guys are not consciously trying to help their sperm out. And (d) So what! So what if men's sperm count were to react to the smell of other men's sperm? Does that justify treating promiscuous women as second class citizens? And why should women be judged on the basis of the reaction they engender in men? Lets measure women by who's the smartest and who's the best at singing, weight-lifting and playing the didgeridoo (not all at the same time)!
Thirdly - over in the London Paper. And this one makes me the angriest (those of a sensitive disposition please do not read on)...
The crime itself is so horrible, it's hard to discuss other aspects of it. A mentally disabled woman gang-raped by ten men, who then burned her with caustic soda. And by the way this was on page four - the front page was reserved for "Madonna Gets Divorced". The prosecutor - Rosina Cottage - who is supposed to be representing the interests of the victim is (apparently) saying the victim "may have been raped because she had recently slept with three men known to the gang". And the paper is copying that verbatim as though it were a reasonable thing to say. Now there is an issue already about how exactly a 16-year-old with a mental age of eight was able to give meaningful consent to the three men listed. And of course the other issue is how anyone could dare to imply that she brought the gang-rape or the agonising assault upon herself.
When are these awful sub-gutter press publications going to understand that a woman who chooses to have sex outside of marriage does not deserve scorn, hatred, gang-rape, serious assault or murder? When we see these sorts of attitudes in other parts of the world we react with quite justified disgust, but every day free copies of these hate-promoting, murder-and-rape-justifying newspapers are handed out to thousands of Londoners. Anyone want to go picket something? Let me know, I'm there!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
You don't have to come to the conference to come to the comedy night - the line-up is a totally amazing all-female bill (including wonderful Irish comedienne Grainne Maguire, pictured) but the show is open to men too - and there certainly won't be any of the "I was having sex with my girlfriend - then she woke up..."-type sexist nonsense that you get at many comedy nights. And it's only £5 (£2 unwaged) all of which is going directly to support the conference - a great cause. Please come along and please come say hello if you're a reader. See you there!
I didn't even realise until quite recently that the 1967 act which legalised abortion in England, Wales and Scotland did not extend to Northern Ireland. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the mother's life is at risk. There is no exception made for rape or incest victims. 6217 women who gave addresses in Ireland had an abortion in Britain last year, others travel to Holland or Belgium and some have been known to order abortion-inducing medicines online, which is dangerous both because not all websites selling such things are safe and also because women convicted of causing an abortion in Northern Ireland can face long prison terms. Since 1967 five women are known to have died as a result of backstreet abortions in Northern Ireland. This means of course that the system effectively just penalises those women without the financial means to go overseas for their termination. In the next two weeks we have a once-in a-generation chance to change that.
Diane Abbott has tabled an amendment to the HFE Bill which will be voted on on Oct 22nd which would extend the 1967 abortion act to cover Northern Ireland.
You can help to ensure that this legislation goes through. Firstly, and most importantly - write to your MP. Just click here and put in your postcode and the site will allow you to do it all online. Alternatively write to them at the House Of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. You can put it in your own words or copy a model letter from the Abortion Rights website here. And once you've done that there are three more people you can reasonably write to... You can write to Diane Abbott and thank her for putting the amendment forward, you can write to Gordon Brown (10 Downing Street and/or by signing this petition) and ask him to support the modernisation of the abortion law, he's pretty desperate for public approval at the moment and his backing would make it much easier for other Labour Party MPs to back the amendments. And finally you can write to Harriet Harman (firstname.lastname@example.org) who is Minister for Women and urge her to put her weight behind the amendments (rather than wimping out and abstaining).
Oh and of course you can also forward this to your friends and family and encourage them to do the same. We have a two week window to sort this out, what happens now will be with us for years to come.
Thanks for reading this and taking action. It's so important we do it right now!
PS. Here's some stuff you may have heard elsewhere:
1) Shouldn't the Northern Irish politicians make the decisions about what happens in Northern Ireland? No. This is about human rights. Women cannot hope for equality in our society until they have full rights over their own bodies. When Northern Irish politicians tried to get an exception to the anti-discrimination laws covering homosexuality - we over-ruled because it was a human rights issue. Also when other amendments covering abortion in England, Wales and Scotland were voted on a few months ago - the Northern Irish MPs all voted to restrict abortion rights for other women in the UK even though it did not affect N.I.
2) But if the people of Northern Ireland don't want abortion rights, why should we force them on them? A majority of people in Northern Ireland do support abortion rights for women. It's just their politicians who are stuck in the 19th century.
3) I can't support abortion because of my religion. The nearest the bible comes to mentioning abortion is in Isaiah where it says if two men are fighting and a woman is hit causing her to miscarry the man who hit the woman must pay a fine to the woman's husband. I'm not sure that's the law we need but it would actually be better than the one we've got. Anyway the bible says you shouldn't blaspheme, eat shellfish or share a bed with your husband during your period. Should we pass these as laws and enforce them with lengthy prison sentences? Do we want a country where people of non-christian faiths and of no religion are forced to practice fundamentalist Christianity by law? Even when they are pregnant following incestuous rape? Really?
4) Could this affect the peace process? Oh come on. If this was about the sectarian divide in N. I. you would expect that the Unionists would want to have the same laws as England, Wales and Scotland. They don't, politicians on both sides oppose abortion rights for women.
5) I heard they did a deal over the 42 days detention. This may be true - we don't know. There is a rumour that Gordon Brown may have offered the Northern Irish politicians a "deal" that if they support his 42 day detention laws, he will encourage his party to block abortion rights in N.I. Oh good so the rights of police suspects are trampled all over AND the rights of women in N.I. to chose what happens to their own bodies are trampled all over. Lets reject the 42-day detention thing AND insist on abortion rights for women in N.I.
6) The HFE Bill isn't the right place to amend abortion law. The 1967 abortion law is significantly out of date. Not only with the exception made for Northern Ireland but also the requirement in the rest of the UK for two doctors signatures (you don't even need two doctor's signatures for triple heart bypass surgery), that nurses can't prescribe abortion pills (though they can prescribe may much more complicated drug treatments and if the law was changed in this area many women would have much less distance to travel to access abortion services) and the law which says that medical abortion cannot be completed at home (women have to take the pills in a clinic and either wait there around four hours until the induced miscarriage starts or risk heading home knowing bleeding could start at any time). Since it came in there has been only one opportunity to update it - in 1990. This is the second opportunity to do so we've had in over 40 years. These
things come round once in a generation, we could soon have a Tory government and people like Ann Widdicombe will be straight on their high horses seizing every opportunity to rip women's rights away from them. We've got to do it now. If we can get it onto the HFE Bill - great. Oh and by the way there are also other amendments tabled which would do away with the two doctors business and allow nurses to administer medical abortions and women to take the tablets at home if they prefer. See the abortion rights website for info on supporting those amendments too.
7) The government will do the right thing won't they? I can't really make any difference can I? The tiny minority of anti-choice campaigners in the UK have massive resources and apparently limitless energy. MPs have been sent plastic foetuses in carrier bags. Mailbags are filling up with angry letters calling those who promote women's rights "murderers" and worse. We are the majority and we need to let politicians know we support women's rights, that the issue is important to us and ask them to do the same.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
These subjects don't come round very often in parliament so the decisions made now could be with us and future generations for a long time. So it's vital that we do whatever we can now to make sure women's rights are protected.
Which is all a rather long-winded way of saying PLEASE COME TO THE PUBLIC MEETING AT 7pm ON 7th OCTOBER. Click here for more info. A really big turn-out will make sure MPs realise how important this issue is to us.
And if you should happen to be the owner or creator of a feminist blog/website/organisation/girl-gang please let your members know about the meeting and encourage them to attend. If you would like leaflets, an e-flyer, etc, I can provide, just give me a shout. See you there, do say hello if you're a blog reader!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Well what do you know? Now a Catholic school is refusing to allow it's girls to be innoculated against HPV (which leads* to cervical cancer, which can lead of course to death). Worse they're insisting their decision is "not a moral one" but has to do with concerns about side effects like "headaches" and "nausea" and the school "not being the right place" to administer the vaccine. So just to clarify in case any govenors of St Monica's, Preswich are reading:
1) Headaches and nausea generally considered less serious conditions than cancer.
2) Best place to do vaccinations? Wherever we can be most certain that all children will receive it, i.e. at school where we can record these thing.
And a bonus one: (3) Best place for your religion? Further down the priority list than the lives of young women in your care.
*Note, as my wise commenters have pointed out - I am explaining this wrong: HPV can lead to cervical cancer. Having HPV does not mean you'll get cervical cancer, lots of people have HPV and have no problems as a result of it. However the vast majority of cervical cancers develop in women with HPV, so protecting against HPV protects against cervical cancer. (Thanks to those who pointed this out!)
Dressed like a Victorian dandy, cravat, silk hanky, cuff-links, leather briefcase and probably sock-suspenders but I tried not to look. In the waiting room the floor manager came through and said they were ready for us in the studio. I leaped up and headed for the door, he started making a cup of tea as though a national television show would be happy to wait for him. Oh yes we'll just fill in chatting about the weather until you prepare yourself with Pimms and a quick twenty minutes of birch twig self-flagellation!
Then - and this was really the amazing bit - while we were waiting for the cameras to come to us he asked me what I did for work and I said I was a stand-up comic to which he said "good grief, what is the world coming to?". Not sure what he thought WOULD be appropriate work for me: scullery maid? seamstress? lady in waiting?
Once the sound was rolling he said "Jesus Christ" loudly, resulting in the presenter having to apologise to viewers for the blasphemy. I'm no fan of the religious anti-blasphemy lobby but really before you go on air the only thing they tell you is "don't use bad language", how hard is it?
Anyway here's how prepared he was for the interview - half way through he admitted that "if we're going to use logic" I was right. And then kept talking as though listeners had tuned in to a news show to hear his illogical faeries-and-pixies-based theories!
Another quickie for this morning - an article from the BBC about the joys of sexism. Apparently men with "sexist" views about the role of women in the workplace earn more than men with more liberal views. Now I don't quite get their point here, they seem to be saying: Career path moving too slowly? Try misogyny for an instant boost!
Maybe the point(s) to be concluded are a little more subtle, maybe (1) people who are a**holes in one area are a**holes in other areas too. Maybe being an a**hole in general gets you ahead in business. (2) Maybe guys with old-fashioned beliefs also believe that it is their responsibility as men to be the bread-winner, to earn all the money to support the whole family. So maybe they are more incentivised to do that, even when it means sacrificing family time or indeed principles. (3) Maybe guys with sexist views about a woman's role are likely to marry women who want to stay home and look after kids, etc and maybe when your partner does that you need to get ahead in work in order to support the family on a single income rather than sharing that burden. Or (4) maybe it's because these cultural dinosaurs are more likely to be wearing a Hawke and Pilkington kerchief and cummerbund combo tied in a reverse triple Windsor knot with Queen Anne tassles unachievable without three years at finishing school and a very open-minded man-servant!!
Can someone remind me which century this is? I seem to have missed a meeting!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
In 2005 the CPS announced a major review of policy in the area aimed at combatting these very issues. Under the new guidelines they said "The responsibility for deciding to charge a suspect in all but the most minor cases now rests with the CPS." - a very important measure which meant that a violent partner could be brought to justice even when the victim asked not to press charges. The new policy also stated as follows: "CPS prosecutors are being encouraged to think imaginatively about the charge - perhaps charging for witness intimidation when the defendant pressures their partner to drop the case, false imprisonment when a victim is prevented from leaving their home or sexual charges in forced marriages."
So it appears the CPS believes that cases should be brought to a criminal court even when the victim wants no charge brought. So why are they allowing Muslim perpetrators of domestic violence to move their cases to a British Sharia court which will order only anger management classes and no protection or support whatsoever for the victim?
On the one hand they no doubt feel they are "helping" the Islamic community by allowing these courts to operate as binding "arbitration tribunals" - with their conclusions then enforced by the British Judicial system. Remember that every week in the UK two female victims of domestic violence are murdered by their partners. So what they are actually doing is saying "We don't care about domestic violence when the victim is Muslim, send her back to her family even when her life is at risk".
These legally binding arbitration courts have also ruled that women are entitled to less inheritance than their brothers and are regularly ruling (no doubt in a totally equality-led way?!) on divorce cases. If they were cutting off hands for stealing and stoning murderers in the streets the uproar would be all over the papers, in the streets and in the (proper) law courts. But it's "just" (minority) women's rights so it would appear no-one cares!
(That's me and Catherine Redfern from the F-Word marching at Reclaim The Night last year by the way)
Monday, September 15, 2008
Well of course the phone lines started ringing saying I didn't know what I was talking about and that casual sex causes disease*(1), teen pregnancy*(1) and leads to emotional hurt when relationships break up*(2). So I said that I had had casual sex in my life so I did know what I was talking about, probably rather better than those arguing with me.
Anyway that was about the last word of reason on the show because the phone lines were going crazy with people ringing in to call me all sorts of names... I mean people were actually cut off because of the language they were using towards me! Too funny. One guy rang in to say I'd never get married now and that if Mr Cru had heard me on air he'd be gone before I got home (he was still there)...
And amazingly while healthy, safe, consensual sex between two adults is enough to have the general public screaming in outrage, it's considered so normal and commonplace for men to go out and pay women for sexual services that they hand out discount vouchers for it at the Tory party conference! How screwed up is that?
For some reason that picture of David Cameron, which I saw in the Daily Mail, seemed appropriate...
*(1) The evidence suggests the opposite - that the abstinence promotion organisations in the US and the UK have resulted in more STDs and teen pregnancies because young people are not taught the facts about their own bodies and not encouraged to carry condoms.
*(2) Weird - because you don't have to have sex in a relationship to be hurt when it's over. And who the hell goes through life without experiencing some emotional pain? Why would you even try to do that, regardless that it's pretty obviously not possible?
And when we consider that the vast majority of incidences of child sexual abuse happen WITHIN the family, we have to wonder whether this move is just pandering to tabloid hysteria. Actually we don't have to wonder - it's blindingly obvious. There's so much really good legislation we could be bringing in to improve the lives of children and make sure they're reaching their full potential. This isn't it and it's infuriating when the government would rather be posturing to please the tabloids than getting on with actually solving the very real problems faced by our kids.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Yes fifty-eight pounds EACH! This is a less-than-an-hour journey. Lots of people commute this route. Now of course if you book years in advance and make the journey regularly you can pay much less than that but I don't have the kind of job where I am going to make the same journey very often and nor do I always know miles in advance wherer I am going. And anyway what is the point of having a £58 fare unless you actually intend to charge people £58 for a return train journey London to Ipswich? In the past when I've made that journey it's never been more than £25 return. And the single fare was £55.
It would, of course be cheaper for the two of us to rent a car and drive to Ipswich. In the end we took a £14 return to Cambridge and got a lift across with another act from Cambridge. And Cambridge is actually a longer train journey from Liv St Station.
Every time I open the papers I see people complaining that Gordon Brown should do something about the cost of driving and then do something about climate change. Am I the only one who can see one simple way of dealing with both problems? Caps on train fares! What is the point of privatising the railways and then allowing them to rip the general public off all the time?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
And here are some things I noticed or thought about on the way round:
1) Didn't The Body Shop used to be an ethical shop? Now I know they were bought out but surely the new owners realise that the reason people shop there is for a DIFFERENT toiletry and cosmetic shopping experience. But no, the branch in Kuala Lumpur International Airport is selling, wait for it, skin lightening creams. "With liquorice, to suppress melanin production..."
2) Took a seven-hour layover in KL on the way to Bali and ended up waiting around with the passengers for a delayed flight to Riyadh. The guys were dressed in anything from jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts to business suits, the women all, without exception, head to toe in darkest black, eyes only just visible. Really unsettling. I think in the UK while some women do dress this way, at least there are plenty walking around in a range of other options. You can at least hope in the UK that those that do dress that way do so to some extent from choice. Not the case the Riyadh passengers. Something very powerfully awful about it. I nearly cried. I couldn't help but imagine myself compelled to dress like that, to effectively disappear from public view forever. It's so wrong.
3) If you're trying to cut back on your alcohol intake try this great "virgin" cocktail: pineapple juice, coconut milk and lime juice, blended with ice. Really tasty and meant I hardly drank the whole trip so along with lots of exercise and massage on the beach most days, I should be at my peak physical condition by now. Except...
4) Some kind of heat rash. Like goosebumps, but red and itchy. All over my tummy, back, shoulders and legs. Now I am really careful about sun protection - cover myself from head to toe in cream every hour or two and after every dip or towel-off. So could be: reaction to sun/sun cream/as-yet unidentified tropical bug/jelly-fish stings (see below)/something in the diet (pineapple? coconut?)/my own sweat/humidity/something else? Seems to be calming down at last now but still a bit worrying...?
5) Snorkeling as usual brilliant fun, amazing variety of fish on the reefs. However as so often in recent years - millions of jellyfish. Tiny little string ones almost invisible to the human eye and causing only a small amount of irritation. Still annoying and I suspect symptomatic of the problems of over-fishing the seas. The jelly-fish are taking over...
Friday, August 15, 2008
I have also found the link to the enthusiastic review of my Comedy Manifesto show from Fringe Report. That show is free to get in so you won't need a ticket.
Do come and say "hi" if you make it. Has been great to meet several blog readers (and recruit some new ones) already this fest.