Thursday, 17 September 2015

Metropolis and satellite as defined by a whatsapp conversation about ball gags

I was just about to use the phrase "throwing a paddy" when, purely because I was talking to a dude from Belfast, I suddenly went had one of those Yo Is This Racist? moments.

Turns out, it is totally racist!

Shocker, right?

"Late 19th century: from Paddy, associated with obsolete paddywhack 'Irishman (given to brawling')."

So two things:

1. That is a truly fantastic way of adding linguistic insult to colonial injury. Steal someone's country, kill a bunch of its people, outlaw their language, culture, and hairstyles, make up faux scientific theories about how they're the missing link between apes and humans... and then basically accuse the entire nation of being pathologically grumpy and prone to punching.

"Haha, we piss you off, and THEN we mock you for being pissed off! Gosh it's good to be the centre of the known universe."

2. Apparently broadening one's social circle to include people you haven't known since you were 15 is pretty useful in the life-long project to be a bit less of a dick.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


My favourite moment in any instance of sexual harassment is the point where a dude turns on a dime from

"I would like to place my penis inside you"

and, receiving any response other than "hooray, please do so right now, right here in the supermarket car park!"

says something along the lines of


It's one of those beautifully clear-cut, undeniable moments where you get to see a particular facet of misogyny in its purest form. It is the platonic ideal of the hatred of female sexuality, whereby women who will sleep with you are sluts, and women who will not sleep with you are bitches.

Turns out if you dip a tentative toe into the murky waters of online dating, you get to see this magical moment a lot.

Sunday morning, a chap started chatting out of the blue. All good fun. Talking to me like you would talk to a human. But then...

And there it is. "Have sex with me, you Comfortable Girl!" <lack of response, in this instance because I was talking to my sister about courgettes, like the attention-seeking prick tease that I am> "I HOPE YOU DIE WHY WON'T YOU LET ME PUT MY BONER ON YOU."

Fun fact, though: they don't expect you to talk back.

The temptation to list all the people who's swimsuit areas I've ever been invited to was overwhelming ("I am pretty and have sex and stuff! I'm not a man-hating feminist! Or, I wasn't until now") but, seriously, that is not the point here.

Man, I really did miss out, didn't I? His dick is like a holiday destination I'll never get to visit. It's a club, and I'm not on the list. It's every job I'll never get and every boy who didn't ask me to prom.

I mean, this guy was hilarious as all get out, and I really enjoyed ripping him a new one, but for all my bravado I came home shaking and it took an hour and two cups of tea and a long talk with my SisterMumDaughterWifeHousemate about gender and abuse and misogyny and distance and why people are the fucking worst before I calmed down.

She said that, for her, the misogyny was secondary; that what was happening was primarily one person so filled with anger and fear that a three minute delay in achieving gratification causes them to lash out at the nearest target. She asked what I'd call it if a woman sent me the same message.

And yeah, it would be abuse, but this was a particular kind of abuse that calls on a long and ugly history of men attacking women for having/not having sex. You can't separate out this one instance from every other dude who's ever thrown a strop about who a lady chooses to touch with her velvet underground.

("Velvet Underground" is currently competing with "Georgia O'Keefe" for the top spot in my ever-evolving list of favourite vulval ephemisms.)

One day my prince will come. And he will come angrily and prematurely, judging by this exchange.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Hoseland security

For the first time in my entire life, I actually feel financially secure. Not like the giddy spendthriftery that comes with the first student loan payment ("I can buy a DRINK! In a PUB! I don't have to smuggle in my own booze!!") or the fortnightly coming up for air when your JSA comes through or the monthly cash injection of an actual pay cheque that never lasts more than three weeks. But genuinely secure, to the extent that I'm going to put money in a savings account, like some sort of responsible person.

I knew I'd reached some marker of adulthood when I realised that when my tights got ripped, I didn't have to keep them ("well, this one has a hole in the shin, so I can wear it with boots; this one has a hole in the toe, so I can tie a knot in it, it's not that uncomfortable; make do and mend, don't you know there's a war on?"). I had, finally, got to the point where I had enough confidence in my income that I believed that if I had runs in all my tights, I would have enough money to buy a new pair.

Then I think, this is what rich people must feel like all the time!

It's like when I switched meds and got the SSRI high for the first time. I felt fucking invincible, man; I slept for eight hours a night and woke feeling refreshed and minor hassles did not bring me to tears and gentle criticism did not instantly trigger visions of gouging a dirty great hole into my left arm. It only lasted about a month, but it was the best I've felt since I hit puberty.

And that, I guess, must be what sane people feel like most of the time!

Don't get me wrong, I know that mentally healthy people don't all have easy lives; I get that life isn't wall-to-wall sunshine and periwinkles for everyone who isn't me. I imagine even rich people have feelings of some sort. But there is a meaningful difference between "not having a perfect life" and "tube journey making you want to actually die".


But tights are really a perfect example of our disposable, oil-guzzling, decadent western lifestyle, aren't they? Usually made of synthetic fibres derived from oil; easily damaged; impossible to repair, so you just have to keep buying them, buying, buying, forever.

So it was lucky that my "I can afford to buy tights!" realisation came at the same time that I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and This Changes Everything and started actually thinking about The Environment and that and stopped using my vegetarianism, lack of a driving license and sustainable menstruation practices as a get out of jail free card.

So I can't send the tights to landfill. They're probably recyclable, but the likelihood of my finding the nearest collection point and actually delivering them before the ever-growing pile of manky old nylon drives the boyfriend to distraction is... slim.

The answer, of course, is to cut old tights up into strips and knit with them.

Even better, I can knit little bags to put Christmas presents in, removing the need for wrapping paper.

I'm pretty sure this idea is either pure genius or utterly insane.

I just hope someone stops me before I end up in a yurt woven from my own leg hair, eating nothing but wild dandelions and drinking only dew.

Monday, 24 November 2014

A hard day's mug

I have somehow ended up on the Conservative Party's mailing list.

This concerns me.

To reiterate: "While Labour are bankrolled by the trade unions, we rely on hardworking people like you."

Okay. Trade unions aren't like gigantic piggy banks, though, are they? Their money comes from members' subscriptions, members who are... "hard working people", like me, actually. And don't think I didn't notice your sneaky use of the phrase "bankrolled", implying that Labour and the unions are rolling in money. You can try and deflect it all you like, but you're still the fucking Tory party. Pointing at someone else and calling them rich does not change that.

And claiming that the Conservative Party is funded (exclusively, by implication) by "hardworking people like [me]"? Seriously?

It took me two minutes on google to find out that

In the first decade of the 21st century, half the party's funding came from a cluster of just fifty "donor groups", and a third of it from only fifteen. In the year after the 2010 general election, half the Tories' funding came from the financial sector. 
For 2013, the Conservative Party had an income of £25.4 million, of which £749,000 came from membership subscriptions. (Source: Wikipedia, of course!)

And thirty seconds on a calculator to figure out that "hardworking people like me" are providing a whole 2.9% of the party's income. Fair enough, though; it must be hard to  twist "we are funded by the financial sector. Yes, by bankers. Who are our current folk devil, for good reason." into a cheery invitation to buy a mug.

Fun as this was, I really don't need bullshit missives from David Cameron gumming up my inbox on a daily basis, so I shall send the above back to him, unsubscribe, and brew myself up a cup of proletarian tea in a mug that does not taste of lies and the destruction of the NHS and pure, pure evil.

Mmm, tea.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Meet my new husband

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. [Damn, that is a pretty big nutshell. ~ Ed.] Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?
American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.
This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

Such was the strident call to arms left by An American Man disgusted by American Women, on a blog post predominantly about the bacterial inhabitants of my vagina.

I'm curious: does he think I'm an American Woman (GET AWAY FROM MEE-HEE, as Lenny Kravitz would say, before he became a fashion designer in the Hunger Games and approximately 900% more cool) and is therefore coming to tell me what an immature, selfish, arrogant, self-centred, mentally unstable, irresponsible and highly unchaste woman I am, by virtue of the bacterial inhabitants of my vagina?

ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: why would any intelligent man want to get involved with this cheaty divorcing fatty half money stealing uncooker or cleaner? WHY, GOD, WHY?

Is he aware that I am an English woman, and therefore within his Foreign Women Group, and therefore asking me to join his valiant crusade against American Women? (This would be difficult: boycotts rarely work unless you tell the people you're boycotting a) that you're boycotting them, and b) why. I am friends with around ten American Women on Facebook, so could inform them by a handy group email that I am Boycotting them because of their immaturity, selfishness, etc, but there are several million other American Women who wouldn't know that I was deliberately choosing not to date them. Perhaps some sort of nationwide poster campaign? Or, hey, I know! I could trawl the internet for blogs that are probably written by American Women, and post my manifesto in their comments section, for no real reason! YES!)

Or... given that I am, by his rules, a Foreign Woman, could this possibly be a marriage proposal?

I'll be over here, in Foreign, pulling petals off daisies and hoping that he faxes me a big fat blood diamond.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The capitalist-patriarchal anti-vagina complex: on feminine freshness sprays

Once, years ago, a guy drunkenly asked me about the relationship between sexism and capitalism. (My reputation for being fun at parties, clearly, precedes me!) I'd just finished Lindsay German's Sex, Class and Socialism, so briefly outlined concepts like middle class women as a reserve army of labour (who can be encouraged into factories when lots of workers are needed, like during WW2, before everyone suddenly remembers that actually biology dictates that they should be in the kitchen hoovering up spilt fake-baby-milk-powder, like in the 1950s).

What I really should have said, though, was: Femfresh. That one product is the best example of how capitalism and sexism work together in perfect harmony to make money out of exploiting female insecurities created by sexism.

Femfresh's argument is: "Your vagina smells GROSS! Everyone around you is secretly thinking, my GOD, that vagina smells SO MUCH LIKE A VAGINA, because your vagina smell is SO STRONG that it can penetrate three layers of clothing, and possibly walls too - which is why your neighbours hate you! You'd better spray our fabulous vagina deodorant all over your vagina to stop passing strangers passing out from the toxic vagina fumes."

As a marketing strategy, it's fucking genius: firstly, harness the widespread cultural belief that vaginas smell bad. Second, convince the vagina-enabled that the only possible solution to this infernal stench is to use your product. Thirdly, cackle madly with evil-genius glee at the fact that your product will in fact make the normal smell into a bad smell, ensuring that your customers are locked in to a never-ending arms race of vagina fumigation, for the rest of time.


Nine years ago, I came home one day to find that the entire house stank to high heaven. My housemates and I ransacked the place, trying to figure out where it was coming from - was it the mouldy yoghurt in the fridge? The sanitary towels in the bathroom bin? Had Mrs Next Door turned her house into a pop-up slaughterhouse and forgotten to tell us?

Turns out it was a dead rat decomposing under my floorboards. Over the next few weeks I had the chance to get intimately familiar with the smell, as the estate agents outdid their usual uselessness by dealing with the problem by sending us an air freshener. Super: now my bedroom smells of sickly-sweet vomitous pink chemicals, as well as rotting flesh! What joy!

So when I got a similar whiff the other week, there was no mistaking it. Somewhere, something had died, and the odour of its decomposing cadaver was permeating the flat. I hunted high and I hunted low; I sniffed into cupboards and behind appliances; I considered training the cat as a corpse-hunter. It took a couple of hours of this incredibly gross Easter egg hunt for me to realise that the smell seemed to be following me around.

And that, my friends, is the story of my first encounter with the exciting condition known as bacterial vaginosis.

Too much information, you say? Well: I say this is just enough information to make it entirely clear why using "feminine freshness sprays" is a ridiculously bad idea.

As we learned from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. That's what its usual clear discharge is for. If you mess with its very precise internal balance of microbes (penicillin was my downfall) or increase its pH by using soap or feminine fucking freshness sprays, things go wrong. Good bacteria get crowded out by bad bacteria. And bad bacteria? In this instance, they smell like something has crawled up your cunt and died.

The point is that if you think your snatch smells bad, go to a damn doctor. Go to your local sexual health clinic to reassure yourself that you don't have AIDS, or syphilis, and to load up on free condoms. (I'm told the Soho clinic is very groovy.) If it does smell bad, that's a sign there's something wrong, and the correct course of action is to ask a vag-specialist: not to smother it in glorified air freshener.


I'm sure you'll be relieved to hear that I'm better now. My lady garden does not smell of lemon thyme and rainbows, nor does it smell like a rat turning itself back into its constituent parts: it smells like a vagina.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Alias nothing

Weird things that happen when you rewatch Alias for the first time in five years:

1. OH GOOD GOD THE CULTURAL DRAG IS FUCKING UNBEARABLE. Nope, dressing up as a geisha or an Indian lady is really, really not the same as doing your sneaky spy biz disguised as a maid or a soldier or a hot girl. Other people's cultures: not your fancy dress.

2. Speaking of Hot Girl, good grief there is a whole lot of pandering to the male gaze going on. Are you aware that Jennifer Garner has breasts? She does! Two of them, right there on her upper chest! Barely covered with a filmy layer of nothing! Let's take a long, slow, camera-trawl over them, taking in some stomach and butt and legs for good measure.

"The key to doing this well," Sydney informs Marshall, is to "be inconspicuous". And what's more inconspicuous than a skin tight rubber mini dress?

I mean, I get that there is more than one way to be inconspicuous, and that dulling evil doers' suspicions by hypnotising them with your tits before kicking them in the head and stealing their microwave bomb laser could be construed as a quasi-feminist girl power kind of dynamic, but the entirely gratuitous "HEY LOOK BOOBS!" shots that are apparently obligatory every time she changes outfit (ie. six or seven times per episode) take the shine off this message of empowerment somewhat.

3. Thinking about it, the scenes where she's at home, having discarded all aliases and disguise, she's usually dressed in jeans, no apparent make up, no "FOLLOW THE BOOBS" camera work: the implication being that this is Sydney in her natural state. This posits femininity as performance, inherently artificial, and used to deceive and befuddle men - which is troublesome enough. But it also implies that the other cultures she plunders for her dressing up box are equally artificial, whereas early 21st century urban middle class life is neutral, default humanity.

4. At the same time that I was coasting through season three, I was reading up about MKUltra and Project Artichoke, and the roads that led to Guantanamo. The cognitive dissonance between "the CIA are wackily, bizarrely, and yet grindingly prosaically evil" and "the CIA are our only defence against cartoon villains with nukes designed by a 15th century prophet, go team USA!" is kind of odd.

5. The phones look so quaint.