Thursday, 30 September 2010

A sphincter says, "Twitter?"

Nadine Dorries. MP Nadine Dorries of the "twenty reasons to reduce the abortion limit to twenty weeks" campaign; also, of "Britain will become the ABORTION CAPITAL OF THE WORLD" panic. (As an aside, is all this just to make us feel special again? Enable us to perpetuate the endearing notion that Great Britain remains a Great Power? "Selfish and hedonistic wasteland"! "Geopolitical epicentre of a culture of death"! Stop it, guys, you'll make us blush!)

Sorry, Nadine Dorries, Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire, thinks MPs should not blog. She told us this... on her blog.

She also thinks that Twitter is a greater threat to public health than smack.

And finally, she thinks that using Twitter is a sure sign of committing benefit fraud, inviting the friends of such people to shop them to the DWP.

Now, I could get my fisk on and give you fine people a line-by-line dissection of exactly why she's wrong, out-of-touch, smarmy, irritating, and wrong, but this excellent person has already done that for me. Instead, I wish to point out one thing:

I'm going to have to set up a Twitter account again so that I can check this out for myself!... Not.
 NADINE DORRIES HAS ESCAPED FROM WAYNE'S WORLD. There is no other explanation.

"If you want to restrict abortion access, ban benefits claimants from using the internet, and have a penchant for wince-inducingly 90s phrasing, LET ME SEE YOUR THUMBS IN THE AIR!"


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Lies, damned lies, and complete and total bollocks

"Well, I had a couple of hours to kill before the ASN meeting, and there's an amazing wool shop I've been meaning to visit just round the corner, so I picked up some bamboo 7mms and nice chunky yarn for a Christmas scarf..."

"Sorry, just to clarify, you bought knitting needles and then took them to an abortionist meeting?"

This is my current favourite way to gauge just how pro-choice someone is.

So, hey, abortion! According to "2009 figures" which nobody seems to want to give me a source for, poor women are having more abortions than the rich! I mean, shocker, right? The article says that "3723 abortions were performed on women from the most deprived areas", and only 1753 on more well-heeled ladies. Now, I don't have the actual stats (BECAUSE NO ONE WILL GIVE ME A SOURCE, MY GOD), but I would guess that there are more poor women in the world than there are rich women, so "poor women have more abortions" is a pretty fucking meaningless statement unless you feel like giving me some percentages, population info, or basically anything that puts those numbers into context. I could say "more poor women in England can read than rich women!" and we could all have a good hang-wring over the ILLITERACY CRISIS CLAIMING OUR UPPER CLASSES, unless someone was sensible to point out that this statement demonstrates precisely zero understanding of statistics and also is based on complete bollocks.

(An aside: "the most deprived areas" of where? Scotland? Aberdeen? Is it actually the most deprived areas of rural Andalusia, and Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Jamie Stone is just weighing in because she's bored?)

But! Let us be generous and assume that the study itself had some sense in it, and this is simply a problem of poor reporting. Just for a giggle, assume that there is a different incidence of abortion per head for wealthy and deprived communities: that ladies of limited means are more likely to terminate a pregnancy than their better-off counterparts., and?

Is anyone surprised? Is it really so shocking that "being broke" and "deciding you're not able to raise a child" are correlated?

Surely it can't be that simple. We haven't castigated the working class nearly enough today; it must be their fault somehow. Luckily, aforementioned Jamie Stone is here to help, pointing out that logical analysis misses the most important fact of all:
"Young women from deprived backgrounds ... see abortion as a simple alternative to contraception."
Of course they do.

Friday, 24 September 2010

On how rebellion against stereotypes maintains their power, with Football and Feelings

One of the more peculiar aspects of being a Person Who Talks About Gender, A Lot, is that you're almost constantly aware of how your actions/hobbies/opinions/abilities will be interpreted as representative of all ladies everywhere.

So on one level, I take a perverse delight in subverting people's expectations, because that thing guys do when they find out you like football (or any traditionally Masculine endeavour, but in this edition of A Romantic Comedy About The Patriarchy, we will mostly be focusing on football), do a double-take, and gaze at you like you're a magical unicorn hitherto assumed to be a myth - it's fucking hilarious. And any time you can disrupt people's ideas of What Girls Are Like can be an opportunity to chip away at the ridiculous structure of oppositional sexism, and that's always fun.

But it's actually pretty sad, because by positioning yourself as the Exceptional Girl, you are accepting that Girl Stuff is fundamentally uncool; the very concept of the Exceptional Girl is predicated on the idea that girls, as a rule, are boring, bitchy, annoying and frivolous, and I think there's a word for that.

1. Once upon a time, while discussing La Liga with his associates, my manpanion turned to me and explained that "El Clásico is when Real Madrid play Barcelona."

My actual response was "I KNOW, dickwad, remember how JUST THIS MORNING you saw me reading a book on the EXACT SUBJECT of rivalries in Spanish football? I have, in fact, many interesting thoughts to share about the interplay between nationalism and football fandom! Also on the way in which some clubs can be wildly successful and yet still maintain the 'underdog' narrative as a central part of their identity! ASK ME ABOUT THE NOMENCLATURE OF JOHAN CRUYFF’S SON!”

But what I should really have said was

“Oh really dear? Can you explain the offside rule to me again?”

2. Watching said manpanion play football, while knitting the welt of a jumper - the stereotypes play out beautifully; not only for the gender-segregated choice of leisure activities, but for my exemplary demonstration of Feminine Multi-Tasking (okay, you try knitting perfect 1x1 rib on skinny little needles while following the finer points of a seven-a-side match).

3. Cooking the manpanion dinner while he watches a game on telly. The details are a little fuzzy, but I'm willing to testify that I was wearing an apron.

Needless to say, I was also making exactly this expression.
So there I was, contentedly humming to myself while imagining the children I will doubtless be raising in the near future, when my domestic bliss was shattered by the thumpthumpthump of hurried feet, heralding the entrance of a discomfited manpanion. He needed me to save him. From a spider.


Consequently, whenever we watch Match of the Day with company, I am now amusing myself by demanding "Goddd, stop watching football, talk about my feelings, talk about your feelings, why aren't we married yet, I want a baby, FEELINGS."

Because sometimes the only way to smash gender stereotypes is to parody them to the point of Bridget Jones.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Are feminist immigrants giving the memory of Diana AIDS?

I freely admit that sniggering at a Daily Mail article is the lowest form of blogging, but this gave me such a happy that I can't help but share it with the world.

"Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?" is, in a shocking development, not a product of the Daily Mail-o-Matic, but an actual argument put forward in an actual national newspaper.

"Yes, it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity."

Damnit, they've rumbled the secret plot to have fat kids bring down the patriarchy! Plan B, guys - it's time to send in the pythons.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Commuting blues

At 6:55 on Monday morning I was huddled in a bus shelter, wrapped up against the early autumn chill and drawing on the last dregs of the first cigarette of the day. I was dreading going into work, the usual weekday litany of oh dear christ another eight hours in front of the screen faking niceness to idiots, how long has it been now and when am I getting out, I fucking hate the tube and it's always raining in Canary Wharf and it's seven o'clock in the bastard morning and I've been tired for the last year and a half, for fuck's sake.

A lady came up and asked for a cigarette. She looked scared, tired, and about as keen on the idea of going to work as I was. I offered her a light. She thought I'd asked if she was alright. I don't want to project, to turn her into some stereotyped autovictim, but I got the impression that nobody had asked her that in a long time.

"I'm just, I've got caught in the wrong profession and I can't get out, and" - she leaned in closer, and whispered, "prostitution", with a wry smile. "That's why I'm up so early, and I - it's just a nightmare, thanks for the cigarette, you're a life-saver, your bus is here."

I touched her sleeve, and smiled, shakily. "Take care, love, okay?" Stupid, what does that even mean? The bus took me away, and I stumbled onto the tube, and I sat dumbstruck under the glaring strip lights and cried, because this is how much I dread going to work, and my job doesn't involve unwelcome dick getting stuck in me. Because we spend so much time theorising about people's lives and so little time talking to them. Because who does carry around contact details for prostitution exit services, just on the offchance? People who don't have the luxury of thinking that people like her live in a different world.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Deathmatch 2010: China vs bunnies

Say, you know what the best way to forward the cause of animal rights? Grievously insult one billion people! That always works. Fluffy little bunnies are getting liberated right as we speak, all thanks to Morrissey and his clever tactics of referring to the Chinese as a "subspecies" of the human race. "Thanks, Moz!" say the bunnies. "All better now!"

Now, I'm aware that I am quite possibly the least bothered-about-animal-rights vegetarian on the planet (or at least the general north London area), but to be honest, if we could eradicate racism forever at the cost of dooming all those fluffy bunnies to eternal torment - I'd be okay with that. As this is not an option (as far as I know! If you're running on an anti-racism-via-rabbit-sacrifice platform, let me know - you've got my vote!), it would seem fairly logical to avoid conflating the two issues - if only because a cause that needs massive racism to get its point across is a pretty rubbish cause.

But anyway - this whole episode actually made me wish I was a racist. Okay, weird, I know, but bear with me.

We have seen many times how this kind of thing plays out:

1. Someone does a racist thing.
2. Someone says "that thing is a racist thing".
3. Some people agree.
4. Some disagree.
5. Some chumpnugget comes along and slays the entire argument with his shining sword of truth: he has managed to find one single person in all the world who is a member of the 'being offended by this particular racist thing' target group, and yet IS NOT OFFENDED: Ergo, says chumpnugget, there is no way in the world that this thing can possibly have been a racist thing! Some Of My Best Friends are not offended: SMACKDOWN!

So, given the fact that the person who alerted me to this story is (a) Chinese, and (b) not offended (on the fairly logical grounds that it's like being offended by the Pope being a misogynist or a bear defecating in heavily wooded areas), this would be my golden opportunity to play Derailing For Dummies and get my gold medal in Missing The Fucking Point.

But, me being me, I choose to think Morrissey's a dick.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The débutantes are invading your brain

In our cultural vocabulary, long hair signifies youth, femininity and sex appeal. By contrast, shorter hair is serious, sophisticated, strong. Apparently. 


Some facts:
1. Hair is sexy.
1.b. But only on your head.
2. Modest women, like nuns, cover their hair to (a) signify that they are totally off-the-market, and (b) prevent  causing a lust-explosion by waving those obscene locks around willy-nilly.
3. Women should be sexy, and thus have long hair, except when they are old, when their being sexy is gross, so they should chop off their hair right now, because euwww mutton dressed as lamb. (And what's sexier than a lamb? Frisky little fluffy gambollers.)

A further fact: I didn't realise any of this.

My point isn't "Ooh, let's discuss my personal feelings about the politics of hair" or, christ, "let's have a really fruitful discussion about whether wearing hijab is like kicking feminism in the face" (short version: IT'S NONE OF MY FRICKING BUSINESS, where 'me' is 'every pontificating not-Muslim atheist or feminist ever'), but rather: Society, that beast, drums a lot of peculiar messages into us, and whispers a lot more, so frequently and so insidiously that most of them just seem like truth. You notice how bizarre cultural norms are when you look at them from the outside, but that so easily descends into plain old racism, in a "look what the funny [insert Enid Blytonesque epithet here] get up to, and gosh, well I suppose they look nice to each other..." sort of way. The fact that other people's cultural practices look ridiculous doesn't necessarily make you take a fresh look at your own, and realise that they're equally laughable.

But - lucky for me! - sometimes the slavering Society Beast slips up, and forgets a bit of its Indoctrination Program.

Minions of the slavering Society Beast.

So, while I intellectually know that, say, leg hair is natural and actually quite helpful and that being revolted by it is a culturally ingrained response - I still think it looks unpleasant. The Beast's work here is done, and I have been sufficiently socially conditioned.

But head hair = sex kitten? That one just passed me by, somehow, so it sounds very much like what it is: utterly preposterous. It's hair, you guys; sure it can look cool, but it can also clog up your drain; it's sexy when it's attached but gross when it's moulting all over your sofa? It's a sign of frisky vixenity on your head, and of grotesque anti-sex man-hatery in your delicate armpits? BUT THAT'S STUPID.

Yeah, that's right, I said it. Socially conditioned beauty standards: STUPID. I have an A-level in Sociology, by the way.