January 2009

I am simultaneously impressed, and disgusted.

Impressed, because this is the first really creepy guy that I’ve encountered so far in Sheffield. Disgusted, because Sheffield was doing so well, damn it! And also because his excuses, although ingeneous, were frankly bizarre.

To set the scene – I was on my way home, walking up West Street (a big main road, full of bars and buses), when two teenage girls walked quickly past me, closely followed by a man who was in his forties at least. The I’ve-been-pickled-in-alcohol, leathery-faced kind.

He was being bloody weird, and so, donning my humourless feminist mantle, I turned round and shouted out to the girls to ask whether he was bothering them (“yes”) and whether they knew him (“no”).

He was still trying to follow them, so my next – loud – question was “do you want me to call the police?”

It’s amazing how quickly you can get a creepy man’s attention doing that. So he walked back to argue with me, and the girls quickly disappeared. And we had an exchange that involved the following statements from him:

  • He doesn’t want to be on the front page of The Star (South Yorks newspaper).
  • I shouldn’t “lump him in with… them” because he has a wife. And daughters.
  • He knew those girls really.
  • He’d had a drink.

Call me hard to please, but I personally wasn’t impressed by any of those things. But presumably he was impressed by me, because he really was very insistent that he didn’t want to be in the paper. Perhaps I looked like a journalist. Or an undercover police officer, moments away from radioing for backup. Or a superhero, with the mandatory cleavage-enhancing PVC outfit. It must have been quite disappointing for him when I turned and walked away, still wearing my hoodie and jeans.


There are some things that I can do without.

Nestle, for example, is easy. They’re just total bastards, and they know it. And I can live without kitkats, especially since the last advert – their Christmas special – with wording along the lines of “happy Christmas to all women: now only 97 calories!!!!11!!! ELEVENTY!!1!!”.

And then there are some things that are not so easy.

Like Unilever.

Because Unilever own the Dove brand. And they own Persil.

My sensitive skin means that once I’ve found a brand of shower gel / washing powder that doesn’t make me itchy, sneezy and red, I stick with it. Seriously, because I’ve got worse recently, to the extent that I can now taste perfume in the air. And let me tell you, that stuff was never meant to be tasted. So I can use Dove, and I can use Persil, and I was sticking with them.

And now, I find out that not only do Unilever own Dove and Persil, they also own Lynx and Slim Fast.

(If you are, as I am, easily wound up, don’t go looking at those links. They will send you crazy. Especially if you look first at Lynx, then at Dove. It looks fucking bizarre to see “for women who recognise that beauty isn’t simply about how you look” right after reading “Lynx Vice… designed to turn unsuspecting nice girls naughty.”)

Of course, the traumatized mathematician in me can’t help but notice the “statistic” at the bottom of the lynx page: “53% of men [claim] to use two or more products in the shower”. Seriously? Because that sounds to me like it would be a body wash, and a shampoo. You know, like you’re meant to. This means that 47% of men don’t use those things, or only use one. I really hope that most of that 47% are bald.

I think I’m going to have to go away and kick things.

Bad enough to realise that the same people who try to make Dove look like it’s woman-friendly also air the infuriating “babes will totally just randomly fuck you on the street if you use our pheromones deodorant” adverts, but at least twice as traumatic to realise that it’s those same people who own one of the least appropriately named food substitutes in existance. Worse, they also own Vienetta, Solero, Magnum, Cornetto, Carte D’or and Ben and Jerry’s. Seriously. A dieting product, and six ice cream brands. Oh, and they’ve also got Bertolli, Bovril,Coleman’s, Flora, Hellman’s, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Marmite, Pepperami and Pot Noodle.

Honestly, I have to say – healthy, nice, tasty food is not their forte. Except perhaps for some of the ice cream.

Luckily, I don’t actually buy a single one of those food brands. Mainly on the grounds that they don’t taste nice. But I’ve still got to wash. And given my general lack of money, and the fact that I’ve just stocked up on washing powder, I suspect that this time I’m stuck with futile rage. Sometimes I think I make it too easy for people to use the “you feminists are so angry” stereotype. Oh, and just in case one stereotype isn’t enough… yes. I am premenstrual.

First, the runners up for Idiot of the Day; the person who found us by searching for:

“i have the right to be happy”

Um… yes. Yes you do. Did you want the Sheffield Fems to validate this statement? Consider it validated.

And the person who typed in:

“real bosum”

A word of warning – you might get better results if you either searched for “bosom”, or, if you’re of a nautical persuasion, “bosun”. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose. (Pun most definitely intended!)

But the overall winner has to be the person who found this site by searching for:

“fems lining up to do blow jobs”

In. Your. Dreams.

I can’t help feeling that it’s not surprising people don’t realise just how many rapes are committed against women, by men that they already know. Check out these stories from the BBC – all stories that I found today. I’m sure there’ll be others tomorrow.

Two stories of rape as child abuse – one reporting on two men who abused boys, the other on a man studying for a degree in social care, who was “convicted of four sexual offences against children”.

Two stories of rape as opportunist, stranger rape. Bonus points to the first story for being of the man-drags-woman-from-street model, and to the second story for getting the words “illegal immigrant” into the first line.

The rapist in that last story attempted to rape two women in separate incidents by forcing them into his car. After he failed for the second time – both women managed to get free and get help – he approached a different woman, telling her she was beautiful.*

“She was subsequently knocked out on the street and when she came round, she realised she had been raped. Subryan was linked to the rape by DNA evidence. When the father-of-two was arrested he initially denied all the charges put to him but has since pleaded guilty to two counts of threats to kill, kidnapping, assault with intent to rape, indecent assault, rape and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.”

*And how many times have women heard that when they’re out by themselves, I wonder?! And how many times are we told that “they’re just being nice”? I suppose it’s a bit like the way we’re told to take cabs home to “keep safe“. Melissa has written a more detailed post on that story, by the way.

From Cruella-Blog, and via the BBC, the news that possession of a license for one’s taxi does not, in fact, mean that the owner won’t also be in possession of “date-rape” drugs.

Are we surprised?

Well, no, not really. Because as Melissa points out, vocally and often, whether a woman is raped actually depends very little on what she does, where she goes, who she goes with or how she gets there. What the rape does depend on is the presence of a rapist.

Maybe I should get a copy of one of the papers running this story and keep it handy for the next fool that says to me “you’re not walking home, are you?”

News from the meeting:

  • With Million Women Rise on March 7th, we’re looking into sorting out transport to get down to London. Anybody who wants to come along, please let us know (drop us a line at the usual address) so that we have accurate numbers.
  • Also on March 7th, and tipped to become a weekly event each Saturday from 1-3PM, WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) are starting ‘Women in Black’ at the War Memorial (in front of John Lewis in Sheffield City Centre). As the title suggests, women will be dressed in black, representing the women that die in wars.

The discussion this week was on the subject of Women and Climate Change, kindly hosted by Ellen, the mother of a regular Fems member. A big thank you to her for travelling from Leeds to talk to us, and for giving us such a wealth of information. For example, an impact of global warming which we had not even known existed was that <!– @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –> “in the Asian Pacific region the loss of coral reef through global warming is causing the destruction of marine ecosystems which many women depend on for their incomes.”

Via The F-Word, a perfume advertised by a dying woman.

Fucking horrible. Not safe for work, or anywhere else, either, really. If you find violent images distressing, give this one a miss.

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