February 2009


It seems that my last search terms post has produced more questions than answers. I’ve since had a couple of hits on the hysterectomy theme, as well as one about a bleeding vagina.

Before reading further, you may as well know this: that all of what I write next could be boiled down to one phrase – “go to see your doctor“.


So, to start with the stranger of the two search terms, let’s talk about bleeding vaginas. I wish I knew what the person who searched for that meant by it. Because either their vagina really was bleeding, or they may have seen blood and been unsure where it came from. And that gives a couple of options.

The vagina itself is not meant to bleed. However, blood does escape from the womb through the vagina every time a woman has a period. I’m linking to two articles from Scarleteen, one with a useful guide to the female body, and the other a guide to periods. They are written primarily with a young (teenage) audience in mind, but this in my opinion just makes them more accessible, and is in no way a bad thing.

Anyway. The “bleeding vagina” may have been a period. Or, alternatively, that person might have known for sure that they were not be meant to be bleeding at that particular time. I’m not a doctor and I don’t know all of the causes of bleeding at non-period times, so my advice would be to go and ask somebody who did do seven years of training!

If you’re in the UK, you may also want to try using the NHS Direct website, or indeed calling their 24-hour number: 0845 46 47



As for hysterectomies in Sheffield, the results I’ve got are less detailed than the ones I found for abortion. Interesting.

It’s worth saying, to begin with, that hysterectomies are not simple procedures. Basically, if you’ve got a womb and you remove it, that leaves space inside you. Which is filled, sort of, by your other internal organs shuffling around. This is not brilliant. This site has a pretty comprehensive list of the effects that hysterectomies can cause. Please, please talk to your doctor before trying to get a hysterectomy.

This is not to say that no woman should ever have one – that would be silly – but they are pretty bloody scary, and definitely not a procedure to be undertaken lightly. So be careful!

With that in mind, this is what I’ve found:

The NHS website that helped me out when I was doing the abortion research isn’t completely finished, and as yet doesn’t list all of the gynaecology services provided (which is the term that hysterectomies fall under). I’ve linked to it anyway, because it is a work in progress and may well go up in the near future.

Some private hospitals in Sheffield definitely do offer hysterectomies as a service. A search for “sheffield hospitals” generates a map of Sheffield, which will be more helpful in finding a hospital to suit you than I ever could be.


Again, this site is probably quite a good place to have a list of women-specific, Sheffield-specific information. Feel free to leave questions in comments, or indeed to contact us privately, and I’ll do my best to find out the answers.

As the title suggests, I am a little late with last week’s news round up. Blame my lecturers, who seem determined to give me more work than there are hours in the day. Perhaps, as a maths student, they think I can simply manipulate the time, considering timekeeping to be simply another form of number-crunching. Perhaps they are right. Who knows. Bear with me for the next couple of weeks – I haven’t deserted the blog, honest.

Onwards.

Remember the cabbie who possessed “date-rape” drugs to go with his licensed taxi? Well, he’s come out with a couple of astounding pieces of crap in the course of his trial. Including “she told me she was a lesbian… and then we had oral sex”[paraphrased]. Does he think he was in his own porn film? He also claims that one of the women agreed to sex in exchange for money, but that they didn’t actually do anything. He seems to be going for the ‘path of least denial’ – keeping as close to the truth as possible, without actually admitting to rape. Let’s hope the jury see through it.

A couple of weeks ago, I also wrote about the woman who was arrested and jailed overnight after being unable to complete her evidence that she was giving as part of the trial of George Cummings. He’s now been given a 3.5 year jail sentence for the abuse of his two nieces. He was originally charged with attempted rape of one of the girls (now women), but this was reduced to a charge of sexual assault. The rape charge that led to the woman’s arrest was dropped, and another two allegations that he molested other girls in the same period were found “not proven” by the jury. This trial, of course, was using Scotland’s woefully outdated rape laws, which makes me root even more strongly for the new laws to come into force. I don’t know whether it would or could have changed the outcome, but for sure it couldn’t have hurt.


Other sexual offense laws that could probably do with changing are those that Northern Ireland work with. A man who filmed a teenaged girl undressing in a cubicle next to his at a leisure centre was initially not charged because:

“his victim was wearing a bikini. Because of this it was decided she was not engaged in a private act according to the Sexual Offences Act.”

I would try emphasising this, but I’d have to highlight the whole fucking thing. Seriously? Some douchebag can film me without my consent over a private cubicle and as long as he doesn’t get a flash of nipple, it’s not counted as a “private act”?! Well, I’ll just start changing in the middle of clothes shops, then, shall I? After all, I’ll keep my underwear on – I’ll be just as covered as this young woman was.

He was eventually convicted of “attempted voyeurism”. Four month’s jail sentence, suspended for two years, plus seven years on the Sex Offenders’ Register.


That story unfortunately segues quite neatly into the next, which is about the uniforms that female staff on National Express trains are refusing to wear.

“The outfits were “simply too thin and too cheap”, making them virtually “see-through”, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has claimed. The blouses, given to more than 500 women who work on the East Coast Main Line, have been sent back to the firm.”

National Express are on the one hand dismissing the claims, and on the other saying that they are “investing in their staff”. Little tip from me, National Express: try listening to your staff. And also, I know what “standard shirt designs” from catalogues can look like. Thin and cheap are the least of your worries when the shirts are designed to show off the belly button of any woman who actually has breasts. Seriously. Listen to your staff. They’ll only appropriate the male uniform if you don’t, and then you’ll lose money.


A mostly-nice story to finish today, because my period is fast approaching, and I like to remind myself what it means that I have them: specifically, a lack of pregnancy, which is good. Although it does mean that I can’t draw pictures on my stomach like this woman. The article starts with the headless torso, as per usual, but in this case I think I’ll forgive it as the story was specifically about the body art. I would like to draw attention to the final paragraphs, though.

“Some women probably don’t see the appeal of taking a photo of their huge, distorted bellies, especially with Michelin-style stretch-marks, veiny skin and wonky belly buttons.

On the other hand, most of us are secretly proud that our body, which we constantly condemn for being too big, too small, too fat, etc etc, is suddenly building, feeding and protecting a new human being. So why not add a lick of paint and some colour?

And when post-natal normality kicks in and we squeeze our dieted, buffed and vain selves back into our size 10 (okay, maybe size 12) jeans, how nice it is to have a memento of that maternal, all-powerful, precious time.”

What a mish-mash. We’ve got some full-on pregnant-body shaming going on here – “distorted”, “veiny”, “wonky” – as though all women are naturally perfectly symmetrical anyway! – tempered partially with a little conditional pride. It’s very much a backhanded compliment, since it seems we ladies should only be proud of our bodies for their capacity to reproduce. Except you’ve got to make sure that you’re suitably embarressed by the physical effects of said reproductive capacity. *sigh*. And what’s with being “secretly” proud? How about you just be proud? Of your body generally, if possible. This all rounded up with some fun fat-shaming for good measure. Plus the assumption that every woman diets. I object. And just after having a baby is no time to be dieting. (Also, please bear in mind, any US readers, that although 12 might be a “large” (ha!) size in the States, over here, the average size is 16. As a skinny teenager with no arse, I wore size 10 jeans.)

This is a shame, as it could have been a perfectly nice story. Still, I can choose to take away the only the idea of painting bright colours on by big belly, and will stubbornly ignore the less kindly messages.


Because I take an interest in why people are turning up here, I noticed that among the annoying search terms, there was also one for “abortions in Sheffield”.


Obviously, the Sheffield Fems do not perform abortions. However, as feminists, abortion is an issue that we identify with. Simply put, we believe that abortion is a choice that all women should have access to.

As such, there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning.


The most sensible place to go for Sheffield-specific advice or help is the Sheffield Contraception and Sexual Health Service. They offer “unplanned pregnancy advice” and say that it’s better if you make an appointment to see them, but if that isn’t helpful or convenient, there are also drop-in sessions Monday-Friday, from 8:30am – 11am and 12:30pm – 3pm.

To make an appointment, call  (0114) 2716816.. Their appointment times appear to vary depending on which of the three clinics you want to go to.


For anybody wishing to find out how to get an abortion in general, I reccomend visiting the Abortion Rights site. I’ve linked to the page that deals specifically with women who are pregnant, and offers advice on where to go. Specifically, it says this:

“If you are entitled to NHS care, your GP, family planning clinic or Brook Centre (for under 25s) can refer you for a free termination on the NHS. A consultation and the procedure will be carried out in a hospital or abortion clinic. You should ideally be offered a choice of different methods, depending on how long you have been pregnant.

It is usually easiest to get an NHS abortion before 12 weeks of pregnancy. The legal time limit for most abortions is 24 weeks.

If you are not entitled to NHS care, cannot tolerate the NHS waiting list or prefer to use private services, you can refer yourself to a private clinic. You will be charged from around £350.”

The same page also has links to other helpful, non-judgemental organisations.


Lastly, if you run this search, wanting to find an abortion, know that at least one of the sponsored links you will find will not help you. That link will take you to a website called Life Charity. I won’t link to it here, because it is not the kind of site I would wish to endorse. Besides, it’s a sponsored Google link; search for abortions and you’ll find it.

Life Charity seem, on face value, to be a very nice, pleasant kind of organisation. But for any organisation dealing with abortion to say that their “mission is to uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation (conception) until natural death” sets alarm bells ringing.

Yes, they sound nice. But that little part of the sentence that says “life from fertilisation (conception)…” means that they don’t actually support women having abortions at all. If they believe that life begins at conception, then they also believe that abortion is murder.


Be very aware of any organisation with “life” in the title. I’m not saying that they’re all going to be bad, but I am saying that they are not likely to support you if you’re sure that an abortion is what you want. And if you’re not sure, they’ll do their best to get you to decide not to have one. That may or may not be appropriate. I can’t say, because it varies from woman to woman. But be aware that it happens.


This is the kind of information that the Sheffield Fems ought to be providing. If you can think of anything else that would be useful to see linked to, please contact us and let us know.



What can I say?


This story came to me in a somewhat convoluted manner – through Tiger Beatdown, via Shakesville. The original article is in the Guardian.

Briefly, because I have unfinished coursework coming out of my ears, the story is… well, not a story.

One quote that stood out for me:

“The brain scans showed that when men saw the images of the women’s bodies, activity increased in part of the brain called the premotor cortex… The same area lights up before using power tools to do DIY. “It’s as if they immediately thought to act on these bodies,” Fiske said.”

It’s not like it surprises me, it’s just the way it’s put. “They immediately thought to act on these bodies“. Not women. Bodies. Things. To be acted on. This is the researcher saying this. The one supposedly pointing out sexism. Being… fucking horrible. Ugh. I feel unclean.

Also, in a comment that perhaps illustrates the value (ha!) of those headless pregnant women, “the men best remembered images of bikini-clad women whose heads had been digitally removed.

Well, there’s a good, solid patriarchal reason to not wear makeup, perhaps the first I’ve ever found – ladies, the sexist, patriarchal men are only going to remember your torsos! No wonder those men always express bewilderment at “how long you take to get ready” – they never even look at your face!

It must be Valentines’ Day, because with four stories about sex , the BBC are clearly obsessed. There’s that old British repression coming through again! Whether the story is that there’s too much of it, or too little of it, or the wrong people having it, they just can’t stop reporting on it, and evidently I am not helping.

Starting with the story that has created “almost universal outrage”, a thirteen year old boy has clearly been having sex, because he is now a father. And yes, that is how it has been reported. Perhaps the story of a fifteen year old girl giving birth to a healthy baby girl just isn’t as interesting? Still, once again, the BBC have done us proud with yet another headless pregnant woman to illustrate the story. If I got my information purely from pictures, I would have concluded by now that pregnancy makes your head fall off.

The Guardian has “MP ‘saddened’ by father aged 13 urges better sex education“, The Telegraph leads with “boy of 13 becomes a father” and The Daily Mail, who are never averse to slut-shaming if they get the merest hint of a chance have the headline “Teenage sister of boy who became a father at 13 had baby when she was the same age“. Rather amusingly, the Mail’s article also contains the following burst of vitriol:

“But its significance may be lost on Alfie, whose immaturity is evident during the brief video clip, filmed after the couple’s story was sold to The Sun and they appeared on the newspaper’s front page yesterday.”

Daily Mail, meet jealousy; jealousy, Daily Mail. Perhaps their bid just wasn’t high enough!


Moving on, Scotland is reforming its sex laws with a new Sexual Offences Bill. This one bill replaces a number of previous common law offenses – “rape”, “clandestine injury to women”, “lewd, indecent or libdinous practice or behaviour” and “sodomy” – which, if the Bill passes, will all be abolished in their previous forms.

It gives new, broader definitions of rape, which includes cases where the penis or vagina or both are surgically constructed, defines consent as “free agreement” (which makes me wonder what on earth it was defined as before this bill was created) and gives an offense of “administering a substance for sexual purposes”, which, paraphrasing, also states that if one person lets another think that the substance given is less strong or less in quantity than it actually is, then this is equivalent to administering the substance without that person’s knowledge or consent.

Which, shortened again, means that if an aquaintance of mine buys me doubles all evening and tells me they’re singles, that’s just as bad as slipping rohypnol into my drink.

The Bill, which has just passed stage one, now has to pass stages two and three before it can be signed off. Roll on the day because, paraphrasing again, the reason that Scotland’s rape conviction rate is 3% is because a lot of things that should be called rape are currently not, according to Lord Advocate Elish Anglioni.


In other news, the BBC can’t make up its mind. Will the recession lead to more sex, or less? Tough call. They also incidentally mention that the day that the Dow Jones Index crashed (29th September last year), the gay dating site “Manhunt” – so it’s gay to mean men, this time, rather than gay to mean “everybody who isn’t heterosexual” – had its largest membership sign-up.

I confess, I’m not entirely sure what this little nugget of information was meant to tell me. Are all stockbrokers gay men? Or, is Manhunt just a really crap site, that happened to have two people sign up one day rather than one?


Lastly, I’m sure you’ve all wondered just how many of us are illegitimate. No? Well, what kind of stable, non sex-obsessed person are you?! Apparently, “urban myth” gives the proportion at 10%, thus bearing out the allegation that 87% of statistics are made up on the spot. Of course, 7/5 of all people don’t understand fractions anyway, so I don’t suppose it really matters.

Anyway, it turns out that “if you look directly at families without any prior suspicion of non-paternity, then you find a value of about 1% or 2%.” The study naturally (ha!) focusses on men, since with the joys of what the researchers call “hereditary surnames” and I call “the Patriarchy”, only men have a link to their (male) ancestors. Women don’t have a hope in hell, since not changing one’s name on marriage is even now linked to being thought of as a pain in the arse.


Which reminds me: a woman I spoke to recently gave me a “feminist dilemma”; whether to change one’s name, or not, on marriage. Actually, she started it with the words “my boyfriend has proposed to me”, and initially I wondered whether she was asking my advice as to whether or  not she should marry him! Anyway, I gave her a short answer then (roughly, that I personally will keep my name, but do whatever works for you) but I’d like to highlight The F-Word, which has at least two – and probably a lot more – articles on the subject: “in the name of the father” and “a bride by any other name” are the two that I found first.



Today was the refreshers’ fair at the University of Sheffield, and Sheffield Fems were duly present, in the form of myself and Alex. Not next to the Labour Party, this time, but sandwiched between the Disney Society and the Dance, Trance and Electronica Society. Who had a sound system to rival that of the people ostensibly in control of all music in the room. Perhaps now is the time to mention that I am most at home in grotty metal bars. Three hours of being deafened by the antithesis of my musical taste (such as it is) has sent me a little crazy, I think.


Still, that minor inconvenience was balanced out by my attempts at getting people to play bingo with me. Good times.

As it is practically mandatory in some online social circles, I created yet another anti-feminist bingo card. It’s a blend of those that have come before – I used my entire collection to help me – so my thanks go to anybody who’s ever created one! I did remove the more internet-troll style comments, though, replacing them with things that you tend to hear in real life. If I include this hybrid card over at A Second Thought with the others, it will bring the total up to 23!

It did seem to help, actually. It’s always good to have something to talk about, and I remember one woman in particular who not only seemed fairly enthusiastic about what we do, but was also practically spitting blood remembering all of the times she’d heard “all blonde women are stupid”. At least I can reasonably claim to have an effect on people!


In other news, we’ve got a lot of good things lined up for the next month or so. We’re starting to plan some larger events than we normally manage, so it’s especially worthwhile at the moment to keep an eye on our upcoming events.

And, because I’m [vain/ proud of my work] *delete as applicable*, I leave you with my lovely hybrid bingo card:


femsbingo

News from the meeting:

  • We are planning a big event about sexism within universities. We don’t have a date yet, but it’ll either be the end of March or the beginning of May. The theme of the event will be “Sex Equality Issues in Universities”. More details as and when we have them.
  • We’re having another crack at looking into moving the meetings. We need somewhere with a private room that we can book long term, that’s accessible by all, that is central and that is either free or really, really cheap. We simply do not have the kind of money that most venues charge, which does limit our options, but we are doing our best to find somewhere.
  • We are thinking of organising a big event in September along the lines of an introduction to feminism aimed at the new students arriving at University (and anyone else who interested of course), more details when we decided about this!
  • Hiring a coach to London for Million Women Rise is looking increasingly unlikely as it is prohibitively expensive. However, we will still be travelling down ourselves on public transport, and anybody wishing to travel with us is more than welcome.

Since the refreshers’ fair was the next day, the rest of the meeting was concerned with organising for that.

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