February 2009


Because somebody turned up here by searching for it.

I thought nothing could surprise me after the blowjob thing.

Clearly, I was wrong.

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Sometimes, you read an article, and it seems to make sense. And then you read another one, and your mind has a *crash* moment. Which is to say that, although both articles seem, on the face of it, to be fairly reasonable, they just don’t work when you read them both at once. If you’re really lucky, you find one article that contradicts itself, or is otherwise badly thought-out, thereby saving you the bother of reading two. Pregnancy advice is, of course, a prime example of this kind of odd double-think, but there are other things that will work just as well. For instance:


Stories about being gay. Apparently, it’s now fine to be gay in the NHS. It wasn’t before, because of people being worried about HIV and paedophilia. But not lesbians. Presumably, lesbians don’t really exist. Why didn’t I think of that? More to the point, why doesn’t anybody worry about all of those heterosexual women working in paediatrics? You know, because gay men like sex with men and therefore want to molest children; straight women like sex with men and therefore….. No?

On the other hand, it’s not at all fine to be gay in Welsh schools. This time, the article uses amazing things called acronyms, which means that they can explain the meaning of the new Welsh charity, LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, and then go back to just using “gay”. It’s a whole one letter shorter, and of course they have to be concise when they write these articles.


Stories about rape. The first, which is better than most because the woman isn’t treated like a liar and the man is actually convicted, contains the quote that the woman waived her right to anonymity to say that “the police system is better than it was years ago and that there are people who can help you.”

I’m sure that will be a huge relief to this woman in Scotland. She was arrested and held in cells overnight after she “struggled to cope in the witness box”. But of course, she’s only an alleged rape victim, which actually makes her nothing more than a witness. So that’s ok then.


And lastly, because Conservatives annoy me, I’d like to point out that it was the Tories that commisioned this survey. I’d also like to point out that for people supposedly concerned about the “awful story of mothers being turned away from hospital at a hugely emotional time”, they’re pretty bloody quick to vote to get the mothers there. The F-Word listed the voting patterns of MPs on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act back in May last year, and 135 out of the 164 Conservatives present voted against the 24-week limit on abortions, in favour of a shorter time limit (22 weeks). By my reckoning, and given that there was an 85% turnout, that means that at least 71% of the Conservatives would make it more difficult for women to have abortions. Which is the kind of thing that would tend to increase the number of pregnancies. They didn’t win that vote, but they tried. So I’m irritated, although unsurprised, at their hypocrisy now.

Having said that, I’m impressed that they managed to get the pregnant woman’s head into the picture. Well done there. Of course, she’s got her hand over her eyes in an incredibly melodromatic I’M UPSET! kind of a way, but you can’t have everything.

This meeting was concerned with the future structure of the group. The phrase women-only has been used to refer to all self-defined women. Trans women are, as they have always been, welcome to attend.

We discussed  in particular the issue of providing women-only space. After a lengthy discussion, where we looked at the aims of the group and several different options for the group, including staying as we were (open to all), being women-only, alternating between women-only and open to all, we have decided that from now on Sheffield Fems will be primarily a women-only group, with one mixed (open to all) event around once a month. The open to all event will be either a social meeting, a discussion, a campaign or some other event, and may not always be on a Tuesday. It will be decided on an event by event basis, after consultation with members at meetings.

We talked extensively about the pros and cons of all the suggestions made and tried to find the most inclusive solution that meets the needs of as many as possible, so for example staying as we were is putting off some people who are looking for a women-only group. However, a solely women-only group also excludes a number of men who are very interested in participating in campaigns and events. We felt that becoming a primarily women-only group, with specific times for the inclusion and participation of men offers the best solution to these problems.

We are also hoping that as a result of this change a ‘Friends of Fems’ group could be developed for men and anyone else who want to take a more active role in feminism and feminist activity and support our work, while working on projects of their own. At present this is just an idea, but hopefully it will be developed further in the coming weeks, in conjunction with our meetings that are open to all. If anyone would like more information about this, send us and email and we’ll let you know what’s going on.

Before I brave the snowy wastes of the Hill of Doom (a requirement of leaving my flat, these days!) I’d like to share a few stories I found.

The good:

Spinal Tap (of This Is Spinal Tap fame) are recording new material. I do have a soft spot for Spinal Tap, if only because of the quotes  that they provide me with. “Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful” springs to mind. As it were.


The bad:

Carol Thatcher has referred to somebody as a “golliwog”. I say no more.


The ugly:

Yet another sexual assualt makes it into the news. This time by a sixteen year old boy, who’s pled guilty in Scotland to “lewd and libdinous practices and behaviour” towards a three year-old girl. He’s previously been convicted in England of taking an indecent photograph, and sexually touching a girl “under 14”, which earned him a 12-month referral order. Anybody think he might be getting worse?


The downright painful:

Doctors remove a healthy kidney (from a living donor) through her vagina. Apparently, “removing the kidney through ‘a natural orifice’ speeds up recovery and gives a better cosmetic result – avoiding a six inch abdominal scar”.

Altogether now… OUCH!

“Once the kidney was cut from its attachments to the abdominal wall and its arteries and veins were stapled shut, the surgeons placed the kidney in a plastic bag inserted through an incision in the vaginal wall and pulled it out through the vaginal opening with a string attached to the bag.”

The article goes on to say that the surgeons hope that this will mean that more women become donors.

I’ll leave that thought to sit for a while, along with this one: is it only me that’s wondering whether vaginas scar too?


And, just for good measure, I had a quick look at The Grauniad, and by ignoring any articles likely to annoy me, I found two that I actually liked. Amazing! Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science* column says that “nothing has changed, people continue to have stupid ideas, newspapers continue to laud them, and lives will be lost”. Worth remembering. Stupidity really can kill, especially if you deny the existance of HIV/Aids.

Lastly, Kira Cochrane has issues with all of the newspapers going for sensationalism over sense regarding the Children’s Society report – perhaps she read my blog and extrapolated?! Funny, she seems to have missed her own newspaper from her list. But they do devote a good five paragraphs to the working-mothers debate. Out of sixteen. Just less than a third of the article, then. So maybe it’s not too bad. Right? Or maybe, since it’s The Grauniad, it was just a typo that left it out of her list? Yeah. Must be that.

Edited To Add: Can’t anything be good? Ben Goldacre, I am officially disappointed.

Hat tip to The F-Word.

Yes, the semi-regular news-surfing is back, which will of course mean more spam for me from surfing websites. Joys.

First off, there are a couple of things for which I have no sympathy;

The number of British students at UK universities has fallen for the first time in recent history” and “A boys’ club in Bristol has changed its name after the council threatened to withdraw funding if the club did not show girls were also welcome.

Since I have my crystal ball, I can forsee trouble ahead in the guise of being labeled as either a stroppy student, or a strident, man-hating bitch, or both.  Strangely enough, I am neither of those things.

I’m very grateful that I have the chance to get myself a degree. I really am. I just would have been more grateful if, for example, the student loan I get was guaranteed to cover my accomodation costs, or if it was not assumed that, since my parents earn X amount each year, they would of course be happy to subsidise my adult life, and my sister’s adult life, whilst also paying their mortgage and bringing up my seven year old brother. I’ve never believed that getting 50% of “young adults” into higher education was a good idea, and it seems even less so now –  because who, in these “credit crunch” days, wants to saddle themselves with £20,000 of debt before they’ve even found themselves a proper job?

As for the boy’s club, I find my levels of sympathy greatly reduced by the quotes from the club’s leader. Anybody that says things like “it’s this PC bureaucracy gone mad” has automatically lost any respect I might have for them. Or indeed things like “The boys’ club – formerly the lads’ club – has always been a major service, primarily for boys of course.” Which leaves me wondering who else the club served. Perhaps it’s that old nonsense about “man embracing woman” that means that when they say “boys”, they actually mean “all non-adult people”?

As it happens, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the council’s criteria, which says that “if you want funding, you have to show that you are meeting the needs of all young people”. And given that the club remains boys-only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’m really not too concerned that boys will suddenly start feeling excluded.


In other news, women can harm themselves in new and exciting ways whilst pregnant, by drinking too much water. Interestingly, this article is written without the usual headless pregnant torso photo which is usually a given, so I’ll give the BBC a bonus point for that. On the other hand, it is yet more conflicting advice about what pregnant women should and shouldn’t do. I have to say, however, that I was greatly amused by the final quote: “the key thing is for the woman to listen to what her own body is telling her“. Well, who’d’a thunk it? Letting women decide for themselves? Surely not!

Moving on, before my sarcasm gets the better of me, and the last story of interest is that women are transforming Welsh politics. Why? Because there’s a 47:53 ratio of women: men. Apparently, “political debates were more consensual than adversarial as a result and had ‘non-traditional’ topics on the agenda such as domestic violence.

Happy times. Interestingly enough, we touched on these kinds of topics back in October last year, when we had two members of the Green Party with us. Of course, back then, what was said was that “the structures of the council are very traditional and adversarial which often puts people off”. It’s a catch-22 situation really; the adversarial format of meetings appears to deter women, which means that there is an uneven gender ratio with more men than women, which makes it more likely that the structure will be adversarial, which deters women….

If that cycle could be broken – as it hopefully has been in Wales – we could be looking at a much better governed country. At the very least, we could aim for “a consensual political style, an inclusive politics, and working arrangements which recognise the caring responsibilities of those working within it.” I can but hope.

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