April 2009

Alright, alright. I’ve been having this discussion somewhere and I thought I’d move it over here.

Tell me what you like about your body.

Not your eyes. Everyone has pretty eyes. It’s a cop out.

Tell me about your slim ankles, your pretty toes, your shapely calves, your strong thighs, your wide pelvis, those stretchmarks on your stomach. Tell me about how every lover you had told you how beautiful your breasts were. Tell me about the freckles on your arms, about the way you have dainty wrists perfect for wearing bracelets on. Tell me about your thick wrists, if you like, and about how good a man’s watch looks on them. Tell me about that tattoo. Tell me about your perfect skin, your lovely eyebrows, your pierced ears. Tell me about your hair, is it long? Short? Straight? Curly?

Does your partner grab your ass? Does he/she kiss your back and say it’s beautiful? Do you like your knees? Your elbows? The back of your neck?

Tell me what makes you beautiful and what makes you different. But BE POSITIVE.

This is what I wrote: “I have pretty feet, shapely calves, wide hips, a belly, cellulited thighs, gorgeous, gorgeous, vast boobs, a defined waist, tanned arms, pretty fingers and beautiful long nails that other women envy. My face isn’t bad either – full lips, nice skin, pretty blue/green eyes and heavily pierced ears that I happen to adore”

I’m challenging you. It’s Thursday.

PS This is in no way closed only to women. I just happen to mention breasts since I mentioned my own in what I wrote.


In a strange coincidence, this news is brought to you by Dr. Allan Pacey from the University of Sheffield.

It is hardly surprising that men can and do have fertility problems. It’s something that ought to be a corollary of Sod’s Law: if one thing has any form of input into another thing, there is potential for the first thing to be broken, causing problems with the second.

Only in a society which has a long history of believing that only women could be infertile, which pathologises the female body, which venerates the male, the masculine and the phallic, and links those things with virility, strength and power, could we even be seeing such a nonsensical item of non-news.

If a woman is automatically worth less in our society because of the genitalia she posesses, so too is a man worth more by virtue of the genitalia he posesses. And when we have a set-up that means that men are over-represented in the sciences, where such research should be carried out, and when the tacit support of the patriarchal status quo is the default for reporting, why on earth would research into male inadequacy ever be carried out?

Dr. Pacey, that research would be valuable, if only to try to even the score a little with all of those studies that show women as lacking.

What about Teh Menz, indeed?

If ever J’s mother had watched Pinky and the Brain, our recent, brief conversation about the new Equalities Bill might have gone a little something like this:

Her: “Have you heard about the equalities bill, Pinky?”

Me: “Yes – what are we going to do about it, Brain?”

Her: “The same thing we do every time we get annoyed about gender issues, Pinky – try to take over the world!”

Unfortunately, however, I don’t believe she’s familiar with the cartoon, which means that such a scenario will never happen. The scenario that actually happened was similar, up to and including the part where we try to take over the world. I maintain that it could happen, and apparently she’s coming round to the idea, because last night she requested that I start drawing up our manifesto – apparently our tyranny will spawn from the existing democratic model!

Anyway, I mention her now, not because I’m planning on taking over the world in the imminent future, satisfying though that might be, but because, but for that conversation, this post might never have happened.

According to the BBC:

“Many employers will be made to reveal how much they pay men compared with women, under the Equalities Bill.
Firms employing at least 250 staff would be required to publish average hourly rates for men and women by 2013.”

Many employers? Not by the ONS numbers. As of 2008, out of the 2.16 million registered businesses, only 0.4% of companies were employing 250 or more staff. Or, to put it another way, for every 1000 businesses registered, only 4 of them will be required to publish their average hourly rates.

Contrast that with those businesses employing less than 10 staff: 89%. Even if you assumed that every one of those businesses was employing just 2 people, that’s over 3 million employees. Add in the further 9.1% of businesses with 10-50 employees (and assume they all have only 10), and the 1% of businesses with 50-250 employees (and assume they all only have 50) and you have a total of over 6.8 million workers. Does the government really think that targetting that miserable 0.4% that makes up the “large company” category is actually going to help? For the numbers even to be equal, every single one of those (8,640) large companies would have to employ 797 staff. Realistic? I think not.

And, to be honest with you, it’s easy to manipulate numbers, if you know how. Does the government propose to lay out in detail the manner in which the records must be kept? Which “average” are they going to use? Arithmetic mean – add them all up, and divide by the number of employees? Median – put all of the hourly rates in order, then find the one in the middle? Mode – find the rate that’s paid most often?

That these don’t give the same answer is obvious when you consider even five wages. Say you had a kitchen. You might have one Head Chef (£20), three chefs working for him (£10) and one pot-washer (£5). Well, if you take the mean of those wages, you get £11. If you take the median, you get £10, and if you take the mode, you get £10. So, if you wanted to make it look as though you were paying your staff more, you might use the mean. If not, you’d probably use the median.

But what if you had two kitchens? The first would be as above. But in the second, you might have a different Head Chef, and only pay her £17, but pay the three chefs underneath her £11 each. You’d still get a mean of £11. But you’re not paying the male Head Chef and the female Head Chef the same wage. And you’ve just successfully disguised that fact.

The story continues, and on the subject of gender inequality, it doesn’t get much better.

Harriet Harman has said that businesses will have until 2013 to voluntarily publish the data.

With quotes like this:

This is a further example of unnecessary regulation at a time when companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, are struggling to survive” from Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors (and, by the sounds of it, part of the Department of Administrative Affairs), I think I’m permitted to feel a little skeptical.

It’s heartening to know that such an august gentleman might, like myself, have trouble with his eyesight. Probably quite severe trouble, actually, since he seems to have confused the word “large” with the words “small and medium-sized”. I suppose I should recommend my optician to him.

On the other hand, never let it be said that I pick on only the negatives. The bill, in broad terms, is heartening in its consideration of other discriminated groups – in particular, the working class and the elderly – and the BBC has had no trouble in placing sentences for maximum irony:

“Ministers want older people to pay for services, such as insurance, based on the actual risk they face, rather than an arbitrary age-based cost. This has the backing of charity Age Concern and Help the Aged. However, the Association of British Insurers has denied its members’ policies are unfair, saying they simply take account of risk.”

Indeed. arbitrary age-based costs are not arbitrary, but simply take account of risk. In other news, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.*

So: do I like the bill? Well, roughly speaking, yes. I’m pleased with efforts to address inequalities, even as I feel that some policies could have been better thought-through, or better explained, or both. It may well be that those who are writing the bill have taken into account the kinds of concerns that I have mentioned. They might even have thought of things that I haven’t. But until I can find more than a rough outline of the bill, I’m stuck with critiquing what is here.

Do I think it will help? Perhaps. It depends on how co-operative companies are with the legislation.

Do I think it’s necessary? You know, I could write a whole other post and more about the necessity of legislating what privileged groups won’t do by themselves. But the short answer is this: when you have a white male director general of five male executive directors being quoted in a serious publication on the subject of inequality, of course it’s fucking necessary.

*gratuitous 1984 quote. If you haven’t read it, go and do so, please!

It’s a tag that I use fairly often. In fact, it’s a phrase I use fairly often as well, and when I’m not using it to refer to the practice of moving two single beds together to form a “double” bed – which will thus have a divide down the middle, rendering it ultimately pointless – I’m using it to refer to the practice of separating “the sexes”, often using the medium of Unbiased Objective Science (TM).

Of course, claiming to use Unbiased Objective Science is a nonsense when it comes to The Great Divide, for one simple reason, which I have found best summed up in Deborah Cameron’s book, The Myth of Mars and Venus*:

“Most research studies investigating the behaviour of men and women are designed around the question: ‘is there a difference?’ – and the presumption is usually that there will be… A study which finds no significant difference is less likely to be published.”

Now, because I’m inquisitive, it occured to me to wonder what kind of studies do get published. In this, I was aided and abetted by the BBC website’s habit of putting three or four other links with their story, usually under a “see also” style heading. I took one study, the first on the list, and followed the links. I’ve put them in chronological order, with the most recent first, but otherwise have changed nothing:

  1. Shopping Sprees Linked to Periods – 30th March 2009
  2. Wearing Red ‘Boosts Attraction’ – 28th October 2008
  3. Women Pick Men Who Look Like Dad – 3rd September 2008
  4. Short Men ‘Are the Most Jealous’ – 12th March 2008
  5. Sexy Walk ‘Keeps Men Off Scent’ – 8th November 2007
  6. Gaze ‘Key to Facial Attraction’ – 7th November 2007
  7. Partner Choice ‘Shaped By Father’ – 13th June 2007
  8. Why Women Fall For ‘Mr. Average’ – 9th February 2007
  9. Asymetrical Men ‘Are a Turn-Off’ – 16th August 2005
  10. Dominant Men ‘Smell Attractive‘ – 6th July 2005
  11. Sniffing Out Potential Partners – 10th May 2005
  12. Scent ‘Restores Youthful Allure‘ – 27th January 2005
  13. Hourglass Figure Fertility Link – 4th May 2004
  14. Women Slate Rivals To Win a Mate – 18th February 2004
  15. Study Reveals World’s Most Jealous Men – 7th July 2003
  16. Women Look at Men’s Cheeky Bits – 2nd July 2003
  17. Pill Changes Women’s Taste In Men – 20th January 2003
  18. Infidelity ‘is in the Genes’ – 30th October 2002
  19. Jealous Types ‘Have Different Sized Feet’ – 21st August 2002
  20. Women’s Choice of Men Goes in Cycles – 24th June 1999
  21. Sex Keeps You Young – 10th March 2009
  22. The Magic of Sexual Attraction – 16th December 1998
  23. Infidelity ‘is Natural’ – 25th September 1998
  24. Passionate Sex Aids Pregnancy – 9th September 1998

I should mention at this point that these links are crazy-making. I myself have spent 3 days trying to complete this post, because effectively playing multiple games of EvoPsych Bingo makes your brain melt. I do not recommend looking at them all at once if you have had a bad day. In fact, I don’t recommend it if you’ve had a really good day either, because afterwards you will feel as though you’d had a bad day. They are that bad. If you don’t feel up to dealing with the crazy, I will put up another post soon which is merely angry-making, and hope that that makes you feel better.

Also, I’ve tried sarcastic, I’ve tried studious, I’ve tried plain old enraged, but to be honest, there’s only one way I feel I can finish this post:

I very nearly got the whole bingo card

Thanks go to punkass blog, where the bingo card originated.

*I wholeheartedly reccomend reading the The Myth of Mars and Venus, which is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, and thank Kirsten for effectively inspiring this post – she bought me the book for my birthday!

I’m tinkering with things in the background of the blog. This hopefully shouldn’t interfere with anybody viewing, but I can’t guarantee it, so if it looks funny, apologies – it should be all sorted in an hour or so.

Update: well, that took less time than I expected! The more perceptive and frequent readers will note that the format of the blog has changed slightly. Everything that was there before is still there, and still in the same place. I’ve changed the layout of the blog, because I couldn’t tell which of the other contributors was writing what. For the record, this is why I write in purple! Anyway, I’ve changed themes, and we now have our names above our posts. I am just that groovy, people!

On a more sensible note, if anybody notices anything broken, please let me know in comments. Or, you could just drop by to pander to my ego and tell me that I am indeed groovy!

Hi! I’m a new contributor so thank you Rachel for having me onboard. I’m Rebecca. I live in Yorkshire, not far from Sheffield, in a small terraced house with my husband (we’ll call him JD) and our insane cat, Ivy. I’m currently unemployed, but I’m about to start an Open University fiction writing course, and I’m writing non-fiction all over the place too. I did my degree in Theology at York St John and graduated in 2005. We got married just after that, when I was 21 and he wasn’t quite 23. My marriage is a lovely but bizarre place to live. I’ll write more about that later.

I lost my dad to suicide last April (2008). He had been suffering from psychosis and sadly took the decision to take his own life. The past year has shown me many, many things, not least of which is the strength that lies within me. I expect that some of my posts will be mental health related.

I am a fat acceptance activist, I am an LGBT activist, I am a feminist. I am a fangirl for music and flail frequently over people in music. I like indie, punk, emo, Celtic punk, rock ‘n’ roll, twee indie, strong songwriters. I see more gigs than is actually healthy. JD plays in a (Sheffield based) band, but he’s a web programmer during the day.

I can be found blogging somewhat normally here at ClumsyKisses.com and I can be found writing about nail polish (yes really) here.

I did a series of posts on LiveJournal in February for the 14 Valentines project. If you’ve never checked this out, I would strongly recommend it. I wrote 14 posts in 14 days on a variety of topics, but one of them was about my life as a feminist. It’s this information that I’ve chosen to copy below to show the standpoint I come from. In the meantime, I look forward to being more involved here


Can everybody just stop please?

For anyone who doesn’t possess a TV, the internet or happen to glance at the covers of tabloids, Susan Boyle is a 48 year old Scottish woman who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent and became an overnight internet sensation, with her performance being viewed over 2 million times in one  night.

Why, exactly, has this video been so popular? Apparently, it is the ‘discrepancy’ between her voice, and her FACE. Oh yes. What? Were you not aware that (subjective) attractiveness is VITAL to the pleasing functioning of one’s vocal chords?

Here is some news: some people can sing. Susan Boyle is a person. She can sing. Thrilling news.

‘With her ghastly frock, wedge of frizzy hair and cowboy-like gait, Susan Boyle surprised us all’. DID she now? Is it really newsworthy that an ‘unconventional looking’ woman can sing? Do you have to be stunningly attractive (by superficial standards, I might add) in order for your vocal chords to work?

I cannot stand it.

The only ‘news’ part of this story is that it is still ‘news’. It is frankly upsetting that not only does the media and society judge people as unattractive solely on their looks, but judges these people as incompetent and untalented if these looks are not what are desired, BEFORE THEY HAVE EVEN OPENED THEIR MOUTHS. People sniggered as she walked on stage – just because of how she looked. When she declared a desire to be a famous singer, the laughing got louder. And when she began to sing – a fair performance – people gasped, Simon Cowell’s eyes bugged out of his head, Amanda Holden opened her mouth with joy, Ant and/or Dec exclaimed “weren’t expected that were ya?”

It’s pathetic.

Edit: Might I add, there was not nearly so much fuss when a fat middle aged BLOKE won the goddamn competition. Women’s worth is more than the sum of their looks.

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