May 2009

People, I have been somewhat rubbish recently. This is because I have exams, and a little brother who misses me (or so he says, when I’m not in London; when I am, he’s quite content to either insult or ignore me, as the mood takes him).

For my lack of presence on the blog, I apologise. I’m now back in Sheffield and supposedly revising. I have an exam this afternoon. Therefore, I’ll be back to my normal voluable self, irritating everybody mightily by messing around with the website.

The important thing is this: we’re considering creating a new, feminist magazine for the students’ union.

And we need contributors. Lots of them. We’re going for rampant shameless self-promotion here. If you’re creative in any way whatsoever, even if it is merely an impressive vocabulary of well-thought-out epithets, come along! (Especially people whose talent is in insults; I need some new ones!)

Can you write? Read? Proof-read? Draw? Paint? Knit? … I’m not entirely sure how we’d fit the last one in, but seriously, tell us about it anyway!

Can you design us a new logo for our lamentably neglected leaflets?

Can you design us a new leaflet, full stop?!

You get the drift, I’m sure.

If you can’t turn up to tonight’s meeting (which, as far as I know, is still in the University Arms, 7:30pm), feel free to leave your shameless self-promotion in comments or in an email to us.

Happy creating, everybody!

Vis-a-vis possible new feminist publication for the university, I am collecting responses to what people think feminism is/what it means to them/whether they are a feminist. If you could post your own responses to the following in the comments, along with those of anyone else you can get interested, that would be great:

Are you a feminist? Y/N

Why? [two or three sentences at the most]

What does the word feminism mean to you? [two or three sentences at the most]

Thank you!

Recently, Kirsten drew my attention to a story reported under the headline “Laos mum-to-be ‘denied uk lawyer'”.

Long story short, Rebecca reminded me in comments that you can in fact do more than just whinge on blogs; you can whinge on the BBC website, too! So, I did.

On Tuesday, I got a response, which I’ve only just noticed. In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but it’s a positive outcome, and I suppose that’s the main thing. Have a look for yourselves:


We have only a short space in headlines to sum up the substance of the
story. While "mum-to-be" could be construed as having positive
connotations, it is in fact a phrase we should not be using anyway, as
we prefer not to use informal terms such as mum, dad and kid. I have
amended the existing headline and will ensure we are more thoughtful
about future stories concering Ms Orobator.

Kind regards,

News website"

Indeed. Of course, the word they’ve replaced it with – “prisoner” – is a good couple of characters shorter than the original, and no less accurate. And effectively saying “well, you might be right, but I’ve removed it for an entirely different reason” is a bit strange. But they have changed it, and they have replied to me, and it’s not a bad reply, all things considered.

What do other people think?

You all should read this post from Penny Red, it follows on nicely from my last post and also from brazenshrew’s comment which was this:

It really annoys me that most people don’t seem to think that history can repeat itself. The nazis gained power in very similar circumstances; a weak economy and disenchantment with the political process. It’s scary how easily they could get it, if people are complacent, that is.

History CAN repeat itself and only YOU can make a difference.

I’m going away with JD imminently to York, where I went to university, to stay in a posh hotel and swim and eat dinner out tonight and all that fancy stuff 🙂

There are many people and many events that never really get represented in mainstream literature. This much is obvious to me when I think about who – and what – is represented. So this isn’t going to be a post that says “hey! I’ve had this idea about a phenomenon I’ve noticed, and I shall call it…. privilege!!!”

It’s a question, actually.

Can anybody think of any book aimed at adults that mentions a woman dealing with her period, other than in the “um, it hasn’t come, I should probably get a pregnancy test” scenario?

I mean, I can remember reading a few books aimed at teenagers that feature a girl getting her first period, but that’s different. Especially since those books were aimed at girls specifically – I’m thinking of authors like Judy Blume and Jaqueline Wilson here. For a matter-of-fact depiction of periods as something that the girl is already used to, I can only think of Michelle Magorian’s A Little Love Song, in which Rose, the main character, is relieved to find blood running down her thigh when she gets out of bed, a few days after having sex for the first time. Even then, it’s mentioned as a plot device, because it shows that she is not pregnant.

I can’t think of a single adult book that talks about periods. Not even in chick lit, which, being aimed at women, you might expect to be more forthcoming about it. Admittedly I haven’t read much. I veer between reading fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction usually, and these tend to either change the way the women work (e.g. because they’re werewolves and go hairy instead), change the way the world works (e.g. you only get your period after specifically praying for it, which the lead female character conveniently never does), or only consider bleeding in terms of failure to reproduce, respectively. But I did read all of Lisa Jewell’s books at one stage, and while I can remember her writing about pregnancy, being fat, leg-shaving, bikini-waxing, heterosexual sex, men wanking and sexual assualt, I can’t remember her ever writing about a female character being on her period.

And now I’m wondering why.

Charlie Brooker said better than I could have, here on Comment Is Free, but I’ve got some stuff to add:

I got BNP literature in the mail today. It’s the first time here, in Adopted Town. In York, where I went to university, aka the whitest place ever ever, it was quite a regular thing. We once even had them at the door. I closed it in their faces. Our Jewish lecturer was appalled that such things were shoved through the doors of unsuspecting students.

Anyway, apparently “people like me” vote BNP. Given that these flyers weren’t selected mailouts but rather the postman had them in his hand (I know because he knocked to give me a parcel), I assume that my neighbours received them too. You know, my Chinese neighbour, and the two Polish families on my street. Do “people like them” vote BNP too? Because ha fucking ha.

I abhor racism in all its forms and I hate the BNP for existing, although obviously, it’s a democracy, they have the right to exist. I just wish they didn’t have the right to put their putrid filth through my letterbox. It’s vomit-inducing. The propaganda on this shit is unbelievable. The worrying thing is that I can see how they work, I can see how the rhetoric spins the truth. To that end I can see how people could get sucked in. It’s unbelievable.

Take, for example, the fact that one of the BNP’s “key pledges” according to this mailout is to “oppose the dangerous drive – backed by the other main parties – to give 80 million low-wage, Muslim Turks the right to swamp Britain.”

This is EU-related stuff. The EU wants Turkey in the EU and clearly that will open up free migration like it did with Eastern Europe when Poland et al joined a few years ago. This is true – and lots of Polish families did move throughout Western Europe. The fear that they would “take all our jobs” was not realised, and never will be realised either. So how likely is it that 80m Turks will come over here? According to Wikipedia that’s the entire population of Turkey plus 9m. Mathematics, not a racist’s strongpoint. Plus, of course, clearly every Turkish person worships Allah. Cos they’re a bit foreign, you see.

I also really object to the leaflet’s use of women and children, it’s so fucking contrived. Really, they’re saying: VOTE FOR US BECAUSE TEH WIMMINZ AND TEH CHILDRUNZ CANNOT BE TRUSTED TO LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES OK?

I’m going to mail it back to the BNP. It wasn’t directly sent to me, but I’d like them to know my displeasure anyway. I’m going to write FUCK OFF on it and send it back. It’s worth the price of a stamp.

Whose clever idea was it to describe Samantha Orobator (previously mentioned here) as “Laos Mum-To-Be”?

Oh, that’s right.

It was the BBC.

Despite the fact that within the article, we see that “doctors and the UK Foreign Office had said Miss Orobator had become pregnant while in jail. The Laotian government has claimed she had been pregnant when arrested.

So the pregnancy was being reported as something that was worrying. Something that should be fairly uncontentious, being argued about. Not an uncomplicated, anticipated, exciting pregnancy. Not a happy announcement. Not a tidbit of celebrity gossip. And certainly not something that you’d want to give a flippant title to.

This article is not the most recent news of Ms. Orobator – that’s here, as far as I can see – and if Kirsten hadn’t mentioned it to me, I wouldn’t have seen it. Now that I have, I’m sickened. Seeing “sex” in headlines when they mean “rape” is bad enough, but to refer to a woman who has most likely been raped in prison as a “mum-to-be“, when her pregnancy means that she’s living with the physical evidence of her rape growing inside her...
How can you even put words to how inappropriate that is?

ETA: I did get a reply when I wrote to the BBC about it, which I’ve posted up here.

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