Semi-Regular Features


Hey.

I’ve just been trawling through pictures on my computer and found a bunch of pics of Sheffield Fems out and about to share.

WARNING- FEMINIST PICTURE SPAM FOLLOWS!

So here is a selection (plenty more to come). These a mostly from a while back.


Reclaim the night Manchester

(more…)

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Yes, it’s that time again; I’ve managed to carve some free time into my weekend (slightly extending the definition of “weekend”) and what better way to spend it than to cast a beady eye over this week’s stalwart BBC reporting?


First off, lest we forget that marriage has a long and unsavoury history with legally sanctioned rape, there are two stories from Northern Ireland which caught my eye: a teenage boy (link is to a video report; transcript under cut) who violently raped an American woman in a park in Belfast has been sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, while a 29-year-old Polish man from Derry was given 5.5 years for raping and threatening to kill his then wife. I should also point out that the second man was deemed to pose a high risk of reoffending. To have been given a significantly lower sentence than the first seems somewhat surprising.


Another news story with a somewhat tenuous link to Northern Ireland is this report on research that has been condensed down to “female binge drink rates double”.

That makes for an interesting headline, but, as you might expect, doesn’t actually pick up on much of the study. What they’ve said on the subject is this:

Although there is no standard definition of binge drinking, it is typically defined as drinking more than twice the recommended daily limit on any one day. This corresponds to more than eight units of alcohol in men and more than six units in women.

Ladies, be warned. If you drink more than three double JD&cokes on a night out, you’ve binged! In fact, “revised methods for calculating a unit of alcohol have been introduced recently… [This] effectively doubles the units of alcohol calculated for a glass of wine“, which by my count means that two glasses of wine send you over the binge limit, too. Of course, that’s only because of the “trend for using larger sizes of wine glasses“. I’m now reminded of that greetings card featuring a woman in her 30s curled up on a sofa, holding a wine glass as big as her head, with the caption saying something along the lines of being “good” and “cutting down to one glass a night”.

And, of course, nobody wants to be reminded that “women are less likely than men to drink and women who do drink consume less than men.” That would be far too boring, and besides, why ever would we chastise men for their drinking habits? I myself consider it mere laddish larking about when I hear the sounds of men vomiting and fighting outside my window, whereas the sounds of women giggling – well! That is clearly not the kind of behaviour suitable for a respectable young lady to be party to!

In fact, what has happened, in general, over the last 15 – 20 years, is that ” the drinking behaviour of women that has increased toward that of men“. Apparently,

This might be interpreted as one expression of the historically recent emancipation of women in Western society, the pressure of positive advertising and also the increased financial security and independence of women.

I am shocked. In fact, I may swoon. So, there are two things going on here. Firstly, our glorious tradition of rampant capitalism means that alcohol companies have discovered that, in fact, women are quite capable of drinking, and that, therefore, there is money to be made. You can also see this being played out with the increasing number of Manly Cosmetics For Men (TM), which are packaged in blue, black, white and silver in order that women, who can only see pink (possibly because of berries in a forest) will not buy them, and also so that men (who see in black and white, possibly because of hunting zebra in the savannah) will want to hunt them down and take them to the checkout, just as in days of old they would have taken them to the fire. Or something. Secondly, the studies have noted that the behaviour of women has “increased toward that of men“, and This might be interpreted as one expression of … the increased financial security and independence of women”. This is also not surprising. If men drink more than women and women’s drinking increases, where else would women’s drinking increase towards? These studies don’t allow for identifying outside of the gender binary, which means you’re a bit stuck for anywhere else to go. And indeed, you might find that women with more money and more independence, in a culture which is more accepting of women’s presence – unaccompanied by men – in bars, might be drinking more.

An interesting question might then be, in this age that finds a barrage of articles every summer proclaiming that “feminism is dead” (which to my mind gives it more lives than a very lucky cat), why is it that women are not drinking as much as men? Can it all be attributed to women’s lower tolerance of alcohol, or are there other social factors still in play? Discuss.


In other news, Harriet Harman has been talking to The Fawcett Society about the Equalities Bill. So that’s nice. Somewhat annoying that it’s described as “controversial new legislation“. Because, as I’ve said before, “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.” And also, it shouldn’t be*cough*womenstilldon’thaveequality*cough*controversial. Can I mention those “feminism is dead” articles again yet?


Lest this post goes on forever, I shall stop here. Pausing only to mention that a male contraceptive injection that “could be as effective at preventing pregnancies as the female pill” could become available in five years or so. Which would mean that those men who believe that women exist solely to steal their sperm, have their children and then drain their bank accounts and/ or marry them, divorce them and take exactly half of everything including half of the tv using a chainsaw would finally be able to make sure it doesn’t happen. Of course, they would have to be injected. With needles. And it might be, you know, effort. And they then might not be fully fertile for a whole six months afterwards. Which would be a blow to their manly manly identity, which rests on virility. But I’m sure they’ll welcome it, nevertheless!


It’s a Bank Holiday here in sunny England, which means that I have a decent excuse for being late with my Weekend News-Surfing. The other decent excuse is, of course, that this is the first real day off I’ve had since Sunday last week – that is, seven days ago. Hence the strange thinking. Remember, children, the 48-hour working time directive was put in for a reason: so that temps could opt out of it! Of course, I jest. I haven’t opted out of it, per se – I just study full-time and temp to make sure I can eat each week. The total is more than 48 hours’ work, let me tell you. Especially once you include housework in the mix. Which I reckon I can do, because if I were doing it for someone else it would be considered work. Anyway. My financial and temporal predicament (i.e, not enough hours in the day) is not the concern of this site. So, to business:

Samantha Orobator, who has been imprisoned in Laos since August 2008, is now five months pregnant and facing death by firing squad for allegedly entering the country with 1.5lb of heroin. The question that has either not been asked or answered is, of course, how did she end up pregnant whilst in prison? Given that “British Embassy officials, including the Ambassador, have visited Miss Orobator a total of six times since her arrest… limited to a period of about 20 minutes once a month“, I rather doubt that any kind of significant other would have had more luck seeing her. Time will tell.

Continuing the theme of pregnancy stories I wish hadn’t happened, a woman in Dubai has been found guilty of manslaughter after she was involved in a traffic accident, nine months pregnant, which caused the death of her foetus. I’ve seen arguments about the criminalisation of abortion, and what that might lead to, and this story is one of those things. I wish with all my heart that this had stayed a hypothetical argument.

Moving on, I have a strange feeling of deja-vu: “These kind of incidents, in such a busy area, are very rare, however I would like to reinforce personal safety advice for women in the area, not to walk alone during the hours of darkness and to contact police if they feel threatened at any time“. Such are the words of wisdom of Det Insp Andy Cunliffe, after an 18 year old woman was raped behind a pub in Bolton. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. That’s not fucking helpful. Women go out. True story. Some women work in pubs. Also true. What do you think they should do, sleep in the pub till morning? What if they’re raped in the pub? And does anybody else remember this story? The one where the police ignored that woman who repeated told them she was afraid that she’d be killed? Remember how she ended up dead?

The BBC have also got hold of the story about the 17 year old Australian boy, Alex, who has got permission from the courts to have a double mastectomy. Catholic groups are predictably outraged, but he’s also been taking hormone treatment to prevent menstruation, which I think probably counts as “birth control”. Why they’re outraged about the breast removal and not that, I can’t fathom. At least the BBC got the pronouns right, even if they did start the article by calling Alex a girl. Beppie over at Hoyden About Town is suitably enraged with one of the less considerate Australian publications for not managing to grasp this rather simple concept.

Finishing up for the evening, I’ve got one good piece of entertainment news, one bad. Bad would be Andrew Sachs thanking Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for “raising his profile“. Good to know that a nasty, spiteful act of misogyny doesn’t matter when fame’s involved, even if it was regarding his granddaughter. So much for the old “but what if it was your [insert female relative here]?!” argument.

Good news, which isn’t really news, but pleases me, is Carol Ann Duffy becoming Poet Laureate. And saying that she’ll give away the money, but she wants the butt of sack (600 bottles of Sherry) upfront. That is many kinds of awesome. And I have fond memories of my notoriously grumpy English Lit teacher reading Frau Freud aloud, realising that not one of her 17-year-old students would be persuaded to read a list of synonyms for “penis”. Especially not when that list included “love-muscle”.

Well, Easter is over, and I’ve got no excuse for not going News-Surfing.Does it surprise you to learn that I wasn’t best pleased with what I found? It seems that every time I bow out of popular culture, each return to it is always more painful than the last. It’s like drinking a double shot of vodka after being teetotal for a couple of months, only without the pleasing tipsiness, and with twice the headache. On that note, I hereby refuse to watch The Apprentice ever again. Last year, their habit of calling the women “girls” annoyed me. This year, the infuriating stereotypes involving women and cleaning made me yell epithets at my laptop and stop watching after 10 minutes.

So, without further ado:


Five women have died in unrelated incidents all over the UK. Strangely, nobody seems to care.

  • Claire Atkinson, 33, was found stabbed to death in a car in Lancashire that crashed whilst trying to overtake. The as yet unnamed, 52-year-old male occupant of the car is being treated for head injuries but has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
  • Stephanie Parker, 22, was found hanged in Wales. The article doesn’t explicitly say so, but the tone of the piece makes me suspect that the death is being treated as suicide.
  • An unnamed woman, 62, was found dead in Maidstone. A 61-year-old man has been arrested, with police appealing for information.
  • An “elderly” woman may have been dead in her home for over a year. Police are trying to trace her relatives.
  • Another unnamed woman, 34, was found dead in a property in North Wales. It’s currently an “unexplained” death, until the pathologist’s report comes back.

Two women have been raped, one in Essex after the man tried to steal her bicycle, and one in Glasgow. No surprises here that both rapes were “stranger rapes”, and no surprise either that we’ve got a story of a woman being attacked by a black man who had already marked himself as criminal. Further, since “whiteness” is the default in the BBC – which you can work out for yourself when you ask yourself whose races are emphasised, and whose are not – we can assume that the woman was white. Need I point out that we’re looking at stereotypes here?

On a similar note, the second woman was described as “uninjured but badly shaken” by police, which to me says nothing about the woman and everything about the male police officer making the report. Or perhaps it’s a failing of official language, which minimises the effect of rape. Perhaps both. I have never been raped. I don’t want to speak for anybody. Besides, they speak for themselves in the Shakesville Survivor Thread.


Moving away from the subjects of violence, because too much reading of that kind of thing makes me want to crawl into a corner, I’ve found some stories that push buttons ranging from “minor annoyance” and “frustration with the patriarchy” to “incandescent fury”.


Minor annoyance says “many unaware of alcohol calories“. This is a problem, not because drinking in any quantity is likely to make you not want to eat (thereby depriving you of actual nutrients if you do it too often), but, predictably, because of the Obesity Crisis (TM). Heather Caswell, from the British Nutrition Foundation, is quoted as saying:

“Most people would baulk at consuming a full glass of single cream, but wouldn’t think twice about a couple of pints. But the calorie content is similar and, over time, excess alcohol intake is likely to lead to weight gain.”

Hey, Heather – you know what else leads to weight gain over time? Time! Amazing, isn’t it!

Also, of course you’d baulk at the idea of drinking a glass of single cream. That would be because it’s not meant to be drunk. On the other hand, if I poured that glass of single cream over some smoked salmon trimmings, heated it through and served it with pasta, black pepper and brown bread, I bet you’d eat it (barring vegetarianism, allergies or difference in taste). Ironically, this article about the Obesity Crisis (TM) has made me want to eat cream. I’m sure that’s not the effect they were going for.


Frustration with the patriarchy would be this story: “female hairiness health warning“. In a similar vein to the alcohol = obesity panic above, female hairiness is a problem because, well, who likes women to be hairy? The report’s author, Dr. Swingler, is reported to have said that the condition “is distressing and can be particularly upsetting for young women”. Presumably, that would be because young women have a duty to remain hairless and “sexy” at all times, as opposed to older women, who are only useful in the role of asexual mothers or mother-substitutes. Shockingly enough, this attitude is not expanded upon.

As it happens, hirstutism can be a sign of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which may also affect a woman’s fertility. The cynic in me says that it’s not at all surprised that this story has been picked up on, given the number of ways in which it relates to women’s ability to attain their feminine stereotypes.


Lastly, in the “incandescent rage” pile, would be the news that Carol Thatcher is still as offensive as she was last time

I wrote about her, if not more so. I suppose this is where we see the intersectionalities of privilege – she may be a woman, but she’s white, and moneyed, and clearly used to people listening to her. This combines into a truly revolting “interview”, which becomes little more than a platform for Thatcher to say that her collection of golliwog fridge magnets (I can’t believe they’re even made!) has gone up, due to racist well-wishers sending them to her. Oh, and political correctness – apparently it needs “some common sense injected to it”. This from a woman who is breathtakingly rude, and clearly has no common sense. Because, you know, common sense would suggest that it’s not a good idea, after having the bleedin’ obvious pointed out (you know, that “golliwog” is a fucking rude thing to call anybody), to claim that you used it “in a context”.

Yeah, that context would be that you, as a white woman, used a racist epithet to refer to a tennis player in conversation with a white man. That doesn’t make it better. And your explanation at the time, that you “made a light aside about this tennis player and his similarity to the golliwog on the jam pot”, that doesn’t make it better either. You know, because there’s that undercurrent of “ha! Black men, they all look the same, amirite?!”. That would be a racist comment, right there, regardless of what your spokesman said. Oh, and also – for a comment supposedly “made in jest” – it wasn’t fucking funny.

I don’t think I actually expected her to understand that what she did was wrong. Not really. But I never expected her to try to defend them a second time around. That’s not just cluelessness, that’s smacking-you-in-the-face-privilege. I should probably say at this point that Boris Johnson was vocal in his support of her. Not that that will come as any great shock to anybody. But of course, America has a black president now, so presumably we’re living in a post-racist world. I have to wonder whether Carol Thatcher would have refered to him as a “golliwog”.


Well! On that cheery note, I’m ending this weeks’ thrilling instalment. Join me next week, when no doubt there will be more for us all to get annoyed about.

Yes, it is Sunday, and yes, that means I ought to have a Weekend News-Surfing post lined up. But, you know, I’m not feeling up to dealing with the myriad of nastiness that’s around in the news this week, so instead, I have taken inspiration from the long-suffering sidekick of Captain Obvious:

I’m going to give you three quotes that have appeared in the news this week. And then, if you haven’t already guessed, I’m going to point out why one of these things is not like the others.

Pope ‘distorting condom science’:

“the London-based Lancet said the Pope had “publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue”. It said the male latex condom was the single most efficient way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/Aids.”

School lunch rules too strict:

“The government had been working with local authorities and schools to create better dining facilities and organise lunch breaks better because it knew students were put off if there was nowhere to sit, long queues, unattractive dining rooms or no time to eat.”

Sex attack on woman in alleyway:

“I would advice ladies in the area to take reasonable precautions and if possible avoid walking alone in that vicinity at this moment in time. If they are walking around during the hours of darkness I would urge them to be with a friend or something like that.”

Have you guessed yet?

In fact, there are two right answers. The first is that one of these things is not held to be “conventional wisdom” – and that would be the second story, which says that students don’t want to stand in long queues to get their lunch.

The second, and the one which I was going for, was that, while the quotes from the first two stories are clearly true all the time, the third story is one of those rare occaisions where the “conventional wisdom” for women is actually relevant.

Here’s what gets to me, Detective Inspector Dilly*: if women in our culture don’t know by now that they’re not meant to walk around late at night without some suitably muscular man to look after them, they never will. You saying “don’t walk around in the dark” isn’t anything new or helpful.

I know I’m not meant to walk around in the dark on my own. I know I’m not meant to go out clubbing in a short skirt, but then on the other hand, if I go out in jeans and get raped, the judge won’t believe me because my jeans will have been too tight for the man to get them off without my help. I know I’m not meant to get drunk, because if I do, I can wave goodbye to that rape conviction – after all, just because I was unconscious, doesn’t mean I didn’t consent! I know I’m not meant to use public transport to get home – but then, if I take a taxi and get raped, who will believe me? I know I’m meant to take my boyfriend with me everywhere I go, so that potential rapists know that I’m somebody else’s property, but then, if my boyfriend rapes me, it won’t even get to court because the police will label it as a “domestic incident”. After all, I don’t normally object to having sex with him, right?!

Of course, if you were honest you might have said, “face it, ladies, whether a man rapes you has nothing to do with what you do, and everything to do with whether that man is a rapist”. But that doesn’t make for nice, friendly police officer advice, does it?

Don’t get me wrong – I want women to be safe. I want to feel safe, as a woman. But let’s face it – the only time I could ever consider myself completely free from the threat of rape is if I was the only person left alive. Being pre-pubescent doesn’t mean I won’t get raped. Being post-menopausal doesn’t mean I won’t get raped. Being lesbian… well, in some places, being lesbian might actually increase my chances of getting raped.

I hope they find that man in Portsmouth. Maybe when they’ve done that, they can work on challenging rape myths so that women actually feel confident in reporting rape in the first place.


*yes, his name really is Dilly.

This was going to go into my Weekend News-Surfing, but honestly, it deserves mentioning all on its own.


On Sunday 15th March, a man described as:

“white and of average build and height… wearing a black leather jacket with the sleeves pushed up and denim jeans with a Union Jack pattern on the back pocket… brown workman-style boots with laces… balding with dark shaven hair, his face was unshaven and he had noticeably yellow teeth”

inappropriately touched three girls, one aged nine, in Stefan Leys Pocket Park, Daventry, Northamptonshire. Police are asking for witnesses who may have been in the park between 2:3o PM and 3:30 PM to recall whether they saw a man of this description.

They’ve had information from one woman already saying that her daughter was approached by a man who offered her cash.


Now, I know that the Fems are based a bit North of this, but I think it’s worth shouting out about – because you never know who might see it.


Another Northamptonshire girl, aged 10, was sexually assaulted while witha friend on Friday 20th March in Brook Street, Raunds, near Wellingborough. The police say that they don’t believe the two incidents are connected, although the only description that they have been able to provide of the second man is that he was white.


I’m not a police officer, I’d hope that they’ve got information that I haven’t been able to glean from the BBC articles. But the incidents certainly look similar – the girls in both cases were pre-teens, they were with a friend or friends, and they’ve all been either inappropriately touched or sexually assaulted in public places by a white man.

In any case, whether it’s one man or more than one man really isn’t the issue. The point is that this man or men have been able to do this. I was blogging recently about the effect that 10 years’ worth of low-level street harassment has had on me. That can be nothing compared to the effect that this man/men will have had on these young girls.

I know it’s in the news because it panders to the stereotypes – a stranger in the bushes. That doesn’t matter. Stereotypes we can deal with later. Men walking up to young girls in broad daylight and sexually assaulting them – that needs to be dealt with now.

Please, if you know anything, talk to the police. If you don’t know anything, spread the word.

Recently, I’ve been ploughing through various books of a feminist nature. Sometimes that urge takes me, even though I am a number-cruncher by trade.

One of those books was Sexing The Body, which I believe I mentioned as something Not To Read Whilst Ill. There were various things that interested me within the book, some of which I may turn into publishable thoughts, and which might therefore require me taking it out again (even though short-term loans, which last a whole two days, do not please me).

Among these half-formed thoughts, I was intrigued by the idea that young children (up to around the age of 6 years old) find it very difficult to identify the gender of a child without relying on external markers like clothes and hair length. This, at least, was the impression I gained. I can’t remember what studies Anne Fausto-Sterling relied on, but I have found mentions of studies that seem relevant, although somewhat old.*

Anyway, two things come to mind when I think about this: it makes me wonder how this might apply to discerning the gender of adults, given the number of individuals that in some way deviate from the gendered norms of  long-hair-and-pink-skirts / short-hair-and-blue-trousers, and it reminds me of this post that I found today.

It would seem that, sometimes, it’s not only children that have difficulties in recognising gender without appropriate markers.


*a long-winded Google search turned up a link to an study, McConaghy, MJ: The Gender Understanding of Swedish Children, 1980, (among with some potentially annoying links *shifty eyes*), which references various others, to do with American children:

  • Thompson SK: Gender labels and early sex role development, 1975.
  • Slaby RG, Frey KS: Development of gender constancy and selective attention to same-sex models, 1975.
  • Thompson SK, Bentler PM: The priority of cues in sex discrimination by children and adults, 1971.

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