So apparently* Coleen Rooney has said that she will have a caesarean birth to prevent her first child with Wayne Rooney from being born on a day that clashes with his footballing commitments.

*sigh*

Ok, I understand that to some people an England World Cup Qualifying match is important, but maybe someone in the Rooney household ought to sort their priorities, and realised that child birth is much more important then any football much.

And I shouldn’t imagine that there was any element of “Hey, Wayne, ya know, the baby is due around the date of the England match, do you think you could put in for some time off for the life changing event that will be the birth of our first child?” After all, who announces that they are planning a caesarean so early in their pregnancy? (I don’t actually know how pregnant she is but I don’t this it’s very much, as this was the first I’d heard of it and I do read the occasional gossip magazine in order to chip away at my sanity)

So, to avoid inconveniencing her husband’s career (and the nation of course) Coleen is booking in for major surgery. Of course it has the benefit of avoiding all the messy labour business for her as well and keeping that pelvic floor nice and tight, because ladies we must never forget how important that is

What annoys me most about this the implication that the possibility of Coleen going in to labour at time that her husband is busy would be so disastrous that she MUST take action to avoid it at all costs. Why is the woman that has to make the sacrifice here even though she is the one doing the really important thing? And as my housemate pointed out, if it’s going to be that much trouble and inconvenience why try for a baby in the first place?

-Alex

(*according to the Observer, so therefore it must be true, they’re a real news source…)

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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.

Apologies for my absence last week; I became infected with a particularly evil strain of the Lurgy which gave me a high temperature that ignored all of my attempts to counteract it with paracetamol. It’s a good thing this feature is filed under “semi-regular”, I suppose.


Now, I get fairly picky about the use of language. This is why I sometimes find myself having online arguments with people that lasts for twelve days over the sexism inherent in one word. That word, for those of you that missed that fascinating (ha!) debate, was chairman. Interestingly enough, I recently retrieved my copy of Man-Made Language from the back seat of J’s car where it had been languishing for months, and found this quote, which I thought particularly apt. In fact, my first thought on reading it was regret that the argument was not still going on. Because I am masochistic that way. Bear in mind that this was published in 1980:

“We will probably witness the rise of such usages as female flight attendant (since steward/stewardess has been abolished), woman salesperson (since salesman/saleswoman has been outlawed), as well as lady police officer and madam chairperson. They may be cumbersome usages but they will do the job: they will allow the sexist semantic rule to continue to function. The allocation of negative semantic space to women will go unchallenged.”

Emphasis in original.

Interestingly enough, the only one of those “new” phrases which I have ever seen used was the last – madam chairperson. On the other hand, I do still hear (or say) salesman – but only in the phrase “car salesman”, and then only if the person referred to really is, or appears to be, a man – and policeman – but again, only if the officer in question really is, or appears to be, a man. Perhaps we are making more of a difference than Dale Spender gave us credit for?


Well. I say that. But there are other problems with language that hit just as hard as the pernicious man-encompassing-woman nonsense. One of those problems is in the use of the word “sex”. For example, in the headlines:

The first story is the one that I’ve already mentioned twice in these features – the taxi driver who claimed he’d won the lottery, offered his lone, female victims spiked alcohol and then either raped or sexually assaulted them. Bear in mind, this man has now been convicted of rape. But you wouldn’t get that information from the headline, or even the first paragraph. Instead, it is buried halfway down page, 13 paragraphs from the top.

The second relates to a teaching assistant who has admitted to what the BBC report as “[having] sex with two teenage pupils”. What he’s actually been convicted of is “sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust”. I did think that this came under a catch-all heading of  “statutory rape”, but it would appear that since new legislation came into force in 2004, that is no longer the legal description. Perhaps it never was.

The good news in that story is that he’s been banned from working with children indefinitely. The bad news is he’s been jailed for less than 3 years.


Continuing the nasty “sex” with children theme, how about this gem: Guard made 14 year-old pregnant.

But of course, Scotland’s rape laws are, at the moment, pretty fucking awful, as I believe I’ve mentioned elsewhere. So he’s admitted to “intercourse” with the girl, who was described as being “vulnerable because of her learning difficulties”.

Lucky for him that he pleaded guilty. Because, as the judge reminded him, he could have been imprisoned for five whole years otherwise. As it is, he gets 3.5. Joys.


Oh, and thinking of sentencing, take a look at this article. One man, the father, was found to be in possession of over 10,000 images of child pornography. For this, the other man, his son stabbed him, 16 times.

One of the two men was jailed for seven and a half years. One of the men was given a three year community order. Which was which?

Well. It’s not like we haven’t seen this kind of thing before. However, I’m feeling generous, so if, like me, you were entirely unsurprised to discover that the man given the community order was the father, give yourself a gold star.

Clearly, it was sensible to imprison the son. Much though I’d love to be a one-person vigilante group, I recognise that my summarary judgement is not socially acceptable, and this man doesn’t have a leg to stand on. And besides, any man who is capable of driving from Birmingham to Northampton in order to stab his father is not somebody I want walking around – who knows who else he might consider deserving of violence?

On the other hand, I’ll admit to being frustrated that posessing such a vast quantity of child pornography didn’t result in at least a small prison sentence. Goodness knows it’s not like I expect anything more than that, given that you only get 3.5 for actually having “sex” with a child, but still.


This entire edition is, sadly, full of things that are not nice. So I’ll leave you with news that, during one of my forrays into the unimaginable wealth that is a university library, I came across a book that I had to take out. Despite the fact that the damned thing’s in Spanish, and despite the fact that even when I was taking my A-level Spanish (over two years ago) I was never even approaching fluent, I had to take it out for two reasons.

Firstly, although the precise meaning of the title eluded me, I could take a wild stab at understanding the subtitle, mujer y moralidad durante el franquismo, which, translated, means something along the lines of “women and morality during the Franco years”. And secondly, because of a quote inside the book attributed to Lawrence Durrell, which I believe says “because the living have to always remember what those who died could never forget”. So that sounded pretty cool, if a little academic in nature.

Imagine my amusement, when I got the book home, and the word in the title that had been troubling me could be translated – it turns out that Un Inmenso Prostibulo is, in fact, A Vast Brothel. Not at all what I was expecting, but it only makes me even more intrigued to know what the book says. Expect regular updates on this… or, to link this back rather neatly to the start of the post, perhaps I should say, expect semi-regular updates!

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.



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.