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.

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It’s Carnival time!

Over on A Second Thought (hey, we’re all good with gratuitous self-reference here!) I tend to refer to the place as my own, virtual pub, with myself as sole proprietor – which is great, because that means that for the first Carnival of Feminists of 2009, the virtual drinks can be on me! Happy January everybody, and thanks to everybody that sent in reccomended reading.

I’m not the most organised of people, and didn’t specify any particular themes. Which meant that I got a whole host of great, wide-ranging submissions, and had to try to classify them. And, of course, I did this in the most logical and least time-wasting way possible… with the cunning use of lolcats!

Roughly speaking, we’re talking Science here, which means we range from articles that are actually about science to ones which merely go crazy with the number-crunching:

Veronica at Girl With Pen writes eloquently on Why We Need a Scientifically Literate Citizenry.

“Science is portrayed as the only field that uses big words… and thus intimidates many to think one needs to be a rocket scientist to be well, a scientist.”

Greg Laden in his eponymous blog talks in great length about  The Natural Basis For Gender Inequality.

Barry Leiba at Staring At Empty Pages does the number-crunching in Women, millitary academies, and sexual assualt.

What we worship, how we worship it. With a little social commentary thrown in, for good measure.

Lindsay from Female Impersonator writes about  Gendered Language and Early Christian Thinkers in part 4 of an ongoing series.

The Professor from Professor, What If…? asks herself: What If You Could Buy Social Justice (part 4 – the Church of Disney).

Jender, writing at Feminist Philosophers, provides the only social commentary entirely unrelated to worship here: On Tomboys.

Yep, some feminists get angry. And looking at the posts below, you can see why.

Genevieve from Une Femme Plus Courageuse gives us a Question Based On Usual Blog Patterns

Steph sends in a post from …Or Could Be Again about one guy’s opening words: I Don’t Mean To Be Weird Or Gross But…

Jane Doe from Written On The Body tells us Alanis in OK Magazine: Hopefully this is all a misunderstanding

Brianna J at Fourth Wave Feminism posts about  Male Authenticity

On parenthood, and who gets what share of the dirty work.

Renee at Womanist Musings writes about The Easy Bake Oven In My Vagina: The Role Of The Good Mother

Bad Mom, Good Mom posts about Virginia Woolf in You Call That A Feminist Icon?

And finally, a Feminism 101 category!

Renee from Womanist Musings is back, and on the subject of  The Illegal Hijab

Nandita sends in a post from Cold SnapDragon about A Guard At Kotla Ferozshah. I’m using my host’s perogative to also reccomend the latest post, A Rape-Defense World, because it goes very well with:

Marcella’s post at abyss2hope on Understanding and Misunderstanding Genuine Consent

Lindsay from Female Impersonator appears again to point out that Fashion Is Not Political News, part 3 – Catty Bitch Edition

Lastly, I had a late submission from Robin Reed from the National Women’s Law Center. It’s a video post by Melanie Ross Levin, one of her colleagues, which I didn’t want to include without a transcript, but luckily, it’s short, interesting, and she sent me a nice email about it!

“Hi, I’m Melanie Ross Levin with the National Women’s Law Center and I’m so, so happy to report that the House of Representatives just passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This is huge news that we should all celebrate! Now the ball’s in the Senate’s court to do the right thing by women and pass both of these important peices of pay equity legislation very quickly so that President Elect obama can sign them in his first few days in office. Take a moment to write to your senators to make sure that they know that these acts are important to you. Information on how to do that is available on our website. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done so far to help pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. I can’t wait until they’re signed by President-elect Obama and we can really celebrate!”

And that concludes the Carnival for this time. There’s been so many good posts to read, I can only assume that you’ve all decided that I don’t really need to pass my exams!

Submit an article to the next Carnival of Feminists using the Carnival Submission Form, and check out past editions and future hosts here.

This from the BBC:

“To help get boys reading we need a boys’ bookshelf in every secondary school library in the country, containing positive, modern, relevant role models for working class boys.” – Alan Johnson, Education Secretary

Seriously.

Well, I know my school was a girls’ school, and I’m biased, but you know what?

I think boys can have their own, special bookshelves when they put an LGBTQ section in too. Until then, they’ll just have to lump it, the poor things.

And when I think that virtually every computer game I’ve come across is made to be played from a male perspective, when I remember the stories that said that J.K. Rowling used her initials because publishers said that no boy would read anything written by a woman*, when I remember how male was – is – the default in just about everything – newspapers, history textbooks, cartoons… – I don’t think the problem here is with boys being under-represented. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should be looking at the culture we’re living in, that teaches boys not to develop their attention span, not to sit quietly and read, but to expect to see themselves represented everywhere, immediately, to the exclusion of all others. And to immediately switch off, if the book they are given is obviously written by a woman. Perhaps that, and the assumption that “boys” means “white, able-bodied, straight boys”, is what we should be working to change. Because I can’t think of a single disabled boy that I’ve found in all the years I’ve been reading fiction, and the number of gay  or ethinic-minority boys was pretty damned limited, too.


*Links here and here to articles mentioning the intent of the publishers, and a quote here from J K Rowling herself.

A warning here – this is one of my personal peeves.

The conflating of the two terms “girls” and “women” really bothers me. Perhaps it because I tend towards pedantry, or perhaps I’m just easily annoyed. Either could be accurate.

It’s bothered me ever since my (female) friends and I were asked by a pub bouncer: “can I see your ID, please, girls?”

Now, this part is pedantic, but I personally feel that there are two logical options; either I am a girl, and therefore not adult, and therefore will not have ID  – or I am a woman, and adult, and will have ID. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be addressed appropriately.

It bothered me when I watched The Apprentice back in April.

It bothered me when I couldn’t avoid watching the olympics – although that bothered me for other reasons too.

And I got angry with it again today because the BBC reports the following:

“Conjoined twins born to teenager

An 18-year-old woman gives birth to conjoined twin girls named Faith and Hope at a London hospital.”

Come on! Surely it’s not that difficult – you pick the way you want to refer to her, and you stick to it. Is she a “teenager”, or is she a “woman”?

Yes, I know that technically she can be (and is) both, but it frustrates me. I think because of the wording. When the birth is in the passive voice – when the birth is something that happens to her – she’s described as being a “teenager”. As soon as it becomes active – when it’s something that she does – she becomes a “woman”.

Is it a coincidence, this… infantilisation? I don’t know what else to call it, to get my point across. Too often, women, adult women, are described in ways that make them something other, something less. “Babes”, for example, or “little ladies” or “chicks” or “honeyz”.

I’ve never, ever understood that last one, by the way. Is it meant to mean that women are cloying, sweet and sticky? All the time? The mind boggles.

Fairly often, this happens when the women in question are presented more as objects than as people. FHM is a particularly odious example of this; counting all of the words I can find without moving from their front page, “girls” appears 12 times, “honeys” appears 6 times, and “women” just twice. Incidentally, the phrase “Ladyland” also appears twice; I’m not sure what this means, but it must mean something!

So, actually, I’m going to continue to have a problem with this particular usage of the word “girl”. Partly because I have a deep and abiding loathing of FHM, but mostly because of what it signifies. Because it feels so much that I am being disregarded. Because if a male 20-year-old was referred to as a “boy”, it would be a very deliberate insult. Because I am a fully formed adult, and I wish to be addressed as such, thank you. I would start talking about the way people lose my goodwill when they write to me as “miss”, but I fear this post would go on for ever!

Oh, and also – if we take this to its extremes, we get extreme nastiness, especially from the heterosexual-male-“unbiased”-viewpoint:

“I will not differentiate between the term ‘girl’ and ‘woman’. Thus, in my mind, the two terms are equal; ‘girl’ is equivalent to ‘woman’ and vice versa.

I am attracted to, and may objectify, women, and the media and my society will provide opportunities for me to do so.

Therefore, I am attracted to, and may objectify, girls, and the media and my society will provide opportunities for me to do so.

Right, now separate the terms ‘girl’ and ‘woman’. One now means ‘female child’, the other means ‘female adult’. See where the ick factor comes in?

In some of my Statistics lectures this week, we had a quick revision session on the subject of bias – the problem of inadvertantly (or, if you’re a very bad scientist, deliberately) influencing a study in some way.

Clearly, I am a terrible scientist, because my weekend news-surfing only features what happens to interest me at the time. On the other hand, what has caught my eye this week ties in rather nicely to the meeting last Tuesday. Minutes of meetings will now be published the following week, so details of what was said will have to wait a couple more days, but the main ground covered was a discussion about Sexism (and thence to Sex) in Education. Fascinating stuff, and all the more so since the recent news about the UK sex education shake up.

In varying degrees of hysteria, the press has been dissecting the news that Key Stage 1 children are to be taught age-appropriate material on sex and relationships. In order of panic-inducing, we have:

Relationship lessons from age 5” from the BBC

Sex education to begin at 5 in all schools” from the Guardian

Children aged 5 to get sex education” from the Telegraph

Pupils as young as 5 to be given sex education” from the Times

Compulsory sex education for pupils as young as five could become law” from the Daily Mail.


Look at the difference – at the top of the scale, not a mention of the word “sex”. At the other extreme, not only is it now ‘sex’ education, it is ‘compulsory’, and it is for ‘pupils as young as 5’.

Interesting.

Putting all of the sources together, a picture begins to emerge. It would seem that the government has now realised that sex education for UK children is not brilliant, to say the least. And so, rather commendably, they are trying to do something about this. I am impressed, even if I do feel it could have come a little earlier.

Now, although I have said that I am not a good statistician, I know that there are some lows you should not stoop to. In consequence, I am not going to relate any of my various anecdotes on the subject and claim that this “proves” anything about our sex education as it is at the moment – although I would dearly love to.

What I will say is that pretending that relationships, sexuality and sex don’t exist is clearly foolish. We’re talking about children who have just started school. Yes, I know – as young as five! These children as young as five will see pregnant women, probably fairly often. If they have little siblings, they might have an inkling of where they came from. If they don’t, one of their classmates will. There are going to be some answers to the question “where do babies come from” – and if teachers aren’t allowed to provide it, that won’t stop the kids talking.

Also, as an aside, the Daily Mail article quotes a news story about a leaflet produced for six year olds by the Family Planning Association. Their concern? That children “would be asked to name genitalia”. What on earth is wrong with that? Genitalia are the external parts of the sexual organs – you know, the bits we can see. It’s frankly ridiculous to think that children won’t want to know what to call them. However, I’m going to stop there, because attempting to argue seriously with what the Daily Mail spouts is about as much use as arguing with a man who blindly insists that it’s a Tuesday when it is, in fact, Thursday.


And, on that note, I leave you with news (a little belated, admittedly) that the 67th Carnival of Feminists is now up at Jump Off The Bridge.

The 68th carnival will be held at Fourth Wave Feminism, which I’ve mentioned before and is certainly worth a read.

Our first meeting of the new University term started earlier than usual, in order to give the speaker from the Northern Refugee Centre time to chat to us. Their own website is of course the best place to go for information, but summarised below is an outline of what we discussed.

For clarification, an asylum seeker is just that – a person seeking asylum. A refugee is a person who has sought, and then been granted, asylum – they have the right to remain in the country in which they have sought asylum.

  • In general, displaced women are at increased risk of harm compared to displaced men; this is due to- but not limited to – rape, trafficking, harmful and constraining traditional practices, abuses by persons in positions of authority, torture and abandonment.
  • Women coming to the UK are often unaware, or are not advised, that they can make their own claim of asylum. Many are instead considered to be a “dependant” of their husband, which can set up power imbalances.
  • Childcare is not provided at asylum determination interviews. It is at these interviews that the asylum seeker is expected to provide evidence as to their need for asylum – and mothers who have been forced to bring their children with them to the interview will often not want to reveal abuses that they have suffered.

The Northern Refugee Centre currently provides women-only conversation clubs around Sheffield. In their own words,

“Women’s Conversation Clubs are weekly groups for Refugee and Asylum Seeking women to come together with English-speaking volunteers in a safe, relaxed, women-only environment”

Although Sheffield Fems is not currently campaigning with the Northern Refugee Centre, we urge anybody with free time to take part in these clubs, as an easy way to make a difference.