Revolutions can start with tiny pictures, right? I’m sure they can. I saw this on Tumblr but I’m not sure of its origin. (If you don’t know Tumblr, there’s a feature called ‘reblogging’ which can get so out of hand that it’s impossibly to find who did what first.)

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.

There was:

  • A question which starts with the words “fifteen individuals who attend a weightwatchers’ clinic are each to be assigned at random to one of the treatments A, B, C to reduce their weights”, and goes on to list “differing amounts of weight” that they need to lose.
  • A question that starts “a surgeon wishes to compare two possible surgical techniques for curing a specific heart defect…” and goes on to list 24 patients, together with “sex: M/F” and “age”.

Why am I highlighting this?

Well, actually, there’s a few reasons.

Firstly, diets don’t work. So the first example grates on me. Secondly, both questions are about changes to the human body. One of them merits the sex of the individuals being known. The other one apparently doesn’t.

Are we meant to assume that weight loss will occur (assuming it does occur, for which, see my first point) at the same rate for men and women? At this point, I’m not getting into discussing the gender binary, because we’re dealing with statistics, and one of the things that statistics does is identify trends. The problem occurs when people start to take trends to be indicative of not only the whole population, but for each individual within that population.

So, if we can assume for the moment that people socially identified as male tend to have a different bodily structure to those socially identified as female, surely it would make just as much sense for the weightwatchers trial to be stratified by sex as it was for the heart defect trial.

In which case, I’m surprised that the question didn’t make that clear. Yes, I know that in the real world there are many factors that ought to be accounted for, of which sex is only one. And the questions that we do are, of necessity, very generalised, as they exist mainly as a way for us to show that we understand the concept. But this is a strange omission, as it is the only question, out of four, which does not in some way mention the sex of the person(s) in question.

Are we, then, meant to assume that there is no need to specify the sex of the people dieting? And why?

I know what I think. I think that the underlying assumption is that dieting is for women. And I know that I don’t like this assumption. In fact, I think that when I hand this homework in, it will have a note to the effect that the sex of the participants was not included, and that this could have made a difference.

Once upon a time, I used to believe my teachers when they spoke of the objectivity in science. Now, more and more, I feel that belief slipping away*. And these aren’t even real studies.

*It’s the small things as much as anything. One of my tutors has a habit of referring to all of the people in our questions as “he”, even when on the sheets they are explicitly gendered female. I’ve also noticed that women in our examples sheets tend to do things like diving and gymnastics, whilst men drive cars. This frustrates me, because when we’re in a parallel universe in which a car is doing a totally constant speed, and the speedometer does not lie, surely we can mix things up a bit and get rid of some patriarchal assumptions whilst we’re there!

I’ve been away for the weekend, so weekend news-surfing will be a little late (again).

In the meantime, I just wanted to say this:

The Sheffield Fems are not interested in weight-loss spam.

Anybody thinking of trolling the blog, asking us to promote weight-loss “techniques” – which still don’t work – are hereby invited to crawl back under their bridge. Be aware that any comments promoting diets, “lifestyle changes” and the like will be thrown into the spam queue and deleted with no warning and no exra explanation given.

That is the price you pay for spamming me before I’ve had my breakfast. A nice, filling, carbohydrate-filled, protein-filled, calorie-filled, breakfast. With full-fat milk. And real butter. Mmmmmmm.

(It would be a good idea, if any of this post comes as a surprise, to visit Shapely Prose. See especially this post, any other post marked Health at Every Size, and the BMI Project.)

As the title suggests, I am a little late with last week’s news round up. Blame my lecturers, who seem determined to give me more work than there are hours in the day. Perhaps, as a maths student, they think I can simply manipulate the time, considering timekeeping to be simply another form of number-crunching. Perhaps they are right. Who knows. Bear with me for the next couple of weeks – I haven’t deserted the blog, honest.

Onwards.

Remember the cabbie who possessed “date-rape” drugs to go with his licensed taxi? Well, he’s come out with a couple of astounding pieces of crap in the course of his trial. Including “she told me she was a lesbian… and then we had oral sex”[paraphrased]. Does he think he was in his own porn film? He also claims that one of the women agreed to sex in exchange for money, but that they didn’t actually do anything. He seems to be going for the ‘path of least denial’ – keeping as close to the truth as possible, without actually admitting to rape. Let’s hope the jury see through it.

A couple of weeks ago, I also wrote about the woman who was arrested and jailed overnight after being unable to complete her evidence that she was giving as part of the trial of George Cummings. He’s now been given a 3.5 year jail sentence for the abuse of his two nieces. He was originally charged with attempted rape of one of the girls (now women), but this was reduced to a charge of sexual assault. The rape charge that led to the woman’s arrest was dropped, and another two allegations that he molested other girls in the same period were found “not proven” by the jury. This trial, of course, was using Scotland’s woefully outdated rape laws, which makes me root even more strongly for the new laws to come into force. I don’t know whether it would or could have changed the outcome, but for sure it couldn’t have hurt.


Other sexual offense laws that could probably do with changing are those that Northern Ireland work with. A man who filmed a teenaged girl undressing in a cubicle next to his at a leisure centre was initially not charged because:

“his victim was wearing a bikini. Because of this it was decided she was not engaged in a private act according to the Sexual Offences Act.”

I would try emphasising this, but I’d have to highlight the whole fucking thing. Seriously? Some douchebag can film me without my consent over a private cubicle and as long as he doesn’t get a flash of nipple, it’s not counted as a “private act”?! Well, I’ll just start changing in the middle of clothes shops, then, shall I? After all, I’ll keep my underwear on – I’ll be just as covered as this young woman was.

He was eventually convicted of “attempted voyeurism”. Four month’s jail sentence, suspended for two years, plus seven years on the Sex Offenders’ Register.


That story unfortunately segues quite neatly into the next, which is about the uniforms that female staff on National Express trains are refusing to wear.

“The outfits were “simply too thin and too cheap”, making them virtually “see-through”, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has claimed. The blouses, given to more than 500 women who work on the East Coast Main Line, have been sent back to the firm.”

National Express are on the one hand dismissing the claims, and on the other saying that they are “investing in their staff”. Little tip from me, National Express: try listening to your staff. And also, I know what “standard shirt designs” from catalogues can look like. Thin and cheap are the least of your worries when the shirts are designed to show off the belly button of any woman who actually has breasts. Seriously. Listen to your staff. They’ll only appropriate the male uniform if you don’t, and then you’ll lose money.


A mostly-nice story to finish today, because my period is fast approaching, and I like to remind myself what it means that I have them: specifically, a lack of pregnancy, which is good. Although it does mean that I can’t draw pictures on my stomach like this woman. The article starts with the headless torso, as per usual, but in this case I think I’ll forgive it as the story was specifically about the body art. I would like to draw attention to the final paragraphs, though.

“Some women probably don’t see the appeal of taking a photo of their huge, distorted bellies, especially with Michelin-style stretch-marks, veiny skin and wonky belly buttons.

On the other hand, most of us are secretly proud that our body, which we constantly condemn for being too big, too small, too fat, etc etc, is suddenly building, feeding and protecting a new human being. So why not add a lick of paint and some colour?

And when post-natal normality kicks in and we squeeze our dieted, buffed and vain selves back into our size 10 (okay, maybe size 12) jeans, how nice it is to have a memento of that maternal, all-powerful, precious time.”

What a mish-mash. We’ve got some full-on pregnant-body shaming going on here – “distorted”, “veiny”, “wonky” – as though all women are naturally perfectly symmetrical anyway! – tempered partially with a little conditional pride. It’s very much a backhanded compliment, since it seems we ladies should only be proud of our bodies for their capacity to reproduce. Except you’ve got to make sure that you’re suitably embarressed by the physical effects of said reproductive capacity. *sigh*. And what’s with being “secretly” proud? How about you just be proud? Of your body generally, if possible. This all rounded up with some fun fat-shaming for good measure. Plus the assumption that every woman diets. I object. And just after having a baby is no time to be dieting. (Also, please bear in mind, any US readers, that although 12 might be a “large” (ha!) size in the States, over here, the average size is 16. As a skinny teenager with no arse, I wore size 10 jeans.)

This is a shame, as it could have been a perfectly nice story. Still, I can choose to take away the only the idea of painting bright colours on by big belly, and will stubbornly ignore the less kindly messages.


There are some things that I can do without.

Nestle, for example, is easy. They’re just total bastards, and they know it. And I can live without kitkats, especially since the last advert – their Christmas special – with wording along the lines of “happy Christmas to all women: now only 97 calories!!!!11!!! ELEVENTY!!1!!”.

And then there are some things that are not so easy.


Like Unilever.

Because Unilever own the Dove brand. And they own Persil.

My sensitive skin means that once I’ve found a brand of shower gel / washing powder that doesn’t make me itchy, sneezy and red, I stick with it. Seriously, because I’ve got worse recently, to the extent that I can now taste perfume in the air. And let me tell you, that stuff was never meant to be tasted. So I can use Dove, and I can use Persil, and I was sticking with them.

And now, I find out that not only do Unilever own Dove and Persil, they also own Lynx and Slim Fast.

(If you are, as I am, easily wound up, don’t go looking at those links. They will send you crazy. Especially if you look first at Lynx, then at Dove. It looks fucking bizarre to see “for women who recognise that beauty isn’t simply about how you look” right after reading “Lynx Vice… designed to turn unsuspecting nice girls naughty.”)

Of course, the traumatized mathematician in me can’t help but notice the “statistic” at the bottom of the lynx page: “53% of men [claim] to use two or more products in the shower”. Seriously? Because that sounds to me like it would be a body wash, and a shampoo. You know, like you’re meant to. This means that 47% of men don’t use those things, or only use one. I really hope that most of that 47% are bald.

I think I’m going to have to go away and kick things.

Bad enough to realise that the same people who try to make Dove look like it’s woman-friendly also air the infuriating “babes will totally just randomly fuck you on the street if you use our pheromones deodorant” adverts, but at least twice as traumatic to realise that it’s those same people who own one of the least appropriately named food substitutes in existance. Worse, they also own Vienetta, Solero, Magnum, Cornetto, Carte D’or and Ben and Jerry’s. Seriously. A dieting product, and six ice cream brands. Oh, and they’ve also got Bertolli, Bovril,Coleman’s, Flora, Hellman’s, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Marmite, Pepperami and Pot Noodle.

Honestly, I have to say – healthy, nice, tasty food is not their forte. Except perhaps for some of the ice cream.

Luckily, I don’t actually buy a single one of those food brands. Mainly on the grounds that they don’t taste nice. But I’ve still got to wash. And given my general lack of money, and the fact that I’ve just stocked up on washing powder, I suspect that this time I’m stuck with futile rage. Sometimes I think I make it too easy for people to use the “you feminists are so angry” stereotype. Oh, and just in case one stereotype isn’t enough… yes. I am premenstrual.

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.