Something that appears with reasonable regularity in the feminist blogosphere is the peculiar disappearance of men from select topics. How many times have we seen an article on – for example – childrearing, that completely neglects to mention the fact that men can be parents too? Or, in an article detailing the rape of a woman, having to look long and hard before finding any mention of the rapist?

The list goes on, but where can we find it?

Well, possibly here. I suspect this may become an ongoing series. Stay tuned.

Kirsten, who is partially responsible for my presence in the online community, opening my eyes as she did to the notion of feminism, mentioned an article to me yesterday. In fact, what she asked me to do was to read the article, and report back to her on what made me angry. Pausing only to add, “not the headless picture. That goes without saying.”

Well. That means that the article can only be about one thing. Yes, pregnancy. Specifically, teenage pregnancy, and the rise in rates thereof, in the UK. Amusingly, the picture is of the same headless pregnant woman that they’ve used many times before to get their point across.

Unfortunately, that’s where all amusement ends. I can’t write any better than Kirsten already has, so I’m just going to send you to her, so that you can read the article and thought process that lead to this:

“Girls being pressured into kinds of sex they don’t want is a problem whether or not it has an impact on teenage pregnancy rates. It’s a problem because it’s sexual abuse.”

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Well, I say that there’s nothing you couldn’t predict. What I mean is, there’s nothing you couldn’t have predicted if your mood veered between blind optimism and blind pessimism at a moment’s notice.


First off, it turns out that the voyeur solicitor I wrote about last week “wanted to get caught”. Oh. Well, that’s alright then. He’s now been suspended indefinitely from practising law. Which, you know, is probably a good thing, considering that he didn’t seem to mind breaking it. I wasn’t feeling optimistic when I read this, which means – given his suspension – that my mood was wrong. Curses.

Also, the knife-point rapist that absconded from a West Yorkshire hostel is being returned to Sheffield. Forgive me if I don’t feel any safer. They found him in Canterbury, which means that this time, my mental prediction that he’d try to get as far away from Yorkshire as possible appears to have been justified. So – optimism says “of course they’ll catch him”, pessimism says “why the bloody hell does he have to come back here?!” The answer being, sadly, that South Yorkshire Police want to talk to him about the murder of a Sheffield prostitute.


Moving away from the subject of sexual crime, I hope this article about racism encountered by PCSOs is met with the resounding lack of surprise it deserves. We’re talking bullying, victimisation, assaults, the works. And – how charming! – there was “no doubting the credibility and consistency” of the complaints. Oooh, it’s almost as though we have to counter victim-blaming smears that haven’t yet even been said, isn’t it? Anyway. Trevor Phillips said recently that the police are no longer institutionally racist. Optimism, anybody?


Hopping between themes once more, and Cherie Booth tells us that the economic downturn provides “an opportunity for women… to be part of the solution”. Off topic slightly, and I confess myself confused that the article refers to her as “Cherie Blair”. It’s not like the BBC had any aversion to calling her Cherie Booth when her husband was running the country. Perhaps they fear that their readers have the memory of a goldfish between them, and couldn’t possibly remember the surname of a woman as being different from her husband’s. Pessimism again, but deservedly so.

Anyway, this all seems very strange to me as it was only a month ago that we were told “Downturn ‘hitting women harder'”.


And, one last thing before I run away to my next tutorial: a gratuitous headless pregnant woman! Joys!

Oh, and an article to go with it, bemoaning the teenage pregnancy rate in the UK. Which has “risen slightly”, apparently. I don’t have the time right now to number-crunch, so I’m just going to roll my eyes and believe nothing for now. Is that optimism or pessimism talking? I have no idea anymore.


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.


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 orĀ  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.



The rot sets in: my timekeeping is going slowly down the drain. Still, better late than never!

In fact, I’m being terribly slow generally, because since I don’t read that pinnacle of reporting, The Metro, anymore, I find that I’m even further behind what’s in the news than I used to be. The Metro was always at least a day behind, but I seem to have completely blanked the Russell Brand debacle from my mind – quite impressive, I’d say.

Which of course means that I feel a bit silly trying to sum it up now, but hey, it’s still worthy of a little analysis.

Very quickly: Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, as part of a pre-recorded programme, called Andrew Sachs and said a number of very stupid, very crass things. Including “he [Brand] fucked your granddaughter”. Charming.

Leaving aside the fact that anybody who informs a woman’s grandfather of her sex life fully deserves to be smacked down with a statement to the effect that “he’s shite in bed” — we still live in a society in which the stud/slut dichotomy runs riot. Which means, simply put, that the only harm done to Brand’s reputation is that he looks like even more of a fool than he did before; but Georgina Baillie is still much more likely to be judged for having had sex. To see why this might be true, you only have to look at the photographs (try here) of Ms. Baillie that have been used to accompany the relevant articles. Any coincidence that they’ve all found photos of her in various sexy outfits? I think not. Yes, she’s a burlesque dancer. No, it’s not relevant.

Moving on, and US election jitters have been setting in all over blogland. And in the real world too. Shocking, I know!

The sheer number of prejudices up for public display have been astonishing. Sexism, classism, racism, Islamophobia (yes, it’s a word!)…. but at least it’s made people turn out this time round. Saying that, Ken Livingstone lost with more votes in the last London mayoral election than he won with in the election before. But still! It was democracy in action! I’m only a little bit bitter!

With the US acting as the undisputed bully of the playground, I think it’s reasonable for me to be twitchy at the thought of the republicans getting McCain and Palin in. Because it’s a bit scary to think that their Vice President would be somebody that wants to charge women for their rape kits. Among all of the other terrible things.

Others have commented far more coherently and eloquently than I ever could about this, so I’ll provide some links for this and feel that my duty is done! Sarah Palin got her own section in a fairly recent Carnival of Feminists at Green Gabbro, and Amelia from Female Impersonator also had good points to make.


Last things last, and once again, something is bad for pregnant women.

This Bad Science article is worth linking to, because it highlights a very similar problem, namely: bad science and sloppy journalism.

Caffeine is now bad.

Or is it?

But a little light drinking never hurt anybody.

Except when it did.

And, in a related note, have fun playing “disembodied woman picture” bingo whilst reading. Articles on pregnacy seem to have been given a special dispensation to not ever include a woman’s head in the photo. More thoughts and analysis on this, plus more examples here, here, and here. It’s worth following the links that they include, too.

Bonus link: Bad Science covers the abortion debate. We like the Bad Science column!