Once again, the world proves that it really has its priorities right. In a move that one can only call implausibly bigoted, the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, deemed the recent gay rights marches in Moscow “satanic” and called gays and lesbians “weapons of mass destruction“.

Seriously? How can a person in his position with supposed credibility keep a straight face while saying this? The damning of homosexuality is usually the arena of half-witted religious fanatics, not politicians within a civilised and democratic country (then again the democratic nature of Russia is pretty dubious). It worries me that this positively medieval homophobia is rife so close to home. If Russia hopes that hosting Eurovision will change the world’s perspective of them, then they are greatly misguided. Pretty lights, cheesy songs and awful dancing may provide a glossy vaneer, but it has never prevented the competition from getting political before.

I hope (in vain, perhaps) that the participating countries demonstrate their disapproval, but the sad fact of the matter is that the prevailing attitudes in mainland Europe lean towards latent homophobia, which has meant that people like Yuri Luzhkov have been left unchecked, allowed to hold office and allowed to express the most awful opinions.

*On a slightly lighter note* I shall be eschewing Eurovision anyway, after many years of watching country after country objectify women in what they think would be a winning song. Why do I want to see gyrating-belly-dancing-stripping-nigh-on-pornographic routines with girls who can’t even sing properly? It’s a fucking SONG contest. Tell me when they find some real talent.

Via The F-Word, a dispiriting post that starts with the question: “Ever wondered what we’d get if “two of Britain’s most outspoken feminists” (Julies Bindel and Burchill) had a conversation in The Guardian’s G2? Let’s see…


As it happens, I wasn’t aware that Julie Burchill actually identified as feminist – or anything like it, for that matter. Certainly, when I lived at home and snuck away with Mum’s issue of the Guardian at the weekend, I never noticed anything that suggested that she did.

And on the subject of Julie Bindel, I know a little. I know she’s on Facebook; I know she’s been embroiled in a large and wide-ranging argument on the subject of trans people’s rights, which, as far as I can tell, she doesn’t really care about; I know she does care about lesbian rights, although she’s been reported to have said that lesbianism is “a choice”; and, bizarrely, I know that she’s been recently “made up” by an Avon representative. Like you do.

I got this information – all of which I’d already gained from other sources – from the first page of a Google search.

After my 10-minute foray into the wilds of Julie Bindel’s unofficial Google biography, what I’ve gained is shock that she didn’t manage to say anything worse in this latest Guardian article. She certainly doesn’t have a good track record.

I’d love to say that I wouldn’t normally criticize somebody without their knowledge, but that is clearly a lie. I do it all the time, usually with BBC reports, and, by implication, the reporters. And if they can get the special “Rachel” treatment, I see no reason not to extend that honour to her, too.

You know, I read somewhere once (and wish I’d made a note of it) that feminism, at least in the academic sense, stopped being relevant to one woman when she could no longer talk to her mother about it. And I think this is something that ought to be added to my list of Things Feminists Often Get Wrong: academia has its place. And that place is in libraries, looking smug. Out in the real world, real women are affected by real things that real people do and say. And it’s all too easy for a privileged group to think of the issues of a nonprivileged group in terms of theories, or camps, or controversies, or whatever the buzzword of the year is. But when you try to apply theories to the real world, they often don’t fit. Even I know this, and I’m a mathematician. I live in an academic swamp of theories and corollaries and even laws, but when it comes to things like mechanics, these get handed down to me with the disclaimer that sometimes this isn’t true.

For example: one thing you learn is that a feather and a rock should, in theory, fall at the same rate, and hit the ground at the same time if dropped from the same height. This is fine, if you’re on the moon. But here on Earth, there is air resistance, which means that the law, although technically true, is not actually very helpful, and if you were of a gambling disposition, you would have just lost money. Unless we were on the moon.

All of this is a slightly lengthly way of shoehorning a mathematical analogy into a post that didn’t need to include one. But it’s also a way to point out that at the end of the day, theories are all well and good, but if the people you’re theorising about tell you that you’re wrong, and be damned the problems it might cause your worldview, it tends to be a good idea to listen to them. Yes, even if they’ve just damned your faulty worldview. As it turns out, I don’t much care about that either. If the theory breaks when applied to real life, it’s either not a good theory at all, or something vital is missing from it, and that’s your problem. Clearly, it is not the feather’s fault that it doesn’t match up. And I wouldn’t expect the feather to care.

And all of this is an even longer way of saying that reputations live on. Like I said, it was the first page of a Google search. And if you can pick up reputations by association, this is one association I will happily – and determinedly – choose to live without.

Given all this, and if I lived in happyland where unicorns farted rainbows, I might be a little surprised that the Guardian had picked Julie Bindel to represent feminism. As it happens, though, I’m not at all surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. Which brings me rather neatly back to the title, and means that I should probably stop writing!

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”.

Students at Oxford University have created an online magazine and blog, Agendered. In their own words:

“Agendered is a new student-based Oxford online magazine and forum, tilting an enquiring feminist lens at the Oxford world as part of a broader gender critical dialogue. In a world where heterosexuality and gender norms are all too oft assumed, and where women aren’t as forefront and centre as you’d expect, feminist and queer theory are well worth applying.”

The magazine itself (“in depth analysis”) is scheduled to update once each term, so presumably we should be seeing a new set of articles fairly soon. The blog has been quiet over the Easter period, but looks like we can expect it to update regularly during term time.

I’ve added the link to the blogroll. If you haven’t already discovered the blogroll, go and have a look. There are many wonderfully interesting people on the list. Although I take no responsibility for the tidying up that you don’t do when you read them all evening.

What. The. Fuck?

In the search terms table today: “racism is funny”.


For whoever came here by searching for that, I have a short answer and a long answer.

Short answer: Fuck you, you nasty, malicious, pointless pile of excrement.


Long answer: No, it isn’t, douchebag. It isn’t, it never has been and it never will be. Why? Because people have died, and continue to die because of it. Needlessly and horrifically. Racism is never funny, like sexism and ablism and ageism are never funny, like homophobia and transphobia and xenophobia are never funny, like any other form of discrimination that I’ve missed are never funny, because  people have died.


  • An Indian man, Gregory Fernandes, was killed in a racist attack in 2007. His attackers pleaded guilty to manslaughter in February this year.
  • A 62 year-old disabled woman, Jennifer Macaree, was left to die in her car after she was stabbed repeatedly. This was just two weeks ago.
  • A transwoman, Robyn Browne, was murdered in 1997 , while she was working as a prostitute. Her alleged murderer, James Hopkins, is pleading not guilty.
  • Michael Causer, a gay teenager, was battered to death in July last year. James O’Connor has pleaded guilty to his murder.


And that is such a tiny sample of the people that discrimination has targeted. Those people were all in the UK, and I have only used stories that appeared this year. I haven’t even begun to touch on the stories of people who have been attacked for not being white-able-heterosexual-males that survived. I haven’t even begun to talk about rape. I haven’t begun to talk about all of the people in other countries who have been targeted for being seen as “deviant”. I haven’t – because I can’t – talked about those people who have been killed, or attacked, or harrassed, whose stories haven’t made it into the news.

So many people have been hurt over the years, so many lives have been destroyed. So many of these victims will go unnoticed, unnamed, because this is so common. Because they’re not interesting enough to the mainstream (white-able-heterosexual-male) media. It happens to them because they are who they are. And then their experiences are not recognised, because they are who they are.

How is that in any way funny?

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.

This meeting was concerned with the future structure of the group. The phrase women-only has been used to refer to all self-defined women. Trans women are, as they have always been, welcome to attend.

We discussed  in particular the issue of providing women-only space. After a lengthy discussion, where we looked at the aims of the group and several different options for the group, including staying as we were (open to all), being women-only, alternating between women-only and open to all, we have decided that from now on Sheffield Fems will be primarily a women-only group, with one mixed (open to all) event around once a month. The open to all event will be either a social meeting, a discussion, a campaign or some other event, and may not always be on a Tuesday. It will be decided on an event by event basis, after consultation with members at meetings.

We talked extensively about the pros and cons of all the suggestions made and tried to find the most inclusive solution that meets the needs of as many as possible, so for example staying as we were is putting off some people who are looking for a women-only group. However, a solely women-only group also excludes a number of men who are very interested in participating in campaigns and events. We felt that becoming a primarily women-only group, with specific times for the inclusion and participation of men offers the best solution to these problems.

We are also hoping that as a result of this change a ‘Friends of Fems’ group could be developed for men and anyone else who want to take a more active role in feminism and feminist activity and support our work, while working on projects of their own. At present this is just an idea, but hopefully it will be developed further in the coming weeks, in conjunction with our meetings that are open to all. If anyone would like more information about this, send us and email and we’ll let you know what’s going on.