There are many people and many events that never really get represented in mainstream literature. This much is obvious to me when I think about who – and what – is represented. So this isn’t going to be a post that says “hey! I’ve had this idea about a phenomenon I’ve noticed, and I shall call it…. privilege!!!”

It’s a question, actually.

Can anybody think of any book aimed at adults that mentions a woman dealing with her period, other than in the “um, it hasn’t come, I should probably get a pregnancy test” scenario?

I mean, I can remember reading a few books aimed at teenagers that feature a girl getting her first period, but that’s different. Especially since those books were aimed at girls specifically – I’m thinking of authors like Judy Blume and Jaqueline Wilson here. For a matter-of-fact depiction of periods as something that the girl is already used to, I can only think of Michelle Magorian’s A Little Love Song, in which Rose, the main character, is relieved to find blood running down her thigh when she gets out of bed, a few days after having sex for the first time. Even then, it’s mentioned as a plot device, because it shows that she is not pregnant.

I can’t think of a single adult book that talks about periods. Not even in chick lit, which, being aimed at women, you might expect to be more forthcoming about it. Admittedly I haven’t read much. I veer between reading fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction usually, and these tend to either change the way the women work (e.g. because they’re werewolves and go hairy instead), change the way the world works (e.g. you only get your period after specifically praying for it, which the lead female character conveniently never does), or only consider bleeding in terms of failure to reproduce, respectively. But I did read all of Lisa Jewell’s books at one stage, and while I can remember her writing about pregnancy, being fat, leg-shaving, bikini-waxing, heterosexual sex, men wanking and sexual assualt, I can’t remember her ever writing about a female character being on her period.

And now I’m wondering why.

Whose clever idea was it to describe Samantha Orobator (previously mentioned here) as “Laos Mum-To-Be”?

Oh, that’s right.

It was the BBC.


Despite the fact that within the article, we see that “doctors and the UK Foreign Office had said Miss Orobator had become pregnant while in jail. The Laotian government has claimed she had been pregnant when arrested.

So the pregnancy was being reported as something that was worrying. Something that should be fairly uncontentious, being argued about. Not an uncomplicated, anticipated, exciting pregnancy. Not a happy announcement. Not a tidbit of celebrity gossip. And certainly not something that you’d want to give a flippant title to.


This article is not the most recent news of Ms. Orobator – that’s here, as far as I can see – and if Kirsten hadn’t mentioned it to me, I wouldn’t have seen it. Now that I have, I’m sickened. Seeing “sex” in headlines when they mean “rape” is bad enough, but to refer to a woman who has most likely been raped in prison as a “mum-to-be“, when her pregnancy means that she’s living with the physical evidence of her rape growing inside her...
How can you even put words to how inappropriate that is?

ETA: I did get a reply when I wrote to the BBC about it, which I’ve posted up here.

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”.

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…)

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.”

So, I was reading an article that’s one of a series dedicated to debunking myths used by people who are anti-choice. And in said article, it mentioned the idea, usually found expressed in a derogatory fashion, that women [especially women of particular social groups or groupings; for example, “teenagers”, “working class”, “ill-educated”] will, if they can, use abortion “as birth control/ contraception”, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on.


Anyway, this got me thinking, and my thinking was this:

abortion is birth control. It is, quite literally, controlling the birth of the unwanted foetus. You can’t get much more controlling of birth than deciding that you absolutely don’t want it to happen after carrying the foetus to term, and having the means to make that birth not happen.

On the other hand, abortion is clearly not contraception. Abortion is the removal of a pregnancy that has already developed; contraception is making sure that there isn’t a pregnancy in the first place. The two are qualitatively different.

And yet, contraception could also be described accurately as birth control. Clearly, if one controls the presence or absence of a pregnancy, that will give, by definition, some control over the presence or absence of a birth. Evidently, contraception is only birth control if it works – if not, then there will be a pregnancy, and to control the birth then would require a decision to either have an abortion or not.


Yes, I am pedantic.

Still, I think there’s merit in pointing out that actually, abortion is a very valuable form of birth control.

It’s all in the wording, you see. Because the anti-choice brigade don’t like the idea of women having any kind of control at all.


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.