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!

First of all, thank you to Thefems, who have kindly allowed me free rein over their shiny new website. They are awesome.

Writing here has its own issues, though. On my own site, I can talk about the things that interest me in any way that I choose, secure in the knowledge that it is my own space. On a collaborative website, though, things get a little tricky.

Partly this is because the Sheffield Fems as a group don’t have one single collective opinion on anything. I cannot and will not ever claim to be writing on behalf of the whole group, because we always see things differently. Which makes us almost like a little model of what feminism is about, I suppose.

With that in mind, anything written by me as an individual will be just that – an individual response. And so, to business.


Islam

The BBC and the Guardian both reported yesterday on Professor Amina Wadud’s leading the Friday prayers to mark the start of a conference on Islam and feminism in Oxford. (The Guardian also has an interesting Comment Is Free article on the issue. Since it is in the CIF section, I’m issuing a Risk of Rage warning – you do always get the good, the bad and the ugly commenting there.)

It’s an intriguing situation all round, with the kind of quotes you might expect; on the one hand,

“This is something divine not human. We have to do it in the way it has been ordained by God to do it. Women can lead prayers before other women but for this very specific point, in this situation before a congregation of men and women, a man must lead.” – Mokhtar Badri, vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain.

and on the other,

“We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion” – Dr. Taj Hargey, Chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre Oxford (MECO).

Dr. Hargey also cites an example in which the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender service.

Perhaps the most interesting point that was made was the reference to Catholicism made by Mokhtar Badri:

“I also don’t think this is a subject confined to Islam. Even in Christianity Catholics still don’t accept female priests”

Frankly, I’ve always had higher hopes for Islam than for Christianity. Although there is always room in religion for patriarchal norms to take over, at least Islam has a better starting point. You’d never find Catholics claiming that theirs was ‘a gender-equal religion’.


Abortion

Moving away from religion a little, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is raising its head again. As mentioned in a recent meeting, now is the time to try to make a difference.

It’s interesting to note the different approaches to the story given by the Guardian and the Telegraph – not surprising, but interesting nonetheless. I was told recently that the USA doesn’t have newspapers that are so openly affiliated to one political leaning or another, but that they all seek to maintain a conservative status quo – and present this as being unbiased. Of course, this only makes me appreciate British newspapers more – how better to practice freedom of speech than to have a system whereby you can read whatever version of reality suits you best?!

I don’t really want to go into the minutiae of what each paper has said and why. Suffice it to say that where the Guardian categorises its article under Health, Politics and Women, the Telegraph categorises it under Religion.


USA

And lastly, a few days late but still worth noticing, given the topic above, is the American news on abortion, and other women’s rights, with pre-election dramas being played out everywhere you go online, and some pretty angry bloggers. I don’t want to try to regurgitate what’s been said, because there’s a hell of a lot of it, but have links:

From Hoyden About Town: Third Debate Thoughts, and Video of McCain’s air-scarequotes “health of the mother”

From Alternet: McCain Mocks Women’s Health

From Fourth Wave Feminism: Debate Summary

This last post wasn’t made in the context of the recent debate, but instead talks about two form letters that a woman recieved after writing to each of the candidates in turn. Although not strictly on-topic, it’s well worth a read (and indeed, I recommend Fannie’s Room in general for her “political, social and homo writings for which the first amendment may or may not have been intended”).

From Fannie’s Room: Maybe My Definition of Straight Talk is Different