Friday, April 28, 2006

Mixed messages

I've just been on BBC Leeds, talking about the shock-horror scandal of the teacher Kristina Howells (sorry no news link, it's in the paper edition of the Daily Mail but not online anywhere yet) who appeared topless - yes TOPLESS - in a magazine - and promptly - QUITE RIGHT TOO - got fired. Except that, hold on, she appeared topless in sleazy porn mag ... Cosmopolitan. Erm that can't be right can it? Well what actually happened was that she appeared in an article about real women's breasts and their health. So the 11 to 16 year-olds she's teaching are perfectly able to walk into their local supermarket and pick up (and buy) magazines like Nuts and Zoo, but they can't have a teacher who is prepared to discuss these things in a sensible way.

Essentially what's going on is the same-old same-old thing: Real women having real sex is considered disgusting, but air-brushed glamour models artificially posed with captions implying they were tricked into it ... well that's fine.

The thing that really bothers me today is a different story. Not much good news coverage of it but some info on theregister. Basically some guy has set up a website having convinced his girlfriend to bet him that if he gets 2million hits she'll have a threesome with him. All very well, of course it's a marketing trick, he's just getting paid by advertisers per hit, and stupid blokes around the country have been sniggering and eagerly forwarding it to each other. What bugs me though is this: if she made such a bet then clearly she doesn't actually want to have a threesome - otherwise she'd have suggested it without the stringent conditions. So why would he want to do something with her that she doesn't want to do? What possible pleasure could be garnered from tricking her into consenting to something she actually considers unpleasant and frightening? Unless of course the whole sordid exercise is more to do with power than sex and is just a reflection of the stench of misogyny that permeates our whole culture.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Who died and made him pope?

The pope has been putting the world to rights in his Easter speech. Who asked him? Personally I prefer my political advice from someone who:

(a) Doesn't espouse the idea of completely outlawing contraception - the only hope the planet has of not choking itself to death with environmental degradation in the next few generations.

(b) Doesn't believe a load of superstitious nonsense about the earth being created in six days, an afterlife with angels and/or demons and a "loving" god who detests homosexuals.

(c) Doesn't dress like he's on his way to a Dungeons and Dragons convention.

Rowan Williams has done much better and restricted his comments to the latest bandwagon-jumping Harry Potter copy-cat novel: The Da Vinci Code.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Thanks for tuning in

My BBC One Breakfast TV appearance went very well. Thanks for everyone who called, mailed and texted to say they saw me. As I came out of the building the first person to get in touch was my Grandma who called up to tell me I looked "very attractive". Nice to see that she's fully understood the feminist message I was advocating!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Lad Mags Revisited

You may remember me from such thrilling stories as "Why I hate Lad Mags" and "What's Wrong With Lad Mags". Well the subject is all the rage again now thanks to Sainsbury's supermarket who have announced they're going to use "modesty covers" to prevent children and persons who might be offended from seeing the cover images on these magazines on their shelves. Not a bad move, although I can't say it strikes me as a complete solution to the cultural plague of demeaning depictions of women. Anyway since it's the hot topic again I was on BBC Radio Yorkshire yesterday, followed by BBC Radio Five Live (and you can listen again here - you need to fast forward - I am on about 1hr 20 minutes in). And tomorrow morning I'll be on Breakfast TV, on BBC1 at about a quarter to nine. Please take a look if you're up at that time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Legend Lives On...

I'm talking about me of course! Many years ago I started a ladies football team in Toyko. It took a while to get off the ground but once it took off, aided by the arrival of the World Cup in 2002, it really flew. And it still flies as this interview with Helen Daly, the current captain and my good friend, on proves. I really miss the girls; running the team and socialising with them was my whole reason for living for a long long time. I've played for a bunch of teams since I got back here and I've even got a charity match coming up (details to follow) but nothing compares to Onnabelievable (no prizes for finding very old photos of me with my cutesie white-blond hair on the site!).

Sun, Sea, Elephants

...and thanks for all the e-mails. I had a brilliant holiday. Sri Lanka is gorgeous. Took elephant rides, went white-water rafting, saw temples and shrines and palaces and crocodiles and peacocks and monkeys, snorkelled, swam, lay on the beach, mountain-biked, mountain-climbed... Hopefully if I have some good photos I'll post them up on a page somewhere and put the link up here.

Feminism and Islam

There's a new book out by Phyllis Chesler called "The Death of Feminism", interview in the Guardian. It's not really about feminism being "dead", although good work Phyllis in giving it the kind of title that the media love and thus getting some well-deserved attention.

It's about the way that feminism has failed in the middle east. And I agree, it has. The government is busy making it illegal for me to complain about people's belief in whatever all-powerful, cloud-riding fairies they choose. Meanwhile major religions - notably Islam - are claiming religious justification for treating women like slaves across a whole slice of the world.

I don't blame feminists for the situation. Every feminist I know thinks oppression of women's rights is a travesty so the suggestion (the Guardian's, not Ms Chesler's) that the issue "has divided feminists" is just another media-friendly soundbite. Trouble is we have no support from government or other powers whatsoever. Trade agreements and diplomatic relations are routinely conducted as though women's rights were a non-issue.

Respect for diverse religions and cultures is a worthy thing. Unfortunately it's often incompatible with adherence to a basic code of human rights. We sometimes have to choose one or the other. The church in the UK has a similar problem on a smaller scale with it's repeated discrimination against women and homosexuals. To my mind it is obvious that the right of a human being to choose their own path in life is more important than the right of another human being to keep slaves because their "god" wants them to.

If the human race survives the next hundred years in any recognisable form our grandchildren will look back on the 21st century and ask with incredulity whether anyone could seriously have lived in such times and turned a blind eye to the situation, much as we now look back on slavery and consider the whole concept to be obviously repellent.