Friday, November 28, 2008

Stripping the Illusion

Hmm, my satirical blog has been really fun the last few days. Never quite sure how long my enthusiasm for these ventures will last but today's effort has a feminist feel to it, poking fun at Peter Stringfellow and his attempts to avoid a much-needed crack-down on lap-dancing licensing law. If you want more information about the problems I seriously recommend you go to the Fawcett website here and read the personal accounts by Lucy Brown and Sarah Evans of working in and commuting past a strip club. And find out more about the campaign at the Object website here.

Frustratingly the BBC has put up on their news site a link to Stringfellow talking bollocks but not bothered putting up a link to Sandrine Leveque from Object doing a brilliant job of explaining why the law change is needed. Luckily the footage is up on Parliament Live TV where what I find amazing (aside from the great job Sandrine is doing) are the weird, pathetic and totally out of date objections put up by the MPs hearing the case. At one point one of them says (essentially) "But don't women get jobs stripping on cruise ships as a way to get their Equity card?". Now firstly I'm not aware that this is true but whatever. Secondly if it is true, surely it's a rather horrible state of affairs and we should sort it out. Or does the government thing stripping should be a short-cut into acting. What other career paths does the government think should offer fast-track access to those prepared to strip for money? Forgotten to study for your GCSEs? Just flash your boobs at the invigilator... Is that what these idiots actually want?

(Piccie from

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cru Quoted in the Guardian

I am quoted in the Guardian today. Interesting piece about the rise of grass-roots feminism in the UK. You can read it here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Horror Stories

If you're feeling up to it, this article about a serial rapist in the US and the disgusting attitude of jury members that allowed him to get away with it for years is pretty compulsive reading. Apparently the only woman likely to get a proper conviction against him is able to do so because she is a lesbian - the assumption being that any straight woman who has a drink with a guy must want to have violent anal sex to the point of bleeding.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Blog from the Cru-blog!

Inspired by another great Comedy Manifesto show tonight and one of our panelists - Nick Pettigrew who writes the excellent Push Jelly site - I decided to write a couple of satirical news articles myself. I didn't want to post them on here because it just might confuse readers to have spoof articles and serious articles next to each other. So instead I've put them on a new blog which I'm temporarily ('til I have a better idea) calling The News At Kate. Please take a look if it sounds like your bag. No idea yet how often I'll write them or what direction they'll take longer term but feedback welcome.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Journalism or What?

Sick bags ready ... I'm sure Angelina Jolie is a wonderful actress/human being/lover/whatever. But could this BBC article read just a teeny bit more like a review of a press conference and a bit less like a a eulogy? How about some journalism for a change?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And The First Rule Is ... There Are No Rules!

Seriously - article in the Daily Male entitled "The New Make-Up Rules" and the second paragraph says "There are no rules, which is the great thing about make-up these days". Either make-up is a lot more like Fight Club that we ever thought possible or the journalist (Lisa Eldridge) and the editor (Elsa McAlonan) have an IQ of about 6 between them!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hey Facebook, Hands Off My Self-Esteem!

I have just changed my Facebook profile so that it no longer has my gender on it. Not that it's a secret or that I can't remember what it is any more - I'm just really fed up with every time I log on being bombarded with hundreds of adverts for diet products. I'm not on a diet. I have a BMI in the normal/correct/healthy range, I exercise regularly and I eat when I'm hungry or near a sushi restaurant.

The Facebook advertising system is supposed to allow advertisers to target the customers most likely to be interested in their product. But I don't seem to be getting any adverts that are hitting me because I'm a university graduate, because my favourite film is Secrets and Lies or because I'm a member of the group "I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin". You would think Republican adverts for foreign policy researchers would be over-loading my system. No instead the only measure I am being profiled on is "has vagina" (tick) therefore "must hate own body and want to be size zero" (uh-uh).

Now as a teenager I suffered quite seriously from anorexia. I made a pretty full recovery, but there are lots of women out there who aren't as lucky as me - those currently experiencing eating disorders anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating. And BDD (body dismorphic disorder) along with other related issues - like feeling the need to have extensive sugery or bottulism injections on their healthy bodies. Is Facebook checking to make sure it doesn't send adverts like these inappropriately to those with or at risk of developing issues with their bodies? Maybe they could add an extra box to people's profiles. Are you interested in starting an extreme weigh-loss diet based exclusively on grass seeds and acai berries? No? Oh, ok we'll leave you alone then.

But it works - since going gender-neutral on Facebook I have very few diet ads. Instead my adverts are mainly for theatre tickets, loans, legal services, other facebook apps and christmas shopping sites. I seriously recommend other women do the same if they want to be able to surf the web without having their self esteem sureptitiously eroded!


Take a look at this article in The Herald. Notice anything? I noticed the headline is a lie. It reads "Aberdeen police claim new sex laws increase prostitution" but the article explains that police believe the change in the law has moved existing prostitution to different areas. The "increase" comes from the BBC who report that there has been an increase in the number of arrests. But surely tightening the law means you would expect more arrests. So it would seem the law is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. And the more you arrest, the less are left on the streets? No?

The law change was supposed to crack down on the men who visit prostitutes, the idea being weirdly that this is in some way "fair" to legally pursue both parties. This of course misses the point that the vast majority of prostitutes are not doing the job out of free and straightforward choice. It makes sense to criminalise those who use prostitutes because it reduces demand and thus the incentives to those who would force women into this role. It would make more sense however to simultaneously decriminalise the women themselves, so that they can seek help and a route out of prostitution when they are ready and feel able to.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diaries Out Please!

Fri 28th Nov, doors 8pm, show 8.30pm

Upstairs at the Round Table Pub, St Martin's Court. Down the side of the Wyndham's Theatre. Near Leicester Square Tube.

Special comedy night fund raiser for Abortion Rights.

As I’m sure you will be aware Abortion Rights has had a very busy year keeping the likes of Ann Widdicombe and Nadine Dorries from telling us all what to do with our bodies. It’s been tough but reasonably successful. Of course it’s cost a lot of money to run the campaign so we thought that we could raise a bit back while having a great comedy knees-up for all our members and supporters.

The line-up is completely different (except me as MC still) to the Feminism In London comedy night so it won’t be the same old stuff. I’m really excited about it: Grainne is the Irish act who had to drop out of the FiL night so she’s been on my wish list for a while, Hannah is only 19/20 and is already winning national awards and Tiffany is a big deal on the circuit (I was quite a lot surprised she said yes!).

All-female line up featuring:

MC - Kate Smurthwaite (me)

“A little reminiscent of an excitable, slightly irresponsible head girl luring impressionable fourth formers into some illicit fun” – National Student

Hannah George

Winner of Paramount Comedy’s Student Comedian of the Year 2007 (at only 19 years old!!)

Grainne Maguire

"Highly promising, has a big future ahead of her" - Time Out, “nice observations. ..can employ understatement with the dry mastery of a Father Ted script" - Chortle

Tiffany Stevenson

TV star who has appeared in: Comedy Cuts, The Office, Chambers, Balls of Steel, Dead Clean and Days That Shook The World.

We’ll also have a raffle to raise a little more I think, prizes to be announced.

Show is £5 if you book in advance, £7 on the door (if any tickets remain)

I know after the huge success of the Feminism In London comedy night, this is going to be full so I strongly advise booking in advance (which will also save you money). It's also a much smaller room than we had for that show so seriously book now if you don't want to miss out. I don’t however have the means to let you pay in advance so please only reserve if you are definitely coming, bringing cash, and at least one of your party is able to be at the venue by 8pm to collect your tickets. Otherwise we’ll end up in a real mess.

So to book send a message with your name, your email address and how many tickets you want to kate [at] winstonspencer management [dot] com (note: not my normal email address, one I never use which hopefully means I’ll be able to see all the reservations neatly in one place and not lose any!). I will reply to you and confirm your booking, if you don't get that within 24hrs mail again or leave a comment on the blog. I will accept bookings this way until either we are full up or until 27th November. After that you'll have to take your chances on the door.

Notes you might need to know about:

1) Come by public transport, there isn’t anywhere to park. It’s less than a minute’s walk from Leicester Square tube.

2) Venue is upstairs and sorry not wheelchair accessible. That said if we can carry you/your chair/help you up the stairs, let me know and we will do whatever we can. The seating at the venue is a mix of chairs, stools, benches, tables, etc. If you really need a chair with a back on let me know when you book and I'll reserve you one.

3) The venue is a lovely pub, open all day and it does food. You are welcome to arrive early, hang out, have a drink, etc. I will be upstairs setting up but you can come up, bring food, chat and eat while you wait if you want to. There will also be two intervals for you to load up on drinks and chat.

4) It’s a pub. No kids.

5) The pub sells food and drinks, you do not have to have a drink or any food but please don’t bring in outside food or drinks.

6) As it's a fund-raiser we don't have a concession price for students/oaps/ etc - it is only a fiver. But we do want to be inclusive so if you are desperate to go but money is a problem then let me know what you can afford and we'll discount your tickets so you can come.

7) Some of the acts may use dirty words or talk about scandalous things like sex. So don't bring anyone who doesn't like that sort of thing.

Any questions let me know. See you there!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Without a Leg to Stand On!

If you ever wanted proof that the glamorous women pictured in magazines don't look like that in real life, check out this brilliant and hilarious website: Photoshop Disasters. I found it via Shakesville and I especially like the cover-shot left ... look closely!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Tour of the High Temple of Consumerism

On my way back from the dentists on Wednesday I dropped in to the newly-opened Westfield shopping centre to see what it was like. Here are some of my thoughts:

1) The architecture is amazing, what a shame that all this time and effort goes in to designing a shopping centre while so many sports centres and libraries are so run down and so many Londoners live in substandard housing.

2) Boring boring shops - didn't seem to be anything new or different or interesting, just the same stuff. Did we need another M&S in London? Were queues forming outside the existing ones and dressing rooms overflowing? Or are we less filling a need and more just manufacturing a need? Er actually Cru, that may be a stupid question...

3) Why is every single product on sale advertised through the medium of James Bond tie-ins. I heard the latest film is rubbish and I never much liked the old ones, they're all the same misogynist crap and they're totally dated. But Daniel Craig's face is on every wall selling everything from watches to car insurance. No doubt the loos have a sign that says "Have a quantum of solace in our bogs" or "007 - he squats, he squirts...!"

4) I mentioned manufacturing need - there's a salon in there that ONLY does blow-drying. And the appointments they offer are half an hour long! I think half an hour of professional blow-drying is over the top for someone who's getting married in the afternoon, but there were people in there on a Monday morning mid-shop! Not that there's anything wrong with being pampered once in a while but it was pissing down outside so the poofed-up look will only last a few minutes.

5) The sales assistants in many of the designer stores were suspiciously attractive. Makes me want to put on 200 pounds, apply for a job and open a court case. I can't risk it though in case they call my bluff and I end up perched in a mobile hospital bed in the entrance to Ted Baker reciting the company-approved welcome comment and crying on the inside.

6) Lack of seating. They want you to come in, to walk around the 43 acres of shopping mall loading your arms up with heavy and bulky products but if you want a quick sit-down to take the weight off you are going to have to buy an over-priced coffee first. Or a half-hour blow-dry.

...not that I really thought I was going to LIKE it!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Biggest Godbotherer Awards Voting Opens

Here's a little bit of fun - go and vote in the New Humanist Bad Faith awards. There are so many candidates to choose from, all so worthy (in both senses)!! That's Stephen Green from Christian Voice pictured by the way probably about to say something nasty about gay people...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

BBC Rethink Due

In the light of the "scandal" about Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross as well as the noxious remarks made by Jeremy Clarkson - who we already don't like - on his show it seems a lot of the papers are calling for a rethink on the way the BBC is funded.

I disagree. I don't think it is the way that the BBC is funded that causes these problems. I think other stations have just as much rampant misogyny and tasteless jokes as the BBC. In fact the way the BBC is funded makes it more accountable to the public than other stations. Remember while Brand is no longer working at the BBC, he still has a show on Channel Four.

I think instead we should be asking - why is the BBC trying to compete with commercial channels? The whole point of the BBC is that it's different to commercial channels and should be offering something to the public which commercial channels cannot offer because of the way THEY'RE funded.

The BBC doesn't need to have the best ratings. There's no need for the BBC to put on these "laddish" shows - like Top Gear and Jonathan Ross - in order to win viewers. They should instead focus on offering more quality cultural shows, more quality documentaries. And as far as entertainment, they should be nurturing new talent, not paying through the nose for established "talent".

Jonathan Ross, we are told, is on £6m a year. For that money you could hire 200 new up and coming writers, actors, performers, comics, singers, dancers, entertainers, directors, etc. I'm thinking a basic £20,000 salary plus £10,000 towards the cost of putting together the show they want to make. Is there anyone in the universe who really thinks the output of such a massive-scale project would be less interesting than yet another middle-aged straight white bloke sat behind a desk asking actresses to describe what it was like working with Daniel Craig...? Of course not.

Now of course I'm biased, I don't seem to have my own TV show yet (although I was on BBC London again yesterday trying to explain to that creep Simon Warr why lap-dancing clubs shouldn't be licensed like cafes). But then again I guess that also makes me pretty well qualified to say that there is a lot of talent out there on the comedy circuit and the acting circuit and in terms of writers and directors and producers that would really benefit from the opportunity to complete their projects.

We love the BBC when it finds new talent and new ideas for us - whether it's The Office or Teletubbies but no-one cares whether they watch Jonathan Ross on the BBC or on ITV or Channel Four. Let the commercial channels pay the seven-figure salaries if these people are really worth it and lets have the BBC be about something different, something that rejects the prevailing misogynist climate and focusses on education, culture and new talent.