Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Do We Have An ASA?

I've written to the Advertising Standards Authority several times this year. There is no need for adverts to be offensive or promote negative attitudes (like objectifying women) but of course they do it all the time. The ASA never do anything, they just write back to say they've thought about it and decided to do nothing.

Well this interesting article lists the top ten most complained about adverts of 2008. In all ten cases the ASA decided to respond by doing ... nothing! That's pretty depressing as is the fact that certain really horrid adverts didn't make the list - like that nasty Rustlers burger advert where the woman is shown rotating on the sofa like meat in a microwave (pictured above). In fact the most complained about advert received only 840 complaints and you could have made the top ten with 100 complaints. But then what's the point of complaining when the ASA do nothing?

Monday, April 27, 2009

My First Patriarchy

Shopping for kids this week? DON'T buy this. Shudder!

Crumbs From The Table

We all know there's a gender pay gap in this country the size of the San Andreas fault. So I suppose that any efforts to tackle it should be welcomed. Still the government's latest plans to ask companies to voluntarily publish their gender-pay balance is way short of what is needed.

Firstly "voluntary" laws don't work. Can you imagine if the motorways had "voluntary" speed limits? No-one would stick to them unless their car physically wouldn't go any faster. And asking companies to adhere to a voluntary code is even more ridiculous - companies have a legal and practical obligation to behave in the interests of their shareholders. If that means ignoring voluntary rules then they not only will do so, they are effectively forced to do so.

Secondly publishing the data is a long way away from doing anything about it. As the headline says "Bill set to expose gender pay gap", not "Bill set to close gender pay gap". Maybe the resulting data will come with a corresponding scratch-and-sniff wallchart telling you just how badly you're getting screwed! Mmmm, what's that smell, oh yes bullshit! Clearly there need to be penalties for companies that don't get on with closing the gap.

Now of course they have said that if companies don't voluntarily follow the code, they will get really, really cross and do something. When? Oh in 2013. When they most likely won't even be in power any more. So just four more years of not getting to know how badly you're being screwed over women. Then it'll likely be up to the Tories to make the next step - so it'll probably be bringing back crinolines and workhouses.

Not that I should strain my pretty little head on the subject anyway. Only companies with over 250 employees are affected and only employees, not contract workers. So lets see how many... oh yes that's it... ALL comedy clubs in the UK will be totally exempt.

Would make fascinating reading though - seeing what clubs pay their male and female stars. I was in Reigate tonight at a lovely little club run by Terry The Stand-Up who runs a whole string of friendly clubs around Surrey - do check them out if you live that way - and I was headlining so tonight at least I must have been the act making the most money*!

*And no - I can't lend you a fiver!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is It Just Me Or...

...does anyone else think that this trailer (actually there are several all rather similar)... any way glamourises violence?

For those who can't see the footage (or don't want to) - it shows convicted criminals discussing their own strength and the horrid things they've intimidated and terrorised their victims with. In the background rock music plays and funky editing splices in scenes of urban landscapes, guns being handled and rippling muscles. How will the victims of these horrible men feel watching their assailants bragging about their crimes on TV? The show is called Danny Dyer's Deadliest Men.

To make a complaint through Ofcom, click here. The show starts on Bravo on Mar 31st and the trailer is already on Bravo and other channels.

Following The Story

What a stupid NYT headline today! Happily Married, but still a Stalker's Perfect Target. Err, don't you get it - stalking is a crime, a crime of harassment and intimidation. It is not an expression of love. No-one changes their mind about stalking because their victim is married.

It's also a crime in which the majority of perpetrators are male and victims female. The world does not need a remake of Fatal Attraction, the first one was misogynist enough.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ikky and Creepy

I was in Putney tonight where I am resident compere at a great show called Duke's Headliners and (you guessed it) the Duke's Head pub.

Had a rather horrific experience on the way there though. Stopped in a newsagents to buy a can of drink and I was just at the counter paying (so i.e. using both hands to sort through my bag for the right change) when a guy came in, walked up right behind me and, with his arms out to either side of me, started vigorously thrusting his groin into my bum. Essentially he was miming anally raping me and sorry if that sounds shocking but that is what he was doing. Of course we were both fully dressed but he did make repeated physical contact.

I spun round and demanded to know what the fuck he thought he was doing (I was thinking their must be some explanation cos surely no-one would actually do that in a well-lit shop with witnesses there). He said he was "waving to his friend" and indicated the man behind the counter. I told him that was not the way that you wave to a friend. And he said "calm down love, I work round here".

Then he picked up whatever it was he had come in for, paid for it (the newsagent served him quite normally despite the fact that I was cowering by the door shocked and frightened). Then after he had left I paid for my stuff and he said "Sorry about that. He's a bit funny. We've tried to bar him but it doesn't work".

I did try to take a picture of the asshole but unfortunately my phone memory is full and I didn't have time to sort it out before he left. In retrospect I wish I'd just punched him. I suppose I could have called the police but I know from experience they'd most likely have told me I'd misunderstood and then refused to write it down as a crime and then I probably would have punched someone.

Despite that bad start to the night we had a great show. Although to be honest that's mostly testament to my ability to put things to one side and do a good show. Now I am home and despite proper comfort food dinner (deep cheese pizza and garlic bread) I still feel pretty grossed out and dirty. I think I'll put my jeans in the wash and take a shower.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Does This Add Up?

John Worboys: up to 500 rapes. Could serve as little as 8 years in prison. What I really don't understand is why he was convicted of only one rape. Did the police think that was enough and that the other hundreds of victims would be sat around going "Fair enough", I'll just tell my daughters to avoid cabs in eight years time... I can understand they might see it as a waste of time to prosecute every single charge once they've got enough to ensure he never leaves prison but smells to me very much like the police don't really give a fuck about women's safety! Again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Must Read Today

Totally sickening, unbelievable that nothing real is being done about it. The US military's own research suggests that 30% of female soldiers are raped by a fellow soldier during their service period.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Real Bravery

Can you honestly tell me if you were a woman in Afghanistan right now - you'd risk your life and take to the streets to protest the new laws legalising marital rape and forcing women to stay in their homes unless they have their husband's permission to leave? That's really brave. The most telling quote (not in the article, in the Indie today) was from Sabrina Saqeb, the female MP who organised the protest, saying "These people are the same as the Taliban. There's no difference."

Links Updating!

I notice a few blogs who have added me to their blog-roll. Thanks if that's you. I try to link back if your blog looks interesting but inevitably I miss some. So this is an open post - put your link up if you'd like to be in my blogroll and I'll have a look.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mile High Misogyny

This article is from the latest Ryan Air inflight magazine. It lists their recommended top ten lap-dancing clubs worldwide. Has anyone told them that some of their passengers may be female? Or indeed for any number of other reasons not comfortable with an article like that peeking out of their seat-pocket?

But the article is also interesting in that they admit two things that most lap-dancing promoters will aggressively deny:

They admit that "gentleman's club" is a direct synonym for "lap-dancing joint".

They admit that the claim that these places are frequented by "adventurous young couples" is a lie and that the actual clientele is "randy blokes".

London's was represented on the list of course by Stringfellow's, a club whose owner is delighted to brag on his blog about his great friendship with David Cameron. How nice.

Borderline Reporting

From today's Independent:

Firstly, how did the press get hold of this story? It's in a number of papers, Mail, Telegraph, etc so it's not that a journalist happened to be at customs at the time of the incident. Someone's written a press release. It's unlikely to be the woman herself since no version of the story has a quote from her explaining her actions. It does however have quotes from the border officials. Which means it must be them who let on to the press about the story. Why? Did they think it would boost their image? Or did they think it was funny? Either way a bit sick and screwed up.

Secondly, the piece seems to be saying that the woman was coming of her own free choice to the UK to seek sex work and was turned away. But imagine if you were going overseas to take on a job that required a specific type of clothing. Would you pack only the specialist clothing (wet suits? bee-keeping gear? workmen's overalls?) you were planning to wear while working? Or would you also pack some "normal" clothes to wear when you went shopping or for a night out? I think I would.

So it's possible they totally misunderstood, that she's actually a model only visiting for a one-day photo shoot and she's brought a range of clothes for the job and they haven't bothered to listen to her story. If so she's been unjustly denied entry and had her time and money wasted.

But more likely is that she's being trafficked to the UK to do the kind of sex work where you're not allowed out of the house at all. In which case refusing her entry is going to make no difference because whoever is trafficking her is just going to keep trying. What they should have done of course is found out who was controlling her and how (drugs? money? threats?), found a safe place for her to be rehabilitated either here or at home and then chased down the organisers of the racket and jailed them.

It's really irresponsible of newspapers like The Independent to treat the issue of sex work as a saucy "and also" space-filler. This is about women's lives and wherever you stand on the subject you have to accept that many sex workers are working under duress. How to deal with that problem and make sure women who want to get out of the industry can do so is - or should be - the real story here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Strangers on the (Bendy) Bus

Firstly apologies for the recent quiet on here - Mr Cru has broken his foot and this means I am now doing the freelance work of two people, including all the heavy lifting he usually does - moving pool tables and stages, etc. Plus fetching cups of tea and meals for him and I'm not even allowed to shout at him for lying on the sofa all day cos he's poorly.

Anyway a couple of things I wanted to comment on. I had a very interesting conversation with a man on the bus the other day. We were chatting about the newspaper I was reading. There was an article about the amount of money the government is spending on "counter-terrorism", accusing anyone with a larder and an alarm clock of owning a bomb-factory. I pointed out that terrorism has killed about 50 people in the last five years in the UK while two women a week are killed by their partners and the government has no clear strategy and clearly doesn't see it as a priority. So be careful who you sit next to on the bus unless you want a feminist lecture!

But this guy replied that he had done jury duty a few years ago on a case of domestic violence and was horrified that the CPS prosecutor didn't even bother to show up for the last day of the case, didn't ask any of the questions he wanted to hear answers to. Meanwhile the defense wove a totally fantastical story which he really couldn't believe but because the prosecution was so weak he wasn't able to convince the other jurors and the guy ended up getting off. He was saying that he didn't think cases like that should be heard by juries but by panels of experts instead - people who could themselves question witnesses and demand additional information if they wanted. Obviously just one anecdote but interesting none the less.

Secondly I was in a supermarket and I had that moment of seeing someone, recognising them and instantly knowing I didn't want to speak to them. I slipped away into the pasta sauces aisle. But I realised why I completely instinctively didn't want to talk to her. We were at university together 15 years ago. Back then she was seriously anorexic - extremely underweight with dark rings round her eyes. We were friends at college but I was well aware of how much the eating disorder was taking over her life - I had just recovered from mine at the time. She counted calories obsessively, ate almost nothing except salads and spent hours in the kitchen preparing fancy things to give to others or to give the impression she was eating more than she was. And when I saw her in the supermarket - she was still that thin and that ill looking.

That means she's spent the last fifteen years on the verge of malnutrition with her every spare minute taken up obsessing over the tiniest piece of food. I just couldn't bear to ask her how she was doing or what she'd been up to - because I knew. Fifteen years wasted. That's so sad I don't want to have to think about it. But it's a reality for a huge tranche of the population. Mostly women, but also guys. And it's yet another thing that government has no clear strategy for dealing with and clearly doesn't see as a real priority.

In fact I've seen more comments from senior politicians in recent months about the merits of the bendy bus (in this case very much doing it's job) than I have about domestic violence or eating disorders. And this misplaced focus is a real waste when there are huge problems destroying people's (mostly women's) lives which we could be addressing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Murder vs Murder

Two reports of murder in the news today. One in The Independent, one on the BBC. There are some similarities. In both cases a parent murders their own children. But in one case the murderer is a guy, in the other case a woman. Look at the difference in the reporting:

James Harrison murdered his five children "because his wife was leaving him". That excuse is given in the headline. He killed them but it was her fault. Later it emerges he may not have been quite the devoted heartbroken husband he was making out "Candy Johnson, an aunt of the mother, described Harrison as a strict, controlling husband and father who didn't allow his wife to make decisions without asking him first. 'My niece has been so controlled from the time she was young,' Johnson said, adding that Harrison had got the mother pregnant when she was 13."

There is however no excuse given for Jael Mullings murder of her two children. Authorities were called to her home shortly before the murders because she was seen screaming and mumbling in the street but didn't have the good sense to take the children somewhere safe at that time. No mention is made of the children's father who had left the mentally ill mother in sole charge of his two children. Doesn't anyone think as a 21-year-old woman, being left to look after two small boys might actually be the cause of mental health problems?

Or do men have a right to leave women in the lurch that women don't have?

Cru-blog In The Indie

After my disgust at Rowan Pelling's piece in The Independent I wrote a very angry and rather sarcastic letter to the paper, demanding that they explain themselves. Quite brilliantly - they published it, or at least a bit of it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Rape and Justice

Afghanistan's democracy (remember - the one we were fighting for?) is in the middle of a panic after women's groups around the world noticed they had legalised marital rape.

Now you might be feeling grateful on the back of that to live in a progressive western culture where women have better rights. However meanwhile in the US the horrific story has unfolded of a woman who was raped at gunpoint and went to the police who instead charged her with making a false accusation and jailed her while she was pregnant. Well now the guy who raped her has confessed...

Hat tip Shakesville.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Rowan Into Deep Water

Here at Cru-blog we don't like Rowan Pelling. And I'm tempted to write something witty about the fact that I was bewailing her copy in the Daily Mail a few days ago and today she has a piece in The Independent. But I'm going to hold back for the moment and just say:

THIS is probably the most offensive piece you'll read in a long time.

I could very easily line-by-line it as I sometimes do with pieces that really rile me. But I don't want to distract you with some witty remarks about the introduction into missing the piece that really makes my blood boil:

"When a lady says no, she means maybe; when a lady says maybe she means yes; and when a lady says yes, she's no lady."

Yes, that's a direct quote. In The Independent. No means maybe. Maybe means yes. Clearly Pelling's target audience has been found - it's rapists! And notice how there is no option left for the "lady" to say when she means "no, fuck off, you horrible creep or I'll call the police".

This is the same paper that only a few weeks ago was questioning why multiple rapist John Worboys behaved the way he did and why the police had failed to take his early victims complaints seriously and taken him off the streets before he could commit more crimes. I'll tell you why! Because newspapers like yours continue despite years of campaigning from women's groups to put out rubbish like this that effectively tells men it's ok to rape women. Tells men that they don't need explicit consent, that every woman wants to sleep with them and that they can ignore a woman's refusal, however clear and adamant.

Remember that Rowan Pelling's claim to fame and to her spot in the national press is that she is a former editor of a magazine called Erotic Review. I don't find rape very erotic myself. I find it more disgusting and criminal.

A few paragraphs later out of the blue she calls Hillary Clinton a "bitch" and rattles on about how much she prefers Michelle Obama and Sarah Brown - two women without high profile careers. Ironically Rowan herself has a high profile career and uses in her piece offensive language of the very kind she insists "real" ladies don't. So I find it hard to imagine she actually believes a word of it, or if she does she's at risk of being washed out to sea at any moment in a tsunami of hypocrisy.

But that said I'm not that surprised by her saying these things, she's a Daily Mail writer, they love that sort of stuff. I'm surprised and disgusted that no-one on the editorial side at The Independent thought it was worth double-checking the team policy on rape apologists.

And in case you were wondering the address to contact at The Independent to give them a little feedback is

Gardener's Question Time

Try the new online Cru-blog personality test. Simply watch this catchy video. Now answer this question... Does it make you feel:

a) Like buying a razor?

b) Like puking in a bag?

I'm going (b) here.

Letter To Chris Brown

While I am in something of a link-frenzy here is - wait for it - a brilliant article by a man. Yes I know! And it's not even Johann Hari.

Women In Music

Wow, yet another link for my dear readers to feast upon. Be sure to turn the sound up and listen to the brilliant music while you're reading (especially the lyrics - if that doesn't make your bnrain explode from doing two things at once!).

And A Little More Ammo

For the argument Jean Kilbourne is making in the video here. A great blog post from The Illusionists.

A Special Message For Some Of My Regular Commenters know who you are. Not just here but all over the feminist (and indeed lots of other areas of the) blogosphere. Before you bother wading in with no real points whatsoever but still totally certain that I don't know what I'm talking about why not read this!!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Virgin Problems

In reaction to my last post someone has kindly sent me a link to this hilarious complaint letter sent to Richard Branson by a passenger on Virgin Atlantic! Enjoy!

Corrupt Capitalism

I know we all know that corporations will always try to rip us off whenever they can but I still find myself surprised by how bad things are.

Here's the situation - I'm trying to quit the gym. My old gym that I liked was taken over a couple of years ago by Virgin Active and suddenly they have adverts everywhere around the place, mostly featuring semi-naked women with perfect bodies. They show MTV all round the gym - typically videos of women in next to no clothes, and in some cases actually women on leashes and chained up, etc. I go to the gym to feel good about myself so I've complained a few times but nothing has changed.

They also seem to have changed in their attitude to customers. Posters around the gym have sprung up featuring angry-looking men with megaphones and captions like "Don't forget your card - or else!". And suddenly there is an extra fee for everything - borrowing a padlock if I forget mine, forgetting my card. I was even told at one branch I would have to pay to borrow a towel because I wasn't a "corporate" member!

Well I put up with all this for quite a while because I liked the trainers in the martial arts and boxing bit of the gym. Then the guy I was training with got suspended from his job. I assumed they would ring me to let me know what was happening and find me a replacement while the situation was sorted out. No. Nothing.

So I rang up to say I was quitting. They didn't answer my calls or respond to the messages I left for two weeks. Then when I did get through they said "Unfortunately you needed to contact us two weeks ago. There's nothing we can do now."

"...but i did contact you two weeks ago."

"We have no record of that."

"Well keep better records then."

You know if I said I want to give them £50 every single person in the company would be over-qualified to take the money. But somehow only one person out of their hundreds of employees is qualified to "allow" me to stop giving them money. At one point I went in to the actual branch I originally joined (I had been assured that despite the advent of both the telephone and the internet each branch was totally incapable of communicating with each other branch) and asked to quit and the guy said "I'll try and get you a business card for the person you need to speak to". Then he went away and came back and said "Sorry, her drawers are all locked".

Well I've canceled my direct debit to them and I think this means that in a few months they'll be suing me for breach of contract. Eventually I imagine it will get sorted out, already though hours of my time have been wasted chasing up people who don't bother to get back to me. The stupid thing is when I first said I wanted to quit if they'd rung me up and asked what they could do and listened to me I'm sure I would have agreed to stay. But now not only have I left - I recommend to all my readers to do the same! Or indeed not/never to join.