Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hello Catherine Stephens

Sometimes when you're blogging it's like Christmas has come early. On Sunday I appeared on a show called Sunday Morning Live on BBC One. Yesterday a comment was added to this blog (to my post Two Interesting Reads and a Related Thought) by none other than one of the main guests on the show: Catherine Stephens. I've not published it on the post itself because it is a troll comment in the sense that it attempts to totally derail the discussion. My post is about rape convictions rates and deep-rooted misogyny in our society (you would think just out of politeness she would start with "really sorry to hear about the sexism you've suffered Kate" before launching into her attack, but no).

Now I've met Catherine Stephens before - I attended an event at the ICA at which she spoke. She was asked at that event about her own work and said that she ran an escort agency and worked as a dominatrix. Later in the debate when the discussion turned to violence against prostituted women she loudly bragged that she could count on the fingers of one hand the number of her "clients" who had even been rude to her and that she had never experienced violence. Yes, it was me who shouted "That's cos they arrive on leads!". I wasn't allowed to expand on my point but for the record it was that the experiences of a dominatrix could not really be considered representative of women and children who've been trafficked to the UK from third world countries and had their passports and paperwork taken away or been hooked on hard drugs.

More importantly she insisted that she represented the IUSW. This is supposedly a union for those in the industry but bizarrely is funded by the Conservative Party and allows managers and even punters to join. (Which is a bit like saying "I buy coal, I'd like to join the miners union please", "Well I'm the head of Southern Electric and I'm already a member, welcome aboard"). Cath Elliot has done a wonderful job of exposing their corruption and hypocrisy here, and explains why we should really see them as a rather sinister "astroturf" industry lobby group. Their attitude to the abuses suffered by prostituted women is for me embodied most clearly in their logo - pictured above.

Anyway lets take a look at Catherine's comments on my blog:

"Regarding the Sunday Morning Live debate, which resulted in a 71% vote in favour of accepting prostitution"

Yes indeed it did although if you listened to me I also said that I was in favour of decriminalising women who sell sex. What I thought was upsetting about the debate was that you went on claiming to be a prostitute. In the past you have admitted you run an escort agency. That makes you a pimp. And in turn it presents your views in a very different light. Personally I think the BBC should research more carefully who they have on and what they credit them as.

"I thought it was interesting to see you doing something that I’ve observed before in anti sex workers’ rights campaigners."

What are "sex-workers rights"? I'm into human rights. Things like the right to not be physically assaulted and gang raped, to not have your passport stolen, to not be smuggled across borders under false pretences. What additional "rights" do sex workers have? The "right" to sell sex? No - no-one has a right to do a job - I'd love to be an astronaut but I don't have a right to do so. Some people might want to be hired assassins or drug dealers but you don't have the right to do whatever job you want. So forget "sex workers rights" - lets talk about human rights and how best to protect them. Unlike you I have taken the time to talk to and meet women who have survived and escaped the industry in which you are a manager. I say "unlike you" because some of these women have told me that they tried to contact you and your organisation about their experiences, hoping you would represent them and you have refused to do so and been rude and aggressive to them. None of these women are concerned about their "right" to sell sex, they are concerned about closing down the industrial scale abuse of women and children. One fact you never seem to mention is that the average age in this country for entry into prostitution is 14. And a 14-year-old definitely doesn't have a "right" to sell sex. She has a right to be protected. And that's why I'm an advocate of the only model globally that has been shown to actually work - criminalising paying for sex. Criminalising the johns.

"I made a specific, factual statement that I see a number of severely disabled clients [at 16:43], which you misinterpreted or misrepresented as a claim that disabled people as a group are unable to find sexual partners without paying them [19:13]."

Well actually what I assumed was that you were suggesting that the fact that disabled people used prostitutes in some way justified prostitution. Well it doesn't. Neither able-bodied nor disabled people have a "right" to sex. If your remark about having disabled clients was just a casual remark then why make it. We were having a debate. What next? Two of my clients have bunions and one votes Lib Dem...? Its irrelevant unless you are implying that prostitution is justified specifically because it offers sex to disabled people which (a) they have a right to and (b) they otherwise couldn't get. Neither of these is true and in particular the latter is offensive.

"You then attempted to rebut a generalisation I hadn’t made with the information that your mates can get laid."

My point was that plenty of disabled people can and do have active sex lives.

"I see you describe yourself as a comedian, so perhaps you were trying to be funny,"

I did not come on the show to be funny. If I had you would have known about it. I'm quite good.

"...but ‘your mates’ are not actually a suitable basis for policy making: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”."

Right but I was countering your point that you had "several" disabled clients. So I was providing "several" counterexamples.

"This kind of irrelevant fact-free vacuity is part of the reason the IUSW explicitly has a campaign aim that policy should be based in reality and on evidence* (academically robust research, for example), not on ideology, dramatic individual cases, stereotypes or assumptions."

But what's good for the goose must be good for the gander right? And you were on national TV lying about your job and making a case based on "several" examples.

"*This means a broad range of evidence, not cherry picking specific statistics from the few publications..."

Ha ha ha - or in other words if I provide data I'm "cherry picking" but when you provide lies that's "evidence". Nah.

"...that can be used to support a prohibitionist campaign for legislation that gives the state power to overrule a woman’s consent to sex."

Oh no - I'm not advocating that the state should overrule a woman's consent to sex - I'm arguing that the state should overrule a man's "right" to pay for access to women's bodies. If you want to have sex with all your johns for free - you go right ahead.

"Policies that solve problems are based in reality and on evidence."

Even your own job description isn't based in reality. And after I finished talking about the Nordic model (i.e. the criminalisation of men who pay for sex) you went on to say that three health reports had been inconclusive about the benefits of that model. Firstly I have read a lot of research about the Swedish model and never seen these three reports. I suspect like your backstory they're fictional. But even if they're not - "inconclusive"? The best you've got is stuff that's "inconclusive"? And you ignore all the evidence about a total fall-off in trafficking in to Sweden since that law came in?

"Betting myself 65:35 this comment won’t make it through moderation, in whole or in part."

You lose.

And while I'm on the subject... Dear the BBC, next time we discuss prostitution can we please please please have the interests of prostituted women represented by Natasha Falle? She is awesome in this piece from Canada!

Best Shot

A few months ago I gigged with a great comic called Steve Best. As a hobby/bit of fun he takes photos of all the comics he works with. And they're really great photos. Click here to see the one of me, which I love!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Interesting Reads and a Related Thought

This is a great bit of insight into what's wrong with the way our criminal justice system deals with rape cases. And she counts as one of the "lucky" ones in that her case actually went to court. I know several women who have been raped and either decided not to go to the police or were disbelieved by the police (like being refused a rape kit... how is it legal for the police to refuse to send a woman who asks for it for medical testing for rape drugs and sperm?).

Secondly Laurie Penny makes some great points about the way that misogyny is deeply seated in our culture. She's so right!

Yesterday I appeared on a show called Sunday Morning Live on the BBC (available via the link on iPlayer for another 5/6 days) and on the show the discussion was about prostitution and I said I thought the Swedish/Nordic model (criminalising those who pay for sex rather than those who sell it) would be a good idea in this country. Later in the evening a comedy promoter who had spotted me on TV "chatted" me on Facebook and said "So I guess you will never become my prostitute then xx". Yes - with kisses - like there was something cute about that remark. This is someone who I have to be nice to because I work freelance and he has a lot of paid work to offer (though to date he has never paid me, despite repeatedly promising me that he would and admitting I was better than some of the acts he was paying). If it was the only club like this I'd just not play the one club but in fact his behaviour is completely typical and I have to gig somewhere. It's so infuriating having to put up with this crap when I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO MY JOB!

(That's me by the way leading the chanting at the Anti-Pope rally!)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Barely Alive

I was just on Sunday Live on BBC One talking about prostitution. It should be available on iPlayer in a bit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Divorce Line-By-Line

Todays appalling piece of women-hating journalism is brought to you by one Harriet Sergeant who tells us all in the Daily Fail about The cruelty of women who use children as weapons in divorce (top tip by the way if you plan to use children as a weapon - sharpen their heads first...). Line-by-line as usual by yours truly...

"About ten years ago, I was standing in my son's junior school classroom. The teacher had stuck up on the wall the best essays on the topic: 'How I Spent Last Weekend.' One caught my attention."

Hankies out - who needs facts when a one-off tear-jerker case study will suffice...

"Not for this little boy a visit to the zoo or the excitement of a football game. Instead, he had chronicled a weekend's battle between his divorcing parents."

As we all know - no-one argues in the park or at the zoo. And only couples who are divorcing argue - not those who have decided to stay together for the sake of the kids but actually hate each other. But interesting angle - I think the kid shows great potential as a columnist - lets hope he aims a bit higher than the Daily Mail.

"'Mum calls dad names on the phone,' he had written in his laborious handwriting. 'We had cake for tea. My sister and I cry.' The teacher caught my eye. She had put up that story on purpose."

If the kid hears Mum calling Dad names there are two conclusions we can draw: (1) We have no idea what Dad is doing - where he is, who with, what he's saying to Mum. (2) Mum is looking after the kids, including making them tea with cake.

"'I want the parents to see what divorce they are doing to their children. They should be ashamed of themselves,' she said."

Shouldn't teachers be better at grammar than this? Also I do pity the child whose story was really well written but who didn't get picked to go up on the board because the teacher was pushing a political agenda that has nothing to do with the national curriculum or quality education.

"My son recently bumped into that little boy. A decade on, he is 18, has dropped out of school and is on drugs."

Most drug-users I'm aware of are pretty secretive about their habit. If this kid told your son about his habit I'd be prepared to suggest a possible explanation: maybe your son takes drugs too. In fact maybe your son is the dealer! But do carry on telling the rest of us how to parent.

"Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division of the High Court, agrees that something has to be done. He has accused separating couples, especially those from the middle classes, of using their children as 'both the battlefield and the ammunition' to try to score points in their personal disputes."

Yes and how down to earth and clued up is Sir Nicholas Wall? Well lets put it this way - in his spare time he enjoys "composing clerihews". Exactly. And even he is talking about parents - both parents - not just mothers.

"'There is nothing worse, for most children, than for their parents to denigrate each other,' said the country's most senior family court judge. 'The child's sense of self-worth can be irredeemably damaged.'"

I've got one! Something worse for a child than their parents denigrating each other: the parents denigrating the child. Also famine, disease, child labour and having parents who read the Daily Mail.

"Six years ago, my husband and I divorced. It came as a great shock. But we were all too aware our children were just becoming adolescents - and that adolescence is perilous enough without warring parents."

So you were "all too aware" of the issues but now you feel the need to harp on about them for the rest of the world's benefit? Thanks. I don't even have kids and you're getting right up my nose.

"We tried, not always successfully on my part, never to criticise each other in front of the children. Very occasionally, I even managed to emphasise his good points (of which there are many) - it was quite hard when at the time all I wanted to do was murder him."

So you were actually doing this dreadful thing that we all need to be told (by you) not to do. And even in retrospect you admit you "wanted to murder him"? Easy now, remember your son is reading this on drugs.

"A female friend was shocked. 'Why aren't you using the children against him?' she asked. 'I would.'"

My friends are not like this. Your friends are.

"Her reaction is not unusual. The battlefields Sir Nicholas Wall describes are too often of the wife's choosing."

How often is "too often"? I mean I think the one in four women in the UK who is a victim of domestic violence is pretty much entitled to "badmouth" her partner. Particularly after he has "blackeyed" her. And bear in mind the most common time for violence to start in a relationship is while the woman is pregnant, so there's a really good chance kids will have been witnessing violence.

"This is because most divorces are initiated by women due to their husband's infidelity, as the fatherhood research body Fathers Direct points out."

Aaargh! No! In 100% of these cases it is the husband who has instigated divorce by BEING UNFAITHFUL. Oh dear Fathers Direct - seems almost like you might be some sort of "men's rights" organisation... Mind you I was guessing that when your website said your aims included "helps shape national and local policies to ensure a father-inclusive approach to family policy" and no mention of "helps end domestic violence perpetrated by men".

"These women are hurt and they want to get their own back through the children, money or both. They are determined the husband is as much divorced from his children as his wife.
One wealthy man I know finds himself, despite his riches, at the beck and call of his former wife."

Are women supposed instead to lie to their children - tell them "Daddy's been totally faithful, he's just friends with that aerobics teacher with the huge breasts"? And if you do tell your kids that then no doubt they respond by blaming Mum for the divorce. You've surely got to be honest with your kids at very least.

"The strategy is very successful. This otherwise powerful man submits to every capricious demand."

Though presumably the strategy wasn't effective enough to stop him screwing around in the first place. Ho hum.

"'With just two hours' notice, I had to cancel an important meeting and take them to the dentist,' he said. If he refused, his wife said, he would not see them for a month."

And what if the wife had an important meeting just at the same time as an emergency dentists appointment? Presumably she should cancel it...? Gosh, it's almost starting to sound like kids are a responsibility, not a fun weekend treat...

"An advertising director found himself equally powerless when his wife suddenly moved from London to the Midlands with their two sons."

Almost like she was trying to get away from you huh? Why would that be?

"'How can my wife hurt me? How could she bring me to my knees?' he asks. 'Through my children.'"

Of course if you really loved her - she could hurt you by leaving you. But that bit doesn't seem to bother you much does it mate?

"'She did not tell me. One day she just stopped answering the phone. Until then I had been seeing my sons every weekend,' he says."

OK that sounds harsh, but we'd need to hear her side to pass judgement wouldn't we? Not at the Daily Mail!

"By the time the case reached court, the sons were settled in a new school. The judge admitted that what the woman had done was illegal, but because it was in the best interests of the children to be with their mother, he did nothing."

Now of course the judge had the power to remove the children from the law-breaking mother and place the kids with dad instead but decided not to do that. But don't let a little gap in information like that prevent you drawing sweeping conclusions about how awful women are.

"'She had got away with effectively kidnapping my children,' said the father. His relationship with his sons has all but broken down. Their new home is too far for them to come to London."

So go visit them - it's only the Midlands - not the Middle East.

"When he goes to see them, he has to stay in a hotel."

How awful. I do hope there's no pool.

"'The children get bored in an hour or two,' he says. 'They have their friends and their sports, which they would rather do instead.'"

So take them out. As I understand it there are zoos, theme parks and fun fairs in the midlands. Or since you're visiting them - take them to play sports or meet their friends.

"He tells me he finds the situation 'so goddamn painful. I try to play the role of a father - but how can I when I have been deliberately moved to the periphery of their lives?'"

Try? Not very hard by the sounds of it.

"The situation leaves many men I have interviewed distraught. They describe the loss of their children as 'an emotional amputation' or 'a living bereavement'."

No doubt there are guys who mean well and want to see kids but there are also plenty of Dads who don't bother to see their kids and don't bother to contribute financially. In the interests of balanced journalism shouldn't we hear briefly about them too... Well I guess we would but we're too busy laughing at the concept of "balanced journalism" being mentioned in the same blog post as "The Daily Mail".

"It is no wonder that within two years of divorce, half of fathers lose contact with their children."

Yes women just love single parenthood so much they're filled with contempt at the idea of someone actually helping them out. What is frightening is that within two years of divorce 50% of mothers are effectively on their own raising kids.

"As one man said sadly, divorce 'leaves many fathers on the edge of a bloody great abyss. Many fall off and are never seen again'."

Maybe they should think about this before they start screwing around?

"Douglas Alexiou, one of London's pre-eminent family lawyers, agrees that the wife holds all the cards in a divorce case."

That is odd since most judges are men and the law is designed so that the number one priority is the kids. Now if it turns out that most women have much better relationships with their kids than men, that would work in their favour. Men could combat this by spending more time with their kids. I know, I know, it's a radical idea...

"'Court order after court order is served. The wife claims the children are ill or just do not want to see their father,' he says."

We all know in real life kids are never ill and never don't want to see their father.

"'There is very little a court can do if a mother has poisoned the minds of her children against the father. There is no sanction against the mother apart from a jail term - and no court will do that."

A court could also award custody to the father. Of course that would only be relevant if the father was prepared to do the hard work of parenting, not just the odd visit.

"'Perhaps one day a judge will be bold enough to jail a mother and finally set an example.'"

Yes no doubt single motherhood would be greatly enhanced by being jailed.

"In all this there is only one real victim - the children. If one of those wives was handed an axe and ordered to hack off a limb of her child, she would be appalled. Yet so many women are happy, even gleeful, to commit the equivalent emotional amputation on their children by depriving them of their father."

Yes - ruthlessly keeping their kids playing sports with their friends instead of in a creepy hotel with Dad. How evil.

"U.S. author Kathleen Parker in her excellent book Save The Males points out that in depriving a child of their father, 'we reduce a child's chance of a successful and happy life.
'Growing up without a father is the most reliable indicator of poverty and all the familiar social pathologies affecting children, including drug abuse, truancy, delinquency and sexual promiscuity.'"

Yes Kathleen growing up without a father is a reliable indicator of poverty. One parent families do worse. And poverty is an excellent indicator of all sorts of future problems. That wouldn't be the case of course if fathers paid towards the upkeep of their absent kids. Yet the statistics show that many don't. And if they're not sharing the cost - why should they share the fun parts?

"But this misery is not only the fault of the parents. The family court system is adversarial and encourages couples to fight, says Nadine O'Connor, campaign manager at the lobby group Fathers4Justice."

Fathers4Justice? That would be the discredited organisation that had to be disbanded after revelations that a number of senior members were perpetrators of domestic violence...

"And change, she says, will be a long time in coming - until lawyers stop making their own killing from warring parents, children will continue to be used as weapons."

Even Nadine thinks it's lawyers at fault. Harriet it's only you who has managed to blame women here...

How is it that you write a whole article about how male infidelity leads to divorce and unsupported single motherhood and wind up coming down on the side of blaming women for problems their kids have?

Protest The Pope Video



I am the one shouting into the microphone, leading the chanting from the back of the truck. Of course!! Good lip-readers will notice I am shouting "Arrest The Pope!"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Papal Aside

I didn't see Mock The Week the other day but I did see the short clip of the comments made on the show about the papal visit. Inevitably none of the panellists seemed impressed by the visit. However I was sat watching seven straight white guys (yes, an all-male, all-straight, all-white panel) discussing the dreadful attitude the Pope has towards women and homosexuals and thinking "Have you looked at your own house lately...?". Yes the Pope's attitude is dreadful but it's also enormously commonplace albeit at a more subtle level right across the most supposedly liberal parts of the UK. Sad. Especially for people like me who (a) could use that sort of work and (b) would make an awesome job of it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Aaarrrrgh!!!!

So the BBC today has 99.9% of it's coverage focussed on the Papal Visit - what did his Holiness wear? What is the significant of St Ninian's feast?

I wonder what the SECOND most important story on the BBC website today might be.

"Trident cash timetable could change - minister". Oh ok, so it's just about a rescheduling of defence budget spending... Lets just double-check and read the first line:

"Britain remains committed to replacing its nuclear weapons but the timetable for financing the scheme could change as a result of a value for money review, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey has admitted."

But of course that's only the Armed Forces Minister. It's not as if David Cameron has made a big statement in support of Trident. Oh hang on - lets check paragraph 13. Really.

Am I the only one who thinks the bit about the Armed Forces Minister and payment schedules changing is not the key message here? The Prime Minister has announced we are going to spend billions of pounds on a totally unnecessary nuclear weapons system that will reduce global security and that very few people in the UK want.

Talk about hiding the real news.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Us British Munters

How thoughtful of the Daily Male to let us know how we British women are doing in the International "Whose Chicks are the Hottest?" Olympics. Today's line-by-line destruction will be of this dreadful piece by Sean Poulter entitled Why French Women beat Brits in the Beauty Stakes: They spend twice as much on products. And incidentally if you want to place a bet on the beauty stakes do call William Hill. My money is on Chile - they've taken the South American title twice recently and a lot of their national chicks compete with international clubs.

"The women of France may enjoy perfectly powdered and smooth faces, however they pay more than twice as much as their British counterparts to achieve this effect."

So the women of France all enjoy perfectly smooth faces do they? Guess all those holiday postcards of wrinkly weathered old women sat on street kerbs in Provence are staged then or done with latex special effects make-up?

"Spending on creams and potions designed to hold back the ageing process runs at £1.85billion a year on the other side of the Channel, compared to £854 million here."

Designed to hold back the ageing process or designed to rip women off? I'm calling this a victory for British women who have an extra £1bn a year to spend on enjoying themselves.

"Although Italian by birth, Carla Bruni, the wife of the French president, has come to epitomise the women of France for whom no price is too high to hold back the wrinkles."

You said it Sean. She's Italian. Italian. And she's an Italian supermodel. If anyone thinks she represents the women of France they should try speaking to a French woman. A real one. And if no price really was too high for the women of France the country would be bankrupt in about a week and every woman's bathroom cabinet full of royal jelly and placenta.

"Indeed, some of the 42-year-old's treatments, thought to include laser skin peels and botox, have produced some startling and bizarre results."

Startling and bizarre - no price is too high for me to achieve THAT look.

"By contrast, Samantha Cameron, who is three years younger, apparently enjoys a more natural - English Rose - beauty regime."

Samantha Cameron is also NOT a super-model. She's a part-time accessory designer. And comparing one English part-time bag designer with one Italian model and then drawing conclusions about all British and all French women is just weird. There is real news out there you know Sean? Try visiting Congo, I think some women have been raped. Let us know if that helps to "hold back the wrinkles", won't you?

"New reseach looking at the body hang-ups of the women of Europe identifies some surprising differences."

Surprising? So like German women wish they had two heads while the Latvians long for lustrous feathered wings? Something tells me I am going to be less surprised than I was when there wasn't a fiver in that novelty birthday card last year.

"Certaintly, the women of France are content with their enviably flat stomachs."

Ah, enlightenment... That's probably also why Shakira looks so smug. And like Carla Bruni - she's not French!

"Just 27per cent list their stomach as a problem area, which is a fraction of the 44per cent of British women who are worried about their flabby midriff."

The question of course is what percentage are actually dangerously overweight and what percentage have merely been convinced they are by the beauty industry? But that would be journalism wouldn't it Sean? And your speciality is copying out corporate press releases. Sidenote though: I don't believe doubling your creams and lotions budget is going to shrink your midriff - it might be a better idea to halve your dessert budget.

"However, British women are far more content with their breasts and thighs than their counterparts across the Channel."

I can't wait to hear what percentage prefer not to rate their bodies like cuts of meat.

"Just 31per cent of women here are worried about having chunky thighs, compared to 43per cent of the French. Similarly, 30per cent of women in this country are concerned about their breasts, versus 38per cent of the French."

The real issue is right across Europe women have been convinced to hate some part of their anatomy that is perfectly healthy.

"Looking at other nations, Italian women have a problem with their bottoms with some 47per cent listing this as a concern, far more than any other nation."

If you have "a problem with your bottom" you should see a doctor. [Se hai un problema con il fondo si dovrebbe vedere un medico.]

"Rather alarmingly, some 57per cent of Spanish women have a worry about their entire face. Again a higher percentage than other nations."

Well spotted Sean, that is certainly alarming. Can't wait for your in depth research to discover what is behind these numbers, why we allow the beauty industry to bully women into feeling this way...

"Among German women, 46per cent are worried about their bigger bellies."

...or you could just carry on cut and pasting that press release. Stick to what you're good at eh?

"The research was conducted by retail analysts at Mintel for a report investigating the sales patterns of beauty creams and potions."

It's like I'm psychic isn't it?

"It found that for British women, concerns about ageing are focused on the eyes and the dark circles, bags and wrinkles that give their age away."

I find for me what gives my age away is that I just tell people because I don't think getting older is shameful.

"Some 48per cent said the eye area is a worry, while 35per cent were concerned about a sagging jaw line."

I still want to know what percentage told the interviewer to go f*ck themselves.

"Sixty-two per cent were worried about fine lines and wrinkles and 49per cent wanted to do away with the dark circles they have."

What percentage were worried about all this rubbish BEFORE the market researcher started asking stupid intrusive questions?

"Nica Lewis, head consultant Mintel Beauty Innovation, said there is enormous money to be made by beauty companies that find a way to hold back the ageing process."

Indeed. So much so that it might seem like even some of the companies who haven't managed it will claim they have. If only there was a journalist around to investigate, but there's only you eh, Sean?

"'Ageing skin is no longer only a worry for older consumers. Younger women are now paying more attention to preventing wrinkles while they can rather than trying to cure them at a later stage,' she said."

So now they're selling wrinkle cream to women who don't even have wrinkles. Shouldn't you be exposing the lies, pseudo-science and creepy advertising tricks that make women believe they should spend a lot of money on products that don't even work? Sorry - almost forgot you're working for the Mail...

"'Educating these younger women about the benefits of a good facial skincare regime is an important way to ensure product take-up."

"Ensuring product take-up"? Honestly - I know you didn't write this, some PR puppy did - but really Sean - don't put your name on articles this humiliating. It's ... well ... humiliating.

"'Brands could use mobile phone apps to remind young girls when to cleanse and moisturise on a morning and at night..."

Mmm how helpful of my phone to tell me when morning and night come round. What if I run out of battery though - if only some giant glowing orb would appear and disappear from the sky...

"...and notify them of new products or competitions and offers they could take advantage of."

Wouldn't that be ace? Having companies send junk mail direct to your actual phone so you don't have to go downstairs and find it on the hall floor.

"'A clear link between teen lines and ranges aimed at women in their early to mid-20s could also help brands retain customers..."

Sean, really, I understand that besuited twerps doing "brand management" graduate internships say this sort of thing but you are a journalist. Or at least you probably think you are.

"...as they progress through their age-related skincare needs.'"

Oh gosh yes so here's a quick run down of your age-related skincare NEEDS...

Age 0-5: soap and water
Age 5-10: soap and water
Age 10-15: soap and water
Age 15-20: soap and water
Age 20-25: soap and water
Age 25-30: soap and water
Age 30-35: soap and water
Age 35-40: soap and water
Age 40-45: soap and water
Age 45-50: soap and water
Age 50-55: soap and water
Age 55-60: soap and water
Age 60-65: soap and water
Age 65-70: soap and water
Age 70-75: soap and water
Age 75+: soap and water

Oh sorry Sean, I thought you said NEEDS. No-one needs expensive anti-aging products and treatments. In any case the treatments you suggest Carla Bruni has had are medical procedures like Botox. She's not having those because she got a text about brand loyalty.

And worse still there is a real story hidden in here about body image - the rise in Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Eating Disorders and the irresponsible attitude of the beauty industry pushing expensive products that don't actually work on women across Europe. Instead we've got a male journalist regurgitating a press release that reads like an advert for these products. Please stop.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Very Moving Video

Do watch this:

A Little Explanation

Many thanks to all those who follow me on Twitter (@Cruella1) and Facebook for messages of concern. I'm fine. Here's what happened (the short version).

Went out for birthday drinks then karaoke last night with a close friend. At the end of the night, 3am, five of us - the birthday girl, me, Mr Cru, a guy who helps out at our comedy club (Robert) and a comedian (Brendan) - are leaving the Cro Bar on Mallett Street, which is closing. Three guys appear from nowhere (not from in the bar as far as I can tell though it was busy) and one takes his shirt off and is kinda dancing round antagonising people and clearly trying to pick a fight with any and everyone in sight. Birthday girl and I move away down the street a bit but Mr Cru and the other guys are still only halfway out the door.

The shirtless guys hones in on a homeless guy wandering past and starts shouting abuse at him, then punching him. His two mates join in. Mr Cru, Robert and Brendan intervene and try to separate them and tell them to let the homeless guy go. A massive fight ensues. At one point Mr Cru is on the floor and I can see one of the thugs kicking him really hard in the back. Then I see two of the thugs whipping Robert, also on the floor at this point, with their belts.

Suddenly everyone is on their feet and there's a slight stand-off. I yell to Mr Cru and Robert to come to where I am - I can see blood all over Robert's face and hands. Birthday girl and I hurry Robert away from the scene and try to calm him down and figure out how badly injured he is.

The police arrive and the three thugs try to run away. Mr Cru and Brendan give chase and are about to catch one of them when he falls over anyway and is soon cuffed. An ambulance arrives and we point Robert out to them. They clean his wounds and discover a big cut in his head (about the size of, say, a belt buckle) which is really pumping out blood. He's got a smaller cut in his forehead and his lip is blistered too.

Mr Cru goes off in the ambulance with Robert. The rest of us give statements to the police. Eventually after that birthday girl and Brendan go their separate ways and I head over to the hospital to catch up with Robert who is having his head glued together by a nurse. We take him back to his place and I have to wake his poor mother up to tell her what's happened and that she should keep an eye on him for concussion for a day or so.

Mr Cru and I get home at half seven in the morning. Today his back is very painful but he's ok. We're all a bit shocked and tired.

There's a temptation to draw some sort of conclusion here about lessons learnt or questions left unanswered but it really doesn't come as news to me that there are nasty thugs like this out there. Nor that my partner and friends are the kind of people who will put themselves at risk jumping in to help someone they don't know.

Just shocked and tired.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Trouble With Science: Line-by-Line

Sarah Sands this morning in The Independent on Sunday explains how "Scientists have physics licked, but they can't grasp the divine". Really, do explain. I'm sure one short newspaper column will clear the matter up once and for all. So here it is, line-by-line:

"The revelation that God did not, after all, create the universe went largely unnoticed last week."

No, that wasn't the news. The news was that Stephen Hawking had said he thinks that. Many of us have thought this for years. If anything the news should have been "Stephen Hawkings well behind the curve on atheism"

"I clocked the cover of The Times's science magazine: "The End of the Universe by Stephen Hawking". But the kettle was boiling and I didn't want to be late for work, so I thought, perhaps later."

So why am I reading your opinion on it? Lets hear from someone who thinks the origins of THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE is more important than tea.

"Hawking's book solves the mystery of the universe."

That should help it sell. Is the answer 42? Or is it in fact just a book about his theories on some aspects of the universe?

"In Twitterverse essence, he concludes that the world was created from nothing. So there was no need for a designer. There is no God."

Firstly since when were designers able to build worlds from nothing? Even Ty Pennington isn't that good! Secondly the argument that the universe must have had a designer is poppycock because it begs the question "Who designed the designer - or did they just spring from nothing?" which leads to an infinite list of questions and a headache. And anyway if you ask religious fundamentalists they actually have a whole stack of flimsy piffle arguments - not just the intelligent design one...

"Other newspapers did not altogether ignore this turn of events, but it was eclipsed by the Newer Testament of Tony Blair and by the rights or wrong of sharing a hotel room with your boss."

Right. Newspaper are rubbish. I agree. By the way Sarah - remind me what you do ... aren't you the Deputy Editor of the Evening Standard?

"In some ways "No God" fulfilled the criteria of a news story. It was controversial and there were plenty of experts ready to be quoted. God is a short word, so handy for tabloid headlines."

Actually the real problem with the "No God" story is that it's been around for a very long time. The first atheist is widely considered to be Diagoras of Melos in the 5th century BC. This may come as a shock to you but some journalists, and even editors in fact, do research (look it up...).

"Maybe what stopped it getting the full William Hague treatment was that it was tricky for news editors to establish veracity."

Which is hilarious because the truth about what William Hague and Chris Myers got up to in that hotel room we will never know. But the God question is over, solved, years ago. The answer is "no". Next.

"They may be clear-minded and cocksure as a breed, but even they know when they are out of their depth."

You know, Sarah, that you ARE a news editor. If you're out of your depth on a story that starts "Stephen Hawkings says..." you should consider moving in to window cleaning. Careful with those ladders though, always ask a friend to hold the bottom.

"By contrast, scientists such as Hawking or Richard Dawkins believe that their knowledge is absolute."

No they don't. They're scientists. They evaluate theories, they look at evidence, they are always ready to change their minds if new information comes to light.

"There may be a few known unknowns to tie up with a bit of string theory, but these are quite unlike those laughably unknown unknowns that constitute faith."

Faith is not an "unknown unknown" - it's the deliberate and wilful refusal to examine theories and evidence and the insistence on believing the most impossible things based on no evidence at all.

"Somehow, different races, or cultures, or sensibilities or economic theories may legitimately co-exist, yet atheist scientists refuse any freedom of conscience to people of faith."

On the contrary what atheist scientists reject is the notion that religion should not be subjected to the same scrutiny as other ideas. Scrutiny which it never ever manages to stand up to. Because it's false.

"The scientists are the evangelists now, and everyone must be forcibly converted."

No - an evangelist tells you to believe something without evidence. A scientist asks you to examine the evidence. And to be honest many scientists couldn't care less if you don't want to examine your religious beliefs until you start using them to uphold unfair arcane laws, to discriminate against others and to justify helping yourself to large sums of public money with which to disseminate to others the thrill of randomly believing rubbish without engaging brain.

"As Dawkins said to The Times's religion correspondent: "Either there is a God or there isn't. You really can't use "what feels right for me" as an argument. Why not?"

Well if "it feels right for me" is an argument we should listen to then I have to say that what feels right for me is an all-powerful baby-eating goddess who says it's my right to tazer corporate lawyers, climate change deniers and Deputy Editors of the Evening Standard who you find excruciatingly annoying. Hey hands off my "freedom of conscience" ... oh hang on ... DZZZZZZZ!!!!

"The blazing champion of atheism, Christopher Hitchens, gave a television interview, posted on YouTube, about his steadfast rejection of faith, even in the shadow of savage cancer."

Yes how amazing that he doesn't believe in God even after he gets cancer. Did no-one say to him "How can you fail to believe that a God who loves you deliberately gave you that cancer?". Ooops.

"He is courageous and witty but also compassionate."

He also wrote a horrid article about how women aren't funny and the only ones who are are "bull dykes". That didn't strike me as courageous, compassionate or indeed witty.

"Asked about the people who are praying for him, he does not denounce them in the Dawkins manner. He says that he hopes it helps them."

But isn't Christopher Hitchens one of these dreadful atheists who you claim therefore wants to evangelist about it? How can it be that he's not grabbed anyone by the throat and started shouting about the fossil record? You'll note however he doesn't say he believes prayer will help him. He suggests - sort of - that if it has any effect at all prayer may "work" on the mind of the praying person only - not because God is listening but because it's similar to meditating on a subject. Like mulling something over in your brain while listening to classical music or sitting in a nice quiet garden with a can of cold lager. That doesn't mean if he had a choice between prayers and modern medicine he'd waste too much time deciding which to go for.

"To Hawking and Dawkins, people of faith are cowardly and stupid. They are the flat-earthers."

The idea that the earth is flat is a lot more reasonable than the notion that a magic toga-wearing zombie lives in the sky and watches everything you do especially checking for bad language, signs of jealousy and sexual thoughts. Or maybe you're a scientologist Sarah?

"I wonder if it is possible to be blinded by science. Can you be so transfixed by physical laws that you miss the meaning of them?"

I wonder if it's possible to be so blinded by faith that you unquestioningly assume that physical laws must have meanings? Oh no I don't, thanks for answering that one Sarah.

"I was not so shocked by Hawking's claims that science is God, creator of all things. But I baulked at his dismissal of philosophy. I wish I knew as much as men of science about why we live. But it is hard of Hawking to forbid human understanding of what life means."

"Men of science"? Remind me to flush my degree away later... But to get to Hawking's dismissal of philosophy - that's the whole point. If the universe came into existence from nothing then the only meaning life can have is what we choose to give it - there is nothing to go back and figure out.

"Like many in the Church of England, I have a very diffident faith. I am moved by churches, especially country ones, I love hymns, and I feel that Christianity is part of the ancient fabric of Britain."

I also love history, choral music and great architecture. And I have the privilege of enjoying them without worrying that I might burn for all eternity in hell.

"My strength of belief comes and goes like digital radio reception..."

So even YOU have some doubts about this religion business? Why not allow your self the freedom to question them?

"...but I have experienced the profound peace and beauty of something that feels like truth."

Good for you - cos I've experienced the profound peace and beauty of being able to unravel more and more truth and understanding of the universe and not waste my time dreaming about sky-fairies.

"The final scene in the BBC's brilliant exposition of contemporary faith, Rev, shows the urban vicar, played by Tom Hollander, jolted from his crazed doubts to a quiet seriousness as he beholds the mystery of a dying woman."

Fiction, Sarah, fiction. Bit like your religion.

"Quiet contemplation of divine mystery."

This divine mystery is in your head. And it's only there because you refuse to examine it. Grow up, solve the mystery (clue: the answer's "no") and get on with life. Read a book, spend time with loved ones, y'know, edit a newspaper...

"It is too strong a human impulse, even for the gigantic brain of Hawking."

Firstly you think intelligent people don't have human impulses? Based on what? But more importantly Hawking has considered the idea of God and he's come to the conclusion: NO. If you accept his brain is so much bigger than yours, why not accept his point too?

In Defence Of The Blogosphere

I am not interested in William Hague's sexual orientation. Although I am a bit disgusted that in all the frantic denials of having ever had a gay relationship he has never once stopped to point out that there is nothing shameful about it if he had. Denying that he's been unfaithful to his wife might be important to her. Denying that he's ever had "improper" relations with another man implies there's something "improper" about gay relationships. Which there ain't by the way.

But this made me laugh out loud... Yasmin Alibhai-Brown criticising the blogosphere in general for "breaking" this story. Yes indeed Ms Alibhai-Brown, we in the blogosphere invented the unsanctimonious outing of people in the public eye. The bloggers invented political sex scandals. No really.

So untrue is that that The Independent itself only a few months ago actually published an online photo-gallery of the history of political scandals... and guess what? Some of them pre-date the blogosphere.

The truth is if the press was doing it's job, the bloggers wouldn't be nearly so important, but as long as the papers cut and paste press releases and leave the real news aside, we need the blogs. And if once in a while they believe some false hype or chase a metaphorical wild goose, that's a reasonable side effect. And no-one would have bothered about the story if it hadn't been picked up by the "proper" press, particularly the likes of Alibhai-Brown.

Screw Optimism!

This is such an insightful piece. And fun to watch.