Sunday, May 29, 2011

Smurthwaite vs The World

...which frankly I think is what The Big Questions should be renamed when I'm on it! Anyway I was on it this morning and you can watch it for the next week on iPlayer here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Save Poppy Fundraiser tonight!

If you are London-based then please please please come to this awesome fundraiser tonight!

The event: all-female cabaret show featuring former nationwide "Funny Women" winner Debra-Jane Appelby, cabaret star Bunny Morethan, singer/singwriter Becky Rose, plus character comedy from Susan Harrison as Mina the Horse and Aussie star comedienne Celia Pacquola and hosted by feminist comedienne Kate Smurthwaite. Tickets £15 regular, £12 concessions. At The Comedy Pub, 7 Oxenden Street near Picadilly Circus. Doors 8pm, show 8.30pm. [footnote, venue is 18+ and not wheelchair accessible though we will try to help if we can in any way!]

The cause: The Poppy Project is the only dedicated organisation in the UK helping victims of trafficking for sexual purposes. They just lost ALL their government funding which is instead being given to homophobic, anti-choice, fundamentalist Christian organisation The Salvation Army. It's an almighty mess. We urgently need to sort it out!

How to book: go on to the just giving page and make a donation equivalent to (or more than!) the ticket price you want. Either put your name(s) in the "encouragement" box or send us an email telling us your Just Giving username and what tickets you want (you can email me here: We're doing it this way to avoid paying the 9% fee most ticket-sales websites take. But don't worry you really will be on the guest list!!

There might in theory be a few tickets left on the door but please book now if you want to come to make sure you get a ticket and so we know you're coming!

Not paranoid enough about your body?

Angela Epstein* can help. Apparently Cheryl Cole has fat ankles. Yes grab your sick bag (you may also need a magnifying glass to actually spot the "problem"), it's going to get gross. It's going to get gross line-by-line:

"Cheryl Cole and I have never had a great deal in common."

Good point - one of you is a brain-dead vacuous pool of seething hatred towards their fellow humans and the other is Cheryl Cole.

"The X Factor judge is a global superstar with the kind of looks that can bring traffic to a standstill."

Lets not talk about the effect she has on toilet attendants eh?

"I’m a mother of three from Manchester who rarely attracts an admiring glance."

Especially not for your journalism.

"She earns millions of pounds a year; I earn peanuts. You get the picture."

Really? Why debase yourself writing this drivel if you're not well paid for it?

"But after seeing recent pictures of the Geordie singer in the U.S., I realised we share something: cankles."

If only the Daily Fail's website would allow the word to be printed up in tombstone-style lettering?

"The lovely Cheryl may have looked like the perfect pop princess in a perky little dress and sky-scraper heels, but there was no mistaking the unwanted accessory pooling round her feet."

Prepare to vomit. Ready?

Unless a "cankle" is a large amount of someone else's hair glued in to your own to help you make shampoo commercials I really cannot identify the problem here.

"In fact, when I saw the former Girls Aloud singer, I gasped aloud in sympathy."

Think back to ten seconds ago, when you looked at the picture? Did you gasp? No, me either.

"Forget her previous woes (being cuckolded by a philandering former husband or flattened by a dose of malaria), this was worse — much worse."

I'll take the cankles myself, you can keep the malaria, and Ashley Cole.

"And as a cankles sufferer, I should know."

Really to make a fair comparison you have to have also had malaria and been cheated on by a top level footballer.

"Cankles, for the uninitiated (oh lucky, lucky you!), occur when the calf meets the foot in one unapologetic union. It’s a fusion of calf and ankle."

If your calf is not fused to your ankle - seek medical help urgently.

"No elegantly turned, twiglet-thin ankle contours for Cheryl or me. Just one sausage-shaped lump of fat splodged at the bottom of your leg."

There's nothing wrong with Cheryl's legs, really. But even if she had this debilitating deformation, is it really her fault? Should she be pilloried for it?

"Think Hillary Clinton, Cherie Blair, Patsy Kensit and Mischa Barton."

I'm getting: politician, human rights lawyer (actually called Cherie Booth), actress and who the hell is the other one?

"Even the saintly Helen Mirren — who manages to looks stunning in a bikini even though she’s eligible for a bus pass — can’t escape the curse of the cankle."

Is it saintly to look good in a bikini? When did helping the poor and needy go out?

"And my heart just bleeds for her because, unlike any other physical defect — jowls, ugly teeth, a wonky nose, enormous breasts —there’s little you can do about cankles."

Now go outside and ask the first straight guy you see whether enormous breasts are a physical defect? Frankly I tend to find when a gal gets her enormous breasts out everyone stops looking at her wonky nose.

"There is no ointment that can shrink your bones — nor can improving your diet or pounding the gym treadmill really help shrink your ankles in the way they can banish a tummy bulge."

Amputation? Or here's a radical solution, stop worrying about your ankles and focus on world peace.

"As a size ten, I can tell you from painful personal experience that cankles bear little relation to your weight or fitness."

Painful? Really I feel sorry for anyone who pushed themselves to the point of pain because they believed there was something wrong with their size ten ankles.

"After all, Cheryl’s slight frame would suggest she’d be the last person on the planet to exhibit the kind of lower legs usually found on a swollen matriarch down the local bingo hall."

Eww - a "matriarch" - literally a female head of a family - they're the gross ones right?

"In fact — and I try not to seethe with the unfairness of this — I once worked with someone who was as round and bouncy as a TV agony aunt (she even kept a scrunched-up hankie in her hand to complete the look), but come summer, she’d unpeel woolly tights to reveal the daintiest little ankles I’d ever seen."

So she was jealous of you being a size ten and you were jealous of her thin ankles. How the long winter nights must have flown by!

"It didn’t matter how many times a day I’d catch her face-down in a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. The ankles never put on a pound."

I consider smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels a healthy lunch option. But perhaps you could tell your friend to try lifting it to her mouth, biting and chewing. It's quite hard to graze a stuffed bagel.

"No, the only option for the Cankle Crew is to try to hide the damned things."

Or the stop-worrying-and-be-proud-of-the-important-things-that-make-you-great option. Especially if, like Cheryl's, it's a figment of your imagination.

"That is why I’ve spent my life constructing a wardrobe that means my shapeless ankles are out of sight: think thick black tights, loose-fitting trousers and no short, flirty skirts."

Spent a lifetime? Oh well you probably wouldn't have come up with a cure for cancer anyway.

"I dread the summer because that’s the time cankles are almost impossible to conceal — I thank God every sunny day for the maxi-dress: the ultimate in cankle camouflage."

By the way if you're going to play that game - God also gave you the cankles. Or you just evolved that way - though "evolved" seems a little kind for someone who writes rubbish like this.

"Selecting the right footwear is as critical as your clothes. Forget gladiator sandals or dainty ballet pumps. Flat shoes only serve to accentuate fat ankles."

They also serve to make it a heck of a lot easier to get around without developing a massive painful bunion.

"Instead, I live in long, slim-fitting, high-heeled boots — the column of black providing a cankle-disguising optical illusion. I keep these on even when the thermometer nudges 70 degrees."

That must be fun for you. I wear jelly shoes and flip flops and though no doubt this makes my ankles look disgusting at least my face isn't wrinkled up in agony.

"When I do buy high heels, I always select ones with an ankle strap or one across the foot to distract from the flesh beneath."

Why buy high heels when you "live" in boots? Unless, could it be? Is it possible? The Daily Mail has printed a LIE?!!

"I have a favoured pair of black stilettos with heels like a giraffe’s neck and a strap that garottes the skin and leaves a pink welt."

Why not accessorise the pink welt with a matching clutch bag? Perhaps one filled with some sort of medicine that helps you make more rational decisions.

"At times my feet go blue though lack of circulation. But what choice do I have?"

Trainers? Crocs?

"It’s the nearest I can get to ankle corsetry, squeezing the damned things into a shape that Nature denied them."

Really - there are people out there with spina bifida and you're complaining Nature gave you fat ankles?

"Any other tips? Well, I’m told that toning the calves may help — perhaps going on long walks or cycling to shift those fat deposits around the lower leg.And go easy on the salt. Too much sodium can make certain parts of your body bulge, especially your ankles."

But only a few lines ago NOTHING could be done. Now I can switch to a low-sodium diet and go cycling?

"Sitting around for hours (me in front of a computer; Cheryl in front of the next Mariah Carey) can cause blood to pool round the feet and enhance the swelling."

I balance my desk time out by also spending time with my feet over my head, doing yoga or having headboard damaging sex...

"So it’s important to get up every 20 minutes or so to stretch your legs."

But remember NOTHING will work. How can I get up every 20 minutes when MY LIFE IS RUINED?

"If the only thing for it is the plastic surgeon’s knife, some clinics offer laser-assisted liposuction of the lower leg."

Yet another thing I CAN DO? It's like this whole article is just lies!

"An incision is made in the skin and light from the laser is absorbed by fat cells, liquefying them so they can be flushed out by the body."

Sadly surgery can only remove actual problems (tumours, diseased organs), not imaginary ones. Also you might get an infection or take too much anaesthetic and die. Obviously that would be better than having imaginary fat ankles.

"For the more squeamish, the internet is crammed with magic creams and potions promising to fight cankle fat."

OK so I checked - I googled "magic creams and potions for cankle fat". The first result is Ms Epstein's article. Above that it says "did you mean magic creams and potions for ankle fat?". Neither search offers any specific product for ankles and most links are discussing how there is no magic cream that can get rid of fat.

"Do any of these treatments work? I doubt it. As far as I can tell, our hideous little problem is incurable and one we will take to our graves."

"Incurable"? That would imply it's an illness wouldn't it? And look back at the picture of Cheryl and try to decide her ankles are "hideous". What a load of rubbish.

"So my best advice, Cheryl, pet, is simply to take heart from the fact that very few women have it all. If cankles are all you’ve got to worry about, consider yourself blessed."

As you mentioned earlier Angela - she also has malaria and a husband that sleeps around.

"But take it from me: a short skirt, bare legs and heels? I’m afraid it’s not your most flattering look, any more than it’s mine."

Remember women - you should only ever go around in YOUR MOST FLATTERING LOOK. Never the thing you want to wear, the thing that you feel good in, the thing that's comfortable and practical or (like me) the thing that passes the sniff test in the morning! And let me conclude by saying Angela that even from here you DEFINITELY do not pass the sniff test. If they pay you peanuts - it's too much. Stop writing pointless nasty articles and shopping for maxi-dresses and do something useful with your life!

*Angela and I did the Jeremy Vine show together once before, I forget what it was about but I do remember congratulating her on her sense of irony after she told me women like me were setting the cause of women's equality back decades. Ha ha ha.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In defence of Tracey Emin

There is an article in the Evening Standard today (well yesterday now) by art critic Brian Sewell slating Tracey Emin's new retrospective. I haven't read such a great big pile of sexist nonsense in a long time. You can read it here but be sure to bandage your hands up first because you will want to hit something. I've written to them as follows:

I'm wondering whether to save column inches in future Brian Sewells comments on Tracey Emin could be replaced with the words "I'M A GREAT BIG MISOGYNIST"?

Nobody has to like Tracey Emin, her very open and very populist style of art will always attract it's critics. Sewell sets the scene early on however when he accuses her of "playing the drunken slut" apparently unaware that any woman who dares drink in public or admit to a sexual past is at risk of labelling in that insulting gendered way. For the record - it's ok for women to drink alcohol and have sex. Men do it all the time.

Apparently Sewell feels alienated by Emin's frank discussion of the abuse she suffered as a child and issues which have affected her personally like abortion and menopause. For comparison he says "I do not feel excluded from the distress of Madame Bovary or Madame Butterfly", failing to mention that both of those characters were created by men. The female characters in them are defined wholly, rather boringly, by the relationships they have with the men around them. Speaking as a woman I can say I never identified much with either of them.

He further claims that Gilbert and George beat Ms Emin to the mark in using the word "cunt" prominently in art, forgetting that neither Gilbert nor George has a cunt. Does the word "n****r" mean the same thing whether a black or a white person uses it? No, of course not. And so Emin's use of "cunt" has a significance quite different from Gilbert and George's work.

In arguing that being open about her female experience Emin is alienating her male audience seems to forget that the history of art for hundreds of years has been the history of art created by men and consumed by men. Women have at best been allowed to sit still, silent and naked while it is produced. We should be delighted that that era appears at last to be reaching it's end. If one percent of the art world is now by women and for women, the word for that is "progress".

And anyway she doesn't - Emin's work invites men and women to examine modern womanhood close up. A third of British women have had abortions and at least one in twenty been raped. Menopause affects us all. If Sewell isn't prepared to face up to that and discuss maturely the way that Emin and others discuss these realities through art, I can only suggest replacing him with an art critic who isn't a cunt.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Twenty Minutes with Nadine Dorries

I discover to my delight that the argument I had about abstinence only sex education with Nadine Dorries on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio Two is available as a special extract/highlight. I must warn you if you have an expensive computer monitor though, definitely don't take a big mouthful of coffee just as Ms Dorries is about to speak! Listen to it all here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rod Liddle and rape

Had a chat with one Rod Liddle this morning on BBC Ulster about rape and (joy of joy) it IS available on listen again here. Starting 1h 16m in.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Godparents and other animals

I don't always get round to blogging my radio appearances (sorry!) but I did a little spot on BBC 5 Live Breakfast show today about godparents. You can "listen again" here for the next seven days. My contribution starts just after 1h 55 mins into the show.