Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rick Pickings

Winterval is a great time for watching a lot of TV. Mr Cru and I have had a relatively quiet one but it did give me the chance to see a few films. The usual soppy festive nonsense in most cases - I don't want to spoil the ending but Santa does get all the presents to all the good little boys and girls just in time after all. And some good stuff like Atom Egoyan's moving The Sweet Hereafter. But of course there was also some rubbish. Step forward Rick.

Rick is the story of a nasty man who gets his just desserts. So far so good. What he does wrong is be rude and unpleasant to people. His just desserts are - well taxis won't stop for him (bad) and his daughter gets raped and murdered (very bad). But it just left me wondering about whether the daughter got her "just desserts". I mean early on in the film she does log on to a saucy web chat-room, oh and she wears a low-cut dress, she also drinks alcohol. But then she gets RAPED AND MURDERED. So there's a nice moral message for us all at Christmas: Don't act at all sexual if you don't want to be murdered... (And yes I know it's based on Rigoletto, but it's heavily interpreted and just because it was acceptable then - which it wasn't in a lot of cases - doesn't make it acceptable now).

Another one for my list of the worst films of all time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Miss Chastity

I am not exactly a fan of the Miss World competition (surprise!) but surely if it's not to be banned for objectification of women, it should instead be banned for gross hypocrisy. The event which features women from around the world being judged on the basis of their appearances in off-the-shoulder dresses and the notorious swimsuit round has now told Miss France to step down because she's been pictured in a magazine eating yogurt in a seductive fashion. Seems that the competition is for the most beautiful naive virgin on the face of the planet. How pathetic.

On a related note, I had coffee today with a friend who lives and works in the middle east and we were talking about the state of women's rights out there - obviously not good. One point he made which I thought was very interesting was how women's rights are affected by the insistence that they receive no sex education before they are married. Men meanwhile are taught by male relatives and often bought prostitutes as coming-of-age presents (mmm, how to foster a positive attitude to women in your children part six...). As a result women when they get married often don't know the mechanics of sex and what they should or shouldn't expect. This of course leaves them hopelessly open to abuse.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Women and Unicycles

I'd be angry if I wasn't laughing so hard at this pathetic BBC article. It claims that an "expert" - Sam Shuster (should that be shit-ster?) from (wait for it) the University of Norfolk reckons men are funnier than women because "humour comes from testosterone". Well so far already I'm smelling a bit of a rat because the whole issue of what is and isn't funny is very personal. Some people might like a testosterone-charged angry act. Others would rather watch the Mighty Boosh or Jimmy Carr - hardly likely to be taking Ricky Hatton on in the ring any time soon.

But now lets talk about his research method. Apparently he went round the country on a unicycle and noticed that men made more jeering comments at him. That doesn't sound to me like a good test of who has a sense of humour. It might be a good test of who has had too much to drink today already or who has the least self-respect, but I hardly think jeering a unicycle is the indicator of a superior sense of humour. His other claim is that there are more male comedians. True enough but there are more male plumbers too and that doesn't necessarily mean testosterone makes you more interested in human excrement.

And of course this idiot has been funded by money from us the taxpayers to do this "research". Now I'm all in favour of funding education and research. I think we should encourage scientists. However I would really rather my personal taxes were spent on those scientists curing cancer and AIDS and figuring out how to slow down global warming, not unicycling round the country seeing how many jeers he gets. I mean was there seriously a conversation with Shuster in a careers office somewhere along the lines of "Well Sam, the bad news is the circus won't take you - they've got too many unicyclists, they're only hiring tightrope walkers at the moment. But the good news is the University of Norfolk are interested..."

Even more pathetic the BBC, also funded by my money, through the license fees then goes and prints the story, as though it were a piece of important conclusive research. Which is how the headline-only reading public may well take it, especially those who already wanted an excuse to think that anyway...

I was on BBC Leeds earlier talking about this though and we did talk about some of the great comediennes - Jo Brand and Victoria Wood. Then when asked to name the best up-and-coming comediennes one of the other panellists said Sarah Millican (pictured) and ... me!

This Is Awful

Jamie Lee Jones testifying to the US House Judiciary Committee about being raped by her co-workers at Halliburton/KBR. Highlights two things - firstly that hiring corporate "defence contractors" to work in war zones is a bad idea. Corporate activity is supposed to be limited by laws which apply in the areas where they operate. There are no laws in war zones. Secondly - as we've been saying for a long time - rape is an act of aggressive violence, it has nothing to do with sexual desire. Jones was left needing reconstructive surgery on her breasts - that's not the act of someone feeling sexually aroused - it's the act of someone feeling violent hatred. Sickening.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Contractual Obligations

Well we all know I am no fan of supposedly pro-women site Jezebel. However there are some stories even they and I agree on. One of which is that this is an outrage. Turns out the "defence contractors", i.e. private security firms like Blackwater, and the one in this case, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, out fighting in Iraq, have such dubious legal status that their employees can get away with rape.

There's an issue generally with these contractors. An article in today's (yesterday's since it's past midnight now) Independent - sadly in the pull-out bit so no link - about the way that warfare has changed. Once upon a time we lined up in neat rows and popped off shots at each other. Of course it was still brutal but we knew for the most part what was going on, and who was at risk. Nowadays it's all much more of a big gray area. We can't tell who's an "enemy combatant" and who's a civilian. And that's not just because Al Qaeda (or whoever we're told it is we're fighting in Iraq, I keep forgetting what bullshit I'm supposed to fall for this month) don't wear uniforms and carry name-tags, it's also because we've got all these different groups of people out there involved with military operations but not actually under the direct command of the military. Which makes it a lot harder to tell an aid worker from someone who might kill you. Blackwater recently killed 17 civilians. No-one is quite sure how to deal with it.

And in the midst of all the confusion of course we get rape. To go with the murder.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This Year In Sex

Alternet has published a list of their top sex-related stories of the year. Here's my take on them:

"Top 10 Sex and Relationships Stories of 2007

10. Is Open Marriage the Modern Couple's Answer to Infidelity?
By Joslyn Matthews, Sirens Magazine
Why does open marriage work for some married couples and destroy others? The answer could be that for it to work, you need to be in an extremely healthy relationship."

Do modern couples need an answer to infidelity? I know plenty of successfully monogamous couples. I think the answer to modern couple's infidelity is honesty - discussing what you want, what you feel relationship would benefit from. Do whatever you like, but do it honestly.

"9. Don't Look Gay: Why American Men Are Afraid of Intimacy With Each Other
By John Ibson, American Sexuality Magazine
Why do adolescent boys often leave empty seats between each other when they go to the movies? It's a product of the culture of male homophobia in America which pushes men to avoid intimacy and gay stereotypes."

Certainly true that in the UK too there is a real phobia for a lot of men about looking or acting "gay" or "girly". It's homophobia, misogyny and it's very much encouraged by the media and big companies who can use it to sell stuff.

"8. Why Men Should Be Included in Abortion Discussion
By Courtney E. Martin, AlterNet
Locking men out of conversations about abortion often comes at a great expense."

Men are involved in abortion discussions - when they have a good relationship with the woman in question. If they don't - why would you discuss what happens to your own body with someone who is hostile to you? We're not stupid.

"7. Is Monogomy Natural?
By Anneli Rufus, AlterNet
A lifetime of love versus a quick roll with a stranger. It's funny how we can have two seemingly opposite urges at the same time."

No it's not. It's clearly "natural" to have both a desire for a lasting relationship and an urge to have a lot of sex. More importantly however - does it matter if monogamy is "natural"? It's "natural" to cr*p in a ditch but I for one choose not to live with men who do so. Human are supposed to be civilised, so we can choose for ourselves how we behave and what we do, we are not slaves to our own "natural" urges.

"6. The Deeper Meaning in the Republican Sex Scandals
By Susie Bright,
Another two gay-bashing, Klan-loving, pulpit-slurping Republicans have disgraced themselves. But there is much more we can learn from the improprieties of David Vitter and Bob Allen."

I think it's pretty obvious that the people shouting the loudest about the un-godliness of homosexual sex are the ones finding it hardest to repress that urge within themselves.

"5. Can Women Separate Love and Sex?
By Jennifer Armstrong, Sirens Magazine
Sex, like eating, is a biological drive, and you will lose your mind if you repress it for too long. But some women stave off the need much longer than others."

Of course many women have sex without falling in love. I know I have, I know I am not the only one. I also don't think you'll lose your mind if you don't have sex. Nor do I think sex is like eating - you'll die if you don't eat, if you don't have sex you'll just have to take up another hobby to fill the extra time. If the biological drive gets too much for you - I recommend masturbating.

(Note: within a week someone will have found this page by googling the phrase "I recommend masturbating"!)

"4. The Sexual Self-Interest of the Cuckolded Wife
By Susie Bright,
How does Suzanne Craig, wife of the outed senator, stand next to her liar of a husband at a press conference and not hurl her guts?"

More generally why do women put up with men who mis-treat them? Well they figure on whatever misguided logic that the investment of time and effort they've put into the relationship is worth something and they don't want to throw it away rashly before they've looked at the options. Or they were only in the relationship for career reasons/money/etc to start with. Or they believe God wants them to "stand by their man". Or they've been taught by society that it is a woman's responsibility to make relationships work so they're blaming themselves and trying to make things right.

"3. Do Women Enjoy Chocolate More Than Sex?
By Danielle Egan, The Tyee
Author Joan Sewell says so in her new autobiography where she embraces her low libido. The media have hailed her book as "brilliant," but scientific literature disagrees with her theory."

Depends who makes the chocolate and who's having the sex. Mr Cru vs a couple of Quality Street - I'll take the former, some unattractive slimeball vs a nice big chunk of Lindt and Sprungli - I'll be switching to the latter. As for low libidos, I think the media these days does have a very "sex is all that matters" attitude so if you've a low libido and you're happy that way, good for you. Of course it could be a symptom of some other problem - physical or mental - so best to check, but if not then it's up to you whether you want to see it as a problem. The real issue is that while low libido for women is often not seen as a problem - a man who doesn't want much sex is swiftly dosed up with viagra. There's a real sense that for men libido is closely related to identity. And that's messed up.

"2. Is Pornography Really Harmful?
By Michael Bader and Vivian Dent, AlterNet
In response to Robert Jensen's controversial book, Getting Off, two clinical psychologists debate the intersection of violence and sexual fantasy."

Yes pornography really is harmful. Thousands of reports, all over the world, yes it's hamful. Why are we still having this debate?

"1. Pornography and the End of Masculinity
By Don Hazen, AlterNet
Mainstream porn has come up with more ways than ever to humiliate and degrade women. Why, then, is porn more popular? Includes an excerpt from Robert Jensen's new book, Getting Off."

Porn is more popular than ever because it comes up with ever more ways to humiliate and degrade women. That's what it's readers want. And that's why it's harmful.

Young and Responsible

There is a new documentary coming up about young carers - children who look after their own parents and households as well as trying to keep up with their school work. The documentary, or at least what I can see from the trailer is about how these kids manage it. The bigger question for me is why we're allowing this to happen in our society. In the trailer there is a brief moment when Melissa - 12 and a carer for her mother who has serious mental health problems and serious mobility problems - says "we tried to get help from social services but they wouldn't do anything".

Why not? What is the point of social services if they don't intervene in cases like this? Basically they've worked out that young children don't know any better and won't make a fuss if they're told that they have to do all the work, so they don't do anything because they can get away with not doing anything. I suspect, I should add, that the actual people who work at SS are run of their feet, but the issue is they don't have enough staff and resources.

This is another thing which could be picked up in my annual questionnaire in schools.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ask The Experts

Well this is exactly why expert witnesses are needed in rape cases. Grinning orange twat Micheal Flatley has been accused of rape. His defence is built around the notion that the woman had a "relaxed and happy" breakfast with him the morning after the alleged incident. Any half decent expert - someone with experience at a crisis helpline or rape crisis medical centre - would tell you that it's very common for rape victims to act "normal" immediately after the incident.

There are two reasons why this would happen. Firstly the victim having been aggressively raped may fear further physical attack, or other repercussions - losing their job, being blackmailed or discredited by malicious rumours if they allow their rapist to know that they intend to report the crime. They may also blame themself for the rape, it's not just men in our society who can believe that women bear some responsibility for their own rape, so they may be ashamed and not want people to know about the incident. Secondly, the victim may be in denial. Having willingly gone out with, home with and trusted someone who turns out to be a rapist, they try to convince themselves that the incident didn't happen and reassure themselves that they were right to have trusted the guy and that they do have a good relationship.

Having stayed for breakfast is no defense against rape. I'm pretty appalled the BBC would report it as though it were. Maybe we need rape experts not just in courts but also in journalists offices.

He was cleared of the charges and has now won a case awarding him $11m in damages from his accuser. Surely since no-one was in the room with the pair at the time of the alleged incident, while we cannot say with 100% certainty that he did rape her, we also cannot say with 100% certainty that he didn't. I can understand a decision saying there's not enough evidence to convict him, I can't see how she can be prosecuted for bringing the case. And what message does this send to other rape victims wondering whether or not to bring a case against their attacker?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Makes Me Want To Nuke!

Several months ago I signed a foolishly optimistic online petition to the government that somebody forwarded to me which proposed the following:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Re-channel money from a trident replacement and unnecessary wars to health, education, housing and peace projects.
... we are wasting our money at a time when we need peace in the world - think what a society we could have if we spent less on wasteful war."

Pretty straightforward stuff. Today Gordon Brown paid lip service to the whole idea of collaborative government with the response linked here.

No doubt in the interests of on-going collaboration Mr Brown will be delighted to read my response to his response...

"the Government remain committed to working towards a safer world"

Right, which bit of making the world a safer place was the whole killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis planned under?

" which there is no requirement for nuclear weapons."

Clearly our current modern world has no need for nuclear weapons. Otherwise how exactly do you explain the run away success of Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, ... and the Solomon Islands? Countries without weapons clearly don't get attacked by those with. Otherwise there'd just be us nine left (US, UK, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel).

"However, proliferation risks remain, and while the size and readiness of global nuclear capabilities has reduced markedly since the end of the Cold War, large nuclear arsenals remain and are being modernised."

Who is going to attack us? The US, Russia, China and France seem unlikely and are all on the non-proliferation treaty anyway. India and Pakistan are only a threat to each other (unless we decide to "help" that is). North Korea is, well, right next to South Korea and Israel is totally surrounded by Muslim countries, I don't think either of those guys would give us a look in. A report out in the US this week says Iran hasn't been building working on a nuclear program for years now. The evidence from the "terror" attacks in the UK so far is that an incendiary device and a parking permit are beyond their capability, I don't think nuclear is the next step.

"The Government have carefully considered the threat and concluded that the risk of the re-emergence of a strategic threat, emerging nuclear states and state sponsored terrorism is such that despite our best efforts, the conditions have not yet been met to enable to UK to give up its nuclear deterrent."

The issue here of course is the use of the term "deterrent". Its not a deterrent - it's a threat. The implication is that an individual willing to push a button and kill millions of people in another country would be put off by the risk that someone might come back and hurt a few million peasants in his own country. The guys with their fingers on the nuclear buttons around the world all have access to high quality nuclear bunkers. It's the rest of us who don't. As Marcus Brigstocke said around the time I signed the original petition "There's no such thing as one-all in a nuclear war.". In fact given what we now know about the fragile state of the planet, the chances are that even one unreciprocated nuclear explosion could be enough to tip the planet over the edge into uninhabitability.

"Costs for the renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrence are similar to other major defence equipment and are less than 0.1% of GDP or around 5-6% of the defence budget."

Sure but the defence budget, what's that been doing lately? Oh that's it - rising sharply. Look at this quote from the MoD's own site "the Defence budget is set to increase from £29.7Bn in 2004/05 to £33.4Bn in 2007/08. In real terms (i.e. after inflation) it represents average annual growth of 1.4%. It will amount to longest period of sustained real terms growth in planned Defence spending."

"As only nuclear weapons can provide a deterrence against nuclear threats..."

Right, but we have nuclear weapons and Iraq doesn't, we're at war with them. So there's no deterrence, but we're still not using them. So something else works.

"...the Government has decided that this investment in the defense of its citizens is worth paying."

The government then, is very wrong. The public don't want Trident replaced.

"Since coming to power, this Government has already increased the investment in our schools, hospitals and overseas aid."

Now firstly Labour have been in power so long that the cost of everything has increased dramatically since they came to power. Secondly, when they talk about increasing investment in our schools and hospitals of course they forget to mention that some of the extra income has arrived in return for handing over ownership of those services. That's why we now have state-funded creationist schools, playing fields being sold off and hospital closures every other week. Overseas aid has only really increased due to overwhelming public pressure and even then Labour has yet to follow through on some of it's generous-sounding pledges. Finally funding may have increased, but are the services offered getting any better? Clearly not. Our schools and universities are sliding behind those of other nations, our children live the worst lives in Europe, women in labour are being turned away from hospitals, cancer drugs are being refused to the dying, waiting lists are now the norm, dentists are rarer than intelligent remarks from David Beckham and the third world is in the middle of a massive AIDS epidemic. If that's the effects of an increase in investment then the word "mismanagement" springs very quickly to mind.

Swiftly followed by the words "Needless nuclear proliferation"

Any further comment Mr Brown?

The Shoddy Shop

Stopped in to the Body Shop on my way today. Used to be you could rely on that place to be making an effort to do the right thing. Today I discovered:

1. Prices have gone up massively. Used to be reasonable, now £11 for a lipstick.

2. They don't really do recycling any more. You used to be able to bring containers in for a refill, which saved some money, but they don't do that any more. They weren't even sure if they could recycle bottles if I brought them in.

3. Almost every purchase comes with a free gift - a bag containing at least four small items, loads of packaging for very little impact. Would be much better to give away a single bottle of something as a gift (or keep prices lower and drop the freebees).

4. Tons of pressure on customers to hand over personal data. Savings and more free gifts if you give your name, address, phone, number, DoB, email, etc.

5. Pushy shop staff. I was asked six times in ten minutes if I wanted any help. Even when I said "no thanks", they persisted. "Just checking out the scents?", "Just looking for Christmas presents?", they'd get on very well with my Granny actually (sorry Gran).

6. Poorly informed staff. One member of their team told me "If you get a second home fragrance you'll get a free gift". I didn't buy any home fragrance but I still got a free gift. And when I asked at the till if there was another gift with home fragrances I was told "no".

7. Not enough till staff. Four empty tills versus one staffed till - this is supposed to be Christmas holiday season! So six members of staff wandering about annoying customers and no-one to serve them once they've been harassed into buying whatever they didn't really want. And given that each customer reaching the tills has to be given a free gift, told if they're missing out on a free gift and offered a Love Your Body loyalty card which is then filled in at the till, this meant a line had formed more than ten customers long.

Ho hum, I guess corporate overpriced goods and bad service is reaching places previously thought to be out of bounds.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

An Open Invitation

Mr Cru and I will both be celebrating our birthdays this coming Saturday 8th Dec from 8pm at the newly refurbished Princess Louise pub on High Holborn. Everyone is welcome whether we've met you before or not, and you're all welcome to bring friends too. Some of us might go to the OBJECT meeting beforehand which finishes at 6pm so just time to grab stomach-lining food (sushi!) and get to the pub.

How Frightening Is This?

A big bunch of old weird-looking white guys in too much make-up trying to sound likable while telling millions of women that they believe their bodies are not their own property... Puke.

Them and Us

An Amnesty Intl report says that laws forbidding rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse are not enforced in Uganda. Women apparently often don't report these crimes because they know nothing will be done. "The vast majority of cases of violence against women are not reported to the police because most victims have lost hope in getting any kind of justice." the report claims and "Amnesty International researchers ... spoke to scores of women, girls and their families about the discrimination they suffered while trying to access justice, and the culture of impunity around cases of rape, domestic violence, assault and other forms of violence against women."

So a bit like Britain then. And people say feminism's not needed any more...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

You Decide!

Meet Lusty Linda... But is it hilarious comedy or is it outrageous misogyny? You decide! Oh and if you decide it's hilarious comedy, go back and decide again because you were wrong.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Well last Saturday night was a lot of fun. I joined the Reclaim The Night march in central London. Something like 2,000 women marched to protest violence against women in all it's forms. I managed to meet up on the way round with Jess McCabe and Catherine Redfern from The F-Word and Cate Sevilla from Dollymix who had brought Sophie - her talking vagina (it's a puppet before you all write in asking for tour dates). And I met Julie Bindel, of whose journalism I (usually) approve. Many photos taken but still not seen them other than the one here of myself and Catherine Redfern.

One of the most interesting people I spoke to all night was [well I won't name her cos it's a bit politically sensitive but she works for an organisation which deals with women in the immigration system who are victims of trafficking or of domestic or sexual violence]. Of course the big issue is how few places they have available versus how many people are in need of their help. And the big issue with solving that is the difficulty of getting media attention to the good work their doing. She said most journalists aren't interested in these women's stories unless the women are virgins abducted from their loving family homes. Women in more complicated situations - such as those who've agreed to take a well paid lap-dancing job and then been forced into poorly paid prostitution, those who suffered abuse from their families or ran away from home, those who have children or those who haven't followed asylum-seeking protocol exactly correctly - are not considered media-friendly. So I was pleased to see this story in the Guardian about a woman seeking asylum in the UK and the horrific treatment meted out to her by a country that then sees fit to go marching into Afghanistan and Iraq claiming to be defending human rights.

Anyhow so hello to all the cool people I met and hung out with on the way round. Apparently it was the biggest ever EVER this year. London Feminist Network (who organise it) has a social on 12th Dec and the next demo is A Million Women Rise on 8th Mar, so feel free to add to your diaries if interested.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Silent Voices

The debate on this one seems to be raging on over here. The issue is should the queen be inviting people round for tea who run countries where the law indicates 200 lashes for a woman who gets into a car with an unrelated male? Now I think we all know the answer to that. What the case has highlighted though is the views of Muslim groups in this country. This is a perfect opportunity for them to express their revulsion at this sort of behaviour. Muslim Council of Great Britain? No comment. Yet if Muslim groups spoke out against our sucking up to oppressive regimes it would REALLY embarrass the government, much more so than if me, a couple of other liberal bloggers and Mark Steel are left screaming in the dark.

Also thanks to the Britblog Round-Up for featuring another Cru-blog post in their reading list this week. And Muslimah Media Watch who featured my piece on Islam's sense of humour.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tony Blair - What A Nutter!

Tony Blair wasn't famous for his brutal honesty and quelle surprise - he's now owning up to what he didn't tell us when he was in power. Apparently (and I think we had mostly guessed) he's deeply religious, but had feared that if he publically announced his beliefs, people would think he was a "nutter".

Well sorry but I think the great British public is entitled to know what our politicians stand for and entitled to make up their own minds on what that says about them. And if the consensus view of the public is that there isn't a big guy in white robes who's sat up there on a cloud making careful notes every time we swear or go to work on a Sunday ready to burn us for eternity if we don't say sorry afterwards, then good for them. And if the consensus view of the public is that they'd rather have someone in charge who doesn't subscribe to that sort of nonsense either, then even better.

Now of course the church has been asked to contribute to the debate and said "It would have led to more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad" which is atrocious bandwagon-jumping. If he'd listened to his religion we wouldn't have gone to war or screwed the country over. Really?

What sort of example does the Bible set for going to war? Well the Bible's full of war, every five minutes God smites another nation down or sends a bunch of plagues or tells people they're the chosen people and they have the right to go killing everyone else.

And what sort of social policy at home was the church looking to advocate? Women forced to stay in the home, gay people excluded from society and abortionists burnt at the stake?

I don't want a religiously-motivated defense (read "attack") and social welfare policy.

And as it would appear - nor does the rest of the country!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not Legal Enough

Abortion has been legal in the UK for 40 years now. It's still a big taboo subject though and it's clear that a large number of women believe if they ask for an abortion their privacy won't be respected and they may be charged a small fortune for the service. As a result we still have an unsafe and illegal backstreet abortion market in this country. This is not a happy state of affairs.

We need to enshrine the following in law:

1) If women get pregnant, they can get an abortion.
2) That abortion will be free, regardless of whether they are seeking asylum or are illegal immigrants to the UK, and any follow-up treatment will also be free.
3) All information about them and their consultation will be kept confidential from everyone - including their families and their community leaders.
4) That free impartial counseling is available to them before and after they make their decision.
5) All school girls are taught what their rights are as a part of comprehensive compulsory sex education, whether that be in a state school, a faith school, a private school or at home.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nanny State

Rather frightening story from the BBC about a woman who got pregnant and decided - not as many in her situation quite understandably would, to abort - but to have the child and put it straight up for adoption. Now the local authorities have asked a court to over-rule the woman's own wishes and seek out the woman's parents and the man who got her pregnant and see if they want to keep the child. The court have quite rightly said no.

Now firstly when was it ever permissible to go over a 20-year-old woman's head and talk to her parents without her permission? Never. She's a responsible adult and she's entitled to make her own decisions.

Secondly if the father of this child had been around at all in the last nine months he would probably have known the woman in question was pregnant. There are tell-tale signs like having a big bulging lump on the front of her body. So my initial suspicion is that he may not be the most responsible type. But of course we don't know if the woman was in fact avoiding him, and if she was why she was avoiding him.*

The question is - were the local authorities intending to suggest he raise the child himself as a lone parent or did they want him to help them load pressure on the mother to raise it herself? There are lone fathers in the UK and I'm all in favour of encouraging men to feel that they can take on the job of parenting either alone or as the main carer in a larger family. If the guy were suitable and willing to take on such a role though, wouldn't the mother have noticed?

Instead we are looking at a local authority too lazy to go out and find a suitable adoptive family for a needy child, instead loading pressure on a woman trying to do the right thing to keep a child she doesn't feel able to raise.

*And in a country with a 5% conviction rate for rape, we actually cannot assume he didn't rape her, in which case he definitely has no right to see the child.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Sad Day For English History

Last night as the England football team made their early departure for contention for the European Cup next year Alan Hanson said "This is a sad day for English history". Well I like watching football so I was sorry to see the team go out but I hardly think it registers on the scale of historical events. I mean when I'm 103 am I going to be sat in a rocking chair telling my grandchildren "I remember 2007, we went and murdered thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, and then we lost to Croatia"? No.

I have no problem with people playing sports, I think that's great, I think more people should be encouraged to play sports. I have a big problem though with corporate sponsorship and huge-scale government funding for facilities and events that only a tiny elite will ever get to be involved with. And I have a problem with the sport = good mentality that sits behind our Olympic ambitions and behind the way that some city councils help pay for sports stadiums in their cities.

My problem is with the idea that it's some sort of societal good for lots of people to watch sports. I don't see any evidence that watching sports encourages the watchers to play sport themselves. More like it encourages them to eat pies and sit on the sofa with a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other.

Professional sports are also profoundly discriminatory. Women's events are often paid less and relegated to obscure TV stations. A relatively tiny number of women make a living as sportspeople, compared to thousands of men. Last night in front of the match - which I watched with a Scottish friend and Mr Cru - who is American - I was being teased somewhat about Englands performance and flippantly remarked "It's not my team, I support England Women". But the more I thought about how much Scotland, Germany or Argentina's players and fans might hate England, it occurred to me - surely no-one hates England Men's Team like England Women's Team do? The women on the England team have no hope of earning a professional wage from their sport in their own country. They get little or no glory, they're not paid to do adverts, commentate or coach major international teams when they retire. Yet they know full well the men doing the same job as them typically have 20 cars each, huge mansions, earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week and are featured with their glamourous wives in the likes of Hello and OK magazine in sumptuous surroundings. If I played for England Women I would be bitterly laughing my socks off at the men right now.

The other thing about watching sports is that it often leads to big groups of men meeting up and developing a rather tribal mentality. We have a long and less-than-proud history in this country of football crowds getting out of hand. And there's a reason some pubs don't let people in in team shirts - because it can create an intimidating atmosphere. As if to confirm that for me my attention was drawn to a rather disturbing post over at Shakesville.

...and yes the photo is me, in my platinum blonde years playing for (and captaining) Onnabelievable LFC, Tokyo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


BBC has another candidate for the much-fought-over UK press stupid question of the year. So Does Islam Have A Sense Of Humour? Now the answer in real life is "no". Only some creatures, certainly more than just humans but probably only the great apes - us, orangutans, chimps, gorillas and bonobos - have a sense of humour. A religion can't have a sense of humour.

What else are those diligent journalists trying to achieve here (aside from re-gurgitating a press release from someone organising a themed comedy tour of the UK)?

Do Muslims have a sense of humour? Of course most of them do. Being a Muslim doesn't affect your ability to enjoy and generate humour. It might affect your ability to go out and enjoy specifically-staged humour, if you are in one of those Muslim cultures which forbid entertainment. There were certainly a few Muslims who failed to see the funny side of the Danish-published cartoons of Mohammed. And there is certainly one lunatic Christian extremist who hasn't seen the funny side of Jerry Springer The Opera.

But also the article is about three male Muslim comics touring the UK. How out of date are they? Don't they know we now have a female Muslim comic in Britain? While their interviewees are explaining "women in hijaabs do laugh you know", there is pretty good evidence to suggest that some Muslim women (with or without hijabs) actually tell jokes too. While the men interviewed are still making jokes about "marriage" and "mother-in-laws", the fabulous Shazia Mirza (pictured) is making documentaries on TV and performing at all the major comedy clubs around the country. Keep up BBC...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reclaim Saturday Night

Looks like for the first time ever I'm actually not working on Reclaim The Night night! So I'm going to try to meet up with the F-Word team and join the march. If you're London based (and female) let me know if you want to come along.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Eating With The Enemy

Last week King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was being treated to lavish receptions with the Queen and assorted British dignitaries. This week, one of his courts has punished a women with 200 lashes and six months in jail for BEING gang-raped. They apparently increased the sentence from 60 lashes to punish her for attempting to draw attention to the case internationally, and have withdrawn her lawyer's right to practice law after he appealed on her behalf. I love a good dinner party, but I have to say I'm a little more picky than the government and royal family are about who I invite.

Of course the Queen dressed for the occasion in a rather raunchy outfit by Saudi standards, with her lust-inducing face fully exposed, a crime which in Saudi Arabia would be punished severely. During the visit the Queen said the UK and Saudi Arabia should work together against those "who threaten the way of life of our citizens". What Saudi Arabian "way of life"? Virtual perpetual house arrest for women, who are treated like goats and have no human rights whatsoever?

Oh sorry, just heard, apparently they sell oil to power our SUV habit and buy expensive arms from our corrupt giant defense companies to use against their own people and regional rivals. OK, everybody put your heads back in the sand please...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Terrible Teens

I'm generally in favour of not going totally mad with juvenile offenders. You know six year olds who pick up Dad's gun and shoot someone. I don't hold them responsible. I don't believe in locking kids up when they're too young to know what's going on. This is a little more sinister though, I saw it over at Feminist Law Professors. A group of teenage boys (ages 15 to 17 at time of crime) ganging up on a teenage girl, raping her, filming it, distributing the DVD and not even getting a custodial sentence?

And they don't use the word rape either, they say "procuring sexual penetration by intimidation". If anyone understands Australian law better than me I would love to hear how those two crimes differ. I know we've been talking on here recently about rape conviction rates and the difficulties faced by courts in getting convictions, but surely showing the jury the DVD would clear the matter up. Plus the perpetrators pleading guilty. Surely that's enough for more than a lightly slapped wrist?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You know you're doing something right when...

...the Daily Mail calls you "Dr Death"! I'm generally a fan of Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris. The Mail feels differently. They describe him as "the Lib Dem MP Evan Harris who backs embryo experiments, euthanasia and freer abortions". Embryo experiments? Those would be the ones to find cures for horrible illnesses and disabilities that are ruining the lives of adults and children alive in the world now. Euthanasia? The right to die in dignity for people alive now who may suffer from illnesses that lead to unbearable suffering and an agonising death. And freer abortions? Yes Dr Harris thinks that women can make their own decisions about whether or not to have an abortion and don't need two doctors to grant them permission first. He also believes that medical (pill-induced early-stage miscarriage) can be done at home, allowing women a more comfortable environment to complete their termination and freeing up hospital space for people who actually need treatment!

If I didn't know better I'd say Dr Harris is trying to improve and enable life for those people already alive. While the "Deathly" Mail is doing just the opposite.

But it gets worse "he is an aggressive secularist, serving on the council of the National Secular Society and attacking anyone - particularly Christians - who allows their faith to influence their attitude towards abortion" Mmmm. So he thinks that religion shouldn't be allowed to influence political decision-making? Of course he doesn't advocate compulsory abortions for Christians - he's not stopping them practicing their own faith in the comfort of their own homes. He's trying to stop them pushing their beliefs on other people through drawing up of religiously-based laws which are then applied to people who aren't religious. I imagine he is also against the idea of stoning those who blaspheme... Radical stuff. He did write a very concise piece about the rise of fanatical religion on his own website earlier this year. And they didn't even get round to mentioning some of his other ideas. Action to reduce carbon emissions. Proper care for the elderly.

Instead they went with: "Fixated on his work, he is rarely seen around Westminster without the earpiece of a mobile phone." Sorry - now they're complaining he works too hard!?

And you know these guys have been trying to dig up dirt and having absolutely no luck when they resort to "he has eschewed the suit in favour of a more proletarian jacket and odd trousers". That's the best they can do? He wears "odd" trousers. The bloke is clearly a saint, albeit a secular one.

But even they admit he has, maybe, one good point about him. "He bravely volunteered, for instance, to act as a guinea pig in trials of a new vaccine to combat the HIV virus." Yeah, yeah so he willingly risked his own life to help develop a vaccine to stop the spread of AIDS. So what? I'm still thinking about those "odd" trousers ... ewww!

Actually very uplifting to think maybe there is still a politician left in government who isn't just trying to screw the country as hard as possible and see if we all notice.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Plymouth Spin

One of the reasons for the quiet on the blog this week is that I spent a few days in sunny Plymouth. Lots to report. The reason for the trip was a show on Wednesday night which went pretty well. The highlight being the bouncer's mobile phone going off and his ringtone loudly announcing "I AM HUNG LIKE A DONKEY" in the middle of Ray Crawford's (my co-star for the show) set. The low point was after the show chatting to some members of the audience, a group of laddish guys who'd been in the front row and had been quite chatty during the show. One of them runs a building/plumbing/similar business and was talking about how he's now hiring mostly Polish labour. To which the other replied "well at least they work hard, and they're white"! I was seriously hoping that was a very bad taste joke but it quickly became obvious it wasn't. As I pressed them on the issue, they just dug in. At one point one of them said he thought Jim Davidson (racist, sexist, homophobic comic who on one occasion famously refused to do his show because their were disabled people in the front row!) should be Prime Minister.

And they did seem embarrassed about their views. Like they couldn't say "black person", they would say "you know - one of them" while tilting their head to one side with a meaningful expression. Strange - in London I don't really meet people with views like that, I don't think it'd be easy to live in Hackney and be very racist. I like Hackney.

Of course there are good things in Plymouth too. Here are my recommendations for a visit:

Hire a bicycle from Plymouth Cycle Hire 01752 257 701 and take it up onto Dartmoor, up the Plym Valley Cycleway (they will lend you a map, repair kit and lock with the bike), £12 for 24 hours.
National Marine Acquarium - britain's biggest acquarium.
Boat trips in the harbour and out around the area
Walking around the Barbican and "The Hoe"for the great views
Touring the Plymouth Gin Factory. There are various options depending on whether you want to be able to walk when you come out.
Drum Theatre sometimes has good stuff on (I was lucky and caught Life After Scandal which was very interesting)
Eat fantastic seafood - my recommendation is the Pasta & Seafood Bar by the docks in the Barbican area for scallops, monkfish and a menu as long as your arm.

Guess Whose Fault This Is?

I know this is a little out of date - but it's only just come to my attention. Nauseating stuff.

He starts with an odd line "Isn't it time to acknowledge that it's beyond the capacity of the judicial process to deal with date-rape?"

So what should we do? Legalise date rape? So we'd be saying any woman who intentionally spends time alone with any man effectively consents to any and all sexual acts that he has the physical strength to force her into or indeed the cunning to trick her into (perhaps by physically incapacitating her in some way). Does he mean that? So in response women would have to take chaperones with them on all dates/business lunches/dental appointments/etc. Presumably male chaperones since a female chaperone might be construed to have shown up for a three-way date (and therefore three-way date rape). And of course the chaperones couldn't possibly be guys you weren't related to because what if you got stood up on the date - suddenly that's a new date with the chaperone. And don't bother telling me you should stick with people you trust - because statistics show people you trust do you a lot more harm than people you don't trust! So instead you'd have to pick someone you couldn't be dating - your dad or brother for instance...

Effectively you'd be restricted to never leaving the house without a close male relative. And imagine how many other social ills can be cured simply by LIVING UNDER THE TALEBAN!

In any case the idea that prosecution rates don't seem to be too hot so lets give up is hardly the approach. I mean Harold Shipman killed a lot of older women, it must be really hard to tell if a doctor is quietly poisoning some of his/her infirm patients. So should we legalise doctors murdering their patients? No we should take extra steps to prevent it.

He goes on to explain how all the measures attempted or called for are unfair or unworkable. For instance:

"If evidence about an accuser's lifestyle is ruled impermissible, jurors are left wondering. Might a supposed victim's behaviour indeed have seemed to imply consent? A victim whose lifestyle might have implied the opposite is denied the opportunity to get this across."

No - the point is that a victim's behaviour DOES NOT, CANNOT, and WILL NEVER imply consent. Consent is a process that is entirely specific to the individual situation. Having willingly slept with all ten outfield players from the local football team is not consent for the goalie to do whatever he wants to you. Defences in the past have tried to bias the jury by presenting the victim as promiscuous. Which doesn't seem to hold much water, what is a defence lawyer said "Your honour, the alleged victim often gave money to charity" and the jury would then acquit a poor person accused of robbing them!

And then he goes on what can only be described as a victim-blaming spree...

"When our houses are burgled, we're hardly more likely than rape victims to see the intruder end up behind bars. So what do we do? We fit locks to our doors and windows. We keep our valuables out of sight."

The low prosecution rate for burglary exists because often the perpetrators leave the premises without being seen by the victims or other witnesses, who may be asleep or not at home. We might however find that prosecution rates among those who know the name and address of their burglar are rather more impressive. And as to keeping valuables out of sight, we already know that rape is a crime of violence, rather than of sexual attraction. So-called "provocative dress" affects nothing. Is he calling for chastity belts? Or for women to disguise themselves as men so they're not seen as "available" for rape?

But of course his main point is that feminists are doing it all wrong!

"The insistence of feminist activists that the courts must provide the only solution to rape is surely political. They want a demonstration that the state backs women against men. Yet, in perpetuating the idea that women have no part to play in securing their own safety, campaigners are doing them no favours."

Like every feminist in the universe I think no rape is a better situation than lots of rape with a decent prosecution system. I think educating men and women about their rights and responsibilities is vital. I think a lot could be done, for instance, to address the media messages being sent out to men and women on the subject. Teaching women that rape is their fault and therefore men that they have a "right to rape" is not on my agenda however.

How telling then that he characterises feminism as wanting the state to side with women against men. On the contrary, feminism wants an end to any sense of there being an ongoing conflict between the sexes. Radically in this case they want to end the horror of rape.

And how is telling women that they shouldn't allow their lives to be ruled by fear, paranoia and self-blame somehow "doing them no favours"? Telling rape victims that they have only themselves to blame doesn't strike me as a big favour.

Who allows nasty pieces of work like that into print?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pimp My Media!

When exactly did the word "pimp" cross over into being an acceptable mainstream term for "spruces up, with particular reference to motor vehicles"? The Independent is now using it! Am I the only one who still thinks it means "one who makes a living hiring out women for sex"?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

You Know You Spend Too Much Time On The Internet When ... (Part 1) find yourself on the RADAR site trying to guess which of the women pictured are Fox Business News anchors and which are porn "stars"*.

The point they are trying to make is that the hiring standards for female newscasters seem to be based less on a resume bursting with relevant experience and more on looks. And since we're talking Fox News you can be sure a complete lack of understanding of business news is key to the role. You might also argue that if some of the porn "stars" aren't so wildly attractive maybe that backs up points we've all been making for years about porn being about power more than attraction.

But of course what it does highlight is that if you're a woman in the public eye, it doesn't matter if you talk about business or suck men off, you will be judged first and foremost on your appearance.

*Porn "stars"? I don't really like that term since we know that a great many such women work under duress in fear so porn "victims" seems like a more fitting term.

Johann On Tolerance

Or the lack there of. This is such a bang-on article. Please give it a read. I have one of my own coming out on Islam and Women, watch this space. And while you are on the case you could also take a look at his piece on Al Gore and the "Nine Factual Errors" which Mr Cru and I have been de-bunking at length.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Boys will be Boys and Girls will be ... Murdered!

Shocking documentary which you can watch on the BBC website about female infanticide in India. I'm in favour of having abortion available on demand worldwide but frightening to see abortion being used to basically get rid of female fetuses because parents prefer to have boys. At one point they explain, it's partly due to boys keeping the family name (another reason not to change your name girls) and partly because women are still expected to pay dowry when they're married (another reason to end that practice) but at some level it's just a case of open misogyny. When a boy is born there is ten days of celebration, when a girl is born - nothing.

What isn't covered but would be interesting is what happens in India and China in another generation's time - when there is a massive shortage of women and men are finding it impossible to marry. People have talked a lot about how it might lead to increased criminality among young males without the calming influence of a wife. But another aspect is that with fewer women to go round the women might suddenly have the power to be a little more demanding in their relationships. Women might have the freedom to insist they only want to marry guys who don't expect dowry, are happy for them to maintain a career or use contraception, have less children or make other demands that suit them. Of course that doesn't stop the current situation being totally tragic but it offers a little hope for the future, if we can teach these women to value themselves and their own opinions - not easy in a culture that would rather kill them than raise them.

Funny Ha Ha

Great article in the LA Times about roles for women in comedy films.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Save Us All...

The BBC have an article up today asking whether it's acceptable for disabled people to visit brothels. And when it says disabled people, let me be very clear: it means disabled MEN. They are honestly proposing that while able bodied men shouldn't be allowed to support a corrupt industry and fund human trafficking, sexual slavery, institutionalised rape and brutality, we should make an exception for men with a serious disability.

Now I'm a bit confused, I mean how disabled would a guy have to be to qualify for the proposed scheme? Would there be a government register of who is and isn't allowed to pay for sex? Maybe a points system? Lost one leg? Sorry you can still get the other one over. Lost both legs? OK but hand-jobs only. And if you've lost both legs and are deaf and blind? Presumably Gordon Brown will come round himself and personally suck you off.

Personally I don't believe anybody has a RIGHT to get laid. If anything, you have the right to go out and TRY to get laid. But I also think that the article isn't really about a right to get laid, it's about a right for a man to get laid with a gorgeous young fit woman. And they definitely don't have that. One thing they don't address is whether there might be women out there who - for whatever reason - are just as lonely, who might be interested in these guys - if of course they didn't sound like such unpleasant individuals.

And this leads to the bigger issue: what about the disabled WOMEN? Have they not sexual desires too? And if all the disabled guys are off visiting brothels there'll be fewer guys to go round...

Anyway if you'd like to hear a lot more about disabilities and sex I can only recommend you come along and see the fabulous Liz Carr (pictured) performing with me at Soho Comedy Club on Monday (8pm Roundtable Pub, St Martin's Court, nr Leicester Square, London, £5)

Friday, October 19, 2007

School Film Club Revisited

Since the courts have started ruling on what can and can't be shown in schools* - should someone start a case about this one? There's a lot more questionable science in it than Al Gore has ever come up with, in fact there's pretty much exclusively questionable science in it.

*Brag points for the Cru-blog: some super right-wing idiot site reacted to my post linked above with a feature on me entitled "Portrait of a Complete Moron". They think I have been "brainwashed by Al Gore". Guess the Nobel Prize committee were too then? They must all be "complete morons" too. Mmmm.

Real People, Real Lives

What this article doesn't say is that the A-one cause of obstetric fistula is ... FGM. What it does say is really horrific and deserves to be read.

If Men Got Pregnant...

...this wouldn't happen. Or this. Seems like we are all sat around watching the flow of horror stories from the US health care system - particularly thanks to Michael Moore's film Sicko - but we're letting our own heath care system go the same way. A friend of mine who is a lawyer recently had a baby and spent nearly £10,000 on private health care for the delivery (elective Caesarian because it's her right have her baby her way) because she said she's "seen too many malpractice suits and knows what can go wrong". And even then the food was pretty awful and had to be paid for separately and there were some holes in the care provided. If we believe in a free heath service for everyone, we need to be spending money making sure it does what it says on the tin. And how ironic that you can in some areas get IVF on the NHS. We'll pay to get you pregnant but then we'll leave you in agony to give birth on your own. It's what's called a trick, girls, don't let them catch you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Match Made in Hell

I have just read this story about a guy who's been serially drugging and raping women he met on It comes with all the usual women-not-being-believed crap and it's taken forever to get a conviction but it comes hot on the heel of a friend of mine telling me a real horror story about a guy she met on an online dating site. I don't want to get into detail because of course she told me what had happened to her in confidence but trust me it was awful.

Years ago before I met Mr Cru I went on a few of these sites and dated a few guys. I think my batting record was:

1 I didn't fancy and didn't meet up with again.
1 I slept with and dated again but it petered out shortly.
3 I didn't fancy but became friends with (and still am).

So there's certainly a positive side to these sites, I met some cool people (then I went out and picked Mr Cru up in a late night bar. Ha!), but there are risks too. Now of course I'm not trying to write some patronising "women warned about dangers on online dating " piece. I neither think women should stay home nor that the Internet has mystical powers to corrupt your soul (from the woman who blogs ten times a day!). My point is that there are different ways to meet guys and the risks are different:

Through trusted friends is always the safest - because at very least they know it's going to get back to them if they don't respect you.
While out with friends is safer - because your friends are there to make sure you're ok.
On a late night two-person date after randomly meeting on a dating website is riskier, where possible better to meet in the daytime, or meet with a few others. Also better to meet for a meal/cinema/theatre trip rather than straight on to the alcoholic drinks.

Also safer to meet in a country where the police take rape victims seriously and attempt to prosecute cases wherever possible, and where public attitudes towards rape have left the middle ages, i.e. not here.

Maybe and co. could introduce a "see other users ratings" section to their site so you could give jerks no stars!

Spot the Difference

The police are doing everything in their power to get the public to side with them over the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes.

1) The police officer in charge of the operation cried in court. Which proves very little, except perhaps that he doesn't want to get in trouble for following orders from irresponsible seniors who are smart enough to cover the own backs and finger him when the shit hits the proverbial fan.

2) The same report tried to claim Menezes had taken cocaine, which caused him to act suspiciously. Take a look at these pictures and tell me who you think is acting oddly...

3) There have been claims that he was past end of his visa. Not, as far as I know, a crime punishable with seven bullets to the head. But again the claim is that this caused him to run away from police. The photos clearly show however (a) the police behaving weirdly - leaping barriers and running about with guns and (b) everybody else on the underground running away too.

4) Most ridiculous of all we're told that De Menezes looks similar to Hussein Osman - a 21st July suspect. Photos above (from The Age) for comparison and I can just about tell the difference. Anyone else? One of those guys is black! Considering how racist the police are reputed to be you'd think they would notice.

Thing is what are they going to do if they do find the police are totally in the wrong? Fine them money which only comes out of the national budget in the first place? Sack a few people and replace them with the sycophants next down the line?

What is needed of course is the whole "terrorist search" called off. They basically haven't found any, every time they claim to have "foiled another plot" it emerges three weeks later that actually the people involved were totally innocent and they're released without charge. And in the process they've caused untold anguish for individuals and incited rage from Muslim groups who feel they are being, well, shot at for no reason.

Doing Everything "Right"

This is just horrific reading, from Feministing. That women often do not report immediately is often held up as one of the many excuses for the pathetic rape prosecution and conviction rates. It reduces the chances of getting DNA evidence as well as blood samples if a date-rape drug is suspected to be involved and among ill-informed rape deniers, reduces the credibility of the victim. So when a woman goes straight to hospital and reports the case to the police too, to ensure DNA evidence is taken - what do they do? Refuse to help her. Three times.

Does Anybody Really Care?

What with all the fuss being made about the less than 200 a year late term abortions in the UK and about those awful 185 women (minus the ones with cancer or other fertility-threatening conditions) who have had a few eggs frozen you'd be forgiven for thinking there was a huge body of people out there who really cared deeply for the well-being of new-born babies and their mothers. If so why don't they go and do something about the 2.3million babies and 188,000 mothers a year dying as a result of poor obstetric care in South Asia?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yet More Patronising "Advice for Women"

Do women need any more advice on having babies? Apparently so, the American Society For Reproductive Medicine has teamed up with Comment On Reproductive Ethics and the BBC to patronise us all a bit more.

They want to let us know that having your eggs frozen doesn't "guarantee" that women will be able to conceive with those eggs. Which is probably why only 185 women in the UK have had eggs frozen - many of them cancer patients eager to avoid the mess Natalie Evans got into by being unfortunate enough to be dating a complete wanker at the time she contracted cancer. Out of a UK female population of child-bearing age (15 to 44, I'm counting, assuming that a cancer-suffering 15-year-old might consider egg freezing and that by the age of 45 you're not likely to be freezing new eggs) of around 12million, that's tiny. So I can't help thinking it would be easier to ring the 185 personally than to insist on publishing your story in a national news source. I'm sure the 185 all know this and have had the risks explained to them.

So what is the story really about? Women's "lifestyles". Or in other words how us silly girlies have got it all wrong and should be sat home embroidering doilies and pinging out sprogs as soon as we're old enough to menstruate.

Firstly the BBC says quite matter-of-factly, this is not a quote from anybody, "An increasing number of women are choosing to freeze their eggs for social reasons in the hope they will be able to have a child when they are older." So by "an increasing number" the BBC means less than two thousandths of a percent? For any individual woman, a 0.000015 probability. And that's only if we are allowed to include being diagnosed with cancer as a social reason. When you take those women off the list, the number will be even lower, not to say negligible.

Secondly - still the BBC's words "Critics argue they are delaying motherhood for the wrong motives, such as climbing the career ladder or until they have more money." Sorry - who decides what the right and wrong motives for delaying motherhood are? If a woman decides she doesn't want to have children until she can afford to send them to a good school and raise them in a comfortable home who is the BBC to describe those as the "wrong motives"? And is it even true? A small survey on the Mothers 35-plus website gives the number one reason for delaying motherhood as "Lack of suitable partner".

In fact the evidence doesn't even suggest that women are delaying motherhood really. This chart of data from Scotland shows that older mothers are having slightly fewer children than they did in the 1950s and 60s. The difference is that younger mothers are having significantly less children.

And now some patronising advice from Comment On Reproductive Ethics: "The best solution to lifestyle problems is to change one's lifestyle. Have babies naturally at the time nature intended..." Got that ladies? Magically make the right bloke/financial security/feeling of broodiness come along at your fertility peak.

Now the second worst thing about the article is that it totally focuses on WHEN in their lives women SHOULD have babies. It doesn't say anything about the option of NOT HAVING BABIES! Globally we really don't need extra babies. And a very real alternative for older women who regret not starting a family earlier is adopting an older child in need, there are plenty out there desperate for help. And besides, if you don't want kids at 25, maybe you won't want kids at 35 either, as the chart shows the main trend is that women are really choosing to have less children, not the same number later in life.

But the very worst thing about the article is that it addresses itself 100% to women. What about men? Should we be warning men that if they want kids they should settle down with their woman before she hits 32? I have several women friends who are keen to start a family but are waiting until their partner feels ready too. It takes two to make babies.

And if there's any truth in the idea that women delay motherhood because they feel they can't have a career and a family while they're young then we should be warning employers that they're breaking the law by discriminating against pregnant women and working mothers and failing to offer flexible working hours to those with young children!

Funny of the Day

From Shakesville.

Abandoned To Fanatics

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been let down on the promises of protection offered to her by the Dutch government. Sam Harris (author of Letter To A Christian Nation) and Salman Rushdie (who has much experience of being in hiding from Islamic fanatics) have written this deeply moving and very frightening article.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

As If By Magic

Someone else has noticed the contradiction in the Unilever Dove campaign and the other campaigns it runs. Step forward Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. And in general, what a great concept. I have mentioned it before back in the very VERY early days of Cru-blog. I believe some Scandinavian countries have laws that forbid advertising aimed at the under-12s. It's a great idea, makes complete sense, don't bombard kids with media messages when they're too young to know what's going on. Anyway if you're of a mind to, you can mail the company via the CCFC website and air your views on their marketing strategies.

Good news for Mr Cru

Feminists do it better. Yes, scientists have proved feminists have better relationships. A discussion of the report in Science Daily says "They found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women. Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction." And the whole thing about us being unattractive and unshaggable is crap too, in fact "feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women."

That is not Mr Cru pictured by the way. You can go congratulate him on the good news here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Does This Seem To Happen Every Month?

We are apparently caught in the middle of yet another move to change the UK abortion law (i.e. so that less women have access to abortion). Another BBC article with everything wrong with it. Firstly "see how a baby develops to full term over 40 weeks". Not a baby, an embryo, then a foetus. Secondly they speak to several MPs and people from anti-abortion groups. They don't however discuss what the public thinks, relevant information one would imagine, given that we are supposed to live in a democracy. 77% of the British public believe a woman should have the right to an abortion on demand.

They also obtain views from three men and one woman, which gives me a chilling feeling. Why are men involved in the decision over what happens to women's bodies?

Meanwhile for a reminder of the "big success" that anti-abortion activists are aiming for - look at Nicaragua - where abortion is now illegal even if for instance, like Raquel in this article, you've been raped by your own uncle at the age of eleven...

The thing is if you really believe abortion is a sin or whatever, the way to cut the number of abortions is to back efforts to provide contraception to women, support benefits and assistance to single mothers and campaign against the lax prosecution of rape cases. But no-ones doing THAT of course.

Which Planet Is This?

I don't understand. It's not April 1st is it? Well if you've got some money that's just getting in the way and it just seems like such hard work to flush it down the loo - here's a handy alternative.

Let me add the following: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Oh and this: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

What exactly are they proposing Bush would win it for? Services to reduce global warming by killing off hundreds of thousands of CO2-producing poor people in the Middle East? Services to global peace from using up all the dangerous weapons before anybody else can get their hands on them? Services to citizens of aggressive dictatorships for showing them that the promise of modern democracy isn't really worth fighting for?

That said of course Kissinger won it once so I guess they do issue it ironically from time to time...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Still The Truth, However Inconvenient

As expected the UK court case against An Inconvenient Truth is now being discussed on Fox News as if it totally discredited the film. Meanwhile, according to some unresearched right wing blog I have been "brainwashed by Al Gore". They've really taken the time to understand the issues and have hit hard with an insightful piece calling me a moron. Thanks guys, next time just send flowers. Anyway they claim that I need to go through the points raised by the court case and address them. I would do but as it happens Mr Cru has just done the job for me. Good job.

But here's the real rub. The Fox News people, the right wing bloggers, the Exxon-sponsored think tanks, Stewart Dimmock, all the other global warming nay-sayers have one thing in common:

None of them actually think global warming isn't happening.

Some think it's happening slower than it is. Some think it's happening but that it's not yet 100% clear that it's our fault. The court case argued that some of the evident effects of global warming might also be explainable by other means.

It's like being in a car speeding towards a cliff and going "I think the cliff's only 100 foot high, not 300 foot...", "well I think some of our speed might be down to the angle of the road, not our acceleration". You're still going off the cliff, the rest doesn't matter and the time spent arguing is wasted time that puts people's lives at risk. Time that needs to be spent stopping the car or turning it round.

No-one thinks global warming isn't going to destroy the planet eventually. The focus therefore needs to be on what we can do to cut emissions and recapture carbon. And the focus needs to be on doing those things NOW!