Sunday, March 30, 2008

Observe This!

Article in today's Observer about sexism in the the UK workplace - features a quote from me. If you have the paper version (main section, page 24) you will see there is also a rather nice piccie of me in a suit - a close up actually of this serious and business-like shot of me that Steve Ullathorne took a couple of years ago, although it fits so well with the content of the article it looks as if it could have been shot specially. Steve called me today and said the Daily Mail had asked for permission to use the photo too so maybe I'll be in that at some point in the week. I'll also be on BBC News 24 talking about it around 7.20am tomorrow morning.

What is moderately interesting is how much too big for me the suit I have on is. It was a tailor-made bespoke suit I bought about six months before I left the world of finance. As soon as I left I had enough time to eat proper food (instead of fast food) and work out and take walks and so on, I didn't actually lose much weight but I lost fat and gained muscle and about a year later when the photos were taken it was way too big for me. Moral of the story: don't work stupid hours - it's bad for you.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Before I Forget

Before my granddad died, he suffered for around nine years with Alzheimer's. The worst thing wasn't the forgetting things, the not recognising people or the needing round-the-clock care. The worst symptom of Alzheimer's was the depression. He knew he was a burden to those who cared for him, he knew what was happening to him and it broke his heart every day.

Important research into potential treatments for Alzheimer's include research on the use of stem cells harvested from blastocysts - clusters of pre-embryonic cells. At present such research is slowed considerably by the limited supply of such blastocysts, which are made using donated human eggs. The egg donation process is non-trivial and involves a woman taking fertility drugs to cause the eggs to mature and then having them surgically extracted.

However brilliant scientists have come up with a way to create very similar blastocysts using eggs extracted from large mammals, like cows. Obviously this allows many more eggs to be harvested and thus many more blastocysts created and available to researchers. Here's the catch, since the blastocyst has 100% human cell DNA but with bovine mitocondrial DNA it's technically "a part human, part animal" hybrid, which scientists are legally not allowed to create.

So step in Gordon Brown with the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which includes a special clause to allow the creation of human-animal hybrid blastocysts so long as they are destroyed before they reach 14 days "old", i.e. long before they have developed into even an embryo. Problem solved.

Except finding cures and treatments for horrid debilitating diseases is something the Catholic Church really hates. Suddenly we're told MPs have been consulting their local churches about this (Which MPs? And have they also consulted the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's sufferers in their local care homes and hospices? Also I had no idea how many Catholics there are in parliament, didn't Henry the Eighth get rid of them a few centuries back and replace them with the cub scouts?). And after much debate they're now being given a free vote on that clause...

Now a part of me thinks a free vote is the right choice because at least we'll all know which MPs not to vote for next time round.

But another part of me thinks this: I'm an atheist. I'll bet you good money most of the researching scientists are atheists. I don't want to suffer like Granddad did. So I propose that the atheist scientists get on with the research and if the Catholic Alzheimer's sufferers of the future prefer not to use the resulting treatments on principle - fine. You see the law isn't saying anyone would be forced to create hybrid blastocysts, only that they can if they want to. Those people who object to their creation are welcome to not create them.

And isn't this the trouble with religious-based laws? I mean if you're religious about it, don't get an abortion, don't get a gay marriage, don't adopt children into your lesbian family (another clause they are being allowed to opt out of) but don't try to pass laws telling me how to live my life.

If it doesn't go through, I might go offer to donate some eggs to researchers. Anyone know how to do this? Anyone else coming?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hands Off Heather

Well apologies for the recent radio silence on here and on the podcast too - we were supposed to be going to the Glasgow Comedy Festival, then we weren't, then we were and between that and the Stop The Strip Pub campaign I've not had a minute to myself.

Back to "normal" now. Whatever that is. And I keep looking at the papers and thinking that now it's all over maybe people will leave Heather Mills alone. I really don't understand why she's so hated. What "crimes" is she supposed to have committed? Who has she murdered? As far as I can see what she's done is:

1) Said that Paul MacCartney drinks too much and takes drugs. Of course he does, he's a pop star. No-one complains when Amy Winehouse's Dad says she's on crack, people tut tut about her for taking drugs. Isn't it taking drugs that's against the law - not talking about it?

2) Said that Paul hit her. Is that so hard to believe? That a guy high on booze and drugs might hit his wife? Don't we know that that happens all the time?

3) Poured water on a lawyer. Since when did lawyers become the good guys? It's only water, not water-boarding.

4) Described their relationship differently to the way Paul described it. Because normally ex partners agree completely on these things... She's not employed half her own family on expenses while they trot round Eton on a polo pony!

5) Asked for money after her marriage broke down. Initially we were told she would ask for £100m or more. Later it turned out that she wasn't actually asking for that much. Plus - lest we forget - she has a child to raise. A child whose father is worth at least £400m. A child that needs protection growing up (especially after the way the media has covered the story) and a child that is already accustomed to good care, nannies and expensive schools. So when the news emerged that she had settled for £25.4m, why did the papers not cheer her accepting the much lower figure?

6) Appeared in a topless photo-shoot. You know like the ones The Sun publishes EVERY DAY.

But really, really, the very worst you could say she did was cynically married a pop star for money. So what? How many of us can honestly say we are 100% certain we wouldn't?

And remember there were days when I looked at the papers and found four of the first five pages dedicated to hate-journalism about her. Where is the sense of perspective? What about the murderers, rapists and violent attackers? Where are the victims of corporate-run third world sweat shops? The prisoners of conscience? The victims of NHS cut backs, knife crime and the lack of adequate drug rehabilitation facilities? The women of Darfur facing rape and starvation daily while newspapers in the UK whine about a disabled woman who had the nerve to marry someone famous and it didn't work out.

Calling All Womyn!

I am hosting an open mic freestyle show tomorrow at Womynspace. This is a women-only (trans-friendly) house-centre-castle in Hackney. It's open mic show for any women who want to perform in whatever format: comedy, music, poetry, spoken word, rant, dance, performance art, circus skills, yodeling... I think you get the picture. I'm told we have seven acts booked in already but I have no idea what kinds of acts they are yet. All will be revealed.

The venue, which sadly will only be around for a couple more months now, also hosts everything from welding classes to yoga and a cafe-bar for self-defined "womyn" in the East London area.

If you fancy coming tomorrow (Friday 28th March) it's doors at 7.30pm, show starts 8pm at 4 Corbridge Crescent, E2. See you there. More info here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stop The Strip Pub Blog

I have put together a very simple blog for the Stop The Strip Pub campaign. There is also a really nice quote from me in the Hackney Post article about Saturday's protest.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Stop Press: Stop The Strip Pub

Got into a bit of real grass roots activism today. Satchmo's - a bar just up the road from my house - has applied for a license to do strip shows. Now I don't really approve of strip clubs anywhere but seriously - it's in a residential area, just between a mosque and two primary schools. It's the most ridiculous idea I've heard in a very long time. So we went along to protest outside and there was a great turnout, 50-100 people just from the few streets around it, including ten from the Turkish Community Centre, six or so from the mosque and a bunch of school children from one of the local schools. Several journalists appeared and interviewed me and others and took photos so hopefully it will attract some attention. I'll keep you posted.

Off to Million Women Rise now - two protests, one day...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Good News, Badly Presented

Interesting report from the NY Times which has only just come to my attention. In short it turns out that young guys for the most part are pretty respectful of the women they date. Very few in the survey conducted by the Journal of Adolescence appeared to be obsessed with sex, the majority were interested in women because they liked them and wanted to get to know them better.

Now the NY Times seems surprised by this. I'm not, the vast majority of guys I know of all ages are nothing like the noxious stereotypes portrayed everywhere from the lad mags to "teen" films like American Pie. By the same token the number of young women I know who act like Clueless is, well, zero.

Now to start with they title the article "Inside the Mind of the Boy Dating Your Daughter", which plays straight into the idea that sex is some sort of predatory act perpetrated by evil men on innocent unsuspecting women. And then it goes on to say "The overall findings are contrary to cultural beliefs that boys are interested primarily in sex and not relationships." Cultural beliefs from the 19th century maybe but I don't know anyone who really believes that.

There is also a fairly undisguised SEX IS WRONG message hidden between the lines. "Let’s give boys more credit,'’ said study author Andrew Smiler, an assistant professor of psychology at the university. “Although some of them are just looking for sex, most boys are looking for a relationship."

But there's really nothing wrong with "just wanting sex" as long as you are open and honest about what you are doing. There are plenty of young women out there interested to learn about sex through experience, who may be comfortable doing so outside the confines of a relationship. And that's ok, in fact it's pretty healthy to feel that way and have that desire to learn. Even if you're somebody's daughter.

The report concludes that parents should talk to their sons as much about relationship-forming as they do their daughters. Which is a bit like stating the obvious - although I have to say I never had any advice off my parents about relationships (well unless you count thinly veiled hints that I shouldn't expect too much...). Mr Cru by contrast did, but I think that had more to do with the families we came from than any gender issues.

Free Tomorrow?

Mr Cru and I are both appearing tomorrow at a comedy show in aid of a very worthwhile charity. Please come along if you're free - tickets and info here.

Also our political comedy night Comedy Manifesto continues Sunday at the Camden Head, Camden Passage, Angel, 8.30pm, only £5 when you mention the Cru-blog.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Me Looking Cool

Someone has taken some really nice piccies of me performing at the Porthole Comedy Club in Kilburn. Do have a look here, but bear in mind I'm not nearly this cool in real life. If you look this week I'll be near the front of the slide show, but if you find this page in the year 2012, you may have trouble spotting me. I'm playing there again in Sept (29th) though so I'll be sure to strike a few poses for the camera...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why Does Jezebel Exist?

Obviously Jezebel and I have HISTORY. But I am not afraid to put my hand up when I agree with them on something.

This time however they've gone with really shocking story, followed by offensive coverage of that story. The story is some nasty people are selling a T-Shirt with the slogan "No Means No... well maybe if I'm drunk". Which is obviously a horrid thing to be saying and selling. And I understand that with pressure from Feministing, they have now stopped. Jezebel's response however features the following:

"You can probably blame a religious fetishization of virginity for the fact that a lot of girls say "no" to sex they actually want."

I'm not fan of religion, nor of virginity cults, but I'm pretty horrified by a supposedly pro-women site suggesting that when women say "no" they may "actually want" sex.

They are talking about women who find the guy in question attractive and are feeling aroused in some way and they're equating that with "wanting sex". Now I may not believe that Jesus needs me to stay pure for him but there are a ton of other perfectly valid reasons why women might not want to have sex with someone they fancy even though they are in the mood for sex. Like if they're committed to someone else, if they don't feel like they completely trust the person in question, if it's practically difficult to arrange (no condoms, early start in the morning, lives the other side of town), if they don't feel that it's right emotionally, if they don't want to affect a friendship or working relationship or if they're enjoying the idea of a little delayed gratification. Or a million other things. Or if they'd rather go for a slice of pizza and then watch late night rubbish on TV.

Which means when guys ask women out, even if they think they're really sexy, and even if they happen to be really horny, they often still say "no". And it's not OK to rape them then. Consent is about specific verbal permission, not best-guessing what a woman's hormones might be indicating. And no matter how much their hormones might be raging, if there's one thing women don't want - it's some guy forcing himself on them when they've already said "no".

It's like if you're feeling hungry but have decided to skip dessert because you want to lose weight, then some guy grabs you and physically forces you to eat cake. You don't enjoy the cake, do you? You feel violated and ill.

Virginity cults in any case don't seem to affect the amount of sex young people have - only the amount of access to advice and protection that they get. Members of virginity cults are perfectly capable of consenting, so if they don't that means they don't want sex

Did that all really need explaining? Here's what I'd like explained: Why does anyone read Jezebel?