Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fest Fever

In case anyone hadn't heard - my solo Edinburgh show Apes Like Me opens tomorrow 7pm C Soco Urban Garden and you can buy tickets right here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How NOT To Write An Article About Women's Lifestyles

First a warning: if you're reading this while having a bowl of breakfast cereal - finish eating before you click the link, otherwise you're going to be spending the next 20 minutes cleaning half-chewed oats and sultanas of your computer monitor. I hardly need to mention which paper is behind this piece from Anna Pasternak.

This is, by the way, a really long one. I couldn't decide which parts of the article deserved derision the most so I did it all line-by-line savouring it as I went... enjoy!

"Recently, the media has been awash with articles suggesting that career women are to relationships what garlic is to a vampire - the kiss of death."

...and when we say the media, we mean the Daily Mail don't we - I haven't seen any such articles in my regular subscription to BUST.

"We're unable to sustain meaningful unions, apparently, because men are intimidated by our intellect, threatened by our higher earning potential and turned off by our controlling, capable, yet powerful personalities."

We? Speak for yourself, myself and lots of my smart female friends are having pretty great relationships thanks. And any guy intimidated by my intellect probably isn't my type anyway. I prefer guys without screwed up power complexes.

"While this has been my personal experience - I was left by the father of my daughter (now nearly five) three years ago when I was the higher earner - I think that the issue goes far deeper."

No doubt you remember him running out the door screaming "Don't earn any more money, I can't stand money, all those ghastly holidays and expensive restaurants!"

"It is more psychological than sociological."

Uh oh, Anna, using big words again - I can hear the sound of a forest of penises drooping now...

"The problem, I believe, is not so much with career women per se, but that women are increasingly out of balance with themselves and, therefore, with men. I know I am."

Hold on the first bit was a huge leap of assuming there is a problem. Now we're on to massive leap number two - assuming that women are at fault. Maybe the somewhat mythical problem is with modern guys, maybe they need to get over themselves and realise women are entitled to careers and to power.

"In the past three years of being single, I have been on a handful of dates."

That would make you the expert then. Last time I was single I slept around like I was in training for the Olympic shag-a-thon so really I think you'll find I'm the expert on men in town (actually in most towns!!).

"Two years ago I went to dinner with a doctor who told me that I 'wasn't in touch with my femininity' as I 'didn't flirt or wear much make-up'."

I've been on dates like that - it's up to you, you can just walk out or if you prefer you can chuck your red wine on his white shirt and then walk out - your call. Take the advice to heart though - men love women who flirt continuously and wear a ton of make-up...

"His diagnosis also included the undeniable fact that I was in 'acute need of affection'."

Sounds really patronising. But I did warn you to leave the date before it came to this.

"The last straw came four months ago when I had dinner with a successful, high-profile entrepreneur who literally screamed at me that I was 'so in control it was scary' - although he did backtrack when I dropped my head towards my plate and started sobbing."

I'm getting this sense that every guy you date you have to tell me how successful their career is. A doctor, a SUCCESSFUL entrepreneur,... maybe it's you who has the bee in their bonnet about dating guys who are more successful and higher earners than you. Maybe that's why you get so few dates. How about pitching for smart, interesting and in a job they enjoy. And what is so scary about being "in control"? Surely being out of control is more of a date-burner? Like, erm, bursting in to tears. And if you're on a date and he's screaming at you - unless it's "get out the way there's a car coming" - leave, just leave, he's not behaving appropriately, you can do better than this.

"As well as being hurt, I was shocked and outraged. What, I thought, had become of modern man's chivalry? But later, I grudgingly reasoned, maybe he had a point - what had become of my femininity?"

Easy mistake to make - he didn't have a point, he was an arsehole. Date someone sympathetic and kind next time.

"The difficulty for many of today's career women is that in order to compete with men, we've morphed into them."

We've morphed in to men? Neat trick. Can we please have equal pay now then?

"We've worked ourselves half to death in order to conquer the career ladder, yet in the process we've trampled our core femininity into the ground."

If women have a harder time than men conquering the career ladder, we need urgent equality legislation to address that. And what core femininity? Hoovering? Ironing? Cleaning floors? Having no money? What did we miss out on? And don't pretend that women working is a new thing. Working class women have worked for years out of necessity. It's is a tiny minority of who haven't worked at all and a tiny minority who have the resources available to them to be able to quit work if they want to.

mum juggling work and kids

"De-feminising: Juggling work, children and all of life's trimmings can leave a woman little time for herself"

How is raising children de-feminising? Surely that's one of the most "feminine" things one can do, if you happen to be the sort of person who cares about "feminine" which I really don't. And I hate that word "juggling" - it really implies you're not doing any of those jobs very well. But many women are brilliant at their work and brilliant with their families. Where are the guys "juggling" accountancy, golf and looking awkwardly round a fancy restaurant while Anna Pasternak blubbs into her creme brulee!

"These days, as a single parent and sole breadwinner, I often feel more masculine than feminine."

There is no doubt that being a single parent is hard work, hard work that is mostly done by women. What is "masculine" about being a single parent? And what does it mean to feel masculine? I don't understand what that feeling is. Everything I feel is feminine by definition because I feel it and I have a cunt.

"Working full-time, making every decision, paying every bill, driving myself everywhere, booking tickets for holidays, lugging the Christmas tree in - it's all completely de-feminising."

So feminine would be not working, not making decisions, not being able to go where you want in the car or on holiday and not doing any heavy lifting. I'm not much intot he heavy lifting part, but you can usually get the person at the shop to help you, otherwise, I'll take de-feminising any day if it means I have control over my own life.

"My friend Sophie, 46, who runs her own design company and is a single mother to two boys aged nine and 11, agrees. She has been single for six years, since her husband left her for another woman. Blonde, attractive and kind, she hasn't been on a date since he walked out. 'I have absolutely no idea how to be a woman any more,' she says. 'Because I run my business, my home and make all the decisions about the boys, I feel totally unfeminine. 'I'm terrified of dating as I have no idea how to behave. 'I would love a partner but I feel unattractive, untrusting, unsexy and completely alone.'"

We're back to the "proof by single case study" argument. How convenient that "Sophie" got interviewed rather than, err, me. Which would have changed the nature of the story somewhat.

"That, of course, is the crux for many of us. We honestly believed that if we worked hard, we could have it all and more. Yet so many of us have ended up lonely, exhausted and broken-hearted, with far less of what we bargained for."

Yes despite the victories of the women's movement the work environment can still be tough for women, especially those with children. We have a long way to go. Men with children have it much easier, lets keep fighting til we get there too. And I'd rather be "lonely" (which I'm not) than in a relationship with one of those scumbags you mentioned on your dating stories.

"According to a Mintel report, 39 per cent of the adult population is single - that is 19 million people - and this is expected to rise to 41 per cent by 2011. Clearly, men and women are increasingly out of sync, and the key could be in learning to re-balance ourselves as women and reclaim our essential softness."

So to re-iterate - there's a problem with male-female relationships ... it must be women's fault.

"So I embarked on a psychological make-over to see if I could fast-track my femininity."

Can anyone else smell bullshit around here?

"First, consultant stylist Kira Jolliffe, who runs a company called Wardrobe Woman, appraised my closet."

That would be the problem - working too hard, too much to do at home? Get some new clothes!

"Once she got over the shock of how few clothes I have, she immediately sussed that I 'compartmentalise' my wardrobe. I live in jeans and shirts to write and do the school run, wear nicer tops to work meetings and have a couple of dresses for going out. But as I rarely go out, the more elegant clothes hardly get worn."

Doesn't everyone "compartmentalise" their wardrobe into smart and casual clothes? Otherwise you'd be going to proms in tracksuits and pub quizzes in an off-the-shoulder sequin number. And no, I don't wear my fanciest clothes very often either, that's because they're fancy clothes, for special events and occasions.

"She was correct in saying that I 'try to bring out my femininity for the occasion, as opposed to being feminine whatever the occasion'. My homework was to mix up my wardrobe, ditch my beloved chunky loafers and not save smarter clothes for some mythical special occasion. Femininity is about an internal experience with your self and clothes are about the external appearance,' she explained. 'But your clothes can be a tool to remind you of it; a way of tapping into the essence of who you are."

Never pay anyone to give you homework. That's just dumb. She's on your time - tell her to go find you some funky new clothes and if she refuses, withhold payment.

"'This has nothing to do with showing cleavage, for example, as there is nothing less sexy than enforced femininity. Femininity is all about being relaxed with yourself.' The problem for the career woman, according to Jolliffe, is that in the corporate world, women often use dress as an armour. They over-do their hair and make-up and then it becomes difficult to drop the armour, both sartorially and emotionally, for a date."

Earlier on the doctor she should have walked out on said she didn't wear enough make-up. Lesson - people are full of crap and will tell you anything to mean-spiritedly belittle you. You don't need these people in your life, throw them out, stick on a pair of patchwork dungarees and hang out with fun people.

"'But to equate femininity with florals and chiffon is childish and simplistic,' she cautioned. 'To suddenly wear floaty tops in the office smacks of trying too hard. 'WAGs, for example, are the antithesis of femininity because they reek of desperation. Artifice is the least sexy thing. Femininity is about authenticity.'"

WAGs - don't they wear fancy clothes and make-up all the time and for the most part not have day jobs, but just hang off the arm of their rich footballer hubbies? And WAGs by definition are not "lonely", they're women with partners. Very, very successful partners actually. Isn't that what you wanted?

"After a week of trying to up my feminine ante by wearing nicer shoes and adding jewellery or a pretty top, I understand why Jolliffe insisted: 'If it feels false, don't do it.' I spent the first day staggering around in a little skirt and heels, feeling ridiculous considering my life in the country."

So that was money well spent then? A week later you realised you looked ridiculous.

"'Sexiness is about getting the balance between the feminine and masculine with panache and confidence,' she had said."

Earlier it was all about being feminine, now it's about balance. Maybe sexiness is about just being yourself... Radical!!

"'It's about being soignee, not overdone. It's about being vulnerable and empathetic without being a victim."

Being a victim happens when someone else abuses you. You can be as vulnerable or as invulnerable as you like. Others make you a victim. To suggest otherwise is an insult to the millions of victims of abuse of all kinds around the world.

"'But you need to be realistic about your sexual identity because being sexy isn't necessarily being feminine."

I don't even know what she's on about any more. We're out of touch with our femininity, we're too controlling, we are de-feminised by child-raising and we should try to strike a balance between feminine, which isn't about floaty dresses and masculine, which is about having a job but that still isn't necessarily sexy and there's no point pretending, especially not if you've worn too much make up and now you're crying in a restaurant...? Is that it? Or is it more like this: ARE YOU A WOMAN? THEN THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU.

"'My advice to career women is to get into the habit of rubbing really expensive body cream in after a bath."

That's it? That was the point of the article? Moisturise?

"'It's amazing how being at one with your body puts you more instinctively in touch with your physical self-esteem.'"

I've found that going wing-walking, sky-diving, white-water rafting and then having a lot of really good sex can put me instinctively in touch with my physical self-esteem.

"The most valuable lesson I've gained has been to wear the clothes I enjoy, instead of saving them for best. Interestingly, I've had more comments on my appearance lately. I'm beginning to see that femininity is like a flower. Water it by paying attention and it will blossom."

So you wore nicer clothes and people noticed? Wow, maybe they have eyes...

"Next, I went to see renowned cosmetic surgeon Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh. Responsible for some of the most beautiful faces in the world, including Cindy Crawford, he is nicknamed the Botox King."

I think Cindy Crawford was ok-looking to start with. I don't think he can claim 100% of the credit.

"He had just returned from Russia, where he took part in a documentary on the subject of women and femininity. 'Russian women don't have that hardness of women in England and America,' he said. 'They get their men because they are extremely feminine and they listen to their men, yet they are not regressive. They have managed to hold on to an old-fashioned prettiness. 'In contrast, most of the women I see in Europe have become warriors. They are feisty and aggressive. 'They see relationships as business transactions, and they treat dating the same way they climb the corporate ladder, which makes them look and seem hard.'"


"So can he help feminise a woman? 'My job is to make a woman look attractive to a man, but I cannot change her character. 'I can soften her looks, but I can't get a woman in touch with her soft side.'"

So the woman who was crying while a guys screamed at her on a first date in a restaurant needs to be softer? No, she needs to toughen up so she can walk out of abusive situations before they get to that stage.

"But how do we do that? 'I think that it is difficult to be a woman today,' he adds. 'Our society is quite harsh, and if you want to enjoy the materialism, then you lose your soul. 'If women can stay away from their corporate brains, then they can tune into this softness and core values.'"

Yes women, leave your brains behind, they're so unattractive. I think it takes real brains to find those core values. My core values right now for instance are telling me I shouldn't let idiots like Pasternak fill my head with nasty rubbish... mmm.

"Interestingly, Dr Sebagh says that his happiest clients are in their 50s and 60s. 'They are in touch with what matters in their life. They want men for companionship, not some lifestyle choice. 'They have souls and are far more authentic. 'Ironically, I believe that the credit crunch will force more women towards that authenticity because they will no longer be able to pretend that they are rich or successful."

Women under 50 apparently don't have souls. That's true though - and of course not do women over 50, no-one does, it's just brain chemistry creating the illusion of consciousness. Tune in next week for more philosophy from me and a guy with a big pointy needle of botulism aimed at your face. And what about women who are rich or successful? Will they still be able to pretend they are. I think women are pretty realistic about their careers and wealth.

"'How can you find yourself if you are fake and pretending to be someone that you are not?'"

Did he steal that line from the Scientologists?

"Some may consider Dr Sebagh's helping hand towards the appearance of softness fake in itself. However, when he administered Botox to me, the results were fantastic. Far from looking taut or frozen, I looked like me, only less worn and haggard. I look fresher - and because I look softer, I feel softer."

This directly contradicts Sebagh's statement that he could only change appearances.

"However, as both Kira Jolliffe and Dr Sebagh concur, the appearance of femininity is meaningless without the inner experience of it. Psychologist Jeff Allen, founder of Psychology of Vision, who coaches for relationship and business success, said: 'Independent women look like they are tough and have their acts together, which is appealing, but really they are well-defended because they don't want to get hurt or be vulnerable."

Fuck off. REALLY FUCK OFF. Independent women look like they are tough and have their acts together because ... they're tough and have their acts together. When you say a woman's strength is a sign of weakness, you are saying all women are weak whatever they appear to be.

"'But to be feminine, at some level you have got to be open. 'Being open allows connection, intuition and compassion-these are the feminine gifts.'"

In case you're wondering - the masculine gifts are better pay for work of equal value, the right to buy and sell women's bodies and the fun of peeing standing up.

"So how do we open ourselves up to our feminine energy, especially if we also want to survive career-wise in a male-dominated world?"

The answer isn't moisturising? I'm confused.

"'The feminine principle is about allowing things to unfold and happen, not always interfering."

So I should just shut my pretty little mouth up and put up with whatever anyone else decides should happen to me? Of course!

"'Career women think that they have to be in control to make it happen, but if they stop and tap into some kind of emotional intelligence and empathy, it makes them better problem-solvers.'"

No if you want to make things happen you DO have to be in control. No fucker is going to do it for you.

"According to Allen, you cannot have true success or a successful relationship without the balance of masculine and feminine: 'The reason career women feel lonely within themselves and often have a deep sense of failure is because they are not connected to their hearts."

But career women don't feel lonely, the only women I know who feel lonely are the ones stuck at home with the kids all day.

"'I'm not saying career women should chuck it all away, but if they connect to things that really matter to them, if they start to appreciate little beautiful things every day - literally stop and smell the roses - then what they will have to offer will be really quite profound.'"

How am I going to smell the roses when I am doused in expensive moisturiser?

"Allen also says we must stop competing with men, especially in relationships, as competition is totally destructive."

No-one should be competing in relationships, men or women. Everybody HAS to compete at work. Otherwise they'll end up out of a job.

"Researching this article, I feel that I have undergone a subtle yet seismic change."

Called botulism-in-the-face. Lovely.

"I can see that being feminine is about allowing oneself to yield more and control less."

It is? Then I do not want to be feminine. I want to chose for myself the stuff I want in my life and have the power to make it happen.

"Two nights ago, I went to dinner with a male friend, and for the first time in years I looked more feminine, acted more femininely and, crucially, felt more feminine. Not in a simpering way, but with a profound realisation that being able to show vulnerability isn't a female weakness but a sign of a woman's strength."

But as we discussed earlier feminine is not the same thing as sexy so presumably you didn't get a shag. And showing vulnerability is a sign of vulnerability, not that there's anything wrong with being vulnerable with your friends, if you trust them. Anyway, enough, what did this male friend do for a living and was he SUCCESSFUL? We need to be told.

Can you believe the editors didn't pick up ANY of those glaring misogynistic issues with the piece? It's almost as if they hate women too...

Action To Take Now

If you're one of these free-thinking leftie, tree-hugging radical types who thinks stoning women to death for adultery comes under the heading of "a bit harsh", you may wish to follow some of the recommendations here to stop just that happening to Kobra Najjar (pictured) in Iran.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When Will This Rubbish Stop?

I know I shouldn't read the Daily Mail but someone sent me the link and I got curious. This article is disgusting. The story is about W.I. members (women's institute, a big organisation of women in the UK, and I should point out it is a very small group of them who are involved with this piece, the vast majority want nothing to do with it, although this is not mentioned at all in the article) launching a "campaign" to legalise brothels in the wake of the Ipswich murders.

Firstly they have done a tour of brothels around the world as a fact-finding mission, but of course have only visited the ones that welcome inquisitive visitors, and then only by pre-arranged appointment. I don't think you can expect to get a real understanding of what goes on in these places unless you went undercover. Even on their tour they apparently saw "a room where up to 80 men could join in sex with about four prostitutes for eight euros" - which implies some of these women are expected to have sex with 20 men at once... And assuming they get half the money the men pay - for about EUR80 or £60...? That sounds pretty awful. And that's the sanitized version! Plus as always when legalisation comes up as an issue one of the key messages is "health checks for the girls". If you are admitting the women need health checks, you are simultaneously admitting that in some instances unsafe sexual practices take place, aren't you?

Secondly they haven't really explained the leap from "Ipswich murders" to "legalise prostitution". As far as I remember the horrible murderer in the Ipswich case was not a prostitute, but a man who regularly used prostitutes. I find it quite a big jump to imagine that if he had been using legal prostitutes he would somehow not have wanted to murder them. And while legalising prostitution might mean some of the women had safer places to work from, you can't create a world in which no woman ever gets into a car with a man she doesn't know all that well. I see a much stronger logic in concluding from the Ipswich murders that we should legally and safely provide drugs to addicts, which it appears all of the murdered women were. What do we really want for these women? Are men so entitled to access women's bodies that we would prefer to tidy up the sex trade and make sure they pay tax? Or do we want these women to have genuine choice about the direction their lives take, and the freedom to leave the streets and fulfill their own ambitions?

But also listening to what the W.I. leaders have to say, it sounds inordinately classist. Here's a quote: "Everybody looks on these girls as being from the lowest stratum of society and that’s not true. One of those girls [murdered in Ipswich] was into horseriding, the whole works." WHEN EXACTLY did it become somehow ok to murder a woman who wasn't in to horseriding? And women from the "lowest stratum" are less worthy of our protection why?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

25th Carnival of Socialism

Welcome one and all to the 25th Carnival of Socialism. There's no special theme to the carnival other than "political stuff from the last two weeks that I'm interested in and hopefully you are too". If there's are posts or subject matters you'd like to have seen but didn't by the end please add it to the comments or submit it to the next carnival.

In a spirit of equality and fraternity (which if there was any real equality would of course be called "fraterni-sorority" or "non gender-specific sibling-hood") there is no particular order to the stories, just the things that grabbed me on the way round.

Starting locally we have the Glasgow Bye-Election. The SNP won following a massive swing away from Labour. But what of it? Certainly many, such as Liberal Burblings, and Lenin's Tomb have concluded this is a death knell for Gordon Brown's Labour. Others such as David Osler at Dave's Part see an even more bleak future. Now personally I am a little confused as to why David Cameron (who as Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads points out is a moron for getting his bike stolen!) is so happy about this? Maybe someone should tell him - the Tories DIDN'T win - if anything the Glasgow East result tells us that the swing towards the Tories in other areas recently has been more of a swing away from Labour's inability to deal with poverty (although Stan at Radio Free Stan thinks that might not be as bad as we fear, I am less convinced) and declining standards of healthcare and education and towards ANYONE else. This is downright stupid in my opinion, it's like saying "This cream isn't sweet enough, I think I'll have sprouts for dessert". There are other parties out there. On which note William Ewart Gladstone - still blogging 150 years on - looks at who did win - the Scottish Nationalists, and calls for big ideas south of the border. Sadly Nick Clegg's big ideas seem to be drifting further to the right, Peter Cranie reports, but at least Socialist Unity actually have some big left wing ideas.

Moving along to more international political goings-on we have Barack Obama's Visit To Germany. Here we start with Radical Blue's view that we should enjoy the euphoria around Obama while it lasts, because it won't last long. A point oddly enough backed-up by Senator Obama himself when he told Gordon Brown only today that "You're always more popular before you're actually in charge". As he also said "Once you're responsible you're going to make some people unhappy" and, as Wufnik at BazzFazz explains, there are quite a lot of unhappy Americans already. Meanwhile Jesse Taylor at Pandagon keeps an eye on the coverage of Obama's trip on the right hand side of the media.

And those seemed to be the two stories that got the most coverage in the last couple of weeks (unless of course Amy Winehouse has had a haircut or anything REALLY amazing like that, and if you're craving light-hearted reality-based entertainment why not join in with Feministe's search for the Next Top Troll and spare a thought for the sort of offensive crap us women bloggers have to put up with much of the time). Which brings us to the things the papers seem to have mostly glossed over. We start with the government's plans for the welfare state, you know, that thing that means that people struggling in society, often through no fault of their own, are not allowed to simply disappear and die in helpless poverty? Remember that? Yes well it's being "reformed". And when I say "reformed" I mean that in the way that "reformed ham" is "reformed" - i.e. all the valuable substance taken out and a load of rubbish added. David Osler at Liberal Conspiracy has the story. And it appears that Anji at Shut Up, Sit Down has noticed what's going on too, and responded in her usual verbose manner! Meanwhile Russell Eagling at Freethink wants more honesty in the debate about what is happening as well as having concerns about changes lined up in education and Gill George at Defend the NHS tackles the government's latest assault on the NHS.

And we're not the only ones with problems. Things are sliding surreptitiously to the right in Canada, DJN at If there is hope... has a thorough round-up. On the subject of Omar Khadr, the Canadian Guantanamo inmate, mirabile dictu has more in-depth coverage.

And sometimes when the media does cover a story we still don't get the full picture. For instance that whole thing about crime-gangs of illegal immigrants, as dissected by Charlie at RandomPottins. And we shouldn't forget some quality distorted media in New Zealand where, as Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty points out, some serious victim-blaming has been going on.

And if all that has left you too depressed to read on take a little heart from someone who appears to be a genuinely good leader for once! Step forward Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia, on the negotiations at the WTO, in completely his own words...!

Everybody loves a party. That's one of those truisms that just doesn't hold in politics and bloggers have been highlighting the worst of leadership from around the world. Phelim gets the ball rolling, pointing out how homophobic elements of the DUP can be. Splintered Surise is no fan either on account of their entrenched Catholic position on abortion. And there's another Catholicism-related issue - the leadership in New South Wales who have failed at last in their bid to prevent people "annoying" pilgrims visiting the Pope, from Stroppy Blog. Can you imagine the kind of misogynist leadership that would consider offering a male veto on abortion - seriously on the cards in Ohio, from Feminist Philosophers, or is so paranoid about immigration that it allows arresting women in such a way that leaves their young children unattended by a busy motorway overnight, as discussed on Echidne of the Snakes. Shudder. Oh hold on, no, stop press THIS, from Shakesville, is the has got to be the worst political leader the world could have right?

And speaking of really, really bad ideas - here's one. Private defense contractors working in war zones. Bad news for women as discussed on The F-Word, bad news via Iraq-for-Sale for water-drinkers, bad news for the servicemen and families whose lives have been destroyed by faulty electrics wiring in showers built by KBR (from me) and bad news via Spot-On for anyone coming in to contact with KBR (including the US taxpayers who fund it but excluding senior management and shareholders of course who are just debating how to divide up the £40bn without allocating too much to actually doing anything more than the cursory minimum they think they can get away with). Or (daily) maybe, the worst idea ever would be to throw our stretched resources into supporting another corrupt oil dictatorship...

Of course there were a few things that didn't fit neatly into any particular paragraph so here's a run down of the other things you should definitely read right now, yes - stop working at once and read more bloggage!

Short sharp shocking statistics on abortion from Natalie at Philobiblon.
Normalisation of cosmetic surgery watch part one from M LeBlanc at Bitch PhD and part two from Jess at Feministing
And an accidental admission of the failings of capitalism from Stuart Jeffrey at Stuart's Big Green Spot.

And finally a reminder of how to be involved next time around. Nominate a post of your own or that you love for the next Carnival of Socialism to be held at A Very Public Sociologist.

Cheerio and thanks for reading! Please stick around and read some of my other stuff, if you like it you can load me in to your Facebook/Technorati/Google/etc favourites or just bookmark me and swing by again sometime.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Calling All Socialist Bloggers!

I have been asked to host the next Carnival of Socialism right here on the Cru-blog. It'll be out on 25th July. So you've got til then to post a link in comments here highlighting posts you've read or written yourself that you'd like to see included.

Whose Side Are They On?

Saw this on Alternet. Yet another reason (completely ignored rape would be the first one) why letting privately contracted companies run military operations in war zones just doesn't work. Apparently KBR's excuse for electrocuting several US soldiers in faulty shower installations is "It's a war zone, what do you expect?". Well in a war zone I would expect the enemy to want to electrocute me, but not a private company supposedly paid to help me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Eeeek - what is wrong with my blog!!! Lost a ton of stuff transferring over to "new" blogger thinking that would solve it. And now I can't go back, despite what they said... Sooo frustrating! If anyone knows how to fix it please give me a shout, will be much appreciated. Cru

Monday, July 14, 2008

Are You Woman Enough?

No-one, I assume, labours under the illusion that military institutions are a bastion of gender equality and opportunity for women. It's taken women a very long time to get even so far as to be allowed into most branches of the military. Some are still out of reach - like anything involving fighting on the front lines. Those who do join up meet a culture of sexism and misogyny, sky-high rates of rape and sexual abuse and bullying. Not to mention the culture of rape WITHIN war that is just sickening, and of course would be rapidly undermined if much larger numbers of women were involved in combat.

You would think it was obvious that something needed to be done at the highest level to make it clear that women are valued in the military and misogyny fought firmly against - especially when they seem to be having so much trouble recruiting anyone at the moment. Instead the Royal Marine Commandos are sponsoring an assault course challenge through soft-porn "lad" mag Zoo under the heading Are You Man Enough? Man enough to read soft porn and play on an assault course? Pass the bucket!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I did a really fun show last night at the Shelford Feast - a fund-raising festival just outside Cambridge. While I was there I noticed posters all over the place saying "Stop Hanley Grange" and I learnt that Hanley Grange was a planned "eco-town". As an environmentally concerned individual my knee-jerk reaction was to assume it was NIMBY*-ist reactionism. But then I got chatting to a local resident who told me the main reason people object to the eco-town is because the main investorr behind it is ... Tesco.
...yes Tesco, one of the least socially responsible companies in the country. A company that spends a fortune every year avoiding paying tax - for schools and hospitals and services which they and their employees use - through dodgy overseas trading. A company that still sells intensively farmed chicken and eggs despite many major retailers switching to free-range on the back of consumer campaigns. A company that is notorious for forcing smaller family-run businesses off the high streets. Surely it's more than a little obvious that Tesco cannot be trusted with this sort of project. When I hear that environmental groups are being given the chance to manage the development of eco-towns I will be right behind the idea, but for now I agree with the people of Shelford!

*Not In My Back Yard

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dying For Attention

I've just seen this post over at a My Private Casbah, about a woman left to die on the floor of a psychiatric hospital and Bint Alshamsa, the blog author's, own experiences in similar circumstances. It's just horrible to see the medical staff and the others in the waiting room sitting around doing nothing while this women evidently is suffering horribly.

I'm glad to say the one time I was in a similar situation I didn't do nothing, or at least not in the end. Around 1998 or 1999 I broke a finger playing basketball and went to Guy's Hospital emergency room to get it x-rayed and treated. When I got there I was sent to the waiting room and asked to fill out a questionnaire by the triage nurse who was sitting in a little booth off the waiting room. While I was doing that the only other patient in the waiting room, a small, very thin blonde woman of about 30 was sat in the corner curled up on the floor twitching slightly. Two nurses were watching and I assumed they had the situation under control. After a while the twitching got worse and the woman was rocking so much she was banging her head repeatedly on the floor. Her face was streaming with snot and tears. The nurses were just watching. I figured they must know best. I'm sure I've read somewhere about how you shouldn't restrain someone having a fit, but I was wondering whether moving metal chairs away from them and putting a cushion under her head would have been a bad move. She was looking at me imploringly and I gave her a tissue to dry her face and kept looking at the nurses who weren't even watching.

Then another nurse came in and called my name to go through to see the doctor. Then I did say something. I said I really think you should see this woman first. My broken finger can wait, this woman is really suffering. They told me she hadn't filled her form in and I think as they said it they realised how totally ridiculous they sounded and then they had a quick conference and ushered the twitching woman through to the doctor.

Of course in retrospect I am horrified with myself for sitting there for the first twenty minutes filling in the form rather than screaming at the nurses to help this woman. It's so easy to see someone in an "official" uniform and assume that whatever they are doing is the right thing. Years later I read Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority - an amazing book that everyone should read (link in my Amazon favourites box, right) - in which he convinces members of the public to administer lethal electrical shocks to others (actually actors, not being shocked) because a scientist in a lab coat has told them to.

And then only the other week we had the spectacle of several hundred people watching comedian Johnny Vegas sexually assault a woman from the audience. Why didn't anybody get up and shout "Oi! What the hell are you doing?" - because they had accepted the authority of the guy onstage with the mic.

So I guess my point is - if you see something that isn't right happening, say something. And my other point is - we need better attention paid to the services we provide for those patients least able to stand up for themselves - the elderly, those with mental health problems and those too incapacitated to communicate effectively.

What Kind Of Tart Are You?

I've just seen Gordon Ramsay on his "Kitchen Nightmare's" show - promoting a vegetarian restaurant in France, putting a sticker on a girl of about three that read "I'm a vegetarian tart". Now admittedly I don't think that "tart" has the same double meaning in French that it does in English, but in case the implication wasn't clear - he was surrounded by women dressed as can-can dancers (similar to the image shown here). He also previewed the promotional exercise by taking the owner of the restaurant to a topless burlesque show and harping on about how "Paris is sexy". Still eh? If it gets people to buy his over-priced food I guess sexualising infants is just fine...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Good Article In The Daily Mail!

"Good Article" and "Daily Mail" don't appear in the same sentence on the Cru-blog very often however... I met Jenni Murray once, the first time I was a guest on Women's Hour, not that that makes me some sort of expert, (I'm just showing off that I've been on Women's Hour more than once! The following week I said hello to her in Euston station and she smiled back in a way that said do-I-actually-know-you-or-are-you-a-weirdo? And I didn't have time to explain and had to run off to catch my train.) Regardless she's really a sort of national treasure. And you can see why by reading her very frank account of her experience of breast cancer.

More Misogyny Vicar?

Money on the table please! Which will happen first? (1) The Church of England agreeing to appoint women bishops or (2) The whole institution being rendered obsolete because no-one actually goes or believes a word of their rubbish any more? In any case reading this article made me hopping mad. Did you know that the Church of England has paid out £27.4m to clergy who left the church because they were unhappy about having women priests? That's split between about 500 guys so that's about £50,000 each for refusing to work with women. And they're set to pay out loads more if and when they allow women to become bishops.

The group who are now opposing women becoming bishops describe themselves as "traditionalists" which is a very friendly-sounding way of describing misogynists. No doubt they consider the BNP to be "history fanatics". But more importantly why are they paying money to these people - what about compensating all the women over recent decades who've had their careers cut short by the sexist policies of the CofE?

Hobbies Include Swimming, Reading and Wife Beating

It's late and I should be working but I'm procrastinating, ambling around the Guardian website and there's a pop-up for the Guardian's "Soulmates" dating site, and I'm wondering what sort of stuff people put on there so I click it. Guess what comes up? This guy. I don't know how long before the Guardian take his profile down (I did write to them immediately) but here's the bit I'm a little unsure of: "If you gonna tell me your deepest darkest secret.. and look for a shoulder to cry on, you'll get a smack." Is that how ingrained into our culture domestic violence is? Puke! And apparently he's the third most popular guy on the site. Mmm, hate to meet the rest.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wrongly Addressed

So I'm buying some props for my Edinburgh show. (Gratuitous plug: If you've coming to the festival and still don't have tickets for Apes Like Me please buy some here) and the website says it charges more if you order by phone so I use the online form and I get a choice of "Mr", "Mrs", "Master" or "Miss". What century is this? How can the internet age have come upon us and yet "Master" is a more likely form of address than "Ms"? They may in fact have stabbed themselves in the foot because my credit card is in the name "Ms" and I'm quietly hoping it'll be declined. It's rude to expect to define women based on their marital status. Whose business is it but mine what my family set-up is? And I don't care if "Ms" doesn't stand for anything or if it isn't clear to you how you should pronounce it, just use it, it's about respect. Grrrr. (I'm cross and so is my elephant!!).