Thursday, May 27, 2010

Boring Bodies...

Is there nothing left on earth that isn't to be sold through the medium of airbrushed naked women? An advert on my Facebook sidebar now proudly tells me that beanbags and angle-poise lamps are available at "stripped bare prices" with a picture of a young slim white woman with no spots or moles whatsoever lying across a desk. The website being advertised is which features a range (well I don't know - they've been airbrushed to all look the same) of young slim white women posing on stools, chairs, desks and beanbags. I feel like when I see a naked woman's body my reaction is no longer to see beauty or nakedness, to be aroused or shocked, I just think quite calmly "oh right, what are they selling? lamps? ok".

Who are these people sitting in advertising executive's trendy open-plan offices going "I've had this great idea about your beanbag collection - lets stick a skinny naked airbrushed white woman on it", while six of his colleagues mutter "Jeremy - you're a genius!!". Of course it's objectifying but it's also just SO UTTERLY BORING.

Dancing with the Devil

I was advisor this week to fashionista Caryn Franklin - yes really - I told her those shoes soooo didn't go with that bag... No, I was advising her how to argue that fashion has been bad for feminism which she was doing for a BBC Radio Four show called Devil's Advocate. You can listen to my advice and her debating skills (she's up against Julie Bindel who is also great fun to listen to) here for the next seven days by clicking "listen again".

Monday, May 24, 2010

Marie Stopes and Me

So here it is in full:

Apparently the beginning of the end for morality in the west. An advert for a clinic which provides family planning services including abortion which will be aired for the first time on Channel Four today. I've done about four radio and TV interviews on this one. One was a frankly terrifying one for Russia Today where they balanced me on the railings of a boat on the Thames and then randomly announced I would be arguing with a guy from the BNP...

Last night however was more rage-inducing than that. I agreed to go on BBC Five Live's Stephen Nolan show (which I do a lot). My opponent Bernie Smith from Precious Life just ranted about the sanctity of life, about the (false) idea that abortion leads to neverending mental health problems and all the rest.

It all got a bit shouty and then right at then end some really suspicious guy rang in and insisted that he worked for the Samaritans and was forever inundated with calls from women regretting their abortion after realising the "truth" about the sanctity of life. I asked him how often he had calls from women in crisis pregnancy worried about what to do next and he had no answer, he just ignored the question and carried on shouting about the sanctity of life.

Of course this is the trouble with talk radio, it's all very well when people ring in with their opinions but when people ring in claiming to have had a very specific experience (unsurprisingly one that backs up their extreme opinion) it takes a very very well-informed presenter and production team to make a judgement call on whether that's adding to the debate or twisting it.

Stephen Nolan and his team decided the way to deal with it was to - well - let me deal with it... You can listen to the whole thing by clicking here and choosing "listen now", and my part starts about 1h10 minutes in. I advise not taking a big mouthful of coffee though just before Bernie Smith starts talking or you may damage your monitor!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May Gay May Gay!

So Home Secretary Theresa May has changed her view on gay adoption. Good. Check out though her "reasons". She claims this is because she thinks a child is better off with a family than in an institution. But that wouldn't explain why she was previously in favour of straight couples and single people adopting. I mean what were her previous choices: Clearly (1) Straight and single adoption (2) institution (3) gay adoption. So now her choices are (1) Straight or single adoption (2) gay adoption (3) institution. Still hasn't actually suggested that gay adoption may be AS VALID AS straight and single adoption. And what a weak reason to support gay adoption - because it's better than having children in an institution*? Where is the mention of how there's nothing wrong with being gay. More to the point where exactly is the apology for her previous votes and views?

*There's another issue here with Theresa May's choice of words because while many children in residential homes may be better off with appropriate families, there are also children who benefit from the culture and atmosphere of a residential home. So to suggest that children are never best off in an "institution" is misleading and actually an insult to kids who benefit from quality residential home care. What is best for each child is for that child's needs to be catered to carefully and fully.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Vote - As Always - Is For Diane

Seriously, first bit of good news in a long time. Diane Abbott is absolutely my first choice (of anyone really, not just the available candidates) to lead the Labour Party. And she's my MP (minor girl-crush...) and I've met her several times and written to her hundreds of times and she's awesome.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chilling News

When John Worboys was arrested for raping a passenger in his black cab his name was printed in the papers and dozens of other victims came forward. Without them a conviction might never have been secured, and women who had been drugged by Worboys and awoken confused and worried might never have found out the truth about what had happened to them. The full Lib-Con (Con-Dem, etc) coalition document has in it a promise to provide anonymity for defendants in rape cases.

The evidence suggests that false rape claims represent around 2-8% of cases (much lower than the false claim level for crimes relating to car insurance claims). And the notion that guys who are not convicted of rape are stigmatised is simply not true (consider the dozens of acquitted footballers still pursuing grossly overpaid professional careers) and when they are it's usually because the evidence against them was so overwhelming (like the "I might have raped her in my sleep" guy).

The law giving rape victims anonymity is there to encourage women to come forward despite the stigma felt by rape victims in many cases. This change will cut the rape conviction rate to even lower than it's current appalling level and leave women at even greater risk.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thank You Shakesville

Melissa says it so well...

Richard Littlejohn? A Terribly Racist? Surely Not?

I realise this is unlikely to come as a massive shock to regular Daily Male readers but I have to say something all the same... As the new cabinet arrived for their first meeting with the new Prime Minister among their number was one Baroness Warsi who arrived dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez (a bit like the one pictured). Littlejohn's reaction? "It's not a fancy dress party". Ugh.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Need To Talk About Immigration

On a Monday I teach English to a group of female asylum seekers. I know it's a cliche to say that voluntary helping-people work is terribly rewarding but, sorry, it is, they're an amazing group of women and I learn a great deal from them every week while all they learn is the difference between "would" and "could".

One thing I'm always in need of is reading books for them. It's a tricky balance because I need books in simple English but I don't want to give children's books to middle-aged women. If you have such books you'd like to donate please get in touch. But that's not the point of what I want to say...

I went book-hunting in a local second hand shop the other day and explained my situation to the guy behind the till. He replied rather sneeringly "asylum seekers? so mostly from Eastern Europe then?". No. Not at all from Eastern Europe. How can people who no doubt have strong views about immigration also have so little grasp on how it actually works and who these people are?

I also noticed throughout the election whenever the subject of immigration came up it was treated as a de facto problem, with no mention made of the contribution to our economy and society made by immigrants of all kinds. At the hustings in Hammersmith a guy wanted to ask a question about why so few of the new jobs created by the Olympics had gone to British workers - which is a stupid question because is anyone actually proposing that we start discriminating against foreign workers on specific prestigious projects? How would such a law even work? It would almost certainly be illegal to have such a law.

So here's a quick guide to immigration in the UK.

1) Immigration from the EU. People from EU countries are allowed to move to to other EU countries without a visa. If you're British you can go live in Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany, wherever you like in the EU and work there. People from all round the EU can come here and work. Typically what happens is that young educated, skilled workers show up from Poland and do plumbing and building jobs at a fraction of the cost and twenty times the politeness and professionalism of British tea-drinkers (sorry - workers).

2) Immigration to do specific jobs. So there are some government rules (constantly changing) about letting people come to the UK to do either jobs that we seem to be having trouble filling (nurses, etc) or for well-qualified people who are expected to help grow British business or start new businesses in the UK.

3) Immigration for family reasons. So if you're British and you marry someone who isn't they get a visa. This has it's problems since visas are granted on a "no recourse to public funds" basis because of public paranoia over immigrants eating all our biscuits. This means if (to give the most common example) a woman arrives from a third world country to marry a British citizen (who she may hardly know) and he is violent towards her she can't get a place in a domestic violence refuge.

4) Asylum seekers. These are people who have come to the UK to escape persecution in their home country. They are not allowed to work while their application is considered (which often takes many years) but are not allowed either to claim "regular benefits". Single asylum seekers live on an asylum seekers allowance of £37.77 per week (and that's expected to cover accommodation and food) while couples and families get less than £30 each a week. As you would expect they mostly come from places with fraught political situations - Eritrea, Afghanistan, Congo, Iran, Zimbabwe, Burundi. Many live in homeless shelters, including some I know with serious health problems. Risk of Female Genital Mutilation is not grounds for granting asylum so your tax-payers money is spent by the British government rounding up young girls, sending them to prison, then deporting them to have their clitorises violently removed with unsterilised equipment. About 40% of asylum applications are ultimately granted and there are many documented cases of rejected asylum seekers who have been forcibly returned to their countries of origin and are then thrown in prison or even executed.

5) Illegal immigrants. We don't know how many of these there are because (clue's in the name) they don't exactly announce their arrival... Many are "overstayers" who have stayed after their visa has run out or holiday ended. Others have been smuggled into the country or trafficked. They are unable to claim any benefits at all or register with a doctor, etc and are trapped in the black market economy where they are often paid next to nothing or actually nothing. An example would be the Morcambe Bay cockle-pickers who earned next to nothing and worked in dangerous conditions without and support from health and safety legislation. Currently after 14 years in the UK these people can apply for a visa which of course as soon as it's granted means they no longer want to work for sub-minimum wage illegal organisations. If we cut this time limit (dramatically) we could probably close down big sections of the black market.

It's also worth noting that in spite of the draconian rules on work visas, in fact immigrants to the UK contribute considerably more in tax than they use in public services, etc. British people moving out of the UK are predominantly older people looking to retire in the sun so we end up not paying for their health care and other services as they get older.

Just saying, if you're going to pick up a copy of the Daily Mail any time soon, it's worth knowing what immigration really means and is.

Monday, May 10, 2010

People Of Britain: Stop Believing Crap!

On election day I was on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2. They laid on a car for me and as I had a busy day I asked the driver to drop me at the polling station rather than at my house. We started chatting and I asked if she was planning to vote. She said as an immigrant single mother she thought it was in her best interests to vote Conservative. Well it's just as well I wasn't the one driving because we would have ended up in a tree.

Once I'd cleaned the tea off the leather upholstered back of the passenger seat I started to explain. The conservatives would cut public services, close one in five SureStart centres, cut money for schools, eliminate child trust funds, increase student top-up fees and make it harder to claim basic benefits. Worse, from her point of view, they'd cut funding to the BBC, most likely closing more or less all of their operations in London and leaving her out of a job.

She explained that she'd read in the paper that of she didn't vote Conservative loads of new immigrants would arrive and threaten to take her job.  When I told her that Britain has more emigrants leaving than immigrants arriving she didn't believe me.

I was horrified at how the lies and distortions pedalled by the Murdock press are actually affecting voters, causing them to unwittingly vote not only against their own interests but against what they believe and hold dear.

When I finally crawled into bed at 9am the following morning I was relieved. A hung parliament. Enough of us had known or understood what Cameron and his cronies truly stood for to ensure he didn't have a majority. I slept soundly.

When I woke up, I assumed, Brown and Clegg would have teamed up with a coalition of those who believe in social justice, human rights and putting people ahead of corporate profits.  Instead Clegg was talking to Cameron.

There were, as I understood it, two groups of people who voted for the Liberal Democrats. The Cleggmania crowd who wanted electoral reform, no income tax on the first £10,000 of your earnings and the scrapping of the Trident project and the anyone-but-Cameron crowd who were voting tactically in constituencies where the Lib Dem respresented the most viable alternative to the Conservatie candidate.  Neither of these groups will get what they want in a Tory-LibDem coalition. So why are we even talking about it?

Again it's because of lies in the Murdoch press. Of course it is. Did we really think team Murdoch would give up that easily?

Firstly they tell us "60% of public want Brown to resign" which may be true. But if the remaining 40% are happy to have Brown as PM then he's streets ahead of Cameron who didn't manage to get 40% of the public to vote for his party.  The reality is that of the 60% who want Brown to resign in fact 30% want him to resign as PM so that Cameron can take over (and that 30% do so mostly because they've believed the press lies in the election build-up), and the other 30% want him to resign from the Labour Party leadership so that Milliband, Straw, Harman or indeed Nick Clegg can take over leading a left-wing coalition.

And secondly we are told that "the markets" need a quick resolution to the hung parliament situation. Yes quick, flush away the last shreds of democracy, ignore the will of the people, do whatever is necessary to help the markets...!  The markets, we are told, hate uncertainty. This despite the fact that bankers for years have made their money trading and gambling on exactly that uncertainty.  In a former life a tall tanned handsome Frenchman took me round the LIFFE futures trading floor. "Buy the rumour", he advised in an accent like a Rolex sliding down a thick wrist, "sell the fact".  When the announcement is made there's no more profit to be made on the story.  The markets can cope for a little bit without us.

The difference is though that before the election to save us from a future the vast majority of us have never wanted we needed at least two thirds of the country to see through and reject the Murdoch lies. Now we need only one man. So please Mr Clegg - do the right thing.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Last Chance To Buy!!

I understand there are very few seats left so get your order in fast if you want to come to this one...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Quelle Surprise!

All the parties are rubbish on equality for women but the Tories are extra extra rubbish.