Friday, January 28, 2011

What is WRONG with Giles Coren?!!

I can only presume the Daily Male were advertising for a columnist and Giles Coren thought - fuck it, there's a recession on, I'll just put my sense of decency in this handy dustbin, I could sure use the money. Here's the line-by-line on a little piece called So why is it all right for women to be sexist about MEN?

"The two Sky Sports presenters who were caught on tape making disparaging remarks about women earlier this week are a pair of daft old duffers, and no mistake. It is important for me to say that first, before I get to the business in hand."

Well before I start let me say on behalf of women everywhere: thank you. Good to have you on our side for once.

"Andy Gray and Richard Keys are a couple of dull, flabby, middle-aged football bores and are just the sort of doddering old clowns you would expect to relax off camera by swapping ancient prejudices and poking fun at women — in this case a female linesman — for not understanding the offside rule."

I wasn't personally in favour of sacking them because of their age and weight. I'd call that ageism and sizeism. For me the problem was the whole sexism thing.

"You shouldn’t pass unflattering remarks about women behind their backs because it is not a well brought-up thing to do, and they needed to be told. I would never do it myself. Not because I am a feminist, but because I am a gentleman."

Oh so now it's classism? You don't believe women deserve equal rights and opportunities (that would be feminism), you believe working class people shouldn't have good jobs.

"But while Gray has now been sacked, I don’t expect that will be the end of the matter."

Lets hope not. Let's hope that the public consciousness on the matter has been raised far enough to wonder just briefly if we're really all ok with a 5.1% rape conviction rate or a pay gap the size of the rift valley.

"We will hear an endless shrieking to ‘kick sexism out of football’; a PE teacher will be fired for telling his goalkeeper to ‘stop crying like a girl’; and a hapless League One manager will be deported for describing a fight between players as ‘handbags at dawn’."

Wow - sexism in football getting the same treatment racism has had in the past. Yes that would really be going too far wouldn't it? And PE teachers (who by the way are all male) and League One managers should be allowed to be sexist if they like too.

"There will be the endless apologies, public soul-searching and self-flagellation. And as usual the rest of us men will be expected to atone as a sex for a couple of remarks by two fat, superannuated fools on the telly, and to grovel for forgiveness with every snivel and cringe of our waking lives."

How many times have you grovelled and snivelled about this one so far Giles? I've counted none. Nor have I so far asked any men I know ever to apologise for remarks made by other men. On the contrary the world of "other men" will be distinctly enhanced by the recent events in one obvious way: two of them are about to get jobs as commentators on Sky Sports...

"Not that that’s anything new. To be a man in this country is constantly to have to apologise for oneself and to be ever so very careful about every sentence we speak or write which contains any reference at all to members of the opposite sex."

If you have to be "ever so very careful" to avoid making overt sexist remarks Giles, then please go right ahead and be "ever so very careful". You would think you wouldn't need to worry though what with how frightfully well brought up you are and all that...

"While at the same time, and this is the shame of it, we ourselves are fair game for women. While sexism from men is the outstanding social crime of the modern world, women can say absolutely whatever they like about us."

Really? I said a few times on air this week that I thought it was right that Andy Gray was sacked (an opinion it appears you agree with though for odd and different reasons). Since then I've had the usual string of abusive messages on my blog, facebook and email. My work has been attacked on public forums by people who've clearly never seen it. And just for raising the issue I've been accused of "moaning" and told in no uncertain terms to get over it. I dread to imagine what would happen if I made an actual sexist remark against men.

"For make no mistake: sexism is alive and well in this country and applauded in all quarters — as long as it is practised by women. And they are allowed to say the most terrible, terrible things."

Hold on these are two very different things. Women are paid less, lack power, property and respect in every level of our society. Women (the oppressed group) are very much entitled to highlight their situation with humour and make comment on how to escape it. Men (the oppressing group) are not welcome to use humour to reinforce and perpetuate those negative attitudes and stereotypes.

"Only last week, for example, Jo Brand, the newly crowned Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards, was on Have I Got News For You and replied to the question ‘What’s your favourite kind of man, Jo?’ by saying: ‘A dead one.’ Oh, how the audience fell about. And the other contestants, all male, chortled away too."

On Tuesday night I watched a male comic say he had sex with his wife while she was asleep. Luckily, he remarked, she sleeps with her mouth open. Your go Giles.

"I’m not saying it wasn’t funny. I’m just saying we live in a world where the thorough-going awfulness, uselessness and superfluity of the male sex is such a given, that a frontline television comic can get big laughs by saying she’d prefer it if we were all dead."

We also live in a country where due to the violence experienced by women at the hands of their male partners and ex-partners two of us every week actually do end up dead. Hence why the other way round the joke doesn't really work.

"And I’m trying to imagine a world in which I am on that show and they say, ‘What kind of women do you like, Giles?’ and I reply: ‘Dead ones.’ I just don’t think it would get the same laughs, do you?"

Ah well let me explain the nature of humour Giles. Humour arises from the unexpected. There's nothing unexpected about a man killing or wanting to kill a woman. I get death threats fairly regularly from men who find an opinionated outspoken woman who believes in actual equality an unbearable possibility. Do you?

"Here’s another of Jo Brand’s (excellent) gags. ‘What’s the way to a man’s heart? Straight through the chest with a kitchen knife!’ Again, not unfunny. But predicated on the idea that killing men is hilarious. Whereas killing women, as we all know, is a very serious affair and not to be joked about."

Actually killing women, as I explained above, is a fact of life in the UK. And a fact of life that neither the government nor the police seem all that bothered about.

"It’s not just Brand, it’s all women. ‘What do you call the useless flap of skin attached to a penis?’ they joke. ‘A man!’ they all reply, and clink their chardonnay glasses and chortle till dawn. How on earth did this get to be OK?"

Well two things: (1) Earlier on you complained you and all other men were expected to take the blame for Andy Gray. Now you are blaming me and all women for remarks made by Jo Brand. Fuck off. (2) What parties do you go too?! Chardonnay? Did your parents spend all that money on your upbringing only for you to spend your evenings in Yate's wine lodge? I last heard that "joke" when I was about 16 and I don't remember it being funny or interesting then.

"I’ll tell you how. It is because pretty much from birth women are schooled by their mothers to deride men. They are sugar and spice, we are slugs and snails."

If only women were all well brought up like you eh? Shame your expensive prep school probably doesn't even take girls. What's the word for that? Oh that's it - discrimination!!

"They are reflective and sensitive, while we run around kicking balls and shouting. And then as girls push towards puberty their mothers take them aside and tell them: ‘Boys are only after one thing!’"

Firstly I'm not sure that is what parents do to girls any more. I think they're just a touch more nuanced than that though since you grew up in a Victorian novel perhaps you had it differently. But secondly if we "warn" girls that boys only want sex, we seem to be simultaneously warning girls that they don't (or shouldn't) want sex, that they won't (or shouldn't) like it and certainly shouldn't have it. All lies. We (if we do, I think a lot of modern parents are past this though) are effectively telling our girls that regardless of their personality, their academic achievements and physical strength, their true value lies in their virginity. That's a horrible hateful message that values women purely in their desirability to men.

"The great lie. All men want is sex. Not so. If anything, it is women who think only of having it off. Girls on average lose their virginity much younger than boys and have more sexual partners in youth."

Girls on average go through puberty earlier than men. And excluding the gay community men and women have to be having, overall, the same number of partners, if girls have more sexual partners in their youth (and you would think he would lay on some statistics here cos I'm not familiar with this "fact") men must be having more when they're older. Dirty fuckers...

"As a teenager, I was terribly shy about sex and yet girls were trying to do it with me all the time. I used to run, literally run, from their bedrooms when they tried it on. And yet women are allowed endlessly to harangue us with our supposed lechery."

As a teenager I never ever, not once, got as far as a boy's bedroom seeking sex and then had him run away. Not that there aren't sexually forward women and sexually inactive men, but I don't see any evidence to suggest your experience was typical Giles. And lechery is actually very different from wanting to have sex. If you want to have sex with someone, you can ask them out. There's no need to be lecherous. Lechery is stuff like overtly gawping at someone's body, making repeated sexual remarks, etc. The vast majority of lecherous people would jump out of their skin if the object of their attention turned round and said "ok, lets have sex".

"And the prejudice festers. Harriet Harman says that men caused the banking crisis, and the harridan legions nod their heads. ‘If women ruled the world,’ they cry, ‘there would be no wars.’ "

So name the women behind the banking crisis? Is Fred the Shred short for Frederica? And a minute ago you were saying you had to watch every word you said - now you are calling women harridans. Maybe you should add that word to your special dictionary of words to watch out for...

"What nonsense. Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive, small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man.

If women are so much more brutal, why do we commit so much less of the domestic violence, the street violence and the crime in this country?

"If women ruled the world countries would be invaded because ‘she’s always been jealous of my feet’ and because ‘she looks down on me for going out to work’."

Which women are these? Not the ones in my life. I've never known anyone look down on another person (male or female) for "going out to work". You really have to be super-super rich to fail to appreciate the necessity of earning a living in this world. You might as well look down on people for eating yogurt with a soup spoon. Peasants!!

"Millions would die, torture would increase. If women ruled the world there would be carnage."

Yes women who right now commit a tiny tiny fraction of the violence in the world would definitely get into power and decide to kick things off with a big old round of torture. Is your article based on anything but hate?

"And what sort of an insult is it anyway to suggest that most women don’t understand the offside rule? It’s true, for a start. Most women don’t. And most of them declare it proudly."

Erm, how badly are you not getting this. Andy Gray and Richard Keys were saying a female linesman - with a professional refereeing qualification - didn't understand the offside rule. That's like saying a dentist can't fix teeth because of her gender. It's rude and way out of line (pun intended).

"Most of them use football as an example of one of their favourite gags, the one about how men never grow up, about how we’re all just children — most often manifested in the one where a mother-of-two says ‘I’ve got three children’, you raise an eyebrow, and she nods towards her husband. Hilarious."

How awful it must be for these men to be looked after like a child - to have their food made for them, be exempted from housework and their clothes laid out every morning. If you don't want to be called a child - act like an adult.

"And nor are men, in this female narrative, merely puerile, aggressive and underdeveloped. They are hypochondriacs, too."

Amazing that in the face of all these inadequacies we've let so many into the cabinet isn't it? Not to mention the management of all the big companies...

"‘He’s got a touch of man flu,’ say the womenfolk and titter. But what nonsense is that? It is women who make a big fuss about mild discomfort, not men."

I even saw this one on Mythbusters and it was proved the other way - women had a much higher pain threshold than men. Also by the way "titter" is misogynist for "laugh".

"I have never had so much as a cold in my life, nor claimed to. I even suspect sometimes that the whole palaver about the pain of childbirth is a conspiracy to ride roughshod over men."

Seriously? We're making it up about childbirth? You deliver a watermelon through your penis and call me back on this one ok?

"My own mother, a consultant anaesthetist herself, has always claimed that giving birth was a breeze but that she pretended it had been painful to build bargaining chips with my father."

Yeah things that can help ease the pain of childbirth part one: being a consultant anaesthetist. And why the hell did she need to build up bargaining chips? Couldn't she just do what she wanted or did your father have to issue permission first?

"You look at shows like Loose Women and you wonder how on earth they get away with the terrible things they say about men. I went on once and it was horrific. I wanted to die."

Well you had a bad experience. You would hope you would come away from it with a sympathy for women who go through something similar every time they go to work. Imagine being a camerawoman on Top Gear. Or a female co-presenter with Andy Gray. He'd probably make lecherous remarks asking you to help him adjust his microphone cable in his trousers...

"No male-hosted show could treat women the way those outsized harpies treat men."

(1) As we've seen, they can, and do. (2) What has size got to do with it? (3) Another word for your "watch every word" dictionary: harpie, noun, derogatory term for women.

"I don’t especially want to throw my hat in with Dominic Raab, the slightly bonkers Tory MP who has called for an end to legislative discrimination against men, but there is no question that women today have it all."

Oh yes we sure do - last I heard there were almost as many women in the cabinet as there are Magdalen College Oxford graduates. We've clearly made it. Release the party poppers...

"They retire younger and live longer to such an extent that minor inequalities in pay levels are obliterated when you consider whose money pays for those 25 years of retirement. And it just isn’t fair that they are allowed to be so vile about us."

Of course female poverty in old age is another area of inequality we haven't even talked about. Also bear in mind that the gender life expectancy gap is actually mostly down to lifestyle - to the fact that men drink and smoke more and eat less healthy diets.

"I suppose, in a way, British men are like white people were in Nineties South Africa or young Germans after the Second World War."

That seems unfair - white South Africans and younger German people seemed on the whole at least willing to admit and learn from the mistakes of the past.

"We are expected to go through a period of atonement for the sins of our fathers. To be treated worse than we merit because of crimes previously committed in our name: in this case the crime of feeding, protecting, loving and nurturing women in accordance with our biological imperative."

Who knew that "feeding" would involve so little cooking, "protecting" so very much murder, "loving" so much rape and "nurturing" so much direct discriminatory behaviour? And biological imperative? Don't make me laugh. Go and read Cordelia Fine, and come back when your top notch education has actually taught you something worth knowing.

"They don’t want that any more. They want to be linesmen. And so we have to let them tell us endlessly how they wish we were all dead."

Oh whoops ladies - apparently we now have to choose whether we want to be loved and nurtured or whether we want to be linesmen. And I know, I know, earlier on he said we could have it all but of course he didn't actually mean IT ALL, he meant, y'know either a partner or a career. Or neither if you like!

"If that’s not off-side, I don’t know what is."

Oh well let me explain. Offside is when there are less than two members of the defending team between yourself and the goal line at the time that the ball is passed. It doesn't apply to free kicks, corners and goal kicks or when you're in your own half or not interfering with play. Let me know if I can help you with anything else. For instance looking for that sense of decency...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Problems in the Drunk Tank

This BBC report is about a centre in London that deals with people who've drunk too much in an attempt to ease the burden on hospitals. It's not entirely clear whether the point is that since symptoms are similar there's an efficiency improvement or whether it's just accepted these days that if you somehow "brought your illness on yourself"* you deserve substandard treatment. Looking at the "beds" - thin mattresses on the floor in mixed sex overcrowded rooms, I'd guess the latter.

In the video a male medic says that the women are "leaving themselves vulnerable to sexual or physical attack" and that such attacks "needn't have happened". He fails to use the phrase "men should stop attacking women who are drunk" or the phrase "we take all reports of sexual assault seriously regardless of how much the woman has drunk". Then a female medic says "they say 'I've been spiked' and I say - no, it's the alcohol". Surely what she should say is "we'll perform a full set of tests and store the results in case they're needed in a criminal prosecution"?

This is on Newsbeat by the way - aimed at young people. Hey kids! If you drink too much alcohol and get raped, it's your fault and if you don't drink too much (or even any) alcohol and get spiked and raped, we'll assume you drank too much alcohol and blame you anyway.

Talk about irresponsible journalism. Oh and irresponsible behaviour on the part of medical professionals too... Ugh.

*Footnote: not withstanding that alcohol addiction is an illness so it's not actually reasonable to blame people for suffering from it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Big Opinions and Big Conversations

So I was on The Big Questions again this morning. And it's up on iPlayer for the next 7 days if you want to watch it, click here. There's no particular bit to watch - I speak in all three debates.

I didn't get a chance to reply to some points though. I guess the biggest two are:

(1) "Islam's not a sexist religion, what do you know - you haven't read the Koran". Well firstly I have read quite a lot of the Koran but more to the point the people telling me Islam isn't sexist have also just said they would accept their husband having more than one wife but not accept a woman with several husbands. That's erm, what's the word, yes, sexist. And one of the people saying this is veiled to the point of only having her eyes visible - I have never seen a Muslim man dressed like this.

(2) "But as a feminist you must support these women converting to Islam because it's their 'choice'". No. I'm absolutely in favour of women having the right to make choices for themselves but only when they are able to do so on the basis of fair circumstances and true information.

The phrase "pro-choice" is used a lot when it comes to abortion - the right to choose what happens to your own body. But that's different when we're talking about a woman in China who has discovered she is pregnant with a girl in a family and culture where only a boy will do. She might be making that choice but it's not a choice made in fair circumstances. Similarly a vulnerable young woman who chooses not to terminate because a counsellor on a fake help line has told her to do so will give her breast cancer isn't acting on true information so again it's not a case of "her choice".

What we need to do is to take away the unfair circumstances and give women ready access to true information. Then their choice will be meaningful. But in the meantime we need to make sure women are not pushed into choices like this which can ruin their lives and leave them timidly peering out at what is left of their world through a tiny slit in a piece of fabric.

I had a very interesting message on the way home from a viewer: "I work for social services in mental health and I’ve seen a disturbing amount of converts (mostly female) to [Islam] I’m even working with the police as it would seem that there are radicals targeting people with mental health or people with a low IQ. I myself work with 4 people who have converted or are thinking about it. Any who I just wanted to say it’s great to see someone like yourself voicing there [their] opinions on national TV." Now that is both unsurprising and deeply deeply frightening.

This evening I did a much lighter piece on LBC about the British Comedy Awards and how Frankie "isn't Down's Syndrome hilarious" Boyle isn't even up for one or involved in the awards show. My conclusion was: great news, lets hope he stops it and/or goes away now. An on the other awards I'd like to give them to (from the nominees): David Mitchell, Jo Brand, Sarah Millican and Britain's best sitcom: Miranda! Love you all! You can listen to the show on the podcast from LBC but you have to register and I think pay money so I'll leave the link here - you have to follow the Richard Arnold show and today's episode is called 'Colin flying the flag' - but frankly if it's more than £2.50 I will cut you a deal and repeat my words verbatim over the phone for £2*!!

* Which would by the way be £2 more than my TBQ and LBC appearance fees combined, just for the next time someone says since they saw me on TV I must be super-rich!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Paleontologists Discover Evidence of Catherine Hakim's Evolutionary Line

Text by me, artwork: Tristan Rogers.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Police and The Streets

Joan Smith has written an ace piece about exactly what Jeremy Vine and I were discussing earlier in the week with a total idiot (by which I mean one of the Daily Mail's finest writers).

Before I did the interview on BBC Radio Two I did another interview for an Iranian TV station about abortion (and no, I don't know where and when it's on, maybe someone will let me know when they see it). Between shootings I was chatting to the producer and she told me that the night before she had been walking home around half ten when a man approached her and asked for directions. She directed him but then noticed he didn't walk off in the direction she had advised him to go - he started following her instead. She tried doubling back on herself but he still followed. Now feeling rather stressed she spotted a branch of a gym open and went in to the reception. She could see the guy hanging around outside. She called the police and explained what was going on. They asked her where she lived and where she was then told her "it's only a few blocks, just go home". She explained again that she was being followed and didn't feel safe doing so. They told her they were busy and couldn't come and help her for at least an hour and a half to two hours. The gym closed 30 minutes later and she had no choice but to run home hoping he had given up and gone away.

What is the point of issuing warnings to women and not being prepared to respond when women heed these warnings and contact them for help?

Fresh Outlooks

So the article I was interviewed for has been published here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Questions About Catherine Hakim

A journalist has just asked me to answer some questions about "Dr" Catherine Hakim and her forthcoming report about women in the workplace. [Spoiler alert: she thinks gender difference are all down to us hopeless women and our biological pre-destination for the kitchen and the scullery]

Anyway here is what I was asked and my answers - you may at some point see some of this quoted in an online paper called The Fresh Outlook.

What is your opinion on women's advancements in the workplace?

I think that women's advancement in the workplace is restricted by something called sexism. Reliable, tried and tested reports consistently show that it is discrimination, nothing else, at every level, that holds women back. The pay gap in this country is wide and shows little sign of narrowing at present.

Do you believe that equality has been achieved for women?

No, of course not. As a comedienne I am regularly told by promoters that they "simply" don't think women are funny. How can that be equality when my ability to do my job is pre-judged based on my gender? I battle daily to get half the work men around me get. I don't know a woman in any profession who hasn't been held back by sexism in some way at one time or another.

Do you think that women would like to marry a man who earns more than

I think women are all different. I wouldn't dream of generalising like that. I think most people, men and women, can see advantages in marrying someone who has a lot of money. I think that's obvious. And given how tough it is for women to progress in the workplace it seems likely that this would encourage them to seek other means of securing their - and their families - future financially. I don't think seeking a rich partner means a person doesn't want to work or wouldn't prefer to earn their money themselves. It's a very practical choice.

Do you think women see their role as the primary carer of children in the

Again some do and some don't. It would be weird, would it not, if women were all the same?And again those that do may do so because of what they sense as a biological urge, other may feel pressured to by society, family, and culture and others may do so because their workplace opportunities are so poor, they decide to focus their efforts elsewhere - or of course a combination of those reasons and others.

Further comment: This report has yet to be actually published so far as I can see. "Dr" Catherine Hakim is a terrible researcher. Last year she published a similarly misogynist report entitled "Erotic Capital" which I read and it's methodology was laughable. She quoted the book Belle De Jour as a key source without questioning it's veracity and made a series of bizarre and contradictory statements. That she is accepted by the academic elite serves only to highlight the entrenched and unquestioning sexism which permeates academia. That her "reports" are quoted as fact in every major newspaper before publication and peer review serves in turn to show the entrenched misogyny in the media. Only last year Cordelia Fine published a whole book (Delusions of Gender) debunking the "gender as innate" myths with painstaking, incontrovertible research and in a fun and easily readable way - it received little to no coverage. Personally I think every woman in the country should be sent a copy of that book and should gather as one and slowly beat Catherine Hakim to death with it.*

*Not the official view of the F-Word (through whom the request came) or the feminist movement. The official view of me however.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tidings of Little Comfort or Joy

So Mr Cru and I went for a little walk today and on our way back a guy was putting up a sign above a doorway at the end of our road that says "Sauna open". I figured there is at least a one in a million chance that they're actually opening a sauna rather than a brothel so I went over to ask how much they charge for deep cleansing mud treatment and reflexology and, reassuringly, he ran away. I called the Met and they tell me they're going to send their "safer neighbourhoods" team round - oddly not the human trafficking squad but I suppose better than nothing, which is what I imagine they'll actually do. [Oh that's not fair - they might go round and ask for a price-list, perform some quality control...]